Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Brain Resource Allocation

 In reading reports regarding survivors of things like car crashes and airplane crashes, several times I've read of people not having any memory of the event while they were in the thick of it (as in no memory after the fact of the time in the thick of it).  It's been a long time since I read one of those stories, but I remember them as generally saying that the event was so traumatic that the brain has blocked the trauma of the incident and that's why the individual can't remember it.  The picture painted is one of there being a memory, but the event being so bad that the brain decides to block it off... or something like that.  But I had an experience not so long ago that has led me to believe that that's not the reason people often have no memory of traumatic things they've lived through....

I was hurrying along a platform at Tokyo Station one night when someone tripped me (accidentally... I hope) and as I had been walking quickly (very quickly actually) at an angle towards a train that was departing (before the platform walls were installed at that station) and was just going to put my left foot down to change course to the right to change my forward trajectory from one going towards the train to one parallel with the train, when suddenly my left leg wasn't there and I found myself flying headfirst towards the moving train.  Had there been no train there, I would have flown off the platform and landed on the tracks, and had a train just been arriving and I had fallen in front of it, it would have been certain death.  As it was, the eleven car Yamanote Line train was departing the station, picking up speed.

   So, here's what I remember in great detail:  I'm speed-walking towards the train, I'm just about to change directly when someone's foot (apparently and hopefully accidentally) hooks into my left foot/leg and I go flying forward, head-first towards the moving train.  Two distinct thoughts were "Where's my left leg!" and then a nonverbal view of my face flying towards the moving train.  At that point there is a brief flash of the possibility of dying, but then (all of this non-verbal) a resolute call to action to do what I can and I reach out towards the train (not knowing what's going to happen, but doing nothing would result in my face directly hitting the moving train), and then.... nothing.  Just a complete blank memory-wise, until my left leg/foot slams down vertically onto the platform (making a fairly large noise hitting the temporary metal plate there as part of the preliminary construction of the platform walls) and I find myself walking/marching in parallel with the train.  A man half turned is looking at me with an expression on his face seeming to say "WTF did I just see?" and he's nudging the woman he's with to turn around and look.

   At that point, there was nothing to see - just me speed-walking past them and thinking "HS - I just about died there..." and as I headed to my next train, trying to recall just WTF happened.  So - here's my conclusion, based on that experience and some other observations about how the brain seems to work.

   It seems to me that at the point where I realized there might be nothing I could do to save myself, but I had to try... brain resource allocation devoted all resources to survival actions ("All hands on deck!" if you will).  Since all resources were focused on survival actions, there were no resources for making memories.  Memories aren't going to do you any good if you're dead after all.  The result is that during the time I was performing some actions to survive (grabbing onto door or window sills or something - since the train was going the opposite direction as my fall, I - apparently - used that to get myself out of horizontal and back to vertical.  And judging by how my left leg slammed down on the platform, presumably I was at least a little airborne before landing on my feet again.  But while the memory of my face flying towards the train, and of myself reaching out both arms/hands towards the train, and then slamming my foot/leg down on the platform and resuming walking is very clear, there is no memory whatsoever of what happened between those two moments.

   I think resource allocation is behind the phenomenon of people remembering something "in slow motion" as well.  When seeing something well is the key to surviving, more resources are provided to sight, and you see things at a higher frame rate.  Since you're getting more visual information per second, the perception is of time going more slowly.

   Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon - www5d.biglobe.ne.jp/~LLLtrs/ - youtube.com/lylehsaxon - lylehsaxon.blogspot.jp/ - lookback1997.blogspot.jp/

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Time Portal

   The time portal originally presented itself to me in a dream.  It was a place I knew - in a pair of old buildings built separately with adjoining staircases with connecting windows between them.  The windows were originally looking out on the outside world of the first building from its single stairwell, but became windows providing an air passage between the two buildings (which are now one building composed of the original two buildings joined).  The joined pair of buildings carry many mysteries - and are a unique design not replicated anywhere that I'm aware of.  The windows are left open and are large enough to pass through, although are generally just used to catch glimpses of people going up and down the neighboring stairs.

  So that's the setting.  In the dream, I discovered that one of them occasionally works as a time portal.  Initially this was a purely exciting discovery, but soon became a fearsome thing....  Where do you go?  As a view on a computer screen I'd have no hesitation at all - I'd go forward, back, here, there, it would be endlessly interesting/educational, but to actually go?  Going forward is a terrifying thing, because you have no idea of the dangers of the future that need to be avoided, so going back is the only sensible thing to do.  But back to when?  Going back is great but what if you can't return to your correct time?

  And so the testing begins.  You start by going back a few days and it's kind of weird, because you know there's another version of you back there that - in early testing at least - you don't want to encounter.  Nevertheless, like anything, as you do it, you get used to it and you widen the gap a little and go back a week, two weeks, three weeks... and you begin to encounter problems since you end up running into people you know who recently saw the three-weeks-ago version of you and notice different clothes and slightly different hair, etc.  And so your twin brother is born and that answers some short-term awkward questions, but greatly complicates your life.

  The first malfunction of the time portal is terrifying.  The other side is supposed to be CT (Correct Time) but you land in another time - further back in the past but you don't know when.  That is quite a frightening experience - kind of like how you might feel if you boarded a plane for your home country and when you got off, it was another country, but you weren't sure which country it was.  Much worse actually, since in the case of landing in the wrong country, that sort of mix-up would generally be fairly easy to remedy.  When you're aiming for one year and land in another decades off the mark though, the terrifying possibility of being lost in time presents itself and then the novelty and fun of time travel vanishes and you just want to get home.

  So you travel less, but then start to worry about the future.  Dangerous as it must be, isn't there a responsibility to look at the future, see things that have gone wrong, and return to CT and try to help steer the ship away from bad destinations?

  Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon - www5d.biglobe.ne.jp/~LLLtrs/ - youtube.com/lylehsaxon - lylehsaxon.blogspot.jp/ - lookback1997.blogspot.jp/

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Why Talk?

   So what is the purpose of talking?  To communicate.  With more and more communication taking place via our devices, talking in person appears to be decreasing in importance.  For me, I sometimes (often?) have a tendency to talk a bit too much when I'm with people, which isn't good, but more and more I've been coming to think that talking with others should only be done when/if necessary.  I'm reluctant to even say that, as I generally still like talking with people, but you have to adjust to how people communicate and what seems to work better these days is not to talk any more than is necessary?

  Of course the danger of communication with text is the delay between what you write and someone's reaction to it.  Talking with someone "live, in person" as it were, the feedback is instant - speeding up miscommunication corrections considerably.

  (The above written on a train while the neighboring seats were empty, enabling me to have my arms fully by my side for typing.  More and more people are boarding the train however, so I better stop and go into narrow space mode.) 

