Greetings from Japan

I'm writing to you from my mother's home in Yokohama, Japan, where I've been since Tuesday. It was another lovely early spring day today. The weather was warm enough to go outside without a coat. Kids were playing outside all day, since schools don't start until next week. Their shrill voices waft all the way up to my mom's 8th floor apartment. Normally I'd be a bit annoyed, but not now.


I went for a short walk this morning, trying to get some strength back in my legs after having been almost immobile in front of my computer for more than two weeks, not to mention enduring a very long plane trip. The cherry blossom trees are not yet in flower, though the branches are covered with expectant buds. There are plenty of other spring blooms everywhere, though, livening up balconies and front steps and small gardens everywhere in this mostly residential neighborhood.




I still get a fit of sleepiness in the late afternoons due to jetlag, but otherwise feel great. Every time I get back to Japan, I end up feeling a lot healthier and fitter. Maybe it's my mom's cooking and Japanese food in general, or all the additional walking I do just naturally. This time there's another factor too; one of my mother's friends, a Korean gentleman called Mr. Kim who runs a small restaurant in the neighborhood and is experienced in Chinese herbal medicine, has taken me under his wing. He took one look at me when I went to his restaurant for lunch the other day and said immediately, "You've been not healthy. You need to lose weight. I'll help you get healthy." How did he know, and how did he manage put it in a way that didn't get my back up and tell him to mind his own business? I guess it was the sincere friendliness behind his beaming face. The tea doesn't taste too bad - it doesn't taste great either, but it's tolerable. (He also prescribed at least one hour's walk every day, not eating for at least 4 hours before bed time, and cutting down on white flour and sugar, among other things. It's not just the tea.) I already feel lighter and better. The effects of more than two weeks of mindlessly stuffing myself with potato chips, pizza, fast food burgers and my own fingernails are slowly draining away.


I went grocery shopping with my mom on Wednesday. We couldn't see any vegetables from Fukushima prefecture and some of the surrounding areas, but we saw plenty from other areas of the country. My mother stocked up on lots of greens from the Kyoto area, some small bamboo shoots from Kagoshima, leeks from Okayama and a whole lot more. She'd already gotten a shipment of late-season Dekopon oranges from Ehime (delivered the day after shipping, by Kuroneko Yamato, in the morning as she'd requested). Plenty of fresh produce for at least a few days. And what did my mom do with some of those veggies? Well, she always claims she's not a great cook, but I beg to disagree. This is what we had for dinner that night - shungiku (a type of green leafy vegetable) and gobo (burdock) and carrot tempura, with tiny fried new potatoes. A lot of fried food? Sure, but it's all vegetable and done to a light, greaseless crispiness. We also had natto (fermented soy beans), rice and wakame seaweed and leek miso soup. So good.


Yesterday I went to central Yokohama, where I met a couple of ladies with two large and rather sleepy dogs. They were all trying to raise money for their NPO (non-profit organization), the Japan Animal Therapy Association. They bring well-trained animals to hospitals, retirement homes, special-needs schools and shelters to help the residents feel a little better. What a wonderful way to connect animals with humans.

Therapy dogs (and human) raising money in Yokohama, Japan

Therapy dogs raising money in Yokohama, Japan

Oh, I also got my hair dyed and cut, by my favorite hair stylist right now, Mari-san. Her mother lives right on the coastline of Chiba prefecture, and saw some high waves, but was safe. Her sister is there now, where she just had a baby. (It's quite common for Japanese women to go back to their home towns to give birth, especially if it's their first child.) Here is Mari-san having a laugh with my mom, who was getting a perm.


By next week I should be cured of jetlag. I have a lot planned -- meeting up with people in central Tokyo, attending opening day ceremonies at a local kindergarten; talking to some greengrocers, and a lot more. I hope I can go see my sister and her kids too, though they are all getting the flu one after the other right now unfortunately. I'll see them soon enough though.

I'm trying to get permission to join a group of people going up to Fukushima to serve food at a shelter for a day the week after. It may be that they'd rather have the space I'd take up for carrying up more supplies though. That's okay - I don't want to get in the way. We'll see though. I would surely love to go. In the meantime I'm helping my mother put together more boxes of clothes and essentials to donate to the disaster-struck areas, and dropping money in numerous donation boxes. It's the least I can do.

