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Eddie's on Vacation

Stories

August 2017 . . . If it appears I am ignoring email, I'm not.


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Photo: Air Show from Air Canada Flight 0533 from KBOS to CYVR, 1 August 2017

I was hoping to show the decadence of business class on an Air Canada A320 but it wasn't to be. The seats were just okay, almost to the level of what we have on our Gulfstream. The meals were nicer than cattle car class, but not by much.

August 2nd, The Cruise

We've done one cruise around the Hawaiian islands, back when we lived there. For our second cruise, we've opted for Vancouver to Anchorage, by way of Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. This is a photo of a map hanging on one of the walls. It has complete LORAN directions. I hope they aren't using LORAN.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 2,551 steps (1.1 miles).

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Photo: The cruise map, 2 August 2017

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This cruise was aboard "The Island Princess" which is registered in Hamilton, Bermuda and was delivered on June 18, 2003. It has a gross weight of 92,822 tons, a draught of 27.2 ft, is 964.3 ft long, 105.6 ft wide, and carries 2,390 passengers and 810 crew maximum. Captain Andrea Poggi began his career in Italian submarines (insert your own joke here), and has been a captain with Princess Cruises since 1999.

August 3rd, Vancouver

Cruising north at 15 knots we hadn't yet left the province by the next morning, we were still in Vancouver, technically. But sunrise was early. This shot taken at 0503 PST, with a Nikon D750, 70-200@130mm, f5, 1/1250 sec, ISO 640.

We had two British Columbia pilots board and departed at 1711.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 11,432 steps (5 miles).

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Photo: Sunrise, just north of Vancouver, off the coast of British Columbia, 3 August 2017

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We passed through the Seymour Narrows and Blackney Passage overnight.

A while later we finally left the sea owned by Vancouver. This shot taken from our balcony at 0742 PST, with a Nikon D750, 70-200@102mm, f11, 1/2500 sec, ISO 640.

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Photo: Vancouver pilot ship, off the coast of British Columbia, 3 August 2017

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After offloading the pilots, we continued north across Queen Charlotte Sound and into Hecate Strait.

The day was spent at sea. For the Lovely Mrs. Haskel that meant sewing quilt patches. For me it meant one of my favorite authors, Chris Manno and Sanctuary Moon. This shot taken from Deck 14 at 1142 PST, with a Nikon D750, 24-85@24mm, f4.5, 1/160 sec, ISO 800.

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Photo: Reading Chris Manno's latest novel, 3 August 2017

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August 4th, Ketchikan, Alaska

The first port of call was Ketchikan, Alaska, a city named after the nearby river. A town of 8,000, it is the fifth most populous in the state. This shot taken at 0826 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85@24mm, f5, 1/1250 sec, ISO 640.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 6,752 steps (3 miles).

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Photo: Approaching Ketchikan, Alaska, 4 August 2017

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We docked on the right side of the ship, causing me to amend my story about the meanings of the words "port" and "starboard." It is said that early rudders did not trail the boat from behind but were fastened to the right side of the boat. Since the Old Norse word for rudder is "styri" and the side of a ship is called a "boro," the right side of the boat was the styri boro, or starboard. Because the rudder impeded boarding, the ship was always moored with the left side to port. The story is still a good one, but now we need to add the word, "usually."

The cruise ship does its best to funnel you into tour and other activities at each port of call. I told the Lovely Mrs. Haskel that I will not tolerate being lectured about glaciers (which are receding in some areas and growing in others) and polar bears stranded on icebergs (even though they can swim). So we elected to tour a rain forest where I caught a glimpse of a bald eagle. This shot taken at 1001 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 70-200@185mm, f4.5, 1/1200 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Bald eagle, Ketchikan, Alaska, 4 August 2017

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I've seen lots of Bald Eagles in captivity and a few from a long ways off. The ones in captivity look pretty clean and picturesque. The ones from far off appear to be, well, far off. This guy appears to be having a bad hair day. I've had worse.

After Ketchikan, we sailed through the Tongass Narrows, then Snow Passage, then the Sumner Strait, then Decision Passage the to the Chatham Strait.

August 5th, Juneau, Alaska

I've never been to Juneau but know the airport very well since I had to obtain RNAV(RNP), once known as RNP SAAAR, approval for a company I used to work for. One of the more famous of these approaches is up this channel. This shot taken at 0600 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85@24mm, f7.1, 1/4000 sec, ISO 100.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 10,971 steps (4.9 miles).

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Photo: Sunrise over the Gastineau Channel, Alaska, 5 August 2017

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We passed Marmion Island before entering the Gastineau Channel.

When you do one of these cruises, the cruise line will try very hard to steer you to a shore excursion designed to take money from your pocket into theirs. But it also feeds the local economy so I am okay with this. My only rule is I don't want to be preached to. The whale excursions are hit and miss; you can't control what the whale does and it is supposed to rain 320 days a year here. We got lucky. This shot taken at 1113 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 70-200@200mm, f9, 1/500 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Hump back whale breaching, Saginaw Channel, just north of Juneau, Alaska, 5 August 2017

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This shot taken at 1113 Alaska time (just a second later), with a Nikon D750, 70-200@200mm, f9, 1/500 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Hump back whale breaching, Saginaw Channel, just north of Juneau, Alaska, 5 August 2017

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We saw what appeared to be the same whale do this several times, this time very close to a nearby boat. This shot taken at 1113 Alaska time (just a few seconds after the first two), with a Nikon D750, 70-200@200mm, f9, 1/500 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Hump back whale breaching, Saginaw Channel, just north of Juneau, Alaska, 5 August 2017

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We were told ahead of time that we might be able to see a few whales spout through their blow holes and if we really got lucky we could see the graceful arc of their flukes. The tour guide, oops, the naturalist, said seeing the whale breach was very uncommon up here. So by the time we saw the fluke, it was not as exciting as it could have been. Still pretty neat. This shot taken at 1123 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 70-200@200mm, f9, 1/500 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Hump back whale fluke, Saginaw Channel, just north of Juneau, Alaska, 5 August 2017

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August 6th, Skagway, Alaska

Our next port of call was Skagway, Alaska, where the gold rush first really took hold. The White Pass Summit is the crest of the route to the Yukon. The White Pass & Yukon Route railroad first followed dirt roads but is now made unnecessary by paved highways. The railroad was shutdown until tourists showed up, and here we are. This shot taken at 0942 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85@78mm, f7.1, 1/320 sec, ISO 100.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 4,202 steps (1.9 miles).

