Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Day 6: Tokyo

This was our one day of bad weather.  The day before there was some rain, but the heaviest was while we were on the train.  Not today!  We got soaked but we didn't let it stop us!
Start and end of the Cruise: Hama Rikyu (right) and Asakusa pier (left), with view of SKYTREE and the Asahi building
 After sleeping in, we headed downstairs for an American breakfast at the New Sanno.  It was delicious.  After we (over-)fortified ourselves, we headed out into the elements (so brave, ha ha).  First, we went to  the Hama Rikyu gardens, an old imperial duck hunting grounds now turned city park.  It's very beautiful with lakes, gardens and a tea house.  It's a funny incongruity to see such a beautiful garden flanked by skyscrapers on three sides (the fourth side is the Sumida River).  We were there to catch the Sumida River Boat Cruise.  There were two signs with different times and fortunately I listened to Dad (hi Dad!) and we caught the 10:00 boat up the river towards Asakusa.  The boat first stopped at Hinode Pier, which would be the place to catch it if you didn't want to pay the garden entrance fee (only Y300, as are many historical tourist destinations in Japan).

Then we went up the river for a 40 minute cruise where we saw 13 architecturally different bridges, the sumo stadium (Ryogoku) and finally, Asakusa pier.  It's a really nice, mellow way to see Tokyo from a different vantage point.
Sensoji Temple and Pagoda.  Not many pictures were taken today.
Asakusa was where we got soaked.  We walked up the Nakamise and bought some yummy rice cracker streets.  Then we went into the main building of the Sensoji temple, a famous Buddhist temple.  There's an Old Edo feel to the area and in sunny weather, it's delightful.  We made a dash for the train station in a (futile) effort to stay dry.  We took the train to Ometasando and ate in the cute, French-themed food court.  Then we walked down Ometasando-dori and admired the modern architecture.  We tried to find a wine bar Mom and I had been to last time but time passes and 6 years later, the wine bar was no more.  We strolled along the main Harajuku street which was interesting but a little sad since Mom was unable to find a Hello Kitty iPhone case for her iPhone 4 (single tear).  We tried hard though!

Seen around Tokyo: Mixed message gnomes (smiley face, wait, what are the gesturing?), dog boutique with gross dog and "cute outfit," donuts in bags because that's where they belong and a baseball poster made out of flowers
Then, it was off to the New Sanno to dry off.  That night, we went to Pizzeria Sole y Lune and had some delicious pizza right near the hotel.  Then it was off to bed!


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Day 5: Nara

I woke up and was pleasantly surprised that my feet were still attached to my body.  I thought I had walked them off the day before but nope!  There they were, ready for another day!
On my "To Do Next Time" List
The weather, which had been amazing, was now starting to turn a bit.  It was cloudy with some drizzle but off we went to Nara after a little sleeping in (for Mom and Dad).  I walked around the neighborhood of our hotel in search of breakfast.  I found the Inoda coffee shop, which is quite famous but didn't seem to have take-away.  It was a coffee restaurant.  I appreciate the dedication to the full-imersion coffee experience but that wasn't what I was looking for that morning.  I walked passed a huge queue of people waiting for an Impressionist exhibit at the museum to open.  Impressionism- worldwide appeal.  After the line, I came upon Paul, a nice coffee shop/bakery that apparently has forty branches worldwide.  They had awesome coffee and croissants.  Yum, yum, yum!
Rock Garden- do you see the smiley face we painted on one?
Mom and I really wanted to see Ryoan-ji, a Zen temple with a famous 25 m x 10 m fifteen rock garden that is an object of meditation.  From any vantage, you can only see 14 of the 15 rocks.  There's a small replica that is present for blind people to feel out but thanks to Mom and I, they think there are only 14 rocks!  Ha, ha!  Stealing rocks to trick blind people- so funny! [Just kidding!]
Ryoan-ji grounds
While the rock garden and temple are really cool, what Mom and I had both forgotten is that the grounds are absolutely gorgeous!  This temple was at the top of our favorites list.  We walked around the small lake and admired the irises, the beautiful residence, the trees- it was so tranquil and beautiful.  I highly recommend a visit here!

Next, we took a taxi to Kyoto main station and then the JR train to Nara.  At the station, we went to bus stop #1 and caught the bus to the main park Nara koen that has most of the main attractions.  I recommend the bus since it cuts off a mile walk and since we were already getting plenty of exercise, it was welcome!
CW from top left: Southern Gate, Daibutsuden, Daibutsuden and Deer outside the Gate
First, we saw the mangy Sika deer *ahem* messengers of the gods, per Shinto.  Bring some food.  Then those messengers will be all over you!  We walked towards Todaiji, a Buddhist temple dating back to the 1200s when Nara was the first capital of Japan.  We entered through the huge Southern Gate with the two huge statues of the Nio on either side.  The main building is the Daibutsuden which houses the Nara Daibutsu, or Nara Giant Buddha.  The wooden structure is said to be the world's largest wooden building and it is very impressive.  The Great Buddha inside is the world's largest statue of the Buddha Birushana, a 500-ton bronze statue that is 49.1 m tall!  Inside to the right of the Buddha is a wooden pillar with a hole in it.  If you can crawl through it, good things will happen to you.  Various sources say you'll reach enlightenment in this lifetime, you'll be in good health, you'll have good luck, etc. I don't know other than there was a huge line of Japanese school kids getting pushed/pulled through so fast it reminded me of the Santa Claus scene from The Christmas Story.
The Big Buddha and assembly lines to get kids through the lucky column 

Katsuga Shrine with a Deer Warning sign thrown in 
Then we walked uphill (yay!  More hills!) towards the Kasuga Shrine, a famous Shinto shrine where we were actually lucky enough to see a Shinto ceremony in progress.  There were several men chanting and playing traditional instruments while 4 priests prayed in the middle of the room.  It was really cool and we felt like it was a serendipitous highlight.  There was also some beautiful wisteria on the grounds and we took a few pictures.
Lantern Forest (not the official name)
Then it was back down the hill through the Kasugayama Primeval Forest and the 3000 stone lanterns.  It was very serene and beautiful.  Then we waited in the rain (with umbrellas) for our bus, hopped on the train and headed to Tokyo.

We checked in late to the New Sanno.  Mom and Dad loved the hotel.  It is spacious and really nice.  They had been expecting Hale Koa level of amenities and it is definitely a step up from that but at half the price of other Tokyo hotels.  Score!
Shibuya crosswalk
We at a hodgepodge dinner of sandwiches and then Dad and I headed out for a quick visit to the Shibuya crosswalk with all the bright lights and teems of people.  Then it was off to bed.

Oyasumi nasai!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Day 4: Kyoto

Matsuda-san, pointing out his name on the temple donor wall
 Day 4 was a nice day because we left the tour guiding to someone else.  My XO and his awesome wife highly recommended 松田 和久 (Kazuhusa Matsuda) of Meet Us Kyoto as a tour guide.  He's a retired banker.  He used to be the Kyoto Branch manager for a large Japanese bank.  For five years, he gave tours on the weekends only and kept it a secret from work.  Now he's retired from banking but gives several tours a month, depending on how busy the tourist season is.
The main gate and aqueduct of Nanzen-ji
We met him at 0900 in the lobby of the hotel and had a cup of coffee before heading out.  The plan for the day was exploring the Eastern part of Kyoto by following the Philosopher's Walk.  After that, we were going to go to Daitokuji, a complex of several smaller sub-temples.  Next, we were invited to a tea ceremony hosted by Matsuda-san's wife and finally, we would get a tour of Nijo castle.  What a jam packed, awesome itinerary!
Nanzen-ji aqueduct
We took the subway from our hotel to the start of the Philosopher's Walk.  There, we saw Nanzen-ji, an old Buddhist temple.  There was a really neat large wooden gate.  We explored the ground, including the European-inspired aqueducts.  We walked to the top and it was really beautiful and serene with the sound of flowing water.
Small shrine (Rokan-ji) along our walk with animal guardians.

