Please enable JavaScript to display the menu.
Two Trips to Japan, started with detention, and ended with being impressed by AirTag.

May 2022. Finally COVID was over. Some experts are stubbornly insisting that COVID is not over. Yeah, the virus is around us. However, the risk that a vaccinated individual, including high-risk individual, getting a serious health problem from the virus is virtually zero. My wife and I felt safe enough and visited our friends and family in Japan after two years.

At that time, Japanese government required pre-arrival PCR test. Initially we reserved $250/person PCR test, but the requirement rapidly got easier, and we were told that a free COVID test from a general pharmacy store was good enough. We canceled the pricy test, and took a test from nearby Walgreen, 3 days before the departure. COVID negative. We have uploaded the result using an iPhone app, which now everyone knows the waste of taxpayer money, and we were approved for entry.

The day before the departure. My wife could not check in to the flight. We reserved an All-Nippon Airways flight, but we had to take United Airlines from Pittsburgh to Chicago, so we had to check-in with United Airlines. The United-Airlines app redirected us to the Travel-Ready Center, but it kept giving an error when we uploaded documents.

But, while trying to force it through, we got a notice that our flight from Chicago to Tokyo Narita was upgraded to the Business Class. How lucky!

This day, I had to teach at Japanese school. So I went. One of the 3rd grader kid intentionally took off his mask and coughing around. I felt uncomfortable, but I was fully vaccinated, I didn't care too much. But, looking back, I think it was the beginning of my ordeal.

I came home, called the United Airlines. I was able to resolve this Travel-Ready Center s**t, and both myself and my wife checked in.

Our United flight was an early morning flight. Since we didn't have to pay $250 for the PCR test, we stayed a night at the airport hotel. I felt soreness in my sinus, but it was not too unusual after teaching whole day. I was not too concerned about it.

May 23. My sinus soreness was gone. For the first time in my life, I used a business-class lounge. But, pretty much everyone was coughing. Probably I was in a high-concentration of COVID. Well, but I was fully vaccinated.

United Airlines Business Lounge

All-Nippon Airways business class was so nice. In-flight meals were so delicious. So was Japanese whisky "Hibiki". Cheese and red-wine was especially good, too. The special curry was also very good. I wanted to eat more, but my stomach was too small to enjoy all of the business-class meals.

All Nippon Airways Business Class was so nice and comfortable.

In-flight meal was great!

I felt chilly a little bit, but I was curled up in the blanket and it was ok. I also had some headache. Maybe I drunk too much? But, the headache was gone as the airplane descended to lower altitude.

At the beginning, I felt that I wouldn't get tired at all. But, after 12-hours in the airplane. I got somewhat tired. Still I didn't feel particularly tired. Probably I ate too much. That may have contributed to the tiredness.

Then I was struck by the worst disaster of this trip. Japanese Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare still was stupidly mandating the PCR test on arrival. Even though we had to submit negative test result before departure. And, I was tested positive for COVID. I was arrested and detained in the nearby detention facility. I was told I would be under house arrest in a deplorable condition for 7 days. My wife was tested negative and was released.

The most possible source of infection was that kid at the Japanese school. I saw so many people coughing in the business lounge in Chicago, but considering the incubation period, I doubt I picked it up there. I had headache after about 24 to 30 hours after I was exposed to that coughing kid. It was more likely to be where my COVID came from.

But, I don't think that mask-less coughing kid was a 'problem' since COVID risk was already very small. What I really regret was I wanted to get my 4th COVID shot before leaving, but I was not eligible. Biden administration didn't have a gut to admit that COVID vaccine would be an yearly or twice-a-year shot, just like a flu shot. So I was not qualified. My wife was barely qualified and had the 4th shot before leaving the U.S. Indeed, she stayed with me when I was most infectious, but still did not pick it up. If I had had the 4th shot, I wouldn't have picked up COVID. But, I couldn't get the shot.

May 25. After one night of rest, my fever was gone. All I had was occasional cough. As expected, COVID was not a threat for vaccinated individuals any longer. COVID used to be much riskier than common cold. But, it is now no different from common cold. The breakfast was a cold bento box. It may have been better if it was hot. But, the detention facility treated me as a prisoner. I even did not have access to a microwave.

This was not a quarantine facility. It was a detention center. No microwave. No vacuum cleaner. No outside food delivery. No beer. Not allowed to send mails. The phone in the room was not connected to outside. This time I was lucky enough to have my iPhone with international plan. If someone didn't happen to have laptop, tablet, or cell phone, the person would be isolated from outside. Just disappears. Isn't it scary? It was NOT a quarantine facility. It was really a detention center, and I was treated like a prisoner.

View from the detention facility. I was jailed in the 10th floor so that I didn't escape.

I had to eat cold bento box every day. Some of them could have tasted good if I could heat it. Some of them were very salty. Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare was trying to kill me by high blood pressure.

