hokkaido shinkansen

2018-08-02 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I rode the Hokkaido Shinkansen for our first time. We had taken the Shinkansen as far north as Shin-Aomori. This trip was our first time traveling from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (which should be named simply Hokuto) to Shin-Aomori.

Tickets are spendy but comparable with non-discounted airfare. We rarely pay full fare for air travel. When that is our sole alternative (as it was today) rail travel (which is hardly discounted) is a viable option.

First leg of the trip: The diesel-electric express Super Hokuto from Sapporo to Shin-Hakodate Hokuto. The view along Uchiura Bay is gorgeous. For some sections, the tracks follow the edge of the surf.

We bought lunch at Shin-Hakodate Hokuto while waiting to change trains. Noriko ordered a mix-and-match bento box.

End of the line. Until when? Who knows when the Shinkansen will reach Sapporo.

The Tohoku Shinkansen trains have long noses to decrease noise when entering and leaving the numerous tunnels north of Morioka.

The countryside rolls quietly by. The trip took double the time of flying -- train 10 hours vs plane 5 hours door to door -- but the train was absolutely completely definitively more relaxing. I would much rather work or read or relax on a train than fly. The obstacle is price.

travel frog

2018-07-31 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I continue to enjoy (at a diminishing pace) our iPad tablet game "Travel Frog" (旅かえる).

Our frogs ride boats (made of soup bowls) or rafts (a small piece of wood). We wonder why our frogs never swim.

Sometimes our frogs camp. Campfires and moonlit nights seem romantic!

Our picture albums have been growing. The software company now allows us to add pages to our albums.

ivy lin jazz trio

2018-07-25 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- My former student Ivy Lin and her 2 musician friends performed at Jamusica. Jazz refreshed me after a grueling day at the office.

Jamusica became non-smoking. Yay!

Among the audience were Ivy's husband, son, and music teachers.



acoustic technology helps music students

2018-07-24 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- My cheerful colleague Akiko Tashiro helped me print my poster for a workshop on acoustics being held at Hokudai today.

This is my 1st time printing a poster in A0 size. Until now, I have always printed on A4 size paper, because (1) based on my interactions with my audience, I can select which pages to show, and (2) I can print additional or correctional pages without re-printing the entire poster. Somehow the A0 size paper makes me feel professional. (Just kidding.) Seriously, I'm astonished at how little information I can show on the poster. The big letters and pictures eat up space.

My former student Ivy and her former music teachers attended my talk on how science of acoustics can help students of music. You can read
the article here on my website.


The talk took place the same day a 24-hour convenience store opened at central campus. Now (if I need to) I can buy lunch on my way to work. I usually arrive at 04:00.


wind instrument repair workshop

2018-07-15 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The Yamaha music instrument store held a workshop on wind instrument repair.

The repair technicians are graduates of the
Yamaha Band Instruments Repair Academy. Students fabricate their own jigs while at the academy, and bring the tools with them when they are hired after graduation. Their tiny shop is filled with specialized tools.

My task was to destroy trumpet parts, and then experience how hard it is (for a novice) to undo damage. In my repair attempt, I managed to inflict additional harm that the professionals told me is impossible to fix.

We then watched in amazement how professionals make the impossible possible. Sorry no pictures or movies.

hokkaido railway technical museum

2018-07-14 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We visited the Hokkaido Railway Technical Museum, located near Naebo station, 1 stop east of Sapporo central station. An easy walk in warm weather from our home.

Visitors check in at the security gate because the museum is located within an active train yard. The museum is open only 2 Saturday afternoons a month, apparently due to a shortage of volunteers.

Static display of a type D51 steam locomotive built here at this yard in 1938. The Japanese love the D51.

Static display of experimental bus for road and rail travel. Hmm, not Japan's top achievement. Americans would do much better than this half-baked contraption.

Old brick buildings continue to service trains.

The museum is housed in the oldest extant building at the yard. The front exterior of the building used to be a platform. The building itself was used to service trains regardless of weather.

The rafters are original.

The tall building has been split into 2 levels. The upper level exhibits parts and memorabilia in glass cases. The lower level exhibits trains.

Japan imported rail from various countries, including USA (3rd and 4th from top) and Belgium (2nd from bottom, right). Belgium was forced to adopt railways before other countries in western Europe, because when Belgium became a nation they were not given rights to seafaring routes. Rail technology advanced as a result.

trip to belgium

2018-06-28 TO 2018-07-09 ANTWERPEN, GENT, AND BRUGGE, BELGIE -- We came to Belgium for an academic conference. Our Belgian friends were overly generous with their time to see us.

Our amateur radio friend and his wife entertained us at their lovely home. This was our first time in their beautiful garden.

Another amateur radio friend now teaches at a technical college. He and his wife talked over delicious beer and food.

Our former Dutch language teacher and her 2 daughters took us to a jazz big band performance in Gent. What a hot day it was! I should have worn short pants.

Our former colleagues greeted us in my old office at Universiteit Antwerpen.

Another former colleague and her husband explained to us their son's infatuation with the
Red Devils (Rode Duivels), the Belgian soccer (association football) team. The book below is a sticker book -- you collect stickers and paste them on the book. The night we saw this book, the Rode Duivels won against Japan, and several nights afterwards, the beat Brazil. We are delighted that we have Belgian, Brazilian, and Japanese friends.

We watched soccer at our hotel room, while enjoying local snacks. I cannot remember the last time I watched sports on TV. We don't have TV, and I don't watch spectator sports. The Belgium-Brazil game was a worthwhile exception. Noriko and I understood quite a bit of the Dutch language commentary.

