Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Quick Trip to Kamakura

This morning Jerry was bouncing off the walls. I'm not going to lie, it was driving me crazy. To make matters worse, the weather wasn't cooperating. It was pretty blustery and outside so our usual strategy of going to the park to look at the ships didn't work out well.

As a substitute we decided to head up to Kamakura. It's only a few stops away and there's lots to do within a very short walking distance. Also, the train station on our end is about 100 yards from our hotel. Minimal outside time, and a train ride to (hopefully) get some wiggles out. Jerry had to hold the straps just like the grown-ups. He's ready to start commuting.

As we left the train station in Kamakura the first thing we saw was some little snow flurries. We thought our outing might be even shorter than we thought, but we kept on going anyway. A little ways down the road, I noticed this hawk perched on a building. I didn't expect to see a hawk in an urban area.

This is the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. It's a beautiful place. This is a Shinto shrine and was originally built in 1063. Japanese history is divided up into many periods, one of which is called the Kamakura Period which was 1185-1333. During this period the first Shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo, established the government of Japan here. It's neat to have so much history so close by.

Nearby, there was this little shrine. Or it could have been a tomb, I'm not sure. I didn't feel like I could accurately identify it on the map. The woodwork was also very cool. You can't see it in this picture, but I took a detail shot (below) to highlight the eaves.

We passed a daycare and I couldn't resist snapping a pic of these cool bikes. Battery assist, seating for three, and a sweet paint job. All it needs is some tunes.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mean Green

After a great deal of thought and deliberation I decided to buy a bike for my stay in Japan. If you're a frequent reader of this blog you'll know that I quite enjoy my time on two wheels. It is a little different here, though. Many more people bike and being an urban area, the distances are quite a bit less. So that merits a different kind of bike.

Check out this hog. I don't want you to feel intimidated, but Mean Green is pretty accurate. I mean, you gotta be pretty tough to pull off a front basket as awesome as that one. 

Let me run you through the feature list as well as the sweet mods I've already made. The super comfortable handlebars are perfect for someone about 6 inches shorter than me. The same goes for the seat post. You'll notice that the fenders were stock as well as the basket and headlight (which runs off the tire generator). The drivetrain has six sidewalk-shredding gears, operated by state of the art grip shifts. For convenience it has a full kickstand and rack in the rear and an integrated lock on the rear wheel.

Not pictured is the 100 yen store basket I zip-tied to the rear rack for additional cargo carrying options or the rear LED light (also 100 yen) for safety. 

In all seriousness, it's a pretty fun bike. Biking is totally different here. For starters, everybody doesn't hate cyclists like in the US. These pictures were taken in the bike storage area of our hotel. The fact that our hotel has that, and that it's full of bikes, should show that way more people bike here. It cuts my commute down by 2/3, which for me, is well worth it.

For a while I toyed with the idea of spending more and getting a nice folding bike. If I did that, I would want to try to take it home with me. I thought it would be useful to have in the car sometimes. Or I could leave it at the shipyard and use it when I had to buzz around. In the end, I knew it would be cheapest to just buy the cheapest bike I could. It's going to be fun, but come the end of spring, I'll be glad to be back to my bikes at home.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The View

One of the great things about our apartment is the view from the balcony. Whenever we hear a ship's horn (which is pretty frequent) Jerry turns and says "da boat!" At that point we usually have to go out and check it out.

Here are some of the pictures I've already taken. An advantage to swing shift is that I'm home during the day when all this is going on.

The other day the USS Lassen was pulling out.

This is a Japanese submarine. They are much smaller than US subs. I'm not sure what they use them for, but they have quite a few. I've seen up to five moored here at a time.

Here's a shot of Yokosuka from our hotel. The tall building to the right is the place we stayed in 2010. 

This is our hotel for this trip. So far it's working out great.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Yokoso Japan!

Here we are, living the dream once again. For better or worse, we're here for a while.

Our hotel room is great. It's more like an apartment than a hotel room. We're in a new building that claims to be "American Style" apartments. It's actually still a Japanese apartment with some American influences. (At every turn they love to point out how huge everything American is.) One of the major American influences is that our two bedroom is a palatial 770 square feet. Why do those fat Americans need so much space anyway? The Japanese influences are still pretty fun. The fridge is quite small, but that doesn't bother me. We have a drawer dishwasher that can't quite handle an entire meal's worth of dishes, and of course, the perennial favorite, the toilet seat with the control panel.

Our view is pretty tough to beat. Our room has balcony on two sides with four sliding glass doors to access it. Looking out across the way we can easily see the whole reason for our being out here, the George Washington. Closer in there is a nice assortment of US and Japanese ships. The night view is also great.

We are very near one of the local train stations, so every morning Jerry wants to go out onto the balcony and see the boats and trains move around.

Our transition here wasn't what I would call seamless. Jerry did pretty well on the flight, except for only sleeping about an hour. I can tell you, it was a blessed hour. Welcome peace, but short lived. Later Jerry slept a little on the bus ride, so by the time we were at the hotel he was about 20 hours awake with only about two hours nap. He was bouncing off the walls.

Since then we've still been trying to get some continuity. Of course, when you get here, you wake up at four or five every morning for a few days and we have been no exception. In my case, though, I'm working swing which translates to very little sleep. Jerry's been waking  up between five and seven am, and that's tough because nothing is open until like 10 here, so you can't really get anything done until he's starting to hit that nap time zone. In a few more days we'll all get aligned for more normal schedules.

I think Jerry will be happy to get to that point also. This has thrown him for a loop. Between sleep problems and being cooped up in some apartment that is not our house, this has been a little tough. Pretty regularly he asks about Jake and asks to go home. Disclaimer: We're not sure if he means home to the apartment, or home to home.  Today he broke Chelsea's glasses, for which she has no backup and one of the dishes provided by the hotel.

I think Jerry is a little exasperated. I know I am.