Archive for the ‘旅行(travel)’ Category

Tall Cool One

2010年 9月 3日

Demands on my time are high, but I am back in Japan, so it’s time to get posting. Summer this year was filled with activity and travel, so I have a lot of photographs to post as well. Parents Needle (straight)Recently I have been spending a little time learning about how to use GIMP (like Photoshop, but cheaper) as well, so I can trim and repair and adjust the photos a bit.

The second trip was to Seattle. My wife could not join us, so I took my parents-in-law on their first trip to my hometown. We arrived to the announcement that the weather was 12 degrees Celsius. I was sure the Japanese attendant had made a translating error since 20 degrees is just a transposition in Japanese and it certainly couldn’t be that cold. Well, the staff was accurate… it was cold. Fortunately it warmed up and we had beautiful weather the whole trip. A couple mornings had clouds and rain, but otherwise we were ecstatic.

One evening I took my parents along and all five of us enjoyed the Sky City restaurant at the top of the Space Needle. Certainly I have had better food and the prices are a bit high; however, the food was quite good and I was happy to pay for the view and the experience. King crab legs, salmon, seafood pasta, steak, and vegetable gateau were our selections. Everyone seemed pleased. We also ordered some Beecher’s cheese wrapped in prosciutto for an appetizer and sampled the wine. At the end of the meal we had chocolate cake and cobbler with ice cream.

We could clearly see all the way to Canada and Oregon, making it one of the best days of the year and our reservation included sunset.

Today’s photo is a composite of two photos made with some additional software I have been trying out.

Correction: This photo is a composite of three photos made with software from ArcSoft, but first I rotated all the images in GIMP so the tower would not appear bent. See the first attempt here.


Gondolas and Rickshaws

2010年 8月 18日

Gondola 1When people hear ‘Venice’, they often think, ‘gondola’. Considering them the normal transportation for Venice is a bit of a misconception. Normally people travel around by water taxi, water bus, or boat; similarly, to how people in most cities would use taxis, buses, or cars/trucks. Gondolas are really a traditional item left over as a tourist draw. In this sense, I consider them similar to rickshaws, called jinrikisha (人力車), in Japan; which are normally seen around certain temples in Kyoto or Nara. Likewise, both of these modes of transportation carry high costs.

Twenty years ago I took an overnight trip to Venice while working in Sicily. At that time, I heard the price and flatly refused to ride in one. As a matter of fact, I would say you wouldn’t catch me dead in one… unless I was on a honeymoon. Us In GondolaHere we are being escorted around by Eros, recommended by Leslie of Genninger Studio. He gave us a 45 minute tour that kept to relatively small and unoccupied canals, but gave us a taste of tour by swinging past Maria Callas’ opera house and Mozart’s lodgings.

Gondola 2Gondoliers are a select group and are highly skilled. They maneuver narrow canals, sometimes barely wider than two boats. I have never seen their boats touch each other nor any walls or bridges. Their feet, however, will touch all manner of pylons, ledges, or even walls. I have seen some step completely off their boat in motion, leaving one momentarily wondering if they are setting the passengers adrift.

Water taxi drivers are also similarly skilled and given time in September, I may upload some shots ducking under bridges.

I’ll take a moment here to talk about the fact that Venice is sinking. When I was a schoolboy, we often heard tales about how Venice would soon be gone as buildings submerged and collapsed. Growing up knowing the history of Underground Seattle, it was not hard to fathom such a thing; however, the exaggeration was apparently the fault of one vocal person and a lot of wild imaginations.

Reportedly the nominal rate of sinking is 1 millimeter per year, which is one centimeter every decade, or ten centimeters in a century. Perhaps we will be able to visit Venice again in the future. My same school teachers insisted that the seas would rise horribly due to global warming but, decades later, the beaches and tides don’t really seem so different.

It is true that during high tidal seasons, various buildings and squares have ‘issues’.

