Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Start your Summer Travel Plans now!

If you will be traveling by train this summer, and want to spend as little as possible, or just want to take the scenic route, it's time to start thinking about your your plans. By far the cheapest way to travel during the holiday seasons is the Youth 18 Ticket (Seishun Jyuhachi Kippu). It costs ¥11500 for 5 non-consecutive days on any regular JR train in Japan. It's not good on the Shinkansen, or Tokkyu (the fastest express) Trains, but if you used one of those, it wouldn't be scenic.

The most popular route during the Seishun 18 Kippu season, is the JR Tokaido line, connecting Tokyo with Nagoya, Osaka and Kyoto. For this route, I recommend the Moonlight Nagara. This train is by far the most popular train used by Seishun 18 Kippu holders, as it will take you from Tokyo to Kyoto or Osaka over night, in your own reserved seat, for only ¥2300.

The Moonlight Nagara has changed a little bit since list time I used it. In years past, the Moonlight Nagara Left Tokyo Station at around 11:30 (which meant that you had to pay for the first half hour before midnight), and arrived in Kyoto at around 9am the next morning. In addition to the Moonlight Nagara, there was a second train running only during the Seishun 18 Kippu season that was completely free seating, and left from Shinagawa Station at 11:45. This was great if you were unable to get a seat on the Moonlight Nagara, but it was incredibly crowded, and uncomfortable, and they didn't turn the lights off at night.

This year, they have bumped the Moonlight Nagara's departure time back to 11:45, and replaced the seasonal night train with a second seasonal Moonlight Nagara #91 which runs between 7/18 and 8/21. Both trains are now reserved seating, which I interpret as meaning that the #91 is the same type of train as the regular Moonlight Nagara, with individual high backed seats, and completely reserved seating. The #91 leaves from Shinagawa station at 11:55pm, which means you will only have to buy a ¥230 or so regular ticket, but probably you don't have to at all, since calculating the fare from Shinagawa to 12:00 will be too much hassle for the guy manning the gate in Kyoto.

To make a reservation for either Moonlight Nagara, you must go to a Midori no Madoguchi at most JR stations. It is recommended that you make your reservations as soon as the ticket window opens 30 days in advance. You can't make reservations earlier than that, and if you try later than that, it is unlikely you will get a seat. Occasionally some seats do open up, but it's best not to take you chances. Seat reservations on these two trains are free.

For exact routes of the Moonlight Nagara, or other trains, including night trains to Hokkaido and Kyushu, I recommend that you pick up a copy of the JTB 時刻表 (JTB Pocket Timetable), available at most bookstores in the travel section for ¥500. There are other time table books, but I have found the JTB version the most complete and easy to use. That is not to say the time table books are easy to use however. It will take some figuring out, and you should be able to read the Kanji of the places you will be passing through, as well as knowing where you will be going on a map.


For more information on the Seishun 18 Kippu, take a look at this article on Japan-Guide.com

Friday, June 25, 2004

I might as well be swimming

After the last typhoon passed over, we had characteristically nice weather, but now it just sucks. The temperatures aren't that high, but the humidity is near 100%. It rained all day today, and even though it was kind of cold, it felt hot. I also had my clothes hanging out to dry, but they ended up getting another rinse instead. I have an airconditioner in my room, but if I turn it on, it's too cold, but if I turn it off, it's too humid. Fun. And it's not even summer (is it?)

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Don't let this be you!

Picture died, I'll have it back up later.

Off the dock across from the Japanese Navy base in Yokosuka.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Typhoon!!

Another Typhoon is coming. This one is supposed to be pretty strong. I haven't heard yet if it will make it up here.

Edit: Typhoon's long gone, so the live image is too.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Ocean

I took a ride out to the ocean today. On the train a few weeks ago I say an ad for a place to rent sailboats and wind surf boards, so I thought I'd check it out. It was a really windy day, and the wind surfers were living it.

I also checked out the local marina, which I had also seen advertised in the trains. It was a really small marina with just a few slips. Most of the boats were out of the water on carts. I assume that you would have to call ahead and ask them to but your boat in the water if you were going to go out.

There was a small temple with it's traditional entrance gate on land, and another way out in the water on a shoal. I presume it is for spirits to find their way back home. There was also a row of monuments along the shore there, probably to those lost at sea. Something else interesting about this temple, was that a very large bullet seems to have been enshrined on a pedestal.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

More bugs

Click the title for a link to a National Geographic Artilce about these hornets.

I took a picture of this bee while I was walking around in the woods. I showed it to the science teacher at the elementry school I am at, and she said that it was a very dangerous hornet. They like eating meat, such as humans, and also like sweet things, like this tree sap. They are about 2 inches long, and if they bite you, you pretty much have to call an ambulance because you will start to dissolve.

Anyone still want to come visit me?

He he, I forgot to post the picture...

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Navy

After work yesterday I decided to go for a ride off in a direction I haven't been yet towards a town called Zushi. I heard that there was a marina there, so I wanted to check out the town. It was only about 30 minutes away, but by the time I got there, I was tired, and stared heading back. There was a map at the station in Zushi that had some trails to various temples and stuff in the area, so I decided to try to find one on the way back. After about 20 minutes, I came to what looked like a park. There was green grass, and trees and stuff, so I turned that way, but as I approached the gate, I realized that it was being guarded by a guy in camo carrying a large gun. Whoops, this isn't Japan anymore! I didn't actually get to the gate, though. I didn't realize that there was another military base in this area. It's on the opposite side of the peninsula, and there are mountains in between, so I don't suppose many come over here.


In Japan, it is almost impossible to have a gun. There are special licenses for hunting and sport guns, but they cost a lot of money, take a lot of training to get, and are heavily regulated. Even some police don't carry them, and those that do are required to follow strict protocols, including firing a warning shot into the air before shooting someone. It is extremely rare for a police officer to shoot at a suspect.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Birds

How many birds fit in one nest?

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Huntsman Spider

Females of H. venatoria make flattened, disc-like eggsacs about 1.5 cm in diameter which contain over 200 eggs. The eggsac is carried under the body, its size and shape probably causing the female to remain relatively immotile. All stages of development of juveniles and adults appear to occur simultaneously throughout the year.

This and similar species are highly valued in tropical countries because they capture and feed on cockroaches and other domestic insect pests. As with other vagrant spiders, huntsman spiders do not use webs to capture prey. Their great speed and strong chelicerae (mouthparts) are used to capture the insects on which they feed. Poison is also injected into the prey from glands extending from the chelicerae into the cephalothorax. It is not a dangerous spider, but a locally painful bite can be delivered to any human who carelessly handles a huntsman spider.

(Thanks to Amanda for looking up the spider's name)

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Ok, so I had to get it back out and measure it. I got it to sit still for one more picture, but then it scampered off. It didn't just creep like spiders are supposed to do. You could actually hear it's feet pattering on the floor. So here's the official measurement.

It's just over 10 cm! (That's about 4 inches to the non-metric folks) It could definitely take out a mouse. (The picture sticks off the screen a bit, but I did that because on my screen at least, that is actual size. Use a tape measure for your own comparison)

I knew that Japan has really large beetles and millions of Cicada's (Semi) that scream day and night during the summer, but I didn't expect this to jump out at me while I was taking out the garbage.

It's huge! There is either an egg sack or a dried up rat that it's carrying around. If it's carrying a rat, then I'm glad it caught it, but it's time for it to leave, and if it was an egg pouch, then it's really time for it to leave because I don't want a thousand of those things running around. I'm glad it wasn't in my shoe.