Japan 2020 Day 5

Right now it’s not too late and there’s a fireworks show going on. The first one in Niigata in three years. This is at the same time that there are still a lot of ‘rona cases and, really, I don’t know where to go that wouldn’t be crowded so I’m avoiding it. I’m so boring. To be honest, I’m even more lazy than I am boring.

I had all these crazy travel plans and it turns out that it’s a lot easier to get places if you don’t use JR all the time. Having Niigata not be on the Tohoku pass actually sped things up. Aizu-Wakamatsu to Niigata was less than 2 hours and ¥2100 ($14.16US today). The bus driver was super nice and now I see why there are only two buses per day right now. I got my ticket for tomorrow’s trip to Morioka (which is really far away, actually) and rather than taking a direct trip up the coast to Akita to take the Akita Shinkansen, I’m basically going almost back to Tokyo (Omiya Station) and then going back up to Morioka and that saves me almost 2 hours at a cost of ¥5480 ($36.93US today). Tell me when you can buy 2 hours back for $37.

Anyway, I slept pretty well last night. I’m not sure what everyone else did in their rooms but I spent a bunch of time playing on my computer. Breakfast was pretty good too.

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Then it was time to screw around on my computer even more. I decided to walk to the station. The bus station was across the parking lot. They were busy and the TVs were showing the news of the moment: North Korea decided to fire missiles over Japan to the Pacific Ocean. They even stopped some of the trains as a precaution. I heard they never made it that far and fell into the Sea of Japan.

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After standing around outside for a bit I found a seat at the “cafe”. The cheapest way to sit there was to buy a cup of coffee. To drink it in the cafe cost an extra ¥30 for a total of ¥290. It was worth it. There was an older gentleman at the table and he argued about the seat for 20 minutes before he finally bought a coffee.

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Yeah, that’s a tiny cup of coffee. When I finally decided to get back in line, I noticed there were 14 people in front of me! I was afraid that would be a bad thing but honestly most of the bus was empty. I think I fell asleep almost immediately.

I got to Niigata around noon and was met by two of the Kawasaki “kids” (we’re all around 60). The youngest Dr. Kawasaki got the ‘rona at work (he’s a pathologist) and missed the gathering. The eldest had her husband with her and we got some bakery goods and ate lunch on the banks of the river. It turned out to be a nice day with just a little rain around 5pm which let up before the fireworks in the evening (which I mentioned earlier). I might as well include this picture of Niigata.

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Here’s a picture of the Japanese garden a rich businessman made back 150-ish years ago. Everyone else was taking pictures of the garden from the house; I decided to be a contrarian and took the picture in the opposite direction.

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Mostly it was hanging out and catching up. I went to check into the hotel and it was crowded.

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I suppose it was a holiday.

I should mention that I got my train tickets at a renewed Niigata station. The station was looking a little rough when I was here three years ago and it’s still under construction right now. I was told all the street-level trains are now on elevated tracks.

We dropped off the elder Dr. Kawasaki (he’s the middle one and an ENT) and went out to dinner. Sho and her husband Atsushi live in rural Niigata so they don’t know where to eat. They called their daughter and we found the store she suggested, a salmon restaurant. Here’s a picture of me looking a little tired.

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It was actually not that expensive and very tasty. I think mine worked out to be about $13.50USD? I can’t even get a hamburger at a restaurant for that price any more.

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And then it was back to my hotel. There’s a big bath in the basement but like I said it seemed crowded and I’m going to stick to the oddly small shower in my room.

Honestly, the Global View in Niigata is new and fairly nice but what hipster asshat designed this place? The hooks for the hangers are knobs randomly placed up and down the wall. The seat in the room is an uncomfortable bench. The table is round (an odd shape choice) and while there is an Ethernet port it’s across the room from the table. The TV is one of the smaller LCDs I’ve seen. Oh, and the bathroom is cheap and tiny. The worst part is that it sounds like someone is playing basketball in the floor above me. Or maybe the whine coming out of the AC. I had to turn it off.

Anyway, that’s about it. I have a bunch of email I should probably read. It’s mostly ads, but that pretty much describes the postal mail I receive as well. I’ll do that right after I hit POST on this.

