Category Archives: Travel

Taste of Japan – The Videos to Come

I have a lot of videos to edit and post to YouTube. They were mostly taken back in October while my sister was visiting for two weeks. You’ve been waiting a long time for the videos to come out, so I thought I’d give you an idea about what you’ll see. So, here’s the grand list of videos I will post.

  1. Enoshima – This will be a long video
  2. Enoshima Aquarium
  3. Hamarikyu Garden
  4. Tsukiji Fish Market
  5. Ginza
  6. Tokyo Skytree
  7. Miraikan (The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) and Odaiba
  8. The Railway Museum
  9. Ofuna Kannonji Temple
  10. Tokeiji Temple
  11. Jochiji Temple
  12. Meigetsuin Temple
  13. Hasedera Temple
  14. Kotokuin Temple (Daibutsu)
  15. Dinosaur Restaurant
  16. Oyama (hiking to the top of a mountain)
  17. Shinjuku Gyoen (gardens)
  18. Meiji Jingu Shrine
  19. Shibuya Crossing and Hachiko Statue
  20. Tokyo Station
  21. Imperial Palace East Gardens (this will be a big video)
  22. Tokyo International Forum
  23. Marine Tower
  24. Yamashita Park
  25. Hikawamaru (an old passenger ship)
  26. Yokohama Chinatown and Chinese food
  27. Motomachi (shopping district)
  28. Yamate and Berrick Hall
  29. Samukawa Shrine

And there will be another video from Izu. Or maybe more than one. We’re supposed to be going there later this month to see the kawazu zakura, which is a kind of early-blooming cherry tree. They’re bright pink. The area we’re going to has other attractions, as well.

Any of those look interesting to you? Let me know which ones you want to see in the comments below.

And just for a little taste, here’s the last Taste of Japan video. It’s a ride on one of the world’s largest Ferris wheels. It’s also the world’s largest clock. The view is amazing!

Convenient, Yet Inconvenient – Japan’s Train System

We just got back from a trip up to Saitama to visit my wife’s family. During this trip, we had to take a number of buses and trains. The system is extensive in the Tokyo area, and you can get pretty much anywhere you want in a timely manner and without much difficulty.

The view from the JR Musashino Line in Saitama.
The view from the JR Musashino Line in Saitama.

It’s convenient

The trains are quick, many traveling between 90 and 110 kilometres per hour. The express and rapid trains are very nice for long distances. You can easily transfer from one train to another, even if it’s a different company. You can use the same IC card to pay for any train or bus. No need to count out change for a bus or train ticket.

It’s inconvenient

Packing around a not-yet-4-year-old is not the easiest thing, and with her inability to sit for a very long time, she’s difficult to handle on a long train ride. While taking the trains and buses is convenient, it’s troublesome with a young child. On our way home, she fell asleep, and I had to carry her between two trains and have her sleep on me. And then there are the crowded trains. She was extremely fidgety on that train, and wanted to stand, then be held, then stand, then be held, etc. It’s physically demanding to travel by train with a young child. For something like this, I’d have preferred to drive. However, with the roads and traffic in the Tokyo area, that would be a major headache. I don’t think I could find a parking space, either.

For an overnight trip to a destination only one and a half hours away by train, I took a whopping four buses and eight trains. I love the train system in Japan, and could easily travel everywhere, but I wish I could do it with my daughter being a couple years older.

Ever take a trip or commute that frustrated you because of the transportation system? Or having to deal with young children?

Recapturing a Place’s Atmosphere

Whenever I’ve been somewhere so many times it feels routing, I start going into automatic mode. I don’t seem to pay attention to my surroundings. When I go to new places, not only do I notice everything around me, I also feel the atmosphere of the place.

Thinking back to when I was a kid, I think I was always sensitive to the atmosphere of the places I was in. I got a certain mood from every place. I always remember camping at the Wapiti River, going to the playground near my house, and playing at recess in elementary school.  Later, after we moved to a new town, I always enjoyed the atmosphere of the undeveloped area behind our house. There was a forested area that I often walked through.

As I grew older, I found that I wasn’t feeling the atmosphere as much. But it wasn’t sudden, it was gradual. Or maybe as an adult, I’ve been distracted by inner thoughts, and just didn’t give my full attention to my surroundings. That’s probably more likely.

