Friday, June 10, 2011


We all have times when we need to get away from it all, wherever we happen to live, which is how I ended up taking the train from my home in Yamanashi, Japan down to Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula. I stayed in a small hostel, ate at little local restaurants, and spent my days wandering, observing, exploring.

Some people might shy away from eating alone, but one of my fondest memories is of wandering into a small eatery with my Jane Austen book tucked under my arm. No one else was in there, and the chef brought me a bowl of creamy risotto and a glass of wine. A little while late, he brought the bottle and another glass. We drank together and enjoyed a peaceful, relaxing evening, watching the sun go down from the diner window.

Another day, I took a boat around the coast to see the dolphins. After disembarking, I hiked to a park filled with tropical flowers of the most beautiful colors. I ate mango and papaya,so juicy it dribbled down my chin. Then I hopped on a bus, just hoping that eventually it would reach Shimoda.

Shimoda is also home to a wonderful little temple, which is an unlikely home to a sex museum. Follow the path shown above, and a little old obaa-san will point you to the museum. In one room is a collection of watercolors, illustrating the tragic story of Okichi-san, the real-life inspiration for Madame Butterfly. Driven mad by love and abandonment, she eventually drowned herself in a nearby stream. Walking along streets that have changed little in the past hundred years, I envisioned the tragic scene, framed in a carpet of sakura.

In the other room at the museum, you will find an incredible array of phalluses, from a few millimeters to six feet high. Fans of Blackadder will also be pleased to note the selection of pickled vegetables in erotic shapes.

Tragedy and wink-wink erotica. Truly Japanese.

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