A TV news was saying Japan was ranked number one in the travel destination. How come a country that arrests and detains an unfortunate traveler at the airport be number one travel destination? Shame on the Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare!

May 26. I asked about the possibility of earlier release. Instead of getting a chance to be released early, I was told I will be under house arrest for 10 days, instead of 7 days. Different from the earlier explanation. It was only because I had fever when I arrived. If it was measured 30 minutes later, my fever was gone. WTF! I really had fever only for the short time. F**k the Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare! They arrested and treated me like a criminal. Can't serving cabbage without dressing or mayo or even salt be prosecuted as a crime? I thought they were treating me as a prisoner. Actually, not even that, they were treating me like a rabbit.

May 29. Only possibility of being released in 7 days was to pass the PCR test twice in a row. But, the chance was gone.

I was kept in a small make-shift hotel room. I could not do exercise. I needed to get out quick, or I would become sick.

I was fully vaccinated and virtually zero risk of getting long-term health problem or death from COVID. I recently saw a wrong report that 85% of COVID patients get some form of long-term health problem. It was obviously a fake news. Minimum 30 people around me caught COVID and recovered. Only one of them self-claimed to have a long COVID. Well, but he was bowling in a league and told he was walking 6 miles every day. What long COVID? Some people, especially people in Japan, only say bad things about COVID. Probably they are making money from COVID. Worst kind of human beings next to Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Since I had virtually zero risk from COVID, I was under house arrest for other people. Why was I not allowed to order outside food or getting even one can of beer? Why was I not allowed to send out a mail? It was an unreasonable excessive limitation of civil right. It was the Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare that committed a crime. I will never ever forgive them.

This measure was reasonable if it were in 2020, when we did not have COVID vaccines, and we had a high risk of long-term health problem from COVID. But, it was 2022. The risk is virtually zero. Japan failed to respond to COVID as a system. Japan was re-opening and accepting tourists again. Were they going to arrest and detain tourists if someone was tested positive for COVID even if there was no symptoms other than light fever? By the way, I was detained in the very restrictive detention center only because I was tested positive when I arrived from the U.S. However, there seems to be less restrictive facilities that allowed outside food. I was not given a choice. Was Japan occupied by communists? It's not what democratic country should do. I understand that some civil rights can be restricted when there was a high risk from infectious disease. But, the restriction should be reasonable for the level of the risk. This much restriction of civil right should be considered as crime by the Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare. I will never ever forgive them.

Let me out of here!

June 2. Two days before the release. I was told I could get out as soon as the date changes from June 3 from June 4. I reserved a taxi 12:30AM on June 4. And a night of stay at Narita airport hotel.

June 3. Heavy thunderstorm hit the area twice. My cough stopped after the storms. I had some cough in the morning, but I suspected it was from house dusts, not from COVID. This detention facility doesn't even let me use a vacuum cleaner. The room was getting dusty. I didn't know when the room was cleaned last time. I had to stay in a deplorable condition.

June 4. Midnight. Taxi came. Finally the freedom. I talked with the taxi driver that we considered COVID as a regular disease in the U.S., which surprised the driver. I see both Japanese and English news sources. But, Japanese news is showing only pessimistic news about COVID, which were giving impression to Japanese people that COVID was still a deadly disease. Probably someone is making money from COVID. Utterly absurd.

It was the worst nightmare experience.

First meal after getting out of the prison.

I was feeling those anti-masking protestors were just stupid. But, now I am feeling they had certain roles in recovery from the pandemic. Nobody raised a voice in Japan, and now Japanese government had a precedent of arbitrarily halting civil rights.

At Narita airport, bought Tonkatsu sandwitch and high ball from Seven Eleven. Tasted like heaven. Later in the day, I went to Usami to meet cousins. Some of them said they were going to visit Pittsburgh next year. I should be preparing a few Niagara Falls flights then.

What we call a 'Capsule Hotel'. You'll be given only a compartment just good enough to stretch and a locker for storing your bags.

Ito line local train.

Great ocean view from the train.

Arrived at Usami station.>

June 5. I went to Haneda Airport with my wife just for fun. An airplane fan should have a good camera when go to an airport. (Well, except when I fly by myself.) This time, I carried my Olympus OM-D E-M1X, but left my lens in Pittsburgh. I only had long telephoto for this camera, and I was thinking to buy M.ZUIKO Digital 14-150mm. So, I made a quick run to Yodobashi Camera Akiba to get it.

I was staying in Shinagawa. Usually I use a local train to get to Akiba, but since I had Japan Rail Pass, I used a bullet train from Shinagawa to Tokyo and changed to Yamote line. If you have a JR pass, you do have a right to use a bullet train no matter how short leg it is. Nobody else uses a bullet train for that short distance, so you can avoid crowded Yamanote line. I think it is a very smart hack of the JR pass.