Japan 2022 Day 4

AARGH. It helps if I hit the POST button.

Kind of a cranky day at first but what do you expect? I was trying to get across Japan when I’m used to taking the trains that go up and down. And it started out so well, with the breakfast at the hotel. The staff was unusually chatty and you didn’t have to do anything: they just asked you which of the four options you wanted and they just brought it to you. And like my first day, not that many people were there when the restaurant first opened.

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But then I tried to schedule my next days of travel. Today was fine. But tomorrow sounded bad and the next day was even worse. I was also reminded that Niigata isn’t valid on my Tohoku rail pass because I should’ve gotten a JR East Tohoku pass if I wanted to do go there. Ugh. In any case I think my best option is to take a bus from where I am today, Aizu-Wakamatsu, to Niigata and then I have to find out if I can wrangle the five hour trip to Morioka the next day. Yeah, I did this to myself. And I’m still saving money on train fares because of the trip I’m taking on Sunday (I hope).

Oh, and the view from my hotel room isn’t quite as good, but it’s fine.

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I’m sure I’ll have an example of a horrible view soon enough.

I got a reserved seat on the Shinkansen but I hopped on an earlier train. I forgot to check to make sure the one I got on arrived sooner than the one I was supposed to be on and fortunately I was fine. Then I got on a local train that was full of elderly people. By elderly I mean older than me. And I was taking a chance on my accommodations tonight. More on that later.

Aizu-Wakamatsu station was pretty darn small and I knew my accommodations were not as full-service as a hotel. I had to stash my bag in a coin locker and kill time until the 4PM check-in time. I got an all-day bus pass which worked out if I made 3 or more bus trips and with three stops I made four. The tourist bureau told me to go to the Japanese gardens because the leaves were changing in the area, but I headed straight for the castle. Sure enough, the leaves were changing.

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The castle looked like another reproduction, so while I did walk around for a bit, I never went in.

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I did get really hungry on the bus and the map mentioned “sauce katsudon” and I noticed one of the tourist-trap-ish restaurants at the entrance to the castle had it so I went in and tried it. I’ve found those restaurants are usually pretty good, even if you’re just grabbing soft ice cream to go.

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The sauce was a bit much but it was all pretty good. Then it was time to decide whether I was going to the garden. I went not expecting much. It turned out to be a smaller garden with an attached medicinal herb garden and the fall colors were even better there.

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I missed my next bus (they only came once every 30 minutes) because I was eating and drinking this

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While looking at this

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It was worth it. The next stop was to see something I saw on YouTube before, a Buddhist tower designed as a double-helix so you can go up and come down without ever passing anyone else. But first you had to climb the stairs or take the escalator:

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It’s ¥250 for the escalator. You can get on partway up for ¥100. Like a bug dummy, I took the stairs. It was brutal. Then I kept going up and it was where the Byakkotai committed ritual suicide with monuments celebrating their loyalty from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. I just kept going.

I finally found the Sazaedo DOWN the hill a ways and paid to go in. It was a bit of a disappointment, only 1 ½ turns so you were in and out in no time and I spent most of my time trying to stay out of the way of some dude filming it on his GoPro. I was pretty done with the whole area and I’ve give it a pass. It is a unique feat of geometry but even the woman selling tickets seemed to be over it.

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I took the bus back to the station and then took a taxi to the inn. I was 40 minute early and stood around for a while.

The facilities were (are) underwhelming. The building is old, I can currently hear the staff running around and doors slamming. I was hoping it was an onsen of sorts (I did minimal research). The whole building needs to be redone. I got one of the rooms that includes an in-room bathroom (and I don’t think there are many). The staff also seemed to be a little harried and wanted me to eat at the earliest time slot (6PM) and the same for breakfast (I can’t remember if that was 6AM or 7AM). Oh, and they wanted me to take a bath right away as well. It’s a giant tub and looks like it was made for three people at a time but you get to use it all on your own. I ended up taking a bath at 4:15PM.

