Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Elusive things

Well, I finally hit the big time. My image finally landed in the hands of engineers and business people all over Japan. I'm told a grainy photocopy of this newspaper article even made its way back home. The article basically explains that we're starting up in Japan, and that we make plastic parts, etc. I mean, that a crazed American is on the run reconfiguring mills for his own unexplained purposes.

Mt. Fuji:
There's a line-of-sight from where I live and work to Mt. Fuji. But unfortunately it is usually shrouded in fog or clouds, and only reveals itself after a day of rain. I had a nice view of its snowy peak the other morning, but didn't have my camera handy. So you'll have to believe me that this is an image of Mount Fuji. It's the thing in the background with a cloud hang to the side.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Trains to Minami-Machida

Today, we took the trains in Japan, a first time for me. (Lisa had already, with her "new friend".) We went to Minami-Machida or as I'm told, "south" Machida. This is complicated enough to warrant a little documentation:

We first went from Ebina station to Machida station, over the Odakyū Odawara line. Then from Machida to Nagatsuta station over the JR East Yokohama line, and finally, the Tōkyū Den-en-toshi line to Minami-Machida, home of a Cold Stone which has become famous to us in pictures.

For those keeping track, that's three different rail companies. Trains seem to be really organized and documented here, but you won't find a map that's got connection info of more than one train company at a time. A print-out (or, a saved photo in my camera of a laptop screen, as it were) of google maps screenshots were the best guide I could find to bring along.

On the way back, we took a different route. We took the Tōkyū Den-en-toshi to its end-point, Chūō-Rinkan station, then the Odakyū Enoshima to Sagami-Ōno station, and finally the Odakyū Odawara line back "home" to Ebina. [Correction: we purposely went past Ebina a few stops to Hon-Atsugi station, where our next hotel will be. Then back to Ebina.]

Tomorrow, we plan to take a simpler ride: the Sagami Railway Main Line all the way to Yokohama station.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Way to Ebina, JP

Left home in greater Minneapolis 3 days ago, and now in Ebina, Japan. Our adventure so far...

The flight - direct from Minneapolis to Narita JP - was uneventful, except for the uncomfortable 1 1/2 year old sitting next to me. I guess Mirah does not like 12 hour plane rides. Who would have thought?

There were a lot of forms to fill out getting ourselves and our things here. That was expected, and it payed off. (Entering the country was smooth.) Since being here, there have been some more forms, notably, a form to exchange cash (get Yen from Dollars), where I was asked my hotel and its phone number. I think perhaps the more info is on a form, the less language-barrier-type-mistakes might be made, but still it feels a little like big brother is following my paper trail.

Speaking of language barrier, the airport was relatively easily navigable, but in large part because there are people standing around ready to tell you what to do next in English. I imagined the rest of Japan to be just like the airport, but without those helpful people. It turned out our hotel, Nikko Narita, was very English friendly, and convenient. There's a small convenience store where I got some snacks before bed, and - while the thought never crossed my mind - the cashier put a few plastic spoons in my bag with my snacks. They must have done this before.

The next morning, we had an arranged ride from the airport to our next hotel in Ebina. Our chief concern about Ebina was that where the airport hotel was international/multilingual (read western), Ebina (being farther out from Tokyo) would be hard to navigate by unpracticed newbies like us. The car ride of about 2 hours took us from the sparser NE outskirts of Tokyo center, into the sea of massive architecture in Tokyo proper, and out into more local streets starting around Machida. From there, the streets got smaller, tighter, and (what seemed) busier, through a few more neighborhoods (probably more properly, cities). And we finally landed in Ebina, our next unknown home.

Priority 1: internet. It turns out there's not a lot of English spoken here, but somehow, it's still possible to communicate. Wireless was showing up at the hotel, but encrypted, and no documentation about the WEP key in the room. Went to the front desk armed with the SSID written on paper. "intaneto?", I asked. "intaneto akusessu?", he replied. I pointed to the SSID, then the space below it. Bingo. The guy had the 10 digits memorized.

Priority 2: food. If we were to survive this place, we would need to eat supper. Looked up how to get to the mall with the fruits of priority 1, and we were off with the stroller. Walked around, found a food court, and ordered some Italian food by pointing and trying to pronounce our orders. (They were labeled in katakana: na-po-ri-ta-n, and ma-ru-ge-ri-ta. The examples were in view to us, but not to the order taker, so pointing wasn't really effective at this restaurant.) We got our food, but had a little trouble with what we were supposed to do with our garbage after. [It's 2 days later and I still don't know that one.]

And with that, we had a home base we could live in for a while. More adventures to come.