The Sun Also Sets

Farewell, Japan – I will miss you. I will miss your forests, with your pine trees standing so closely together (and so close to the road) that your nature can be every bit as claustrophobic as the streets and alleyways of your cities. I will miss your customs, such as the belief that a pairContinue reading “The Sun Also Sets”

Shimizu – 清水

Dearest Rachel – Our trip is just about to wind down, and we’re down to our last stop before returning to Tokyo, and from there to Narita and home via Denver (which no, I am not going to bother writing about. I’ve already told you plenty about having been there). I’m not sure how muchContinue reading “Shimizu – 清水”

All Part of the Show

Dearest Rachel – You might be surprised (or you might not, what do I know?) to discover how often I get started on the letter to you, only to virtually crumpled up and throw it over my shoulder into the trash. Maybe I can’t find an ending for it. Maybe it’s just too rambling andContinue reading “All Part of the Show”

Kyoto – 京都

Dearest Rachel – I know I should be talking about Kobe, since that is the port that we will be coming into tomorrow. However, since our excursion is a Shinkansen ride to Kyoto – and this is the place I remember so vividly, as I walked around it during the day after the Emperor Showa’sContinue reading “Kyoto – 京都”

Takamatsu – 高松

Dearest Rachel – So now, we visit the third of Japan’s major islands, meaning we’ll have stopped at all but Hokkaido on this trip. And to think, we still have three more days before we’re back in Tokyo. Takamatsu is the capital city of Kagawa Prefecture, located in the northwestern part of Shikoku Island, theContinue reading “Takamatsu – 高松”

Hiroshima – 広島

Dearest Rachel – For all that Hiroshima has a certain singular claim to fame (if nothing else, it is the yardstick by which all nuclear devices are measured against, usually in terms of dwarfing it), there is so much more to this city than that one terrible moment. Indeed, the fact that it still standsContinue reading “Hiroshima – 広島”

Kitakyushu – 北九州

Dearest Rachel – So, after that brief sojourn on the tip of the Asian continent proper, we return to the islands of Japan. And I use the plural deliberately, since this is our first visit to a city on an island other than the main one of Honshu. Kitakyushu is a city located in theContinue reading “Kitakyushu – 北九州”

Busan – 부산시

Dearest Rachel – I know that, when cruises’ destinations are within the United States (such as to Alaska and Hawaii), there is a stop (or, more often, an embarkation point) in another country, so that the ship isn’t subject to the laws of the United States, which presumably are considerably more stringent than the internationalContinue reading “Busan – 부산시”

Kanazawa – 金沢

Dearest Rachel – I think of Japan (and the main island of Honshu in particular) as being much like California in shape and climate, if clearly not in culture. If we think of ‘cruise ship speed’ as equivalent to 25 mph on land (at least, that’s what we always referred to it as we droveContinue reading “Kanazawa – 金沢”

Niigata – 新潟

Dearest Rachel – Even before we head down the gangplank tomorrow, we should have a beautiful view, no matter where we are; the side of the ship not facing the city should be able to see Sado Island. At least, that’s what it looks like on the map of the prefecture, showing where the cityContinue reading “Niigata – 新潟”

Akita – 秋田

Dearest Rachel – We’ve now gone across the top of Honshu, and continuing our counterclockwise route around the country through the Sea of Japan (as opposed to the Pacific Ocean proper). Akita (literally translated ‘autumn field,’ which suggests we’re here at exactly the wrong time of year – evidently, the many rice paddies turn aContinue reading “Akita – 秋田”

Aomori – 青森

Dearest Rachel – As our one and only sea day comes to a close, I’m starting in on sending out these daily pre-docking reports, like we used to do as a family. As I’ve mentioned a few times previously, most of the research is being done by artificial intelligence – because there’s too many stopsContinue reading “Aomori – 青森”

