August 26, 2008

Japan 2008 - Tokyo - Day 8-10

This will be the wrap up for the trip. We had two days in Tokyo, not including the travel day to come home. It’s been a hot time in Japan, but it was very fun. Sorry, there's no pictures for this update as we weren't really anywhere scenic.

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August 20, 2008

Japan 2008 - Miyajima - Day 7

So, I’ve often tried to explain what it is to drive around in Japan. Since I don’t have an international license, and the fact that the public transit system in Japan is so good, I don’t drive, so I can only make my observations as an interested passenger in various public/private vehicles. Setting aside the somewhat amazingly complicated intersections that can sometimes exceed 4 directions of traffic (and not always at 90 degrees), driving around Japan can be somewhat alarming.

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August 13, 2008

Japan 2008 - Iwakuni - Day 6

Iwakuni was the destination of the day. Iwakuni is about 1 hour outside of Hiroshima via local train. Home to MCAS Iwakuni, it also is the home of a unique ribbon bridge called Kintai-Kyo. 5 sections long (to represent the 5 main islands in Japan) it is a beautiful bridge that spans approx 193 meters across the river. However, due to the design of the bridge, if you walk across it, you actually end up walking about 210 meters. It’s considered one of the 3 most beautiful bridges in Japan, and is the only 5 span bridge of its type in the world. Interestingly enough, though the bridge was designed in 1673, it conforms to modern engineering and design principles. There was a bit of misinformation about the bridge being built without nails, but nails and such were used in its construction.

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August 06, 2008

Japan 2008 - Hiroshima - Day 5

Hiroshima was on tap for today. We arrived from Kyoto via Shinkansen (Bullet train). Our first stop was the Peace Memorial. As many times as I’ve been, there’s always something very moving about it. As they periodically update their displays, there were some new exhibits for me to see as well. Suffice it to say that if you manage to get to Japan anywhere near Hiroshima, this is a place you should make time to see.

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August 03, 2008

Japan 2008 - Updates

Well, I'm actually back from Japan now. I didn't have decent access to a connection the last part of the trip, as well as being very busy towards the end of the trip, so I didn't have a chance to do any updates. However, I did manage to write up a few things even without a connection, so what I will do is over the next couple of weeks or so as I catch my breath and get over my jet lag, I'll finish up the rest of the trip.

July 28, 2008

Japan 2008 - Day 4

No pictures for today, sorry. The first major rain of the season hit, and it was quite the downpour, complete with thunder and lightning. It was actually quite refreshing. It caused the temperature to drop significantly, and of course walking around all wet from the rain helps as well. Today we went to Nagoya for some personal business. Visiting some of my ancestor's gravesites, and some distant relatives. Tomorrow we head to Hiroshima to visit some more relatives and do some sightseeing. We'll be staying at their house so I probably won't have internet there as well, but if I can find a connection I'll do some updates. If not, I'll just do updates later.

July 27, 2008

Japan 2008 - Day 3

Day 3 and we’re off to Himeji. Himeji is also sometimes called the White Crane castle, and has been the backdrop for several movies including James Clavell’s Shogun, and Ian Flemming’s You Only Live Twice. It’s a beautiful castle, and the Koko-en gardens nearby are phenomenal to visit. On this day, it happened to be one of the hottest days out here so far, and it was pretty brutal. The 1 KM walk from the station to the castle is normally not a problem, but when the temp climbs, it can be pretty nasty. The only saving factor today was there was a nice breeze, but still, hot is hot. Apparently there was some kind of record set today near here, of 39C. That's the equivalent of 102F, plus the humidity. Ouch!

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Japan 2008 - Day 2

Day 2 saw us taking an easy morning exploring the JR Kyoto Station. This is the major train station here in Kyoto, and boy is it big. The station not only serves the bullet train system, but also serves several local trains connecting the nearby cities, and also serves the Kyoto subway system, and is the major bus hub as well. On top of that it holds the Kyoto Granvia Hotel (a fairly swanky hotel), connects to 2 underground malls (The Cube, and Porta), contains its own mall (Asty Road), as well as the Isetan department store, and numerous other small shops.

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July 25, 2008

Japan 2008 - Part 1

Well, we arrived in Japan more or less on schedule. Two plane transfers and a bus ride later, we arrived at the Rihga Royal Hotel. It’s a nice hotel. The rooms are reasonably spacious, it’s clean and neat, if a bit conservative in it’s décor. There’s a shuttle bus that runs from the front of the hotel to the train station a few minutes away, which is very convenient. Some minor nitpick points, they charge you ¥1050 / 24hours of internet access per computer. A bit inconvenient if you have multiple computers and no router. Given this fact, the updates are going to be fewer, but larger, so I’m not always paying for the connection.

