mm516: Japan – Travelogue 1.4

March 9, 2013

Lynne and Steve’s 30th Anniversary Extravaganza: Our Japan Adventure

Hayama – Yokosuka – Yokohama – Tokyo June 21 – July 1, 2000

Mon. 2000-06-26. Kamakura.

Dan left for work at his usual (5:40!) time, and we were on our own for the morning. Without a car, and before we knew how the buses worked, we were constrained to walking distance. Dan suggested that we check out the park near the beach we had seen our first day, so we walked up to the top of the hill where a parking lot branches off our favorite national route, and walked down to the beach. It wasn’t raining, but it was overcast, and thus looked threatening all day. But the temperature was pleasant, and we walked along the beach, still filled with workmen doing inscrutable things to inscrutable structures which might turn out to be concession stands, and boats and other nautical gear strewn about with un-Japanese untidiness. Very picturesque, since there are rock outcroppings in the water nearby, and a tree-filled spit of land to the south. So, we took pictures.

Found the park, and walked up some stairs to it. A nondescript gazebo, a few benches, some grass. A woman with two extraordinarily cute children was nearby. The kids were playing with each other, and were absolutely adorable. Lynne had to take their picture, and asked (their mother?) for permission, which was cheerfully granted. She had very serviceable English, and told us the girls were each three years old. I haven’t seen the pictures, but even if they only catch half the spirit of these kids, the pictures will be really wonderful.

We walked back along a street that at home would be an alley, dodging oncoming cars all the way. Dodging is unfair: they see us, they go around us, but there just isn’t a lot of room to spare, so it feels dodgy.

As planned, Dan was able to spare the afternoon off, got home noonish, and we set off on our once-canceled visit to Kamakura. This entailed the Great Bus Experiment, which turned out reasonably well. Even though we didn’t quite handle the money thing correctly, the driver politely did so for us. People here are polite, even to barbarians.

The bus landed us as hoped at Zushi, a train station on the Yokosuka line. Kamehara was just one stop away; we transferred to a small local train to get three stops closer to our destination. After a short walk through a colorful part of town (an artist’s colony for hundreds of years, Dan reports) we arrived at the park enclosing the Daibatsu [sp?] Buddha, a worthy site to see. It’s bronze, quite elderly (400-500 years old at least), and BIG, over 35 feet tall. For ¥20 you can even walk inside! We photographed it, and admired it, and purchased souvenirs at its gift shop.

Then, we set off on foot to see a famous shrine. We walked, through more tony residential neighborhoods, up and down alleys somehow accommodating us AND two-way vehicular traffic, always guided by Dan’s excellent guidebook on the area, and by signs promising “So and so Shrine”, “1.9km”, “1.6km”, “600m”, etc. We walked, and walked and walked. I can do the math. 1.9km is less than a mile and a quarter, ordinarily a piece of cake, even on a hot and humid, if still overcast, day. But we never got there. In desperation we walked back toward another shrine, which we found, and which turned out to be distinctly anti-climactic. Just a wood building. And, some special tree, or trees, that Dan wanted to see turned out to be up a tremendously steep set of many too many stairs, so we abandoned that effort.

But, our slogging had a happy end. Walking back around into town (and we had made a large circuit between the local train, and all of our walking) we arrived at another favorite restaurant of Laura and Dan’s, again with no discernable English name. It was down a small path, down the street from the train station (couldn’t have been better for our worn out feet).

This was a true Japanese experience, beginning with removing our shoes at the door (thank goodness, no holy socks!). We sat on cushions placed around a very low table, all set on tatami mats. Very traditional. The specialty of the house is Okinomyaki, a kind of omelet that one cooks for oneself at this house, on the grill set into each table. Dan did the honors; we had two of these delicious dishes, bracketing Yakisoba, a stir fried noodles dish Dan also cooked for us. Dan says that Okinomyaki is the functional equivalent of pizza for Japanese, fast food, not very refined. But delicious, fun because we (er – Dan) cooked it ourselves, and the overall experience, which included a view of a most peaceful garden complete with a pool with fish, was exquisite. And, though I detected an arm of the chopsticks patrol nearby, no action was taken.

