Apr 262017
 

It was the most touristy trip I’ve taken to Japan in many years. Warning: Lots of words.

Japan, Spring 2017

Our original itinerary: Fly Sunday, arrive Monday, meetings Tuesday and Wednesday, factory tour Thursday, meetings Friday, nothing Saturday or Sunday, meetings Monday and Tuesday, fly home late Wednesday afternoon (because there’s not an earlier flight). But, the group we needed to meet with for Tuesday bailed, and it was cheaper to stay in Japan for the day than to change our travel arrangements. Consequently, we had all day Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday with no plans, and half of Wednesday before we needed to get to the airport.

My colleague was Mr. I. He’s young, from a small town, and this was the first time he’s left the country (not counting Canada). He seemed to really enjoy the trip.

The meeting days were pretty much routine (aside from the excitement generated by massive upper management changes). Food and hosts were excellent, meetings were generally good, although occasionally baffling. We did have one unexpected interesting experience: After dinner on Friday night, we got to meet several of our colleagues at a bar for I-san’s “welcome home party” (he recently got back from a six-month trip to the cubical next to mine). It was… *ahem* …very evident that we were at a post-party gathering.

The factory tour was a little more interesting. We got to take the Shinkansen out to Utsunomiya. It’s surprising how smooth 240kph felt. Also, I was surprised that at 9:30 in the morning, the Shinkansen is apparently the place for retirees to hang out, chat, eat snacks, and drink beer and sake.

The factories themselves were very cool. We saw where a most of the calipers are made, starting from cutting the pieces out raw sheets of steel with laser cutting machines. They use my Vision measurement machines in some of the QA/QC steps. We saw where all the CMMs and any large Vision measurement machine [i.e. more than 600x600mm stage] is built. They were in the process of assembling a CMM with a measurement volume of 6m x 3m x 1.5m. I wish I knew what customer or type of parts that was for. That’s gigantic for a measurement machine. We also saw where all the scales are produced and most of the small tools’ electronic modules are assembled — the primary line is completely automated. Super cool to watch.

Saturday, I actually got to meet up with P-Dubs. He’s in Japan for three months or something near that duration, staying in Yokosuka. We had a busy itinerary of beer locations to visit. As always, I struggled to find things to do in between or before beer places I wanted to visit. So, we struggled through the train system to get to Yamashita Park in the morning, followed by Yokohama’s Chinatown, then found lunch at a food truck (doner kebab) near Yokohama Station before going to Thrash Zone.

Thrash Zone is a little local Yokohama craft beer brewery/bar. Their motto is “Extreme Beer Only”, and they’re reputed to cater primarily to locals and be somewhat cold (or flat out rude) to foreigners like us. They’re also (I think) thrash metal themed (at the very least, they’re metal). We got there only a bit after noon, so they weren’t very busy, and a live video of Bad Brains was playing at a surprisingly subdued volume. They were out of the two beers I was most interested in, but everything else I tried was either good or interesting. One IPA I would say was very good. Primarily, they serve their own beer, but they also had I think four American craft beers on tap. I was used as a prop in a selfie taken by what appeared to be a local metal band.

Then we went to the Baird Bashamichi Taproom, where we met with a friend of P-Dubs’ who has been living in the area for about a year and a half. We moved on to Charcoal Green for dinner, where my memory starts getting a little fuzzy. I do remember that dinner was very tasty and that the apple pie dessert was excellent. Then we went to Yokohama Bay Brewery, where I remember having an exceedingly bitter IPA — and if my palate, at that fatigue level, thought it was exceedingly bitter, it was super fucking bitter.

The next day, Mr. I and I got up early to go to Shibuya and visit Ichiran for a ramen breakfast. This is an excellent breakfast. I think Mr. I fell in love with it. The we met up with our Japanese friends, S-san and I-san, who took us out for exposure to “deep Japanese culture.” It was very generous of them to spend their Sunday with us, and pay for a lot of our food and drinks.