M.ZUIKO Digital 14-150mm was about 70000JPY, but due to unusually cheap JPY and Yodobashi's point system, overall it was about $100 cheaper than buying it in the U.S. Of course, you can take a gamble to get a lens from a very cheap online shop. But, I usually lose such a gamble. I rather buy from a reliable shop, especially when I buy something expensive.

Haneda airport is entertaining even if you are not traveling. I took some test shots from the observation deck. I felt nice with the new lens. When I go to an air show, I carry my 100-400mm telephoto, but for casual but serious photography, this 14-150mm covers good range. I should have bought it before going to Usami.

Some shots from the observation deck of Tokyo Haneda airport.

June 7. Pilgrimage to Akihabara Beep. I found and bought "Murder Club" for FM77AV (Riverhill Soft).

Pilgrimage to Akihabara Beep.

June 8. Flew to my wife's home, Fukuoka. The picture is Tonkatsu bento from "Tonkatsu Wako". When I come to Japan, I at least eat once in Tonkatsu Wako or Tonkatsu Shinjuku Saboten. You should try once. It is even better to eat watching airplanes on the observation deck.

Tonkatsu Wako

Great Blue Heron in Dazaifu

June 11. Left Fukuoka and headed for Nagoya. Japan Rail Pass didn't let me use Shinkansen Nozomi, which meant I had to change train at either Shin-Osaka or Shin-Kobe. I stopped at Shin-Osaka and had Takoyaki there. I was told not to eat indoor. So, I ate at the platform, which was outside. I couldn't believe Osaka native cared about smell of Takoyaki, but anyway I was told so. Osaka is famous for Takoyaki (Octopus in a bun). You shouldn't miss it if you come to Osaka. Actually, it is available pretty much everywhere. I recommend to try at least once while you are in Japan.

Takoyaki Dohtonbori Kukuru at Shin-Osaka station.

I stayed a night in Nagoya. I met with my high-school friend who is now flying UH-60 for Japan Air Self-Defense Force. He gave me a city tour. Next day, we went to Aichi Air Museum to see YS-11 #152, which I saw its last demonstration flight in Miho Air Show a few years ago. For some reason, Japan just put those retired airplanes in a museum instead of keeping it flyable for air shows or special events. I like American determination to keep those flying. Both of us tried YS-11 flight simulator and both got 4 out of 5 points. We discussed what we did wrong. We came to the conclusion that we couldn't tell if it was ok (for better score) to ignore voice guidance and adjust power and flaps especially during landing.

YS-11 Number 152

Then I left Nagoya and joined up with my mother in Tokyo. She liked airplane over Shinkansen train then. I personally wanted to take advantage of Japan Rail Pass, but we flew to Aomori. I do like airplanes. You know that. I like flying an airplane and watching airplanes, but I also like to travel in a Shinkansen train though. By the way, my mother now seems to like traveling in a Shinkansen train. It was nice to see sunset at Tokyo Haneda airport, too. This picture was taken near the boarding gate, but you should be able to see a spectacular sunset from the terminal 1 observation deck, too.

Sunset at Tokyo Haneda Airport

June 13. It was my mother's birthday. We stayed at a hotel at Owani Ski/Golf Resort. I've never visited Owani for very long. Mt. Iwaki was clearly visible from there. She is 77 years old but very active. We climbed up a trail of Mt. Ajara from the hotel to the peak. Not too long a trail, but about 40 minutes of mountain trail.

Owani Onsen Station

Mt. Iwaki

Mt. Iwaki from Peak of Mt. Ajara.

Konan Owani Line train.

By the way, you should taste "mizu yokan" from Ragueneau

Music record "Music from Ys" was still at my home in Hirosaki. I think it was the only one music record I bought by myself, because after this everything became CD. Since I am a only child, but left home and living in the U.S., it is not good to leave it there from the preservation ponint of view. So, I donated it to the Game Preservation Society. My mother also kept a aluminum case for carrying a music record. One of the advantages of traveling in Shinkansen train is you don't have to check your luggages. You can always keep eye on your fragile cargo. Long time ago, when Japan Airlines was flying Airbus 300, I was told that one of my suit cases that fit an overhead compartment in other airplanes didn't fit in Airbus 300. F**k Airbus. They always make mistakes like terminating Concorde. Tiny overhead bin was another mistake they made. I was force to check it at the gate. Then, my 300mm F4 telephoto lens didn't survive. Even Japan Airlines destroys something fragile. If you have to check a music record, it will come out in pieces.

"Music from Ys"

June 17. I visited the headquarter of the Game Preservation Society and had dinner with Joseph (the president of the Game Preservation Society). I donated my Music from Ys in one piece. We agreed that it would be nice to have a retro-computer emulator that can emulate copy-protection as is so that classic games run without cracking the code. I started feeling that I could write an emulator for FM77AV, after writing FM TOWNS emulator Tsugaru. So I decided to start FM77AV emulator Mutsu. I should have started while I was under house arrest. So, I'm working on FM77AV emulator Mutsu now.

