Planning a Trip to Japan, working on the logistics

I started traveling to Japan in 1987 and my last trip was in 1993.  During that time I took about 20 trips working on monitors, power supplies, printers, keyboards, mice, system software and fonts with companies like Sony, Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Morisawa, Ryobi for Apple and Microsoft.  Out of all the travel I spent little time on vacation except for short weekends for trips that lasted more than a week.

Taking the family to Japan I could leverage all those years of travel and plan a trip that would work.

Luckily I was able to use mileage points in January to book 4 round trip coach tickets from Seattle to Haneda airport.  Delta shuts down the Haneda flight from Oct until Mar, and restarts the flights on Mar 30.  Haneda is so much more convenient for getting into Tokyo with a 20 min train ride into Shinagawa station.  We arrived late as our flight delayed and it was after midnight when we got in.  A taxi ride was less than $70 which was fine for the our of us.

For hotels people will typically try the Ryokan for a traditional experience.  I went for convenience and booked at a range of Starwood Hotels.  I could easily book online and modify the reservations.  To start I booked hotels to see how the flow would work.  Then my daughter talked to one of her friends and she said Miyajima to pet the deer was the highlight.

Miyajima : One of the top three scenic spots in Japan
The Island of Gods, well known for its floating shrine and Otorii.

Miyajima Island, one of the most scenic spots in Japan, has long been regarded as an Island of Gods on the beautiful Seto Inland Sea. It is a romantic and historical island where Itsukushima Shrine, a World Heritage site, is located, along with the Virgin Forest of Mt. Misen, and numerous preserved shrines, temples and historical monuments.

Miyajima is near Hiroshima.  So changed the hotel reservations to add Hiroshima.  JR Rail Pass was making sense to travel.  looked at options and decided on 7 day pass green car for the four of us.  the Green car was worth it for the extra room and being to reserve seats for the four us together and spin the seats so we can face each other.  We were in Japan for 10 days, but we only needed the JR Rail pass for the first part.  the last days we were in Tokyo.

To get an idea for travel times I used Hyperdia.  This gave me an idea of what we could do. Our list of travel points were Haneda, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo, and back to Haneda.

”HyperDia” is a service which offers the route and the timetable of the railway and the aviation of Japan.
With simple operation, “HyperDia” guides the optimal route and the fare from starting point to end.
The route search engine is made by self-developed technology.
By applying this route search engine, it is possible to make link to regional information, for example, map information, a rental car and the golf-course etc around the station from the search result.
So, it is possible to offer the information which is possessed with your corporation sight effectively.

I used Hyperdia regularly to figure out what trains, times, and platforms to go to.  After getting the JR Pass in Japan I started booking bullet train reserved tickets between the cities.  The hard part is you cannot start booking tickets until you exchange your tickets in Japan.  We had to wait for room for 4 green car reserved for a couple of hours in Shinagawa, but it was worth it given the 4 1/2 hours on trains to Hiroshima.

To get Internet access I rented a standard wifi device for $55 for 10 days.  The wifi was shared between all us who ran our phones in airplane mode in Japan with wifi on.  The family could e-mail, text, snapchat, and even facetime over the wifi device.  I spent most of my time looking up travel details.

For food, we tried to find restaurants to go to based on recommendations, but eventually just started wandering around an area and looking at what looked most interesting to try.

What did work out well for planning ahead was contacting the concierge at the Westin Osaka for baseball tickets to a Hanshin Tigers baseball game.  It was a the 80th anniversary so it was hat day.

Been on Vacation, Families First Trip to Japan

I took a break from writing as we have been on vacation.

I promised my daughter I would take her to Japan when she was little.  I told her when she turned 10 we could go, but we put it off.  Now she is 13.  My son turned 11.  Spring break was coming up and luckily I could use mileage points for 4 tickets to Tokyo.

For this trip we took no computers, no tablets. Just 4 iPhones  one Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and nice camera (Sony RX100iii).

Below is a great noodle place we ate at the Ohara District an hour out of Kyoto.

Kids had a blast of course.


New Camera - Canon 6D - full sensor, higher noise free ISO, GPS, and wifi

Besides smartphone cameras I have a Canon SD100 w GPS and Canon 7D, but after my Canon SD100 had a warranty covered failure losing a GPS tagging camera made me think about the Canon 6D which I decided to go ahead and get.  The main reasons I wanted it were the full sensor vs. an APS-C, higher noise free ISO settings (there is not a built in flash in a 6D), GPS built in, and wifi.

One of the things a full sensor makes it easier to do is blur the background to focus on a subject which the flowers in the center pop.


Higher ISO let's me crank things up. I shot this at ISO 1600, 80mm, f/7.1, 1/250.  Focus isn't quite there as this was only the 2nd day with the camera. :-)




The high ISO also means the video in low light works really well.  Here is a screen scrape from a video.


GPS tagging is really handy and I believed in the feature 13 years ago when we tried to tell people at Microsoft that GPS tagging of images would be big.  Huhh??? was most the reaction back then.

What's the wifi good for?  Wireless remote control of the camera from an iPhone or Android phone.



This is when I am so glad I am able to use MarsEdit.  Writing this blog post would be totally painful in a browser app.

Aug Skiing at Mount Hood, OR

One of the few places you can ski year round is Mt Hood, OR.  Here is what the are looks with in the spring, but you can still ski in August.


On the drive, I would check out the high voltage power lines, but not point them out to the family as I wasn't supposed to work.  Mt Hood is close to The Dalles, and a bit further to Prineville. 


Here are a few pictures of the kids skiing.


A snow field comes within walking distance to the lodge.


This is not your spring skiing with shorts and t-shirts.  The kids are suited up as falling on the ice hurts.


While the kids are on the mountain we get a few hours to enjoy the summer.


TSA Pre is great, my experience through SEA and PDX

I fly much more than I would like to.  And, many of you fly even more.  As we all experience Security can be the biggest pain.

TSA Pre is a new program to help the frequent travelers like us.

TSA Pre™ is a pre-screening initiative that makes risk assessments on passengers who voluntarily participate prior to their arrival at the airport checkpoint.

TSA Pre™ includes U.S. citizens who are members of existing Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler programs including Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI programs as well as eligible airline frequent flyers.

If TSA determines a passenger is eligible for expedited screening, information is embedded in the barcode of the passenger’s boarding pass. TSA reads the barcode at designated checkpoints and the passenger may be referred to a lane where they will undergo expedited screening, which could include no longer removing the following items:

  • Shoes
  • 3-1-1 compliant bag from carry-on
  • Laptop from bag
  • Light outerwear/jacket
  • Belt

Pre TSA works for me in SEA and just yesterday I went through PDX.

Q. Where is TSA Pre™ available?
A. Certain frequent flyers from Delta and American Airlines and certain members of CBP's Trusted Traveler programs, including Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS, who are U.S. citizens, are eligible to participate in this program, which could qualify them for expedited screening at select checkpoints with the following airlines:

Alaska Airlines – Portland International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

I went through Security this week in under five minutes at both SEA and PDX.  Woot!

I have one more trip to PDX in two weeks and then no more travel until Sept.  Time to take a break from all this data center travel.