Japan quakes. Japan shrugs.

Not long after leaving Japan, I read in the Russian press that there’d just been an earthquake there causing several deaths and a ‘transportation collapse’! Oh my Geiger, I thought, and quickly looked for more details on other sites on the web. Well, sadly they were right about the deaths – a few dozen, but ‘transportation collapse’? The earthquake was registered as a 6 on the moment magnitude scale. Sure, it gives everything a real good shake – but it doesn’t knock you, the dog, or the furniture over.

And ‘trains grinding to a halt’ (the article went on)? Of course they did; they’re meant to: special systems are installed on all the railroads to make the trains do just that! And besides, in Japan, there’s a magical 15-20-second warning sent out to all cellphones before an earthquake hits! How on earth that is possible I have no idea, but it sure is massively helpful. I’ve seen it for myself (back in 2011): we were in a car and a local’s mobile emitted a warning signal (so we quickly pulled up), and 15 seconds later the lampposts and traffic-lights started shaking along the road (it turned out it was aftershocks of the (9-magnitude) 2011 earthquake).

In Japan, all buildings, all roads, all bridges, all towers, all infrastructure – it’s all designed and built specially so as to withstand strong earthquakes. Even a 9-magnitude quake damages very little at all! So magnitude-6? You can work that one out yourselves ).

Sure, there’s rail disruption. Sure, the airports aren’t firing on all cylinders. But that’s it. And after a while – everything automatically starts to move and fly again. Japan is quite ready for earthquakes; it has to be.

Ok. That’s enough about earthquakes…

So, anyway… What were we doing in Japan in the first place? A few things; one of them – attending Interop in Chiba (near Tokyo):

Read on: all here!…

Hakon ryokan: fairly rocking.

Konichiwa folks!

Here I am, back in one of my fave countries – Japan. The work ethic here is really quite extraordinary: they work a lot, then some more, then more, and then even more. Thankfully, they also know how to unwind of a weekend, which is what we needed to do after our long trip getting here. So off we popped – out of the big city and up into the mountains – to a ryokan with an onsen in the village of Hakon.

Never been to Japan? You really must one day.

Read on…

Tokyo rain season, a tectonic query, Russian vastness, and a non-stop sunset!

June in Tokyo is rain season.

We’d been warned, and figured we’d pack a brolly in our suitcases and would be sorted, but… oh my gush! I was not expecting it to be raining cats and dogs non-stop all day and night without letting up for a minute.

As ever, we were here on business, and, as ever, I needed my mandatory portion of tourism. But there was no chance of that with all the incessant torrential rain. Oh my grrrr.

Thankfully, we did get some Japanese rest and relaxation in before the rain began. We drove somewhere in the direction of Hakone, holed ourselves up in a ryokan, and immersed our travel-weary bodies in the onsen waters. Add to that a steady flow of Kirin and Sapporo, and later into the evening a few drams of both hot and cold sake (and Hibiki too) with a delightful nectarine chaser, and it all added up to wonderful way to wind down. But I’ll tell you more about that in another post.

Back to today (a few days ago). Mercifully it was weekday, so we didn’t really mind the rain.

Read on: about Hawaii …

Northern slopes of mountainous beauty.

Salaam Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and we’re headed to another splendid location. But can you guess it?…

It’s a place that’s practically unguessable to non-locals, even those adept at advanced internet searching. For this is a place that’s off the touristy-internety-beaten-track. Which is surprising really, since it’s so picturesque: mountains, gorges, glaciers, waterfalls… – and no tourists getting in the way :).

Read on…

Bukhara history, legends – and pics.

Bukhara, Uzbekistan, is one of the oldest cities in the world. Estimated to have been founded more than 2500 years ago, it can compete even with Rome due to its lengthy history. It’s of course a lot older than Paris or London, and about three times as old as Moscow. There aren’t many cities that come close to Bukhara in terms of age, and also former significance – since it was one of the main trading hubs along the Silk Road.

You can read all about facts and figures of this delightful ancient city on the net. Here though, I’ll go through what remains in my memory from what we were told by our guide, adding just bits from the www to fill in any gaps.

Read on: Basics, science and art…

Hamburg mini-wonderland.

Hi boys and girls!

Herewith, my next dispatch from Hamburg – and another delightful tourist attraction.

If you’ve never been to this northern part of Germany, or never really planned on doing so, well, I’ll bet many of you, after reading this post, will want to get here asap and spend a whole day, as we did, at Miniatur Wunderland.

1500 square meters of model railway + towns and cities and homes and folks and domestic scenes (including intimate ones) and just about everything else, across different countries of different climates, and so on and so forth…

The attention to detail is just mind-blowing.

Read on…

The red rocks of Kazakhstan.

Hi folks!

I’d long heard about Kazakhstan‘s Charyn Canyon and wanted to check it out. Well, seeing as though I was in Almaty recently, it was rather easy for me to travel the 200km directly to the east of Kazakhstan’s largest city to get there. And here she is:

At least, I thought it would be rather easy getting there. Turned out it took about three hours in a car. There’s a good highway takes you most of the way, but for the last 80 kilometers the road’s not so good. Not to worry; once we got there the views soon banished our transfer-woe ).

Read on…

Why gold’s so expensive.

You ever seen how they mine gold?

I mean, like how they clean it with dredging machines or by hand? Or how golden nuggets sparkle in the earth? Well I hadn’t either. But when I was asked if I want to go down a gold mine, I – naturally – jumped at the chance. So down I went – way down into the bowels of the earth…

Read on…

Banksy comes to Moscow!

He’s here folks – the mysterious international graffiti artist of mystery has come to Russia!

Privyet Banksy!

Street art, graffiti and other such hooligan-creativity was once the preserve of the seediest suburbs of, say, New York and London. Today, it’s on show even in the Central Artist’s House exhibition hall just opposite Gorky Park in Moscow, shocking the Russian public in all its avant-garde satirical edginess.

Yes, the Banksy exhibition is running for four months – from June 2 to September 2; so if you’re in the capital over summer, here’s a mandatory must-see for your calendar and all the calendars of everyone you know. For this is not to be missed – by anyone!

Meanwhile, I can’t choose which photo to show you first in this here blogpost. They’re all just so special and individual in their own way. It’s like when someone asks you what your fave song of your fave band is – you can’t really give a proper answer as you like so many! Ok, first photo… it’ll just have to be the first one I took:

Ok, so who is Banksy?

No one apart from himself/themselves // and the police! // really knows. Ok, there are bound to be a few folks know – but they’re all keeping stum about any real identity/ies. I give the plural too as there is a theory that it’s more than one individual – a collective of now probably very rich street artists.

So who are you, Mr. Banks?

Read on…

Caribbean geography lesson – in a helicopter.

Looking over all my Caribbean pics, the main thing that stands out is that there a lot of them; so many that I’m getting my Caribbean-post titles mixed up. The other day we had Montserrat, but I’m sure, with hindsight, we should have had an intro post about all the islands together. Oh well, too late for that, so now we’ll have a summary photographic overview of the Lesser Antilles instead, with pics taken from a helicopter.

Quick caveat: I apologize for some of the pics being a bit blurry. Helicopters tend to jolt around up in the sky, and twist and turn and shudder a lot, so setting up perfect shots was practically impossible.

All righty. Off we chopper – south from Anguilla. The first island we come to?…

Saint Martin – one half French, the other – Dutch. So the island has a France-Netherlands state border running across it!

Read on…