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Photo: The White Pass & Yukon Route train, entering a tunnel, Alaska, 6 August 2017

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The scenery up to the pass, of course, is spectacular. This shot taken at 0923 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85@24mm, f22, 1/125 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: The White Pass & Yukon Route train, mountains in the distance, Alaska, 6 August 2017

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The engineer in me thought these newer bridges looked a little frail. This shot taken at 0923 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85@65mm, f9, 1/40 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: The White Pass & Yukon Route train, into a tunnel on a newly rebuilt bridge, Alaska, 6 August 2017

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Of course those newer bridges are better than the original. The tour guide said this decommissioned bridge was made in the winter when temperatures routinely reached -40°F and required "warming huts" to spell the workers. (Of course this begs the question: "Why not build in the summer?") This shot taken at 0931 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85@38mm, f7.1, 1/160 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: The White Pass & Yukon Route train, into a tunnel on a newly rebuilt bridge, near the White Pass north of Skagway, Alaska, 6 August 2017

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After the rail tour we walked about the town of Skagway and found a nearby stream with salmon en route to spawn. This shot taken at 1059 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85@38mm, f7.1, 1/160 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Salmon swimming upstream, near Skagway, Alaska, 6 August 2017

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For a video of the upstream battle (some salmon make it, some don't), see: Salmon Swimming Upstream.

How about a view of the boat? This shot taken at 1106 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85@31mm, f22, 1/500 sec, ISO 500.

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Photo: The Island Princess in port, Skagway, Alaska, 6 August 2017

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August 7th, Glacier Bay, Alaska

The Island Princess next took us to Glacier Bay, where we were on the hunt for glaciers. Here is me, from our balcony, on the hunt. This shot taken at 0850 Alaska time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f5.6, 1/800 sec, ISO 200.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 2,708 steps (1.2 miles).

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Photo: Eddie on the hunt for glaciers from cabin A703, The Island Princess, Glacier Bay, Alaska, 7 August 2017

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We entered Glacier Bay after boarding two National Park Rangers.

A passing seagull tries to get Eddie's attention, just to his right. This shot taken at 0856 Alaska time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@18.9mm, f5.6, 1/500 sec, ISO 320.

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Photo: Seagull on the balcony rail, Margerie Glacier in the distance, Alaska, 6 August 2017

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Job done, the seagull shows Eddie his behind. This shot taken at 0859 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 70-200mm@200mm, f10, 1/2500 sec, ISO 1600

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Photo: Seagull flying away, 6 August 2017

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The Margarie Glacier, said to be 150 feet above the surface and a mile wide. This shot taken at 0956 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f5, 1/200 sec, ISO 100

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Photo: Margarie glacier, 6 August 2017

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The sun finally came out. This is Mount Barnard. This shot taken at 1536 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f11, 1/80 sec, ISO 100

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Photo: Mount Barnard, 6 August 2017

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With the sun came a few sea otters. The naturalist on the PA said the water temperature was 48°F and the sea otters don't have any blubber to warm them. He also said their feet and hands (paws?) are not insulated at all, which is why they like to sun them in the air when they get a chance. This shot taken at 1600 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 70-200mm@200mm, f10, 1/2500 sec, ISO 1600

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Photo: Sea otter in Glacier Bay, 6 August 2017

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August 8th, Open Sea

After we left Glacier Bay another Pilot Boat approach to take away our navigator. Navigator? Apparently we had this guy on board since Vancouver and now that we were headed for the open sea, the navigator left. Odd, says me. This shot taken early, with a Nikon D750, 70-200mm@200mm, f11, 1/250 sec, ISO 100.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 6,965 steps (3.1 miles).

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Photo: Pilot boat, approach after exiting Glacier Bay, Alaska, 8 August 2017

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Apparently the Pilot Boat pulls up alongside and people hop on and off as we continue to move along at 15 knots. I've flown formation four aircraft types and the speed ranged from 150 knots (in the T-37) to 400 knots (in the T-38), and most comfortably at higher altitudes around 250 knots (in the EC-135J and B-747). I guess it isn't a big deal. But the seas were calm for the entire trip. This shot taken early, with a Nikon D750, 70-200mm@185mm, f11, 1/250 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Pilot boat, approach after exiting Glacier Bay, Alaska, 8 August 2017

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Speaking of which, the last day was typical as far as the sea conditions go. Typical for this trip, that is. This shot taken at 1300 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f6.3, 1/250 sec, ISO 1000.

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Photo: Sea Conditions, from the "Air Show," Alaska, 8 August 2017

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I've often said that The Lovely Mrs. Haskel can start a conversation with a fire hydrant. If you have just committed a felony do not talk to her, she will have you singing inside of five minutes. But I digress. She struck up a few conversations with deck hands, waiters, even our dance instructor. And they all said that most of these Alaska cruises have much choppier seas, it rains more often than it doesn't, and it is usually a lot colder. We really got lucky. Would I recommend it? Yes, but go before June or after August.

Using our Mark One Eyeballs, the sea conditions were indeed calm. Typical for this trip, that is. This shot taken at 1417 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f9, 1/80 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Sea Conditions, from looking outside Alaska, 8 August 2017

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Our last photo opportunity was in the Prince William Sound where we sailed right by Bligh Reef, named after Captain Bligh of "Mutiny on the Bounty" and later made infamous by the grounding of the Exxon Valdez. It all looks pristine again. The Cascade Bligh is an "advancing" glacier, as opposed to what is usually heralded in the press, the "receding glacier." Interesting, both are claimed to be evidence of global warming. This shot taken at 1902 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f9, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Cascade Glacier, Prince William Sound, 8 August 2017

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One last photo, two otters looking right at our cabin. This shot taken at 1928 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 70-200mm@200mm, f9, 1/800 sec, ISO 200.

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Photo: Two otters, Prince William Sound, 8 August 2017

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The final day was spent taking dancing lessons, viewing a show or two, and reading. This shot taken at 1500 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 07-200mm@70mm, f2.8, 1/2500 sec, ISO 1600.

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Photo: Sea Conditions, from looking outside Alaska, 8 August 2017

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Well, to be honest, I spent most of my time writing and not reading. The first draft of Flight Lessons 4: Command is off for review — sent via satellite Internet — I expect to have it on the market by December.

End of cruise data:

  • Total distance traveled from Vancouver to Whittier: 1,477 nautical miles
  • Top speed: 174 knots
  • Top temperature: 72°F
  • Low temperature: 55°F (but it felt much colder with the forward speed of the boat and the wind)
  • Rain: none
  • Sun/clouds: mostly sunny until the last day which began overcast but ended sunny

Now, how was the cruise itself?

  • It was very good but that was based on an incredible string of luck. We had zero rain, great visibility, and rarely any ceilings. We got to see all the sightseeing musts. The whale spotting boat ride had great weather too, we saw whales breaching, Dall's porpoises racing the boat, and several whale flukes. The tour director told us that the trip prior to ours the rain never relented and they never saw a glacier, never saw a whale, and never had a day of sun. From what I gather, that is normal for July and August.
  • The amenities were good. We had a balcony room which was quite nice. If you want to feel pampered, this is a great chance to do that.
  • The food was adequate but plentiful. I wasn't impressed with any of the meals.
  • Would I do this again? No. I am glad we did this one, because many of the things we saw can't be seen any other way. I can't think of any other cruises around the world where that is also true.

