Japan Trip 2011 - January(Last updated on 2011/04/23)

2011/1/20-21 going to Japan

Going to airport

Woke up at 6:00am, ate breakfast, stretched my body, then finished packing after taking a shower. Unlike other Japan trips, the morning without a rush was not so bad at all. The sky was cloudy but not too cold either. News was reporting of that rain can start falling anytime of the day. Took out trash before leaving my apartment at 7:30am. As I thought, the road was already crowded so the process for stopping at drycleaner to drop off my pants added extra time to reach to I-10, it took almost 20 minutes. I turned to east, trying to get on Beltway 8, which took another 15 minutes. Started to drive up north but the traffic was jammed until reaching to 290 for both Sam Houston Tollway and Beltway 8. The rain started when I get on the freeway, so I drove carefully, I don't need any accidents here. Arrived at the parking safe at 8:50am. Took a shuttle van to the terminal E. The driver and other passengers were taking about a trip to Colorado for vacation. They gave a driver a tip, and so do I. I hope that lady will save it for her family's trip. Getting off from the van and walked toward the check in counter. Did not take much time to wait in a line until getting my 48.5lb bag taken care of at 9:05am. I walked toward the security screening, then passed without any issues. Proceeded to the gate but picked up a couple of magazines and bags of candies for my coworkers in Japan on the way. Arrived at the gate at 9:20am, and saw lines is formed at the podium. I guessed that they started to do the passport check so I decided to go there before taking a seat. Use my laptop for browsing internet, which is free for 45 minutes. It was enough time before the boarding begins.

Going to Japan: CO7 IAH(10:55am CST) - NRT(3:45pm JST 1/21)

CO7 at Houston Airport  Leaving Houston

The boarding started at 10:05am, the way how they do is again not so efficient. I hope they will learn soon. Took a while to have everybody coming in from the first/business class and from the very end of cabin, then I finally was allowed to get in at 10:25am. The cabin was not chaotic as the last time but still I see staffs running around. Anyways, the plane was safely pushed back at 11:00am, started to taxi toward the runway. The plane took off at 11:10am. The plane circled around the airport in thick cloud while ascending. I can still see the a part of the facility for a split seconds between the clouds. Since the flight path function was not working, I lost bearing and could not see where I was going. Broke through the clouds in about 5 minutes then the plane kept climbing to the cruising altitude.

Snow on horizon  Lunch

Changed the heading to north ward at noon, then the lunch was served. I tried cod fish this time, but I guess I should have chosen the beef instead. When I start seeing the circular farmlands on the ground, I could see snow on the ground at far. Guessing we are flying at northwestern Texas, looking up Oklahoma. While eating lunch and afterwards, I was watching a few programs, including a one showing how the coins are made, cutting process of marble stones, and another one showing a couple of teams modifying minivans to so called sports cars. The last one was a movie, Hurt Locker, I wanted to watch it because it had a lot of good reviews. It was good but, I guess there are some rooms for improvement, like the movie could contain more details of surroundings. Finished watching around 4:00pm then I closed my eyes to take a rest until I get to Japan. The seat was not that comfortable but I have no choice. Kinda sad part of being in a economy class. Snacks served at 6:30pm, which was a chicken enchilada burrito and a cup of ice cream. Again I went to sleep. The air gets turbulent on few occasions, but otherwise it was calm all the way. I heard the tone of the engine changes, looked up my clock says 10:00pm and guessed that we just started to slow down, approaching toward Narita. I looked outside the window but no land insight yet. The cabin lights turned on at 11:00pm, about 1.5 hours more to go. The breakfast was served at 11:20pm, I chose eggs. The plane few south of Choji city and feet dried at 12:25am. The plane made the final approach and landed safe at 12:34am, which is 3:34pm on 1/21 local time. Had to taxi for a while so the plane arrived at the gate at 3:50pm.

Snacks (ice cream... Yummy...  Breakfast
Passing by Choji city Feet dry soon

Lucky to be sitting at 16L. I was one of the first one in economy class to get out from the plane and I started walking toward the immigration. I get my passport checked at 4:00pm, and took a stair down to the baggage claim. The bag did not come out for a while. I had to wait for another 30 minutes. Everybody else got their stuffs and the staffs kept telling me there are more to come many times. They also told me that the containers from Houston always do not put the bags in order. Anyways, I finally got mine and I am happy. Passed the customs with no questions asked, then walked to the connecting exit.

