2014 Miss America is from St Joseph, Michigan

2014 Miss America Nina Davuluri waving right at me

Click here for Japanese text.

The 2014 Miss America is an Indian American.

To me, what’s as important as she is an Indian American is that she is from St. Joseph, Michigan.

St. Joseph is a small town in southwest Michigan with beautiful beaches. It’s become a very popular summer resort over the past decade or so.

St Joe map

I married my American husband in Japan. My husband wanted to come back to the U.S.  St. Joseph was the first town we lived in the U.S.

Tiscornia beach Silver Beach1 Silver Beach2 St Joseph River Downtown2 Downtown

The new Miss America, Nina Davuluri, moved to St. Joseph with her family when she was 10. She graduated from St. Joseph High School.  Hey, I have been to St. Joseph high school a few times to watch the football games!

When we lived there, St. Joseph was a very white town, in start contrast to its twin city, Benton Harbor.

I met the Chinese lady who may have been the only other Asian who lived in St. Joseph at that time. She was married to an American. I was so happy and relieved to see her. I have to admit that I did not like to be the only Asian, the only non-white in town.

I don’t know how happy the Chinese lady was to meet me, though, because Chinese and Japanese are very different – the only things Chinese and Japanese have in common may be that they are both Mongoloid Far East Asians and they both use the Chinese characters (漢字) in writing.

Don’t criticize me, please!  If you are a white or a black and if you had to live in a small town in Japan where everybody else is a Japanese, you would feel just the same way as I did.

So, I don’t know how Ms. Davuluri was feeling when she grew up in St. Joseph where probably she was one of very few Indians.

Maybe she was fine.  Asian Americans who grew up in the U.S. are very different from Asians who grew up in Asia like me. They are very very American.  I am very very Japanese even though I have been living in the U.S. for decades.


Ms. Davulurie performed Bollywood dance in the Miss America contest.  You can see that in YouTube. I feel as if I were watching a TV show in India. Pretty amazing she won the Miss America with dance like that.  America really changed. I can’t imagine she  could have won Miss America 30 years ago with Bollywood dance.

Time keeps changing and people keep changing.

She sure is a great dancer, isn’t she!


Lastly – Indians are from Asia, but they look quite different from Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese like myself.  Their facial features and body shapes resemble Europeans.

In fact, Indians have a lot of Caucasian blood in them.

Basically, Indians are dark-skinned Caucasians.

I am totally sure that her Caucasian physical features more or less helped Ms. Davuluri win Miss America.

It’s a big change that an Indian American won Miss America, but if and when a Mongolian-looking woman wins Miss America, that’s when America has really really changed.


By the way, did you know that Asian women Americans find beautiful are different from Asian women Asians find beautiful?

It has been well-known to the Asians.  Somebody created a category “Asian women Westerners like”. You can find it here and there on the internet.

I am not saying Ms. Davuluri is one of them. I think she is beautiful and she seems to have a very good personality, a right personality for a Miss America.

Best wishes to her. I hope she will fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor.

She represented the state of New York, but it will certainly help St. Joseph become more famous and become a more popular summer resort.



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Are Asians Good Swimmers?

It was about this time of last year that Dr. Liu, the pediatric surgeon from Chicago, died in Lake Michigan.

I wrote about it in the Japanese side of my blog. I meant to translate it into English soon, but I still have not done it (no surprise…).

Then it’s already been a year. So, I thought I am going to write something short anew in English for the one year anniversary.


Dr. Liu was on vacation with his family on Cherry Beach, one of the small private beaches in the southwestern Michigan.

He rescued the two kids who were drowning in the lake, but he himself died, swept away by a strong rip current.

Rip Currents

Rip Currents (Photo credit: jimflix!)

Red Flag Waters

Red Flag Waters (Photo credit: live w mcs)

I am glad the two kids were saved, but how sad the doctor died.

I am so sorry for his surviving family.

I have tremendous respect for the doctor.

And I can’t help wondering how good a swimmer he was –

Because he was from Taiwan, I am from Japan, and he and I were about the same age.

When I was a kid, Japan was still poor. The city where I grew up had a population of one million but had only two public swimming pools (and it had just one ice skate rink, and so on). The elementary and the middle schools I went to did not have swimming pools yet (other schools already had pools, though – my schools were behind. I was unlucky).

