Shinkansen v. GPS

GPS check from N700 Nozomi 28 between Nagoya and Shin-Yokohama
 I had to struggle to get signal and then get a fix.  I’m a bit disappointed with 252km/h, since I was expecting the 270km/h speed limit.

BTW, here’s the wireless networks available between Shin-Osaka and Tokyo.

Wireless networks on N700 Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Tokyo

The Iron Chef experiences are adding up! (Kyo no theme – KYOTO!)

There are some foods associated with Iron Chef: Fois gras; truffles; matsutake mushrooms; hamo (pike conger eel); consomme jelly and piiman (capsicum).  Last night I had 3 in a single meal.

Menu (Left to right)
First entrée was chestnuts, ham, cheese and

Second entrée
matsutake mushroom croquette. Second was abalone, sanma and piiman.

First entrée
Third course
Hamo and snapper carpaccio seasoned with hamo bones was next.  It’s the one with lots of bones that needs lots of cuts to remove the flesh; featured in 3 battles.

Next was something with cons0mme  jelly (I’ll translate later).

Something with consomme jelly (arty photo too) Then the three mains that we chose: Pork Cutlets; Hamburger; Duck.

Pork Katsu



To show the rice course in its best, I had it with curry.

I have no idea how much this cost as I was too slow to get the o-kanjou.

Curry rice

Liquids I have consumed recently

Apart from the ubiquitous Pocari Sweat sports drink and Kirin Ichiban beer, here are some of the liquids I have consumed recently:

  • Match, the “Let’s Vitamin” sports drink.  Too sweet.
  • Mao shōchū.  Rare and special with an aroma of apples.  My brother-in-law brought the bottle from Kyushu because you can’t get it easily anywhere else.
  • Lots of local sake.  It really does work with any meal just as stated in Oishinbo.
  • Coffee; weak.  Even when I order espresso.
  • Filtered water, from a Panasonic talking reverse-osmosis water filter.
  • Asahi Dodecamin Cola “Wild Edition”, with B group vitamins
  • Kirin Mets Grapefruit
  • Suntory Dakara calorie off sports drink.  (CM used to feature Mannekin Pis in full glory)

Missing links – Japanese Toilets

Ok, first an apology if this is repeating a well-known truth about Japan.  For everyone else, here is a primer on Japanese toilets.

There is a missing link for Japanese toilets

Strange as it may seem, in Japan you either find the traditional squat toilet or highly-technological, all-singing, all-dancing bidet/toilet.  There are no plain toilets in Japan and you can quote me on that.

Even urinals aren’t a simple affair.  The separate porcelain units invariably have sensor for ands-free operation.  Even my mother-in-law has a Toto sensor urinal next to her Toto Washlet.

At the Oriental Hotel in Kobe (the historical hotel at 25 Kyōmachi, Chūō-ku, not the Kobe Merikan Oriental Hotel) we had a Toto Washlet with special remote.

Your bum will love this toilet

The control unit can be daunting.  Fortunately one merely had to close the lid to flush.

Touch the wrong button and the warm water will squirt somewhere unexpected.

The control allows you to change the position, strength, frequency and direction of a stream of warm water to the bottom or bits area.  (If you missed my warning about themes, then you don’t understand what people use a toilet for.)  By default a fan draws air away from the room and the seat is heated.  It is my theory, perhaps alone in the world, that a warm bum area encourages stool production.

But perhaps I’m talking out of my arse.

Toto has one of the fastest toilets too.

Hiking, but not as we know it

Since 70% if Japan is wooded, it makes sense that hiking, rambling and just walking are popular.  There are often well-maintained facilities, maps and signs to help.

I like to hike in the hills above Kobe.  The hills are immediately to the North of the city.  Within a fairly short period of walking, you can get a very good view of the city, harbour and across to Kansai Airport if the sky is clear.

When your trail is this squiggly and shows a u-turn, it means you're on the wrong trail. And the squished-up contour lines ain't great either
On this occasion I walked to the East of where I would normally start above Kitano Kobe.  Starting on a small exercise park with paths into the bush, I thought that I had found a nice track since I had switched off global data roaming I didn’t have a full resolution map.  If I had, I would have noticed earlier that there wasn’t a track as such, just lots of contour lines.

The path seemed like there had been hikers through that morning, but I soon realised that no-one ever walks here.  Even with poles the path was slippery, each climb revealed another climb and the trees never ceased.

Expecting a Totoro at anytime

After about 30 minutes I was going nowhere.  I tried to find  way across to the opposite ridge, but it was just as steep and slippery.  Admitting defeat I walked down to the bottom of the ridge, eventually meeting the same “path” I climbed and the relatively safe, if steep and narrow roads in Kitano.

Next time:

  • Download the maps;
  • Check the path, and;
  • Don’t leave mobile coverage area.

The one piece of tech I have that they don’t have here

No-one in Japan has one of these (until 5ms after announces their e-book service)

I’ve been amazed by Japanese technology since I saw my first internet & camera phone in 2000.  When I got the Kindle for my birthday, Chikako was quite jealous.  However, there were no Japanese books available because the otherwise popular does not offer e-books.  I tried.

