Hai From Kyoto

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

On Sunday, once we got moving we all headed right for Shinjuku to visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building No. 1 which has an observation deck on the 45th floor. It’s a free, easy way to get a great view of the entire city. Courtney and I had gone to the north tower on Friday so today we all went to the south tower and looked around. Tokyo seems to just stretch on forever and even out towards the horizon there seems to be syscrapers. It’s just amazing to think of how much is going on, night and day, in all that city.

While up in the tower we got to talking about the Park Hyatt Tokyo, which is the hotel that “Bob” and “Charlotte” stay in in “Lost in Translation”. The bar on top is open to the public, is supposed to have very amazing views and was just begging for us to go. So, when we left the tower we struck out towards the Hyatt.

We found the Hyatt pretty easily and started trying to figure out how to get in. the building is 52 stories tall, and the Hyatt only uses the top 10 or so. We eventually figured out that it has it’s own entrance and we made our way in. The place was swank to the extreme and we were massively under-dressed and under-classed but figured they had seen worse since the movie came out so we pushed on.

To get to the bar you take the main elevator up to the 41st (I think?) floor which is kind of the main entrance, then you walk through a very nice lounge / restaurant, a gorgeous library and then take another elevator to the 52nd floor. After turning back once in embarassment and then once to go back down to the elevator to read the dress code sign that Courtney spotted we finally made it to the top to find out the bar doesn’t open till 5pm. The view was still amazing, so we took a few pictures and vowed to come back later.

Our next plan was to get some lunch, and we had wanted to go back to Yoyogi Koen to see the freak show, so we stopped by KFC, picked up some chicken and set out for the park to have a picnic. This time everyone was there to entertain us. We saw the crazy 50s dancers (“Tokyo Rockabilly Club / Harajuku”) and this time around noticed that their boots are pretty much 100% electrical tape. Too much suddenly sliding across the road and breakdancing, I guess.

We also saw some kind of weird music video (we think) being filmed that involved girls dressed as maids, girls dressed as maids with cardboard robot heads on, a guy in black clothes that eventually stripped down to his speedo, which he then pulled down and squatted like he was shitting, a detective that fights a girl in a dress and lots of very, very confused people.

And… lots more to type, but it’s time to get ready for today. We’re in Kyoto right now. We’re going to Nara today, and then to Ponto-Cho later on. Then later, later we go to Osaka to sleep. We couldn’t find a room to stay in tonight in Kyoto so we’re going to Osaka to sleep and then to Hiroshima tomorrow.


Honey Roast Chicken Pringles

So, we’re in Japan!

We left with no real issues on Wednesday, arrived here on Thursday afternoon around 5pm and then pretty easily got to our hotel in the outskirts of Tokyo. We had a really nice flight. Courtney slept some, and I watched three movies. It really passed the time and it didn’t feel awful at all.

You may remember last time I tried this, I had a few hours of panic in the Narita airport because I was without cash and none of my cards worked. This time we traded up a bunch of USD for Yen in Seattle and that made the process much more smooth. I did learn one more new thing though. TravelEx is a ripoff. We should have brought a bunch of USD cash with us and traded it here. TravelEx charged us almost 10% in Seattle but it would have cost nothing here.

We’ve been really busy and have had a lot of fun so far. On Friday Courtney and I got up fairly early, grabbed some breakfast at 7-11 and then headed in to Tokyo. We spent the day wandering around Shinjuku and Ueno, and we went to the Ueno Zoo which was pretty sweet. Lots of the normal stuff, but here the monkeys screech in Japanese. So strange.

We called it a pretty early night on Friday cause we were both pretty run down from the traveling so we took a long, long nap till someone knocked on the door! It was Megan and Ryan! They had flown all the way to Japan, taken jobs as English teachers, got an apartment in Gifu City and spent the last 6 months learning how to live in Japan just to make our trip more pleasant! And then they took the train all the way from Gifu City to Tokyo to hang out with us for the weekend. That’s true friendship there, people.

So, Saturday we toured Tokyo with Ryan and Megan. Ryan speaks quite a bit of Japanese, and can read a lot of Kanji, which is very, very helpful. One of the best parts is that he can tell when people are talking about Courtney and Megan’s boobs on the subway. I’ve been in 16 fights so far. One guy actually ran up to Courtney in Ginza, asked to take her picture (to which she said yes), pointed the camera at her face and then quickly moved it down to her boobs before he took the picture.

Saturday we went to Akihabara, Yoyogi-koen, Ginza and Shinjuku. We wandered for a bit in Radio Center in Akihabara (aka Akiba) which is where tiny stalls sell every kind of electronics component you can imagine. It’s pretty wild. There are entire stalls dedicated to biscuit fans, or surface mount resistors, or plugs… it goes on and on. I can only dream of having physical access to a place like that on a daily basis. It would be so awesome. I’m going to try to go back at some point this weekend without my friends so they aren’t bored to death while I peruse every stall.

In Akiba we also found a vintage game and arcade place. There was on store that was all brand new, some still in the package, games and systems from the 80s and 90s. All Japanese versions, of course, but still cool. They had racks of Famicoms and Super Famicoms, Dreamcasts, original light guns for the NES / Super Famicom, Power Gloves and every game you can imagine. It was pretty cool.

