industrial robots
Cranking out widgets in search of meaning...

Japan 2011


There’s more English and people seem more friendly, or maybe it's that I'm more relaxed and comfortable here than last time? Qoo is all but gone, just at McD. Smartphones are huge here already - Keitai seem to be for Jr high kids and middle agers now. There was a BBC World interview at the Ryokan and the interviewer even yoinked my comment to use in a question.


Things were much easier this time. There’s a bit more English and I know my way around Ueno better than I remembered. All the old faves, St. Marc Cafe, Beard Papa, The Okinawa Shop, etc. are still here.

a wide street with stores on one side and Ueno Station on the righta cup of foamy coffee and a croissant in a wrapper

Shinjuku Marui Men has eight floors of manliness and is really high end. I was still wearing my runners that got soaked in the rain on arrival. Wolfman Brs. employees were great and friendly, but the packaging was so crazy I forgot to take a picture of the boutique... I will do so when I return.

Store entrance from the sidea drawstring bag with a wolf logo and Wolfman brs texta black woven shirt with a wolf logo and vertical Wolfman brs texta silver belt buckle with a wolf logo

Tokyo Tower is pretty cool - it shouldn't have been such a low priority.

tokyo tower lit vermillion orange at nighta view of tokyo at night with paths of light where major streets crossa selfie in front of the night view of tokyoa panorama shot of the night view of the city through a grid of windows

Mos Burger sucks!

mos burger signs on the front of the buidinga plain looking cheeseburger, a half and half bag of rings and fries, and a fountain soda on a tray

I felt obligated to go to Akihabara, but really enjoyed it.

colourfully lit buildings above a crowdlarge buildings with logos and vertical japanese text
retro video game consoles on a shelf, mostly pc engine variantsa stack of famicom game consoles for 6980 yen each

I still really love Ueno - sorry I ditched my old runners in the park garbage! I did buy some new purple ones in the Ameyoko market though.

a painter at his easel overlooking the pond in Ueno PArkthe pagoda lit up at night reflects on the watera box containing purple running shoes


There isn’t as much English here as in Tokyo, but there’s a lot more smoking, in restaurants even. The ryokan is very basic, but has a pretty good location.

kyoto tower lit mostly white at night with orange near the top and blue at the baseThe entrance to a home with a sign reading Yahata and a flag that reads guesthouse

I booked a morning bus tour that took us to a few key sights.

Higashi Honganji Temple

temple building from a distance with a crowd gatheringa view looking up at the wooden entry gate
a large outdoor fountain that resembles a flowera smaller temple building

Nijo Castle

a small crowd at the entrancewaymetal pillars support a metal door, both having rivets across their surfacesninomaru palace building from outsidea carved stone wall and part of the moata diagram of the ninomaru palace floor and how metal clamps move to create sound to alert of intrudersthe wooden flooring itself with the metal clamps showing

Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion)

the temple from a distance is also relected in the water of a ponda view of the temple through treesa close up of the top floors of the temple.  The bronze phoenix ornament is visible on top

It was a good idea and I had a great brunch afterwards at Karafuneya Coffee.

Building entrancea cup of coffee and a plate of waffles topped with scoops of strawberry ice cream, sheets of mochi, whipped cream, and sliced almonds

I also made it a point to visit Fushimi Inari Shrine, but I could only do one side of the torii gate walk. It was a really great time though. It's an incredible sight.

giant torii gate entranceone of the main shrine buildings with the wall blinds open and people seated insidea man performs a sword demonstration inside the buidingthree people in white robes ascend a set of stairs further into the temple grounds a stone lantern surrounded by a vermillian orange and black fenceselfie in front of the start of the tunnel of torii gatesa dark stone torii among the wooden vermillan onesa lantern and a stone fox at a gap in the path of gates a line of torii gates from the sidea corner of the tunnel of gates from the inside.  Text is written verically on the pillars of each one in blackthe tunnel of gates bend around a corner in the distancea weathered base of one of the gates.  Metal rings loosely surround the wood. a stone torri gate amongst lanterns and small stone postssmall wooden torii gates for writing prayers ona stone fox on a large base wears a red biba view through a stone torii to several vermillan wooden ones taiko drummers performa crowd between two of the shrine's buildingsa dark fox statue with gold accentsa taiko drummer with a crowd in the background the main shrine building at the top of stone stepslanterns line both sides of the main walkwayInari station with vermillian accents

