A Travellerspoint blog

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Worldperks pro tip

surprising travel bargain

I forgot to mention this little gem. After I booked my ticket through the SkyTeam desk, it didn't automatically show up in my Delta.com information unless I searched using my confirmation number. No big deal, but once I had it loaded, I saw a offer to purchase travel insurance. I usually ignore these on shorter trips, but I took another look when I saw the price - $27 US for the whole trip! The offer included emergency medical and transportation ($25K !), trip interruption, etc. I grabbed it and the policy documents arrived by email in minutes; sweet!

Posted by tdeits 14:52 Tagged travel insurance bargains skyteam Comments (0)

In Japan - and it's Japan Robot Week!

View RTW Oct - Dec 2014 on tdeits's travel map.

It took us a while to link up after arriving in Tokyo at three different times and 2 different airports. The Haneda airport appears to be a perfectly good alternative to Narita, so don't pass it up if the fare looks better (as it often does on Delta).. The best solution for staying connected in Japan appears to be portable wifi routers that give you unlimited data over the wifi on your phone. If you have a wifi calling app in place, you are good to go.

Reading the paper in the AM, I discovered that this was Japan Robot Week - which meant that there was a trade show/convention on and this was the last day. Itt appears that robots are the theme of this part of the trip! We preregistered online and got there in time to see lots of robot stuff. The trends were generally in three broad categories - new tech for sensing environments, assistive robotics for the elderly and their caregivers and friendly robots for therapy and to give people the warm fuzzies about their new robotic overlords - heh, heh.

Here's a picture of a young boy absolutely mesmerized by a small dancing robot.


The most fun critter at the show was the robot barista who runs a Keurig machine to make coffee according to your order.

After the show, we had some tasty seafood at a Mexican-themed place for dinner and then crashed.

Posted by tdeits 15:53 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Tokyo - more bots!

View RTW Oct - Dec 2014 on tdeits's travel map.

On Saturday we headed out to Odaiba - an artificial island that is a tourist destination and office park that looks just like the future. Our first stop was the National Museum of Emerging Science It's a spectacular hands-on science museum that has quite a bit of material that is at a fairly adult level as well as stuff for younger folks. Here's the really amazing live globe that is a good 20 feet in diameter that displays various global features such as weather, temperature, ocean currents and more in a mesmerizing format.


The exhibits have a decidedly philosophical tone in part and just plain cool tech as well. Here are a couple of faves - a mechanical version of the internet that routes messages to destinations in the form of black and white balls


and Asimo (more bots!) who gets decidedly more agile every time I see it - in this picture it is hopping forwards and backwards on one leg.


Even more bots! Another exhibit explored the 'uncanny valley' - the idea that as robots become more lifelike they actually look creepier than more artificial constructs. Here's an example from the exhibit. This robot is controlled by an operator who converses with the audience; the robot can move, breathe, has facial expressions and is really, truly creepy.


There are arcades, giant ferris wheels, shopping malls, auto museums and other attractions within walking distance so this is really a cool place to spend a day. So we did - then ate some sushi and crashed again. The good news is that Robin and Michele were just as tired as I was so I knew I had had a good workout as well as good fun.

Posted by tdeits 17:00 Archived in Japan Tagged museums science robots odaiba Comments (0)

Serenity, Shopping, Amusement and Moar Robots!

sunny 74 °F
View RTW Oct - Dec 2014 on tdeits's travel map.

Have I mentioned the weather? No - but the pics tell the tale. It has been absolutely perfect with temps in the mid 70's, blue skies and light breezes and Sunday was no exception.

We started out as usual from our AirBNB place near the SkyTree - new humungous communications tower/tourist attraction. Here's a pic of its reflection in a nearby office building.


By the way, Airbnb worked for us here - good comfortable and clean place in the middle of Tokyo for about $100/night for 2 bedrooms.

Our first stop was the Senso-ji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo and a huge destination for worshipers and tourists. To approach the shrine you have to navigate a sea of visitors flanked by shores consisting of a half mile of stalls selling everything from the cheapest trinkets to $400 chopsticks. Here's what Sunday morning shopping looks like there.


oh- and there are side streets off this street that are equally busy!


