She had some horses (Part I)

October 4, 2013

 

I traveled to Denver for the 45th Division for Planetary Sciences conference in October, conveniently located three hours east of a dear friend of my mother. I drove west from the airport as the sun set and the haze around Denver gathered, darkening from a dusty rose to grey to black.  I went over two mountain passes over 10,000 feet tall, feeling no ill effects as I adjusted to the altitude.  Around the tunnels of Glenwood Canyon it began to rain, far better than snow for driving, but still exciting as the Jeep hydroplaned and lost traction on the highway.  I continued onward and wound up in the tiny town of Silt, 97 miles from the Utah border with Colorado.

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Leaving Tokyo: vegetables, electronics, kimono

May 24, 2012

My last night in Tokyo I wound up at dinner with Yuka, Yuki, Yumi, and Salvador (spot the outlier) at my favorite restaurant that Yuki found: 野菜の王様, King of Vegetables, in Hibiya.  We’d visited the other location in January, and I was so excited to see vegetables that we went again.

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Kappabashi, Kitchen Town (合羽橋)

May 24, 2012

 

My last day in Tokyo dawned hot and dry.  I thanked my generous host Hitomi profusely and headed out for some errands.  I stashed my bags in a coin locker at a central station and headed out for Kappabashi, known as “Kitchen Town” for its profusion of shops for restaurants and kitchens.  I was on a mission for my friend Andy to find him a knife.

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Date-san, Daimyō of Sendai

May 23, 2012

Dan-chan, graduate student in forestry who does research in the jungles of Malaysia and Borneo and intrepid Fuji-san climbing guide, met me at the train station in Sendai.  Who was this samurai with the horned helmet who appeared everywhere in the region?

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Date-san appeared on all the train station signs in cartoon form as a rice ball, onigiri, with horns; here he was at Matsushima.

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Matsushima: pine-covered islands

May 23, 2012

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Daruma omikuji

I’d spent last spring reading news reports and watching footage of 東日本大震災 (“the big earthquake disaster of Eastern Japan”), especially of the tsunami that traveled six miles inland in areas near the city of Sendai.  Curious to see what had happened in the last 14 months since the earthquake, I boarded a Shinkansen for the relatively short ride up to the Tōhoku region, 東北, “east north”.  My friend Dan-chan, our guide on the Fuji-san climb, recommended visiting Matsushima, 松島, the pine-covered islands near Sendai.

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National Optical Astronomy Observatory of Japan

May 22, 2012

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Just a few kilometers down the road from JAXA where I’d spent the summer of 2011 was 天文台通り, “heaven language hill avenue”.  By some combination of my lack of kanji comprehension and the supreme focus of my colleagues, no one put one and one together and so during my first seven weeks in Japan I managed to be unaware of the proximity of the National Astronomy Observatory of Japan.  I fortunately sat next to Ito-san at the ACM banquet, and he offered to give me a tour of the facilities.  I went back to see my old lab at JAXA, talked about the high quality of rice from Niigata, and was picked up by Ito-san in the midst of a rainstorm to visit NAOJ’s campus.

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The Great Honshu Circumnavigation

May 21, 2012

When I looked at a map of Japan to find Niigata, I noticed that a train line ran all the way from the coastal city hosting our conference to Kyōto, the tracks flirting with the shores of the Sea of Japan (日本海, “Japan Sea”).  I’d been encouraged to visit Kyōto, and as this was my third trip to Japan without yet visiting the ancient capital, I figured now was the time to go.  With a week-long JR rail pass, I decided to take the trains from Niigata to Kyōto, rather than pass back through Tōkyō and down to Kyōto, a route I’d taken eight times in the last ten months.

After the eclipse, I boarded a local train in Niigata.  Past flooded rice fields, mountains flecked with snow, and a placid coastline, the trains rumbled and sped, me as practically the only passenger in most cars as we passed the tail end of springtime on Honshū (本州, “main province”), the main island of Japan.

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