Nara: Daibutsu


(pop 369,000)



The Daibutsu beckons the pilgrim to Nara.  

Daibutsu or Great Buddha sits quietly in the Todai-ji Temple, his right hand raised in the position of protection, reassurance and blessing, 

The Buddha is surrounded by respectful throngs of travelers, tour groups and children who converge on Nara – a large city about thirty minutes by train from Kyoto. 




February 22, 2014

Dear Friends,

Ten years ago in Vietnam, I made a stop at the Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City.  During the Vietnam War, the tunnels formed a network of military strongholds that housed up to 16,000 Viet Minh for months at a time.  Only 6,000 survived the relentless bombing.  Some put the figure at much less.  Thousands of civilians also died in the vicinity.

Kagoshima: The Sengan-en Villa


Kyosho Island

Kagoshima Prefecture


February 20, 2014

My dear friends,

All is can say is …“Ah!”

The weather here: Sunny. Mild. Shed a layer of sweaters.

Forget the north.  Forget Tokyo.  Forget the cold and the snow!

I’m an independent traveler.   I checked the map.  I booked a ticket.  At Kyoto I boarded the “Super Express” to Kagoshima (4 hours) – the southernmost metropolis on the main islands of Japan. (pop 605,640)

Sakurajima Volcano, Kagoshima, Japan

Kagoshima 鹿児島市


February 20, 2014

My dear fellow volcanologists,

Am I an “Expert” in Geology?

I did struggle through Geology 101 as an undergraduate.   I have devoured books by John McFee and Simon Winchester.

Years ago in Java, Indonesia, I traveled to Mount Bromo, when at dawn, the volcano puts on its display of fire and brimstone. 

Most recently, in Ecuador, I watched from afar as the volcano called Volcán Tungurahua lived up to its name: “Throat of Fire.”

So, does all that make me an expert in volcanology, plate tectonics and the Ring of Fire?

Yakushima National Park: Cedar Forest and Unique Shapes


Osumi Islands


February 24, 2014

On Yakushima Island, The National Park is the perfect location for my last day in Japan.

The Natural Recreation Forest or Shiratani Unsuikyo is situated 800 meters (2625 ft) above sea level.  The primal forest of Yakusugi Cedar groves covers an area of 424 hectares (1048 acres). Peering through the thicket of ancient trees, and alone in the forest-primeval, my view from the mountainside to the sea is ever-green and misty-obscured.

I hike the well-maintained trail up along a rising field of boulders and across a suspension bridge.  The trail runs parallel to a rushing stream.  I spot a group of small sika deer who browse the moss, unperturbed by my presence.

Warm Volcanic Sand

Hello my fellow travelers,

The magazine Conde Nast Traveler runs a contest every month.  They publish a photograph of some obscure and exotic place and ask, “Where are you?”

In one issue, I actually knew the answer: the huge reclining Buddha in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

So I have a contest for you.

Check out the photos; and answer, “Where is Jan?”

As a prize, I’ll treat you to a glass or two of sake 酒 the next time we meet.

As the magazine says, “Where are you, anyhow?”