Adventures in Kyoto

We registered for the conference and had an afternoon free so we ventured ouy into Kobe for a short jaunt. Kaety found a shrine on the map that wasn’t far from the train station – so we had our chance to conquer the scary kiosks that had thwarted us the night before. Thankfully colors and big letters can punch right through a thick language barrier.

The city was amazing! Signs everywhere proclaiming everything. We followed Apple’s tiny blue dot through side streets and back alleys to the Ikuta Shrine. We walked around in circles for a while looking for a big open space of land until we realized that the park and shrine were mingled closely in with the city.

It was lovely, peaceful and interesting. You can buy a charm at the gate and then hang or tie it to a designated charm activation site scattered around the grounds. We watched people pray at the various sub shrines and started to understand how visitors used the area.

We took a break for lunch and Alanna Spinrad joined us for a deeper adventure into Kyoto. Old Kyoto as well as the acres of shrines and temples was staggeringly beautiful and romantic. I found myself trying to process what I was seeing – I caught myself several times thinking, “Wow, this looks really authentic”, and then reminding myself that it actually was.

At some point we paused for dinner, which seemed like a decision point at first but then realized that every door on the street was a restaurant.

It was lovely getting to know Alanna better – there’s nothing like transit puzzles, strange toilets and stunning cultural mysteries to bring people together!

Breakfast over Kobe

We sat and drank coffee and experienced a Japanese Buffett for breakfast and watched the activity in the Port of Kobe. Wow to all of it! Both of us feel more human this morning than anticipated. We are heading down to register for the conference next. It’s been fun finding the Oceans scientists in the restaurant. The shoes give them away.


My bio-clock had me at about 2 am in Osaka and I was having to navigate a bus, a ferry, another bus, and finally a wall of train ticket kiosks. We just stared at the kiosks and our brains just went into sleep deprived psychosis. I couldn’t manage the train or anymore decisions or ambiguity. We found a cab.

The cab took us to the hotel. There was a lot going on in the hotel lobby. If I had any wherewithal whatsoever I would have set up camp and just watched the bizarre collection of foreign travelers. We are staying at a conference hotel and I’m pretty sure from the crowd that there is something other than ocean sciences going on here. The crowd has kind of a BDSM Norwegian Pokémon vibe.

My brain will have to sleep before it can process anymore data.


We got off the plane in Osaka and wound through the weird voluminous international terminal spaces that seem to belong to every airport. We hit the first choke point which seemed to be all about disease screening. I saw the signs and whipped out my camera. Kaety was giving me warnings not to take photos but I cited, “If I see disease warnings regarding my interactions with camels I HAVE to take a photo!”




“Don’t Guess on the immigration form!”

By Kaety

We have made it to Osaka Japan. It was long, my knees ache, but I did get hours of interrupted reading, which is rare for me.

Mark took charge of the customs paperwork. He decided guessing on the name of the hotel we are staying at and not providing the address would be okay, it was not.

I was first in line for the two of us and was held up for about 15 minutes with the customs officer as we tried to sort it out. He had minimal English, I have minimal Japanese. Paper copies of my conference registration and hotel reservation saved the day. Though there were still a lot of questions. At some point he essentially was trying to ask “whose the idiot that filled out your form”. I motioned to mark, still in line, who smiled a big hearty grin and waved at us. The customs officer looked from mark to me, shook his head smiling, and said “next time, ah, you do”.

Travel is one of those things you have to learn, especially international travel. Mark had only been to Canada when I met him. I’ve had the pleasure of giving him the world and the patience to let him learn how. Today’s lesson was, repeat after me “don’t guess the names of places on the customs forms”.

Japan: Sterotypes

Kaety and I are heading to Portland tomorrow and then on to Japan to the Marine Technology/Oceans Conference in Kobe.

We are jazzed!

We’ve never been to Japan and I’m excited to dive into a completely different culture. I’ve been reading the Fodors Guide to Japan all month and as I flipped through the bible paper thin pages of microscopic text I realized that just about everything I know about Japan comes from movies and TV.

Today I started making a list of the pile of stereotypes I’ll be carrying with me.

