Saturday, March 29, 2008


You know, reading through this blog, you might get the idea all I do is eat and ride trains.... anyways.

I don't think I have ever really had sushi till after three weeks of constant research, only to stumble on to this place. Now, I have no clue what's it's name is:But I know how to get there. Walk out of Nagoya station, turn right, cross street, turn right, turn left, turn right, walk past pachinko block, look left, cross street and you are there. If ANYONE visits, and enjoys sushi, we are going here. They were even watching the A's / red Sox game in the background live from Tokyo stadium, I think Boston lost this game.It's really quite simple, the restaurant is a few tables on the ground and a bar. I sat at the bar. The guy above puts a wood plank down in front of you and something to drink. You think for a second, say "ni maguro to ni ebi kudasa" and a few minutes later you have sushi. He does his thing, reaches over and puts your order on the wood plank as he makes it. This place is also cheap too.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Seven hours in Tokyo

The first thing you realize when you pull into Tokyo, hop off the Shinkansen, walk down the stairs, lose your train ticket only to be saved by the information lady, who can tell you are lost. Then it's back on the green line, transfer at the Shinjuku, head a few kilometre (not a spelling error) and exit at Harajuku... You realize that Tokyo is absolutely nothing like Nagoya and you are standing in front of the Snoopy Town with 150,000 other people.Which is refreshing, somehow, when you travel from city to city in America, although all are different they all have similarities. Turn right, there is Starbucks, look across the street, another Starbucks next to a parking structure.

Offering to be my tour guide, I meet an old friend from college, Yukie. She is doing very well, more professional and urban then I ever imagine. The first place we visited was an organic grocery store and restaurant.
This restaurant was breath of fresh air, as the idea of natural foods is lost in Nagoya. More importantly, like the American food supply, not all food is created equally. Some is organic and some is not. In Japan, most grocery stores have an organic section and a cheaper section, but you know, I have no clue which is which. They are all apples to me.Then Yukie showed me this, that green character above the character that looks like |= is the symbol for organic. So when I go out and shop in Nagoya, I need to keep my eyes open. Later on in the afternoon we went to a organic coffee shop, basically, Tokyo has health food.

After lunch, we headed over to the Meiji Shrine. This is were everyone goes to pray on January 1st. Everyone!With clean hands, we were pure and ready to enter the shrine. It's kind of hard to explain or even take a good photo, but this place is beautiful, and very peaceful.What you do, is you stand in front of those slats, bow, bow clap, bow, clap, clap, bow, throw some change in the slats and pray. If God like you, your prayer might come true. Of course you can't discuss what you prayed about.There was also a couple of weddings taking place too, the bride is the girl with the large white hat on.

Across the street from the shrine is this large park just full of more people. Even walking up to the park was interesting. For example, if you ever wondered where those Japanese figure drawings come from, it' this guy right here: Judging by the cash money to his right, it cost a couple thousand yen to get yourself drawn. Down the block from him were a bunch of outdoor food stands.There is a lot going on here, if you look close this guy is making pancakes. But then there is a bucket of shell fish out front, sometimes you need to wonder where that ends up.Then this guy is making omelets I think. We had just had lunch, so we were not really hungry when we walked down this block. But, Mike, when you visit, we will have to try all this stuff out.

Once we entered the park, we had this grand plan to find a quiet area. This did not really work out, people were everywhere doing everything.From playing music, blasting techno, walking dogs, riding bikes, running in circles, enjoying a picnic, there is no limit to what fun you can have here.There was this large group of people, kind of dancing with clear glass balls, streamers and sticks. It was nice to watch how free people are to express themselves.You can take the glass ball and roll it down your arm, across your back, well, your imagination is the limit. This guy was showing his stuff and had 30 or so people watching. This was more or less my introduction to Tokyo, and I really enjoyed it here. This post might make Tokyo look crazy, but this a very small slice of the city and there is a lot more to see. I'm all ready planning on visiting again, so stay tuned.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mount Fuji

This past Sunday, I rolled out of bed around 8:30am, and was back on the Shinkansen to Tokyo. This time I sat in the non-reserve car, a better deal then the green car. With the US dollar where it's at, it cost just over $100 each way.When bound for Tokyo, you need to try and sit on the left side of the train, about an hour into the trip you pass by Mount Fuji, and if you don't fall asleep, this is the view you get when passing at 167mph.It turns out it's really easy to visit Mt. Fuji. It's as simple as taking the local train to the Shin-Fuji station and getting on a bus. The bus will take you the base of the mountain, you have a few options from this point on. The first person who visits, in somewhat good shape and wants to hike Mt. Fuji, I'm game. It's a long day trip and I guess it's best to go between July and August.