June 18. My last day in Japan in this trip. Majority of shops at Narita airport was closed. It was a ghost town. I thought to buy a magazine, but no bookstore was open. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare was doing too much. It should take measures reasonable for the risk. What they were doing was extreme. I now know those bureaucrats working for the ministry do not have a functional brain.

So, I had to choose from very limited choices for my last lunch. I found Tonkatsu Shinjuku Saboten! That's my favorite! I had Tonkatsu + Curry for my last lunch. By the way, this Tonkatsu Curry was of very high level. When you eat Tonkatsu, you need to choose between crispy Tonkatsu or wet Tonkatsu. Both are good. But, in this style, you can choose to have some pieces crispy, and then pour Curry source on top. Actually, I never tried Tonkatsu Curry from Wako, but I think I should try next time. By the way, if you don't like pork, I believe you have an option to make it chicken katsu instead.

Tonkatsu Curry

I upgraded my return flight to Premium Economy using my miles. My wife was staying longer. So I was by myself, and luckily nobody came next to my seat. So, I could use two Premium Economy seats. It was just like a business class. High ball tasted so nice.

By the way, the main wings of Boeing 787 visibly bends upward while the wing is supporting the load. I was wondering how much bending. So, I took pictures in the air and on the ground. The airplane was level when I took both pictures. You can clearly see the curvature when the airplane was flying. Isn't it impressive?

B787 Main Wing

I tried to do as much as I could after the release, but I couldn't meet with friends whom I was planning to meat. I couldn't go to places I was going to go. In most times, I run out of time by visiting my wife's home, and my hometown, and cannot go to anywhere else. This time, my boss allowed me to stay for four weeks. It was supposed to be my chance to visit where I have never been to. The plan was destroyed by the extremely excessive COVID measures by Japanese government.

The risk of COVID was over. Then-vice-President Mike Pence said in the interview with the local TV station after the rally at Latrobe that the fatality of the elderly and high-risk COVID patients was as low as 6% in December 2020. That was when we did not have COVID vaccines. Now, if vaccinated, even for high-risk patients, the fatality from COVID should be less than 1%. In fact, this is among those who were tested positive. There are more people who picked up COVID but showed no symptoms and not tested. But, the fatality is more accurately counted. Therefore, the overall risk is even lower. Death risk is virtually zero.

I say we have only three risks left from COVID. The one is the long COVID. But, is it really a risk? Recently, someone reported as many as 85% of COVID patients get some form of long-term health problem. Which was obviously a fake news. If 85% of COVID patients get a long-term health problem, Carnegie Mellon University must be filled with students with long COVID. I have seen many students and friends who had COVID and recovered. To be conservative, I say at least 30 or so people I know had COVID and recovered already. Only one of them is self-claiming to have long COVID. But, he is bowling in a bowling league and walking 6 miles every day. I don't know what long COVID he was talking about. Unless COVID is different in Pittsburgh, the risk of long COVID is less than 3%. This is a conservative estimation. Probably it is virtually zero among fully vaccinated. So, the first risk is pretty much gone.

The second risk can be hospital overwhelmed by COVID patients. In the U.S., now hospitals are under pressure from COVID, flu, and RSV, and it's barely standing against this triple diseases. On the other hand, COVID alone is nothing. If Japanese hospitals are really overwhelmed, only one possible reason is because only fraction of the doctors are dealing with all COVID patients. The current classification of COVID in Japan does not allow some doctors treating COVID patients. If hospital break down is real, it is a man-made disaster. Japanese medical system should be able to handle COVID cases. The current prime ministor is a problem. He cannot make important decisions like changing the classification of COVID. So, I say it's not a COVID risk any more.

The last point can be the possibility that new more severe COVID strain may emerge. However, from the beginning of the pandemic, biologists and epidemiologists kept saying the virus would evolve to ve milder, and COVID has certainly been getting milder. The reason is simple and straight forward. If the virus kills or downs someone, the patient cannot walk around and spread the virus. So, especially if the virus is wide-spread and had more chances to evolve, milder strains win over severe strains. The explanation makes sense. In China, due to the communists mis-handling and lies, many people would die. Chinese people should have courage to overturn the communists. That's the only way for the better life. But, new strain probably will emerge in China, some of them may be more severe, but those severe strains should be overtaken by milder strains, if the biologists and epidemiologists are right. Let's hope that's the case. Then, the third risk is also negligible.

So, I say COVID risk is gone. Or, COVID is as risky as flu. But, Japanese officials stubbornly refuse to admit it.

The summer Japan travel was tainted by the 10-day detention. So, we decided to make one more trip to Japan in December.