After recovering our shoes (don’t ask!), we took the train, and the bus home. A very nice day.

MORE TO COME

So, feeling a bit rusty after more than a four-year hiatus, and reflecting a totally internal need to get some content back into the ether, I’m repurposing a couple of personal travel journals. Because both are lengthy, in excess of 30 pages (Word document pages, that is), I plan to slice them up into more digestible form. I will try to resist the urge for much after-the-fact content or style edits, especially content. This is Yr (justifiably) humble svt, circa 2000, and the travelogue documents an amazing (for us) adventure, and where my head was at nearly 13 years ago. Your comments are always welcome.

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mm515: Japan – Travelogue 1.3

February 25, 2013

Lynne and Steve’s 30th Anniversary Extravaganza: Our Japan Adventure

Hayama – Yokosuka – Yokohama – Tokyo June 21 – July 1, 2000

Sun. 2000-06-25, Election Day, we think. Yokohama.

Did we mention that we guessed that Sunday was Election Day? We saw some posters, with color pictures of mature looking people, and the numbers 6 and 25 sort of close together. But how we knew something must be up: the mini-vans, with clusters of loudspeakers, blaring messages at peak volume. I know that Saturday afternoon both Lynne and Dan were disturbed from their short naps by an unusually loud specimen. Heard them Friday. Lots of them Saturday. A few Sunday, although we were out of town. None since. I guess our poster-decoding was correct. Did the loudest candidate win?

Sunday was our first venture afield. The day started most pleasantly with Sunday brunch at the Officer’s Club on the base. Tablecloths, silver service, polite wait persons, decent buffet style food, mostly occidental but some oriental. The dining room, at the 9:15 hour, was filled with families. Very nice.

After returning his DVD rental, Dan once again parked his car near the entrance, and we walked out into town, down the mall street, to one of the railroad stations. Purchasing our ticket to Yokohama, including a transfer to a different line, from a machine was novel. Dan consulted a chart on the wall to determine the fare, and fed money, bills and coins into the appropriate slots, and received tickets and change. Very efficient. We were headed for a couple of destinations in Yokohama, and the very fast express train got us to the main Yokohama station in less than half an hour.

Transferring to the Negishi line, we rode for about three stops to Kannai station. Dan consulted his map, and led us out of the station, and along a busy boulevard past Yokohama station, home of the Yokohama Bay Stars baseball team. People were camped out waiting to buy tickets for that evening’s 18:00 game. We walked around two sides of the stadium, and, just as the map predicted, found a gateway to Chinatown, our first destination of the day.

Yokohama’s Chinatown is the largest in Japan, and contains about 600 restaurants and 300 or so stores of other kinds. Dan says that some of the restaurants are famous for doing ¥40,000,000,000 per year in business, an absolutely astounding total.

The streets were crowded with tourists, again mostly oriental, sampling the huge dumplings and eyeing restaurant after restaurant. Lynne found a bunch small key chain souvenirs, and we window shopped some of the antique stores (very, very expensive). But, after Dan’s excellent navigating we found a tea store (apparently not the one we were looking for, but okay nonetheless), and bought some bulk green tea.

In retrospect, and we realized it soon, we planned our day wrong. We visited Chinatown, with all of its manifest dining enticements while we were still digesting our delicious breakfast. We should have made Chinatown our second stop, not our first, so we could take advantage.

After Chinatown, we walked back through a park which surrounds the other two sides of Yokohama stadium. They didn’t tell us, though, that it was unpaved, and the mud (from all the rain/mist – our first afternoon here we saw some sun; after that, none until Tuesday) was an unpleasant surprise. We got back on the train at Kannai, and went down a few more stops to Negishi station, where we caught our first bus, to a stop Dan remembered about 10 or so minutes later, near Sainken [sp?] garden.

