Friday, December 7, 2012

12/12 Earthquake

There was another large earthquake off the coast of northern Japan, kind of in the same area as the 3/11 event.
Today's earthquake caused a tsunami warning along the north -north east coast and was felt in Nagoya. But the effect in Nagoya was minimal, with damage or any other issues.
The photo above was taken one hours after the earthquake, from my apartment in Nagoya, you can see everything is okay.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I took a quick day trip to Kobe, it's just over a hour away by bullet train, from Nagoya.  I went there without much of a plan, other than to ask the information desk at Kobe station what should I do?
They recommended taking the Nunobiki Ropeway to the summit of Mt. Rokko, the ropeway is just outside the bullet train station, Shin Kobe.  Below is the Nunobuki Dam, you can see it while traveling on the ropeway.  This is the first concrete dam in Japan which made me wonder what previous dams were made of?  Maybe sticks and mud.
At the top of the mountain, I was surprised to find a German Festival, the information lady did not mention this.
Among many German style dishes they had beer and pretzels, which was good enough for me. 
In Japan, German things are referred to as doitsu-things... For example German people are doitsu-jin, German language is doitsu-go and so on.  I was happy to find some doitsu-food.  
It's kind of like a little German town up here, you can see everyone sitting in the town square from the clock tower.
Kobe was on of the first open ports in Japan and as a result many foreign people started living here.  Below is part of Kobe that was set aside for foreign style houses but today is more like a tourist area.  I'm not sure if anyone really lives here anymore.
This is looking down the staircase of Kitanotenman Shrine onto the foreign house neighborhood.  Someone needs to keep cleaning up the autumn leaves.
Good advice.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Street of Eternal Happiness

For the past few months, NPR has been playing a radio series titled the 'Street of Eternal Happiness' on the APM show Marketplace.  The radio show uses this area of Shanghai as a tool to show China's ongoing economic transformation.  The street of eternal happiness is actually Changle Road.
Since I have been listening to the radio show, I thought it would be fun to visit this area on this trip to Shanghai.  You can see above and below, it was kind of a chill day, this is a Sunday afternoon.
 Below are a bunch of kids waiting in line for some bubble tea.
Although the actual Changle Road is just one street, the radio show branches out to include areas around the street of eternal happiness, below is the Jinjiang hotel.  This is the hotel where President Nixon meet with Chairman Mao Zedong and signed the Shanghai Communique.
I also outsourced my haircut to China on this trip.  Below is the shop where I got a haircut, it's not far from where Nixon meet Mao.
Below is Fuxing Park, a good place to stretch.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chinese High Speed Rail

I made a second visit to Shanghai to visit friends and took a day trip to Nanjing using the new Chinese bullet train.
Above is Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station, this place is huge and new!!  I showed up here without a ticket but just a plan for a day trip to Nanjing.  In Japan, within 15 minutes of showing up at a train station you will have a ticket and 10 to 30 minutes after that you will be on a train going somewhere.  At this station, it was not so obvious what to do and it took about a hour to get a ticket and about 30 minutes to wait for the train after getting a ticket.  But this is partly the fault of assuming it would be easy to walk up to a window, get a ticket and get on a train.... don't bother trying the automatic ticket machines, it's a waste of time, just get in line and wait.
Above is the platform seen from the top of the escalator.  The train on the left goes to Nanjing and on to Beijing.  Beijing south is a 5-6 hour train ride from Shanghai... Shanghai to Beijing is 1462km, Detroit to Chicago is 455km, transit time by fastest train possible is the same... Assuming the Amtrak train is not delayed for snow or fright.
Above is the CRH-380A train, the first high speed train designed and manufactured in China.  It kind of replicates foreign technology.
If you ask for a window seat on the way to Nanjing and end up getting car 16 seat 4F, this is the window.
Above is the platform at Nanjing, waiting for the train to return to Shanghai.
Above is the platform back at Shanghai, a successful round trip on the Chinese high speed rail.  In total, I think it was 4 hours of touring around Nanjing, 2 hours round trip on a train and 3 hours trying to figure out how to get tickets and waiting for trains.  China needs to address those 3 hours, it should be 30 minutes at most.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Japanese Red Cross