  (later) - So here I go - slipping into that thing I hate - where a person places more importance on distant acquaintances connected via electronic device than on the people they are actually with.  Or maybe it's slightly different... I want to avoid there being any issues and one way of avoiding issues with people is not to talk to them?  Oops... I feel like the more I write about this, the deeper I'm sinking into something better left alone?

  Hmm.... so this is the "delete" thing I suppose.  As with deleting things you don't like on the computer, the desire arises to delete unpleasant issues with the people you interact with?

  Whatever!  Well, it's another day and I'm again wondering if I should go somewhere for pictures after work.  In addition to the inertia of getting used to not going places much, there are the practical considerations of the Virus Era - best not to expose oneself unnecessarily to things.  Having said that, it looks like I'll end up not going anywhere.  But I might change my mind. その時はその時です。

  (later) - I've ranted about this before, but synthetic smells....  There's a guy at my workplace who is always just reeking of synthetic chemical stench.  I always want to ask him: "So, um... what's going through your mind exactly when you douse yourself in synthetic chemical stench?  You're afraid you have some natural body odor or something?  Being concerned about that is a good thing, but dousing yourself in a liter or two of synthetic chemical stench means that all day long, everywhere you go, you're polluting the air and making life miserable for everyone within a ten meter radios of you.  It's a truly horrible thing you're doing - please stop tormenting people and polluting the air!"  I really do want to say that, but for obvious reasons, can't....

  Oh, and there's another person, a woman, who wears a perfume that smells like - and I'm not kidding - pesticide spray!!!  Fortunately she works in another area, so I don't often come within that ten-meter radios synthetic chemical stench zone, but occasionally I'll enter a room and "Hm? Pesticide spray? Who's been using that..... Ah!!  It's that synthetic chemical stench person who uses perfume that smells like insecticide!  まったく!"

  I used the optical drive of my computer once today, and when I went to use it again, it wasn't working.  Now it appears to be dead.  The software recognizes the device being in the machine (it's an internal, but removable drive), but there is no recognition of the disk within the drive and the disk drawer can only be opened (with a disk or no disk) by poking an opened paper clip into the emergency release hole in the optical drive drawer.  I've never had an optical drive suddenly die on me like this before....

  (much later) - After getting home, I pulled out a USB optical drive I recently bought at a used equipment store (sold as "junk" with no warranty) and confirmed that it works, so at least there's a way to use an optical drive with this machine... too bad the internal one died though.

  Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon - www5d.biglobe.ne.jp/~LLLtrs/ - youtube.com/lylehsaxon - lylehsaxon.blogspot.jp/ - lookback1997.blogspot.jp/

Friday, October 30, 2020

One Weekday October Day

   (06:43) - On the train this morning I looked out the window and watched the city flowing by... construction cranes, trains going in the other direction... fellow passengers in masks.  Before the Virus Era, I typically found it inspiring in some way - all those buildings, the trains carrying people throughout the city.  This morning there was only a feeling of fatigue.  Maybe just a mood thing, but we're coming up on a year of living in the Virus Era and - as I read the Canadian Prime Minister put it recently - it sucks.  Hopefully the long stretch of living irresponsibly (as a whole - we bipeds) is coming to an end and we can learn to fit in with the world and complement it instead of destroying it.

  I used to write outside on a laptop I carried around.  I got out of the habit when I got back into taking pictures, but I brought a computer with me today and am thinking I'll return to writing at various genba.  It just doesn't work to think "I'll write about this on the weekend" - it could happen I suppose, but for years now it hasn't been happening, so once again I am trying the write-at-genba approach.

  Hmmm.....  I just realized I'm feeling better after being off of the train system for a bit - sitting out in the open with no one near me - the mask temporarily pulled down.  Hope seems to be returning.  I guess there's nothing for it but to charge ahead and do what you can.  Things might not work out but - by God - not because you didn't try.  Words to myself, but I think they apply to anyone.

  Well, time to put the computer back in the backpack.  This really does seem to be the ticket.  At genba, while feeling things, the words come.  Memories fade so quickly.  (Feelings of appreciation for language.)

  (Evening) - Now what.... go straight home or go somewhere for pictures, etc?  I feel like going somewhere and walking around taking pictures, but have mostly gotten in the habit of just going straight home - to get the commute out of the way so I can relax without a mask on at home.  While I ponder what to do, time continues to flow....

  (For some reason, spell check isn't working at all....)

  (Later) - Figured out the spell-check issue.  I installed the program set to US English, so the US English spell check dictionary was installed automatically, but the file was (for some reason) set to UK English, and since there isn't a UK English spell check dictionary installed, spell check wasn't functioning.  I did a [Ctrl]+[A] to highlight everything and then set the language to US English and spell check came to life.

  Anyway - the above details are probably not worth writing about, but there it is.  As I sit outside and am a little cold (although the day has been unseasonably warm), it occurs to me that there's something about being able to write into a computer in a location without power and where it's not ideal (no table, so my laptop computer is sitting on my lap - gee I wonder why they call these machines laptops [sarcasm]), and it's a little cold and slightly uncomfortable... that encourages writing.  I first noticed this phenomenon with telephones.  Before cell phones, if there was a pay phone handy, I'd often call someone because the rare ability was there.  Once I had a cell phone and could call anytime, I began actually using a phone less and less.  Same with a writing instrument it seems.  When I'm at an AC-powered comfortably housed computer, I do a number of things with it but don't get much writing done.

  Anyway... I don't suppose this is the time to be writing about the time portal?  That will have to come later.

  I wasn't going to say anything about the machine I'm writing on, but the importance of it to the fact I'm sitting in central Tokyo outside on a bench writing is considerable.  Back when I carried a laptop around and did a fair amount of writing outside, I was using a thick, heavy machine that had a functional battery, but it could only run for about 50 minutes before being connected to AC for charging again.  Useful enough, but limited.  The machine I'm writing on now I picked up used inexpensively, and while I knew the hard drive had bad sectors (over 600!!), the very day I got home with it and started using it... or attempting to use it I should say, it became nonfunctional due to the hard drive.  So I bought a new SSD drive, which made the machine more expensive overall, but has both dramatically improved its performance (very fast response times) and increased running time on the battery (no motor, so - I think - dramatically less power consumption).  It's quite remarkable really.  Having lived with Nickel-Cadmium and Nickel-Metal-Hydroxide batteries, Lithium-Ion batteries are light-years better.

  Since I'm less enthusiastic about filling up my backpack with a single device now, it's important that this machine is light enough and small enough to easily carry (not super light, but not all that much heavier than a large tablet computer), and it both looks cool and has a good keyboard for typing and a touch pad that actually works (although I did turn off the "tap to click" functionality of it, as I always do).  So it's sort of the computer equivalent to getting a new used car you like, fixing a few issues it has and discovering what a great machine it is to drive in.

