Tuesday/ Canoe Pass bridge 🛶

Two two-lane bridges (Canoe Pass Bridge and Deception Pass Bridge) on Washington State Route 20, connect Whidbey Island in Island County, to Fidalgo Island in Skagit County in Washington State.
The bridges opened on July 31, 1935.
[Source: Wikipedia]

These pictures of the Canoe Pass Bridge were all taken from Pass Island, looking south. The pictures were taken around 4.15 pm. The Salish Sea is to the west, and with high tide at about 6.48 pm today, the tide from the Pacific Ocean was still coming in.


Saturday/ setting sail 🛳️

Here’s the Norwegian Bliss just leaving the pier in Seattle and setting sail for Sitka, Alaska, shortly after 5 pm this afternoon.
She will go as far as Juneau and then to Icy Straight Point 30 miles across the Alaskan Inside Passage, before turning back to Seattle.

The Norwegian Bliss was built in 2018 and can accommodate 4,900 passengers.

Thursday/ at Sunrise 🌅

Located in the northeast corner of the park at an elevation of 6,400 ft (1 950 m), Sunrise is Mount Rainier National Park’s highest visitor center.
It is only open from early July to early September.

The butterfly is a mariposa copper (Lycaena mariposa), and on the log is a Clark’s nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) and a Townsend’s chipmunk (Tamias townsendii).

Monday/ ferries 🚢

Happy Labor Day.

My friends and I made a round trip across Puget Sound today:
crossing with the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry, driving to Silverdale REI* to pick up a tent, and returning on the Bremerton-Seattle ferry.

*Outdoor recreation gear and equipment store

There’s the Space Needle and the Seattle skyline in the distance, seen from MV Walla Walla ferry that departed out of Bremerton. We made the 1.30 pm ferry— early enough and not too crowded with holiday weekend traffic returning to Seattle.

Saturday/ gearing up 🧗‍♀️

My friends are gearing up for hiking on Mount Rainier’s Wonderland Trail— and so a visit the the flagship REI store in Seattle’s South Lake Union was in order for today.

Some of the purchases: water bag and microfilter system, powdered eggs, shredded beef with beef broth in a pouch, energy bars, Mount Rainier Wonderland Trail map, waterproof compression bag (keeps clothes dry), pressure-regulated pocket-sized gas stove, isobutane fuel cartridges.

Friday/ last gasp for summer travel 🛬

Happy Friday.
This weekend is the last hurrah of summer travel for many families.
Kids in California are back in school already, and kids in Washington State go back next Wednesday.

Here’s my vantage point from a filled-to-capacity Cell Phone Parking Lot at Seattle-Tacoma International airport this afternoon. (There goes the Light Rail train, departing from the airport station).
I am wedged in between a big old Dodge Ram Off Road truck and another truck to my right, waiting for my two friends from South Africa to call from the airport.
It took longer than an hour for their luggage to appear on the baggage claim carousel, and it was TWO hours after they had landed, when I finally picked them up at the curb outside the arrivals hall.

Caturday 😼

I found this feline at the West Exit of Shinjuku Station in Tokyo during my recent visit there (stills from a giant video screen).

The entrance to the Studio Alta building right next door is one of world’s famous rendezvous points.
Some 3.6 million people pass through Shinjuku Station every single day.

Saturday/ arrival in Seattle 🏡

On the tarmac at Vancouver International Airport, and ready to fly out to Seattle.
The Air Canada De Havilland Dash 8-400 (twin turboprop) that I am sitting in, looks like the one on the left that is just pulling up to the gate.

Our flight out of Tokyo made it in to Vancouver on time, and it was a breeze to clear passport control.
‘Welcome to the United States’ said the sign— even though I was clearly still in Canada.  (I guess the departure area can be seen as a consular area belonging to the United States. Americans bound for the USA with a connection in Canada, clear passport control and customs in Canada).

For the flight to Seattle, our airplane was running 1½ hours behind schedule, but we got in a little after 7 pm Pacific Time.
Home, sweet home.

Friday night in Ginza ⭐️

Happy Friday.
I ran out to Ginza district one more time, to take a few night pictures. The schools are out for the summer break here in Tokyo, and the train stations were even more crowded than they had been all week.
It was already past 8 pm, but the trains were still full of salarymen* in their white shirts and black pants, making their way home.

*A salaryman (サラリーマン, sararīman) is a salaried worker. In Japanese popular culture, this is embodied by a white-collar worker who shows overriding loyalty and commitment to the corporation where he works [Wikipedia]

The Seiko clock tower on the Wako specialty store, a famous Ginza landmark;
Mitsukoshi Ginza department store kitty corner from the Wako building, with the Matsuya Ginza store a little further down;
Uniqlo’s flagship store in Tokyo, on all seven floors (a Japanese casual wear designer, manufacturer and retailer).

