Tokyo Local Time:

Friday, October 16, 2009

I have a new post up about the shinkansen over on my other travel blog about exploring the culture, food and entertainment in Japan, Tokyo and Kyoto; check it out! ::

http://blueearthjournies.com/2009/10/14/shinkansen-japanese-bullet-train-japan-tokyo-kyoto/

Monday, May 11, 2009

Thought of the Day




The empty space created by an object is as important as the object itself.



Sunday, May 3, 2009

どらやき

So after I got home I wanted to make some of that bean past I had grown so fond of. The paste itself is called anko, and simply consists of beans, sugar and a lot of labor. The buns are like a sweet pancake, only a little more firm. My bun recipe was OK, but it needs some work. What I really need is one of those handy dandy things to make the spiffy round bun thing...I have no idea what I am talking about...

For the anko, I didn't have the azuki beans to make the red version, but I did have lima beans to make the white version. After about four hours of boiling, draining, reboiling, simmering, straining, mashing, then mashing again and adding the sugar and re-simmering I had my creamy smooth white anko. Well, I actually had 2 different versions; a smooth creamy version (like marzipan) and a chunky version. I preferred the creamy version even though it took about a half-hour longer to process than the chunky. It just tasted so much better! But...4.5 hours for a little tub of anko? I think I might just buy it next time. Sanae said you can get it at the 100 yen store (the $1 store). So much for my eight hours of work...at least I learned something :)

Pic time:
My mini dorayaki with the white anko.














White anko (creamy on the left and chunky on the right)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

My post trip entry: A retrospective

It has been a while since I returned from Japan and I thought it was about time to do a final entry for the trip. I will keep updating the blog as I go along because I am moving to Japan later this year.


My initial goal for going to Japan was to figure out if I could live there on a permanent basis. My verdict: without a doubt! I have to say that I think there are a LOT of people who wouldn't be able to do it for long. It does seem to be a higher stress lifestyle. You always see people running here and there. The only thing I ran for was to get out of the street!


The flight back:

After I get through the security check and to the terminal I was told that my flight was overbooked and that if I waited an hour they would put me on a flight direct to Detroit and upgrade me to a World Business class seat. Even though the flight left an hour later I wouldn't have a stop over in Tokyo, so it came out to be about the same time but with an upgraded seat. So I took the option and I was extremely glad I did. I had remembered reading about the business class seat on the Northwest web site and it sounded nice. I was unprepared for just how nice it actually was. A real blanket and pillow, an electric reclining seat that would go down into a bed with the push of a button, a personal entertainment system with fold out LCD screen and anything food and drink wise they could supply you with. They even gave me slippers, a toothbrush and clean socks! With dinner they served me a great glass (or two :P) of red wine. Now wine usually has very little effect on me but for some reason, whether it be the airplane or drinking the first glass before I was served dinner, I was flying higher than the 747-400 I was in! Weeeee!


Alcohol and Japanese people:

So Sanae and I were returning from Shinjuku (I think) one evening and got on a train to return to Tachikawa. I was amazed to see drunk people on the trains already as it was only around 9:30. I had read about drunks on trains in one of my travel books but I thought it was exaggerating...nope! What I can't figure out is how a guy can walk through a train station down on the platforms with his eyes closed and not fall down on the tracks.


The FOOD:

What else can I say...I love Japanese food. I didn't eat a single thing the whole trip that I didn't like. And I tried a lot of new things. Surprisingly, my insides only disagreed with my culinary decisions once. Luckily I was in a shopping mall and was greeted in the bathroom by a western fixture and not the dreaded 'squatty potty'.


Tokyo and Beyond:

Tokyo and all it's suburbs rocked. I am looking forward to exploring these areas in greater detail wen I return. I never really pegged myself as a city guy, and I do love the country, but there was just something about it....