My first day in Tokyo was great!Here, 12 million people crossing the street. I will write more about this visit soon.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Okay, I'm done writing this. My first trip out of Nagoya was to the city of Utsunomiya, this is the place I took the Bullet train to.

View Larger Map
Utsunomiya is known for it's tasty Gyoza and industry (kind of like Detroit). Since we had dinner on the train and did not arrive till 9pm, I never actually got around to trying the Gyoza, but they tell me it's good.

The next morning, I woke an hour early before we had to leave for our meeting to walk around a little bit and find a bakery. See if I could pull off a muffin with no shrimp or pork in it. That mission was accomplished, no problem, but right in the center of the city was this temple.
Of course they had to put it at the top of all those stairs.As you pass through the main gate, you are suppose to wash your hands in that little pond with a dragon. In doing so, you become pure, I did not know this and ended up not being pure.

I'm bound to return to Utsunomiya, try the Gyoza... So, I will write more later.

Friday, March 21, 2008


This past Monday I had a work meeting in a town called Utsunomiya, north of Tokyo in the Tochigi Prefecture (similar to a U.S. state). To get there, we took the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train, check this thing out.Now, I have only seen these things on the discovery channel, thinking that can't be for-real, maybe its CGI. But nope, there it is, this train is a N700 series, and runs between Nagoya and Tokyo with trains leaving every 10 minutes or so. Some trains are local and stops every 15 minutes in route to Tokyo. The train my colleague and I took was a limited express that made one stop Yokohama. It took about 1 hour and 40 minutes to get to Tokyo, I guess this thing runs at 270km/hr or about 167 mph. There are also different levels of ticketing. You can get a smoking or non-smoking car and a low class or green car. The low class car is 5 seats across and non-reserve, the green car is four seats across and reserved. We ended up getting a non-smoking green car.The first leg was from Nagoya to Tokyo. We had a 15 minute transfer to another style of bullet train to Utsunomiya, above is the train we actually took. These trains are connected in the middle, that's why they look like they are kissing.

The trains are cool, but I think the most amazing thing about this system is you don't need to plan. If you are chillin' in Nagoya and think to yourself, "I want to go to Tokyo, or Osaki, or Hiroshima, or any number of cool places." All you have to do is stand up, walk to the train station, buy a ticket and you are on your way 10 minutes later. It' awesome, no need to be on the internet searching for tickets weeks before your trip. You just go. Now the green car cost Y19400 one way, but that's not to bad when compared to a flight between Detroit and Chicago. Plus, there is no waiting at an airport or security to go through. You can also buy sushi and snacks on the platform before you leave. That have this thing all figured out.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Running Group

This are really becoming normal again, this past Sunday I found a running group! Not a normal running group though, but the Nagoya Hash House Harriers.Hashers are a world wide group of people who run then drink beer. Now, this is not to different from my friends back in Chicago, who would run and then drink beer, even race then enjoy a beer. But where my Chicago group had a known route, this group puts hash marks on the ground and everyone runs in different directions trying to figure out which way is the shortest path to the beer.This guy in orange pants is the Nagoya HHH leader, the guy who makes the route. Here he is explaining how hashing works, but doing so in Japanese and to my understanding I was about to get lost. An issue made even worst because there are no street signs that I could not read anyways and did not have cell phone either. There were two routs, one was 5km and the other 14km. I decided to give the 14km route a go. That is about 9 miles.So far so good, not lost. Really not to different from Chicago, chasing people around. At the start of the race, the girl in yellow (from the Midwest) challenged me, questioning my ability to keep pace. And BAM! I'm lost. At a hash, I went right, girl in yellow left. When you are on the wrong path you are suppose to see another mark telling you so. I ended up not seeing that and ran about 1/2 mile out of the way. It took me about 8 minutes to get back to the point where I got lost. By then, everyone was gone and granted there were all these marks on the ground, I had a hard time following them. In the end, I ended up running the long route once and the short route twice, something over 20km.

