2018-03-06 GARIBALDI, OREGON, USA -- An hour's drive north brought us to Garibaldi, a small coastal town known for scenic train rides (steam locomotives pull historic passenger cars), fishing (both commercial and sport), and a hardwood lumber mill (which I confess I was unaware until today).

We talked to the chairman of the board of the
Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. He gave us a thorough lecture on the technology and history of the rolling stock.

In the picture below, the black locomotive in the foreground was built in 1925. It was designed to burn fuel oil because coal is not plentiful on the Pacific coast. Today it burns used engine oil, obtained mostly from diesel trucks and some from passenger cars.

The brown locomotive in the background is owned by a private individual (surprise!) who is paying the historic railroad organization to restore the locomotive.

Both locomotives are ejecting steam to purge the pipes and valves of debris. They are preparing for the tourist season which is about to begin.

We walked along a fishing pier built for sports fishing. Crabbing is popular in the Pacific northwest, particularly here in Garibaldi.

The local folk told us that chicken (surprise!) is the preferred bait for crabs.

Lower the crab ring (that's what traps are called). Wait ... a while ... and yes you'll probably find crab in your ring. You can only keep male crabs over a certain size. The rest must be released.

Many American towns sport their town's initial on a hillside. I like Garibaldi because we share our initials. (For the same reason, I like
Groningen in the Netherlands too. I have a hot chocolate mug with our initial.)

mini misadventure

2018-03-04 HEBO, OREGON, USA -- Summary: I got our truck stuck in the snow. Friendly passersby pulled us out. Nobody hurt, nothing broken.

We had several days of warm weather. We drove up a hill for a hike. At the bottom of the hill, the road was dry.

Halfway up, we encountered snow. It didn't look bad at first.

Less than 3 minutes later I got us stuck.

Various passersby helped us.

One family called us a tow truck. The tow truck never came, because apparently they require (1) confirmation by the police or fire department, or (2) persistent requests by the driver of the vehicle.

Another family drove us back to our truck, after we walked down the hill to get help.

A third car pulled us out of the snow. They attached a chain to the front of their truck and to the rear of mine. We put our trucks in reverse. A young strong man pushed my truck sideways to get it out the rut.

We gave the 2 men an unopened bag of
sembei we had. The men have friends in Japan and coincidentally had recently enjoyed sembei that their friend had given them. They were happy to get more.

I am grateful for everybody's generosity. I want to help people too.

depoe bay walk

2018-02-24 AND 26, DEPOE BAY, OREGON, USA -- Noriko and I walked the back streets of Depoe Bay. We drive through town often. After 15 years we finally discovered the footpaths. We enjoyed it so much that we visited twice.

Depoe Bay is located on a rocky cliff. The waves crash and spray.

Sea lions!

jimmy carter

2018-02-05 ATLANTA, GEORGIA, OREGON, USA -- We visited the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. This is our 1st time visiting any presidential museum. Jimmy Carter is the only president whom I admire.

The museum has a Japanese garden.

The museum documents the life history of the president. When he was campaigning, he flew on an airplane nicknamed Peanut One. The pilot was also named Jimmy Carter.

The museum houses a replica of the Oval Office, replete with furniture and decorations he used while he was president.

Jimmy Carter is 2 years older than Noriko's dad. I wish them both more years of continued contribution to society.

tokyo walk

2018-01-31 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I walked 7 kilometers from Ginza to Shibuya. The map below shows Ginza on the far right edge (east), with a dotted blue route skirting along the south side of the imperial palace, the diet (that is, parliament) building, the supreme court (a hideous piece of architecture), the Akasaka palace, Aoyama Gakuen University (Noriko's mom's alma mater and my callsign suffix JM8AGU), the Apple store at Omotesando, and Shibuya station at the far left (west) of the map.

I started my walk at the Yamaha music flagship store in Ginza. I wonder whether music instruments belong in the same category as jewelry and designer clothing. Are we paying extra for the fancy buildings and impeccably dressed store people?

I had an appointment with a technical salesperson to inquire about soundproofing my room. Retrofitting an existing room with soundproofing material is not necessarily expensive, but for reasons of acoustics physics the soundproofing material must be thick and/or heavy. Because most Japanese rooms are small, and because most residential floors are not designed to support more than 200 kilograms per square meter, Yamaha has chosen to compromise by adding dense but not-so-thick material on the floor, walls, and ceiling of the room to be soundproofed.

The cutaway life-size model below shows that each wall is shortened by over 260 millimeters, and the ceiling height is decreased by 190 millimeters to reduce sound by 35 decibels in addition to the soundproofing offered by the existing walls. (Sound attenuation depends on audio frequency. The values I state here are appropriate for my trumpet.) Compared with soundproofing techniques commonly used in the USA, Yamaha's method offers less reduction in room size at the expense of less reduction in sound. Soundproofing techniques in America often result in reduction of over 600 millimeters in wall and ceiling dimensions, yielding 60 or more decibels of reduction in sound.

On 2017-12-15, Yamaha released
a 2nd-generation version of their Allen Vizzutti trumpet. They discontinued the 1st generation model 6 years ago. The updated model is being sold in a limited run of 200 silver-plated and 5 gold-plated trumpets. At the Yamaha Ginza store I saw (but did not test-play) the new instruments. The plastic bags are chemically treated to retard corrosion.

Tokyo is a small city but tiresome to walk because numerous traffic lights break your stride and force you to stand still. It took me 10 minutes to cross the intersection in front of the diet building. Security had nothing to do with the delay. Automobiles have priority over pedestrians, that's all.

Snow disrupted life in the city a few days ago. No problem today. Traces of snow lined the palace moat.

I visited
Kawai musical instruments at Omotesando. If I ever own a piano, it hope it is a Kawai because it will have my name on it! They sell toy versions too so a Kawai piano is not out of my reach.

I had an appointment with an engineer at Kawai musical instruments regarding soundproofing. The engineer has been playing trumpet for 35 years (10 times my duration) and was understanding of and sympathetic to my needs. The advice he gave me was essentially identical to what Yamaha told me.

I gave up installing soundproofing at our house in Japan, because (a) the upper floors of the building cannot safely support the weight of soundproofing material, and (b) while the ground floor can easily support the weight, its ceiling would become too low if insulation is installed. Noriko says that it would be cheaper and more fun to buy a car (a
van or minimalist motorhome for instance) and to travel to different places where I can practice, like we did in England. Clever Noriko! As a fallback idea, a karaoke store nearby allows me to practice trumpet for about $4 an hour.

I continued my walk to
Ikebe music supply at Shibuya station. On a whim, I bought a Bach 3B trumpet mouthpiece. The 3B has dimensions close to my 3C, and is reputed to have a darker sound. (I can't tell the difference.) I bought the 3B partly as a spare for my 3C, and partly as an experiment. Curiously, Bach mouthpieces are cheaper in Japan than they are in America, where they are made.

I put my trusty 3C and new 3B in a compact camera case I bought for $4.

mini walks

2017-12-21 SEAL ROCK AND NEWPORT, OREGON, USA -- After my trumpet lesson, we enjoyed a bit of sunshine at neighborhood parks. The ground was muddy or flooded in many places so we took short walks at 3 different places.

Brian Booth state park.

Beaver Creek, Pacific Ocean, and sand dunes.

Even at noon, the sun is low.

Yaquina River meets the ocean. Can you see 2 lighthouses at the left and right edges of the picture? They are
Yaquina Head and Yaquina Bay lighthouses, respectively.

Somebody made a sculpture out of driftwood. The curve matches the arch of the Yaquina Bay bridge.


2017-12-07 SEAL ROCK, OREGON, USA -- Terrific weather continues on the Oregon Coast. Noriko and I enjoyed 2 days of cycling so far.

We missed our tandem bicycle. We had not ridden it because we were traveling in Europe in the summer and early fall.

For our 1st ride of the season, we rode a section of the
Banks-Vernonia rail park. An old lumber railroad has been converted to a hiking and bicycling path. The park is famous for the Buxton trestle bridge, about 200 meters long and 25 meters above the ground. It is made of wood, and curves gracefully.

Gorgeous weather! The high pressure system brought sunshine and cold. Our fingers were freezing.

For our 2nd ride of the season, we rode South Beaver Creek Road, starting at a
state park 1 kilometer away from my trumpet teacher's house, and leading to Alsea bay in Waldport. I chose the route based on maps. Later we learned that I had picked a popular bike course.

Our tandem bike easily loads and unloads from our truck. The bike is too long to carry sideways so we load it lengthwise on the truck bed. I built a plywood box to carry gear and groceries.


2017-10-26 AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS -- We returned from England to Holland, and spent a few days in Amsterdam before flying home to Portland, Oregon, USA.


All of the floating stores (shops on boats) along the right side of this canal sell tulips, both flowers and bulbs.

We almost bought tickets for trumpet jazz playing at the Bimhuis, Holland's premier jazz venue. Alas the concert starts and ends too late in the evening for us.

A free ferry crosses the river Ij from Amsterdam Central train station. The white low building on the left is the Eye museum of cinematography. The tall building with the white tower on the right is the Lookout Tower, formerly the head offices of Royal Dutch Shell.

The fantastic view from the observation deck.

scarborough castle

2017-10-18 SCARBOROUGH, YORKSHIRE, UK -- On a blustery day, we visited the English east coast.

The castle perches on a promontory that has been occupied by humans since prehistory.

Noriko fell in love with this well-developed coastal town full of fun and views.

belas knap

2017-1-20 BELAS KNAP, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We visited a burial mound, which in Japan would be called kofun (古墳).

We hiked up a rather steep pasture to reach a well-restored mound. The mound is shaped like the top half of a hotdog bun -- long with rounded ends, and raised along the longitudinal axis.

Several entrances were placed on the circumference. One entrance is described as false -- or perhaps it was reserved for a different purpose.

The burial chambers have been reconstructed so that the original stones can be clearly appreciated in the context of their intended use.

The Belas Knap long barrow is well documented. A few references for the lay public (such as myself) include
English Heritage, Stone Circles, and Britain Express.

st andrews church

2017-10-20 COLN ROGERS, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We visited many churches. One church that retains its older style is the Church of Saint Andrews in the village of Coln Rogers.

The church blends in with the rest of the village because the building is not too large and is built from the same type of stones as the local dwellings.

The room closer to the front of this photograph dates from the 11th century. The tower in the rear is a later addition.

The vertical strip on the middle of the north wall (pictured facing the right of the photo) is a pilaster strip (a decoration that looks like a column supporting the ceiling or roof) and is characteristic of Saxon architecture.

Another Saxon feature is this lancet window (a narrow window, often with a pointed top, although this example has a round top) carved from a single block of stone.

The interior is clean and cozy.

An explanation of the building's history and design.

mechanical music museum

2017-10-18 NORTHLEACH, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We visited the Mechanical Music Museum (formerly the Keith Harding's World of Mechanical Music).

A knowledgeable lady who loves music boxes gave us a detailed tour. She has lived in the same house for 54 years, and worked at this store for 19 years.

I was captivated by
Thomas Edison's phonograph (pictured left) because when I was an undergraduate student in the linguistics department at the University of Tokyo there was a similar device that had made recordings of Ainu speech in the 19th century. We were prohibited from playing the device for fear the needles would destroy the precious recordings. Eventually the university contracted a technical firm to read the grooves using lasers and to covert the visual imagery to sound. But I digress. Here is a close-up photo of the needle from Edison's phonograph.

Gramophones were commercially successful because vinyl records could be mass-produced by pressing. Edison's device may have had better
audio fidelity. Edison himself called the phonograph "his baby", and spent 52 years improving it. But his recording cylinders could not be duplicated. Here is a picture of a gramophone needle.

Music boxes, hand-cranked organs, reproducing pianos ... the museum is full of technical wonders. We would have stayed all day, if it were not for a constant stream of visitors who deserved tours and demonstrations.

inn and pub

2017-10-17 BROADWAY, WORCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We had a drink and enjoyed conversation with the local gentlemen at the Crown and Trumpet inn and pub.

The building was built in the 1780s -- fairly new by Cotswold standards. The building behind used to be stables. Today there are 5 bedrooms upstairs, and a pub downstairs. On Thursday nights they have live jazz.

Noriko had a
Stroud, a local brew. Although we are still unsure, so far it seems that English beers have a lighter, thinner flavor than some Belgian trappiste beers. I had a non-alcoholic beer.

st james church

2017-10-17 CHIPPING CAMPDEN, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We visited St James church in the village of Chipping Campden.

St James church is a wool church, so called because they were built with money from the wool trade. At one point, wool accounted for half of England's exports. The town of Chipping Campden was known across Europe as a prime source of wool.

The church of St James is built in the perpendicular style.

The church was built and modified over time. The oldest tomb in the church dates from the 13th century. The oldest windows of the church -- dating back to the mid-15th century -- is in the upper part (the part above the transom) of the stained glass on the far wall above the altar. The lower part (below the transom) is modern -- it was made in 1922. In America that would count as old!

Placed in the south chapel close to the altar are effigies of Sir Baptist Hicks, later created the 1st viscount of Campden, and his wife Lady Elizabeth née Mays. Sir Baptist died in 1629 at the age of 78. He donated 10,000 pounds to the church, at a time when 40 pounds may have bought an entire village.

countryside walk

2017-10-16 LOWER SLAUGHTER, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- Noriko and I took a walk from our cottage (a fancy name for a rental townhouse) through farms into Lower and Upper Slaughter continuing to Brouton-on-the-water.

We still struggle with public footpaths. We are uncomfortable walking through other people's property (even with their permission) because it is where they work.

Footpaths are not always obvious. You need to develop an outdoorsy sense, like a hunter or tracker.

Unlike the Lake District or Yorkshire (where we stayed the past 2 weeks), the northern Cotswolds region has much more cows and horses than sheep.

A local lady pointed out a prestigious equestrian school. If it hadn't been for her commentary, we would have completely missed it.

We had tea at a
mill in Lower Slaughter, while we dried our wet clothes.

The weather improved later in the day, while we had a late lunch in

The town has 5 bridges. Cars can ford the river at certain spots -- that is, vehicles can wade across the shallow water.

We admired what must be the last flowers of the season.

Their church has been impressively remodeled inside, while retaining the historical exterior.

We wrapped up the day with a visit to the
Motor Museum. Lots of British cars, many of which I had never heard of.

cotswold stone

2017-10-15 STOW-ON-THE-WOLD, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We arrived in northern Cotswolds, in a village named Stow-in-the-wold or Stow for short.

Unlike the 2 former places we stayed during this trip, this week we are staying in the middle of the village, within easy walking distance to shops.

This area is known for Cotswold stone, also called honey stone for their milk-tea color.

Cotswold stone is beautiful. In this district, most stores and houses -- even primary schools -- are built with Cotswold stone. I suspect that some of the newer construction uses fake stone, because the hue is different -- it has a deeper orange shade.

We took a walk in the neighborhood. Kero was thrilled to have local folk strike up conversations with him.

cream tea

2017-10-13 THORNTON RUST, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- Noriko has been comparing clotted cream and lemon curd.

Clotted cream is somewhere between butter, mayonnaise, and cream, but without the salt. Rodda's is the leading manufacturer in the UK. We found a few other brands, which differ markedly in color, gloss, texture, viscosity, and taste.

Lemon curd is a lemon-flavored spread like jam. We tried various brands, and they also vary considerably. We will search for clotted cream and lemon curd when we return home. We think they go nicely with plain scones. Fruity scones are too sweet for us.

sheepish trumpet

2017-10-10 THORNTON RUST, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- Finding places to practice trumpet is easier in England than Belgium because in England we have a rental car. My routine for the last several days has been: park off highway A684 safely alongside a sheep farm, sit in the rear seat, roll up all windows, and practice trumpet.

Rain or shine, the sheep keep on grazing. Once or twice a day (certainly around noontime and sometimes in the late afternoon) they sit down to ruminate. I enjoy gazing at the sheep and landscape while I play scales.

Colored paint shows who owns the sheep. Stone walls keep sheep corralled. The stones are merely piled on top of each other. Sometimes walls crumble, as shown towards to the upper left of this picture. We talked to a farmer who owns 15 miles (24 kilometers) of wall. He said his walls need constant mending.

I brought my Queen Brass (OEM Carol Brass) Zorro student trumpet. When I'm careful, I point the leadpipe straight ahead, so that the valves and bell are offset to the left.

After scales I took a break by playing by ear the theme song for "
Astro Boy". Hmm, listening to my recording, the song sounds pitifully wailful. Where did his 100,000 horsepower go? Am I doomed to play soulful tunes?

wensleydale cheese

2017-10-10 HAWES, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- We toured the Wensleydale cheese factory.


They have a comprehensive visitor center, starting with traditional tools for making cheese.

Wensleydale cheese is immortalized -- for me at least -- through
Nick Park's "Wallace and Gromit" series. I made my pilgrimage!