This is a park and preserve, put together by a wealthy silk merchant over 100 years ago, in the middle of a tony residential area, and not far from docks and refineries. But you’d never know that once inside. For ¥600 each, we were suddenly in a quiet park, with a marsh, and many flowers, and a lake, and a bunch of cats, oddly enough. We walked for a while, and watched a cute young girl feeding pieces of bread to some very large, very hungry carp who had very little competition from one lone duck, and a couple of turtles(!). We finally were hungry, and sat down to an interesting snack of gelled fishcakes (oden, I think, and some served on a stick!), and tea.

We strolled past buildings hundreds of years old that were rescued by this philanthropist (although I believe he lived on the grounds originally), and climbed rather more brick and mud steps than two of us cared to, up to see a three-tiered pagoda from the sixteenth century (I’m remembering).

Recovering (and not a little miffed that we found no benches at the top), we climbed down and entered the inner park, full of more historic buildings gathered from across the country. By then the place was overrun by tour groups, and we had little patience for more. So, we walked the half-mile or so back to the bus stop, took the bus back to the station, took the train back to Yokohama, transferred to a different train than the one we’d taken out, but which got us back to Yokosuka eventually.

Sunday night we threw together some supper at Dan’s, and retired early, once again.

MORE TO COME

So, feeling a bit rusty after more than a four-year hiatus, and reflecting a totally internal need to get some content back into the ether, I’m repurposing a couple of personal travel journals. Because both are lengthy, in excess of 30 pages (Word document pages, that is), I plan to slice them up into more digestible form. I will try to resist the urge for much after-the-fact content or style edits, especially content. This is Yr (justifiably) humble svt, circa 2000, and the travelogue documents an amazing (for us) adventure, and where my head was at nearly 13 years ago. Your comments are always welcome.


mm514: Japan – Travelogue 1.2

February 18, 2013

Lynne and Steve’s 30th Anniversary Extravaganza: Our Japan Adventure

Hayama – Yokosuka – Yokohama – Tokyo June 21 – July 1, 2000

Sat. 2000-06-24. Yokosuka.

Saturday dawned misty/rainy again. The books all said 90 and rainy for this time of year, and, though it’s not quite 90 (thank goodness!), it certainly is shaping up rainy, and way too humid for our tastes. And, regrettably, I don’t think we’re destined to reproduce in person that photograph Dan shared with us of Mt. Fuji from his living room window!

To Yokosuka Naval Base! A sprawling facility (much bigger than the base at Everett where we visited Dan two summers ago), with many warships docked, including the gigantic aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk (CV-63). Dan doesn’t know anyone aboard the carrier, so there’s no chance of a tour, but we came to see the McCain, Dan’s ship.

This was not quite like our tour of the Ray, Dan’s last ship. The John S McCain (DDG-56) is in dry-dock; as Dan promised we saw all of his ship! He was kind of embarrassed, since the ship is in a heavy maintenance cycle. There were workmen (Japanese) hanging over the side blasting off the old paint with high pressure water. There were shrouds over the guns. As Dan said, it’s dirty, noisy and smelly – hardly in condition for a tour. But, we were here, so tour we did.

Dan was an engineering officer on the David R Ray (DD-971), and when we toured that ship, we saw everything, top to bottom. Up ladders (er—staircases – that was one of our strongest memories of that earlier tour: the steep ladders that sailors and officers scramble up and down in all weathers and sea-states that we needed to take very, very carefully) and down, and down, and down. From the bridge to auxiliary engines, we saw it.

On the McCain, Dan is CICO (Combat Information Center Officer), so his spaces are above the main deck, and just below the bridge in the CIC. Under way it’s darkened, lit with red and blue lighting, and the glow from the twenty or so workstations Dan works with. Today, there is regular lighting, the consoles are covered to protect from the painting and the dust, as work is being performed here too.

A brief stop at the bridge (always surprising how little equipment there is on the bridge. The main asset here are eyes), and then to the wardroom where we met a couple of Dan’s colleagues, Misty and Amy. Dan’s stateroom in the Ray was appallingly small, with three men expected to share a space (including a triple bunk) barely the size of my cubicle at work. On the McCain, Dan has a comparatively comfortable space, shared with an officer who’s a department head, thus rating more space. There’s even cable TV (funny, because Dan hasn’t a TV at his home).