Flight to Nagoya: NH339 NRT(6:15pm JST) - NGO(7:25pm JST)

After I stepped out, I lined up behind 20 people at 4:35pm to drop off my bags to the connection flight. Gave my bag and I got the gate information. Passed the security and walked toward the gate at 4:45pm. Paid a 190 yen for a rice ball as my dinner. While waiting for the plane at the lounge, there are about 5 different gates from side to side, and everybody will be taken to a remote boarding locations by buses. I got some time to type up my blog then soon the boarding for the flight NH 339 began at 5:50pm. I had to get on a bus and rode for almost 5 minutes to reach a plane by terminal 2. I am glad today is a warm day. Took a seat in the plane around 6:00pm. The plane was ready to go at scheduled time but the captain announced that the congestion is causing the delay in departure. The push back happened at 6:23pm, about 10 minutes behind. The plane taxied and I could see the moon on the horizon. It was very much round so it looked nice. The plane took off in the air at 6:50pm, I could see the moon in dark orange color. I fell sleep since I did not have much things to watch outside. The plane landed at 7:40pm, and I woke up from the shock of landing gears contacting the ground. The plane taxied for a while but I was getting out from the plane in 5 minutes, walking toward the exit for baggage pick up. I hope my bag will show up quick this time.

 Rice ball Getting on board

Coming Home

At the baggage claim, the bag came out very quick. So I was ready to leave by 7:55pm. After picking it up, I walked toward the train station. There will be an express train leaving here at 8:07pm, so I walked up to a vending machine to buy a ticket to Nagoya. I had some time before the train depart, so I bought a bottled green tea. The MuSKY 51, departed on time and arrived at my destination in 28 minutes. I walked out from the platform, headed to a Meitetsu Bus Center, unfortunately, I had to wait for 20 minutes for the next bus. The bus departed at 9:00pm, and arrived to the bus stop nearby my house at 9:30pm. I walked to home, greeted my dad. I wanted to go bed so bad so I just took a quick shower and went to sleep by 10:00pm.

MuSKY arrived at Nagoya at 8:35pm

2011/1/22 Mother's Sankaiki (1.2/8.9)

Morning, 2nd Anniversary of my mom passing away

Over the night, I did not get to sleep since my feet did not get warmed up. I hate the winter time being at home. Getting out from the bed at 6:00am, stretched my body for a while then had breakfast with my dad. We had to use heater to warm the room up because the morning was around 1C. I washed the dishes, then got ready for the day. While I update my blog, my dad walked up to the butsudan and I guess thinking of my mom for a while, remembering the event two years ago.

The day was supposed to be more winter like, but actually it turned out to be sunny and calm. Dropped off a bag at nearby store to have it shipped to the hotel I am checking in on Monday via Kuroneko Express. I set up the tables, boiled hot water to warm up tea in PET bottles. Around 10:30am, my uncle, aunt and grandma came, as well as my brother's family. We chat for a while, sipping hot tea then the monk came at 10:50am. The sutra started and lasted a quite a while, maybe for 30 minutes. I could not keep myself in Seiza form for more than 10 minutes so Sushi delivered at 11:30am. After the monk left, we started to have lunch.


We had lunch together, not much talk about mom, but it's been a while to have eight of us gathered together. The sushi was okay, then my brother had to go work so he left as early as 12:30pm. My uncle drove back home around 1:30pm, my sister in law and niece stayed for a while but left around 2:30pm. I started to wash dishes, which took a long while since there were about 16 cups and 8 sushi bowls and another 20 plates. I hate not having any running hot water but this is the way how we do for more than 30 years and I had to bare with it. Finished everything at 4:00pm, put the tables away and set up Kotatsu heater in the living room. Took a short break for now.

Evening at my brother's

I walked out from the house around 5:00pm and took a bus, which I had to pay 200 Yen since I did not carry Yurica. Outside was getting darker but not completely yet. I stopped by at Yamada electric appliance store to buy a software for Nintendo DS. Then I walked to Mitsukoshi department store for books and textbooks. As I came out from the department store, I arrived at my brother's house a bit early around 6:00pm, then my dad came. Had had dinner together, We had mushroom and shrimp, beef stew and chatting over regular work related. My niece was having too much snacks after coming home in the afternoon so he did not eat much and ended misbehaving again like last time and started crying for given a timeout. Stayed until 8:00pm then we headed out. My body clock is around 5:00am so it was very cold and cannot make enough heat to maintain my body temperature without trying hard. Took a subway back to a station nearby, when I get to the ground level, the bus was there so I had to run up and secure time for my dad to catch up. Came home around 8:30pm, went to bed at 9:30pm.