We got matching T-shirts. We chose a tea-themed design because we've been enjoying tea so much.

mount grace priory

2017-10-09 MOUNT GRACE PRIORY, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- We visited the ruins of a Carthusian priory. A priory is a place where monks or nuns live and work, and is smaller than a monastery or an abbey.

The Mount Grace priory was built in 1398 for Carthusian monks, named after the Latin name of Chartreuse (near Grenoble, France) where the austere order was founded.

Carthusian monks lived in individual houses called cells. Cells sound like jail cells or at best a room within a building, but at Carthusian priories including Mount Grace, each monk had a 2-story house with a substantial garden. The cell in the foreground is what remains of the original. The house behind the wall is a reconstruction that gives an idea of how large it was.

The monks met and prayed together, several times a day. But the monks did not talk, because they were vowed to silence. Other than for religious services, they would spend their days and nights in solitude.

Tiny openings in the walls allowed meals to be passed through while avoiding human contact.

The priory continued to expand, partly because the priory earned considerable income from its vast holdings of land, and partly because people paid to have mass offered for their deceased. The priory was abolished following the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII. At that time religious institutions became the property of the king.

wensleydale ice cream

2017-10-01 THORNTON RUST, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- A few houses down the street from our cottage in Thornton Rust is a dairy farm that makes ice cream.

As we walked past on our way back from a hike, we said hello to the owners. They showed us their jersey cows waiting to be milked.

We also saw calves (all girls) at 2, 4, and 6 weeks of age. The 2-week-old calf was calling her mother. The other girls were eager to eat.

We learned that over 30 years ago our rental cottage was a milking barn (a "cow 'us" in local talk) belonging to the dairy farm.

cat bells over derwent water

2017-10-05 KESWICK, CUMBRIA, UK -- We are staying for a week in the Lakes District, recommended by my cute cousin Satoko. Our cabin (a 1-year-old double-wide mobile home with fancy furnishings) is located about 20 kilometers north of Derwent Water, one of the lakes in the area.

Along a narrow twisty lakeside road, we miraculously found a place to park, and climbed a hill overlooking Derwent Water. In this area, lakes are often called water or mere.

When we left the car, we didn't plan to go all the way to the top. The trail began with a wheelchair sign. I thought it led to a viewpoint a hundred meters away.

We didn't know until halfway up the hill that this was none other than
Cat Bells, the most popular of all hills in the area. The name Cat Bells comes from an older word meaning lair or den of cats, presumably wildcats. Folk etymology may have altered the name in the direction of mice putting a bell on a cat.

The weather was gorgeous. Maybe I should say "absolutely smashing" like the local folk.

Derwent Water has 3 islands, formerly inhabited by religious hermits.

Near the summit, we talked with a gentleman enjoying portable operation on 2 meters. "Portable operation" is ham radio talk for bringing your radio on a hike.

The 360-degree panorama from the summit is outstanding. Cat Bells is essentially treeless.

hadrian's wall

2017-10-01 CORBRIDGE, NORTHUMBERLAND, UK -- The history of science and technology fascinates me, particularly feats of civil engineering and functional designs of architecture. We set off for Hardian's Wall (vallum aelium), Britain's equivalent of the Great Wall of China.

We visited the
Corbridge Roman Town, located towards the eastern end of the wall.

Roman forts were built following a standardized design, so knowing one example tells us a lot about the others. We can combine information from many examples of forts to reconstruct what a brand-new fort may have looked like.

Granaries, with ventilation channels beneath the floor to keep the grain dry. Bread was the staple of the Roman soldier. These granaries were built starting around 180 AD.

The fort and town were occupied for almost 500 years until control of the Roman empire ceased in the early 6th century. During that time the ground level rose.

Impressive water system. Here, fresh water is pooled in a tank via a decorative fountain, then distributed throughout the compound.

The buildings were originally flat. These undulations were caused by the settling of the earth beneath.

Roman soldiers came from all over the empire, and brought their religions with them. The Roman pantheon was huge to begin with, so adding a few hundred more was easily accomplished. The semicircular area at the far end of this room was probably an altar.

We visited other archaeological sites pertaining to Hadrian's Wall. At
Chesters Roman Fort, we viewed part of the wall itself.

The wall spanned a river (where it still flows today) as an arched bridge, and continued on the other bank. Part of the foundation of the bridge remains.

We joined
English Heritage so that we can visit as many sites as we like.

from rotterdam to hull

2017-09-29 ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS -- After bidding farewell to our Flanders friends, we boarded an overnight ferry from Rotterdam, Netherlands to Hull, UK.

The sister ships, the Pride of Hull and the Pride of Rotterdam (presumably named after the ferry company P&0 plus their ports of call), have an unusual deck design. Part of the vehicle decks are open. Not for wintry weather, I fear.

With so many people on the decks I was unable to practice my trumpet.


Dinner and breakfast were spectacular. A friendly lady offered to take our picture.

Our cabin 10413 was comfortably equipped with 2 single beds, sink, toilet, and shower. This is the 2nd-from-the-top level of accommodation on this vessel. Deck 10 (the deck we were on) is quiet. The other decks have shops and entertainment facilities.

Floor area and storage space were considerably less than other overnight ferries we have taken. My favorites remain
Taiheiyo Ferry's sister ships, the Ishikari and the Kiso.


2017-09-25 IEPER, BELGIË -- Ieper (Yepres in English) was the battleground for trench warfare during World War I, or (WOI wereld oorlog een) to people in Flanders.

Ieper gave the name to Yperite gas, because this was where
mustard gas was first used.

The battle raged almost exactly 100 years ago. Cavalry still rode horses. Bugles were serious means of communication.

Special trucks transported several dozen carrier pigeons at a time.

The signal corps adopted wired telegraph and, in some cases, wired telephone.

Our friend Mia encouraged us to visit the
Passchendaele Museum. She was right -- Passchendaele is better than the more famous In Flanders Fields Museum. The latter is easily accessible from the Ieper train station, and has a wonderful exhibit that is worth a serious visit. The Passchendaele museum offers more direct and comprehensive appreciation of the trenches, particularly how they evolved over time.

Passchendaele let us tour a real tunnel that was recently discovered beneath a church. This is a temporary exhibit that is open until Armistice Day of this year (2017-11-11). The corridors are filled with water that need to be constantly pumped out. During trench warfare, soldiers manned the pumps. I would not last 5 days in these conditions.

We walked to the
Tyne Cot memorial to pay our respects. Many headstones mark unknown soldiers who are, as Rudyard Kipling wrote, Known Unto God.

We attended
the Last Post ceremony at 20:00 at Menin Gate. Tonight's ceremony was conducted by the Australian military. Our friend Mia is a loyal supporter of the Last Post Association.


2017-09-23 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- Today on the autumnal equinox we had terrific weather. Bright, sunny, wind calm, mild temperature, dry -- could not be more perfect.

We visited
the Water-Rant event. Yesterday we visited Fons and his pals setting up their lighthouse ship for visitors. Today was the 2nd day of the event and the 1st day of receiving real visitors.

We have never seen the dock so packed. Masts and flags filled the sky. MAS (the museum in the background) was almost hidden from view.

Pleasure craft from all over the area, some from France, many from Holland.

Former working vessels lovingly maintained or restored. The ships in this photo are tugboats. The one on the left (moored dockside) is the winner of the tugboat of the year award for 2015. The middle won the same award in 2017.

A seaman's choir belted out nautical tunes in several languages.

Food, food, food. They said they would attempt to create a Guinness world record for the world's largest dining table serving mosselen (mussels).

Of course we visited the West-Hinder 3, the lighthouse ship so dearly loved by our friend Fons and his buddies. For our first time we visited the bridge. The picture is from the port side.

The Westhinder-3's radio callsign was ORBD until she was decommissioned. Ships have 4-letter all-alphabet callsigns. If her role was similar to USA Coast Guard shore stations then the Westhinder must have processed a lot of traffic. In an attempt to honor her radio heritage, I demonstrated my poor fist on a straight key. This is radio talk meaning that I produced low-quality morse code messages using a telegraph key with 1 electrical contact. Some telegraph keys have 2 contacts, 1 for dots (.) and 1 for dashes (_). I received an official key holder for my effort. Glad I learned CW! CW is radio talk for morse code.

We visited a floating museum. Retired barges house exhibits and a café. There is a barge in the lower foreground of this picture. Barges have bridges and rudders but no engines or sails. Barges are towed by tugboats. (Did you know that towboats are boats that push barges from behind? Tugboats pull from ahead.)

The inside is chock full of barge and tugboat photographs, models, memorabilia, and training material. An elderly gentleman (in outstanding physical shape) from southern France explained to me how tugboats have towing cables for each barge behind them so that they can pass bends and curves, and how small boats that were shops on water would come up to tugboats and barges to sell food and drink. Oh I learned so much today! We talked in 3 languages because he preferred French, Dutch, and English in that order, which is the opposite of mine. I had a French language workout.

middelheim park

2017-09-20 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- We walked a total of 16 kilometers today to visit and stroll through Middelheim park.

Middelheim park is an open air art museum. Avant garde sculptures are placed throughout the grounds. Entrance is free!

This sailing ship diving into the water may well be the most iconic sculpture in the park. The artist calls it "misconception", I believe. I prefer to call it "let's play".

Beautiful day! Yet the locals are wearing jackets. It's chilly in the shade. 10 C or below.

The trees are a mix of late summer and early autumn.

I never saw so many acorns and chestnuts.

Like good Belgians, we had sandwiches on
the terrace of the Mi-ka café.


2017-09-19 LEUVEN, BELGIË -- We visited KUL (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven).

Leuven is less than an hour away by train, about the same distance as Brussels. There are 2 routes for the trains -- industrial and countryside. We took the latter in the morning. Cattle, sheep, cornfields. See line 16 on
the train network map.

Striving to become Belgians, we had a nice ontbijt (breakfast) at
a bakery celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Plenty of choices! This picture shows about 20 percent.

We had pizza bread (with bolognese sauce) and an apple-filled pastry. In Belgium, drinks come with snacks. Usually cookies, but because this is a bakery we got rolls.

Our cheerful friend and colleague Akiko, who studied at KULeuven, recommended the Begijnhof. In Leuven there are 2 begijnhoven (this is the plural form): groot (large), now student and faculty housing for KULeuven, and klein (small), now private housing. Groot was naturally our first destination.

A begijnhof is an enclosed compound where pious women lived and worked during the middle ages. Begijnhoven were common in the Netherlands and Flanders.

Begijnhoven were not nunneries. The women were not nuns, although depending on the begijnhof they might be called sisters in the sense of devout individuals living in a community, as opposed to clerics led by a mother superior. An example of a begijnhof with sisters is
the begijnhof in Antwerp. Their last member, Sister Virginie, passed away in 1986.

The tiniest spots are adorned with the female figures, such as the Virgin Mary, saints or sisters.

Detail of above photograph.

Many people live here. Hidden from view is an astounding number of bicycles.

Like the good Belgians we want to be, we took a break in the Oude Markt (old market).

Een pintje (a pint) of Stella Artois, the beer of the city.

The Stella Artois factory is relocating from inside of the city to the outside. The immense old factory (it's too large to be called a brewery, I feel) is being demolished and converted into attractive housing for students and the elderly.

I hope the project works. I am concerned that the high rate of turnover among residents might fail to create a sense of neighborhood. That said, I would love to live in any of these fancy new apartments. "Monaco on water" is how 2 local gentlemen described it. "Exclusive, eh?"

The KULeuven library. It was destroyed during World War I, and rebuilt in 1925 with donations from the USA. At least 1 nearby street is named after a notable American.

The square facing the library was hosting a traveling amusement park. Like good Belgians we stopped at a café. Noriko had soup and bread. I had Hasselt coffee for the first time. This warm drink is sweet coffee and
jenever (Dutch gin, originating in the city of Hasselt). It tastes something like Kahlua. I love it!

After a long day (including a visit to the bookstore) we returned to (may I dare say voluptuous) Leuven train station. I estimate that the express traveled some sections at over 160 kilometers per hour.

vlaamse havendag

2017-09-17 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- The port authority of Antwerp held an open house.

This is
the Mexicobrug (Mexico bridge), part of my morning running course.

For the 1st time we visited to
the church ship Sint Jozef, permanently moored next to the Mexicobrug.170917_P1600548

The Sint Jozef has a small chapel, a restaurant, and a large chapel. All rooms are richly decorated with nautical memorabilia, such as name plates or bells from ships. The seats in the restaurant can be arranged to face the altar of the large chapel, so that the altar is sandwiched between 2 seating areas for the congregation. The picture below shows restaurant seating towards the upper left, and large chapel seating towards the lower right. The ceiling is curved because it forms the deck.

We visited
the newly expanded Havenhuis (harbor house). This is also part of my morning run. When we lived in Antwerp in 2009, only the lower old part of the building existed. The top new half is 1 year old today. The new harbor house was designed by Zaha Hadid, who submitted a design for the Tokyo olympic games that was rejected due to high construction cost estimates.

Along with hundreds of other well-wishers, we wrote Happy Birthday on a shipping container.

I have never seen so many people at the Havenhuis. In fact I have never seen more than 2 people outside the building. When I ran by in the past, it was completely deserted. No cars, no bicycles, no ships, no tents, no snack stands, no portable toilets, no bandstand for live rock. Wow! Where did all these people come from?

Passersby love to see how we love Kero.

Siberiabrug (Siberia bridge), located at the north end of the Havenhuis, consists of 2 bridges placed side by side.

The Belgian navy gave tours of their ship. Contestants climbed a wall and dived into the water.

The weather was fantastic for early fall in Flanders. After coming home, I sat on our sunny balcony and practiced trumpet with a mute attached for silencing the dreadful noise. So far no complaints.


2017-09-16 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- We watched fireworks from our apartment.

Starting this year, the city of Antwerp is holding a fireworks competition. Each Saturday and Sunday night starting at 22:00, 2 teams shoot up fireworks. The top 3 are invited for a 2nd round of fireworks on 2017-09-15. Tonight, the grand champion showed off their skills.

We had a nice view from our apartment. A high-rise building in 't eilandje blocked part of the fun but not by much. No crowds, no noise, no cigarette smoke. Just us in our cozy living room. What a treat!

train world

2017-09-15 SCHAARBEEK, BELGIË -- We visited the brand new Train World museum, located 1 station north of Brussels-Nord, for a day of nostalgia and awe.

Schaarbeek train station is one of the oldest in the country. Belgian train service began only a few years after Belgium became an independent country in 1830. Rolling stock imported from Britain connected Schaarbeek and Mechelen to the north.

The platforms at the station start at the number 3. Platforms 1 and 2 are located within the museum. Outside the museum, there are tram lines connecting the neighborhood to Brussels.

The museum exhibits the building itself, and the history of Belgian rail service with respect to personnel, rolling stock, track, and technology.

An example of railway history is shown in the photo below. Mechelen station was considered the origin (kilometer post 0) of the Belgian railway system. A monument was erected at the 0 point. Many years later, the post was removed for construction work. They discovered a long-forgotten box buried underneath. The original railway people had placed items supposed to bring good luck.

The museum interior is unusually dark. The dim lights add romantic drama. As an engineer, I am more interested in clearly seeing mechanics.

Kero the train engineer. Try as I might, I could not make heads or tails of the steam locomotive's controls.

Posters and sales brochures from yesteryear.

The dining car of the Orient Express, a brilliant sales idea by the Belgians.

Hergé illustrated brochures for the railways.

van laar trumpet factory

2017-09-13 MARGRATEN, NETHERLANDS -- We visited Hub van Laar (Hub is pronounced with a long [u:] as in "hoop"), who builds trumpets and flugelhorns in Margraten, a town near Maastricht, in the Netherlands.

We took the train.

We combined 2 tickets: a ticket from Antwerp to the border station, and a ticket from the border station to Maastricht.

Maastricht straddles the river Maas, known as the Meuse in French-speaking south Belgium. "Tricht" means "confluence", the same as my family name.

Hub speaks Dutch, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Czech. He started playing trumpet at age 12. Later, he switched to trombone. He wanted to play trombone to begin with. He waited to grow taller, and for his arms to grow longer, so that he could manipulate the slides.

Out of respect to Hub and his staff, I will not show pictures or videos of their personnel or foundry, although they gave us permission to photograph them.

Their metal-working shop is the cleanest I have ever seen.

I test-played almost 20 instruments. You can see some of them on the shelf besides me. I played scales, lip slurs, and intervals. Each instrument felt different.

We enjoyed conversation over lunch at
a local eatery that began as an Hungarian restaurant.

I lost my mind and money, and placed an order for
a model B9.2 trumpet. This picture shows the instrument I test-played. Mine will be built and delivered in 5 months.


2017-09-11 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- We visited the oldest zoo in Belgium.

