Mega Recap: June!

Hello everyone,

So… It’s been a busy month and a half since I last posted.  In that time, I’ve made two round-trips between Tokyo and San Francisco, attended two baseball games (one in San Francisco and one in Toyko), attended a wedding in Sacramento, and participated the Opticon user conference.  Whew, it makes me tired just thinking about it all!  So, rather than giving you a detailed report of everything I’ve been doing since my last post, I figure I’ll just do the highlights.  Here goes!

June 7th – Hiking in Okutama:

The weather was great this weekend, so I decided to do a serious hike in Okutama national park.  The journey started out bright and early at Shinjuku station where I caught the same Holiday Express train I took last time.

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Looks like I wasn’t the only one trying to take advantage of the good weather!  Once I made it out to Mitake station, I transferred to a crowded bus, then to a crowded cable car, and then to a chair lift to the top of Mt Mitake.  It might sound like cheating to take so many different modes of transportation to start the hike (and it felt like it at the time), but don’t worry, I sure paid for it at the end of the hike.  More on that later.  There were some great views from the top!

After making it to the top of the chair lift, the hike wound it’s way through some hotels and shops leading up to the main Mitake shrine:

And then finally the hike began in earnest, winding through the forest and into a beautiful valley filled with moss covered rocks and a stream:

Climbing out of the valley, the hike got very steep, especially during the approach to Mt Odake.  There were probably half-a-dozen places where chains had been bolted into a rock face, and the trail had to skirt along precarious ledges.  It wouldn’t have been an issue, but the trail was really crowded, and waiting for descending hikers to pass took quite a bit of time.  Once I finally made it to the top of Mt Odake, the cloud cover had descended, blocking what apparently it quite a nice view of Mt Fuji on a clear day.  Oh well, that’s what you get when you hike in June in Tokyo!

After eating a quick lunch, I decided to press on to Mt. Nokogiri, hoping to escape the crowds at the top of Mt Odake.  The crowd did thin out quite a bit as I made the steep descent down the other side of the mountain, and by the time I got to Nokogiri ridge I was able to hike by myself for a good stretch.  The climb up to the top of Mt Nokogiri wasn’t as strenuous, and it was less crowded so I was able to snap a few pictures!

The next stretch of the hike down to Okutama town was pretty intense!  Remember all that elevation I gained by taking the bus, cable car and chairlift at the beginning of the hike?  Well, what goes up must come down, and my legs paid the price!  The trail had quite a few places where metal ladders had been installed, and there were more chains to hold onto.  The views of the valley below made up for it somewhat!

By the time I made it to the valley floor, I was feeling pretty warn out.  What better time to check out the local onsen?  The path from the trailhead to the onsen was marked with interesting street art and crossed a cool pedestrian bridge:

After soaking in the onsen for an hour or so, I ran back to the station and just barely caught the last Holiday Express train back to Shinjuku.  All in all a very successful hike!

June 16th – Giants vs Mariners:

Fast forward 10 days and I was back in San Francisco to attend Opticon, Optimizely’s annual user conference.  And what a conference it was!  The weather was perfect, and the venue had amazing views of the Bay Bridge:

But the highlight of the conference was the fact that our good friends Evan Burkosky and Ryuji Noguchi from e-Agency (our Japanese reseller partner) came out from Tokyo.  I really wanted to show them a good time and give them a real San Francisco cultural experience, so we got tickets to a Giants game!  Noguchi-san really took advantage of the opportunity to participate first-hand, including devouring a street dog from one of the vendors outside the stadium.  A good time was had by all!

And of course no visit in San Francisco would be complete without some serious cuddling with Ariel, our poodle mix.  Oh, and there was cuddling with Becky too, but there’s no photo evidence : )

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June 27th – Yokohama:

My first weekend back in Tokyo, I was invited to have dinner in Yokohama.  I’d never been to Yokohama before, but I’d read that they have the finest ramen museum in the country.  Being a rameniac (that’s a thing), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check it out.  I was not disappointed!  The museum occupies three stories, and the two basement levels feature a recreation of a 1950’s Tokyo Shitamachi area, complete with props, sets, and lights.  It was like a theme park, but instead of featuring rides, the attractions were ramen shops, 9 of them in one building!  Each shop specialized in a different kind of ramen, and they all had a “mini” option so you could eat a few bowls without exploding.  I chose the German ramen shop because they had a tonkotsu shoyu soup (very unique), and I wasn’t disappointed!  The soup had the rich porky flavor of standard tonkotsu, but the shoyu broth cut down on the thickness, making for a satisfying but light overall impression.  This place is like the Disneyland of ramen, and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in the neighborhood!

After stumbling out of the ramen museum in a pork broth-induced haze, I made my way out to Yamashita Park on the Yokohama inner harbor.  The weather was nice, and I spent a pleasant hour hanging out and seeing the sites.

As evening approached, I headed over to Yokohama Chinatown to meet up with my friend Hide Ota.  I met Hide during the Kitakami visit in last October when she was helping to interpret for our Japanese guests.  It was great to see her again and check out Chinatown.  We were treated to an amazing sunset and a thoroughly enjoyable evening!

June 29th – My 30th Birthday!

Ok, so I don’t usually make a big deal about birthdays, and I had a chance to celebrate with my family when I was in San Francisco for Opticon.  So when Evan Burkosky asked me what my birthday plans were, I responded with “Oh, I don’t know, I’ll probably go grab a beer and hang out alone in my apartment”.  Suffice it to say he was having none of that, and he invited me to come have dinner at his place.  I’m not sure how he and his girlfriend Kiwako got everything together so quickly, but by the time I showed up a few hours later, there was a birthday cake, a banner, and delicious homemade okonomiyaki!  I was truly touched, and it ended up being a very memorable birthday party!

June 30th – Swallows vs Tigers @ Jingu Stadium!

I’ve always wanted to see a Japanese baseball game, and we finally had a chance when Nick’s friend Eric came to town.  I had heard that the Japanese were crazy about baseball, and I was a little bit worried we wouldn’t be able to get tickets at the last minute.  The game started at 6:00pm on a drizzly Tuesday afternoon, and I guess I shouldn’t have worried because the stadium was half-empty when we got there in the second period inning (thanks to my father for the correction, you can tell I’m a hockey fan)!  We got great seats (unfortunately in the Tigers section, the Swallows are the hometown Toyko team), and it was blast!  Like American baseball, you can buy junkfood at the stadium (although the yakisoba isn’t typically on the menu at AT&T Park!). Unlike American baseball, you can buy draft beer from the event staff without ever leaving your seat!  For our section of 100 people, there were probably no fewer than 2 mini-keg toting attendants at any given time.  And the prices are really reasonable, we’re talking $6 draft beer!  This is a trend we need to bring over to the states.

…Aaand just like that, the blog is caught up again!  Woohoo!  Thanks for reading!

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