By Deborah Howell

Powered by plants, we’ve taken leave of our mountain temple resting spot and head northwest to Kojima City, in the prefecture of Okayama.

PHOTOS: Kojima City, Okayama, Jeans Street 

Today is our first really cloudy day and there is word that another typhoon identity route to Japan–and this one is bigger and badder than the one that almost prevented us from getting here in the first place. We file that info, and hope for the best.

We hit Jeans Street Kojima City to check out how jeans are made in this part of the world. Apparently without the chemicals we use to manufacture them in the U.S. 😍

It’s very chic and reminds us abut of Abbott Kinney place in Venice.

Blake instantly scores a perfect pair of jeans, with the help of about

5 Japanese girls. I hit 4 shops with no luck because all the jeans are way too short. Story of my life. But then Hiroko takes me into one last store where they sell jeans for women only. Denim Closet. Jeans are made right there in the store, by one person and a sewing machine.

The first 3 pairs I try are also too short but then the lovely owner brings me one pair of super straight deep blue jeans. Jackpot!!!!

Hiroko wants to buy them for me because it’s my bday. I say absolutely not a chance. We go back and forth as I race to get out of the dressing room, put my shoes back on (yes even in jeans store dressing rooms you must remove your shoes) to pay for these perfect jeans before Hiroko even thinks about it. “No! Please don’t take her money!

It’s not good here!”

And dear, ultra polite Hiroko gives me a stern look and says firmly, “Oh, shut UP!” I can’t believe my ears and suddenly we all burst into peals of laughter. We’ve just jumped the shark from unfailing politeness all week to–“shut up!” With one hour of shopping. We giggle our way out the door, victory fists held high. Hiroko doesn’t find out until later how bad “shut up” is and how we all teach our kids never to say It. She’s, of course, appalled.

This if turning out to be the best birthday ever!!!! We also score some cute gifts for friends made from thick braided jeans material.


After our Jeans Street shopping slay, we tumble back into the car and cross the bridge to Shikoku Island, a national park. Our destination is Kotohira, where there is a huge shrine and a hotel with spoil shaped like an eggplant.

Checked into Room 906. Tatami style, so no beds. They’ll bring in our mats later tonight. Pool!! Garden! Koto player in the lobby. Nice green tea and caramel toast welcome. So it’s not really caramel toast–it’s soy toast but it tastes just like the caramel toast my grandmother used to make us. The staff is all in traditional kimonos.

I immediately hit the pool. I’m getting quite used to being the only gai-jin (non-Japanese) in any situation and I do my laps to the sounds and splashes of vacationing families from China and Japan. It’s wonderful to see the connections families make when in a swimming pool–the love and the fun factor are definitely elevated.

After this most refreshing treat, I join the others at the hot baths.

Again, it’s a cave-like atmosphere, with water cascading from the ceiling. A mother and her small child are enjoying their bath together, and now we’re the only ones here. The mother holds her child on her legs and they stare at each other, with huge warm smiles on their faces. Love. It emanates from them and makes me very happy to witness it.

Dinner is right inside the hotel, so tonight it’s a dress and heels since we won’t be walking far. And what a meal! Lovely sushi, soups, seaweed dishes, small bites of steak that we grill quickly on a hot stone, and so much more. And yes — a surprise birthday cake and singing from the staff. Definitely the most unique version of the happy bday song I’ve ever heard!

All in all, an absolutely perfect way to turn another year older, and another year more grateful.

See more of my adventures through Japan here.


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