Cars that I saw:

2x Skyline R34s

Skyline R32

Mitsubishi FTO

Mitsubishi Evo III

several nicely modified Toyota MR-2 Spyders

Recent Evo's and STi's
Mistubishi Galant VR-4

Subaru Impreza STi sedan (GC8)

Subaru Impreza STi coupe (GC8) - was this the fabled 22B??

Toyota Supra

Mazda RX-7

Ferrari (not sure what model)

Maserati (not sure what model)

and probably others that I have forgotten about.


My return:

My goal for returning to Japan in July. This will be 'the move' trip, the one where I do not come back for quite some time. I will likely be staying in or around the Tokyo area.


The good, the bad and the WTF? :


The Bad:

Ok, we are starting with the bad because it is easier. What's bad about Japan? The first week I hit my elbows, knees, hips, shoulders, head and feet on just about everything.


The lack of personal space on the trains when everyone is trying to get home.


The train stations when there is nothing in english and they decide to change the name of the train from a 'local' which stops at all stations; to an express, semi-express or one of the other hundred labels they have for it and it flies past the station you needed to get off at. They do this at rush hour. I guess it is something that you are just supposed to know. It is surprising that a country that is so educated and seemingly logical would do something like this. It almost landed in the WTF section.


I had jet lag and insomnia when I returned to the US. I think my body and mind returned to the US but my heart and spirit stayed in Japan

Ok, I like to cook but most apartments don't seem to have grand cooking facilities. I have figured out creative solutions to some of the problems like counter space and storage, but there is one thing that still bothers me. I NEED AN OVEN TO MAKE CAKE, CHEESECAKE AND ANYTHING ELSE I BAKE WHICH IS JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING! I went to an electronics stop and eventually made my way up to the appliance level to look at and price things. In looking for ovens I was like"what are these things, 'Easy Bake Ovens'?" Bah, I guess they will have to do...Now I just need to find a place to put one.


Earthquakes. Sanae said that she had experienced several earthquakes. I have some light search and rescue training but that doesn't mean I want to search and rescue myself. I better take my CERT helmet!


The WFT? :

The old guy on a bicycle who almost ran me over in Nagoya at about midnight because I was maybe walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk?? WFT, old man...I could have picked him up with one arm and shook his teeth loose while sipping coffee with the other. He was really the only rude guy I met on the whole trip.


The good:


Everything else. Ok, ok...I'll list some specifics.


The food; you better like seafood if you live here...or noodles and rice. Trust me, you can't live on bean buns! Oh, the bean buns...red or white, I'll have both please! Arigato! Mmmmmmmm. The Japanese tofu is amazing. I don't know what gutter they scrape American tofu out of, but it sucks!

The big cities are very clean (except Shinkuku) and safe (except Shinkuku). Why can't the Yakuza clean it up a little??


The people; they are generally kind and as helpful as possible. I have heard that Japanese people are shy, but I had several people come up and start talking to me...maybe because I was a white guy or something. Naw, most of the time people were very sincere and honest. You gotta love that!


Hanging out with Sanae in Tokyo; you made me a believer!


What I will miss about the US:

There is actually quite a lot to miss here. The US is a wonderful place to live and raise a family and there is plenty of things here to miss.


Cheap dairy and produce. Some things cost a lot in japan, like dairy products and some fresh fruits and veggies.


The coffee...I mentioned this earlier in the blog. Definitely going to have to import some of this from home. Maybe I should just kick the habit instead.

I will miss my cars a lot. I am not sure I can even afford a car in Japan. Maybe I will buy a moped and equip it with NOS and some Micky Thompson slicks :D Hey wait..this is Japan. Where are all the transporter systems and jetpacks? I guess the shinkansen will have to do ;)


My house. Yeah, I said it. Even though I don't like this particular house it is OK and has more space than what I will be able to afford in Japan.


BIG Thunderstorms...I am still waiting to use my CERT training. Ahh, there was one tonight.


And finally, my friends and family. Skype can only suffice to a certain degree.