Departure Day

Dearest Rachel – No, to the best of my knowledge, it’s not so momentous as yours; we’re just getting everything packed to be taken to our ship. There is a twinge of concern, as we won’t be absolutely sure we’ll be able to get on until we’re actually on. But that’s not something we’re goingContinue reading “Departure Day”

Tokyo – 東京

Dearest Rachel – Since I’m going to be incommunicado on the flight, I figure I’ll have this prepared beforehand to send to you, and schedule it to arrive shortly before landing. After all, it isn’t as if I’m going to be discussing this with Daniel at dinner – while I expect we’ll be served severalContinue reading “Tokyo – 東京”

Return to Israel

Dearest Rachel – After visiting Bethlehem and the shepherd’s caves, we head back into Israel proper. While we never needed our passports (because isn’t it still Israel? I mean, there is no separate country of Palestine at the moment), it has all the feel of a border crossing otherwise. As we arrive at Nebe Samuel,Continue reading “Return to Israel”


Dearest Rachel – The first time we heard this phrase was the last time we were in Israel. Our guide, Irad, claimed no credit for it; he had, on a recent tour previous, been asked about them from a pair of twenty-something girls, and liked the expression so much as to ask permission to borrowContinue reading “Shopportunities”

A Stone’s Throw Away

Dearest Rachel – As we drive off from our lunch stop (and that’s a quick story for another time), Yael discusses the reforestation of Israel; it would seem that it was denuded of trees in the late nineteenth century for hardwood to build a rail line between Istanbul and Mecca/Medina for hajj travelers. Over 90%Continue reading “A Stone’s Throw Away”

Calm Amid the Chaos

Dearest Rachel – Since thus far, we really haven’t had the time for shopping, it would seem that merchants have decided to come to us. I mentioned about Junior plugging tattoos yesterday; today, we had a guy aboard the bus, shilling personalized necklaces and rings. I’m not gonna lie, I was briefly tempted to getContinue reading “Calm Amid the Chaos”

This You Cannot Make Me Do

Dearest Rachel – The climax of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is the moment when Scrooge brushes the snow away from the tombstone of the ‘unknown’ man he had seen lying dead earlier in his travels with the Spirit of Christmas Future. It’s the turning point in which he realizes how worthless his life hasContinue reading “This You Cannot Make Me Do”

The Sacred and the Secular in the City of the Savior

Dearest Rachel – We hear the bleat of a horn (and I’m not kidding – it drops a tone mid-honk) as we step off the bus this morning. It’s normal for the inhabitants, but it’s odd for us to land on an angle this steep. At least it’s easy to make our way out ofContinue reading “The Sacred and the Secular in the City of the Savior”

The City of David

Dearest Rachel – “♫ Jerusalem, if I forget youLet my right hand forget what it’s supposed to do ♪” We bounce in to the strains of reggae, if you can believe it.  Jordan claims it’s a tradition among us at the Bridge, but I don’t recall that from past visits to Jerusalem.  Our first timeContinue reading “The City of David”

Streams and Songs in the Desert

Dearest Rachel – We’re warned not allowed to eat, drink, smoke or feed the animals as we make our way into the En Gedi nature preserve. I wonder about smoking the animals for eating, but Daniel nudges me like you would for a crack like that – which I probably deserve. I thought that EnContinue reading “Streams and Songs in the Desert”

The Last Stand

Dearest Rachel – We’re back at Masada yet again; and although it doesn’t factor into the Biblical record, it seems to be de rigeur for a tourist in Israel to visit, it would seem. It’s a symbol of heroism for Israelis, despite involving what was effectively mass suicide, a serious breach of Jewish morality. However,Continue reading “The Last Stand”

Galilee Afternoon

Dearest Rachel – Sunday dinnerOn the shore of Galilee At a… Chinese restaurant? Actually no, we’re not eating at the Pagoda this time. But, we find ourselves eating outdoors in November – another unfamiliar combination of concepts for a group of Chicago natives. But as time wears on, and the sun beats down on us, evenContinue reading “Galilee Afternoon”