Typically the American Red Cross collects blood in the US and in Japan the Japanese Red Cross takes care of this task.
Above is Kanayama Station at 6am, I usually transfer here on my way to work in the morning.  Recently this large poster was hung from the rafters, it's from the Japanese Red Cross asking people to donate nearby.  The mascot for the red cross is Kenketsu-san, a bunny with blood red ears.  This blood red ear'ed bunny kind of freaks me out.  Each evil bunny has a name, named after the type of blood it wants.
Another new edition to Kanayama station, Coka Cola and the Kiosk company recently installed this machine too.  It's kind of fun, here is a quick video of the GUI.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Handa Float Festival

Once every 5 years the city of Handa, south of Nagoya has a huge festival called the Handa Float Festival.  I'm not sure where they all come from but 31 different floats get displayed all over the city of 100,000's of people show up to check them out.
Like other festivals, each float puts on a little show with people playing instruments inside.
But these Handa floats have some really amazing embroidered rugs hung around the float.  I think this level of detail is unique to other floats at other festivals around Japan.
The images they make by stitching is almost 3D.  I think these rugs are 100's of years old.
Each of the floats have a team of local people pushing them around, playing music, putting on the puppet show and in general taking care of business.  Below you can see one of the teams getting ready to move the float from this large parking lot to the area infront of Handa Station.
 Below is team 'Blue Dragon Car', these guys were really friendly.
Below the Blue Dragon Car team is explaining the importance of this festival or something.... They were not really using English so I was not completely sure what they were talking about.
Below is the garage of the 'Naka' float.  The barrel in the middle of the garage is filled with sake.  The guy in the photo gave us a sample of sake and a Handa city glass cup to go.  Super nice people.
Below is one of the floats being moved from the previous display area to the area in front of Handa Station, you can see the station in the background.
At night, all the floats were lit using Japanese lanterns that were candled powered.
The number of people that travel to Handa is crazy, everywhere was a crowd.  
You even had to wait in line to get on the train.  Below is a view of Handa Station with people waiting to go north towards Nagoya.  This is the most full I have ever seen a platform on the Taketoyo line.
The last time they had this festival, it was 2007, about 1 year before I moved to Japan.  I was lucky enough to be here long enough to see it in 2012.

I think this is the #1 foreign blog for post about the city of Handa.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ise Shrine - Rice Ceremony

Ise Shrine is one of the three most important shrines in Japan and is in the prefecture of Mie, about 1 or 2 hours from Nagoya city. A few months ago I visited and walked up on a couple of Shinto Priest praying next to a river but did not pay much attention to this.
After walking around he shrine for a little while, I ended up in one of the situations that I was not really sure what was going on. But with everyone else, just lined up along the side of the main road to see what would happen next.   Not much time later a Shinto priest parade started.
Hey, what's in that box?
Not sure what was in the box, but it could have not been to heavy if two priest were able to carry it.  I think this event was a rice ceremony, but again, this is just a good guess.
The priest took the box up to the shine at the top of the stair case, everyone waited for permission to go up their.
After a few minutes of waiting, the security guards let everyone walk up and see the box up close.
But at the top of the hill, no photos and the box was closed... I kind of think it was empty.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Typhoon Sanba

This past week I was in Sacheon, South Korea and found myself under another Typhoon, this time Typhoon Sanba.  This photo is the morning of September 17th, about 3 hours before the eye came over Sacheon.

You can see on the map below, I was under the line between the 3rd and 4th (blue and yellow) dot from the top, by the time the Typhoon came on land it was really just a bad rain storm with some strong winds. But the $4 umbrella I purchased the day before was unable to survive the wind.
This has been a strange year for Typhoons, this is the 3rd of 11 named typhoons in 2012 that have made landfall in the city I happen to be in.  The other two was Typhoon Vicente in Hong Kong and Typhoon Guchol in Nagoya.  In previous years usually I experienced 1 or none Typhoons.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Small Cans

