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sakura drive

2022-03-29 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Mom, Noriko, Kero and I drove through sakura near TUFS. We comfortably viewed the blossoms at their peak on this cloudy chilly day. At first I was disappointed that the skies were not clear blue but later we agreed that the soft light through the clouds illuminated the flowers and tree limbs gently from all directions so that we could clearly see them.

While we were driving, we were so awed at the sights that we decided not to take pictures but to immerse ourselves in the sakura atmosphere. Here are photos from mom's vantage point.


Mom visited my new office and met my colleagues. More photos about that later.

sakura erupt

2022-03-27 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Within a span of 36 hours, sakura trees erupted in bloom. No flowers on Friday late afternoon, yet ablaze with petals on Sunday morning.

A street beside TUFS campus, between our school and the municipal airport.

A street between TUFS' athletic field and the Fire Academy.

Most flowers are blooming, with some buds remaining. No petals on the ground.

From campus we took a walk through the neighborhood to a bus stop by a beautiful old wooden building.

We rode the community minibus to the Fuchu Art Museum.

They have nice permanent and temporary exhibits. Admission is free for TUFS staff, yay!

The museum is located within a pretty city park. We found lots of tadpoles in a pond!

The center pathway through the park is lined with sakura.

Curiously, people brought tents to the park for
hanami (flower gazing). Lots of people enjoyed hanami the old-fashioned way, by spreading picnic sheets on the lawn to sit on or lie down.

We took the train to Shinjuku station. We visited 3 shops that are scheduled to close for a few years while they demolish and rebuild the Odakyu department store. The store in the picture is Seishoen, a supplier of utensils and powdered tea for
sado (tea ceremony). I used to come here often.

We plan to bring mom to campus the day after tomorrow during the peak of the sakura season.


2022-03-25 TOKYO, JAPAN -- The 1st train in the morning gets me in the office at 05:38.

I learned that around the equinoxes the sun rises just as I arrive at my desk. Gorgeous colors.

Morning rays over the horizon hit the walls of my office. I need to close the blinds for a while because it's too bright to see my computer screen.

noriko visits office

2022-03-23 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Noriko visited my new office for the 1st time.

She smiled at the silly sign I posted on the office door that reads "LOST -- Learning Online is Suffering and Torture".

I showed her our refreshment corner, and the coffee and soda that she had bought for my officemates.

It was commencement today! Most women wore kimono. Everybody was glad it stopped snowing.

Later in the day, we took the train to the Iida jazz school for our 2nd lesson with Shuichiro Ise. It was hard to hear his soft voice because a clear shower curtain separates us in the tiny soundproof music room. Luckily I am rapidly becoming accustomed to his speaking style. He gave me listening and playing assignments.

unusual snow

2022-03-22 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Unusually for this time of year, we had snow in Tokyo.

Hardly any snow on the ground. Yet it was so cold that I gave up swimming. The swimming pool water is plenty warm and comfortable. I feared I might catch cold walking in the sleet to the pool and back.

tram ride

2022-03-20 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I rode Tokyo city's tram for our 1st time.

This is the last remaining tram line in Tokyo city, which used to have oh so many, now replaced by subways and buses.

All train sets are 1 car each on electrified double track. In most sections the right of way is for trains only, with short sections shared with automobiles. There are no battery-operated sections, which means overhead electric cables are needed for the entire length of the line. In some places (especially Europe), trams have sections that run on battery power, which reduces the need for and eyesore of overhead cabling.

The train yard maintains cars that are in service, and displays cars that have been retired.

The line's terminus (end of the line) at Senju. Fare is 170 yen per ride, or 400 yen for a 1-day pass.

We had early lunch at a train-themed restaurant.

We visited the Susanoo Jinja, a shrine that cherishes plum blossoms and girls' dolls. I received a good oracle!

March 3rd (03-03) is the plum blossom festival, which is also girls' day. Families with young girls decorate their homes with dolls depicting medieval nobility and their entourage.

Noriko and I could not believe the sheer number and mass of the dolls on display.

We crossed the Sumida river at the Senju bridge, built in 1927.

This is where Matsuo Basho, a poet in the Edo era, and his attendant Kawai Sora (no relation to my family) began their journey which Basho documented in his collection of poems "Okunohosomichi". A map shows the path and dates of travel. These men were remarkably fit -- healthy young people of today would be unable to walk at this pace.

The modernized banks of the Sumida river.

We visited a park created at a waste-water processing plant.

Noriko found tadpoles! Lots of them!

We ended our trip at Waseda, the other terminus of the tram line. We want to ride the tram again when the flowers are in full bloom. Today's ride was a nice rehearsal.

clean the office

2022-03-02 TO 2022-03-18 TOKYO, JAPAN -- TUFS (pronounced [təfs], like "tough" + "s", short for Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) gave me and my 3 colleagues a nice room. It was formerly used, I understand, by a British team that coordinated exchange programs between the UK and Japan. The program was suspended by the nCOVID-19 pandemic, and the staff left. The room stood vacant for some time until it was given to us.

View of half of the office looking at the hallway door, before I organized the furniture. My 2 backpacks are on the conference table. For the 1st week or so, I would come to work wearing 2 backpacks full of cleaning supplies, stationery items, hardware tools, and computer gear. On my way home the smaller backpack would fit in the other and I walked faster!

