16:44 BULLET TRAIN FROM NAGASAKI, CAR #5 – Japan has the good fortune… from the railway engineer’s perspective… of being long and narrow. So all the big cities lie – more or less – in a straight line. Bullet trains run up and down this “spine” at 200 mph, stopping at the big cities.
There must be hundreds of bullet trains in service at any time, because no matter what station you go to, you never have to wait more than a few minutes for a train to come. We just show up at a station, wave our unlimited rail pass at the station master, and jump on the next train.
Next thing we know, we’re flying across the countryside as fast as a jet plane. No security. No passport check. No waiting at all.
(In China, we’d have to buy our tickets several days in advance and then get to the train station 90 minutes early to go through security, passport control, and boarding inspection. It was like catching a plane out of LaGuardia.)
You can travel 600 miles from Kagoshima (the southernmost city in Japan) to Tokyo (more or less in the center of Japan) in less than eight hours. Without any waiting or worrying about missing trains.
Today we went to Nagasaki on the train. We toured the A-bomb museum and Peace Park. Then we visited the “hypocenter” of the bombing.
Here is Penny (7) at the hypocenter…
74 years ago, the atomic bomb “Fat Man” exploded 500 meters above
this spot in Nagasaki
Nagasaki is much less touristy than Hiroshima, and while the memorials aren’t as big or flashy, it felt more somber and poignant.
We’re on our way home to our Airbnb in Fukuoka now. I’m writing this postcard to you on the train…
Writing tonight’s postcard for you at 200 mph, on our way back to Fukuoka
The A-bomb memorial has put me in a thoughtful mood.
That, and we’re only a few days from the end of our trip…
The last 18 months have been the happiest of my life.
Kate and I were reminiscing about India just now. I loved India, especially northern India. Underneath all the honking tuk-tuks and craziness, and despite Penny’s accident and my mother nearly dying on the other side of the planet in London, I felt a deep sense of serenity and calm there. Like there was magic in the air. Towns like Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, and Pushkar touched me very deeply.
Or Egypt. Where we lived among the Amazigh people in the Great Sand Sea near the border with Libya. Or that time we hired a Bedouin guide and went hiking in the El Tur Mountains of Sinai to the spot where the Bible says Moses received the Ten Commandments. Or the day we spent by the Suez Canal watching gigantic oil tankers sail past…
I was a total mess when we began this trip. I had the shakes. I had insomnia. I had lost my business and my job. I’d lost 20 pounds. I was taking pills. And I was thinking a lot about suicide.
I hadn’t given up yet. But nor could I see a path to turning things around. I’d tried everything. I was beginning to lose hope.
Then, Kate gave me a hand and helped me up off the ground.
I’ve had so many incredible experiences since then. All of them with Kate and my three children right beside me. We’ve barely left each other’s sides. I feel so close to Kate and the kids now. I don’t want this trip to ever end.
“It doesn’t have to end,” I said to Kate. “As long as we’re together, the adventure will keep rolling on.”
“Yes, it will,” she replied.
– Tom Dyson
P.S. Another day without looking at a phone or using the internet. The whole world could be burning, for all I know. It’s been almost a week now… (I’m experimenting with my fantasy of “giving up” technology. Kate has been sending you these postcards.)
P.P.S. I guess gold is around $1,450 and the Dow is at 28,000, which puts the Dow-to-Gold ratio around 19.3. Gold has been “resting” for almost four months now… gently drifting lower from $1,550.
I couldn’t be happier about this. After the big run-up from $1,200 this summer, it could have gone back down again, or it could have started rising even faster… neither of which would have inspired my confidence in gold’s long-term bull market.
Instead, it’s consolidating… taking a breather… letting both bulls and bears get comfortable at this new level. This seems to me to be very constructive action. It suggests gold will be rising to fresh highs again next year.
Now’s a good time to buy if you haven’t bought gold yet. It’s also a good time to lighten up if you’re still holding big positions in buy-and-hold robo-funds or passive index ETFs.
In the mailbag, readers weigh in on Tom and Kate’s decision to homeschool the kids on the road… One reader offers an interesting theory about the A-Bomb Dome “miracle” in Hiroshima… While a few others are concerned about the camera Tom left behind on a Japanese bullet train…
(Tom did get his camera back eventually, by the way. It only took a 350-mile trip and a volcano eruption…)
Reader comment: I enjoy reading your postcards. I don’t always agree with what you write, but I love that you are giving your kids a hands-on – or eyes-on – education. I’m sure some would disagree with you showing them the “dark” sides of human history, but it’s so much more powerful and memorable in person than in history books. Bravo.
Reader comment: Given how polite you say the Japanese are, I bet you will get your camera back. Your depiction of Japan also makes me want to visit. I had never thought of visiting before.
One question: Will you share a picture of the sleeping arrangements? I can’t picture what tatami mats look like. My apologies if you shared a photo and I somehow missed it.
Reader comment: It’s sometimes painful reading your dispatches; I wish we (as a family) were still out there in the world, exploring new things like you are doing now. We spent 16 years in Kurashiki (Japan), where my wife and our three children were born. Never went to the Beppu springs or Chiran (kamikaze museum) – both in Kyushu.
Readers worry about how you’re educating your children, depriving them of opportunities or damaging them. I feel sorry for them. As for unplugging: Our 14-year-old son says “Tom’s late to the game.” He and Dusty’s generation will become the new Luddites. Don’t come back to Florida!
Reader comment: Thanks for taking the time to regularly update us on your experiences around the world. Very entertaining, inspiring, and educational. I am sure most of us wish we could take the time off, but are bogged down in the administration of life with bills, earnings, and expenses. It sounds like you’ve managed (possibly temporarily) to get off the hamster wheel.