  See what I mean?  I don't think I ever would have written all that if I were comfortably at home or somewhere else where the technology to write is there, but a thousand other distractions are also there.   This machine has WiFi of course, but I've got it turned off - so there are no incoming messages from various applications coming in and getting in the way of concentration/productivity.

  Well, it is the Virus Era after all, so I better get out of the cold before I catch a cold that could be mistaken for something else - and.... there's a man to my right a few seats down (and fortunately downwind) who is sniffling up a storm.  Probably just an ordinary cold, but it's not pleasant to listen to and isn't something you want to be near.

  Before I go though, a couple of things:

  - I passed a flowering tree today that was in bloom... clearly confused by the suddenly warm weather as I've never seen it in bloom any other year outside of spring.

  - A laptop with a keyboard can be used as a writing machine, but tablets aren't much good for anything other than looking at things and very minimal text input.  There's no way I could have written all this text in the limited time I've been outside on this park bench with a touch-screen.

  Okay, now I really do want to get away from the sniffle-storm guy!

  (Later - on a train) - OK... writing on the train is more difficult than I remembered... train motion?  No sweat.  Distractions?  No problem.  Elbow room!  You can't touch type without having your elbows by your sides!  I've got them almost by my sides, but it's really hard to type without being able to pull your elbows all the way back....  Alright - I give up.  I'm putting the machine back in my backpack.

  Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon - www5d.biglobe.ne.jp/~LLLtrs/ - youtube.com/lylehsaxon - lylehsaxon.blogspot.jp/ - lookback1997.blogspot.jp/

Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Key to Writing is Writing

  I learned long ago that the key to writing is to write.  Once you start writing, then you continue - a variation on the "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" thing.  I learned that when I was around ten or eleven, and while I didn't forget it, I ended up in a loop of planning to write something, then deciding there wasn't time, and back to planning, and then putting it off, etc. etc.  At the moment, I got enough sleep the night before, and I'm writing this before going on-line.
  Ah!  Going on-line!  That's something I didn't think about back when I learned to just start writing something, anything, to get going with getting text on the page!  So I guess my old standard idea of "the key to writing is to write" needs to be modified!  How about: "The key to writing is to write, and to start writing before going on-line!"  Once on-line you end up writing, but in bits and pieces in text blurbs thrown about here and there - not a bad thing exactly, but by the time you're through doing that, you've run out of energy for proper writing.
  2020 is a troubled year, to put it mildly.  Most of my life I've felt constrained while inside and more relaxed and free when outside, but that's been turned around in this Virus Era.  Now I feel constrained outside (mask, distancing, disinfecting, etc.) and only free and unconstrained at home, where I can walk about without a mask and not constantly worrying about getting sick and dying.
  So what's the good side of 2020?  Personally, living in Tokyo, which has been getting a bit trampled by too-easy-tourism, shutting down the tourism madness is a good thing I think.  I've been thinking all along that tourism is an ultra-bad thing to base an economy on - something can always suddenly turn it off.  I didn't have pandemics in mind when I thought that, but during the years leading up to the Pandemic Era, I was thinking on a nearly daily basis (while dodging idiot tourists clogging the sidewalks) that some tourism is a great thing, but too much of it bringing in too many frivolous and clueless bipeds is a truly horrible thing.  And once the tsunami of tourists begins making life more difficult and more expensive for the residents of a place, tourism is an evil thing.
  Well, lots to do today... I guess it's time to go on-line and try to make the day a productive one.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

令和元年「今年の本を読んでみよう...」

大体何年前出版した本を読むので、ある令和元年の八月の日、本屋で本を見ている時「天気の子」の本を見つかって、今年の本 (2019年) が気が付きまして、現在の本を読みたいと思って、買いました。 早速読み始まったが、単語力あまり無いので、辞書を引きながら読んで、八ページまで進んで、忙しくなって、そのまま... (情けない...)。


しかしアニメは先だったので、DVDを買って、今夜やっと見ました。 


20世紀の東京に初めて来た時、何でも新しい、何でも珍しい...  21世紀の令和二年、令和元年の映画の東京のシーンが全部知ってるとなんか不思議な気持ち。 アニメのDVDディスクをコンピューターに入れた時、珍しいな知らない風景を期待して.... それで見ながら、どこでもの東京のシーンが珍しく見えたじゃなく、懐かしく見えて... 嬉しいような不思議ような... 何と言うか... 複雑な気持ちでした。


B: それで?

A: いや... それだけ... かな

B: ........

A: 気持ちは言葉に簡単にならない....

B: と言う事は?

A:「天気の子」のアニメを見ながら色々な事を考えて、色々な気持ちが有って....

B: 上に書いてあるのは、そんなに複雑じゃないけど....

A: そうよね - まっ、行と行の間の意味を読んでよ!

B: ..............


以上でござる

Saturday, August 22, 2020

“Nagano, 1998 - 98/02/14" (with 2020 intro)

2020/08/22 - In 1998, I decided to go to Nagano to see what Nagano City looked like while it was hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics.  I'm not very interested in sports, which is helpful, as I couldn't have afforded the expensive ticket prices if I had wanted to see one of the events.  As it was, I just wanted to see the city at that time, and so all I needed was to take a Shinkansen there, which was (is) a bit pricey in itself, but as a day trip, that's all I needed to pay for.

   I've had this old text in mind for quite a while, but just (this weekend) finally put the time in to go over it and post it here.  It's a bit long - doing a quick check in a word processor for the nearly final version, it indicated 7,411 words with 40,325 characters.  Of course the character count includes spaces, but it still is an indication of how many keystrokes were required to write it.  The initial writing was done with paper and pen, and then I typed up my handwritten text later, so a bit of time went into this.

   This was during my camera-less period, so I was recording everything via words.  Some things are better explained just with words, but while there are some elements of that in here, after reading it over again, I find myself wishing I'd recorded the trip with a video camera, but text is the only method I had at the time.  Anyway - here it is. - LHS

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

“Nagano, 1998 - February 14th, 1998 - Going to the Venue City"

   (8:37 a.m.  Inside a commuter train) - Well, here I go.  I decided to go to Nagano after all...  I stand here, in the train, with anticipation of the trip ahead, the Acer laptop in the backpack (not likely to be used, but...), and three or four doses of guilt at leaving friends behind.  Actually, the only part of this day trip that’s really cause for guilt is the expense incurred in getting from Tokyo to Nagano, about 15,000 yen round trip.  I don’t have the money to actually see any of the events (not the purpose of this trip anyway), and will spend the entire day walking around Nagano City to experience the atmosphere there.  Fascinating for me, but not something any of my friends would be up to doing.  I used to do this regularly back when I was taking video - I’d go out on day trips every Saturday or Sunday.

