Tag Archives: DRO420

Primer: Travelling Japan / places to go, getting around, accomms, culture, etiquette and geography

A rather rough overview originally compiled in advance of friends coming to Okayama for wedding. Re-purposed in slightly more general terms for logistical convenience as needed.

See also: “Travelling to and Around Okayama, Japan,” “Japanese Culture and Language Primer” and other resources in this archive including video guides. 

Japan Ramble Primer

Japan can be intimidating, even for seasoned travellers. You arrive to massive sticker shock, tiny octopi in soup, and 30 kinds of hot canned coffee (which all taste moreorless the same) in ubiquitous vending machines. 

Japan is a long country with 80% mountains – covering several climates, from frosty Hokkaido in the north, to tropical Kyushu giving adventurous folks much opportunity to head to the outer provinces for exploration of the heady scenery of this varied archipelago. With some planning, politeness and persistence, combined with a little zen, you can find big adventures.

Indeed, it is easy to get lost in the big cities of Tokyo and Osaka – crowded with skyscrapers and twisted alleys, piled high with screaming neon clubs pumping techno, reggae or karaoke and shops piled with futuristic technological gadgets that won’t make it to North America for another decade – but, far away from the expensive hotels and talking toilets of the huge Pacific metropolis, you may find yourself soaking in alpine hot springs on a starry night, drinking sake with strangers crammed into a mountain hut after a backcountry dinner of rice, seaweed, miso and green tea.

Continue reading Primer: Travelling Japan / places to go, getting around, accomms, culture, etiquette and geography

Primer: Travelling to and Around Okayama, Japan

A rather rough overview originally compiled in advance of friends coming to Okayama for wedding. Re-purposed in slightly more general terms for logistical convenience as needed.

See also: “Primer: Travelling Japan / places to go, getting around, accomms, culture, etiquette and geography“, “Japanese Culture and Language Primer” and other resources in this archive including video guides. 

Getting to Okayama, Japan

Airport

Best to fly to Kansai (KIX) Osaka airport. This schmancy modern airport is located on a human-made island in the middle of the bay and includes 2 hotels, like 100+ restaurants, post office, an airplane viewing platform and importantly, a train station.

The hotels (the full-service Nikko Hotel & business-single-pod-style First Cabin) are super useful if you arrive exhausted from the long flight (usually about 14 hours from N.A. west coast). A short trip from the airport’s island by shuttle bus brings you to loads of other hotels. This airport village also has loads of shopping for buying treats on your way home.

Of course, the are other airports, specifically Tokyo (massive international hub Narita NRT or sometimes Haneda HND which is usually used for domestic flights) and the new Centrail/Chubu/Nagoya (NGO) airport. While you might save a few dollars on the flight, you’ll have a longer (more expensive) train journey to reach Okayama which is the destination for the shindig.

Fly direct to Okayama (OKJ) via the charmingly convenient and cute Momotaro Airport. If you fly to Haneda or Narita (Tokyo) mentioned above, you can transfer and fly right here.  Sometimes this requires an airport shuttle between Narita (mostly international) and Haneda (more domestic).  There is a bus service from Momotaro to downtown Okayama too.

Note: there is a huge service difference for the long-haul flights from North America. My personal experience is to fly an Asian-based airline, i.e.: Japan (ANA *fave, JAL), Korean (Korean or Asiana), Taiwan (EVA), HK (Cathay Pacific) or Singapore if coming from YVR, SFO, LAX, etc. If coming from other Asian destinations, well you are usually all good. I have experienced much less enjoyment from US-based airlines and China mainland airlines often have low prices but check the reviews and adjust against your comfort levels.

Consider tracking flight options/prices with Skyscanner with a price alert or same with Google Flights and try Hopper (app) to see when best time to “pull the trigger” on purchasing flight. Flying from Vancouver? Check out YVRdeals.

