Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Japanese Visit -March 17-24, 2015

More than a year ago Masamichi "Mitch" Higurashi invited me to speak at the Japanese Sherlock Holmes Club in Tokyo. I graciously accepted and began preparations. Other than a brief over night stay at Narita Airport, this is my first trip to Japan. 

The flight is 12 1/2 hours direct from Dallas to Tokyo and it was completely unremarkable - the way I like my flights. As I touched down, I had a moment of panic. Mitch had agreed to pick me up and had made all of my arrangements for the week, I realized that I was not privy to this information and wondered what I would do if for some reason Mich failed to appear. Not to worry, Mitch was waiting just outside of security. He was there with Kiyoshi Arai, who received his investiture in the BSI in January as Sho-in Near Nara. This was a pleasant bonus. Many happy greetings and gifts were exchanged, coffee drank and then the hour or so drive into Tokyo proper.

Masamichi (Mitch) Higurashi, me, and Kiyoshi Arai at Narita.

Tokyo is an amazing city. It covers a vast area but it is very clean and easily navigated. Mitch's GPS, in her cute little Japanese voice, guided us expertly to the parking garage of the Hotel Metropolitan Edmont. This would be my home the entire time I was in Tokyo. We did travel by bullet train the next day to Kyoto but returned to our Tokyo base the next night.

Kyoto, formerly the Imperial City of Japan is located on the island of Honshu. It is nicknamed the City of Ten-Thousand Shrines but we only visited nine-thousand and ninety-one. At the Tokyo Station, we were met by Takahiko Wakabayshi and his wife Harumi.We were also joined by Yumiko Shigaki. All were Sherlockians. The bullet train ride took just over an hour. We arrived and ate lunch before heading out to explore the city.
Don, Harumi, Takahiko, Mitch, Yumiko

Our first stop was Kinkaku, or the Golden Pavilion part of a large complex dating back to the fourteenth century. Another stop was the Zen temple Ryōan-ji, The Temple of the Dragon at Peace. It is considered one of the (if not the) finest surviving examples of Kare-sansui (dry landscape). The fifteen rocks placed inside a small rectangle of white pebbles, raked in between, offers infinite tranquility and possibilities to the observer. Not every stop fulfilled the spiritual realm some were simply for the spirit realm, as was the case when we visited the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum. Here we were shown the complete process of making sake and given samples at the tour's end. We explored many more areas but late Friday night boarded the train back to Tokyo.

Saturday morning the conference began. 

For more than twenty years, I have traded books with Takahiko Endo but never met him. 
Takahiko Endo and Don
So at the beginning of the conference, six Japanese Sherlockians lined up in the front of all of the attendees and I was asked to pick out Takahiko. To the pleasure of all, I made the correct choice. The first presentation was by Hiroko Nakashima. She spoke on and showed photographs of 'The Alpine Adventure from Septermber 26-28, 2014'. It was sort of like a homecoming. I saw pictures of many Sherlockian friends like Michael Meer, Marcus Gassner, and Peter Blau. Of course, Hiroku spoke in Japanese, but her photographs were in "English". She has a wonderful eye for taking pictures and later she presented be with three booklets of her exquisite photographs.

I was seated next to Yaeko Amano and she served as my interpreter. She was a God-Sent . After lunch, it was my turn to present. I gave a Power Point titled '101 Damnation's' that featured slides of 101 different foreign covers of the Hound of the Baskervilles and commentary on each. I received laughs at all of the appropriate places and everyone seemed to enjoy the show. The Japanese are extremely polite and many asked permission to take photographs with me afterwards. They are also so very gracious. I was given many, many gifts. I was so honored to be there, I should have been giving all of the gifts.

(Clockwise) Don, Yaeko, Harumi. Takahiko Wakabayshi,
Unknown, Kiyoshi, Yuichi Hirayama, Eiichi Nakahara,
Takahiko Endo.
Many of my new best friends and plenty of my old best friends ventured out to a small traditional Japanese restaurant for dinner. I got to experience Japan like a local, not like a tourist. The beer and sake flowed freely until it was time to stagger back to our hotel. Sunday was the day of my main presentation and being hung-over was a great way to present.

My dear friends Joan Proubasta and his wife Rosa Diaz along with their daughter Marta, Rosa's brother Miguel Diaz, his wife Myriem Sampere and their daughter Adriana were all there on Sunday. Joan's talk began the 74th Japanese Sherlock Holmes Club's meeting. I did not have an interpreter seated with me on Sunday but Joan's presentation was in Spanish so I gathered in bits and pieces of it, better than I could of it had been in Japanese.
Joan Proubasta, Don Rosa Diaz
Once again, the Japanese treated me like royalty and showered me with presents. In total, I ended up with more than sixty new books for my collection. So many that I had to get Mitch to mail them to me at no-telling the cost.

As on Saturday, my talk was after lunch. Mitch made slides so the audience could follow along. 'The Collecting Mania' was my talk I gave the first paragraph in Japanese. I did apologize to the audience for butchering their language. They were gracious as usual and did not throw things at me. The final presentation was given by Kiyoshi Arai, BSI - "History of Immigration of the Canon to Japan Featuring the Centennial of The Valley of Fear Publication.'

There was dinner following the meeting on a top floor restaurant over looking Tokyo. It was a marvelous view but the festivities of the evening far exceeded the view out the window. Five long table seating nearly a dozen Sherlockian each makes for a wonderful night, especially once the sake started finding it's way to everyone.
Hiroko and Don

Keits Yamaguch and Don
More revelers
I found it very funny as the night wore on, everyone started giving the 'Peace Symbol" when their pictures were taken. People were sneaking into other people's pictures and really letting their hair down. The normally reserve Japanese can party as loud as anyone.

I was amazed walking into the restaurant because entering the room, everyone stood and cheered for me. It was like having rock star status. During the two days of the conferences, I received about a dozen new friend requests on Facebook and accepted them all. Now I spend a lot of time using the Facebook translation service.

My cheeks literally ached from laughing so much. That is the trouble with sake it goes down easy and makes me laugh.

Sherlock Holmes Pub
On my final day day, Monday, Mitch took me to the Sherlock Holmes Pub and then we came back to the section of Tokyo that sells used books. Believe it or not, I managed to buy a few items before heading back to our hotel. Mitch's wife Mayuko joined us for the day and for dinner, my new best friend Hiroko Nakashima also joined us. We had a very tradition Japanese meal where I ate raw horse meat for the fist time, and no, it did not taste like chicken.
Hiroko feeding me raw horse. Yum!

And in the blink of an eye, my week in Japan was over. I left on Tuesday morning but not before vowing to return. There is still plenty of unfinished business in Japan for me.

Happy Blogging!


  1. Don, you have the greatest bunch of Sherlockian friends all around the world. Please give my best regards to all.

  2. Tokyo and the Japanese people are phenomenal. I was lucky enough to visit there with my youngest daughter a few years back. I wish I had the advatage of reading this blog prior to going, so many places and people in it I would love to have seen and met. At the time thought I was invited over not as a Sherlockian, but as part of the entourage of a good friend who was wrestling for the NOAH World Championship. My daughter and I did get to go on a bicycle tour of Tokyo, eat the local cusine, and stay at the Tokyo Disney for a few days. I never felt as safe in a city as I did in Tokyo, and hope to return one day too. Thanks for such an interesting blog, it brought back great memories.