Purpose one: writing a travelogue to describe my various trips.

Purpose two: muse.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Goodby Kobe

I know I am in Tokyo, thanks to the unique high-rise architecture. I enjoyed my last full day yesterday, having lunch with my friend Hiro, who I met at Nishiho-Sanso. We had a Japanese hot-pot type lunch, the first I had of its kind, and it was outstanding. We called the waitress from an antique phone.

Various unrelated pictures attached.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Little Cherry Blossoms

I posted some cherry blossom pictures. Following is a link to the album and some samples. I did not get the full bloom, only the initial budding. It was already spectacular.


Cherry Blossoms

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Beware the Osaka Hutong

The term 'hutong' originates in China, but I grokked its meaning in Japan. I think of it as a commercial alley. Oriental cities contain a plethora of such little streets and walk-throughs brimming with close-quarters commercialism. The difference is that in Japan, the concept is upgraded to the 21st century and incorporated into a modern cityscape.

In particular, Osaka, where the shopper's paradise makes New York look like Reykjavik, and even Tokyo cannot compete in sheer density, the alluring retail maze is everywhere. If you spot an entry, be careful. It will suck you up, and if you are low on will-power, it will not spit you back out until you max your credit.

In the following series of pictures, I have included one from Hong Kong and one from Beijing, to round it out.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


As I travel around Japan, I notice many details that are distinctly Scandinavian. Sometimes the illusion is so complete as to be uncanny. Following are some pictures that are not that interesting in themselves, except that they could have been taken in Japan or either Denmark or Sweden. To be sure, a native or an expert might notice a revealing detail, so do not take it in a technical sense.

Often, I will see a building or a tile pattern that looks similar to something I might see in Denmark, but something is a little off. For instance, the brick-sizes and methods used in masonry differs slightly, so that a brick building may only look familiar at a distance. Sometimes I cannot put my finger on it. At other times, I will see a house that looks perfectly Danish, but a mountain in the distance or a sign in Kanji destroys the illusion.

To be honest, I am not certain if I initially saw a couple of these patterns, then started looking for them. I will say that they keep jumping out at me in ways that do not happen in other parts of the world.

Poor Norway gets left out. I do not see the wooden construction particular to Norway and northern Sweden, and the mountains near the cities are not dramatic enough.

Himeji, Shogun's Castle

I spent today at Himeji. It was the castle of the first shogun, with a history going back to the 14th century. The current castle was first built in the 17th century, making its history as old as that of Matsumoto, though as I can tell, the latter gets the nod in original construction.

The printed guides unfortunately provided only lackluster historical details, so I did not get a real sense of events surrounding the castle. I did enjoy some more of that wonderful Japanese woodwork. In the 50-60s, they replaced the central support pillar, and the old one is on display. Impressive pieces of wood, especially considering it has been dead for four centuries.

I noticed a repeated pattern of triangle-square-circle. I asked around, but could not find its meaning. I got a sense it was not original with the castle.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I have been partaking of Washoku -- Japanese food. All of it is delicious. The two features I like the most are all the little savory side-dishes, and the noodles. I have been trying noodles in Kobe, Tokyo, Nagoya and Sapparo, and I still think my first discovery is the best.

A hallmark of the Japanese quality is that even the meat-and-potatoes equivalent is tasty. Yesterday I had lunch in a place with a lot of working locals streaming through. The dish was a bowl of rice with some greasy eggs and battered pork, with noodles on the side. It did not look all that appetizing, frankly, but somehow, once I started eating, most of it disappeared.

Thanks to my friend, I have also this time enjoyed a lot of neighbourhood restaurants not featured in any guide, a lot of them vegetarian.