2022

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.
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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.
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A street between TUFS' athletic field and the Fire Academy.
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Most flowers are blooming, with some buds remaining. No petals on the ground.
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From campus we took a walk through the neighborhood to a bus stop by a beautiful old wooden building.
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We rode the community minibus to the Fuchu Art Museum.
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They have nice permanent and temporary exhibits. Admission is free for TUFS staff, yay!
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The museum is located within a pretty city park. We found lots of tadpoles in a pond!
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The center pathway through the park is lined with sakura.
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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.
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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.
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We plan to bring mom to campus the day after tomorrow during the peak of the sakura season.

sunrise

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.
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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.
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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".
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I showed her our refreshment corner, and the coffee and soda that she had bought for my officemates.
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It was commencement today! Most women wore kimono. Everybody was glad it stopped snowing.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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The train yard maintains cars that are in service, and displays cars that have been retired.
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The line's terminus (end of the line) at Senju. Fare is 170 yen per ride, or 400 yen for a 1-day pass.
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We had early lunch at a train-themed restaurant.
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We visited the Susanoo Jinja, a shrine that cherishes plum blossoms and girls' dolls. I received a good oracle!
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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.
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Noriko and I could not believe the sheer number and mass of the dolls on display.
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We crossed the Sumida river at the Senju bridge, built in 1927.
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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.
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The modernized banks of the Sumida river.
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We visited a park created at a waste-water processing plant.
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Noriko found tadpoles! Lots of them!
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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View from hallway door when I arrived on the 1st train the other day.
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At 05:45 the sky is still dark this time of year.
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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.
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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.

Weeping
ume are not often seen.
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Ume.
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Most
ume bloom weeks before most sakura. Some sakura bloom early.
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Sakura.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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I cleaned my own section too. The right half of the cabinet is my space.
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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.
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Whoppee! Opening my new computer!
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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.
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More details to follow in the coming days, weeks, and months. For now, I am grateful, eager, bewildered, and excited!

trumpet teacher shuichiro ise

2022-02-28 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I signed up for trumpet lessons taught by Shuichiro Ise. He has a dark, smokey, brooding sound that is terrific in intimate listening environments.

I refused to study under any trumpet teacher other than my hero John Bringetto. However the nCOVID-19 pandemic prevents me from returning to Oregon, USA. During our Zoom online lesson on 2021-11-27 we discovered that my playing technique has gone wildly astray. Expert guidance is sorely required.

I discovered the
Iida Jazz School, which claims to be the oldest music school focusing on jazz performance training in the Tokyo area. They opened for business in 1955. The current building must be newer. Right now they are retrofitting it with ventilation systems that keep the air fresh (for nCOVID-19 concerns) while keeping the sound inside. The driveway has the word "JAZZ" inlaid in tile.
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The school is close to our Tokyo house (4.5 kilometers, about 3 miles). I can walk, or rent a bike.
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The music room is full of gear because they moved stuff from the big room downstairs so that contractors can work.
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I do not have pictures of our lesson. Maybe next time at lesson 02, scheduled on 2022-03-23.

frog pond -- part 2

2022-02-26 CHIBA, JAPAN -- We improved our frog pond.

We covered the pond with a net to keep birds and animals out. The mesh is 25 millimeters square (about 1 inch) so that the tiny frogs native to the area can come in and out.
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I placed a plastic box next to the pond to catch tadpoles when the pond overflows with rainwater.
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A nice afternoon's work.
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places of our birth

2022-02-21 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Mom and I drove through the neighborhood where she and I were born, and my sisters Sandy and Chihaya were bought.

The Yanagisawa fowl and canine store. While I was forced to wait in the car due to parking restrictions, mom went inside to chat with the late owner's daughter, who told mom that she keeps the store running because they are the headquarters of the association for the
kai breed of dogs. Sandy and Chihaya came from this store. I dream of them often.
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Just a few blocks away is Hosenji, a temple with fairly large grounds that includes a private school offering education from kindergarten to graduate school. Instead of appreciating the school and temple buildings, mom and I were keen on discovering frogs in the old pond at the temple. Yes! We found clusters of eggs!
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frog pond

2022-02-16 CHIBA, JAPAN -- I started building a pond at my dad's former house. We are hoping for frogs to come.

