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.
Size is relative. Good news out of the Nestlé Japan camp: due to popular demand they have revised their line of “mini” sized bars to be about 17 percent larger. The changes went into effect on 13 September and affect the mini-sized Regular, Adult Sweetness, Adult Sweetness Rich Green Tea, and new Graham Cracker flavors. ▼ Boy […]Major retailer Aeon may have won Japan’s Best Home Senbero (Japan) Sun, 26 Sep 2021 15:00:41 +0000
However, it was only a temporary victory. For longer than he can remember, Mr. Sato has been tirelessly searching for the best home senbero in Japan. “Senbero” is the Japanese term for a set of food and alcohol that will only set you back about 1,000 yen ($9.13) before taxes, but still get you buzzed. […]Mos Burger’s new “Focaccia Sand” surprises us with its long sausage (Japan) Sun, 26 Sep 2021 13:00:45 +0000
Join us as we find the answer to the question “what the heck does glamping sauce really taste like?” On 22 September, Japanese fast food chain Mos Burger released a mouthful of a sandwich that came with a mouthful of a name. The Focaccia Sandwich Horseshoe Sausage & Glamping Sauce marked the return of the focaccia […]Survey reveals Japan’s Generation Z dresses for social media, not for self-expression (Japan) Sun, 26 Sep 2021 09:00:57 +0000
Brands are out, coordinating how you look with what you’re doing is in. A recent survey by Shibuya 109 Lab, a youth marketing research company associated with the Tokyo fashion shopping center of the same name, recently asked 205 people in Generation Z about their fashion choices. 85 young men and 120 young women between […]Japanese ramen chain has some hidden treats on the menu (Japan) Sun, 26 Sep 2021 05:00:27 +0000
A new way to enjoy your gyoza and ramen. One thing we’ve learned since eating at Japanese ramen chain Kourakuen is that it’s always worth checking the menu when you visit. That’s where you’ll find limited-edition specials like chocolate ramen, and that’s where we found out, more recently, that they’ve now got a range of […]Disgraced YouTuber Hezumaryu to run in next Japanese national election (Japan) Sat, 25 Sep 2021 23:30:58 +0000
First, take a moment to consider what it must take to become a “disgraced YouTuber.” Gather round young and old, for it’s time to hear the tale of Hezumaryu and his two-year journey from Internet cause célèbre to aspiring politician. Born Masahiro Harada in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Hezumaryu showed promise as a wrestler in high school […]Flight out of Narita Airport delayed because of a turtle on the runway (Japan) Sat, 25 Sep 2021 16:00:28 +0000
JR East representatives say change of plans is due to “lack of societal consent”. In light of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, major train company JR East upped their security game by installing facial recognition cameras at stations in an attempt to curb possible terrorism attacks. Using their database of images collected from JR East station surveillance […]
One evening during our 2016 Japan trip, Ritsuko and I were shopping in the Akihabara district of Tokyo, and decided to stop in a restaurant near Akihabara Station for a quick snack before moving on.
Near Akihabara Station - Draft Beer Vending Machine
The chilled mug is tipped for pouring, and changes angle as the beer is dispensed.
Foam is added to form the perfect head.
In that restaurant, we saw the most marvelous of mechanical contraptions -- a draft beer vending machine. Ok, I must admit that I don't get out much, and that I am easily amused and entertained, but I thought this was just a great invention, and oh so practical. For ¥300, this machine, which is even equipped with a chiller in the lower part of the cabinet for glass mugs, pours a perfect mug of beer for the customer.
In the video below, Ritsuko demonstrates how it works:
Video of Ritsuko demonstrating the operation of a draft beer vending machine in a restaurant near Akihabara Station
We were each planning to drink just one glass of beer with our ramen, but watching the machine go through its paces was so entertaining that we each had to buy another round, just so we could watch the it run a couple more cycles.
In Japan, automated conveniences like vending machines are like a cultural and industrial art form, and this draft beer vending machine is truly a work of art.
Draft beer, perfectly poured into a chilled mug -- automation nirvana
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
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.
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.
I was going through some boxes of old pictures and slides, when I came upon a small box full of 8mm movie films. And no, they weren't the "training films" that used to sometimes surface on poker nights at Yokota. These were movies that I shot with my Canon 814 Super 8 movie camera back in the early to mid 1970's.
In that box, one was labeled WB57 taxi. I had not thought about having made that film for many years. Thinking back to the early part of my Yokota tour, I remembered shooting a short clip one winter day, I think it was in Dec 1973, or possibly January 1974, of a WB-57F taxiing on the parking ramp toward the runway.
I was standing on the wing of a WC-135, working on a U-1 foil, and luckily, I had taken my movie camera onto the aircraft with me that day. When I noticed that the B57's engines were starting, I ducked inside the aircraft, grabbed my camera, and went back out on the wing to get ready to film. As you can see in the video, standing on the wing of the 135 was the perfect vantage point from which to shoot. Unfortunately, I only had enough film left in the camera to shoot part of the taxi, and didn't have an extra film cassette to film the takeoff. Anyway, I am very happy to have taken the movie that day. I just had the super 8 converted to digital so that I could enjoy watching it in a more convenient format, and so that I could share it via this website.
Notice how low the wing tips are; the airplane must have had a full load of fuel. It looks like the left wing tip almost clips a snow bank as the plane rolls by.
Here are a couple of images that I captured from the video.
This is a WB-57F high altitude reconnaissance plane taxiing toward the runway at Yokota Air Base in 1973
Another view - WB-57F Yokota AB
WB57F P-systems and spheres in the Yokota AB MET/ARE shop
The WB-57F was a pretty amazing aircraft. It had a wing span that was almost twice the fuselage length, and was powered by two TF-33 fan jet engines (sometimes two smaller J-60 engines were mounted outboard of the main engines). The aircraft had a ceiling altitude of about 80,000ft. Although it could be equipped with a variety of special equipment, the standard configuration consisted of a B400 detection unit, an I-2 foil and single U-1 foil for particulate air sampling, and a P-system, which consisted of two platforms mounted in the nose. Each P-system platform, several of which are on the floor in the picture on the left, had two compressors, and held four 900 cu in steel spheres that could be pressurized to 3000psi. This equipment was the basic gear used to sample debris from nuclear tests performed, at that time, primarily by our cold war adversaries, USSR and China.
Prior to my tour at Yokota, these aircraft had been assigned to the 56th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. After the 56th WRS was deactivated, 9th Weather Reconnaissance Wing left an operational detachment there, to which was assigned 3 of these aircraft along with the flight crews and necessary operational staff. Maintenance personnel, including MET/ARE were re-assigned to the 610 MASS.
I don't remember exactly when the 9th Weather Wing detachment was de-activated, and the aircraft left Yokota, but I think that it was very late 1974 or early 1975. That was the end of my experience supporting these unique aircraft.
The last news article that I read about the WB-57F was from about 4 years ago in a piece that discussed an operation in Afghanistan run by NASA utilizing the last two remaining operational WB-57F's as a platform for a highly specialized communications system. It was good to know that a couple of them were still flying high.