Japan 2008

I took a week-long trip to visit a few camera companies for Dolby in Japan. A good time, and productive as well.

DSC_6017 DSC_6017.JPG
The Century Southern Tower hotel lobby, on the 20th floor.

DSC_6012 DSC_6012.JPG
The room where I stayed in Tokyo the first fitful night.

DSC_6019 DSC_6019.JPG
Shinjuku station, as seen from my hotel window.

DSC_6026a DSC_6026a.jpg
Katsumi, Doug, Trevor
My Dolby companions at dinner the first night.

DSC_6203 DSC_6203.JPG
This is the train we boarded for Suwa Lake the next morning -- or one like it.

DSC_6066 DSC_6066.JPG
The Japanese mountains are really quite beautiful, and this was the first time I had seen them.

DSC_6182 DSC_6182.JPG
Another view from the train, which explains the blur. This seems to be a common way to dry hay. Most of the farm plots we saw were less than a few acres, and appeared to be maintained largely by hand.

DSC_6100 DSC_6100.JPG
The cylinder is an oddly popular shape for buildings, and we saw many such examples. I have no idea how they make it practical, and I didn't get inside of one to check it out.

DSC_6130 DSC_6130.JPG
A respectful Buddhist figure, about 30m high, adorning a town's hillside.

DSC_6134 DSC_6134.JPG
OK, this is an odd shot to include in my album, but the sheer excess of power lines and connections on the electrical poles was striking, and unlike anything I have seen in other parts of the world.

DSC_6204 DSC_6204.JPG
Hot Spring Bath
Doug checking out a natural hot spring bath located right in the train station.

DSC_6208 DSC_6208.JPG
Along with the unfamiliar, we found many familiar places, especially in terms of food & coffee outlets. (Sorry, but that's the best word for them.)

DSC_6216 DSC_6216.JPG
Another nerd shot, this one of a compressed natural gas tank in the trunk of the cab we took from the rail station. Apparently, most cabs run on CNG as a cost (and pollution) saving measure.

DSC_6225 DSC_6225.JPG
A typical Japanese apartment building. I don't think they use dryers here, at least not when the weather is nice. It reminded me a lot of Switzerland in many respects -- a similarity Doug pointed out early on.

DSC_6226a DSC_6226a.jpg
Trevor and Doug with the folks we met from ImageLink, the company president (M. Uchiyama) and the executive director of product development (H. Niwa). That's Katsumi again on the far right.

DSC_6239a DSC_6239a.jpg
Most of the vehicles here are decorated in fanciful images -- the pears are apparently a mark of this area, and pear trees were found everywhere. The fruit, which is nearly ripe this time of year, is individually wrapped in paper to protect from frost.

DSC_6264 DSC_6264.JPG
Even the manhole covers get special attention.

DSC_6269 DSC_6269.JPG
Trevor spotted this giant moth, which Doug teased to get it to open its wings for us.

DSC_6282 DSC_6282.JPG
Check out the pizzas, a work of art in themselves. Note the row of dessert pizzas. We opted for Japanese food, all the same.

DSC_6291 DSC_6291.JPG
Searching for a restaurant.

DSC_6296a DSC_6296a.jpg
And finding one! Very fancy, and not too expensive compared to Tokyo. (The cost per person was around $60 US, if I understand the exchange rates properly.)

DSC_6304 DSC_6304.JPG
Doug with Katsumi, with course number 3 or 4. (I lost count).

DSC_6306 DSC_6306.JPG
A night shot of a boat parked aside the canal near our hotel.

DSC_6313 DSC_6313.JPG
My hotel room in Suwa City.

DSC_6316 DSC_6316.JPG
For those crazy days...

SuwaCityPano SuwaCityPano.jpg
Sunrise the next morning as seen from my hotel window.

DSC_6345 DSC_6345.JPG
Mt. Fuji
Through the gap in the distant hills, Mount Fuji was just visible.

SuwaLakeSunrise SuwaLakeSunrise.tif
The morning moon over Lake Suwa.

DSC_6319 DSC_6319.JPG
Some of those individually wrapped pears I mentioned.