We left Pittsburgh December 16. Flew to Tokyo Haneda via Washington DC 10PM the next day. Haneda airport is 100 times better airport than Narita. Narita airport is not appropriate for tourism. Too far from center of Tokyo. The airport is called New Tokyo Narita airport, but it is a false advertisement. Narita airport is not even in Tokyo. It is in Chiba prefecture. They need to stop using this deceptive name. Narita-Express train once eased this problem, but now it makes too many stops between Narita airport and Tokyo. By using Narita airport, you waste one day when you arrive, and one day when you leave. The airport does not have many entertainments. It does have observation decks, but smaller and farther from runways compared to Haneda. I personally believe Narita airport should be turned to Japan Air Self-Defense Force Base to better defend the air space around the capital. So, when you plan a travel to Japan, make sure to choose Haneda airport, not Narita. Airlines may offer cheaper tickets for Narita airport, but that's because Narita is not a good airport.

Actually I was wearing a mask in the international flight even before this pandemic. The air in the airplane is dry. My mouth and throat dries up, and very often I caught a common cold in an airplane. A mask keeps humidity inside your mouth. But, this time I was using KN95 mask that CMU gives away every week, but it was too dense. I felt I was choking to death. I threw it away and changed to a regular surgical mask, which was better.

So, the second Japan trip of the year. This time I was not arrested at the airport.

The next day, first my wife shipped her suitcases to her home. Then we picked up our Japan Rail Passes. We were using discount airline tickets available to international travelers, but this time those tickets were sold out. Probably due to increased international visitors in Japan plus it was a very busy travel season in Japan, just like Thanksgiving week or Labor-day weekend in the U.S. So, we chose to use Japan Rail Pass instead. This time we purchased first-class (green-car) ticket for the first time. Man, it was comfortable. I think we are going to use the first-class JR pass from now on.

Then we went to Sushi Zanmai in Tsukiji. Although the fish market has moved to Toyosu, Tsukiji is still famous for seafood. I guess it's comparable to Fisherman's Wharf. There are local Sushi restaurants as well, but my friend told that local Sushi restrant can be good or bad. Sushi Zanmai is a Sushi franchise, but the taste was stable, according to him. Reasonable suggestion. So we went to its flagship store in Tsukiji. Their Sushi was very nice, as advertised. So, if you have one day in Tokyo, I suggest you to have lunch or dinner once there.

Sushi Zanmai.

December 19. Pilgrimage to Akihabara. I didn't have too much time, but visited Beep, Surugaya, Friends. I thought to buy one retro game for FM-7, 77AV or Towns, but virtually nothing. FM-series always were second most popular next to NEC PC-98 and PC-88 series. But, it is still minor when it became retro :-( I found Bubble Bobble for FM TOWNS in Beep for 16800JPY. It was cheaper than average price on auction, but it was labeled as "scratch on the CD surface". So, I didn't buy this time. But, I was sure I was going to come again before leaving Japan. I decided to buy it if it was still sitting here when I came next time. Then I went to Yodobashi Camera Akiba to get a bunch of USB-C cables, and USB-C power supply. Sure. I can buy one in the U.S. But, I never ever buy power supply from Amazon again. What you get is not what you see. Too many counterfeits. Using counterfeit power-supply is an easy way to start fire. I rather buy high-quality and reliable Japanese brand when it comes to power supply and USB cable. I trust IO Data the most, Buffalo and Elecom are equally good.

If you are sick and tired of unreliable products from Amazon, buy ELECOM, IODATA, or BUFFALO from someone reliable.

I was also thinking to get a bunch of M-Disc media. M-Disc is pricy, but it advertises minimum 100-year longevity. I started twice-a-year backup in M-Disc this year. But, I had difficulty finding 100GB discs. Did M-Disc fail? I think it is a great media, but may be confusing because it needs M-Disc capable drive, although it is readable with a conventional driver once written. I bought whatever available. Kept searching for 100GB discs.

Then my wife and I headed for Nihonbashi to go to cafe Kuririn. "Kuri" means chestnut in Japanese. We love chestnuts. Mont-blanc cake is a cream coated with chestnut-paste. It was my first time to see a Mont-Blanc cake made real time. It was too good! There are so much good food in Japan. You should definitely try Kuririn!

Mont-Blanc Cake from Kuririn

December 20. Tokyo to Fukuoka, my wife's home. Sky was clear. I saw Mt. Fuji clearly from the window of the bullet train. You have best chance of photography between Mishima and Shin-Fuji stations. Unless you are onboard Kodama, your train won't stop at these stations. Use your smart-phone GPS to check where you are and get ready. If possible, use a camera with horizon leveling. Put the camera lens as close to the window as possible, and use burst shutter because there are poles that may block the view. If you are staying in Tokyo in winter with Japan Rail Pass, you may want to try a few times in Kodama. I have tried pretty much every time I was on a bullet train, but always low cloud or poor visibility or both blocked my view. This time I had my very first success of the clear shot of Mt. Fuji.

Mt. Fuji from Shinkansen train.

