dakroland's Japan Journal

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A note from my love...

She can break me out of any depression. Of that I am certain. She wrote a message to me this morning. Actually, 3, but this one in particular made me smile, and made my heart ache at the same time. As I mentioned, my birthday is on Monday. She said she wanted to spend the day with me, make us a large dinner, and a cake. She is so tender and sweet. She even crafted a gift for me for my Birthday. I can't wait to receive it. It will be so special, I can already tell.

I miss her so much. However, if all goes well, I will see her again in the spring.

There is something she does when we are together that means the world to me. She loves to touch my ears. She is so gentle, and she gets this smile on her face that I cannot help but join in smiling when she does so.

I so much want to feel her touch my ears right now.

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8:29 a.m. - 2007-10-28

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Home From Japan, And Depressed As Hell...

My daughter and I arrived home from Japan on Tuesday Oct. 23rd, at 2:30 in the afternoon, Eastern time. Since then, I have been unaffected by Jet Lag (so far) but depressed as hell about it. I miss Japan so much.

I haven't had many life-altering events in my life. My daughter being born, my Divorce, my switch to Mac are 3 I can think of off the top of my head. But being in Japan, I think, is the most Earth shattering, life altering, never-going-to-be-the-same event in all of my 35 years on this planet. (I'll actually turn 35 years old on the 29th.) In all my years, I've only ever wanted to live one place, and that's in Jamestown, NY. When I lived in Clearfield, PA for a couple years, I hated it there. There were few reasons to stay, namely some close friends I made while I lived there. But other than that, I didn't like it there. I wanted to be back in Jamestown.

But now...

I don't want to be here anymore. I want to be in Japan. People there are more courteous, friendly, polite. Coming home has been almost a shock to the system and psyche. I've gotten into the habit of asking 'please' and bowling politely and thanking people for everything. Here, no one does that. Or at least, very few do. It's depressing beyond words. But it is home. For now.

I miss the food, the laughter, the banter in both English and Japanese (even though I didn't understand most of it) and the serene beauty of Sasayama. It's not a huge city by Japanese standards, but it was impressive. I'm going to miss walking around town and riding in the car through the narrow streets. I'm going to miss the occasional trip to the Onsen, 105 Sushi and getting Manga for 150.

But most especially, I'm going to miss my girlfriend.

Saying goodbye to her again, was like having my heart torn out once more. Every time we've been together, saying goodbye was a truly emotion time.

Leaving her and Japan was more difficult. I couldn't show my emotion, I had to be more reserved. We said our goodbyes, bowed, and then hugged before my daughter and I walked through security. They watched us as we left for as long as they could. I really didn't want to leave. And if I could, I would have stayed. Sadly, once you go through Immigration...you're done. So we walked toward the shuttle tram to get to our Gate.

It was uncomfortably warm at our Gate. I would have bought some tea to drink, but I had already exchanged our Yen for US dollars. A dumb move that I won't repeat next time, for sure. Eventually our flight boarded and we prepared for take-off. Our flight to Japan was full, but the flight home was much less so. (Smarter people stayed behind, I suppose)

I tried to sleep on the long flight home, which would be an hour shorter than our flight to Japan, which was already 1 hour shorter than was scheduled. We arrived in Detroit around 11am eastern time, made our way through Immigration, then customs, without incident. We had over an hour before our flight, so we grabbed a bite to eat, and then took a seat at our gate. our flight boarded early, but took off later than originally scheduled due to late luggage. We landed on time in Buffalo, and my parents were waiting there for us.

The drive home was full of chatting about our trip, and when we got back to their house, I presented everyone who was there with gifts we had purchased or were given. I was very tired, so we drove home around 7 that night. It was difficult to keep my eyes open. Once we got home, we had a small electrical problem to contend with, but we got a shower and a full night's sleep.

The next morning, my daughter was supposed to go to school, but was unable to get up due to Jet Lag. She was still set to Japan time. I however, had to get up, dressed and ready for work. I wasn't feeling the effects of the lag as much. Though I am more tired earlier at night than I used to be. I paid some bills, went to work that day and did my job.

But all the while, Miho and Japan are on my mind.

I will go back someday. And if I had my way, I'd like to live there for a while.

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5:47 a.m. - 2007-10-27

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Kyoto, Onsen & Matsuri, OH MY!

Wow, 2 weeks go by fast these days. Now, I sit here typing away on my laptop, with less than 36 hours left before my daughter and I leave Japan and go home. There's still so much I want to see and do, but there's no time for that now. I began packing my suitcase last night with some help and other than some clothing and a few items...it's just about done.

Basically, to catch you up to where we've been, here's a quick run down. (Pictures are on the way, I swear. I have over 1000 pictures so far, and 5.8Gb of video to sift through after we get home. I'll probably upload a gallery of images to my .Mac account later and link to it from here.)

Our second day in Kyoto was fantastic. We got up and checked out of our Hotel, then went to the underground parking garage and got our vehicle, then moved it to a cheaper parking facility. This play was by far, VERY awesome. The car was on a platform that slid off to the side, and then was moved underground in an automatic parking system. I can't really describe it. It just has to be seen to be understood.

