Sunday, October 27, 2013

Last Day in Yokohama - Homeward Bound Tomorrow.

I looked out of our hotel room window this morning to find this guy flying by with three friends.

I got a nice shot of him flying away from us.  I'm not sure what kind of raptor it is.  Very pretty though.

After breakfast, we decided to go for a walk along the seaside walkway that we could see from our hotel.  The sky was blue again today.  What a treat!  We wanted to enjoy it.  

Along the sea walk I noticed these life rings mounted every few hundred feet or so.   

I stumbled across another nice manhole cover.  I now have one from each city we stayed in.  Kinda cool!

As we walked along, I spotted what I thought to be large flowers in one of the trees.  Upon closer inspection I found these decorated bags with what looked like sponges inside of them.

A little further along, we happened upon these bottles mounted on a hillside beside the walkway.

At this small cafe we found answers to the mysteries of the two curiosities we stumbled upon.  Apparently, these were part of an art project called Smart-illumination which attempts to "utilize public spaces with the aim of merging urban tourism and art. This year, energy efficient night illuminations will be used to decorate public spaces by merging environmental technologies and art. Since the Great East Japan Earthquake, the need to utilize LED lights, solar panels and other energy generation methods and energy storing systems have increased more than ever."  

Inside the cafe we saw this cute elephant ice cream that couldn't possibly be turned down.   

While Ethan ate, he put his foot over my foot.  This is something he does often when we sit together, and has done since he could sit up on his own and reach down with his legs to my legs beside him.  I hadn't taken much note of it before.  It's just how we always sit together.  But, today, in a different part of the world, I saw it and appreciated that connection we share.

We walked further along the sea wall to the Marine Tower, which claims to be the largest seaside tower in Japan.  It's kind of funny how so many places lay claim to some tallest, fastest or first status.  It's about 90 meters high.

If you squint you might see Mt Fuji!

But if you can't see it, here it is on the photo posted on a beam beside the scene.  I could see the shadow faintly.  I'm happy about that.  :-)  

Similar to the CN Tower, the Marine tower has a glass floor.  I was too afraid to stand on it.  Ethan wasn't afraid at all.

Here we all looked down together. 

Since it had taken us a couple of hours to walk the seawall to the tower, we decided to take a taxi back to the ferris wheel near our hotel.  Ethan wanted to explore an adventure world he had seen yesterday.  While in the taxi, Ethan made an interesting observation.  If you hold the first three fingers of your one hand straight with the other hand, it's difficult to bend your pinky finger at the first knuckle.  Try it!  Doug mentioned that it's the result of coarticulation, and is a problem animators struggle with.

It's interesting to me that Ethan finds fascinating things anywhere and everywhere.   

A few things I've noticed while walking around:
  • People walk on the opposite side of the sidewalk.  (That took me a while to figure out.  I'm sure I irritated a few people this trip.)
  • There are almost no garbage cans along the sides of the road or in public spaces.  I had a water bottle from an our ice cream break earlier.  I carried it around with me due to the fact I could not find any place to dispense of it.  People do not seem to eat food on the go.  
  • Many of the washrooms do not have paper towels or air dryers.  I have been shaking my hands to dry them.  Today, in a public washroom I observed two ladies pull nicely ornamented towels from their handbags to dry their hands.  I wonder if the men have pocket towels?
  • In general, parents seemed very respectful, loving and very attentive to their young children.  There seems to be a close bond with the children and both parents, as well as grandparents often.  That has been very sweet to observe.   

The adventure exhibit that Ethan wanted to explore was entirely in Japanese, so it was kind of tricky to navigate, but we did figure it out eventually, and enjoyed the mirrored maze while doing so.

After we all relaxed a while in our hotel, we headed over to Yokohama's China Town for the evening.  It was really beautiful and teaming with people.  I loved seeing the lit lanterns and signs at night.

Steamers of dim sum lined the streets, making us all hungry.

While we enjoyed the sights, we looked around for a quiet place to enjoy our last meal in Japan.

While wandering I saw these interesting shoes.

And complimentary socks.

Doug found a lovely Chinese restaurant.  He and I shared this Sapporo beer.  I thought Pat would like to see this label. 

When we first came in a gentleman was playing the piano.  Later on in the evening, two women played traditional instruments for the patrons.  The music was sweet and light.

When we left we passed under this grand gate, but not before picking up a few sweets to take back to the hotel with us.  

