Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Wednesday night is language night. Kate and I are both taking classes at BCC, she is taking Japanese for teenagers and I am taking German I. Class started last week but I was in Tokyo so tonight was my first class. We're going through a hodgepodge of stuff right now but we ended up with numbers. All the way home, I kept saying zweiundzwanzig. It just sounds soooo German. It's fun to say.

It means 22.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Friday, September 23, 2005


I just got back from a week in Tokyo. Mostly work, but we had a couple of days to wander around, see a few sights and take a few pictures.

Tokyo is an amazing place. At once it is so remarkably similar to any big city in America and yet so completely different. Many of the stores are the same, the electronics goods sold in the impossibly large and bustling Akihabara neighborhood are the exact same ones I can get at home for more or less (usually more) the same price. Many of the signs have English on them as well so it is reasonably easy to get around the city either on foot or using the trains.

Then the differences jump out and smack me on the head. We sit down to lunch at a restaurant with no English menu and play "Let's guess the entree". The cars come at us from the wrong direction and we're expected to walk on the sidewalk on the left side, not the right. Walking down the halls of the hotel, the cleaning staff bows to me and says something. What is the right thing to do in response? Do I bow too? Am I supposed to say something in response? There are more vending machines in Tokyo than anywhere else in the world. They are everywhere and sell just about anything you can imagine. While we’re on the topic, what the hell is in Pocari Sweat – besides several ounces of yucky?

The city is immaculately clean, which is even more amazing given that there are no garbage cans anywhere to throw anything away. I imagine that the locals arrive home each night and immediately empty their pockets of the garbage they have accumulated that day. I know I do. Someone told me that they were all removed after the Sarin gas attacks in 1995 but since those all happened on the trains and not in garbage cans, I am dubious.

The most amazing part is the absolute vastness of the city. Not too surprising given that it has over 12 million citizens, but it seems to run smoothly even given this heavy load. The subway network is huge but well designed and assuming you can get past the occasional language barriers (in some stations, the maps are all Japanese) it is easy to get around the city pretty quickly. We had dinner on the 52nd floor of a building across the street from ours and in every direction, as far as we can see, is more city. Buildings and lights and cars and streets. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office building right outside my hotel window is so big it could easily hold the entire population of several New England towns. It is also a very impressive complex and very cool to photograph at night.

We visited the Shinjuku-gyoen garden which has some gorgeous areas. Calm and serene but with huge buildings often towering in the distance over the trees (see?). It was a lot like Central Park in that way. There is a green house in the park which was a great place to take pictures of flowers. This would have been a good time to have my macro lens, if I owned one.

The food was wonderful. We’ve had a variety of Japanese cuisine, including teppanyaki, sushi and tempura. Phil wanted to go to a roboyaki restaurant but since I was reasonably convinced that roboyaki was just teriyaki made by robots, we chose sushi instead. The highlight has been a place called Gonpachi in Roppongi. Gonpachi is said to have inspired the restaurant set in Kill Bill. The sushi and Kobe beef are outstanding, as is the sake. Even though Josh didn’t get our waitresses phone number (long story) we went back a second time just to savor the beef. Yum!

So now I am nearly finshed with my 41 hour Friday - flying back across the International Date Line is always interesting. Some pictures are posted, more are on their way.

There are some pictures at the link below.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Bumbershoot 2005

Leslie and I went to Bumbershoot on Saturday morning. For those that are unfamiliar, Bumbershoot is Seattle's annual hippie outdoor music and arts festival. While there is a ton to do there, we actually mainly went to see the John Butler Trio perform. I found them on the iTunes Music Store back in May and I've really been into them since then. They're what I call Australian Swamp Rock though that doesn't really do them justice -- it misses out on the jam band, reggae and acoustic street music influences. Great music, strong environmental message, lots of energy.

I was actually worried that I wouldn't be able to take pictures of the band when I saw the sign heading into the stadium that said "No Cameras, recording equipment, video cameras...". My first concern was that I didn't want to have to go all the way out to the parking lot to drop off my camera bag. One of the security folks said it was probably ok as long as I didn't take the camera out of the bag so in we went. Once we were in, I saw one woman right by the stage snapping pictures with her Nikon 35mm camera, another guy taking pictures with his point & shoot digital. Hmm... maybe I could get away with it, but wouldn't my zoom lens be a bit conspicuous? Then another guy set up a big video camera on a tripod about 20 feet to my right. The security folks said nothing so I figured the no cameras thing was not going to be enforced. I was right.

We got to see them up close and I was able to take pictures with my 70-200mm lens so I got even closer. At one point, the bass player saw me taking a picture of him and started snickering at my big ol' lens. Good thing I didn't have the 600mm lens I used at the Blue Angels or he might have just fallen over laughing.

Afterwards we wandered around a bit more. I took more pictures of the Space Needle, taffy making and Leslie's henna tattoo. Fun day!