I took a few photos of the area I stayed in as well. It was pretty close to Kyoto Station, so it was convenient to get around.

a bicycle shop with many bikes out fronta traditional japanese wooden house
a building lit by many hanging laterns at night next to a stone torii gatea garage door half-closed with the back end of a car sticking out

A healthy conbini breakfast of coffee and an eclair and a last look at the Kyoto Tower before getting on the Shinkansen.

a can of georgia brand cafe au lait and a chocolate-striped eclair filled with whipped creamkyoto tower with some buildings in frontthe nose cone and front windows of a shinkansen


Miyajima was great - my fave pic is from there so far. The tempura was soggy though.

Future me note: I didn't know about tempura tendon back then and thought it was always supposed to be crispy.

I had to take a ferry to get there, and it provided some great sights.

torii gate in the distance in the waterpagoda and buildings on the distant shoreselfie with torii gate and shore in the distance

The torii gate is stunning. I really love this shot.

the torii gate with the sun starting to set in the background and reflected on the water.  the shore is visible on the left and there are mountains in the background

The main attraction.

the torii gate in the far distance from within the shrinethe torii gate in the water with mountains in the background

The Shrine

the main shrine buiding from the front with a wing on each sidethe dark interior of the shrine and its many pillarsan area of the shine interior lit by a row of large hanging paper lanterns

After sunset

the torii gate lit up in the darkthe torii gate lit in the dark with lit stone lanterns in the foregrounda line of lit stone lanterns along the shoreline with city lights in the far distance


The streetcar was good to use and it’s easy to get to Peace Park.

an old looking streetcar on the roada fountain at the entrance to Peace Parka view through a curved sculpture of the bomb dome

It’s pretty understated. When you get there it really has an impact though, especially the children's memorial.

chains of paper cranes piled at the foot of a statue of a woman carrying a childa close view of the chains of paper cranes of many coloursa stone sundiala statue of a girl and a fawn a plaque reads: MEMORIAL MONUMENT FOR HIROSHIMA, CITY OF PEACE (MEMORIAL CENOTAPH FOR THE A-BOMB VICTIMS) Erected 6 August 1952.  LET ALL THE SOULS HERE REST IN PEACE FOR WE' SHALL NOT REPEAT THE EVIL.
This monument embodies the hope that Hiroshima, devastated on 6 August 1945 by the world's first atomic bombing, will stand forever as a city of peace. The stone chamber in the center contains the Register of Deceased A-bomb Victims. The inscription on the front panel offers a prayer for the peaceful repose of the victims and a pledge on behalf of all humanity never to repeat the evil of war. It expresses the spirit of Hiroshima-enduring grief. transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.a water feature that includes a braziera statue on a three-sided base near a series of cubicles filled with chains of paper cranes

The Bomb Dome was really impactful as well.

the bomb dome building from a distance.  it is only stone walls with the metal frame of a dome at the toplooking up at the main part of the building
a dark entranceway at ground levelthe curved back side of the building

The museum being closed both days was a drag - no Yoko Ono (The Road of Nope).

a poster for Yoko Ono 2011 The 8th Hiroshima art prize The Road to Hope July 30 to October 16, 2011museum sign The road of hope Yoko Ono 2011the entranceway to the museum with the gate closed

The place I stayed at was great, even if they got my name wrong.

a small house with plants out front and signs for Ryokan Sansuian a-frame sign with the Yokoso Japan logo and several people's names,including Eari Cousins


Something about Japan's major train stations that surprised me is just how huge they are, as well as how many stores and restaurants are incorporated.

Man with short beard and hair wearing glasses looks out a train windowSouth gate building listing several stores such as daimaru, uniqlo, and pokemon centre osaka

After I checked in, I took a local line out to some place (Sakai Ward) called like Thunder Bay where the air smells like the battery recycling place out near Leslie St. in Toronto to get some Japanese work boots. Total transit pwnage!

toraichi big tiger storetwo pairs of japanese work boots.  One cloth, one pvc/nylon

Then I went to a family steak house restaurant. There was also a booze vening machine nearby.

restaurant exteriorsteak with baked potato and vegetables
cheesecake and coffeea canned liquor vending machine

When I got back to my local station, I found Super Potato completely by accident! I was hoping to find out where it is. Osaka's version of Akihabara is called Den Den (Electricity) Town.