DSC_6581 DSC_6581.JPG
Some fanciful tourist boats. I didn't notice it at the time, but perched in the crown on the goosehead prow is a bird of prey!

DSC_6602 DSC_6602.JPG
Another Buddhist sculpture, about 50 meters from shore. An island reachable only by small boat was some 300 meters out, visible to the left.

SuwaSpire3 SuwaSpire3.tif
A striking (and sometimes blinding) sculpture along the shore walk.

DSC_6674 DSC_6674.JPG
The next day, we traveled back to our original hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo. My room is in the third floor from the top.

DSC_6649 DSC_6649.JPG
Like NYC, most people in Tokyo get from place to place on foot, bicycle, and/or subway.

DSC_6651 DSC_6651.JPG
One of the many-storied electronics stores in the downtown area.

DSC_6655 DSC_6655.JPG
A Pachinko Palace, where people spend hours gambling with little silver balls. The noise is deafening.

DSC_6659 DSC_6659.JPG
Doug was quite eager to treat us to "Yakatori," a traditional skewered chicken cuisine, where every part of the bird is utilized. ('Even the feathers?' I ask. "No, not the feathers," says Doug.)

DSC_6660 DSC_6660.JPG
However, when we got our menus, we realized we might as well be ordering feathers, as there wasn't a spot of English on it, and our translator had left us on our own for the evening... None of the folks at the restaurant spoke any English (or French or any other close-approach language), so we were left with guessing and pointing. Eventually, we managed to eat something, though we weren't always sure what it was.

DSC_6661 DSC_6661.JPG
A nice interior shot of the restaurant. Note the complete lack of English, and the waitresses also seemed to be avoiding us.

DSC_6662 DSC_6662.JPG
Food, at last!

DSC_6663 DSC_6663.JPG
Doug has his next career all picked out -- he wants to sell covered scooters with mag wheels in North America.

DSC_6675 DSC_6675.JPG
The next morning, I wanted to visit this nearby (large) park I could see out my window. I was early, apparently (6am), and no one was about, except for the homeless I didn't think existed in Japan...

DSC_6693 DSC_6693.JPG
I went through a highly variable neighborhood, but no matter where I went, a vending machine dispensing a variety of beverages wasn't more than 50 feet away.

DSC_6724 DSC_6724.JPG
I discovered that the park had to be entered through a toll gate, which didn't open until 9am, so I gave up and went back to the hotel to meet the others for breakfast. Afterwards, we walked to our meeting with Olympus Cameras, and spotted this imposing government building on the way.

DSC_6725 DSC_6725.JPG
The meeting with Olympus went well, so we treated ourselves to sushi for lunch. This was my request, as I hadn't managed to eat any sushi all week.

DSC_6726 DSC_6726.JPG
This wasn't only my portion -- we split it three ways. We barely got through it, but it was delicious!

DSC_6741 DSC_6741.JPG
Here are Katsumi and Doug outside the restaurant. Trevor headed for the airport after breakfast, as he wasn't involved in the Olympus meeting.

DSC_6744 DSC_6744.JPG
Biking in high-heeled boots. Notice how the pedestrians clear a path...

DSC_6752 DSC_6752.JPG
The very notion of a van that you can nearly hide behind a tree fascinates Americans like me who are used to vans and SUVs that get their own zip code.

DSC_6746 DSC_6746.JPG
The Japanese take their gardening seriously.

DSC_6758 DSC_6758.JPG
Since our afternoon meeting with Nikon got canceled due to circumstances beyond our (or their) control, I went back in search of an entrance to the park, and found it.

TokyoPark1 TokyoPark1.jpg
A high dynamic-range view overlooking the park.

DSC_6790 DSC_6790.JPG
From what I understood of the plaque explaining it, this is a replica of a wedding house dedicated to some famous person (or couple), whose name and significance escape me now.

TokyoWeddingHouse2 TokyoWeddingHouse2.jpg
A view from inside the wedding house. I took several pictures of this, because it was the nicest part of the park I saw. The rest was pretty bland -- not quite what I expected of a Japanese botanical garden, which is how the park was billed.

