The Last Trip for 2008

I had my last trip of the year on 29 -30 December to Toyama.
The year really flew by and I think I had more trips this year than ever before.

Usually, the weather in Toyama this time of the year is wet and cold, but luckily during my stay, it remained nice.

Here is Toyama Castle - the tall building was actually built in 1954.

Because of the good weather, mountains were very visible. At this time of thie photograph, not much snow has come. The mountains are spectacular, and many climbers go up there every year. Unfortunately, the evening news of the 29th reported some climbers were missing.
Here's a bit more info. on the mountains.

On the return trip on the airplane, the view of Mt. Fuji was beautiful.

Izu Islands were very visible on the Pacific Ocean - the closest long island is Niijima and the large island on the other side is Kozu.

The new "Fourth Runway" is being built at Haneda Airport or Tokyo International Airport.


Train trip

I had train rides on Thursday and Friday during my domestic trip.
First leg was from Tokyo to Niigata on which I rode on Shinkansen (approx. 2 hours).

In Niigata, I checked out Bandai Bridge - this one is actually the third generation of the brige.
The bridge was built in 1929 and is very elegant in form.

Here's the new bridge close by - it resembles the old bridge, but cannot match the beauty of the original.

After my brief stop in Niigata, took an express train to Takaoka.

Here's the train - on the right side.

This ride was about 2 hours and 45 min. and went by the coast line of Sea of Japan.

The third leg of my trip was from Kanazawa to Osaka - 2 hours and 20 mn. in length.
The express train route went by Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan.


Eco Products 2008

On Thursday, I visited an exhibition called Eco Products 2008 held at Tokyo International Exhibition Center.

There was a lecture by an expert on carbon footprint. He showed that carbon dioxide level has been rising exponentially since the industrial revolution in England. The graph he showed was very alarming.

He also told us that every second, the area equal to 15 tennis courts of forest disappears! I also learned that my round trip from Tokyo to Boston translates to 7.68 tons of carbon dioxide!

It was a very big event and many companies exhibited to show their "environmentally correct" activities. Also, organizations that do 3R (Re-use, Reduce, and Recycle) activities, schools, and sell ecological products had booths.

To my surprise, almost half the attendees were children. It was apparant that schools made day trips to the event. It was very good to see that many people attended the event to show their interest in environmental concerns.

Above picture shows the flower pots made from used coffee beans.

JVC has interesting speakers that are also planters.

WWF had a booth to educate children about their activities.

Honda "Insight" - their new hybrid car to be released next year.



I had a trip to Boston, Massachusetts last week. I left Tokyo on Monday afternoon and got there on the same day in the evening (via Washington Dulles).

In the afternoon of Wednesday, I was able to visit a friend of mine from high school. It was so nice to see him after some 25 years! It is nice for he is also a runner (we were team mates in cross country and track teams). He actually ran a marathon about a month ago and qualified for next year's Boston Marathon! He could give me good tips on improving my time. We had a very limited time, but could do some catching up. Also, it was very nice to meet his lovely wife, daughters, and a puppy.

I could not get myself to take a jog until Thursday, because I felt the damaged from the marathon and also the jet lag.

My hotel was at Kendall Square. I ran along the Charles River, crossed over the Longfellow Bridge. Air was cool and crisp in the morning. The bridge was surprisingly very corroded - a subway trains ran on it, aside from automobiles.

Then on the other side, I could continue down on the riverside on an nice park. I encountered many runners in this city of a famous marathon. Crossed back to the MIT side on the Harvard Bridge and came back through a part of MIT campus.This was only about a 5K run, but considering my health, it was good enough.

Above: the view of MIT from the other side of Charles River.

Above: the view of Boston from Harvard Bridge

On MIT campus, saw the CSAIL building - very unusual architecture.

As the airplane left Logan Airport, I could see the entire area where I jogged.


Tsukuba Marathon

On Sunday, I ran my first ful-length marathon since college days.
That must mean my first one in 23 years and my third.

Running has become a very popular sport in Japan, but I was surprised to learn that 16,000 people entered for this event!

My day went like this:

Up at 5:15 AM, got on a train at 6:00. After one transfer, arrived at Tsukuba station at 7:45 or so.
I registered to get my entry number around 8:30, then met up with my friends to change.

The run started at 9:30.
It took about 5 min. to get to the start line after the start of the race.
Because of the big number of runners, for the first couple of kms, it was very slow.

The weather was sunny and pleasant. The course was fairly flat and picturesque.
Although the temperature got a bit too hot at times, it was a very nice day for a marathon.

I did not keep record, but my first 10K was something like 50 min. and at the half way point, my time was 1 hour 51 min. or so.
These are both slow pace for me when I run either 10K or Half-a-Marathon, but since I was running full one, I thought they were OK.

All was well until about the 35th km, then I started to get muscle cramps in my legs!
I remember getting them when I ran my first marathon in 1984 (Seattle Emerald City Marathon). Very painful and my legs felt like pieces of logs!

Then it was a struggle from there. It was so painful!
As I got closer to the finish line, each km seemed longer and I did have to walk at times.

I did finish with sprinting (limping) at the end with 3 hours 51 min. 30 sec. (NET). I should be happy for I could indeed finish the race and under 4 hours.
But I guess, I'd better train more...

I was done with getting my record printed and change by around 2:30.

Came back home via bus and trains almost at 5:00 PM. This was a long day!



