Japan Day 2: Sendai

The jet lag I thought I didn’t have I do have. I woke up several times but the last time, at about 4:45AM, was about as late as I could sleep. I got at least 7 hours, so that was good. I spent some time messing with the janky WiFi (much better at 4:45AM when no one else is on) and reading email. My goal was to get to the JR Rail Pass office before they opened and get on an early train to Sendai. I took a shower, packed up, and went around the corner to the convenience store (a Mini Stop) and picked up a quick breakfast.

I was the first one in line! I quickly filled out the paperwork so I wouldn’t lose my spot and got my Rail Pass before 8:35!

But the next train out was full, and the following train was slow. The first fast train to Sendai wasn’t scheduled until 10:10AM so I had time to kill. I bought a newspaper and found a coffee shop inside the train gates. Since I was planning on sitting there for over and hour and a half, I bought a second breakfast, which was as tasty as the first.

The train ride was uneventful and incredibly fast. There was less janky but still janky Wi Fi on the train, and I ended up using my cell phone as a hot spot, killing the batteries in my laptop and my phone so I could check my email for whatever reason. But I got to Sendai around 11:40AM.

So I dropped off my bags and at noon I was ready to go exploring. I guess there’s only three big things to see in town and you can get there with a one-day bus pass. I got to the bus right as they were leaving and I missed all the discounts the bus pass would’ve given me.

Sendai was a castle town built by a daimyo, Masamune Date. The first stop was a 45-year-old re-creation of his mausoleum, which was bombed to bits during WWII. Like most re-creations, it’s not quite as interesting as the real thing.

There’s a whole lot more I didn’t take pictures of because: re-creation.

The second stop is where the castle was, which was also bombed to bits. It’s on top of a hill, as was the mausoleum, which meant there’s a lot of walking up hills here. There was a great view, but the castle is just a bunch of blocks in the ground where the foundation should’ve been.

The third stop I made was the shrine that Masamune Date built. I really like shrines, but this was just a shrine and preparations were being made for a festival that won’t happen until I leave. I found out the shrine honors the deity of warfare as well. Woof.

I got back to the hotel and my room is very nice. Now this is what a hotel should be like. There’s a big public bath on the second floor and I love soaking in a giant pool of hot water. But I went out to get a Sendai specialty, Maboyakisoba (which was ok at best), and that food plus the lack of sleep and I’m too tired to leave the room again. It’s all I can do to finish this post.

The dessert (and the one small beer) didn’t help.

So there you have it. I took a shower in the room instead of hitting the bath, and tomorrow I either have a big day climbing up to Yamadera (the mountain temple) or I’m heading to the seashore of Matsushima. The weather in the mountains is supposed to be ~85°F tomorrow, and ~95°F the next day, so I probably have to do all the mountain stuff tomorrow or just not do it at all. We’ll see how I feel in the morning.

Japan Day 1: Tokyo

I scheduled a full day in Tokyo to run a particular errand that I’ve been unable to perform for years, getting my fancy watch serviced. The problem with having a multi-thousand-dollar watch is that you’re supposed to pay hundreds every few years to have it “overhauled.” It’s best to have a Grand Seiko overhauled in Japan because they’re supposed to do a better job and Seiko Japan also performs a “complimentary” polish of the scratches on the case and wrist strap that the US repair shop is unable to do. It also takes about a month and you have to hand-deliver and pick up the watch in Tokyo. I’m usually not in Japan for a whole month. Since I’m in Japan for much longer this time, it was time to get the overhaul done.

The plane from Portland arrived in Narita early and I was able to take the watch in on the day I arrived (yesterday). This gave me a full day to kill in Tokyo with very little planned. First, I went out in search of breakfast. (Actually, first I fought with the janky WiFi in the Green Hotel.) I entered the first coffee shop I saw (just at the corner) and bought a “morning set” and a coffee. They were great, by the way.


Then I went out and ran the only other errand I had: mailing presents to friends rather than hauling them around with me for two months before I saw them. After that I was lost, so I took my sister’s advice to go see a stationery store called Kakimori. As soon as I found it I went in through the open door and got kicked out because it was 40 minutes before they opened. And I couldn’t even look in the window because they were taking pictures of the front of the store. What I did see looked a little boring and not worth the trouble, but I read up on the store and it’s kind of interesting. They don’t have that much stuff but they do have lots of papers and options for you to create your own notebook.

