Hikone, schmikone.

I told my mom I wasn’t sure I wanted to go with her to see Hikone castle, but it was such a nice day I decided to go. It was a nice family outing with my mom, sister, and aunt. I’m not sure what made my mom decide to go to Hikone, but it could have been a death march. It was a beautiful 70°F, but in the summertime it would have been awful. I think we had to climb at least 20 stories to get from the base of the castle to the uppermost room.

Hikone Castle.

Keep in mind that the picture is of the main castle building, and that was only about 1/3 of the climb. We also had to cross a moat and climb up very uneven and large stairs to make it to this point. Castles weren’t easy to access because easy access would reduce their security.

The interior of the castle wasn’t very easy to access either. The stairs were more like ladders and I was surprised to see all the elderly people successfully going up and down them.

Hikone Castle stairs.

Finally, the castle town is as bizarre as most tourist spots here, and a cartoon mascot is plastered all over the signs and museums. We saw chrysanthemum shows, creepy dolls in beautiful kimonos, maneki neko collections, and in every one of those exhibit halls was the mascot. We even saw the mascot in a stonemason’s store where it was in amongst the gravestones.

Me and a stone version of the Hikone mascot.

We got back in time to start some shopping. It’s the first day I’ve actually paid for anything besides a hotel room. I bought a lot of kitchen timers for gifts and I bought my mom a DS Lite to replace her stolen GameBoy. I had no idea the screen would be so small but I’m sure my mom will figure it out. I bought myself some t-shirts with odd writing, and my sister told me specifically not to buy some clothes that looked, well, incredibly gay. And by gay I kind of mean stylish and overpriced but I really mean that I would have to start dating dudes with shirts like that.

Actually, some of the shirts were kind of inexpensive and I thought of buying something just to piss off my friend Megan. I think I need to stick to buying more geek gear, like the stuff at Thanko. My sister and I are planning on going there on our last day in Japan.

Back to Osaka.

What’s weirder than pulling into a Japanese rail station and seeing a giant golden Goddess of Mercy?


Maybe it’s going to your cousin’s house and seeing 3 cousins and various kids of theirs for the first time in 16 years! We weren’t going to stick around, but they invited us for dinner and told us we could meet our cousin’s kid’s fianceé. So we stayed for seafood pizza from Domino’s and sushi. Check out the squid and shrimp.

Seafood pizza.

Here’s a picture of my two eldest Osaka cousins (brother Kimikazu and sister Kyoko). That’s Kyoko’s son on the left, and her grandson (the son’s nephew) on her lap. The son was telling us how he did absolutely nothing in college and how his mom wrote his final paper. We asked why it didn’t have his mom’s name on the diploma. He’s a butcher now at a supermarket and works horribly long hours wondering why he went to college at all.

2 of 4 Osaka cousins

Next is a blurry picture of my aunt, my youngest Osaka cousin Maki, and my mom. My aunt is my mom’s older sister. I finally figured out I had the flash turned off later in the day.

Aunt, youngest Osaka Cousin, and ma.

Proof that my sister is in Japan with us: a picture of my sister and my uncle (big brother to my aunt and mom, and father to all my Osaka cousins).

Sis and Osaka Uncle.

And finally, my Osaka cousin, his son, his kid’s fianceé, my cousin’s wife, his middle daughter, and my aunt. Last time I saw them, the son was 12 and the daughter was 9. Now he’s getting married?

Cousins and a possible addition to the family.

I forgot to take a picture of my cousin’s youngest daughter who is 21 now. There are also no pictures of me and everyone has told me that I’ve gotten fat. EVERYONE. That’s not going to keep me from eating. Takoyaki is still on my list of things to eat, and I may have to get more Beard Papa pumpkin cream puffs. I’m going to be even fatter soon!

No picture day.

Funny how I didn’t end up with any pictures today, seeing how I took a few with demo cameras at the store and even got yelled at for taking a picture in the store with a friend’s camera. We’re in Toyama today, visiting family friends. We ended up going to the electronics store to get an ethernet cable, going to the mall twice (once for ice cream), and going to eat sushi on a track. I ate so much sushi for lunch that I couldn’t eat dinner. My sister swears that I pulled the same stunt on a trip to Japan back when we were kids and I wouldn’t eat sushi for years afterwards. The fish is incredibly fresh up here in Toyama, and I ate a lot of it.

Another big surprise is how good the ice cream at Baskin & Robbins is here. The Pumpkin Pudding ice cream really tastes like pumpkin, and the Gingerbread Blueberry ice cream really tastes like gingerbread.

Tomorrow we head back to Osaka and we’ll see what happens there. I expect that I’ll finally start spending some money on silly things. I have to replace my mom’s stolen GameBoy, for example, and I may get her a DS lite and Brain Age. She likes puzzles like that.

