Ask a Giraffe

Giraffes and librarians. They have a lot in common. Seriously.

by ForeverOtaku Click to link to artist!

by ForeverOtaku
Click to link to artist!

Both can reach high trees and shelves to find important sustenance for body and mind. Both have a way of seeing the big picture; giraffes with their long necks and librarians (even the short ones) with their far-reaching research chops. Both have ways of effectively defending themselves; giraffes with swift kicks and librarians with the swift truth. Take that “alternative facts!”

Not Today!

Not Today!

And, of course, giraffes and librarians both love their children!


Unfortunately, giraffes and librarians both have one more thing in common. They are both endangered. Even though the link between well-staffed school libraries and higher school test scores has been thoroughly documented, school libraries across the United States continue to fall behind in needed funding and school librarians continue to be “phased out.” The world needs giraffes and civilization definitely needs librarians. More than sixty-five percent of all incarcerated inmates are classified as having a low rate of literacy. Librarians matter. Librarians kick back at the lions of ignorance and do everything in their power to educate children and gift them with the power of literacy.

In honor of giraffes and librarians, and in keeping with the promotion of April as both “Library Month” and “Poetry Month,” here is a poem for our beloved giraffes and librarians. Enjoy and pass it along to your favorite giraffe or best-loved librarian:

Ask a Giraffe  

Art by Julia Collard Click for link to purchase

Art by Julia Collard; Click for link to purchase

If you want to know

How the treetops grow

Or how it feels

To eat leafy meals

Just ask a giraffe


If you like the way

That dolphins play

And you’d like to be

Deep down in the sea

Go sail with a whale

Download from; click for link

Download from; click for link


If you want to unearth

Our earth’s ancient birth

Or investigate rock

From diamond to chalk

Sit alone with a stone


If you’d like to look

At a curious book  child_on_giraffe_head

And use your mind

To seek and to find

If you love to be

In the library

Then come sit with me


– Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud



– Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud


Poem in a Library Pocket

Put a Poem in Your Library

Put a Poem in Your Library

April is National Poetry Month and Library Month as well. Put the two together, and you have plenty of opportunities to celebrate both at once. The “Poem in a Pocket Library Challenge” is one way to get students interested in checking out a wide range of poetry books and finding the treasures hidden inside. The bulletin board in the elementary library at our school is now full of colorful pockets which hold pieces of poems.


The books from which these poems were plucked are lined up beneath the bulletin board. Students are challenged to read a pocket poem, find it in one of the books, grab a response slip and fill out the information: name, grade, poem number, book title and page on which the poem can be found. They then put their response slips in the poetry box.


At the end of the month, all of the correct slips are gathered together and a drawing is held. The winners get a free book, (compliments of the library), and they also win a free donut party for their whole class.

I even hid one of my own poems, (published in Cricket magazine), in there with the rest of some famous and some obscure poetry. So far, no one has found “Lost and Missing,” which I suppose is poetic justice. I wonder how many of these poems they will be able to track down. Some are hidden in poetry books of many, many pages. Others are nestled in short books of translated Japanese haiku verse.


The students have already started checking out poetry books and they are off on their poetry treasure hunt! It is always a treat to see such excitement in the library. Let me know what kinds of poetry activities you have planned for your library.

Put a Poem in Your Library

Put a Poem in Your Library

Making the Dead Come to Life: Biographies with Patricia Lakin


Early Years:

At the April 11th SCBWI seminar on writing biographies for early and middle-grade readers, Patricia Lakin first took us back in time with a mental and physical leap showing us her sprightly vigor as a seventy-one year old prolific author. She took us back to her school-age childhood in Boston where female teachers were not allowed to work if they were married and children were disciplined with a rattan rod. Patricia never got the rod, however, as she was “a mouse” hiding behind her desk, avoiding notice. She endured uninspiring writing lessons and a stifling fear of spelling error to somehow blossom, after a teaching career, to emerge from behind her desk as a children’s book author.

Critical Critique:

Patty Lakin signed up for classes at the “New School” taught by the now famous “Bunny”PattyL2 Gable. She persevered for ten years, honing her craft by gathering good advice from critiques. While listening to or reading the works of an admired author, she learned to ask herself this important question: “What is it that I like about this story?” And she learned to recognize and correct in her own written manuscripts the things that she disliked in other authors’ works. A keen critique group is key to a developing author, she emphasized, and shared that she still meets regularly near her home in New York with her kind, but honest, critique group.

