Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mass Transit

Back in August of 2006 I took this photo while sitting static on the Dan Ryan on my way home from work and kind of thought to myself I need to find a way to drive less. Unfortunately, it was not practical to take the CTA daily from where I lived on the north side to where I worked on the south side.
Then a few months later, I moved to Seattle and the problem got worst. I ended up driving a lot more, and whenever it would rain or snow traffic would stop. And when the weather was really nice, everyone felt the need to travel from the burbs to the city causing traffic on the express ways to stop again. Currently, the only useful mass transit in Seattle is the Sound transit bus 560 to the airport and the metro bus 101 to Mariners games. Below, sitting in traffic in the pacific north west.And now I have moved to Japan, and for just over a month have completely eliminated my need to use or own a car. Below is the station I start my daily commute to work.Nothing is perfect, so here are some of my observations of not having a car.
1) You end up walking a lot more. Around my apartment is a subway station 4 minute walk away and a rail / subway station 12 minute walk away. There is also a bus stand. And walking is actually a positive thing, it takes longer to get to a train station then it would to get to your car, but as long as you plan ahead that's not a big deal. The only problem might be if I hurt myself and can not walk, I really have no plan B.
2) My monthly cost for gas, car insurance, maintenance... is $0. But the unlimited use month train pass that lets me go from where I live to where I work, about 40 miles is $160. Also, I don't have a subway pass, so every trip on their cost $2.
3) Schedules are really tight, if I make the 6:23am train I know I will be at work at 7:10am, traffic is no longer an issue. And over time, you naturally memorize the train schedules that you use a lot, so if I miss a train, I know when I need to be at the station to get the next train.
4) One of my coworkers pointed out that their are places in Japan that I can not visit without a car and this is a disadvantage. But then I realized I am unaware of these places because I always refer to train / rail maps when I'm trying to figure out where to go. So ignorance is bliss.
5) Without a car, moving is difficult. Even with the Ford Focus, I could buy a semi large piece of furniture and take it home. But, since many people don't have cars in Japan, most stores will deliver whatever you buy for a minimal fee. But then you have to be at home on some days between sometime (like Wednesday from 5:30 to 8:30). So far I have had four things delivered to the apartment and all four times the people have shown up within the first 10 minutes of their time range. In one case, they were 5 minutes early.
6) Carbon footprint.... My daily carbon footprint is next to zero, which is good. But I think my yearly carbon footprint is huge, because I'm constantly flying somewhere.

For Christmas, I got myself a Nikon D90, a very nice camera that can take 720p HD video. I took some random video of some of the trains I take to get around.

To view this, you probably need high speed internet, like comcast or DSL. To watch in HD, you need to click on the HD square in the video window.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My New Hood: Detroit Rock Cafe

No mater where you travel, Detroit is never to far away, and in Imaike, their is the Detroit Rock Cafe, or the DRC.So, this place is kind of weird. The first time I saw this, I was really excited and though to myself, "wow, I just found the coolest place on earth." Ran up to the second floor, open the door and inside it was empty, just two people behind the bar, I think woke them up when I opened the door. I did feel like sticking around, so I turned and left. A few weeks later I peeked inside the door again, on a Saturday evening and again, it was empty.

My New Hood: Super Market

Turns out the Japanese word for super market is supa makate, sounds like super market. And this my local supermarket, called Valor, it's not to different from the US. When you walk in, frozen stuff is the left.Vegetables and fresh fruits are along the right wall.All the process foods and stuff are in the middle. Sushi and meats are along the back wall. The sushi fridge is never to full because it is made in the back as needed.And in the front of the super market is bike parking, you can see all the bikes have a little basket to carry what you purchase home. I staring to think I need to get third bike like this. Something I can run to the store, pick up things and not worry about parking it outside not locked to anything. These bikes go for $100 - $200 bucks, so no one really wants to go through the trouble of taking them.

