Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Repatriation, kind of...

This past weekend my assignment in Japan ended. You can see my effort to clean up my apartment actually ended up producing what seemed to be a larger mess.
Amazingly, I was in Japan exactly 5 years, I landed on March 10, 2008 and left on March 10, 2013.  Well, a little less then 5 years, I arrived at 4pm and departed at 9:30am.  It's sad to leave, I made many good friends, found lots of great food and traveled around like I never imagined I would during my time in Japan.
After a cold winter, I was lucky to see my garden bloom one last time (no effort on my part). 
 Typically when an assignment like this ends you repatriate. Repatriation is the process of returning to ones place of origin or citizenship. It turns out I'm not really going to do that.  I am returning to Seattle for a couple of weeks but will start a new assignment in Italy later this month.
These movers are actually packing up stuff and sending it direct to Italy, but I have not told them where in Italy to send it yet, because I don't know.  The shipment also includes two folding bikes.  I'm still working on the details but I'm planning on living in town in Southern Italy called Martina Franca (in the heel).  
For now I will pause from updating this blog, but will keep this blog on-deck for next time I visit Japan or Asia, hopefully after my Italian assignment ends.
Shortly after handing over my keys, the management company quickly taped over my mailbox.

Like Son Seals said "when you got to go, you got to go...  ...hopefully we'll get together again real soon."

I am starting a new blog for Italy, bookmark it: Mediterranean Central

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pick it up. Flip it open.

I recently turned my blog into a series of books and if you want I think you can purchase a copy of each book. You can visit my book store at this link: Demian's Bookstore
The books are broken down by year, I'm still working on 2012 * 2013.  And I kind of made these books for myself and my family but it turns out I can share with everyone.  Also, I don't trust Google or myself that we won't accidentally click on the wrong thing and delete this blog. These books are actually a good collection of photos and stories of living in Japan.
But of course, there are many reasons to ignore this... For example, the content of these books are available for free on this blog, this is not a literately classic (I'm almost sure it's a grammatical mess) and it's not ECO to print stuff.

But if their was a year of post you enjoyed, you can feel free to get that years book.  Let me know if you do.  These are at cost!


The Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo is famous and well known outside of Japan.  But most other cities in  Japan have fish markets too, including Nagoya.  Nagoya's fish market is not far from the east side of Nagoya station, it's smaller than the Tokyo fish market, I feel it's just as good in terms of quality.
One of my favorite restaurants in the Nagoya market is Sushimasa, I have been going here since 2008!
The recommended menu is posted on the wall and wall and updated based on the fresh fish from the market.
 But the menu is not so important, you can ask the sushi master for almost anything, and if he has the ingredients, he can make it.
I tend to order the same pieces of sushi over and over again, my typical order consist of Salmon, Maguro (tuna) and Hotate (scallop).  

The sushi restaurants in and around the Nagoya fish market remind me of what I would imagine in an old Japanese movie. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Typical Hanger

These are typical clothing hangers in Japan.
This post is kind-of-dumb, BUT the shape and material of Japanese clothing hangers is a little different from the US.  I usually use the hanger on the right for pants and left for shirts.  I picked these up at a store called Nitori, which is similar to US Bed Bath and Beyond.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ekiden 2013

Last February I ran Ekiden, a large running rally organized by local industry.  I was able to run again this year and shave just over a minute off my personal time compared to last year. 5K was 26.23 min and improved to 25 min.
Not bad, but I'm not sure if that counts as progress.
It rained but many people showed up to run.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Only in Japan

Keeping in mind Nagoya is a city that is about the size of Chicago and I live right in the center of the city...  A couple of nights ago I walked over to a Japanese fast food place that serves cooked meats and vegetables over rice called gyudon or butadon. The restaurant name is Sukiya.
Sukiya's food is really good and really affordable, each plate is about $4.  The restaurant is a room that has a counter that jet's out into the center of the restaurant from the kitchen.  This evening only one person was working and he was busy in the kitchen and collecting cash as people left.  As I was eating I looked up from where I was sitting at the counter and noticed one of the cash registers was in a state of being turned off and some accounting stuff going on.  I also noticed the tray of coins next to the register, the coins along the right of the tray are $5 each (500 yen).
In total, there is over $100 USD of coins just sitting on the counter while the guy is busy doing everything but shutting down that register.  I was kind of shocked, if the same situation was to take place in Chicago or anywhere else in the world I don't think the coins would just be sitting there that long.
I thought leaving money on the counter was a once-and-a-while thing, but I visited Sukiya again for lunch and their it was, more unattended cash-money on the counter.   Mid-day though, it was a lot less, mostly 50 yen coins and maybe three 500 yen coins. 
 Since we are on the topic of only in Japan, here are a couple of other things.  At the Mini-stop near my apartment, they recently installed a laundry vending machine.  I don't really need to use this, I have a washing machine, but I think you put your clothes in their and a day later you pick up the clean clothes at the register.
 And Fast relax coffee brand from Sunkus connivance store. Generally, I like slow relax but sometimes their is no time to for that.  After some research, I'm calling Fast Relax the #1 drip coffee in Japan, #2 is Mon-Cafe.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Toji Temple