I chose a spot that seems a bit closer to the rice fields at the bottom of our hill.
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I dug a shallow hole, shaped like a box, 1 x 1.5 x 0.3 meters (roughly 3 x 5 x 1 feet).
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We had bought a pond liner (a thick plastic sheet) that stops water from leaking. This sheet is 3 x 4.5 meters (10 x 15 feet).
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I covered the hole and the sides with the pond liner, and held down the edges with bricks.
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I could have used a garden hose to fill the pond, but instead chose to carry bucket-loads of water, partly for exercise and partly to slowly fill the pond so that the pond liner would settle and conform to the contours of the pond.
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I tossed in several water hyacinths that my mom gave me in the fall. The plants are almost dead, except for some green spots that give me hope.
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Took only 3 hours. I washed the buckets and sharpened my shovel for next time.
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I will let the pond settle for a week or so, and then adjust the pond liner surrounding it.
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mizumiya jinja

2022-02-09 SAITAMA, JAPAN -- We visited Mizumiya Jinja, a shrine in what was until recently a rural farming area.

Our excitement mounted when we saw frogs holding the sign of the temple.
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Some frogs are huge!
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Frog murals, depicting events throughout life on one side, and events throughout the year on the other.
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Hanami (flower viewing party) season soon! (That is my reflection in the polished stone.)
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This wooden statue of
En-no-gyoja, a semi-mythical mystic of olden times, is perhaps the sole object at this shrine with history. Almost everything else is less than a year old.
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A frog priest guards the enshrined statue.
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Frogs line the path to the main building.
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The "A" and "M" (alpha vs omega, ying vs yang, 1 vs 0) frogs guard the main building.
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The devout may purchase miniatures of these divine guardians. 3000 yen ($30) a pair.
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Car-owners may have their vehicles cleansed of evil spirits and blessed with safe passage.
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We obtained oracles. Mine was average (4th among 7 ranks of fortune).
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We will definitely visit again!
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avocado egg toast

2022-02-03 TOKYO, JAPAN -- CNN's website had an article introducing breakfasts from around the world. One of Australia's favorites is avocado toast topped with egg. I had never heard of it, so we tried to make some.

This is what it is supposed to look like. From
CNN Travel Files, 2022-01-28, Casey Barber "Breakfast food around the world: How different places start the day".
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First, I made eggs sunny-side-up, with molten yolks. 90 seconds in our combi oven.
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Then we laid sliced avocados on sliced bread and toasted them together.
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Finally we laid the eggs on top of the avocado toast.
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Not confident that Aussies would approve, but it was a yummy first try!

noriko birthday

2022-02-02 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We celebrated Noriko's birthday with cake.

'Tis the season of strawberry.
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Some more strawberry?
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Strawberries, anyone?
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We went out to get more dessert!
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Noriko read a children's book of a frog playing trumpet:
Friedrich Feld "Der Frosch mit der Trompete" (the frog with the trumpet). The book was translated into Japanese by Taro Shioya, who unknown to me was living a few blocks from my house when I was born.
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I attempted to play "Happy Birthday" on my instrument. We laughed a lot today!

plum blossoms

2022-01-31 KANAGAWA, JAPAN -- Mom and I visited the Odawara Flower Garden to view plum blossoms.

The blossoms are just beginning to bloom. Maybe 1 in 10 trees are flowering.
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I learned that some varieties of plum trees have green buds and stems.
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Odawara is known from
umeboshi (salted sour plums).
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Some varieties of plum trees have multiple pistils (the female reproductive part of a flower) and produce up to 8 fruit per flower.
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Mom explained to me that plum trees resist breaking that might kill other species of trees. This tree looks like a lost cause but it is very much alive.
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I love Tokyo winters. The skies are clear, the air is crisp, and the ground is dry and safe. By contrast, Sapporo roads were treacherous with ice and snow.
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White and red, both are lovely.
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We had a relaxing day out.

edo castle ruins

2022-01-29 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We walked through the ruins of Edo castle. Part of the castle grounds are now the imperial palace. The rest is now public parks, museums, concert halls, and government offices.

