Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I'm not sure if all y'all know this, but here in Japan, every day from 5am to 6am on the Bloomberg channel, Michigan shows this commercial twice:This can't be affordable, someone should call up Grandholmes and see if the state is getting any jobs through this action. Maybe when someone starts up a business, Michigan has a box on the form that says, "how did you learn about Michigan... Internet, Friend, TV in Japan, Magazine..."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Running Photos

I just got this e-mail from my running group...

Hi Nagoya Hashers,

Two Tokyo Ladies Hashers came to Nagoya for Dotoku Hash in March.
Nihon cha cha cha has made the web album. Click it!

まずNihon cha cha chaが、そのときの写真のウェブアルバムを作ってくれました↓

Click it! Someone was snapping photos during that run that I wrote about a month ago. They are more funny then my photos, a little less filtered. You can also see that I'm a little taller then most.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


A megacity is defined an metropolitan area in excess of 10 million people. That's no problem in Tokyo, I mean, there are that many people in the subway right now. But check this out:So, this is the view of the #1 megacity from the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building in the hood of Shinjuku... on a cloudy day.No mater how far you look, all you see is an urban landscape. Even in Chicago, it's not far till you see Wisconsin or Rock Island.

Megacity #2 and #3 is New York and Mexico City.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shibuya Crossing

The Shibuya station is about a 22 minute train ride from the Tokyo station, from where the Shinkansen drops you off. Just outside of the Shibuya station is the Shibuya crossing. This street crossing is often seen in movies and photos of Tokyo, for example almost the entire movie of Lost in Translation was filmed here. This is the worlds largest scramble crossing too, called as such because traffic stops in all directions and you are allowed to scramble or cross the street in any direction you want, basically, you can't j-walk. Let's take a tour.

Before you can cross the street, you need to meet your friends somewhere. Because this train station is so large, they have a few landmarks around the perimeter. Here is the Statue of Moyai, a typical spot to text on the cell phone.A few meters north from the the train exit and statue is the edge of the crossing, I have never been this excited about crossing the street. Here is the view from a few feet above the crowd.If you look across the street to the left you can see what I guess is the busiest and largest Starbucks in the world. And you can also see people building up across the street. After a few minutes, the light turns to walk, and you are off on an adventure. Once you cross the street, there is not much to do other then keep walking through buildings, pass clubs and restaurants. I thought this was kind of interesting:This girl advertising the Honey Bee Market, I'm sure it's the one down on Bagley St. and 16th. Also in the background, you can see that girl yelling in the mic. People love to yell in mics here but I have learned to block it out since I really don't care what they are selling anyways. Down the street, you can also see a McDonald's.

We can also look back on this from the second floor of Starbucks. About a minute after the don't walk light turns on, this many people show up, all-day-longIt's only about an 8 minutes cycle time. Where do all these people come from? It's worst then mid day traffic on the 405. Here is just after the walk light turns on:After a while, you get this mash-up of people and someone comes running up from Starbucks and tells you "no more photos."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Point of View

In Japan, signs explain everything. In the US, the walk / don't walk just tells you walk or don't walk, odds are you are going to walk no matter what's lit-up. In At smaller intersections in Japan, on the ground across the street from where you want to cross, there is a circle with two feet painted inside that reads "wait here." I did not think much about this, till one day after lunch, walking back to work down in Handa, I saw an old women was standing in the circle, feet on painted feet watching the light to change to walk.

In Tokyo, just a block or two from the Ibisu stop was this advertisement on the side of a cafe. I'm okay with the cafe offering a wide range of sandwiches designs, that' cool. But then the sign starts prepping you for how you should react and makes a couple of assumptions. I enjoy sandwiches, I will eat more then one...

It's more fun, if someone in Japan says, "excuse me, you can't _______" and you question back, "why is that?" They usually have no answer other then because. All in good fun.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tokyo, Trip 2

Yesterday, it was back on the Shinkansen north bound to Tokyo. I went to visit with Yukie and a couple of friends from Seattle who had a weekend long layover in the city. Even in this short one day trip I saw so much that I want to post on here, but it's getting kind of late. Through out this week I will do that, but for now lets talk about the Shinkansen again.

