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Category Archives: Photography

On the way back from a ski trip we stopped in Hayward, Wisconsin to watch the American Birkebeiner cross county ski race. We were up early and parked in a remote lot and took a bus right down to the finish line. We found a place in front of the post office to watch the finish. There were not a lot of people around when we first arrived.

More photos from the American Birkebeiner can be found on my website.

It wasn’t long before the forerunners came skiing past.

We crowd watched until the snowmobile came by with the camera crew.

Just after the snowmobile with the camera crew came by the first racers quickly followed.

After watching some of the racers finished we walked over behind the finish line to see what was going on. A number of racers collapsed as they crossed the Finnish line.

There was a stand for the media covering the event.

There were a lot of metals to hand out. About 10,000 skiers participate in the various American Birkebeiner races.

At the finish the racers were able to replenish their electrolytes.

We then walked down main street to watch the racers come across the bridge over the main highway in town. The bridge offered a brief chance for the racers to catch their breath before the sprint to the finish line.

 

 

Last weekend we drove down to Clear Lake Iowa to see my brother and take in the Color the Wind Kite Festival. This was the second kite festival we have attended on two weeks after never having been to one before.

This was, by far, the largest kite festival we have attended. It was difficult to find a place to park in town. Fortunately we found a place that was only three blocks from the lakefront where the festival was taking place. The drive along the shore was packed with cars the entire time we were there. It looked like a lot of people wanted to drive by but not get out of their cars. Too bad it was a beautiful sunny day and relatively warm. As you can see there were a lot people out on the ice and a lot of kites.

There were a wide variety of kites.

There were lots of opportunities for the kids to play with some of the kites. Several of them were tethered to the ground and the kids could play in amongst them.

There were also some stunt kites. It was amazing watching them fly in formations and make acrobatic moves. When they were finished the all landed on the ice at the same time.

The younger kids had some places to play as well. It looks like the child in the first photo is making a fish mouth.

Of course there was always the opportunity to spend some time on the ice. In the case of the small child it wasn’t necessarily a choice.

 

Train travel is great. We traveled around the Tokyo area by train every day. It was great because trains or subway stations are located throughout the Tokyo area. They are on time and if you miss a train there is usually another one in a few minutes. The exceptions would be if you take a train to an outlying area where the trains might not run as frequently. You should know that trains stop running at midnight so you need to plan accordingly. Trains are very clean and quiet, There is no eating allowed or talking on cell phones. In fact it is rare to hear people talking on the train. Trains can be very crowded during rush hour so we planned our day accordingly. If you travel with a backpack it is suggested that you store the backpack on an overhead rack or wear it in front. Getting to and from the tracks on escalators has its own rules. You stand on the left and leave the right open for those who want to walk up the escalator.

Tokyo is clean. It is the cleanest city I’ve ever seen. With few exceptions we did not see litter on the streets in spite of the huge number of people. There are almost no public garbage cans or recycling cans to be found. This means that if you purchase something to eat or drink you are required to carry any litter back to your hotel. This is a good reason to carry a backpack and have a plastic bag handy.

Tokyo has recently enacted new smoking regulations that prohibit smoking on public streets. This is a big change since our last visit where we encountered a lot of smoking. The city has erected smoking stations throughout the city. We saw a number of them where there were long lines of men waiting to get in so they could smoke. Even parks and fairs have smoking stations

Japan knows how to do bathrooms up right. They have plenty of public bathrooms and they are free. For the most part they are very modern. They are usually a room rather than a stall. Unlike bathrooms in the US they are very clean. The toilets are usually Toto which means they have a bidet included. They have wipes and hand sanitizers available. Most have music or sounds of running water that you can turn on. We did encounter the traditional Japanese squat toilets in some of the parks.

We saw almost no graffiti in Japan.

We saw very few homeless people and even those we thought might be homeless might not have been. There were no panhandlers at all. It is nothing like what we find in large cities in the states.

Don’t tip in Tokyo it is considered rude. The price you pay for a taxi, or a meal is set and that’s what should be paid.

