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The best part about having friends and family visit me here in Japan is that I get to play tour guide and show off my city--in this case Tokyo--and my obviously extensive and amazing knowledge about it. Every so often, however, having friends and family visit means I get the opportunity to visit someplace I've never been before, in which case the trip means I get to show off how well I can use Google and read signs in train stations (both of which, I would argue, are valuable skills).

My mom, who came out for a long weekend, and I decided to spend a few days in Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido. We found some fairly inexpensive flights, booked a hotel, and thought the matter done and dusted. But only a few days after making all our arrangements, Hokkaido was rocked by a magnitude 6.7 earthquake that left at least 30 people dead and the entire island without power or water for several days. But after carefully monitoring the situation, and checking-in with the local U.S. consu…
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Hiking Mount Mitake

The nice thing about having friends with diverse interests is that they often prompt you to try different things. So when my friend, who is also named Claire, suggested a group hike out of the city this Saturday I was excited to do something a little out of my normal weekend routine.

So perhaps a little earlier than I would have liked for a Saturday morning, I took a rather convoluted series of trains from my apartment to Mitake Station, just past the city of Ome in the western edge of Tokyo prefecture (yes, "Tokyo" is technically more than the metropolis proper).

Eschewing the cable car, we then began a rather misty hike up Mount Mitake, generally relishing in the cooler temperatures and the pervading scent of petrichor. There's nothing like some good ol' shinrin-yoku (lit. "forest bathing," it's a widely accepted form of nature therapy).

Once we crested the top of the mountain, we took a quick peek at Musashi-Mitake Shrine which, dating back to about …

Feeling a Bit Blue

It astounds me that it's already the end of August. Time has seemed to pass in a bit of a blur: one hot, sticky mess of 100-degree days and only mildly more bearable evenings. I was also fortunate to visit the U.S. for a week (not Chicago I'm afraid, but Wheeling, West Virginia and then San Francisco) for a family reunion. It was lovely to see all the aunts, uncles, and cousins who I hadn't seen in person for several months, if not years. But given the short visit I essentially spent two weeks with my body clock completely confused about what time zone it was supposed to be in.  However, I'm now I'm back in Japan for the near future and have essentially settled back in to my usual rhythm of life. 
This past weekend I decided to engage with my arts-and-crafts side. The summer of 2009, when I first visited Japan, I was lucky enough to try my hand at aizome (indigo dying) in Kyoto. Recently I had a hankering to try it again, and e-stumbled upon a shop in Asakusa call…