Monday, December 19, 2011

Downtown Detroit

I was lucky and was able to travel to Chicago and Detroit a few weeks ago during thanksgiving weekend and visit with family and friends.  I also had time to take a quick drive (dad at the wheel) through downtown Detroit and see what's new and old.
One interesting ruin was this building that use to be behind the Statler Hotel before the hotel was demolished in time for Super Bowl XL.  
It turns out the above building was once occupied by the Detroit Automotive Club Inter-Insurance Exchange, or what became AAA.  So, it's kind of funny that today it's graffiti'ed with car references and recent events.  Below is an image from Google maps, showing the same building in June 2009... We will have to check back in 2015, see what's up with AAA building.
Eastern Market was basically closed for business the day after thanksgiving.
 Cork town, still nice.
Anyways, Go Lions!!!  It's wildcard time.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Funny Suffix Error

I went for a walk in Central Park, Nagoya this weekend and came upon some live rock / metal music being performed by four Japanese girls from Chubu University, the Meioh Onken show!
The sign on the left has a small english error...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

SCMAGLEV and Railway Park

The SCMAGLEV and Railway Park is a JR train museum located in the Port of Nagoya.  Ironically, you need to take a non-JR train to get there and if you have a JR rail pass, that wont help you get in at a discount price.  But if you like trains, this is a great place to visit. History documented in the museum dates back to the time of horse travel but preserved trains that date back to 1913.
Above is the interior of an train made in 1933, the Moha 1. The plastic rings are not original I think.
The orange green train is the Kuha 111 made in 1962.
I could not take a photo of the entire train model, to many people in the way. But they had a really cool setup that represented a large section of Japan, cities that stretch from Tokyo, through Nagoya and onto Hiroshima.
Above is looking down on the Nagoya Rock Festival.
Here is a model train pulling into some random station, I think this is suppose to be the back of Kyoto station.
Above is the Nagoya station model, it looks fairly accurate.  Unlike reality though, the roller coster is not that close to Nagoya station.... That's in Mie Jazz Dream.
In the back ground, you can see the stadium the baseball team Carp plays at, Hiroshima's home team.
Above is the Kuha 381 (red and white) and Moha 52 (brown and white) trains.  The Kuha 381 was built in 1973 and still in service today.
Above are old signs from the Taketoyo line, the train line I take daily to work.  I did not understand the history of the Taketoyo line before visiting the museum.  But I learned this train line existed before trains connected Tokyo to Nagoya.  Supposedly the train station that I goto daily, Kamezaki, is the oldest continuously operating train station in Japan.. but this was not covered in the museum. 
From a US point of view, we are about to start talking science fiction.  Above are Shinkansen series class 100 (left) and 0 (right).  They were built in 1986 and 1971, the newer train is still in service but the older one was retired a few years ago.  Top speeds of these two were 137 mph and 130 mph.
The above two trains are both prototypes.  The 300X train traveled at 217mph and was made in 1994.  The more pointy train in the background is the maglev train MLX01-1 made in 1995.  It can travel at 361 mph.  The maglev train will start service between Nagoya and Tokyo in 2025... that means we have about 14 years to figure out something faster and better in the US.
You can see the train Dr. Yellow in the background, that thing travels around inspecting the bullet train tracks.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Free Parking Near Matsumoto Station

Just north of Matsumoto station, on the east side (the street just south of Super Hotel Matsumoto Ekimae) is free parking.

Quick Update (June 2012), I visited Matsumoto again:
Turns out this area is not free parking.  The sing over the no 'no! parking' sign explains that this is parking for bikes but does not explain what that car is doing back there.


Matsumoto is about 2 hours north of Nagoya by JR train.  I was lucky to visit Matsumoto during a large city wide festival, although I had to leave for Nagoya before the closing ceremony.
My goal was to see the Matsumoto castle, but as I was walking there from the station I came upon an old school 'car' show.  There was 17 of these Japanese style festival cars along the street leading up to the castle.
From my experience in Nagoya, these cars roll around making music and noise.  Below are two of the drums used to make the music, but no one was playing today.
 Everything is very detailed, you can see the carving on the end of the handle.
Group of old men looking over each display.
From the main road, you enter the park and castle area from behind the castle.  It's a really nice park made even better with nice weather.
There were 100's of kids and parents enjoying the park and drawing the castle from different locations in the park.
 View of the back of the castle from across the moat.
 Here is a view of the castle from inside the castle grounds.  There is some renovation going on, you can see it on the lower right, that white plastic.
 This is from inside the castle looking out over the castle grounds.
 I'm not sure how useful a moat is when you build a bridge over it.
 Another view looking over the castle ground from the 6th floor, top level.
Matsumoto has the most aggressive staircase that I have found so far, it is the most difficult to walk up.  Parts of the stairs have people traveling in both directions, making for some confusion.  And you have to walk in your socks, carrying your shoes in a plastic bag.
You can see the steps below, kind of hard core.
 Me infront of the castle.
 Yep, if I was going to invade the castle, I would start by crossing the bridge over the moat.
Here are some examples of drawings made of the castle.
Below is another drawing.  Matsumoto, Kumamoto and Himeji are considered, by Wikipedia, the three premier castle in Japan, now I have been to all three!!!
If you visit Matsumoto, I would recommend this tayaki place.  Taiyaki is Japanese fish-shapped cake, typically with red bean inside (just shape like fish, not made with fish).  Taiyaki link here.


The second 'long distance' trip I took this summer was to Yudnaka and Matsumoto.  To get here I took the train JR Chuo line from Nagoya to Nagano, transfering to a non-JR rail to get to Yudanaka and back to Nagano before traveling to Matsumoto and back to Nagoya using JR.  You can also get to Nagano using the bullet train from Tokyo.
The Nagano Electric Railway is under Nagano station (JR is above  ground), the train on the left travels to Yudanaka, which is famous for Japanese snow monkeys hanging out in the mountain's and taking baths.
Once you get off the train in Yudanaka, this is the arch way that greats you to Yudanaka Onsen, but don't worry if you can't read it.  The volunteers from the English conversation class of Yamanouchi Town has made information flyers for reference on how to get to everything.  I got the impression that one of the volunteers was actually the mayor of Yamanouchi.
In addition to the English material you can get at the station, there is also signs through out Yudanaka that help you get around.
 This is the lantern over the river near Shibu Onsen.
This area of Japan is full of natural hot springs, you can see steam and hot water naturally rising to the surface all over Shibu Onsen.
A friend biked up from Utsunomiya, about a 7 hour trip.
The monkey park is just outside of town, you can walk or take a taxi there from Yudanaka station.  Walking takes about 1.5 hours, but it's a nice mountain trail.  
When you see photos of the monkey park, you get the impression that it is really large.  But in fact, it's really small, I was expecting a long hike to go from the ticket booth to the monkey hot spring area.  But it was only about 10 minutes.
 The groups of Japanese monkeys have a boss and each monkey respects each other and the boss.
Sometimes the monkeys are bad, they do things like not sharing food.  When this happens, the monkey has to go be away from the group and as a result becomes sad.
Don't mess with the monkeys.
 The bath is more full in the winter, it's still a little warm outside. The water is just over 100F.
Mostly, the monkeys just seem to eat and check each other for bugs and stuff in the fur.  At night, the monkeys return to the forest to sleep.
Bottom line, sign inside the Shimaya Hotel (you can ask the Yudanaka station hotel information desk to book a room for you):