Doling Them Out

2010年 8月 17日

Far to busy to sort photos from this trip and edit them, so I will dole them out one at a time for now. We arrived in Venice about 10pm and had debated spending the first night at the airport and staying in the Hotel Danieli only the second and third night. Being a five star hotel, the cost is quite high and we felt it might be wasted to arrive at midnight; however, the hassle of moving locations and packing and unpacking won out. We took a water taxi straight to the canal entrance to the lobby and managed to get situated around 11pm. Very lax security in Italy helped speed things along. For a few minutes we were really sheepish and certain that we had gone out a wrong exit or something.

Double Lagoon ViewThe lobby is in a 14th Century palace and was actually a courtyard garden. Entering through that historic grandeur definitely felt nice. Three palaces are connected together to make the hotel, our room was in a modern (19th or 20th Century) wing.

Our room was a double lagoon view. We had seen a photo of a different room we wanted, but found it was a junior suite. Gleefully, the desk clerk offered us that room and indicated the increased cost of just over 300 Euros. Staring into my wife’s beautiful brown eyes, I pondered anteing up until the travel exhaustion gave way to a deeper consciousness; which screamed out, “Didn’t you hear? That’s 300 Euros more, PER NIGHT!” Giving a friendly chuckle I said that was outside of our budget and we’d spend the money on food.

From the photo, the ample size of the bed chamber is fairly clear. Two of the floor to ceiling windows open onto balconies overlooking the broad walkway by the lagoon near Piazza San Marco. Apparently some guests complain about the noise: late at night the adjacent Piazza San Marcos leaks revelers onto the walkway under the windows; and early morning brings cargo traffic, cruise ship horns and tour groups. With the solid wooden shutters latched and ear plugs in, we were blissfully unaware. Off our entry hall were a marble bathroom and a dressing room, as well.

For us this was definitely a luxury expenditure, but on a non-honeymoon trip it might be nice to stay in one of the cheaper rooms there.

Being Italy, there were a few slips in service, but being the top hotel in Venice, we had a superb concierge staff who managed many things for us and potentially saved us a few hundred Euros on our Tuscan lodging. Yes, I tipped them handsomely.

Another Shot

2010年 8月 15日

No apologies this time. I left for our honeymoon in Venice, the Tuscan countryside, and Florence on the eighth and just got back this afternoon. Although I took my NetBook along, a reasonable opportunity to upload photos did not present itself.

Water TaxiWe spent a little time in four countries today (Italy, Holland, Korea, and Japan) so we are a little tired out; however, before I hit the hay, I thought I would upload one photo for you. This shot was taken the first night. We arrived at the Venice airport about 10pm, grabbed our bags, and hopped a water taxi to the hotel. My wife doesn’t like me taking photos and usually doesn’t smile for them, but I have convinced her that those look as good; so, I snapped several shots while asking her questions like, “Where are you?”, “Oh, where are you staying?”, “Are you excited?” I thought this one showed her level well.

Something about water taxis really sets them apart from normal taxis. It was really fun sliding up to the lobby of a 15th century palace turned hotel and stepping off the boat into luxury. The sheer convenience of the taxi made it worth the price. Had we taken the water bus at night we would have arrived confused, tired and very late.


2010年 1月 18日

Another of my fellow teachers in Tsu (津) also lives in Ise (伊勢) with his wife and new baby. His wife’s family is originally from Toba (鳥羽) and run a cafe there called Ciao.

We took our visitors from Yokohama (横浜) there for a little lunch before soaking in a nice hot spring in the afternoon.

Ciao serves a variety of foods: pizzas, pastas, dorias and sandwiches, but more importantly – DESSERTS. Cakes, cookies, and sweets abound.

Recently we have taken interest in their parfaits. They have three sizes, which I’ll translate as mini, normal, and MONSTER. Monster is actually not all that enormous, except for the fact that you can choose any cake from the case and it is ensconced in the upper portion of the parfait. Quite an amusing site!