Taiwan and Japan

America has always been a swimming powerhouse country. My American husband is a really good swimmer. His dad taught him how to swim when he was very little. I have witnessed many American parents are very serious about their kids’ swimming training. It seems American parents think it’s their parental duty to have their kids learn how to swim.Baby swim lesson

My parents did not think that way. Well, it’s such a long time ago. Probably nowadays many Japanese parents think it’s their parental duty.

My mother did not know how to swim. My sister, who is a lot older than me, can’t swim, either. You can’t criticize them, because when they were young there were virtually no swimming pools in Japan and women were not supposed to know how to swim. My father could swim; he learned how to swim in the militaristic gym classes in the male-only schools (no co-ed schools in those days) somewhere outdoors in the nearby rivers or ponds, if I remember correctly what he told me.

Just because Japan is surrounded by the sea, do not think many Japanese are good swimmers! They were not and they still are not now.

My father used to take me and my brother to a beach (just once or twice) every summer, but he never would try to teach me and my brother how to swim. So we would just float around in the shallow part of the water with ring floats.  How dangerous was that to let kids who couldn’t swim be in the sea even if it’s a shallow area!


Eventually I and my brother learned how to swim in summer swim classes offered by the elementary schools which already had swimming pools.

Did Taiwan have a lot of public swimming pools in the 1960s and 1970s? Did the Taiwanese parents think it’s their parental duty to have their kids learn how to swim?

I tend to doubt it.

Taiwan was no way richer than Japan and I suspect Taiwan had similar culture to Japan – e.g. ideas like women don’t need to know how to swim, a lack of parents’ sense for duty that they should have their kids learn how to swim)

Some time ago, I remember reading news about a ferry accident in the ocean near Phillippines or Malaysia or somewhere else in the southeastern Asia. Hundreds of the passengers were thrown into the water. Many of the passengers were Muslim women who did know how to swim and drowned. That was such a tragedy. If they had known how to swim!

Islamic woman taking swim lesson

I found this photo (left) in Pinterest – a Muslim woman taking a swim lesson with men. I did not ask the owner of the photo for a permission. Please forgive me!

So, nowadays, Muslim women are starting to learn how to swim?  She must be really hot in the outfit and must not feel good with the clothes all wet, but this is great that she is learning how to swim!

Asian women, Muslim women, we all should learn how to swim.

I have to admit I am scared of oceans, because I am not a great swimmer. Lake Michigan is just like oceans; it’s huge and has rip currents. I am scared of Lake Michigan. And I think it’s good to be scared.

Pediatric surgeon dies trying to save two kids from Lake Michigan – by Chicago Tribune news, Aug 6, 2012

Chicago surgeon sacrifices life to save two children in Lake Michigan – CBS Chicago, August 6, 2012

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Great Lakes Cruises – Are They Worth $10K?

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック).

As the cold Michigan winter starts winding down, I start thinking about spring and summer, as many other people do.

I had another opportunity to write an article for the March issue of the ethnic local monthly newspaper for the Japanese community in Michigan (the Japan News Club).  This time I wrote about the lake ferry crossing Lake Michigan between Muskegon and Milwaukee. I wrote it based on my post, Crossing Lake Michigan by Ferry, Muskegon – Milwaukee. As I was writing, I remembered the Great Lakes cruise ship I saw last summer at the port of Detroit.

I never knew until last year that there are cruises in the Great Lakes.  Did you know it?

From Toronto to Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and then to Lake Superior

This is probably the most grand plan of all. The plan has two voyages scheduled this summer, and one of them seems already sold out.

Preview of “Great Lakes Cruise Company - Yorktown”

(This is the website of the cruise company)

There are many other plans. One goes from Toronto to Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan with Chicago as the final destination.  There is one that goes around only in Lake Michigan. Other go from NYC to Quebec and from Chicago to Rhode Island.

All the voyages take one to two weeks.

Many of them go through Detroit River which connects Lake Erie and Lake Huron, so they stop at the Detroit port.  Some stop at Cleveland and Saugatuck as well.


One Saturday last summer, I drove to Detroit to visit my friend’s art exhibition (without a special occasion like that, I do not go to Detroit…).  Coincidentally on the same day, one of the Great Lakes cruise ships, Yorktown, was staying at the port of Detroit.

So, after the visit to the art exhibition, I drove further to downtown Detroit. Some women I know are so afraid of Detroit that they never drive to Detroit – for good reasons.  I am not a fan of Detroit, either, but in a daytime on a early summer day, it’s not bad.


