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.