2011/1/23 Free Sunday (1.4/8.6)

[Lottery numbers for New Year's card reported.]

I woke up at 11:30pm in the night, then not going back to sleep until the morning. Woke up at 6:00am, had breakfast with my dad. The outside at 6:00am is slightly bright, unlike the Christmas break when I stayed here. Caught up with my blog again, then took a quick shower. I left home around 10:00am, to walk to Seiyu grocery store to buy items for the training from Thursday, and some extra items. Walked back home at 11:30am, and had lunch with my dad. A kind of Chuka-don.

My dad made this flower arrangement...

For the afternoon, I pulled out clothing from storage box and packed into my bag. I spent most of the time typing up my blog, but also did a little organizing. The outside is getting darker around 3:50pm and the solar panels at the house stop generating enough electricity. Put away zabutons to storage, wrote more blog. Had dinner with my dad, udon noodles. Did the dishes and relaxed for the evening. Good time to catch up with my dad but not too long. I got really sleepy so I went to bed at 8:30pm...

2011/1/24 Voting, moving to Nishi-Akashi (1/8)


I guess I was quite sleepy partly due to jet lag, so I slept pretty good until waking up around 2:30am, and stayed in the bed until 6:00am. The morning is sunny, and expected to be cloudy in the evening again. Mountains area might get some snow according to the news. Tempareture is reported at 1C.

Voting at Ward Office

After finish washing dishes, I walked out from the house at 8:10am and toward Meito Ward office for absentee vote. For this time, formally scheduled for February 6th, there are three kinds going on, Mayor for Nagoya city, Governor for Aichi prefecture, and city hall recall vote. I can cast for all three from today. I thought it would be just 30 minutes of walk, but took actually 10 minutes more. Because it was bitter cold, my toes started to get numb. Finally arrived at the building, had to go up to the third floor, and cast all three. I hope my vote be counted, and they will hear my voice. Walking out from the office, took the same path back home. I got back at 9:40am. After that, I packed my bag, checked the timetable to go to Akashi, then read newspapers for the day. It was quite interesting to read about Boringho, a generation of Chinese people who were born in the 80s. Had curry for lunch with my dad, did the dishes.

Moving to Nishi-Akashi

I left home at 2:20pm to catch a bus to train station. I shook hand with my dad, hope to see him again soon. The bus came at 2:29pm and arrived at Nagoya bus terminal at 3:10pm, which was 10 minutes more than I was hoping. I have to say that road was jammed. Now I have to change my plan.

Nozomi 111 bound to Shin-Osaka Passing Sekigahara, snow field

I was planning on to use a train leaving at 3:17pm, which will take me to Nishi-Akashi without changing trains. However, the extra time in the bus resulted me to get to the platform at 3:20pm. So I waited for the next train as the sun started to getting lower. Nozomi 111 left Nagoya at 3:35pm and arrived at Shin-Osaka at 4:26pm. When I got on the car, I felt relaxed. Just by looking out the window was something fun, too. The surroundings changed as soon as it entered Sekigahara, it was all white. There must to be a lot of snow then. After arriving at Shin-Osaka, I had to change the train to Kodama. The platform was going under renovation so there is no escalator nearby for use, took more than 5 minutes to move to another platform. Kodama 757 left Shin-Osaka at 4:38pm, and arrived at Nishi-Akashi at 5:06pm. Dragged out the bag and started walking down the platform to the outside. It was somewhat nice feeling of breathing the air where I spent 6 months last year. All the commotions from the passing trains and on major roads brought back thoese memories. I checked in at the hotel at 5:15pm, took a quick shower. Phew...

Kodama 757


For the evening, I needed to wash my cloth. I pack my clothing in a bag and took them to a nearby coin laundry, which I used to use a lot last year. I started around 5:30pm, did a load which was 400 Yen to wash and another 300 Yen for drying. Finished around 7:00pm then walked back to the hotel room. Went out again after dropping the bag off and headed to Lotteria for dinner. I bought Zetsumyo Burger.

Zetsumyo Burger at Lotteria

2011/1/25 Reporting at Work (1/8)

Woke up around 2:30am, somehow my body feel feverish. I am not sure why. I hope I am not catching a cold, this is a very important business trip and I have been wearing a mask whole time. Walked to station, took a train to work. In the morning, It was chilly as I was waiting for a train to come. At work, I met with a coworker who took me through the factory to review items, went to a supplier and had meeting for the morning for a while. The morning passed by so quick, had lunch then had to spent afternoon meeting with more people. Stayed until 7:00pm then walked out from the office. Took a train back to Nishi-Akashi. Went to a convenience store before coming home. Had dinner at my room and went to bed. My body is acting up very funny.