I'm also planning another trip down to Kyoto for a few days mid-month. I'm looking forward to seeing the ancient city in full cherry blossom-clad splendor. I'll be flying by Osaka too, to indulge in some okonomiyaki and takoyaki. Better not tell Mr. Kim about that. The lights are a bit dim around here at night to save energy, so it will be fun to see the brightly-lit streets of Osaka, as garish as they can be. (Western Japan is on a different grid and a different electrical frequency even than eastern Japan, so the power shortages in the Tokyo area and the east/north have no affect on Osaka, Kyoto and other areas to the west. They're also way far away from the Fukushima plants. Did your local paper tell you important details like that? Guess not.)

If the weather is as good tomorrow as it was today, maybe I'll go over to Eiraku on the outskirts of Chinatown and pick up the best tasting pork steam buns in the world. After that I may do some window-shopping in Motomachi and stroll along the harbor. It seems I won't see a lot of foreign ships there. Cruise lines and even freighters are refusing to dock for fear of 'dangerous radiation'. Strange. The last time I checked, radiation levels of the air or water in Yokohama were as low as ever, lower in fact than many other areas of the world, like say, southern Switzerland. Seems that even central Tokyo, which is a bit more congested than the beautiful Yokohama harbor, has lower levels of radiation than say, Hong Kong. Sad that those cruise line tourists will miss out on the pleasures of this underrated city. Their loss.

Would be nice for you to be here with me. But the media is telling me you don't want to be. Your loss too, I'm afraid.

Filed under:  japan earthquake

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Nice reed! And I also enjoyed the photos. Looking forward to your Eiraku report & pictures. Be safe.

Beautiful photos, and it's so nice to see flowers in bloom already! Your mom's food is making me hungry....

I hope you are getting some rest, physically and mentally, it certainly has been an eventful couple of weeks. Sounds like Mr. Kim is a good influence, but hopefully just being back in Japan and visiting your family is going to do wonders for you. It sounds like a lot of fun things you have planned for your trip though, I want to go! I would go to Japan in a heartbeat if I had the funds, that's for sure.

I'm looking forward to your posts (and living vicariously through them)!

Glad you're there and having a nice time. My mother will be over there in a couple weeks. Not for one second did she think about changing her plans.

hello!lovely pictures.I miss Japan.

My first time commenting.I'd love to go back to Japan.So your hometown is in Yokohama, how lovely!I was planning to drop by and spend the day at Yamashita Park,Minato Mirai and a doll museum nearby Nakaku.I had itinerary planned months ahead but because of the earthquake, my friends forbid me to go out of Tokyo.I was in Japan during the earthquake.Even though family & friends asked me to go back, I chose to stay in Japan till my travel visa expired (which isn't that long).
Though my Japanese friends said it's a pity I had to come at a terrible time, but in my opinion even though it was a bad tragedy but for me, it was a good, valuable experience that I'll treasure for the rest of my life.I made more friends along the way!

Of course I wanna go now. Really, I don't mind the Western hysteria and fearing mongering.

Are you going to visit some greengrocers? Do you have any plan to visit any vegetable farm too?

hey! i'm oviparous on twitter, we've exchanged comments a few times. it's nice to read about what's going on in yokohama; i have friends blogging from tokyo, kyoto and nagoya. it's all different and lovely.

i hope to visit yokohama soon. i'm definitely visiting japan again this year, when my husband has time off from work.

hope you get to go to fukushima! :)

Welcome to Japan. Looking forward to your posts.

Indeed, the media reaction (at least, here in the USA) has been/is completely ridiculous and overreactive. It looks beautiful. :)

Spring in Japan is one of my very favorite things in the whole world. I wish I was there now. Since I can't be, I'm showing my support by donating, stocking up at my local Japanese market, and going to lunch at my favorite Japanese restaurants. One of them is having an Onigiri Night and a viewing of Kamome Diner, with proceeds going to Japan. I'll be there and it will be lovely. The radiation hysteria in the news here in America has gotten so bad I just can't watch it anymore. So I eat good food instead. :)

Your twitter feed has been a beacon of sanity in all this noise. Here's hoping you have a nice, healthy, happy, relaxing time with your family. My best wishes for Japan.

oh gosh I would love to be there. Who listens to the media anyway?! A bunch of ratings mongers. blech.