One lesson we learned was ordering a baked cheesecake to put in a parfait is not the best idea. Being much firmer than the ice cream it is tough to cut into it without disaster; however, the staff was one step ahead of us and had already provided a small plate to put the cake onto, so it all worked out. My recommendation is to pick something fluffier for your MONSTER, perhaps a chocolate chocolate cake.

Anyhow, we enjoyed ourselves immensely and got fattened up just in time to get naked in front of strangers.

No Escape

2009年 10月 13日

Saturday I went to Tsu Matsuri for a couple hours until my hip injury got aggravated – maybe due to the changing weather – and headed to the in-laws for a break. At the festival, I met about 20 people I know: students, teachers, school staff, regular customers at my favorite restaurants, etc. Several other friends from exchange groups and such were at known locations very close by so I could have met them as well, but was too tired. Occasionally it is fun to feel famous, but it can also be very distracting and burdensome. Sunday’s trip would surely bring me relief.

Sunday and Monday I went camping in one of the hardest to reach spots in Mie, Osugidani (大杉谷). Japanese people do things in seasons and camping is not an exception to this. Conventional wisdom says that October is too cold for camping, so people just don’t do it. One willing to face the ostracizing glances from friends, can find great solitude at remote campgrounds in October. Honestly, our main reason for choosing October was just the logistics of our busy schedules.

Initial reports were that we would be the only people in the campground; however, as we were walking through looking for tent area number 5, we heard voices. A family of four was in a bungalow adjacent to our camp. I greeted them and heard the children mumbling to each other. Next the mother asked them, “Is that someone you know?” Using Japanese grammar, which allows exclusion of ‘unneccessary’ information, they replied, “English teacher!”

We normally would take this to mean, “He is our English teacher.”; however, many kids, upon seeing a white face, say that because the only foreigners they know are English teachers. In their world it follows logically that foreigner are English teachers. So I went closer and asked which school they attend. Once I saw the daughters face, I recognized her.

Indeed there is no escape! Fortunately, we mostly kept to ourselves, occasionally sharing short conversations. With proper Japanese manners, the mother apologized for intruding on our get-away when they left. Of course we also politely responded, “That was not the case at all.”

From Land of WA to Land of Wa

2009年 8月 21日

My sweetie and I are both safely back in the Land of Wa (Japan) after our week and a half flurry through the Land of WA (Washington State). She was so excited to meet my family and be fully accepted by them. Before the trip, I said one fear was that she would want to move after visiting. She would laugh each time, but halfway through the trip she said, “I can see why you said that.” Now she is constantly talking about going back, but practically she won’t be able to visit for a long time. Perhaps I should be sending out resumes now…

Points that impressed her about Seattle and Western Washington were:

  • Although there were big buildings and large houses and wide streets, there was serious greenery everywhere which gave a more naturaly feeling.
  • Seattle is about the same size as Nagoya, but the traffic was always moving and people seemed very relaxed. Urgency is at least a few keys down on the scale.
  • Many things she likes are available at Bellevue Square. (She quickly fell in love with Red Mango.)
  • Everyday the air felt comfortable and clean.
  • While many types of trees are the similar to Japan, the scale is completely different.

We were amazed by how many things came up to threaten the trip or our happiness, but remain convinced that God loves us as everything was laid low before us. Wednesday we checked in for our strange routing through YVR and NRT on our way to NGO and the agent neglected to check our bags all the way through. When we got to the gate the Vancouver flight was delayed, which might cause panic, but we went shopping for Godiva instead. Upon returning to the gate they asked if we were Hammond/Sakamoto – I guess we stand out – and they offered to send us directly to Narita because they were afraid for us. This gave us more time to relax in Seattle and Narita together, but didn’t get us home any sooner.