Continue reading Primer: Travelling to and Around Okayama, Japan

Rolling Elsewhere: Kurobe Gorge Railway, Toyama (ambient, excerpts)

Rolling Elsewhere: Kurobe Gorge Railway, Toyama / Unazuki to Keyakidaira stations (ambient excerpts) Ambient meditative scenes of riding the narrow gauge railway up Kurobe Gorge, one of the steepest canyons in Japan with spectacular scenery, choogling open air carriages, and hydro-electric dam with medieval style castle (really). Not documentary per se – just as-it-is snippets, stitched loosely to capture the feeling of the trip from Onazuki Onsen station to Keyakidaira (end of the line) station way up in the Japan Alps. Backgrounder: Kurotetu Railways (official) JNTO Magazine Travel Japan Visitor Kurobe Gorge Railway (wikipedia)

The Kurobe Gorge Railway (黒部峡谷鉄道株式会社 Kurobe Kyōkoku Tetsudō Kabushiki Kaisha), or Kurotetsu (黒鉄) for short, is a private, 762 mm (2 ft 6 innarrow gauge railway company operating the Kurobe Gorge Main Line along the Kurobe River in the Kurobe gorge area of Toyama Prefecture, Japan. The railway was built to serve the construction of the Kurobe dam for the Kansai Electric Power Company, which was completed in 1963; Kurotetsu was spun off from the power company in June 1971, but remains a wholly owned subsidiary. At its terminus, the Main Line links to Kurobe Senyō Railway, which is not open to general public.

 

Japanese Culture and Language Primer

A few notes and tips and phrases compiled for guests coming to wedding but likely useful for most anyone coming to Japan. 

Culture-ness

Remember you must always have your passport with you (stupid but hey… rules is).

Shoes are never worn in homes, change into slippers (which will never ever fit), then different slippers for toilet, don’t forget to change back (you will forget), socks only in tatami (straw mat) rooms.

Big stores / malls often offer tax-refund. Gotta take receipt, passport and credit card (if used) to special kiosk. They will stick receipt and stamp in passport, weird but hey, ya get money back.

Don’t walk and smoke. Hang in front of konbini store, pachinko, find smoking cage, or smoking section of resto or park. 

Can drink alcohol on streets and parks however… no sloppiness, penalties/jail harsh.

Language Primer

Handy Phrases:

  • Konnichiwa = Hello
  • Chotto matte = Just a moment/please wait
  • Hai = yes
  • Iie or Chigaimasu = no / different or wrong
  • Douzo = go ahead, please (this is super handy!)
  • Sugoi! = Great! Amazing! i.e.: How is Japan? Sugoi!
  • Suimasen = excuse me (used allll the time as is Go-men which is like “sorry”)
  • Kudasai = please i.e. “Kohi o kudasai” = “coffee please” 
  • Domo, Domo Arigato, Domo arigato gozaimasu = thanks, thanks a lot, thank you very very much
  • Jaa ne / Matta ne = See you / again
  • Toire (toilet) doko desuka? = where is the toilet (there are more trad words for toilet “benjo” and “o teirei” but the Japanese-i-fied english word is easiest
  • Konbini = convenience store (7-11, Lawson, Family Mart are plentiful & amazing)

Continue reading Japanese Culture and Language Primer

Thank-you Cards (“making of” and delivery evidence) / Kekkon-shiki

settling in for a session of addressing, signing, inking, glueing, stamping and stickering these cards to prepare for a journey

Following our wedding festivities, we dutifully and cheerfully made up several batches of thank you cards to sent to folks who made the trip or sent gifts or letters/cards. 

Thank you card source materials, ready for scissor, glue, ink and substrate
a stack all ready to go, with special stamps and stickers and sparkly envelopes

While each batch of cards was different – and some cards required boxes and packets – the general design aesthetic captured in exquisite little photo essay created by nature photographer Cheryl A. (you should check out her cards for sale) which captures the details of the envelope treatment:

Continue reading Thank-you Cards (“making of” and delivery evidence) / Kekkon-shiki

Goat Farm Party 35mm Film photos, vol. 2 / Dave + Ryoko 4-21 Kekkon-shiki

Guests were also encouraged to take a snap with 1 of 3 instant camera to stick into a guestbook along with a signature with a paint pen

From the wedding bonus ceremony and party at Rural Caprine Farm on April 21, 2019 (Heisei 31) comes a variety of snaps created with a Pentax point and shoot with 35mm film about 25 years old. Note “panorama” layout on some photos and LED date snap (obv not accurate) showing some erstwhile vintage-ness.