The zoo is located immediately adjacent to Antwerp's central train station. The picture below shows: left, the station building; center, the main gate of the zoo topped by a bronze statue of a camel and its rider; and bottom right, an aerial pathway running above part of the zoo.

The zoo has nice gardens. Locals can buy an annual pass for daily, quiet, pretty, relaxing walks.

For photos and videos of the zoo animals,
visit the zoo website. Here is Kero greeting penguins.

Rain and sunshine and sometimes both. Windy all day.

Although the land area is not very large, the multi-story structures, bridges, and snaking pathways expand distance and volume.
This map comes from the zoo website.

jazz cafe

2017-09-10 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- We listened to live jazz at the Café Hopper in 't zuid (literally "the south") part of Antwerp.

The café is located near the royal museum of art. The museum is undergoing significant remodeling at this time. We hope to return to Antwerp when renovations are complete.

The café has street seating (smoking allowed), and indoor seating (non-smoking). This is standard for Flanders.

Daniel McBrearty played clarinet and 2 kinds of saxophones. Jef Manderveld on bass, Jonas Boulsen on drums. The guitar and piano players were different people from what was printed on the flyers. A local teenager was invited to play piano. Sorry I did not catch their names.

The best part for us was that music started at 16:00. Most live performances take place at night.

No cover charge, just a coffee or hot water and ginger, for a set of live music.

opera open house

2017-09-10 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- The opera house had an open house today.

Sharp-eyed Noriko spotted a sheet of paper posted on a construction site fence announcing the event.

We entered the building 50 minutes after they opened that morning. Lucky! We avoided the long queues that formed later in the day.

Noriko enjoys opera and ballet. Truth be told, I am not a theater-goer. My parents love Bizet's "Carmen". They played the records so often that I memorized many parts of it. But my main interest lies in architecture, particularly sight-lines and acoustics.

Ceiling center.

Box seat decoration.

View of the stage from the 4th row from the front.

Monitors placed in the wings of the stage show what is going on. Here, Noriko is standing in the center of the stage. The camera must be mounted fairly high to capture the stage at this angle.

Floorplan of level 1, the bottom level for audiences. Note the abundance of staircases, many of them spiral.

Floorplan, level 2. Row seating in front, box seating in the back.

Floorplan, level 3. Almost all row seating, with some box seating in the center and corners.

The prop person (maybe she was the prop master) explained her wares. I failed to understand most of what she said. My vocabulary is nil in the area of arts (and literature and politics and ...).

Wigs and makeup.

Wardrobe storage and fabrication. I counted at least 10 sewing machines, maybe more were hidden from view.

Dressing room for leading actors. Top actors enjoy spacious privacy, including a toilet, sink, shower, sofa, and piano. Upright pianos are found throughout the building. Top actors get to practice alone.

Regular actors -- the enlisted men in the army -- put on their makeup together.

There's always a piano nearby, even in dressing rooms for low-ranking actors.

I imagine that these are plans for lighting and placement of large props.

We sat in the front row, near the corner, on level 2 to watch a lighting demonstration.

Numerous rods are raised and lowered by frighteningly rapid cables. I believe they support props and backdrops.

The rods -- curtain rails if you will -- are invisible during an opera performance. Today, however, the rods took center stage, as they danced in mist and light with impeccable precision and speed.

After the light show, we left the seating area for the opulent curved hallway.

Ceiling of the cafe, where the audience can relax during intermission.

vleeshuis museum

2017-09-09 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- Noriko and I were visiting the Vleehuis (meat house) museum of musical instruments when we were invited -- purely by good fortune -- to join a tour of the nearby cathedral tower. After the tour of the cathedral we returned to the Vleeshuis to resume our study of musical instruments.

I do not know whether the color of the exterior walls are intended to evoke images of bacon. Seriously, I suspect the color contrast of meat and fat, and flesh and hide were design elements.

The tall ceilings are supported by crossed arches.

The 1st floor (what Europeans call the ground floor, or floor 0) consists of 2 rows of open space supported by arches. The museum's main exhibits are located here, and some more in the basement. The upper floors are closed to the public.

We were particularly drawn to trumpets. In medieval times, Antwerp and other cities employed trumpet players, who performed at formal functions in uniform and often on horseback. In 18th-century Antwerp, trumpet players would stand watch atop the cathedral tower 2 times a day, in case they needed to sound the fire alarm. Below is a detail of an oil painting that depicts a procession led by 4 trumpet players. These are natural trumpets -- that is, the trumpets do not have valves. The players are puffing their cheeks and seem to be applying excessive mouthpiece pressure. Hmm, they need to work on their embouchure!

This painting shows a procession exiting what must be the Antwerp cathedral, judging from the likeness of the architecture. The cathedral building evolved over the centuries. The 1st building was built in 1520, almost exactly 500 years ago. The building can and should look different from how it appears today.

Detail of the painting shown above. A band follows a white-robed flag bearer and a green-clad standard bearer, who jointly lead the procession. The person holding a trumpet with coiled tubing shown in the center of this photograph is, I believe, the trumpet player. The 3 people holding shorter straight wind instruments might be playing straight trumpets, as Noriko surmises, or they could be playing reed instruments such as shawms. Noriko is probably correct. Shawms were popular back then, but they seem to have been used only in folk music (such as dance music in open-air festivals), so perhaps shawms would have been excluded from a formal procession such as the one this painting.

Sheet music from a while ago. Of typographic interest is the shape of the notes. The note heads are diamond-shaped, instead of ovals. Heads can be filled (that is, solid black) or empty (that is, circles), just as today. The stems extend from the center of the head rather than the right edge. The way stems are written is the same as the hand writing of many modern musicians. Perhaps it is more natural to center the stems.

Trumpet valves are a fairly recent invention. Natural trumpets (including the world's 2 oldest known examples from King Tutankhamun's tomb) have no valves, and are often straight. They all have bells, which have the effect of decreasing the frequency intervals between lower harmonics (
see my favorite reference).


The museum lets visitors download software for listening to sounds created by instruments on display. No need to rent audio guides anymore.
This app is available only in the museum.

An omni-tonal horn invented around 1820 by
Charles-Joseph Sax, father of Adolphe Sax, who in turn invented the saxophone. Fascinating design. I do not understand how the omni-tonal horn works (this reference may help). The horn appears to produce various pitches without keys, valves, or slides. However it is not clear from merely visually observing the instrument how the horn works. For starters, I cannot tell which parts move. I would like to see the instrument played.

The museum's basement houses 2 reconstructed Belgian foundries of music instruments.

The first foundry is a bell foundry that was relocated when the owner and builder retired in 1988. He was the last bell maker in the country. Carillons are numerous in the low countries (Benelux) and the USA. Carillon players are called carillonneurs, but for myself, in the interest of international English, I am switching over to "instrument-name player" to describe players of instruments. Piano player (not pianist), flute player (not flutist), trumpet player (not trumpeter).

The second foundry is for brass instruments. The company "Van Engelen and Son" started making instruments in 1813. They were well known for military instruments, and for a while they were the largest manufacturer in the country. The company ceased business in the 1991. The museum purchased the brass instrument manufacturer's workshop in 1999, and exhibited many artifacts as shown in the picture below. The foundry displayed at the museum depicts the original workplace in the 1970s.

Mandrels would be familiar to brass instrument craftsmen today. The tooling on exhibit are only 50 years or so old. (Referring to half a century as "only" shows my age.)

Hanging bells is another timeless technique.


2017-09-09 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- Fortune smiled on us today. We jointed a small-group tour up the north tower of Antwerp's cathedral -- Onze Lieve Vrouwe kathedraal.

The north tower is 123 meters tall.

We went up to the 3rd balcony, which is surrounded by a stone fence above the narrow windows.

The tour began at the nearby Vleeshuis museum (vleeshuis is literally "flesh house", and means butcher's hall, where fresh meats were sold in olden times). The museum contains musical instruments that are directly related to Antwerp.

Among the collections are church bells, hence the connection to the cathedral.

The last artisan of church bells in Belgium retired in 1988. His foundry was relocated to the museum.

The cathedral is a few minutes away from the music museum. Our guide pointed at the part of the tower that we would visit. But it was so high up there that I could not grasp the height. Besides, Noriko and I were ultra-focused on listening to what the guide was saying in Dutch language. We understood a useful part of it because it was show and tell of architecture, musical instruments, tools, and building techniques. I confess that after the 2.5-hour tour my brain was wiped out.

The tower was built in stages, starting in 1520. The walls are thicker towards the bottom.

On level 1, there is a large, tall room where 16 men would stand by before tolling the bell. In order to allow the sound of the bell to emanate from the tower, there are no windows or walls surrounding the bells. Tolling bells can be cold work. That is why there is a fireplace in this room.

On level 2, our guide gave us a lecture on how the cathedral expanded in size, both horizontally and vertically. He was giving us a chance to catch our breath.

Spiral staircases make you dizzy! Noriko and I were reminded of our 1st apartment in Antwerp, which had a spiral staircase so tight that my backpack would scrape against the walls as I went up and down. If you were sick or injured I don't think the ambulance crew could get you out.

On Level 3, we were allowed outside onto the balcony. (Actually this is level 5. We skipped 2 levels because, according to the guide, there is nothing to see.)

This is already high enough! Thank heavens, the rain is clearing.

Don't look down!

Merely days ago I was delighted to view the Brabo statue and the stadhuis (city hall) from an elevated platform. Never did I imagine that I would be looking down from the cathedral tower.

A closer look of the stadhuis.

Level 4 houses the bells.

Some ringing mechanisms are modern.

Level 5 houses the automated mechanism for playing chimes every 15 minutes. 8000 pegs of various sizes specify the melody. The smell of machine oil fills this weather-proofed room. Each year, around Easter time, the machine is disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled, sometimes with a new melody. (I might be mistaken -- this is what I understood from our guide's explanations).

On level 6, which is 1 level above the top balcony, there is a tiny room where the carillon player operates levers and pedals to play the bells.

The top balcony!

The Boerentoren ("farmers' tower") panorama deck is at the same height as we are. This building was Europe's tallest skyscraper when it was built in 1932.

The steamy towers behind the high-rise apartments are nuclear reactors (slated to be decommissioned by 2025 -- Japan should do the same), and the BASF factory, where our friend works.

From this height, the stadhuis is too far away to appreciate. Instead, the shape of the properties, and the overall land use become apparent.

Grounding wires for lightning. They say the Empire State building is hit by lightning 100 times each year. The north tower of the cathedral does look electro-statically attractive.

The roof of the cathedral proper.

There are more pictures I would like to show. I will stop here today, and add more tomorrow! (update -- I lied. Took me 1 week.)

red star line museum

2017-09-07 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- If we were to call Sapporo our home base (a reasonable choice, given that we work there 32 weeks out of a year), then we travel over 20 weeks a year. If we were to call Lincoln City our home base (which is what my heart tells me), then we travel 40 weeks a year. Either way, we are never far away from our suitcases. We even have names for each of them.

But some people chose to travel one way. They permanently move from one place to another. That sort of travel -- migration, immigration -- is the core message of the
museum of the Red Star Line.

Most of you may be more familiar with the
White Star Line, indelibly etched in our societal memory due to the sinking of the Titanic. Both the White and Red Star Lines carried immigrants from Europe to North America.

One of the more famous immigrants was
Albert Einstein. Among the many unfortunate people forced to flee Europe (who were fortunate enough to escape), Einstein was one of the lucky ones. He traveled in relative comfort.

Another famous immigrant who traveled on the Red Star Line was
Irving Berlin (né Israel Beilin). He spoke no English when he sailed on the Rhyland as a child.

Irving Berlin's piano.

This desk belonged to the chief engineer of one of the largest ships in the Red Star Line fleet. All officers were British. The crew came from all over Europe.

In the beginning, the main cargo of the Red Star Line was carrying oil from the USA to Europe (America exported oil back then). Instead of sailing empty back to the USA, the ships ferried passengers, mostly immigrants. Later, the ships were upgraded with fancy services such as tasty meals and live music for 1st and 2nd class passengers.

Larger ships were built, specifically for passengers. These were the cruise ships of their day. The 27000-ton
Bergenland II sailed around the world. During a 133-day cruise, posh passengers visited Yokohama and Nara, among other places.

While the jazz band played for 1st and 2nd class passengers, 3rd class passengers were viewed with suspicion because many were poor and dirty.
Robert Koch -- whose name I did not expect to see mentioned at this museum -- was one respected scientist who believed that immigrants were likely to carry communicable diseases.

Immigrants were inspected by physicians both before leaving Antwerp and upon arrival in New York. At Ellis Island, among other requirements, passengers were tested for intelligence by placing wooden blocks together. Noriko passed.

I would like to visit Ellis Island someday. Immigration is a headache for me today, even in this day and age, when visas and inoculations are hardly necessary. I can only begin to imagine how nervous people must have been 100 years ago on their 1st long trip that they hoped would be their last.


2017-09-06 BRUSSEL, BELGIË -- The city of Brussels is Brussel in Dutch, Bruxelles in French, and BXL to locals who prefer abbreviations.

We started with a visit to the Grand Place, a large square in the center of the city.

Aggressively gilded buildings line the square.

Weather was borderline -- almost about to rain. Tourists didn't mind.

We walked into
a music shop that we found in a prime location near the square.

The gentleman at the store (who had studied music at a conservatory) told us that Belgian schoolchildren are not required to take music classes. Compulsory exposure to music is limited to playing the recorder in elementary school (but unlike Japan, not harmonica). Students may take music lessons for free after release. It appears that music is an extra-curricula, extra-credit activity. Piano is the most popular instrument. Acoustic guitar is second. But interest in electric guitars has waned, overshadowed by computer games.

I bought
a level 1 trumpet book. I can play most of the music written in the book (badly, of course). I bought the easiest book because I want to learn the Dutch language terms for music. Because the book is written for children, the language used is colloquial and friendly. Exactly what I need! The book is 21 euro -- as expensive as music books in Japan. Come to think of it, the Hal Leonard books they sell in the USA are unusually affordable.

Today's main attraction was the
MIM (musical instrument museum). The art-deco building is a landmark.

The museum is chock-full of oh-so-wonderful instruments from the world over. Next time we visit (probably soon) we will rent an audio guide, which plays music played by the instruments on exhibit. Today we focused on visual appreciation.

Analog synthesizer. I spent some time reading the labels of the controls.

Automatic organ.

Wires that control the automatic organ. The tiny wires might be for brief notes (like 1/32) or vibrato.

Belgium is the birthplace of
Adolphe Sax, who invented the saxophone. Sax experimented with various brass instruments, including a keyed trombone with 7 bells, pictured at left.

I love the display cases as much as I do the items on display. The cases are beautifully integrated into the architecture.

I was thrilled to see a drawing of a brass instrument foundry that I had read in a book about the history of brass instruments.

Historic documents such as these grip me with curiosity. The museum has reproduced most of this book so that visitors might read it.

Before modern times, mouthpieces were permanently attached to the trumpet. Of the mouthpieces that I saw, all had rather thin rims (although many modern mouthpieces are just as thin), and as far as I could tell, medium-sized cups. I could not see the shape of the throat or bore.

Glass bugels!

The gift store uses, but alas does not sell, book ends with a trumpet design.

The top floor has a restaurant with a marvelous view of Europe's capital city.

To round off the day, we listened and watched the great wall clock ring 17:00.

dinner on the balcony

2017-09-05 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- Belgians are passionate about their food. We wish to join them!

Shall we start with bubbles?

Belgische frietjes (Belgian fries) are fried twice!

Mosselen (mussels) are sold in sealed plastic boxes. I've never seen that done in Japan or USA. I feared the clams were dead ... my mom trained me to buy and cook live clams. But they were okay. Boil them and the shells pop open, just as they should. The Belgians add veggies to the broth.

The clams we can't finish on the first night become dinner the second.

Our apartment is on the top floor, and is taller than most buildings nearby. Our apartment comes with a spacious balcony (or terrace or veranda, depending on where you're from).

Our functionally rather limited kitchen is adjacent to the balcony.

Access is through 2 enormous windows. The size of each opening is 2.0 x 2.4 meters.

We have a view of the Antwerpen train station, a UNESCO world heritage site.

de koninck

2017-09-05 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- We visited the beer manufacturer "De Koninck". When "De Koninck" was bought by another Belgian beer company "Duvel", they decided to continue brewing beer in downtown Antwerp, and bottle the beer at a larger facility elsewhere. They took out everything from the old brewery, and installed a new brewery plus a new visitor center -- the latter in the space no longer needed by the bottling and storage equipment.

Admission costs 12 euro, which sounds sort of pricey, even considering 3 small glasses of beer to taste, plus 1 euro off of gift purchases. However the rich experience is definitely worth the money. The costs keep the crowds away, and let serious visitors relax.

The audio guide costs 1 euro. The exhibits are so nicely done that the audio guides are unnecessary.