That gave me time to wander. I didn’t mind because I rarely come to this side of the Tokyo loop line and I like wandering around Japan. I’m not at work and it’s very different than home.

I found the ink store that was part of Kakimori where you can mix your own fountain pen ink. It wasn’t close to Kakimori, and they also weren’t open until 11AM.

Then I found a chocolatier who also had various varieties of coffee and hot chocolate! This was definitely worth the trip.


And then back to Kakimori and more wandering. No pictures from inside the store but if you’re curious there was a nice blog post about it from the Three Staples blog.

At some point I decided to do some more basic shopping and ran across a massage shop of the Raffine chain. Japanese massages are odd. You don’t disrobe (though you can change into sweats they provide) and they also drape a towel over you and massage you through the towel and your clothing. I got a 15 minute head and shoulder massage, had lunch, and went back for 40 minutes of leg and 40 minutes of back. The second set of massages was from a tiny woman who was incredibly strong and my legs still hurt.

Oh, and I had lunch at Wendy’s, part of my experiment to see if American fast food is better in Japan (mostly yes).

And I broke a silly rule of mine at dinner. I generally won’t go to places where you have to pick out what you want by buying a ticket out of a machine. It’s a stupid rule that I eventually had to break and I had dinner at a place I passed by last year that looked good. In fact, I asked a guy outside and he said, “It’s great, and you can get refills on your rice.” (Of course he said that in Japanese.) It was better than I thought it would be.

On the way home I stopped into Lawson to get some Japanese craft beer and nearby there was a dimly lit sign for the temple where Jigoro Kano invented/codified Judo! I didn’t take a picture because it was too dark, but now I know where it is!

Well that’s it for Tokyo for a while. I’m off to Sendai tomorrow.

Japan 2019 Day 0: Tokyo

Is blogging even a thing anymore? I think I had another question to write here but even though it’s only 8:30PM in Tokyo, it’s 4:30AM in Portland where I started out the day. I’ve almost been awake 24 hours and I’m fading fast.

But even though I had to put up with company elitism at the airport:

Delta special Nike counter

and an uncharacteristically rude Japanese person sitting next to me:

I made it to Japan.

The plane landed an hour early, but the lines at immigration were hideously long. It’s just more practice for standing in lines with lots of Chinese people, as I’m going to do at any touristy site in Japan.

Took the Keisei Liner into Ueno which is zippy and clean.

I got into town early and was even able to drop off my watch for service right next to the National Theatre where they seemed to be having some sort of boy band show and there was a huge line of young women waiting to get in.

The watch place is near Tokyo station which is then not far from Tokyo Tower, so I made it to the Rise and Win taproom near the Tokyo Tower. I met the owner and a couple of his brewers when the came to Japan a few years back. I’m going to visit the brewery later this trip.

Tokyo Tower

Wow, that only took me two hours to post. WordPress is being a huge pain. And my usual headache that I seem to get after a flight to Japan seems to be kicking in. The saline nasal spray an the Neti pot didn’t seem to help. Oh well.

EDIT:
Just a few notes about the hotel. Ueno was historically a place with lots of hotels. I think I remember reading that the merchants stayed here. In any case, booking.com had a listing for the “Green Hotel” (which happens to be Pepto Bismol pink) and it’s rated quite highly. It’s quiet, not too far from Ueno, and clean. It’s also a bit odd. You take your shoes off before you go in (not that big a deal) and my room is on the ground floor, through a door behind the front desk, and through the kitchen.

The room is fine, clean, and pretty cheap. But it doesn’t feel like what I’m used to in a hotel. I’ll probably give it a high rating but it did have everything I needed. A warning though: the bathroom is incredibly tiny, so I wouldn’t suggest it for larger people (I’m only 5’9″ and 185 pounds and it’s tight in there.) Plus it’s the farthest thing from being fancy. Small, budget travelers will be fine here. Larger travelers and people who expect some level of fancy will probably not like it.

I am a f*cking idiot

I have a bunch of fears, as most people do, and one of them is about the keyboard on my MacBook Pro. A minor fear, but it is on the list.