So, that was our tour. Workmen, extra hoses, shrouds everywhere, because of the heavy pace of maintenance going on even on a Saturday. But, crippled as our view was, still impressive.

Driving around the base, we got a feel for its size. Lots of ships, so lots of ship support, housing, headquarters, etc. Dan drove us to the Navy Exchange, where we bought some supplies like WD-40 for his balky front door lock, and we headed back toward Hayama. The goal was to get to Dan and Laura’s favorite sushi restaurant ahead of the crowd. Carefully maneuvering into an impossibly small parking space we waited in front for the restaurant to open (I still don’t know its name – no English words here, domo arigato!). A woman came outside, and, using sign language, eventually communicated to us that they weren’t going to open until 12:00, rather than the 11:30 opening Dan expected.

So, to kill some time, we drove around a little, and, at my suggestion, instead of going back to that nerve-wracking parking lot (parking handkerchief is more like it), we parked in the rooftop parking area of good old Sotetsu Rosen, and walked uphill about half a mile or so to the restaurant.

At lunchtime they serve a fixed meal, which is much, much less expensive than a la carte at dinner. We walked in, and sat around a counter filled with fresh looking fish and other items behind glass. Two other couples of Japanese came in at about the same time, and others came in later. Maybe nine or ten seats in all. But, modern enough that we weren’t asked to remove our shoes. Maybe you don’t at sushi restaurants. As we were seated unfortunately under a television, we couldn’t tell as we ate whether the natives were looking at it, or at our semi-fumbling attempts (speaking for Lynne and me) at chopstick use. Reminded me why I hated golf, teeing off in front of a gallery of impatient critics. But I digress.

The meal was wonderful. They kept delivering sushi, placed on a large leaf which served as our individual serving platters, and miso soup, and a concoction of egg with Japanese characters marked on it, and a custardy fish soup, served in a demitasse with a tiny spoon, which tasted wonderful. It was delicious, cost about ¥1300 each I’m remembering, and was memorable. I hope we do it again before we leave.

Saturday afternoon we had planned to visit Kamakura, known for shrines and a spectacular Buddha. But, we had wakened early, and had clambered around the McCain, and had walked back and forth from the supermarket to the restaurant. So we “vegged out,” instead.

This might be a good opportunity to expound on Dan’s bathrooms. We’d been led to expect some interesting bathroom experiences in Japan, and so far, we haven’t been disappointed. At a Denny’s Restaurant (see below), while I found a urinal to be everything I needed in toilet accommodations at the time, Lynne needed to deal with squatting over a toilet. Go figure.

But I digress. Dan’s main bathroom, on the lowest level (meaning a careful two-story trek down from the bedroom) is equipped with a standard toilet, a sink with a heated mirror (to dissipate steam), and a walk-in shower/bathtub compartment that seems larger by itself than our lower level bathroom at home. Dan keeps raving about the bathtub; it seems deep, and optionally can be filled to precise temperature and depth from a control in the kitchen! The shower is excellent, with plenty of water pressure.

But it’s the little half bath upstairs that is a marvel. A small toilet in a tiny space, when one sits down on it the exhaust fan turns on. And, it incorporates an electronically controlled bidet. I don’t think Lynne has tried it, but I’m here to tell you that what Dan describes as the “butt-washer” is an unexpected, unusual, but not unpleasant experience. And, most unique of all to my observation: the wash basin is incorporated into the toilet fixture. When one flushes, water starts running to refill the cistern, as in all toilets. But here, it runs out a faucet that permits one to wash one’s hands, before draining into the cistern. Compact, water-saving, too, too clever.

Well, it wasn’t a page, after all. I hope my fans aren’t too disappointed. Back to Saturday:

Saturday evening, we drove back to the base, where Dan rented his first DVD movie for our later entertainment. His dazzling new computer includes a DVD drive (and a CD-RW — am I envious), and he hoped that the DVD player would provide some visual entertainment in lieu of the television he doesn’t have. Then, parking close to the entrance of the base, we walked for the first time into downtown Yokosuka, with two destinations in mind.