Along with these 35mm snaps, the wedding party guests were encouraged to pick up one of several Fuji (not Poloroid) insta-photo camera to document their experience – Lee and Emily and others also kept these devices clicking.

Thanks to photographer Kris Krüg and artist Emily Olson for curation of gear and keeping the snaps snapping.

Film was processed, prints were scanned and results presented here without distinct order curation but with some minor colour correction/enhancing. Note date stamp (obv not accurate) and panorama layout with black bars.

Dashing Yuasa-san, part 1
Dashing Yuasa-san, part 2
Niece Emily and my brother James mugging, part 1
Niece Emily and my brother James mugging, part 2
Sharp Shimizu-san being sharp, part 1

Continue reading Goat Farm Party 35mm Film photos, vol. 2 / Dave + Ryoko 4-21 Kekkon-shiki

Goat Farm Party 35mm Film photos, vol. 1 / Dave + Ryoko 4-21 Kekkon-shiki

Variety of photographic documentation tools used at the Goat Farm wedding party, April 21, 2019 (Heisei 31)

From the wedding bonus ceremony and party at Rural Caprine Farm on April 21 2019 (Heisei 31) comes a variety of snaps created with a Pentax point and shoot with 35mm film about 25 years old. Note “panorama” layout on some photos and LED date snap (obv not accurate) showing some erstwhile vintage-ness.

Along with these 35mm snaps, the wedding party guests were encouraged to pick up one of several Fuji (not Poloroid) insta-photo camera to document their experience – Lee and Emily and others also kept these devices clicking.

Thanks to photographer Kris Krüg and artist Emily Olson for curation of gear and keeping the snaps snapping.

Film was processed, prints were scanned with results presented without distinct order curation but with some minor colour correction/enhancing. 

Ring-bearer and goat friend, nephew Lee Olson
Mr. Kobayashi displays piglets ready for slow spit roasting
Groom Dave’s bearded jaw, suitcase for envelopes, bamboo drinking vessel etc.
Bride Ryoko and Groom Dave enjoy a dance while pals look on affectionately

Continue reading Goat Farm Party 35mm Film photos, vol. 1 / Dave + Ryoko 4-21 Kekkon-shiki

Invitations arrived, vol. 2 / Dave + Ryoko 4-20 Kekkon-shiki

JH in Vancouver

What follows is a gallery (vol. 2) of received invites “in situ” wherever they end up in the world / generally unannotated to protect erstwhile privacy unless publicly shared by recipient.   

PM in Winnipeg also received books from our pal Grant Lawrence on the same day

Overall, 300+ packets mailed. Some will get lost in the mail (speaking from experience) but anyone who doesn’t receive a dossier in the post can create their own as desired, plus checkout the pieces not in your packet. 

Lovely Crystal in Singapore

The 6 (at least) tranches of mailouts had varied contents and packaging as the batches were sent from different countries, using different printers (pro and home) and different iterations of items, specifically a variety/sub-set of:

* Announcement storybook (4 panel, 2 iterations) 

* Invite to ceremony (2 panel)

* Invite to party (2 panel)

* RSVP card (pre-stamped for folks in Japan)

* Transportation info card (for folks in Japan)

* Letter to friends (on Grand Oriental Hotel letterhead)

* Gig Poster by Joanna Pag (mini-size via various printers and substrates)

These items are easily found within this archive should you desire further inspection. 

Continue reading Invitations arrived, vol. 2 / Dave + Ryoko 4-20 Kekkon-shiki

Welcome Packet + Maps / Dave + Ryoko 4-20 Kekkon-shiki

For the international guests coming for the wedding celebrations, we wanted to make travel easy so we produced a Travel Dossier and series of videos to help with all the “macro” logistics of coming to Japan and getting around easily.

Then for the “micro” logistics around Okayama and wedding-related events, we assembled Welcome Packets which were distributed (with some customization) to the guests’ hotels.