Well the real reason you stay here isn’t for any of those reasons. The real reason is the food. It was all spectacular. We started out with raw horse, reconstituted dried sea fish (which is much better than you’d think), corn tofu, and lots of other things from the local area. The bones of the fish were all edible and the corn tofu tasted like cake.

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I also had a sake sampler from the area.

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There was also a salted grilled fish. They had you pull off the dorsal and ventral fins, set it “right” and then press down until the skin split. You then poured in mild vinegar and ate it whole.

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Next course was tempura mostly of local ingredients.

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With more hiding underneath. The round mushroom-looking thing was actually a sweet manjyu (bean paste cake).

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A roasted potato and cheese dengaku, covered in miso sauce. I’m not sure what it was but it was tasty.

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I got a meat plate that the two boys next to me didn’t get.

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Of all the courses, this looked the best but wasn’t. Oh and I wasn’t happy about being next to two guys in their early 20’s but they turned out to be hearing impaired and so no one was talking at all.

The food finished off with rice and miso soup with miso paste to put on the rice. The rice was from the recent harvest. So good.

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And dessert was some fruit. The apples had been soaked in lemon juice.

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And that’s about it. I’ve been listening to loud thumps all night (it’s only 9:20pm) and have to keep reminding myself that they’re most likely still serving dinner. Oh well. The things I do for food adventures.

At least this ticks off 45 prefectures. Two more and I’ll have all 47.


The room was fine after the staff quit rushing around so I got a nice peaceful night of sleep.

Japan 2022 Day 3

I slept a little better but towards the end I felt like I was just lying there awake. I think I got up at 4:30AM? Then I spent wasted a bunch of time screwing around on my computer, which is also what I’m doing right now. I started out by paying bills which happens twice a month on paydays. And I made it down to breakfast when the restaurant opened, at 6:30am. Unlike the restaurant in Tokyo, people were there early. I’m guessing it’s partially a country thing, and its partially because there were older people (older than me!), and mostly because there were lots of people on business trips.

Like dinner, they sprayed my hands with alcohol when I went in and they gave me some clown gloves as an added measure that my filthy, filthy hands didn’t touch the food.

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I grabbed just about one of everything from the buffet and I ate it all. I am not losing any weight not this trip. In my defense, it was all very good. As I expected, the natto was much better since it wasn’t frozen for a long time like the stuff we get in the US, but everything else was good as well.

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I looked up the train schedule and I had several local trains to catch for a two hour trip to Utsunomiya but it didn’t leave until 10am. That meant more time to waste in my room.

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And then I was off. Utsunomiya is a lot bigger than I expected and it looked like there was a lot going on in the train station. Several of the shops were ones I’ve seen in Tokyo and that left an interesting first impression. I took my bags to the hotel, which was several blocks from the station, and had the tourist information person confirm that I should go see the mines that initially made Utsunomiya so famous (or so says one of the travel pages). She told me the bus stop was behind and to go to stop #6. Well, turns out there are TWO stop #6 and she meant behind ME and not behind HER. I was on the wrong side of the station and missed the bus. Fortunately there was one a half-hour later, so I shoved a Lotteria shrimp burger set in my pie hole. It was the most popular burger according to the woman behind the counter and I have to admit it was pretty tasty.

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Then it was a nervous trip out into the countryside where I could barely read the signs and the directions were given to me in Japanese, of course. I should’ve gotten out at the same stop that everyone else did but my instructions seemed to indicate that I needed to go one stop further. One stop further was the middle of nowhere, but it also wasn’t too far from the previous one. This was because several of the tourist attractions were close together and so were the stops.

I made my way to the quarry and a guy asked me if I was cold wearing just my t-shirt. Actually it felt pretty good coming from Oregon. I like it on the cooler side but it’s still warmer here than back home. I had to put on my jacket for the quarry though. I took a bunch of pictures but I’ll just post a couple. Keep in mind these aren’t natural formations, but quarries on the surface.

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And down into one of the cave-like quarries which is the “museum”.

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It was quite a way down and not only were the caverns huge but they went on and on.

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I guess there are hundreds of sites in the area and some are still being used as natural refrigerators. I think this one is used for movies and art installations and they were setting something up. During WWII they used some of the caves to manufacture airplane parts.