My New Hood: Pasta Restaurant

Over the past couple of days I have had time to get out and explore my new neighborhood, its actually a combination of three areas called Higashi, Chikusa and Imaike. I live in Higashi, but the other two are along the eastern edge of Higashi, about 4 blocks away.

About three blocks from my apartment is this Italian restaurant called Piccela Pasta, I guess its a very famous place. I have not had dinner here yet, but the triamisu is really good.
I find this sign really funny:"We have noday off," I can't tell if this is an advertisement or the staff making a desperate plea for help that is being largely ignored by the rest of society.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

名古屋 (Nagoya)

Still moving into my apartment, but here are a couple of random photos from around Nagoya....Looking over the city from the 33rd floor of Nagoya station.Nagoya tower, Midland center and Nagoya station seen from my apartment.To the left is the Nagoya Dome, where the Baseball team Chunichi Dragons play. They are kind of like the cubs, don't really win but everyone loves them. Next season, I hope to make a bunch of games, I can walk there from my apartment. To the right of the dome you can see the Japan Alps.Here is another view of the Nagoya tower, it's kind of like the space needle. You can go up there, have dinner, look at the city and it broadcast TV too.Everyone in Japan loves Ferris Wheels and most cities have at least one for you to enjoy. Nagoya is no different, above is the wheel in the hood of Sakae.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Save the Date

Good news, the magnetic properties of the save the date thing works on my fridge.I guess, I can use this sticker to find a date... :)

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Although the Kent, WA address still works, I have a direct address in Japan too.

Arcadia Tsutsui #701
2-6-9, Tsutsui, Higashi-ku
Nagoya, Aichi 461-0003

Or in Japanese....
デミアン フロレス

Apartment: Day 1

Yesterday, about 18 hours after landing in Japan and an hour and a half walk though and explanation of how apartments work in Japan, I was passed the keys to my new apartment. My new home in the neighborhood of Higashi-ku. Upon being handed the keys, I felt the same relaxed feeling I had when I moved from downtown Chicago to Lincoln Square, it's nice to live in a community again.

Today, first things first, when you get an apartment in Japan, things are usually missing. In my case it was the fridge and washer / dryer. Here is the kitchen before, no fridge:See that cutout on the floor, kind of near the sink? It's about 1 foot deep storage box, I have no idea what to put in there. Normally, you would have to bring your fridge from your previous apartment or buy a new one. But I was lucky and a friend leaving for the US gave me her fridge. I was able to hire a moving company to help, here they are moving the fridge into that pocket.They were really careful not to damage the wall paper.After they were finished, this is how the fridge looked. She also gave me a couch, there on the left.

Another funny thing, I'm still illiterate, can't read Japanese. But the relocation company found a way around this, simply put English everywhere. Below is the thermostat.This of course does not really help you learn Japanese because they put the stickers right over the characters, but for now this will keep me from being cold this winter. The building does not have a hot water tank too.Instead, it has point of use water heaters at each sink, tub and shower. and the box above controls the heaters. When you are not using hot water, you can simply turn it off. The box above is in the kitchen just right of the fridge. If you push that button, 'Automatic water fill-up,' the bath tub over in the bathroom fills up with water set to the temp seen on the screen. I'm not sure when I would need to fill the bath tub from the kitchen, but there must some sort of need for this.

I also want to start working on the garden soon, but I'm not sure what I can plant now, as winter will be here soon.If anyone has any ideas let me know. I assuming all those short green plants are weeds and will pull those out but I might leave behind the little trees.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Obama, JapanThis past summer, I passed by the city of Obama and saw the sign above. I did not actually make a stop in Obama, JPN, but what I understand.... The people of Obama love the US presidential candidate Barack Obama and hope you vote for him.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Passports Up

I'm still working on the details, but here are my tentative travel plans for November:

Leg 1: Nagoya to Seattle - Nov. 19
Leg 2: Seattle to Chicago - Nov. 24
Leg 3: Chicago to Detroit - Nov. 25
Leg 4: Detroit to Nagoya - Dec. 1

I thinking about going for pizza, 5700 block of North Broadway and some somehow finding my way over to Bagley and having a couple of taco's at Lupita's. But other then that... If your birthday happens to be on the 25th...

