Cherry blossoms! Not everywhere as we would’ve seen just a week or two earlier, but we witnessed them popping out around the lodge where we stayed. Misawa is in northern Japan, a long day of traveling, with train changes becoming much easier for us now. We wheel our luggage, follow the crowds, use crazy gestures and the few Japanese words we have to ask our questions. We pull out our tickets, point at the train we hope to take. They usual manage to communicate a number to us, and off we go in search of that track. Most stations include a few basic English directions and names, but not all. That’s where Japan’s puctuality really came in handy for us. Okay. It’s our track, and it’s the right time. It must be the right train.

Marianne Reaves was our Misawa host, but several other staff members made our stay memorable. We spent a day sight-seeing in the mountains with Deb Markl at the wheel.We visited shops that displayed a well-known Kokeshi doll maker. It’s a fascinating art that has evolved throughout the years, but here in this part of Japan, older and more historical shapes and colors are used in their creation.

The Misawa school presentations were packed. The older group reminded me of one of those new-school-year dreams where you walk in your classroom and discover you have hundreds of students — some so far away you can hardly make out their faces. Given the large crowd, they were a great group. I heard from many kids, parents, and teachers after my Misawa presentations, some asking about writing, some just thanking me. They haven’t had an author visit in a long time, and it felt good to offer them this opportunity.

After school, Susan Blake lead us to a park that rivaled our state parks in Washington. It was all but abandoned, unkempt, but with signs of a former glorious time — quaint bridges, trails, a hillside “slide” that kept Kaj climbing and shooting down the hill over and over, and a pair of larger-than-life Kokeshi dolls.

When I wrote ALL ABOARD THE DINOTRAIN, we had to come up with a way to get the dinosaurs back home. The story had ended, and it would’ve been anticimatic to return the way they came, so we pile them aboard a handcar. Not so on our May 5 return trip. We reverse the same long day of trains, hang out in the Narita airport a few hours, and fly about nine hours home, landing at 9:30 on the same morning we left Misawa. Remember the movie Groundhog’s Day?