Japan Trip 2011 - December  (Last updated on 2013/02/18)

2011/12/21-22 Going to Japan (Done)

To Airport

I woke up at 4:45am with help of alarm clock, felt so tired since I went to bed late around 10:30pm last night. Stretched my body and ate a quick breakfast as usual. I took a shower but I know I am a little behind of the schedule because the time I wanted to be on my way was 5:30am which is right now and I am just about taking shower. Finished in the shortest possible, throw all the items in the bags. Took my bags out and also the trash bags.

I left my apartment at 5:50am, the only main gate is operating so I had to drive around. Joining to the traffic from the apartment complex was easy because there are very few cars on the road, I drove toward the interstate under still a night sky. The traffic condition to the airport was just fine. I get on I-10 and then to beltway 8, I never had to ease cruise control all way to the airport. Getting off at the exit to the airport, following a couple of other cars toward the parking. Arrived at the parking at 6:30am but I had to go to very back of the place to park. Get picked up by a shuttle bus, it had to go around and around until the van is filled. Leaving the site and headed toward the airport.

Get dropped off at the terminal and proceeded to the check in counter. I already checked in online so I thought I just need to drop off bags and receive the tickets. However, the automated machine denied my process so I had to first talk with a Continental Airlines agent, then she sent me to the United Airways at next counter. I were not allowing me to do. I had ask another attendant and finally got my ticket at 6:45am and walked toward the security. Since I already in the elite status so I just need to lined up to a shorter line. I waited for 10 minutes until I passed the screening. Hurrying toward the gate at 6:55am. The boarding will soon start.

To San Francisco: CO567 IAH (7:30AM CST) - SFO (9:57AM PST)

When I reached to the gate, the boarding was already in progress. The plane was a A320. When I get on board the plane at 7:15am, it was already packed. Found out that the folks around me were from Beijing, China. They were here for a business and carrying duty free Toshiba laptops in hands. Those were made in China for sure; how ironic. The sun was just about to come out while waiting for the departure. The plane left the gate on time at 7:30am and pushed back. Started to taxi at 7:40am toward a runway but there were so many planes already waiting in line. So the plane had to wait for 15 minutes before finally taking off to the south at 8:00am. The plane turned to right to change heading to north, flying over the Woodlands 5 minutes later. The plane kept going toward north but soon it changed heading to west.

Looking out the window, watching the sun comes up Waiting for the turn to take off

Leaving Houston

The flight was mostly smooth but sometimes came under turbulence. The first one started around 8:20am as it climbed to 36,000ft. The plane flying over the plain 8:50am, as the ground was getting partially covered around 9:13am. Reached to rocky area at 9:22am. Turbulent again around 9:46am, and again around 10:20am. Around 10:00am, the plane was flying over canyon area, and mountain area at 10:20am. The plane first slow down around 10:45am, then soon started the initial descent as it approached Sierra Nevada mountains. I saw Tonopah Test Range on its way at 10:53am. Flying over Sierra Nevada at 11:11am, and kept going west. Flew the south of San Francisco then turned to the north toward the airport.

Flying over a plain with some snow snow covered a lot of snow in the mountains
10:17am CST 10:20am CST

The plane landed at 9:45am but had to wait on a  taxiway for a while since other planes were blocking the way. Finally started to move at 10:00am and arrived at the gate. Since I sat nearly the last row, I had to wait for a while before I can get out. I proceeded to the international terminal, it is good that I don't have to go through the security check again, saves time.

The plane landing to SFO

To Narita: CO837 11:27AM PST (SFO)-3:45PM, 22nd JST(NRT)

Walked up to the gate and asked the representative if I had to do a passport check, and they told me that's not required... Okay then. Waited at the lobby where many people just waiting for the boarding to begin. There were not enough seats around so I saw many of them standing, and I was one of them. The boarding started and I could take seat early because of my elite status, so I just walked into the cabin and took my seat at 11:00am. Waited for a while to get all seats filled. I picked the one at very end and only had one person next to me so it was easy to get out. The plane departed nearly on time at 11:30am, and taxied for a while. It took off to the northwest at 11:45am and flew by South San Francisco. I could see the downtown and then the golden gate bridge to the right. Flow along the coast line as it gained altitude.