Videos:

Shinkansen passing another shinkansen. These trains are about 1300 feet long (almost a 1/4 mile). Watch how fast they pass each other!


video

Some video from local trains. Watch the Japanese countryside!
(Can you spot the modified Supra?)

Video 1:


video

Video 2:


video

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Shinjuku Goya National Garden

My plan for today was to get up early and leave to see Mt. Fuji...but I was very tired and slept until 9:30. So after making my way from Tacikawa to Shinjuku station my deiections went sour and I couldn't find where I needed to go. So I got a guidebook at the station and found something that was probably just as good. This is about the time of year when the cherry blossoms start to bloom here in Japan, so it is a really good time to visit gardens and parks. This is the National Garden in Shinjuku. I took a lot of pictures, so enjoy the sights!







This is Shinjuku, dubbed the city that never sleeps as it is always busy. It was much dirtier than the other cities I have been to...Can't really say much else about it.



Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Been lots of places, seen a lot of things

So the past week I have been really busy and didn't always have net access. Here's a bunch of pics!


Various food stuffs:






Tachikawa:






Various pictures from Tachikawa, Tokyo, Nagoya, Akihabara and Shibuya:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

18.3.2009 :: Tokyo :: Day 4

I scrapped the idea of going to Fuji-san today and went to Tokyo instead. The station there is absolutely crazy! Instead of walking around Tokyo I hopped a top side train and headed to Shibuya, more specifically a street called Takeshita Dori. It's a place to get unique items and clothing. I saw a jacket I will buy the next time I am in Tokyo.

I saw some interesting characters there today but didn't take any pictures. The only thing I have to show for today is a green bagel and a better working knowledge of the Tokyo station, which is a chore in itself.

Tokyo kicked my butt today...


またね!






Be sure to check out my new travel blog about Japan, Tokyo, Kyoto, food, wine and Japanese culture!

http://blueearthjournies.com/category/japan/tokyo/

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

17.3.2009 :: Kyoto :: Day 3




Today I returned to Kyoto and I was successful at navigating the rail system so I was off to see the sights. Tonight there was a change in plans, Ryoko doesn't have to go to Tokyo, instead she might go this weekend for her work. So I will be returning to Nagoya instead of going to a ryoken (a traditional Japanese inn) for the night.

I only regret that I still did not make it to the downtown market. I really wanted to see that while I was here but there is a big fish market in Tokyo that might be better anyway (but I think it is just a fish market).


I think I have lost about 5+ pounds since I got here because my pants are way too big!


I don't think I have mentioned my thoughts on Japan yet, mostly because I wanted to wait a few days to get a better impression of the country. My verdict so far? I love it. I love the food, the people, the bullet train, the cities...just everything about it. There is a language barrier there but that will fall with time.



Mt. Inariyama Shrine:


This was the only real sight seeing I did today because it took me so long to go through it. I went to the Mt. Inariyama shrine and it took me forever to go through! I thought it would be a simple little self guided walk though tour...nope! I got lost on the paths because most of them had signs that were washed out and unreadable once you started up the mountain. Regardless, it was a very cool place, except some parts were creepy with cawing crows and all the family shrines and things. I could sware there were parts that smelled of death, similar to that smell at a funeral...only stronger. I went up and down so many different paths that my legs were rubber by the time I was done. Maybe it was from my lack of food the past few days. Still very cool though.


The cars:

I spotted a Mitsubishi Galant VR-4


The people:

I noticed today that the spoken Japanese language is very melodic, that is, it almost sounds like music at times; especially when spoken by a woman.

Everyone is very kind and polite. Men, women, young, old and everyone in between. I try to be as curtious as possible but still sometimes feel like a big, loud, rude American :D
Oh, some of them smoke like chimneys, and they are allowed to do it in a lot of places, unlike america where it seems to be being banned just about everywhere. It's annoying but tolerable. Also, a lot of the business guys wear trench coats, so it looks like an FBI convention everywhere you go. :)

The Food:

While I was at Kyoto station I had to pick up a few more of those bean filled buns. They make a great quick breakfast with a cup of coffee.