Your mom's tempura looks so much better than "my own nails"! And who wouldn't be cheered by all those lovely signs of spring? Looking forward to more of your posts on Japan.

Thank you for this beautiful post. My last trip to Japan was this time last year. It was my 5th trip and certainly not my last. Some friends of mine cancelled their Japan trips recently, which saddened me. I think and speak very fondly of Japan and look forward to returning soon.

So glad to hear the problems in Japan are not as country-wide as the media here tends to portray them... I guess I don't have to cross travelling there off my 'things to do as soon as I graduate medschool'-list yet (which is good cause I've been waiting to for ages and it's finally drawing nearer) :D

All the best to your family and friends there as well! and thank your mum for her wonderful recipes that we get through you from time to time :)

My partner and I will still be travelling to Tokyo later this month. Australian travel advisories be damned!

Any suggestions for where a tourist gal could drop off some clothing for the appeal? I'm sure I could find some stuff I don't wear, and I'll probably want extra room in my suitcase on the way back anyway... :)

The best donation you can still make is money (I should mention that my family has made plenty of money donations too; my mom was just asked to donate some clothes from a local NPO. And she has some really nice clothes from when she was working.) Anyway, take a look at the How to help article. Even dropping off change into the donation boxes at numerous places (especially the konbini (convenience) stores) will help. Just bring your suitcases with room to spare for things you'll buy. ^_^ (And honestly, spending money helps too!)

Sounds good - thank you!

And quite honestly, the fact that our tourist dollars would be helping the Japanese economy is a big part of the reason why we've decided to still go! Especially after the heartwrenching email we got from our hotel in Kyoto (KYOTO!) begging us not to cancel our reservation... T_T

Do you ever make it down to Shikoku? We're at the start of what promises to be the nicest spring we've had in years. Usually it goes from too cold to unbearably hot in about a week, but this year we've gotten a kind of reprieve.

Welcome back! I am looking forward to the Eiraku report too--would love to try the best tasting pork steam buns in the world the next time I am in Yokohama. Enjoy your visit!


I hope you don't seriously believe the media about people not visiting Japan!!! I know that many people feel differently about this!!! I would go in a heartbeat if I could, regardless of what the media is saying...

I'm so happy to hear you are doing much better and I am eagerly awaiting more posts from Japan and your mother's kitchen--I can't wait!!! :)

Thanks for this post! Please keep them coming. I'm headed there for my first trip in 2 weeks so I'm eager for any updates you can provide.

I am so happy for you that your trip worked out. I'm also jealous because I would love to be in Yokohama (Izumi) with family right now, but can't. Seeing all your pictures is very nostalgic, especially since we went this time last year. You'll have to post some cherry blossom pictures soon. Your mom's cooking looks very 'oishi' too. There is just something about home cooking that is so comforting. Have a great time and more pictures please :)

Your posts always makes me homesick for Japan (though I'm not Japanese). Spring time is the nicest time to visit especially when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. If you get a chance to walk along the "Philosopher's Walk" when you are in Kyoto, could you post some pictures?

It's unfortunate that the U.S. news reports are focusing on the radiation levels being "dangerously high" and really scaring us. Thank you for your reporting and putting some perspective on the facts.

Safe travels!

This is so comforting to read. I deeply love Japan, and had planned months ago to spend April in Japan during the beautiful spring days. Initially, I had planned on visiting the north part, from Tokyo to Hokkaido, including Sendai. Unfortunately, this will not be possible, so I made other plans and will be traveling in Kansai, Kyushu, and hopefully Tokyo, Yokohama and Kamakura.
Lots of people have been telling me I am making a mistake, so I am very pleased to read this, and very eager to take the plane in two days.