  • First, I-san and S-san guided me through the steps to get a Suica pass. It’s awesome — no more staring blankly at walls of Japanese text trying to figure out how much the fare is to my destination!
  • Train to Omote-Sando (one stop past Shibuya from the hotel), and walked through trendy downtown area and saw weird shops and weird stuff at normal shops.
  • Yoyogi Park, a huge beautiful semi-wilderness area in the heart of Tokyo that also contains the Meiji-Jingu shrine. Monks there were soliciting donations to re-roof the shrine. S-san paid ~¥3000 (~$30) for a copper shingle, onto which the four of us wrote our names.
  • Ueno Park (which I’ve visited before). It’s a large, beautiful park — but it was pouring. Mr. I and I looked crazy for not having or caring about umbrellas. I was impressed — people still were having picnics in the downpour, with varying degrees of success (one group put a tarp on the ground, and then stood in the puddles that formed on the tarp; another group hung their umbrellas upside down in trees and sat under them, which is temporary at best; others successfully contrived tent-like structures). We also ate street food (okonomiyaki, which I would describe as “pancake sandwich salad”) in a really ghetto tent area.
  • Ikebukuro to see cosplay people. This was mostly a parenting move on S-san’s part — his daughter was there as a participant, and he delivered money and a spare battery for her phone. Walking back to the train, we ran across this restaurant, and it was a little awkward trying to explain why Mr. I and I thought it was so funny.
  • Noborito, where we went to Craft Beer Moonlight. This was a tiny local brewery, with few or no concessions made for foreigners. Everything was in Japanese. They had a large selection of beers in the menu, but most of them were not currently available. They had a nice chart-menu on the wall, plotting the available beers on a darkness axis and a strength axis. After a couple beers there, we had to leave to make room for a group with a reservation.
  • So, we went for dinner at Kirin City in Noborito (it’s a Kirin-owned franchise, I think, but I can’t find it). Beer was bland to mediocre, but food was good and we had a good time. The “mega” sized beer seems ridiculous when in front of S-san.
  • The ride back to our stop was notable. Mr. I is a rock climber, and a random dude on the train was wearing a chalk bag on his pants. Mr. I and I were talking about it, and I-san decided to ask the random dude about it. No, he’s not a climber. He’s a sushi chef. I joked about him having sushi in his chalk bag, at which he acted surprised and pulled out a couple packages of sushi and gave them to us. Mr. I and I went to a convenience store to pick up chu-hi, and then went back to his hotel room to drink and eat the stranger-on-a-train sushi.

Monday was another day of meetings. Tuesday, we mostly chilled out. We had waffles for breakfast. Mr. I did some souvenir shopping. I got junk for the kids, and went to CoCo Curry for lunch. Later in the day, we headed out for what I really wanted to do. We went out to Ryogokyu station, wandered around and found some random Soba shop and had a cheap, delicious early dinner, and then went to Popeye.

I visited Popeye two years ago. It’s a world famous beer stop, which I visited two years ago (see previous post, which includes some pictures). I had a really good time then, and I had a really good time again. In fact, I met one of the same people this time that I met last time:

Popeye 2015

Popeye 2017

We also ran into a person we’d met previously at Thrash Zone. Apparently, this is the place for me to go to run into random Japan beer acquaintances. I’ll be back if I get a chance. Mr. I got to try Cantillon (I’m very impressed it was available), we had “Japanese soba-style spaghetti” (almost no resemblance to spaghetti). We made it home.

The next day, we went back to Ichiran for breakfast again (I told you Mr. I fell in love with it) and shopped a little at Shibuya before heading to the airport, where we shopped some more, had a simple lunch, and got on a plane to go home.

The end. Remember kids, it’s kind of cool to get free sushi from a stranger on a train in a foreign country!

Apr 042017
 

I think documenting some of our routines will be interesting later on, when we’ve forgotten most of it. It’s also interesting to me how much detail I can go into. I look at this, and I think, “God damn, that’s a lot of words — but there’s a bunch more I could say.”

On weekdays, when both kids go to school:

