Oliver’s Soccer Season Coming to an End

Oliver’s middle school soccer team is preparing for this weekend’s Western Japan Athletics Association tournament taking place on Rokko Island over in Kobe. Oliver is in sixth grade and a starting member of the “B” squad. They will be playing in the “B” tournament.

A couple of weeks ago our school hosted a futsal, which is played with smaller goals on a smaller field with less players, tournament. The semifinal game against Canadian Academy of Kobe finished in penalty kicks. As you can see in the video, Oliver had an opportunity to take a shot in the penalty kicks.

I hope to make it the second day of the tournament on Saturday.


Skiing Over Lake Biwa

Ocean (blue) Owen (black and white checkered jacket) on the slopes

It was an exhilarating day of skiing today at the Biwako Valley Ski Resort. Lake Biwa is a large freshwater lake north of Kyoto. The Hira Mountains abut against the lake. It makes for a breathtaking backdrop as you can see from the photos. It only took 1 hour and 15 minutes to arrive at the parking lot of the resort, which makes it an easy day trip.

kids skiing

I love spending a day outdoors with my children. I wish Nadia liked skiing, but she stayed in the lodge for the afternoon. It took a couple of runs for me and Oliver to get comfortable, but we did have fun going down the main run at the top of the mountain.


The resort is small but picturesque. A gondola takes groups up the steep cliff to the start of the ski area. You cannot see the ski runs from the parking lots. There are only six different trails that are fun to ski. There were a lot of people, but the majority were beginners on the bunny run. Once away from them, there were really no wait times. There are two longer runs which were our favorites. It is not a resort to spend a week, but for a day of skiing, and being so close to our home, it is perfect.



My Beautiful Ocean


Winner Again in the Bookmark Contest

Ocean won the bookmark contest again this year. She designed a Minecraft-themed book mark. The annual competition is sponsored by our library and Ocean won the prize for grade 4.


Ocean has a natural inclination for design and color and is a promising young artist. She loves making things with her hands. We nickname her little miss busybody and when she puts her mind to something, she just powers on until it is finished, whether making a basket out of paper, mosaic of glass tiles, a DIY folder organizer, etc. She just loves working with her hands.

Above is her flower arrangement from a recent ikebana workshop. Ikebana is a traditional Japanese art of flower arranging, dating back to 600 AD. One of the school parents is an ikebana master and led about 40 students and parents in a beginning session.



Kralovec Children Doing Well!


Owen with his back page article


I was surprised at how touched I was by seeing my son’s byline in the student newspaper. Owen wrote an article about the transition from middle school sports to high school sports at our school. He is a ninth grader, and turned 15 on Wednesday. A cliche, but I can’t believe how fast time goes with the kids! Owen is becoming more studious, as I write this in the morning, he is finishing a mathematics project. I think the rigor of Japanese culture in our school has helped him get through his rebellious teen phase a bit quicker.


Oliver with teammates Kotaro, Aoto and Antonio


His younger brother Oliver also had an academic accomplishment. He won the middle school Knowledge Bowl on Monday! He answered many questions for his team, the “Dust Collectors”. When I asked him why they called themselves that, he replied, “It is ironic.”

Oliver is very well read and has a lot of general knowledge. At this stage of his mental development, he is lacking organization and attention to detail, but he is an avid reader.

Finally, Ocean and I went Christmas shopping earlier this week to Q’s Mall. She is such a lovely girl. She was talking in a cute British accent while we were riding to the mall. I love night bike rides with her. Wish they could last forever!


Camping on the Kanzaki River

Oliver jump

Last weekend we got away from the city and work and headed up to the Kanzaki River in the mountains of Shiga Prefecture for some “shower climbing”. Shower climbing is what the Japanese call canyoning or river hiking. The Kanzaki River starts in the mountains between Lake Biwa and Nagoya Bay. We set up camp on a quiet part of the river and spent two days relaxing and enjoy nature.

August weather in Japan is oppressively hot and humid, so it was such a relief to swim in the cool, clear waters of the river. The water was not as high as in previous times we’ve gone up there, but we enjoyed it just the same. The kids are so much more confident in the water now than they were two years ago. Our two hikes consisted of scrambling over rocks and stopping at water holes to jump from the cliffs and swim. As you can see below, I am not quite as brave as the boys regarding jumping heights.

bill jumping into water

I really enjoyed the camping. Nadia had an air mattress for us in the tent and it was a perfect sleeping temperature. We ate well, with Naoki on the super deluxe Coleman camping stove! Between the views of the white rocks, green trees and blue skies and the refreshing water, it really recharged my spirit. It also reminded me of the importance of wilderness and I plan to take the family out more often this year.