Education on the road of life beats standardized schooling by a long way. May you never stop growing as a family. Wishing you, Kate, and the kids all of the best.
Reader comment: Love your reports!! I am an American citizen but live in Europe. On a recent three-week visit to New York, I loved that energetic feeling there of “I can do/be anything,” but the longer I stayed, I could feel the desperation. I don’t think I would be comfortable living there again.
You mention a list of possible places you want to live. Are you going to reveal this list? I’m very curious, as I have recently sold a second property in another country, and I too am researching!
Tom’s response: I don’t have a list. Actually, I don’t want to “live” anywhere. I’d like to keep traveling. Kate and I are still discussing this. For traveling, I’d like to do more camping in the USA. We had such a good time doing that last year. I’d also like to go to Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. And South America. Both these regions are beautiful and super cheap.
If we had to settle somewhere… Before this trip, I would have immediately said America. But now that I’ve traveled around the world, I’ve seen there are many other places that are cheaper, cleaner, nicer, and safer than America.
If I had ambitions to acquire large sums of money, then America is where I’d go. But I don’t have ambitions to acquire large sums of money. I want to be with my family and have fun. I don’t think there’s anything that can compete in terms of bringing joy.
Where do you live in Europe? One place on our travels I really liked was Corsica and Sardinia. I could see us living there very comfortably.
Reader comment: I’m glad to hear you’re still enjoying Japan, and I hope you’ve got your camera back by now. I’ve lived in Japan for 39 years. I’m a university professor in Kyoto. Your comments about Japan are fascinating. One thing I’d like to say about Hiroshima is this: All Japanese schoolkids learn about the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the terrible suffering this caused, but they don’t learn so much of the context behind this (or at least this is true of the university students I teach).
They know very little (or nothing) about Japan’s huge (and brutal) imperial expansion in the 1930s and early 1940s, which included Korea, large parts of China, Hong Kong, Formosa [Taiwan], Guam, Saipan, the Philippines, Indochina [Vietnam], Siam, Malaya, Singapore, Burma, Indonesia, etc. Also, my students know nothing about the fact that the Japanese military was building a railway through Siam and Burma, and they used POWs as slave labor (including my father), and thousands of them died.
When I ask my students about the Second World War, their knowledge of it is very vague and patchy – but they all know about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It’s funny to think that the kind, friendly, peace-loving Japanese people of today are the descendants of the violent, belligerent Japanese who terrorized Asia in the 1930s and early 1940s. And you can say the same about the Germans. (And the Brits also attacked dozens of countries.) It’s a funny old world, isn’t it? Sorry about this long rant. Hope you’re still enjoying Japan.
Reader comment: I’m a retired American diplomat who spent decades negotiating multilateral arms control treaties with diplomats from over 160 countries, including Russian, Chinese, and Japanese counterparts.
I have not visited the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, so I would like to learn from you whether the museum presented any sort of context or explanation as to WHY the United States dropped its nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I loved working with my Japanese colleagues to create and improve various anti-WMD treaties, but I’ve always been troubled by Japan’s tendency to “play the victim card” with respect to the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in its children’s school textbooks, as though the U.S. dropped the bombs and caused this great suffering without cause.
Tom’s response: I saw no explanation in Hiroshima. In Nagasaki, there was a section dedicated to Japan’s military adventures in the 1930s and early 1940s. But it was very small.
Reader comment: My wife is a K-pop fan, and after showing her your pics, she said that’s not BTS. And that even if it was, you’d never be able to get that close to them. But glad your family is enjoying Japan!
Tom’s response: HAHA yes, we made an embarrassing mistake here. It is actually a band called MY.st.
We realized our mistake a few days ago and hoped no one would notice. Please ask your wife if she knows them.
We should have known better, because they handed us a flyer advertising their concert, and we didn’t bother to look at it.
Reader comment: Thank you so much for sharing your family’s story with your faithful readers every day. I’m vicariously enjoying your travels and intercultural experiences. These shared memories cannot be taken away from you, no matter what else you may lose in life, so I do hope you get your camera back as the physical evidence of these memories.
And last week, I put 10% of my IRA in physical gold and silver, now safely locked away in a vault in Delaware. Continued safe travels, and God bless.
Reader comment: I definitely am not the only parent who really admires the priceless gift you and your wife are giving to your kids (and yourselves). I agree from experience that one can enjoy adventure, opportunity, and bargain living amidst instability in emerging markets.
However, I am also probably not the only reader who will question your suggestion that Pakistan would be a similarly safe experience to Iran or Turkey, especially for non-Muslim “infidels” with kids. Too many radical factions there who would see you as a valuable tool to exploit (maybe you are spies!), and unlike Iran, not effective so far in suppressing dissent and lawlessness, even in cities. Best wishes!
Reader comment: I cannot read your descriptions of post-blast Hiroshima without drawing your attention to one other story you may or may not be aware of. You write that “By a fluke of physics, the A-Bomb Dome was the only structure that remained standing inside the blast area.”
Were you aware of a community of Jesuit priests within the area of devastation who, almost alone and by apparent divine miracle, survived the blast?
An article I read reports: “But in the midst of this terrible carnage, something quite remarkable happened: there was a small community of Jesuit Fathers living in a presbytery near the parish church, which was situated less than a mile away from detonation point, well within the radius of total devastation. And all eight members of this community escaped virtually unscathed from the effects of the bomb. Their presbytery remained standing, while the buildings all around, virtually as far as the eye could see, were flattened.”
Tom’s response: Thanks for writing in! Your questions and comments are an integral part of these postcards. Please keep writing us at [email protected].