Thursday, June 28, 2012

Asakusa, Tokyo

Another tourist spot in Japan that is a great place to visit at night is Asakusa, Tokyo.
Asakusa is a popular area with a famous temple called Senso-ji, shopping, food stalls, an amusement park and a couple of McDonalds. Daily, it is full of people, loud and difficult to walk around.  But at night the crowds go home and it becomes a good place to relax.
The first thing that greats you at the gate of the temple is the Nio, he is one of two statues meant to protect Buddha.
This is the main area for praying at Senso-ji, you can see how calm it is.  Quiet.
Above is the Pagoda of Senso-ji, it has 5 layers.
This is the inner gate before walking up to the temple, the name of the gate is Hozomon.  The Nio is on the other side of the gate.
You can see during the day how crazy it gets.  The above photo was taken at 9:30am! I'm not sure what kind of interview was going on , but this is typical along the main shopping strip leading up to the temple.
Around Asakusa are many coffee shops.  This shop,  by UCC, made clear that American Coffee is weak coffee!!!  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Matsumoto Revisited

I made a second visit to Matsumoto this weekend and took time to check out the castle at night
I'm starting to learn that a good time to visit tourist spots in Japan is in the evening, about a hour or two after the sun goes down.  It's typically much more peaceful.
During the day there is always 15 people on the bridge blocking the view of the castle.
Last time I visited the little room to the right of the castle, on the first floor was under construction.  You can kind of see the construction on my original Matsumoto blog post.  But today construction is complete.
Above is a funny sign spotted in Matsumoto for Hichi huku ball, it is time for some Bawling!

Monday, June 18, 2012

United Kingdom / Cambridge

The last place I visited was Cambridge, I spent a couple of days here with a few friends from Seattle.
Most of my time here was simply hanging out on campus re-considering taking some time off of work to go back to school, try for a MBA degree.  The campus was amazing, below is me in King's Chapel.
Most of the buildings on campus are 100's to 1000 years old, below is the celling of Kings Chapel.  The original design was for a simple smooth ceiling but when it came around to installing it, the guy in charge of the project decided to make this.
The space is unbelievable, separated by a large organ.
One of main forms of mass transit is punts, the boats seen below.  These boats look cheap, but this used one cost 800 pounds or about $1255.  I guess that includes cushions but I'm not sure about the oar to push it around.
I got this pimp cap in Cambridge.  At least I know it's pimp in the UK, I will have to wear this in Detroit, see if it is cool there.
Below is an old farm house along a path between Grantchester and Cambridge.
Cows everywhere, taking care of the lawn.
To get to London Heathrow, I took a bus from Cambridge to the airport.  There were a few interesting planes on display at the airport.
The first was a scale model of an Emirates A380, this must piss of British Airways.
The second was one of the British Airways Concorde's.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

United Kingdom / Edinburgh

The second city I visited in the United Kingdom was Edinburgh, Scotland. Below is a panorama view of the city, looking south from the top floor of the Scott Monument.
The train station was under construction, it was not clear how to exit the platform or if I had to pass through a wicket to get out to the city.  It turned out I just exited, no ticket checks and this, Waverley Steps turned out to be my exit from the station.
The city is really easy to get around.  Within 20 minutes of exiting the train, I found Bobby's Bar, the place I would have dinner later in the day.
This is Bobby, this dog watched over his masters grave for 14 years until his death in 1872... or so the story goes.
Southeast side of downtown is Holyrood Park which is mostly this small mountain hill.
I wanted to reach the summit but the trailhead of the path you see above starts to the left.  Then wraps around the side of the mountain about half way up to the summit.  After you turn around the back side the path returns back to ground level.  I think there is a way to get to the summit but I was to lazy to figure that out, I basically walked half way up the hill twice.
Below is Scott Monument, named after Sir Walter Scott.
Below is anther view looking out from Scott Monument, this is looking west.
It's about 300 steps to the top of Scott Monument.
You could tell this thing was really old.  Parts of the staircase was less wide than me.
The day I decided to visit Edinburgh Castle was the day the spring rain caught up with me.  Not much I could do about that.
It seems like every corner of the city was some large hill, staircase or combination of the two that after climbing up you can get a great view of the city. This is true for the castle too.
Above is a view of the main court yard.  I got to the castle around 9:30 and had to wait in line for about 20 minutes.  I thought that kind of sucked until the time when I left and the line was 4 times longer than when I got there.
Above is the great hall.
The hall is outlined with great stain glass windows.
Above is a small chapel of St. Margaret on the castle grounds. It is also the oldest building in Edinburgh. Dates back to 1124.
Across the city from the castle is Old Calton Cemetery.  In the center of the Cemetery is a statue of Abraham Lincoln, this was erected in 1893.
Above is the statue outside of St. Giles' Cathedral, seen in the background.
Unlike St. Paul's Cathedral in London which prohibits taking photos, St. Giles' is all for it.  All you have to do is purchase a two pound camera pass and you are free to go camera crazy.
It was nice not to be prosecuted by the catholic church for taking photo's inside the cathedral...
The church is beautiful too, some parts of the building dates back to the mid-1300's.
All over is really intricate stone, wood and glass work everywhere.
Also all over the church was royal flags, not sure which family each flag belonged too.
Near where I stayed in Edinburgh was a pub called Sandy Bell's.  Below is some music played by locals at the pub, recored with Ipod Touch.  This seemed very Irish too me, like pubs in Chicago.

Monday, June 11, 2012

United Kingdom / London

During the Japanese holiday of Golden Week, last week of April actually, I made my first trip to the United Kingdom and visited the cities of London, Edinburgh, Leeds and Cambridge.
Above was my first view of the UK, looking back on Paddington Station after exiting the train from the airport.
April is rainy season in the UK and almost daily some rain would fall.  I was lucky to constantly be leaving the place where it was raining and going to the place in the country where the sun was shinning.  Above is the Marble Arch, not far from were I stayed in London.
Above is Buckingham Palace, home of the queen.  I missed the changing of the guard by one day.
All over the city these red phone booths still exist.  Japan, the city of Nagoya still has lots of phone booths, but I think the US has more or less got rid of these.
My first day in London it was raining, so I decided to visit some museums. Above is a view from the 4th floor of the Imperial War Museum.  They have great preserved planes on display.
All over London and the United Kingdom are old-school pubs.  I had fish and chips at many of them, great dish but more food than I'm use to eating.
Craft beer was normal everywhere!
I visited St. Paul's Cathedral and felt a little guilty about snapping a few photos, which is not allowed.
But this past week, I saw the Diamond Jubilee, the queen has allowed to take video and everything in here.  After that, I did not feel so guilty.
You can walk up to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral, all over the UK are monuments where you can walk up 100's of steps to get a great view of the city.  Above I'm 1/2 way up the cathedral.
Looking west from the top of the cathedral.
St. Paul's seen from across the street.
Above is the Monument to the Great Fire of London.  Like the St. Paul's Cathedral, you can walk up there.
Here is a view looking down through the spiral stair case from near the top of the Monument.
London Bridge!
I walked all over London and my path to and from where I stayed took my past the Palace of Westminster twice.
It's an amazing building, very parliamentary.
Hyde Park still uses gas lamps.
All over London was signs about stuff you can't do.  For example, the sign above is missing 'NO FUN.'  Other popular signs was no cycling or no pickpocketing.
This restaurant near Marble Arch called Nagoya did not serve any famous Nagoya foods.   I did not bother having Japanese food in the UK.