From there we walked to a large department store and I got some extra cash from the JP office there. Now that I had a little extra breathing room (financially speaking) we headed off to get some breakfast. Unfortunately, the one place they wanted to take us, was closed, and the next 2 places had nothing we wanted. We wound up going back to the department store and bought breakfast there, and ate outside on the street.

One of the more interesting things to do is people watching in Japan. There is as much of a diversity of individuals here as there is back in the US. The difference I think is the underlying culture. Where in the US it feels more "in-your-face", here in Japan, it's much more subdued. And the pervasive politeness makes being here much nicer I think than in the US. Here, you can say "konnichiwa" and bow poilitely, and people will do the same in return, with a smile. Back home, you can say "Good morning" and they look at you strangely, and most will say it in return, but not all.

After we ate, we started our walking tour of shrines and temples. The first temple we visited was the Kenninji Temple. The oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, it's well over 800 years old. The first area of the temple grounds we saw were the main museum and rock gardens. Absolutely breathtaking! There were very few people there, so it was quiet and serene. The Temple was connected to this area, and we entered it from a covered walkway. From the outside, the building looks like a giant Japanese building...nothing too descript or fancy... But inside...WOW! The interior of the temple was at least 5 stories tall, with a huge painting on the ceiling of dragons in the sky. I couldn't tell if they were fighting or not, but the painting was, to say the very least, incredible.

In the center of the temple, was a golden Buddha, flanked by 2 statues that were in shrines of their own, but too dark to make out any details. Above the golden Buddha, was this incredible piece (lantern?) that was so ornate and beautiful, words fail me. The entire place inspired a strong sense of awe, wonder and the feeling of being very very small in the world. I think, perhaps, that was it's intent.

From there we walked to Hokanji Temple (Yasaka pagoda), but it was not open at the time. It was however, very impressive in it's size. From there, we walked through the narrow streets of old Kyoto to Kiyomizudera Temple. This entire area was equally as breathtaking as Kenninji temple, but moreso for it's natural beauty. This location was extremely busy and crowded with tourists and pilgrims so it was very noisy. Though the entire complex was impressive, it lacked the serenity that makes Kenninji Temple such a peaceful place.

It was on the way to Kiyomizudera Temple that I was greeted by some elementary school children and asked if I would speak English with them. I happily agreed to and they asked me my name, where I lived, and what kind of Japanese foods I liked. Only 2 items on their list I had not tried (natto and one other item I forget) but everything else I had tried and loved eating. They asked me if they could take a picture with me and then they presented me with a gift. A bag with their names, their school email address and many many origami. 15 cranes, 2 samurai hats, 2 frogs, and an origami box. I was very very honored to receive their gift. I will definitely email them when I return to the States.

We shopped around a bit and stopped at a Green Tea Parfait shop and had a treat that unbelievably delicious!! I like green tea anyways, but this was beyond awesome. I'll ask what it's name was later. I was so impressed by it, I paid as my treat. :) Unfortunately, because we were a party of six, 2 of us originally were seated elsewhere, then when seats became available they were able to sit with us, but they split our checks. I didn't know this at the time and when we paid, we didn't pay for the other two. They waitress caught us just down the street, and I ran back with her to pay the balance. It was embarrassing and funny at the same time. I could tell though, she was very relieved she found us.

We ate dinner at a French/Italian restaurant that evening, then picked up our car and headed back to Sasayama. We actually made better time on the way home. Once home, we unpacked our dirty clothes, took baths or showers and then relaxed with some wine and laughing. It was a good 2 days.

We had a day to relax and recouperate after that. I wound up taking a nap that afternoon. We ate Curry & Rice for lunch and had a nice dinner that evening. I even got to spend some quality time with my love. :)

The next day we went to the Tanba 30th Pottery Festival, and enjoyed some great food (Yakisoba and Karage) and beautiful pottery. From there we drove to Sanda and went to an Onsen. It was my first time at an Onsen, and I have to say, I loved it! I got spend about an hour in the Stone Bath which was difficult for me, as I had a hard time breathing at first, but realized if I breathed through my nose, it was much easier. I sweated like CRAZY in there, but it felt great after we got out. I went to clean up and then sat in the hot water for a while, outdoors. It was fantastic. I've never felt more refreshed than this. Unfortunately my daughter froze up and was too afraid to try it, even though she had been looking forward to going all the way up to the moment we started walking towards the locker rooms.

From the Onsen, we went to a local Ramenya (Ramen shop) and had some delicious Ramen. I chose the heavy soup, even though I was warned I would be thirsty later. From there, we went across the street to a Sushi restaurant and ate our fill of sushi. This shop wasn't as good at the other one we went to, I think. The sushi was much later at the other shop, but it was delicious nonetheless. I ate squid, shrimp, eel, tuna and salmon sushi.

That brings us to Yesterday. Yesterday was the festival of the largest local shrine in Sasayama. I got to walk with the smaller portable shrines and enjoyed time with some of the kids who got to pull the shrines. I took a ton of pictures and video, and it was really neat. After about 2 hours I returned home to rest, and began packing. My love helped me wrap some items for their journey home, and it was a nice time spent with her again. That night, we ate a wonderful dinner of soft chicken bone (better than it sounds), pasta and deep-fried daikon tempura. There was also a wonderful white soup with vegetables. It was a great night.