August 9th, Whittier to Anchorage, AK

The Island Princess has too deep a draught to enter the harbor at Anchorage, so the only option is Whittier, about an hour's drive to the east. The U.S. military built the port at Whittier during World War II because it is never frozen and always under an overcast. (Except it was sunny for us.) There is a 2-1/2 mile, one-lane tunnel to get to and out of Whittier. It is a railroad track with just enough pavement for cars. This shot taken at 1006 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@66mm, f5, 1/50 sec, ISO 1600.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 6,579 steps (2.9 miles).

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Photo: A view from inside the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, Whittier, Alaska, 9 August 2017

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Leaving the tunnel we came upon Portage Lake, worth a photo. From that point on? Not so much. This shot taken at 1016 Alaska time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@68mm, f9, 1/125 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Portage Lake, Alaska, 9 August 2017

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I've been to Anchorage a lot over the years and never found anything worth taking a photo of. So that is it for today.

August 10th, Off to Japan

You are probably wondering why we went through Seattle to get to Japan. Our travel agent helpfully explained that it is impossible to fly between Alaska and Japan. I told her I had done so many times in a Boeing 707, a Boeing 747, a Challenger 604, a Gulfstream III and a Gulfstream V. She assured me I was wrong. This shot taken at 0500 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.89mm, f1.8, 1/125 sec, ISO 3200.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 8,108 steps (3.5 miles).

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Photo: The world according to Delta Airlines, from their inflight magazine, 10 August 2017

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It appears geography can be redrawn with airline miles. Our objective was to travel only business class or better, and Delta Sky Miles made that possible with the slight detour. This shot taken at 0923 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.89mm, f1.8, 1/125 sec, ISO 3200.

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Photo: Delta 767 Air Show, en route to Japan, 10 August 2017

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Of course I can't look at a display like this a wonder it it is slower or faster than a Gulfstream. The TAS appears to be faster (567 - 63 = 504 KCAS). The temperature is just +2 ISA. My trusty whiz wheel says 0.87 Mach (True). So faster than most Gulfstreams. (Got to get a G600 to do better from Seattle to Japan.) This shot taken at 0923 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.89mm, f1.8, 1/125 sec, ISO 3200.

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Photo: Delta 767 Air Show, en route to Japan, 10 August 2017

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We were seated in Row 1 and the menu advertised two options: a Japanese dinner or a Western dinner. But once the Japanese dinners were gone, they were gone. The Lovely Mrs. Haskel and I took the first two. The person in 2B took the third and was told she got the last one. This shot taken at 1000 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.89mm, f2.5, 1/60 sec, ISO 2600.

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Photo: The first course, en route to Japan, 10 August 2017

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At the risk of getting too food bloggie, we had Zensai (smoked salmon sushi grilled corn, fried sea eel, grilled chicken, and an egg omelet).

Here's the second course. This shot taken at 1000 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.89mm, f2.5, 1/60 sec, ISO 2600.

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Photo: The second course, en route to Japan, 10 August 2017

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For this course it was Aemono (beef shabu shabu), nimono (deed fried salmon and vegetables), and shusai (grilled chicken in a pepper sauce). Of course there was also miso soup and rice.

August 11th, Jump an International Date Line into Tomorrow (Tokyo, Japan)

We began the day with a 0200 wake up in Anchorage (1000Z) and got to the Tokyo Ritz Carlton at 1700 (0700Z). This shot taken at 1800 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f4.5, 1/100 sec, 1/200 sec and 1/400 sec, HDR merged in PhotoShop twice (left and right) for a panoramic image, all at ISO 200.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 6,441 steps (2.8 miles).

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Photo: A view from inside our living room at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Tokyo, Japan 11 August 2017

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We bought two Japan Rail passes good for travel for the next two weeks at a "first class" level but decided to take what was called an "Airport Limo" that ended up being a very nice bus. No reservation was needed and it cost about $35 a person. We didn't have any traffic but the ride still took an hour and a half.

Once we got settled all I wanted from life was a bowl of ramen. We found a small shop on a nearby corner and for less than 400 yen each (less than $4.00), we were in ramen heaven. This shot taken by the Lovely Mrs. Haskel and her iPhone, which is one step away from magic as far as I am concerned.

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Photo: Contemplating the best bowl of ramen I've ever had, Tokyo, Japan 11 August 2017

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August 12th, Yoyogi Park (Tokyo, Japan)

I did not sleep during previous day and I went to bed at 7:30 p.m. So what time did I get up? This shot taken at 0257 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f4.5, 1/2 sec, ISO 800.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 21,913 steps (9.3 miles).

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Photo: Roppongi from the 48th floor at 0257, Tokyo, Japan 12 August 2017

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We set a purposefully unambitious schedule, as we tend to do on vacation. We aren't one of those people who need vacations after their vacations. Our only objectives today were to pick up our Japan Rail Passes, visit Yoyogi Park, and have some udon. Check, check, and check.

Getting around Tokyo can be problematic. The new school solution of an iPhone rarely works in Japan because of the inability for many cellphones to connect to Japanese cell towers, or the prohibitive expense. Things, fortunately, have gotten better. This shot taken at 1000 Tokyo time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f1.8, 1/125 sec, ISO 1250.

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Photo: Our Internet connectivity and street navigation solution, Tokyo, Japan 12 August 2017

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We rented a pocket hot spot from the AnyFi company. I believe it is running us $200 for two weeks. It connects to the local cellular network and broadcasts a local hot spot for as many as ten devices. I've been uploading my website updates, a few business papers, and a recent magazine article. It is pretty fast. We connected it to the Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone and were good to go.

Yoyogi Park is supposed to be one of the nicer ones in Tokyo. This shot taken at 1202 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@80mm, f11, 1/200 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Yoyogi Park bridge, Tokyo, Japan 12 August 2017

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August is a particularly hot and humid time for Tokyo. I tended to seek the shade where possible. This shot taken at 1208 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@48mm, f5.6, 1/50 sec, ISO 800.

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Photo: Yoyogi Park tree, Tokyo, Japan 12 August 2017

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I've always known Japanese cities tend to be infested with vending machines. This shot taken at 1159 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@34mm, f6.3, 1/100 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: The Lovely Mrs. Haskel checks out Yoyogi Park vending machines, Tokyo, Japan 12 August 2017

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We found another great place for noodles in Roppongi, this one called Tsurutonton.This shot taken at 1820 Tokyo time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f1.8, 1/125 sec, ISO 4000.

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Photo: A very large bowl of udon, Tokyo, Japan 12 August 2017

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The bowl is huge, the servings are huge, and the udon is great. Two bowls of udon and a beer came to $36.

