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Date, Time, Currency Rate
Japan:
Monday, Apr 6, 2020, 12:31 AM
Central USA:
Sunday, Apr 5, 2020, 10:31 AM
Currency: 1 USD = 108.58 JPY

Japan Days

My Days in Japan

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Welcome to Japan-Days.info

On this web site, I will share with you some stories and pictures from the time when I lived in Japan as a member of the United States Air Force, and from various visits that my wife, Ritsuko, and I have made there since my departure from the military in 1978. I will add content to the site periodically in the "Articles" section, so please visit often. I hope that you enjoy the site.

News Feeds

News feed source: Japan Times National News
National – The Japan Times
News on Japan, Business News, Opinion, Sports, Entertainment and More

Tokyo’s COVID-19 count continues to soar with 143 new cases (news)
Mon, 06 Apr 2020 07:00:33 +0900

The daily figure sent Tokyo's total over the 1,000 line, heaping more pressure on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare a state of emergency.
Osaka detention officer in his 40s tests positive for coronavirus (news)
Mon, 06 Apr 2020 06:22:02 +0900

An officer at the Osaka Detention House has tested positive for COVID-19, the Justice Ministry announced Sunday.The officer, who is in his 40s, is the ...
Japanese government mulls ¥10,000 hike in monthly child allowance to ease coronavirus impact (news)
Mon, 06 Apr 2020 05:59:00 +0900

The government is in the final stages of talks on increasing Japan's monthly child allowance by ¥10,000 per head to support families hit by the ...
Abe nears decision on emergency declaration as Tokyo coronavirus cases surge (news)
Mon, 06 Apr 2020 05:39:00 +0900

One government source said it was "just a matter of time" before Abe declares a state of emergency," citing the growing number of infections in ...
Social media helps big wigs, entertainers weigh in on Abe’s response to pandemic (news)
Mon, 06 Apr 2020 03:20:00 +0900

The spike in infections is prompting celebrities and social media influencers to use the internet to push for decisive action to minimize social contact.
Japan on ‘brink of the brink,’ minister says as coronavirus death toll jumps (news)
Mon, 06 Apr 2020 02:30:00 +0900

The situation over the outbreak is becoming "very tense," economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said, referring to the possibility of the government declaring a state ...
Japanese news conferences illustrate government’s struggle to grasp social distancing (news)
Mon, 06 Apr 2020 02:02:00 +0900

With the pandemic showing no signs of abating, government and ministry officials are scrambling to rectify the high-risk nature of their news conferences.
Examining the legal definition of a virus (news)
Mon, 06 Apr 2020 00:30:00 +0900

Law enforcement agencies in Japan are struggling to define exactly what the new coronavirus is, and what it is not.
Japan Times 1945: U.S. forces launch Okinawa invasion (news)
Mon, 06 Apr 2020 00:20:00 +0900

U.S. forces landed on mainland Okinawa on April 1, 1945, beginning an 82-day battle that is considered to be one of the bloodiest in the ...

Travel to Japan

Post Date: April 6, 2017

"A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it." -- John Steinbeck

Late afternoon, April 15, 2016, after a 13 hour flight, Ritsuko and I arrived at Tokyo Narita Airport. With the flight from Chicago to Tokyo being the most arduous part of our journey, we were now very close to beginning of the fun part of our 2016 Japan trip. Clearing immigration and customs was quick and efficient, and we then had one more tedious task to complete before moving on to the city -- exchanging our rail pass vouchers.

2016 Rail Pass

2016 Japan Rail Pass

In the past, that had been a simple task, but this time, there was a line of people extending out of the Japan Railways office into the terminal. Making matters worse, the process had changed since our last visit, and the air conditioning in the JR office was not functioning properly. Dazed, confused, hot, and tired, we slowly moved forward. As we got closer to the counter, a group of young selfie stick toting jerks rushed to the head of the line, where their "place was being saved" by another in their group. Of course, these self indulgent twits all had to pose for selfies as they reached the head of the line, making the rest of us wait as they documented every mundane detail of their nitwit existence. Sensing my simmering discontent, Ritsuko gently squeezed my left arm. Other than issuing a muffled groan, I kept quiet, forced a smile, and waited patiently, as did the rest of the people in line while the noisy pack of self absorbed assholes ahead of us moved on through.

Upon receiving our rail passes, we proceeded to the airport terminal rail station, and boarded a JR Narita Express train for the 50 minute ride to Tokyo Station. By this time, we were pretty exhausted from traveling, and were in need of food and sleep. We sat near the rear of the car, and couldn't see much detail on the TV monitor on the forward bulkhead. It appeared to be news coverage of an earthquake somewhere. I figured that we would check into it later after we got settled in our hotel room.