After supper, we walked to the festival and watched the other kind of portable shrines being carried around by 30 or so men, lifted high into the air, and then shaken up and down furiously, as 4 kids sat in each shrine, beating a Taiko drum and shouting a chant for the shrine. In all 8 portable shrines were on display, and the street leading up to the shrine was lined with stands selling food of all kinds, games to play and stands selling video games.

It was an exhausting day, so we came home and retired to bed early.

So there you have it. With the exception of photos which are definitely coming soon, I promise, you are now caught up with my trip as it stands so far. I will probably have time to post one more entry before we leave. Then when I have recovered a little I'll post more this weekend, including the all coveted pictures. :)

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9:56 a.m. - 2007-10-22

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Greetings from Kyoto/Fast Entry

This is a short entry, no pictures until I get back to Sasayama, but right now, we're in Kyoto. Yesterday, we spent the day going to different places in Kyoto, such as the famous bridge (which the name currently escapes me), Toei Movieland Studios, the Golden Pavilion, and some hard-core shopping on Shinkyogoku St. We even ate dinner last night at "Donkey! Bier". (what an odd name, but DAMN good food!) The waitress gave us forks and knives, and I think I surprised her when I asked in Japanese for chipsticks instead. LOL!

Today we will visit more shrines and see more sights, then head back to Sasayama.

As for my culinary adventures, I have yet to find anything I don't like. Sushi is definitely on my favorites list, as is Ramen. I've also had Gyoza which I knew I would like. :) Last night, on our way back to the hotel, we picked up some snacks, drinks (Chuhi!) and take-out Sushi and enjoyed ourselves as we relaxed before going to bed.

And I should mention, my feet are not used to walking this much, thus, I have some pretty major calluses on the sides of my big toes. I haven't checked my weight even once since we got here, but I"m fairly certain, with all the walking, it's either gone down, or stayed pretty much the same.

I did cook for our hosts the other night. I made Chicken Parmesan for my dish. My host's friend from Australia came over and made a dish as well. All told, we had several very DELICIOUS items to choose from. Potato Graten, Pasta something (caramasou?), ebi chili, and my dish of course. Everything tasted GREAT! I especially liked the potato graten. Everyone seemed very impressed with my Chicken Parmesan. They even asked me to give them the recipe. LOL I will be honest, I was very worried if it was going to taste right, but in the end, I was very VERY relieved that my dish turned out okay.

Well, we're going to check out of our hotel in about an hour, so I better get ready.

I really should study more Japanese. I would very much love to live here. :)

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8:44 a.m. - 2007-10-18

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Spielberg Speaking Japanese, History Alive, Electric Light orchestrated, and Cow Tongue?

Wow, I meant to post more 4 days ago, but it's been non-stop busy since then. A short run down of the last few days is as follows...

Wednesday - Arrived
Thursday - Toured Sasayama Castle
Friday - Universal Studios Japan
Saturday - Osaka Castle & Dotonbori
Sunday - Soccer game and Yakiniku

Anyways, what I have lacked in updates of late, I will make up for in this post...

WITH PICTURES!

Here is that Jumbotron video screen in the Detroit airport. Just seeing the manufacturer's name made me laugh. So of course, I had to take a picture. ;-)

One of the most impressive things I've encountered so far in Japan has to be the automatic toilets. Dear GOD what a fantastic invention!!! Just the pure fact that they have the warmed seats is gold to me, especially where we live.

Yes, that is a little sink at the top that has running water while the toilet flushes. ;-)

Sasayama, for being a smaller city, still has a crush of buildings. Interestingly, they are a very fascinating mix of old and new, with shrines throughout the city. The city is surrounded by mountains on all sides, and they just seem to shoot up out of the ground wherever. Lush green trees cover every mountain, and around the city are hundreds of rice and soy bean fields.

Keeping with the theme of space saving, apparently dogs in Japan are also very compact in size so they don't look so disproportionate when chasing the very small cars... (kidding!) Meet Ku, this little fireball of a canine may look cute and small, but get him riled up, and he'll spin around in a circle faster than most Tornados.

A major shrine we visited will have it's festival this upcoming weekend. Where this shrine is located, there is a smaller one on the top of a little hill next to it. You have to climb these steps..

I lost count at 70 steps. >.<

But this was what we found at the top.

I was taught how to make an offering (toss some money into the box), shake the rope to ring the bell, and then clap your hands together once and pray for something. I prayed for our trip to not go by too fast. ;-)

We wound up touring Osaka Castle this day and also toured 3 other sites related to the castle, homes of Samurai, and a building that once housed the local court. The city is rife with history, and for someone like me, who loves history, it is a wonderful place.

That night for supper, my friend's mother made us Tempura. Ebi (Shrimp), Daikon, hot dogs, egg plant, onion, mushrooms, etc...all coated with tempura batter and deep fried. SO GOOD!! I ate WAY more than I should have. But it was so delicious. I hope we can have it again before we go.

Friday we went to Osaka on the train (first time for us on a Japanese train) and spent the day at Universal Studios Japan. Way cool. :) It was difficult understanding what was being said (obviously I need to study more) but it was fun nonetheless. Seeing Ron Howard and Stephen Spielberg was familiar, but hearing them speaking in dubbed Japanese was a little confusing. LOL No matter, we had an incredible day.