I shall savour this moment while I can.

Seen on the road

Driving from Narita, saw what seemed to be a dog in the passenger seat.  Was a girl with clip-on ears.

Saw an old man on a road-registered quad bike in Tokyo, slowly weaving between traffic and parked cars.

In Kobe I saw a 1st generation Mitsubishi Debonair in mint condition. Since this model was all but unchanged from 1964 to 1986, it might be a fairly recent car. My guess from the engine note was that I saw an early one.  This was Mitsubishi’s “High-Class” car to rival the Toyota Century and Nissan President.  It was quite popular and stopped production in 1998; replaced by the Dignity and Proudia.  I didn’t get a picture, so here’s one from wikipedia.

Mitsubishi Debonair first generation, like the one I saw in Kobe

Also saw a Mercedes Benz E350 Bluetec.  It’s unusual in being a diesel car sold in Japan.  For many years diesel engines were an option for many Japanese cars, but the old school design had poor emissions and were taxed higher than petrol cars.  The lack of diesel affected the sales of Japanese cars in Europe.  It seems that “clean diesel” engine can be sold in Japan.  Might just compete with hybrids?

It’s the little things… Japan edition

Little things to love about Japan:

  • Plastic bags for umbrellas and racks outside to lock your dripping umbrella.
  • When you sit at a table in a restaurant or café you are greeted with a moist towel (often heated) and a glass of water.
  • Convenience stores sell good food and alcohol.
  • School girls wearing ——————— socks ————————— from the anime, not the manga ————————— [content removed by Senator Conroy’s internet filter as unfit for Australia]
  • It’s all so clean.  Even the garbage truck is clean.
  • Security guard with a feather-duster, cleaning the bank before it opens.
  • There’s a museum for everything.
  • Anyone can open a bar.  Don’t even need a liquor licence.
  • There’s a vending machine everywhere.

Should Australia invest in a fast train? Let me think…

Here’s some of the features of the N700 Nozomi (super-express) I took from Tokyo station to Shin-Kobe:

  • Train departed on time.  Made me realise that my watch was wrong.
  • Desperately had to charge iPhones.  Had 3 power outlets nearby.  One spare then.
  • 50cm of leg room.
  • Ate matsutake mushroom (like on Iron Chef) bento.  Could have had a beer or whiskey highball if I was so moved.
  • Car had two multipurpose rooms (sick room, baby change/feeding), a toilet and 2 vending machines.
  • So clean I could lick the walls.

If a mere $100 billion gets anything like that to travel from Melbourne to Brisbane, it would be well-spent.

Eventful Journey

Started with a strange zig-zag flight from Canberra to Sydney.

With plenty of time to kill, the free WiFi at Sydney Airport (just answer three questions) helped me download the Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun to my Kindle.

Plenty to be concerned about when there are about 100 Japanese students are in the waiting area.  Last time I was on a flight with so many students (neatly attired, it should be said) they spent most of their time moving from seat to seat visiting friends. Would they all fall asleep on the overnight flight?

Least of my worries, it turned out.  Boarding was delayed by an hour for cleaning.  (The plane was a substitute that had just flown from Perth to Sydney and needed a lot more cleaning than normal.)  My seat had a boarding pass from Singapore and a German Who/OK!/Hello/Heat magazine, so there was still more to do.

The delay spurred us determined travellers to fill damn near every seat in record time, but perhaps not quickly enough to beat the 2300 curfew at Sydney Airport.  Why do they only use 1 door?

I can’t sleep on planes; I can barely sit.  I’m yet to experience a sky bed and the best I’ve managed is business class.  Economy class for me is a special torture.  The seats are so short that I’m on my bum bone the whole time.  My legs have nowhere to go.  My mother’s hips don’t fit, even with the handle up.  The adjustable headrest doesn’t stop adjusting. I usually end up with my legs crossed, body twisted and neck stretched.  Lucky bugger in front had 3 seats to himself, so he slept horizontally.

The AV system was good through my fantastic new Sony MDR-NC7 noise-cancelling headphones (watched Senna and The Trip) until it refused all reasonable requests.  Even a 20 minute reboot didn’t iron out the bugs, though the pax in front was watching the golf no problem.

(I’m writing this on the N700 Shinkansen (bullet train) at 270km/h with over 50cm of leg room, a tray table I have to reach for and several sockets to recharge our phones. :)

Another mystery: why is it howling a gale even though all of the air outlets are closed?

Disembarking (on time) was much easier and faster as two doors are used.  (Are Australian airports the only ones who only use one door on all but the A380?)  Narita Airport has changed its wood panel décor for aluminium panels of the same colour.  Fingerprints (index) and picture taken, though I had to retake my shot from further away.  Free WiFi, too.

Limousine bus from airport drove the normal way: 100km/h in an 80 zone… just like everyone else; superb steering skills in tight spaces.

And it’s not yet 1200 and I’ve had 3 breakfasts