   (9:00 a.m.  Tokyo Station bound) - I just bought the ticket for the Shinkansen.  The guy at the ticket counter was an interesting and friendly guy.  Get this - a round trip ticket to Nagano costs 14,600 yen, and a two day, unlimited use, go anywhere in the northern part of Honshu ticket costs 16,000 yen.  Hmmm... it was a really tough choice , but I bought the two day pass.  (Just in case, yes, that's sarcasm, it was - of course - an exceptionally easy choice.)  This way I can move around in Nagano and even take a trip somewhere tomorrow too.

   The couple sitting next to me on this Chuo Line train were just looking at their two tickets to... ice hockey I think.  I could see three things very clearly on their tickets; the Olympic insignia, a picture of a man on ice with a hockey puck, and the price... 21,000 yen each!  Yow!!  That’s practically $400.00 in tickets for the two of them!  I’ve got 4,000 yen and some change in my pocket....  Ah! This is the life!  Well, actually I don’t feel bad right now, as having more money wouldn’t change this trip.  When lack of money stops me from doing something I want to do, it’s extremely irritating, but otherwise....  We’re pulling into Tokyo Station now.

   (9:27 a.m.  Shinkansen) - On the Shinkansen, underway, and SITTING DOWN!!  YEAH!!!  I love traveling!.....

   Oh no!...  Oh no!  Smoke!  Augghh!!  I forgot about smoke.  I’ll complain more later.  I need to get out of my coat and settled in.

   (9:32 a.m.) - Cough cough!!  In Ueno.  We’ve got some standees now.

   (9:40 a.m.) - Next sop, Omiya.  Other than the smoke, this is quite a comfortable ride.  Each of the Shinkansen lines has a name for the trains.  The Tokyo-Nagano line is called the “Asama Shinkansen”.  This is the newest one I think.  It was completed just in time for the Nagano Olympics.  Not only the line, but the trains themselves are new as well.  Nice color scheme for the seats... the left side of the train (going in this direction anyway) has two seats each, and the right side (where I am, on the aisle) three each, which is probably why there are three color variations - no two seats, side to side, or front to back, are the same color.  All seats have some black, and the three color schemes are basically blue and green, orange-brown and green, and blue and purple.

   (9:50 a.m.  Omiya) - Several more people getting on here.  People standing in the aisle now.  It’s starting to feel more like a commuter line.  Ah... yes... but of course, I just realized a major reason for the comfort I felt up until Omiya - I’m sitting at the back of the car, and I could see down the empty aisle... space!  Beautiful beautiful space.

   To my sandwiches and the view.  Oh, before I forget... I was going to say that the overall color scheme of this train is quite nice, but the effect is markedly changed with people standing all down the aisle.

   We’re picking up speed now... the Shinkansen trains run around 200 kilometers per hour.

   (10:14 a.m.  Pulling into Takasaki Station) - A few people are getting off here, but many more are getting on, several foreigners included... the first I’ve seen on this trip.  Yow... now it really is like a commuter line, with people leaning on my seat, the left side windows invisible.  There’s an American man trying to sell tickets to a couple of Australians(?)... he’s got his arm leaning into the top of my seat - if I put my head back, it will be on top of his arm.  I look with extreme envy at the man two seats away from me, sitting by the window.

   (10:26 a.m.  In a long tunnel) - We seem to be climbing... and probably are, heading into snow country after all.

   Language... I’ve read before that for many Japanese, when they learn English, it can be physically tiring.  I spend very little time speaking to native English speakers, but my native language is English.  Even so, maybe there’s something to the theory that different sounds affect the mind in different ways.  Here I am, a native English speaker, and the sound of English coming from the three people next to me is quite harsh on the ears.  Of course, the LA guy is practically talking into my ear.

   (10:33 a.m.  Karuizawa) - A few people off, more on.  This is really strange.  I’ve always laughed when students told me they were so tired after an English lesson that they went home and laid down, but here I am feeling fatigue just from listening to English.  Strange....

   (11:00 a.m.  Nagano) - Oops!  It takes less time to get here than I thought it would... only an hour and a half from Tokyo.  I ended up talking to the guys standing next to me.  The guy from LA for just a little, but the other guy, who turned out to be from Lincoln, in England, for twenty-five minutes.  (I meet far more people in Japan from Australia than England, and so I end up mistaking English people for Aussies.)

   Anyway!  Already it feels strange seeing so many foreigners just in the station here.  Time to go out and see the town.  (Looking out the window, I see it’s raining!!)

   (11:25 a.m.) - Amway tent.  Rain... and very little snow anywhere - a little on some roofs and beside the road in places.  In the Amway tent are many tables and chairs, two large televisions, a grand piano and an electric organ (on a small stage), and many Amway boxes in the corners stacked two meters high.  On TV, some ice sport that I don’t understand... pushing a bowling ball sized thing down a bowling lane sized block of ice... happening near where I am I suppose.  Interesting - what is the significance of being physically close to something that I can’t see?  Just the fact that it would be physically possible to go there I suppose.

   (12:14 p.m.) - Outside the “Big Hat”, a light green and white auditorium.  Standing in the rain, under my umbrella, I contemplate my twenty-minute walk here from the station.  Many tour-type buses heading towards the station, most empty.  A city bus with the passengers looking like they live in a small (by Japanese standards) Japanese town (which they do), looking out the windows with... what’s the word for that look... “wonder” maybe, at all the changes outside the windows of the bus.  The cars - no strong impression there, although some have Olympic (parking?) stickers on the windshield.

   The rain is coming down harder now.  One more thing - beside the auditorium is a very strange (for Japan) sight: a small, old warehouse type building with all the second floor windows smashed.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in Japan before... maybe it’s the contrast, sitting right next to the new auditorium.  Luckily there’s no wind, but I’m getting a little bit wet all the same.

   (12:25 p.m.) - In front of “Big Hat”.  As I walked by the CBS trailer parked beside the auditorium, some CBS guys were just going through the gate, so I asked one if he knew my e-mail pal who is here with the Olympics (she said she was coming anyway), but he didn’t.  She’s freelance - maybe that’s why.

   Right now, the events inside the building I’m standing in front of are being watched all over Japan, across the oceans and around the world, but I can’t see them.  Physically, I could walk into the building and see the events without any electronics within two minutes, but... no ticket, so you, living across vast oceans, can see what is inside the building I stand beside better than I.  As I stand here, one after another, people are taking pictures of each other standing here in front of the building.  Maybe they don’t have tickets either.  No matter.  “The event?  I don’t know!  I didn’t see it!  But I was there, look, here’s a picture of me, standing right there in front of the building!”

   (12:40 p.m.) - In the MPC building.  What is it?  No idea!  There’s a check point, like at airports, and two wind blown guys next to me were just saying: “I’ve got some T-shirts - some L’s, a couple of XL’s... eight altogether....”  “... buses... Why don’t they just run a regular service back and forth to the station?”

