Friday, March 30, 2007


this blog is quickly coming to a close, but before it does, here are some flower pics. The flowers came out and so did my camera.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

All pictures

I posted all of my pictures to the internet. They are very organized and accessible, and the original pictures can be saved (for printing, if anyone is so inclined). the website is

Saturday, March 24, 2007

more videos now available

Both because I wanted to have a lazy saturday and also because it was cloudy and drizzling all day, I uploaded a massive number of videos to my video webpage. The link should be just to the right of this post. Enjoy. Most files are between 3 and 10 megabytes. If you have a fast internet connection, you should be able to stream the videos with no problem. If your connection is slow you may want to download the videos and watch on your computer. Here's a couple random pictures.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Kyoto Day 3 (part 1)

Like the second day, the third day presented us with many pictures, so I divided them again. On our third day in Kyoto, we got up early enough to eat breakfast. This also meant we were in store for a very full day. We strategically put our bags in lockers at the subway station closest to our hotel. The hotel was situated conveniently at a juncture of the two main subway lines. Also convenient was the locker that was big enough for Joe and I to share.

We had completely ignored the temples in the northwest area of Kyoto and decided that some exploring was in order. Our goal was to start at the most southerly temple and make our way north up the mountainside. This process worked fine. By far the most impressive temple we saw was the golden temple (one of the most northerly). Not only was this beautiful, but it was the first place that offered seemingly unique items to buy. As Joe and lamented throughout the day, it is very difficult to buy gifts for people. Friends expect things that are classically Japanese, but to get something similar to that which can be purchased at epcot is a waste of locale. This golden temple offered some solutions, and we were thrilled.

Also really neat were the rock gardens. There were two temples with substantial gardens of this type, one being known specifically for this reason. I didn’t find the gardens to be particularly awesome or awe inspiring, but I did find them very peaceful to look at. Adding the ridges in the sand offered a wavelike motion that was appealing.

After the golden temple, Joe and I wanted to get to one more before we headed back to Tokyo. Looking at our map, which was pretty sketchy, we headed in what we thought was the direction of our sought after temple. However, it turns out we were very very very wrong. After walking (at a rate that was almost a jog) for about 35 minutes we got to the top of the road, which ended at a very worn down area of town with no people and two chained barking dogs. When the movies portray an area as inhospitable, this is their primary shooting location. We turned around and headed toward a recreational and social club where we saw taxis. Turns out that the taxis were waiting to take patrons elsewhere and wouldn’t drive us to the train station. However, the drivers did direct us toward a major street that was clearly marked on the map. A little over a half of an hour later we found the street. That street then led us to two more streets and eventually we found the temple we were looking for. At this point we were tired and our legs hurt and we wanted to get back to Tokyo. After our arduous climb and descent of the mountain we thought it necessary to at least peak at the temple we were looking for. The temple was closing as we walked in the gate. Joe and I looked at each other and without a word decided we didn’t have the energy or desire to fight to get in. We walked hurriedly to the nearest train station, which took us to our junction subway station, which took us to the main Kyoto train station. We knew there was a train leaving relatively soon, but upon arriving at the ticket counter, were informed that immediately was less than 2 minutes. So we ran, with our gifts and our backpacks through the train station, from track 1 all the way to track 24 (or thereabout), which was passed a second ticket taker and up the stairs. We then ran from one end of the 14 car train to the last car running with the train as it was arriving. Literally beyond exhausted we sat down and about an hour later were able to move and talk.

We regained our composure later in the train ride, and Joe wanted some Thai food for his last dinner in Japan. We went to the Thai restaurant near my apartment and had a delicious and relaxing dinner.

Kyoto Day 3 (part 2)

Kyoto Day 3 (part 3)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kyoto Day 2 (part 1)

Lot of pictures, so 3 posts for this day --- On day 2, joe and I woke up at a reasonable time, but just missed breakfast, which was a large and not-included buffet at the hotel. Eager to get started, we grabbed some pretzels at a nearby store and headed for the emperor’s palace to sign up for a tour. We were told to return in a couple hours. In the meantime we walked west toward the castle. The castle was neat, but overpriced. We walked to the emperor’s palace and met up with the tour. The palace itself was neat, it had a ton of inner buildings and rooms, sadly we were unable to enter any of them. The reasoning of the tour guide was kind of sketchy. Apparently the rooms are off limits because the palace is still in use by the current emperor… Ok, that’s fine, but then the guide told us the emperor uses another area of the grounds that is entirely separate from the ones we were viewing. Odd. Interestingly, as we were on the tour it started to snow. I say snow, joe says it was a wintry mix. I saw precipitation moving horizontal and up and then down, so I say snow. Luckily, whatever it was, it was light and transitory.