We stopped in Tsu to eat all manner of vegetables with her parents and give them many gifts and stories before driving back to Ise, where we got another big surprise: our genkan was all wet. A couple hours hence, someone will be tearing the ceiling out to find out where the water is coming from, but hopefully the landlord is in the mood to replace some flooring, wallpaper, and ceiling tiles. We’ve got buckets out, but I didn’t let this get in the way of sleeping enough hours to be jet lag free in a day.

Now that I’m back, I’ll be updating more frequently. Also, my joyful visit to the plastic surgeon is making me feel less Van Gogh-like and more creative: wait, is that contradictory?

My Tattoos

2009年 8月 7日

While I’ve got no qualms about other people getting (good) tattoos, I generally have no interest in tattooing my own body. However, thanks to being rolled over the hood of a car and bounced off the pavement, I’m sporting some wonderful shades of blue, yellow, purple, red, and black. Most of the bruises were quite deep and didn’t appear for several days.

Shoulder Bruise and AbrasionMy hip joint was probably the first point to make contact with the car and, as such, is the most tender right now. Despite requests, I won’t put photos of my tush on the internet, so everyone will have to be satisfied with this shot of my left shoulder. There is a matching bruise on my left forearm. I’ve been trying to piece together what hit where, but it’s amazing how confusing things get after the first few hits.

Torn Ear, Temple Abrasion, Black EyeI put up a shot of my face too. The black eye has almost no yellow left and should be looking good by the time I arrive in America. The temple abrasion has a nice layer of skin and doesn’t need a bandage. This has improved my ability to go out in public without frightening children. I asked the nurse today if it was kirei(綺麗), which can mean beautiful or clean, and in this case would generally be healthy. She said yes and I said that it wasn’t (pretty) before the injury. She made a comment about me being ‘full’ of jokes. I told her I had to make a lot of jokes, otherwise I would probably cry. They get to see me everyday, and I did get them to laugh when I said, “Itte kimasu!”, as I left yesterday. This is the greeting you give when leaving home or some place you are regularly expected: it means, “I’m going out and coming back!” and feels like, “I’ll be home soon!” And the best news of all is that the color of the ear wound is getting healthy. Until this morning we couldn’t get the doctor’s approval to fly on Monday, but barring a relapse we should be America bound soon.

Update: My sweetie came by this evening before I could submit this post. She shoved my head in the sink, washed my hair, and inspected the wound while changing the bandage. She thinks it has improved dramatically over the last 12 hours!

The plan is to rest all weekend and eat healthy until Monday. Then in the morning we’ll go to the hospital for a final cleaning and clearance from the doctor before heading straight to the boat to the airport. Our plans in America will probably be a little abbreviated, but our main goals should be met.

Just before the accident I had been studying Phillipians 4 and trying to commit part to memory. I think that this month has been a test of my belief and I hope I come through it faring well. It hasn’t been easy, but don’t they say nothing good ever is?

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to all men, for the Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in all things, through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your minds and your hearts through Christ Jesus.

Asking Permission

2009年 7月 27日

Flurry of activity continued today. Left home before 9am, hoping to get back soon, since it is almost midnight. Tomorrow begins with a morning trip up to Yokkaichi to ask permission to return to Japan.

Re-entry permits always give me a kick in the pants. If someone is given resident status and is allowed to rent a home, why should they need additional permission to leave and come back?

My last re-entry permit expired with my previous visa, so I need to request a new one. Fortunately, the timing works out well this time and it should be valid into 2012 for multiple entry.

Travel Approved

2009年 7月 14日

Yesterday I got a big surprise: apparently in January, our government decided to change the way they treat member nations of the Visa Waiver Program. My darling needed to apply electronically for permission to travel using the new ESTA system.

50 percent of the application area was dedicated to checking the status of applications, leading me to believe there might be significant time required to process. With less than a month left I got a little nervous, but remembered my Philippians 4 and stayed calm.

Today we filled out the form together and approval came back instantly. At first I misunderstood and thought it was explaining the process of receiving approval. Of course, this is only approval to travel to the customs desk, at which point a visa will have to be granted as usual.

One step closer to the big trip!