I respect my former colleagues as researchers, friends, and fathers of their families.

The conference reception was held at Brugge city hall, which is a museum when not being used for meetings and civil weddings. The mural depicts Robert III, Count of Flanders, also known as the Lion of Flanders after the Battle of the Golden Spurs, although in reality he did not participate in the battle.

At the conference dinner, I shook hands with the provincial governor (standing in the doorway, right) and visited his office. He has a bedroom in the governor's mansion but prefers to commute from home.

midsummer sunset

2018-06-22 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I know it's midsummer when then sun sets over the science building.

In winter, the sun sets considerably south over Teineyama (the hill on the left of this picture).

In half an hour, the sky changes color.


2018-06-17 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I celebrated my birthday.

Noriko gave me a fantastic birthday card that she had found in Southampton, England almost a year ago! The card shows a picture of a couple just like us, the husband with short hair and the wife with long hair riding a red tandem bike followed by a black and white dog! Kerochan naturally is too important to appear in mass-produced greeting cards so he made a special appearance.

We went to
Toppi, a sushi restaurant at Soen train station, a 14-minute walk from our apartment. We had had a heavy breakfast, so our sushi lunch focused on spendy delicacies.

We had shortcake at
Rokkatei, a confectionery store well-known and respected on Hokkaido island. They serve free cakes and soft drinks on your birthday!

We visited the
Yamaha music store located upstairs from the Rokkatei cake-and-coffee shop. We chatted with a sales person (a French horn player) who sold me the Yamaha YTR-8310Z trumpet that I play when I am in Sapporo. We took no pictures. Instead you can view a photo album of the history of Yamaha wind instruments. The first wind instrument they manufactured was a trumpet, designed under the supervision of Renold Schilke.

Today is also my 4th anniversary of my learning trumpet. Here's a recording of me playing "
It could happen to you". It's best if you don't play the audio file. Instead, listen to what I want to sound like: Chet Baker singing the song (he also plays trumpet).


belated commencement

2018-06-13 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I celebrated our graduate student's commencement.

Ivy finished 3 months ago but we missed her ceremony because were out of the country. She and I were busy the last 2 months with classes. Tonight's celebration was belated yet relaxed.

Our 2 families enjoyed food and conversation.

Ivy made a photo album of our 3 years together. The classes we taught, the conferences we presented at, the jazz gigs we went. Wonderful memories!


2018-06-09 HACHINOHE, JAPAN -- Noriko and I visited Hachinohe, Aomori for our first time.

We sailed from Tomakomai to Hachinohe on the brand-new ship
Silver Tiara.

Kushihiki Hachimanguu Shrine is famous for the national treasure akaitoodoshiyoroi. No photography in the museum. Instead please view Kerochan and Sirokuro Puppy engaged in yabusame, a medieval sport where archers shoot at fixed targets from horseback.

I recommend
Korekawa jomon archaeology site and museum because (a) they are actively engaged in archaeology, (b) they have a comprehensive collection including hundreds of dogu, and (c) they are eager to teach. They let you touch real artifacts (no, not because they are so numerous that they are of low value).

Vanfu Museum of Reproduced Art has the unusual characteristic of being a corporate showcase (the Vanfu company is in the printing business, and is proud of their technical capabilities) and offering the public a close, hands-on view of valuable Japanese artwork that has been reproduced in high fidelity. Reproducing artwork requires considerable care in controlling light, scanning images, adjusting color, selecting paper, printing, and mounting. The process is expensive. Yet because these are reproductions, you can look at them closely, instead of through a pane of glass and over the shoulders of museum patrons. Kerochan was delighted to find a reproduction of the Toad Sage, whose familiar is a three-legged toad.

The Gretto Tower ("gretto" is a word in the local dialect meaning "all around" or "360-degree view" tower) in
Tatehana Park overlooks a section of the port of Hachinohe. Much of this was swept away during the tsunami of 2011.

On a good day, the
Samekado lighthouse commands a clear view of the Pacific Ocean. On cloudy foggy rainy days as today, the lighthouse does it job. The light originally burned oil (and apparently considerably warmed the top part of the lighthouse). Then it was replaced with an incandescent electric lightbulb. Now it uses a metal halide lightbulb.

They gave us a private tour of the lighthouse. The guide turned on the old light for us. Just like lights in the USA, the old lights rode (or rather floated) on a pool of mercury, because ball bearings were unavailable.

From the
Same ("shark") train station, we rode a train consisting of 3 brand-new cars (kiha E132-505 manufactured by Niigata Transys).

Tatehana dockside Sunday morning market teems with great deals on fresh produce and fish.

ig nobel prize

2018-06-03 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I attended a double-header talk by 2 professors who won Ig Nobel prizes. The talks were fascinating!

Professor Kazunori Yoshizawa (pictured left) won the Biology Prize in 2017 for discovering a female penis and a male vagina in an insect that lives in Brazilian caves. Professor Toshiyuki Nakagaki (center) won the Cognitive Science Prize in 2008 and the Transportation Planning Prize in 2010 for his study of feeding behavior of true slime moulds. The person pictured on the right is a clown dressed like an MC.

You can scratch your head about what these highly educated people are doing with your taxes. There is serious science behind their affable personality. Evolution manifests itself most speedily in sexual organs, I learned. True slime molds are mono-cellular organisms containing many nuclei. These molds exhibit considerable intelligence, some of which we cannot understand.

Commemorative prizes and awards were unceremoniously given to the professors in the spirit of the Ig Nobel prize itself.