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Date, Time, Currency Rate
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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. As you browse the site, please note that clicking on any of the images will enable you to see an enlargement of the picture, clicking on it again will take it back to original size. Also, many words are highlighted to show the availability of a tooltip, which will provide you with more information about the word, and are invoked by hovering the mouse pointer over it.

I will add content to the site periodically, so please visit often.

News Feeds

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Bringing you yesterday's news from Japan and Asia, today.

Lush x Super Mario Bros. Movie collaboration is filled with surprises for Nintendo fans (Japan)
Fri, 24 Mar 2023 17:30:05 +0000

Slather your body in Mario and Luigi and immerse yourself in the game world…literally! When you think about anime or game-related goods, you might think the best place to get them is in Japan. While you’d be right most of the time, that isn’t the case with the latest round of limited-edition Mario Bros. goods, because […]
Starbucks adds a Snoopy Frappuccino and Charlie Brown cappuccino to its menu in Japan! (Japan)
Fri, 24 Mar 2023 15:00:50 +0000

Plus a slew of new Peanuts goods, American waffles, and a Sally Brown mocha, only for a limited time. Just the other day, Starbucks revealed it would be collaborating with Peanuts for a second range of goods to follow up on its popular debut collection from last year. At the same time, they teased that […]
Kyoto to introduce “empty home tax” for vacation houses and unused homes (Japan)
Fri, 24 Mar 2023 13:00:41 +0000

First-of-its-kind tax would bring in nearly one billion yen, but government says it’s not about the money. Temples and shrines are the first things that spring to mind when most people think of Kyoto, and in some parts of the city it feels like there’s a beautiful structure of historical significance on almost every block. […]
Ash’s Japanese voice actress nails Pokémon anime theme one last time before retiring from role【Vid】 (Japan)
Fri, 24 Mar 2023 05:30:31 +0000

Get ready to cheer and cry some big ‘ol Poké-tears as Rika Matsumoto aims to be a Pokémon master one last time. “OK, let’s have some fun,” says Rika Matsumoto as she puts on her headset and walks up to the mic. And it’s only fair that Matsumoto get to enjoy herself, because she’s been […]
McDonald’s Japan’s new daifuku pie: Is it as good as the Japanese sweet that inspired it? (Japan)
Fri, 24 Mar 2023 03:45:07 +0000

A limited-edition pie created specially for sakura season.  McDonald’s might be famous for its hot apple pies — with hot being the operative word — but here in Japan, the chain has been switching things up with some limited-edition varieties, and the latest is one of its most Japanese ever: the Strawberry Daifuku Pie. Known in […]
Travel secrets: East Japan’s own Monet Pond and Kiyomizu in Tochigi【Photos】 (Japan)
Fri, 24 Mar 2023 01:40:08 +0000

It’s a long walk up the mountain, but they’re worth it. Claude Monet was well known for his appreciation of the art and aesthetics of Japan. That admiration is mutual, with the French impressionist being one of Japan’s favorite foreign painters, so much so that there’s a beautiful body of water in Tochigi Prefecture that’s […]
We try an easy, cheesy, Italian-inspired camp meal using instant noodles【Recipe】 (Japan)
Thu, 23 Mar 2023 17:30:36 +0000

We might not wait to go camping to make this again! We’ve made a lot of camp food here at SoraNews24, but we have to say that the most recent dish we made is one of the best yet. In fact, it’s a perfect heart meal to serve not only while camping or at a […]
Ito En releases drinkable cold ramen in Japan (Japan)
Thu, 23 Mar 2023 15:00:11 +0000

Green tea specialists want us to drink spicy reimen this summer.  In Japan, and many other parts of the world, Ito En is known for its bottled green tea, but now the famous beverage manufacturer is testing the waters with a new product — drinkable ramen. Called Nomu Fururu Reimen (“Drinkable Fururu Reimen”) this new canned drink […]
Japan’s first made-to-order natto store will make you fermented beans without the putrid smell (Japan)
Thu, 23 Mar 2023 13:00:14 +0000

Could this be the answer that all natto-nay sayers have been searching for? Out of all the traditional food that Japan has to offer, you’ll struggle to find one that’s more divisive than natto, or fermented soy beans. Natto has a reputation of being notoriously despised by foreigners, due in large part to its distinctive […]
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Thu, 23 Mar 2023 05:00:24 +0000

Handwritten note from a Japanese granddad turns out to be heartwarming…and strangely heartbreaking at the same time. You can find some weird things inside Japan’s gacha capsule toy machines, and some of the weirdest collections we’ve come across don’t even contain toys at all. Instead, these collections contain items of a more personal nature, like […]

Travel to Japan

Post Date: March 28, 2008

In February 2005, Ritsuko and I traveled to Japan. We covered a lot of ground in the two weeks that we were there.