When you travel on the Shinkansen west from Nagoya, looking out of the left side of the train, you can see a large pagoda in the distance shortly after the train leaves Kyoto Station.
 For many years the pagoda was under renovation, it always had a large structure around it.  But recently the scaffolding was removed so I decided to stop by and check out it out.  Turns out it's the highest pagoda in Japan, 187 feet and the current pagoda was built in 1644.
The park where this pagoda is located closes at 5pm, if you arrive here at 4:30 you get a 300 yen discount... Not bad.
 Also on the site of the pagoda is many other temples and gardens.  The two buildings are Kodo and Kondo temples, they contain really large and really beautiful buddhas.
After visiting the temple I took a walk down Pontocho street, hungry for dinner.
 I picked a bistro at random, I really want to recommend it but unfortunately I can't remember it's name.  The door might offer some clues, just look for this door.
 The master of the bistro is a very good cook!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wall of Aichi University

Two train stations are within easy walking distance from my apartment, 5 minutes to Kurumamichi and 12 minute walk to Chikusa.  You can see the orange line through Aichi University, this was the shortest path to each station.
A couple of weeks ago, I woke up got ready for work and set off on my walk to Chikusa station.  But when I got to the point where I turn left to cut through the university, I was stopped by this large wall!!!  Aichi University ruined my shortest path to the stations.
I guess it's not that big of a deal, I can still walk around Aichi university, probably adds about 30 seconds to my overall walking time from door to train.  But still, some sort of warning would have been nice.
I wish I could have asked that guy standing next to the wall to "please, tear down this wall," in Japanese.
Quick update, they started to rip down one of the buildings next to the wall.
Sooooooo, I guess the wall was put here for my safety, but they better remove after getting rid of this building.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tojinbo Cliffs

Tojinbo is a series of volcanically formed rock clifts that run about 1km along the central coast of Japan on the Japan Sea side.  You can take a JR train up from Nagoya or Kyoto, pass Lake Biwa and travel through Fukui prefecture to get there.  But traveling through this part of Japan during the month of January is kind of 100% guarantee of heavy snow.
 There was even heavy snow at Fukui station, which is getting back near sea level.
The cliffs are along the Japan sea and wind and rain can be really strong.  At the base of the path leading to the cliffs is a sign letting you know you are there.
 The cliffs peek around 70 feet above sea level and on this particular day waves hitting the cliffts were being forced about half way up the side.
It's really hard to get a feel for the strength of the wind and the voracity of the waves hitting the rocks, but it made standing out here difficult.
One of the signs near the cliffs told of a local legend of how a bad Buddhist priest was causing problems for the good Buddhist monk.
So the good Buddhist brought the bad monk to the edge of the cliffs and threw him over, today the ghost of the bad monk haunts this area.
But this made me question if the actions of the good monk really made them the bad monks.  They never really explain why the bad monk was so bad.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Port Kure

Kure is a port city southeast of Hiroshima.  This city is famous for being a naval center through the end of World War II and for shipbuilding since then.  It's easy to reach from Hiroshima station by JR train.
 The most famous ship ever built in the port of Kure was the Yamato, the largest battle ship ever.  Unfortunately it was sunk north of Okinawa during the war but today you can see a 1/10th model of the ship the Kure Maritime Museum.  The museum is within walking distance of Kure Station.
On display in the museum are original 2D pencil drawings of the Yamato, the drawings used to build this ship.  It's kind of amazing to see these kind of drawings now-a-days, no 3D anything was used in the making of this ship.
In a room adjacent to the Yamato model is a Mitsubishi Zero Type 62.
 From the second floor you can see the flight instruments are still inside the cockpit, which makes me wonder if this plane is still flyable.
 Across the street is a submarine, the Akishio SS-579.  This Submarine was launched in 1985 and decommissioned in 2004.
 You can visit inside the submarine and look through periscopes that were made by Nikon.
The port is very busy today, making large ships for the transport of natural gas and other fuels.  It also has ferries that run from the port to Hiroshima, Matsuyama and other places.
Kind of reminds me of Seattle.