A Light from the Heights

Dearest Rachel – After lunch at Caesarea Philippi, we take an hour-long ride into the Golan Heights (still a part of the Galilee region), to a town called Gamla. You would think that a nation barely the size of Rhode Island wouldn’t have such long drives from place to place, and yet, here we are.Continue reading “A Light from the Heights”

Dan in the North

Dearest Rachel – No, this has nothing to do with Daniel being with me as we head to the northernmost point of Israel (at least, not at first); this area was named Dan long before that. I should point out that I haven’t been bringing our itinerary with us; since I’m not the one driving,Continue reading “Dan in the North”

Blessed Are…

Dearest Rachel – After barely making the bus (it looks like I’m starting to fall into your habits, sweetheart), we listen to a little recent history from Yael as we travel to the Mount of Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Galilee; basically, that of the two-state proposal as drawn up in 1948 (and summarily rejectedContinue reading “Blessed Are…”

On the Edge of Shabbat

Dearest Rachel – For all our familiarity with certain Jewish traditions – and ever more so, now that Logan is living with us (although he cheerfully agrees with my assessment of him as a ‘cheeseburger Jew,’ which is to say, rather loose with regard to the strictures of his religion) – Israel proper takes whatContinue reading “On the Edge of Shabbat”

The Site of Armageddon?

Dearest Rachel – It’s a strange thing to consider; while we’re well aware that the name Armageddon comes from a specific place – the valley of Megiddo, where we are now heading to – it goes against our understanding to think of the end of the world happening in a single specific place. Armageddon seemsContinue reading “The Site of Armageddon?”

The Difference in Mornings

Dearest Rachel – It says something good about a hotel bed when you wake up in it thinking year at home in your own – although I think it may have had more to do with the ambient traffic noise that I’m so used to back there. It’s less complementary when you check the alarm,Continue reading “The Difference in Mornings”

A Rest Arrested, A Connection Made

Dearest Rachel – I really thought I’d be better at this; given that I was yawning like crazy even as the folks were driving Daniel and I to the airport, I assumed I’d be able to fall asleep on the plane without any difficulty. It was certainly late enough in the evening, and I hadContinue reading “A Rest Arrested, A Connection Made”


Dearest Rachel – In the eponymous book describing it (and the many adventures Arthur Dent takes under its influence), The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy has emblazoned on its cover two critical words: “Don’t Panic.” In theory, it’s good advice for the traveler, whether you’re escaping a planet that’s about to be destroyed, or justContinue reading “Pa(ni)cking”

Can’t Help But Compare

Dearest Rachel – Waking up ridiculously early this morning isn’t anywhere near as unpleasant as it has been, now that the fan motor has been replaced in the bedroom space heater. Still, without an immediate topic at hand to talk to you about today (since by waking up, I seem to have completely punctured whateverContinue reading “Can’t Help But Compare”


Dearest Rachel – Oddly enough, this report is coming to you from Oranjestad, as we’re not leaving Aruba until something like 11 o’clock tonight. We’re still going to be pulling in to Curaçao by 8 in the morning tomorrow – that’s how close these two islands are to each other – and I’m told thatContinue reading “Willemstad”

Out On the Open Ocean?

Dearest Rachel – It’s not quite seven in the morning, and I’m awake early again. It’s not exactly a complaint, but you think it wouldn’t be necessary, as there is nothing much to see when you’re out in the open ocean. Except, apparently, we aren’t. I was actually woken up, in fact, by a textContinue reading “Out On the Open Ocean?”


Dearest Rachel – Today I learned that, when you have a head cold (particularly one involving aural congestion), the ascent isn’t a big deal, but the descent is a painful process indeed. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. Since there is neither sleep nor a meal before arriving is Basel, I had best send outContinue reading “Basel”