Before I started my summer internship at A123Systems I spent some time touring Japan.
2012-05-02 Arrival in Tokyo
Most aeroplanes from the USA destined for Japan go to Tokyo, so this is where I started my trip.
2012-05-02 Arrived in a raining Tokyo and checked into my hostel. Luckily I brought enough food to hold me over for the night so I did not need to forage in the rain.
2012-05-03 Vending machines really are everywhere in Japan, however almost all supply beverages of some sort. I wish Boss Coffee would be sold in the USA, because I could 'Boss it up' every morning.
2012-05-03 My first proper meal in Japan was in a small shop under a train with one cook, however I still had to buy a ticket and present it to him. Brilliant concept, it eliminates the cook's need to handle money which is a gross process.
2012-05-03 My meal. Don't ask me what it was, however it was tasty.
2012-05-03 Subway has some interesting sandwiches in Japan. Tuna is my sandwich of choice back home, but I would like to have a debate over the various seafood options found in Japan.
2012-05-04 Hiroshima and Friendship Day Air Show
After two very wet days in Tokyo, I got on the Shinkansen with Nagasaki in mind. However the weather in Hiroshima was nice and I was not looking forward to finding my hostel in the dark, so I departed the Shinkansen.
2012-05-04 Turns out the Hiroshima Flower Festival was occurring in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Luckily for me, I stumbled into this massive event. Unlucky for me as all the hostels were booked. I walked until ten at night looking for a hostel, finally found one that didn't speak English but I was able to sleep.
2012-05-04 Giant paper cranes.
2012-05-04 Looking down the Peace Park you can see the Peace Flame.
2012-05-04 This is the Atomic Bomb Dome, now a World Heritage Site, and was 150m horizontally and 600m vertically away from the center of the blast.
2012-05-05 I wanted to go to Miyajima and got up early to take the train, which quickly filled beyond capacity and I could not get off at my station. So like cattle I followed everyone thinking something much more interesting must be happening.
2012-05-05 Turns out I had happened upon the Friendship Day Airshow at Iwakuni, a USMC Air Station. Thanks to my citizenship, I was able to skip the long queue.
2012-05-05 Before being a USMC base Iwakuni was home to an Imperial Japanese Army Air Service base in World War II, and an original Zero remains in it's hangar.
2012-05-05 A lot of aircraft were on display.
2012-05-05 Japanese bounce houses are awesome; they have both the Space Shuttle and the Titanic sinking.
2012-05-05 The steering wheel is on the wrong side.
2012-05-05 There was a lot of music, I think there were two live bands and a DJ. I caught an F18 flying in the background of this photo.
2012-05-05 The area surrounding the base clearly caters to Americans
2012-05-05 In the afternoon I made it to Miyajima. The island has deer roaming free, which of course come to the tourists to be fed.
2012-05-05 Across the water is the Hiroshima.
2012-05-05 Low tide was at two in the afternoon, so the Floating Tori was a muddy Tori, covered for restoration.
2012-05-05 The island is mostly forested park, and very hilly. I stepped off the beaten path for a bit to lay in my hammock and read a book.
Hiroshima was crowded, so I left for Osaka. If I did not have a Japan Railways Railpass I would not have been able to make such illogical choices at the last minute, as Osaka is not close to Hiroshima.
2012-05-05 Seeing this at night really makes you do a double take.
2012-05-06 The exterior of a Sega Joyopolis. Seems tame enough...
2012-05-06 This map of the Joyopolis does not do it justice. It is one of the scariest places I have ever been, probably because I was there on the last day of a long school holiday. The entire floor dedicated to photo booths was particularly frightening.
2012-05-06 I'm coming!!!
2012-05-06 This is the Umeda Sky Building. I arrived around 9:30 in the morning, and the observation deck was still closed. This combined with the low visibility inspired me to leave.
2012-05-06 Another reason Boss Coffee is awesome, it has Rich on Rich action!
2012-05-06 I made it do Osaka Castle, which has been extensively restored. Immediately before the castle I had stopped in the Osaka Peace Museum, which had exhaustive displays detailing the firebombing in Japan from World War II, leveling most major cities before the war went atomic. I also learnt that the moats around Osaka Castle had been filled in for armouries, so I kept reminding myself that 80 years ago there were factories on these grounds which were then leveled.
2012-05-06 These Komainu Statues were brought to Japan following the Manchurian Incident. In 1984 China officially gave the statues to Japan.
2012-05-06 I seem to run into weddings on my travels. This time I was not the only tourist taking a picture.
2012-05-06 When I think Sweden I think ice cream.
2012-05-06 I was scared that I was not eating enough vegetables, and found this beverage. I think it was mostly fruit, but look at all the pictures!!!
2012-05-06 The sky cleared in the evening so I went to the Osaka Prefectural Government Sakishma Building to look out over Osaka.
2012-05-06 This artificial lake can be found in many metropolitan centres, allowing you to bet on motorboats. Not robots, but better than horses.
