Perry visits Northern Japan

Dear bear friends:

We've had such fun in Tokyo! It's a big, bustling, modern city. There are many things to do and see, and the people of Tokyo are hip and stylish.

There is another Japan. A Japan that moves more slowly. A Japan that honors the past, and lives more closely to the land. We have been visiting there, and I can't wait to tell you about it!

For the past day and night, we have been visiting Akita, in northern Japan. We arrived there by plane. Even from up high, Akita was very different from Tokyo! Where Tokyo sits flat on the ground, Akita lies among gentle, wooded hills. From the air, I could see gardens and forests and patches of farmland. In the distance, I saw the ocean!

Akita lies near the Sea of Japan, on Japan's western edge. Smell the air, Perry Bear! It's fresh and cold, much cooler than Tokyo! The small airport sits in the lap of groves of cypress trees, and their scent is delicious! Cold and sharp and bright. I sniffed the air as we left the plane. So many good smells! Rice and trees and farmland, and beneath it all, the ocean heaven, to the sharp nose of a little bear!

Where Tokyo is buildings, buildings, buildings, Akita sits in farm country. We rode the bus from the airport to our hotel. The bus wound through farmland ­ tidy, green gardens and jigsaw patches of rice paddies. Akita is famous for its rice, and we saw rice being grown everywhere! Small irregular plots of rice land were bordered by bright-blooming rows of dwarf orange marigolds. Each rice paddy was connected by a small irrigation ditch, because rice plants aren't happy unless their toes are under water!

I waved to a woman in an apron, out hoeing her cabbages.

"Does Japan have rabbits?" I asked Miss Cynthia, because Akita looked just like a page from my Peter Rabbit book! Tight cabbage heads bloomed from round, wide leaves. I could imagine my friend Peter hopping among the cheery green plants. Look out for Mr. McGregor, Peter!

In one field, rice was being harvested by machine, but in another, Japanese men were harvesting by hand. It was interesting! Rice plants grow about 18 inches high the same height as Perry Bear! To harvest the rice, the plants are cut off close to the ground. Gather a handful of rice plants, and stack it next to a tall pole. As you gather more handfuls, alternate them in a tidy ring around the pole. You'll form a "tube" of rice plants, sitting neatly in a circle around the pole. Let the plants dry for several days, and you can pick up the pole and transport the rice to the threshing area! I saw many poles, surrounded by their tube of rice plants, drying in the sun and waiting to be carried away.

Among the rice paddies and gardens rose small, trim houses. Although the houses were built of modern materials, they looked very traditional. Tile roofs slanted down to roof ornaments, and upper stories perched high upon the broader shoulders of the ground floor. Each house was neatly kept, with a small kitchen garden of vegetables and flowers. Our path into the city was lined with long rows of bright orange marigolds. The people of Akita must be very skilled gardeners!

Akita is a small city. It sits on a river, quite near the seashore. Akita's parks have ponds and fountains and many water plants.

Attention! Bear friends from Minnesota! Did you know that Akita, Japan, is your sister city? I was surprised to learn that an American university, Michigan State University, has a campus branch in Akita! Japanese students who will be traveling to the United States study in Akita for a year or two, and American students who want to learn more about Japan come to Akita to study. What a good way to learn more about one another!

Our hotel in Akita was very nice. It looked out upon a lovely park, with a pond and fountains. We strolled the downtown streets in a fine mist of rain. Poor Miss Cynthia! She doesn't like to feel the mist in her hair. If she had fur, as I do, she'd enjoy the rain much more!

People in Akita were not as busy and hurried as those in Tokyo. Ladies have a long and friendly afternoon tea in the hotel's restaurant. Look! Two young ladies are practicing their English, talking with some of our musician friends! I decided that Akita was a very nice, very friendly place to visit!

Oh! It's late and time for Perry Bear to go to bed. I'll have to write more, another day!

Your bear friend,

Perry Bear Ewer

Perry's Travels: