12 Feb 2014

Why They Drive on the Left in Japan.


All over the world people say others drive on the wrong side of the road. That is totally narcissistic.

I always thought drivers in the former British Empire drove on the left side and others on the right. So I was surprised to learn they drive on the left in Japan.

Some background:

Most people are right handed.

Way back it was safer traveling on the left so the sword/sphere could be on the right to deal with bad guys. Plus it is easier for righties to mount a horse from the left.

Then we had merchants transporting wagons full of goods with a team of horses. These folks sat on the back left horse that was the ideal spot for using the whip. They drove on the right for safer passing of oncoming traffic.

In the late 1700s right hand driving becomes official in Paris and expanded as Napoleon took over much of the Continent. Others, such as Britain were always set to do opposite of France, and whatever Napoleon wanted was good enough for them to do the opposite.

And Japan? They've had a mixed driving history, but more left than right going back to Samurai days. More interesting though is that in the late 1800s, America, France, and Britain competed to help with building the Japan railroad. Britain won out. Therefore the Japanese railroad runs on the left side. It made sense that auto roads followed suit.


11 Feb 2014

Tokyo, Japan


It was freezing here today. They had the worst snowstorm in over a decade.

As long as we were here we decided to visit the Statue of Liberty.


Then came the Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest tower. It is about twice as high as the Eiffel Tower.



And just walking Tokyo’s neighborhoods was a blast.

09 Feb 2014

Tapas Molecular Bar, Tokyo

As the ship was overnighting in Yokohama, we took the opportunity to spend the evening at the beautiful Ritz Carlton in Tokyo. 

Our 20 course meal in the Tokyo Mandarin Oriental was one of the most unique I have ever had, and I have had plenty. They can accommodate two eight-person groups nightly and that is it.

Until tonight I never have heard of molecular gastronomy. In case you haven’t either, it has to do with gourmet cooking and getting involved with chemical changes in certain ingredients and food relationships.

So, for example the first course, Yuzu Sake Hot and Cold, was literally prepared to be both hot and cold. And I’m taking temperature not spice. Amazing.

The final course, a simple fruit dish, had us swishing a miracle berry in our mouths for a minute and then bit into a fresh lemon and lime. They both tasted extremely sweet as if they were loaded with sugar, which was not the case.








Good meal, good preparation, good ambiance and good dinner partners.

07 Feb 2014

Okinawa, Japan





Okinawa is Japan’s most southern main island and has its own history. 

The Kingdom of the Ryukyus reigned over Japan's southwestern islands for approximately 450 years from 1429 to 1879.

Shurijo Castle was its political, economic and cultural center. Note the Chinese influence.

It was the only place in Japan where the Allies landed. From 1945 – 1972 it was under US military control.





The Shikinaen Gardens are beautiful and peaceful and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.




Downtown is busy.

04 Feb 2014

Tinian Island, Northern Mariana Islands


Today we were docked in Saipan but flew to Tinian Island. It is in the Northern Maiana Islands and is a US Commonwealth a la Puerto Rico.

The purpose was to learn about WWII in the Pacific from this important island that I had never heard of just a week ago.

Japan had taken control of it during WWI

After a week of heavy fighting and loss of lives the US took it in 1944. The entire island was turned into a 40,000 person military base with great strategic importance for the Boeing B-29. That was a great plane and now Japan was within its range.

It was from Runway Able that the planes left carrying the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.



We visited the actual pits that were constructed to load the bombs, since they were too large to be loaded in the conventional manner. The B-29s were maneuvered over a pit with their bomb bay doors open to facilitate loading.






Afterwards we were treated to a local beach barbeque. It’s really a beautiful island.


Sightseeing takes a lot out of a guy