For lunch I went to one of those carousel sushi places. The sushi was good but not superb...but it was less expensive than back home (137¥ per plate. Hehehe, I ate 8 plates; OINK! :D

I ended the day with none other than a Starbucks cappuccino and watching the people and cars pass by for a good while. Ahh, it is so hard to get a good cup of coffee here. That's something I will definitely have to have import from home or kick the habit.

Tonight I volunteered to make my spicy thai chicken, assuming I can find all the ingredients. Believe it or not, sireiacha sauce is hard to find here. You have to go to an 'imported' food shop to get it. I'll also make some udon soba (a Japanese noodle) soup.

For dinner I cooked, but it was only ok. I did however have my forst real shopping in a Japanese grocery store. Heheh, it was like the asian grocers back home only a lot bigger and with better stuff. I made spicy pork and udon soupe. The soupe was great!


Happy Birthday Troy!!!

Be sure to check out my other travel blog for more article son Japan and Kyoto:
http://www.blueearthjourneys.com/2009/10/14/mt-inariyama-shrine-japan-kyoto-temple/

Monday, March 16, 2009

16.3.2009 :: Kyoto :: Day 2


This is the first day that I am on my own. I felt ill prepared to navigate this country, but there is no better way to learn than to jump in with both feet! After my day yesterday we returned to Ryoko's flat and I crashed after having dinner. Not really from jet lag,because surprisingly I have had NONE whatsoever. Today I am heading to Kyoto and am learning to navigate everything on my own.



The bullet train:

In one word: amazing.When another train would pass the shockwave of air would slightly jolt the cabin and it made a sound like: Foom! shishishishishishishi foom! That has to be the coolest sound ever!

video



Kyoto:
About an hour from Nagoya, I chose this as my first destination because of the abundance of temples and other cultural aspects to explore, and because it was relatively simple to navigate to. But once I got there the subway station was a nightmare to figure out. None of the subway ticket machines were in English. So I was stuck there for a few hours trying to figure out which button got a ticket for wat train and finally just got some buns and found a waiting room to sit down in asI hadn't really eaten anything all day. Ryoko doesn't really eat breakfast and the kitchen is really small so the cooking capability is limited. After I was rejuvenated by mighty morphin' bean bun power, I reread myguide book and was remotivated to explore the city.

This time I skipped the subway and headed for the Kyoto Tower. It is a large tower similar to Space Needed in Seattle. The views were great, you could almost see all the way to Osaka!

Food:
I had a mugwort bun filled with bean paste. It was pretty good but would have been even better with some coffee. I miss that food shop Iwas at yesterday! Mm, I have another regular bun filled with the same bean stuff. I ate half of it when I got home and it is much better than the mugwort bun.
For dinner Ihad raw liver, octopus balls, tempura pork and Japanese pumpkin in a sauce. A fermented vegetable sauce that was sweet and sour was used fr the temputa and a thicker version was used for te octopus balls.
Check out my other blog about world travel in Japan and Kyoto:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

15.3.2009 :: Nagoya :: Day 1


My friend took me around Nagoya today exploring the city and showing me how to navigate the buses and trains at Nagoya station.



The food:
Today I had the best octopus and squid ever. You can taste the ocean it was so fresh. That is something you just do not get with seafood in the midwest. My meal was a medium sized bowl of Japanese short grain rice(prepared similar to sushi rice with a little sugar so it is sicky)and topped with fresh salmon, squid and octopus and a small serving ofa pickeled Japanese radish. I put some wasabi-soy sauce on it and it was even better. So what did this cost? Around 600 yen, or around 6bucks US. Eat your heart out, McDonalds!

The people:
I am amazed at the varied styles that people wear. It doesn't seem tomatter how someone dresses, that's very cool! It makes me feel like Ineed to change what I am wearing. I'll grab some pics sometime if I can.

The cars:
I spotted my first GT-R R34 and a GC8 chassis Impreza STi!

