"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." - President Ronald Reagan.

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Above, Halloween-themed treats in the "foodieland" section below the Tokyo Skytree. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Friday, October 30, 2015

What's Trending In Tokyo?

Source: Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau Press Release

(Click on image to see larger.)

Tokyo Disney Parks' Revenue Seen As "Dismal"

Above, big crowds viewing a show at Tokyo DisneySea. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

You couldn't tell it by the crowds we saw at Tokyo DisneySea this month, but the April - September earnings for that park and Tokyo Disneyland are seen as "dismal".

When we visited Tokyo DisneySea, the crowds were so enormous that it seemed that half the population of Tokyo was there. Rides had line wait times in excess of two hours.

According to The Japan Times:
Oriental Land Co., the operator of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, reported dismal earnings Thursday for April-September following admission fee hikes at the two theme parks. 
Consolidated net profit for the first half of fiscal 2015 fell 1.1 percent from a year earlier to ¥35.94 billion, on sales of ¥222.04 billion, down 0.3 percent.
While the average revenue per customer is up, this did not offset the lower attendance by visitors. Admission fees for both parks were raised in April.

To read more, go here.

Nagasaki, The City Beyond The Bomb

Above, a Nagasaki streetcar approaches a station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

National Geographic has an interesting article on the city of Nagasaki in Kyushu, Japan.

We all know about the August 1945 atomic bombing of the city, but many of us are unaware of the city's history and culture.

They begin their article with:
Nagasaki, Japan— Imagine you are from an ancient city with roots that go back centuries. As a proud citizen, you have a deep knowledge and respect for your local history. You know the ins and outs of your culture; the local dialects that are barely understandable in other parts of your own country, your local cuisine that you pride yourself in knowing is some of the best in the world, and the land— the winding mountainous land blanketed with homes and townships that practically blend into the landscape the way they have for centuries. 
Imagine, however, that when you leave that city and travel to a foreign land, they only reaction to where you come from by the people you meet is to remember the dropping of an atomic bomb that devastated your home town 70 years ago. Not only is the culture you hold near and dear to your heart not mentioned, to outsiders it’s nearly unheard of. Now imagine that your city that suffered such a devastating and overpowering historical event is also overlooked by comparison to the city who suffered a nuclear attack first. If you are from the city of Nagasaki, you do not have to imagine it. This is a reality.
To read more, go here

Who Was The Most Traveled James Bond?

Above, Sean Connery in Dr. No.

With Spectre set to open next month, the U.K.'s Daily Mail set out to find out which 007 actor "earned the most frequent flier miles" of all.

The results are interesting and Fox News has supplied the data:
James Bond has been traveling the world's most exotic locations for over 50 years on the silver screen. But which actor has earned the most frequent flier miles during his stint as the British secret agent? 
The Daily Mail wanted to find out, so its editors dissected all of the miles traveled and locales visited by every single Bond across 24 movies to find the definitive answer.
It is interesting to note that The Daily Mail did not count Connery's Never Say Never Again. It was an independent production outside of the United Artists/Eon Productions tent.

To find out which Bond was the most traveled, go here.

Japan Named No. 2 In Lonely Planet's Best of Travel 2016 List

Above, the Asahi Beer Hall. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

We're only two days away from November (can it be?) and already travel companies are turning their attention to the 2016 travel season.

One such travel company is the publisher of Lonely Planet travel guides. They have selected Japan as their number two destination choice in their Best of Travel 2016 list.

According to Inside Japan Tours:
Trusted travel source Lonely Planet has released its Best in Travel 2016 list and put Japan in the number two spot of countries to visit next year.  
In its synopsis of the nation, the travel guide publisher said: “Even if you’ve never been to Japan, you probably already know that it ranks number one in the world for that quintessential not-in-Kansas-anymore travel experience.”  
The first element of Japan to be brought into focus in placing it so high up the list are its cities, which feature futuristic high-speed trains and buildings constructed from glass and metal that are highlighted with neon lights. 
To read more, go here.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Looney Left Report: All Guns Must Be Locked or Disabled In L.A.

The Looney Left Report

The left wing loons on the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to force gun owners to either disable or lock their handguns in their own homes.

