Monday, November 19, 2012

Leaving Japan

Our wonderful year in Japan has come to an end.  This will be our last blog post since we are now back in America.

We were very lax about photographing our final days in Japan.  There are no photos of our days of packing up all our stuff and sorting out things that we needed to give away, or of the great pizza party with some of our friends in our last night at our apartment.  Tragic.

But we did photograph our last few hours in Japan.

We stayed in a hotel in the airport the last night in Japan because we had a flight out early in the morning.  The hotel airport was fairly grandiose, with a free onsen and breakfast.  The rooms were very large for Japan with lots of room for our 8 bags (4 checked and 4 carry on).

I loved the view out the hotel window.  It was just like sitting in an airport terminal.

After checking in to the hotel, we snuck back in to the city to meet up with our friends for beers and sushi.

I tried some adventurous sushis...  Here is octopus on the left and some strange translucent minnows on the right.  You might be able to see their eyeballs if you look at the picture in large view.

After a fun evening, we got back on the train to the airport.

It was one of the last trains of the night, so almost no one went all the way to the airport on the train.  By the second to last stop, we were the only ones in our car.

Some of our favorite things in Japan:

Bre- the food, the politeness and quietness of people in public places, public transportation...

Kyle- Language Corner (a weekly language exchange program at Hokkaido University),  HIOC (the outdoor club we belonged to), downhill skiing, Miso Ramen, and the best sushi in my life at Otaru.

The end!
-Bre and Kyle

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Boeing 787

On my trip to the US last week, I got to ride on the new Boeing 787 on my ANA flight from Seattle to Tokyo.  I was extremely excited.  Since I used to live in Seattle, I had followed the design, building and test trials of the 787 for years.  ANA, the first airline to buy 787s started flying them to the US about a month ago-- I had been anticipating my Seattle-Tokyo flight since then.

The 787 was indeed super awesome.  Here's me standing at my seat in coach.  The plane was very spacious.  It was cool to sit in seats that were really new, with nothing broken.  The clean, new bathrooms were also a perk.

 In general, most things were identical to any other long-distance plane set-up.  The movies, games, etc. were the same as the 777 I took from Tokyo-Chicago at the start of my trip.

 The best thing was the windows.  They were larger than windows in other planes, and they didn't have a shade.  Instead, you adjusted the darkness of the window.  I really liked how even when the window was darkened, you could still see out of it!

Here's a picture of the plane after we arrived in Tokyo.

Off to passport control!  

That's all for now!  Only a few more days left in Japan.
-Bre (and Kyle)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Komagatake Volcano

Two weekends ago, Kyle and I joined the Hokkaido International Outdoor Club on a camping trip to Lake Onuma and Komagatake Volcano.

The Lake Onuma camping spot.  It was beautiful, but very windy.  In the night we had a few thunderstorms.

Getting to Komogatake was a long trip-- 4-5 hours by car because the volcano is at the southwest end of Hokkaido.  Leon took a wrong turn once or twice, and we ended up driving on some one-lane gravel roads.  Of course, this being Japan, these roads are on the map. Here Kyle and Leon plot the way back to the highway...

while I look out the window.  It was a lovely detour.

We arrived to find this sign stating that the camp site is closed.  We were worried, but Leon found the campground manager and confirmed that we could camp.  The campsite closed sign actually was referring to the part of the campground under the trees where many large branches had been falling.  The open areas of the campground were still open.

We arrived at our camp before dark and had plenty of time to set up camp and cook dinner.
The sunset was lovely and constantly in flux because the strong wind was blowing the clouds across the sky.

Here is photo of our tent.

The next day was the same as before- windy with clouds blowing fast across the sky.

Here is a view of the campsite in the morning.  You can see from left to right: the camp bathroom, the camp kitchen/dishwashing area, our tent, the kitchen tent and everyone else's tents.

The volcano is one of the most active volcanos on Hokkaido and the path up was built on freshly erupted material.  The rocks and sand are not very cohesive, so water gullies right through.  Here, the gully was a few feet deep, closing off part of the trail.  I, as a geologist, was very excited.

We couldn't see much of the volcano itself from the top because most of the area was roped off for safety.  The wind was very strong and cold.