August 13th, French Croissants, the Imperial Palace, Shisa Kanko, and More Noodles (Tokyo, Japan)

This day was dedicated to four things: we had to get a particular French croissant (for reasons to be explained), we had to visit the Imperial Palace (for the obvious reasons), we had to witness Shisa Kanko in action (for reasons you may have deduced already) and we had to complete the Japanese noodle trifecta (because I live for Japanese noodles). But first, a word about money. This shot taken at 1108 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@58mm, f8, 1/500 sec, ISO 400.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 15,439 steps (6.8 miles).

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Photo: , Tokyo, Japan 13 August 2017

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Currency exchange in Japan isn't quite as straight forward as it is in some parts of the world. You can get Japanese Yen from currency exchange offices you will see in major cities, that much is true. But most ATMs will not accept a U.S. ATM card. You have to look for an "International ATM" and these will normally have placards that say Visa, JCB, and other internationally recognizable ATM cards. You can find these at major airports, post offices, and 7-Eleven stores. A convenience store called "Family Mart" is particularly useful.

Most of these ATMs will limit you to 40,000 yen (about $400) and dispense this in 10,000 yen bills. You might have difficulty getting a small restaurant or store to accept them. We've found that handing the bill over to the automated subway ticket dispenser will get you your ticket and smaller denomination bills.

A freind who is a particular fan of French cuisine suggested that our time would be well spent visiting the Pierre Hermé in Tokyo for a particularly good Rose Croissant. This shot taken at 1130 Tokyo time, with the Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone.

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Photo: Eddie at the Pierre Hermé, Tokyo, Japan 13 August 2017

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So how were the croissants? They were particularly good. This shot taken at 1140 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@46mm, f8, 1/250 sec, ISO 400.

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Photo: Two Pierre Hermé rose croissants, Tokyo, Japan 13 August 2017

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The Edo Castle became the Imperial Palace after the emperor moved to Kyoto. We visited the east gardens. If you have a castle, you need guards. Here is one of the old guard houses. This shot taken at 1246 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f5.6, 1/320 sec, ISO 640.

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Photo: Imperial Palace Gardens Hyaku Nin Bansho Guard House, Tokyo, Japan 13 August 2017

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Another thing a castle needs is a moat. Here it is. This shot taken at 1300 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@40mm, f9, 1/320 sec, ISO 640.

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Photo: Imperial Palace Gardens Moat, Tokyo, Japan 13 August 2017

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Perhaps a word about timing is in order. August is a dreadful time of the year to visit Japan. It is usually very hot, very humid, and it rains a lot. I didn't have any choice on the timing but we got lucky with the rain. But it has been oppressively hot. This shot taken at 1330 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@75mm, f4.5, 1/640 sec, ISO 400.

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Photo: Imperial Palace Warning Sign, Tokyo, Japan 13 August 2017

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The Lovely Mrs. Haskel reminded me that we were at a garden and that I should spend less time whining about the otenki (Weather), and more time shooting flowers. So here it is, a flower. This shot taken at 1345 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@66mm, f4.5, 1/800 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Imperial Palace Gardens Hibiscus Syriacus, Tokyo, Japan 13 August 2017

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I mentioned earlier that we bought a Japan Rail Pass. That is good for the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) and a few (very few) local routes. We mostly got around on the subway. For about $9.00 you can have free reign of the city all day long. This shot taken at 1500 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@58mm, f6.3, 1/320 sec, ISO 2000.

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Photo: Subway, Tokyo, Japan 13 August 2017

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I've already written an article about Point and Calling (Shisa Kanko) for the website and also for Business & Commercial Aviation Magazine. But I wanted the photo anyway. This shot taken at 1530 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@85mm, f4.5, 1/160 sec, ISO 1600.

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Photo: Shisa Kanko, Tokyo, Japan 13 August 2017

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So far we've had ramen and udon. It was time for soba (buckwheat noodles). This shot taken at 1600 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f4, 1/160 sec, ISO 1600.

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Photo: Soba, Tokyo, Japan 13 August 2017

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August 14th, Getting Me Some Culture

We woke up to the first real rain of the trip and it was coming down in buckets. The Lovely Mrs. Haskel decided that we could make it from our hotel to the nearest subway station, to a station attached to the National Art Center, all without getting wet. I decided it would be a good day to stay in bed. We made it to the Art Center without getting a drop of rain on us. This shot taken at 1048 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f3.5, 1/125 sec, ISO 200.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 6,909 steps (3 miles).

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Photo: A Sea of Umbrellas, The National Art Center, Tokyo, Japan, 14 August 2017

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I showed The Lovely Mrs. Haskel my photo and said, "See, art!" She wasn't impressed.

The first work of "art" that caught my attention was this piece called "Fight Continents: Is the World Nearly Destroyed?" by a collaboration of artist called Yavuz. This shot taken at 1115 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f1.8, 1/125 sec, ISO 500.

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Photo: "Five Continents," The National Art Center, Tokyo, Japan, 14 August 2017

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If you look at larger version you will see each continent is filled with heads that are screaming, looking just like the famous photo, "The Scream" by Evard Munch.

The next item that got my attention was a collection of 50 figurines, each holding various protest signs. It seemed to me that some of the signs contradicted others of the signs. This shot taken at 1120 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@17.7mm, f2.8, 1/125 sec, ISO 5000.

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Photo: "Lost Info," The National Art Center, Tokyo, Japan, 14 August 2017

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I told The Lovely Mrs. Haskel" that some of the art was juvenile. She said I was being hypercritical. So then I pointed this one out. This shot taken at 1315 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f1.8, 1/80 sec, ISO 800.

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Photo: Suspect Art, The National Art Center, Tokyo, Japan, 14 August 2017

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I don't watch any cartoons and our children have been out of the house for a while. But I can still recognized Sponge Bob Square Pants when I see him.

But then we ended up in a gallery that was done by high school students. This had to be my favorite artwork of the day. This shot taken at 1338 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f5.6, 1/80 sec, ISO 800.

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Photo: Chicken, by Masaki Suzuki, The National Art Center, Tokyo, Japan, 14 August 2017

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Here's a question for chicken expert Justin: how do you surprise a chicken?

I don't normally have the patience for watching museum videos but one caught my eye because it appeared to be about making dessert. It was much more than that. This shot taken at 1345 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f1.8, 1/125 sec, ISO 2500.

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Photo: Golden Teardrop, by Arin Rungjang, The National Art Center, Tokyo, Japan, 14 August 2017

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Golden Teardrop combines video with teardrop shaped brass objects that look like thong yod, a traditional Thai sweet made with egg yolk and sugar. The video presents documents related to the history of sugar trade in dynastic Thailand, interspersed with footage of a Japanese woman preparing thong yod while speaking of her grandparents who are from Hiroshima. Wood from an Ayutthaya dynasty (14 - 18th century) house is included in the installation as reference to thong yod having been introduced to Thailand during the Ayutthaya dynasty period by a Portuguese woman of Japanese decent.