Kind of my 2008 US tour.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Live Concert - Revisited

So, this was bound to happen. The concert where I played the bass is now on you tube... forever, check it out:

This is not really is chronological order, but close enough.
Keep in mind, this is the third time I played the bass, about 5 hours in. I'm still learning how to play and dance.
For the song 'man who sold the world' I'm a little out of tune. This song is really difficult, so many notes. But I think I also wanted to hear bass better as I was playing this song too. I also keep facing away from everyone because I was trying to watch Noe on guitar, to get an idea of where I should be playing.

Above, this was towards the end of the night. 'Would' is a really fun song to play, although you can't really see, I was all over the place, dancing around and looking professional. Instrumental at the end, not bad.
Only in Nagoya!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Drinking Ban on Public Transport

This is a response to a friend from Chicago's blog, Matt, early 2007 he moved to London. Back in May, London put an end to drinking on public transit, which lead to this post: Drinking Ban on Public Transport.

Even though the post and how the residents of London reacted was really funny, I still thought to myself, "man, that sucks." So, in response to Matt's blog, I just wanted to let everyone know, everything is okay in Japan. Laws here, still logical. Most train stations in Japan have little platform stores or something near by that makes it really easy to pick up a beer or sake for the trip home.Sometimes, a train beer, on Friday is really nice. Something you are not suppose to do on a train, epically the Shinkansen bullet train is talk on a cell phone. Not because it is illegal, just that it is seen as being really rude. On the Shinkansen, a voice comes over the PA and reminds to make sure your phone is set to manner mode. So, look at this guy:On the Shinkansen, not sitting in his chair, having a conversation on his phone while trying to hide it behind his hand. What a punk.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Moving to Nagoya... New Apartment

I have room for you to visit.

Of the 7 apartments I checked out, I have picked this one:It is located near the JR station Chikusa, which makes getting to work kind of easy. But it is also near three subway stations, a bunch of really cool neighborhoods, restaurants and bars.Above is the living room and kitchen.It is also on the seventh floor which is the penthouse. The balcony is huge, there are some hooks for hanging laundry and a garden for growing vegetables and herbs.Here is the best part, here is the first Tatami room.And here is the second Tatami room, so Japanese! A Tatami room is a traditional Japanese style room which are kind of multipurpose. You can sleep on futons, have tea or dinner, or simply entertain in here. I will have to figure this out later.Here is the bathroom. When the person showing me the property and I walked into here, she said "wow this place is huge, even you could fit in the tub."

Moving to Nagoya.. For Real

I'm moving to Nagoya and did my apartment search today. In total, I looked at at 7 places and narrowed my search down to two then one. Check these places out, here is the place I almost did not turn down.This place was cool, the first level was on the 7th floor and the second on the 8th. Nice modern layout, located on top of an Aston Martin dealership, near downtown and a train station, but I had to turn it down. Here is why:This is the view from the first floor balcony, that is a expressway right there and concrete everywhere else. This would normally be okay, but I kind of imagined the air around here to be like Georgetown in south Seattle, full of pollution and noise (albeit in this case, from cars).And here was my other issue. The shower and bath room has a window as a wall? This is on the second floor next to the bedroom and the toilet is first. Typically in Japan the toilet and shower is in two separate rooms, but not typically on different floors. Cool layout, but not quite right. This is still my plan B, just in case my first pick does not work out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Look at this:This is in a basement resale shop in Tokyo called 'Chicago'. In the neighborhood of Harajuku. Not a big deal, but as I turned the corner of this 'L' shape store I noticed these sarapes hanging along the back wall, I was a little surprised. But then I looked closer and saw the this:That's right, that says Y10500, or just under USD$105. Within seconds, I realized I have more then a grad of blankets in my storage room back near Renton. In fact, the more colorful the blanket, the more it was worth in Tokyo. Soooooooo, I need a plan to visit Laredo and somehow need to figure out what the textile import laws here - are. People here must have no clue, if you can talk enough, this blanket only cost $6.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Never had one lesson!