You enter from a converted shipping container. From this moment of the self-guided tour, De Koninck's whimsical humor permeates.

Movies (with subtitles in 4 languages) are shown in rooms with their doors closed so that everybody gets to watch the show together from start to finish.

Scan your hand (the symbol of Antwerp and De Koninck beer), and they match you with an employee having a handprint similar to yours.

In a room full of beer glasses, you are edutained with comical videos. "Edutainment" means education via entertainment. Beer glasses are sold all over Belgium, because each brand of Belgium beer is optimally enjoyed in its own brewery-designed beer glass.


This van takes you on a beer-delivery ride through the city of Antwerp. Because I don't want to spoil it for you, I won't post my video of the ride.

Naturally you can look at ultra-modern ultra-clean brewery facilities. The gray walkway with red trim in the background is the self-guided tour pathway. Notice how the factory and tour blend together.

I had never seen cooling systems like this. I wonder what they do with condensation?

At the end of the tour, they let you taste a flight of 3 (or more) beers, fresh from the vat. Note the pipes leading into the beer taps.

I'm not a strong drinker ... so Kero took over for me!

I really have no idea what beer to recommend you. I myself am strongly partial to "De Koninck" because it is the beer of the city. But "Triple d'Anvers" (with a name in French language no less!) tastes better, I hate to admit. The 3rd choice of the day was a chocolate-flavored beer that came out of their test brew.

Noriko bought a polo shirt, and I got a beer glass and key holder.

trumpet practice

2017-09-04 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- Practicing trumpet while traveling is not easy for me. I don't want to bother people. Finding a place to play is not easy unless smack in the middle of the day. Because I often have activities planned during the day, I ruefully use a practice mute (top center in photo) that doesn't feel right. Maybe when I become an intermediate player I can benefit from a practice mute. At my current stage, I can hurt myself if I'm not careful.



2017-09-03 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- After a ten-year absence, Noriko and I returned to Antwerpen, België (Antwerp, Belgium). What a lovely city!

Open-air concerts are popular during the sunny summer months. They set up a grand stand around the Brabo statue.

Brabo is the mythical hero who rescued people by cutting off a greedy giant's hand and throwing it into the river.

We had never seen Grote Markt (the grand market square) from this height.

Stadhuis (city hall) is richly adorned. From our higher vantage point, we were able to look into the recesses holding the statues. From the ground, we could only see the foremost parts.

Squares around the city hold markets on various days. On Saturday mornings one of the squares holds the Vogelenmarkt (the bird market) where they do sell live birds in addition to vegetables, bread, meats, fish, snacks, and clothing.

Veggies look yummy!

Trumpet of death? These mushrooms must grow on the ground where I practice!

We bought a chocolate-shaped frog.

The storekeepers were fascinated with meeting Kero.

Yesterday morning I ran, and this morning practiced trumpet. I had done neither for some time, because I had become slightly asthmatic during our stay in England. I am feeling better now. Maybe the cause was flowers in English gardens?

During yesterday's morning run, I scouted for a place to practice trumpet, and chose a spot at the edge of a city park, next to a construction area. The scenery is awful but hopefully I bother nobody. I played softly.

We had lunch and dinner on the balcony of the apartment we are staying at.

isle of wight

2017-08-28 ISLE OF WIGHT, UK -- Our cheerful colleague Akiko Tashiro recommended a day-trip to the Isle of Wight. We followed her advice to visit Carisbrooke Castle and the Osborne House.

Red Funnel ferry took us from Southampton to East Cowes. Their website contains plenty of information for planning visits to the Isle of Wight. The 1st class cabin offers elegant tranquility.

We walked about 10 kilometers from East Cowes to Carisbrooke Castle. The first step is crossing the river Medina. There are no bridges because the Isle of Wight attracts tall sailing ships. A launch took us across to the west bank.

A former railroad track is now a linear park that connects West Cowes to Newport. Newport is oddly named, I think, because it lies in the center of the island. Yes, ships can sail up and down the river, but I doubt Newport was ever a thriving port. I heard that the railroad was abolished in 1966.

In Newport, a local gentleman (his family has lived on the island for 400 years) graciously showed us the sights (including the town square and the oldest pub in town), and directed us towards Carisbrooke Castle.

England distributes electricity using wiring techniques different from the USA, Japan, and Belgium. The English wiring looks like half of an umbrella frame, spreading electrical power from 1 utility pole to over a dozen houses across the street. This fact has nothing to do with the Isle of Wight. It has more to do with my interest in electricity and electronics.

The castle sits atop a hill, with a commanding view of the island. The castle was built for military defense.

The castle grounds are a favorite park for the locals. We said hello to many townspeople and their pets.

Kero inspected the moat and ramparts.

The area within the castle walls is not very large. This castle was a mansion for a lord and a fortress for his garrison. The castle is neither a military base for invading enemy territory, nor a walled city for protecting its citizens.

Donkeys turn a large treadmill to lower and raise a bucket from a deep well. Workers spent 2 years digging the well. The first 2 meters was topsoil. The next 47 meters was rock. Geologists say there is probably a natural spring at the bottom (or rather, workers kept digging until they reached such a water source). This turning wheel is the only such device still in operation in Europe.
Watch the video (23 megabytes) to hear how long it takes for a pail of water to hit the bottom.

We climbed the castle keep. Unlike the penthouse status of
tenshukaku in Japanese castles, the keep of Carisbrooke Castle was a watchtower where sharp-eyed lookouts surveyed the island. The single-story small building at the left of the photo is where the donkey draws water from the well.

Kero treated us to a taxi ride from Newport to Osborne House. Cost 17 pounds. The driver asked for 15 pounds, and we added a tip, which apparently is not obligatory in Britain. The driver told us that the 5-pound notes we gave him are no longer accepted at stores.
New, polymer-based paper currency is replacing the old, paper-based currency. In a few weeks (on 2017-09-13) new 10 pound notes will enter circulation.

The Osborne House is near East Cowes. It was the beach house for the royal family. I imagine it served a role similar to Japan's Hayama imperial villa.

Osborne House is best known, perhaps, as the place where Queen Victoria died. I was more intrigued as the place where children grew up. This picture shows the nursery. The furniture is original, but the wallpaper is not.

In terms of architectural design, the Osborne House does not impress. The building is large, of course, with nearly 90 servants working for a family of less than 10.

The staff would squabble over seating arrangements. The seat immediately to the right of her majesty ranked highest.

Queen Victoria's toilet was located between 2 walls. The term WC (water closet) is apt.

Queen Victoria's bathtub occupied a closet. Open the closet doors, and instead of clothes you find a bathtub with a lid on it. Plumbing was bad back then. Traps (U, W, or J-shaped pipes to stop odors) had not been invented. Covering toilets, sinks, and tubs was standard operational procedure to stop malodorous fumes from entering the house.

The public areas are grand. This is the formal dining room, where dignitaries were entertained. The ceiling is richly decorated.

The garden is positively lovely in the beautiful weather.

We walked down to what used to be the royal private beach. Truth be told, this is the only aspect of the Osborne House to which I could say "I could live with that!". The rest seemed too stuffy to me. Change clothes several times a day? Dress up for dinner at your own house?

Noriko picked her favorite Victoria sponge cake.

Nice lawn!

The ferry back to Southampton was crowded with families enjoying their last 3-day weekend of the summer.


2017-08-27 PORTSMOUTH, UK -- We took a day trip to Portsmouth, one of the main seaports of Britain, former home to their naval academy (now at Dartmouth), but not where (as I had mistakenly thought) the Treaty of Portsmouth was signed. (The 1905 treaty that ended the Russo-Japanese war was signed in Portsmouth, Maine, USA.)

We arrived early at the train station. Lucky that we did, because (a) the ticket offices were closed, and (b) all but 1 automated machine recognized my credit card and printed the tickets that I had bought online. When traveling in Europe, use credit cards with computer chips! Magnetic strips are insufficient.

Kero took care of the tickets.

We walked from Fratton station to Portsmouth Harbor. I got us lost. Friendly local folks gave us directions. Along the way we passed by the house where Charles Dickens was born.

We went up the Spinnaker Tower. The observation decks are the 3 floors with dark green windows, located near the top of the comb-shaped arch.

Gorgeous day. Clear view of Isle of Wight (which is 4 times bigger than Japan's Izu Ohshima, and slightly smaller than Japan's Tanegashima).

We had cream tea overlooking the horizon and harbor. Clotted cream is butter that is somehow more buttery than butter.

The British navy is building their
largest aircraft carrier, the conventionally-powered 280-meter-long Queen Elizabeth. Unlike American aircraft carriers, the Queen Elizabeth has no catapults or arrestor wires. Instead she uses VSTOL (very short take off and landing) aircraft that the British are justifiably proud of. The ship is being fitted now, and should be deployed in 2020.

After seeing the newest high-tech ship from above, we descended to water level, and visited the Naval Historic Dockyards, where the
Mary Rose is on display. The Mary Rose sank in 1545. She was raised in 1982, and is being conserved -- a magnificent feat of engineering and resolve.

We visited the
HMS Victory, famous for being commanded by Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson during the Battle of Trafalgar (1805). I enjoyed the juxtaposition of old and new warships -- the modern Queen Elizabeth is docked behind the Victory.

The bow of the Victory. Note the absence of forward-facing weapons.

A harbor tour on a boat gave us closer views of the Queen Elizabeth and other naval ships.

The bow of the Queen Elizabeth. British carriers have an upwardly sloping ramp at the bow.

Clean, flat surfaces typical of modern ships. The shape and material of the surfaces cause the vessels to appear much smaller on radar.

After another visit to the Spinnaker Tower (our ticket let us visit as many times as you like on that day), we took a train from Portsmouth Harbor back to Southampton. Lovely weather all day! (British expressions are rubbing off on me -- I would never say "lovely" in America.)

solent air museum with police and fire exhibit

2017-08-26 SOUTHAMPTON, UK -- We visited the Solent Sky Museum in the city of Southampton, UK. Solent is the name of the channel of water between the England mainland and the Isle of Wight.

Southampton is where the fighter aircraft Spitfire was developed. I was excited to visit the air museum, although I sadly no longer fly.

Kero was glued to the
FROG (fly right off the ground) series of model aircraft engines and kits. Perhaps FROG will come back, just like Heathkit did in 2015.

Kero wants to ride a scale model!

Supermarine S.6A. Famous. Delighted to see it! Embarrassingly, I did not know until today that the ribbed fuselage is for cooling engine oil. I had thought it was for metal strength.

On the 2nd floor (1st floor in British English) of the air museum is another museum featuring the history of the local police and fire departments in the Hampshire area.

Here are handcuffs and batons used through the ages. They all look uncomfortable!

Noriko found on display a cornet that was played by the fire department band. Each year they perform for their families at their open house.

We talked at length with Mr John S Beel, who until recently was a volunteer police officer (special constable). He volunteered for 4 hours a week for almost his entire adult life. He now is the exhibit's primary custodian and docent. We were impressed and honored to meet him and to hear his stories. Out of respect for his privacy, I will not repeat his tales of adventure, devotion, frustration, and despair. I do recommend that you visit the museum and talk to him.

Mr Beel's uniform is on display at the entrance of the police and fire exhibit.

rush to england

2017-08-22 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- The morning after the total eclipse of the sun, we traveled to Southampton, UK for a conference.

The timing was terrible. First, I wanted more time before and after the eclipse. We had to turn away friends who wished to stay with us. Before we leave our house, we need to close it -- meaning we need to eat all the food, wash the sheets, vacuum the rooms, immobilize the truck, switch off non-essential circuit breakers, turn off water, and so on. These tasks do not allow us to accommodate guests. Second, there were 2 more conferences happening at the same time in Sweden. I would have liked to have attended those conferences too, in order to see friends, keep abreast of academic developments, and to report on my progress.

Travel itself was uneventful. Alas, I was so tired that I dozed through our long layover at AMS (Amsterdam Schiphol airport). I had planned to work. Had I known I could not stay awake, I would have checked in at an airport hotel. AMS has 2 hotels (similar to Japanese capsule hotels) at the terminal between security and the gates. Sleeping on a flat bed and taking a hot shower would have been more restful and refreshing.

back for the eclipse

2017-08-02 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We returned home to Lincoln City, Oregon.

Our little town is excited with the solar eclipse happening on 2017-08-21 at shortly after 10:00 local time. We will be on our roof with our cameras and binoculars praying for sunshine. The weather forecast says there is only 40 percent probability of viewing the sun at that time. We are aware of the risks. We could have reserved a hotel in the high desert if we wanted a view of the eclipse. Our priority is experiencing the event at home. If we see it, great. If we don't, that's fun too.

"The News Guard" is our local newspaper. Their office is only 1 and a half blocks away from our house. I read their online edition. They keep us informed of how the community is preparing for the eclipse.


ship suitcase to airport

2017-07-26 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I shipped a suitcase from our Sapporo apartment to Narita airport. The advantages are (1) you pack early, so you focus on your tasks at home instead of continuing to worry about packing, and (2) you travel with carry-on luggage only until you reach your departing airport, so your clothes stay dry (no sweat!).

Japan has the best delivery system in the world. Fast, safe, ubiquitous, dependable, reliable, affordable. Print your shipping label yourself to save a bit.
Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 17.23.09

sunrise seto sleeper train

2017-06-17 TAKAMATSU, JAPAN -- For my birthday, we rode the sleeper express train Sunrise Seto from Takamatsu to Tokyo.

Sleeper trains are a dying breed. Only a handful remain in Japan. Germany canceled its last train a short while ago. We should ride Amtrak before they disappear.

Tonight might be our last chance.

Our cabin was on the lower level. Twin room, no plumbing. Shower and restrooms down the hall.

The bottom edge of the window is the same height as the platform floor.

Ehime prefecture is famous for oranges. We stocked up on orange juice for the overnight ride.

Ivy baked me cupcakes for my birthday. How sweet!


2017-05-31 WAKKANAI, JAPAN -- Noriko had never been to Wakkanai, the northernmost town on Hokkaido island. I had visited just once when in college. And the train company wants to abolish the line. Let's go while we can!

We took the train from Sapporo to Wakkanai, and rented a car to see the local sights.

The end of the line. At 45 degrees and 25 minutes north latitude, Wakkanai is 45 kilometers north of Lincoln City, Oregon.

The landmass over the horizon on the picture below is Sakhalin island, lying to the north at a distance of several hours on a ship.

The southern half of Sakhalin island became Japanese territory after the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905). At the end of World War II, the Soviets retook the island. Many Japanese civilians were captured by the Soviets. A statue commemorates the loneliness, despair, and death of the people forbidden to return to Japan.

I enjoyed an exhilarating morning run up and beyond the hills behind our hotel. I'm a tiny white speck in the picture that Noriko took from our hotel window (no you can't see me unless somebody pointed it out to you). I followed the trails up to and beyond radio towers transmitting TV and telephone signals to the neighboring small islands of Rishiri and Rebun. From there I saw Rishiri, Rebun, and Sakhalin islands all together. Sorry I didn't bring a camera.

Rijiri island seen from Wakkanai airport's observation deck.

We enjoyed ultra-fresh scallops at Sarufutsu village.


The high point of the trip was kaeru (frog) road -- a stretch of highway decorated with frog statues made from surplus fishing floats.

high tea

2017-05-28 HAKODATE, JAPAN -- We visited Hakodate for relaxation. A highlight of our trip was high tea at the former British consulate building.

The late spring rains added color to the lush garden.

Decorations are fancy and ornate.

Lovely light stand on a carved stone pedastal.

Connecting rooms add depth to the building.

Teapots wear dresses to stay warm.


Sandwich and cakes on multi-teared towers. The idea reminds me of
juubako boxes in Japanese cuisine.

We had a slow comforting experience.

Calm, relaxing,
rustig as they say in Flanders.

girls und panzer

2017-05-20 OOARAI, JAPAN -- We made the pilgrimage to Ooarai, home of the anime and manga series "Girls und Panzer". No, I will not explain what that is. Look it up yourself, like a good otaku.

First stop: Marine Tower.

On the 2nd floor from the top there is a maid cafe called "Panzer Vor".

Early lunch amidst blueprints of tanks and tables covered with camouflage fabric.

We must definitely return, if only to fill out the frequent-diner's membership card.

The entire town is full of "Girls und Panzer" memorabilia and themed-items.

The Ooarai Isomae Jinja (a local shrine) attracts people wishing to become manga artists. The hopefuls draw their pleas on wooden plates for the gods.

We discovered wonderful frog statues.

Pink frog good luck charms. Irresistible!

planning for trips

2017-05-15 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our department at Hokudai gives us 6 months of sabbatical leave exactly once for each professor's tenure. This is considerably less than many other schools (1 year of leave after 6 years of teaching is common). Noriko's and my leave is summer, fall, and winter of this year.