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July 21, 2008

Japan - 2008

Well, the trip is in 2 days. I'm leaving on July 23, returning August 3. This is my nephew's HS graduation gift from his parents, and I get to be his (and my Niece's) tour guide/chaperone while we're there.

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October 15, 2005

We're home.

Well, after another long travel day we're home. It does feel good to be home, though the change in culture again will take some getting used to. The flight back was significantly faster due to the jet stream, only about 9 hours instead of 12. Still, economy class is not built for big people, though at least this time I didn't need a shoehorn to get into my seat.

I've already unpacked the suitcase, and am now going to try to stay awake until at least 9:00 pm or so to start adjusting back to PDT. I think it's gonna be a bit of a losing battle though....

October 14, 2005

Sayonnara, Japan...

Well, today was a shopping day, so no pictures. Sorry! Today we wandered the major shopping areas looking for various "omiyage" or gifts to take back home to friends and family, and then tried to figure out how to get it to fit in the suitcases without crushing everything. Ah well, we'll get it all packed away sooner or later. Tomorrow (Saturday) we will be checking out of the hotel, and be winging our way home overnight. We'll arrive in the US in the early afternoon of the same day! Talk about jet lag!

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October 13, 2005

Day 11 Photos - Kyoto

Today I ended up staying at the hotel. My ankle and legs were just not up to a lot of walking today, but, Brian and Tim soldiered on and went to the Philosopher's walk, and visited Ginkakuji Temple, Nanzenji Temple, and Eikan-Do temple. I gave Brian my camera for the day so he could take some shots and here they are. Unfortunately he doesn't exactly remember which was which, but I can guess at a few of these:

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October 12, 2005

Day 10 Photos - Tokyo

Well, the travel is definitely taking it's toll. We've been going more or less non-stop for the past 11 days and the wear and tear is becoming evident. Brian's cold has him a bit on the rocks, and the constant walking is certainly wearing the feet and legs out of all of us. I twisted my ankle a few days ago, and it's not getting any better with all the walking, but, opportunities like this don't come around all the time for most of us so, we're all simply bearing down and dealing with it.

We had a good time today heading to Shin-Yokohama on the way to Tokyo. At Shin-Yokohama is the Ramen Museum. I know, you're thinking "Why a Ramen Museum?" Well, Ramen is a very popular food here in Japan, and there are many different styles of ramen. Every town in Japan has at least 1 ramen shop in it.

The first instant ramen package, the one that started it all...

The Governator in his youth, selling ramen.

The basement of the building was converted to a replica of the Tokyo streets circa 1958 or so, and 8 of the top ramen restaurants around Japan have a storefront here. This is a trip down memory lane for many of the older Japanese who come to this museum, and you can see it in their faces as they see and hear the sights and sounds from the past. This is the most popular feature of the museum, here you can buy full size or small sample size bowls of ramen from the various stores. We sampled a few, and all were quite tasty and unique. The museum is a very popular stop, even offering a montlhy pass to get in! When we arrived a little before 11:00AM when the museum opens, there was already a fairly significant line of people waiting to get in. Only a few of them were silly tourists like us who were looking around upstairs at the exhibits. The rest immediately rushed downstairs to get to the restaurants. Later on as we were headed out, we noticed some of the little shops had lines that would take an hour or more to clear!

Who was that masked ramen eater?!?


Once in Tokyo we went to see the Imperial Palace. Or what was left of it. The palace burned down 19 years after it was built, and was never rebuilt. However, of course, you guessed it...there are gardens around it.


The base of the original palace.

A look at the amazingly tight fit of the stones at one of the gates.


We also went to Akihabara, the electronics Mecca of Japan. Not much in the way of pictures for here, just a bunch of stores, but it was fun to explore a 9 floor store full of electronics of different kinds. Prices aren't necessarily the best these days with the exchange rate, but there are many items that aren't available stateside, due to marketing or other issues.


We also went to the Ginza area. This is Tokyo Shopping Central. Here's some shots of just one of the streets in the area.



October 11, 2005

Day 9 Photos - Kyoto

We decided to hit some of the places in Kyoto that we did not get to earlier.

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October 10, 2005

Day 8 Photos - Nagoya

Well, today is a National Holiday - Sports Day - here in Japan. It's a busy day with a lot of people travelling about. We decided that today would be a good day to head to Nagoya, where my Father's side of the family originated. We used to have land and a home out here, but a number of years ago, we sold it as we did not want to continue to pay taxes on it nor would my inheriting it make it any easier (the taxation on inheritance out here is pretty exorbitant.) I had spent many a summer here in my youth, and had many fond memories of the area. My Grandfather, Grandmother, and several other more distant relatives are all buried in plots in the area, so I decided to visit them while I had the time.