I’ve got a lot of stuff floating around in my head from Shogun. I’m not sure what to do with any of it but I do know I don’t want anyone to pee on my head.

I saw Memoirs of a Geisha 10 years ago which left me with vague memories of a culture filled with complex social rules. I don’t remember any of them.

Karate kid was awesome and I’m carrying a lot of good feelings about Mr. Miyagi around in my head. I’m sure those feelings will guide me in productive ways.

John Wu taught me that Japanese people are all super spiritual and super criminal at the same time, dress in dark snappy clothes, own a prolific number of guns which they all shoot sideways.

Some scraps of anime/manga I’ve seen makes me super confused and concerned about…well…a lot of things. The cute maids are vaguely attached to the anime clump of brain information and I’m mostly confused about them as well.

I have some great memories of Benihana of Tokyo as a kid and loved the food.

My work at Oregon Sea Grant gave me lots of information about the radioactive tuna scare and of course the Japanese Tsunami Dock is still vivid in my mind.

Most of my list is kind of ridiculous and is probably a pretty typical of what most people carry around when it comes to understanding a different culture and its people only through popular media and period dramas.

I’m looking forward to replacing my odd collection stereotypes and fallacies with real experiences with real people.

I also love traveling with Kaety – this trip will be a great change of channel for both of us.

Dance party

We’d finished a spiritual dinner of razor clams – the music was on and the dancing began. Every time we’d do a spin the boys would try to jet through in their overly burdened cozy coop. It was a beautiful evening. Everyone was happy and soon the adult dancing turned into a crazy dance party lead by the kids. Racing the cozy coop around the deck became the thing to do during the dance interludes.

How to Use a toilet

Everyday we walk past the boy’s bathroom and recoil from either the sight the smells, or both. We clean it everyday and within 12 hours it returns to the state of a campground pit toilet after a long summer weekend. It’s horrific and today I decided something must be done.

I announced that everyone using the bathroom would have to watch a mandatory educational video on proper toilet use – once the mandatory video had been watched a short knowledge test will be administered. I’m also implementing a new multi-step bathroom policy: 1) Everyone must sign up to use the bathroom. 2) Before anyone uses the bathroom it would be inspected, and 3) a deposit will be required. 4) Once an admin conducts an after-action inspection of the bathroom, the deposit will be released.

I think this is all reasonable and straightforward. I’m starting to film the video now….here is my initial clip.

Mothers day at the Thyme Garden

Despite the 12.97 year-old being deep down the teen funk well we headed out to the Thyme Garden in Alsea for an early Mother’s Day celebration. It was a gorgeous day! Kaety picked out plants for tomorrow’s gardening extravaganza. We’ve been there many times and have never spotted the moss covered truck in the woods. Noble found all the stinging nettles that were growing nearby while I photographed the truck.

A well-fed snail

Kaety found a snail in her weeding frenzy. We were all outside working in the yard to celebrate mothers day. Some serious yard kicking butt was planned but she paused to place the snail on the fence rail for the boys to examine. They were totally fascinated and a bit intimidated as the antenna came out and the snail started moving. “Go get some lettuce out of the fridge and let’s feed it” she suggested. They were all over it. Both boxes of ‘premium spring organic salad mix’ were ripped open and big handfuls of salad mix were piled in front of the completely terrified snail.

The snail ate, and to the great appreciation of the audience, the snail pooped.

I watched my beautiful amazing wife spend time shepherding the boys, and the snail, and thought about what kind of parent I’ve been able to be with her. She and I talk about this – the love and regard we have for each other contributes directly into our ability to be better parents.

The snail was reallocated to a flower bed to wreak future havoc on our plants – set up with a giant pile of organic greens to ensure its survival.

Later in the evening after a dinner of ‘summer’ we made a fire and sat in the backyard in the slowly cooling evening drinking wine and watching the kids run around the yard gathering sticks to throw in the fire. I felt Kaety grab my hand and slip over to sit in my lap. She looked into my eyes – a look that stoped time. She smiled at me and said, “This is a good life”

“Yes darling it is…”

Happy Mother’s Day!