Almost no traffic. It’s like a ghost town.  I hear young people are now moving into Detroit, but that’s still not enough to make the downtown lively.


It’s only a river (Detroit River), so the port is very small.

The other side of the river is Windsor, Canada.  O Canada!  I’d rather not see the casino, but I can’t avoid seeing it.


Why did I want to come here bad enough to pay for parking?

I really wanted to see the cruise ship.

When I was young, I was a ferry travel lover. One time I took the ferry from Yokohama, Japan, to Nakhodka, Siberia. I wanted to ride more ferries to southeast Asia, etc., but I ran out of money, married, and started a family and that was the end of my travel era (and I was just as happy).

I also was curious what kind of people were the passengers of the cruise.


I walk along Detroit River.

I spot the cruise ship in the distance.  It’s pretty small.


I notice a group of young women in white dresse crossing the street. It’s a bride and her flower girls.


That’s a neat idea to have wedding photos taken on the river front like that.


Large cruise ships can accomodate as many as 3,000 people, but according to their website, this Yorktown can accommodate only 138 passengers. It’s small so that it can go through shallow waters and narrow channels and can visit small ports along the Great Lakes.


I can see inside the ship.  All rooms look vacant.  The passengers must be out on the land, touring Detroit or Detroit suburbs.


The website says this ship flies an Amerian flag, i.e. it’s an American ship with American officers and crews.  That’s unusual these days, isn’t it.  As far as I know, many (or most?) cruise ships nowadays are foreign and crews are from countries like Philippines.

I read somewhere that since the 9/11, the U.S. Homeland Security regulations became very stringent, which made it very costly for foreign cruise ships to tour in the Great Lakes.

I see – so here is a comeback of American cruise ships.



The Detroit Port building is on the right.

I wanted to see the inside of the building, so I walk towards the entrance of the building.

Then a big, tough-looking guy interrupts me.

“Are you going to be on board this ship?” “Oh, you are not?  Then this is the wrong way.” “Have you looked at the ship?  It’s a beautiful ship, isn’t it” “It’s a wonderful cruise.  I hope you will sign up sometime. I am sure you will have a great time!”

He keeps talking to me with a big smile. But I know underneath the smile, he is dead serious.  It’s his job to keep intruders from entering the lobby. He is a bouncer for the cruise company.

Then, a noble-looking middle-age lady arrives behind me with a suitcase.  She is going to be on board the ship. The guy becomes very busy with the lady and finally releases me.

My feelings are hurt – only just a little bit :). I start walking away. I feel – for a moment – as if I were at the bottom of the American society.

I can totally understand why they do that, especially in Detroit.

Since I have an Asian face, once in a while I get treated like a dirt poor recent immigrant from Asia who has no clue as to what to do and how to behave in this country.  And it does not help that I have accents with my English and I tend to wear cheap, casual clothes (lo).

But that guy at least asked me if I was a cruise passenger.  He probably just followed the company’s manual, but that’s OK!  (Hey, maybe I really looked like a passenger :))

The lady who arrived after me wore expensive things from head to toe. She was one of the people I do not encounter in my daily life. I have seen women like her in New York City. Her hairstyle and hair dye were expensive ones. I could tell.  When/if you are dressed expensively from head to toe, you will have a very distinctive atmosphere.  Ah, my husband will scold me again, “You women, why are you like that?  So petty”  (hehe) 🙂


I walk around to the other side of the building. There, the magnificent Renaissance Center!  The General Motors headquarters are in there. Pretty awesome. Detroit does not look bad in a sunny summer day 🙂

************************************************** ****

Long time ago there were Great Lakes cruises, but as the automobiles became popular they were discontinued. Then in the 1990s, a German cruise line brought their cruise ship to the Great Lakes. Most of the passengers were Germans. Then they tied up with the American travel company, Conlin Travel, and the Great Lakes Cruise Company was formed.

It’s interesting that it was the Germans who rediscovered the charm of cruising the Great Lakes.

Sometimes, it’s more obvious to foreigners. You are more blind to the charm of the place you live. It certainly has often been the case in my home country, Japan. Like Ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints) – Japanese were going to trash them but the Americans and Europeans saw the beauty and the values in them. Many were taken to the U.S. and they are now in Boston Museum, etc.

************************************************** ****

The cruises are not cheap: from around $5,000 to $10,000.

$10,000 (*o*) !!!!!    If I have that much disposable money, I will want to go on a grand Europe-Middle East-India- Southeast Asia cruise or something like that.