DSC_6799 DSC_6799.JPG
A heavy intervention case -- the gardeners here are more like modern surgeons, it seems.

DSC_6820 DSC_6820.JPG
That evening, my friend Noriko came to fetch Doug and me to the main temple in Asakusa, which was about 30 minutes away by subway (still in Tokyo). On the way to the station, I snapped this photo of one of the many exported food shops we see here. Halloween is another export -- I don't know if it's catching on at all, especially given the general lack of sweets. (I spend quite a bit of my time hunting down chocolate, which is very elusive in these parts.) Sardine Snickers, anyone?

DSC_6818 DSC_6818.JPG
One of the less-crowded subway cars we rode in.

DSC_6895 DSC_6895.JPG
I thought this sign, tiled into the sidewalk near the subway, was pretty cute.

DSC_6890 DSC_6890.JPG
This is a friendly-looking guardian at one side of the main entrance to the temple grounds.

DSC_6892 DSC_6892.JPG
A less-friendly looking guardian.

DSC_6844 DSC_6844.JPG
Here's a good view of the Sensoji Temple. Obviously, we missed daylight, but the place was pretty well-lit.

DSC_6849 DSC_6849.JPG
Another nice view of one of the pagodas they had off to the side of the main temple. We didn't go inside anywhere, but Doug & Noriko put some coins in the proper place and made a little prayer for our prosperity.

DSC_6853 DSC_6853.JPG
This is the fountain where you are supposed to wash after (or is it before?) going into the temple.

DSC_6856 DSC_6856.JPG
The dragon spigots were shut off at this hour, but a friendly passer-by took the time to explain to me (in English) what the fountain was all about.

DSC_6872 DSC_6872.JPG
As you will find in nearly every religious spot around the world, there were more souvenir shops than you shake a bamboo pole at.

DSC_6887 DSC_6887.JPG
We stopped into a little tea house just before closing to have some fruit and green tea. That's my friend Noriko on the right, a freelance technical author I've known for about 5 years, who lives in Tokyo.

DSC_6904 DSC_6904.JPG
A typical sight on the subway escalator.

DSC_6900 DSC_6900.JPG
The Tokyo subway goes everywhere, and everyone uses the system, but I would hate to go it alone...

DSC_6901 DSC_6901.JPG
Not that loneliness is really an option during rush hour.

DSC_6909 DSC_6909.JPG
Noriko arranged a little dinner for us, and invited a number of friends to introduce. That number turned out to be 16, if I count the business cards I gathered correctly. I felt very honored (and a bit overwhelmed).

DSC_6911 DSC_6911.JPG
The food was a traditional stew favored by sumo wrestlers, called Chanko-Nabe, which is a kind of chicken-vegetable dish. It was delicious. (Be sure to check out the menu: www.chankoya.com.)

DSC_6919 DSC_6919.JPG
A typical Tokyo street scene, on our walk back to the hotel.

DSC_6921 DSC_6921.JPG
The sidewalk and street cleaners doing a characteristically thorough job.

DSC_6957 DSC_6957.JPG
The next day, Noriko helped me find the way by train to the shopping district in Harajuku, where she used to live.

DSC_6923 DSC_6923.JPG
Shopping seems to be the national pastime, and the Saturday streets were crowded.

DSC_6926 DSC_6926.JPG
A few of the stores employed hawkers to get passing shoppers' attention. This crier attracted attention in multiple ways.

Harajuku1 Harajuku1.jpg
A costume store.

DSC_6954 DSC_6954.JPG
This was the only place Noriko & I found that actually had Japanese works, so I went in to find something nice for Eliz. I had done my shopping for the kids earlier.

DSC_6956 DSC_6956.JPG
Afterwards, we went to one of Noriko's favorite lunch spots, where I could choose dishes from the counter rather than the Japanese menu. The food was very tasty.

DSC_6960 DSC_6960.JPG
In front of our hotel was a suprisingly popular and large doughnut shop, with a line wrapping outside. Scary.

Return to Places

Return to Snapshots

Return to Greg's homepage

Page created Oct 20 2008 3:38:15p