CO837 at San Francisco San Francisco

Making a course adjustment at noon the plane gradually leaving the coast. Get served with rice and beef. The rice was burnt so it did not taste good. Finished in 10 minutes and went back to reading magazines. 8:40am (PST), turbulent but it it was okay. 9:20am (PST) flying by southwest Alaska so it is half way now.

Leaving the U.S. soil Lunch served

Snacks served in the middle of the night, I am not sure if I like them because they are so dry. 11:24am flying southeast of Kamchatka Peninsula. The plane flew by east of Hokkaido at 1:15pm then the cabin lights became on at 1:35pm. We have about 2.5 hours more to go. The last meal was served at 2:00pm and it was noodle and a bag of potato chips. I had the same chips for the snack... United, you disappointed me.

Night time snack Breakfast before landing. Why the same chips?!

The plane started to descent at 2:35pm, the weather was cloudy so I cannot see anything. The plane made it to shore at port of Kashima at 2:50pm, and flew along Tone river, the plane made final left turn toward the Narita airport, and landed at 3:05pm under overcast weather.

Kashima area

The plane taxied for a while and arrived at the gate in 3 minutes. Getting off the plane took a while because of my seating. Finally get to breeze the air in Japan at 3:15pm. Walked toward the immigration 5 minutes after and proceeded to the baggage claim. I was benefited from the elite status again here. Although the bags did not come out smoothly, mine were the one of those first ones coming out. Dragged my bag and proceeded to the exit.

To Nagoya: CO9693 6:15PM(NRT)-7:25PM(NGO)

I carried my bags to the transfer station for ANA. Since I did not have a ticket issued at Houston, I was told to walk to the ticketing counter to get one. At the counter, a receptionist asked my seating preference, of course I want to get a window seat. After checking in my bags, I walked toward the security screening with a ticket in my hand. Walking up the stairs, short walk toward the screening and passed the station at 3:50pm. I arrived at the waiting area and took a break. I finally pulled out my Japanese cell phone and made a call to let my dad know that I arrived at Narita. While I wait, I walked to a store in the floor to buy water and snacks just after 4:00pm. I found a Vitamin Water with Japanese logo, so I had to grab one. While I was waiting for the plane, I typed up a report. Seems like they have a bus issue and some flights are delayed because they cannot get the shuttle bus running on time.

Vitaminwater found in Japan. (Some writing in Japanese) My dinner, a rice ball and water
Waiting at Lobby Shuttle bus to the airplane

Around 5:00pm, an announcement was made that the flight to Centrair may be bumpy, so I decided to go to the restroom before I get on the shuttle bus. The boarding was supposed to be starting at 5:30pm, but the bus was late. We had to wait to board until 5:55pm but the bus was filled within 5 minutes. I hope we can depart on time. The bus proceeded to the aircraft under dark and somewhat foggy airport field. Getting on the plane at 6:10pm and ready to go. The plane started to taxi but had to be in line for a while.

The plane took off at 6:40pm, flew over Tokyo at 6:55pm. Then I felt so tired and fell sleep.

Departing Narita


The plane approached from the south of the airport, I was half asleep so I did not know what was happening until the plane landed at Centrair at 7:30pm. After a short taxi, the plane reached to the gate. Getting off at 7:40pm and walked toward the baggage claim. I had to wait for a while but finally pick them up at 8:00pm.

Plane arrived at Nagoya Cats at Baggage Claims

To Home

Walked toward the train ticketing counter, bought a ticket to Nagoya station at 8:02pm and it was just enough time to get on the MuSKY 53 leaving Centrair station at 8:07pm. I had to call my dad from the train deck after getting on because of the tight timing. The train kept going under dark winter sky of Nagoya, made a couple of stops before arriving at Nagoya at 8:35pm.

MuSky arrived at Nagoya  Nana-chan only wearing short sleeves in the winter... Heard of no company sponsored the Christmas cloth, which was supposed be around 2,500,000 Yen 8:43pm.