Maybe those passengers already experienced all those other grand cruises and they want to try something new.

Or some of them are so interested in the Great Lakes that they want to go on the Great Lakes cruise more than anything else.

************************************************** ****

Looking at the ship at the Detroit Port, I felt I was seeing the American society right there – a cruise ship full of well-to-do and successful passengers in the middle of Detroit plagued with poverty. (I am not saying it’s right or wrong or good or bad)


Website of the cruise company:http://www.greatlakescruising.com

You can make reservations only on the phone. Yes, only on the phone – in this Internet age.

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A Sunny Winter Morning After Snowfall @Golf Course, Ann Arbor

For Japanese, please click here!

One winter morning in the Huron Hills Golf Course in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It’s close from my home.

Nobody (can) plays golf there in winter. It transforms into a park.

In the mid-January, Michigan is in deep winter.


It does not snow much in the southeastern Michigan, but sometimes snows heavily and accumulates pretty deep.

If the temperature is about 35 – 40F on the next day after a heavy snowfall, it’s perfect for winter outdoor sports.  If it is sunny, it’s even better.


A family with their pet dog, enjoying sledding.

I am from southern Japan where it rarely snows. You can’t imagine how exotic it is for somebody like me to be able to sled and ski casually in a nearby park.



I notice traces of cross-country skiing.

This is a public golf course, but in winter you can cross-country ski all over the place freely (this is amazing to me).


The golf course has gentle hills. You can go down the hills with cross country skis and feel as if you were donwhill skiing – on bunny hills (laugh).


Cross-country skiing is not spectacular like downhill skiing, but is fun to do and addictive.

At one time, I quite liked it and got into it.

(I never tried snowboarding, however, because I was too old when it became a known sport (laugh).

What’s great about cross-country skiing is that you can do it in a park in your neighborhood.  There are so many beautiful and spacious parks in Michigan – no comparison to my hometown in Japan.

It’s also great that it does not cost a lot of money like downhill skiing.  You don’t need to buy or rent expensive ski boots. You don’t need to buy lift tickets. You don’t need to drive far away and stay in a hotel.



If you get into winter sports, you will start looking forward to snowfalls.

You will jump for joy if snow accumulates, especially on Thursday or Friday – perfect for skiing on Saturday morning.

In about half an hour, you will be very warm. You may be sweaty.

Hot chocolate with marshmallow in after skiing tastes so good.

If you grew up in the U.S., probably none of this is interesting to you, but all of this experience was new and fascinating to me who grew up in a warm place abroad.

This week would have been too frigid for me – the temperature dipped as far as -2F  (-19C) (*o*)!!   I have never been tough enough to be outside when that cold.


Many places in Michigan are hilly – great for sledding and cross-country skiing.



A view from Huron Parkway


When I started getting into cross-country skiing, I wanted to buy my own skis and carry them on the roof of my car. I always thought it’s cool to drive around with your own skis on the roof your car – just like surfers drive with their surf boards on the roof of their (junky) cars.

If you are new to cross-country skiing, rent skis. In Ann Arbor where I live, there are at least three places you can rent skis just for a day.

If you are new to downhill skiing, you will probably want to take lessons first, but for cross-country skiing you won’t need any lessons. It’s very intuitive. I did it on my first try, just like power-walking.

And don’t worry about whether you are doing it in the right forms. In Japan, people make a big deal of if you are doing whatever sport in the right forms (maybe not now – they did when I lived there). In fact they pay too much attention to the right forms.  Same for sport gear – too much attention is paid to wearing the right sport gear from head to toe. It’s lot more casual here in the U.S. (which I like). You can downhill ski wearing just ordinary ski pants and jackets. Same for tennis – you can play it very casually in a public tennis court wearing a worn-out T-shirt. In Japan, tennis had the very classy image that I used to feel I would have to wear the “right” tennis wear to enter a tennis court.

There is an article which lists good places in the county for cross-country skiing and the places for renting skis:  annarbor.com

One of the places listed in the article for ski rent hosts a ski swap four times a year. A ski swap!  That’s a good idea. I don’t know if any sport shop in Japan does that.  Americans certainly come up with all kinds of interesting ideas.

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Cranberry Harvest Show @South Haven, Michigan

For Japanese, please click here!