After a while, the leader from the start of the race found me on the path and gave me a ride to the finish line. I did not feel bad about this, I ran enough by the time they found me.At the park now, Japanese beer! Not fine beer, but Beer Fine. They had mostly diet beer, but assured me next time, they will have more normal beers.

Japan is kind of open about drinking beer in public it turns out. They also love baseball / softball. For example, on the south side of Chicago, if you are playing a softball game down in Hag-wish (... Hegewisch), you need to keep the beer in a cooler and when the cops drive through the park hide it. Sometimes the cops stick around to watch the game, just to see how long you can pretend that you have nothing in the cooler. In Japan, during a softball game, they just go ahead and put a keg off to the side of first base.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


It took four days, but I finally managed to piss off a Japanese person. Lets see if I can explain this one.

The Japan rail system runs like clock work. Everyday, I take the 6:35 Meitetsu red line train to Chita Handa,then at 4:53, I take it home. The morning train pulls into the station after 6:35 and leaves before 6:36am. Because I was going to work, I did not have my camera, but I here is a photo of the same train this past Sunday.For the first three days, I purchased one way tickets from Nagoya to Chita Handa, on the limited express. This cost Y1200, about 12 bucks. On the fourth day, woke up a little early, so I would have time to explain to the ticket person, I wanted to get a train card, good for a month. No big deal, got the card, and I was on my way to work.

So, when you arrive at Chita Handa at 7:10 am, you get off the train, walk up some stairs and you need to pass through the gate that takes your ticket. Similar to the one below.The gate is open, so many people walk through these things, there is no time for it to open and close. All week, I would walk up to the gate, put my one way ticket in there, the machine would take it and I would be on my way. Today, I had to put my new train card in there, and retrieve on the other end of the gate. Turns out, when you put the wrong one way ticket in there (wrong fare) the gate closes. If you put your hotel key card in thee, the gate breaks itself. Shuts down, thus, from the train ticket guy point-of-view, stops the entire Japanese rail system.

Within 30 seconds, the train guy was on the spot, screwdriver in hand taking apart the gate trying to get my hotel key out of there and restart mass transit in Nagoya. Turns out it would not be so easy, the key was deep inside the belts and bearings of the gate, and the more the train guy dug into the machine, the closer I would get trying to help. I had no idea that as I got closer, he keep telling me to go away as he got more frustrated.

Coming in from the north side of Nagoya, the office interrupter arrives at Chita Handa two minutes after our train from central Nagoya. As she walked up the stairs, I think she could tell I was in a pickle and ran up to the gate and started talking to the train guy. After about 50 words, she looked at me, thought for a second, and said "ummmmm, let's see, please go over there." We all ended up going to work, me with no Hotel key.

They got my key out of there, and the interrupter wrote something on a piece of paper that I handed to the lost and found office, they had my key. But by the time I showed back up at the station at 4:45pm, they were no longer pissed off.

My Cell

I have a phone now. To call me:

From outside Japan: 81-080-5892-9536
From inside Japan: 080-5892-9536

of couese, my e-mail is still

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Street Sings

This is different, look at this random intersection on Nagoya's North side.Notice anything? That's right, there are no street signs. Turns out only major streets are labeled, or about 1% of the intersections in Nagoya and Japan. This is in sharp contrast to Chicago where not only every intersection has signs, but most people know the physical address of each road. Or even Seattle, where the layout is dumb and the sings are small and hard to read, you can still look out your window and know where you are. Here is looking down another small street, again, no clue where you are.Because there are no street signs, they don't really bother printing the name of the streets on maps either. Which it would not really matter if they did, because I could not read it anyways. But, as a result, no one really knows where they are. If you walk somewhere, and ask someone, "doko desu ka" or "where am I?" and hand them a map, more often then not, they have no clue. Basically say, "I don't know." People get around using landmarks and restaurants. And if you want to get somewhere, you can take the subway and it will dump you near where you want to be. If you own a car, even a cheap on, it will have a GPS installed, and you don't input address'. Instead, you need to know the phone number of where you want to go, input that, and the GPS will take you there. I'm not quite sure how mail works yet.