After the palace, we decided to visit the temples in the northeast area of town. We started looking for the orange gates, or as we learned they were called, toris (rhymes with corey). We found the orange gates and saw a ton of temples. Interestingly though we don’t really know what temples we saw. We thought we were approaching a couple particular ones, but never found them. Still, for the next three hours we did travel further up the mountain seeing what appeared to be at least 4 distinct temples/shrines. What make this unexpected excursion even more delightful was that the sun was setting and the vistas from the high parts of the mountains were beautiful.

Interestingly, as the sun was setting we were approached by another Japanese who was intrigued by two Americans. This gentlemen, however, was far more normal than the woman at Hamarikyu gardens. For starters, Joe and I were off the beaten track, so his surprise to see us was more understandable. Secondly, his demeanor was far more calm then the lady’s was. Finally, he was quite knowledgeable about the surrounding area and so we learned a little while he was practicing his English on us.

After the sun set and the temple grounds’ closed, we took a train to the Gion district. This is the area famous for its active Geisha community. Geisha (for those of you who don’t watch movies), according to travel book, are female professional entertainers who talk and accompany men to various events. A more sexual version of Geisha developed and so traditional Geisha are now called geiko. As opposed to many japanese women who still dress traditionally, the Geisha/geiko generally wear white makeup on their face and bright red lipstick. Although Joe and I didn’t see throngs of these women, we did see some walking around, which was pretty neat. After buying presents for people in the gion area, we sought and eventually (after about 30 minutes) found somewhere to eat. It ended up being an Irish pub, which seemed to be run by a Japanese woman, as odd as that sounds. However, as we were leaving, I was surprised to hear a live entertainment warming up. One of the singers had a right-off-the-boat Irish accent, that added immediate authenticity to the place. After dinner, we called it a night and we back to our lovely hotel.

Kyoto Day 2 (part 2)

Kyoto Day 2 (part 3)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kyoto day 1

If you have facebook (and therefore know what it is) I recommend signing on and viewing joseph green and/or Angela Tweedie’s photos, as the two of them recently posted a number of pictures from their respective stays here in Tokyo.

Joe and I took an incredible train to Kyoto. There are 3 forms of this bullet train, also called a shinkansen. Joe and I took the middle level one which took about two and a half hours to get from Shinagawa (which is right near my place) to Kyoto. The faster and more expensive train, which I didn’t want to pay for and which was not included in Joe’s train pass took about 20 minutes less. The slower train took about 30 minutes more. The train was an absolute treat. The cars are split into two with two seats on one side and three on the other. The seats recline a good deal and are quite wide. The train is smooth and the people on it considerate. The only downside was the price. It was about 100 dollars each way. On the way, we gradually made our way higher and higher into the mountains. At one point, we noticed that it was snowing with a thing blanket covering the fields. As we approached Kyoto, however, the snow dissipated and upon our arrival, Kyoto was cold, but dry.

Kyoto is situated in the middle of a number of mountains. Probably 70% of the city is surrounded. The temples are everywhere, but mainly concentrated in the northeast and northwest sections. The emperor’s palace, which was about a ten minute walk from our hotel and a castle were right in the middle of the city. On the first day, Joe and I walked around the palace grounds and found out about mandatory sign-ups for tours. It was already later in the day when we got to the palace, and it (as do almost all temples) closed at about 5pm. It was getting cold and we were hungry, so we went in search of food. Finding people that spoke English was no problem, finding maps was no problem, finding somewhere to eat, was significantly more difficult than we were used to. Eventually we found a tapas place, very much like domo domo in Tokyo. We ordered too much food, then ate too much of the food we ordered. After waddling around town for a little longer, we found our way back to the hotel and called it a night. As an aside, the hotel was great. It was very affordable, especially when split between two people and it had a great location. Apparently, we arrived a few days before the blossom season, when the rates almost triple.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The day before Kyoto

The day before Kyoto (which my father pointed out is an anagram of Tokyo), Joe and I woke up early and went to Tsukiji fish market. This was a very busy day. We also visited the Hamaryku gardens, odaiba, Akasaka, Roppongi and Roppongi Hills. I split the day up into a few posts to show more pictures.

We arrived at the fish market at about 6am. The first time I went to Tsukiji it was raining, this time it was dry but freezing. Being my second time there, I rushed into the market and started pointing neat stuff out to Joe, who, as a first time visitor, was a little overwhelmed by the hubbub of activity and the somewhat grotesque selling of fish. After 15 minutes or so, he was acclimated and the fun began. The cold didn’t keep anyone away, and the very narrow aisles of vendors were far more crowded than the last time I was there. I only took a few new pictures, so the bumping didn’t affect me, but Joe went on a picture and video rampage. He nimbly avoided the (as opposed to him) very petite Japanese buyers, who bounced from one vendor to another.