Tuesday, May 30, 2006



It takes my mother 11 hours and 20 minutes to fly from San Francisco to Japan. It takes me about 6 hours to fly from New York to San Francisco. Now, how long do you think it should take me to fly to Tokyo?

Please forgive the SAT like format of that question; some habits do die hard. Here's the thing; when I leapt into my plane seat and listened to the pilot chatter as I always do, I was stunned to hear that our flight time would be approximately 12 hours and 20 minutes. This seemed like cheating! How on earth could we get to Japan so quickly?

As I followed the GPS monitor (What can I say? I'm a geek. I love that little map) I saw that our plane was actually flying north of Canada and Alaska and over the Arctic Sea. This time there would be no little island of Attu to photograph. Instead, we came down over Siberia where the air traffic controllers had marvelously robust Slavic accents. I knew that no one in Japan would believe me when I told them that I had come via Siberia; things that seem unbelievable to my family are often attributed to my status as a foreigner (everyone asked my mother if I had really seen the Emperor or if my Japanese was just "off," for example), so I snapped the photo you see above of our little plane coming down over the cold north.

Ah, what romance! It's to Siberia which Eliade referred when he wrote about shamanism. The view made me think of the wonderful puzzle game called Syberia. There was nothing to see out of the window but mountains and snow. No roads. No towns until we were further south. Just miles and miles of exotic landscape and so, instead of sleeping as one is supposed to do, I was glued to my window. I felt awed, and sad that I would probably never get to visit the space over which we were flying.

Later, I fired up my another favorite toy, Google Earth, to see where I had been when I took the picture of the GPS map.

Here's a rough approximate, with the screen turned.

When I zoomed in to the same spot on Google Earth, I got the above.

Funny thing, I actually took a photo of what I think is the same enormous river you see on Google Earth. I remember at the time being absolutely stunned at the size of this body of water just pouring down the side of the earth. Remember, I was easily 36,000 feet in the air, and yet the river was still this visible and charged.

I started to get nervous after a while, wondering if we were going to fly over North Korean airspace, or perhaps even China. But, abruptly, the pilot made a sharp left and we arched over Niigata, before coming to Iwaki, where I would later go to see my family at the temple. Then, it was down the Pacific coast and into Tokyo.

I swear, these Tokyo/New York flights are so interesting it is difficult to go to sleep the way you are supposed to. One stewardess thought my enthusiasm was amusing and she gave me a very nice copy of a book on the history of United Airlines called "The Age of Flight." There are some priceless photos in there from the early part of the century when mail was dropped from the sky, etc. How far we have come.

I bump into your blog by the sake of destiny. Only one word interest me of your incredible trip to Japan. The word was shamanism and Mirce Eliade. In a Museum of your country, the Smithsonian (forguive my spelling)I got to know native from Siberia, the "old ones", youll find the photos or pictures of these people. From your profile I see you are a writter, me also. So probably we can exchange things that could interest each other. I´m very interested in the powerfull role of women in Shinto religion. My blog is Pinamaravilla.blogspot.com and my mail is Soleilbalneario@hotmai.com
I´ve allready send you a mesage. As I see its not publizised, well I´ll never write to you again. ah , nothing more empty than your post about the dogs.
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