Rokan-ji with the shiny copper roof and animal guardian.
We headed down the path for about a mile, and then went uphill to take a course parallel to the Philosopher's Walk that was less touristy and had several cool temples.  We saw a neat temple (Rokan-ji, based on the map photo I took) with several animal guardian statues.  Matsuda-san actually donated to the temple to help replace the copper roof.  He thought it was "too shiny" but that it would fade over time.
Entrance to Honen-in
Gardens of Honen-in
Then, we walked some more (theme of the day) to Honen-in, with a beautiful garden and small lake.  There was also a small raked sand garden that was very tranquil.  Finally, we approached the end of the Walk at the Ginkaku-ji, or Silver Temple.  We loved this temple!  It was styled as a tea house and not silver, in fact, since the patron ran out of money before silver leaf could be applied.  The gardens are what completely captivated us though.  They were so gorgeous.  There was some mild drizzle that day which really made the green moss especially vibrant.
Sand Garden at Ginkaku-ji

Silver Temple (Ginkaku-ji) and grounds
After the walk, we headed to Daitokuji.  First, we had lunch at a yummy soba-ya.  While we were eating, I looked up and saw that Matsuda-san was profusely sweating.  I was nervous since he had said he was feeling under the weather that day.  He said he was fine and later, explained that he thought that's when his fever broke because he felt much better!  He said, "Soba is my medicine!"
Daitokuji has lots of sub-temples and Matsuda-san brought us to his favorite, Koto-in.  There is a beautiful tea house with tatami mats and gorgeous moss garden.  Inside, there's a lamp that marks the gravesite of the patron.  A back corner of the lamp is missing because the master liked the lamp so much, he damaged it rather than give it to a higher up that had requested it!  It sort of looked like every other stone lamp we had seen and when asked what was special about it, Matsuda-san said "It has a beautiful shape."
Now, THESE are some lamps!
Next, we went to Matsuda-san's house where his wife Noboku hosted a tea ceremony.  We were very nervous since we didn't know what to and right before she gave Dad the tea cup (he was first, ha ha!), she let us know that the cup was a 400-year old antique.  Fortunately, none of us chipped or broke it!  Phew!
Nijo Gate and the source of the Nightingale Floor sound

Finally, we headed to Nijo Castle.  Two really cool things I learned is one, the hall that shows the feudal lords gathering is actually the room where the Shogun received and handed back power to the emperor (the two events were separated by several centuries).  It was amazing to see the room that had so much history, which was now filled with feudal lord mannequins.  Two, I saw how the Nightingale floors make the sound, with two metal spikes at the edge of several floorboards.  

It was a great day and we were pretty pooped.  Still, we found the energy to go to Gion Corner to watch a cultural show.  It's a little cheesy, but it's cool in that it shows dancing Maiko, which we wouldn't otherwise be able to see.  We ended with dinner at Iyemon salon, a restaurant right next to our hotel.  It was delicious!  They had a nice mix of Japanese food and some Western dishes for some comfort.  We had an awesome grilled tofu dish that was sort of pizza-like, a seafood pasta gratin, grilled ginger pork and two orders of assorted tempura.  We had a wonderful dinner and then headed off to bed.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Day 3: Arashiyama, Kyoto

Little o-jizos
We slept in a little bit on Day 3.  Then it was off to the Western part of Kyoto to Arashiyama, a beautiful, less urban part of the city where we explored several temples and walked through beautiful bamboo forests.

We took the public bus with a few dozen of our new best friends for half-an-hour.  Hmmm, this was not the best way to start the day and may I suggest the train in the future?  Both the JR and Keifuku Electric Railroad head out that way and it may have been more enjoyable.  Also, the Randen line is a streetcar line that goes out that way.  That also may have been nicer.