   A new bunch of people just came in... off of a bus I guess.  They almost all have the same look, mustaches, some beards... late twenties to early forties I’d say.  They all look... sort of like photographers do, with comfortable casual clothes... a rough windblown look.

   I just asked one guy with a two-day beard “What is this building?”  He looked at me like I’d just stepped off a spaceship from the outer limits, and waited so long, that I thought he wasn’t going to answer, and said “Press Center”.  Then he looked at a paper (taped over the phones I was standing by) that says “List of Taxi Companies”, and muttering “... nightmare...” he walked away.  I’ve been here (in the building) long enough that one of the guards is openly staring at me now....  Time to go I guess.

   (1:00 p.m.) - Not three minutes from the MPC, I’m standing on a narrow street... not a soul to be seen... beyond the house at the end of the street, the mountains rise into the low clouds... the sound of birds... rain against my umbrella... a slight wind.....  While I stood there at MPC, there was an electric atmosphere, the kind that only temporary events can generate... nervous energy?  One final note before I continue on.  Only three people passed by as I wrote; one woman on foot, a man on a bicycle, and a man in a mini-truck.  None of them paid any attention to me... who am just a passing aberration I suppose.

   (1:10 p.m.) - Just down the street, some of the houses have a set of three small flags by their door, set in a base that says “Hearty Welcome to Nagano”.  One flag is a Japanese flag, one is a “Nagano 1998” Olympic flag, and the other one is of four owls, and it says “Snowlets”.

   I just saw a light bulb streetlight (as in standard light bulb)!  I’ve seen those in an old popular comic strip called “Sazae-san”, which was written from just after the war, through the fifties (and into... the seventies maybe), but I’ve never seen one still in use.  In Tokyo, they’re all florescent tubes, or something else.  This one I’m looking at now is a regular light bulb.  (Asking someone about that later, it seems the heat from an incandescent light bulb is useful in melting snow from the shade over it in areas that get a lot of snow.)

   A pretty woman walks by... the way she averts her gaze downward is definitely of the old school, not like most of the young women in Tokyo.  Of course if this same woman goes to Tokyo, she’ll change.

   How is it in Tokyo?  When a typical young woman walks by, she looks ahead with a “Aren’t I the best thing you’ve ever laid eyes on?” look on her face.  Not everybody’s so extreme, but then again, I can’t recall the last time I saw a woman in Tokyo act like the one who just walked by me here.

   A woman on a bicycle came by and asked (in English) if I was lost.  Turns out she’s a volunteer to help tourists.  I mentioned (in Japanese) that I had never seen light bulb street lights in Tokyo, and she told me that all the ones here are like that.  I hear festival drums in the distance... three ten year old boys walk by... none of them look at me, but one says to the other two “What’s he writing anyway?”.  It seems like people follow the rule “Don’t stare at strangers” more closely here than in 

Tokyo.

   That festival(?) music... where’s it coming from?

   (1:37 p.m.) - Back on the main street between the station and “Big Hat”.  A heavier stream of people flow by toward the auditorium.  To my left, on the corner of a side street, and the main street, is a machine shop.  I wonder how many of the people walking by on their way to the “Big Hat” see it.  White people with pink noses and ears pass by... that pink color really stands out here.

   I noticed LP gas tanks by several of the apartment buildings... maybe the city isn’t piped for natural gas.

   (1:55 p.m.  The wind’s picking up, making it harder to keep the paper dry as I write.) - I’m standing in a gravel lot with twelve cars... twelve cars, and nine of them are white!  Color cars are getting more popular - in fact, I can see a parking lot across a field with a much lower percentage of white cars (less than half), but still white cars here seem more popular than they are recently in Tokyo.

   (2:30 p.m.) - I love cars... when I’m driving, but not when I’m walking.  I used a main road to get across the Susobana River (the water was brown with silt from the rain), and as soon as I got off the main road and away from the exhaust gases, I felt much better.  I'm standing in a foothill suburb (in an empty parking space next to a plateless CRX... strange...) overlooking the city.  It's a beautiful sight - low clouds drifting by obscuring the tops of the mountains that surround the city - all under a dramatically overcast sky.  The atmosphere is nicer here than in the center of the city.  If I were to live in Nagano, I should like to live in this area I think.

   (14:50) - A house, built on stilts by a creek... in the window, on TV, is... a cooking show!  (Technical note:  The stilts are old cut up pieces of railway rail, which used to be a fairly common building material.  Many older train stations in Tokyo were built using old rails for the beams... quite appropriate for a train station when you think about it!)

   (15:15) - I'm sitting on the top step of a shrine.  The top step is actually part of a wooden balcony that runs around the front and sides of the building... protected by a pagoda-like overhanging roof.

   It's very quiet... so quiet that I can hear the sound of my pen on the paper now and then.  Mostly I hear the sound of water dripping from the edge of the roof onto the ground just a half meter from where I'm sitting.  Birds... a distant siren... a cat (asking for food it sounds like... I grew up with a cat)... a car drives by and parks in a lot behind the shrine on the other side of the road... a woman walks down the narrow road (from the car I think) carrying four bulging plastic grocery bags with a three or four year old girl by her side, walking noisily in her boots... a train horn... still the distant siren... another kind of bird... the wind... sensed more than heard.  I'm at the very edge of the city on this side - after I check out what promises to be an excellent viewpoint, I'll head back to the city center.  The rain is mixed with a little bit of snow, so I suppose it will turn to snow later on.

   (15:40) - Fantastic!  I have a completely unobstructed view of the city.  It's much larger than I had thought!  I can also see that I've come further into the mountains than I had realized.  I can see from here how I walked through a narrow section of houses that fill a valley, with the shrine at the very back of the valley, and just behind the shrine is a mountain.  The narrow road winds just behind the shrine and then makes a U-turn back towards the city as it climbs... just at the point where it makes a 120 degree turn to the left, is a spot just off the road with a view that's unobstructed by trees, which is where I am.  I can see everything; the Shinkansen trains coming and going, the "Big Hat", the rivers....  It's a beautiful sight from these foothills.

   I can hear marching band music... drifting in and out of audible range with the wind.

   (16:12) - Still in the foothills.  There's a metal box on a pole, about the size of a mailbox, with road salt in plastic bags inside, and a sign on the box saying not to take the salt for any other purpose than using it on the road.

   (16:20) - Part of the hills here have been terraced, and are being used to grow fruit trees (I don't know what kind), which is why the view is so great - the fruit trees are only two or three meters high.  After Tokyo, I just can't get enough of this view....

   (16:50) - I'm standing high over a creek, trying to find my way back to the city center... but I keep getting sidetracked... many of the older houses have the strange shaped roofs that are ventilated in the middle, and were (I'm told) used to raise silk worms in back in the old days.  Now my hands are warmed up a bit from a heated can of cocoa (heated can drinks are available from almost all can drink vending machines in the winter).  I'm feeling better now, but by the time I drank the cocoa, it was only lukewarm.