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The next attraction was a temple with a goddess carved into the mountain. It’s inside of the temple and you’re not supposed to take photographs. In the past the carving was covered with clay and gold but that all wore off.

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Next to the temple were ancient relics and pottery shards and explanations all in difficult scholarly Japanese so I didn’t read those. And next to the display of treasures were something like a garden. I’m not quite sure, but it was peaceful and pretty.

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Just outside of the temple and around the corner was a giant stone goddess of mercy.

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If you look carefully you can see stairs that go up behind her and I did go up those stairs. I didn’t see all that much from up there but it was a nice view.

That’s about it for the afternoon. I headed to the bus stop and finally realized I hadn’t had nearly enough coffee the day before, so I stopped in the Rock Island Roastery. I was afraid I’d miss the bus because they were so careful in preparing my drink.

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It was also quite good. I met a couple of Israelis at the bus stop and found out that Utsunomiya is only about 2 hours from Tokyo on the “regular” express train that currently costs less than $15. They were headed back right after their visit to the quarry.

On the other hand, I was staying overnight and I needed to get some dinner. I checked into the hotel (same chain as last night) and it’s a newer, nicer, and not-as-quiet hotel (the doors sound very thin). Utsunomiya is known for gyoza and the front desk just suggested I go to the new dining area of the building almost next door. I looked there and I looked in the station and the places I looked at the gyoza just looked like gyoza. So I got out the coin flipping app and decided to go to the fancier place. Turns out it’s a tapas bar so that ended up costing me a bit of money. I also got a “local” craft beer.

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Don’t let the shape of the glass fool you: that’s maybe a 12oz bottle (maybe 10oz?) and that glass is just bigger than a juice glass.

The started boded well for the rest.

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The crostini were tiny but excellent.

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The bbq skewers were small and sold one at a time but good as well.

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I was still hungry so I also ordered a guacamole burger (I think it said wacamole on the menu). They gave me cream cheese for the fries.

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I also had a very small shot of Yamazaki whiskey for the road.

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And then I knew I needed to stop at 7Eleven for some reason but I forgot what that reason was and only got some pumpkin pudding to take back to the hotel for dessert.

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And that’s about it. It’s now 10pm and I’m not falling asleep at my computer. Hooray for the right amount of coffee!

Japan 2022 Day 2

Today did not start out that well for me. I slept OK but I woke up several times with cramps and each time they got worse. Twice in one foot and once in the other plus both thighs. Each was a separate incident and each woke me up. The thigh cramps were the worst. I still felt OK when I got up.

Breakfast wasn’t so bad. It was at the coffee shop downstairs and we got to pick one of the morning sets. I got there before they opened and waited. I think one of the people was fairly new. I got the scrambled eggs and it came with salad, toast, and coffee.

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I’m not sure if I saved any money paying for it with the hotel but the cost wasn’t very different.

After that it was off to Tokyo station to get my East Tohoku Area pass. It’s pretty cheap for five days of travel in Tohoku. Because of the pandemic, most of the travel offices don’t open until 10AM and the one in Tokyo Station is the only one I found that opens earlier, at 8AM.

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Actually, that early the trains weren’t that crowded. I think everyone gets to the office around 9AM.

The next stop was the post office to mail the seven packages my sister gave me. The post office at Narita used to be the easiest to deal with. They were familiar with foreign tourists and would take all sorts of nonsense in the to and from address fields. I had to go to a regular post office and hoped they’d be just as forgiving but no such luck. I had to deal with Japanese bureaucracy.

The first step was to try to sign up for the Japanese app so I could fill the addresses in by copying and pasting. That took an HOUR with all sorts of complicated Japanese and none of the fields would let me copy them into Google Translate. After I finally signed up we found out that they only took Japanese credit cards and my usual workaround, to use American Express, didn’t work because they didn’t take American Express at all. So it was back to filling out the forms by hand. Then I realized that my eyesight has gotten so bad that I can’t see all the strokes in the tiny kanji characters on my iPhone, and I also couldn’t figure out how to get the magnifier setting to work. Since I haven’t had to write any kanji since I left Japan in 1991, I can’t remember how to write hardly any of them. I finally got them to let me write it all in hiragana, which is phonetic. I’m sure my cousin is going to let me have it about that. Anyway, that took another hour and a half. So that’s two and half hours I’ll never get back. Good thing the woman at the travel bureau convinced me not to buy the ticket until I got out of the post office.