The People's Republic of California blog reported:
On October 27 the Democrat Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to require all handguns to locked or disabled inside the owner’s home. 
The measure was pushed by Councilman Paul Krekorian–the same council member who recently pushed through an ordinance requiring all ammunition magazines with greater-than-10-round capacity to be surrendered to the police or otherwise disposed.
Gee, this sounds like an open invitation to rapists and home invasion robbers to do as they please without fear of getting blown away by their victims.

You can bet that this ordinance will wind up in court.

To read more, go here.

The Best of Tokyo

Above, a view of Tokyo from the Skytree. Tokyo Tower can be seen in the distance. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

For the first time visitor to Tokyo, the city may seem intimidating. But, if you are up to the challenge, there are many places and things to see and do in the city.

Fortunately, you won't have to go in blindly as there are plenty of guides and maps available (many of them are free).

CNN.com has posted a new article on Tokyo, "Insider Guide: The Best of Tokyo" with plenty of recommendations of things to see and do. Also, it has recommendations on hotels and restaurants.

They begin it with:
(CNN)Tokyo is a city that can roar one moment and whisper at the next, a place where almost anything seems possible. 
And sometimes is. 
After all, 13 million people share this 2,188-square-kilometer piece of the planet, which is home to some of the world's top restaurants, stores and cafés. 
It's also a one-stop center for the best of Japan -- culture, quality products and impeccable service. 
For the visitor wondering what to do in Tokyo, the choices are limitless.
To read more, go here

CNBC's GOP Debate

"The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every thought and question from the media was, which of you is more handsome and wise? … The men and women on this stage have more ideas, more experience, more common sense than every participant in the Democratic debate. That debate reflected a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks." - Sen. Ted Cruz.

I didn't get to watch last night's debate, but caught plenty of replays and thought the "winners" were Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. The above and below quotes are good reasons why.

"Last week, Hillary Clinton went before a committee. She admitted she sent emails to her family saying, 'This attack on Benghazi was caused by Al Qaeda-like elements.' She spent over a week telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video. And yet, the mainstream media is going around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton's campaign ... It was the week she got exposed as a liar." - Sen. Marco Rubio.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush seemed demoralized and did not help his cause when he stumbled over the matter of fantasy football. He should have answered the way Gov. Chris Christie answered it when he asked why are [we] talking about fantasy football when there are more important issues to discuss.

Frankly, I think Bush is toast.

Donald Trump seemed rather sedate last night.

CNBC ran a disorganized debate and the moderators let their liberal biases show. Terrible.

People wanted to hear about solutions to the Obama economy. All they got was snarky questions and fantasy football.

A Month Already...

...since Siren died.

It is hard to believe how fast a month has passed since my cat Siren passed away age the ripe old age of 18 years on September 29. Well, the time did go fast thanks also to the trip to Japan.

At present, I am leaning towards getting another cat. I mentioned this to my daughter Amber late last week and she still feels it's "too soon" for getting another cat. I suppose I will have to wait a while.

I do miss coming home to be greeted by a pet demanding to be fed and get attention.

Famed Artist Noriyoshi Ohrai Dies At 79

Above, Ohrai's poster for Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II.

One of the greatest movie-poster artists has passed away at age 79.

RocketNews 24 reported yesterday:
It has been announced that Noriyoshi Ohrai—the Japanese illustrator best known for producing remarkable poster art for Metal Gear Solid as well as for films including the Godzilla series and Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back—passed away from pneumonia yesterday morning at the age of 79. 
With a career spanning over half a century and an impressive portfolio of artworks for novels, games and well-known international movie releases, fans around the world are mourning the loss of a great talent and taking a look back at his extraordinary body of work.
To read more, go here

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Non-Traditional Hike Up Mount Fuji

Above, a bullet train view of Mount Fuji. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

I am not a hiker or mountain climber, nor do I play one on television. But an article in Japan Today about three guys who hiked Mount Fuji caught my attention.

Many people hike Mount Fuji annually to catch the morning sunrise from the mountain's summit. They undertake their hikes from one of the Fifth Stations. But these guys hiked it in a non-traditional manner.