Walking up to the Meitetsu Bus Center after getting out from the train, checked out Nana-chan doll on the way and surprised to see that she is not wearing the Christmas themed cloth. I wonder why she only wears Chunichi Dragons' short sleeve shirt and pants. (Later I found out on a news that no company sponsored the winter costume which usually cost them 2,500,000 Yen.) When I arrived at the gate, the bus was already there so I put my bags in the trunk and took a seat. The bus left Nagoya at 9:00pm and moved toward east. I got off at the bus stop nearby my house at 9:40pm and dragged my bags to the new house. It was dark but I can see it is standing at where used to be a garden, and also the gate looks different, too. Walked into the house and greeted with my brother's family and took a shower. Went to bed around 10:30pm. I was tired.

2011/12/23 At Home (Done)

AM, to the Midland Square

I did not get to sleep over the night. I got out from the bed around 6:00am with help of an alarm clock on my Japanese cell phone. My dad came and asked if I was going to have breakfast with him, but I already promised with my brother's family so I only joined for a chat with my dad. Had breakfast with my brother's family around 8:00am. At the new house, I have a better view than the last one. Today seems to be a nice day so I thought maybe I can see far way and decided to go to a high rise at Nagoya station to check out the view of Nagoya. My brother's family decided to join me so we all packed in hurry. We left home at 10:00am to catch a bus to Nagoya. Walking out from the terminal but it was very windy. Walked across the main road to reach the Midland Square's entrance at 10:50am. The observation deck was open from 11:00pm so we came in a good timing.

The Midland Square

Took an elevator to the 42nd floor, purchased ticket for 700 yen then took a couple more escalators up to the deck. It was very windy and cold, I guess the people here were only us. While we are watching outside, my nephew start getting upset, I guess he wants to eat ice cream since we kinda talked about it between the adults. We took an elevator down and headed to the underground mall and stopped for coffee. Stayed until noon then we left.

Nagoya Castle      

They had a LF-A displayed


Said goodbye to my brother's family then headed to Yamada Denki near Nagoya station. I heard it just opened, not realizing my friend actually work there. I looked around but the batteries for digital cameras were not available. The store staffs told me that they are available on backorder basis. I guess I have to look for them at another location I am familiar with... Took a subway train to Sakae, then walked to Maruzen bookstore to check out the books I wanted to buy but they are not available eitehr. I guess I am missing many items today. I saw a KFC and Krispy Kreme on the way so I snapped pictures.

KFC Krispy Kreme in Nagoya

 Christmas decoration at Crystal Square at 12:40pm

Teriyaki Burger meal, soon Grand Canyon Burger is coming! 

I also bought a couple of business shirts for 3,000Yen at Yofuku no Aoki at 1:00pm. I then walked to south to go to Osu to try to find the replacement batteries. I was not lucky at several stores I tried, so I finally stopped at Tsukumo Denki at 1:35pm. They usually carry them. My sister in law's was 4,200 Yen and mine was 4,410 Yen. They are not cheap but worth the cost. I have not got my lunch yet, so I stopped by at McDonald's around 2:20pm and had Teriyaki McBurger on the way walking back to Sakae. I took a subway back to Hoshigaoka station. After crossing the gate at 3:00pm, I made a Manaca and charged 5,000 Yen. I then walked to Yamada Denki store in Hoshigaoka to buy a Nintendo DS and a CD player around 3:30pm. I took a bus back home. Stopped by at a drug store, bought body wash towel, masks, and eye drops at 4:00pm.


Came home, relaxed, gave the battery to my sister-in-law. For the evening, I had a kaninabe for the dinner, Went to bed around 11:30pm.

Kaninabe, yum...

2011/12/24 Christmas Eve (Done)

Meeting with my grandma, uncle and aunt

Woke up around 4:30am, and I was not able to go back to sleep afterward. I only stayed in the bed. The news said it was -0.5C in the morning. Got out from the bed around 6:00am and stretched my body as usual. Had breakfast with my brother's family and I got ready for the day. Left home with my brother and nephew around 9:00am. Caught a bus then headed to Nagoya station. We got off from the bus and headed to Meitetsu station. Get on a train leaving at 9:52am to Kirayashida and headed to Narumi. Got off from the train, then started to walk toward grandma's place. The tide was low which I can tell as we walk across a river, the sky was sunny. Arrived at grandma's place at 10:20am, a little early.