By the time we reached Tokyo, it was early evening, and the station was a madhouse of activity. Pulling our bags behind us, we navigated through the crowds, finally exiting onto the street on the Yaesu side of the station. Our plan was to spend that night at the Hotel Ryumeikan, only a short walk from the station, and then return to the station at 6AM the next morning, and catch a Shinkansen to Osaka, where we would transfer to another Shinkansen that would take us to Kagoshima.

Tokyo Haneda Airport

Tokyo Haneda airport - our plane for Kagoshima

We were so tired by the time we got into our room, that all we wanted to do was sleep. I spent just a few minutes entering the WIFI ID and password for the pocket WIFI device that we had rented from Japan Wireless into our phones and laptop, then went to bed. Ritsuko was already asleep.

I woke up at about 1AM, and couldn't go back to sleep. I quietly turned on the laptop, so that I could check email, and have a look at what was going on in the world. The home page resolved to Google Japan, and I saw that the earthquake that had been reported on the news in the train was in Kumamoto, and it was a big one. The event would come to be known as the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes. People were dead, injured, and missing. Massive amounts of property damage had been reported, aftershocks were frequent, and all train service into and out of Kumamoto was suspended. The train that we had planned to take that morning goes through Kumamoto, so obviously, we needed to formulate a new plan.

I woke up Ritsuko, and told her what was happening. She made tea and coffee as I checked email. We had emails from my sister, and from some friends back home, who were worried that we might have been in the quake area. After answering all the emails, letting everyone know that we were OK, I went online, verified that train service into southern Kyushu was suspended, and booked a flight for later that morning out of Tokyo Haneda for Kagoshima.

Sakurajima from hotel window

View of Sakurajima from our room on the 14th floor of Hotel Solaria Nishitetsu in Kagoshima.

Prior to the opening of Narita airport in late 1978, Haneda was Tokyo International Airport. Since that time, it has been primarily used for domestic flights. I always thought the kanji for Haneda is really cool. 羽田 literally means wing field. In the 1970's, I drove there several times, and was always thankful that the kanji for Haneda was so descriptive, especially when driving in heavy fast moving traffic in the tunnels of the metro expressway. Fortunately, we did not have to drive that morning. After breakfast, we walked across the street to the station, boarded the Yamanote line for the 8 minute ride to Hamamatsucho, and then rode the Tokyo Monorail to Haneda Airport.

We had not flown on a domestic flight in Japan for 35 years, and this was a really pleasant experience, especially compared to domestic flights in the US. The flight was quick - about an hour and a half. Kagoshima airport is located in a rural area, and there is no train service, therefore we took a bus to Kagoshima city. After about 35 minutes we arrived at the bus Kagoshima bus terminal, which, coincidentally, is in the same building as the Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel.

This earthquake alert app helped us keep track of the aftershocks of the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake.

Solaria Nishitetsu is a really nice hotel. We had reserved a room on a high floor with a view of Sakurajima, the iconic active volcano that sits on an islet in Kagoshima Bay, and were given a room on the 14th floor with a perfect view. Of course, shortly after we got settled in the room, a big aftershock hit Kumamoto to the north, and our building swayed back and forth at an intensity sufficient to cause the blinds to bang against the window. Maybe this wasn't an ideal time and place to book a room with a view. My jokes about "isn't this a view to die for" kind of fell flat too.

I found a good earthquake alert app for our phones, and that helped us stay informed as to the location and intensity of the aftershocks that continued during our stay in Kagoshima. We stayed there for six days, during which we spent some time with members of Ritsuko's family who live in the area, and we also ventured out to see a few places that we had never visited.

After the first day, the damage reports became more disheartening as the aftershocks continued. The numbers of dead, injured, and missing continued to rise, and the affected area now extended into Oita Prefecture on the Pacific coast. Immediately, people in Kagoshima responded sending aid northward to help those displaced by the earthquakes. Students stood outside Kagoshima-Chuo station every day, tirelessly collecting money to help the earthquake victims. Collection cups were at supermarket checkout stands, convenience stores, and just about everywhere else. What the quake victims must have been experiencing was just unimaginable.

waiting in Kagoshima airport

Kagoshima Airport - waiting for our flight to Osaka

By now, all train and highway traffic was suspended going through a line from Kumamoto to Oita. We realized that we needed to reserve a flight for the next leg of our journey before all flights out of Kagoshima were booked. We were lucky to get tickets on a flight to Osaka for the day we had originally planned to leave. Fortunately, some of the airlines were adding flights to accommodate the increase in demand. Plan B would have been to book passage on a sea going ferry out of Kagoshima or Miyazaki to Hiroshima. That would have messed up our plan since we had hotel reservations in Kyoto for that night, but the ferry option does sound pretty cool. Maybe we will do that on another trip.