We took the subway over to Yoyogi-koen cause I wanted everyone to see the freak show that I saw last time, but aparently that is on Sunday, not Saturday. Woops! We did see a wedding procession at the temple in the middle of the park though, and that was very cool. Looked a lot like the one from Lost in Translation.

After that we went to Ginza. It was already getting dark (around 4pm!) so by time we got there it was fully dark and the Ginza strip was in full effect. This is the strip you see when you see movies about Tokyo. Giant, multiple story high animated displays on the sides of buildings, billions of neon tubes, everything moving in every direction and thousands of people everywhere. I didn’t go there at night when I was here last time, and it was pretty amazing. I was blown away.

One funny thing that happened in Ginza was… There is this giant intersection in Ginza where when it’s time for pedestrians to cross the lights in all directions go red and people just cross in every direction, including, say, southeast to northwest corner. This happened, and somehow two foreigners were trapped in the middle of the intersection when the lights turned green. Suddenly there were four lanes of traffic all around them and they were basically spinning around in the middle of it all with cars flying by a few feet away in every direction. A policeman had to run out into the middle of the intersection stopping cars to pull them to safety. In the mean time everyone on ALL corners took pictures and laughed. Ha!

And girls in sexy, black Santa costumes were giving away cat food samples. Ahh, Tokyo.

We didn’t stay very long in Ginza cause we were starving it was too expensive to eat there. So, we went to Shinjuku and jumped into the first Yakitori we saw. Had some great yakitori and yakiusoba and drinks and then jumped back out into the nighttime Shinjuku crowd, which is insane. The night life was just getting started, but we were all pooped so we finally headed towards home. After a quick nightcap we totally crashed at like 9pm.

And now it’s Sunday morning around 9am and we’re waking up again. Today we’re going to visit the Metropolitan Government Building No. 1 (which Courtney and I did on Friday, once) and visit the other tower with Ryan and Megan. Then we’re going to back to the park to see the freak show and maybe take the monorail out to some futuristic city in the bay.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

A Variety of Topics

I have been a very busy Jason.

First, to answer the questions about why my name is included in the Android platform… I can’t tell you. Unless you buy me a beer. Actually, not even then. What I can say is this. “I helped.”

Next! Courtney, Jeff, Kathryn and I spent the weekend in the San Juan Islands. It was awesome! We stayed in a cabin in Friday Harbor, went wandering on Orcas and Mt. Constitution, went whale watching in the Straight, got to see lots of whales and even got to see the first gender identification of a new whale, and just generally had a wonderful time. 

Courtney took some pictures on Mt. Constitution and while we were whale watching. And Kathryn took a bunch too!


At some point a few weeks before that trip Courtney and I got serious about looking for a house to live in. We had been kinda sorta browsing for a while but we decided to really give it a go so I signed up on Lending Tree, applied for a loan, got a Realtor(tm)(R)(c)(beep) and we started looking at houses.

For a few weeks we looked in price range X and while we found some that would do we didn’t find anything that really got our attention. One of the main beefs was that we wanted a 3 car garage. There needed to be room for the motorcycle, waverunner, a car or three and some room to work. We were having real trouble finding a place with a 3 car garage in the areas we wanted to live in. 

I was fairly set on the Newcastle area, which is just about  15 minutes from downtown Seattle and has reasonable traffic. The thing is, we weren’t getting any listings in Newcastle that had 3 car garages.

So, we decided to try price range X + 25k. Viola! We put an offer on the first house we looked at!

So, a month later and many phone calls and signed papers and destruction of my bank account and bam! We owned a house! You can see pictures of it here.

Now we’re mostly moved in, and settling in and we love it. We have lots of room to move, a nice yard for Sonja, plenty of garage space, a nice neighborhood and everything. It’s great!

With a new house comes new projects! Since I finally have a good place to work again I’ve been doing some experimenting and bringing my old hobbies back to life. I finally decided to stop wasting time and money and had a PCB made professionally. I also decided that if I was going to have PCBs made I might as well try doing some surface mount work, so I did! I made a little 2×2 RGB LED light board that uses all surface mount components. I’ll be actually testing it for the first time tonight but you can see some pictures of it right over here. I’m pretty proud of it. Surface mount soldering turned out to be reasonably easy and the resulting work looks great. 

Oh, forgot to mention… we’ve started taking the bus to work. It’s about a 25 minute commute with traffic in the morning and it’s much nicer to sit back and read my Kindle than sit in stop and go traffic. And it saves the environment and the whales and polar bears and stuff.

And what else? Oh! I’ve started brewing again! I have a hard cider fermenting right now while I get all my brewing gear back in order and we made some cream soda to hold us over while the alcohol comes to life. Since I have lots of space now I’m planning to build out a permanent “brewery” in the garage. There’s a nice area that has power, gas, water and venting that would be perfect for a little half barrel brewery. So that’s going to be my winter project. I am thinking of using all electric and that’s been some interesting research.

And finally, next Wednesday we are going to Japan for 12 days! Our friends Ryan and Megan are there for a year to teach English and we’re going to go visit and explore.