A day of culture completed, all we wanted was sushi. We walked into what could have been a traditional sushi restaurant but found an iPad on each table. That should have been a clue. This shot taken at 1700 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f2.5, 1/80 sec, ISO 800.

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Photo: iPad sushi ordering, Tokyo, Japan, 14 August 2017

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In a sure sign that we aren't really "foodies," we ate the first order without a thought about photography. Oh well, we made a second order. This shot taken at 1730 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f4, 1/80 sec, ISO 800.

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Photo: iPad sushi, Tokyo, Japan, 14 August 2017

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August 15th, Shinkansen to the Japan Alps

Today's goal was to relocate Code7700 headquarters into the alps. We already had our Japan Rail passes and made reservations for the Shinkansen Bullet train from Tokyo to Kanazawa, Japan. This shot taken at 1157 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@45mm, f7.1, 1/200 sec, ISO 100.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 4,452 steps (1.9 miles).

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Photo: A Shinkansen bullet train, Tokyo, Japan, 15 August 2017

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How easy is it to take the Shinkansen? Once you are on the train, it is very easy. But getting to the train can be difficult. Not all the signage is in English. This shot taken at 1221 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f3.5, 1/30 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: The platform sign for our train, Tokyo, Japan, 15 August 2017

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The Tokyo Station is huge and you can follow the image of the Shinkansen through the terminal to the gates, but once you are at the gates you will have to ask.

Once you are at the gate, you will see the information you need. This shot taken at 1221 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@2r4mm, f3.5, 1/30 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: The platform signage for our train, a minute later, Tokyo, Japan, 15 August 2017

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But you may not get this until you get to the correct gate. It pays to ask. The staff at the information desks do speak English. Everyone else? Not so much.

Some would say I am obsessed with Shisa Kanko (pointing and calling). Maybe so. This shot taken at 1219 Tokyo time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@52mm, f4.2, 1/30 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Shisa Kanko, Tokyo, Japan, 15 August 2017

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Here it is in action: Shisa Kanko.

You don't have to reserve a seat and if you get the "Green" Japan Rail Pass, you will be even more assured of a seat since these are the "first class" seats and are more expensive. But we reserved the seats nonetheless. The train left precisely on time. This shot taken at 1400 with The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone.

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Photo: Shinkansen Selfie, Tokyo, Japan, 15 August 2017

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The advertised speed of this particular bullet train is 200 kph. I didn't bring my aviation iPad with me but I did have my personal iPad. I pulled up the Waze application and found we were doing 134 mph. This shot taken from my iPad.

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Photo: Say speed? on the Shinkansen, Tokyo, Japan, 15 August 2017

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We made it to Kanazawa (on the Sea of Japan) and were introduced to our ryokan, a Japanese Inn. Our section of the inn included several living spaces, a garden, and a Japanese style bath. This shot taken at 1600 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f3.5, 1/50 sec, ISO 1250.

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Photo: The main section of our room at the Ryokan in Kanazawa, Japan, 15 August 2017

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Here is the bedroom with garden. This shot taken at 1500 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f3.5, 1/125 and 1/250 sec and 1/500 in HDR, ISO 500.

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Photo: The bedroom at the Ryokan, Kanazawa, Japan, 15 August 2017

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Dinner at the ryokan is set for each guest in their own dining room. We had a nine course affair that included several courses of fish, raw and cooked, as well as wagyu beef. This shot taken at 1844 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f2.2, 1/30 sec, ISO 400.

August 16th, Kanazawa (Japanese Alps)

We try to have a "Japan Breakfast" whenever we have the option. Part of this particular ryokon's mystique is that it has been around since 1897 and thrived primarily as a restaurant catering to the rich. The Kinjohro has only six rooms and the staff outnumbers the visitors. The food is very good. This shot taken at 0707 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f2.8, 1/30 sec, ISO 400.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 7,890 steps (3.5 miles).

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Photo: "Japan Breakfast" at the Kinjohro ryokan, Kanazawa, Japan, 16 August 2017

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In keeping with our low impact tourism, we only had two events planned for the day. The first was to visit the Kenrokuen gardens. We finally had to break out the umbrellas, but just for an hour or so. The humidity was so high my camera lens took all of that hour to stop steaming up. This shot taken from The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone.

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Photo: Humidity at the Kenryoken, Kanazawa, Japan, 16 August 2017

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The travel guide we used to set up this trip says the Kenrokuen is the third most beautiful in Japan. The inn proprietor told us it is number one. This shot taken at 1121 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 70-200mm@86mm, f7.1, 1/259 and 1/250 sec, ISO 800.

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Photo: Kasumgaike pond at Kenrokuen, Kanazawa, Japan, 16 August 2017

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Of course those gardens don't maintain themselves! Despite the humidity, the gardeners were out in force. This shot taken at 1137 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 70-200mm@86mm, f7.1, 1/200 sec, ISO 800.

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Photo: Gardener at the Kenrokuen, Kanazawa, Japan, 16 August 2017

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I knew I wanted a longer lens for some of the shots but didn't want to cart around a shorter lens as well. The Sony RX100 V also shoots in "raw" mode and came to the rescue here. (One less shot to steal from the Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone.) This shot taken at 1200 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@16.2mm, f4, 1/200 sec, ISO 400.

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Photo: An island in the lake, Kenrokuen, Kanazawa, Japan, 16 August 2017

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Speaking of the Lovely Mrs. Haskel, she is normally very camera shy. She wanted a selfie of us near this pond and a passing tourist offered to take the shot. This shot taken from The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone.

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Photo: "The couple," at the Kenrokuen, Kanazawa, Japan, 16 August 2017

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The Kenrokuen is a favorite spot for wedding photos. This shot taken from The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone.

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Photo: Wedding couple at their Kenrokuen, Kanazawa, Japan, 16 August 2017

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August 17th, On to Kyoto

It was time to waddle out of Kanazawa, filled to the gills with the best eating we had ever done. We made out way to the train station where it was hot. How hot? the beer lady was sweating. This shot taken at 1152 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@16.4mm, f4.5, 1/200 sec, ISO 2500.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 4,344 steps (1.9 miles).

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Photo: Kanazawa eki (train station) beer lady, Kanazawa, Japan, 17 August 2017

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Our Japan Rail pass was good for the first class section of this express train, which was very nice but without food service. This shot taken at 1156 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f6.3, 1/200 sec, ISO 2500.

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Photo: Express train Kanazawa to Kyoto, Japan, 17 August 2017

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No food? Daijobu (no worries). You can buy an "ekiben" (train station lunch box). This one was 900 yen (about $9.00). This shot taken at 1233 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f4.5, 1/100 sec, ISO 1000.

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Photo: Ekiben, en route to Kyoto, Japan, 17 August 2017

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When I was growing up my mom would take my brother and I to spend the summers in Japan if my dad was at sea (in the Navy). One of my fonder memories was dining on ekiben on the train. We got to relive those memories today. This shot taken at 1234 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f4.5, 1/60 sec, ISO 1000.