I wrote this post back in 2010 in the Japanese side of my blog in a bilingual format.  I separated the English text, as it had made the post twice as long and look busy.  Recently I contributed an article about Michigan cranberries to the local ethnic Japanese newspaper.  The article will be in the November issue. As my article contains the URL of my blog, I expect some people will visit my blog.  I wanted to make my posts look better so the visitors will not be turned off.

You probably can’t imagine how exotic cranberries are for Japanese like me.  Until I moved to the U.S. in my mid-20s, I never had cranberries in my entire life. 


Not many people know that Michigan produces cranberries as well as blueberries. Both blueberries and cranberris grow only on sandy soil. This means they can grow in very limited areas in the U.S.  It makes southeastern Michigan a special place.

October is time for cranberry harvesting.

On an October Saturday, I drove all the way to western Michigan from Southeast Michigan to see the cranberry harvest show at DeGrandchamp Farms in South Haven.

I found about this event when I went to the farm last August for blueberry U-Pick.  The brochures in the farm’s gift shop mentioned the event and one of the cashers did a good sales pitch to me, “Come back on October for the show!”.

About 10 years ago, one of the November mornings close to Thanksgiving, I noticed an article in the local newspaper about cranberries grown in western Michigan.  The article had a photo of somebody harvesting cranberries in a bog.  It explained sandy soil in western Michigan is suited for cranberries and there is a farm growing cranberries in South Haven – this must have been DeGrandchamp Farms.

I had thought cranberries were grown only in the East Coast states like Massachusetts and New Jersey, so the article gave me a strong impression. Since then I had always wanted to go see the cranberry bogs in western Michigan, I guess.  So my dream came true finally.

They had two hay wagons to transport tourists to and from the bogs. $5 per person for a roundtrip ($3 for a child). There was a good number of tourists.  The wagons got filled quickly.  Five-minute ride one way.  They were running every 10 minutes.

When we arrived, I saw the cranberries corralled into one corner of the bog, being sucked up to the truck.

Cranberries being sucked up through the pipe.

A closer look – Yes!  Cranberries are floating in the water.

Once sucked up, cranberries are loaded in the cargo (on the left) and carried to the processing center on the back of the truck.

Beautiful pinkish red – gift of Nature

No wonder the American Indians used to dye fabric with cranberries.

They use a heavy yellow tape to corralle floating cranberries into a corner.

Tape reel

Gathering cranberries with a shovel and a rake.

Interesting that they use rakes.

Wet cranberry paddies like this are called bogs.

When cranberry seedlings are planted in the beds in the spring, there is no water in the beds.  Clean sand is hauled into the beds and irrigation equipment is installed in the beds to keep soil moist.  The beds are flooded when autumn comes before harvesting (September-October).  A harvester machine is driven through the beds to beat off the fruit off the vines.  The cranberry fruit float in the water and is then corralled into a corner of the bed and sucked up with a pipe and loaded into a truck.

A guy watching the show from on the top of the machine. I think he is a Mexican.  In western Michigan, which is a big agricultural area, you see many Mexicans. I hear a lot of them come here in a family to work in the farms.

The cranberries are carried to the washing/sorting station.

The other bog next to the show – two men were raking something under the water.  Were they shaking the cranberry vines?  I wanted to find it out, but the guide was surrounded by the other tourists, busy answering their questions. I gave up.

Leftover cranberries of prior harvesting?

You can see the vines under the water.

A harvester that beats off cranberry fruit from the vines under the water was on display.  It must be pretty expensive.  How many years does it take to get the money back?  This machine is driven in the bogs to beat off the cranberry fruit with the teeth in the front and the back.

Unfortunately this show did not include showing this harvester working in the bog.  The cranberries had already been beaten off the vines before the show.

The rear of the harvester.  The boys were very interested in the machine.  In any country, any time, boys are always interested in machines (girls are usually not). I am not trying to be a sexist. It is truly what I have observed in my life.

Cranberry seedlings.  This was the first time I ever saw cranberry seedlings.  In recent years, nursery stores are carrying them in spring.  How difficult is it to grow cranberries in your backyard?


The cranberry beds are kept flooded during the winter. The water freezes into ice, so the cranberries pass the winter under the ice, protected by ice against low temperature. Seems strange that ice protects them from frost, but frost damages plants, ice does not, I guess  (you can see I don’t know much about agriculture…).

In early spring when ice and snow melt, they drain the water.  Then the plants are pollinated and grow during the summer.