Rejection Lessons:

Patricia Lakin saves her rejection letters, especially the personalized ones that contain nuggets of advice. These rejection letters can lead to PattyL3acceptance letters if taken in the right spirit. Some letters explain why the work was rejected or contain a suggestion for improving the story. Her first published story, “Don’t Touch My Room,” was initially rejected and then later accepted at a later date. Some submissions are rejected because the publishing house doesn’t have a place for it in their line-up or, as was the case with a Dr. Seuss biography that she wanted to publish, the rights to the story or illustrations had not yet been acquired. Permissions can be tricky. The estate of Ted Geisel, for example, strictly limits when and where his photos and illustrations can be used.

 Research and Renewal:

Patricia Lakin does all of her research from her computer. The internet is a wealth of   PattyL5information and it is much easier nowadays to track down individuals who may have a piece of information that may be valuable to you and your story. Patty will often highlight a lesser-known detail or character in the life story of a famous person. For example, while researching the biography of Steve Jobs, she tracked down the daughter of Steve’s favorite grade school teacher and was given permission to use a photo in her book by that daughter who was thrilled that her mother was given the recognition as a key encourager of the young genius.

While writing a biography, Patty searches for a way to create a full circle of the subject’s PattyL6life. Helen Keller, for example, when she was very young and was full of anxiety and frustration with a world that to her was dark and silent, would throw herself down on the grass outside and let the smells and touch of nature soothe her. In a key moment, when she was older and had climbed a tree just before a violent storm struck, Helen clung to the branches, bewildered and confused that what had so often soothed her could suddenly turn against her. The touch of the hands of her teacher calmed her fears and rescued her from her perilous perch in the tree.

Patty will often find a connection between her own life and the life of the person for whom she is writing a biography. This helps her focus on details that matter to her and help to bring a liveliness and immediacy to her writing. For the biography on Steve Jobs, for example, Patty recalled that she loved the calligraphy classes she had taken and in her research, she found that, while attending Reed College, Steve Jobs had also taken calligraphy from former monk, Robert Palladino. His love of fonts had prompted Steve to make sure that the users of the new Apple computer had a variety of fonts from which to choose.

Full Circle:  PattyL4

At the end of the evening, we leapt back into the present and peppered Patty with questions about the writing process and the possibility of publication. She shared with us that she still hopes to publish a middle-grade work of fiction. She has written a story about a very short character but may have to wait a longer time to get that one published. In the meantime, she can be pleased with the pile of books that have already been published as she continues to bring those who have passed on back to life in the pages of her books.

The World Wide Wakayama Chronicles; Part II; Days Seven through Eleven

12-18-13; Wednesday

4:00 am, the alarm rings. We leap from bed to shower to taxi to train to another train to monorail to plane. We land at Shirahama Airport at 8:55 am and then pile into the vans again. It is raining and will rain all day, so that means we have a free day.


We drive to a large indoor market that sells fresh ocean produce of every shape and size. At the entrance sits an enormous panda stuffed animal. Panda related products are everywhere. As one souvenir T-shirt declares, “Shirahama is infested with pandas!” I haven’t seen any actual pandas yet but I have seen a true infestation of panda cookies, cakes, toys, key chains, dusters, hats, blankets and giant pillows.


DSC_0118 DSC_0113 DSC_0121

While the photo crew settles into a booth at Toretore Ichiba ( to chat and smoke, I run around the market using my new Nikon D3200, (my first real camera ever!) to practice by photography skills by taking photos of fish: dried fish, pickled fish, fresh fish, pressed fish and even stretched fish. There are large tanks of swimming fish, tubs of squishy sea cucumbers and pools of lobsters and clams piled up on top of each other.

DSC_0125 DSC_0137 DSC_0140 DSC_0136 DSC_0141 DSC_0139

DSC_0143 DSC_0145 DSC_0144

When the sushi bar at one end of the market opens, we all put in our orders and tuck into our tucker. The salmon and salmon egg donburi are very fresh and absolutely delicious! We have to wait for an hour after our meal for our hotel rooms to become available so I write and Elsa plays a video game called, “Papers Please,” and pretends that she is an immigration official trying to support a revolution while staying alive.



