Where Do I Live?

While travelling around Japan, I had to write down my ‘home’ address practically every time I checked into accommodation, as well as most instances when I had to fill out paperwork. While I did not have to write down my ‘home’ address quite as often during my two-month return trip to Taiwan or my two-week trip to Hong Kong, it was something which still came up (such as when applying for hiking permits).

The only address I could fill out was my parents’ address in San Francisco, since that is the only physical address which is a reliable means of reaching me. Filling out my address in Taoyuan would be pointless since I no longer rent that apartment.

It got especially bizarre when a post office in Naha insisted that I write both a ‘to’ and a ‘from’ address, and said that the ‘from’ address should be ‘my’ address. I pointed out that the ‘to’ address was in fact ‘my’ address and that it makes no sense for the ‘to’ and ‘from’ addresses to be identical. I eventually persuaded them to let me list the post office as the ‘from’ address.

People often ask me where I am from, and I reply ‘San Francisco’, and sometimes they reply ‘oh, what do you do in San Francisco?’

Well, ever since I have started this blog, I have not even been in North America, let alone that address in San Francisco.

Even though that is the address I use for paperwork, I do not live there right now, nor in Taoyuan. So where do I live? Wherever I am at the moment.

In a way, I am a drifter now, albeit with the privilege of a ‘permanent’ address, which sets me apart from many other drifters.

And why is having a ‘permanent’ address so special? I suspect that, among other things, by having an ‘address’ (albeit one where I have not been physically present for years), I can prove I am an addressed person, rather than one of those other people. And this can be a tool of oppression – for example, homeless people trying to go to state universities sometimes have trouble proving that they are eligible for in-state tuition because they do not have an address.

I suppose that the place where I sleep – wherever it is – is also my home, albeit temporarily. I am turning quite a few corners of Northeast Asia into my home in this manner. Right now, I am editing this post in Bifuka.

And I am learning not to get too attached to my ‘home’. I can thank a place for being my ‘home’, and let it go, knowing that there are other ‘homes’ for me in the world. I feel quite comfortable with having said goodbye to Taoyuan, and I suspect that, should I ever need to say goodbye to San Francisco forever, it would be possible to do it in a peaceful way (assuming the circumstances of the departure were peaceful).


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National Parks in Hokkaido Week: Daisetsuzan National Park

I recently traveled around Hokkaido, and wish to share the photos I took in the national parks, complete with alt-text descriptions for the visually impaired. Click on the pictures to see them at full size. Enjoy!


Last but not least is Daisetsuzan National Park.

We see a blue sky mostly but not completely filled we white clouds.  There is a mountain with two ridges rising from the lower left to the upper right.  Three jets of steam rise in the middle, parallel to the ridges.  Below we see a little lake, which contains an upside down reflection of the mountain and the sky.  At the very bottom we see a bit of fence.

Mt. Asahi, the highest mountain in Hokkaido.

Above there are white clouds with a hole of blue sky in the center.  Below there is a mountain rising gently up in the shadow of the clouds, covered with a large snowfield like a white cape.  The snowfield is partially in the shade, partially in the sun.

The other side of Mt. Asahi.

In the upper right there is clear blue sky, but to the upper left and in the center right there are clouds blocking the view.  Past the clouds on the left there are views of tall green mountains with streaks of snow, with a green plain dotted with little blue lakes below.

Trying to see the Daisetsuzan mountain range and the little lakes below through the clouds.

Above is a clear blue sky, with some white clouds at the edges.  Below wee see a set of green and reddish-brown hills with a valley in the center, and a little snowfield in the valley.

And this is what I saw at the top of Mt. Asahi.

Above is a blue sky being covered with large clouds (the one clearing in the clouds is in the upper left).  Below we see a reddish-brown volcano with patches of green and a cicular crater at the top.

Mamiya-dake, as seen from the top of Mt. Asahi.

There is an opening of blue sky running from upper left to lower right; otherwise the clouds are blocking the sky.  Below we see a steep slope mostly covered with snow; otherwise it is brown.  The big cloud above is casting a partial shadow across the snow.  In the foreground is the closer side of the crater's rim, reddish-brown with tufts of green shrubs.

Inside the crater of Mamiya-dake.

Above is a clear blue sky partially blocked by a rectangle of clouds.  Below we see a giant basin with a mix of snow fields, greenery, rivers from snowmelt, sulfur mixing in the rivers, etc.  Around the basin are a ring of mountains, which are the same colors as the basin.

This is a giant basin in the middle of Hokkaido’s highest mountains.

In the center of a brown-gravel field, we see a close up of a clump of flowers. They have delicate little grey-green leaves (a bit like yarrow leaves), with pink flowers rising up. Each flower is deep pink at the base, and nearly white at the tips. Someone said that these flowers look like pink elephants' heads.

There are lots of alpine flowers up here, such as these komakusa flowers (thus named because they are supposed to have a face like a pony).

This is like the previous picture of the great basin, but instead of seeing a ring of mountains we see a relatively even ridgeline in the distance, and the mountains are in the shade, while the basin in partially in the sunshine.

Another view of the great basin.

Above is a clear blue sky.  Below we see basalt cliff on the right and left, with one bit of basalt cliff rising in the center like a tooth.  The cliffs are mostly brown but are partially covered by pine trees.  In the gaps between the cliffs there are waterfalls.  The left waterfall is a long white ribbon which spreads out and then narrows.  The right waterfall is barely visible because it is blocked by pine trees, but it looks very full.

An finally, at Kobako (within Sounkyo Gorge) we see the Ginga waterfall on the left, and the Ryusei waterfall on the right.