2012-05-06 My hostel was in the Shinsekai district, which is supposed to be on of the worst areas in Japan. This is a tribute to how safe Japan is, the only thing that suggested the area was poor was more than normal homeless people, who never bothered me. The area was modeled after Paris and Coney Island. Here is Tennoji's very own Eiffel Tower, Tsūtenkaku.
2012-05-06 Wild Edition!
Kyoto is a short train ride from Osaka, so I finally decided not to ride across the country aimlessly and instead head to Japan's ancient capital.
2012-05-07 I accidental went to a small shrine on the top of a mountain first, which was a lot of stairs and took me nowhere.
2012-05-07 This is looking at the Kiyomizu-dera complex, tucked into the mountainside.
2012-05-07 Looking out from the Kiyomizu-dera over Kyoto
2012-05-07 Next I advanced to the Silver Temple with a zen garden.
2012-05-07 Looking over the moss covered hillside of the Silver Temple.
2012-05-07 Here I am overlooking the Nijo Castle. This castle was built not for defense, but as the Emperor Tokugawa Ieyasu's residence. In order to protect from assassins, "Nightingale Floors" were installed with a mechanism which squeaks when walked on.
2012-05-07 A panorama of the Golden Temple sitting on an island in a pond.
2012-05-07 At the golden temple there is this standing where you throw money. I need one of these in my home, look at all that cash!
2012-05-07 In the vending machine at my hostel is Los Angeles sunshine in a can!
2012-05-07 I met up with these Danish guys in Kyoto and we went out and ate egg pancake things, that I do not remember the name.
2012-05-08 Kobe and Heimeji
Kobe is world renowned for its beef, which is a shame when you are traveling on a budget. Himeji Castle is nearby, which is a shame when it is under major restoration.
2012-05-08 Walking along Kobe I saw this construction site. You could carry all of your supplies by hand to the third floor, or you could be pro and toss the supplies up to your mate.
2012-05-08 I love shipping container construction.
2012-05-09 A short train ride outside Kobe is Himeji, one of the few castles which was spared in World War II. It is beautiful; however it was under repairs when I went so it was a bit disappointing.
After Himeji I went to Fukuoka, making my way South.
2012-05-10 My first stop in the Fukuoka was the Maizuru Park, with the castle ruins as a centrepiece. These ruins highlight how Japanese castles compare to European castles, with really only the foundation made of stone.
2012-05-10 One of the pathways leading through the castle ruins.
2012-05-10 Here is ROBOSQUARE. There was a glass wall with some engineers working, so I think this was the lobby for an engineering facility.
2012-05-10 AIBO: robotic dog. Similar to all of the displays, you would give AIBO a voice command and he would respond. Voice recognition does not work well for my Japanese.
2012-05-10 This robot and a Roomba clone were the only robots that seemed to have a purpose aside from being a child's toy or tech demo.
2012-05-10 This is a statue of Nichiren Shonin, who founded a sect of Buddhism in Japan. Fun fact, the prefecture museum is not in this park despite what my GPS says.
2012-05-10 Chicken and shrimp together as one!
2012-05-10 The Krusher - an expensive Dairy Queen Blizzard with Oreos and ice.
2012-05-11 I went to a sushi train for lunch. I had been to a sushi train in Australia, but some locals were guiding me and I don't remember how I ordered. This sushi train had food going around all the time you could choose from, or you could use the touch screen to order something special, which would have a number in front for your seat place. I might have stolen someone else's dinner.
2012-05-11 My guidebook contained some information I did not find useful.
2012-05-11 Kagoshima and Mt. Aso
Finally made my way as far South as possible (Okinawa was rainy and expensive), reaching Kagoshima. I was able to get my volcano quota in here, also seeing Mt. Aso on my way out.
2012-05-11 In the bay is the volcanic island Sakurajima, which is no longer an island thanks to the 1914 eruption. There is a scenic walk along a lava field; mostly covered in pine trees now.
2012-05-11 The island is known for some of the locally grown fruits and vegetables, including the world's largest radish, the smallest clementine, and the loquat, pictured here. The loquat was awesome, although some selective breeding to make the massive seeds more manageable would help a lot. The texture is similar to a peach, the layout is similar to a pear with one or two seeds dwarfing the rest, and the flavor is a citrus apple mango.
2012-05-11 I would always find myself walking at low tide, which reveals sunken treasures!
2012-05-11 Here is dusk setting over Kagoshima with Sakurajima in the distance.
2012-05-11 This is the bike I borrowed from the hostel to get me to the city outlook. The majority of bikes in Japan are of this layout, simple with fenders and a lamp.
2012-05-11 This is the cereal I ate on the trip. Do not ask me what was inside, however I like the self-sealing aspect of the packaging.
2012-05-12 My train stopped briefly on my way to Mt. Aso, and I took this picture of rural Japan.