sign in a subway station showing the den den town exitsuper potato store exterior at nighta statue of solid snake inside super potato
a taito station arcade at night with at least five floorsa sega arcade at night

The Glico guy is in every bit of footage I've ever seen of Osaka I think.

neon signs in Dotonbori including the famous running man image with the Glico logoa giant poster of a young man dominates one of the area buidingsmore buildings with large ads on them

My room looks out over the Dotonbori Canal.

looking down the canal and walkway with buildings on each side.  one of the buildings includes an oval ferris wheelthe view in the other direction includes the local don quijote store

Yo, Toronto PATH, how come you don't have nice decor like this?

an indoor walkway looking like stone masonry decorated with reproductions of paintings

Osaka Castle is well worth a visit.


the top of the castle towers over trees in the foregrounda flag noting the castle's 80th anniversaryosaka castle's five above ground stories framed by trees

The View

the treed grounds with osaka in the background.  ornate posts meet at the corner in the foregroundfrom the front, mostly trees are in view with the city in the distance.  a golden fish ornament is visible on a lower roofa zoomed-in view of city buildings and a bridge


art pieces of the golden fish with a dragon's head and a golden tigervarious warrior helmetspainting of Toyotomi Hideyoshia large painted screen


large wooden gates with gold accentsa japanese flag is displayed outside the entrance gate
the entranceway to the grounds creates a torii-like gate in the surrounding walla sideview of an outer wall.  The stone blocks are carved so that there's a curve to the outside of the wall

I finally found a traditional toilet! No, I didn't need to use it (yay)!

a tiled washroom stall with a small porcelain trough in the floor

Umeda Sky Building

umeda sky building from a distance.  There are two rectangular glassed towers connected by a walkway close to the highest floors and a rooftop canopy with a large open space in the centera close view from the ground shows the walkway and escalators that lead from a high floor to the rooftopa view from belowthe entranceway features metal and glass accents resembling flags flying in winda view looking up that includes the metal entrance accents

"Thunder Bay style" subway

a drab underground walkway with a wavy multicoloured line decorating one wall

Local, ltd. express, and airport express trains.

a train platform with multiple trains on various tracks

Hallowe'en decorations here started on the 1st I think. I'm somewhat surprised that they don't all say Harrowe'en.

a store window display includes a stack of three jack-o-lanterns wearing a witches' hat and an image of a bat in the background

There's the Uniqlo store in Osaka Station.

a small black store with uniqlo in white letters and a large letter U near the entrance

Mount Koya was a nice change from the city. All the train stations should have these slips to tell you your platform.

a paper slip reads: Koyasan (15:00).  Take the train from platform No. 3 and transfer for Koyasan Gokuraku-bashi at Hashimoto stasion (sic). The time and platform number have been written in.a sign for koyasan showing it's 867m highthe funicular that takes you up has a red car and many stairs

Okunoin Cemetery

a meticulously bricked walkway with stone lanterns and trees on either sidea tall grave marker with statues of two male figures
a square gravestone with text marker stones, stacked stone blocks and a circle with kanji on top.  the kanji is reproduced in stone in front of the aged metal gate marks the space for an old stone marker made of a series of stacked stone shapesan old stone torii gate leads to a pair of old stone buildings fenced off by stone posts

A random canine appeared!

likely a dog looks to the right as it stands in a wide walkway leading over a bridge to a flight of stairs and a torii gate.  There are vermillion railings on the bridge that match the torii

It was even better as the sun set.

a stone lantern and a small tree with red leaves frame gravestonesstairs lead to a raised section with a lit stone latern and several small buildings and stone markerswhite stone steps lead to a raised section with white stone pathways, many dark unlit lanterns, and a white domea line of lit stone lanterns on a path in the distance, partially hidden by large treesa line of several lit stone lanterns along the edge of a path at night

Thanksgiving turkey!

a subway restaurant turkey sandwicha door that reads stuff only

Glico guy at night.

Neon signs in Dotonbori lit up at night, featuring the famous running man with the Glico logo

The view from my room's "breakfast nook" was pretty great.

a row of slim buildings along the Dotonbori canal on an overcast daythe same row of slim buildings along the Dotonbori canal lit up at nightsliding doors lead to a small room with a table and two chairs and a curtained window

The guy at the ryokan figured out my best route to Kawaguchiko - awesome!

The entrance to Kaneyoshi Ryokana typical japanese room with tatami mats, a low table, and sliding paper doors.