2 tables that were originally placed end-to-end (see photo above) were re-arranged side-by-side (see photo below) and placed against a whiteboard along the wall.

2 desks for our 2 software engineers originally faced the wall. I suggested to them, and they agreed, that facing the windows would be pleasant.

View from the hallway door facing the windows. The engineers' desks are on the lower left of the photo. The conference table is seen on the lower right. Behind the cubicle wall is my soon-to-arrive colleague, an assistant professor of Japanese as a foreign language. My desk is seen on the far left. I have no partitioning wall, although my monitor unintendedly functions as such.

Against the walls, from left to right, our printer, whiteboard, stick vacuum cleaner, official shopping basket (for carrying items on campus), microwave, fridge, wall clock, tea cabinet, hot water pot, mirror, and sink. I intend to get a coffee kit for my colleagues. I myself drink tea daily; maybe 3 cups of coffee a year.

Engineer Land, seen from its right. The 2 guys do not want a screen or partition between the 2 desks. They removed the wheeled screen I placed for them. Instead they put the screen between their desk and the window to shield the late-afternoon sun reflecting off the windows of the building next to us. They still have a nice view and we can talk to each other. I like this layout.

Placed beneath the engineers' desks are development servers and their uninterruptible power supplies. The production machines are in a server room, which I have yet to visit.

View from hallway door when I arrived on the 1st train the other day.

At 05:45 the sky is still dark this time of year.

On my desk, from left to right: (1) My favorite bookstand. I own 3 of this model. (2) My Sony 50-inch monitor, with an Apple MacMini beneath it, next to the monitor's left leg. (3) My Wacom drawing tablet, which allows me to annotate documents freehand. (4) My Panasonic phone with bi-aural headset, my trusted companion since I worked in California. The headset lets me take notes or type while I talk on the phone. If you look closely you might notice that the telephone handset is missing its spiral cord -- I never use the handset, but it needs to stay there or the phone will go off hook.
Not shown in this photo: (5) My computer headphones for online meetings. The headphones are so effective in isolating noise that I did not hear my phone ring. I need to bring headphones that let me hear ambient sound in addition to computer audio. (6) Electrical power supplies and cabling. I am rather proud of having organized them neatly. The cabling is suspended on the bottom side of the table top so that they do not gather dust and I do not kick them.

All this happened over the course of 18 days. Not bad!

ume sakura

2022-03-06 TOKYO, JAPAN -- On our 1st weekend of work we walked through our neighborhood to admire the ume (plum) and sakura (cherry) flowers.

ume are not often seen.


ume bloom weeks before most sakura. Some sakura bloom early.


swimming again

2022-03-01 TOKYO, JAPAN -- On my way home from my 1st day of work, I joined a neighborhood gym.

My new gym card! I am not confident that I will break even -- that is, whether the monthly pass will be cheaper than paying per visit. Having a monthly pass encourages me to come more often, which is the whole point. I stopped regular exercise when I left Sapporo on 2020-02-29. That day I swam 2000 meters. Since then, I exercised frightfully rarely.

The facilities were built for the 2021 Paralympics. I am particularly attracted to the 50-meter swimming pool. Alas no photography allowed indoors.
Their website shows some tiny pictures.

Sakura (cherry) trees line the streets between the gym and my campus. I want to bring my mom and Noriko here when the flowers bloom.

new job

2022-03-01 TO 2022-03-04 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Our eldest daughter got me a new job!

I was hired by the
Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (Japan's top language school) to improve their online learning environment. I belong to the Online Learning Support Team. I will not be teaching courses, but instead, helping teachers teach theirs.

My office is in the white-and-brown structure to the left as one enters the campus main gate.

View from my 3rd-floor window facing east. The main buildings are connected by an elevated ring road, which allows pedestrians to cross campus without being overrun by bicycles! I am not sure that that is the design rationale, but it does function that way.

Another view from my widow. From between buildings, I glimpse general aviation aircraft taking off from
Chofu airport a few blocks away. The skyline is low, close to the horizon, because the airport prohibits tall structures near it.

I share an office with 3 other team members. They are not here yet; they should arrive by 2022-04-01. 2 of them are being internally transferred, and 1 is being hired. I am the 1st of 4 people in this new team. We do not have a website yet. I need to work on that ...

I prepare for my colleagues' arrival by organizing furniture and cleaning everything. Sirokuro keeps an eye on progress.

I am sure my colleagues would like hot beverages. I cleaned the hot water pot with citric acid. I verified the outcome by brewing myself a cup of tea.


I cleaned my own section too. The right half of the cabinet is my space.

I placed my new monitor on my spic-and-span table. I use a table, not a desk, because I do not use drawers. I prefer legroom.

Whoppee! Opening my new computer!

First Boot. Before this can happen, the furniture needs to be arranged and cleaned. After booting, my computer files need to be migrated. It takes a while ...

Once my files are migrated, I logged in, and updated the operating system. Wait a while ... Kicked the power cable loose by mistake. Wait a while ...

I had problems with the network and email servers. Technicians came to help a number of times. I used my laptop in the time being.

Once network access was stabilized, I was able to join staff training. This one is for ethics.

More details to follow in the coming days, weeks, and months. For now, I am grateful, eager, bewildered, and excited!