It was about 18:00, and the streets and stores were still crowded. Once again, the English language non-sequiturs abounded. We walked through several blocks made up of individual buildings, but grouped under an awning and labeled Avenue 480, as if it is a form of outdoor mall. Three or four blocks down the street was a stationery store Dan recommended to us. Lynne, who had been advised by a coworker to be alert to stationery purchase opportunities, was entranced by the various items, on three floors, such as charming note paper and matching envelopes, and origami greeting cards, many three-dimensional. Among her inexpensive purchases, she bought a small, beautifully detailed mobile on a stand, for her desk at work.

Another block down was Dan’s favorite tempura restaurant. No English, but pictures. The food was, again, delicious (Dan has good taste, that’s for sure), and, once again, we somehow avoided arrest by the unseen, but certainly present, chopsticks police.

Then, home, to watch our rented movie, “Mumford.” Watching a movie on a 17-inch computer monitor turned out to be surprisingly doable, and the movie itself was delightful. Thence to another early bedtime.

MORE TO COME

So, feeling a bit rusty after more than a four-year hiatus, and reflecting a totally internal need to get some content back into the ether, I’m repurposing a couple of personal travel journals. Because both are lengthy, in excess of 30 pages (Word document pages, that is), I plan to slice them up into more digestible form. I will try to resist the urge for much after-the-fact content or style edits, especially content. This is Yr (justifiably) humble svt, circa 2000, and the travelogue documents an amazing (for us) adventure, and where my head was at nearly 13 years ago. Your comments are always welcome.


WcW013: Telepresence hits the mainstream

July 22, 2008
telepresencenyt8722
Peter Wynn Thompson for The New York Times

wcw1

Web Conferencing Week

Telepresence is the most exciting luxury class concept since the Learjet.

Telepresence is the advanced version of videoconferencing first exposed in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© last 01-August-2007 in WcW004, and then updated in WcW010 24-October-2007.

It’s videoconferences gone ultra high definition, and it just made its way out of the trade press ghetto, into the mainstream in today’s New York Times.

nytimes

As Travel Costs Rise, More Meetings Go Virtual

By STEVE LOHR | Published: July 22, 2008

Jill Smart, an Accenture executive, was skeptical the first time she stepped into her firm’s new videoconferencing room in Chicago for a meeting with a group of colleagues in London. But the videoconferencing technology, known as telepresence, delivered an experience so lifelike, Ms. Smart recalled, that “10 minutes into it, you forget you are not in the room with them.”

Accenture, a technology consulting firm, has installed 13 of the videoconferencing rooms at its offices around the world and plans to have an additional 22 operating before the end of the year.

Accenture figures its consultants used virtual meetings to avoid 240 international trips and 120 domestic flights in May alone, for an annual saving of millions of dollars and countless hours of wearying travel for its workers.

As travel costs rise and airlines cut service, companies large and small are rethinking the face-to-face meeting — and business travel as well. At the same time, the technology has matured to the point where it is often practical, affordable and more productive to move digital bits instead of bodies.

These telepresence studios are not cheap (as much as $350,000 at each end!) compared to the standard issue videoconference suite; just as that first Learjet wasn’t as cheap as a first class airline ticket, until the green eyeshade folks got a look at the productivity gains and the outright savings.

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mm404: Boston, Day 0

June 8, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Flew out of O’Hare this morning headed to Boston for a conference.

We all complain about air travel:

The “Transportation Security Agency” that doesn’t look or act like it could secure its way out of a paper bag.

The airlines who cram people tightly together into smaller and smaller aircraft, and can’t raise prices fast enough to cover their high altitude fuel prices so they’ll soon be charging you to check your luggage (what’s next? air fares denominated in dollars per pound of passenger weight? if it comes to that, guess I’m driving to Boston next time!). And of course, by charging for checked baggage, American (soon to be followed by all the others) are merely incenting hapless travelers to resort to larger and larger carry-ons, for which there is already too little space on those smaller and smaller aircraft they insist on using.

The air travel system in general, with too many of those small airlines crammed into too small terminals, resulting in “weather related” delays and, in some really ugly cases hours sitting on taxiways without food or drink or ventilation.

But, today, I can’t complain.

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