Finally, here is the view from the top looking towards of Lake Onuma.

That's all for now,
-Bre (and Kyle)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Touristing Tempozan in Osaka

After weekend in Kyoto we visited Osaka briefly on the way home.  First, we stopped at the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel.  It is 112.5 meters tall and has a great view of the surrounding area.

There was a small park near the ferris wheel that had a number of these pinwheel like wind vanes.

Getting closer to the wheel.

For extra fun we chose the gondola with the transparent floor.  In the left corner you can see the diamond pattern on the street indicating a HOV lane far below us.

A sharp eye here will catch the sign at the bottom pointing out significant landmarks. The Kaiukan aquarium is the brightly colored red and purple building.  We visited the Kaiukan aquarium after the ferris wheel.

Here is a view of the Tempozan Harbor Village from above.  In the bottom of the photograph you can see the pinwheel like wind vanes that were photographed earlier.

It was a challenge to film in the Kaiukan Aquarium because of the low light conditions.  I managed to catch this image of the dolphins swimming by moving my camera from left to right in time with the dolphins   You may notice that everything else in the photo is blurry.

Here is a video of the dolphins jumping.  They are Pacific white-sided dolphins in the Tasman Sea exhibit.  It was fun to see the view from below the water when they jump into the air.  There are even two times in the video where you can see the dolphin float backwards so that its tail leaves the water first.

This photo is from the Pacific Ocean exhibit.  It is the largest exhibit at the aquarium.  It is 9 meters deep and holds 5,400 cubic meters of water with many animals including the whale shark that I photographed.  At the top of the photo you can see the reflection of the whale shark in the surface of the water.

This video is for my brother Jared.  I know you have a fond memory of a certain loon incident.  Here is a scuba diver suffering similar misfortunes from the penguins while scrubbing their tank.

That's all for now,

Kyle (and Bre)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Kyoto, a visit

Last weekend we decided to visit Kyoto and Osaka to get a chance to see more of Japan.  We flew to the Kansai airport near Osaka and caught the Airport Express Train Haruka to Kyoto.  It was pleasant and direct.  

Here is a photo of the first car of the train.  It has a funny nose.

First, we checked out the Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds.  The wall in this photo separates the garden (where we were) from the Palace Grounds inside.

There were many trees with supports under their branches.  I like how the supports frame Bre in this photo.

We received this message at our hotel room.  I don't know what the first two paragraphs of Japanese say.  In English it says "No Smoking. Thank you for your cooperation."  Lost in Translation.

Kyoto is famous for it's shrines.  This was one of the more amusing ones.  It is a tiny shrine surrounded by giant apartment buildings.

We visited the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji.  It is a beautiful tourist trap and UNESCO World Heritage Site.  There was a mad crush of visitors to elbow through to the best viewing points.  I felt like it has lost whatever spiritual valute it used to have, but it still looks nice.

Bre is "helping" me photograph the Pavilion.

The Pavilion sans distractions.

There are many other buildings on the Golden Pavilion grounds.  We walked around all of them.  I liked the meticulously raked gravel.

Bre took this photo of the stepped roofs.

Bre stole my camera to photograph the photographer.  If you look closely you can see the Temple through the trees to the right of my ear.

Next we visited Ryoanji Temple.  The rock garden here is considered one of the best in Japan.  It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I enjoyed the rock garden more than the Golden Pavilion.  It was more peaceful.

On the temple grounds they have these funny pruned trees.  Bre thinks they look like the trees from a Dr. Seuss book.

We went on to check out the Nijo Castle.  Inside the grounds there are several palaces.  This one is called the Ninomaru Palace.  There is a path you can take inside to see the Palace.  It has great murals that are almost impossible to photograph (dim light, no flash or tripod allowed.)  Bre especially liked the nightingale floors.  The builders of the Palace designed the floors to squeak like birds when walked on so that assassins could not sneak through the Palace to attack the Shogun.

The inner moat was filled with mesmerizing alge patterns.

After a hard day of touristing we went out for dinner to a cozy restaurant in the Nishiki Market.

Fried Burdock root was good.

Tempura Udon

Herring Udon

That's all for now,

-Kyle (and Bre)