The Hello Kitty Plane

I can only wonder what strange Japanese cuteness occurs inside the Hello Kitty air plane.

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EVA is a Taiwanese airline, but this was fittingly spotted at Tokyo Narita Airport.

Skiing in Japan

Chinese New Year is a time when half of China decides to travel to their home towns. This makes travel within China an absolute nightmare, yet staying in Beijing during a four-day weekend isn’t an option. The solution is to figure out the location where four hundred million or so Han are least likely to go. In 2010 we figured that recent uprisings made Kashgar in Xinjiang a safe bet.

Given the tensions China is stirring up with Japan, and the continuous stream of anti-Japanese propaganda, we figured that Japan was a great destination to ring in the year of the Snake (2013).

We were referred through friends to an unbelievably awesome host who showed us a great time, taught us about great sake, and helped us find the most amazing powder I’ve ever seen.

Growing up skiing in Eastern North America, powder is a completely foreign concept to me. It was snowing heavily and visibility was bad on our first day. I’m very thankful for this because every time there was a moment of clarity and I could see where I was going, I was freaked out by the giant mounds of snow forming into moguls. I would see the giant mogul and try to adjust to approach at the perfect angle to absorb the impact and maintain control.

It took me a long time to overcome this instinct and learn that you can breeze right over and through light fluffy powder. It was much easier when I couldn’t see what was coming and was just floating on the snow. Eventually I figured it out.

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There were a couple of occasions when I slowed too much or carved too hard and sunk too far into the snow. Getting out of waist deep snow isn’t easy. Being huge by Japanese standards, the rental bindings were set too loose and I also blew out of my skis in spectacular fashion. The landings were soft, but the search for the missing ski was always a challenge.

Off the hills we ate great food and were amused by the snow clearing water sprinklers that are everywhere in the village. These little sprinkler heads are in all parking lots and in the centre of every roadway in the town. The system is highly effective because the temperature never drops too far below freezing, although it makes the city a less than appealing place to be a pedestrian.

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Despite the awesomeness of the four different mountains we skied, I don’t have a lot of photos because there was just too much snow for me to take out my camera.

Yoyogi Park, Tokyo

On Sunday afternoon, Yoyogi park is filled with people doing every form of activity possible. Some, like napping in the sun, were quite predictable.

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Other activities, like kicking a ball, were done with a certain outlandish Japanese flair.

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I liked the random things that people do in the park.

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Dancing was a popular activity.

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This couple went so far as to be shooting a music video.

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I had been noticing people pushing strollers without any children in them. It finally dawned on me that they were specially designed prams for dogs.

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Strange.

Marriage and other blessings at Meji Jingu Shrine

While wandering around Meji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo, I was lucky enough to see a marriage procession.

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Not far away, a priest greets a woman who brought her mother and daughter with her to the temple to have her car blessed. The temple has a special drive-in temple building for just this purpose.
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Conveyor belt sushi

I knew when I saw a packed restaurant with a line-up of people waiting for a seat at the conveyor belt that I had to give it a try. I was slightly disappointed in the food, but that didn’t stop me from accumulating a giant stack of empty plates in front of me.

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Japan’s bullet trains

The Japan rail pass for foreign tourists is a painful exercise in bureaucracy to obtain, but a great deal.

Plus, Japan’s bullet trains are simply awesome looking. Who wouldn’t want to ride in a giant beluga whale that goes 300 Km/h?

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Waiting patiently

After living in China for two years, I didn’t recognize what was happening in front of me on the train platform. The sight of neatly formed single-file lines of people waiting patiently to board the train had become completely foreign to me.

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It wasn’t until the last person stepped off the train that the line moved. It was so quick and efficient that I waited for the next train to watch it happen again.

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No smoking

Despite being a society of smokers, smoking is banned on public sidewalks in Tokyo with the exception of designated areas.

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The deer of Nara

Nara is a small city outside of Kyoto. It is known for the hundreds of deer that roam through the city’s parks.

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Kasuga Shrine

There’s a lantern festival at Kasuga Shrine every year where all the lanterns are lit. Not only are there hundreds around the temple buildings, but the entire forest in the area is filled with stone lanterns. It would be an amazing sight to see and would be worth returning to Nara for.

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Animal (emotional) abuse

This woman in Kyoto clearly loves and cares for her dog. Yet, can her dog really love her? Oh the indignity. I feel some kind of intervention is required.

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On the other hand, I have a white cat named Jak. I’m sure he could learn to love having purple ears and feet.

Kyoto crime scene

A large number of helicopters had been buzzing around Kyoto all afternoon. We stumbled across the location where the police were hosing down the sidewalks and removing the police tape. Unbeknownst to us, earlier in the day a bus had run over a number of pedestrians in downtown Kyoto.

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This reporter must be a seasoned pro, because he had the perfect mobile setup to edit his photos and file his story.

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I recognize a card reader, but I’m not sure what the other random devices glued to the top of his laptop are.