The packets in general included maps of the local area, in particular, a great English-language map by Next-Trip which included the 2 primary hotels and various coffee shops and fave restaurants along with the popular tourist sites (castle, gardens, museums etc). To top it off was a few business and/or event cards for other useful shops and exhibits.

Additionally, we stashed a “Japanese Basic Vocab” sheet with handy phrases and a transportation sheet which had instructions for taxi drivers in Japanese and English to aid in getting to various venues. Plus an itinerary of the events, times and locations.

Finally, there was Google Map of venues and Whatsapp group chat channel for on-the-go digital updates.

There were a couple of special young ones coming for the shindig so they received a special welcome packet designed to help them make scrap-journals of their trip. As such, included scissors, glue sticks, stickers, pens, letter/note sets, and blank books with hearty paper – all compiled in a vinyl zippered pouch.

As evidenced by sweet Emily Olson upon her return to Canada, the scrapbooks proved to be a handy way to document a journey in “real-time” with paper ephemera and others papery bits.

For the record, the narrative from the itinerary doc is included, more or less intact.

Continue reading Welcome Packet + Maps / Dave + Ryoko 4-20 Kekkon-shiki

Giftbag Round-up / Dave + Ryoko 4-20 Kekkon-shiki

At weddings in Japan – unlike in “western” countries, guests usually bring cash in special envelopes as a gift rather than a household appliance or other oddment from a registry. The cash is often in 2 envelopes – one as a “gift” and other the cover their portion of party expenses. Regardless, the notes as fresh and crisp and in a special envelope with appropriate decorations and minimal written sentiments.

The guests are almost always sent on their way with a gift bag of treats with items which reflect the spouses personality (not always the case), or the region or season of the wedding. Anyhow, we took the gift bag part on with great enthusiasm and vigour as we wanted all the guests to take a piece of our heart reflected in hobbies, interests and whatnot.

As it goes, with all the work assembling the gift bags of disparate objects, we neglected to document the items dutifully. Fortunately our pal Robert Scales did a pretty decent job of capturing the assortment which included the following

  • Bizen Yakima saké cup – nearby Bizen one of 6 great centres of pottery of Japan, the cups were handmade by master potter Hosokawa-san and fired with no glaze for 2 weeks at 1000 degrees Celsius in a massive kiln
  • Note: cups were wrapped in newspaper and packed into hemp cloth drawstring bags

  • Matcha tea – from Kyoto, in a metal tin with bamboo accessories: whisk chasen and scoop chashaku
  • Gig Poster – the Taisho-era jazz/travel inspired art for the wedding made by Joanna Ambrosio of Ganamo Design (Vancouver/Mexico) and professionally printed (A4) by Fujii Printing
  • Sakura oil painting print – from Dave’s Gravelly Beach series, printed A4 by Fujii Printing, signed and number (150)
  • Commemorative postcards (2) – featuring paintings by Dave of Rural Caprine Farm’s noted gingko tree in full yellow splendour and haiku postbox (there is the actual postbox on site) of a poem about letters and peaches. Postcard backs designed with Olympia typewriter. Printed by moo.com
  • Thank you card – hand-lettered (Japanese and English) by Ryoko, accessorize with stamps from US and Vatican, printed by Fujii Printing
  • Incense – ceremonial from Bali
  • Ceningan Divers invitation – a special offer from our friends with a dive resort in Bali
  • Vendor thank you – round-up of all the vendors who assisted, contributed etc to the wedding, including URLs for thanks and reviews etc.
  • Gift bag – blue heavy corrugated paper bags with string handles from Usigaya decorated by hand with a special ink stamp (thanks parents) and gold/silver paint marker flag flourish (by Dave)
  • Finally, a special “typewriter card” paper clipped to each one to make unique and washi tape to close each bag.

All the materials were ordered, delivered etc and then moved to the goat farm’s kitchen table where dear helpful pals (under supervision of lawyer Lindsay and the Jen-eral) assembled and moved down to the goat farm so the area looked like a splendid festive morning. Then, each guest (mostly) received their bag with (hopefully) delight.

Note to self: there is a snap somewhere of the guide to assembling gift bags to add here.