Dec. 23, 06: (Formal) Education Finished...Also Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

On Nov. 23, 06, my university education came to a close after 4 years of academic hell and 1 year of "easy" (compared to engineering courses, 3 hours a day of language courses + 1.5 hour one way commute is not hard) study abroad in Japan.

Some pictures from the ceremony, it was approximately 1 hour long, and started at a weird time at 1pm on a Wednesday. Even the graduatation ceremonies at UBC seem like they are mass produced like the courses.

Aug. 4, 06: The "Long Road" to Kunming: A Trip Report

The is the first day on our 5 day tour of Yunnan province, we joined a tour group in Hong Kong.

Where Kunming is, relative to the major cities of China, the capital of Yunnan Province.

The road to the Hong Kong airport, there was a typhoon the other day...

The container ports to left probably ships all your "Made in China" mechandise all over the world.

Hong Kong Part 1

There was a typhoon on the days these pictures were taken so thats why they are so grey looking.

Your typical HK street scene:

From the "Avenue of Stars":

Views of Tokyo's Skyline

(Updated: July 11, 2013 with high resolution photos)

Tokyo's skyline is surprisingly filled mostly with low-rise buildings and in this post I'll show the skyline from 3 different locations at 3 different times.

On March 6, 2006, while my friend and I were biking around with no destination in mind from our university dormitory in Arakawa-ku in Tokyo, we stumbled upon the Tokyo Bunkyo Civic Center near the Tokyo Dome area. At the top of the civic center was a free observation deck!

A view of the Shinjuku skyscrapers.


The Sunshine City building in Ikebukuro.


Looking towards the Sumida River (I think).


Facing Ueno, the green space is Ueno Park.


Tokyo Dome City (Its right next to the Bunkyo Civic Center).


On March 7, 2006, during one of our many many trips to Akihabara, I took these pictures on the top floor of a new office building near the station.

From Akihabara looking at the Chuo Line towards Ochanomizu.


Akihabara's main street.





On May 29, 2006, we were invited to a conference featuring World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz at the Foreign Correspondence Club of Japan (FCCJ) by one of our university lecturers who was an active journalist and an FCCJ member. In addition to listening to an interesting speech, I also got nice views of Ginza from the Yurakucho Denki Building where the FCCJ was located.

The speech.


The press.


Looking towards Imperial Palace (green roofed buildings), from the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan (FCCJ) at the Yurakucho Denki Building.


The Tokyo International Forum building.


JR Yurakucho Station with the Shinkansen passing through.


Looking towards Ginza.




Tokyo University of Foreign Studies ISEP Program Certificate

I finally received my certificate from my school's student exchange office. Normally I wouldn't post something like this, but I was surprised by the quality of this certificate. Even the woman at the exchange office was surprised at the quality, she said these were the fanciest certificates of completion that she had ever seen.

Hokkaido Trip 2006 Day 4: Hakodate

(Updated: October 27, 2013 with high resolution photos and updated descriptions)

On February 24, 2006, I took the train from Sapporo at 7 am and arrived at Hakodate at 10 am.

Hakodate was one of the three port cities in Japan to be open to foreign trade in the mid 19th century along with Kobe and Yokohama. However, while the other two cities have prospered, Hakodate seems to be in decline.

My impressions of this town is that it is overrated, the brochures make it seem better than it really is.

It seems like your typical North American mid-size city with the city centre hollowed out, like with gas stations and parking lots almost everywhere, and no pedestrian life that is present in almost every other city of Japan. Also most of the good stores are located in areas which you can only reach by car.

Although the city is lousy, the view from Mt. Hakodate was incredible.

Arrival via the limited express train from Sapporo, JR Hokkaido has a lot of interesting looking trains.


Inside the Seikan Tunnel (Longest Tunnel in the World) - Feb. 25, 06

The tour took approximately 2.5 hours

The train left Hakodate at 8:48am and I arrived back in Hakodate at 12:04pm.

The train to Aomori, from Hakodate, only on special runs, does it stop inside the tunnel.

Nagasaki Part 2: A-Bomb Site and Others: April. 2, 2006

(Updated: May 24, 2013 with high resolution photos)

From the Glover Garden:

(All descriptions courtesty of, because I am **too lazy** to type the descriptions)

"Glover Garden is an open air museum, exhibiting mansions of former Western residents of Nagasaki. It is located on the hill where Western merchants settled down after the end of Japan's era of seclusion in the second half of the 19th century.

The exhibited buildings include the mansions of British merchants Frederick Ringer and William Alt and the former residence of Thomas Glover, a Scottish merchant. A nice panorama of the city can be enjoyed from the garden. "

Interesting animal shaped shrubs in horrible morning weather, it was already humid in April in Nagasaki.


Liberal Democratic Party Gift Shop at Nagatacho

(Updated: July 11, 2013 with high resolution photos)

On July 11, 2006, my friend and I were walking around Nagatacho in Tokyo which is the government nerve centre of Japan (kind of like Capitol Hill in Washington, DC or Whitehall in London, England) and by chance we stumbled upon the headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party...

What happens when you visit the headquarters of the party that has ruled Japan for 50 years straight (excluding a few months in the 90s)?

You go straight into the gift shop to buy Japan-style propaganda...

(Background story: My friend said, since this is Japan, there *must* be a gift shop in there, so after some hesitation, we asked the police officer in our broken Japanese if there was a gift shop and he said yes and let us in!)

Prime Minister Koizumi plush doll, 500 yen...


Koizumi 2006 Calendar, 100 yen...Koizumi propaganda posters (2x), 70 yen each...


Owning the most "unique" Japan souvenir there is...Priceless.

(Actually the people who worked at the gift shop were quite surprised to see foreigners shopping at the Liberal Democratic Party gift shop and some of the gifts were actually quite good. I bought some Made in Japan woman's pocket make-up mirror for family members which had a nice Imperial family crest on it and as a bonus for all the things that we bought, the staff gave each of us a 2006 Imperial family calendar!)

Nagasaki Part 1: April 1, 2006

(Updated: May 24, 2013 with high resolution photos)

Introduction (courtesy of

Nagasaki Chinatown, also known as Shinchimachi, is Japan's oldest chinatown, established as early as the 17th century, due to the fact that Nagasaki's port remained the country's only major port opened to Chinese trade during the era of isolation.

Over the centuries, Shinchimachi's residents have given the city of Nagasaki a Chinese touch not seen in any other of Japan's major cities.

Today, Nagasaki's chinatown is well known for its many restaurants, specialized in champon, the famous local noodle dish and other Chinese or Chinese influenced dishes.

Nagasaki's Chinatown, the 3rd and last one in Japan. I can't believe that I have visited every Chinatown in Japan. They are all so clean and full of restaurants but very few "real Chinatown" shops like dirty vegetable shops and medicine shops.


Kobe - The World's Longest Suspension Bridge, City Walks

(Updated: June 1, 2013 with high resolution photos and new descriptions)

On March 31, 2006, I visited Kobe for the second time. The first time was when I visited Kobe on my first trip to Japan in 2004.

The first stop I made was to the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the world's longest suspension bridge. The bridge connects the main island of Honshu (where all the major cities of Japan are located) with the island of Shikoku.