  1. KrisDi and I wake up at 4:30, brush teeth and do stupid exercises (physical therapy for me, fitness for her)
  2. We get downstairs around 5:00 or a few minutes after, start preparing things like lunches. I eat a bowl of cereal.
  3. 5:30, KrisDi wakes up Chilkat and gives her breakfast (Fruity Pebbles or Life, usually). KrisDi is supposed to eat breakfast with her, but lately she’s given up breakfast in general. Chilkat usually watches some video on the iPad during her breakfast, although she recently went a couple weeks without asking for it.
  4. 5:45, KrisDi goes to work, and shortly afterward I go get Chilkoot up and take him to the bathroom (Chilkat’s bladder is appropriately sized for an elephant, so we don’t worry about this step for her), and then bring him downstairs.
  5. Depending on how fast they eat (or how much I nag them to keep putting food in their mouths, chewing it, and swallowing it — all of which need specific and separate reminders), they may or may not have time to go sit on the couch, or play, or look at pictures on our screensavers before we leave. I often do the dishes while they’re eating or sit on the couch and play word games. I also make sure all the stuff gets in the car (Chilkat’s backpack, Chilkoot’s snack, water, and blanket, a clean sheet on Mondays, my own lunch, anything else that needs to go to school, day care, or work that day)
  6. 6:20 (unless I need to buy gas, then 6:10), we start putting shoes on. If they’re watching videos or doing something they enjoy, it’s better if I give them a countdown before this happens. Lately, Chilkat puts her own shoes on and crawls into the car by herself (I have to remember to leave the back door open); I help Chilkoot, we argue about what shoes he’s going to wear or whether he or Chilkat is supposed to get in first (it makes sense for Chilkat, she has to get to the other side of the car).
  7. Carry Chilkoot in to the car, buckle him up and usually cover him with his blanket, start the car, pull out far enough that I can open Chilkat’s door, buckle her in and cover her up with her blanket, then off we go. Lately, the kids want to listen to Moondance on the drive to school, which is slightly too long for the drive.
  8. ~6:26, arrive in school parking lot, unbuckle Chilkat and get her hat and coat out of her backpack. She puts these on herself in the car. If we’re early, we sit around and talk.
  9. ~6:29, out of the car and walk to the door. Sometimes Chilkoot wants to stay in the car, sometimes he wants to come inside. The before school care ladies are pretty consistent about opening their door at exactly 6:30. If it’s cold and we’re early or they’re late, Chilkat wants to hide inside my jacket while we wait for the door to unlock.
  10. ~6:33, back in the car and on the road for day care. Chilkoot almost always requests Centerfold immediately after we start driving; sometimes one of his other favorites like Nations of the World or Yeah Yeah Yeah Song.
  11. Usually, he’s pretty quiet. Sometimes he chatters. We get to day care about 7:00. I’m not sure why, but lately, every morning when we get there, he says, “Where are we, Daddy?” even though he knows perfectly well where we are.
  12. After the normal round of hugs and kisses (and lately, an extended clinginess session, I’m off to work about 7:10, and I get there at or near 7:15.
Apr 022017
 

As my wife so correctly pointed out, I missed a bunch of stuff in my last post. I’m on a plane right now, so there’s a limit to the amount of things I can do and the number of distractions that I have right now, so I thought I’d expand a little bit.

I didn’t even mention the most exciting “ride” at Disney Land:

The Nurses’ Station

As we were walking to lunch, KrisDi was carrying Chilkoot; she walked up a curb instead of stepping up it, and she tripped, going down forward onto her knee, wrist, and the back of Chilkoot’s head. Chilkoot was bawling, of course (probably from both pain and fear), and KrisDi was on the verge of tears (I think mostly with guilt and worry). Luckily, we weren’t far from the Nurses’ station, and we didn’t have to wait in line (maybe the only thing we did all week without a line). The nurse flashed lights in Chilkoot’s eyes and did this that and the other thing and gave him an ice pack to hold on his head, and proclaimed him fine (but watch him — if he starts to act strangely lethargic, or projectile vomits, take him to a hospital). He was fine, and was quite excited to find out the next morning that his head was turning purple.

KrisDi also got some attention from the nurse. Bandages for knee and wrist — her knee was pretty badly bonked. I think it’s bothering her less now, but I’m not sure she’s OK with kneeling on it yet (how can I complain — it’s been 19 years since I hurt my knee, and I still don’t want to kneel).

To expand a little bit on our Oxnard day: We went to the beach for a little while. The kids ran and splashed and played. They made sand angels and argued about silly things. I managed to catch a beautifully timed picture of which I’m very proud:

Kersplash!

I was standing around taking pictures as the kids dipped their toes in the surf; then a slightly larger than usual wave came along, and Chilkoot tried to run from it, with the above-illustrated results. I was too far away to try to catch him, but I already had a camera in front of my face, so I snapped as many pictures as I could and captured a pretty nice sequence.

We also had a nice little barbecue with our old friends, made some delicious tri-tip sandwiches, drank a lot of beer, and (foolishly) also drank a lot of cask strength bourbon, leading to the aforementioned very unpleasant morning, including a very unpleasant drive to the airport, a very unpleasant flight (first time I ever vomited on a plane). Ugh.