Top: Tenryu-ji garden Bottom: Happy Dad on Tatami
We arrived and saw the Togetsukyo bridge crossing the Hozu river.  It was really pretty but I knew we had a big walking day ahead of us so we just admired it from the bus window as we headed to the Tenryu-ji bus stop.  Tenryu-ji is a beautiful Buddhist temple with gorgeous gardens that include the nearby mountains, Kame-yama and Arashi-yama, as part of the recruited landscape that is part of the garden view.  Shakkei is the term for using surrounding landscape as part of the garden composition.  The garden was designed by Muso Soseki (early 1300s), a master gardener, and it's thought to be relatively unchanged from its original form.

The temple served as the only legal middleman for China-Japan trade in the 1300s-1400s.  As a result, it became very wealthy.  We thought it was really beautiful and Dad once again fell in love with walking on tatami mats.
Top: Washi paper fans Left: Flowers at Gio-ji Right: Bamboo forest
We walked around the gardens and then went out the North Gate to the Sagano Bamboo Forest/Trail.  It was really pretty, which is not how I ever really thought of bamboo.  I always thought bamboo was relatively common and almost weed-like since it grows so fast and spread but it is really pretty and the trail was so quiet.

We exited the trail and went to a cute coffee shop/pizza place for lunch.  It was clean, cute and airy.  The pizza was delicious!  I wish I wrote down the name.  I thought I had it on the receipt but when I asked Miyumi-san to translate, she said it just said, "Receipt."  Oh.  *Sad trombone*  But if you want to go, make the a right at the bamboo forest t-intersection, walk past Okochi Sanso, make your first right and its the third(ish) building on your right (a field will be on your left).  After lunch, we went to a small shrine across the pond which ended up being the Shrine to the God of Hair.  This made for a very funny joke the next day when Dad told our tour guide that the day before he went to the shrine, he was bald!

Then…we started walking.  We found a beautiful washi paper store and bought quite a few things.  In return, they gave us a walking map and highly recommended Gio-ji.  I'm so glad they did.  It had my favorite moss garden of the trip!  It was so serene and pretty.  I highly recommend it, too!

Next was what I call "The Letdown Temple."  I really wanted to see the temples with the expression-filled Buddhas.  When I came across the sign for Adashino Nenbutsu-ji and the 8000 Buddhas, I thought I was in luck.  Eight THOUSAND cool carved Buddhas.  Yeah!  Well, nope. The sculptures were more like lumps of rocks with some features here and there.  Boo hoo!  Where were my funny-faced statues?!?!?
YAY!  My favorite temple with scary guard statue (top right) and resident bell-ringer (bottom left)

Up the road!  Yes, uphill (woo hoo, parent torture tour continues!) about 10 minutes past the Ichi Torii gate (keep it to your left) was the Otagi Nenbutsu-ji temple.  Notice how only the first word is changed.  Tricky, tricky.  Anyway, HERE was the temple I was looking for.  There were so many kawaii statues.  And although there are only 1200 instead of 8000. I was very happy!
Dad had my camera and documented his favorite thing: tourists taking selflies.  One picture is not a selfie (guess!)
The end of the temple touring day was nearing and since we were on the Western side of town, I wanted Mom and Dad to see the Golden Temple, Kinkaku-ji.  It was crowded and a very different vibe from Arashiyama but I'm glad we went.  We didn't have time for Ryoan-ji, but fortunately we saw it our last day of Kyoto (foreshadowing!).

Dinner was tasty.  We went to a Kyoto place that I read about on a blog that must be in every guidebook because it was completely filled with white people.  That was a first for me in Japan- even base is more diverse!  But the gyoza were pretty awesome.  Then we went to a chain izakaya and ordered lots of delicious food in my very best J-english.  Then it was time for bed.  We had a tour guide the next day.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Day 2: Miyajima and Hiroshima

Early morning, Miyajima
I woke early in Miyajima and had a couple of hours to spend while Mom and Dad slept.  I went on a walk to the Mt. Misen ropeway station.  It was so quiet and serene in the early morning.  Momijidani park along the way was beautiful.  I walked along the little river and sat in my new mental relaxation spot- you know, the one you picture when you have to think of a happy place?  Yes, that was it!  There were beautiful old houses/inn rooms, maple trees and a small waterfall.