The article begins with:
TOKYO —I had climbed to the top of Mt Fuji twice before, but always from the 5th Station around 2300 meters in elevation like everyone else, not from the ocean. When my fitness-nut friend Andy came to visit Japan, for some reason that still escapes me, I thought it was the perfect time to up the ante. Instead of hiking from the 5th Station, we decided we couldn’t be happy climbing Fuji unless we hiked every one of its 3,776 meters. Of course, this meant our start line had to be at an altitude of zero meters, and zero meters meant the ocean. Together, Andy, our friend Axel, and myself Axel planned to start at Taganoura beach, the closest point of ocean to Mt.Fuji.
After reading the article, did it make me develop the desire to hike Mount Fuji? No.

Still, it was an interesting read.

To read more, go here

Japan Rolls Out Tourist Hotlines

Above, Tokyo DisneySea. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan is coming up with more things that will help to break the language barrier between foreign visitors and tourist services.

Fox News reported:
When traveling abroad, the language barrier can be pretty hard to get break through.  
Now, Japanese towns are rolling out multilingual hotlines to help tourists as the country sees a surge in foreign visitors. 
According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, about 1.82 million international visitors came to the country in August—a 64 percent increase from the same time last year. 
The hotlines are run by different companies—some offer up to 13 different languages, included Russian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Indonesian. Some can be access via staff that interface frequently with foreign visitors, such as people who work in hotels, car rental companies or restaurants, but some allow tourists to call in directly.
To read more, go here

Forbes: Japan, Already Marvelous, Getting Better For Tourists

Above, if you're lucky to travel on a clear day, a view of Mount Fuji can be seen from your Shinkansen window. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If one is contemplating a vacation to Japan and would like to see different areas of the country, but is holding back due to cost considerations, a new article at Forbes.com will dispel any such notions.

The article discusses in depth the benefits of using a Japan Rail Pass along with other advantages that travelers to Japan will find to make their visit rewarding.

It begins with:
After the Japanese yen’s 30% slide to its current 120 yen/dollar level, vacationing in Japan is widely appreciated as one of the world’s best values. 
Foreigners with the time and foresight to purchase a 7 or 14 day Japan Rail Pass open for themselves a spectacularly broad vista of potential enjoyment (and, for the sufficiently open-minded, edification), making Japan one the biggest bargains in travel.
During our recent trip to Japan, we purchased a 7-day Japan Rail Pass which took us from Tokyo to Atami and, from there, to Osaka and Kyoto aboard the Shinkansen. And back. Plus, we used it for local JR-operated commuter trains in those cities. The Japan Rail Pass more than paid for itself.

To read more, go here

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

JAPANiCAN: Live It Up In Tokyo!

Japan Hotel, Ryokan, and Tour Booking Made Easy
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Robot Show Entertainment Plan
from JPY 5,500
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Oiran Show with Light Meal & All You Can Drink
JPY 6,500
Tokyo Bay Cruise with Onboard Performance
JPY 7,000

Hilton Tokyo
Twin Rooms from
JPY 22,680
JR Kyushu Hotels Blossom Shinjuku
Twin Rooms from
JPY 15,160
Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku
Twin Rooms from
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Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu
Twin Rooms from
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Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel
Twin Rooms from
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Hotel Sunroute Asakusa

Above, the front entrance of the hotel. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

When planning my recent trip to Japan, I had wanted to make reservations at the Hotel Asia Center of Japan, my favorite hotel in Tokyo, for the Tokyo portion of the trip.

Unfortunately, the hotel has been undergoing renovations and were set to fully reopen at about the time of my trip, so there were no rooms available.

So, I checked around and decided on the Hotel Sunroute Asakusa. I had stayed at another hotel of the Sunroute chain back in 2007, so I wasn't concerned about the quality of the hotel.

The hotel's location was ideal for visits to Sensoji, Nakamise Street, Tokyo Skytree and the Sumida River as it was in walking distance to those places or the subway to others. The Hotel Sunroute Asakusa is just blocks away from the Rox department store and a short cab ride away (the meter never changed) from the Kappabashi "Kitchen Town" distict.

The hotel itself is a modern facility with a very friendly and capable staff and it has a Jonathan's restaurant connected to it for easy access for meals, although the hotel does have room service available. There are also two Denny's restaurants, a Starbucks and a Mr. Donut as well as several convenience stores within walking distance from the hotel. The rooms are typical for Tokyo two and three-star hotels, a bit smallish. But, one does not go to Japan to just sit in a hotel room, right?