Leaving home at 6am, we flew to Chicago O'Hare, where we caught a non-stop, 13 hour flight to Tokyo Narita airport. Immediately upon landing in Tokyo, we took a train from Narita airport to Tokyo station, where we caught the last Shinkansen that would get us all the way down to Okayama in time to catch a sleeper train that slowly traveled through western Honshu and along the Pacific coast of Kyushu. Early in the morning, we had just about enough of the sleeper train, and got off in Oita, where we had breakfast, and caught a limited express to Miyazaki.

Ritsuko on train to Miyazaki

Here is Ritsuko, on the train from Oita to Miyazaki; both of us were quite exhausted from traveling all night.

She was looking out at the beautiful, mountainous Pacific coast near Oita


After a couple more train changes from Miyazaki, that took us through the mountains and over the Ebino plateau from Miyazaki prefecture into Kagoshima Prefecture, we finally got to Ritsuko's mother's house late that afternoon. The next morning, I got up early and walked about, taking some pictures, reminiscing over the times that I had been there over the past 30 years.


Down the hill from Ritsuko's mom's house, I took this pic of Kirishima in the distance.


From the levee of the Sendai River, I took this pic of Ritsuko's junior high school.


We spent several days at Ritsuko's mother's house, and had a big family reunion. It was a wonderful time, and we were all so happy to be able to visit with Ritsuko's family, most of whom we had not seen for 14 years.

When we left, we traveled by train to Kagoshima city, then north to Hakata, where we caught a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka.


Hakata station -- a train approaching on the opposite track


The train that will take us to Osaka approaches


In Osaka, we stopped overnight to spend some more time with Ritsuko's younger brother and his family. The next morning Ritsuko and I went with Hiroaki and his daughter, Ai, to nearby Kyoto, where we spent the day.

Although we had passed through Kyoto on the bullet train numerous times in the past 30 years, we hadn't spent any time there since 1975. Richly historic Kyoto, the ancient capital, is the home of many ancient temples and shrines that are juxtaposed with modern buildings.


A street in Kyoto.

That afternoon, Aki and Ai took us to Kyoto station, where we said our goodbyes, and boarded a train for Tokyo, where we would stay for the last 5 days of our trip.

Tokyo is without a doubt one of my favorite cities in the world. It is such a fascinating, vibrant city. From 1973 to 1978, I was stationed at Yokota Air Base which is located in the western part of Tokyo prefecture. Ritsuko and I met in late 1974, and were married in April 1975, so the first 3 years of our lives together were spent there. Wherever we go in or around the city, the things that we see evoke many fond memories.

Shortly after we arrived in Tokyo, Ritsuko came down with the flu, so she spent most of the next few days in the hotel room, in bed, trying to recover. Most of my outings during that time, were on my own. One day, I decided to take a side trip to Fussa, the city where Yokota Air Base is located. You can read about it in another article that I posted on this site.

Fortunately, Ritsuko was able to venture out a couple of times, albeit briefly. One outing was to Harajuku and Meiji Shrine.


Harajuku -- the fashion district, Takeshita street on a Sunday afternoon

Takeshita Street, back in the 1970's, was a back alley full of stores with cutting edge fashion from up and coming designers. Ritsuko and I used to go there so that she could shop for clothes. I just went there to watch people. It was really fun. There were a lot of bargains, and Ritsuko could find all sorts of unique clothing. It was very affordable, even for an Air Force Staff Sergeant and a Seiyu department store information counter girl.

Now, the street is a mecca for tourists and locals. Maybe it is because we are no longer in our 20's, but the stores seem a little less inviting, and there are more chain outlets. Such is progress, I suppose. Harajuku is still a fascinating place, and I still love to go there, but I am really happy with our memories of what it was like years ago.


Posing with a couple of Harajuku cosplay girls.


Ritsuko always loved Harajuku -- she is enjoying the cosplay show!!!

An iconic phenomenon of the Harajuku street culture is cosplay, or costume play. On Sunday afternoons, young girls gather at the entrance to Meiji Shrine, just outside of Harajuku Station, to display their costumes. It is pretty much a party atmosphere, with street musicians, cosplay girls, and many curious onlookers.

