I took a week-long trip to visit a few camera companies for Dolby in Japan. A good time, and productive as well.
The Century Southern Tower hotel lobby, on the 20th floor.
The room where I stayed in Tokyo the first fitful night.
Shinjuku station, as seen from my hotel window.
Katsumi, Doug, Trevor
My Dolby companions at dinner the first night.
This is the train we boarded for Suwa Lake the next morning -- or one like it.
The Japanese mountains are really quite beautiful, and this was the first time I had seen them.
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.
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.
A respectful Buddhist figure, about 30m high, adorning a town's hillside.
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.
Hot Spring Bath
Doug checking out a natural hot spring bath located right in the train station.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Even the manhole covers get special attention.
Trevor spotted this giant moth, which Doug teased to get it to open its wings for us.
Check out the pizzas, a work of art in themselves. Note the row of dessert pizzas. We opted for Japanese food, all the same.
Searching for a restaurant.
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.)
Doug with Katsumi, with course number 3 or 4. (I lost count).
A night shot of a boat parked aside the canal near our hotel.
My hotel room in Suwa City.
For those crazy days...
Sunrise the next morning as seen from my hotel window.
Through the gap in the distant hills, Mount Fuji was just visible.
The morning moon over Lake Suwa.
Some of those individually wrapped pears I mentioned.
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!
Another Buddhist sculpture, about 50 meters from shore. An island reachable only by small boat was some 300 meters out, visible to the left.
A striking (and sometimes blinding) sculpture along the shore walk.
The next day, we traveled back to our original hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo. My room is in the third floor from the top.
Like NYC, most people in Tokyo get from place to place on foot, bicycle, and/or subway.
One of the many-storied electronics stores in the downtown area.
A Pachinko Palace, where people spend hours gambling with little silver balls. The noise is deafening.
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.)
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.
A nice interior shot of the restaurant. Note the complete lack of English, and the waitresses also seemed to be avoiding us.
Food, at last!
Doug has his next career all picked out -- he wants to sell covered scooters with mag wheels in North America.
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...
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.
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.
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.
This wasn't only my portion -- we split it three ways. We barely got through it, but it was delicious!
Here are Katsumi and Doug outside the restaurant. Trevor headed for the airport after breakfast, as he wasn't involved in the Olympus meeting.
Biking in high-heeled boots. Notice how the pedestrians clear a path...
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.
The Japanese take their gardening seriously.
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.
A high dynamic-range view overlooking the park.
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.
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.
A heavy intervention case -- the gardeners here are more like modern surgeons, it seems.
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?
One of the less-crowded subway cars we rode in.
I thought this sign, tiled into the sidewalk near the subway, was pretty cute.
This is a friendly-looking guardian at one side of the main entrance to the temple grounds.
A less-friendly looking guardian.
Here's a good view of the Sensoji Temple. Obviously, we missed daylight, but the place was pretty well-lit.
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.
This is the fountain where you are supposed to wash after (or is it before?) going into the temple.
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.
As you will find in nearly every religious spot around the world, there were more souvenir shops than you shake a bamboo pole at.
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.
A typical sight on the subway escalator.
The Tokyo subway goes everywhere, and everyone uses the system, but I would hate to go it alone...
Not that loneliness is really an option during rush hour.
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).
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.)
A typical Tokyo street scene, on our walk back to the hotel.
The sidewalk and street cleaners doing a characteristically thorough job.
The next day, Noriko helped me find the way by train to the shopping district in Harajuku, where she used to live.
Shopping seems to be the national pastime, and the Saturday streets were crowded.
A few of the stores employed hawkers to get passing shoppers' attention. This crier attracted attention in multiple ways.
A costume store.
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.
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.
In front of our hotel was a suprisingly popular and large doughnut shop, with a line wrapping outside. Scary.
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