That night, we went to Yodobashi for some (しやぶしやぶ) Shiyabu Shiyabu. It was extremely delicious! Built into your table is a hot plate, on which a bowl of water is placed, and brought to a boil. Piled high on a big platter are hundreds of pieces of thinly sliced meat. You take the meat, and swish it in the boiling water, and it cooks within seconds. You dip it in either soy sauce or peanut sauce and eat it. SOOOO Good. You can also boil vegetables, tofu, etc in the water. It was VERY good. :)

On the way back, I spotted the Umeda Sky Building. I plan on visiting that on our last full day here in Japan.

Saturday morning, we checked out of our hotel rooms, and headed down to Yodobashi for some breakfast at a little french bistro. From there we went on the subway to Osaka Castle. We passed by NHK, and decided to stop at the Osaka Museum of History. There we learned about the history of Osaka, and what preceded the Castle. We saw all of the exhibits and then made our way to the Castle..

One thing I have to say...the model dioramas are FANTASTIC in their realism...

I even did a little shopping...

We entered the grounds of Osaka castle and made our way to the main gate. Stopping for a bite to eat, I had my first taste of Takoyaki. OISHII!! It goes great with beer. ;-)

Looking through the main gate, you can see our goal. Osaka Castle!

We made our way to the Subway once more, and headed to Dotonbori. This place is amazing. I can't even describe it. We ate a little snack at Dotonbori Gokuraku. Then checked out the Glico sign. :)

Sunday we attended a school soccer game and I made friends with some of the local kids there. I showed them a few magic tricks and they were quite intrigued. :) My friend's nephew's team won their first match, but lost their second one. It was tense though.

After the match, we came home, relaxed for a little bit, then went out for Yakiniku.

OH.

MY.

GOD!

I LOVE YAKINIKU!!!

I ate too much, but honestly, I don't care. It was TOO good. I also had Yukke, and I loved it. It was very VERY good!!! My friends weren't sure if I would like it or not, but I ate more and more of it. ;-) VERY delicious!

I have to say, I love everything we've eaten so far, but Yakiniku is probably the best yet. :)

Who knew I'd like cow tongue and small intestine? ;-)

So there you have it...my first 4 days in Japan in a compact, economy sized blog post. Today is a free day for my daughter and I to wander around Sasyama and take in the sights and sounds and smells on our own. Then tonight, I get to cook for everyone. Ooooh boy. I'll take plenty more pictures and have many more stories to share.

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5:48 a.m. - 2007-10-15

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Alive, Safe & Sound in Japan!

Well folks (all both of you so far, hehe) I am IN JAPAN! It's been a long journey, and while my battery had power, I was able to save a few thoughts along the way. Unfortunately the 747 we flew on did not have the plugs for power at the seats like I had hoped, so I was unable to use my MacBook very much in the plane. Thus, I haven't had a chance to spell-check or edit anything. Here are my raw notes from yesterday morning through the beginning of our flight on the 747, spelling mistakes and all...

11:17am eastern Buffalo-Niagara Fall Airport

I am writing this while we sit in the airport terminal, waiting to board our flight to Detroit. We woke up at 5am, but there really wasn't much point in sleeping. The Buffalo Bills lost their first home Monday Night Football game to the Dallas Cowboys by 1 point, with 1 second left on the clock. I couldn't sleep until around 3:30am. Once up, we got ready, had breakfast, did some last second checks to make sure we didn't forget anything, and were on our way at 6:50.

10 minute later, my daughter remembered her glasses...

We turned around, headed back home, grabbed her glasses and were on our way...

..again...

We arrived at the airport around 8:20am though, so we didn't really lose much time, thankfully. My parents had something to eat with us at the Burger King restaurant before we got in line at 9am. About 30 minutes later, we were through the security checkpoint and waving to my parents as they watched. They were smiling and waving back. And for a moment, I felt very sad that my Mom & Dad weren't coming with us.

My daughter and I headed down to our Gate, got some gum from the gift shop and are now sitting here. It's 10:27am, and there's 93 minutes until we board.

I have to say, my thoughts are switching from being nervous, to excited, to scared, to excited again, and back again...rinse, repeat. Dallas fans are passing by to their flights and one is talking loudly on her cell phone. I spoke with an elderly Japanese couple, who are on their way home to Nagoya. They asked where my daughter and I were going, and we told them we were on our way to Osaka, and would be staying in Hyogo prefecture. They seemed genuinely happy to know that. It was very cool.

I have some Japanese study programs on my MacBook that I'll be using on the flight out. The plane hasn't pulled up to the gate, but it should be shortly. A Northwest employee has just opened up the counter. There's now 89 minutes until we board.


Home Time 1:53pm eastern

My daughter and I are sitting in Detroit airport. Safe and sound. Our flight left Buffalo 10 minutes behind schedule, but we wound up landing 10 minutes ahead of schedule. The flight was uneventful. Not my favorite thing in the world to do, but the destination is worth everything in the world.

We just ate some lunch and are looking at our 747. We board it in 63 minutes now. We're looking up at a jumbotron above our waiting area, and amusingly, the name of the company that made it is "Daktronics". LOL

I've tried to log into the wireless back at Buffalo and here in Detroit, but I won't pay for wireless access. Especially $8 for less than an hour of use. I guess I won't be posting this until we're in Japan.