English is not spoken by most Japanese. It is interesting that they have one of the best programs in the world for teaching English in the schools but it seems to be lost once a person is out of school.

Tokyo seems to be very safe. We walked around at night with no problems. We did see police stations as we walked around but we saw very few police walking around.

This was our last day in Tokyo. We had a late afternoon flight and had to check out of our hotel by 10am. We decided to get moving early, pack up and take our packs over to Justin’s apartment and store them until we had to leave for the airport. We decided to go over to Shibuya. My wife wanted to find a UNIQLO and do some shopping.

I took a photo of these recycling bins in the train station because it was so unusual to find either trash or recycling bins in Tokyo.

We had problems finding the UNIQLO store in Shibuya. That was unusually because we had seen them all over the place. After walking around for about a half an hour we asked a policeman for directions and soon found the store. Unfortunately my didn’t find anything she wanted.

She was also looking for some little plastic cats with a solar panel embedded in them. The cats then waved when the sun was shining. We looked in this odds and ends store but couldn’t find them. One thing I don’t miss about Tokyo is the constant noise. Many of the stores have hawkers outside the store with bullhorns trying to entice people in. The noise is constant. Unfortunately we couldn’t find what we were looking for.

we then headed back to Shibuya Station and walked around Shibuya for a while. We took a few photos of the famous Shibuya Crossing and a photo of me at Hachiko’s Statue. This was the first time we were at the Statue that there were not long lines to get photos taken. Hachiko was famous because he always came to the station to meet his owner at the end of the day. One day his owner died at work but Hachiko came to meet him. It is a touching story because Hachiko continued to come to meet his owner for the next 10 until his death.

 

We then headed over to Shinjuku to look around. We wanted to get a bite to eat but got lost and Google Maps wasn’t working all that well. We finally found a place to eat and a route back to the station.

We then headed back to to Ookayama to pick up our packs and make our way out to the airport. On the trip back we encountered these school  kids running wild in the station. This was very unusual and the first time we had seen something like this. The only other misbehaved kids we saw on our visit were Americans.

Ookayama station was almost deserted when we caught the train for the airport.

 

It was Sunday and we took the train to Harajuku Station where we were going to meet Justin and then head over to the Dog Park in Yoyogi Park. Just as we arrived a large group was headed for Yoyogi Park.

While we were waiting we hung out at the Meiji Jingu First Torii gate Meiji Shrine complex. Linda was practicing some kind of fist move that activated a time delayed selfie. Justin had taught her how to do it the day before and she was having problems doing it.

Meanwhile I was busy taking candid photos of people entering the Meiji Shrine complex. Quite a few people were dressed up in tradition Japanese costumes.

I think there was a race taking place in the park and that was the large group that entered Yoyogi Park ahead of us. There were also groups of people exercising.

It was a beautiful fall day and there were growing numbers of people out enjoying the weather.

It was mid November and the roses were still blooming.

Justin and Carla had considered acquiring a dog but came to their senses before they pulled the trigger. Still they like to stop at the dog park and watch the dogs.

Many of the dogs were dressed up for the occasions. The miniature greyhounds seemed to be terrified in the park.

More people exercising and working on their martial arts.

Just such a beautiful fall day.

After visiting Yoyogi Park we found a place to get a bite to eat. Justin then took us on a walking tour of one of the worlds best shopping streets. It was amazing all of the high end retailers. Many of them had doormen wearing white gloves. Justin seemed to know where he was going so Linda asked him if he had ever been shopping here. He responded he shopped here all the time. Then pointed to a shoe store and said all of the clerks in that store wear English butler uniforms. This was clearly a step up from the typical mall shopping we do in the states and a far cry from Fleet Farm.

We then went over to Meiji Jingu Gaien. We wanted to see the Ginkgo trees in fall color. On the way we passed a Domino’ Pizza and noticed their delivery vehicles.

As we entered Meiji Jingu Gaien we noticed this couple feeding their large dog.