One thing Robin and I were looking forward to is a street food called takoyaki, or octopus balls. They are little quick-cooked balls of batter encasing a bit of octopus and we found them delicious on our last visit. The making of them involves considerable dexterity as well. Sadly, the takoyaki stall we found (a temporary one, probably not a good sign) had a guy who was actually not at all good at making them and they really didn't taste too great either.

The temple is of course spectacular - a few quick shots.


Surprisingly, there are many rather serene spots within all the commotion.


But enough serenity! There is also a charming amusement part steps away from the temple, Hanayashiki. As a frequent visitor to Cedar Point, the Nirvana of roller coaster parks, it looks kinda bitsy. In fact, I think you could fit the entire park into one of the areas set aside for waiting line for one ride at Cedar Point. Nonetheless, they have managed to pack a dozen or so (quite mild) rides into the space and it's just fun to wander around (1000 yen admission). We caught a Halloween special show as well! Yes, Haloween has been appropriated for marketing purposes, but (so far) it isn't the overwhelming phenomenon of Christmas in Tokyo that Robin and I experienced last trip.


In addition to the rides, the park has a number of beautifully cared-for pocket gardens, often in hidden spots (like the very top of the wall surrounding the park). Here's a look down from there on a ride and its gardens.


Well, I promised you moar robots and you have been very patient. We went to the famous Robot Restaurant and it is as over the top as you can imagine. The show is crammed into a small theater many floors underground in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, an area replete with individuals of negotiable virtue but not excessively uncomfortable for the average tourist. the stage is maybe 2 living rooms in size and during the show is crammed with a hallucinogenic collection of crazy spectacle. Pictures are allowed, which is, frankly, kind of surprising, but cool because the dancers (LOTS of dancers) will mug for pics during the performance.


Now that is some heavy-duty touristing for one day!

Posted by tdeits 14:28 Archived in Japan Tagged restaurant asakusa robot octopus balls Comments (0)

No Robots AT ALL

semi-overcast 74 °F
View RTW Oct - Dec 2014 on tdeits's travel map.

After the madness of Sunday, I planned a quieter day while Robin and Michele visited friends. Decided on museum hopping. Sadly, I forgot the First Rule of Global Museum Visiting - All museums are closed on Monday everywhere!! Never forget this, grasshopper - it will save you much anguish in your travels.

Undaunted, I wandered around through some parks and residential areas near the Koto area with no clear aim. I did discover an interesting item related to my search for unusual UAC's (Utility Access Covers - see the On to Japan post for what this is all about). The sidewalks were decorated with beautiful inset ceramic tiles with a nature theme and styles that varied street-by street. Here are some examples.


I also encountered what has to be the worlds largest pedestrian bridge. Yes, that speck on the right side of the bridge is an entire pedestrian!


I decided to take an afternoon run down to Yokohama. It's a pretty easy and inexpensive hour or so on Japan Rail commuter trains to get there. The area I walked through (between the Yokohama train station and Yokohama Bay) has more in common with Houston than Tokyo. It's all brand new, very car-centric with wide traffic-filled streets and big office buildings. Also some pretty fancy auto dealerships.


I also ran across a particularly horrifying concept in retail shopping. This is a shop just opened by a Danish chain. The store is designed so that you are forced to go down every single aisle in order to exit the place! And sadly (because pirates are so awesome) it's pirate-themed, to the point that store clerks have to wear pirate hats. arrgh.


One bit of nature was a crane that allowed me to slowly sneak up on it and get a decent picture.


Yokohama was also a somewhat more fruitful venue for interesting UAC's - here are a couple.


Had a fancy dinner at a floating restaurant overlooking the bay for a treat. Delicious brochette of perfectly grilled seafood for a main course with appetizers, soup and dessert. Quite nice.

Hopped the train home and called it a night.

Posted by tdeits 15:02 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo uac yokohama Comments (1)

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