   As I wrote, I watched the progression of someone's spent laundry water progressing down the creek... there's a bunch of foam below the concrete induced waterfall (flood control) now....

   (17:23) - I'm standing by the Susobana River... high tension wires (12 of them) overhead just behind me... directly overhead, a pale blue sky (happy to have the umbrella back in the backpack), to my right, as I face the river, a sky that a good picture of would be worth 2,222 words... but no camera today, so... many shades of purple, some pink... and the mountains looking majestic beyond... the river (now green) sounding quite nice....

   (18:00) - "Hotel Kokusai 21"  The name for this hotel is one of those names that must have required enormous powers of imagination to come up with... "Kokusai" means "international" in Japanese, so it's the "Hotel International 21", and according to a poster on the wall, provides "Accommodation for IOC", whatever that is.  At the bottom of the poster, it says "Worldwide Partners", and it has Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, IBM, and a bunch of other companies listed.

   The place is awash with foreigners... I was going to walk through the lobby, but they have that airport security here too!  Metal detectors, guards... so rather than dump the contents of my backpack (which includes my Acer laptop) though security... just for a minute in the lobby, I'm standing here between the double doors of the entranceway.

   (18:15) - Standing out in the cold in front of the hotel.  I asked a woman who was waiting for someone (in that space between the doors), if the security for Olympic events is always like this, or is it something new?  She said it's always like this, the reason being that the Olympic committee is staying there.  You can't even get into the lobby without an ID card.

   (18:25  Nagano Gondo) - "Gondo... is the place to go" I was told by the friendly guy behind the counter of a Seven-Eleven.  And here I am... this is the street I've seen a couple of times on the CBS news.  It's one of the better looking streets in the city, with some old style buildings in the background that make for a great backdrop.  A bunch of guys are marching around in the street with a dragon on poles.  Maybe you saw it.  It's being recorded by professional foreign video crews... one of which just bumped me to the side with his camera.  Talk about perfect timing for what I'm writing about!

   Back by the drums now... you can feel them as much as you can hear them.  The drums look Japanese, but the dragon... it reminds me of something I've seen in China Town.

   (18:40) - No sooner had I written that, than a woman gave me a pamphlet in English and Japanese explaining the festival.  Apparently it's a festival held only in Nagano and the English title of the story explaining the reason for the festival is "A Fold Tale of a Willow Tree"...  I suspect it's not a great translation.  I'll try to look into it later.

   The scene... a group of eight high school girls posing for a group picture... foreigners everywhere... the festival people disappearing into the night....  Actually I'm not sure if Gondo is the name of the covered mall that starts from this street, or if it's the name of this area.

   (18:53) - Here's another thing I saw on the CBS News... only for two or three seconds, but of radio controlled little ski robots in a showroom for Mizuno products... I'm here basically to thaw out a little.

   High school girls everywhere... they must be on a school trip.  Technically, the school trips are voluntary (I'm told), but nobody refuses to go... it would be embarrassing.

   (19:00) - My hands are flexible again!  I'm going to check out "Chuo Dori" (Central Avenue) a little more, and check out the Gondo Arcade, and the Gondo Station area.

   (19:14) - In front of Zenkoji Temple, which a few Japanese friends in Tokyo told me is the most famous tourist attraction in Nagano.  When I pulled out my notebook and began writing, there were at least a hundred of the high school girls posing in front of the entrance.  The silence I hear now would indicate they were producing a fair amount of noise.  I like this street leading up to the temple... it has a good feel to it... lots of interesting old buildings in good condition.  I'm going into the temple area now.

   (19:22) - In-between the first entrance gate to the temple and the actual temple itself... the buildings - mostly housing souvenir shops now - are.., if not actually old, at least of the old style... very nice.  There are obviously several school tours here at the same time... color coded... this time both boys and girls.  One large group wearing green pants and red jackets look downright Decemberish.  There are easily a thousand high school students all around me now... something I suspect you might have trouble imaging if you haven't experienced it.

   (19:31) - What I thought was the temple from a distance is just yet another gate!!  A massive wooden pagoda-like thing about four stories high.  I asked one of the groups of girls in red and green where they're from.  Hyogo-ken... which is the area of Japan where Kobe is.

   (19:37) - Finally.., here I am, in front of the actual temple (there are several buildings, but I've finally arrived at the main one - the real deal).  This really is impressive... there's a mysterious feeling in the air of... a different time... a different world....  Impressive.

   (21:50) - Parking lot by Zenkoji Temple.  There are about thirty waiting buses here... the destination of the high school students... laughing girls...  yelling boys... I'm going back to the temple.

   (21:55) - In the temple grounds again.  This is weird... inside the temple grounds is a three story brown new building.  There's a blue sign on the front with the Olympic emblem and... and... CBS!!  Inside the temple grounds!!  Yow!!

   I went and asked the guard about it... he explained that CBS is using the temple as a backdrop to their live coverage of the games, and that it would be torn down after the games.  Some people are posing in front of it for pictures.  I think having the temple as a backdrop is cool... it's a beautiful temple (and would look even better without the anti-pigeon screens by the way), so broadcasting it's image is a good idea I think, but what I want to know... is whose idea was it to erect that building inside the temple grounds?  I wouldn't have had the audacity to ask to do something like that.

   (20:23) - I talked to a family who actually lives in Nagano, and found out that the fruit trees I saw earlier were apple trees.  Time is tight....

   (21:22) - On the platform, lined up waiting to board the Shinkansen.  I’m hoping to come back again tomorrow, but it might be difficult to get away for a second day in a row....

   (21:33) - On the train... in a window seat, in a no-smoking car (Yeah!).  On the way to the station, I met a guy from Nara.., he told me that he's going to stay in his grandparents old house, but that no one lives there now... and no one has been to the house in three months.  He seemed on the verge of inviting me to stay there, as he asked me if I had a place to stay.  I would love to have stayed in Nagano, but I have to get back to Tokyo.  I gave him my card though, and he wrote down his name and phone number for me, inviting me to visit him in Nara.

   (21:39) - The train leaves in a few minutes... the aisle is packed with standees... mostly foreigners interestingly.  This is the last train to Tokyo I think.  We're off.  With so many people in the aisle, I'm glad to have a buffer zone of two seats between me and them.

   (22:00) - It's good to be warm, and whizzing along, the sound and feel of this Shinkansen (and interior) is very much like an airplane.

   From the talk, it would seem there are many Canadians on the train... ice hockey....  I talked to a woman in line a little just before getting on board, who said she had seen the ice hockey game, but had left early to be sure and catch this train.  Ah... the standing foreigners... maybe they watched the game all the way to the end?