What I noticed earlier this week is that I was actually feeling the atmosphere of the place I was in. I was just going out to buy a drink during my lunch break, and as I walked past a temple, I slowed down and just looked around. I started noticing the details of the temple and the high-rise apartment building next to it. It was at that moment that it hit me. I could feel the atmosphere of the place. Not only that, it made me think about how it felt when I was a newcomer in Japan. Everywhere had an atmosphere. That’s one reason I started walking around neighbourhoods near train stations. I wanted to experience the atmosphere of different places. It fascinated me.

But lately, I haven’t really gone anywhere new. And then I decided what I would do with my YouTube channel, and I think I found a way to recapture that feeling. I started thinking about the places I could go, make videos, and share the atmosphere of the place with others. I want to give people a simple view of the place. Little talking, just observe what’s around. I decided to call this series A Taste of Japan. Maybe through this, I can regain that feeling of newness that I used to have. I hope I can. And I hope you’ll enjoy watching the videos, too.

Fantasy in the Real World

Reading fantasy, I find that my mind paints a picture of what the world looks like. There tend to be a lot of forests. And mountains. And caves. Sometimes there are grasslands and deserts, but mostly forests.

Looking around at the real world, I sometimes imagine what places are most like a fantasy setting. Here in Japan, you can find pockets of wilderness in the city that provide you with bamboo groves or valleys with small streams and tall trees. But when I think about fantasy, one place stands out. It’s in Canada. On Vancouver Island, there’s a place called Cathedral Grove. It has these massive trees in a temperate rain forest, and it’s a place you could imagine mythical being live and hunt in.

What places do you think could fit into a fantasy story?

This Guy’s Been to Every Country in the World

Lee Abbamonte is an American who has traveled to every country in the world. But he’s also the youngest American who’s done so. He’s only 36 years old.

Well, I found out that he’s visited my hometown of Edmonton, and did a very nice write-up about it.

It’s amazing to be able to travel like that. I’d love to travel, and see as many countries as possible.

So, how many countries have you been to? I’ve only been to three: Canada, Japan, and the United States.

A Remote Adventure

One reason I love reading fantasy and science fiction is the possibility of exploration in remote or unknown places. So the thought of being in a remote place is appealing.

I haven’t really been anywhere remote. Maybe the most remote is North Dakota. The towns and cities are small, and the nearest large city is quite a distance away. But that’s not exactly remote, is it?

Or how about the top of Mt Fuji? It’s too near Tokyo to be remote, but on the top of the mountain, the feeling of being on the frontier was there. Except it was crowded. And I was next to three cell phone antennas.

How about you? What’s the most remote place you’ve been? A place where few people live, and signs of civilisation are limited. Let me know in the comments.

My Love-Hate Relationship With Being High

I love being high. But I also hate it. I know what you’re thinking, but I’m pretty sure you’re wrong. I’m talking about tall buildings and mountains, of course!

I like being at the top of this:

Yokohama Landmark Tower
Yokohama Landmark Tower, 297 metres tall.

And seeing this:

The view from Landmark Tower.
The view from Landmark Tower.

I love seeing the view from tall buildings and mountains. In Japan, we have Yokohama Landmark Tower in Yokohama, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (which is free and has a great view in Shinjuku), Sunshine 60 (a rooftop view from Ikebukuro), Tokyo Tower (looks like the Eiffel Tower), and Tokyo Skytree (tallest freestanding tower in the world at 634 metres). They all command amazing views of the cities they’re in.

In Edmonton, the city’s newest tallest building is under construction, Stantec’s headquarters, and will be 250 metres tall, the tallest building in Canada west of Toronto. I’m excited to see that.

But I also said mountains. I’ve been to the top of Mt. Fuji, Mt. Oyama (and will likely go there again in October), and Mt. Takao, all here in Japan. In Canada, the top of the Whistlers in Jasper afforded a wonderful view of the town.

But where’s the hate? Well, if I’m on a balcony, the edge of a cliff, or at the top of a building without a barrier, I don’t like leaning over the edge. I get an immediate feeling of pending doom. If there’s glass in the way, no problem. A balcony railing isn’t good enough to stop the feeling. But I’m fine with being at the top of a 3,776 metre mountain, which also happens to be a volcano.

How are you with heights?