So lovely to hear a report from Japan which isn't all doom and gloom, and just shows that life goes on, and spring is springing as usual. Obviously people in Fukushima are going through a nightmare, but the sensationalism of the news makes everything seem so hopeless, and it's so sickening. These are real people, not the cast of a disaster movie!

Anyway, wonderful piece, as usual, makes me wish I could visit my Mum for Mother's Day tomorrow - Mum's cooking is always the best, isn't it? :)

I loved your post because it reminds me of how beautiful Japan is during the spring.

Second Harvest Japan is an excellent organization that usually feeds the homeless in Ueno Park but is now working very hard to send food up to Fukushima. We used to volunteer with them, and I bet they would welcome your help and donations.

Good luck and enjoy your visit!

Glad to know you are well in Japan and recovering :D Looks like a nice vacation. btw s giving the runaround with your book, I've been trying to order it since Febuary ad they tell me they have supplies problems. They told me they would help me get the book but so far they have been no help at all.

I just hope to be able to get your book soon.

I'm a hungry college student who has been following your blog for quite a while on my quest for better meal ideas than packaged ramen. I've never commented until now because I've nearly really had anything to say (except that your photography is wonderful and your cooking looks exponentially better).

I was slated to study in Japan this summer. The program I'm in has not been cancelled (it is in Okazaki, Aichi). Unfortunately, my parents, who were already grudging in giving their approval to study abroad, are now more than happy to use news sensationalism to retract their approval. I try to convince them of the foolishness of American news channels (especially of those terrible liars at Fox News), but they refuse to see otherwise. I've shown them news sources from Japan but they either ignore my translations or refuse to acknowledge it. I try to tell them that telling me to not go to Japan is equivalent to telling someone to not visit the States back when Hurricane Katrina hit because the States gets hurrricanes (and tornadoes). It's non-sensical to believe one natural disaster can bring down a whole country into pieces.

I want to say that this blog entry is a huge comfort to me. It shows Japan hasn't fallen in the face of disaster but has rather risen up to its challenges. I may not be able to go there this summer but I am still happy to see that life goes on and humanity still expresses kindness on so many levels.

Hi Mika, I'm really sorry if your parents use this as an excuse to not let you go. You can try telling them it's like someone saying not to go to Chicago after Hurricane Katrina geographically speaking, if it makes any difference. I'm sorry but they are doing just that, using it as a convenient and ignorant excuse. And the shame of it is that you will miss out on a wonderful, life-changing experience.

Hey Mike! If it's something you want to do, then do it. I don't know your relationship with your parents but if Japanese culture is an important part of your life and your career, you cannot allow anything to stop you. You'll regret it later and it sounds like you're regretting the mere idea of turning this opportunity down, already.

You can be your own support for something that's important to you. And you have it from a direct source and your own research that your parent's opinion is wrong. Acknowledge their concern (their parents after all!) but still go for it! :)

Anywho... have you tried JH recipe for udon? If you freeze the uncooked udon noodles, thaw while in class, and cook, it's like a 25 minute meal that travels well in a water bottle. I make it for my family when lazy and pressed for time.

This is kind of a personal post and I'm sorry, Maki! I've been reading your tweets like crazy to catch the news on Japan. So glad to see that everyone is still flourishing on the other side of the world. Spring is gorgeous!

I have a trip to Tokyo to see Ayumi Hamasaki in concert for the first time and I have NO THOUGHTS of canceling it :D Some people are silly and filled with irrational fears.

Hi Maki! Been following you on twitter for a while now, and I'm glad you have tweeted the news so closely through Japanese sources. It really helps me follow the "true" news and pass that onto friends here who ask me about Japan.

Although I'm not lucky enough to travel back right now (I was lucky enough to go in 2005 and can't wait to go again), my good friend from Florida had just planned her trip to Japan not long before the EQ and tsunami happened. I'm glad to say she and her travel companion are still excitedly going on Tuesday! They are making a small tour of the country (which I could join!). They are both very excited!

Thank you for sharing such wonderful photos! I am unable to travel so I am grateful to you for letting us all see the beauty around you. I have always wanted to go to Japan and visit and yes, I have heard from my brother, who used to live there, that spring is very lovely! Keep posting pictures, please! Maybe you can share some more recipes from your wonderful mom.