Unfortunately the Ginkgo trees had not turned yet but it was still a nice area to visit.

we hopped on a train and headed over to Hibiya Park where the Japanese Fisherman’s Festival was taking place. It was late in the day and the event was coming to an end. The last of the speeches were wrapping up as we walked by the main event stage.

The park itself was a typically beautiful Japanese garden. As with most of the parks we visited someone was working on the trees.

By the time we were ready to leave the park it was late in the day and the light really highlighted the fall color on the trees.

We were leaving the next day and we needed a plug for our headphones. We discovered the international flight to Japan required the two prong connector. We walked over to a Bic Camera store. We were leaving the next day and thought we had better pick them up while we had the chance. It was packed and there were seven floors of things to look at. It took us a while to find what we were looking for. It always helps if you have a picture on your phone of what you want.

We then headed to a smokehouse where we were going to meet Justin’s girlfriend Carla and her mother. They were excited because they were going to have an audience with the the Pope next week. In fact, the entire family was flying into Tokyo for the audience.

After dinner and another long day we headed back to our hotel.

 

We had been wanting to go to Yokohama so on a Saturday so our son was able to join us for the trip. This was taken outside the train station with Cosmoworld in the background.

We walked over to Cosmoworld  and then continued on to World Porters  where they were already getting ready for Christmas.

We then headed over to Shinko Central Plaza where we saw these artificial flowers planted for the winter season.

When we arrived at the Red Brick Warehouse area we found there was some type of event taking places. They had booths set up and an entertainment stage with various acts performing.

Looking back toward town there was a nice view of the downtown area.

We stopped in the Red Brick Warehouse for lunch.

After lunch we walked over to Akarenga Park where there was a race taking place. There were a lot of people in the race and many more hanging out in the park. The park has an interesting piece of work called Seagull harp

We walked around the Red Brick Warehouse area for a bit. I’m not sure what was going on in the second photo. I did a double take when it looked like he was carrying a girl.

We continued our wanderings over to Osanbashi Pier and ferry terminal that handles large cruise ships. The boardwalk was a bit unusual because it was not just flat. There was a large cruise ship at the pier.

The views Yokohama Bay from the end of the pier were spectacular. The first photo shows the Yokohama Bay Bridge and the second downtown Yokohama.

This Duck Tour Boat looked like was listing and about to sink. I wonder if they weigh passengers to insure that the weight on each side of the bus is equal?

I watched this group for a while. It looked like they were filming some kind of an act. They would practice for a while them film it.

We returned to the Red Brick Warehouse plaza where young people were performing in a stage area.

This little fellow was dancing to the music.

These folks were at an age when you wold expect to find children in the stroller but they had their dogs in the stroller. The birthrate in Japan is way down. Apparently dogs are easier than children to care for.

It was getting late in the day so we walked back to World Porters to grab a bite to eat.

We found an American Blue Seal ice cream store that met our needs.

After a bite to eat we walked over to Cosmoworld to checkout the rides.

We continued on to Nippon Maru Memorial Park to check out the tall ship Nippon Maru.

We then decided that we would go back to Cosmoworld and ride the Ferris wheel so we could watch the sunset from up on the Ferris wheel. There was a spectacular view of Mount Fuji looking through the tall buildings. The other view of the area where we spend the day walking around were outstanding.

We had been watching the roller coaster as it seemingly splashed into the water. We spent quite a bit of time trying to time it so we would get a photo of it just as it seemed to hit the pond.

It was now dark out but we had one more stop for the day. We wanted to see Japans larges Chinatown. we walked through Shinko Central Plaza where the artificial flowers we had seen earlier were not lit. They continuously changed colors.

The city lights were beautiful as we walked over to Chinatown.

We wandered the streets of Chinatown until we were satisfied we had seen it. I think our son was getting tired. Young people just don’t have the stamina.

I think these folks were doing palm readings. There seemed to be quite a few shops where this was taking place.

After a long day we headed back to Tokyo and a bite to eat before returning to our hotel.

 

After watching the balloon launch in Hudson, Wisconsin we drove over to the Kites on Ice Festival in Buffalo, Minnesota. We have never been to a kite festival so we didn’t know what to expect. There were a few kites that didn’t get off of the ground but folks had a great time getting their picture taken with them. It turned into a beautiful day for flying kites and for the spectators.