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Photo: Ekiben unboxing, Japan, 17 August 2017

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If you've not experienced "fast food" in Japan you really ought to start with an ekiben. The quality and presentation are better than what you will find at a lot of U.S. Japanese restaurants. This shot taken at 1235 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f4.5, 1/60 sec, ISO 1000.

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Photo: Ekiben top layer, Japan, 17 August 2017

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But wait, there's more. This shot taken at 1235 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f4.5, 1/60 sec, ISO 1000.

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Photo: Ekiben bottom layer, Japan, 17 August 2017

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Our ryokon experience completed, it was back to living on hotel points. This is the outside view of our room with the quaint room number "Hana 1." Hana means flower or nose, depending on where you put the emphasis. I think they intended "flower." This shot taken at 1615 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f10, 1/200 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: A view from outside of room "Hana 2" at the Westin Miyako Kyoto, Japan, 17 August 2017

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The Lovely Mrs. Haskel and I slept on the floor for many years before we bought a conventional mattress. We opted for Japanese style rooms on this trip where we had the choice. I've come to realize that I still prefer to sleep on the floor but I do miss having a conventional chair and table when typing. This shot taken at 1630 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f71.1, 1/60 sec, ISO 800.

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Photo: A view from inside of room "Hana 2" at the Westin Miyako Kyoto, Japan, 17 August 2017

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August 18th, Kyoto Shrines

Kyoto is known for "thousands of temples and shrines" according to our friendly travel guide. A shrine is characterized by a torii gate at the entrance and a purification ladle to wash and rinse both hands. A temple is characterized by a sanmon gate and an offering box. While a shrine is a place of worship, a temple is a place to store and display sacred objects. We picked the Kinkaku-ji, "The Golden Temple" for our first visit. This shot taken at 1020 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f7.1, 1/125 sec, ISO 100.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 4,344 steps (1.9 miles).

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Photo: "The Golden Pavilion" Kinkaku, Kyoto, Tokyo, Japan, 18 August 2017

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The Lovely Mrs. Haskel noted that you couldn't walk more than a few steps without seeing another photo opportunity. This shot taken at 1021 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@48mm, f7.1, 1/125 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: An island in the lake, Kinkaku, Kyoto, Tokyo, Japan, 18 August 2017

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This shot taken at 1157 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@45mm, f7.1, 1/200 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: "The Golden Pavilion" Kinkaku, Kyoto, Tokyo, Japan, 18 August 2017

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This shot taken at 1030 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@44mm, f7.1, 1/50 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Another island in the lake, Kinkaku, Kyoto, Tokyo, Japan, 18 August 2017

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We were walking the path around the temple when I noticed a guy photographing everything with a GoPro (weight: 5 oz) and this lady with her iPad (weight: 9 ounces). My Nikon D750 weighs 13.7 ounces and the lens I was carrying this day weighs exactly a pound. This shot taken at 1035 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f7.1, 1/50 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: A photographer carrying less equipment than me, Kyoto, Tokyo, Japan, 18 August 2017

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We next stopped by the Kyoto National Museum, which was quite good (and air conditioned), but no photos were allowed inside. This shot taken at 1153 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@36mm, f4, 1/2500 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: The Kyoto National Museum, Kyoto, Tokyo, Japan, 18 August 2017

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For shrines, we selected the Sanjusangendo. "Sanjusan" means 33, which comes into play a few photos from here. This shot taken at 1507 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@55mm, f4.2, 1/250 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Sanjusangendo, Kyoto, Tokyo, Japan, 18 August 2017

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This shot taken at 1514 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@34mm, f4, 1/800 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Sanjusangendo, Kyoto, Tokyo, Japan, 18 August 2017

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No photography was allowed inside but we saw 1,001 statues of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. These were positioned between 34 pillars which ends up as 33 intervals, or gendo. This shot taken at 1514 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@62mm, f14, 1/50 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Sanjusangendo, Kyoto, Tokyo, Japan, 18 August 2017

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August 19th, Osaka Castle

Osaka is just 70 miles or so from Kyoto and, to be honest, was our true destination for this trip to Japan. For the Lovely Mrs. Haskel it was the realization of girlhood dreams of a romantic source. Osaka is the focus of much Hawaii-Japanese fantasy. For me? I'm here for the food, as we'll see in a day. All that being said, Osaka was our true destination for this trip.

Growing up in Hawaii as a half-Japanese boy surrounded by full-Japanese boys I learned to tolerate my peers claiming to be of samurai descent or, even more brazenly, that of the Shogun class. Of course, most Hawaii Japanese were cast offs from the lower classes looking for a better life on the plantations of Hawaii. All that as prelude, we Hawaii Japanese held the samurai and shogun class in reverence. And the pinnacle of the shogun was Tokugawa Hidetada, from Osaka. This was his castle. This shot taken at 1428 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@62mm, f9, 1/200 sec, ISO 100.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 12,341 steps (5.3 miles).

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Photo: Osaka Castle Entry House, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 19 August 2017

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Of course the castle didn't start out as Tokugawa's; it was constructed by an earlier war lord, Toyotami Hideyoshi. Tokugawa took it after the Siege of Osaka in 1614. This shot taken at 1504 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@52mm, f9, 1/320 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Osaka Castle, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 19 August 2017

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Much of the castle was burned to the ground in 1868 during the Meiji Restoration. This shot taken at 1605 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f4.5, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: A view from the inside looking out, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 19 August 2017

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We graduated from high school in Hawaii in 1974, the year before James Clavell's book Shogun came out. We read it voraciously and also enjoyed the movie that came out shortly thereafter. That book centered on the rise of a war lord (daimyo) named Toranaga, based on Tokugawa. I think the "Tiger" seen here is of significance, but I can't remember why. This shot taken at 1621 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@85mm, f6.3, 1/640 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: "The tiger," Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 19 August 2017

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The castle was damaged during World War II but was restored in 1945. This shot taken at 1633 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f14, 1/50 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Osaka Castle bridge, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 19 August 2017

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So enough of the history lesson. As we were leaving the castle this scene seem to strike a chord with The Lovely Mrs. Haskel. Me too. This shot taken at 1648 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f6.3, 1/640 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: "East Meets West," Osaka Castle, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 19 August 2017

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I will end this series with a list of "lessons learned" for traveling with the Lovely Mrs. for an extended period. But here is a sneak peak. If you want to minimize space when packing, travel with someone with much smaller feet. This shot taken at 1335 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@48mm, f7.1, 1/15 sec, ISO 400.

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Photo: "Packing Hints," Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 19 August 2017

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Was Osaka everything we hoped for? So far, so good. One day to go. This shot taken with The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone.

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Photo: "The couple," Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 19 August 2017

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August 20th, Dotonbori (Gochiso-sama deshita — "It was a feast!")