Above, a Denny's and a 7-Eleven convenience store within easy walking distance. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The room rate for us was ¥16,550 for two adults, which was reasonable in my view.

We stayed there during the first several days of our vacation before going off to Atami, Osaka and Kyoto and then after our return to Tokyo. We received a hearty "welcome back" from the desk clerk.

If one wants to stay in the Asakusa area of Tokyo, I would recommend the Hotel Sunroute Asakusa.

For their English website, go here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

CBS's "Supergirl"

The premiere of Supergirl on CBS ended a little while ago.

I thought the show went well with plenty of action and humor. Thankfully, it is not campy.

Actress Melissa Benoist (Supergirl/Kara Danvers) is very eye-pleasing and she played the duo roles pretty well.

Calista Flockhart played her bitchy boss quite convincingly.

The special effects for a television show are sometimes a hit or miss. For Supergirl, they more hit than miss.

In the show's scenario, Kara is Kal-El's older cousin sent to Earth after him in a separate rocket from Krypton when the planet was about to explode to protect Kal-El. But, the shock wave from Krypton's explosion sent Kara's rocket into the Phantom Zone. She remained there for years until (and it's unclear how) she broke free of the Zone

Now on Earth, Kara finds herself younger than Kal-El (there's no aging in the Phantom Zone) and she is put into the care of the Danvers, who happen to be former Superman Dean Cain (Lois and Clark) and former Supergirl Helen Slater. Having Cain and Slater was a nice touch.

Unfortunately, criminals from the Phantom Zone were also freed when Kara was and are now on Earth.

The original Supergirl of the Silver Age was Kal-El's younger cousin Kara, who was born and grew up in Argo City, a Kryptonian city that was blown away intact from Krypton's explosion with an air bubble. The ground below Argo City was turned into Kryptonite and Kara' father, Zor-El, saved the city by covering the surface with lead sheeting.

Kara was sent to Earth as Argo City was being hit by meteors that destroyed the protective lead sheeting while she was a teen.

My grade for tonight's show: A.

The Beast Is Now In Perfect Working Order

Above, the roof vent is now "unglued", open and the crank works!

Finally, after weeks of waiting and enduring no return calls, the bathroom ceiling vent has been repaired.

It took calls to Winnebago's customer service department to get the local Camping World to get off their butts to schedule a date to repair the vent, a relatively minor repair. Heat had gotten to the vent cover and it became "glued" shut. When trying to open it, the crank hardware broke, therefore the need to get it all repaired. Fortunately, everything was covered under Winnebago's warranty.

Above, the open vent with the 12-volt fan running. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

But, to Camping World's credit, they got the repairs done (along with a couple of other things I asked them to look into) by 11:00 this morning. Before leaving the premises, I inspected the work done and everything came out fine. (I even checked the roof, to make sure the seals were okay. They were.) With that, I gave the service representative a big "thumb's up" for the work.

So now, everything is in perfect working order with The Beast.

While the repairs were going on, I picked up a few things for The Beast in Camping World's store and at Walmart next door, including a Thermos for coffee while on the road and some new steak knives to replace some old ones. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

4th Division Headquarters Near Osaka Castle To Be Renovated

Above, the former 4th Division H.Q. from the observation level of Osaka Castle. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

When watching the battle between Godzilla and Anguirus in Godzilla Raids Again (1955) (or the bastardized version released by Warner Bros., Gigantis The Fire Monster), one may wonder what the building shown near Osaka Castle was.

Above, the building in the background in Godzilla Raids Again.

It was the former headquarters of the Japanese Imperial Army 4th Division.

Above, a ground-level view of the 4th Div. H.Q. building. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The building has been sitting vacant since 2001, but will be reopened as part of a planned Osaka Castle theme park.

According to the Asahi Shimbun:
The building erected in 1931 near the main castle building that served as the Imperial Japanese Army's 4th Division headquarters until the end of World War II will be renovated to house cafes and restaurants. The building had been used as a city museum from 1960, but was left unused since it closed in 2001. 

Above, another view from Osaka Castle. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The accompanying photographs were taken during my recent visit to Osaka Castle.

To read more, go here

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