Overwhelmed post-vacation

As I write this, but obviously not as I post this, I am sitting on a 747-400 heading from Paris to Seoul and then on to Nagoya. I’ve had a great vacation in London and Paris with Tomo, and there is so much to cover. I have over 800 pictures to edit that may be of interest. So although I want to post everything immediately, I also don’t want to post a bunch of words with no pictures, pictures with no story. Plus I want real galleries available with bigger, higher resolution pictures, so that will take time too. The blog probably will have a few highlights that support the narrative but I hope to point to galleries elsewhere on the interwebs.

London and Paris have changed a lot since I first traveled there 20 years ago. Of course, many things are still the same. Keep checking back for more details including, Wembley Stadium, Gwyneth Paltrow, helicopters, Ben Sherman, the strength of the dollar, terrific views, internet access, Michael Kors, the mobs at the Louvre, the award to the country of most obnoxious travelers, and many other things.

As a teaser, here is a picture that Tomo took of me inside the Arch de Triomphe as we were ascending from the top. It is a really cool picture.

In the Arch de Triomphe

Quick Report – Hakone

As my previous juvenile post stated, I took a day off on Friday (except I worked too many hours up to Friday so I just didn’t go in to work but I didn’t take a vacation day) and used one of my free nights at a Hyatt in Hakone. Next plan is Fall in Kyoto. Anyway, Tomo and I met in Hakone-Yumoto and chugged Swiss style halfway up a mountain to the resort town of Gora. It was really just a chance to escape the city. The hotel was really relaxing – perhaps too relaxing because we took advantage of Happy Hour and I wasn’t too happy later in the evening with a headache.

Our room with a view was very nice and spacious. The lines were very clean – it felt modern to both of us. To me, it felt Japanese as well but Tomo isn’t so sure. Since Tomo is actually Japanese, perhaps he’s right.

A sleek room with a view

We had a nice view over to the other mountain from our faux balcony. The balcony area was completely enclosed, yet was separated from the rest of the room. It was a very nice sitting area.

I noticed a few families there. I’m not sure what the kids would do – I bet they got bored just staying in the hotel. But you can always find something to do on a mountain.

There was a gaggle of school girls departing their school in Gora for various locations down the mountain, mostly in Hakone-Yumoto. The school uniforms are very interesting – I love the hats. I wondered if it was a Catholic School because I swear I saw one girl reading Mother Teresa manga. Who knows.

Boshi, boshi, boshi

I’m just sayin’ …

I took advantage of a free Hyatt night and went to Hakone Friday night. There is an old train that chugs up the side of a mountain. I saw this notice in the train.

Interesting instructions

Read it however you want. I’m juvenile and found it funny. English translation is a bit different than the Japanese.

 

I thought my blogging had picked up again, but I hit a wall. Lot’s of work I guess. I have some fun pictures from Nara that I have to post pretty soon.

Hanging out in Kanagawa-ken

Will I ever actually start writing what I intended to write about two hours ago when I first sat down at my computer to add to my blog? I hope. Things just kept popping in to my head, so they became their own entries.

You need to read June 6 entries from bottom to top.

So indeed, I had a great weekend. Recapping, in case you don’t want to read from bottom to top,

My friend David (or Dave) from Los Angeles / San Francisco was visiting Japan with his from David (or Dave) from San Francisco. Apparently, Nagoya isn’t interesting enough to warrant a visit (sigh) so I made the trek up to Tokyo. That’s a huge sacrifice of course, having to go to Tokyo.

Dave (my old friend and not his friend) and I planned to meet for dinner on Friday night at 8:00 pm in Shinjuku. Dave had met my friend Jin during his visits to LA so I invited Jin to join us as well.

Jin invited a friend of his along as well, and we went to a nice café in Shinjuku Ni-chome and checked out the scene. It isn’t West Hollywood or the Castro, but it had its own vibe. Jin’s friend remains unidentified per his request. Sigh.

Dave, Dave, Dave’s friend Kenji and I met Saturday morning to do a day trip to Kamakura. I had not been to Kamakura in years. Some of my favorite black and white photos from Japan are from Kamakura.

 

 

 

I was curious what it would be like to go back to Kamakura with a digital camera instead of my film camera. Can I say I miss shooting on film?

We had a great time hanging out together, and I enjoyed Dave’s friend Dave and Dave’s friend Dave’s friend Kenji. I think from now on I’ll refer to Dave’s friend Dave as Dave II. I wish Tomo could have joined us, and that was the plan, but unfortunately last minute work plans messed up his schedule.

Kamakura is known for it’s 大仏 (daibutsu) or huge statue of Buddha. When we got off the train I saw the picture below and thought, “What’s the big deal?”

 

Ha ha. We walked to some different areas than I had not seen before and visited lots of temples. We stumbled across a Shinto wedding, complete with the traditional videographer.

 

It was cool to catch just the bride, groom, and the attendants.

 

There were a number of beautiful things to see at the various temples.