I went back to the hotel to wake up the two sleeping beauties.  I felt really badly because I could tell they were in deep sleep, but it was time for breakfast!  We ate in a tatami room downstairs.  Mom and Dad had the Western breakfast while I had the Japanese tray.  It was pretty good although we established Mom and Dad are not "fish for breakfast" people.
Views from Itsukushima
We walked through the Itsukushima Shrine, which had been closed the previous day.  The orange hallways were above sand this time since the tide was very low.  The connected rooms and shrines were beautiful.  On exiting the Shrine, we walked straight ahead to the Zen temple Daiganji, which was built in 1201-1203.  The temple was in charge of the maintenance of several Shinto shrines on the island until the Shinto-Buddhism separation of 1868 in the Meiji Era.  The shinbutsu bunri was a nationalistic policy to separate the two traditions since the Shinto religion was regarded as truly Japanese, while Buddhism was foreign.  A lot of Buddhist temples were closed or converted but ultimately, Buddhism survived since Buddhism was the tradition most used for funerals and graves.  (Please note, this is only a small snippet of historical explanation courtesy of the internet.  One thing this trip has inspired me to do is learn more about Japanese history!).
Right: Five-storied pagoda Left: Senjokaku
Then, we walked uphill and up several stairs (this was to be a recurring theme of the vacation) to admire the five-storied pagoda up close and the Toyokuni Shrine (Senjokaku), the hall of 1000 tatami maps which is incomplete.  The shrine was going to be a Buddhist library for the monthly chanting of sutra, but the sponsoring warlord died before construction was complete.
We walked along the (flat!) shopping main street and stopped in at an okomomiyaki shop where Mom and ate over 5 years ago (sagoy!).  It was delicious and it was nice to refuel after all our walking.  Perish the thought of a calorie deficit, ha ha!

Atomic Peace Park
Next, we took the ferry back to the mainland and headed to Hiroshima.  We locked our bags in the station and tried to go to a Carp baseball game.  No luck, sold out!  Boo.  So, we went to the Hiroshima Peace Park.  We saw the Atomic dome, the Cenotaph that holds the names of the victims, the Peace Flame and the epicenter marker, which is actually outside the Peace Park.  Before heading into the museum, we stopped for a quick refreshment at Cafe Ponte.  The museum exhibits were extremely powerful.  While it wasn't a cheerful visit, all of us were so glad that we went.
Walking through the Peace Park
Once we finished going through the museum, we headed back to the train station and made our way up to Kyoto.  We checked into the Mitsui Garden Hotel Sanjo, which was a great hotel!  It was clean and comfortable, although maybe a touch small for Western tastes when sharing a room.  I had a room to myself so I reveled in the space in my special hotel pajamas provided!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Day 1: Arrival and Miyajima

I woke up early to pick up Mom and Dad from Narita.  I was running a little late and they landed early so we initially missed each other.  Mom, being the savvy traveller she is, had hurried to the JR pass line to turn in their vouchers for their coveted JR pass.  We met up and caught the Narita Express they had reservations for so no time was lost by our initial missed connection.

That day, we travelled a lot because we were on our way to Miyajima!  That's quite a trip, but we were pretty excited to stay in a ryokan, the Miyajima Grand Hotel Arimoto.  It was a beautiful, serene place and we stayed in one of the larger rooms with a nice-sized tatami room.  Before dinner, we walked down to the shore to admire the floating torii gate at sunset.  The gate is part of the Itsukushima shrine, a Shinto shrine on the sacred island.  The shrine floats over water, originally designed to prevent  ordinary people from stepping on the pure land.  Now that rule is much more relaxed since many tourists make their way over but even still, there are no hospitals or cemeteries on the island.
Entrance to the hotel
We returned to the hotel and I went down for a quick hot tub dip.  I showered off, as one should, and hopped in the tub.  There was one indoor and two small outdoor tubes.  I liked the upper outdoor one since it was a small, round wooden tub in a beautiful garden setting and it was the deepest of the three.  It was very hot and it was a good thing my bath time was short!

