Tag Archives: japan

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 …

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The Mysterious Majesty of the Japanese Language.

Another few days in Tokyo, another whirlwind schedule of meetings, interviews, and dinners with old pals. Speeches at conferences too: I’m just back from one where I was talking about cybercrime – and the interpreting was not synchronous (!). Yes: lots of pauses :). I was so exhausted I thought I might faint on the stage at one point. But I stayed conscious, just.

Sadly, there’s been no time for tourism, only shigoto – work. At times I feel like a zoo animal: fed at regular intervals, then having to play to the crowd at allotted times.

Mid-shigota, I came across this here sign on the wall of the business center I was in:

Now, as a frequent visitor of Japan, I know a few symbols. But only a few. My level of katakana/hiragana is just below… touching the surface. I mean, I can recognize my name in Japanese syllabary, but that’s about it:

It works out, in Japanese, Ka-su-pe-ru-su-kee! And if we apply that tiny bit of knowledge to ‘Conference Room’ in the pic below, we get…

Read on: What a wonderful language!…

Chanting ‘Issa-ee’ on the Kanda Matsuri.

In Tokyo on the weekend nearest the middle of May (this year – the 14th –15th) the Kanda Matsuri – aka the Kanda Festival – takes place every year. This is when all the residents of a district of Tokyo (I think just Kanda) gather in the morning all dressed up in traditional coats in the color of their streets, and take these here… let’s call them mobile holy temples (correct me please if my description is way off the mark), and carry them in a procession to Kanda Shrine:

Read on: A quick break, then up and off again…

Another Long Week: Snows & Scorchers, Politics & Hacks, Moscow – Abu Dhabi – Tokyo.

Good day boys and girls!

I’ve been a bit quiet of late – but I’ve a good excuse – I had a real tough week: the schedule was tight and intercontinental, plus alarmingly… combative…

It all started in Moscow. Now, normally come the month of May, the last vestiges of the long cold winter – snow and ice – have long disappeared, at least by a month. Not this year. It snowed the other week! The weather was so bad – cold, windy, wet – that even the May 9 Victory Day parade was partially called off (the airborne part). Ye gods! And I was soooo looking forward to it.

Bad weather causing things to be called off – hardly anything new there, right? Well, actually…

You see, in Russia, the authorities have a habit of… making sure the weather’s good on special occasions. In Russian they call it ‘shooing away the clouds’. I don’t know the details, but they somehow shoo away clouds by… doing something to the atmosphere to make sure clouds don’t come close. Playing God? Maybe. Whatever, it normally works. My question: WHAT WENT WRONG THIS TIME?! I mean, the budget for seeing off clouds for the weekend must be huge. Hmmm, I wonder…

Early doors it looked like the budget was well-spent: the sky was clear and the sun was shining:

Read on: a sudden global malware outbreak…

Tokyo – Seoul.

This time in Japan, there were no Top-100isms, no day trips, no walks… no time-off. It was all conferences, meetings, interviews and other assorted shigoto (仕事), that is, work.

Before coming over to the land of the rising sun this time, I was hoping the tempo would be less hectic than usual, with more freedom for relaxed beholding of historical and natural landscapes, meditative evening strolls, cherry blossoms and so on. Right. The further into the trip, the further I seemed to get away from any chance of seeing things like Mount Fuji or Aogashima, and deeper into ‘all shigoto, shigoto, shigoto‘. Which is also good, of course, but… well, look what happened to Jack!


The only bit of micro-tourism I did get in was a quick march along my favorite route outside/round the grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

Read on: Tokyo by night…

360-Degree Tokyo.

This is a first…

Early this morning I got to see a full panoramic view of Tokyo from a high up in a skyscraper-hotel!

Normally you only get to see one side of the city; however, this time my travel companion A. Sh. was on a different floor on the other side of the building. Out of my window we could see financial skyscrapers and Mount Fuji in the distance on the horizon, while out of his we saw the rest of Tokyo. Being so high up also had its benefits of course. Especially when the hotel management leave binoculars in every room on special plates :).

Read on: And if you look very carefully, you see…

A gaijin’s gauging of Japanese rail.

After yet more non-stop business meets and greets and chats and speeches – this time in Nagasaki – onward we traveled, on a high-speed train in pitch darkness. You’ll never guess where to, but here’s a hint:


Ok, enough intrigue. We sped to the island of Kyushu, namely to the city of Fukuoka (the capital of the prefecture of the same name), specifically – the Hakata-ku district. Curiously, the trains (including ours) going to the Hakata district are designated the ‘trains to Hakata’, not the ‘trains to Fukuoka’. That’d be like having ‘trains to Kings Cross’ as opposed to ‘trains to London’. Unusual.

Read on: A gaijin who knows such places…