Construction of the castle began in the mid-15th century (a fort was built in 1457, possibly replacing or relocating an existing structure), when the castle was by the sea. During the beginning of the Tokugawa shogunate (early 17th century), a nearby hill (Kandayama) was pulled down to reclaim land, and the castle was built in earnest, partly by daimyo (feudal lords) who were given the honor to donate buildings (that is, forced to provide construction supplies and labor) to the shogun. Once the castle was completed, the shogunate's war chest emptied quickly because no wars were being fought (the main source of income at that time was plunder). Merely 54 years after the shogunate began, the shogunate was broke, unable to rebuild buildings destroyed by the
Meireki fire of 1657.

Enough history babble ... You can read all about this (with more detail and authority) in a history book.

Some walls built in olden times still stand. Some have been dismantled and put back together.
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Otemon was one of the principal gates in feudal times, and is the namesake of Otemachi, the financial district of downtown Tokyo. The gate is placed perpendicular to an adjacent wall. Inside, the pathway makes another sharp turn to deter battering rams. The gate is covered so that defenders could harass the enemy passing beneath.
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Edo castle was damaged by fire a number of times, but it was only at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, at the beginning of the Meiji restoration, that battle took place. Until then, it was a peaceful, if intimidating, fortress.

A guardhouse. One of many.
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Another guardhouse.
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A rest house for nobles strolling through the garden.
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A scale model of the
tenshukaku (castle keep), destroyed by fire in 1657 and never rebulit. It would had been a singular skyscraper in its day.
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Only its foundation remains. Parts of it has been cut out so pedestrians can climb to the top.
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In olden days, one could look out from the castle, but none were allowed to look inside. Even until after World War II, most people hesitated to build tall buildings that could look over the walls of the imperial palace. This was economical nonsense because downtown real estate is expensive. A compromise was to limit the height of downtown buildings to the tallest building within the imperial palace. Cosmetic height limits did nothing to limit the view, but did reduce building floor space. A pragmatic enterprise (the Tokyo Marine and Fire Insurance company) brazenly built a staggering 99-meter tall building (the dark brown building, center-right in the picture below), initially causing public uproar (especially by the jealous Mitsubishi Real Estate company, which owned many shorter buildings in the neighborhood) followed by secret sighs of relief by business leaders who eagerly commissioned the buildings you see surrounding the dark-brown mini-skyscraper. The latter is, unsurprisingly, scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt in a few years.
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While economic comedy unfolded, the Edo castle ruins remained neat, clean and old fashioned.
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We exited Tayasumon. Japanese architecture is weak on masonry and heavy on woodwork.
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A nice stroll through history.

revive camera

2022-01-21 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I revived my Pentax Q-S1 camera by cleaning the electronic contacts that transmit information between the body and the lens.

The camera body has 10 gold-plated pins arranged in an arc.
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The body's pins mate with the 9 gold-plated pads on the lens. 1 long pad (probably the electric ground) connect to 2 pins on the camera body. Streaks mark where the pins rubbed against the pads.
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The camera had been operating erratically. I was unable to determine the cause, until I noticed that during some malfunctions, the camera displayed an error message regarding auto-focus. I suspected the electronic contacts, and cleaned them, first with ethanol (ethyl alcohol) and then with electronic contact cleaner.
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Sunhayato is a Japanese manufacturer of tools and supplies for building PCB (printed circuit boards). In the USA, I used to buy from MG Chemicals. Japan uses positive photo-resist, while USA prefers negative, so the black-and-white circuit patterns must be reversed. But I digress. Sunhayato sells handy chemicals that make life easier for the hobbyist or professional electronic technician. This contact cleaner comes in a tiny bottle with a brush attached to the cap, just like nail polish.
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The cleaning seems to have eliminated hang-ups, at least for now.