2011/1/26 Reporting at Work (1/7)

Woke up around 3:00am, but stayed in bed until 6:00am, I feel better today. Maybe I drink a lot of water and started to use air cleaner/humidifier. In the morning, I have an appointment so I walked to a different office and had meeting until 10:00am then walked to another office and stayed until noon. Worked on my projects until 7:00pm then walked out. Had dinner at a restaurant on the way back to the station. took a train back to Nishi-Akashi then saw my coworkers just arrive to Japan. Walked back to the hotel, and I stayed up until 10:00pm.

2011/1/27 Training at head office: Day 1 (0/7)

Woke up at 4:00am, and stayed in bed until 5:00am. Checked emails to follow up items on my projects. Went to the 2nd floor to have breakfast at the hotel. Headed out in the chilly air to catch a train leaving at 7:24am. I could see my exhaled air is white. Started the day with working on my projects, and headed to factory for the afternoon. Had lunch at Lotteria, stayed at the facility until 5:00pm and came back to the office. I stayed until 7:00pm and walked to the station. I missed the train by 2 minutes so I had to walk straight to a restaurant where my coworkers are waiting. Come home around 8:30pm, reviewed the materials for the work and went to bed around 11:00pm.

View from the Hotel room, Looking at Nishi Akashi station

2011/1/28 Training at head office: Day 2 (0/7)

[Japan's HTV #2 docked with ISS]
Woke up at 5:00am, checked emails before going to get breakfast in the morning around 6:30am. Left hotel to catch train earlier than yesterday, I got on the train leaving at 7:09am and arrived at the office by 7:30am to start working on my project until 9:00am. Took my coworkers to factory tour and spent morning in class room style. Left the office around noon, had lunch at McDonald's before going back to work. Spent time until 5:00pm and came back to the office. I kept working on projects until 6:30pm then joined dinner with my coworkers. Stayed until 9:00pm and took a train coming at 9:02pm which was late by 10 minutes from original schedule. Went to bed by 11:00pm. Expecting colder air tomorrow.

2011/1/29 Training at head office: Day 3 (0/7)

Woke up at 6:00am, had breakfast around 7:00am, today is pretty chilly in the morning with very bright sunny weather. Joined my coworkers to go work in the morning around 8:30am. Spent morning at office then drove to another location for onsite training. Left there around 4:00pm and came back to the hotel at 5:00pm. Took a rapid train to Sannomiya, saw snow flakes in the air just as we arrived to the station. It was pretty cold so we walked fast toward the restaurant, for a very good meal (Kobe beef!). Left there around 8:30pm, I went to shopping to Yamada appliance store until they are closing at 9:00pm. Took a train leaving Sannomiya at 9:22pm and come back to the hotel room around 10:00pm. Washed my work pant since they are really dirty from oil and dirt. Went to bed around 11:30pm.

Looking pretty cold in the evening.

2011/1/30 Training at head office: Day 4 (4/-2)

Woke up at 5:50am, it's -2C in the morning. When I turned on the TV, it was reporting of Japan has won the Soccer Asia Championship.

Went to eat breakfast at 6:45am, took a train to work. Since today was the last day, we stayed at the office for entire day. The day turned out to be a good day and the evening was very nice. I just cannot believe that I worked whole weekend. Had dinner together and we came back to the hotel. Tomorrow I have to take them to sightseeing...

2011/1/31 Going back to the U.S. (5/-3)

Free Time in the morning

Pretty clear sky, I don't want to go back to the U.S.?!

Woke up at 6:00am, had breakfast then stepped out under sunny sky to do the last load of laundry. I spent about 1 hour there, and read magazines while I wait. Reorganized the items in the bags then walked to Koroneko store to ship the bag to my home. I paid 1,270Yen. Coming back to the hotel, packed for the returning trip. I came down to the first floor around 9:30am, meeting with my coworkers.

Visiting Harley Davidson at Takatori

We walked out from the hotel room, took a rapid train to Suma, then switched to a local train to Takatori. Once getting off at the place, walked to south toward interstate then turned west for a bit. Walked into a Harley Davidson stores where one of my coworkers wanted to visit. He wanted to know how much the same kind of bike he owns in Japan, and also liked the T-shirts so much. It was almost like 8,000Yen. Walked out from the store, get on a local train to Sannomiya. While we wait for a train, it was freezing cold!