Honestly though, we saw so many, I’ve forgotten what we actually saw, so just enjoy the pictures below with no sense of place. Sorry about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At one temple, there was a woman selling cookies. It was clear that it was a fundraiser and she had samples. The cookies were very good. She was trying to communicate what the fundraising was about. I totally misunderstood her, and Dave II will claim that it was my doing. Anyway, I thought she was telling me that the cookies will make you smart because she was pointing to her head. Then she pointed to the picture which clearly indicated that the cookies were hand made by children with Down’s Syndrome. Needless to say, we bought some and referred to them as “the guilt cookies” as we munched them throughout the day. Miscommunication – you’ve got to hate it sometimes.

We had a terrific lunch and Dave II took some amazing food porn pictures. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not so good with food porn, so you’ll just have to believe me.

We wandered back to downtown Kamakura by train and then went to the daibutsu. It was as great as I remember.

Giving a sense of scale

A very large buddha

 

A color version of my previous black and white

The daibutsu in color

 

It gets pretty hot being the daibutsu ..

Back vents

 

Here are Dave II, Dave, and Kenji at the shrine

Fellow travelers

 

We also went to check at the 地蔵 (jizou) at Hasedera. Jizou are the guardian deity of children, or the patron deity of pregnant women. Many times, a statue is placed at this temple for lost children, often times aborted children. In the past when I was there, many of the jizou were highly decorated with toys, beads, and clothes. This time it seems there is an effort to tone things down.

Jizo

 

jizo

 

We walked to the beach at Kamakura as well and decided it was pretty ugly and dirty. For dinner, we thought we’d go to Chinatown in Yokohama. On the way there we saw something I’ve never seen before – a parent falling asleep instead of a child. It must have been a long day.

Tired on the train

 

We walked around Chinatown and finally made it to dinner.

Yokohama Chinatown

 

Yokohama Chinatown

 

Yokohama Chinatown

 

Of course, on our travels, we saw a few things that just didn’t make sense to us.

I’ve never seen a name this long in Japan

I've never seen a name this long

 

Huh?

 

A pork ice cream shop?

 

I have no idea how Amish cooking is related to Kamakura.

Japanese Amish

 

Japanese Amish

 

 

On Sunday, Tomo and I got to hang out together. We saw Star Trek. He had not seen any of the Star Trek movies and enjoyed it. I liked it too, although I think J. J. Abrams needs to stay away from time travel in everything he does. It is too convenient.

There, that’s a major blog entry.

Tokyo randomness

Over the weekend, I went up to Tokyo to hang out with Ben and Carrie, and also with Tomo when he wasn’t working. It was sort of a random weekend with no real initial plans. Ben and Carrie wanted to check out Asakusa and Kappabashidori. Asakusa is famous for the sensoji temple, and Kappabashidori is famous for excellent cooking supplies including famous knife shops. It had been a while since I had been to Asakusa, but it never fails to interest me. It is the most “touristy” place in Tokyo that I know. The approach to the temple is lined with souvenir shops with some rather interesting things available. The temple was under renovation – is this THE year for temple renovation? I have never seen so many temples under renovation. Kappabashidori was interesting as well – lots of cookware shops, knives, and plastic food shops. I find the plastic food fascinating. We had a delicious lunch at Freshness Burger, and then went to Akihabara.

I’ve never really understood Akihabara – perhaps I just don’t go to the correct place. We checked out a manga shop featuring dojin comics. Carrie felt a little out of place as we looked at book covers with a wide assortment of big-breasted semi naked cat-eared girls. There were only 7 floors of books, but the building was skinny. We also hit a few electronics shops as well, which can be almost as visually shocking as the manga shop.

For dinner, we met Jin and had a good visit.

Souvenir shops in Asakusa

Souvenir shops in Aksakusa

 

Yes we can! Obama-mania has not sold out yet in Japan.

Yes we still can

The area around senjo temple

Sensoji

 

Ben and Carrie look like they are having fun.

Ben and Carrie in Asakusa

 

We noticed some funny things around Akasuka and Kappabashidori. I am extremely curious what the heart farting character represents. Oh, such pretty farts. It is noce that I can maintain my juvenile humor after all these years.

What is this about?

 

Also, I think this gas cassette is definitely not a good idea to try to carry on to a plane.

Not for carry-on luggage

 

And where exactly does cowgel come from?

Does cowgel get the blues?

 

The symbol for kappabashidori is a frogman. I thought it was strange.

Frogman

 

I was fascinated by the plastic food. There were several cases of plastic beer. Don’t the ice covered cans look great?

Frosty beer

 

Loads and loads of beer

 

There was case after case of sample food.

Fake plastic food

 

Sunday we had no real plan either. We waked from Shidome to Tokyo Station to meet Kevin for lunch. We hit Ginza and the Sony showroom. The Sony showroom is not the technological showplace it once was. I think Sony has not found the next new thing and is suffering. After lunch, I remembered the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) showroom was nearby, so what better place to take two space geeks? Carrie bought an H2A rocket pen and some spacefood!

Can’t you see them as astronauts?

Astronaut Ben

 

Astronaut Carrie

 

We also visited a display celebrating Japan’s World Baseball Classic championship win. I had to photograph Ichiro and Matsuzaka’s actual jerseys.

Ichiro's jersey

 

Matsusaka's jersey