We spent the rest of that afternoon nearby, touring the grounds of Meiji Shrine. The visitors to the shrine that day were sparse, but I could recall walking the same path on several occasions of New Year's Eve, when the crowds were crushing, and one could only go with the flow of the crowd to and through the Shrine.


Entrance to the grounds of Meiji Shrine.


The Shrine.

As darkness began to fall upon the city, we left Harajuku, and took a short train ride to Shinjuku to see the neon lights, large video displays, and the crowds outside the station at night.


Outside Shinjuku station at night

Outside the station near the Kabukicho district, a band played in the shadows, illuminated only by the neon and large video displays of the buildings across the street.

As I mentioned earlier, for the next few days I was on my own, as Ritsuko stayed in our hotel room, suffering with the flu, trying to recover sufficiently so that she could make the trip home. One day, I went to the Ginza early in the morning, home of some of the most expensive real estate in the world.


Ginza on a Monday morning

Later I took the Ginza Line Metro subway to Meijijingumae station, and walked through Yoyogi Park and the site of the 1964 Olympics. Then I walked to Shinjuku, had lunch, and then hopped on a train and went back to Asakusa to see how Ritsuko was doing.

Even though Ritsuko was unable to enjoy our last couple of days in Tokyo, overall it was a great trip. I only hope that the next time we go, that both of us are able to remain healthy for the entire vacation so that we can fully enjoy all of our days in Japan.

 | Published by: Japan Days  logo
 | Date Modified: January 20, 2023

Japan Culture

Post Date: August 11, 2019

"Be like a train; go in the rain, go in the sun, go in the storm, go in the dark tunnels! Be like a train; concentrate on your road and go with no hesitation! " --Mehmet Murat ildan

Kyoto Railway Museum Entrance

During the Kyoto leg of our 2017 spring trip to Japan, one of our goals was to visit the Kyoto Railway Museum. During our 2016 visit to Kyoto, we had missed the opening of the museum by just a few days, and we were determined to go there during this trip.

On the morning of our visit, the sky was cloudy, and a fine mist fell on us intermittently as we walked from Kyoto Station. In retrospect, it would have been easier to ride one of the frequently scheduled busses from the station, but once afoot, we were committed. We arrived at the museum entrance a few minutes before opening, and took our place in a rapidly growing line of visitors, among whom was an adorable group of early grade elementary school students, replete with backpacks, water bottles, and really spiffy uniforms, assembled in formation next to the entrance queue.

The children were all beaming with excitement and anticipation, and it is no wonder. Aside from containing an impressive collection of historic and modern trains, a lot of exhibits in the museum were made for the participation of children of all ages.

Type 230, s/n 233; the oldest existing production model steam locomotive in the English style manufactured in Japan; manufactured in 1903 by Kisha Seizo.

First Japan manufactured large electric locomotive EF52

Kyoto Railway Museum main floor; left to right: Shinkansen 500 series, Kuhane, and Raicho limited express trains.

Ritsuko standing in front of a Shinkansen Model "0"

Inside the Shinkansen Model 0 "ordinary" class passenger car

Inside the Shinkansen Model 0 Green Car "first class passenger car"

On the main floor, a very popular exhibit was a pedal powered rail inspection car. The seat height was set for children, therefore most adults who tried it struggled (personal experience). Another popular group of exhibits were the simulators, where people could simulate driving trains or operating various control consoles. But for me, the ultimate participatory exhibit was the steam locomotive train that visitors to the museum could ride.

The appeal of the museum exhibits is quite broad, and I think that anyone with an interest in trains or in the history of Japan should visit this museum if ever in Kyoto. It contains a really impressive collection of trains, railway equipment, and timeline exhibits arranged in the huge, three floor main hall and in the adjacent locomotive roundhouse in such a way that graphically illustrates the amazing history of rail in Japan, from its beginning during the Meiji Period to the present.

An exhibit, or series of exhibits, that really resonated with me were those showcasing the first generation Shinkansen, the Model 0, that was put into service in 1964 on the new Tokaido Shinkansen Line with service between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka. When I lived in Japan in the early to mid 1970's, the Model 0 was still in service. Looking at the dining car, and the various types of passenger cars, certainly evoked memories of that era.