   (22:17) - A lot of people got off at Karuizawa... staying in hotels there?

   (22:23) - I have just one complaint about this train... it's too bright.  It would be nice if they could turn the lights down a little at night.

   (23:33) - In the Yamanote Line.

   I made the mistake of having a can of beer (bought from a machine before I got on the train in Nagano) after walking all day, without eating.., but it was a comfortable ride, so I pretty much recovered by the time I got off the train at Tokyo Station.  Once off the train, I compared the new Shinkansen to one of the old Shinkansens that happened to be stopped on the other side of the platform.  Huge difference!  One minor change that makes the new one much nicer is the floor.  Instead of a plain brown, it's patterned, looking something like a carpet, and in the "Green Car" (First Class) there really is carpet on the floor.  Of course, a lot of time has passed since those old Joetsu Line trains were built... (more than twenty years now I think).

   Tired.. but still ready to go tomorrow if it comes to that... I hope it does, but I’ll have to see what happens when I get home.  Generally speaking, there was a good, upbeat feeling about Nagano during the ’98 Olympics on Valentine’s Day....

   (12:08 a.m.  Last train of the day) - One other thing I noticed in Nagano, were several over ten year old cars (very old for Japan, what with shaken and all).  They were nice models and in really good shape... owned by the original owners?  Are people more nostalgic for their cars in Nagano?  Or is it just a matter of property owners who don’t have to pay extra rent for space to park their cars?  One other possibility... I haven’t gone on an all-day hiking expedition in Tokyo in a long time... maybe there are more old cars out there than I know.

   (98/02/15  Tokyo Station bound  9:48 a.m.) - I’m off to a very late start, but off and on my way nevertheless.  I’m less sure of my travel plans today, although I am headed back to Nagano first to see both Zenkoji Temple in the daylight (and maybe go inside), and Nagano wearing more snow.  Just as I got home yesterday, it began to rain, but when I looked out the window this morning, it was snowing, and there was already a centimeter or so of snow on the ground.  Powering up my twelve year old TV (“It’ll last ten years, no problem.” the salesman said...), I saw that snow is falling in Nagano as well, at least on the ski slopes, which are a little ways from Nagano City (Nagano City is in Nagano Prefecture... like New York, New York, the city so nice, they named it twice).  It looks like I timed it well for walking yesterday... today I plan to spend much more time on the trains.

   (9:42 a.m.) - Back on a Nagano bound Shinkansen... in a no-smoking car this time.  The announcements are in Japanese, English, and French.  Funny how quickly you get used to things.  Yesterday it was all new - today I’ve got that traveling feeling that’s a combination of confidence, arrogance, purpose... and uh... the other intangible ingredients that make up the total package.  You know what I mean... the first trip, you feel like a lost kid... wondering , worrying what’s going to happen to you... once you know your way around a little, you start laughing at tourists.  This phenomenon is particularly pronounced in Japan.

   When I show the conductor my ticket (they didn’t check yesterday), he hands it back saying (in English) “Thank you.  Have a nice trip.”  Maybe that’s standard procedure on the Shinkansens now, but it makes me wonder how much time, money and trouble is gone to (here, and all over the world) learning English.  (I know I’ve certainly spent a lot of time, money, and trouble learning Japanese.)

   Speaking of English, the murmur of English speaking voices a few rows back doesn’t sound at all strange today.  Either I’ve gotten used to hearing it more since yesterday, or that guy from LA was an obnoxious one.

   (11:03 a.m.) - Omiya Station.  As we pull into the station, I look out the window at a Coca-Cola sign that indicates that it’s 1 degree centigrade.  Speeding away from Omiya, there’s more snow on the ground.

   (12:00 noon) - Almost there... it is to a different land that I return today.  There’s a lot of new snow on the ground... about 8cm or so I think, judging from what I can see out the window of the train.  Almost there... anticipation in the air... I’m definitely picking up nervousness from those around me... what I’m about to do isn’t nearly enough cause....  Amazing... I feel like I’m about to go on stage or on TV or something.  Several of the many foreigners who just got on the train at the last few stops might be athletes.  I’ve got a strong dose of stage fright, and I’m not about to go on stage, so I must be picking it up from nervous people in my vicinity.

   (12:05 p.m.) - Out the tunnel, and..... snow on the ground, but it’s not snowing on this side of the mountain.  The air is very clear... beautiful.  We’re here.

   Oops... not quite.  Ueda... Nagano is the next stop.  It’s strange... it’s been snowing everywhere all morning, and we whiz through a tunnel, and... it’s not snowing on the other side.  So sudden.

   (12:17 p.m.) - Well, here we are.  Out the window I see the mountain I climbed halfway up yesterday and the bridge I crossed.  There’s new snow on the ground, but it’s not snowing now.

   (12:25 p.m.) - Walking through an incredible crush of people in Nagano Station.  I’m hoping to leave in a couple of hours... I hope I can get on a train okay.

   (Nagano City) - Not far from the station, I saw an old “soko” (a kind of small warehouse where people used to keep valuables back when houses weren’t lockable) a little back from the street, with what looked like a show window in the center.  The building itself caught my attention, so I took a closer look at the display window, and saw stairs inside....  As I stood there wondering what the building was exactly, two women came down the stairs and, opening the door (it wasn’t a display window after all), stepped outside.  I hesitated, but decided to go ahead inside, and I’m glad I did, as I had an interesting conversation with the woman running the shop.  She grew up in Nagano, and likes it there.  I asked her what she thought about the CBS building inside the temple grounds, and she said she thought it was strange... particularly the fact that it doesn’t match its surroundings at all.  I said I couldn’t imagine who would have the audacity to ask to put it there.  “CBS probably offered the city a lot of money...” she said.

   (14:50) - On a Shinkansen... standing this time.  I don’t know how this is going to work out, but I’m going back to where I can change to a Tohoku Shinkansen.  I want to try walking around in a non-Olympic snow town as a comparison to Nagano.  Sigh... an eight car train with only two cars for smoking, and I landed in one of them.  That’s what you get for jumping on a train just as it’s leaving the station I guess.

   (15:45 - On the Asano Shinkansen) - I didn’t have time to write about it at the time, but I went into the Zenkoji Temple.  It's a fascinating place.  I got that mysterious feeling again inside... something like how I felt last night, standing in front of it.  There’s a deal where you buy a ticket, go down a flight of stairs, and into a completely dark passage where you feel your way along the wall... periodically reaching out to see if the person in front of you is still there... you touch a “key”, and proceed through more darkness until you come to the stairs leading back up to the main floor of the temple.

   I think that the “key” gets you in there, but that the significance of the experience is what comes to mind while you’re waiting in the complete darkness.  It was a profound experience for me, as with electric street lights burning around the clock everywhere, I haven’t been in the dark for many years.