Train arrived at Narumi station

My brother and nephew walked to relative's house, and I stayed and talked with my grandma for a while. My uncle should have been here by now but looks like getting late. We waited until after the noon.


Had lunch together with my uncle, aunt and grandma, chat a while then came back to the train station. I took a train back to Nagoya. I bought a snack box at Takashimaya's Yokumoku at 3:30pm. The store was packed with people for the Christmas and made me exhausted. It's been a while since the last time I had to deal with crowds. Walking outside and caught a bus home at 3:42pm. The traffic toward the center of Nagoya city was getting busy as the bus moving in opposite direction smoothly. I came home around 4:30pm, my brother's family had to go out so I was watching my niece at home. After they come home, I went to buy chopsticks, notebooks, and refill for the ball point pens after 6:00pm. We are expecting some snow tonight but has not started yet. Had dinner with my brother's family, went to bed after 10:30pm. I really need to start wrapping...

2011/12/25 Christmas


Woke up around 5:00am, it was pretty cold but no snow on the ground. I was a little disappointed. After get done with stretching my body, I started to wrap gifts for tonight, and ate breakfast around 8:00am with my brother's family. While we are eating, I saw snow in the air, this must be the first one this year. Updated my blog for the morning after the breakfast. I was so much behind of it. Worked in the yard from 10:00am to make a hole to place an evergreen tree coming to our house tomorrow. I got help from my brother, and small help from my nephew. Come back to the house and stayed in Kotatsu until noon.

Christmas Party in the evening

I had lunch with my brother's family. It was a microwavable pilaf. I guess even a super skilled nutritionist needs some breaks from cooking. Stopped by at a nearby convenience store to grab a magazine and bottled water. Stayed at home for the rest of the day quiet. For the evening, we had Christmas dinner with brother's family. I gave my niece a musical stuffed animal and fish&net, nephew a book with puzzles, my brother a box of snacks, my dad a CD player since my old he tried to use was broken. Went to bed around 11:00pm, the outside was not snowed yet.

Christmas dinner in Japanese style, yes it comes with rice and chopsticks!

2011/12/26: Last day before going back to the U.S.

AM, loading a tree at community center, stop by at a post office.

Woke up at 4:30am once, looked outside and saw the surrounding is white because of snow. I got up around 6:00am, stretched my body then headed outside for a while to check out the surroundings. Some more snowing in the morning before clearing up around 8:00am.

Snow Covered Trees Surviving Orange Tree

The first assignment I needed to do was to move a tree from local community center to my house to keep it until the next Christmas. As I walk snow covered road toward the building after 9:30am, I saw a service truck closing the highway nearby due to adverse weather. This is the second time I see them doing. Pulled tree out the building and waited at outside for a car from flower shop to come by. The snow was still falling while I wait at outside the building until the pick up time of 10:00am. Loaded at 10:10am and I ran back home. Well, I guess it was no way I can beat a car.

A Servide truck closing the highway Local community center

Headed to a post office to take care of my CDs. Arrived at 10:50am after walking 20 minutes under snowy weather. It was not so bad, for renewal, they gave me a box of facial tissues, a bottle of soap, and a cupped noodle. The problem is that I have to come back again tomorrow morning due to lack of instructions. Bought a couple of Letter Pack 350s before I leave at 11:20am. I thought about going to Nagoya but I am carrying those gifts so it is not possible. It was snowing again and walked back home. By the time the snow was over and I stopped by only a few minutes before heading out again. I caught a bus leaving to Hoshigaoka at 11:55am and getting off near the terminal station to find a software my dad was looking for at Yamade Denki but I could not find it.



