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Thursday, October 19, 2017

FABULOUS FALL FANTASY: Day 6--Nagoya to Tokyo

Another full breakfast at the Marriott Nagoya:


I didn't realize free beer came with the free breakfast.


My Shinkansen to Tokyo:


Hardly anyone on this train.

I've been through at least a hundred tunnels through six days of train traveling.  Pardon me, but I can't help but philosophically think about my Tunnel of Life, and whether I can aleady see the light:


Will I have a choice of tunnels?


Is this my light?


Or this?


Or this?


Any of those lights would omen well for me, as my current belief level is that it will be eternal gloom, or no light at the end.

With those thoughts, I did pass through Shibuya Station and had to go see Hachi (full name Hachiko, for which an entrance is named):


He's in the extreme left above almost covered by part of a tree:


Hachi is an Akita.  There is a 1987 Japanese film with Tatsuya Nakadai and a 2009 American version with Richard Gere.  Rotten Tomatoes audiences gave the former a 95% rating, and 84% to the latter.  I'll guarantee you'll stop by to pat Hachi after seeing either of these.

I thought about lunch, and was amused that I had not yet had even one meal in a restaurant for which I paid.  Among the executive clubs, free hotel breakfasts and train bentos, I have had no need to eat elsewhere.  I wanted Italian and looked at the board for the Top of Yebisu, the adjacent building.  At the very top, on the 39th floor was Boccacio.   Looking at the presentation, my sense was that this was one of those upper crust venues.   I glanced at myself with fake Croc slippers, and wondered if they would allow me in, as the Japanese are picky about these things.  Anyway, up I went and was somewhat stunned to see what looked like a fast-food establishment.  I can't imagine how they could pay the rent with such a great view.  I ordered a spaghetti agli olio with salad and red wine.  The efficiency was amazing.  Shame you can't see the view, but it was pouring rain.

The pasta was perfectly al dente, but the sauce was red....and outstanding.  Sometimes my lack of  understanding Japanese has benefits.  No tax, no tip and a cost of $15, about what the train bento meals cost me

Having had a real meal, back to the Tokyo Westin Executive Club for my dinner, where something has happened, for everything better.


That was good enough for me.  But I then noticed there was a sushi chef:


So I had two maguro (ahi, yellow-fin tuna) cone sushis with corn soup, beer and sake.  Fabulous.

I've been wavering whether to leave early or not for fear of Typhoon Lan.  I've never been in a hurricane before, and this might be my final chance to experience one in the safety of a sturdy hotel room.  However, if Lan ever gets up to Category 5 and rolls through Tokyo, who knows how long it will take to recover.  Hurricane Maria was only a Category 4 when she destroyed Puerto Rico.

Back into the Tokyo Westin, I chose safety, and worked out an arrangement to leave Tokyo on Sunday instead of Monday.  This was not a slam dunk effort.  It took two hours of negotiations with United, Thai and ANA, plus the Tokyo Westin and Sheraton Grand Sukhamvit.  All this was accomplished by Chiaki Matsuura, the concierge.  I could never have made these arrangements without her help.  Even under these emergency conditions, airlines still will charge you for any adjustment.

You want to know why I took the conservatively secure pathway?  I was caught at Narita Airport on 12March2011, the day after the cataclysmic Japan earthquake/tsunami/nuclear tragedy.  Read about my experience.  Also, if you're into disasters, here is my HuffPo on this event from which Japan will take a very long time to recover.  This could well have been one the longest Huffington Post articles ever published.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 160 to 23,158, another all-time record.  Go Trump!  I'm in the process of creating a Haiku involving appropriate personal orifices and Trump tweets.

Tomorrow, I'm off for Niigata.  Why?  Not sure.  But I have made reservations to dine at Robuchon's for dinner.  I can see that French mansion right below my room.