Visiting my not-really-my-aunt.

My mom and my sister left for parts north of Tokyo, or at least north-ish, to visit friends. I decided that if there were going to be just all women there, I’d go by myself to my old neighborhood in Osaka instead. This also meant that I could visit with people from my old job and about ten of us went out to dinner at a yakiniku restaurant.

The old gang from Mitsubishi Electric.

We did the traditional exchange of business cards even though my cards are wildly inaccurate at this time. Most everyone is a manager or even above. The tall guy second from the left has lived in the US and I keep in contact with him through email from time-to-time. He’s also the only one who still works for Mitsubishi. Everyone else works for Renesas, a company that’s was started by 55% Hitachi and 45% Mitsubishi.

I stayed at my not-really-my-aunt’s place (mom’s sister’s husband’s sister’s) and they took me to their garden where they’d won one of the prizes for having one of the 10 best out of 450 gardens.

My sort-of-uncle’s prize.

Their vegetable garden is in a community garden that used to be an old bamboo field.

Takanaka’s garden.

Afterwards they took me to a Japanese cafeteria where I got to eat lots of things I haven’t properly had since I left Japan 16 years ago. Certain kinds of fish, croquettes, etc, that we usually get frozen in the US. They didn’t make much money off of me. It only cost about 1000 yen for two of us and I slipped on the way out, dropping my tray and breaking my dishes.

A Japanese cafeteria.

Later on in the day I went looking for places I spent a lot of time and didn’t recognize much. In sixteen years and one huge earthquake, they’ve torn down buildings and put up new ones. They’ve also widened the roads and made new ones, which really confused me. Nobody’s moved very far, but lots of stores have closed. Fortunately, both the bicycle shop and the scooter store I went to are still around. The guys at the motorcycle store still look the same, but Mrs. Maeda passed away a couple of years ago.

Autoshop Maeda

The kid at the bicycle store, who was in middle school, is now running things as his dad had lung cancer. The “kid” is now in his early 30’s.

Naniwaya Cycle.

They’re tearing down buildings to widen the road and I thought the bicycle store was gone but luckily they were still around.

Outside Naniwaya Cycle.

The funny thing is how everything in Osaka is getting to be 100yen stores. Even McDonald’s has a 100yen menu. The weirdest thing, beyond the teriyaki burger and the shrimp-fry wrap with 1000 Island Dressing was the “MegaMac”, a big Mac with doubled-up patties (4 patties!)

So I spent a considerable amount of time and money to get to Japan.

And what am I doing? Hiding in my hotel room. Things have changed in 15 years (my hotel room, for example, has a desk in it and isn’t just the size of my bed) but I remember things don’t open until 10 or later. In any case, I’m not brave enough to get on the train during rush hour with all my luggage. I have my laptop bag, a carry-on-sized-bag for my clothes, and a carry-on-sized-bag for all the presents I brought. As any good Buddhahead knows (and my Korean friends as well) you have to bring a lot of gifts for all your friends and family. Maybe that’s why I shouldn’t have that many friends. I suppose, I don’t, really.

The bathroom of my hotel room is still the weird one-piece-molded-plastic thing, but the toilet has the bidet feature. I’m afraid of most of the water in Japan, so I’m not trying it.

The shower at Shin-Osaka Station Hotel.Molded fancy toilet at Shin-Osaka Station Hotel.

Once again, my ass hurts.

After fifteen years, I finally made it back to Japan. But it took fifteen-and-a-half hours of sitting and my ass always hurts after I fall asleep sitting up. I’ve only been asleep for three or four 10 minute stretches, once on the plane and the rest on the bullet train. It wasn’t all that easy to find the hotel, either. The map was cartoonish and the roads were small and not well marked. Just like the Japan I’m used to.

It’s now 6:30AM US time and I left the house at 11AM yesterday. I better get some sleep while I can.

I wish I had my Mac.

I’m trying to post from my PC, which I only use because it’s all I got. The keyboard I’m using is this old eMachines POS that I got back in the 90’s and really, I’m not sure why I still have the thing. It was the new hotness last Christmas, but now it’s just a computer. I built up a “game machine” but I never did play any games on it. Come to think of it, I still have two unopened games for the PSP I no longer have. Huh.

I didn’t have to spend too long on hold to do all my insurance stuff for the break-in, and I’m not exactly as upset as I probably should be. Most of the stuff is replaceable. There are deductibles and other nonsense, so I’m not going to get full replacement cost on anything, but at least I’ll get some money for some of the things. And I was just thinking that I had too many watches. I didn’t want to just throw them out, but I was wondering what to do with them all. Ah, well.

I want my Mac.

Thursday, at work, I noticed that I couldn’t get to my laptop over the internet. I thought about it for a second, whether I had it in “power saving” mode, and I realized that someone probably stole it. Unfortunately, I was right.