Every trip to this wonderful, fascinating country is different. Of course, it is always good to visit family, and it is always interesting to visit places of historical significance or places of inspiring beauty, but on this trip, the manner in which the people of Japan responded to a crisis affecting their countrymen was the inspiring beauty that touched me the most.

 | Published by: Japan Days  logo
 | Date Modified: October 15, 2019

Japan Culture

leaving Kyoto station

As the Shinkansen leaves Kyoto Station, it quickly accelerates. Watch the video to see from a passenger's POV.

Watch from the perspective of a passenger as this high speed Shinkansen leaves Kyoto Station, and accelerates rapidly.

Below is a short video clip that I shot from a train we were aboard when we traveled from Hiroshima to Tokyo during our 2012 trip. Sitting next to the window in the last row of seats in car 5, I shot this as we were leaving Kyoto Station. Immediately after leaving the city the train goes into a tunnel. The video will go dark, and then you can see the reflection of the interior of the car.

Notice the smoothness of the ride, and how quiet is the interior of the train. This is really a great way to travel.

Video shot from inside Shinkansen as it leaves Kyoto Station -- April 2012

waiting to board

Tokyo Station April 2012 -- Ritsuko with our luggage, waiting to board the 6:26AM train for Osaka, where we would transfer to another train bound for Kagoshima.

When Ritsuko and I go to Japan, we typically cover a lot of ground over the 2 to 3 week period of our trip, and in my opinion, the absolute best way to travel in country is by rail. Japan has a superb rail system. The larger cities have a network of commuter trains and subways; many rural areas have a combination of train and bus service. But, of course, the crown jewel of Japan's railway system is the high speed, comfortable, and reliable Shinkansen, also known as the "Bullet Train".

Tokyo Station - Model N700 Shinkansen

The first Shinkansen was a dream made into a reality under the leadership of Shinji Sogo, who was the fourth president of Japan National Railways in the 1950's and early 1960's. The initial plan was to upgrade train service on the Tokaido Line, utilizing a high speed train on a dedicated standard gauge track, with the goal of reducing travel time from Tokyo to Osaka to two hours. Put into service in 1964, the launch of the first train was to coincide with the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games, showing the world the remarkable extent to which Japan had recovered after WWII. However, political goals notwithstanding, the Shinkansen was the first move toward migrating Japan's rail system to standard gauge, and set a new standard for quality of service and safety for Japan's rail system.

Joetsu Shinkansen

E7 Series Shinkansen at Tokyo Station - service to Nagano

The model 0 had a top speed of 200km/hr. Today's model N700 runs at speeds of 240–320 km/h, and throughout the islands of Honshu and Kyushu, most major cities are linked by Shinkansen.

 | Published by: Japan Days  logo
 | Date Modified: October 1, 2019

My Air Force Days

Post Date: March 1, 2011

On a rainy day in 1974, I was on my way out to the flightline to work on the air sampling equipment in a WC-130 when I decided to take a camera with me. I doubt that I had any motivation for doing so other than wanting to take some pictures of en route aircraft. However, maybe, just maybe I thought that some day, far in the future, when I am much older and as gray as that monsoon sky, I might like to look at these pictures again, and imagine the feeling of the drizzling rain dripping off of my cap and gradually soaking into my fatigues, the sound of jet engines, and the smell of JP4.

Perhaps some of my comrades of the 610 Military Airlift Support Squadron will also enjoy these pictures, so here they are.

Looking toward the terminal, some of Lockheed's finest of the era - a line of T-Tails (C141's) and a FRED (C5A)

Yokota AB Flightline

Down the other way, more C141's, and more rain; you can barely see the tower

Yokota AB Flightline

Flight Crew boarding -- this one is ready to go

Yokota AB Flightline

Re-fueling an enroute C141 - this brings back memories of being on the Yokota Air Base Flightline in the 1970's - I love the smell of JP4!

Yokota AB Flightline

Here is where I was to work that day -- a Weather C130

I hope that you enjoyed the pictures.

 | Published by: Japan Days  logo
 | Date Modified: October 1, 2019
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