The Friday night barbecue, that shook the night, life continues as a foreigner in Japan

My wife was scheduled to arrive home after a tough day, no details necessary, we all face the demands of modern life, her challenges were my motivation to prepare an Excellent dinner.

Please understand, this wasn’t our first barbecue at our house in Kawasaki, and let me promise you, it won’t be the last. To date, it was undoubtedly, the most memorable. 

I lit the coals, waited for them to burn to BBQ friendly white/red, attached the grill, and started throwing on the steaks, pork chops, and hamburger patties. My wife arrived home, opened our balcony door for a quick second, we connected, and she started making salads. 

This might sound like a typical evening to most families, but normalcy came to a grinding halt, when the Kawasaki City Fire Trucks ripped down our little side street, stopped, secured the area, pulled out hoses, and were ultimately disappointed to find me, flipping burgers. (This happens in Kawasaki, not often, but the authorities act on emergency phone calls.)

The firemen assessed the situation and returned to their station without much hesitation or further invasion, but the Kawasaki police department followed by knocking on our door several times, to confirm the obvious. 

We exchanged identification, and they asked difficult questions, for example, “what’s your date of birth?” This was followed by, "how old is he?” My wife encouraged the members of Kawasaki’s finest to purchase and launch the calculator technologies available in Japan. (Note, lighting a BBQ, and grilling meat on one's property, is not a crime in Kawasaki.)

 I was proud of my wife when she reversed roles and asked, “would you ask a Japanese man about his occupation, would you be so rude to ask a Japanese man to enter his house without a warrant, would you ask a Japanese man where he’s from?”

It was also gratifying for the extra time allowed by my wife's public stand, to complete flipping the hamburgers. Now let’s be exact, they are Bubba burgers original patties, imported from the USA, and they are delicious.

The party was ruined, or at least dampened, and our energy was drained. In retrospect, the event was humorous, offering an opportunity for a family to stand tall, together, in our community. We've lived in this tiny neighborhood in Kawasaki for ten years, and every good neighbor we know, found the situation humorous, giving us thumbs up. 

The world's not a perfect place, but it's sometimes unsettling to be reminded of your station in society, specifically as a visible foreigner.


Discovering Germany and its sensational wine

After years of traveling to Germany on business, my wife agreed to join a trip, dividing our time for business and as tourists. My wife focused on exploring some of Germany’s favored wine regions. The red's of Baden-Baden, the whites of the Mosel River Region, and the Franken wines grown near the beautiful city of Wurzburg.

The English language combined with a few limited polite phrases in German, and the car's navigation system, proved sufficient for survival. Our passion for wine and history dictated our travel course, as did my wife’s natural inclination to check off every box on the daily sight-seers “to-do list.” Following are a few observations, and suggestions, should you elect to visit this incredible country.

-1-Drive the Autobahn, but first, spend a moment studying the rules. There are no speed limits for large sections of the Federal Highway, and cars fly past you. (This encouraged prayer in every beautiful Cathedral we visited.) Around towns and road construction, the speed limit is marked, and drops quickly from 120 Kilometers/hour to as low as 30 k/h and is strictly enforced. Speed cameras run by “big brother” are active, and well used in Germany, followed with hefty fines.

-2-The Berlin Pass allows access to walking tours, river boat tours, museums, Cathedrals, local transportation, and hop on-off bus tours. It saves time, money and encourages visits to venues off the typical tourist's path. We visited every museum on the Berlin Museum Island including the famous Pergamon Museum, took a boat tour on the Spree River, climbed to the top of the Berlin DOM Cathedral, visited the Check Point Charlie and German Spy museums, walked on a guided tour of WWII historical sites, and road subways, trains and local buses as required. Berlin is a vibrant city with lots to offer every generation.
 -3-Wurzberg and its Franconian wine, are worth your time. The medieval town is 120 K from Frankfurt and is surrounded by beautiful hills, vineyards, and attractive architecture. We used the local bus service and traveled on foot to visit the Residence Palace, the DOM Cathedral, the Old Bridge on the Main River, and Marienberg Fortress. We didn't miss one delicious meal, always accompanied by the local Franconian Wines. (The Burgerspital Weinstuben, a wine company, was established in 1316, and continues as an Excellent non-profit organization, producing great products and supporting local hospitals.) We sent a case of the white Silvaner vintage, from Burgerspital, home to enjoy. The Burgerspital Weinstuben has a restaurant serving the best cold smoked meat we ever tasted.
-4-St. Stephan, Mainz, Cathedral with Chagall's stain-glassed windows, is a destination worth considering. The windows are Chagall's last work and his contribution to German-Jewish reconciliation. Our first impression was serious, "wow." (Mainz is 26 miles from Frankfurt.)
-5-Baden-Baden was once considered the summer capital of Europe and was the destination for Royalty and celebrities. The lovely city now attracts thousands of tourists who enjoy the spa resorts, restaurants, shopping, and the Baden-Baden Casino, established in 1801. We recommend a tour of the casino, as the frescos, classic paintings, chandeliers, and antique furniture are remarkable. The red Spätburgunder (pinot noir), from the Baden-Baden region, is delicious. Restaurant suggestion, we sampled this vintage and several other local beauties at the "Monte Cristo Tapas Bar," and enjoyed an exciting evening.   ( http://monte-christo-baden-baden.de/ ) 
-6-Cochen on the Mosel River is a must visit for white wine lovers and a relaxed visit to the German countryside. We stayed at a small hotel built in front of a vineyard, owned and run by six generations of the Andre Family. It was a great venue, serving delicious multicourse meals on the patio by their vineyard overlooking the Mosel River, and was convenient for day trips. We enjoyed hiking to the Cochem, and the Eltz Castles, and cruising around local villages. The dry Riesling vintages produced in the Mosel region are worth a try.
Trier is only an hours drive from Cochem, and it's Germany's oldest city, where Roman ruins and Medieval architecture waits for your visit. We ate at the Wirtshaus Zur Glock, a restaurant dating back to the 17th century, surrounded by walls built in the 12th century. (The German food was fresh and tasty.)


-7-Frankfurt Museums, while at Frankfurt Airport with a long flight delay, you might consider visiting the city. There are over a dozen museums located on or near the Frankfurt Main River Bank. This includes the German Architecture and Jewish Museum, the German Film Museum, and my favorite, the Stadl  Museum. The Stadl Museum exhibits paintings by Monet, Cézanne, Kirchner, Picasso, Edvard Munch, Auguste Renoir, and  Johann Vermeer's Geographer.  They allow photos, and without the distraction of crowds, there is time to take a few good ones.