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If I had not made the adjustment, my encounter with Typhoon Lan would have been tense.  Analyzing current projections, just about when my plane was supposed to depart at 6:25PM on Monday, Lan is currently predicted to affect Tokyo :


While the current expectation is a weakening from Category 4 status, just think if Lan fools weather experts and slams into Tokyo as a Category 5.  The path is unusual, for rarely does a typhoon here maintain a track over water for landfall over Tokyo.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

FABULOUS FALL FANTASY: Day 5--Nagoya to Matsumoto

My morning at the Marriott Nagoya began with the usual enjoyable breakfast:


I then boarded the train to Matsumoto, a ride of two hours.  Along the way, the view included the Japanese Southern Alps and persimmon trees:


It's a 20-minute uphill hike from Matsumoto Station to Matsumoto Castle.  The weather was perfect for ideal.  The city has around a quarter million people.  On the walk up you could already see fall colors.  The Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival is held here annually in August.  The Saito Kinen Orchestra performs, with guests.

This is generally not widely known, but nine months before the Tokyo subway attack in 1995, the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult here practiced the release of sarin mainly to assassinate three judges who were overseeing a court case against them, killing eight and sickening 500 in Matsumoto.

At this point I was getting worried, for I had yet to see Pearl's Gold Koi.  As I was taking photo of fall leaves...


What a feeling of satisfaction.  However, she was again all alone, away from the crowd.

On the trip back I again purchased too much to eat:


That is a bag of crispy wasabi to the left.

Back at the Marriott, I was still filled from that lunch, so just had a small bite:


Not exactly exciting, but another fabulous fall day.  Tomorrow, back to Tokyo.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average again broke its all-time high, up 40 to 22,997.  Great for my endowments.

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Lan is now a typhoon, expected to attain at least Category 4 strength, and head straight for TOKYO!!!  


I am scheduled to depart for Bangkok on Monday, so should just about leave before the cataclysm.  However, I'd better look into leaving Tokyo on Sunday.  Why take a chance.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

FABULOUS FALL FANTASY: Day 4: Hokkaido to Nagoya

Here, in mid-October, I'm a week or two too early for the Fall Colors on Hokkaido.  Must be global warming.  Anyway, I Shinkansened from Hokkaido to Tokyo, via Hachinohe, then on to Nagoya.  From Hokkaido, I wanted to have something totally different.  In the history of humanity, no one has, in the same sitting, consumed corn chocolate, kakimochi/peanuts, crispy ika (squid--not the usual which sticks between your teeth), with shochu and red wine from Hokkaido.  


Then between Tokyo and Nagoya I went traditional, with beef over rice/onions, topped with fish eggs, and Kirin beer:


The combination of both was fabulous.

The Marriott Associa right over the Nagoya Station is now my favorite hotel in the world.  The convenience, cost, amenities, name it, this hotel deserves to be #1.  My room view from the 45th floor:


I asked the concierge, given two hours, what should I do?  She sent me to Noritake Gardens, a short walk from the station.  I ended up hiking 3 miles because I actually got lost, but the effort was educational.    Across the street was Nanzan.  Can't read the Japanese, but I wonder if this is related to Nanzan Giro Giro, the dinner venue with my neighbors for the Friday after I return to Honolulu?  Some architecture and art on the way there:


I finally found the garden, and halfway through, it occurred to me that this is the same Noritake that made plates my family used, or, more correctly, porcelain.  The company was founded in 1876 in Noritake, a suburb of Nagoya.  They now also make products for jet planes, golf clubs and you name it.


Strolling though the garden, chimney art, which will get more colorful over the next month:


There are various old brick buildings here and a peaceful fountain setting:


Of course, plates:



Those beer glasses cost $50 each.  I did buy something.  A device that makes spherical ice, for $5:


Oh, you get 10% off by making purchases here.

I got back to my room, took a long bath, and found my way to the executive club, which I would rate as better than the Tokyo Westin:


I got a nice window seat and a fine meal:


I skipped the desserts and ended up with:


Tomorrow, I'm off to Matsumoto to visit Pearl's Gold Koi.  This will be a stressful moment for me, as I once went back and did not see her at all.  However, when I do, this makes my entire trip successful.    

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But Tropical Storm Lan is now expected to reach at least Category 4 strength and head straight for Tokyo!!!  The current arrival date is around Monday or Tuesday, and I leave for Bangkok on Monday.  


This can't really be happening.  Must be a bad dream.  I wonder if I should try to leave on Sunday?

Oh, yes, there is that other ocean storm, Hurricane Ophelia, which struck Ireland:


Global warming?


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