2012-05-12 An overview of the viewing area. When I arrived I was told the good viewing areas were off limits thanks to high SO2 levels. I still spent 1000 yen on the ropeway ticket.
2012-05-12 The correct way to see a volcano is by Chinook.
2012-05-12 It may not be obvious, but the red light is currently illuminated in the picture. No one evacuated.
2012-05-12 Aso has a large plain where the crater is, this picture overlooks it.
2012-05-12 I had a bout of good luck and the closer viewing platforms were deemed safe while I was loitering around. It was a mad dash to the crater. Running next an active volcano seemed like a bad idea.
2012-05-12 Look at that silly windsock suggesting that everyone was downwind of a volcano!
2012-05-12 Our fearless hero.
2012-05-12 Instead of paying for a cable ride down I walked. A side trek went into this basin. This caused me to miss a bus down the mountain by 15 minutes, but gave me an opportunity to fly my kite on a volcano.
2012-05-12 Nagasaki and Okayama
I left Aso for Nagasaki the same day. Nagasaki was always my final destination of the trip, as I could remember the name easily and it is about as far South as you can go. After Nagasaki I stopped at Okayama on my return to Tokyo.
2012-05-12 I arrived and found my hostel (easily for a change) as the sun was setting. The next day I saw this steam ship sail out into the bay.
2012-05-13 In the morning I climbed a hill and took this overlook of Nagasaki.
2012-05-13 A construction site showing a modern Japanese house going up.
2012-05-13 Nagasaki is not a large city, but it still supports a full shipyard.
2012-05-13 In the Nagasaki Peace Park. Just before this I went to the Atomic Bomb Museum, which seemed to inspire undertones of that Nagasaki's bomb was unnecessary, and primarily a demonstration to the Soviet Union of America's latest weapon.
2012-05-13 This is the one legged Tori, where the standing half was shielded from the atomic blast.
2012-05-13 These trees were completely stripped of their leaves in the atomic blast.
2012-05-14 On my way north from Nagasaki I stopped at Okayama for one of the most scenic bike rides in Japan. I had already seen lots of temples so on this trip across the Kibi Plain I only took this one picture.
2012-05-14 The Okayama Castle.
2012-05-14 The Korakuen Garden is one of the few gardens designed to produce a feeling of open space in Japan, and was truly unique. Most of Japan tries to make most of little space, and this garden was a refreshing change.
2012-05-15 Departing from Tokyo
My return flight was through Tokyo, and after leaving quickly at the beginning of my trip thanks to the heavy rain, I stayed for a few days in this massive city.
2012-05-15 The infamous Curry Jack. Curry in Japan is similar to Chinese food in the USA: similar to the food it originally was; but very different.
2012-05-15 The most awesome motorcycle bar in existence.
2012-05-16 The Tokyo Skytree is the tallest building in Tokyo (and tallest tower in the world), and is needed to provide television service to the whole city, thanks to the abundance of skyscrapers which are now blocking the Tokyo Tower.
2012-05-16 You must find a balance between macro and micro.
2012-05-16 Shibuya's famous crossing during the day. At night it is more remarkable, but very difficult to photograph.
2012-05-16 Statue of Hachiko, most likely the most famous meeting place in Japan. I was already familiar with this location thanks to video games.
2012-05-17 Taking the new Yurikamone Private Line shows the pinnacle of Japanese rapid transit systems - tyres.
2012-05-17 The reason Japan is so safe is robots have been positioned throughout the city to maintain order.
2012-05-17 I wanted to buy a Pokeball, however Pallette Town did not have any.
2012-05-17 Inside Miraikan, also known as the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation is this massive globe, made of many small LCD screens allowing the world to rotate and the weather to change. This was one of the best science museums I've seen, however there were hundreds of school children so I departed rapidly.
2012-05-17 I saw many people fishing in Japan, however the people in Tokyo are smart, they fish in these stocked ponds, making the task easier.
2012-05-17 Marketing worked on me, on the trains I watched a commercial advertising these rice balls very frequently. What is interesting is the packaging, there was a layer of plastic between the wet rice and the dry seaweed, and you must the open the package specifically so the plastic pulls away correctly.
2012-05-17 I wish I could understand this billboard. I do not think beer is supposed to have a head like this one.
2012-05-17 Men In Black 3 was promoted heavily while I was in Japan, to the point where Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones went on a Japanese game show. The game involved Nerf guns and Frisbee's, fun and bizarre.
2012-05-17 A proper van in Abrakabraba.
2012-05-17 An example of a boxed lunch in Japan - which went on discount just before the supermarket closed. These examples are quite fried; however I do think that boxed lunches are a good alternative to McDonald's.
2012-05-17 I am very angered because I forgot to visit the Kure Maritime Museum in Hiroshima, where a 1/10th scale model of the Battleship Yamato is located.
2012-05-18 Back in Detroit, I am impressed by the size of the vehicles and people's inability to read basic signs.