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Day 7 Photos - Okayama

Okayama is one major stop north of Hiroshima. Of note is Okayama Castle, sometimes known as Crow Castle due to it's coloration. This castle was actually owned by the government for a while, who couldn't afford the upkeep, and actually tore down portions of the castle (presumably to prevent people from being injured due to the buildings being in disrepair). Later it was mostly destroyed in WWII, then rebuilt using concrete, (they even put in an elevator). The exterior is faithful to the original, just the interior is modern. This castle also houses a small but impressive collection of arms and armor, but unfortunatley they do not allow pictures of the exhibits for the most part.

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Day 6 Photos - Tsuyama

Day 6 is the trip to Tsuyama in the Shimane Prefecture for the Dojo celebration. Tsuyama is a small town in the mountains to the west of Hiroshima. The 1.75 hour bus ride to Tsuyama winds through some amazing scenery along the hillsides. I only have a few shots through the bus window, so they don't really do justice to the landscape.

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October 09, 2005

Day 5 Photos - Miyajima

I love going to Miyajima. It's a small island near Hiroshima, about 20-30 minutes by ferry. On the island is the Itsukushima Shrine. A beautiful shrine that is built out over the water. When the tide is in, the shrine appears to be floating on the water. A huge Torii gate out in the water marks where the shrine is. Unfortunately a recent typhoon had caused some significant damage to the shrine, though repairs seemed to be moving along at a good clip.

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October 08, 2005


Sorry for the lack of updates. We've had a very busy few days here and with the lack of internet access in the hotel room it was hard to do any updates.

Right now we're in the Hiroshima Train station headed for Okayama. After we do a quick stop in Okayama to tour around, we will be headed back to Kyoto, where I know I should have access and I'll post up some of the pictures from the past few days.

October 06, 2005

Change of Plans

Well, as travel plans are wont to do, we changed plans midstream and went straight to Hiroshima instead. We may try to visit Okayama at some point, but we decided that dragging our suitcases all over town was a bad idea, and by the time we got to the Hotel, we really didn't have time to go back to Okayama, so we went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial instead.

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October 05, 2005

Transfer Day

Today we transfer to Hiroshima for a few days. On the trip down we will try to stop at Okayama to visit the Okayama Castle, and Gardens there. We will be in Hiroshima for 2 nights, including the Dojo Celebration, and then we will transfer back to Kyoto.

Day 3 Pictures - Nara

Today we went to Nara. Nara was once the Capital of Japan, before it moved to Kyoto, and thence to Tokyo.

In Nara Park, there are a great many temples and shrines, far too many to show here even if I had great pictures of all of them, which I don't. Being another wet and rainy day the pictures are a bit gray, but here are some of the better ones.

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October 04, 2005

Day 2 Photos

It was rainy and wet, but still worth the time. If you ever get to Himeji, just be prepared for a LOT of walking. As it stands now (or rather sits now) my feet are very sore, and my thighs were burning on the walk back. A large grounds, and lots of steep stairs inside the castle itself, and all of the walking from yesterday combined to beat my legs up pretty good. It's only gonna get worse from here on out though. Ah well...

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October 03, 2005

Day 2

On tap for today is Himeji Castle. It is where they shot the movie: Shogun, though in the movie it was referred to as Osaka Castle. The castle incorporated all the latest technology of the time, but was built near the end of the warring period so it was never attacked. The grounds have been reduced in size over time, but the place is still huge. I hope I can get some good pictures, though the weather forcast is for rain today so we shall see...

Selected images from day 1

Here's a few of the better images from day 1.

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October 01, 2005

Travel Day!

Whew! This day seemed at once so far off, yet so close not too long ago, but finally it's here!

We take a small turboprop airplane from San Diego to LA, and then hop aboard a big 'ol 747 for an 11 hour flight to Osaka's Kansai Airport.

The usual frenetic last minute packing was somewhat averted this time by...*gasp*...starting my packing early! What a concept! Still, there's always that nagging worry that you forgot something. I keep endlessly running through the list in my head....passport: check! check!...rail pass voucher: check!...toiletries: check!...travellers checks: check!...suitcase: check!...backpack: check!...

September 27, 2005

Getting close...

Well, we're getting closer...only 4 days until we leave, and I'm pretty excited about the trip! I think getting the suitcase out of storage and airing it out really emphasized how fast the trip is coming up.

We've got a pretty good list of place we're going to try to see, and while we may not get to all of them, I'm sure we'll get to a good number of them. I'll leave it as a small suprise as to where we are/went when I update here.

Speaking of updating, I'm unsure about how easy it will be for me to find a connection to do the updates. Japan does have a lot of hotspots, but finding them for a reasonable rate is going to be the tricky part. I'm not sure if my hotel does, but I suppose I'll find out soon enough...