Long time since i did this… so much for 1 a day. Next day i planned to head up to Asahikawa city (旭川市: morning sun river) in the afternoon, leaving the morning for Sapporo.  The first thing i did was head over to Sapporo TV tower to get a view of the city.  The TV tower is at on end of Odori Koen (大通公園 : Big street park). The photo should make it pretty obvious why it’s called that.

Odori park from Sapporo TV tower

Odori park from Sapporo TV tower

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After Shiraoi it was back to Sapporo on the Super Kamui limited express Although Sapporo city is written 札幌市, the name is believed to come from Ainu (サッ – ポロ – ペッ: large dry river).  As in fact are the two other places i’ve been: Shiraoi from シラウ – オ – イ (A place with many horseflies) and Noboribetsu, from ヌプㇽ – ペッ (Muddy river).

Sapporo is very young city, having grown from almost nothing just 100 years ago.  Because of its modern development it is built on a grid, in the US style. They say it makes Sapporo easy to navigate, but i always found the US grid a little tricky; all the junctions look the same.  Regardless, i didn’t have much trouble finding my way round.  but something else of foreign cities has affected Sapporoites: i saw more jay walking in one night here that in the previous year of visiting Tokyo.  Maybe it’s the grid, maybe it’s the winter cold, i dunno.

Anyway i got back quite late.  My mission for the evening was to get ramen (‘Chinese’ noodles).  It could be said that my mission on a great many evenings is to get ramen, but this evening in particular because Sapporo is famous for ramen, and is also the birthplace of my second favourite variety: Miso Ramen.  This probably can be blamed on the winter cold too.  Read the rest of this entry »

The train from Noboribetsu to Shiraoi was a little local train, by far the oldest-looking train i’ve seen in Japan.  Although Ibaraki prefecture makes Tokyoites and visiting JETs reflexively say ‘inaka’ (田舎: countryside, the sticks) that’s more because it’s close by than anything else.  In actual fact Ibaraki is practically Tokyo suburbs, and the state and capacity of the railway lines reflect this.  It was pretty clear though as soon as i reached Shiraoi station that this was properly remote, non-urbanised, Japan.     (Also, by rule of thumb: if the tourist map shows the local chemical works prominently, then you may be in an economically depressed area)

Shiraoi station

Shiraoi station, probably the quietest station i've seen in Japan (Although, about as many trains stop here as my hometown station back in the UK.)

Shiraoi was, however, the first place i included when planning my itinerary…

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After arriving at Sapporo, i grabbed a bunch of maps, and a bite to eat and then got the shuttle bus to my first destination: Noboribetsu (登別).  More specifically i was heading for Noboribetsu Onsen.  Onsen (温泉) are  hot springs (also the public baths you get from them), so this is basically what you’d call a spa in English. If the water is not at least 25°C when it comes out the ground, or does not contain enough lovely volcanic minerals then the bathing facilities are classified as sentō, which are just public baths.

Oni and geyser

One of many Oni statues around town. The steam behind is coming from a geyser in the middle of the town that erupts every three hours.

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Okay so this is the first write-up of my Hokkaido trip.  I was going to make notes as i went along, but i was dumb enough not to bring the power lead for my laptop and ran out of battery on the first evening.  Good thing the laptop itself is quite small and light.

My holiday started properly at 19:03 in Ueno where i was taking the Hokutosei (北斗星, the Japanese name for the plough constellation) up to Sapporo.  As train journeys go it’s quite expensive, (about 200 quid at today’s exchange rates), but it’s a pretty long trip: about the distance from Paris to Edinburgh, so it takes just over 16 hours, which is about as long as i’ve ever spent on a vehicle without getting off.  There is an even more expensive train—the Cassiopeia—which cost up to ~£500, that books out even faster.

The Honshu Locomotive

The locomotive at Ueno. The blue and gold make the Hokutosei quite distinctive. I was part of a large crowd of travelers taking photos, one of whom you can see.