We've been busy planning and paying for our flights. We prefer flights that let us sit together, without having to sit next to somebody else. Reserving a few months before the flight allows us to select the seats we want, and that determines which flight we take.

One of our destinations is Southampton, UK. I am giving a presentation at
EUROCALL-2017, hosted by the University of Southampton.

"I found a cheap ticket!", I thought. The total cost rose from 100 euro to 346 euro (391 US dollars) after adding various costs that are necessary. Still, not too bad.

flowers at hokkaido jingu

2017-05-05 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- For the first time in at least 10 (maybe 13) years we took a few days off during Japan's Golden Week (a string of holidays interspersed with work days).

Sapporo summers are brief. Plums, cherries, magnolias ... all flowers bloom together.




We prayed for peace and health at the Hokkaido Jingu, a Shinto shrine with a checkered past.

The supreme Shinto priest is the emperor. His family crest (a 16-leaf chrysanthemum) adorns the shrine.

I saw for my first time a reproduction of the
Imperial Decree on Education (教育勅語) signed by Emperor Meiji. I have read, heard, and said the decree numerous times.

May 5th is Boys' Day (which is a holiday, unfairly and unlike March 3rd Girls' Day). Carp streamers wish boys well. Chinese mythology says carp, when jumping over waterfalls, transform into dragons. Religion in Japan is a mix of indigenous Shinto, imported Buddhism of various varieties, and some Chinese and Korean mythology and superstition.

otaru ferry terminal

2017-05-04 OTARU, JAPAN -- We walked from Otaru station down the canal to the ferry terminal.

We saw
the ship we traveled on last summer.

Otaru ferry terminal is one of the nicest in the country.

We enjoyed bay views through large windows.

restaurant Seagull serves affordable good food with great views. Alas they are closed between 16:00 and 17:30.

ainu porotokotan

2017-05-03 SHIRAOI, JAPAN -- We visited the Ainu village Porotokotan at the coastal town of Shiraoi.

"Poroto" means "lake, pond", and "kotan" means "village, hamlet". The village is on the east shore of a lake, situated in a marshy area near the coast. It is a beautiful area, which struck my untrained eyes as similar in fauna and flora to the Pacific northwest, where native Americans practiced a similar lifestyle.

Inaw (offering sticks, made by shaving branches) are everywhere, for the gods and goddesses dwell everywhere.

The Ainu (which means "people, human") were hunter-gatherers. They kept a fire burning in their houses to dry the roof and rid the house of insects. As a side benefit, food was preserved by smoking.

The village manufactures, displays, and sells salmon that was prepared using traditional Ainu techniques. Salmon caught in the fall is gutted, salted, dried in the winter air for 2 months, then hung indoors to be cured with smoke.

Ohaw is a clear, salty broth containing as much (or as little) food is available. We were served ohaw with millet rice, shito (starch cakes), pickled roots, and herbal tea. 800 yen.

In one of the larger buildings, people of Ainu heritage performed dances and songs.

The man is wearing a straw ceremonial headdress of an adult male. He holds a reproduced painting of an Ainu adult woman. Note tattoos around her mouth and on the back of her hands and forearm. The Japanese Meiji government prohibited tattoos (and many other practices all over Japan) claiming that traditional body art or hair or clothing would appear primitive, uncivilized, and savage to westerners. Many local people were unconvinced if not downright offended (Isn't it more valuable to appear attractive to your neighbors? How often do you meet westerners anyway?). The government's true motive was in entrenching its authority into the populace by controlling all minutiae of everyday life. I read an account of an Ainu woman who, as a young adult, wanted desperately to be tattooed because she felt she had earned that privilege. The police beat her up.

In 2020 a national museum of Ainu ethnology will open nearby. We should not be misled by government spending. The new museum consists of static displays, not of demonstrations or lectures delivered by people who are breathing and growing the Ainu heritage. The government is compartmentalizing and segregating the Ainu culture, and officially declaring it dead. This is as bad as animalizing the Ainu people, which could be accomplished by creating what is effectively a zoo, where one can view live Ainu in close to their native habitat. Whether one claims that the Ainu no longer exists or that Ainu tradition is carefully preserved, treating culture as a static, unchanging entity relegates it to a fossil, an object of scientific study, but having no rights or privileges.

But the Ainu culture is alive. Discriminated, decimated, debilitated, but alive, and deserving of respect and friendship. The Ainu language and culture can be better appreciated by, for instance, providing Ainu language classes in schools, or by organizing Ainu culture camps where people can stay for a length of time to soak in the material and spiritual culture of the Ainu. Yet even Ainu festivals or rituals are rarely scheduled.

The government cannot revive the Ainu because doing so forces the government to accommodate other minorities, such as the Koreans who were forced to work in Japan. Deep understanding of history damages the government's credibility, for they are the direct descendant of the pre-war establishment. Unlike Germany and Italy, which severed their pre-WW2 political leadership, Japan was allowed to retain Emperor Hirohito. Not executing him for war crimes legitimized his political and military subordinates. "We were following orders. If the emperor is held blameless, then so are we." The Americans made a mistake of acceding to Japan's demands to keep the emperor.

cherry blossoms arrive in sapporo

2017-05-02 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Sakura are here! We walked Oodoori Park in downtown Sapporo to enjoy the cherry blossoms, pansies, tulips, and more flowers.

Beautiful spring afternoon. Still nippy at 12 degrees Celsius. Stove needed morning and evening.

I prefer cherries that bloom before leaves come out.

Kero adds beauty to the flowers.

Can't get enough of them cherry blossoms! They're viewable only several days a year.

The park is getting ready for a brief summer. Hot weather lasts maybe 4 weeks.

the chocolate frog

2017-03-08 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- After my trumpet lessons with John Bringetto in Seal Rock, we like to drive a bit further south to Waldport, where our friends have their Chocolate Frog candy store.

Noriko and l love the store-owners Ken and Leslie. We visit and buy every chance we get.

They make chocolate frogs! The yellow one is a new flavor -- hot pepper!

Frog poop! Puffed wheat, I think, covered in colored candy.

Frog poop goes great with ice cream sundaes!

The Chocolate Frog supports local talent by selling artifacts made by local artists. We installed a cute faceplate for our light switch in our family room.

zach moves to oregon

2017-03-06 DAMASCUS, OREGON, USA -- We visited our friend Zach at his lovely new home located southeast of downtown Portland, Oregon.

When the skies are clear, Mt Hood looms in the east. What a gorgeous view that must be!

Noriko selected mice-themed sake cups. Zach keeps rats as pets.

Friends! Last time we met face-to-face was 10 (gasp!) years ago in Sapporo. Electronic correspondence is nice, but can never beat a hug.


2017-02-24 RYOGOKU, JAPAN -- We took a long walk in the Ryogoku district.

We were drawn irresistibly to
a store claiming to be toadally frogified.

Alas they did not live up to their hype. More baseball paraphernalia than frog-themed items.

But we did have a nice old-fashioned lunch.

We made an unexpected, informative, and somber encounter with the past at the
Kanto earthquake memorial museum. The earthquake itself killed a few thousand. Citizens remained calm because they were used to earthquakes, and quickly decided that the worst was over. In the Ryogoku area, about 50,000 people evacuated their homes that were damaged by the earthquake, and assembled at an army storage depot near the Sumida river. The houses caught fire, causing a firestorm that consumed all oxygen from near the surface of the ground. Evacuees suffocated if they were lucky. The river was covered with scorched bodies of victims who had dived into the water to escape the heat. A similar disaster occurred at the end of World War II, when USA fire-bombed Tokyo.

Ryogoku is home to the national sumo arena. A replica of the sumo ring is at the Ryogoku train station.

The train station has a wonderful exhibit of historical photographs. Unfortunately we are not allowed to take pictures.

At the end of the hallway is a staircase leading to a train platform reserved for use by the imperial family. On this day, the staircase displayed
hina dolls for girl's day.

kamogawa seaworld

2017-02-21 KAMOGAWA, JAPAN -- We visited Kamogawa Seaworld, a private aquarium on the Boso peninsula in Chiba prefecture.

Kamogawa Seaworld is located right on the beach. The show pools give the visual illusion that they are connected with the Pacific Ocean behind.

They have extensive water processing facilities. The absence of rust is an impressive feat of design, fabrication, and maintenance.

The star attraction is the orca show.

The trainers love their partners, who are unable to survive in the wild for various reasons.

If you're splashed by jumping orcas, then warm up and dry yourselves indoors while enjoying views of jellyfish.

Most jellyfish of this species has 4 U-shaped gonads in their bells, but some have 3 and some have 5.

There is an indoor tropical reef and beach. Sea turtles are bred here.

The plastic walls are over 20 centimeters thick, but visually appear as thin as a house window, because optical distortion is minimal even at an oblique angle.

You can eat orca-shaped rice with curry sauce at the restaurant, while viewing sea-life through windows.

We stayed for 2 days and 1 night. I went for a morning run along the beach.

Penguins, dolphins, sea lions, seals, water insects ... so much to see, we definitely would love to visit again.


2017-02-19 FUJISAWA, JAPAN -- We visited Noriko's parents in Fujisawa city.

We scrapped our plans to walk Enoshima due to unexpectedly cold winds. The weather forecast has been consistently unreliable the last several days!

Surfers waiting to ride the big waves, just like the Hokusai woodblock prints.

We prayed for our parents' health at a seaside Shinto shrine.

We chatted over sashimi.

Night waves and Mt Fuji.

Pizza and paella at the Red Lobster restaurant.

Cushy ride on the Odakyu Romance express.

odawara castle

2017-02-17 ODAWARA, JAPAN -- We visited Odawara castle.

Forts and castles have been built and rebuilt here since the 15th century. The current castle grounds are much smaller than its peak at the end of the 16th century. The tenshukaku (
天守閣, originally spelled 殿守閣, the castle keep) is about the same age as me, and renovated last year.

The view from the top is magnificent. Except it started to rain!

We waited out the rain in the history museums. This is a sword hilt.

Some types of cherry trees blossom early.

Plum trees (both white and red) bloom before cherries.

Odawara has a seaport, and is famous for kamaboko. We found our favorite kind!

We rode the Odayku Romance express home. Ours was one of the oldest train sets in service, dating back to my middle school days. The old trains offer the best views, because like the upper deck of a Boeing 747 aircraft, the trains have a bulge where the engineer sits (in the old sense of "engine operator"). The newer models are single-story, and you view out through the windshield from behind the engineer.

musashino historical museum

2017-02-12 MUSASHINO, JAPAN -- We visited the Musashino Historical Museum, located northwest of Musashi-Sakae station in Musashino City, Tokyo.

This small museum takes a serious, critical view of historical events, and explains their exhibits without dumbing down the content, or neutralizing viewpoints. I found their approach refreshing.

The museum has 3 rooms: their permanent exhibit (shown below), a temporary exhibit, and a hall for lectures and demonstrations.

I learned that the villagers were transplanted here shortly after 1657 when a fire destroyed Edo (now Tokyo). The samurai families who lost their homes in the fire were ordered to relocate to what was then the outskirts of town, in order to decrease the density of population and buildings in downtown Edo. The farmers living in the outskirts of Edo were in turn pushed out to undeveloped woodlands, which became Musashino City about 300 years later.

The temporary exhibit featured household utensils spanning 100 years. Noriko and I felt our age when we recognized most of the artifacts labeled "historic".

snowshoe on campus

2017-02-05 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We snowshoed for probably the last time this winter.

We can walk right straight out our front door on to the snow-covered campus grounds.

The ag school lawn.

We always draw Kero on the tennis courts.

Spiral square.

Hard to tell, but that's a pair of beamed eighth notes (1/8 + 1/8).

Finger-drawn portrait.

otaru snow light path

2017-02-04 OTARU, JAPAN -- Partly because our trumpet lesson was canceled, we spent our evening at Otaru, where they are having the Snow Light Path event.

Otaru used to be the primary city on Hokkaido island. The Bank of Japan (Japan's equivalent of the Federal Reserve Bank) and many private banks had their offices here. The city had a good seaport that ferried in manufactured goods and shipped out raw materials such as coal and fish. Canals linked the port to the warehouses. It is along those canals that the Snow Light Path takes place.

Candles (not LED lanterns) are lit at 17:00.

Weather was mild for this time of year. We dressed ultra-warm for safety's sake.

Many snow lanterns look like flower pots. Volunteers make them by filling buckets with snow.

No bucket? Stack snowballs!

As night drapes over the bay, the hills disappear from view.

Some lanterns are made of ice, or hollowed out banks of snow.

The Snow Light Path extends to the historic financial district of downtown Otaru.

We visited the Bank of Japan building, now a museum.

The Bank of Japan has a monopoly in issuing bank notes. Here, we experienced lifting the equivalent of 100 million yen (roughly 100 million dollars). This is child's play for Noriko. We carry this amount of paper for our classes all the time!

With so many international tourists, and biligual store staff, you couldn't tell which country you were in.


sun piazza aquarium

2017-01-27 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko discovered that there is an aquarium in Sapporo city, that we need not travel to say Otaru or Muroran to visit an aquarium.

Shin-sapporo station is just 1 stop away from Sapporo central. Noriko got us discount tickets at a store that sells them individually. Background: The train company sells 11 rides for the price of 10. Some stores sell them at prices between discount and full prices.

The privately-owned
Sun Piazza aquarium caters to local school children. Their building is small (no orca or dolphin shows here) but they do have a nice collection.

Sorry that I cannot show you photos of the inside.

maid cafe

2017-01-04 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Our friends Mari and Steve took us to a maid cafe in Akihabara. This was our first time at a maid cafe.

Heart of Hearts maid cafe is decorated in a middle school theme. They use school furniture for tables.

The friendly and cheerful girls drew a picture of Kerochan using chocolate syrup.


A bit pricey (expect to pay 1500 hearts (1 heart = 1 yen) an hour), but all in all quite wholesome (not erotic or risqué at all), totally non-smoking, and safe for kids of all ages and genders. Seekers of
moe would enjoy it most. That would be me!

I would certainly encourage my women students to work at a maid cafe, assuming they want to. It would teach us something about customer service. In this day and age, most store people behave as vending machines. Maids at maid cafes are extroverted, energetic, charming, attentive, and take pride in making you happy. Thanks and congratulations to the hard-working young women.

automated dolls

2017-01-02 TOKYO, JAPAN -- The Yume Karakuri Ichiza (Fantasy Automated Troupe) performed at the Edo Tokyo Museum. We were mesmerized by the intricate and creative gizmos.

Automated dolls were popular attractions starting from the late Edo period. Crowds would pay to see the spring-driven robots.

The Edo Tokyo Museum recreates a period theater.

This doll brings cups of tea to you, and after you finish your drink, it takes empty cups back.

This doll nocks 4 arrows in succession, and shoots at 2 targets. It often hits them.

This doll writes 4 kanji and 2 pictures on a piece of paper placed in the frame. He is programmed using replaceable sets of 3 rotating wooden disks that control the hand movement in 3 dimensions.

The mechanical parts of automated dolls were made mostly of wood. Compared to metal gears, wooden gears tend to be bulky and imprecise. Springs were made of whale baleen. Whale baleen is now impossible to obtain, and the lack of material hinders the restoration of antique dolls. Modern automated dolls use brass springs. The non-mechanical parts -- faces, hands, hair, clothes, cabinets -- were made similarly to non-robotic dolls, just like hina dolls made today.

koto (a 13-string instrument) player that troupe leader Susumu Higashino has been building for several years. Her dress has been removed to reveal her mechanism.

Example of original baleen spring. Decay is evident.

The troupe leader Susumi Higashino was trained as a wood carver, and begun collecting antiques when he was a young man. He then spent decades discovering, restoring, and reconstructing automated dolls.

Some time ago, Susumi Higashino suffered an illness causing him to lose control of his right hand. He used his left hand to autograph his DVD for me.

The jacket from the DVD.

happy new year

2017-01-01 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Happy New Year everybody! May you all live long and prosper!

Daybreak at Mount Fuji.



Deserted streets of downtown Tokyo.

Manga and anime store at Nakano station, Tokyo.


snowshoeing on campus

2016-12-24 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Sapporo received heavy snowfall. The last winter with 95 centimeters of cumulative snowfall at this time of year was in 1966. This doesn't mean that this is the winter of greatest total snowfall, nor does it mean that we expect similar levels of snow the remainder of this winter. It does mean that there's plenty of snow on the ground.

We went snowshoeing on campus for the 2nd time this winter.

Tree limbs accumulated damp snow that for 2 days fell steadily and softly.

Snow stopped late the previous night. The following morning sky was severe clear.

We waited for daybreak to start snowshoeing, then returned home to get our camera and take pictures.

It's nice to have woody areas a few minutes from our campus housing.

We're glad we don't own a car.

At the tennis courts, we drew pictures in the snow. Here's a half note. We also drew a trumpet (not visible in photo).