For dinner tonight, I had Japanese Pizza.What you are looking at is NY style thin crust topped with Cheese, spinach, chicken, nori (dried seaweed) and mustard. It's actually really good, and of course, you MUST have a side of sashimi with your pizza.

The Sidewalks

With clear skies and temperature in the mid 50's, I finely got the chance to get out and see Nagoya in the daylight. After sleeping in for a few hours, I work up around 8:30am and was out for my first run since snowboarding in Denver. My new running shoes are a whole different story, basically there are 3 pair of Nike size 12 shoes in the country of Japan. One store, ABC had shox, but no size 12, The Sports Authority had size 12 but no Shox. So, I ended up getting a pair of MaxAir BRS1000, if my feet are damaged using these, someone is in big trouble. :)

Not caring much about the extra weight, Nagoya is more or less flat, I took my camera with me. One of the first things I noticed, when running are the sewer covers, they are great.Now I have no idea what they say, but I imagine it something about whats going on under the street. For example, the one below must be monkey storage in Nagoya.Well, that might be a bug. This one, something small. Maybe that says valve.The cover below has some Japanese letters on it. The triangle pointing up in the circle is the symbol for Nagoya (I think). Below,a summary of things you might see if you wander around the city.And it's not all covers, they also have some tile work too.This one was outside the Nagoya castle, I think it tells you where to go, but it could just be telling you to watch for people riding their bikes... who knows.

There vending machines are all over Japan. And you can get almost anything from them. So far, this one is my favorite, it's a few blocks from my hotel.It' the Liquor Shop, you can get 40's in there. I'm not sure if it's legal to walk around in public and drink. But I do know it would be very illegal to dispose of your can or bottle on the street, you would get beat for doing that.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Japanese Language Lesson 1

Japanese for "don't be an idiot."

Here is central downtown Nagoya at night, this is looking down the main road, 19, underneath is the Sakura-Dori subway line and that's my hotel off in the distance.

Day One

My first day in Nagoya started with me going to work. Check out my new suit.
The suit did not have quite the impact I wanted, only because it's so normal. Everyone dresses nice here for everything, work, dinner, running, you name it. Day two, I will look more 'Seattle' like.

My room is on the 39th floor, looking out over Nagoya towards this old castle. Check out this view. The castle is in that green area towards top center.Every once and a while I'm going to change rooms too, try out different angles.

At street level, bikes are parked everywhere. Most corners have well over a 100 sitting and waiting. Most are not even locked up and not because the bike is 50 years old, but because no one steals anything here. That would be rude. I did not have a really plan for my first dinner, so I walked about 10 blocks away from my hotel, turned right and walked about another 5 blocks and found this little restaurant. Because I was in the middle of no where, no one here could speak english and I could not speak Japanese. So ordering was fun, took about 12 minutes to get two plates of sashimi and some vegetables.You can see the menu behind the plate. Basically, I can't read.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Seattle to Nagoya

The trip from Seattle to the Nagoya Marriott was interesting. The trip started in Renton, after breakfast, Erin gave me a ride to SeaTac. Thanks Erin, there is your car again!Below is the Boeing 777, tail number N229UA that thing took me to Tokyo.They had this map attached to the seat so you could see where in the world you were. Here, the plane is about 45 minutes from landing.At Tokyo, I had a 3 hour lay over and should of taken the train to Nagoya. When I landed, ANA gave me a new ticket and circled all the important information on it.The plane going to Nagoya was parked somewhere in the middle of the tarmac. To get there, we had to walk outside, get on a bus, walk out on the tarmac again, then up some stairs on to the plane. That flight only took an hour. At Nagoya, I had to get on a train that would take me to the hotel. This was actually really easy, you just had to follow the arrows. Here was the vending machines, the ticket counter for the train. That ride cost 12,000 yen.Here I am on the way to the hotel, after being up for who knows how long.