People not wanting to go to Japan-- not true! I just got a job in Tokyo (I'm a Yokohama girl at heart, though... I remember the first time I got to take the train to Landmark Plaza with no parental supervision. We thought we were awesome, me and my friends, haha!) and I waited a week to buy a ticket... the price jumped up $200! So I think people are heading back over there :)

...too bad that had to affect my bank account :(

Thanks for your fantastic blog... I've been meaning to learn to make more washoku and I use your recipes as a reference all the time! I even made karaage in India!

Yokohama. Whenever I hear that, I remember watching a Japanese movie in college and that was the only sentence I understood without reading the subs-"Yokohama kara desu." I was so proud of myself!

On a more serious note, Maki, I really hope that everyone in Japan doesn't think that the way the media is behaving is how regular Americans think. We have enough sense to know we don't need to worry about radiation here (does the media think they're the center of everything?) and we're very concerned about the people affected. Everyone I know just wishes they could do more, and wants to go over and help. I hope you all know that we're thinking of everyone in Japan.

You really make me want to be back in Japan. I lived there for 4 months at the beginning of last year and really wanted to stay longer. I visited Yokohama a bit while I was there and really enjoyed spending time in the city.

It really is unfortunate that the media is making all of Japan into a disaster zone. My friends and family keep on trying to convince me that all of Japan is "blanketed in radiation"--not only that, but people are afraid that dangerous amounts of radiation will be detected here in California. It really is unfortunate that the media perpetuates this silliness. I really do wish people were better informed and wouldn't solely rely on the media to tell them what to do and what not to do.

Thank you for your wonderful blog and I hope you have a wonderful trip.

Maki, welcome home! There are so few voices of sanity writing in English at this time, thank you so much for your post.

We are so happy and glad to be living in Tokyo. Enjoy your time here! Eat at lots of restaurants - there are many neighborhood places that are suffering right now! Thank you for your reminder to drop my change at every conbini I stop by.


Ughhh I think my work internet just ate my long comment. Oh well, that'll teach me. :P

Husband & I still going to Japan in October if we can help it (trip no 3!!!). Would go earlier but not enough cash nau and also NOT interested in super hot japanese summer or tsuyu.

Looking forward to more food pictures, interviews, Japan pictures, shopping pictures, and all the usual. Thanks for everything, Maki!!

Sounds like a great trip Maki! To be honest I've been keeping an eye on flight prices for a couple of weeks now, I expected them to drop with people being (overly) scared. If they come within my budget I'm definitely on my way. I have nothing but good memories from my first trip to Japan and vowed to return. And I think of it as economic support too (aka an excuse to shop a lot while there :) ).
The amount of panic/misinformation is annoying. But now I got a pamphlet from the government to pick up my free jodium tablets (I too live within a 20km radius of a nuclear power plant). Let's hope people will at least also learn from this disaster.

Going to Kyushu in May. Best thing I can do to support Japan is to keep my travel plans. Have already made contribution to Japanese Community and Cultural Center in San Francisco.
Overseas Japanese communities are having fund raisers. My taiko playing friends are performing at 2 shows during Cherry Blossom Festival here.
Looking forward to delicious meals during trip and soaking in Japanese bath at osen.

Glad you're there safe and having a great time! Everything is looking very beautiful!

I was planning on visiting Japan early next year, travelling from Kyoto through to Fukuoka to start my journey through Asia towards Aus! Then since the terrible tragedy of the tsunami and the nuclear plant, my parents are very worried and keep persuading me not to go. I have shown them my route, where I plan to visit etc. And even my dad has ackowledged it's no where near any of the areas that were hit, he is still very unsure. I have now shown him this post and hopefully it will change his mind and put his mind to ease!

Have fun and I hope your sister's family get through the flu :( and you get to see them!