We can now ask the question, if a train leaves Nagoya traveling north at 170 mph, and another train leaves Tokyo traveling south at 170 mph, how difficult would it be to take a photo perpendicular as they pass each other at 340 mph, only a few feet apart?Turns out it's actually really hard. They pass each other about every 10 minutes. And as long as these trains are, you only have a few seconds to point and shoot. And it's rather amazing when they pass, you can feel a wave or compression from the two trains through the wall of the car and through your body. It feels kind of like a bass in a small club.
Check back through out the week, lets check this city out some more.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Although I live in Nagoya, I work in Handa, or the town of Handa. If Nagoya was Chicago, Handa would be Lafayette, IN, if Lafayette was a 40 minute train ride away. Everyday, I come and go from the train station below, not really thinking much about the surrounding community.But this past Tuesday, I decided to walk around a little bit to see what's going in Handa and guess what.... it's a really cool place.

It's town is a really strange mix between new and old. For example, the Meitetsu station above is new, nice clean. A few blocks away, there is a Japan Rail station which is the original station from 1886. Looking at the neighborhood below, you can see the difference summarized in a single photo.This is a few blocks away from the train station, small narrow streets, probably laid out 100 year ago with a new condo high rise in the background. In the first three floors of that condo, there is a really high class mall where you can get $1000 spa / face / something treatments. While across the street they have $10 saloons.

When you are on the train passing hoods like this at 80km/hr, you assume it must be cheap and dirty. That the cost of living are more normal then big city Nagoya and again - proof that its not good to make assumptions. All over Handa was these up scale clothing shops. I entered one store and told the guy working the till my pants size (san-juu-san to san-juu-ni) and after a few seconds of looking around he actually found a pair that fit me. And I was going to try it on, but then looked at the price, they were listed at Y32000, or about $320. I almost had a heart attack and promptly and quietly gave him back the pants. Quietly because I'm still not sure how to ask someone who can't speak English if they are crazy.

After walking for a hour, I meet a friend for dinner at this Japanese style restaurant. Unable to read the menu, I told her "look it, I can eat anything, just order some good food." At these kind of places, you only order a few things at a time. After about 10 minutes, round one emerged from the kitchen, delivered was Cesar salad and french fries. In this case, I was able to ask; "whats going on here, come on, speak some Japanese." Round two, three and four ended up being a really good Japanese meal.

After a couple hours of eating, I was on my way back to the train station to head back to Nagoya, so lets check out this train station more close. For the first week or so, I would get a donut or something at this bakery on the upper floor of the station.These two women are always there baking, the smell is wonderful. One day after work, I walked in here and they had sitting on shelf churros. Now, I don't know if they know they made churros, but I do know that when I saw them, in excitement, I swore out loud and purchased two. And they were good, I think for 20 minutes on the train ride home I babbled out the miracle of 2008 in Chita Handa. Now, everyday on my way home, I peek in here, looking for the churros with no luck. :(Yep, Aoi Bakery, off to the left, good stuff.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Kyoto trip One

This past Sunday, I took a day trip to Kyoto with some friends from work.I'm not really going to writ much about Kyoto right now, other then it's an amazing city. I'm going to make more trips there and will write more about this place later. But, click here and you can see my photos from my first trip to the city.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

That Building Over There

Check this out:It's called the Mode Gakuen Spiral Towers, I think it's towers because there are two buildings here. But I'm not really sure. Either way, this thing dominates the Nogoya skyline, and it's no where near the tallest building.It's about 170m tall, really short compared to the Sears tower at 442m or even the Columbia tower in Seattle at 285m.... but you know, who ever drew this and was able to sell it had more style. As cool as it is, it must be the worst use of space ever.When the earthquake hits, I kind of hope to be standing somewhere in this area to see what kind of engineering they pumped into this tower.

Friday, April 4, 2008


I had my first introduction to Sakura, or the start of the cherry blossom season this past weekend. Looking over the edge of the elevated platform at the Tsurumai Station, three or four stops from Nagoya Central.I mention Tsurumai station because you have never heard of that, it's basically not a tourist area of Japan which is good in that I got a different prespective of this whole event. Outside of Tsurumai station is Tsurumai Park, walking off the train, you see thisA large grove of cherry trees and stands selling food and stuff to your left and right. But when you walk up closer to the trees, you start to understand there is a party going on in there.It seems like these people are getting out of the house for the first time since fall and enjoying food, wine and beer. Everyone was talking and hanging out with old and new friends. Now, it was not to difficult to join the party, I just made an educated guess, walked up, popped off my shoes, sat down, said konichiwa and hope someone spoke English. Yep, no problemI ended up being there all night, talking politics and such. It's really nice, if you look you can see the japanese style lamps strung through the trees.Not only is this festival a time for people to spend time together, it turns out its also a good time to trash parks in Japan. When we all left, this place was trashed. Unfortuntally, I had to work the next morning, so sometime around 11pm, I had to rush down to the subway and take off.