When you travel to Japan, you encounter a serious problem. You have only one stomach, and you have only three meals per day. Unless you are young and strong, it would be difficult to keep four meals a day. There are too many good food in Japan. You need very delicate resource management. Ideally, make a list of food you want to eat during the stay, and strike one by one. One of the to-eat items in my list was Tonkotsu ramen. Last time because of unreasonably long detention, I could not eat it. But, this time my wife and my sister-in-law took me to Ippu-do in Hakata-station building. I was able to strike one in my list.

Tonkotsu Ramen from Ippudo.

December 21. My wife caught probably common cold and took a rest for a day. I don't think it was COVID because she just had a COVID shot two weeks before leaving Pittsburgh. Even if it was, as I wrote repeatedly above, it was not too serious. She almost recovered after one day of rest.

December 22. My wife stayed with her family, and I traveled back to Tokyo. This time I had first-class Japan Rail Pass. It was extremely comfortable. I pretty much did not get tired at all. I like flying an airplane, but if I fly in an airliner, I need to first pack suitcase considering what can be carried on and what should be checked. Then get to the airport minimum 1 hour earlier, or 2 hours to be safe, before departure. Check baggage. Take belt off, remove everything from pocket, pass the security check, re-equip belt and other stuffs. From the airport, I need to walk somewhat long distance to pick up checked bags, then train station, then 40 minutes or so to get to the destination. If I use a bullet train, none. I need to get to the train station 10 minutes before the departure. If I travel by a bullet train, no worry about checking bags, as long as I make sure all bags can fit in the overhead shelf. After getting off the bullet train, 10 or 15 minutes in a local train to get to my destination. No much different from flying an airplane unless you travel very long distance. One of my friends who was living in Pittsburgh very long always was saying I should go with first-class Japan Rail Pass. Now I see why she said that.

Kashiwa bento. Kashiwa means chicken in Kyushu dialect.

I stopped at Nagoya on the way and had dinner with my high-school friend who is now flying UH-60 for Japan Air Self-Defense Force. We had Miso-Katsu dinner at Yaba-ton. Unless you have a dietary restriction, you should taste Tonkatsu at least once. But, the problem is there are many styles. Plain crispy Tonkatsu is delicious. Nagoya is famous for Miso-Katsu, which pour Miso-source on crispy Tonkatsu. Tonkatsu bowl or Katsu-don. Tonkatsu-sandwich. Tonkatsu in curry source and rice. So many variations, but again, you have limited number of meals. But, if you come to Nagoya region, DO NOT miss Miso-katsu. Yaba-ton is one of the most poupluar local restaurant chain, and it is very good! He said he was going to be transferred to a different base next year, then I will lose a reason to stop at Nagoya. But, I found you can buy a Miso-Katsu bento at Tokyo-Station B1F Gransta. I'll go for it next time.

Left Nagoyoa at 20:43 and checked in Akihabara Keikyu EX Inn at around 10pm.

Miso Katsu from Yabaton. Now Miso-Katsu is in my to-eat list for Japan travel.

December 23. I had lunch with the president of the Game Preservation Society, Joseph. He really knows a lot about classic games. Very impressive. But, according to him, he knows less about Fujitsu FM-series computers compated to NEC PC-8801 and PC-9801 series computers. In that case, I can be a FM-resource in the Game Preservation Society. By the way, we had lunch at Tonkatsu Marugo in Akihabara. I had Tonkatsu 3 days in a row by this time, so I had chicken katsu. Joseph said Tonkatsu Marugo was one of only two Tonkatsu restaurants in Tokyo that was on Michelin restaurant guide. Hmmm, I could tell it was special. We had to stand in line for 10 minutes or so, but it was worth.

Chicken Katsu from Marugo.

By the way, Bubble Bobble for FM TOWNS was still not sold at Beep. So, I took it. The label said scratch no the disc surface. But, I was able to read the disc with no error. I have an ambition to collect all VING games eventually, but long way to go. I also found a MSX game pad in the junk box for 1480JPY. I took it. I then applied DeoxIt on the PCB, and it now works perfectly.

Bubble Bobble for FM TOWNS and a game pad.

I got an Ox-Tongue bento at Tokyo Station B1F. Grilled Ox-Tongue is always on my to-eat list.

Ox-Tongue bento.

December 24. Sky was clear with very good visibility all around Tokyo. Mt. Fuji should be visible from the observation deck of Haneda Airport Terminal 1. I had an appointment from 10:30AM, but I should be able to make a quick run to Haneda airport and back before that. The observation deck was open from 6:30AM. I took advantage of still-remaining jet lag to wake up early. In fact, I set my alarm 5:30AM, but I ended up waking up 4:30AM. I left my hotel around 5:30AM and headed for Haneda airport via Hamamatsu-cho. I saw vivid orange on the horizon before sunrise. I wanted to take a picture of it, but it is not very easy to capture that vivid orange. I'm wondering if I can tweak camera setting to capture that.

Sunrise from Haneda Airport Terminal 2 Observation Deck.

After watching sunrise from the terminal-2 observation deck, then moved to terminal 1 observation deck.