The new MacBook Pro’s came out this week, and I saw a bunch of articles about how they fixed the keyboard! I saw I could get money for a trade-in so went out and bought a new MacBook Pro! So easy! Order online and pick it up in the store!

Well it turns out they didn’t mean “fixed”. They just meant “changed”. My new Mac probably isn’t that much better in the keyboard department than the one I had. I am an idiot.

At least I’m supposed to get almost 50% of the cost back for my trade-in and at least it resets my clock on getting the keyboard fixed. I still have a job (so far) and I can afford to upgrade my MacBook Pro. It’s hard to tell how big a mistake I’ve made until I actually make the mistake so I guess it’s time to wait and see.

Welcome to my new best friend, the 2019 MacBook Pro.

So much for blogging.

I thought I’d be posting more but I’m not. It used to be the cool thing to do but the world has moved on. But now I don’t even look at Facebook or Twitter that much.

I just had to go to my dentist for a sore tooth. Turns out it wasn’t much of anything he could figure out, but the big news is that he’s FINALLY RETIRING. He’s the only dentist I’ve ever had, and it’s his 90th birthday tomorrow! So much is changing.

I should probably eat at home more often. I’ve been going out a lot and I should be saving my money since everyone keeps asking me when I’m going to retire. I don’t know if I could retire anytime soon but it is the fantasy that’s going around right now (i.e. not just for me.)

Anyway, there it is. Lots of airy thoughts that could’ve been tweeted if I could be bothered to tweet. I’m too old to be typing on a phone screen, though.

Oh god, has it been more than a year?

So is blogging still a thing? Does anyone even read blogs any more? Do I even have the ability to match tenses when I’ve had several beers and very little dinner?

I sure haven’t been posting much and let me give you the short version before I go rambling on:

  • Work sucks, and I’m not going to talk about it because I gave up talking about work on a public blog.
  • My mom passed away last year and I had to pay $24,000 in estate taxes. (And it does sound like I’m talking about taxes to avoid talking about the emotional parts of it all.)

What’s happened in that all that time? I think I’ve been through at least two more gyms, doing yoga and then doing kettlebells. Right I’m being quite lazy. I screwed up my back on Thanksgiving moving a queen-sized mattress by myself and it’s still bothering me in odd ways. I got the long-lasting head -> chest -> throat cold that’s been going around and I’m still hoarse. All that means I’m just being fat and drinking beer which seems to be a much more appropriate hobby for a man of my years.

Recreate Fitness is re-re-opening and so I might be back to my old routine, working out and blogging, but who knows? The workouts seem a lot easier (everyone is older, after all) and so my blogging might be just as reduced.And as I implied, I’m not sure blogging is still a thing. Maybe I need to just post a bunch of selfies on Instagram.

A stellar start to 2018!

  1. My yoga studio is canceling all the hot yoga classes and most hot power fusion classes, and the 5PM class. (Can you guess which classes I go to most often?)
  2. Beer causes cancer.
  3. Sessions is going after cannabis, which may be one of the only ways Oregonians can put up with 45.
  4. All my computers are pwned (Maelstrom & Spectre).
  5. My new blood pressure medication is probably causing extreme stomach upset.
  6. I had a hangover after two whole beers.
  7. Some clown decided that stabbing my front tire would be a good idea this morning and that wasn’t cheap to fix.

I’m hoping it doesn’t get so bad that I have to get even more medicated.

Japan 2017 Day 16

Hah. Well, I got back months ago and I still never posted the pictures from the last day. I don’t suppose they’re that interesting, but here they are.

We started out the day at.. wait for it… HOSHINO COFFEE! And we had… wait for it… EGG SLUT! Well, neither of can figure out how to make it (and Mariko actually tried) so it’ll be another year until we can have Egg Slut and the coffee is good so what did you expect?

I had decided we should leave late for the airport, but reconsidered. We found it hard to enjoy Shinjuku with the looming deadline of a train to catch. That meant we got to stand in a line to redo our Narita Express tickets (you get one, and only one, change to your ticket on JR).