Every 3 to 5 years, in winter they drive trucks on the beds covered with ice to spread sand on the beds.  This is to furtilize the soil.  As we know, the soil becomes poor as we grow plants on the same soil every year.  The sand spread on top of the ice falls on the plants when the ice melts and fertilizes the plants.  It’s interesting that sand is fertilizer for cranberries.

I never know that cranberries are native to North America.  Japanese know very little about cranberries.  I did not know anything about them until I moved to the U.S. They grow on sandy soil.  That’s why they grow in very limited regions: Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Nantucket, Maine, Oregon, Washington,, Minnesota, Canada, and Michigan.  Western Michigan is suited for growing cranberries because the soil is sandy near Lake Michigan (there are lots of sand dunes in western Michigan) and it’s cold.  This is awesome. Western Michigan is one of very few places in the world that can produce cranberries.

In addition to North America, cranberries grow only in northern Asia and northern Europe – that’s it for the entire world.

This map is borrowed from Wikipedia. Inside the red line are the regions cranberries can grow.  Inside the green line indicates where cranberries can grow in the U.S.  Inside the orange line is where small cranberries can grow (northern Europe and northern Asia) – I did not know cranberries grow in northern Asia.  Before I moved to the U.S. from Asia, I never had cranberries in my life.

Cranberries have anti-cancer effects as they are rich in antioxidants.  They are also rich in vitamin C.  They are called “super fruit”.

At the receiving area, cranberries are unloaded from the truck (left), and washed and sorted inside the building (right).


Poured inside the building for washing.

Two Mexican women were hand-sorting the cranberries. These women and the guy who was watching the show from the truck must be the family.  This kind of monotonous work is often done by Mexicans.  Americans don’t want to or can’t do this kind of work well (you can’t find good American workers for the pay) – that’s what my late father-in-law, who was in the pesticide business, used to say. I don’t think I would be able to work like this for hours, either. I hear Mexicans are very hard workers; they are very fast,  accurate, and physically very tough. The agriculture in the U.S. very much depends on Mexicans.

After hand-sorted, the cranberries are further sorted by the computer.  The ones that don’t meet the criteria are identified and ejected.

A closer look at the monitor:  Percentage Ejected 2.11%,  Average Ejected 1.97%,  Berries per Second 711.  Looks like the color criteria for ejection are set in it.  Agriculture is pretty high-tech.

The back of the monitor

The end of the process.  The cranberries are constantly spitted from the end of the machine into the barrel.

From the barrel into the plastic bins.

The farm runs a gift shop.  Most shoppers were women.  Are women more interested in food than men?  Or —

Men were watching football games  You don’t see many American men out anywhere on autumn Saturdays.

Inside the blue doors is where they wash and sort out cranberries.  When I came here for blueberry U-pick in summer, they were working on the blueberries (again Mexicans were working there – they may have been the same people). It was open to public.  I could watch them very closely in there.

I purchased 2 packs of fresh cranberries.  $1.50 per pack – good price.  The casher told me these were packed right here, behind the blue doors.  By the way, these fresh cranberries are not the ones harvested in the bogs.

There are 2 ways of harvesting cranberries:  wet harvest and dry harvest.  What I saw was wet harvest.  Those harvested by wet harvest are used for processed products like canned cranberry sauce and cranberry juice.

Fresh cranberries come from dry harvest.  They do not flood the beds for dry harvest; they comb cranberry fruits from the vines using a mechanized picking machine that looks a little like a lawn mower.

Most fresh cranberries I see in stores are Ocean Spray-brand , but recently I have seen more and more Michigan cranberries on sale.  This farm forms a co-op with the other farms in the area. The co-op distributes blueberries in summer to the metro Detroit under the brand name of Great Lakes Blueberries.

Long time ago before the specialized machines were invented, cranberries were only dry-harvested by hands.  There is a 19th-century painting of dry harvest in Wikipedia.  You can see in the painting people hand-picking cranberries in the dry fields in Nantucket.

Next to the parking area of the farm is their blueberry U-pick area.  I did not know blueberry bushes turn to autumn colors.  Pretty.

The main building of the farm – the washing/sorting station and the gift shop are in this building.

This farm actually was one of my late father-in-law’s customers more than 25 years ago.  My late father-in-law was the regional sales manager of a big pesticide company.  He was in charge of the Great Lakes regions and his office was in South Haven.  He used to drive around in the western Michigan to visit the farms, including this one.