The first time I rode in a Shinkansen was in the early summer of 1974, when I traveled with some of my Air Force buddies to Shimoda for a weekend beach outing, opting to ride a "bullet train" the short distance from Tokyo Station to Atami. It was the first time for most of us to board one of the sleek super fast trains. I remember at that time, admiring not only the ultra smooth ride while traveling faster than any other train in the world, but also the simple elegance and cleverly designed functionality of the passenger car interiors. It would have been impossible for me to imagine at the time how the Shinkansen would evolve, but 45 years, several train model generations, and thousands of miles of traveling via Shinkansen, I still marvel at the simple elegance, functionality, and beauty of these incredible trains whenever I ride in or even see a Shinkansen.

Seeing how far the rail transportation has developed in Japan since its humble beginning in 1872 to the most comprehensive and advanced railway system of any country in the world, one might ask, "What could possibly be next?"

Kyoto Railway Museum locomotive roundhouse

In the next decade, we should see the opening of the Chuo Shinkansen, providing Maglev service between Tokyo's Shinagawa Station and Nagoya, and then eventually Osaka. Maglev trains have been under development in Japan for decades, and working test models of the trains have set world speed records, with a L0 Series train reaching a speed of 603 km/h (375 mph) during a manned test in April 2015.

The history of railways in Japan is an amazing story. It is an integral part of the incredible transformation of Japan from a feudal society in peril from imperial encroachment by the superpowers of the mid 19th century world to an industrialized empire in the late 19th through mid 20th centuries, and then emerging from the ashes of World War II to become a modern standard for advanced technical innovation and for excellence is providing an intricate infrastructure that well serves its population. The Kyoto Railway Museum, in my opinion, does a superb job of presenting that story.

 | Published by: Japan Days  logo
 | Date Modified: July 17, 2022

My Air Force Days

Post Date: February 6, 2021

"With luck, it might even snow for us." -- Haruki Murakami, from After Dark

I am sitting in our home in Iowa on a cold and snowy day in early February 2021, warmed by the glow of my computer screen. I am doing so because events from earlier today provided me with ample inspiration and motivation to sit down and write this article. Reminiscing about a time long ago, I had gone searching through a box of old slides and negatives, and found pictures from a day in what had to have been about the same time of year as now, 46 years ago, on a cold and snowy day in Fussa Japan.

In early January, 1975, Ritsuko and I began our lives together by renting a tiny apartment in Fussa city, about 3 blocks from the east entrance to the train station. The flat consisted of a single 6 tatami mat room for living and sleeping, a toilet (fortunately a western style flushing type), and a minuscule kitchen. To bathe, we walked a block down the street to the neighborhood Sentō. It was a magical time; we have many fond memories of the few months that we spent living in that diminutive abode. However, after the passage of more than four decades, recalling the details of those memories often requires some discussion between us in order to reach a collaborative agreement on their accuracy.

While neither of us remember very many details from that day, looking at the pictures, we came to an agreement that the morning must have progressed something like this:

Ritsuko was enjoying her morning coffee.

snow outside our window

Looking out our window, we could see that there was a lot of snow. Fortunately, neither of us had to go anywhere that morning.

Ritsuko was content to settle down to work on one of her many projects. That day she was probably working on the hideously detailed USFJ Form 196EJ, a six page document via which she was to list her personal history, in Japanese and English. It was required to be submitted in 6 copies (all original; no photocopies allowed) as part of the package of official documents that we had to submit in order for us to receive permission from the US Air Force to marry.

getting ready to go

As much as I wanted her to finish the "permission to marry" forms, I couldn't resist being a bad influence that morning by convincing her join me for a walk outside in the snow. Ritsuko agreed; there were just a few last minute details to take care of before going out in public.

Outside, and we're off for a walk in the neighborhood. Wow, there is a lot of snow.

snow east side of Seiyu

There aren't many automobiles on the streets this morning.

Evidently, this was not a snow day off for the school children.

people headed to work

Not a snow day off for most people. Slogging through the snow, it's on to work.

Business owners prepare to open shop.

slippery sloppy day

Life goes on, even on a day of slippery, sloppy weather.

Ritsuko says this has been fun, but it is time to go back home.

snow people

Later that morning, we went back outside and Ritsuko built a snow man, a rather portly fellow evidently adorned with some sort of Heian Period head gear. Nice bit of detail, my dear. That blob of snow with two orbs of snow attached haphazardly and standing next to her snow man, is my feeble attempt at sculpting a snow woman. Obviously neither of us were invited to compete in the Sapporo Snow Festival that year.

After we built the "snow people", Ritsuko wrestled the camera away from me therefore I will add ...

That's all for now. I hope that you all enjoyed stepping back into the past with us.

 | Published by: Japan Days  logo
 | Date Modified: December 23, 2022