<i>Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks — Rusty, Richard and Sydney — from the canals of Venice who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible.</i>

When I saw Rusty running back from the mailbox I was sure he had lost it. Laughing and yelling my name, he was waving a piece of paper in the air and saying over and over, “I’m going to Japan.” He was still waving the paper when he reached me but his “I’m going to Japan” had turned into a song that he sang as he danced around me in a circle. 

Rusty’s dancing left me a little dizzy but I was able to glimpse a Tokyo postmark and figured the paper was a letter from Yamanaka Sensei.

Yamanaka Sensei was Rusty’s former martial arts teacher whom he idolized. Being an exceptional student, Rusty soon became one of his favorites. When Yamanaka Sensei returned to his home in Tokyo, he and Rusty had kept in touch. His letters had never generated this much excitement.

Catching his breath, Rusty was finally able to share the reason for his excitement. Yamanaka Sensei had invited Rusty to his “Kanreki,” a very special 60th birthday celebration, and included a round trip ticket to Tokyo!

Rusty begged us to come with him. It didn’t take much convincing.  Pass up a trip to Japan and an opportunity to visit our cousins, Koji, Kaoru and little Yuto Quacker? No way! 

A quick call to Koji sealed the deal. He said it was a perfect time to visit. I booked our tickets, bought some carbon offsets and we were set to go.

With beaming smiles and warm hugs Koji, Kaoru and little Yuto welcomed us to Japan. At the airport, we popped Rusty into a cab for the Kanreki celebration while the rest of us excitedly planned for the next few days.

The Konreki was awesome. Rusty said he will always picture Yamanaka Sensei glowing with happiness seated at the head of a feast laden table while dozens of family and friends presented him with presents and warm wishes for many more joyful years.

Rusty couldn’t wait to talk about surfing. Koji doesn’t surf but knowing we did, he had done some research. He said in Japan the best time for surfing was August to October when the typhoons blow. We had missed that by a few weeks but he thought we could still give it a try and hope for the best. 

We took off the next morning for a place, not too far from Tokyo, called Chiba. We were in the water before Koji finished parking the car. Wondering if we had lost our minds, our cousins watched when two waves later we came out of the water as fast as we had gone in. 

Yes, we can now say we surfed Japan, however we will probably not mention turning that odd shade of blue and nearly freezing our tail feathers off in the process. It was cold! We learned two things that day, how to say waist high waves, “koshi,” and more importantly to ask “Mizu ga Tsumetai desu Ka?” which loosely translated means “Is the water cold?” before jumping in without a proper wet suit.

Kaoru thought we were lucky to visit at this time. It was the season for viewing fall foliage. “In Japan”, she said, “we call it Kouyou or Momiji gari. The changing leaves will add so much beauty to our sightseeing.”  

She was so right. Near the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Jingu Gaien Street, we were greeted by the beautiful sight of row after row of stately Gingko trees filled with bright gold leaves. When we strolled in Kamakura at the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine we were treated, not only to the beauty of the shrine, but also trees full of breathtaking reds, yellows and oranges. 

We traveled far and wide hoping to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji.  It was not to be. As little Yuto put it, “Fujisan” seemed to be sleeping under a fluffy futon of clouds that day. The beauty of the Hakone region, the dense green forests splashed with the colors of the changing leaves and the serene blue lakes quickly washed away any disappointment we may have felt.

When Richard mentioned green roofs, Koji immediately took us to see the amazing Acros Fukuoka Building in Fukuoka City. One side is a conventional office building, while the other side is a huge terraced roof that merges into a park. The 196-foot terraced garden contains more than 35,000 plants that provide habitat for birds and insects and at the same time captures runoff and reduces energy use in the building. It was fantastic.

On our last night we all met for dinner with Yamanaka Sensei. We thanked everyone for an unforgettable adventure and with reluctance said our goodbyes.

That night we slept for the last time in our cousin’s tatami room under gloriously warm futon comforters and dreamed of our amazing trip to Japan.

To see some amazingly beautiful green roofs go to:  http//greenroofs.wordpress.com/contact-us/

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com. The Quackers have a new, amazing Web site! Stories, pictures and a blog at www.thequackers.com.  

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