Kero's face, with 2 tennis net posts as the pupils of his eyes.

tokugawa museum and gardens

2016-11-27 NAGOYA, JAPAN -- Noriko and I visited the Tokugawa museum and gardens, located northeast of downtown Nagoya city. The museum contains artifacts owned by the Tokugawa daimyo (feudal samurai lord) family who governed the greater Nagoya area from 1603 to 1868.

The museum does not allow photography.

The gardens consist of sloping areas, flat areas, streams, marshes, and ponds. Most areas are heavily planted by trees and shrubs that mimic nature in miniature.

Gently persistent autumn rains soaked the leaves and bark of Japanese maple trees.

In the mist, a wedding was taking place.

JALT conference

2016-11-26 NAGOYA, JAPAN -- Our research-and-education team gave poster presentations at the JALT (Japan association of language teachers) conference in Nagoya city.

The poster area was heavily attended, partly because our poster session took place immediately after the opening keynote presentation.

Naomi Suzaki explained how our students learn pronunciation of English language by singing songs.

Ivy Lin explained how our students learn vocabulary, particularly collocations (multiple words occurring together at high likelihood).


2016-10-10 YOICHI, JAPAN -- We took a day trip to Yoichi, a town about 60 kilometers west of downtown Sapporo.

Tracks up to Otaru are electrified and parallel. Beyond Otaru up to Oshamanbe it's non-electrified and single track. I prefer non-electrified track, actually, because the lack of utility poles offer an unobstructed view.

Most stations are unmanned and trains carry no conductors. You pay the engineer (in the sense of a person who controls the engine) just like riding a bus.

We bought a 1-day all-you-can-ride ticket.

The Nikka whisky distillery is right across Yoichi train station.

We had a warm lunch at the distillery's restaurant.

sapporo autumn

2016-10-07 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Autumn progresses rapidly on Hokkaido island. For my morning run, I prefer to wear short-sleeved shirts and shorts. Soon I need to put on wind-stopping clothing.

Teineyama is a hill on the west side of the city. Most of the city's TV and radio broadcast antennas are located on this hill. Teineyama is the first spot in town to get snow. That might happen in a few days. We had sleet this morning.

Leaves are turning color all over campus. In summer we can't see through the trees outside our apartment window. In winter we can see the agriculture school building.

escher exhibit

2016-09-30 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We went to an exhibit of works by M. C. Esher and his art teacher who taught at a technical college where Esher was majoring in architectural engineering. Esher's teacher convinced Esher to pursue a career in woodblock art rather than architecture.

Hokudai staff receive discounted admission. Full price is 1300 yen, most visitors pay 1100 yen, we pay 500 yen.


The Sapporo Art Museum is a beautiful building.

We enjoyed a nice lunch buffet afterwards.

clean clean clean

2016-09-24 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Summer is almost over. We clean our bicycles, wash the truck, wipe the mailbox, sweep the driveway. It's a chore that we enjoy and perform well.

Cleaning chains and gears is easy with solvent, lots of rags, and patience. I learned perseverance through trumpet practice.

Wash the truck top to bottom, inside and out, including the underside and engine compartment. I must be getting some dirt off because our mechanics tell us our truck is the cleanest in town!

Wipe the interior for the lady of the house.

Bleached and dried our garbage can. Ours smells clean!

Trim ivy and blackberries from around our Japanese maple tree and hydrangea.

soccer match

2016-09-16 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We went to a soccer (association football) match at Taft High School. We visited the school itself some years ago, and were impressed with the almost extravagant facilities (or so they seemed to us, compared to what we see in most parts of the world), and the logical school hours.

America is big on athletics. Taft HS has a well-equipped field that is designed primarily for American football but accommodates soccer plus track and field.

Our friend's son Gabe is a captain (see his arm band). He scored the first goal of the season! The goal happened so fast that I couldn't photograph it.

Gabe and his team made the
local news.

oops bumped my bumper

2016-09-13 NETARTS, OREGON, USA -- I damaged my truck's rear bumper. I backed up into a basketball goalpost placed in a parking lot. Nobody hurt, no damage to other people's property, no affect on driving our vehicle. Next time I ask the Nissan dealer to service my car, I'll ask them for a cost estimate on bumper repair.


co-motion visit

2016-09-12 EUGENE, OREGON, USA -- We visited Co-Motion, a company that manufactures full-sized tandem bikes that can be disassembled for travel.

Co-Motion is located several kilometers away from Bike Friday.

Co-Motion exudes a high-class top-end image.

Co-Motion's headquarters houses their factory, sales, and showroom. They were preparing for a major bicycle trade show in Las Vegas.

The model I salivate for is the
"Java" tandem with Rohloff internal gears and carbon belt drive. All bikes are built to order, starting with frame material.

bike friday visit

2016-09-12 EUGENE, OREGON, USA -- We visited Bike Friday, a company that manufactures folding bikes.

Bike Friday is located in the west side of Eugene.

Bike Friday's headquarters houses their factory, sales department, and showroom.

Oregon has an impressive array of manufacturers that produce mechanisms requiring precision, for instance bicycles, light aircraft, trumpets, and folding portable tools. I suspect this is due to the large number of craftsmen who work in Oregon.

This jig, nicknamed "Fluffy", stress-tests bicycle frames.

Each bicycle is built to order. Each sack contains parts for each order. Some parts are made in-house, some are delivered from suppliers. Bike Friday keeps a just-in-time inventory. Bicycle assembly commences when each sack is filled.

The model I salivate for is the
"New World Tourist" with Rohloff internal gears and carbon belt drive.

Walter, a sales consultant and avid cyclist, gave us a factory tour and explained bicycle mechanisms to us.

organic blueberries and strawberries

2016-09-02 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Fresh fruit is delicious this year. We enjoyed a big bowl of organic blueberries and strawberries.


lincoln county historical museum

2016-08-25 NEWPORT, OREGON, USA -- Noriko and I visited the Lincoln County Historical Museum in Newport, Oregon. I am embarrassed that this is our first visit. We should have visited years ago!

This year is the 50th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Newport and Mombetsu, Japan. They told me that 30 high school students came to visit early this month. Here is part of an article from the Newport News-Times 2016-08-24 issue.

The museum in housed in a 120-year-old house that was built by a 60-year-old carpenter. The building was originally located a block away.

One room shows how affluent families lived in Lincoln County. Items on display include musical instruments, richly embroidered cloths, a book-reading stand illuminated by candles.

A curious device was used to apply electrical shocks to your brain. After treatment, patients allegedly felt better. I would probably feel nothing at all, because I would become unconscious!

organic farm

2016-08-23 NESKOWIN, OREGON, USA -- Noriko and I visited Corvus Landing Organic Farms in Neskowin, Oregon. "Corvus" means "crow" (the 2 words must be cognates) or "raven" and is the name of a constellation located south of Virgo.

They are located 29 kilometers north of where we live, 5 kilometers off the highway.

The farm sells directly to the public on summer Tuesdays from 10:00 to 16:00. They also sell at a few farmers' markets in the area, such as Neskowin and Gleneden.

Kero met a cheerful young lady who works on the farm.

I was impressed with the irrigation pipework on their gate. Somebody good with tools carved "Corvus Landing". The pipes are topped with pine tree carvings.

Kero inspected the farm. Beyond the hills in the background lies the Pacific Ocean.

The section of the farm they let us walk through was quite small. Noriko and I together might be able to care for it, if we worked full-time.

Rows of veggies.

Green onion, a slender and shorter kind of Japanese

Onions lay half-exposed, ready for harvest. My mom says onions are often pulled out so that the nutrients in the leaves move into the bulbs.

chocolate frog

2016-08-22 WALDPORT, OREGON, USA -- Noriko and I visited the Chocolate Frog store in Waldport, Oregon. The owners might open a new, larger store south of Florence! We are happy for their expansion.

Their store is full of frog-themed items.

Noriko gave the owners frog gifts from Japan.

They make chocolate frogs.

They also make chocolate bars, featuring wrappers designed by local high school students.

Here's the write-up by the teenage artist.

Another work of art.

And her write-up.

We got a refrigerator magnet.

Can you spot it on our freezer door?

whale watching

2016-08-17 DEPOE BAY, OREGON, USA -- We watched whales and tourists watching whales from our table at a Mexican restaurant.

Whale-watching boats carrying tourists depart every 10 to 15 minutes from the world's smallest harbor at Depoe Bay. Depoe Bay is on the Oregon coast, about a 20-minute drive south from where we live.

The dark hump near the center of the picture is the back of a whale. The whale-watching boats claim that the friendly whales approach the boats. Somehow I suspect it's the other way around.

Thar she blows!

The wisp of vapor is viewed more clearly in this video. The dark line crossing the top of the image is a power line hanging outside our restaurant window.

corvallis community band

2016-08-16 CORVALLIS, OREGON, USA -- The Corvallis Community Band plays each Tuesday evening in the summer at Corvallis Central Park, across the street from the main library and close to the downtown campus of Oregon State University.

Corvallis is about 100 kilometers inland from the Oregon coast. Daytime temperatures soar above 35 Celsius (this day it felt like 38). After sundown the temperature quickly drops to 25, and continues to fall until dawn to around 13. The band starts playing at dusk.

The locals bring lawn chairs to enjoy the music.

We snacked at a picnic table, although it was a bit far away from the band.

We listened and watched through the trees.

a whole day of trains

2016-07-16 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I spent a whole day on trains near the Sapporo area.

A one-day pass lets us ride all local trains within a designated area. The rail lines and noteworthy stations we traveled through are, in order of time of departure or arrival: (1) Sassho line -- Sapporo 06:39, Ishikari-Tobetsu 07:45, Shin-Totsukawa 09:28, (2) Hakodate line -- Sunagawa 11:44, Iwamizawa 12:52, Oiwake 13:38, (3) Sekisho line -- Oiwake 15:18, Shin-Yubari 15:56, Yubari 16:23, back to Shin-Yubari 17:10, Oiwake 17:54, Minami-Chitose 18:22, and (4) Chitose line -- Minami-Chitose 19:18, Sapporo 19:52.

The photos below show segment (1), the Sassho line between Sapporo and Shin-Totsukawa.

The morning summer sun was blazing at Ishikari-Tobetsu, where they have a beautiful park with a pond full of tadpoles. What a great start of the day!

A single-car diesel-electric waits at Ishikari-Tobetsu track 1. Because many stations on the Sassho line are unmanned, passengers buy tickets from the engineer just like you pay a bus driver.

The Sassho line is single track. At Ishikari-Tsukigata our train waited 22 minutes for 1 of the 7 daily trains coming from the opposite direction.

The station platform is graded at the end. In the old days the slope eased wheeled carts to carry cargo on and off the platform, and these days would seem to assist wheelchairs and strollers. Alas in modern stations overpasses and staircases are prevalent.

Inside the station house, we found furniture of yesteryear, with tatami-clad benches. A kerosene stove heats the waiting room in winter.

The northern segment of the Sassho line will soon be abolished. The impending end means nobody cares about maintaining the facilities.

The Hokkaido Railway Company (nicknamed JR Hokkaido) has steadily shed rail lines since becoming a private company in 1987. JR Hokkaido is a distressing corporation. 2 of their CEOs committed suicide (respectively in 2011 and 2014) due to poor financial performance (the firm has never been profitable), hazardous operational practices (at least 1 train caught fire due to poor maintenance, and at least 1 dropped pieces of equipment while underway), and wanton lack of ethics (1 worker sabotaged the tracks to avoid coming to work, and 1 engineer destroyed a safety system because the warning signals were annoying him). The public was outraged when dangerous workers were allowed to return to duty instead of having their licenses pulled. Customers were doubly stunned when JR Hokkaido management wondered aloud what was the problem with that? 2 CEOs killed themselves in shame.

Some station houses are converted railway freight cars. That by itself is not a bad idea. Add windows and furniture at the maintenance yard, bring the car to the station, take off the wheels and presto! Station house at any remote location. Too bad the station houses are being neglected.

Although I have not found reliable historical records on the Sassho line, it seems that even during the best of times the northern segment of the Sassho line was never used to haul coal or fish (both major exports of Hokkaido island until the 1950s) or carry passengers (the line runs through forests and farmland). I read that a local politician campaigned to have the rail line built, perhaps to appease his voters.

Shin-Totsukawa is the end of the line. The Sassho line used to extend further north from here to Ishikari-Numata, but that segment was decommissioned in 1972. Shin-Totsukawa has no rail or bus connection. Apart from several houses, nothing is near the station. Nobody depends on or supports the rail line.

A group of kindergarten kids and their teachers welcomed us with drums and dancing. The northernmost section of the Sassho line has exactly 1 train per day. The railcar we rode was the first and last to arrive, and the first and last to depart. After arriving at 09:28, it reverses direction and leaves the station at 09:40, and has the distinction of being the earliest last train in the entire nation.

We took a taxi to Sunagawa station. We could have easily walked the 8 km distance but we needed to catch a train. Before the train we enjoyed brunch at one of the many confectionary shops in Sunagawa.

Our former graduate student was stationed at an elementary school in Sunagawa. She told us about the apple pies and tanuki (badger-dog) cakes.

We spent some money on delicious cakes.

Kerochan and Noriko were quite happy with cakes and free coffee (rare in Japan).

yosakoi soran matsuri

2016-06-12 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The Yosakoi Soran Matsuri takes place every June. Young adults, including many of our students, perform choreographed dances in groups averaging 100 people each.

Modernized Japanese attire is the norm. Hairstyle for women is often a pineapple bun. Maybe it is easier to dance.

Grandstands line the streets. Some are free, others not. Friends and families of each team walk with their dancers across town.

The weather was clear, and to use aviation terms, ceiling unlimited, winds 090 at 20 gusting to 50 (blowing from the east at 10 to 25 meters per second). We were almost swept off our feet. Yet the dancers were steaming with sweat.

This year 280 teams participated, some coming from far away. Each team performs numerous times at 20 venues downtown.


2016-06-02 AMANOHASHIDATE, JAPAN -- Noriko and I visited Amanohasidate located on the Sea of Japan side of Kyoto.

Amanohashidate means "ladder to heaven". In local mythology, the heavenly gods climbed up and down to create the islands of Japan. But one day the ladder toppled. They must have had an earthquake!

Amanohashidate is a spit about 4 km long. It is a pine-covered sandbar that traverses a bay. Medieval paintings show that the spit did not stretch across to the other side. An extending ladder?

We crossed the spit twice. It's a pleasant, flat, shady walk.

We took the boat once. See its white wake alongside the spit.

From the hilltop we saw the numerous bays and peninsulas that characterize the complex coastline.

One of the bays yonder is Maizuru, home port of one of the fleets of the Japanese navy.

We gave offerings at Nariaiji, a buddhist temple known for a benevolent holy statue who fed its wooden leg to a starving priest. The priest wasn't supposed to eat flesh or wood. But all was forgiven.

Most worshippers crave a look of the dragon carved by Hidari Jingoro, a sculptor from the Edo period, about 300 years ago.

But we came for the eggplant charm, with a screw-off cap that reveals a golden frog within. Naturally we purchased a pair.

The stairs deterred most tourists.

The climb was steep, but worth the view!

Poor Noriko! The sole of her shoe came off without warning! We taped the shoe back together.

Noriko quickly got a new pair of hiking shoes.


2016-05-30 TAKENO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I stayed at Takeno, a seaside town on the Sea of Japan near the Kyoto-Hyogo prefectural border.

The geography is complex. The shoreline is heavily serrated, with numerous inlets and promontories.

This naturally protected bay is a popular snorkeling and scuba diving spot.

This sandy beach is a summer destination for people living in downtown Kyoto.

Parts of the coastline geography are similar to Oregon.

We soaked in the hot springs and enjoyed a traditional Japanese dinner.

ferry from tomakomai to nagoya

2016-05-27 NAGOYA, JAPAN -- Noriko and I took a 40-hour ferry trip from Tomakomai (east of Sapporo) to Nagoya.

Ishikari was launched in 2011. She has won the ferry of the year award each year since. The Tohoku tsunami occurred during her maiden voyage. The Ishikari weighs slightly less than 16,000 gross tons, is just under 200 meters long, and is 27 meters wide.

Cabins come in 12 different types. We stayed in a room with a window, sofa, 2 beds, restroom and full bath. The room has a refrigerator and hot water maker. The TV shows the view from the bridge.

The ship's course hugs the eastern coastline of Honshu island. WIMAX (wireless internet) and cellphone coverage is fairly consistent, at least on the shore side of the ship.

The ship sails early evening and arrives on the 2nd morning. We enjoyed sunset dinners.

Weather was perfect. The ship travels at 26.5 knots (40 kilometers per hour ). On a calm day, that is the speed of the wind blowing across the deck.

I blew my trumpet behind the funnel looking over the stern.

sapporo summer

2016-05-22 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Summer! No need to heat the rooms before getting out of bed or stepping out of the shower! As I write this at 07:20 local time (3.5 hours after civilian sunrise) the windows are open to a nice easterly breeze.

