157. Tanuki statue, Mōka, Japan

"Tanuki" means "racoon-dog" in Japanese. We happened upon this massive statue in the village of Mōka, a village known for its ceramics. Tanukis symbolize good luck in business, so I sometimes saw them in front of family-owned establishments. The figure at the bottom of the page demonstrates how big this dude is.

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156. Shinkansen, Tokyo

"Shinkansen" means bullet train. This is the latest incarnation of many, designed by Ken Okuyama, the same man who designed the Acura NSX, the Enzo Ferrari, the Maserati Birdcage 75th, and many other design masterpieces. In Japan, infrastructure is a sexy cultural force. 

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155. Fuji-san, Gotemba, Japan

This is a view from the east of Mount Fuji, known colloquially as Fuji-san. This mountain means different things to many people. To me, it marks where my aunt and uncle are buried.

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154. Bridge, Chiyoda, Japan

A bridge over a moat at the Imperial Palace of Japan. To the right of the image, where the windows reflect the rose of the sunset, is a newspaper building. It seems a fitting symbol of the insider access that journalists have to elite institutions.  

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153. Torii, Mōka, Japan

I'll post art that I painted in Japan for the next few weeks.

Here is a torii, a gateway to a sacred place. In the Shinto faith, natural areas such as waterfalls, forests, lakes, and mountains are often protected, sacred places, demarcated by torii. I found it wandering around a wooded are in the village of Mōka. I love drawing these gates because they always frame a delicate shrine and the surrounding natural environment in a beautiful manner. 

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152. Crime and wine

A few weeks ago the wine store next to us was broken into.

The store occupies lower floor of the apartment building next door. The robber first tried a window facing the street. Failing that, he forced the front building door and tried to enter through the main hallway. Failing that he walked all the way around the block and entered the courtyard fence. Finally he forced the newly installed back door. 

He took bottles of wine, cash, and took a break to snack on something from the fridge and took off. 

It's not cool. I have heard and seen bike theft is normal here, like in New York, but breaking and entering is scarier. It's much more invasive. 

It's not something that can be easily escaped. Our neighborhood, called Stadtfeld, is considered safe and family friendly. 

However because it's attractive, it also has the highest per capita income in the city. I was surprised to hear that. It's not obvious because the signs of affluence are subtle. There are no gated communities. It's typical to drive a German car. People dress in a very practical manner. 

That said, I don't feel unsafe in this city. I have yet to hear of any violent crime and no one has said don't walk at night. Maybe New York inurred me to crime. 

150. Come meow

My uncle and aunt gave the kids little plates for Christmas last year, and my kids love them. The plates have a painting of the "maneki neko," or "beckoning cat" on them, a Japanese symbol of good luck.

I told Emi, "The cat is saying, 'Come here' with its paw."

After a moment Emi said, "Daddy the cat says, 'Come meow!'" And motioned like the cat.  

For a moment I couldn't believe it.  

But it really was a joke. I roared with laughter. "Emi that is awesome! Your first real joke in English!"

And she grinned and laughed with me.