Osaka, it is said, is Japan's kitchen. The central part of that kitchen is Dotonbori. I've always heard of it as the place for street food but we discovered it is much more. This shot taken at 1047 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@72mm, f7.1, 1/125 sec, ISO 100.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 12,764 steps (5.6 miles).

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Photo: The entry to Dotonbori, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 20 August 2017

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If you are wandering about Asia and see what appears to be a reverse Swastika, fear not. It is a Buddhist symbol known under several names, I think in Japan it is the the "manji." I think it roughly translates to "lucky charm" or something like that. The Asian symbol points left and the German symbol points right. This shot taken at 1052 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@85mm, f5, 1/50 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: A restaurant with the "manji," Dotonbori, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 20 August 2017

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Japan is a country of vending machines and you will quite often find beer vending machines. I saw this while the Lovely Mrs. Haskel was shopping and immediately started thinking about captions. This shot taken at 1128 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@85mm, f4.5, 1/80 sec, ISO 400.

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Photo: "It's five o'clock somewhere," Dotonbori, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 20 August 2017

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All that being said, I do like Asahi.

When I think of street vendor food I almost always think about "meat on a stick." In Japan this can be difficult because "meat" can mean entrails and gristle. Yes, gristle. So we tend to avoid meat on a stick in Japan. But I will always jump at a chance for okonomiyaki or takoyaki. Okonomo — savory vegetables, or tako — octopus, yaki — fried. If you've ever traveled with me you will know one of my truisms in life: "Anything good to eat is better fried." Well here is where that comes from. To make takoyaki you start with a pancake-like batter. This shot taken at 1235 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@29mm, f8, 1/250 sec, ISO 400.

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Photo: Takoyaki, step one, Dotonbori, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 20 August 2017

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After you've poured the batter into many little cups you add the octopus and chopped up vegetables. This shot taken at 1236 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f7.1, 1/200 sec, ISO 100.

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Photo: Takoyako, step two, Dotonbori, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 20 August 2017

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You let the mixture fry for a bit. This shot taken at 1240 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@75mm, f4.5, 1/640 sec, ISO 400.

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Photo: Takoyaki, step three, Dotonbori, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 20 August 2017

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Then you turn these little balls furiously until cooked all the way around, but just barely inside. This shot taken at 1235 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f6.3, 1/160 sec, ISO 400.

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Photo: Takoyaki, step four, Dotonbori, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 20 August 2017

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Want to see this in action? Here: Takoyaki.

The takoyaki can be dressed in many ways, but typically with a teriyaki sauce and a little mayonnaise, which is the way we had it. This shot taken at 1236 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@24mm, f4, 1/60 sec, ISO 400.

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Photo: Takoyaki, step five, Dotonbori, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 20 August 2017

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Even if you don't normally like octopus you should try this. It is softer than you think it will be but it is oh so good. This shot taken at 1237 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@56mm, f4.2, 1/15 sec, ISO 400.

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Photo: Takoyaki, Dotonbori, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 20 August 2017

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I mentioned earlier that I was surprised to find out Dotonbori was about much more than just food. The something else is shopping and lots of it. It was madness. This shot taken at 1419 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@85mm, f6.3, 1/200 sec, ISO 400.

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Photo: "Madness," Dotonbori, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 20 August 2017

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I've seen similar madness in other parts of the world, perhaps Hong Kong and Istanbul. But here is a view of that madness in video form: Dotonbori Madness.

Of course we were not immune to the madness. I spent more than a few moments at a camera store. The Lovely Mrs Haskel visited several other shops while I waited outside. This shot taken at 1621 Japan time with the Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone.

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Photo: "Eddie waiting near the brassieres," Dotonbori, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 20 August 2017

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In the end we finished our dining extravaganza at a local restaurant. This was my meal which was quite a feast for only 680 yen, less than seven dollars. This shot taken at 1625 Japan time with the Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone.

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Photo: A late lunch, part one, Dotonbori, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 20 August 2017

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The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's meal was no less a feast. This shot taken at 1625 Japan time with the Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone.

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Photo: A late lunch, part two, Dotonbori, Osaka, Tokyo, Japan, 20 August 2017

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August 21st, Return to Tokyo for Ramen

Our Japan trip is nearing an end and the plan is to return to Tokyo to buy a boatload of gifts. When we arrived in Osaka the train (not the Skinkansen) made a stop a few minutes north of Osaka at Shinosaka station. The next day I was looking at our Shinkansen tickets for Osaka to Tokyo and noticed the Kanji (the pictogram character) for Tokyo Station looked right, but I wasn't sure about Osaka. I took the ticket to our hotel concierge who confirmed our next day's ticket was from Shinosaka and not Osaka. The cab ride was only a few minutes longer and we managed to board the correct train from the correct station. This shot taken at 1436 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO 2500.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 5,032 steps (2.1 miles).

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Photo: Osaka to Tokyo Shinkansen tickets, Japan, 21 August 2017

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Our Shinkansen, which made it from Osaka to Tokyo (316 sm) in 2:54 for an average speed of 109 mph. But there were four stops, which comes into play later on.

Of course you should never board the Shinkansen without an ekiben. (If you do, they will gladly sell you one but that defeats the purpose, doesn't it?) This shot taken at 1221 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f5, 1/200 sec, ISO 1000.

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Photo: Ekiben, en route to Tokyo, Japan, 21 August 2017

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Our intention, of course, was to sample each other's ekiben. But by the time the Lovely Mrs. Haskel started on hers, I was done with mine. As we used to say growing up: "The faster you eat, the more you eat." This shot taken at 1221 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f5, 1/200 sec, ISO 1000.

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Photo: Ekiben, en route to Tokyo, Japan, 21 August 2017

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The train made four stops along the way, the last of which was to Shinagawa Station, just 13 minutes south of our destination, Tokyo Station. This shot taken at 1503 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f2.8, 1/80 sec, ISO 200.

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Photo: Shinagawa Station, Tokyo, Japan, 21 August 2017

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From Tokyo station we took a 30 minute cab ride to our hotel which was in a suburb called Shinagawa. Something seemed amiss. As soon as we put our bags down we went to the hotel concierge and asked for the nearest source of ramen. We were told the local train station had what was called "Ramen Street" underneath the tracks. Which station? The Shinagawa station. It was a five minute walk from the hotel. This shot taken at 1805 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO 2500.

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Photo: Shinagawa Ramen Street, Tokyo, Japan, 21 August 2017

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They say you should never turn your Situational Awareness off. If I had had my SA in gear, we could have gotten off the Shinkansen just a five minute walk from our hotel. Oh well.

Ramen Street had at least ten ramen restaurants to choose from. We had heard about the kind where you select what you want from a machine and hand the tickets to the waitress. We had to try it. This shot taken at 1815 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO 800.