More photos from the kite festival can be found on my website.

Some of the kites were a little scary.

By the end of the day there were many kite lines out with multiple kites attached to each one.

Some of the kite flyers had all kinds of kites with them. In order to anchor the larger kites they would drill a hole in the ice, tie the kite to a 2X4 and put the 2X4 into the hole.

There were other activities in addition to the kites. The most popular were the dog sled rides. The line was long but everyone seemed to be having a god time.

For some reason folks like sitting on the ice. It was a little too cold for me.

 

 

This past weekend we drove over to Hudson, Wisconsin to attend the Hudson Hot Air Affair 2020 balloon rally. Launch time was scheduled for 7:35 am. We were up very early so we could make it to the morning launch. When we arrived in Hudson it was still dark out so we stopped at McDonald’s to get a bite to eat and wait for the sun to rise. When we arrived at the launch site some of the balloons were already starting to setup. The balloon is packed in a large bag so they have to empty the balloon on to the ground, untie it and then spread it out. They then attach the balloon to the basket. The next step is to start to inflate the balloon with a large powerful fan. Once it is inflated far enough they then start the burners to heat up the air causing the balloon to rise.

More photos from the Hudson Hot Air Affair can be found on my website.

 

Once the basket is setup they test the burners to make sure they work.

As the balloon inflates several people control the top of the balloon with a long rope. this prevents the balloon from wandering back and forth during the inflation process. As you can see in the first photo the crew member in the blue jacket is giving hand signals to the crew members  holding on to the rope. In the last photo there was only one person holding the rope and a gust of wind pulled him to the ground. Fortunately he held onto the rope while server other bystanders jumped in to help him control things.

Did I mention it was cold out? It was -15 and most people were bundled up. The person in the first shot looks like she was freezing to death. Oh, that’s my wife and she was freezing to death.

Fortunately it wasn’t long before some of the balloons were inflated and ready to be launched. The basket is tied to a vehicle so it doesn’t take off until they are ready. Once it is untied from the vehicle volunteers hang on to the basket until they are ready to launch.

After the launch we drove back to McDonald’s to get some coffee and warm up before heading to our next event.

 

 

We were up early because we had to catch the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station on our way to Nikko. Our goal for the day was to tour the UNESCO World Heritage Site Shrines and Temples in Nikko Japan Since it is easy to get lost in Tokyo Station we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to find the train. Turned out we had problems finding the train with all of the construction going on in the station. We finally found the correct platform and then had to wait for our train.

To get from Tokyo to Nikko, we had to take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station Utsunomiya; then, take the JR Nikko Line to Nikko Station. This was all on our JR Pass.

When we arrived at Nikko Train Station we had to decided to take a bus up the mountain or walk. We decided to walk.

This the center of town.

On our walk we passed a fire station where they were holding a drill.

Nikko is a big tourist destination and there were plenty of things to buy.

We encountered some construction. As is normally the case there were plenty of people available to make sure we got through the construction area without any problems.

Beautiful fall colors in front of a grand building.

By the time we reached our destination it was almost noon so we decided to stop and get a bite to eat before start touring the Shrines and Temples. It turned out to be a good decision because by the time we got our food the place was packed. My wife had to visit the bathroom and she wished se had taken her camera. She needed a tour guide to find it winding through the building and up a narrow stairs.

We had our usual noodles for lunch.

After lunch we walked back to the Shinkyo Bridge which crosses the Daiya River and is the entrance to the Nikko Shrines and Temples. For a small fee you can walk across the bridge. We had an interesting exchange with some Japanese tourists at the Bridge. I always ware my Green Bay Packers hat when I travel. Some Japanese tourists started chanting “go pack go” but one of them opened his jacket and displayed a San Francisco 49ers pin. Funny we should loose to them in the playoffs.

Linda at the Nikkozan Rinnoji Temple and checking the map to see where we wanted to go next.

There were some beautiful fall colors as we walked past Daigomado.