Thursday/ built for speed 🚅

We did a quickie return trip today on the shinkansen from Shinagawa Station to Shin-Yokohama Station, and back.
It took all of 11 minutes to get there.
It would easily take twice that amount of time with the regular train— or by car.

This is the Nozomi N700— the ‘New 700’ series that had gradually replaced the 300, 500 and 700 series sets.
(The N700S entered service in 2020 with plans to eventually replace all N700-series trains).
This train is operated with 8 cars per train set, and it has a maximum speed of 300 km/h (186 mph). The N700 also accelerates more quickly than the older 700 series trains, with a maximum acceleration rate of 2.6 km/h/s.
That means it could attain its top speed of 300 km/h in just under two minutes.

Wednesday/ bus tour to Kanagawa 🌋

Here are pictures of our round trip bus tour to Mount Hakone and Lake Ashi in Kanagawa prefecture.

We left from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo.
The bus ride to Motohakone Port at the edge of Ashinoko Lake (called ‘Lake Ashi’ for tourists) was about 2 hours.
Here’s our luxury tour bus, parked at Gotemba Outlet Mall.
The Hiratsuka toll gate on the Odawara-Atsugi toll road in Kanagawa prefecture.
Driving up on the winding road to get to the caldera on Mount Hakone.
*A caldera is a large depression formed when a volcano erupts and collapses.
The torii* at the mountainous town of Hakone. Hakone is known for its hot springs resorts (onsen) and views of the iconic volcano Mount Fuji.
*Traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the mundane to the sacred.
From the bus we headed straight for the ‘pirate ship’ that took us across Ashinoko Lake to the bottom of the cable car way.
On the short (15 mins) cruise across Ashinoko Lake (mean depth 15m/ 49 ft).
The elusive Mount Fuji peak can be seen behind the clouds. Mount Fuji is Japan’s tallest at 3 776 m (12,388 ft).
On the cable way called the Hakone Ropeway that took us to the village of Owakudami on the Mount Hakone caldera.
A view of the inside slopes of Mount Hakone at Owakudani.  There are pure sulfur deposits in the soil (the yellow color on the slopes). The air is heavy with hydrogen sulfide here: the smell of rotten eggs. On the far right edge of the picture, wisps of steam and gas can be seen escaping from the soil.
The Hakone caldera encompasses a much larger area than just that of the lake itself.
The village is famous for its black eggs. We were scaredy-cats and did not try one. I’m blaming our reluctance to try the eggs on the pervasive rotten egg smell in the air.

Monday/ Ginza 🏬

It was another 36°C (97°F) here in Tokyo, and we ducked into a department store every block or two as we walked around the streets of Ginza— Tokyo’s famous up-market shopping, dining and entertainment district.

Ginza subway station’s fancy decor gives a hint of what’s to come above-ground;
Stylish dressers and parasols, at the Koban (police box) station in Ginza;
Architecture along Matsuya-dori (street);
A misting station offering a little respite from the heat;
Cupid looking to make mischief, at the Vacheron Constantin watch store;
Fancy window display.

Sunday/ monsters and things 😈

We made a run back to the Uniqlo store in Akihabara to return & exchange clothing items for larger sizes there.
Behind the RECOfan record store nearby, there is a mini-mall of display cases filled with figurines for serious collectors.
Some items run into several thousands of yen (several hundreds of dollars).

The first picture is a reminder to passengers not to go onto the tracks to retrieve items that may have been dropped there. Well, these days there are safety barriers and doors in place (see the edge of the picture) that would prevent passengers— young and old— from dropping items onto the tracks in the first place.

Saturday/ the tallest tree 🌲

We had dinner tonight at a restaurant near Tokyo Skytree.
We were a party of five: I, my brother and sister-in-law, and two of their acquaintances from South Africa.
After failing to find a ramen place that Google maps reported to be nearby (but it was not there), we settled on an American-style restaurant called Sizzlers.

Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in the world (634 m (2,080 ft)and the third tallest structure in the world after the Merdeka 118 (678.9 m or 2,227 ft) and the Burj Khalifa (829.8 m or 2,722 ft).
The TS website says that the gold and red colors are simply a ‘special display’ of colors with no connection to a holiday or an event.