The standard Japanese beverage can size is 330 ml (almost the same as the US), for a couple of years now manufactures have been selling 135 ml cans.  It's kind of convenient, especially is you are not that thirsty.
Above are three cans of Asahi Super Dry, 135 ml.  These made it to the summit of Fuji!
Coca Cola also sells drinks in little cans.  In Japan, Coca Cola is made with Sugar, just like Mexico. Like the can says, it's refreshing & uplifting.
This summer Pepsi sold Salty Watermelon, it's okay.  Pepsi makes this drink using high-fructose corn syrup, not as good as soda's made with sugar.
Above is an old guy enjoying a 135 ml super dry during a festival in Nagoya.  You can get an idea how small they are.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mount Fuji

I have lived in Japan for over four years now and have yet to climb Fuji, not sure why I guess I have just been lazy.  Two weekends ago I finally got around to making the hike, below is my backpack. 
I do think I packed to much, that thing weighed about 10kg.  The things I used during the hike was head lamp, extra shirts, water, power bars and other food, gloves, flash light, camera and jacket.  Things I did not use during the hike was extra pair of shoes, rain coat, towels and a few other things.
The idea is to make it to the summit around 4:30am in order to see the sunrise, one way to accomplish this is to leave from the 5th station at 10pm and hike non-stop till you get to the summit.  The 5th station is at 2300 meters (7545 ft) and the summit is at 3776m (12388 ft).
It quickly becomes cold, this thermometer is at 3100m (10170ft) and is all ready reading 8C (46F).  This photo was at 2:03am
There are many stations along the route, each station provides a place to rest.  But they also sell expensive food and water.  Many people also have walking sticks, at each station you can get a symbol of that station burned into the stick.... at a price.
It's amazing the number of people climbing the mountain.  Looking down you can see the location of the trail lit-up by all the people on it.
You can see Tokyo off in the distance, I think that is the north star above Tokyo but I'm not sure because I think I'm looking east.
At 4:25am, I looked over my shoulder and saw sun light breaking over the horizon but I was not quite to the summit.
At 4:43am, still hiking and not to the summit.  Hiking up the Yoshida-trail is a good way to make sure you see the sunrise though.
 Sun rises quick, at 4:54am the sun broke the horizon.
The trail is kind of single file and since the sun was rising everyone was looking backwards and taking photos.  Because of this, everyone on the trail came to a stand still, we decided to step aside and watch the sunrise.
Around 5:13am we decided to get back on the trail, here I am trying to stay awake, about to get back in line.
Looking down the mountain it's still amazing how many people are walking up the hill.
I reached the entrance to the summit, the tori above at 5:40am.  The total time hiking was about 7 hours and 40 minutes.
The summit was crazy, 1000's of people.
Another thing I did not know was there is a village on top of fuji, again you can buy almost anything up here.  If you climb Fuji but don't want to carry so much you can get water and food along the way.  It will cost a fortune but might be worth it.
Me sitting next to a famous shrine on top of Mt. Fuji.
The summit of Fuji is actually an active volcano.  People walk down to the base of the crater but I was to tired to do that.
Another great view looking out from Fuji.
If you watched the movie The Lorax, the bad guy sells fresh air in the absence of trees.  Fuji is kind of the same thing, I took two cans of fresh air and ended up using one.  I'm not totally sure I actually needed air but it was advise that we take some.  This is the second tallest mountain I made it to the summit too and I did not use air on the way up to Kota Kinabalu.
I almost made to the station where I stared, BUT at 0.9km (0.55 miles) they had a horse taxi sitting there with $10 rides to the finish line.  I took the horse taxi, that last 0.9km was up hill... 9:42am, almost 12 hours from the time I started the hike.
One more story... The train above was my transit from Gora Station in central Hakone to Odawara Station.  From Odawara Station I returned to Nagoya using a shinkansen bullet train.  Because I was leaving from Odwara I had a to use a local train that stopped at all stations along the shinkansen route.  The person sitting next to me on the train was an old Japanese man who was returning from an US East Coast business trip.  He could tell that I just finished climbing fuji (because I had hiking gear and unable to walk).  But we started talking, he was from a prefecture called Shizuoka, for his whole left he has always had a view of Fuji.  As part of our Fuji discussion he noted that a long time ago the Fuji climbing season lasted until October 15th, today it ends at the end of August.  He concluded that todays shorten climbing season was attributed to climate change.

 I put more photos of the climb here.