“Hotel Seamore” is our destination and it is indeed perched on the shore of the sea. The hotel is a bit old, but our corner room is spacious and lovely with an amazing view of the ocean from the large plate glass windows that wrap around the room. Room 615 is set up like a suite with a separate genkan and hallway leading to the bath, toilet and main room.


DSC_0155 DSC_0167 DSC_0162

The beds are very comfortable and I crawl under the covers to sleep away most of the day as I have come down with a sore throat that drops my voice an octave or two. My daughter says that I now sound like a heavy smoker. ( Land of Counterpane )


The project writer who came up with the creative text on the JR posters is pictured above!


Translation: “More than walking, it was like being led by God.”


I wake up in time to join the crew at a yaki-niku restaurant where we grill tender slices of beef and vegetables over the fire in the middle of the table. We eat our fill and then head back to the hotel to catch up on email using the free Wi-Fi in the lobby.

Finally, we head downstairs to enjoy the wonderful hotel onsen. The outdoor tubs are especially lovely and we prop our elbows on the fresh smooth cedar and listen to the waves splashing on the rocks directly below.




Down below on the shore, you can see the ancient rotenburo where the photos for the JR ad were taken.


Tomorrow, we are off to “Kushi-Moto;” perhaps we will see the source of the dango on a stick!

12-19-13; Thursday

Makeup and hair call is not so early; Elsa goes first to get her hair trimmed. After our usual stop at the conbini for breakfast we have a long drive along the picturesque Highway 42 that winds along the coast. We stop at Hashikui (Bridge Pillar) near Kushimoto to take photos near the famous pillar rocks that jut up out of the sea; these volcanic batholiths which have emerged as the softer rock all around has been worn away over eons by the action of the waves.

Along the shore, we find some lovely shells and a diminutive black crab speckled with little white spots who scurries across our hands as we admire its perfect little claws.

The tide is coming in as we walk back and forth during the photo shoot. My shabby boots somehow hold together and my feet stay dry, while a wave sneaks into Elsa’s boots and soaks her socks. The play of wave against rock is spectacular and we try to capture the effect with the new camera.

We have some time to shop for snacks and after finding some delicious dango or pounded riceballs on a stick, we wonder if Kushimoto might be the true source of the dango on a stick. (“Kushi” means stick and “moto” means source. Puns are fun and annoying in Japanese too.) Back into the vans as we climb and we drive back towards the hotel where we hope to shoot photos at the hot spring by the ocean… but it is starting to rain. We may have to delay the rotenburo (outdoor hot spring) shoot until tomorrow. Nope… looks like we’re going in. We are kindly given skin-colored shorts and body socks so even though in the pictures, we will look like naked bathers, we are actually well-covered. Very polite of them, but it does feel strange to be soaking in a rotenburo with clinging wet clothing.

Sakino-Yu Hot Springs is an ancient pool carved out of the solid rock by the waves. As you step into the pool, you notice cool spots but the water is comfortably warm. If you are brave enough, you could crawl out over the low rocks at the end of the bath and plop directly into the chilly waves. We did not try this. A chill rain is falling so after exiting the water, we quickly wrap ourselves in towels, yukata and coats. We hurry back up the hill to Hotel Seamore and ease into the hot baths there. The steam room helps my throat feel better. At 4:53 pm, we are back in our room watching as the sun drops below the horizon glowing cherry red. Wow.

12-20-13; Friday

A sore throat kept me up until about 1:00 am, but I finally got some sleep with hot packs wrapped around my neck and a wet face mask across my nose and mouth. We have to be down at the front desk by 7:30 am, so we hurry to pack and meet the crew in time. I dash down to the outdoor cedar tubs to take photos before we leave and then we are off to “Adventure Land” to see the pandas. 

When we arrive, it is quite chilly and we wait for the pandas to be released into the outdoor pen for their morning bamboo breakfast. We stop to admire and coo over a beautiful female panda who is enjoying a morning stretch at the indoor viewing pen. She is so perfectly adorable that she hardly seems real.

Back out into the cold we go to set up for the panda shots. The two older male pandas are released into the outdoor enclosure and they happily begin to munch the pile of fresh bamboo that has been left for them. I am amazed at how they can nonchalantly chomp through tough stalks of bamboo. They strike an artistic pose, sitting on their wide, carpet-like tails as they chew their bamboo stalks looking for all the world like two furry tuxedo-clad flautists playing a duet.