Ollie, Ocean and Sam hop between rocks

It was also nice to pleasant to connect with friends sitting around the campfire.


Home & Family


My family and I have enjoyed a week in my hometown of Caspian, Michigan and getting back in touch with family, friends and my roots in my beloved Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I wish my mom and dad were alive to see their grandchildren and us. Jimmer, Andy and I took a photo in the doorway of our house, the first time all three of us have been together in a long time.

This is the first time we’ve been back in over 5 years and the visit reminded me how beautiful, quiet and remote the region is. For those non-Michiganders reading this post, the state is divided into two peninsulas, with most of almost 10 million people located in the southern, mitten-shaped peninsula. The northern or Upper Peninsula is the size of the states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire combined. The population of the entire peninsula is 303,181. That is a lot of land for few people, which, after living in Osaka, Japan, is a welcome change.

I am concerned with the declining economy and population of the Upper Peninsula, especially the six western counties. The “boom time” for the region was from 1870 to 1920 when iron ore and copper mining were at its peak. It has been a slow decline since then. The 2010 census population of 82,668 is almost 50% less than the peak of 153,674 in 1920 of the six western counties. Overall, the UP has gone from 332,556 in 1920 to an estimated 303,181 in 2016, a 9% decrease. Only the city of Marquette has seen significant increases and has a population of over 20,000 people today. You can really see and feel it in many of the smaller towns, with main streets mostly shuttered buildings or vacant lots and abandoned houses dotting neighborhoods. With not much economic opportunities, young people move to more populated areas of Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Detroit, etc. and do not come back. The death rate is also higher than the birth rate, with many retirees coming back due to the outdoor beauty, scenic outdoors and low cost of living, but not young families coming in. I see a continued slow, steady decline in the short and long term future. A few small towns will be fine. Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie and Houghton will thrive due to universities and hospitals being located in them. Menominee will also be OK due to its proximity to Green Bay, Wisconsin and the Fox River Valley.

However, I am still optimistic about the Upper Peninsula. Because there are so many forests, lakes and snow to support outdoor activities, tourism will grow. I also think that technology will keep getting better and allow people to be more flexible in where they live. Although there are places with more dramatic wilderness areas in the American west, the outdoors of UP is just as refreshing to the soul for me and I guess many others. I am concerned about the role of climate change. What will the great lakes and the many smaller lakes and rivers become with increased temperatures?

I am glad to have been born and raised in a place so distant from major metropolitan areas. Thinking back to the pre-internet and pre-cable television area, it was even more distant culturally, from the rest of the USA. Hopefully, I will always maintain a connection to the Upper Peninsula.






Indians Defeat White Sox

The Kralovecs at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago

The entire family went to Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago to watch AL Central Division foes, the Cleveland Indians defeat the Chicago White Sox 9-3. It was the Indian’s eighth consecutive win.  Indian second baseman Jose Ramirez was the hero with four hits and 3 RBIs. Cleveland has a solid lineup from top to bottom and is well-managed by Terry Francona and it showed. They had runners on base the whole game.

We had good seats on the first base side

My big takeaway from the game was realizing that baseball is healthy and its popularity is not lessening. It was a fantastic night out for the family! Most of the people in attendance are not really into baseball, but they are there for the food and beer, the between inning entertainment and just an excuse to sit outside on a cool summer evening. Baseball at the stadium is really a restaurant and bar business, supplemented with clothing sales, parking, etc. The kids were loving trying to catch a foul ball. At the end of each inning, they sprinted down to the first row, hoping the first baseman would flip them the ball as he trotted to the dugout. They were not in luck.

We took the train from Andy’s apartment downtown and it was quite convenient. We are Detroit Tigers fans, but it was our only chance to see an MLB game this year. I wanted to see the Cubs game the previous evening, but tickets were too expensive. It was “Christmas in July” theme night and after the game, fans enjoyed a firework show to Christmas music.

Kids trying to get a ball

I hope Cleveland does well in the playoffs since we watched them. Francisco Lindor was smaller than I expected. He is also extremely flexible and several of the Cleveland players performed some pretty amazing stretches before the game. Danny Salazar pitched five no-hit innings. The first place Indians are 2.5 games ahead of Kansas City in the AL Central and should hold off the Royals to win the division, but we’ll see. The Astros and Red Sox will be tough competition.


Post game fireworks