Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | travel
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My mom has suffered from worsening dementia for years, and when my brothers and I saw increasing signs that she is no longer able to live by herself we moved her into a Memory Care Center nearby. Two years ago, my wife Erin and I took the last of several trips to Japan with my mom.

I recently returned from a fantastic trip to Japan, with my wife Erin Yoshimura and my mom. We flew first to Sapporo in the northern island of Hokkaido, where one of my uncles lives, and then traveled to Nemuro, my mom's hometown on the easternmost tip of Hokkaido, where another uncle lives. Then we flew down to Tokyo for a...

Lori and Jackson are an Asian American couple from Long Beach, California who love Thailand and want your vote to win the Ultimate Thailand Explorers contest.Help out a brother and sister, everyone. Lori Fujikawa-Choy and Jackson Choy are newlyweds from Long Beach, California. She's Japanese American; he's Chinese American, and they both love Thailand. They first went to Thailand as "college sweethearts" (awww, aren't they cute!) to do some volunteer work there and fell in love with the country and its culture. They've traveled there several times since then, but now they need your help to go again... as guests of the Thai government. They've entered the Ultimate Thailand Explorers contest, which sounds a little like a reality TV show and in fact would probably make a pretty interesting one. The contest is sponsored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and it works like this: Couples from all over the world (not just spouses, but friends too) submitted applications and a video saying why they should win a trip to one of five destinations in Thailand. A panel of judges sifted through the applicants and chose five semifinalists for each destination. Our intrepid AAPI couple are semifinalists for Phuket, Thailand's largest island in the southern part of the country, and the site of terrible devastation from the 2004 tsunami. To get to the Finalist stage, Lori and Jackson need your help: the couples are judged this round by public votes on the contest website. As of this moment, the two Californians are third behind a French couple and a couple from Oshkosh. Take a look at their profile page (their video entry is above) and give Lori and Jackson your support and vote them to the next round.

Iroha ramen and gyoza I just had a great meal at our favorite restaurant in San Francisco's Japantown, Iroha. It's a noodle house that serves up a great deal: A lunch combination special of ramen topped with a couple slices of pork, and gyoza dumplings on the side. The restaurant is more crowded than usual, and filled with lots of non-Japanese who are here for the first time. That's because J-Town in general is hopping this weekend. It's the second weekend of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, or Sakura Matsuri. There are vendors with booths selling everything from junky trinkets to high-class jewelry, lots of food and stages of performers and martial arts demonstrations, all with a Japanese focus. But there's also a Japanese American undercurrent, with young people flocking to stores that specialize in anime and Jpop music. It's a cool mix of traditional and contemporary -- much like J-Town itself.

We ended the week with a flurry of shopping at the famous Flea Market at Aloha Stadium.
Sat. Sept. 22 It's our last day in Honolulu, but we're now slowing down. It's jam-packed, with a trip to the fabled Flea Market that Erin has been raving about since we've been planning the trip. It's a sale that's held every Wednesday and Saturday at Aloha Stadium near the airport, and it's truly a treasure trove of inexpensive omiyage – gifts to take back to the mainland. There are vendors with t-shirts as cheap as eight for $20; ties for $5; aloha shirts for under $10. It's a shopper's delight, and a negotiator's training ground. Everyone haggles for a better price. In my case, I was proud to have talked a woman down on her Hawaiian print ties, only to find a vendor a few booths down who had them even cheaper. C'est la vie.

We didn't see many geckoes during our visit, but here's one tiny one we saw next to a sculpture of a gecko, outside Richela's front door.
Friday, Sept. 21 Another big food day. We're eating our way across Oahu. It was also a day of hunting history. We began the day with Richela, who joined us in a drive downtown to the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i. It's a very nice facility in a nice building, with a museum, gift shop and research library dedicated to the history of Japanese Americans in Hawaii.