Dinner was an amazing, multi-course kaiseki meal.  The dress code was yakata robes and as you can see, we all complied!  We went down to the dining room and our places were already set with several amuse-boche size bites of food, including a small glass of liqueur.   After the small dishes, they brought hot pots over and lit the fire.  We had had the choice of oyster and eel and we all went with oyster.  It was incredibly good.  The broth was so savory and delicious and the oysters were huge.  This was one of my favorite dishes of the night.  

We also had a huge sashimi tray brought over with snapper, salmon, little fishies, conch and a big fish head which we left alone. Next, we had grilled oysters that were awesome.  We had a egg custard soup, which I normally love but didn't quite enjoy as much there.  There was a small broth-y soup (dashi?) that was tasty.  Mom and Dad got a beef plate next while I had fried fish.  This dish was incredibly small which was a good thing since there were so many courses.  Next, mixed rice was brought to the table.  It was good but we ate very little since we were starting to get pretty full.  We ended with a fruit cocktail dessert that was good but nothing exceptional.  My top dishes of the night were the grilled oysters, hot pot and the super-fresh sashimi.  

We rolled ourselves upstairs (hard to do, ha ha) and our futons were laid out.  We all went to bed and slept well.  The next day, we had plans to see more of the Itsukushima shrine and other temples of the island.  Oyasuminasai!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Working for the Weekend!

Ok, maybe Tuesday is a liiiii-tle too early to be singing that song, but I am so excited for my parents to get into town.  We have the best itinerary planned.

I'm also very excited because I am getting a lot done at work.  Last night, I finished a paper on portable vestibular evaluation devices that will hopefully be published.  I haven't heard back from the big cheese about it, but I hope he likes it!  It was the first late night I've had in a long while- yes, including (lack of a) social life too!

SMS pointed out that I've become quite a .gif fan.  This is true but I haven't been taking very many pictures of my own.  I plan to remedy that on my trip.  Did I mention that I'm going on vacation!?!?  Sagoy!

First stop- relaxing ryokan in Miyajima!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Work is the time between vacations

I really like my job.  Nerdy, but true.  It was a great week at work because in addition to two (!) OR days, a big project is finally getting off the ground and I'm really excited.  We have a home sleep study project that a contract was finally approved for and in two days, I've already booked 9 patients.  It feels awesome to blast a waiting list to smithereens and it's nice to have success from the very beginning.

What's interesting is that I don't love sleep medicine.  I do, however, LOVE sleep so sometimes my wish for other people to enjoy good sleep helps me focus on the positive aspects of sleep medicine.  The reason why I don't like the specialty is that the surgical interventions are limited with low cure rates and I am a person who likes to operate and achieve successful outcomes.

In addition, there is a large financial incentive for military members to have OSA.  Twisted but true.  If a person is diagnosed with sleep apnea, the VA rates their disability at 50%.  I won't go into the details too much but there are many people who see this as a reward for being fat, since obesity is associated with >75% of OSA cases.  And, despite how it looks in some workspaces, military members are supposed to comply with weight standards.

So, because some people see this money spent as a way to satisfy secondary gain from unprofessional (read: fat) military members, there is resistance to the program.  In response, I say that OSA is a disease with significant morbidity if left untreated.  In terms of "rewarding" being overweight, a large portion of all our health care dollars is spent treating chronic medical conditions linked with excess body weight (coronary artery disease, Type 2 Diabetes).  So, we need to treat the patient population as they are while encouraging weight loss, healthy eating, tobacco cessation, etc and we still need to diagnose and treat OSA.  The home studies are 1/4 the cost of sleep lab studies and equally accurate in diagnosing OSA.  I think the program fills a need in a cost-effective way and more importantly, that's what my boss thinks.  Since my boss told me to take on this project and see it through, I did it.  The end.

