Japan Trip-Monday June 4, 2012-End

I started the morning at 7 am with breakfast at the hotel with the Hyperflite Japan staff. Today, they were going to drive back to Tokyo, a 7-8 hour drive.

After breakfast Hiromi, Hiro, and I walked to the shopping district which wasn’t yet open and then on to a temple. The entrance wound from the shopping district, under the train station, and part-way up the mountain. Once at the temple, we washed our hands, donated some coins, and rang the bell to get the “gods” attention so that our wish would come true.

Then, back to the hotel and finally to the train station where we bid Hiromi a safe trip home. Hiro and I then proceeded to Kansai Airport by train, bus, boat, and bus. Hiro headed back to Tokyo while I was off to Seattle.

I exchanged all my Yen for Dollars and then I realized that I had five hours before my flight and it was lunchtime. I found a Chinese restaurant at the airport that accepted American Express, so it worked out, but couldn’t buy any drinks or snacks before boarding my flight home.

What a pleasure to find free wireless internet at the Kansai Airport.

While waiting for my flight in the gate area, a woman approached me with an iPad, said she was from the Japanese Tourist Office, and asked if she could ask me some questions. I said sure, so she went through her iPad with various travel questions: Where I stayed, How I got around, What I spent, etc. At the end of the questionnaire, she presented me with a business card with their new logo and a lapel pin.

My flight to Seattle, while bumpy at times, was uneventful with many open seats around me. Not surprisingly, Seattle had some rain.

We had a special flight attendant in the Comfort Economy section named Yvenette. She always had a smile on her face, went out of her way on several occasions (for example, bringing English newspapers to me), was very polite, and referred to me by name. At the end of the flight, she personally thanked me and presented me with a handwritten thank you.

“Mr. Bloeme:

I hope you had an enjoyable and comfortable flight. Thank you for your loyalty to Delta. I look forward to serving you again soon!”

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Japan Trip-Sunday June 3, 2012

We had a little rain today for the competition, but then it cleared up and got hot.

Everything ran smoothly, not a lot of competitors, but a reasonable turnout for a new Qualifier city and everyone seemed to have fun.

For dinner, Hiro led his staff and I towards the station to a typically small Japanese restaurant. This one was Korean style with a grill in the center of the table. Since there were seven of us, they added small addition to the table so we could all sit together.

This was not a meal that a vegetarian like Jeff would enjoy, or someone who was a finicky eater. Just so you know, I will pretty much try anything once…

For example, I never realized how many stomachs a cow can have. Or how many parts of a body of meat can be eaten. We had intestine, various stomachs, muscle, and tongue. I think there was some regular meat sprinkled in like pork and beef, and some raw cabbage, some picked cabbage (Kimache) noodles, and beer, but most of the food was a bit unusual.

There was some discussion of raw chicken, but I drew the line there (even after eating some raw egg), because of the years of hearing how dangerous it can be. Hiromi said that in the U.S. the time between killing and eating a chicken is longer than in Japan, that’s why it’s safer here which makes some sense, but none was ordered, so I didn’t have to give it a try.

Probably the most extreme item on the menu to me was raw horse mixed with some greens and a raw egg. I only managed one bite, but it was surprising tender.

Hiro left us to go back to the hotel after dinner while the rest of us went back to the City Hall observatory to get a view of Kobe at night from the 24th floor. Since the weather had cleared, it was a great view, both of the mountains and the harbor.

We could see Oktoberfest was still open, so we stopped there next and then back to the hotel for some sleep.

It’s morning now, I got up around 4:30 am to enjoy sunrise, and my stomach is still making strange sounds, probably trying to figure out what the heck I put in it the night before.

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Japan Trip-Saturay June 2, 2012

Now, that it’s time to work, I have a lot less to write about.

I did notice, for the first time, the bus stop out front of our hotel. Seems like there are a lot of things in Japan that are the opposite from that in the U.S. For example, driving on the other side of the road, emergency number being 119, and the way the bus stop is situated. The back of the bus stop and bench are on the street side which makes sense from a space planning viewpoint. It doesn’t take as much space from the sidewalk as ours do, but it makes it more difficult to see a bus approaching.

Held three clinics at Fruit and Flower Park in Kobe (about 45 minutes from the hotel), each about an hour long. Each participant had different needs and desires: two Border Collies and one Jack Russell Terrier.

Met some old disc dog friends and Hiro, Hiromi, and I had lunch at the park with two of them.