Towards the end of the photo session, the weather continues to confound us by dropping light sheets of hail which shows up bright and white against the black, dense panda fur. We pack up and make our exit as the skies clear and the crowds begin to pour into the park.

On our way to the next shooting location, we stop for a hot lunch of delicious ramen and while we are eating, it begins to snow. The weather continues its strange pattern as we drive and the snow begins to accumulate on the trees alongside the road. The photos that we are taking today are supposed to be set in October, so our clothing reflects much warmer weather than we are actually experiencing here in the middle of December. I wear three kairo (chemical warming) patches on my back in order to stay warm during the photo sessions as we try to pretend that the weather is warm.

Next on the schedule is Kawayu Onsen, a very hot rotenburo situated in the middle of a river. While we wait for the “extras” to arrive, we sip hot tea in the lovely “Pension Ashitanomori” that looks as though it has been transplanted from Switzerland with its begonia-bedecked balconies.

As soon as the cast is assembled, we trot across the street and get into position for the next scene. The “extras” assemble in the hot water in varying states of attire, from single towel to yukata wrap and proceed to thoroughly enjoy themselves as they cluster towards the warmest part of the rotenburo near a cleft in the rock at the side of the river.

Elsa and I peel mikan while we dip our feet in the hot water. It does seem a bit strange to us that we are barely in the water while the rest of the hot spring visitors are almost fully immersed. The mikan are quickly snatched away for different shots and we never do get to eat them. As soon as we finish the photo shoot and pack away the gear, as if on cue, the sun comes out. We assemble in the quaint pension and sip hot tea and sample cakes while we enjoy the sun streaming in through the windows. I learn that this section of Japan is call the Kii Hantou which roughly translates as “That Historical Account Peninsula,” which is a name that certainly does not do justice to this beautiful area.

Tonight we are back in the hotel “Shingu Ui” ( (where we stayed in October) and it is within a short drive of Koyamasan. The rooms are clean and comfortable and, as always, it feels luxurious for me to be sleeping in a bed instead of on a tatami mat floor at home. The cold wind whistles outside as I burrow under a soft down comforter. The rest of the crew have gone out to eat at ”ポポット” (23-0417) which is a small  and homey restaurant that serves lovely little pizzas and wonderfully tender beef. I am content to stay put in my cozy bed and get over my sore throat.

12-21-13; Saturday

Saturday begins with a 6:30 hair and makeup call. It has been snowing outside in the early morning, but now the weather clears. A strong wind blows all the clouds away and we have the sunniest day so far. And because of the strong wind, my hair is sticky and hard with hair gel to keep it in place for the photos. Elsa and I get to the lobby early this time, only to scurry back to our rooms to finish packing when we suddenly learn that we are not staying in this same hotel another night.

Our first stop in Hayatama Taisha which is a famous shrine on top of a steep hill. The stone steps leading up are steep but the route up is not very long. We soon reach the top and enjoy the view looking out over the city of Shingu to the ocean beyond. The brightly painted shrine is perched on the tippy-top of the hill next to an impressively large round boulder. The rock has been wrapped all the way around with a thick rice straw rope which will be replaced every year in February during the festival of Setsubun.

After the photo shots by this hilltop temple, we trundle back down the hill. I run ahead to get photos of the hard-working crew coming down the steep steps. I still have only learned a small portion of my camera’s capabilities but I am learning as I go.

I am impressed with our van drivers who show great skill, navigating our wide vans through some of the narrowest streets I’ve seen without so much as a scratch. During the evening meals, they never drink alcohol and are very conscious of safety issues. Every morning when we get into the vans, they are spotlessly clean with the seat belts neatly rolled up in place on the seats.

Next, we drive along the Kumanogawa, a beautiful wide river with gravel banks that flows from the slopes of Daifugen-dake to the Pacific Ocean at Shingu. Here is a link showing the location of the river’s source: ( Kumano has the kanji for “bear” in it, so it roughly translates as “Bear River.” The bears are all hiding now, though, perhaps waiting for more fish to return to the river. In places, the river is a brilliant aqua color and in other areas, sediment muddies the river to a light brown. The views along the Kumanogawa are breathtaking with an occasional sheer cliff or waterfall surprising us as we drive along. Route 168 follows the river for much of its route.