Hello, Maki-san
I'm glad to hear that you and your family are doing OK.
It's my first time commenting, but I've been following your blog for a while. I even got your book and it's really useful and gorgeous to the eye.
It's good to hear that everybody is doing their best over there and hopefully things will get steady soon.
In Mexico the rumour mill isn't as nocive as in America and I just want to tell you that there are lots of people concerned and supporting the people of Japan.
This disaster won't stop my dream of visiting and see personally such beauty.

Have a wonderful trip and keep us posted about this great land of yours,

So happy to hear another voice of reason. I don't follow your blog regularly, but I happened upon this posting and it resonated with me as I just returned from a trip to Japan that almost got canceled due to American media coverage. Luckily, my brother, (who was my traveling companion), is a much gentler voice of reason, and we had a wonderful time. I only wish I had been able to visit more areas. Every time I tell somebody I was just there on vacation, a look of horror crosses their face and they just do not know what to say. It was even worse before we went. People thought we could die. I try to explain that everything was fine, tourists were everywhere, including Japanese tourists, but everybody seems to think that the entire country is in shreds and nothing I say makes them understand that that simply is not the case southwest of Tokyo. I can't wait to return.

i knew the media was overdoing things, as it always does. your town looks and sounds lovely :) and those fried veggies look amazing.


I follow you blog occasionally and saw this post. I am connected to this community-based (Tsukushima) effort to provide long-term relief effort recently written up in Japan TImes ( They set up a "cooking station" with the help of a Tsukushima cafe cook/owner in Fukushima last weekend.. They might be able to use your expertise, depending on scheduling.. Let me know, and I can connect you if you are interested.

It's not a lot compared to what other people can do, but one of the things I've been adamant about is getting people the right information in my own little corner of the world. Boyfriend recently interviewed for a position that he would be able to train for in Japan, and when he expressed where he would like to train, they asked in a scandalized voice if he was serious. Considering that the training would be in the south-eastern side of Japan and we love the country, he fired back, "Absolutely." And then proceeded to give them a little earful about the over-reaction and sensationalism surrounding the disaster.

Personally, I think it's just absolutely awful what folks are doing to Japan, especially in a time when it really needs the support of outsiders, not just monetarily but emotionally. I just can't believe that after the wake of "contamination" scares from the atomic bombs the US dropped on Japan that the world would even allow for the country to go through this stigmatization again. I guess this is why even now journalism pieces are called "stories" and not "truthies."

So, I'm really happy you're there, and that you can show us that the beauty and wonder of Japan is still there and present! Keep spreading the word and being the voice of reason!

I have been a long time fan of your wonderful blog, and had to comment on this story--my family (mother, husband, 2 kids) and I went to Japan two days after the earthquake for a tour we had been planning for a very long time. We had such a wonderful experience, and I, my mother, and daughter can't stop thinking about going back.

I was born in Japan but have very little memory of it--but for my mother going back after 50-odd years, it was very nostalgic and new at the same time.

Seeing your photos makes me wish I could back tomorrow!

Best wishes,


This makes me feel a little less crazy about still wanting to got to, and possibly study in Japan!

oh.. what a beautiful place your hometown is.. how nice to be home right?

I have been to Yokohama during my trips to Japan few years ago.. its a beautiful city..and I have fallen love with Japan since then..

I have been waiting for a chance to visit Japan again (when my kids are older)..

and I admit I am one of those who was flooded by those rumours of radiation crisis by the media..

By reading your post, I am quite assured Japan is still pretty normal as before besides the earthquake stricken areas..

I will be setting my foot on the Land of the Rising Sun again in future.

I went to Japan with my family in the late April. Unfortunately spring comes late this year so for most of days we feels like staying in a fridge. Even wearing 3 layered clothes only help slightly. But when spring nearly arriving, the sun become warmer and feels like heaven compared to the hellish winter before. The wind still cold, though.

I'm from Perth, Australia, and one of our major airlines cancelled all direct flights from Perth to Tokyo, about 2-3 weeks ago. My boyfriend and I visited Japan last year, and will be visiting again in June this year - regardless of the extra flights required, and the misguided teasing from colleagues and friends about returning with radiation poisoning! Like many readers, I am a regular reader of your site and wish to support the Japanese people affected by this tragedy.

Yipppeee! Glad too see you are doing well.