There’s actually a lot to do at the airport so we had plenty to do to pass the time, and we also had to pick up some parcels and re-pack our bags.  And we didn’t forget  to make our yearly pilgrimage to the Fujiya in the airport! I’m sure I’ve had this same thing before.

At some point we went in and checked out the lounges. My sister only has Priority Pass (as do I) so we first checked out the KAL business lounge. It wasn’t so bad, but it’s not as nice as the Delta Lounge. I left Mariko at the KAL business lounge nd went to the Delta Lounge and had a couple of beers from the beer robot, talked to some people I’ll never see again, and generally had a pleasant sit in front of my computer.

And then it was time for an uneventful flight back to Portland. We both had Globel Entry so we got through immigration quickly. Our luggage wasn’t last out (my sister has better luck than I do) and we had an interesting Uber ride to her house with a charming driver from Kenya. Sounds like it takes a much longer time to get there than Japan!

And now I’m back in Portland. I caught a cold, didn’t get to do enough yoga, quit my Crossfit gym and generally had an OK fall. I even went to see Billy Joel because my next-door neighbor had tickets and couldn’t convince his wife to go. And the seats weren’t bad. I guess I can’t always be unlucky.

Japan 2017 Day 15

Well, this time my bad sleep was due to all the caffeine. It wasn’t that bad though. Finally figured out I was using my earplugs wrong. Hah.

OK, I had to have another Eggslut at Hoshino Coffee. Yesterday they told my sister they don’t sell mugs and I asked and they said they had to order them and it would take a week You can also buy the mugs online but I bet they only sell in Japan. I’ll find out when I get home.

We went to Ogikubo to meet my sister’s friend Jen. Her family just moved way out west from Shibuya and that was a convenient station to meet. We got there early and hung out in a Misudo because the station was a little on the old side and odd. The 24H shopping mall was closed this morning for some reason and it was cold and windy outside.

Ogikubo turned out to be a bust. We walked from Ogikubo to Nishi-Ogikubo which is fine by us because that’s the sort of thing we did the whole trip anyway. I did find a bookstore in Nishi-Ogikubo that had the puzzle book my mom wanted. We also found a tempura restaurant. The tempura came out as it was cooked and this is only half of it. We also had fish, shiso, and mushrooms.

After that it was off to Yokohama to meet Chico. Instead of taking a rush-hour train, we left early and wandered around the harbor. We had about four hours to kill and the harbor area wasn’t crowded at all. I guess the weekends are a different story. Here, in the distance, you can see the red brick warehouse where we went to Bill’s, a famous Australian breakfast spot.

This is the Nippon Maru, a training ship, and I remember it coming to Portland. I kind of think my dad’s buddy’s cousin was on it.

Bill’s had several craft beers on the menu. They even had Kamiktazu beers from guys I met in Portland, but I stuck with the local Yokohama beer.

I had the wagyu burger and it was fantastic.

No trip to Bill’s is complete without the pancakes and these were great as well.

We took the train back to Tokyo and got back about 10:30. Mariko usually was asleep by that time most nights so it was a little late for us, but worth it.

Japan 2017 Day 14

Do you need to hear another story about how I couldn’t sleep? How this room in the Nishishinjuku Hotel seems to have a leaky window that lets cold air and all the street noise in? Probably not. I don’t even remember any of my weird dreams this night. I did almost crack my head open on the post that’s inexplicably next to my bed and the chanting from the Buddhist temple starts around 5:30 or 6AM (I didn’t actually get up to check the time).

It’s  not a big deal though. We started out the day at Hoshino Coffee, of course.

No pictures of the food because it’s the same as when I was here on my own.

After that we did some more shopping in Shinjuku and headed for the Toto display room. They have flooring, windows, as well as complete bathrooms set up for people to order from. I thought it was just going to be a series of toilets lined up but it’s really for people who are ready to purchase materials for their building or remodeling. But they didn’t mind us wandering around as tourists.

You know what was downstairs? A Shake Shack! I finally get to try the burger that Sean, Nathan, and Erin told me was their favorite. It didn’t live up to the hype, but what could? I found it to be a bit too salty at first but I really liked the crunch on the surface of the burger. If Five Guys could get that crunch, they’d be better by a mile. I think I’d pick Burnside Brewing over this burger. I know this is just supposed to be a fast-food burger, but from what I hear there’s no getting through the line quickly at Shake Shack.