After a blustery shoot in a very strong wind along the gravel banks of the Kumagawa, we head back into town along Highway 168 to take pictures at Hongu Taisha, another World Heritage Site in Shingu. This shrine is close to the road with easier access. Here, painted pictures of various animals have been set up in preparation for New Year’s Day. We take photos in a location that does not show the pictures as the shots are supposed to be set in October or November, not the end of December.

Taisha means “main shrine” and indicates that Hongu Taisha is a major Shinto shrine. Here, as in other shrines, paper fortunes are offered for sale. Visitors will often purchase a fortune and then fold the paper lengthwise and tightly tie it to a branch of one of the temple trees. In many of the Taisha there are often bells placed in gateways leading to the temple. A pilgrim will bow respectfully, step up to the bell, give it a shake and then clap twice to get the attention of the shrine god before making a wish.

This shrine uses the sacred three-legged crow motif in various locations. There is a striking example perched on top of the shrine’s mailbox. Here we wait for the sun and set up some shots in front of a couple of giant bells with their thick rice straw bell pulls. The sun breaks through the clouds and we scurry to get the needed photos. The director is pleased with the results and often takes time to show us his work. As we pack up to leave, the crowds arrive. Boxed lunches (obento) are waiting for us and we eat as we begin the two-hour drive to the next location, one more attempt to get some good photos at Hashikui, the rock pillars jutting out of the ocean. 

We wind along the coastal road and on the way we see a shipwrecked tugboat leaning into a pile of sharp rocks. This time, when we reach Hashikui, the tide is low, and we can walk out towards the rocks without getting doused by the waves. The blue sky is spotted with fluffy white clouds providing a perfect backdrop to the dark, looming rocks. Arai-san, the hair stylist, finds a couple of impossibly tiny crabs about the size of ladybugs. Elsa and I walk back and forth as they shoot photos from the edge of the highway above while another crew member holds back a large clump of sea grass to clear the view. And then we are done for the day. Elsa finds some of the best fried potatoes ever and shares them around as we drive back towards Shirahama where we stay at the Hotel Ginsui which means “Silver Waters.” As we drive, the sun sets in a glorious display of back-lit clouds over the ocean. I am desperate to get a photo of the stunning scene, but I have to shoot through the glass of the van window as we cannot stop for photos. The vibration reduction feature on this Nikon camera succeeds in giving me a few usable shots.

Tonight is the last night out together and we are treated to a wonderful meal of sashimi and various seafood at Marucho restaurant in Shirahama, which has private tatami rooms. I am puzzled by a tall machine with a screen perched in the corner until I realize that it is a portable karaoke machines. Thankfully, we don’t make use of it. The front lobby of the restaurant is a little “store” area set up just for children where they can fill a bag with an assortment of treats and prizes. We stop to try on the panda and the squid hats. I mean who could resist a squid hat?

Elsa is not feeling well, so she stays in her hotel room and sleeps. We bring her back some miso and a but of supper, but she just wants to sleep. I hope she feels better in the morning.

12-22-13; Sunday

The day dawns bright and pearly with poofy clouds scudding across the sky; a perfect day for taking more panda pictures. This will be our last photo session. We arrive at Adventure Land well before it opens and the parking attendants with the fuzzy panda hats perched on their head let us in the back gate. We wipe our feet off on the disinfecting pads and enter the park. The cameras are set up and the scene is set but we have to wait for the sun. As soon as the cloud bank moves aside, the door to the panda enclosure opens and the pandas saunter leisurely over to the strategically placed pile of fresh bamboo.

The two male pandas settle down on their comfy carpet-tails and proceed to munch contentedly on bunches of bamboo leaves. They are unbelievably adorable with their thick fur and handsome black ears. It’s hard to believe that such creatures exist, they are so perfect.

The clouds cooperate this time, moving aside to provide light-saturated shots of admiring visitors and blissful pandas. As soon as the cameras are put away, the pandas, as if they know their work here is done, get up and waddle off.

The vans are packed up and we head back to ToreTore Ichiba for a celebratory toast with pink champagne in plastic cups. We assemble in front of the big fishy sign for a few “kinen shashin” or group pictures. Back into the vans and off towards Kyoto we go to catch the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. We should arrive home about 4 or 5 in the evening.

