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Memories of Japan

Posted by Ted on Mar 30, 2011 in Events, Memories, Photography, Travel

At 2:46pm on Friday, March 11th, 2011, a massive 8.9 earthquake shook the island of Honshu, 230 miles north of Tokyo, 45 miles offshore where the Pacific tectonic plate thrusts underneath the North American plate. Colossal 30 foot waves washed over seawalls, bringing boats inland and leveling everything in its wake. The wave traveled as far as our East Bay home, over 5000 miles away. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the three weeks since have been filled with the growing tension surrounding the increasing levels of radiation coming from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. With relatives in and friends visiting Japan, and the tsunami wave and diluted radioactive cloud reaching the Bay Area, the catastrophe hit home. I had also seen the devastation in Haiti only a year ago. Thankfully, the Japanese have building codes, and loss of life has been thankfully minimal. Every day, the news of the struggle to contain the nuclear emergency overshadows all other after-effects of the catastrophe. The world waits as brave Tokyo Electric workers pump seawater into damaged reactors and try to restore power to the facility.

With all of this press that focuses on the tragedy, I would like to take a moment to step back and remember what makes Japan beautiful. I was lucky enough to travel to the land of the Rising Sun just over 10 years ago, when I was working for UUNET. We had been acquired by Worldcom, and were expanding into the Asia-Pacific region, and I was responsible for training the local teams how to connect businesses up to our global infrastructure. Here are a few of my favorite memories.

The offices were based in Tokyo, but I had taken a long weekend and gone down to Kyoto via Shinkansen. It was cherry blossom season, this year’s being not long from now, and they were in bloom and beautiful. One of the most magical moments was walking around the Imperial Palace when there was a light rain and the conditions were just right such that when the sun went behind the clouds, the temperature dropped just enough that the rain turned to snow, falling through blooming cherry trees.

Also in Kyoto, I stopped along a side street to act as a dark counterpoint for two beautiful white-faced Geisha.

Having already seen the recreation at the Japanese Pavilion at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center in Orlando, I sought out the Torii gate submerged in Lake Ashinoko, near Hakone. That was a wonderful weekend, having taken the Shinkansen down to Odawara, and then ridden trains, gondolas, and pirate ships around the region.

However, my favorite memory of all was as I left Tokyo the first time, bound for Hong Kong. Only a couple of years before 9/11, air travel was a bit more lax. On this particular occasion, I was in business class, and the stewardess excitedly came into the cabin and invited the handful of us into the cockpit to see a view that few see. There are thousands, perhaps even millions of pictures and paintings of Mt. Fuji from the ground, but we were able to look down on it from above.

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so there I was..

Posted by Ted on Nov 20, 2006 in Memories, Travel

so there I was, first time across the Pacific, I land in Narita and head to Shinjuku to my hotel. I arrive there around 7ish, and decide to chuck my bags and go for a walk. I end up at this random sushi joint. small place, 4 tables and a bar. where I sit, nod to the chef, ask for tea, some hamachi, and whatever else is good that night. these two straight-laced japanese business men chat me up, and we muddle through my japanese and their english. they buy me rounds of fugu-fin sake and buy me fish. then they ask if I’d like to come with them to the next bar.

I start to protest, but then I decide that what the hell? these two guys look totally harmless, how bad could it be? and of course, that can get you killed in some places, but I decided to take my chances.

turned out to be a karaoke bar, and they wanted me to sing.

I did some Beatles tune, and another or two, and then left and laughed my way home to the hotel.

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there are tentacles in my okonomiyaki

Posted by Ted on Jan 8, 2005 in Food & Drinks, Travel

it almost feels like Tokyo.

Japan Center, the cultural center of Nihonmachi (Japan Town), feels a lot like Porter Exchange.. only much bigger, and feeling a lot more authentic. walking past restaurants with the plastic food on display in the windows and everything.

two nights ago I had tempura ramen in a delicious soy broth.

last night I had sushi that was wonderful. mmm. aji temaki.

tonight I went down the hall and had okonomiyaki, which I haven’t had since I was in Tokyo. it’s basically a Japanese pancake/pizza sort of thing, with seafood and other meats, and egg, and topped with tonkatsu sauce. yum.

of course, walking next door afterwards and getting a crepe with green tea gelatto and red bean paste made it feel a little more like San Francisco. although, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that in Tokyo either.

(and then there was the fact that I was trying to find this one sushi place that was reputed to have fugu. I even called them to find their address, and someone answered, and gave what I expected the address to be. except, it isn’t there. it’s a Denny’s. I even walked into said Denny’s to see if there was some sore of clandestine sushi parlor in the back, which there wasn’t.)

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