We did forget something, one of the plastic bags of stuff we need, like my daughter's toothbrush, etc... Crud puppies...

Home Time 6:21pm eastern

In-flight somewhere over Canada. My battery is about to die. Unfortunately, this flight doesn't have the airline charger ports for my $60 airline adaptor. We've had dinner already (chicken and mashed potato, shrimp, fruit cup and hot green tea). Ironically, the first show on the flight was a Transformers Behind The Scenes from E! Television. I'm wearing my 2001 Botcon Beyond Evil T-shirt. Heh.

15 minutes left on the battery, so I'l close it here.

I'll post more later today. As those immortal words of American Television like to say..."STAY TUNED!"

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5:05 p.m. - 2007-10-10

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0 Days, 14 Hours, 30minutes....and counting down...

(it would help if I actually added an entry before I hit 'enter'...wouldn't it?)

I'm sitting at my parent's house right now. We're 14 1/2 hours away from leaving for Japan. The Buffalo Bills vs the Dallas Cowboys is on the TV. And the Bills are winning 7-0 in the first quarter. Spaghetti with Dad's homemade sauce was for supper, and I lost my spare car key somewhere in my Dad's front lawn. Okay, so that last thing wasn't so good, but you can't have everything go perfectly, right?

I'm all kind of nervous and excited right now. I keep thinking, "Is there something I forgot?" If there is, it'll be too late after tonight. Not much sense worrying about it now.

I scanned another 250 more of my Dad's Japan Negatives. I'm not even 1/3 of the way through all the Negatives we found. I'll finish them up after we get back from Japan. Some of the pictures I've scanned, I've never seen prints of before. Many of them are of Kyoko, someone I'm only now learning about. She was my Dad's girlfriend when he was in Japan. I learned he was going to marry her, but got cold feet. She was the only woman whose heart he broke. But they remained in contact as friends, and in the end, it worked out best for both of them. She married an Airline Pilot and was able to get free trips back to Japan to see her family. And of course, my Dad met my Mom, and I was one of their 6 kids. (Thanks Mom & Dad!)

Well, Dallas just tied it up, so I better watch the game and get to bed afterwards.

I can't believe it's finally here! Japan, HERE WE COME!

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9:15 p.m. - 2007-10-08

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2 Days, 1 Hour & 40 Minutes....

And a little teaser...

My daughter and I will begin packing today. We have some last minute shopping to do - purchasing our 3oz. bottles of important stuff for the flight, local shirts and gifts, and a haircut/trim for both of us.

I will be calling the airline today to confirm our seats for the flight. And then tonight we begin filling up our suitcases. This is where it really starts to feel *real*!
The last 2 days have been incredible. Friday night I brought my daughter out to my parent's house to spend the night. She had a VFW Jr. Girls Auxiliary meeting the next morning, and was going with her cousin who lives next door. While we were there, I sat down with my Dad again and went over the next batch of photos I had scanned. After we were done, we got to talking and he thought he still had the original negatives. Well, lo and behold, he did. Over 30 rolls of Black & White negatives!! It was incredible! I brought some to work with me yesterday and found the Film Holders for our work scanner. The quality of the scans is so much better than the photos. My boss was so cool about it, and he was so impressed by what I am doing, he let me borrow the scanner so I can do all the scans I need. :)

And the coolest thing? Last night my Dad actually said to me how much he appreciated me doing this, and how much it meant to him. :) That was the coolest thing ever.

He even got out his Color Slides and we checked out how many slides there were. There may be 252 color slides just of Japan! He has well over 900 slides in this one case, and probably another 800 that he didn't think were good enough. Well, I'll scan them all. :) The picture above is one of his color slides. It's an early morning sunrise from atop Hardy Barracks. (The little ring around the sun is where the color film has stuck to the protective plastic...I can't do anything about that now. If we try to separate them, it will permanently damage the slide.

I have uploaded some photos of the camera he bought and used in Tokyo to take all of these photos to my Flickr page. Click here to see them.

We're almost there! :)

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10:05 a.m. - 2007-10-07

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5 Days, 23 hours, 18 minutes.....

Things are coming together now. The other day I got the Airline adaptor for my MacBook. So our in-flight entertainment should be all set. I read and reviewed the allowed items for the trip (IE: 3-1-1 rule, banned items, allowed items, etc) and and I've gotten just about all of the gifts together we'll be taking with us. I'll be getting my paycheck a day early so I can take care of whatever last minute details I need (Traveler's checks, Yen, etc..). We'll be taking 2 carry on bags with us, one for me and one for my daughter. I'll be carrying the MacBook, iPods, my baggie of toiletries, & necessary cords, and my daughter will have a bag with her bathroom items, books, her own entertainment items and such. I figure the weather in Japan is probably still rather warm, so we shouldn't need our jackets. We'll probably stuff them into our checked luggage once we get inside the terminal. That will save hassle and weight for our carry on stuff.

Miho wrote to me and said she had cleaned the room I'll be staying in. We might go to a Yaki Niku restaurant when we get there for supper. I can't wait because she's talked about it a lot over the last two years. It'll be nice to finally try REAL Japanese food (other than the real Japanese food Miho made while she was here. :))

Wow, I can't believe we're almost ready to go! So close!