Anyway, I planned to take the 10AM train but ended up on the 12PM train to Mito. I knew lunch could be difficult that late (a lot of restaurants close between lunch and dinner here) so I got an ekiben. Not only that, but I got one of the “limited edition” ekiben which was Japanese fried chicken. It helped a bit with my headache.

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I got to Mito around 1PM and was confused about how to get to my hotel. Then I realized it was part of the huge building that was the train station.IMG 6150

I dropped off my bags and headed for the tourist information center and then went on the walk they suggested. First was down the river to the lake.

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And then it was up a hill to the famous garden. I am my father’s son after all.

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There was a cedar forest and a bunch of cherry trees (way out of season for cherry blossoms). Then I headed for a big main street for a different route back to the station. The first thing I headed towards was the art tower and I’m not sure of its purpose.

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I also saw quite a few interesting stores, including a vacuum tube radio store for audio snobs and a giant department store. I also noticed there’s a lot of kids around. Later in the day the crowds at the station were pretty big, but even thought its Monday I guess it’s Halloween. Less than a quarter of the kids were wearing costumes and there were a LOT of kids out.

I did head out for dinner and the guy at the front desk told me I should have ankou (monkfish). The other specialty of the area is natto. I went to an izakaya which is dangerous because I never make it out of one for less than ¥5000. I guess I was just under today. That used to be $50 but with the weak yen it’s more like $32.

I even had a coupon for a free beer.

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Then I had tempura of natto wrapped in shiso leaves. Actually I had it twice because it was so good.

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Then I ordered the ankou, which is a monkfish hot pot.

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I googled monkfish and people call it poor man’s lobster. I found it rubbery like poorly prepared lobster. It’s also quite bony.

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So for round two I got the second order of the tempura and also anko karaage because I wondered if some of the rubberiness was because I overcooked it in the hot pot.

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It was still a little rubbery at times but much better. You can tell I liked it because I’ve already eaten 4 of 6 before I remembered to take this picture.

I made my way through the crowd of kids and got back to the hotel. And now I’m about to pass out. At least it’s closer to 9:30pm, a normal-ish time to go to bed. Tomorrow I’m off to Utsunomiya. I wonder what I’ll find there. I also wonder how loud it will be tonight. I hear a lot of hooting along with trains and loud exhausts.

Japan 2022 Day 1

Well, I made it Japan for the first time in three years. They finally opened the borders for non-Japanese travelers. Unfortunately, some of the conveniences aren’t back and I had to travel through Seattle instead of getting a direct flight from Portland. That meant I had to get up at 4AM and right now I’ve been up for 23½ hours after a restless night of sleep.

It took me a bit to get going and to find an Uber at 4:30AM (the only one available was in Vancouver), but I made it with plenty of time to spare. The weird thing is that the TSA PreCheck line only had 13 people ahead of me while the regular checkin line looked like it had at least 300 people in it. It wound around two separate rooms. When I got in, I went to the Delta SkyClub and had some breakfast.

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Then it was a quick flight to Seattle and we arrived so early that we had to sit on an active taxiway for a while. I had hours to wait in Seattle, so I signed up for Clear and checked out two different lounges, Delta’s and the Priority Plus lounge. Then it was a ten hour flight on an Airbus. The movies seemed older, but I found a few I hadn’t seen yet. Spiderman: No Way Home, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The flight was pretty uneventful, but I made the mistake of drinking lots of coffee to stay awake and it kind of bothered my stomach. I felt a little queasy on landing, and then the crazy taxi ride to my hotel made me feel a little carsick. Oh, the airport post offices used to be open on the weekends but now they’re only open regular post office hours (M-F 9-5). I found that out after taking a bus between terminals and hauling my suitcase and a heavy duffel bag full of presents around. Oh even after walking what seemed like a mile, I breezed through immigrations and had to wait for a long time for my bags.