The city:
I had my first ride in a subway today! And then another and anotherand another and another and so on... So you can say I am pretty used to the subways of Nagoya by now.
The city is great, although Ryoko says there is not much to do here. It is very clean and not as overcrowded as I thought it might be.

Bicycles are left on the street, without being chained up! I asked Ryoko about it and she said there wasn't really a problem with them being stolen. I told her that was pretty amazing and she stated most Japanese people have good morals.

The port:
We also visited the port are of Nagoya today. It was intersting to see the harbor and shops that were there there. We went to something Ryoko called a 'gotcha gotcha' (spelling??). Which was a large store that had toys in bubble gum machines. They varied from anime figurines toThomas the tank engne toys.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The adventure begins

My journey has begun, I landed in Japan at 6:10 local Nagoya time. Like so many good stories this one began with the end, because getting here was a journey in itself. Everything was working well for this trip except one aspect...I needed a JR (Japan Rail) pass to ride the trains for the two weeks I am here. The problem? It can only be purchased outside of Japan and there was not a distributor for this pass in KC. But there was one in Detroit and I just happened to have a flight with a 3 hour layover in just that spot. To make it even better, the travel agent/distributor was only 27.3 miles from the airport. So on Friday I had checked airport taxi services and found one that offered a round trip to the town of Novi for $105. That sounds like a lot but I had contacted the travel agent an they wanted $350 to have someone at the airport to give it to me and they wouldn't let a local currier deliver it. My flight from KC to Detroit went fine. I hopped the taxi service I had found on the net and he took me to the travel agency, I got my dumb voucher, and returned back to the airport with just enough time to go through security (again) and Google at the 747-400 double decker...so awesome!

The Flight from Detroit was ok, the food was fair with the only notable stuffs being shrimp served with dinner, the movies SUCKED, and every one around me slept until the last two hours when a gal from the Philippines named Angie talked to me. Thank you!! I was starting to go nuts watching "The Secret Life of Bees" for the fifth time...I didn't even get out my headphones on for that masterpiece.

I am exploring Nagoya today, more to come about first my night and first full day later.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The best Japanese lessons ever

Ok, so today I realized how much my Japanese SUCKS. Thank goodness for YouTube!! You gotta check out at least one from this first playlist...the guy says he is a 'drunk' language teacher (the lessons are better than the 'culture' episodes). This isn't safe for kiddos:

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=9987A659670D60E0

Oh, and here are some others:
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=1BF946DA1EE1ED89

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=2261CDEC20D079AA

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=79756461CD10A747

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=4D55950E9D0D1876

Thursday, March 5, 2009

One week to go!

One more week to go before I leave for Japan and I am very excited! It has been a very busy week. I got my International Drivers Permit, a new camera (a Canon Digital ELPH SD790 IS), some 16 gig SD cards, some NEW SOCKS and a few other odds and ends. I also got my phone unlocked so I can use a Japanese SIM card in it and work off of their local networks. Hehe, that also means I can switch carriers here in the US and not have to buy a new phone :D

I think I may be packing way too many electronic gadgets. I already have my camera bag stuffed to capacity and my carry-on bag is getting full too. My goal was to pack light because I am going to be traveling on a train a lot of the time. I guess I can leave what I am not needing that day...but what will I need? Who knows, it's Japan! Anyone have anti-Godzilla spray? I like being prepared ya know.

In Japanese culture it is customary to bring a gift to the house you are visiting. So I was trying to think of anything a-la Kansas City that I could give. I have some ideas but would like any suggestions...it's not like I can pack a BBQ sandwich ;)

It's going to be a long week waiting for Friday to get here!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

What is a gaijin?

Translated from Japanese, gaijin means 'foreigner'. That's going to be me starting on March 13th. I am headed for Nagoya Japan to see the country and figure out if I could possibly live there long-term as an english teacher! I am very excited and this blog will be a portal into the daily adventures I encounter while traveling.

Jay ne!