The Q-S1 camera is one of my favorites. I regret not having bought it before the Pentax Q series was discontinued. I waited too long, hoping in vain that a newer model would be released (instead, the whole series disappeared) and before I knew it, the Q cameras were sold out. Except, some years later, Pentax sold back stock (that is, cameras in their storage) for list price. I kicked myself for my indecisiveness and paid the penalty!

chofu airport

2022-01-17 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We visited Chofu airport (RJTF). Our last visit was with mom, oh so many years ago.

The airport has 1 runway, 17-35, 800 meters by 30 meters (about 2700 feet by 100 feet).
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Wind calm. Aircraft were landing and taking off in either direction.
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Security is not invasive (no body search), merely bureaucratic (fill out a form).
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We had a nice lunch at the
Propeller Cafe looking at the runway. The buildings behind the runway are the national and municipal police academies.
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I had the uber expensive Propeller Deluxe Hamburger.
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Scheduled flights connect Tokyo with offshore islands.
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frog resort

2022-01-12 IZU KOGEN, JAPAN -- We visited a frog-themed resort hotel.

We stayed here many years ago. We were delighted to see the place thriving.
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The owner, who was a young man when he started the business, loves Bali culture. He decorated his hotel with items he imported from Indonesia. This magical gate clamps shut when evil spirits attempt to pass through.
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When my father started working after college, corporate employees would spend time together all the time, both on and off the job. Employers owned tiny hotels where employees could stay for vacation, almost like a boarding school or training camp. Gradually, socializing with colleagues fell out of fashion. By the time my dad was middle-aged, nobody at the office wanted to take overnight trips together. So the tiny hotels became disused and were sold off to people such as the owner of the frog resort. He kept on buying facility after facility, some great, some shabby, and lavishly decorated each of them in Bali style.

The place is now an all-inclusive resort. They let us stroll through the facilities, which has grown quite a bit since we were here last.

Frogs everywhere! We are informed that in Bali, frog statues, especially covered with moss, are said to bring good luck.
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Frog cars! This one is a toy for kids to climb on and pretend to drive.
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A Mercedes Smart-Car that does run is parked in a kids' play space as a toy and photograph spot.
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A frog van that ferries hotel guests to and fro nearby train stations and attractions. We saw a bigger bus, too.
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Hot tubs fed with natural hot springs are scattered all over the resort, some for looking at, some for soaking in, some with views, some with privacy.
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We definitely want to stay again.

temples, shrines, canal walk

2022-01-03 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We received items that bring us good fortune.

Myouhouji, a buddhist temple in our neighborhood, grants sake cups with pictures of the year's animals. This year is the year of the tiger.
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The temple was ultra crowded. Glad we prayed at the end of the year, when the temple grounds were deserted.
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Juuban Inari Jinja, a shinto shrine in downtown Tokyo, allows worshippers to view their golden frog statue twice a year, in November and early January.
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We received golden coins and charms that bring us wealth.
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Alas my oracle was not the best! It read "dejected frog". Noriko and I suspect that all oracles are humorously negative. We laughed away the evil spirits.
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Fukagawa Fudo, a buddhist temple in the canal area of downtown Tokyo, was so crowded that we prayed from across the square facing the temple. Instead of entering the temple grounds we feasted on
fukagawameshi (steamed clams over rice), which, I understand, was affordable food sold by street vendors in the past, and today has become a fairly pricey tourist attraction.
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Until less than a century ago, boats carried freight to warehouses alongside the canals. Today the waterways are lined with trees and pedestrian paths.
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Near the end of the day we walked in the Marunouchi district near Tokyo central station, where my father and Noriko used to work. The ornamental lights came on just as we started.
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12 kilometers maybe? A nice walk to start the year!

mom's new year food

2022-01-02 KANAGAWA, JAPAN -- Mom served us family style New Year's food at her house.

A toast with the "friendly snowman", a
yokai (a spirit) who is said to carry your luggage over mountain ranges in exchange for small amounts of food.
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My favorites are
datemaki (sweet rolled baked eggs) and kamaboko (steamed fish paste).
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Mom baked us
mochi (rice cakes) on the dining table.
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