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Anyway, I made it my hotel and sat around for a bit.

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Then it was dinnertime. My stomach still didn’t feel great, and I didn’t feel like a 40 minute trip to my favorite brewery, so I asked the front desk where to go. They suggested Ameyoko which looked far on the map but turned out just to be around the corner.

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I kind of did what I thought I’d do, which is walking around for an hour and then just eating at the cafe on the first floor of the hotel. I asked what was good and I got the katsu curry with extra rice. It wasn’t big but it was tasty. I sure missed eating Japanese food in Japan.

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I wanted something fizzy to drink so I had a nice lemon squash and it was tasty as well.

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In any case, I’m trying to stay up because going bed at 7PM would mean I wake up ridiculously early and who needs that?

I’m asking for a friend.

Say this friend got an email from a Japanese cell phone company with the line, in Japanese, “If you do not recognize this e-mail, please let us know at the telephone number below.” Say he’d also been out to Xmas dinner and had a couple of drinks there and at home, and perhaps something else that’s legal in the State of Oregon. Should he try calling said Japanese cell phone company and informing them of the mistaken email?

And if this friend did, would you think poorly of him for using his pretty-fluent-but-not-up-on-cell-phone-business-lingo skills to converse with said cell phone company for fifteen minutes (much of it on hold)?

The friend needs a new hobby, right?

Son of a bitch my barber is moving.

I can understand why my barber is moving and it probably follows from this statement I’ve heard from people I consider friends and I’m repeating this like the racist Asian that I am. “There aren’t any black people in Portland.” That’s all I’ll say about that other than I wish him and his family well up in the hated Seattle.

But I’m old and I don’t like change. I’ve only ever had one dentist in my life. He just retired at 90. My last two barbers have moved to Denver and Seattle and that’s a little too far to go to get my hair cut. And (the big one) my mom died a year and a half ago and I’m still thinking about that.

I just got back to work and I now have a new manager, and a new second level manager. Who knows what’s going on?! (I’m being dramatic, the new manager is someone I don’t have any problems with.) The teams I work with have all reorganized and they don’t even know who is in charge of what. And the common high-pressure work situations continue and I DON’T KNOW WHO I’M SUPPOSED TO ASK FOR HELP. (More drama, the people I used to ask may not be who I’m supposed to ask but they’re going to help me as much as they can.)

It really doesn’t help that I’ve switched back to Skogg Kettlebell Gym and I haven’t been there for a year but I still think I can pick up the heavy weights I used to. I know I shouldn’t be trying to hard since I’ve been away for a while and I’m OLD but I’ve still not any brighter and I’m still going to try to lift the weight I used to. How did everything get heavier while I was gone?

Oh, and someone I used to worthlessly flirt with (I know I don’t have to explain that) has moved away and her job and is no longer anywhere nearby.

Goddammit I hope that new Star Wars movie isn’t disappointing. I can’t handle much more disappointment.

P.S. BTW, the latest Hellboy was AWESOME from my Hellboy fanboy point of view.

P.P.S. AND I bought a lottery ticket.

Japan Day 73: Back to Portland!

I didn’t sleep that well, and it wasn’t due to all the beer I had. I had tiny beers. Probably some apprehension about FINALLY GOING HOME after 73 days here. I started packing and it was mostly a lot of flailing. And then just piling things in and making sure the suitcase shut, which it did. Then it was off to Pronto for my last morning set for a while.

And then it was downstairs for a 10:15am bus to the airport. Lots of opportunity for napping, but I didn’t take much of it. The leftmost suitcase and the leftmost purple duffel, are mine after 2 ½ months. The middle suitcase, and the red duffel, are my sister’s after two weeks. Sadie, who was there for five days, has that giant suitcase and we also had to go get her that Nike duffel.

Of course, we went back to Fujiya for our outgoing lunch. Lots of food on my plate and I wasn’t that hungry. I finished the whole thing.

And that’s about it. I’m back home and I finally remembered to upload the last few photos. I’ve been trying to dig my way out of two and a half months of mail (mostly recycling, but not all). I had to sort a bunch of ham radio cards and now that I think of it I have to sign up for some more volunteer stuff. I already spent an hour and a half with banking. I better make a list.