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Sake notes


Hummm… well i’ve let this thing dry up a bit huh?

Well lets use it for something.  I’ve been meaning to be a bit more systematic about buying and trying sake. I figured this might be a good place to keep notes.  I guess it might not be very interesting for most of you, but such is life. Ignore those tags i suppose. I’d apologise, but that assumes the rest of this blog is worth reading.  So if that previous post makes no sense to you, be reassured that it wasn’t exactly meant to.  It took an age to write as i had to find, copy and paste all the kanji and kana in from other websites. Hopefully it will be easier next time.  For my sake, not yours… =P

Brewery: 月桂冠 (Gekkeikan)

Style: 特別本醸造酒 (Tokubetsu Honjouzou)

Alcohol: 15%

甘辛: (Medium)

濃淡: やや濃醇

日本酒度: +1.0

酸度 (Acidity scale): 1.3

アミノ酸度 (Amino scale): 1.4


冷やして  (5~10℃)  ◎
少し冷やして (10~15℃) ◎
常温 (room temperature) ○
ぬる燗 (40~45℃) ◎
上燗 (45~50℃) ○

I tried this at room temperature when i first bought it and hiyashite there after. Was better chilled. This is the first Honjouzou i have (knowingly) had and i liked it the style.  The aroma is subtle, and the flavour is surprisingly strong in comparison.  I think that is typical for the style.  The flavour was quite meaty/unami almost salty… i guess amino scale-1.4 is higher than what i normally buy. Could quite happily quaff the stuff.
Has repeatedly won “Monde” International high quality gold award. I suppose that’s good, although i suspect it has more to do with Gekkeikan being one of the largest breweries.

Ah… wanted to write about some other stuff but theres been a lot of development here.  So let’s run things through…

  • Back on Monday, NISA released the 100th version of their Seismic Damage Information, which i guess is a milestone of sorts.
  • Yesterday some robots  from the US were able to go into the unit 1 and unit 3 buildings and make initial surveys and radiation measurements. As i think was expected, the radiation levels were rather too high for people to sensibly work in there (~50 mSv /hour; the total allowed dose for workers during an disaster is 250mSv if there is a need to protect people.)
  • The biggest news is that on Sunday TEPCO presented their long term roadmap for stabilising the reactors at the plant.  I found it quite an interesting read.  It’s going to be a while yet.  The first half of the plan is to bring the release of radioative materials down so that ionizing radiation levels are closer or in line with the normal background. After that, step 2 is to switch over to a more permanent containment. Step one is estimated to take 3 months, step two to be about 3~6 months after completion of step one.

Well i guess i’m not suprised about the time it’s going to take.  There’s been a lot of water poured over various buildings, and that all has to be pumped away before some of the work can begin, which will take a month in itself.  Read the rest of this entry »

Okay so change of direction…  I keep seeing this graph taken from the US Republican budget plan. It comes from a proposal called the Path to Propserity, by a guy called Paul Ryan, who i’m told is  the new darling of the American right.
US Paul Ryan's Path to prosperity HorrorGraph

It does not make sense to me. More specifically, the transparent red curve just doesen’t seem plausible.  I’ve seen this plot several times in mainstream media now, but not many explainations of it.  We have interwebs now so i went looking for an explaination. More on that at the end.  First i’ll try to explain why this thing sets off so many alarm bells in my head. Read the rest of this entry »

Hum well… i think i said this bog would have physics in.  So lets do some!  [That should have read blog i suppose, but perhaps bog is also an appropriate word-choice.]

Last month two surprising new results came out from Fermilab, where i worked for a time.  One is from my old experiment, and the other is from the labs biggest experiment, CDF.  Those links are to the papers themselves so i’ll put a piccie of each and some kind of explaination. I was going to post some of my own thoughts too… but the post is long  enough without that, so i’ll do that separately.
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