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12:40 p.m. - 2007-10-03

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My Dad, My Hero

There's my Dad. He turned 75 on Sept. 15th of this year. To him, I think I owe the greatest debt in the world. He's been my mentor, my conscience, my councilor, my best friend all my life. It was he who lighted the fire within me to learn more about Japan. And I can't thank him enough. Last night, we sat down at the Family Room table and looked at the photos I scanned from his time in Japan. It was really amazing. He remembered things that he had forgotten, like Father Michele's name, the Jesuit Priest from the Chapel Center where my Dad volunteered time, his time visiting Nikko Kanko and the Fuji View Hotel, as well as many other details. I recorded us talking about the photos. And I realized something. I wish I had done this when my Grandmothers were still alive.

We went through 129 photos so far in those few hours last night. I picked up 2 more albums which contain even more photos. His best photos. I can't wait to scan them, and I'll even include a picture of the photo album he got as a gift form the people at the Settlement House.

Thanks to our talk last night, I have corrected some of the entries, including the photos posted earlier.

On the Trip side of things, my daughter and I have our Suit cases. Now we need to get organized so we can be packed next Monday and then go to my Parent's house. We'll spend the night there, then Mom & Dad will take us to the airport the next morning. In 9 days we'll be on our way. 9 Days! Wow! So close!

On the note about Currency Exchange, is there a place in the Kansai Airport where that can be done? Or is it better to go to a local bank to do that? Or should I do that here before we go?

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10:03 a.m. - 2007-09-30

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I Have The Power! (adaptor) And Other Trip Related Items...

2 more things were completed today in my preparations for the Japan Trip. One important thing was spending money and bill money. While I'm gone, I still have bills that are due, and I'll need to pay them. And I'll need spending money for the hotels we'll be staying at as well as money for stuff I want to buy while we're there. Oh yeah, food! Can't forget that! While Ebay sales are good, it won't be enough to cover everything. So I got a little money out of my investments to help pad the trip account.

Secondly, My daughter and I will be spending about 32 hours in-flight, and my MacBook battery only holds about a 3 hour charge currently. I decided to order an Apple MagSafe Airline adaptor. $60! >.< Well, it'll be worth it. Especially if the entertainment isn't that good. I can plug in my earbuds and pop in a DVD to watch, recharge my iPod, or work on my projects.

And lastly, I contacted my Bank about getting Traveler's Checks. I'll be getting those sometime next week. Question: What would be better? Exchanging my currency for Japanese currency, or getting Traveler's Checks?

10 days 22 hours 33 minutes left!

1 comments so far

1:26 p.m. - 2007-09-28

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Just Making Sure.... Again.

Is it paranoia when you check your flight reservations every day? :D

Something else I'm going to try to do over the next few days...lose more weight. Last November I was 109.7kg (241.8lbs). I decided to start doing little things to help improve my health and lose weight. I stopped drinking soda at first. That was extremely hard to do as I'd usually have 2-3 cans of Mountain Dew every day at work, and a couple large glasses of soda every Saturday night when my friends would come over for Movie Night. Once I had that beat, I started to work on cutting out the late night snacking. For a while, I had completely cut it out, but it's difficult when you are up late working on things like auction pictures and cleaning, and you get hungry for something. I also cut out a lot of the fried foods and snacks while at work. Just changing my diet was enough to help me lose around 18kg (40lbs). This morning I was at 94.7kg (208.8lbs) and my goal weight is about 85kg (approx 187lbs). My lowest weight over the last year was 91.9kg (202lbs) around late May, but I have teetered around 93kg-94kg ever since.

I've slacked off a lot over the last 2 months. Snacking again late at night, drinking more coffee instead of tea. Eating larger portions of food I shouldn't have. But no excuses! I need to get back into the swing of thing ASAP! I'm going to be enjoying a lot of good foods in Japan. I need to keep in the habit as much as possible, right? SO...

This morning, instead of the usual breakfast sandwich, I picked up a Yogurt & berries cup at Tim Horton's, and I brought my own coffee. I'm now drinking water and plan on getting a 6" turkey sub on Wheat at Subway for lunch. Water to drink. Supper tonight will be chicken & rice with veggies and salad.

Ebay auctions continue. So far so good. :)

11 days, 23 hours and 27 minutes left!

0 comments so far

12:12 p.m. - 2007-09-27

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138 Old Photos Uploaded To Flickr - 13 Days To Go!

2 days, and over 300 old photos...here are 138 of the old photos from my Dad's collection of pictures he took while stationed in Tokyo Japan. Click the link to go to my Flickr account and view the pictures.

Click Here To View Pictures

There are a lot of photos from the countryside, around the Imperial Palace, and even some of the construction around Tokyo going on in 1954-56. There are photos of life inside Hardy Barracks where my Dad was stationed (The Central Command Headquarters in Roppongi).

I don't think I'll be able to take as many pictures as my Dad did, but I'm going to take as many pictures and video as possible.

12 days, 22 hours left until my daughter and I are on our way to Japan. Butterflies...in...stomach! 9/30 - updated entry to correct about 'reconstruction' in Tokyo.

2 comments so far

1:46 p.m. - 2007-09-26

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Comments Open, Japan Jitters and More Ebay!