Toshogu Gojunoto was an impressive building.

Our next stop was the Futarasan jinja Shrine area.

We walked past Jogyodo where we paid our fee to enter another group of shrines.

Beautiful color on the walk to the Niomon Gate.

The Niomon Gate was a very impressive structure and gave a hit of what we would find beyond it.

We found this trough which brought water to a chozubachi from a spring in the hill.

The Japanese will go to great lengths to save a tree.

We arrived at Thu Thuy Xa  before walking up the steps to Rinoji Taiyuin Nitenmon.

Rinoji Taiyuin Nitenmon had some very impressive carvings.

Our last stop on the shrines and temple tour was Karamon Gate. This was a beautiful complex.

As we were leaving the park we managed to get lost and ran across this beautiful little park are next to a parking lot.

On the way out to the park we noticed a tapioca truck parked along the street. I love tapioca so we watched for it on the way back to the train station. When we found it but it was not what we expected. I was tapioca pearls mixed in milk. They provided an extra large straw so we could suck the pearls out of the drink. We quickly realized we had a problem. This was the first thing we had purchased on the street that required us to dispose of something. In this case what do we do with the plastic cup and straw. There are almost no trash cans or recycling cans on the streets. In this case since we bought it we had to carry it out. It’s always good to carry a plastic bag in your pack so you can carry disposables home to recycle them.

It was late in the day when I took this last shot from Nikko before we boarded the train to return to Tokyo.

We had one other event planned for the day. We met Justin, Carla and several other friends in Shibuya for dinner.

After dinner we took the train back to Ookayama Station with Justin. I had noticed the calorie counter on he station steps on a previous visit and wanted to make sure to get a photo of it.

My wife an I stopped at the local grocery store and then walked back to our hotel and called it a day.

 

 

Today we were off to Inokashira Park. We arrived at the train station before the rush hour.

I took a few shots from just outside the Musashino Station while I was waiting for my wife to get Google Maps up and running so we could find the park.

What can I say. My wife likes cats.

When we arrived at the park we walked across this bridge. We didn’t get very far before we became entranced by the antics of the ducks in the pond. It also helped that there were some nice reflection shots in the water.

The view down the pond from the bridge.

After watching the birds we continued our journey around the pond. I particularly like to photograph fall landpools (reflections) and there were a lot of them in the pond.

We continued to see wildlife as we walked around the pond.

Mid morning we passed the Blue Sky Cafe. As soon and my wife found out that they had donuts shaped like cats we had to stop.

There were quite a few people out in boats enjoying the beautiful fall day. On a weekend it is probably packed.

As we were nearing the end of our visit we noticed, what appeared to be, a class trip visiting the park and the kids seemed to be having fun. There were also adults out exercising.

We spent some time visiting the Inokashira Benzaiten a small Buddhist Temple in the park.

A few last shots of the pond before we headed back to the train station.

Just outside the park there was a small shopping street which attracted Linda.

One last shot from outside the train station.

We caught the subway over to Yushima Tenmangu Shrine.

The Shrine was not very big.

There was a small Japanese garden associated with the shrine. A family had dressed their little girl up in a traditional costume so I took a photo of her.

What we really came to see was the Chrysanthemum Exhibit that was taking place at the Shrine. It was Chrysanthemum season and there were exhibits all over Tokyo. This was by far the best exhibit we found.

After finishing at the Shrine we noticed there was a large park area not too far away. It was called Ueno Onshi Park and is noted for its lotus plants in Shinobazu Pond. In the fall the lotus plant were not all that impressive. It was getting late so we only manged to walk around a small portion of the park. It is a park that includes zoos and museums so it requires more than a an hours time to really experience it.

One of my hobbies is photographing wildlife and there was plenty of wildlife to photograph in the Pond.

As we were leaving the park we noticed this young man dressed in his school uniform walking along the street. In Japan young kids are trained at an early age to navigate the Tokyo train system and you can frequently see them walking alone on the streets and in the stations.

It was getting late so we started looking for a place to eat and the train station to take us back to our hotel.