On the way home we talked about what a wonderful trip this has been.  We've experienced so many new things and have seen so many different sights.  There was such a different feel to every city.  Fukuoka was slower paced and had a nice mix of old and new.  Tokyo, which we only got to experience briefly, was an extremely fast paced, huge modern metropolis that seemed to offer something for everyone.  Yokohama seemed to be a more modest modern seaside city that reminded Doug a lot of Vancouver, BC.

Tonight we pack and get ready to fly home in the morning.  We leave the hotel at 5am.  It will be 24 hours before we walk through the front door of our home if all things go smoothly.  We leave Monday morning and arrive in Ithaca Monday at dinner time...I think.  I'm still trying to get my head around that one.  :-)

To those who have followed along with us, thanks for the company!  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Storms Passing. A Day in Yokohama.

We awoke today to rain that blew horizontally at times.  I looked down at the streets below and saw only one person walking under an umbrella that would flip inside out, then back again.  The typhoon was beginning to pass us, but wouldn't hit full force.  There's a stronger typhoon passing close by too.  It will likely collide with the first one in the north of us some time in the next few days, creating a Fujiwara effect.  Last night, while we slept, there was a 7.3 earthquake off the coast of Japan closer to Fukushima than Tokyo, but apparently it could be felt here.  None of us felt it though.  Then, there was a small tsunami that hit Fukushima.  Poor people.  They do not need any more natural disasters.  None of these occurrences caused any major problems that we are aware of.  What an amazing series of events.  We're grateful everyone is safe.

At any rate, we went for a buffet breakfast in our hotel.  Doug took this picture of Ethan and I at the table.

We decided to head to our hotel in Yokohama in case the storm got any worse.  We were nervous about traveling during the height of the winds.  Check in wasn't until 2pm, so left our luggage with the hotel and headed out to have a look around.  It was pretty rainy and windy.  Thankfully there were umbrellas we could use. 

Poor Doug.  His umbrella blew inside out and broke.  This delighted some of the people around us.  We all had a laugh about it too.

We passed through a shopping arcade.  There sure are a lot of shopping arcades around these parts!  We went on a hunt for ice cream for Ethan.  The Yokohama Museum of Art was close by.  This wonderful sculpture was out front of it.  We didn't go into the museum.   

I took a couple details of the sculpture.  I liked this one of it from below looking up between two tall towers.  The one on the right is called the Landmark Tower.  We went up that one and had a view of the passing storm from the 69th floor.  The Landmark Tower boasts being the tallest building in Japan and holding the world record for fasted elevator.  It certainly was fast.  Going both up and down popped our ears.

The views were clearer than we thought they would be, but not really worth sharing.  We could see a bit of the Tokyo skyline.  We couldn't see Mt Fuji though.  It appeared, however, than the rain was slowing down.  It looked like the worst of the storm was passing.

Once in our hotel, we rested for a little while.  Ethan played some games on the iPad.  Doug napped.  I read a bit.  By the time we were ready to go and explore again, the sky was clearing and the sun was setting.  This is a view of from our hotel.  You can see Tokyo in the distance, and Yokohama Bay in the foreground.

We decided to treat ourselves to a nice Japanese dinner.  Doug and I had course meals, with eight courses of traditional Japanese dishes.  They were absolutely delicious.  By the end I was a bit too full, but it was worth it.  Ethan had a beef stew with white rice.  

Doug and I shared some Japanese sake.  That was lovely too.  I especially liked the small pouring pot it was served to us in.

We wandered over to an amusement park across the street from our hotel.  Ethan finally got to try a Pachinko game.  He had been wanting to find one.  

Doug and Ethan went in to explore this Ice House.

This was a photo Doug took while inside.  When they came out they were really cold.  Doug said he was starting to feel numb.  His glasses fogged up in the warmer outdoor air.

We headed over to ride on Japan's largest ferris wheel.  Doug and Ethan got tickets for the three of us.

I'm not sure how tall the ferris wheel was, but it was at least as tall as our hotel which was 40 floors.  (I had thought it was as tall as the tower we went up earlier, but when I looked out at them both, I realized I was mistaken.)   From the ground it really didn't look too bad, but once we got in and started to climb, I panicked a wee bit.  Ethan was scared too.  After we reached the top and started to descend, we both felt a lot better.  

This is a view from inside the car.

This is a bit of a view of the city as we were descending.  I literally couldn't move to take photos while we climbed.  I didn't want to freak Ethan out, so I sat quietly, but I was quite frightened for the first part.

