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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

ENJOY MY TWO+ WEEKS IN JAPAN IN ONE HOUR

The best part of any around the world journey is coming home.  Imagine catching an international flight every three days, suffering through the compounded stresses of re-packing, getting to the airport in time, through immigration, surviving the flight, with all those drinks and cosmic rays, letting out a small whew when the plane lands safely and hoping you don't get cheated by some taxi driver to get you to your next hotel.  For this reason, Pat's Global Adventure (PaGA) was limited to only safe places where people are generally honest and muggings minimal.

The result was that I misnamed the acronym, for there was almost no adventure.  However, everything went satisfactorily.  I did not misplace a wallet, lose a tooth or suffer through a million terrible things that could have happened.  My worst pain was biting my tongue while eating and a minor hangnail.  But why spend so much time and  money if all this trip did was safely get me home?

That is the riddle of life.  You are born and eventually die.  What's the point?  Some live miserably, too many others just get by, whether by consequence or choice, and some treat every moment as precious.  There is a reason why I waste 65 meals/month at 15 Craigside.  It has a lot to do with optimization of enjoyment, which is why I almost impulsively go about and do things.

Certainly, getting together with friends around the world was one reason why I go.  I love, too, to be enveloped by cherry blossoms, tulips and fall colors.  The potential for experiencing something spectacular is enhanced when you travel.  While my major accomplishment on PaGA 2017 was to complete my wardrobe, from underwear to an assortment of safari wear, I returned even more appreciative of what I have in Hawaii.  This my ninth generation of this shirt, which now comes in long sleeves, short sleeves and the latest, a Safari Vest.  There are now also two inside pockets.

My posting today will be very, very long, for I will essentially be showing my upcoming 15 Craigside talk on July 11.  For those not living here, let me know if you wish to learn something about going around the world, for I live in a Purgatory that features prison-like security.

PaGA 2017 began on ANA to Tokyo:


The stewardesses were terrific and the food was exceptional.  At the end they gave me one of their hand-crafted cups for being a great customer:


That's my travel bag in the background, plus my walking cane.  This device gets me on the plane first, seats on subways, adds a third leg for walking more safely, protects me from marauding dogs...and as I  cross the street, cars seem afraid of me.

I catch the limousine bus (about $30), which directly drops me off at the Tokyo Westin, my home away from home.  Kind of expensive, but I've stayed here more than 50 times because they store my large suitcase while I Shinkansen around Japan.  They always give me a high room facing Mount Fuji:


Right below me is Robuchon (I will be dining at several of his restaurants on this trip) and Ebesu Garden Place, a large mall:


The Executive Club serves an assortment of drinks and a buffet than can replace dinner, and, of course, are all free:


The next morning I went to Shinjuku Station to pick up my Japan Rail Pass, which I purchased in Honolulu, two weeks on the Green Car for $532.  I will get four times the value for this price, as just a roundtrip from Tokyo to Nagoya costs $300.

You should check, but the government must be experimenting with allowing you to buy this pass in Japan.  Beginning on March 8, and until March 31 of 2018, for 10%-20% more, you can now do this while in the country.

I travelled from:
  • Tokyo to Hiroshima
  • Hiroshima to Nagasaki
  • Nagasaki to Osaka
  • Osaka to Nagoya
  • Nagoya to Karuizawa (which has a Marriott and is close to Matsumoto--Marriott bought out Starwood, but honors my lifetime platinum status)
  • Karuizawa to Sendai
  • Sendai to Tokyo and back to Sendai just to visit Ueno Park
  • Sendai to Tokyo
  • Tokyo to Matsumoto (because it was raining in the Karuizawa area when I stayed there) and back
  • Tokyo to Jindaiji Botanical Park and back.
I visited Hachiko's statue at Shibuya Station mainly because they are totally re-developing this area.


In 2027, this statue will be a the center of Hachiko Square:


Hachiko is the dog who waited for his master, Tokyo University Professor Hidesaburo Ueno, for 12 years, even though he had passed away.  The film role was played by Tatsuya Nakadai in Japan and Richard Gere in the USA.  People in Japan value loyalty and fidelity.

I'm not sure why I'm showing this dessert set from a lunch I had at a Tokyo restaurant, Monna Lisa.  Maybe I liked the color combination.  I asked why that spelling, and it had to do with copyright issues.

I do, however, have a reason to show this feast from Burger King, for I had at least a dozen dinners in my hotel room.



Similarly, this is a typical bento meal on a train, something I enjoyed more than dozen times:


There is something to eating with the countrywide rolling buy.  I wished they had microwave ovens on these bullet trains, but they don't.  One option was to purchase a bento where you pull a string, which releases water into calcium oxide particles, creating steam.  In fact, there is so much heat that  I feared annoying people sitting close to me.  That photo looks fuzzy, but that is the steam obscuring the shot.  The food gets reasonably warm.


The Shinkansen (meaning new trunk line), or Bullet Train, has been operating since 1964.  In this period no passenger has been killed in an accident.  The line extends for 1718 miles and speeds up to 200 MPH are attained.   Maglev trains have been tested up to 375 MPH.