I had a small breakfast before checking out and was glad I did!

a small muffin and a carton of grape juicea sign advertising a new tuna muffin combi for 250 yen at McDonald's


It took half the time I thought it would to get here since I took one train and a bus instead of multiple trains. Thanks again Kaneyoshi Ryokan!

the main Kawaguchiko station building is only a couple of floors higha cloudy sky over a train with cartoon versions of mt fuji painted on it

I splurged a bit and my hotel room was well worth it.

hotel suite living room with a western table and four chairs and two couches with a coffee table between themhotel suite bedroom with two queen size beds and a small table and chair near a windowhotel suite bathing room with tiles on all walls and floor, a deep tub, and a faucet and mirror for washing

A pretty nice view of Fujisan on my first morning here. I got up way too early though.

Mount Fuji with a haze covering the lower portion

After a relaxing day, I went to the local mall.

the exterior of a small shopping malltex mex products by old el paso and others, including various hot saucesNissin microwave spaghettiwestern cereals with japanese logosvarious juice drinks including Qoo in pouchesvitamin drinks with an alien promotional character

I decided on pizza for dinner, even though it was a bit pricey.

pizza stand next to a dessert storean employee makes my pizzaa pepperoni and mushroom pizza served on a wooden peel

Dessert was the special "Hallowe'en" selection at Baskin Robbins, that ended up matching my outfit LOL!

a placemat featuring the hallowe'en ice cream menusome type of freebie I got next to my ice cream cupmy ice cream is purple and brown and so are my clothes

The road up the mountain is closed due to weather, so I hung out at Kawaguchiko Station with some locals who volunteer as information guides and had a great time anyway. There were also some weird products for sale.

a small sign points to mount fuji with a small illustration of itEarl and a group of japanese people
sake in bottles shaped like mount fujibottles of mars wine

There's a cigarette machine in the hotel lobby. The weirdness on the right side is facial recognition so it compares you to your ID!

a fairly typical cigarette vending machinea sign describing how to use the face recognition.  At the bottom there's an illustration of a tadpole with a cross through it

Relaxing in the room and taking occasional pictures of Fujisan as the clouds change.

mount fuji - the top is hidden by cloudsmount fuji - the top is hidden by bright clouds.  There's a forest in the foreground
mount fuji - the top is hidden by cloudsmount fuji - the top is hidden by swirling clouds.  There's a forest in the foreground

I went back to the BBQ place (Teppan-Ann) for dinner and it was even better the second time.

the logo sign for teppan-ann restaurantthe cozy restaurant entrance
plates of beef, onion, and peppers with a tomato salad and a drink on a table near a grilling brazierthe waiter smiles and makes an ok gesture

Third time's the charm as today is mostly clear. I took some great shots this morning right up until checkout.

mount fuji without snowmount fuji with some wispy cloudsmount fuji with tiny tufts of cloud

A little bit of cloud moving in.

More sun but also more clouds.

mount fuji mostly covered in cloudsmount fuji with bright sunlit clouds


mount fuji in bright sunlight with a bit of cloud behind

The Hotel Regina is definitely recommended.

selfie from my hotel room balcony with mount fuji in the backgroundEarl next to the hotel sign

The bus ride to Tokyo was a fast three hours, with quite a few interesting sights along the way.

bus screen reads for tokyo stationmount fuji in the distance from the buswaves on lake kawaguchikoa sign for fuji speedwaya random uniqlo location on a sideroad

Tokyo (Again)

I had a bit of culture shock getting back to Tokyo, since I'd been zenning out for three days in Kawaguchiko.

tokyo station entrance

There were also some autumn festival activities happening in Ueno when I got back.

a line of people in festival dress walk down the street while a costumed person on stilts waves to onlookers

There's so many weird little things to see everywhere you look.

a neon sign that looks like mount fujia store called ufumufu with two cartoon characters of black children

I went back to Marui MEN to get a ring they had transferred from another store in my size. I said I would take a photo of the boutique…

outside of marui men lit up at nighta young woman stands at the wolfman brs boutique that features a large logo and jewellery display cases

Dinner with Amiel, our work contact in Japan. I was tempted to apply to replace him on an eighteen-month contract with Amex.

a filipino man in a plaid shirt with short dark hair

Wandering around Shinjuku.

