On Wednesday, in between meetings, I enjoyed a brief visit to the famous Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. This is the oldest temple in Tokyo and one of the most popular tourist spot. This temple's legend goes back to 628 AD.

Because it was only around 9:00 AM, only a few of the Nakamise stores were open. Actually, I was surprised to find so many people there. As I walked closer to the main temple building, more and more of them came - seemed to be by bus loads.

Then I realized most of them were Chinese. They must have been taking their vacation in Japan for Chinese New Year.

Here is Kaminarimon, the gate to the temple.

The five story pagoda stands 48 m.

The main temple building with a big roof.

Here are the Chinese tourists. They seemed to be very comfortable taking photos and praying. I hope they had nice stays in Japan.

Nakamise shopping street leading to the main building of the temple.

A souvenior store displaying Japanese dolls and many varieties of Maneki Neko, popular displays for restaurants for it is believe to bring many customers and business.

Here's something new - boxes of Manju, Japanese sweets, featuring the new President of the United States. The box on the left features Junichiro Koizumi, one of the recent Prime Ministers of Japan. The one on the right next to Mr. Obama has a picture of Ichiro Ozawa, the leader of the opposition party (Democratic Party of Japan). The picture on the box of the far right is Taro Aso, our current Prime Minister and the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. His picture is also featured on the box of the US President.


Airplane, train, and car rides

From Monday to Thursday of this week, I again had series of visits to various cities in Japan. It went like this: first, I took an airplane ride from Tokyo to Fukuoka. Then a train ride to Marugame via Okayama. I was then driven to Takamatsu where I boarded a train to Osaka. From Osaka, again a train ride took me to Kanazawa. Another car ride to Toyama and then finally another train ride back to Tokyo.

I figure, my total distance travelled in these 4 days was approx. 2630 km. Of that, Tokyo - Fukuoka flight was about 1040 km. Car rides were totaled about 180 km. The train rides altogher was about 1410 km. No wonder I now have a lower back pain.

An express train at Takamatsu Station. I rode on the one on the left.

Here's the video I took during the crossing of Seto-Ohashi Bridge over the inland sea.

N700 type Shinkansen arriving at Okayama Station. This is currently the newest type of Shinkansen trains.

The Statue of "Fair Play" at in Dotonbori district of Osaka. His name is "Takahashi-kun".


Saving Chosticks and other thoughts...

In Japan, throw-away chopsticks made of wood are very common, just like the plastic bags that are given to customers at grocery stores. I think this is a very bad custom. It may be much worse than grocery bags for not just the wood that is used, but also they usually come in paper enclosure. Last year, I was given throw away chopsticks when I asked for a Japanese meal in an international airplane flight, although knife, spoon, and fork were made of metal and obviously they reuse them. I do not understand why only chopsticks are throw-aways. I am happy to see that most of the restaurants I’ve been in other parts of Asia had reusable chopsticks. I hear a lot about Japan being one of the most environmentally conscious nation and from what I have seen of other countries, it may be true. Unfortunately, where it comes to chopsticks, I think Japan is the worst.

Last year on 23 Jan., I started to bring my own chopsticks to restaurants . Now it has been a year, here I am reporting of my result.

In 2008, from Jan. 23 to Dec. 31, I saved 237 sets of throw-away chopsticks in Japanese restaurants and in airplane flights. In 22 days of this month, I've saved 17 sets. That means 254 sets in a whole year! My prediction of 260 per year was very close to exact! I am also happy that some people that saw me doing it started it, too. I will continue with this activity.

Also, I've been trying to bring my grocery bags whenever possible. Some of the grocery stores now give "points" for not using plastic bags.

Other things I do whenever practical are: (1) use stairs instead of lifts , (2) walk of bike instead of driving, (3) bring my own bottle of water at outing instead buying it, (4) set thermostat high in summer (28 deg. C) and low in winter (20 deg. C) during the day, (5) recycle pet bottles, cans, and paper, (6) use the back side of printed paper instead of each time using new sheet, (7) turn off un-necessary lights.

I am sure there are much more that can be done and of course, it is easy to slack-off with these activities over comfort and laziness. I believe each of us must be conscious about 3Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle) to save our environment!


Tokyo Station Renovation

Tokyo Station, the central hub train station of Tokyo is currently getting a major renovation.

Here's the image of it when all the work is done. As can be seen, the third floor and the nice roof domes of the original design will be re-constructed.

I take many domestic trips on Shinkansen from here. The original brick building was built in 1914. I've heard that the design was a copy of the Amsterdam Central Station, but guess it has been proven wrong. The construction causes automotive traffic congestion every day. I look forward to the day it is all finished.

Here's more about the renovation.


My first run of 2009

My first run of this year was on the afternoon of Jan. 2. Weather was sunny and warm. I enjoyed the easy run of about 1 hour - of distance approx. 10K.

Below are the things I saw during my run.

This is a typical New Year Ornament displayed on an entrance of a house.

Sarcandra glabra - this is in my yard.

A very small shrine on a roadside.

People feeding ducks at the pond near by.

Hopefully, I will be able to train enough for my next race - a 30K run on Feb. 15th.