So, this was an experience. Because of work, I ended up a little late to the bar, by the time I arrived everything was almost set up and ready to go. Our show started at 8:30, and there was a private party from 6:30 - 8:00, the rest of the band got to the bar a little early and took care of business.The amp off to the right is the I was to use. During the private party, we took off for a bite to eat. Right around 8:00 we returned to tune the instruments and get settled in. It did not take long for the bar to fill up.I was kind of not paying attention, plugging in my bass and making sure it would make noise, turned around and saw this. Then the person trying to level out speakers asked me to play the bass, I was not to excited about this, so many people. "When I push on this string, they can hear me, that is not cool."During sound check, I was trying to avoid everyone. In fact when we started to play, I stood facing James the drummer, with my back to everyone for the first few minutes. But the bar was enjoying the show, and after a few minutes I was facing forward and making a good effort to be a rock star.So, I can not play bass, but that's okay. The basic idea was to put me up here, try to follow the beat and the other three would simply play louder then me. This actually worked out, we played 10 or 12 songs, half of them I was able to learn a couple of key notes to hit. The other songs, I was able to watch where Noe, on guitar was playing and just kind of followed along. I had two bass' to work with, one was tuned a little different from the other and used for different songs. But it was really cool to put one down and pick up the other. I had no idea the amount of work it is to play a bass. To stand there and pluck strings for two hours really takes a toll. I had to use a pick, I tried to use my fingers during day 2 partice to strum, but then I got a blister on my index finger. Which put the kabosh on that idea, you can strum faster not using a pick.Everyone really enjoyed the concert, it's a really good that the rest of the band are really good musicians.There is one song that I think I played really well, Alice in Chains song Would.Towards the end of the night, I was walking around and dancing a little bit. This was a lot of fun, unlike Rock Band, no one boo'ed me off stage or even gave me a hard time. I actually got a lot of positive feedback, but I think no one really realized they could not hear the bass. Now I want to take a few lessons sometime in the future. I think next week, i will be getting some more photos, I will put those up too.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Band Practice Day 2

This was our second practice and everything went well.My bass sounds good, our show is tomorrow and as it sounds it will be a packed house (small house, maybe the bar can hold less then 45 people).So, this will be crazy, if anyone yells at me "you suck!" I'm going to stop the show and invite them on stage to show me how they would handle the same situation.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

School of Rock

This is kind of difficult to explain, yesterday I was asked if I could play bass for this band made up of three co-workers who need a bass player. Naturally, I answered "no."They were not convinced, so after some discussion in the office, I found myself making noise on a bass in a small studio north of Nagoya station called Liverpool. And the noise I was able to produce was good enough to play live in a bar this Friday, at 8:30pm, at 10 Dollar Rock'A Beat Cafe near Fushimi Station.Between right now and Friday at 8:30pm, there is one more practice, where I will have an amp and three hours to figure this thing out. We are going to play some covers from Weezer, Green day, Nirvana... so on. I have a strap for the bass now too, so it is a little more easy to manage. The show will be about an hour and a half and should be crazy. They picked a bunch of songs where the bass is easy to play over, but I can hold the beat. No problem, I should also get points for stage presence. I'm kind of big in Japan! But if I enjoy this, I think I might take some classes. I think prior to this week, I have played Rock Star twice, let's see if I get booed off stage in real life.

The name of the band is Jyuko, which is short form of the Japanese word Jūkōgyō, which means 'heavy industry.'