Well, it's 15 days & 3 hours until the big trip begins. Yup, the first leg of our 18hr journey begins at 12pm, Tuesday October 9th. I'm starting to get jittery about it now. Last night I couldn't sleep a wink. Tried to lay down several times, but just couldn't drift off into la-la land. I have to work until 6pm today. I'm going to be sooooo dead today. :(

I have plans to post on here often while I'm in Japan. I'll be posting many pics as well. And for those interested, I have finally purchased my SuperGold package, and have turned on comments. Though you can still leave me notes if you want (diaryland members of course), I can't wait to have active discussions in my entries. Thanks for stopping by! and all that. ;-)

One of the things I am also working on right now is a DVD production project for my theater group, The Lights of Broadway. I'm making a DVD set for their show "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged!" which they performed (and I videotaped) in February. The DVD is almost done, and I'm very close to completing the last few items. One of the things I was working on was an opening logo for the DVD...and here is a rough mockup!

Click to watch the video.

It's a little fuzzy because I added some glow effects. My friend, Dave will be over some time soon to help be build a 3D version of the logo and animate it for a better quality version. I can't wait to play around in Maya. :D Yes, I am a geek. What's your point?

Well, it's time for me to go get some Tim Horton's goodness (breakfast sandiwch) and head off to work. Leave me some comment love, okay? Thanks!

2 comments so far

9:00 a.m. - 2007-09-24

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You Can Almost Hear The Top Gun Theme....


Photo of my Dad in Tokyo, not far from Hardy Barracks. This intersection was near what was called D Avenue, but he couldn't remember for sure. He photographed a bad car crash in this intersection at one time. He also recalled this was where they used to catch a bus to take them around Tokyo. Click pictures for full size.


The Fuji View Hotel


A view of Mt. Fuji from across Lake Kamaguchi. You can see the top of the Fuji View Hotel on the left side of the picture, across the lake.


Ginzakan Mart in Ginza, Tokyo


Fuji View Hotel Restaurant Waitresses modeling in Kimono during the spring on their time off. My Dad has color slides of them dressed in beautiful Kimono surrounded by sakura blossoms. He recalled that this was a special event that took place only one day a year when the Sakura were in fullest bloom. The Hotel actually gave the waitresses the time off to do this.


Skyline of the City of the Dead. Actually, this is just a Cemetery, but it really does look like a city skyline, doesn't it? Dad recalled this was just outside of Tokyo, but couldn't remember exactly where.


The Great Buddah at Kamakura. At that time, you could go inside and look out these little windows in the back of his head. I don't know if you can do that anymore, but it still looks cool. (Thanks to Kim, I now know it is still possible to go inside. Thanks! ^_^) 9/30 - updated and corrected descriptions and spelling.

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1:44 a.m. - 2007-09-18

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Peering Into The Past...

Yesterday I was at my parent's house for the day. I was able to convince my Dad a few days before to loan me a box of old family photos. In this box of old photos were about 140 pictures that my Dad shot while he was stationed in Tokyo, Japan back in 1954-1956. I've wanted, for a long time, a chance to scan his old photos. He took probably over a thousand pictures while he was there. Of course, I might be over exaggerating, but it seems like there's at least that many. He has hundreds of color slides and more black & white photos than I can shake a stick at. Now that he loaned me the box, I could finally begin this dream project.

So I brought the box into work with me today. I have an Epson Perfection 2450 Photo scanner there, so I hooked it up to my MacBook and started to sort the photos. (An embarrassing side note: Last night as I was getting ready to leave the house, the box of photos slipped out of my hand and I spilled more than half of the box of photos onto the living room floor. Thankfully, my Dad wasn't there to see that little accident, otherwise I think he'd have changed his mind. D'oh!) I sorted the photos into 3 stacks. My Dad's Japan photos, my Uncle Julie's WWII England Photos, and Homestead photos that consisted of all family and old photos of my Grandma & Grandpa's farm. There was a 4th stack of old polaroid photo books, too, but those I counted among the Homestead photos.

So today, between phone calls, I scanned 290 photos. 290 glimpses into my family's past. The scope of this just boggles my mind. And I've only just begun. When I have completed this, I hopefully will have a digital copy of these old photos to send to all of my Brothers and Sisters, Cousins and Aunts and Uncles, and for my Daughter. I also want to share my Dad's Japan photos with my girlfriend's family. I think they'll see things they've never seen, or haven't seen in a very long time. Tokyo looks nothing like it did 53 years ago, as far as I know. It would be nice, though, to visit Tokyo and find some places are still there.

I can't wait to sit down with my Dad this weekend and go through the photos and write down notes and descriptions of each of them. I never got the chance to do that with my Grandma Vickie when she was alive. I don't want to miss the chance to do that with my Dad.

And in case you're wondering, my Dad is the one person I look up to in the whole world. Nothing beats sitting at the Family Room table with a cup of coffee and chatting with my Dad.

My trip to Japan will be my tribute to him in a way. Without his memories and photographs, I don't think I'd have ever thought about going there.

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5:44 p.m. - 2007-09-17

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My Baby (girl) Got (her passport) Back!

Okay, that title is wrong, I admit it. But I have to say... I. Am. STOKED!