Mt. Fuji from Haneda Airport Terminal 1 Observation Deck. Peak was obscured by clouds.

A white wagtail.

Well.... It was visible, but the peak was covered by cloud. It was very windy. I waited till 9:30AM or so, but the cloud did not go away.

Breakfast at Dotour Coffee. The quality of their hot dog is very good. Also I need to admit I am powerless in front of a Mont-Blanc Cake.

Then I visited Tokyo Retro Computing Meet Up. Some members brought in Amiga, Apple II, and JR-200. I made three FM TOWNS FRAM card with boot IPL before the meet up, but no FM TOWNS users joined the meeting this time.

December 25. I had a lunch appointment with my former professor. I met with three professors who defined my career in Keio university. He was one of them. He has retired for long, and I visit him whenever I have chance. But, I was free in the morning. I tried Haneda observation deck again.

Early morning at Akihabara Station. So empty.

Sunrise from Terminal 2 Observation Deck.

This time, Mt. Fuji was clear from terminal-1 observation deck! Well, it would have been better if I could take an airplane taking off right in front of Mt. Fuji. But due to the wind direction, I could only take landing airplanes. In front of Mt. Fuji. It was ok. Beautiful shots anyway. I crossed another item in my to-eat list, Zunda Mochi, or Zunda-rice-cake before leaving the airport. Until Zunda Saryo opened a branch in Haneda airport, I didn't know any other way to get one other than traveling all the way to Sendai. But, now you can taste Zunda Mochi at Haneda airport. This is also one of must-eat item when you visit Japan.

Airplanes in front of Mt. Fuji.

Chirstmas Tree in Terminal 1.

Zunda Mochi is one of the things you shouldn't miss in Japan.

Then I met with my former professor at Odakyu Umegaoka station. We had lunch at an Italian restaurant calld Earny's. He was near 90 years old but still sharp. We had very intellectually interesting discussion. By the way, I learned that students should eat on professors' wallet. So, I take my teaching assistants at least twice for a lunch meeting at least twice a semester.

Lunch at Earny's.

Then I was supposed to meet with my friends at Akihabara, so I made another stop at Beep, Suruga-ya, and Friends again. This is a season when Japanese people clear stuffs. So, I was hoping some used games were on sale at Beep. But, I didn't see anything new. FM-series computers were always second most-popular chasing NEC PC-88 and PC-98 series. They are still not very popular even after becoming retro :-( I found KidPix Jr. for FM TOWNS for 300JPY. I was not looking for this one, but if it were 300JPY, why not. Akihabara main street was open for pedestrian. We call it "Pedestrian Heaven." I heard it was suspended during the pandemic, but it was back. Very nice. Then I met with my college friends and had grilled chicken on a stick. I don't know why this dish cannot become popular like Sushi. We can buy chcken on a stick, but this source is special, and I rarely find it in the U.S. I forgot taking picture of my dinner this time.

Akihabara main street open to pedestrians again on weekends.

December 26. I moved from Tokyo to Hirosaki, aka Tsugaru region. There was no snow in Tokyo, but Hirosaki was snow covered. In fact, while Tokyo and surrounding regions were enjoying clear sky, many rural area were hit by record-breaking snow fall this year.

There are so many good bento boxes and I have only one stomach!

Back to Tsugaru.

Mt. Iwaki from home. There used to be less houses and power lines, and the Mt. Iwaki used to be better visible from there.

December 27 and 28, I stayed in an onsen, or hot spa, Iwaki-sou ( I could see local road from out-door hot spa, so I was suspecting I was visible from the local road, but I assure you this was a good spa.

December 29. It was my last day that I could go shopping before heading back Pittsburgh. I wanted to buy some books and shoes, but I couldn't find a good shoes. If I compromised, it was no different from getting a pair of shoes in Pittsburgh.

December 30. I visited my high-school friend living in Hachinohe. I have been to Misawa, where U.S. Air Force base is located. But, I've never been to Hachinohe although it was next to Misawa. So, he took me for a city tour.

Tsugaru Express in a snow shower.

Pacific shoreline in Hachinohe.

Katsu Curry was very good.

Kabushima Shrine.

December 31. I was going to fly back to Pittsburgh on January 1. I moved to Tokyo the day before. I tried to take a good shot of train, but it was deep. I guess I need more practice to get a real good shot. I understand why some people are hooked up to train photography.

Ou line local train.

Tsugaru Express.

Then I did some last shopping. I bought a book that I couldn't decide to buy or not to buy one book. Also, I bought "Emerald Dragon" for PC-9801 in the junk bin in Beep. I actually wanted a box to put on display next to Vain Dream 1 and 2, and Bible Master 1 and 2. I already had CD and FD of FM TOWNS version. I saw some games for FM-77 and FM TOWNS, but I already had them. When I talked with my college friends a few days ago, we talked about Gradius (Nemesis in U.S) for Nintendo Entertainment System. I thought it's a good game to put on display in Retro Game Night. I found a cartridge after checking three retro-game shops and bought it for 980JPY.