View from our west window towards the ski jump on Okura hill.

Almost all snow disappeared from the top of Teineyama while we were in Tokyo last week.


2016-05-22 (UPDATED FROM 2016-05-18) TOKYO, JAPAN -- Bright blue skies and warm almost hot arid winds greet the throngs at Tokyo Big Sight for the annual EDIX trade show. I assume EDIX stands for "education using information technology exposition". I attend and give talks each year.

The Tokyo Big Sight building is oddly shaped and not easy to navigate. The conference halls are underground. The aboveground superstructure accommodates meeting rooms.

View of Tokyo bay from the top floor. Tokyo Big Sight is built on reclaimed land. In Japan the standard construction technique is to keep dumping dirt into the water until an island is formed. They have been doing this in Tokyo since the early 17th century. In the Netherlands they build dikes and pump the water out. Either way the ground is soft, moist, and often encroached by the sea.

I enjoy interacting with the audience. I gave 2 talks per day for 3 days. My audience size ranged from 5 to 40. Day 1 is energetic but not productive (because everybody's attention is scattered). Day 2 is the best (because everybody understands this year's trends and interests). Day 3 starts good (because serious people attend) but ends bad (because people start to leave).

Yamaha demonstrated an electronic band practice kit. Really quiet!

And Yamaha displayed a trumpet! If I asked they might have let me play it in the soundproof booth they were demonstrating.

Sometimes booths are so packed that posters and demos are hard to see. Chieru staff dress in bright orange so at least finding them is easy.

3D printing has been the rage the past few years. Of course I need one to build my own cute pink octopuses (or octopoda if you like).

snow and sakura

2016-05-03 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Crazy weather in Sapporo! One day warm enough to run in a T-shirt and short pants. Sakura (cherry blossoms) bloomed. Next day snow, sleet, rain, plus intense winds that blew sakura petals off the branches.

We took our first day off in a month. Walked through sakura in downtown Sapporo.

Late-blooming sakura trees were the smart ones! Today 24 degrees C. Tomorrow sleet is forecast.

Blown-off petals fall through the sky like snow.

We enjoyed an art exhibit of Yokoyama Taikan.

rotary club of lincoln city

2016-03-23 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Lori Arce-Torres, our friend and insurance agent, invited us to a Rotary Club meeting at the Salishan Lodge in Lincoln City, Oregon. The Rotary Foundation sponsored me 30 years ago (1986-1987) to travel from Tokyo to California to study at Stanford University.

I was granted an opportunity to thank Rotarians (as Rotary club members are known) for their generous support.

David Gomberg (
representative in the Oregon state house, and owner of the Gomberg Kite company) gave a talk about the 5-week short session of the state legislature that meets in even-numbered years.

back online

2016-03-03 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We are back online! This past fall and winter were seasons of illness and injury for me. Nothing serious, thank you, everything is being taken care of. I'll skip the details because who wants to hear of ailments? I do apologize for not updating my website for so long. I was out of commission until the medical team found out I was treating myself incorrectly. Next time I'll consult experts even if I suspect seasonal allergies!

We returned to Oregon a few days ago. Noriko got us a free upgrade to roomier seats on the 9-hour flight from Tokyo to Portland. Delta airlines calls the spacier seats "economy comfort", implying that regular seats are "economy discomfort". A truthful assessment in my opinion. Delta reportedly profited 6 billion dollars last year, mostly from falling jet fuel prices. Crude oil is down to $35 a barrel today, from over $140 in 2008 and $100 in 2014. No news from Delta about fuel surcharges. By contrast, ANA (All Nippon Air) has reduced their fuel surcharges over a period of some time, and will abolish them altogether starting next month. Delta is not my favorite airline.

A picture I should have uploaded to my blog 3 months ago: On 2015-11-23, while woozy from illness and exhaustion, I gave my first public musical performance in my life at the House of Jazz in Sapporo, Japan. Noriko is upset that they made me play when I should have stayed in bed. No preparation of any kind. I chose my song only 2 days before the event. First time playing with a live band (piano, bass, drums). No rehearsal except a 10-minute "hello, nice to meet you folks" just before. Conditions were so bad that I could not begin to become embarrassed or worried. I played "Bye bye blackbird". John Bringetto gently advised me not to "get ahead of the chord changes". I didn't know what they are (still don't), and could not hear them (still can't). I will do the world a favor by NOT putting a recording of my performance here.


salmon roe (ikura)

2015-10-08 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Salmon roe (ikura) is a delicacy in Japan. USA fishermen treat it as bait. What a waste!

Our recipe is: (a) loosen and rinse the salmon roe in water, (b) dry in a colander for several hours, (c) pour a mixture of 5 parts sake, 4 parts mirin, and 1 part soba sauce, (d) soak overnight, (e) sprinkle over rice or crackers or tofu and enjoy!

From left to right: slightly dried salmon roe, mirin, soba sauce, and sake. The roe absorbs water while being loosened and rinsed. In my recipe, the roe is dried so that it later absorbs more sauce. We prefer less soy sauce to bring out the flavor of the roe.

Add enough sauce to completely cover the roe. A generous amount works better than too less.

Store in a refrigerator overnight.

The roe absorbs the sauce, and becomes plump and large. Notice that after soaking the sauce barely covers the roe.

The all-time standard is rice bowl (don), where the roe is sprinkled over a bowl of white rice. We are waiting for this year's new crop of rice. We ordered ours today. Should arrive soon!

In the meanwhile, we went for the grown-up
izakaya (pub or bar) flavor. This is ikura on daikon-oroshi (grated daikon radish).

Baguette and cheese make a great bed, too.

Cold tofu and ikura make a fancy appetizer.

beachtown coffee

2015-09-25 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Beachtown Coffee, our favorite coffee shop in town, is being evicted at no fault of theirs. The owner of the property wants all tenants to leave. I wrote a letter to the owner urging them to reconsider.

My letter of support (PDF file).


lincoln city 50th anniversary parade

2015-09-19 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Our city celebrated with a parade its 50th anniversary of becoming a municipality.

The parade started at the Cultural Center (formerly the DeLake School), where we go twice a week for yoga lessons.

Our friend's dog participated in the parade.

Most American events begin with the playing of the national anthem. A local trumpet player belted out a solo. In the background the Oregon National Guard stands in formation. They lead the parade.

Second in parade is the flag, carried by a team of kids.

Next, the fire department. This is ladder 57.

Local groups, businesses, and organizations joined the parade.

The News Guard is the city's local paper. Many American towns have their own local daily. Some universities do too.

The candy shop's car was decked out with candy wrappers. Check out the hub caps!

The local beer brewery brought their beer truck. Notice the faucets on the side.

The Taft High School team is the Tigers.

The trumpet player drove his Corvette while playing.

Last in the parade, the garbage truck, clean as a whistle!

The parade ended at the Community Center and Kirtsis Park, a block from our house.

We waited in line and had a hot dog!

toasty, dry, and musical

2015-09-01 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- The Willamette valley can get warm (summer daytime highs of 36 degrees Celsius are common) but the Pacific northwest coast is pleasantly cool.

We bought firewood for our wood stove. Our truck bed lacks a fence so we bought a half load for $40.

Most of the wood in this batch is birch. We stacked the wood outside our front door in a covered breezeway.

The wood stove keeps the house toasty and dry. The stove is effective all year long.

Oregon had a good blueberry harvest this year. Ice cream is obligatory when we're so close to Tillamook, a region famous for dairy products. We bought our firewood there too. Most people would not drive that far to buy firewood. We know a beekeeper who runs a small mill there.

Noriko likes fresh home-made potato chips. Heat canola oil to 180 degrees Celsius. Slice potatoes with a mandoline over the oil. Fry one layer of chips at a time (the slices stick).

The trick is letting the chips cool and dry after frying them. Don't eat them hot -- they're still mushy! Wicking away oil using coffee filter paper is best, kitchen paper towels are acceptable. We never use salt.

I rearranged the music room a bit. My iPad-mini keeps track of pitch, amplitude, and time. I love my Carol Brass horn, heavy as it is. Buying 3 horns in the 1st year or trumpet practice was excessive, yet necessary for our migratory lifestyle.

Before lessons I warmup at a beachside state park across the highway from the community where my teacher John Bringetto lives. Passersby pay no attention to my playing. Thank heavens!

John directs and plays in the Lincoln Pops Big Band. They gave an entertaining performance at the Lincoln City Cultural Center. John is standing in the rear, playing a flugelhorn for Chuck Mangione's "Children of Sanchez". Most people in the audience danced. Sorry Noriko! Maybe I'll learn how to dance after I learn to play trumpet. John says it will take 2 more years for me to play the notes I need. Can you imagine an artist spending 3 years preparing paint? That's what it feels like to practice trumpet!

energizing on the oregon coast

2015-08-08 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We finished this semester as much as we could and flew over to our home in Oregon. We will conduct research, improve our teaching skills, strengthen our bodies, and learn to play trumpet.


yambara dam construction site

2015-08-02 YAMBARA DAM, JAPAN -- With Noriko's parents we visited the Yambara dam construction site near Naganohara town in Gumma, Japan. We drove down to the area that will eventually be covered with water.


The soon-to-be-submerged railway tracks are surprisingly left behind. Usually the metal is recovered for scrap.


Equally shocking were the sagging powerlines supplying electrical power to the train motors. Of course these are dead wires (that is, there is no electricity running through them). The sheer wastefulness of the construction project scared me.


birthday trip and presents

2015-06-22 OTARU AND SAPPORO, JAPAN -- For my birthday this year (which is also the 1st anniversary of my trumpet playing) we took a weekend trip to Otaru, a seaside city less than an hour west by train. We visited their aquarium and relaxed at a hotel with a 24-hour private furo-style bath. On our way back I got a birthday present!

Otaru aquarium (a private institution) is located on the seaside with outdoor seawater pools for seals, sea lions, walruses, dolphins, and penguins. Indoor fish tanks hold local fish as well as species from various parts of the world. Near the aquarium (shown on the upper right corner of the picture) is the Hiyoriyama lighthouse, the oldest and still operational lighthouse on Hokkaido island.

The aquarium animals appear content. Ill or handicapped individuals are kept in separate pools so that they need not compete for food. Blindness is common with age, we learned.

hotel is a short steep climb (16 percent gradient) from the aquarium. It is located 70 meters above sea level, which is the same as our house in Oregon, except we are several blocks away, and the slope is gentler.

We had our own private furo-style bath. Because the water was somewhat lukewarm, we could bathe for as long as we wished.

At 19:18 Japan time, we viewed a sunset from the cliff above the sea. I practiced trumpet. My trumpet teacher
John Bringetto told me to practice every day. This was my first time practicing outdoors.

The following afternoon we returned to Sapporo, where at the
Yamaha music center my new instrument was waiting. I tested it in a soundproof room at the store. Noriko and Maki (the salesperson, who is also a French horn player) said that my current instrument sounds brighter while my new instrument sounds deeper. Hmm ... I couldn't hear the difference from behind the bell. The 2 horns certainly blow different. The new horn needs more air. The old horn is noticeably heavier. This suggests my new horn is made of thinner material that may dent easily.

My expensive new toy is a
YTR-8310Z model designed by Yamaha in collaboration with Bobby Shew, the jazz trumpet player. Notice the difference from a regular 8310Z? Mine has 3 rings. A regular 8310Z has U-shaped saddles on the leadpipe and 1st valve slide. For that minor change I paid merely $30 extra and patiently waited 4 months.

My new Yamaha case (pictured on the left) looks classy, feels solid, and I'm glad to have it. It's probably made for people who drive, and carry multiple bags. It stores 2 trumpets top side up, but nothing else -- no music, no cleaning supplies, no audio recorder. My old case (pictured on the right) stores 1 trumpet laid flat on its side (which I don't like) but has room and pockets to carry a fair amount of gear. Plus it has straps for carrying on my back. I suspect that I'll use my old case to carry my horn, and use my new case to store my horns at home. We don't own a car in Japan.

sakura cherry embankment walk

2015-04-26 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Spring arrived in Sapporo early this year but still a month or two behind Portland and Tokyo. We took a 12-kilometer walk along the Shinkawa river embankment. We left home at 07:00 to view the cherry trees illuminated by the morning sun from aside. Near the river we found a park bench (rare in Japan) where we took a sip of water.


tesol toronto

2015-03-26 TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA -- Noriko and I gave a poster presentation at TESOL-2015, a conference for teachers of English language. The timing and location of the conference gave me the perfect opportunity to visit the city where I spent my early childhood.

Between the Union Station (equivalent of Hauptbahnhof) and the CN tower lies the Metro Toronto Convention Center, with a sculpture of woodpeckers.

A black snowman greets visitors.

We knew we arrived at the correct venue when we saw a frog blessing the building.

Registration was fast and painless. Other conferences should take note!

The conference was well attended.

I enjoy poster presentations because I get to interact with my audience more than a lecture session. The questions and comments that people give me are often valuable.

I prefer printing my posters the old-fashioned way, because (1) I can mix and match the sheets based on the people I see at the conference site before I give my presentation, (2) I can add or correct sheets of paper without having to re-print a large expensive poster, and (3) I am never sure that the poster panel will have the dimensions promised by the conference organizers.

Noriko always cheers me on. I owe my success to her.

Lots of people stopped by. Thanks for coming, folks!

my primary school

2015-03-25 TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA -- Noriko and I visited my primary school in Toronto, Ontario, Canada for the first time since my family moved away in summer of 1970. A vice principal (they have more than one now) generously gave us a tour of the school, which has grown considerably during the past 44 years.

There were probably 250 pupils back in 1970. Today they have 240 teachers! This number excludes kindergarten, now a separate school, although located on the same grounds. The 1400 pupils (plus 650 kindergarten kids) take turns having recess and lunch because the schoolyard is over-crowded. We never had to play in the front lawn. In fact it was forbidden because it faces the street. Now a fence keeps children inside.

Thorncliffe Park is an area surrounded by a ring road lined with densely-populated high-rise apartment buildings. Mine was across the street from the school front door, where I am standing. Because the school is located in the center circular area, and because that area has no place to grow (it is hemmed in by apartments) the school has become crowded over the years.

I recognized my 3rd grade classroom, and with horror, the room they kept me for pronunciation practice. ESL (English as a second language) was an emerging concept at that time. I spoke English well enough to function in class. Somebody decided that Alice (who was born in Canada, and was wearing braces) and I spoke "funny" and required pronunciation training. So we got detention! That windowless gloomy storage room is now a brightly-lit photocopier room.

The school building added wings and floors. The new library does not seem more spacious. The colors are vibrant though.

What have they done to the schoolyard?! It's a quarter of the size it used to be, and completely paved save for a patch of turf at the edge (note the green belt in the photo in front of the apartment buildings in the background). In 1970, each winter the yard was hosed over and allowed to freeze for ice skating. Today kids are bused over to a 365-day indoor skating rink.

Mr Scott was our principal. He knew every pupil by name, and their parents' as well.I was ignorant until today that he was the founding principal of my school. Nor did I know that the school and I are the same age.

the night train "cassiopeia"

2015-01-21 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- A raging snowstorm repeatedly canceled our flights. We wasted 2 days at the airport waiting for flights that kept getting delayed and delayed until they finally told us to go home. We needed to travel so we took a night train from Sapporo to Tokyo.

JR (the Japan Railways group of companies, formerly state-owned Japan National Railways) sells tickets in an inconvenient manner that encourages unethical behavior. Tickets are often hard to get ahead of time but easily obtained immediately before departure. This is because people buy tickets to resell them at a hefty profit. When no buyers are found, the tickets are sold back to JR for a refund. We bought ours at the airport after they canceled our flights for the 2nd time.

The Cassiopeia is a sleeper car that runs between Ueno (serving the Tokyo area) and Sapporo central station. It was named because the W-shaped constellation points to Polaris (the symbol of Hokkaido) and reminds passengers of the double nature of some aspects of the train (double-deck, double rooms).

Our room sleeps 2 in an L-shaped configuration. The chair backs slide down to form a bed. The room has a private sink and toilet. We got a single-story room (that is, not double-decked) with a higher ceiling.

The Cassiopeia departs Sapporo shortly before sunset.

The Seikan tunnel connects the islands of Hokkaido and Honshu. The tunnel is 53.85 km long, and takes about half an hour to cross. The trip feels longer because there are several other tunnels on either end of it.

A lounge car offers views and refreshments.

We dined in splendor in the privacy of our cabin. Before leaving Sapporo, we stocked up on goodies at the department store next to the station.

edmedia conference

2014-06-27 TAMPERE, FINLAND -- My friend and partner Akio Ohnishi and I presented our paper at the EdMedia conference in Tampere, Finland.

We flew in to Helsinki, and then took an IC (intercity) train from Helsinki to Tampere.