Last evening when I returned home from work, an Express Mail envelope was sitting between my front and screen doors. At first I was confused, "Who was express mailing something to me?" Then I realized, it must be the Passport! So I picked it up and brought it upstairs to my daughter and told her to open it. She didn't know what it was about, but the look on her face was priceless. :) She was SO happy! So, one of the biggest remaining issues is behind us now. We're both all set with our Passports! YES!

Now I just need to make some money. I'm selling things on Ebay right now. Hopefully, I'll get some good bids there. Here's a linky if you're interested in checking out my cra..er, stuff.

0 comments so far

2:42 p.m. - 2007-09-14

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Adventures In Passport...ing

Last tuesday I wrote about having applied for my daughter's passport. I paid for expedited processing and the express mail so we'd get the passport back as soon as possible. I checked on the state department's website and it looks like they have the passport and have already assigned a locator number to it. This is good news as it means we're probably within 2 weeks of getting her passport back (if my experience back in May is any indication). Luckily the backlog of passport applications has been caught up for some time now. So, with any luck, we should be good to go with our passports now. *whew!*

A Note About Comments: I am going to get comments turned on shortly. I have to purchase the supergold service on Diaryland, and once I do, folks can start commenting back. Notes are on now, so if you want, send me one. :)

0 comments so far

3:28 p.m. - 2007-09-10

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So I'm Going To Japan!

As my first official entry, I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Mike, but you can call me Dak. I also answer to "Hey You!" but I prefer Dak. I'm 34 years old, a single Dad, and I live with my 15-year old daughter. I've pretty much raised her on my own since she was about 18months old.

I've worked as an ISP Support Technician for the last 6 or 7 years. It's a fun Job, but it basically made me a Mac fan. I use Windows at work, but on Macs. I have a MacBook (Core Duo 1.83Ghz) and a G5 PowerMac (dual 1.8Ghz) at home. I pretty much edit video (movies, AMVs, etc) and my daughter likes to create music.

So there's the dime store introduction. Look, I've even got change for you! heh, okay, not really.

So anyways, as the title says, I'm going to Japan. (Or if you're reading this in Japan, I'm *coming* to Japan.) The how and why of it are rather long stories, so I'll save those for some future entries. But, suffice it to say, I'm going there to stay with someone who is very very special to me. I met her online through a Japanese language friends site 2 1/2 years ago, and when we met in person for the first time, we realized we had fallen in love with each other. It's not an easy situation, but I knew in my heart she was *The One*. So we will work to overcome our complicated situations to hopefully, eventually, perhaps in several years, be together for good. She wants to move here to the US to live with me. Frankly, I don't care where we live, just as long as we are together. (Okay, New Jersey is not an option. Sorry.)

So that takes care of (a small part of) the why...

Now, today was a major step in the trip to Japan. Back in May, I got my Passport. But until today, I had yet to apply for my daughter's Passport. It's not that I'm lazy (much) or the like, but rather, when I've had time, I didn't have the money. And when I've had the money, I didn't have the time. But today, I had to get her to the local main branch of the Post Office and get her application in. We're 34 days away from leaving. If I didn't get it going now, I don't think we'll get it back on time. I paid for expedited processing and express mailing, so in all, her passport cost $174.50. (>.<) But, it had to be done.

The next problem was figuring out what to do about our schedule. We're supposed to be there from October 9th (we arrive on the 10th) until October 23rd. Unfortunately, we can't stay with my love for the whole time. Their schedule wouldn't allow for them to take us to the airport on the 23rd when we're suppose to leave, so I had to figure out when we would have to leave their place, and what to do after that. You see, if I changed our flight schedule, I would be charged a $350 penalty, plus I'd have to pay the cost difference for the airfare on 2 tickets. At first I thought we would have to leave a week early. But last night, She sent me an email and said they would take us to the airport on the 21st.

So that gives us 2 days until our originally scheduled flight home. Hmm...what to do?

Well, I decided to see if there were any hotels I could book for 2 nights near where our airport is, and if the cost of staying there would be cheaper than changing our flight home by 2 days. I checked online and even contacted several friends online who live in Japan (Heya, Sasori-Gal ;-)) but in the end, I called the same booking company where I booked our plane tickets. IACE-Travel is awesome! I spoke with Eriko, and she found me a hotel in Osaka that will cost $284 for both my daughter and I, for 2 nights, and that is everything included except the bed tax. (which I presume will push it above $300, but not over $350) All things considered, it will be cheaper than changing the flight, so that's what I'll do.

Unfortunately, this means we won't get to come up to Tokyo. My daughter had her heart set on going to this part of Tokyo (a fashion district, but I can't remember the name right now). Plus, I won't get to visit Otaku heaven, Akihabara, but since this trip is expensive enough, and I'm not made of money, we'll have to make do. Sadly, I probably won't get to meet some friends while we're there due to the distance we'll be from each other, but if luck is on our side, it would be really cool to meet up.

So the first official entry is done, the flight schedule doesn't have to be changed, and we'll be staying at a Hotel in Osaka for 2 nights. Sweet, eh?

Stay tuned for my next entry, where I'll be talking about my reasons for going (in addition to seeing my love) and my attempts at learning Japanese on my own. Thanks for reading!

0 comments so far

2:05 p.m. - 2007-09-04

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A test...

Testing the new Blog.

0 comments so far

8:14 a.m. - 2007-07-29

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