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National Parks in Hokkaido Photo Week: Shikotsu-Toya National Park

I recently traveled around Hokkaido, and wish to share the photos I took in the national parks, complete with alt-text descriptions for the visually impaired. Click on the pictures to see them at full size. Enjoy!


This is all in Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

There is a clear blue sky above.  In the center of the picture we see a conical mountain with streaks of snow running down in and a cloud cutting across it horizontally.  On the right we see a pine tree, and at the bottom of the picture we see a green forest.

Yoteizan, also known as Makkarinupuri (Ainu name) and Ezo-Fuji (‘Ezo’ is the old Japanese name for Hokkaido, and ‘Fuji’ … I think you can figure that one out), as seen from Nakayama Pass.

We look into an abandoned building which has a layer of volcanic silt covering the floor, with broken windows, appliances, etc lying around.  In the foreground we see a little grass.

This building was busted by the 2000 eruption of Mt. Usu.

wWe see a clear blue sky above, with some clouds hanging just above the land.  In the distance, we see some green hills rising out of the lake.  In the foreground we see a railing and a yellow-leafed plant running in a diagonal from lower right to upper left, framing the view of the lake and the islands.

There is Nakajima, the set of islands in the center of Lake Toya.

We see a clear blue sky above, with some low lying white clouds in the distance.  In the center we see forested islands in the lake.  The bottom half of the picture is all blue, blue lake.

A close up of the islands in the lake.

There is a blue sky above, and a concrete building to the left in the shade.  We are on a brick walkway, with people dressed as various anime and manga characters walking by.

This park is famous for being one of the last wild habitats of a rare endangered native species known as the cosplayer (okay. there was just an anime and manga convention at Lake Toya that day).

We see a blue sky above, with some low lying white clouds.  We see some islands in the center of a giant lake.  On the left is what is left of the sun, illuminating the left side of the picture with warm yellow light, with the right side of the picture immersed in blue shadows.

Sunset at Lake Toya.

In the upper left we see some forested hills in the distance, but in the near upper left we see orange and white mounds of exposed bared slopes, with various jets of steam rising up.  In the center a little blue stream runs through the white mounds.

This is ‘Hell Valley’

We see a landscape which looks like a forested hill was ripped open, and orange and white minerals came out the gash like pus in a wound, with a little grey-blue stream flowing through it.

Panorama of Hell Valley (Noboribetsu Onsen)

We see a blue grey pool of water with steam rising out, with little clumps of iron ore building up at the edges of the pool.

This is the iron pool – as you can see, iron ore is building up on the side. (Noboribetsu Onsen)

Above we see a cloudy sky.  To the left we see a hill, and in the center we see a white gash in the hill with a grey pool of water right below, all surrounded by green forest.

This is Oyunuma, which is 50 degrees Celcius at the surface, 130 degrees at the bottom (this lake is 22 meters deep), and it is the largest body of hot water in all of Japan. (Noboribetsu Onsen)

On the right side we see a green hill with a white and orange gash in the side.  Below we see a wide shot of a grey lake with steam rising out, all with greenery at the edges.

Oyunuma, Again

In a bright gree forest, we see a small waterfall of grey-blue water.  In the foreground is a little bamboo platform, with two people sitting on a little bench, with their backs facing the viewer.

This is the BEST FOOTBATH IN JAPAN! And it was made by nature – this stream flows from Oyunuma, is naturally hot, and you can just dip your feet in. It is way better than artificial footbaths.

Continue to the next post: “Shiretoko National Park”


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Fantasyland United States

For many Taiwanese people, the United States is the Mysterious Land they see in Hollywood movies. They occasionally hear something about the United States or read something in the newspaper or hear a story from an acquaintance. Music from the United States is also common. They remember some things they learned about the United States in school. That’s it.

At least almost everyone in Taiwan is aware of the United States’ existence. The same cannot be said of many people in United States regarding Taiwan’s existence.

Taiwanese people who have visited the United States are sometimes more knowledgeable – though not always. If they only went to major tourist attractions, the United States may still just be the Mysterious Land of Hollywood movies. I have lost count of how many Taiwanese people I’m met who say they have visited California, but they are not sure whether they went to San Francisco or Los Angeles. This is in spite of the fact that San Francisco is more than TWICE as far away from Los Angeles as Taipei is from Kaohsiung. And as a Californian, I find it incredible that anybody who has been on Californian soil could get San Francisco and Los Angeles mixed up.

Taiwanese people who went to the United States for work, or who have a particular interest in the United States, or who engaged with United States society without the psychological shields used by most travellers, tend to be much better informed.

Surrounded by people for whom the United States is a distant, fantastical land, it rubs off on me. I am starting to think of the United States in a bit of the same way. It sometimes feel unreal that I was ever there, let alone that I spent most of my life there.

For me, East Asia was once the fantastical land across the ocean. Of course, I was very interested in East Asia and did my share of research (there is a reason why I moved here instead of, say, Africa, Europe, or South America) – however, comics, history books, and studying languages increased rather than extinguished the mystique. During my first few months in Taiwan, I often said to myself ‘Holy shit, THIS IS ASIA!!!! FOR REAL!!!’

Taiwan now feels just as everyday as a sweet potato (Note: Taiwan is often described as a sweet potato in the South China sea; hot sweet potatos are a common snack in Taiwan). Even though my travels have been restricted to Taiwan, Taiwan is at the crossroads of Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Korea, and Japan, so living here has made me think of all of those places as places of day-to-day life rather than mysterious lands.

And finally, I find the real Taiwan is more fascinating than the Taiwan I imagined. Fantasyland Taiwan, of course, is limited by my imagination – the real Taiwan has no such limitation. And I would say that the real United States is more fascinating than Fantasyland United States.