   (16:00) - Omiya!  Time to change to a Tohoku Shinkansen.  I hope I can sit down this time!

   (16:18) - On a Tohoku Shinkansen.  To get around deadbeats on the down escalator, I ran down the empty up one, but to no avail... I just missed a train to Morioka, and am on a Sendai bound train now instead.

   (16:40) - Utsunomiya.  A seat!  In a bloody smoking car, but a seat nonetheless... and by a window.  A lot of people are getting off here.  The difference between this train and the Asama is striking.  The train (and the passengers as well!) seems old and tired... but still fast.  No tunnels so far... good view... very bad (foul with smoke) air (inside the train car that is!).

   (17:12) - I escaped the hell of the smoking cars to a non-smoking one.  Phew!!!  Someday in the distant future, people will read about this era of people burning leaves in front of their face, ingesting the toxic smoke... giving each other lung cancer, and they will wonder at the deep, vast, non-intelligence of mankind.

   Beautiful landscape and skies outside the dirty windows...  (I’m spoiled after riding those just built Asama trains.)

   I talked to the woman next to me a little about different things.  She’s from Sendai, and went to Tokyo today to see a play.  She’s never been to Nagano, so I showed her some of the printed stuff I picked up there, and gave her one of my maps, and a postcard of a 1927(?) Ford Model A UPS delivery truck that’s on display near the temple in Nagano.  As I write this, I’m feeling nostalgic for Nagano already....

   (19:08) - On a Tokyo bound Yamabiko-Komachi Shinkansen... standing again!  At least it’s a no-smoking car.  This train is interesting for two reasons.  One is that it’s a combination of two trains, the Yamabiko Shinkansen and the Komachi Shinkansen.  I’m in the Komachi part of the train.  The Komachi is the fairly recently opened line from Tokyo to Akita.  I flew up to Akita last year just before it was opened... one or two weeks before in fact.  It’s very futuristic looking inside with a curved ceiling looking like something from a movie space ship or something.  Maybe it runs on narrower tracks somewhere, as the body is narrower than that of other Shinkansens, with a fold out step to close the gap with the platform, and only two seats on each side of the aisle.

   The other reason this train is interesting, is that it runs non-stop from Sendai to Omiya, leaving Sendai at 19:05, and getting to Omiya at 20:20, which is really good time for the distance.  These things run so fast, that even just a few stops really slow them down, as it takes time to bring them up and down from speed.  I’m sitting on the floor now... bad form, but I’ve been on my feet almost all day for the second day in a row, so....

   (19:33) - About Sendai.  I was only there for about an hour, but having spent some time in the city before, I didn’t need much time to achieve my objective, which was to gauge the atmosphere, as a comparison to Nagano.

   As I walked out of the station, on the second level over-road plaza/walkway, the city had a clear-air, slightly up-north feel about it.  Walking on the night streets of one side of the station, it reminded me of Tokyo streets at night... a kind of tired... emotionally cold atmosphere... great at the right time in the right place if you’re inside, but an emotional desert for the soul outside.  A huge change from the Olympic streets of Nagano right now.

   Walking into a few shops, I found (mostly) just what I expected to... shops mostly the same as those in Tokyo, but slightly less intense.  One reflection of the climate are the absence of open air stalls at Yodobashi Camera.  The Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku basically is wall-less outside on the first floor, so the shopkeepers can call out to people passing by on the street.  It’s completely enclosed in Sendai.

   As I walked over an overpass and looked down at the people sitting in a regular train about to leave the station... and again when I checked out the subway... it occurred to me that Sendai is like a Tokyo for the Tohoku region.  It’s big enough that it has most of the things you’ll find in Tokyo, and it’s accessible in a practical way.  Tokyo may not be so far away by Shinkansen, but taking a Shinkansen is almost the same as taking an airplane.  Economically, it’s not something people can do all the time.  In immensity, Sendai doesn’t even compare to Tokyo, but that’s exactly why it’s a nice city.  I’ve often thought of Sendai when thinking about city size, and what size is best to live in... a city like Sendai is big enough to have almost everything you want a city to have, yet not too big... and reasonably convenient to Tokyo for the occasional things that are only in Tokyo.

   (20:10) - Even sitting on the floor, it feels nice to be whizzing along without stopping.  I can’t believe we’ll be back in Omiya in just ten minutes!

   (20:30) - Omiya Station.  And you thought I was going home, right?  Wrong!  I’m going to Niigata now.  Yuzawa to be exact... probably a lot of snow there... just after a very long tunnel on the Joetsu-Shinkansen Line.

   It was funny as I was getting off the last train.  I ended up talking to three other standees... all traveling on the same type of two day ticket I’m using.  A young couple went to the end of the line (Morioka), and a middle aged guy (unusually cheerful for his age), was on his way back from Akita.

   From the platform here, looking across the street... I see... a huge red flashing Coca-Cola sign, and a Disney Store.  Traditional Japan.  Being in Tokyo all the time, I’ve come to not even think about it, but my visit to the temple in Nagoya stirred up feelings I’d almost forgotten.

   (20:42) - Tanigawa-Shinkansen  (Joetsu Line)  This is a stop-everywhere Shinkansen that stops short of Niigata City (its usual destination), and dead-ends at Yuzawa, in Niigata Prefecture, where I’ll get off.  It’s an old Shinkansen, and about eighty percent empty.

   (21:17) - We entered a tunnel, and suddenly all the windows turned white... now there are water streaks drawing horizontal lines through the white.....  Hmm?  .......  Now most of the white condensation is gone....  I don’t remember that happening the last time I went through this tunnel.

   (21:37) - In the long tunnel... we’ll be coming out the other side of the mountain soon, likely to a land under a lot of snow.  If there’s one thing I really wish they’d do on these trains... all of them... is to dim the lighting at least a little at night.  I wish I had my sunglasses.

   (22:25) - Asahi Shinkansen  (Joetsu Line)  Ok, now I’m going home, on the last Shinkansen from Yuzawa.  Yuzawa... I walked around in the snow.., past rowdy skiers... a man on a side street, standing outside a restaurant talking on a mobile phone (with snow beginning to pile up on his head)... past a noisy group from a hotel who were having a snowball fight... and past a few couples and small groups on side streets walking in “geta” and “yutaka”...  not a foreigner in sight.

   There was a more... calm... atmosphere than in Nagano, and more boring... which brings up an important question: “How do you want to live?”  Safe, but limited, in a world where you know everything, so are never surprised.  Or do you live with diversity, taking advantage of new ideas, yet never sure when, and how often you’re going to run into things that you can’t understand.

   Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon - Honshu, Japan - February 15th, 1998

   Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon - www5d.biglobe.ne.jp/~LLLtrs/ - youtube.com/lylehsaxon - lylehsaxon.blogspot.jp/ - lookback1997.blogspot.jp/