Sometime during the day, between 8:30AM and 3PM, a burglar came and threw a brick through the glass in the back door and broke into the house. They also pulled off and broke a storm window, but didn’t go through that window. They stole 3 Mac laptops which were all the working Macs in the house. They also took my mom’s old coins, a handheld ham radio, and a bunch of wristwatches including the one my dad used to wear. I can replace most of the things they took except for the novelty wristwatches (including an In-N-Out anniversary wristwatch) and the watch my dad used to wear. You can guess what I miss the most.

The police came to take a report, and they even sent someone to check for fingerprints. I figured they wouldn’t bother, and they didn’t find anything smooth enough to take fingerprints from, but it was nice that they sent someone. And a friend who is a contractor came by to help me board up the broken door window.

I’m fairly sure I have a recent backup of my laptop, so I should be OK there. Unfortunately, I got my MacBook Pro on a developer’s discount and replacing just one laptop is going to cost, without the discount, at least $2500 + $330 for the memory. The ham radio only gets used once a year at the Portland Marathon, so I can just quit volunteering for that and I won’t need to replace it. Or I can just borrow a radio from my buddy Greg. And I had too many watches anyway.

Still, what a pain in the ass.

No comments from last night.

I guess I wasn’t too busy, but I wasn’t too happy, either. Someone threw a brick through the back window and broke into the house. So far I can tell they took 3 Mac laptops, my mom’s coin collection, a PSP, a bunch of watches, and a laptop backpack.

I’m taking the day off work to call repairmen, etc.

What fun!

Celebrity day.

I find that I’m much more likely to ride public transit to work when I have something to read. And that’s even though it’s so loud that I can’t read sometimes. Today it was too loud because there were lots of kids going downtown to see the US Women’s Soccer Team play an exhibition match. I moved away, but they were all through the light rail yelling at each other. I’m not sure what the point was, but it would be like, “Ashley! Ashley! Ashley! (then another joining in) Ashley! Ashley! Ashley! Come sit over here!” Then someone in another part of the group would start with another name. Then there were some adults right next to me complaining about their McJob, which sounded quite bad, but what do I expect taking public transit? Certainly not lawyers and doctors.

So my buddy just called and had to tell me he was on a date. He doesn’t date much either, and the woman he was out with knew the NBA ref that crashed into the back of his car a few years back. I’ve told that story before, so I won’t repeat it. But there it is, three degrees of separation from the NBA ref this time. Last time I was a passenger in the car during the crash. I have two degrees of separation to Sam Elliott, who my sister saw shopping in Target. Apparently he grew up in these parts. The Target in question is one with semi-hot young girls working there. Well, they’re “Gresham” hot, if you know what I mean.

My problem with chiropractors.

Dave the Trainer was going on and on about the chiropractor who was teaching some exercise class this weekend and I had to tell him just how little I thought of a group of people that eschewed the scientific method. Basically, I think they’re a bunch of loons who make things up. I thought about it for a while, wondering why I was so against them and I realized a couple of things. I don’t like people who believe in a lie, and this includes certain core beliefs that many people share that I do not.

I also don’t trust my medical care to people who did so much worse in school than I did. I was a big geek and I worked pretty hard for my grades. Well, at least I worked for my grades. The problem is, some of the naturopaths, homeopaths, chiropractors, etc, are those guys who were stoned through my chemistry classes. I’m sure there are those in those fields who did well in school, but I’ve found them to be the exception. Their disdain for Western medicine also translated to a disdain for Western learning. It’s a matter of trust, I suppose, and I really don’t trust someone to look at my bloodwork if they didn’t do well in Biochem.

Ah, well, I can chalk this up to another one of my issues.

Making fun of my sister.

I was told last week by someone that they would call their sister and tell her before they wrote about her in a public forum. I’m guessing they’re either very close to their sibling and call them all time, or they don’t have much of a sense of humor. In any case, here’s some more secrets about her. Well, I’m even exaggerating more than I usually do, because it’s no secret that she has a sweet tooth. And my brother-in-law only likes things made of chocolate. So that means she eats EVERYTHING HERSELF. And she’s tiny. Well, she runs a lot (and I mean a lot) so she burns it all off, but does she share those desserts with her brother across town? (7.9 miles by google maps, about 16 minutes) Not at all.

I think I’ve been losing some weight. It’s pretty simple: I started taking public transportation and walking 20-25 minutes, each way, to the light rail station. I think I’ve decided to drive more often, even though it’s working well for me, because I can do the whole commute in ~35 minutes and I can spend more time at work that way. The more time I spend at work, the less time I have to spend working at home, even though it’s easier working at home than in the lab at work. It’s so comfortable to work on the computer in your underwear, and they kind of frown on that at Megacorp.