12:17pm left hoshigaoka toward sakae via


For the afternoon, it was one of busy day. When I got up to the ground, the sky was sunny, and easy to walk around. Took pictures of Sakae then headed to City Hall and Prefecture building. Bought a ticket to Nagoya castle and walked around and looked inside. Walking back to Sakae, stopped by at Nikon shop to get help on my dad's camera. Took a subway back to Hoshigaoka, then get on a bus


Picture of Nagoya




Bought postcards at Nagoya castle at 1:30pm and started to walking down
Stopped by at McDonald's around 2:30pm. I could not find the Grand Canyon burger so I settled with Chicken Tatsuta

 McDonald's again... A ice stake link which is made from resin and special coating, thus no ice needed

Leaving Sakae at 2:56pm via subway, and I got off at 3:11pm. I ran up the stairs and able to get on a bus going to Takabari at 3:14pm since I wanted to buy stuffs before heading home. At Seiyu store, I bought cooking seasonings at lower floor, then went upstairs to buy construction machine toys and a utility brush. I walked back to the house but headed out again to by a car stop at HiAce around 5:15pm. The outside is getting darker. Finally came home, I placed it by the front door. I think this should work. In the evening, updated my blog then went to bed.

2011/12/27 coming back to the U.S.

In the morning

I woke up at 5:00am, the sky was still dark but I could feel this morning is not cold as yesterday. Stretched my body then walked upstairs to have breakfast with my brother. Since he had to work today I shook hand with him as he headed to work. Get started with packing and mostly done in no time. I had to go to a post office so I walked out from the house at 8:55am and walking toward the hill. Just like my dad said, the restaurant serving eels is now closed. Some changes are sad... The big apartment complex nearby was demolished and I saw a couple of more places are just plain field along the way. I might got lost agan when I come home.

There used to be many apartment complex over there

Arrived at the post office after 9:00am to buy a couple of stamps to send out a card to my friend in the U.S. and also turned in the letter pack 350s I bought yesterday. Walking back home and thinking if I should go grab some items at DIY store but gave up. Came home once at 9:30am, talked with my dad then headed to a nearby bank and reopened an account. I had very much no cash so the balance was very low. I filled out a couple of forms and stamped my seal. The whole process took about 30 minutes so I had to kill time by sitting in a chair. At least they kept my personal information so application was accepted quicker than normal. Finished packing after coming home and had a tea with my dad after he comes home. I guess the whole stay was very busy and I could not pay too much attention on details, I still find some unpacked items as I was vacuuming the room before leaving the house. My niece very much look like my mom so it was a little hard to say good bye. Shook hand with my nephew and my dad. Left home around 11:25am to catch a bus leaving at 11:39am.

The sky was clear so it must be a good day to look outside from the plane bound for Narita... While I was thinking things like that, I arrived at a bus stop. The posted sign telling people about cancelalation of bus services which I saw yesterday was gone. The bus came on time and headed to Nagoya station with no stop. I get to see downtown Sakae, the city Science Museum, and finally the tall buildings at Nagoya station. Arrived at Nagoya bus center, took an elevator down to the first floor.

Nagoya Science Museum

High rises at Nagoya Station

To Airport

Walking up to Meitetsu station, bought MuTicket to Centrair at 12:08pm and walked down to the platform. I had to wait for a while for the train to come since the last one just left here. MuSky #28 departed at 12:20pm.

MuSky #28 depating Nagoya at 12:20pm

The train started to move toward the airport. It was an express so it only stopped at few stations before arriving to the terminal. 

Countryside view

Getting closer to Tokoname

Crossing a bridge to the airport

The train arrived at Centrair station at 12:48pm, walked out from the train and began walking toward the ticketing counter.

Walking toward the terminal

I was able to get window seat but the planes wing may obstruct the view...
I decided to go upstair to check out the view. The wind coming from north checked the place out a little then walked back in the building.

View from the deck

After passing security, I bought a bottled water and my lunch around 1:30pm. I picked the one called Nagoya Meshi, which has a variety of local famous items but the volume was a bit low to my stomach.
While I waited, I called my dad and grandma.

 Nagoya Meshi

To Narita: NH340 2:25PM(NGO) - 3:30PM(NRT)

After walking to the check in counter, I had to go through the baggage scan, which came out to be okay. Got my ticket with the seat I could see Mt. Fuji. Since I had some free time, I went up to the deck which was very windy. I could hear the fall protection wires along the deck perimeters are making hissing noise because of the strong north wind. It was not quite the clear weather but I could see Yokkaichi and mountains beyond. The west view was obstructed by clouds which looks stormy.