Going to Sannomiya

At Sannomiya, the other coworker wanted to buy play dolls for his daughters, so we went to a department store called Sogo. I have to say, which was pretty fun to watch a big American guy looking for small toy dolls (for girl). During the search, they found Tomica toy cars which have some construction machines in their selection, so they started buy them but some are missing a few. Not satisfied, so we decided to head to Akashi to try at ToyR'us for more and for our lunch. We left there just after noon via Special Rapid, getting off at Akashi for more toys. We are now okay. Walking out from the department store, we had Sushi plate for lunch. I realized although my coworkers stayed almost a week, they have never get to eat this. I am glad they enjoyed it.

Sushi plates for me, too!

It's about the time we need to head home, so we took a train back to the hotel around 2:00pm to pick up bags, then headed out to Nishi-Akshi station again.

Going to airport

Since we are carrying big bags, the time to go to the platform was much longer than usual. When we arrived at the platform, the train was coming in. I took pictures of them with the train on the back. Get on Hikari 476 at 14:15 at Nishi-Akashi, it left the station on time and made a stop at Shin-Kobe. My coworkers were enjoying the ride since there is no high speed train this fast in the U.S. I was looking outside, kind of missing the place. The train safely arrived at 14:38 at Shin-Osaka. We took an escalator down to the concourse, and started walking toward the another platform to get on an express train. Haruka 27, departing at 14:45 at Shin-Osaka, was just about to depart. The station staff was blowing whistle as we arrived by an elevator. Hmm, what a rush. The travel toward the airport was fine. Arrived safe at Kansai Airport at 15:32. It's time to go home.

Going back to the U.S.: CO6026 KIX(6:35pm JST) - SFO(11:15am PST)

Arrived at the airport, lined up to check myself in. While I was getting my tickets, my coworkers managed to get access to the lounge. We went down to the 2nd floor for gift hunting. I wrote a couple of postcards, and put the stamps on and dropped in a postal box. Since my coworker wanted to bring more cigarettes, I had to help him by carrying one. Took a tram to go to gate 10, and met up with my coworkers. The boarding started so I got on the plane, the B777-200 for United Airline was a bit old but having only two seats instead of three by the window helped.

B777 at Osaka airport under twilight

The sun was coming down as it was preparing to depart, and the plane was pushed back at 6:30pm then took off to south at 6:45pm, flying along the main land then turned to east. I could see the belt of light from Nagoya to Tokyo. Soon the plane headed to the pacific ocean. The entertainment system was not that good so I took nap after the dinner. The flight to San Francisco was very much calm. I woke up when the plane is about two hours off the shore, then the breakfast was served and soon the plane reduced the engine power for descending.

I can see KIX floating in Osaka bay

Dinner served. Beef. Breakfast burrito?!
Over pacific ocean Approaching to San Francisco

Going back to Houston: CO1669 SFO(2:40pm PST) - IAH(8:20pm CST)

After passing immigration, I picked up my bags then headed to the customs then to the exit. Met with my coworkers already at outside, and we rechecked our bags. They needed to smoke, welcome to the U.S. now you have to go smoke outside. Passed through the security again, I thought it was okay with the belt, for the first time, it was triggered. I had to remove my belt then I could pass with no problem. Arrived to the gate with a lot of free time. I went to a store to buy postcards.

This one will take us back to Houston

Flying over San Francisco Flying by the airport

Almost home

Getting on the plane at 2:10pm and the plane departed on time. The plane took off to the north then made a left turn to the south, flew for a while then soon changed the heading to eastward, going to Houston. I took several short naps, as we approaches to Houston, the sun was set and the outside became dark. Even I get to see some lightning in the clouds. I was reading the weather in Houston area could get stormy over the night so I hope I can avoid that. Since it's dark outside, I was not quite sure how the plane is navigating but landed okay at 8:20pm.

Going home

Arrived at baggage claim and found my coworkers. Their bags came out fast so we shook hands and they headed back to their homes earlier. One of them has to drive almost 4 hours so hope he arrives before getting rained down. Finally getting my bags, dragged them outside to get on a shuttle bus. I left there around 9:15pm, drove on the toll road with less traffic to head home quick. Stopped by at Kroger to get minimum items to survive for the day. Come home around 10:00pm, called home to let my dad know that I got home safe.

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