buskers play music on a corner of the sidewalklarge billboards for uniqlo clothing items on topof a buildinglarge screens on a building show videosthe streetscape is full of coloured lights and signssmall signs in a vertical stack show the many small bars within one building

More epic packaging.

a black gift bag with the wolfman brs logoa small paper bag with the logoa sticker with the logo

But wait... there's more!

a small cloth bag with the logo in a plastic pouchsomething wrapped in branded tissue paper in a sealed plastic poucha silver ring of a wolf's head

The ring I didn’t buy was huge.

a larger silver ring of a wolf's head and neck ruff

Wandering around Ueno

a small neighbourhood shrine statuea persimmon treea can of boss cafe au lait

Ameyoko Market

a crowd at one of the entrances to the marketa food stall called choo choo hadopineapple and melon on a stick for 100 and 200 yen respectively

Okinawa shop

the outside of the shop has items on a tablespam with an image of spam sashimi on itpouches of taco rice mixcampbell's soup cans for 257 yenbags of spicy snacksa flag for FC Ryukyu

Taito Station Arcade

The main floor has a lot of prize machines.

arcade entrancea pingu plush at the entrancepingu and pinga plush toys in a crane gamehello kitty pillowtoro and kura mascot character plushesanime figures called panty and stockinga scooping game with kit kat bar prizesa floor with machines with women on them and a sign that says warning only men

I did play a bunch of games though.

taiko no tatsujin drumming gamedarius burst exwangan midnight maximum tune 3 dx plusmario kart arcade gp 2

There's a Silent Hill game!

cabinet art with a chained shut dooryou stand in the cabinet with a canopy overheadscreenshot of the character pyramid head about to end my game

Space Invaders help you recycle.

recycling bins with space invaders on them

More Ueno wandering.

an ad that says happy christmasthe tomy digital biology buildingan old derelict building is dwarfed by apartment towers around ita mealdelivery bicyclea store called moonhearta shiba inu dog looks at the camerathe sign for a ramen shop that uses what looks like a mop to represent the noodles

My favourite cup noodle (Chili Tomato) for lunch.

cup of chili tomato cup noodles

I went to Sol Amigo for dinner.

employees wave in front of the restaurant signthe interior is decorated with tex mex decorthe drink menu is large and says ram instead of rummy margarita was large as wellfajitas with chipsa and salsaa selfie with my waitress

Electronics store browsing.

a wall of small handheld lcd gamesa model of the yamanote line trainmodels of various types of shinkansen

I grabbed some breakfast to go and chilled in Ueno Park for a bit.

a sign on a building reads helvetica boldthe top half of skytree in the distance behind treesa can of boss rainbow blend coffee and a pastry called lookan egret near the ponda small waterfall feature in the parkthe pachinko parlour I tried playing ata small uniqlo store just outside the market

Dinner in Shinjuku with Kenjiro.

a display window with mannekins at uniqloa purple building houses a gucci storean ad for ultra speed internet featuring ultraman and a black mana sign promoting an art competitiongraffiti in an alley

We went to Tsunahachi Tempura.

restaurant entrance with sliding doorsthe menu reads please give a real tempura to me skilleda plate of sand borer fish tempuraa plate of eel tempuraa white bearded man next to a slightly taller japanese man

More Ueno exploration.

the ko hi kan cafehotcakes and coffee

There are probably a thousand tiny bars here and I finally saw some street art.

a set of signs on the side of a building for many small barsa sign reads 7F Rummy's Barthe abab shopping buildinga mural of mount fuji with multicoloured rays coming from behind ita taped off area with graffiti

Takeya, a great discount store in a purple building with a grocery floor.

a tall purple building with very few windowstim tam biscuitsshrink-wrapped naan-dogsvacuum sealed precooked hamburgers and cheeseburgerssea jerky

The main shopping street in Ueno and the entrance to the market.

a store called 100 yen shopthe corner of the main street near the market entrancethe local McDonald'sa sign reads big mac 200 yen 1971a row of bicycles parked outside McDonald'sa karaoke placean old store with a sign that reads adult movies next to newer buildingsnewconstruction right next to existing buildings

The streets and back alleys are all so clean!

the street curb with no littera traditional house behind a wallclean alley behind a restaurantthe same alley looking the other way there is no littler or fluids on the paved alleya tidy construction sitea clean tidy side street

The owner of Ryokan Sawanoya wrote a book, so I bought a copy and asked him to sign it.

The building from the outsidethe owner showing his signature in the book