Japan Day 72: Tokyo

I was out late having “one or two last beers” so the comments will have to wait. In fact, these photos are probably all disorganized as well. I met a couple guys from Baton Rouge and we just talked a bunch and I was out a little later than I expected.

Started out the day slowly. I wasn’t feeling great. I think it’s because I’m finally going home and I must be anxious because I’m not sleeping that well. Also, my allergies appear to be flaring up. But we went to Pronto for breakfast.

We went to another museum to see one of my sister’s favorite artists – Yayoi Kusama. We got to her museum and my sister had printed out the wrong tickets. She had tickets for two different days and printed out the wrong ones. She was pretty stressed out, but I knew we could solve things by just taking a taxi back to the hotel so I wasn’t worried. But they just looked us up at the front counter and let us in anyway.

The museum is a little small and doesn’t have a whole lot of her works, but it was fun nevertheless. You get a 90 minute window to go in. If you show up a little later in the window, I think most of the people would’ve cleared out. The current installation doesn’t take the whole time to enjoy.

You’re not supposed to touch this pumpkin.

After that it was another death march, I mean SHOPPING TRIP. We had to buy a cheap duffel for all of Sadie’s new purchases and went to the cheap bag stores in Ameyoko. Found a nice Nike bag (or maybe not so nice) for ¥3000. Then we were off to Akihabara to see the stuff I usually avoid – the anime/manga stuff. Fortunately I know where some of it is located.

Lunch was at an udon shop and I think I was hungry. I didn’t stop to take a picture until I was done.

After Akiba we went to get some sweets. It wasn’t great, but it had ice cream.

Dinner was at Shake Shack. No picture. You know what a burger looks like. The Shinjuku Shake Shack was still pretty full at dinnertime and we had to hover to get a table. Not like Osaka where it’s pretty empty at dinnertime and packed at lunch.

Then, while my sister and Sadie went to buy some last-minute items, I went to have my last one or two beers. Or so I thought.

A nice session IPA from Isekadoya.

Kolsch taste from Loco brewing (I had a half-pint later) and I can’t remember where the hazy is from Uchu (who I seem to follow on Instagram.) OK for a hazy, I suppose.

And finally the guys from Baton Rouge broke out some of the favorites that they brought for the bar. It was a really nicely balanced hazy. Gotta go to Lafayette, LA to get it, apparently. I’d say it would be worth the trip.

Japan Day 71: Tokyo

Apparently everyone is afraid of Crabby now. Actually, it’s probably a combination of a limited breakfast set menu at Hoshino Coffee plus Crabby’s crabbiness, but we tried Cafe Veloce today. It was much better than I expected and the Kaiser roll wasn’t the tasteless lump that I remember from Boston where they called it a bulkie roll.

Sadie surprised us by saying she wanted to go back to Shibuya 109. Inwardly I was kind of panicking and thinking I was going back to my room to hide but my sister was able to convince her to make the trip solo. Shibuya can be a confusing place (and too full of people taking pictures in the g*dd*mn Shibuya Scramble which is just a f*cking crosswalk you stupid tourist f*cks) but if you go out the right exit the Shibuya 109 is straight ahead. Phew.

My sister and I did some very gentle shopping (old people shopping) in Shinjuku and even had lunch in the Keio Department store, where the rest of the customers on the restaurant floor probably had 20 years on us. And I’m not young. I was going to get the same thing I had once before (gratin & Croque Monsieur) then I saw beef stroganoff on the menu. My mom used to make Japanese beef stroganoff and so that’s what I got.

In the afternoon it was off to Team Lab Borderless to meet our friend Chico who my sister knew from high school. I don’t know if my sister got the picture right but there were lots of people getting their picture taken on the top of this rise. Many of them were women who would look over their shoulders and give a slutty look. I tried making faces but I think she missed it.

A lot of it was kind of dumb and amazing. Dumb was the mirrored room full of hanging lamps that would change colors in waves. After waiting for 40 minutes and finally making it inside, my heart sank because it just looked like the showroom of Globe Lighting in my neighborhood, where I can go for free.