After that we were meeting Mariko’s friend Yumeko in Ebisu. We had time to kill, so I suggested going to Shibuya and walking south. That was good for Mariko because we found something she was looking for –  a can of Coffee Plus Coca-Cola. She didn’t want to drink it, she wanted to give it to me as her guinea pig.

Well, Coffee Plus Coca-Cola tastes like someone mixed a can of Japanese can coffee with Coca-Cola. But then you’d have to bump up the carbonation to get what I drank. Anyway, it was almost awful. Not really awful, just almost.

We met Yumeko for coffee and talked for hours.

We even went to a cake shop afterwards for tea and cake which almost did us all in. The slices of cake were huge and we all finished most of it when we really should have stopped at half. I was planning to make a trip to the Watering Hole after dinner tonight, but all I could stomach for dinner was a bottle of soda water and some chips.

I guess there is such a thing as eating too much on vacation.

Japan 2017 Day 13

Why am I having so much trouble sleeping? I guess I’ve been a light sleeper for a while. Ugh. I heard people out in the hallway at midnight and then at 3AM and it woke me up. I did have an interesting dream about a buddy becoming a Mormon priest with a collar and everything. It doesn’t make any sense, but what dreams do?

It was nice to be at a familiar place, though. Toyoko Inn was only ¥10,022 for two rooms for the night and we got free breakfast as well.

I had no idea how close I was cutting it, but we walked to the train station, bought our ekiben, and then only had a couple minutes on the platform before we got on the train. Here’s my bento.

The Shinkansen trip wasn’t bad, though the people behind us seemed a bit nuts. His iPhone kept going off and for the first hour or so (the trip took about four hours) he kept pushing his suitcase into my seat.

The view of Mt Fuji was obscured by clouds today.

We made it to Shinjuku and did some more shopping (as we do) and stopped in a random coffee shop in the afternoon. They had a wagashi and coffee special which we enjoyed.

After that we checked into the Nishi Shinjuku Hotel and then went out to dinner. Dinner was the Soup-ya which we have been going to for years now. I got their “new” special.

When we left the restaurant, it was raining! That’ll teach me to watch the weather reports. I didn’t go to the Watering Hole for a beer because it’s a 20 minute walk, mostly in the open, and who needs to walk in the rain in Japan? As my aunt says, the rain is different here than in the US. Let’s hope there’s a dryer day for me to get my beer. I got a can of craft beer from Lawson instead.

Japan 2017 Day 12

My opinion is changing about the hotel we stayed at last night only because I actually slept pretty well. I’m not sure it had much to do wit the hotel, but any reason to think better of the place is good, right?

The breakfast that came with the room was pretty impressive. Not the best taste-wise, but there sure was a lot to eat. Surprisingly there were two women in marathon clothing who were eating there as well. I’m not sure it was the best idea to eat this traditional Japanese breakfast, but as my sister says, “You do you.”

After that it was on the train to meet AJ who was going to drive us to watch Yumi run the marathon. We got there about the time the 3-3:30 pace runners were going by. We went to meet Yumi’s parents on the marathon course near 26km, and I found them just in time to see her brother run by. Yumi’s parents had Salonpas spray (sort of like Bengay spray, if it exists) and were providing it to runners.

Sorry, I don’t have the pictures, but my sister does. She even has a great video of AJ cheering the runners. You don’t often see a tall black guy yelling “Gambatte!” in rural Japan and it made everyone smile.

Here’s a picture near where we were standing of a guy harvesting rice.

We had dinner with Yumi and her running club, but we spent most of the afternoon hanging out with AJ. Lunch at Mos Burger (no pictures this time) and some driving around. I saw this guy with a big fishing boat on the back of a mini-pickup truck like they have here in Japan. We were wondering how it was attached and if it was safe to ride behind him.

Somehow we ended up in the Okayama Aeon Mall (the third largest in Japan?) I think it was probably because I suggested finding some craft beer so I could do some day drinking. It was afternoon, so probably more like happy hour.

After that we checked into a familiar Toyoko Inn east of Okayama Station, and then dinner with Yumi and her running club!

Some people don't believe my luck.

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