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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

FABULOUS FALL FANTASY: Day 5--Nagoya to Matsumoto

My morning at the Marriott Nagoya began with the usual enjoyable breakfast:

I then boarded the train to Matsumoto, a ride of two hours.  Along the way, the view included the Japanese Southern Alps and persimmon trees:

It's a 20-minute uphill hike from Matsumoto Station to Matsumoto Castle.  The weather was perfect for ideal.  The city has around a quarter million people.  On the walk up you could already see fall colors.  The Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival is held here annually in August.  The Saito Kinen Orchestra performs, with guests.

This is generally not widely known, but nine months before the Tokyo subway attack in 1995, the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult here practiced the release of sarin mainly to assassinate three judges who were overseeing a court case against them, killing eight and sickening 500 in Matsumoto.

At this point I was getting worried, for I had yet to see Pearl's Gold Koi.  As I was taking photo of fall leaves...

What a feeling of satisfaction.  However, she was again all alone, away from the crowd.

On the trip back I again purchased too much to eat:

That is a bag of crispy wasabi to the left.

Back at the Marriott, I was still filled from that lunch, so just had a small bite:

Not exactly exciting, but another fabulous fall day.  Tomorrow, back to Tokyo.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average again broke its all-time high, up 40 to 22,997.  Great for my endowments.

Lan is now a typhoon, expected to attain at least Category 4 strength, and head straight for TOKYO!!!  

I am scheduled to depart for Bangkok on Monday, so should just about leave before the cataclysm.  However, I'd better look into leaving Tokyo on Sunday.  Why take a chance.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

FABULOUS FALL FANTASY: Day 4: Hokkaido to Nagoya

Here, in mid-October, I'm a week or two too early for the Fall Colors on Hokkaido.  Must be global warming.  Anyway, I Shinkansened from Hokkaido to Tokyo, via Hachinohe, then on to Nagoya.  From Hokkaido, I wanted to have something totally different.  In the history of humanity, no one has, in the same sitting, consumed corn chocolate, kakimochi/peanuts, crispy ika (squid--not the usual which sticks between your teeth), with shochu and red wine from Hokkaido.  

Then between Tokyo and Nagoya I went traditional, with beef over rice/onions, topped with fish eggs, and Kirin beer:

The combination of both was fabulous.

The Marriott Associa right over the Nagoya Station is now my favorite hotel in the world.  The convenience, cost, amenities, name it, this hotel deserves to be #1.  My room view from the 45th floor:

I asked the concierge, given two hours, what should I do?  She sent me to Noritake Gardens, a short walk from the station.  I ended up hiking 3 miles because I actually got lost, but the effort was educational.    Across the street was Nanzan.  Can't read the Japanese, but I wonder if this is related to Nanzan Giro Giro, the dinner venue with my neighbors for the Friday after I return to Honolulu?  Some architecture and art on the way there:

I finally found the garden, and halfway through, it occurred to me that this is the same Noritake that made plates my family used, or, more correctly, porcelain.  The company was founded in 1876 in Noritake, a suburb of Nagoya.  They now also make products for jet planes, golf clubs and you name it.

Strolling though the garden, chimney art, which will get more colorful over the next month:

There are various old brick buildings here and a peaceful fountain setting:

Of course, plates:

Those beer glasses cost $50 each.  I did buy something.  A device that makes spherical ice, for $5:

Oh, you get 10% off by making purchases here.

I got back to my room, took a long bath, and found my way to the executive club, which I would rate as better than the Tokyo Westin:

I got a nice window seat and a fine meal:

I skipped the desserts and ended up with:

Tomorrow, I'm off to Matsumoto to visit Pearl's Gold Koi.  This will be a stressful moment for me, as I once went back and did not see her at all.  However, when I do, this makes my entire trip successful.    

But Tropical Storm Lan is now expected to reach at least Category 4 strength and head straight for Tokyo!!!  The current arrival date is around Monday or Tuesday, and I leave for Bangkok on Monday.  