My first stop was Hiroshima, where I stayed at the Sheraton located right at the Shinkansen station.  Having the Japan Rail Pass, the Red Bus driver takes a photo of it, and you can ride the system for free throughout the city.  First stop, Hiroshima Peace Park and the Atomic Dome symbolic of the first nuclear weapon used on civilians, killing 150,000:


Horrific events can trigger Love and Peace, although someone should correct the spelling of Love.  A must stop is Shukkien Garden, first built in 1660, and in walking distance from my hotel:


My Blue Bar Pigeon showed up and showed me to the hordes of koi, possibly the most curated and abundant in Japan.  No black ones here.  However, I had one of Pearl's ash gel caps, so, to complement the Matsumoto Castle gold koi, I tossed the cap in, and a bluish black koi ate it:


I wonder if I will again visit here, for there are paths throughout the ponds, and so many fish that I doubt I'll be able to find this unique #2 again.

Next stop Nagasaki, where the second atomic bomb was dropped.  I stayed at Japan Railway's Kyushu Inn, I showed my Japan Rail Pass and got a $75/night rate, which was three to five times cheaper than my other hotels in Japan.  I think the train track is right below my room, and it's a one minute walk to the train.  I walked around the market next to the hotel and saw this elaborate sushi package for all of $7.


However, if you ever go to Nagasaki, order their tonkatsu, it's a pork cutlet that's so exceptional it's one of the reason why I come here:


The crust is crispy and the pork is noteworthy.

I of course went to the Nagasaki Peace Park:


Here is a copy of Fat Man, the 10,000 pound Atomic Bomb that killed 75,000:


This is a hydrogen bomb:


Back in my hotel room, I saw a sunset that certainly looked like an A-Bomb explosion:


This is ridiculous, but I'm only halfway through Japan....but let me continue anyway.  I stayed in Osaka, but JR (meaning free) train ride away was Kyoto, and this is in Maruyama Park, where lives the oldest cherry blossom tree in Japan:

My Blue Bar Pigeon came by for a visit with me in Kyoto:


Next stop Nagoya, the home of Toyota, but a city I never in the past really saw much.  They have artwork all over, here you can see my reflection:


Nagoya Castle:


I was truly lucky, for a found bench which I confiscated for my lunch.   Most sat on the ground:


What a Nagoya sunset:


I actually snuck into Tokyo on the Bullet Train just visit Shinjuku Park, but as I said above, this short jaunt would have cost me $300 if not for the Japan Rail Pass.  Here is a tea field:

While I was walking through Takashimaya, I noticed that one musk mellon cost $80!


This was supposed be peak day for the Sakura, so the lines to get into Shinjuku Park were very long.  Part of the reason was they checked every bag carefully to prevent alcohol from being brought in.  But I've been through this before, they don't body check, and they don't care once you sneak anything in.  That soda can is actually the cherry blossom version of Kirin beer.


I use a bench, but the correct way to enjoy a hanami (picnic under cherry blossoms) is sitting on the ground:


This is a Wednesday, I'll continue my E-book on Pearl's Ashes next week, but at this park I next stopped by the site of Pearl's Ashes #23:


My next stay was in Karuizawa, but it was so cold that I didn't think he cherry blossoms would be blooming in Matsumoto, so I instead went to Sendai, where my Blue Bar Pigeon said hi:


It was also too cold in Sendai for the flowers, so I trained back to Ueno Park in Tokyo, which was supposed to be at peak that day.  On the train ride, not a minute passed before you saw some evidence of the Sakura.  Here is a typical example in pouring rain:

Unfortunately, it was raining real hard when I got to Ueno:


Back to the Westin Sendai, my room view:


Me next to elevator at the Westin Sendai.  Finally back to Tokyo, where I Tadashi Matsunaga took me to his new office in Waseda.  He served six years as president of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology and is now spending time on two campuses.  Here, we had dinner at Black Cat and talked about our around the world cruise in 2020.


On Monday, April 10, I caught the JR and bus to Jindaiji.  It was closed on Mondays.


On my last free day in Japan I trained to Matsumoto, only to be surprised by a snowstorm:


It was snowing through my two hour visit to Matsumoto Castle to visit Pearl's Gold Koi.  I walked up to where she normally meets me, but nothing.  So I walked around and finally saw her, all alone:


It's amazing how the camera hides the snow.  Those white flecks are snow.  In reality, you could hardly see the scene.

My final morning I awoke to Mount Fuji wishing me goodbye:


I show Mount Fuji like it is always there, but the reality is visitors rarely see this mountain because of air pollution and weather factors.  My final breakfast at the Tokyo Westin was as usual, fabulous.


On the bus to Narita Airport, my final Sakura up close:


Wow, this had to be my longest posting.  But all the above should have taken you much less than a hour.    I was planning to summarize my entire 44-day trip today, but I'll stop here on Day 17 and hope I can complete all 27 days tomorrow.

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The first potential hurricane in the East Pacific appeared yesterday, named Adrian, and should head towards Mexico.


In 2011 there was another Hurricane Adrian that became fierce and headed for Hawaii:


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