Friday/ the Marunouchi line 🚇

The Marunouchi Line runs in a U-shape between Ogikubo Station in Suginami and Ikebukuro Station in Toshima.
I took it from beautiful Tokyo station (first two pictures) to Shinjuku station today.  (Got to love the graphic posters that warn of the dangers of trying to board a departing train).  

Thursday/ Yodobashi camera 📸

I checked in at the Yodobashi Camera store in Akihabara today.
(No, I have not bought a new camera yet).
The store is a giant department store for all things technology, office, home appliances, home decor, toys & games, entertainment, and even more.

There it is, the technology and toy emporium (my view of it, at least) that goes by Yodobashi-Akiba, in Tokyo’s buzzing shopping hub for geeks— Akihabara.
Fans of all shapes and sizes on the main entrance display board— today was still hot, but bearable at 31 °C (88 °F).
Nice .. a kit for brewing one’s own beer and ciders and other fermented concoctions. Kirin is a Japanese beverage company.
These colored LED lighting tubes look almost neon tubes. (The iPhone camera sensor could not quite capture the colors from the tubes).
Back at the hotel and a check of the parking lot reveals the first Tesla that I have spotted in the city. There are not many Teslas in Tokyo, or even in all of Japan (only some 5,000 were sold last year). EV sales are still only 2% of the domestic market here, and the top seller is a little Nissan microcar called the Sakura. I looked in vain for a little Tesla toy model in Yodobashi, but there was none.
Another view from my hotel room window: the construction cranes used for erecting the Takanawa Gateway City apartment and office blocks.
Just an interesting gate on my walkabout near the hotel in Shinagawa.
No smoking and no flicking of cigarette butts. I wonder if the sign actually stops any scofflaws from doing that. If you go out early in the morning, you are sure to see people (volunteers in many cases, I’m sure) picking up anything down to cigarette butts from the streets.
A parking lot with exactly two parking bays. I love it.

Wednesday/ it’s hot 🥵

A diagram of the Yamanote Line loop (the real loop is an irregular blob on a map). The double track of 34.5 km (21.4 mi) of rail opened in 1885 (138 years ago) and is run by JR East (the East Japan Railway Company).
Here’s the new-ish Takanawa Gateway Station (it opened Mar. 2020), the 30th station to be added onto the Yamanote Line, and the first one in 50 years. Construction of large apartment buildings and offices around the station is still in progress— called Takanawa Gateway City, and scheduled for completion in 2025.
Here comes the lime green Yamanote Line train. Form over function: the flat front profile is obviously not anticipating bullet train speeds to be attained.
Baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani on a billboard for Seiko watches outside the Yodobashi Camera store in Shinjuku. He was actually in Seattle just this week for the 2023 All-Star game there, and is about to become a free agent (his contract with the Los Angeles Angles is ending). ‘Come to Seattle, Come to Seattle’ chanted the baseball fans.
Yodobashi Camera has several separate stores near Shinjuku, each dedicated to certain kinds of appliances or equipment. Here is an inside-outside display of binoculars of all shapes and sizes.
Out in the blazing heat again in Shinjuku, now on my way to Lemon Camera— located on the floor where the yellow strip runs in the building on the right. My mission for the morning was to try and find the elusive and ever-out-of-stock Fujifilm X100V compact camera (to buy one), but even here in Tokyo all the stores tell me they have none available.
Here’s the cavernous main hall in Shinagawa Station, the station close to my hotel.

We had 36°C (97 °F) here in Tokyo today.

I put urban survival gear in my backpack (water bottle, towel, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses)  and made a run out to Shinjuku on the famous Yamanote Line after the morning rush hour on the subway trains was over.



Tuesday/ arrival in Tokyo 🛬

My flight into Vancouver and the connecting flight to Tokyo went without incident.
It is muggy in Tokyo and by late evening it was still 82 °F (28 °C) with poor air quality, to boot.

Boarding the Bombardier Q400 turboprop that took us to Vancouver; Interesting mudflats and scenery below just before the descent (that’s the turboprop casing and exhaust in the picture);
Indigenous artwork at Vancouver airport (I didn’t make a note of the artist);
Air Canada jet amid lots of containers at Vancouver airport;
Boeing 787 from All Nippon Airlines at the gate at Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport.

Monday/ at the airport 🛫

I am at the airport, and I made it through check-in at the long TSA Precheck line at checkpoint 4.
The airport is swamped with travelers. Even though the line is long, it’s still very nice to not have to take out anything out of one’s bag.

There goes a planeload full of Amazon Prime packages, taking off.
The view from Seattle-Tacoma Airport’s main lounge at Terminal A.
It is 62 °F (17 °C) under overcast skies here.