Back in our hotel I took this photo of the city.  It's quite a nice view.  

One last day tomorrow and then we head for home.  Apparently there is a very large China Town here in Yokohama.  We might head over to see that.  Or we might do something else.  Everything is new, so the options are wide open.  

The storm has passed now.  The night is quiet.  When I look down into the streets I see many people walking around.  The weather looks good for flying Monday.  We'll simply plan to enjoy ourselves tomorrow.  Good night!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Technology in Tokyo

We awoke in the clouds today, and they remained all day, evidence of coming storms.  Below is a view from our window.  I still haven't seen Mt Fuji!  I can't believe I might leave without having seen it.  As long as we leave safely, that's all that matters.  It's been a great trip so far.

Another morning greeting was a protest on the ground beneath our hotel.  It looks similar to the one we saw the other day, though, of course, there is no way for me to know.  The talk from the megaphone was clear in our room 33 floors up, but, of course, it was in Japanese.

Since it was raining and overcast today, I figured there was not much point going to the tall towers. So Ethan and I headed to the Sony ExploraScience Museum a short distance away.  Once we arrived at our destination, we could see a little way into Tokyo bay.

I was surprised to see a miniature version of the Statue of Liberty from New York City.  

Once inside the arcade where the Sony Museum was, we found this very cool large drum.  I wanted to try it.  Ethan didn't think that was a good idea.  ;-)

We walked through a Leisure World with many games, blinking lights and sounds.  It was too loud and dominating for Ethan.  So we didn't stay.

We found the museum.  We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, which is really a shame because Ethan was pretty cute with a few of the exhibits.  He seemed to especially like the video installations that allowed him to move in front of a camera generating visual effects on the screen in front of him.  He danced, jumped, twirled, and performed magic.  It was very fun to watch.  I animated a giant stuffed rabbit on a screen through motion capture, so I had some fun dancing too.  In general, the exhibits were fun.  The language difference didn't effect much at all.

We stopped for lunch and another ice cream.  We had no problems ordering this one.  ;-)

Once we left the museum we decided to walk around a bit to see some of the area.  I found another pretty manhole cover.

And some interesting modern architecture.

From this position it looked very sci-fi, I thought.

Ethan likes these bike ramps that go up the center of stairways.  He ran up this one and we discovered a suspension walking bridge over a river.

We crossed over to the other side.

And found a giant ferris wheel.  On the train I had seen several similar ferris wheels in large cities along our route.  Ethan didn't want to ride this one today.  Apparently, the one in Yokohama, where we'll be headed tomorrow, is the largest ferris wheel in Japan.  He wants to try that one.

Ethan found this fun sculpture with mist coming from it.  He danced here for quite some time.

Two more sci-fi-looking buildings stood in the distance.  I'm sure there are many in Tokyo.  This is one HUGE city.  

As we have walked around Japan, both in Fukuoka and here, I've seen these decorative structures around most of the trees.  I thought they were only for decoration, but then I remembered the typhoons heading our way, and I realized these serve a practical purpose as well.  It's obvious from the way most trees are anchored that wind in this area is an ongoing issue to contend with. 

Doug made his way back to the hotel after 6pm, and we all headed over to the Akihabara district to see some technology, anime and comics.  It was busy!  You can't tell from this photo, but there were a lot of people.  

Young girls dressed as anime Maids from Maid Cafes were soliciting business in many areas.  I didn't know who they were representing or why they were there, and I tried to take their picture, but they hid their faces.  I knew then that there was something I wasn't aware of and respected their privacy.  Back in the hotel I looked up Maid Cafes.  Now *that's* a strange trend.  Similar to geishas it seems.  

We walked around looking at some of the sights.

I liked the steam in the window of this restaurant below.  Meat skewers were on the grill.

Here below are floors and floors of costumes it seems.  We didn't go in.  Ethan was feeling a bit overwhelmed.  We didn't stay too long actually. 

Here is another view of the area.  You can see a glimpse of anime on the billboards on the walls.

Doug was excited to see this space invaders sign and the origins of a game he loved as a boy.

Back near our hotel, men (and a couple women) played a Wii game of baseball in a restaurant.  Their cheers were loud.  It looked like they were having a great time.  What a fun idea!  

Tomorrow we head for Yokohama for two days and then we make our way back to Ithaca.  We are all getting a bit tired, though it's still fascinating and fun to see.  As is the way it usually is after any trip away from home, we'll all be glad to be back when that time arrives.