It has been a wonderful paid, paid vacation. Elsa and I are still surprised that we are getting paid to see such a beautiful part of Japan. We kept half-expecting them to just send us home as soon as they realized how little work we were doing. All that was required of us was to get up early, get dressed in borrowed clothing, and then stand around in front of beautiful locations and smile. “How is this work?” we wondered. We appreciated the hard-working crew keeping us around for so long, in any case, and we are heading back to Tokyo with a camera full of photos and a heart full of memories. Domo arigatou gozaimasu!

The World Wide Wakayama Chronicles; Day Six

10-31-13, Thursday

Early wakeup and makeup this morning. We trundle back to the main temple at Koyasan to wait for the sun to come up. More photos are taken at the same spot in the sun with a view of the beautiful temple in the background. Here is the shot that they end up using:Wakayama_Koyasan_poster

We hear the chanting monks once more in the background and Elsa and I join in the morning sing-along with an old latin round, “Dona Nobis Pacem.” The writer for the JR Wakayama campaign is already hard at work creating the text that will accompany each poster.CIMG8441

We stop to chat on the steps of one of the temple buildings and I tell him about my small writing career and my two websites. One is for my children’s sermons: The other is a children’s book website http://belovedofbeasts.comPrincess_Ramona_cover-300x444-202x300

He plans to show “Princess Ramona, Beloved of Beasts” to his own children when he returns home.

Elsa and I wander around the temple grounds and learn more about the Koyasan historical site and the various deities that were worshipped here.





After the morning shoot at Koyasan, we drive along the Kumanogawa to scout out locations for shots that will be taken in December. We pause to skip some stones and admire the bluffs along the river. Then we scramble back over the river rocks up to the road. CIMG8426




We climb back into the vans and drive to the small airport on the southwest edge of Wakayama to board the flight to Haneda airport. We say our goodbyes to the staff and tell them to take care until we meet up again in December. The first half of our Wakayama Campaign modeling job is over.IMG_0300It is a short flight back to Tokyo. It is Halloween evening and Elsa will be home in plenty of time for her evening trick-or-treating with friends.

The World Wide Wakayama Chronicles; Day Five

10-30-13; Wednesday

In the makeup room this morning we learn that we were not the only ones bothered by mosquitoes last night. The makeup artist also experienced an unwelcome invasion. I had left the windows open at night to let in the fresh air, but the local mosquitoes smelled blood and went after us. I woke up at midnight because I heard the whine of a blood-thirsty beast even though I wore ear plugs. When I turned on the light, I could see three mosquitoes all in a row, drinking blood from Elsa’s arm. I slapped them and woke Elsa. I closed the window and then spent the next fifteen minutes or so hunting down the rest of them. Tiny bloodstains on the wall marked the battleground map. The enemy vanquished, I finally could go back to sleep.mosquito_Japan

We pack up, meet the crew in the lobby and turn in our key. As we step outside, a breath-taking sunrise with pink clouds greet us. What a glorious day! The drive to Tachi Taki (Tachi Waterfall) gives us amazing views of the ocean, sparkling in the sunshine. CIMG8387

All along the way up the mountain, we see bulldozers trying to repair the damage left by the last catastrophic typhoon several years ago. Apparently Wakayama Prefecture has very unstable ground and there is often quite a bit of damage to repair after a violent rain storm. One indication of how extremely high the water in the Kumanogawa had risen are the sticks and logs lodged in the underside of a high bridge spanning the river. WakayamaBridgeUndersideIt looks as though some of the riverside buildings have been recently damaged in the last flood. The “Peace Boat” website gives a thorough explanation of the extensive damage that Wakayama had to endure in the great typhoon and flood of 2011. Click on “Peace Boat Disaster Relief Volunteer Center” for more information.

We finally reach Nachi Taki which is an astounding waterfall that reminds us of some places in Yosemite. The pounding water casts shadows on the rock beside it creating horses of spray galloping down the rock. CIMG8388CIMG8400
We stop to buy little 100 yen saucers to catch the water spurting from the mouth of a bronze dragon. As this water is routed through from the flow of the waterfall, the pressure occasionally drops and then gushes making it tricky to get a saucer-full of water to drink. The dragon water is supposed to give one long life like a dragon.