Enough of the watching around under chilly condition, I walked back in to the building and proceeded to the security. Bought lunch and waited for the boarding to start. The boarding started around 2:10pm and I took seat at 8A at 2:20pm, the plane departed from the gate on time at 2:25pm. After taxing to the south end of the airport and took off to the north at 2:35pm. Maybe because the head wind was very strong, the rolling distance was very short and left ground by mid part of the runway. The plane circled around the airport then headed to east. The whole cruise was not so bad.

Waiting for the boarding to start Centrair airport

Hamanako Mt. Fuji in a distance 

Slow down and descend at 3:03pm, the plane approached from the sea, toward the land. I saw another plane flying parallel to mine. The plane kept descending and landed. Arrived at the ramp at 3:35pm, now I need to catch the next one. I got out from the plane and board a bus at 3:40pm. The bus arrived at the building without much of wait. I walked out from the gate, passed security and passport check. Bought sake and snacks for friends.

To Houston CO6 NRT (5:00PM JST) - IAH (1:40PM CST)

Bought snacks and Japanese Sake at Duty Free store around 4:00pm. After arriving at the gate, I found out that the flight is delayed. The initial boarding time was at 4:20pm but now it is 4:50pm. I did not see any plane until 4:30pm when a Boeing 777 came to the gate. I got called by the counter staff and get my ticket issued but no upgrade... While I wait, called my dad and my brother as the sky is getting darker. The boarding time again moved to 5:20pm. I found a coworker who is on the same flight, so I used his privilege to get in the cabin early at 5:25pm. I took my seat at 17L and looked outside which was very much under night. All the passengers get on board and the doors are closed. Time to go. (Done)

Shopping, anyone?

 B777 Arrived to the gate

 It's already dark

The Boeing B777-200 left the gate at 5:48pm and taxied. There was a long line at the runway. For every minute, I see a plane took off and the plane makes a bit of progress, but taking long time before our turn. Departed at 6:08pm toward north and kept going for a while then turned to east, I could see the airport and soon the coast line.

Departing from Narita

The dinner was served at past 7:00pm local time, I was hoping for chicken but soon it was swapped with fish... By 7:13pm, the plane was cruising at FL350 and the ground speed was amazing 740mph. A little turbulent after the dinner but overall flight was okay. I wanted to get some sleep so shut my eyes and tried but not that successful. Passed north of Hawaii around 11:00pm (JST) then at 1:33am, the plane was near the coast by San Francisco. Now we have a 1,900mi and 3 hours to go. Now the plane was flying at 580mph at FL370, the temperature outside was -77F. At 3:15am (JST). The plane flew over Albuquerque, I can see snowy field from the window. I began watching Harry Potter and then ate breakfast around 12:19pm (CST) as the plane keep approaching toward Houston.



The plane was getting ready to land at 4:20am(JST) at FL300, as it approach to Houston. The plane flew east side of the Lake Houston and made a right turn to change heading to west at 1:36pm. At 1:41pm, the leading edge flaps were extended, and landed at the airport at 1:42pm. The plane taxied for a while then arrived at the gate at 1:49pm. Passed immigration at 2:23pm and headed to the baggage claim.

Lake Houston in sight

To Home (Done)

I walked out from the terminal building at 2:35pm and waited for a shuttle to the parking for a while. I don't need a jacket but a little chilly when I am in shadow. Once I get on a van as the only passenger around 2:40pm, it was a short 10 minutes ride to my car. Felt tired but nice to see the clear sky. Loaded my bags to the car and started the engine. I began driving toward the exit then realized there is a stranded customer at the only cashier open. Waited for another 10 minutes with other cars but not moving. They finally opened another cashier so I was able to get out. Good call. Started to driving south to get on the toll road to the homeward bound. The toll way was a bit packed and everybody was moving fast. Stopped by at Japanese grocery store and then at Kroger to buy minimum items for the next couple of days; milk, yogurt, and some vegetables. Came home around 4:15pm and called home to talk with my dad to let him know that I got home safe. I began taking care of laundries; which I had to do three loads. Went out around 6:00pm to meet up with my coworker who was also in the same flight. Noodle was good, came home before 8:00pm, had two cans of beer to help me sleep tonight. Went to bed at 9:00pm.

Jeep Cherokee Sequoia

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