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Photo: The Lovely Mrs. Haskel makes her ramen selection, Tokyo, Japan, 21 August 2017

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It is a vending machine that dispenses tickets. So you put your money in first, make your selections and you get a ticket for each item. When you've ordered all you want, you press the "change" button and get your change.

After we entered a waitress showed us to a table and took our tickets. The chef got right to work on the noodles and she returned quickly with the drinks. This shot taken at 1817 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f2.8, 1/160 sec, ISO 800.

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Photo: Behind the counter at Ramen Street, Tokyo, Japan, 21 August 2017

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The turn time from putting our money in the machine to getting the ramen was not more than fifteen minutes. This shot taken at 1820 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@22mm, f2.8, 1/160 sec, ISO 800.

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Photo: The cooks at Ramen Street, Tokyo, Japan, 21 August 2017

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On a sample size of four (this trip) I have come to the conclusion you cannot get a bad bowl of ramen in Japan. This shot taken at 1825 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@8.8mm, f2.8, 1/160 sec, ISO 800.

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Photo: , Japan, 21 August 2017

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August 22nd, Super Heroes, Shopping, and Massaged Beef

Our last full day in Japan was devoted to wandering the streets in search of gifts for family and a good meal to cap off a month of good meals. I am often asked if the streets of the big cities in Japan are safe. Of course they are. There are more super heroes per square kilometer in Tokyo than anywhere on earth. This shot taken at 1055 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@26mm, f7.1, 1/400 sec, ISO 200.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 11,376 steps (4.9 miles).

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Photo: Japanese super hero, Tokyo, Japan, 22 August 2017

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Kaimono (shopping) is never fun in my book. But you cannot leave Japan without a suitcase full of Japanese snacks. There is a law about these things. This shot taken at 1600 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@31mm, f6.3, 1/50 sec, ISO 3200.

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Photo: A suitcase filled with snacks, Tokyo, Japan, 22 August 2017

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The Lovely Mrs. Haskel and I are not big meat eaters but realize there is only one place on earth to really find Kobe beef. You may have been told you had Kobe beef, but if it was outside of Japan, you probably didn't. It requires a specific breed of cow, also a specific lineage. (In fact, you could not even import it to the United States until 2012.) This shot taken at 1912 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@56mm, f5, 1/80 sec, ISO 1000.

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Photo: Kobe beef, raw, Tokyo, Japan, 22 August 2017

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Look at the fat marbling. It is said that the beef will actually melt in your mouth since the melting temperature of that fat is lower than the temperature in your mouth.

The chef first placed a bed of thinly sliced garlic on the cooking surface and the beef on top of that. The only seasoning was salt and pepper. He then covered that with a metal dome while grilling corn, onions, and a pepper. This shot taken at 1923 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@80mm, f5, 1/80 sec, ISO 1000.

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Photo: Kobe beef cooking, Tokyo, Japan, 22 August 2017

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He then cut the beef into cubes. He served the garlic first. The slices were crisp, like potato chips, and not bitter or pungent at all. This shot taken at 1931 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@72mm, f5, 1/80 sec, ISO 1000.

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Photo: Kobe beef with garlic slices, Tokyo, Japan, 22 August 2017

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We both asked for our Kobe Beef medium rare and it was perfectly so. The Lovely Mrs. Haskel says it was the best beef she had ever tasted and it did, indeed, melt in her mouth. I have to agree it was the best. But I am still skeptical about the melting in the mouth business. This shot taken at 1931 Japan time, with a Nikon D750, 24-85mm@85mm, f5, 1/80 sec, ISO 1000.

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Photo: The cooked Kobe beef, Tokyo, Japan, 22 August 2017

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You may be wondering about cost. It was expensive. We ate like royalty on this trip but the most expensive meals were probably at the ryokan in Kanazawa. But this meal was a close second.

August 23rd, One more day . . .

One more day? Well actually another week. But this week will be in Hawaii taking care of family business. Besides, we grew up in Hawaii so the official tourism part of the trip will be at an end. This shot taken at 1654 Japan time, with a Sony RX100 V, 8.8-25.7 Zeiss@26mm, f8.8, 1/50 sec, ISO 500.

The Lovely Mrs. Haskel's iPhone report: 5.570 steps (2.5 miles).

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Photo: Headquarters Code7700, Narita Airport, Tokyo, Japan, 23 August 2017

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Lessons Learned . . .

I write the following as notes to myself, as much as notes to anyone else considering a similar vacation. We never did a vacation longer than a week until our fortieth wedding anniversary and that was to New Zealand and Bora Bora. This particular vacation will be a grand total of a month and a day and that is a long time away from home. So perhaps some note taking is in order.

In no particular order:

  • Packing: We packed seven days of clothes to cover a month of away time, to include the cold cruise ship and the very hot and steamy time in Japan. The plan was to use the ship landromat (which we did) and find laundromats in each Japanese stop (which were plentiful). But in the end I realized we were cramming a lot of Japan into a finite amount of time, because the expense of getting here from twelve time zones away was considerable. Our time was more valuable so we ended up using hotel laundry services, which were expensive. I think we averaged $150 per week in laundry. But I think it was worth spending the money versus sacrificing four hours of quality touristing time. So in the future, we will pack fewer clothes. Also, it would have been smart to mail the coldweather gear home from Alaska.
  • Business Class: I think our airline costs nearly doubled because we opted for business class on every leg. But we got to each destination fully rested, never had a hastle about carry on luggage, and actually enjoyed the airline experience as opposed to dreading it. I will do this again.
  • The Shinkansen: The bullet train wasn't as fast as taking the airlines, which are plentiful in Japan, but the hastle of going through airport security was eliminated. The Japan Rail Pass is easy to use, I think the "Green Class" may not have been worth the extra expense but it did make the travel more enjoyable.
  • The Alaska Cruise: I've always wanted to do this and am glad we did. But I would never do it again knowing how risky it is. Risky? I've been hearing a plethora of horror stories from people who did the cruise and never saw anything because it rained the entire time. (A lot of the stops average 320 days of rain each year.) Others have told me the seas were so choppy they had a lousy cruise. We got very, very lucky.
  • The Ryokan: I've spent a lot of time in Japan and never spent a night at a ryokan until this trip. I am glad I did and would highly recommend it. Just once. It was very expensive, nearly $2,000 per night. But you will never be so spoiled. On the other hand, I felt awkward being catered to so much.
  • Tempo: The Lovely Mrs. Haskel has come to realized early in our marriage that I am an advocate of minimizing stress where you can, though I am a strong believer of practicing the ability to remain calm when stress is high. In the case of a vacation, I don't want to ever say I need a vacaction after my vacation. So we set the bar very low, rarely setting out to do more than one or two things a day.

Final thoughts . . .

I will be back in New Hampshire on September 2nd. Regular programming shall resume shortly.

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Photo: The Lovely Mrs. Haskel and Eddie from their cottage, The Turtle Bay Hilton, Oahu, Hawaii 23 August 2017

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Revision: 20170823
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