Our car was double-decker brand-new model with a ravintola (restaurant) on the lower deck and passenger seats on the upper deck.


The restaurant on the lower deck has a dish washer (wow), and seating areas separated to accommodate multiple groups.


The mezzanine has its own vending corner. This area is above a dolly. On the opposite end of the car, the same area has doors that open onto the station platform.


Passenger seating on the upper deck is arranged in a 2+1 configuration, with some double seats permanently facing each other.


The single seats face the window. I’m sure Japanese would call these bocchi-seki. The locals use them to get work done. Lots of table space and elbow room.


There is a conference room at the end of the car. They say you can give presentations here. Great idea!


IC trains cover the 187 km in 120 minutes. Pendolino trains (designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro) take only 90 minutes but their cars are older.


You can reserve and choose seats online. The earlier you pay, the less you pay.


Unlike German trains which require hardcopies of tickets, Finland’s VR national train system allows you to show your electronic tickets on your laptop or mobile device.


WiFi is free, albeit slightly slow. Akio tracked our train’s progress over a beer.


Tampere is perhaps best known for the Muumilaakso (Moomin Museum). This is an art museum for serious adults. Children should probably visit Muumimaailma (Moomin World theme park) in Naantali, Finland, about 3 hours away.


There are 3 spots where you can take pictures. I was ecstatic with meeting Muumimamman (Moomin Mama). The white sticker between my eyes is the entry ticket to the museum.


The conference was held at the University of Tampere. We prefer poster sessions because they allow more interaction with our audience. I used to think lectures were more prestigious. Only if it’s a keynote! Innovative stuff shows up in posters.


Akio and I set up our poster way ahead of time.


Akio showed a looped video of our online learning experiences. We also used the campus WiFi to demonstrate Glexa using our computer servers at Hokudai. We gave out handouts. They were all gone in 2 hours!


Our next-door neighbor was a MS student who analyzed communications among health care professionals at a emergency care facility in northern Finland. I enjoyed learning about applications I didn’t know about.


Our paper was among the 12 selected from about 400 papers to receive an outstanding paper award. Thank you, our students and colleagues!




2014-06-08 MIKKABI, JAPAN -- Noriko and I attended a research planning meeting near the town of Mikkabi situated on the northwest shore of Hamanako (Lake Hamana) in west Shizuoka.

Mikkabi is famous for oranges.

Single-car trains pass over tiny tunnels connecting orange groves on either side of the track.

Trains run roughly every half hour.

I was struck by the density of tiny shrines honoring deities. Some are simple and exposed.

Some are shielded by the trees they seem to honor.

Some are housed in tiny decorated buildings.

One had a decorative bridge made for it. This is the Inohanako Jinja, a tiny but ancient shrine already in existence when it appeared on imperial court records dated 742.

Inohanako Jinja sits on a rock shaped like the snout of a wild boar (i-no-hana) at the mouth of Inohanako (lake of the snout of the wild boar), a bay with a tight opening connecting to the rest of Hamanako.

chasing trains on the esashi line

2014-05-08 ESASHI, JAPAN -- Noriko and I chased a train on the Esashi line (brief info in English).

The line was never truly busy. In recent years, it carried an average of 41 passengers per day. The line will transport its final passenger on 2014-05-12. For the last several months, they doubled the number of cars (from 1 to 2) to accommodate train buffs coming from all over the country to bid the line farewell. The extra car gives everybody a window seat.

Instead of riding the Esashi line, we drove along it, chasing 1 of the 6 trains per day from Kikonai to Esashi. The train beat us to the finish, partly because we spent some time at a tiny station in the hills.

The 2-car train doesn’t quite fit in the short, skinny platform.

She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes.

This underpowered diesel-electric is a favorite among non-electrified rural track all across the country.

Miyakoshi station. Keeps the snow and chill out.

Noriko surveys the tiny, clean platform. Apart from the height from the tracks, the smallness of the platform would fool you that this was a street car stop.

The fare table (not so expensive) and the train schedule (6 coming and 6 going per day).

At the end of the line, Esashi station, with a warm stove even in May (the Sea of Japan coast is chilly) and a special desk for farewell souvenirs. They were selling out fast.

The Esashi station master signals the engineer to depart.

cherry blossoms

2014-05-08 TOKYO AND SAPPORO, JAPAN -- My departed friend calls to me ... I hear his voice all the time. The other night he appeared in a dream and he talked to me while I cried.

Bruce, here are flowers for you. I saw them near Noriko’s sister’s place in Tokyo, and on Hokudai campus.


depoe bay

2014-01-02 DEPOE BAY, OREGON -- Noriko and I enjoyed an afternoon in Depoe Bay, a tiny town 20 minutes south of where we live.

The Oregon coast is rugged. Cliffs are common. Our city has sandy beaches, but for the most part, the coastline is rocky forest.

Depoe Bay has what they call a Sea Wall, where US highway 101 runs along the coast.

Tiny shops line the highway.

Decorating gardens with windmills is popular on our windy coast.

We bought a flying disc for our ultimate team Paddy.

Depoe Bay claims to have the world’s smallest navigable harbor. The boathouse on the back left is for the Coast Guard. The boat on the front left takes tourists to watch whales.

We watched from the Sea Wall.

Gulls are easy to spot.

The whales were far away. The dark shape on the left is a whale splashing water. The object on the right is a boat for tourists.

happy new year

2014-01-01 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Noriko and I had toshikoshi-soba on New Year’s eve, and mochi and otoso on New Year’s day.

Soba cooking on an American kitchen stovetop (I call them ranges but most people call them stovetops).

The weather has been nice. We saw a gorgeous sunset from our dining room.

year-end vacation

2013-12-29 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Noriko and I are relaxing at the end of the year.

The weather has been good during our stay. We’re lucky -- it snowed 20 cm a few weeks ago.

Coffee and internet at Beachtown Coffee.

I got a new, fast laptop. I like my previous MacOS 10.6.8 much better than the new MacOS 10.9.1.

christmas market

2013-12-17 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I went to the Munich Christmas Market being held on Oodoori Park in downtown Sapporo.

The TV Tower (which used to broadcast TV signals, and still a sightseeing platform) marks the east end of Oodoori Park. They should build a skating rink here.

The Munich Christmas Market is held each winter, from the end of November till Christmas Eve.

We talked to the same shopkeeper we did last year.

We went to a restaurant to warm ourselves inside and out.

The restaurant is on the 10th floor, and faces the Sapporo City Hall building. Oodori park is between the two.

We didn’t expect to glimpse the Clock Tower. Professor WIlliam S. Clark built it originally as a military drill hall for students at Sapporo Agricultural College (the predecessor of Hokudai).

Snow cranes fly above a lake-like illumination.

The Munich Christmas Market grounds below, with the white Tannenbaum in the center.

Christmas lights blur.


2013-11-26 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- For our anniversary, we rode the Hokutosei sleeper car from Ueno to Sapporo.

The Hokutosei sleeper car emblem at the end of cars.

Ueno station became spacious after its recent modernization.

Everything in Ueno is about panda bears.

Sleeper cars depart from track 13.

When the Shinkansen reaches Hokkaido island in 2016, sleeper cars are expected to cease service.

The train departs Ueno at 19:03 and arrives at Sapporo at 11:15 the following day.

Our cabin is on car 9. The train has 11 cars.

The aisle runs along the left side of the train as seen from Ueno towards Sapporo.

The cabin is meant for 1 person, but the sofa bed expands to accommodate 2.

The train sports an art deco design.

The shower claims a 10-minute limit, but in fact runs forever, as long as you wait for the water to heat.

The sink and toilet fold into the shower room wall, like a murphy bed.

Sirokuro and Kero found a cozy nook to spend the trip.

Dining cars, once found on all express trains, now exists only on sleepers.

We bought bento boxes at Ueno.

Our cabin came with white wine, whisky, mineral water, and tea.

We celebrated 22 years of being together.

Coffee and tea are served in the morning.

Daybreak on Hokkaido island.

The previous night had been stormy. Birds didn’t seem to care.

no phone, no television

2013-05-13 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- 3 years ago, we stopped having a phone at home. The only phone we have is at the office. Noriko has a cellphone for talking with her family, but I don’t.

We’ve never had a television. I might watch television when staying at a hotel, for instance. The commercials are all new to me. I’m glad I don’t have to watch them every day.

I’ve been renting DVDs from GEO and Tsutaya. I pay for each rental. Their monthly plans don’t work for me. GEO costs less, and they seem to have a better selection of DVD titles, but their rental period is shorter (10 days including shipping time both directions). Tsutaya costs more but their rental period is longer (30 days), and they have a better web site.

I also watch anime online. Niconico shows for free the latest episodes of my favorite programs such as ハヤテのごとく Hayate the combat butler and 進撃の巨人 Attack on titans.

glexa in the papers

2013-04-21 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- This is old news that I realized I hadn’t publicized.

Glexa and VERSION2 (the software company that develops Glexa) appeared in the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper on 2013-01-01 and 2013-01-20. In the article are pictures of Akio Ohnishi (founder and CEO of VERSION2, shown pointing at the computer screen), a screenshot of our courseware (thanks, iBioSeminars!), and a photo of yours truly taken by his mother at Lake Kawaguchi.


new year's cookies

2013-01-01 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Happy New Year everybody!

As a New Year’s treat, I wanted to make airplane-shaped cookies but (probably because I used the wrong kind of dough) they turned out looking like potatoes! Better luck next time!

resting, raining, restauranting

2012-12-13 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Our classes had a full day for an early Christmas party. Noriko and I left Sapporo for a business trip followed with vacation. It rains a lot on the Pacific Northwest, especially along the coast. We’ve been spending most of our time indoors. When we do venture outside, we try restaurants and cafes that we’ve never been to before. Here are a few meals we’ve cooked for ourselves and eaten out.

We made a standing rib roast (in the oven, left) with baked potatoes (wrapped in aluminum foil, right).

The rib bones allow the roast to stand by itself without a rack. We use a rack anyway to catch the juices. One rib per person if this is your main course.

Noriko likes medium (the outer side), while I enjoy medium rare (the core of the roast).

The McGrath’s Fish House in Salem, Oregon is a family favorite. Seafood is expensive in America.

We don’t remember the last time we had lobster. We had a plate of 2 tiny lobsters that came from Maine. Maine is on the Atlantic coast. On the Pacific coast, we get crab. The left plate contains pan-fried Pacific oysters. Deep-fried cooking is a hundred times better in Japan or Belgium than it is in America.

We hadn’t visited our local Nelscott Cafe until now, partly because they’re at the opposite end of town, and partly because it’s hard to park. The interior is bright and cheery that reminds me of a storybook titled “The old black witch” I read as a child (ISBN-13 978-1930900622, still in print). First rays of sunshine in several days!

All hamburgers are $5 on Fridays!

Munchen kerstmarkt

2012-11-29 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The cities of Sapporo and Munich (Munchen) are celebrating their 40th anniversary of sisterhood during their German Christmas Market. We ran into our students, took pictures, and enjoyed sausage and hot chocolate.


new mailbox

2012-09-28 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- In America, most houses have mailboxes on the curb (that is, along the street). There are strict rules regarding where you can put your mailbox, how large it should be, and what you can write on it. For instance, you must have your house number on it. You may have your name on it, but that is not required; in fact it is not recommended. You may put no advertisements on it.

Our old mailbox was too small and the rain kept getting in.

We ripped the old mailbox off, and painted the post.

We bought a new mailbox and a set of metal house number stickers. The house number must face the direction the mail delivery person comes from. Our mail delivery person drives from the west, so the house number is put on the west side of the mailbox.

The red flag on the side tells the mail delivery person that I have outgoing mail for her -- that is, I want to send a letter. The mail delivery person opens my mailbox door, picks up my outgoing mail, and brings it back to the post office.

Our new mailbox is bigger and keeps the weather out. It comes with a lock to keep our mail safe.

The old mailbox went to the dump.

rv (camping car) show

2012-09-14 PORTLAND, OREGON -- We went to an RV (recreational vehicle = camping car) show at the Portland Expo Center. Along the edge of the expo grounds, they have several torii gates chronicling the internment of Japanese-Americans along the west coast during World War II. Indoors the expo hall, lots of camping trailers and motorhomes are on display. Some are vintage models for rent. Some new ones are huge, with double slide-outs, and look like houses inside. Some are richly appointed yet compact.

conference and dinner

2012-09-11 PORTLAND, OREGON -- 11 years ago Noriko and I were stranded first in Copenhagen and then in Amsterdam because America closed its borders due to terrorist attacks. Today was a pleasant day. First our colleagues and I gave a poster presentation at a speech science conference in Portland, Oregon. Afterwards we had dinner 2 blocks away at the South Park restaurant.


2012-09-02 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- A local casino run by local Native Americans hosted a fireworks display over the Labor Day weekend. We watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean and enjoyed the show.

fixing the house

2012-08-20 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Time to fix the house! It rains less in the summer on the Oregon coast. Here I am trying to match the front door trim with what Brandon Hertz, our contractor, did for our windows. My workmanship is not even half as good as his. Noriko pretends not to notice.

summer party

2012-07-20 SAPPORO, HOKKAIDO -- Every summer they have a neighborhood party at a pocket park across the street from where we live. There’s a stage where pre-screened serious amateurs entertain the throngs. By midnight, everything is dismantled, and the party plaza becomes a kids park next morning.

shiretoko peninsula

We traveled in the Shiretoko peninsula area for the first time. Sirokuro was thrilled with a gorgeous view of Mt Rausu reflected upon one of the five tiny lakes north of Utoro. We also watched Venus traverse the sun.

cooking class

We went to an Italian cooking class at La Veneziana restaurant in Sapporo. Denis Schiavo is the chef and owner of the restaurant. He has taught for 6 years, and currently teaches at a trade school (専門学校) in Sapporo. Unlike some cooking classes where students touch the food and share responsibilities, Denis’ class at his restaurant is a demonstration with running commentary.

He made (a) gnocchi al pomodoro e basilico, and (b) saltimbocca alla romana. Gnocchi (pronounced like “nyokki”) are flavored mash potato rolls quickly boiled in ultra-salty water. They cook fast -- pull them out of the water 15 seconds after they start floating. Saltimbocca is literally translated as “jump into the mouth” and means “you can’t have just one”. Saltimbocca is a thin slice of pork with sage and fresh ham on top, pan fried in olive oil (best if infused with sage), butter, and white wine.

Sirokuro stayed behind the kitchen counter to observe and record everything. It was a wonderful way to spend lunchtime of a beautiful May weekend. After class, we went grocery shopping at Hatakeyama’s and walked down the Lilac Fair at Oodoori Park.

cherries in bloom

When I left Sapporo at the end of April to visit my family, all the trees were bare. When I returned 10 days later, the foliage had exploded into fresh green. The cherry blossoms are particularly endearing.

boys basketball

Last week, we went to Taft High School to see a basketball game between 2 teams of 7th-grader boys. One team is coached by Brandon, who fixes people’s houses during the week, and teaches life skills and sports to kids on weekends. We went to cheer Brandon as much as his team.

lunch with friends

Noriko and I visited our former Dutch language teacher at her home in Ghent, Belgium (Gent, Belgie). Evelien, Cleo (who had turned 2 the day before), Annuska, Paloma and us enjoyed an afternoon together. We are so fortunate to have friends that welcome and care for us. We’re hoping that they’ll come see us in Japan and/or America.

greetings from europe

Noriko and I arrived in Antwerp, Belgium today, following a fun-filled week of visiting museums and historical sites in London. The weather in Europe is terribly cold. They're talking about a 200-kilometer skating race in Holland that takes place over frozen canals and rivers. It's called the "Elfstedentocht" (the eleven city race) because the course runs through 11 cities. If they decide to hold the race, then you might see it on the TV news. The race rarely happens because it hardly ever gets cold enough for the entire route to freeze. Last time was in 1997, when the son of a colleague of mine here at the University of Antwerp did the race.

happy new year

I hope you all entered 2012 in high spirits. I had a wonderful New Year’s. I visited my mom at Lake Yamanaka on the northern slopes of Mount Fuji. We walked around the lake (13.5 km) on New Year’s day, and saw the First Sunrise. It was a crisp, calm, chilly morning.

american wagyu

Many Americans enjoy sushi. Kurobuta pork is becoming popular too. The ad below is for Kobe-style beef. (View the original ad.)

fantastic weather

After several months of rotten health, I’m coming back to running. My favorite running paths include:

(a) The campus circuit. Once around the campus = 6 km.
(b) Oodoori Park. The park is short but pretty and lots of restrooms! Including the run from campus to the park = 6 km.
(c) Sasson Expressway. From campus, run along the Shinkawa River to the expressway and back. Including the campus circuit = 11 km.

I really want to run the banks of the Toyohira River but from where I live the path to the river is boring and rather dangerous because of vehicle traffic.