Blueberry bushes on the other side of the road, Blue Star Highway.  Blue Star Highway is one of the key roads in southwestern Michigan.  What a cool name – Blue Star – poetic and romantic.

Agri-tourism like this cranberry harvest show is becoming popular. I hear more than 1,000 people come to the show in one day. People are interested in food.  So am I.

This farm is a supplier of Ocean Spray, the leading company of cranberry products in the world.  Awesome.

I am excited (!) that there are cranberry bogs in Michigan, only a few hours’ drive from my home.

Posted in Michigan Fruits, Southwestern Michigan | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Big Fruit State, Michigan – But This Autumn…

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック)! 

This is a translation of what I published in Japanese.

When I started blogging, I decided to make my blog bilingual.  I don’t want to limit it to Japanese, although my blog is primarily aimed for Japanese readers.  With my limited English writing skill, it’s not easy to re-write it in English (-_-;)  If you have tried to learn a foreign language, you know what I mean.  Translation software doesn’t work well at all…but I will try my best (^^).


Autumn in Michigan

Farmers’ markets are full of delicious-looking Michigan apples.

Uh, oh, these photos are from last year when I visited Fruit Acres Farms in Coloma in southwestern Michigan.

They had tons of my favorite Honey Crisp apples – I was in heaven.

And this year…

The photo below is Nye’s Market in St. Joseph (about 2 weeks ago).


The apples did not look very good.

There were not many, and the shapes and the colors were not so great.

There was the explanation above the apples.

The staff of Nye’s Market said they did not have a lot more to come (so I should buy now).  She said this year had been a terrible year.

Several days later, I called Wiard’s Orchard in Ypsilanti in southeastern Michigan.   I asked on the phone if they have Apple U-pick this year.  She said no (as I expected).  I had read in the Pure Michigan e-newsletter that the unprecedented heat waves last March destroyed 90% of the apples in the entire Michigan.

Two days after that, I heard on the radio the marketing lady of Wiard’s Orchard announcing they have no apple U-pick this year and explaining why. She emphasized that the cider mill is open as usual.  Did she decide to be on the local radio, maybe because they received many inquiries like mine?  Or maybe they had visitors who arrived there only to be disappointed.

Many cider mills are open as usual, with only the difference this year that the apple cider is made from apples imported from other states.  Good logistics


Michigan is No. 3 in the U.S. in apple production behind Washington and New York (I did not know that).

But this year, it’s only 10% of the usual crop size.

The worst crop loss since the 1940s.

How awful…

The grocery stores in my neighborhood are selling nothing but apples from Washington and New York.  There were bags of apples labeled Locally Grown, but they were “locally grown” in New York state.  They must have been originally packaged for people in New York before it was decided to divert some to Michigan.

What a relief that not all the states had terrible crop this year…


Not only apples but also cherries, peaches, and other fruits were damaged by the weather last spring.  85% of cherries and 95% of peaches in Michigan were lost.

This summer – all the peaches were from Washington. Usually we see a lot of Michigan peaches on sale in mid-summer, but this year there were none. I asked the clerk “you don’t have any Michigan peaches this year?”  He replied, “oh, right, I have not seen any this year”.  It was the first time I ever bought and ate Washington peaches. They were not bad.

Michigan is also a big producer of cherries. We also usually see a lot of Michigan bing cherries on sale in summer, but again, only Washington cherries this year.  And they were not cheap.

The cardboard boxes stacked near the cherries – all say Washington

There was one thing great (and strange) – Rainier cherries which are usually very expensive were cheap this year for a while for some reason.  Only $2.99/lb.   You don’t get a chance like this often.  I bought a lot. Did Washington have an unusually good crop of Rainier cherries?


Last March when we had two weeks of summer-like weather, people (including me) were delighted and enjoyed being outdoors in summer clothes.  I myself felt lucky as I did not have to commute to work on snow and ice, but at the same time I was uneasy – something is wrong.  The temperature rose above 80F. The TV news showed people playing beach volleyball on the Chicago beaches – beach volleyball in March in Chicago?  Unheard of.

While we were enjoying the weather, the farmers must have dreaded.

What they feared became a reality.  Toward the end of the two-week long heat waves, cherry trees bloomed.  Peach trees bloomed.  Other fruit trees bloomed  Normally they don’t bloom until late April or early May.  They were beautiful, but I felt it spooky.

The high temperature lasted so long that the trees were completely fooled.