This can't really be happening.  Must be a bad dream.  I wonder if I should try to leave on Sunday?

Oh, yes, there is that other ocean storm, Hurricane Ophelia, which struck Ireland:

Global warming?


Monday, October 16, 2017


I awoke to a view of Mount Hakodate.

Today, it will be an 8-hour roundtrip train ride from Hakodate to Sapporo and back.

Hokkaido means northern sea circuit, and is the second largest island of Japan.  First, Japan is much smaller than the USA, about the size of California:

The U.S. has a population of 325 million, while that of Japan is 127 million, about what it was in 2000.  We were only 282 million that year.

Hokkaido has 5.4 million people, slightly less than the state of Minnesota.  A better state comparison is that Hokkaido has slightly more people than South Carolina, but is about the same geographical size.  The governor is Harumi Takahashi, not a least, I don't think so.  My father's father came from Utashinai, a small city north of Sapporo.  However, Kenjiro means second son, so she could well be the great-great granddaughter of his brother.

The indigenous Ainu (they have Caucasian features--and as many as 200,000 might still be living Japan, but mostly through mixed marriages) controlled the island until 1457, when Takeda Nobuhiro killed Koshamain.  A quick series of changes occurred just before 1870 at the time of the Meiji Reformation when there was fear of a Russian invasion.  The island was re-named Hokkaido and settlers were sent there.  My great grandparents were among the early ones, from Akita.  Kenjiro was born in Otaru in 1873, the family moved to Sapporo when the population there was less than 2,000 (now 2 million), then on to Utashinai.

But back to Hakodate, where my day started and ended, the population is a bit more than a quarter million, but was a third of a million in 1985.  A further drop to 170,000 is expected by 2040.  Japan is very simply getting older, and by 2060, 40% will be at least 65:

It's just about 200 miles from Hakodate to Sapporo.  The average train takes four hours each way, or only 50 MPH.  There were about dozen stops. Note that, of course, there is no streamlined front.

In comparison, it's about 540 miles from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station to Tokyo Station, and the Shinkansen (bullet train) takes 4.5 hours, or an average of 120 MPH.  That driving time is said to be 12 hours.

I had my standard bento with sake and beer, both from Hokkaido:

I'm on an academic trip, as I'm here in Japan to later this week participate in the retirement ceremony of President Tadashi Matsunaga, so my first stop in Sapporo was Hokkaido University:

In the wake of the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese government in 1876 hired William Clark to establish Sapporo Agriculture College, which is now Hokkaido University.  Clark only spent 8 months in Japan, but he probably made the greatest impact after American Commodore Matthew Perry, who entered Tokyo Bay with four ships in 1853 and ended the 200 year blockade of the country.

Clark was a successful colonel in the Civil War, who became president of what now is the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Unfortunately, after he left Japan, he became with involved in several silver mines, which destroyed his reputation and finances, ruining his health.  He passed away in 1886.

The peak is probably a week or two away, but there were spots of beauty:

I even took a selfie on Gingko Avenue:

Here is a tree with character:

I then went to Nakajima Park:

Time was running out, so I walked by Sapporo Tower and the Clock Tower:

I missed the Botanic Garden of Hokkaido University, but that was because it is closed on Mondays.  If I had only half an hour more, I would have gone to have Sapporo Ramen from Kyowakoku on the 10th floor of the ESTA building.  Alas, I bought the usual bento with sake/beer, but while waiting for my train to come, just where I was standing at the entrance to my entrance, was a kiosk selling hot noodles, so I bought a bowl of soba:

That is a giant fish cake at the top.  Fabulous, but I actually could not finish this meal.

Tomorrow, I'm off for Nagoya.

Oh, oh, a very powerful typhoon is heading toward Japan:

Still a tropical storm, Lan will become a Category 3. I'm leaving Tokyo in a week for Bangkok, and hopefully will be gone by the time he gets here.  Stay tuned.

In the Atlantic, Hurricane Ophelia should still be at Category 1 when she makes landfall today:

Will she be more severe than the Great Storm off 1987?