So long Hirosaki, until next time!

First-class seat of Tsugaru Express.

At Haneda airport. I bought some Salt-Butter Dorayaki. Man, it's too good! Why I didn't find it before?? Then I realized it was sold only between October and May. I used to be coming home in June. I was barely missing it.

Salt-Butter Drayaki, Dora 1.

January 1, 2023. Flying back to Pittsburgh. Since my wife and I stayed in the airport hotel, I took advantage and went to Terminal 2 Observation Deck to see sunrise. I thought not many people brave January 1 morning to come to Haneda Airport Terminal 2, but actually many people thought the same way as I did. So many people were packed in the observation deck. But, Tokyo Metropolitan Police was so well prepared. They were controling crowd very well.

Sunrise January 1, 2023.

In this trip, I had so many chances to see Mt. Fuji. Lastly, I could see it from the window of All Nippon Airways NH102 to Washington DC.

I hear many passengers complaining about in-flight meals. But, isn't it so fascinating to eat dinner at 37,000ft above ground? Human taste is influenced by environment. If you think it is special, you will feel it good. I think All Nippon Airways' and Japan Airlines' in-flight meals are better than other airlines actually.

The second Japan tour was good. I hope I didn't have to wear mask all the time next time. It concluded nicely.... So I thought, but there was one more drama remaining. All Nippon Airways somehow failed one of my checked bags. Actually, I put an AirTag in the bag, so I knew it was left behind as soon as I landed at Washington D.C. ANA employee already knew my bag was left behind. I filed a claim, and soon was told my bag would come to Pittsburgh the next day.

My bag left behind.

At night, about 8:39pm U.S. Eastern Time, my AirTag disappeared. Last known location was near Haneda Airport Terminal 3 Gate 110. Presumably loaded on a plane and took off. At that time, two flights departed to the U.S. from Haneda airport, ANA NH112 and JAL JL10 both heading for Chicago O'Hare. JL10 departed Gate 112, but NH112 departed Gate 141. My bag's last know location was closer to JL10. But, how come All Nippon Airways ask Japan Airlines to carry a lost bag? If ANA needs to ask someone else, it should ask United Airlines first. It was very unlikely that my bag was loaded on a Japan Airlines plane. Actually, Haneda airport terminal was built so that departing passengers cannot come close to the outside window. So, cell phones cannot pick up GPS signal, and the location information is mostly from the airport WiFi, in which case, my AirTag was not really near Gate 110. The location shown on my iPhone could just have been the WiFi-router location.

My bag apparently left Haneda 8:39PM Eastern Time.

The next day. I was following NH112 on Flight Rader 24. My AirTag was found almost as soon as NH112 landed at Chicago. 8:50AM U.S. Eastern Time. The first notification told it was at Haneda airport, but most likely a passenger's phone picked up the signal before its location information was updated. Soon, my AirTag was found near Chicago O'Hare Terminal 5 (International Terminal). Then, it should be loaded on United Airlines UA469 bound for Pittsburgh.

AirTag found near Chicago O'Hare Terminal 5.

It move to a wrong gate for short time, then,

Moved to Gate B19 where Pittsburgh-bound UA469 was going to depart from.

Around 11AM Eastern time, my AirTag moved to near B19 gate, where UA469 was going to depart from. Then, AirTag signal was lost around noon. It must have taken off. We also headed for Pittsburgh International. Almost as soon as UA469 arrived at the gate, my AirTag was found again at Pittsburgh International. Soon it came out with other checked bags. I picked it up, then talked to a United-Airlines employee that I picked it up by myself, and came home.


It was amazing. I put it in the bag just in case, but it really worked as advertised. If it were not for the AirTag, I never knew where it was, and when it was to arrive. I could have asked the airline to deliver it to my apartment. But, last time my bags didn't come with me, that was when north-eastern U.S. was hit by a heavy snow storm, the airline delivered my suitcases to my place, but left it outside. Never called me. Luckily I found it when I came down for checking mails. But, it was not secure. It takes just 30 minutes to get to the airport. I rather want to pick it up by myself, hopefully pick it up quick. This time, thanks to AirTag, I picked it up as soon as my bag came out at the baggage claim. I was very impressed. I am thinking to put one in my car, and put it on some other important stuffs.

Lessons learned: It is better to check a bag that has a easy color to describe. Also it is nicer to use a suitcase or a bag that has a brand name on it. Also, remember roughly what were inside the bag. All Nippon Airways apparently checked color, inside contents, and brand of the bag to confirm it was really what they were looking for. Luggage tag would help, but the paper with my name and address of one of the two tags fell off. This time, I was able to tell it was a blue High-Sierra brand bag, and some retro games, sweets, and books were inside. Also, make sure to put a tracker inside. I've updated my travel checklist accordingly.

Comments are welcome.  Send E-Mail to: 

Back to