Lots of people taking pictures or just looking at their phones. My sister took another picture of me in the LED light room which was one of the amazing rooms.

Team Lab Borderless is in Odaiba, which is an artificial island. We decided to go to dinner on the island and it was a long slog. A lot of the malls had awful food and our first try at finding an udon restaurant was a bust because at night they switched to an izakaya with a different menu.

We finally decided to go to Bills, an Australian chain, and that was pretty good.

We got back late. If we keep this up I’m going to need a long vacation from my vacation.

Japan Day 70: Tokyo

Oh boy, I’m too old for a full day of shopping, but that’s what we did. I think I may ditch my sister and Sadie and hide somewhere tomorrow. I know that won’t happen but I can dream, can’t I?

I also didn’t sleep well. Neither did my sister. I think the tiramisu we both ate had a bunch of strong coffee in it, but that’s just my guess.

We went back to see Crabby at Hoshino Coffee and my sister confirmed that she is not only crabby but Sadie said she was kind of frightening as well. I was happy to find out that I wasn’t just imagining things.

After that it was off to Shibuya to the Loft, and then I suggested Sadie go to the Shibuya 109 because it’s meant for young girls and not for creepy old dudes like me. I refused to go in. I’ve heard even dads feel uncomfortable with their daughters there and they just wait somewhere else rather than go in. Later I was told by someone much younger than me that you probably have to be in your early 20’s at the oldest (and female) to shop there. Sadie never made it to all the floors and went back after lunch.

Lunch was at Harbs, a restaurant/cake store where my sister and I got so much sugar that we felt sick afterwards. Fortunately, the lunch set only came with a half-slice of cake. We didn’t get much of a choice, either. Everybody but me got the rare cheesecake. Everybody but me go the bacon, spinach, and tomato pasta. I had chicken and mushrooms and some sort of cake that was more fluff than anything.

A tiny piece as well.

Sadie went back to Shibuya 109, as I said, and we went to Don Quixote where my sister found special Q-Tips. Or should I say “cotton swabs” since they weren’t the Q-Tip brand. Then my sister and I went to a bookstore and both dragged around and waited for death. I mean we waited for Sadie to finish shopping.

For dinner we went to Eggslut and I had the something-something 20 burger again. I forgot what it’s really called. My sister had the slut and a salad. It was as tasty as I remember.

And that’s it for today. I may pass out soon, but I really want to finish watching Mission: Impossible 4. I’ll have to find some sort of compromise.

Japan Day 69: Tokyo

So much for getting up on time. I drank a bunch of Japanese beer last night and slept quite well. Got up a couple of times to go to the bathroom, but I don’t think I drank too much because I didn’t have the usual tossing and turning and felt quite good in the morning. However, my Bose Sleepbuds cut out in the middle of the night so I didn’t get an alarm. Then the alarm clock in the room didn’t go off so I ended up oversleeping. I heard my phone buzzing and wondered why in the heck it wasn’t muted since it was the middle of the night but no, it was 7:25am, almost an hour after when I planned to get up!

I was still able to pack all my crap up (we gained a bit in Okayama, including some fabric my sister told me would be heavy to carry home) and get on the road just after 8am. We stopped in the same coffee shop that I went to in Okayama Station.

Then it was the Shinkansen for the four-hour trip to Tokyo.

As soon as we got to the hotel, we met our friend’s daughter Sadie who had flown in from Portland and we all went to have lunch. The lunch was so filling I only ate snacks for dinner (some Jagabee potato sticks I bought a couple of days ago and that I’ve been carrying around with me).

After that we checked into our rooms and immediately went shopping. Not so much for me, but Sadie’s only here for a week so I didn’t get much down time. And it was raining in Tokyo again!

Fortunately my sister and Sadie had an appointment at the manicurist (the place where I had to go and confirm the reservations for them on my previous stay in Tokyo) and I got to sit in my room for a while while they went. I think I’m still kind of tired from not waking up normally. Fortunately, the Sun Route in Shinjuku has comfortable rooms and if it’s the same quiet place as last year.

Some people don't believe my luck.