Then, went and visited a Sake Factory. Unfortunately, they weren’t holding tours this time of year, so we were only able to see some old video, along with poking around their small museum. The one fact I was able to gleam through the visit was that there was an awful large amount of hand labor in the old days. It made me tired and sore, just watching it. I suspect that in this era, that it is far easier work than in the past.

I thought I’d pick up a bottle of Japanese Whisky, so we stopped at a liquor store. It was overwhelming all the choices. I ended up with a small bottle of Suntory Whisky 43, with a proof of 86. Have no idea what to expect from it.

We ended the day with a staff dinner at a nearby restaurant.

While I was nodding out in the room around 8:30 pm, I managed to stay awake until 9:45 pm.

Then, I first woke up at 2 am, then, 3 am, and finally dragged myself out of bed around 4 am.

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Japan Trip-Friday, June 1, 2012

What an interesting day of touristing and photography…

Breakfast was included in the price of the room, a la Stateside hotel like Holiday Inn Express. The difference is that the food here is much healthier. The Hotel 1-2-3 breakfast offerings included scrambled eggs, sausages, plain yogurt with blueberry sauce that you could add to taste, broccoli, croissants, toast, rice porridge, miso soup, milk, juice, coffee, and tea. I’m sure I forgot some things too. Not bad for an included meal.

As if that wasn’t enough, we walked to the train station and had a freshly made Nikuman (pork bun) and stopped next door in the tourist information center and picked up a bunch of maps and literature on the various sites in Kobe.

Then, a short walk to the government center building where we took an elevator to the free observatory on the 24th floor. The building is about 28 years old, survived the deadly Kobe earthquake about 19 years ago, and looks new on the outside (not so new on the inside). From the observatory you can see panoramas of the city in two directions: the harbor and the mountains.

We noticed a park nearby with several huge tents and lots of tables. The observatory guide told us it was for a German Festival (Oktoberfest), set to run for the next ten days and opening today at 12 pm.

So, on the way back to the hotel to meet Hiro, we stopped there to look around. Huge booths to sell beer, sausages, and other food. It was hard for me to imagine the Japanese people showing up in droves for it, but later I discovered how wrong I was…

Back to the hotel to meet Hiro. While waiting we looked through the literature we picked up to learn more about the city.

Apparently Hiro’s wife was born in Osaka and he worked in Kobe for three years, so he knows his way around very well.

We started with a walk to the train station, doesn’t everything… Then, into a nearby department store, and up to the top floor where a bunch of restaurants are located. We ate at a Shabu Shabu restaurant. They kept bring food to us until we were stuffed.

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Japan Trip-Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sunrise is at 4:30 am in Japan versus 6:30 am in Atlanta. Fortunately, they have special shades at the hotel and I was able to go back to sleep until 5:30 am. Breakfast starts at 6:30 am, so I’ll get that out of the way shortly.

Made it downstairs by 6:20 am and there was already a good sized crowd waiting to eat. Once they opened the doors, everyone flooded in.
The breakfast was included in the room charge and it was served buffet style, commonly referred to in Japan as Viking style. I don’t know why they call it Viking style other than maybe it is so big that you have to be a Viking to eat it. The price listed on the menu was $20 plus a service charge or about $23 total (roughly with the exchange rate).

Anyway, I’m stuffed as I had to try most of it. The one thing I did not try was the Natto (some sort of bean paste which has a horrible smell and is very stringy). I remember that nasty stuff from my first trip to Japan and always manage to stay away from it.

I had, in no particular order, orange juice, corn flakes, salad, croissants with strawberry jam, miso soup, bread pudding, scrambled eggs, bacon, and vegetables. Very tasty.

Hiromi, a long time friend and interpreter, met me right after 11 am in the hotel lobby. From there we walked over to the airport where we purchased tickets for the trip to Kobe which was quite the adventure. Reminded me of the movie title: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

We started with taking a bus, then a sea shuttle, another bus, monorail, and finally a cab ride to the hotel in Kobe. And, the cab driver wasn’t happy with us because, while I loaded and unloaded the bags for him, the distance from the train station to the hotel was short.

While the hotel is sized and priced like a typical “Business Hotel,” it’s got a cool exterior and lobby. The most important thing is it’s clean and has an internet connection. It doesn’t bother me, because size doesn’t matter, but the room is very small. Surprisingly, the bed is queen-sized. How small is the room, you might ask? Small enough that it was difficult to find a location, other than the bed, to open my suitcase. I ended up putting it half in the entranceway and half in the room. And, the bathroom, including the bathtub, is only slightly larger than the toilet on the airplane. No joke.

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