Another trip took me to Shenzhen, China last week.
From Tokyo, a 5-hour flight to Hong Kong, then some 40-min. ferry ride to the Fort of Shekou.
Overall, from leaving my home to arriving at my hotel in Shenzhen, it took about 10 hours.

Again, like Taipei, it was much warmer than Tokyo.
While I was there, temp. went up to 25 deg. Celsius.

Just like many other of my trips, I had no time to go sightseeing.
I could enjoy running in the morning before my meetings and a bit of walking in late afternoons.

I learned that Deng Xiaoping decided to make this place the first Special Economic Zone, in 1979.
Since then, it grew to one of the largest industrial areas of China with over 10 million people living there!

However, I did learn that many factories are affected by the current global financial crisis.

Yes, they have their own Eifel Tower - at an amusement park "Window of the World".

A pond behind the park.

Colorful carp in the pond of the hotel I stayed.

A view from Lo Wu, the train station where I went through the immigration to go to Hong Kong.



I had an overnight trip to Sapporo, the main city of Hokkaido last Thursday.
I expected a much colder weather - the temperature was reported as -3 deg. Celcius (26.6 deg. F) as the flight from Tokyo International Airport was leaving.

When I arrived, I found that it was not too cold. The temp. went up as high as 15 deg. C (59 deg. F) during the day - actually, it was quite pleasant.

I enjoyed the stroll around the city, as you can tell by the photos below.

The TV Tower of Sapporo on Odori Park

Beautifully colored autumn leaves on trees of Odori Koen.

Former Hokkaido Government Office Building

A nice pond in the ground of the former Hokkaido Government Office Building

Sapporo Beer Museum is a popular sight seeing designation.


Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

On Thursday morning, I ran to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park from the hotel I was staying by Hiroshima Station.

In a cool autumn air, it was a very pleasant run. The total distance was about 10 km, but because I stopped to look around and take photos, it took about 1 hour 20 min. altogether. Hiroshima is a very clean, nice city, with population of almost 1.2 million people.

The Memorial Park is spacious and truly "peaceful". It is amazing that before the atomic bomb destroyed it, this area was the most populous district of the city.

Approaching the Atomic bomb memorial service monument - in line with the A-Bomb Dome

The Statue of "Child of Atomic Bomb", surrounded by exhibition containers of "thousand cranes" of origami given by visitors from all over the world.

A statue of a mother carrying a dying child - also surrounded by "thousand cranes"

Remains of Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall - it is preserved as "Atomic-Bomb Dome". It is one of UNESCO's World Heritage site.
Inside of the building is left a rubble.
A photograph of the area around the A-Bomb Dome taken in October, 1945 - two months after the bomb explosion (from an explanatory board next to the Dome).
Here's what now-Peace Park looked like until right before the bomb was dropped. Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall is seen on the right side of the T-shaped bridge on the center-far side which Enola Gay used as the target. (This photo was taken from a Wiki site)



I visited Taipei , Capital city of Taiwan, earlier this week. It was about 4- hour flight from Tokyo. When I stepped out of the airplane, noticed that the weather was much warmer than Tokyo. The city's latitude is even more south compared to Okinawa and Miami, FL.

Running in the city of Taipei was a bit tricky from my hotel. I had to run mostly on sidewalks of busy streets (or maybe I just was not very familiar with the city). There were many traffic lights, so I had to stop often.

The city was a mish-mash of old and new – traditional Chinese architecture and parks as well as ultra-modern business buildings. I only stayed for 2 nights, but ate a lot of Chinese food!

Sunrise shows Taipei 101 in overwhelming height.

Zhongshan Park

Buddhist temple on a top of a building


AFC Asia Champions League Semi-Finals Game

On 22 October, I was able to obtain a ticket to be a spectator for the semi-finals game for the AFC(Asian Football Confederation) Club Championship Semi-finals game (Football means Soccer).

The game was between Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka (both Japanese teams) at Urawa's home stadium which is not very far from my work.

The stadium was filled mostly with the Reds fans and of course, there were some hardcore Osaka fans that were very well segregated from the rest of the spectators. We were sitting by the official Reds Cheering area. The ticket I had even had a warning "Do not cheer for Osaka" printed on it!

The game started out well with the first half - with Reds being on offensive most of the time with Naohiro Takahara making a beautiful goal at around 35 min. The stadium was just roaring with cheer. But then, they fell apart in the second half. They just could not keep the ball and their defensive moves were not effective. The final score was 1-3 and Osaka advanced to the first of the two final games against Adelaide United FC of Australia on Nov. 5.

The result was devastating for Urawa Reds for they WERE the Asian Club Champions as well as the third place in the FIFA Club World Championship after AC Milan of Italy and Boca Juniors of Argentina. They are currently in the 5th place in J League.


Midtown Tokyo

Last weekend on Sunday, I visited Tokyo Tower. We decided to climb the stairs up to the lower observatory. 600 steps to the 150 m floor.

This is the view towards the west at the sunset. Tall building on the left is Roppongi Hills (Grand Hyatt) and the right - Tokyo Midtown (Ritz Carlton).

Tokyo Tower was built 50 years ago (1958) and it is 333 m tall.

Today, I was at the Ritz for a meeting. Below is the view towards Shinjuku, a major hub station of Tokyo from the 48th floor of the hotel.
This is the view towards the Imperial Palace (the woody area). The cluster of tall buildings beyond the palace ground to the right is the financial center area by Tokyo Station.
This afternoon, I walked from Tokyo Midtown to Shibuya station. Here's the main intersection of Shibuya where hundreds of pedestrians cross it.