Moving on!  My projects are going well and most importantly, they're at a place where I can leave them on auto-pilot while I tour around Japan with my parents next week!  I'm so excited and look forward to all the fun we will have!  After that trip, there will only be 8 more days until SMS arrives in Japan for good.  Hooray!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Funday!

A little beach visible from the boardwalk across the street from the Yokosuka Art Museum.  The hills with
the trails are in the background, but the beach and rest stop look good too!
Today was a beautiful Spring day!  I did some Spring cleaning and the apartment looks awesome.  After cleaning up, I headed out for a 6 mile roundtrip run to the Yokosuka Art Museum.  I love the run because it's along the coast, seawall path and a cool dock near the Art Museum itself.  I wanted to run the trails by the art museum but I was out of time since I was meeting up with two friends for Park Golf!  Hooray!  I love Park Golf!

What's in your garage?  Oh, you know.  Just a shrine.  Kind of hard to get the car
out in the morning.
I went to Park Golf with two friends of mine who are also missing their significant others.  Aaron is marrying my good friend book in May and then they will both be here!  Sagoy!  I cannot wait to see Brooke again.  She's a good friend of mine from San Diego and I will be so happy to have her out here.  Carl's wife is deployed and she'll be out here in July.  I can't wait to meet her.  She deployed only a few weeks after I got here and the first month I was here, I was busy dealing with housing and getting ready for the boards.

So, the big news in Park Golf is that I got a hole in one!  Course A, hole 3!  This got a lot of cheers from fellow Park Golf enthusiasts!  However, I still did not win in our group.  Whah!  I had a lot of bad holes but it's sort of ok because it simply means that I will have to play more of my favorite game!

Hole in one! Hole in one!
The course was beautiful and the day was great.  Prior to park golf, we went to a delicious yakitori place where we were painfully ordering the yakitori one at a time.  Since I was very hungry post-run, this was slightly sad for my tummy but in the end, I was very happy.

For dinner, I went out to Hamakura with a group that included Sean who is here from Singapore for the week!  It was great to see him and hopefully, I will see him again before he heads back.  Overall, it was a great day with lots of sporty activities and hanging out with friends. 

Welcome back to Work!

So, I was back to work on Wednesday and had a pretty busy clinic.  I was prepping for my cases the next day when an Outlook reminder popped up that there would be a DESRON cave tour in 15 minutes.  I debated in my mind whether I wanted to go.  I was leaning towards no when my mind said, "Oh, just say yes!"  So I went.  I figured it would be something pretty unique and paperwork could wait.  I did, by the way, head back and finish it after the tour.
The group walked over from the hospital and met outside DESRON.  The entire concrete building is built within the walls of man-made caves.  The caves were built starting in the early 1940s by prisoner-of-war slave labor, mostly Chinese and Koreans.  The caves were built by pick-axes and the individual strike marks are still visible on the walls.

First, we went into the conference room, a two-story room with a huge map of the entire Pacific region.  It goes back to the early 1950s and therefore, shows a unified Korea and Vietnam.  I forgot to look over  at India so I don't remember if Pakistan was marked separately.  I imagine it would be since the partition was in 1947, but I don't know.  

It was cool but I was a little disappointed that I wasn't in any cave.  I wanted to go spelunking!  Well, I got my wish.  We went into the caves.  There are room for everything and tunnels that vary in size from shoulder-width to high/wide enough to drive trucks inside!  It was pretty dark except at the very entrance where there were some portable electric lights.  In certain parts of the tunnels with all the flashlights off, we could faintly make out light from the different air shafts.

We saw the hospital area with wooden stretcher holders, canteen and offices.  It was really an incredible tour and I'm so glad I decided to go on it!