After the photo shoot, we stop at the omiyage shop to buy a few trinkets. I find a lovely bell on a red cord in the shape of a crow’s head. Back into the vans we pile to drive to the nearby Kumano Nachi Taisha, a famous, bright red temple. We stop to take photos on the wide stone walkway that leads towards the front of the temple.CIMG8408



Back down the mountain we go to take some more photos at a previous location, Daimon-zaka, where the path is now slick from yesterday’s rain. A few tourist groups start up the steps past our shooting location, but all of them decide to turn back early. The tourists are elderly and the stones are slippery and treacherous. The photographer likes the look of the stone steps, dark with moisture, so he takes a few more pictures.


Photographer with Director planning the day’s shooting.

Our next stop will be Mizunomi-Ouji, or Drinkwater Road which is near the “Bowing Down Road” that we visited on Monday. Everyone sleeps on the way excepting the driver and myself. We wind along beside the aqua-colored river with its wide gravel bed, green forested hills and the occasional dramatic cliff. We drive along route 168 towards Gojo, and finally arrive at the trail access. CIMG8414 CIMG8413 CIMG8418

Mizunomi-Ouji is a mossy, Sugi-enveloped trail studded with green stumps and tiny mushrooms. We walk along the trail looking for good patches of leaf-filtered light. Elsa and I are told to walk on ahead while the ad director and the entire crew follow along behind. “Do you ever get the feeling,” says Elsa with a smirk, “that you’re being followed?” Up the trail and back we go, marveling at tiny purple flowers, sparkling spider webs and towering sugi trees.CIMG8421 CIMG8422 CIMG8424

Massugu sugi

Mori de matte imasu

Shiko atsume





(Small haiku attempt. Be patient with my growing… An old young seedling.)


We stop at a charming little café and B&B along the road on our way back down the Kumanogawa called the “Café Hongu.” The bread they serve with the pumpkin soup is as wonderful as my mom’s homemade bread. I am amazed at how good it is and I compliment the owner on her scrumptious food.HotLoveTea In their homey gift shop, I find some delicious apple butter and some “Hot Love” tea to bring back with me as omiyage.

On the drive back we notice a stretch of the river where a sediment-laden tributary joins the main trunk. There, the river runs with two colors of water, sharply divided down the middle. The far side of the river runs aqua ice blue and the near side is light brown. Another striking contrast along the way is a field of glowing white Pampas grass with a brilliant scarlet sprig of sumac poking its head out over the top. The colors are changing faster now that the weather has gotten colder. CIMG8324



We drive through Koyasan once more and turn into a narrow alley with a traditional Japanese entrance at the end; a different ryokan but this one is charming as well. The building is very old with a maze of indoor hallways that are open to the cool night air and lead us past small rock gardens. After we have found our room, I am afraid that if I wander away, I will not be able to find my room again. IMG_0299

CIMG8439Thankfully, we find the large tatami room which is the dining hall and we do find our way back to our room. We burrow under the poofy covers and fall quickly asleep. It’s been a long day.

The World Wide Wakayama Chronicles; Day Four

10-29-13; Tuesday

A rainy morning delays our start and even though we had to get up at 4:40, we do get to relax in our room until the 12 noon departure. No point setting up a photo shoot with no sun. Time to relax, catch up on email and do homework.



For lunch, we walk to a nearby okonomiyaki place where we watch the cooks make delicious omlette-type thick pancakes containing eggs, flour, seasonings, and various meats. My favorite is the squid okomomiyaki with its firm and chewy chunks of white meat. The guys in the crew start to drink even though it is only noon. We find out later, that they all end up having to take naps in order to sleep off the effects of the alcohol. squid_lobsters


We meet in the lobby at 5:00 pm to go out to supper where we are treated to a huge feast at the same restaurant as the nights before. The restaurant owners create dish after dish of wonderful food and it is tempting to eat much too much. The beef, in particular, was so tender; some of the best I have ever tasted.


Back in the hotel, after the usual mother-daughter arguments about use of the computer and time limits, we head to bed at around 9:00 pm with the windows propped open for the cool fresh rainy air. It has been a very relaxing day as the weather has made it impossible to shoot any photos. Tomorrow, we will have to make up for the day of rest.