And in April, the usual cold snaps came.  The temperature dipped under the freezing point, which froze 85% – 95% of the fruit buds to death.

April in Michigan is often cold.  There is a reason why fruit trees in Michigan don’t bloom until late April.  They should never never bloom in March. We can’t be simply happy if it’s warm in March.  We are often unaware of where our food comes from. We are disconnected. We can’t imagine what impact the weather may have on our future food supply.

The total damage of all fruit crops is estimated to be over $2 million. Governor Snyder requested federal disaster assistance.  Here, I don’t understand –

The Republican Party’s slogan is “small government”.   But they always seem eager to ask the Federal government for help whenever their states get hit by natural disasters. Why??

It’s sad that there are no apples in the apple trees when autumn arrives.  It’s sort of like a childbirth everybody was looking forward to ended in a stillbirth.


The strange moving pattern of the jet stream has been on the news almost every year these days. The change in the moving pattern of the jet stream is said to be the cause of a lot of extreme weather we have been having.  The summer-like weather in March was another one, and this was a big one.

And the changes in the moving pattern of the jet stream is said to be caused by the arctic warming.

That’s what I have been hearing and reading. If you are interested, here are the sources:

Climate Central article on Mar 26, 2012

The Earth Institute Colombia Univ. blog

ThinkProgress, article on Aug 22

I hope it will be a normal (i.e. cold) March next year.

I can’t wait to eat my favorite Michigan Honey Crisp apples next autumn.

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Pure Michigan Singalong Campaign

For Japanese, please click here!

My blogger friend in Japan told me that there is a singalong video about Michigan in YouTube. Here is the URL:

Update: Unfortunately this singalong video has been removed from YouTube, because a secondary copyright infringement has been claimed.  The ad agency created the video, changing the lyrics of the song which belongs to the synthpop group, Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen.

Somebody like YouTube now has to worry about liability for copyright infringement, too.  Looks like the ad agency who creatd the singalong never got a consent from the group?  And nobody in the state government checked if there might be any possible copyright issues?  This is a pretty bad blunder.

But almost two million people had already watched it before it was removed, so the state must have had a pretty good return on the investment (^^)

If you are curious what the Michigan singalong was like, click the link above where the group sings the original song – you will have a pretty good idea.

Pure Michigan Statewide Singalong

It’s funny somebody who lives in Japan found out about it before me who lives in Michigan.

It debuted at the half-time show of the Detroit Lions game on Sept 9 (Sun).  Since then, in just a week, more than one million people have watched it in YouTube.

I noticed the video does not show the long, severe (and gloomy) winter at all. That’s because they shot all of it in August. And who would include negative things in PR? Michigan looks beautiful in it and looks like a very fun place to be. It actually is beautiful and nice in summer.  So, they did not overdo the editing. I am sure it will help attract more out-of-state tourists.  The state of Michigan keeps trying hard.

All the efforts the state made seem to be getting good results. The beaches in western Michigan are definitely a lot more crowded than 10 years ago.  Hotels are a lot more expensive.  I can’t believe that hotels in Benton Harbor are now as expensive as many of the hotels in Waikiki, Hawaii.

Some people don’t like it. They question if it’s the best use of the taxpayers’ money.  They don’t like it that the state wants to depend on the tourism industry.

It’s not only Michigan that wants to turn into a tourist destination.  Same things are happening in my home country, Japan.

My father, who lives in Japan, laments that it’s pathetic that many places in Japan now try to become a tourist destination.  When he was young, nobody even considered it as they were busy manufacturing and exporting stuff overseas.  (He is not very aware or has forgotten that they exported a lot to the U.S. and caused friction with the U.S.)  He does not say it loud, but he is implying that tourism business is not manly, it does not create jobs for true men, and it lacks dignity.  When he was younger, Japan was just like China now. And only a few decades later, many “true men’s jobs” were lost to China and other more inexpensive countries.  Very similar to what Michigan experienced.

Japan is abundant in beautiful nature, just like Michigan. I think Japan discovered it and is now trying to lure tourists from China, Korea, and other neighbor countries.

It would be better if high-pay manufacturing jobs come back, but will they ever come back?   Jobs in tourism business are low pay.  But better than nothing.  If the state is blessed with beautiful lakes and forests, it may as well utilize them to generate income.  I don’t have any problem with that.  Use what you have to make money.  If you were born with good looks, use it.  If you were born with good personality, use it.  If you were born with high brainpower, use it.

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