Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My Visit to the Dentist in Japan

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A dining mishap resulted in two cracked teeth.  I researched local dentists, found an office near our house, and made an appointment.  They would have taken me that moment but I wasn't prepared.  I visited the office the next afternoon.  After removing my shoes in possibly the cleanest dental office I have ever seen, I was escorted to a private office where via my pocket translator I told them what was wrong and that I was an American.  They filled out the input forms, asked all the usual questions - allergies, general health history, etc. and then asked me to have a seat.

A few minutes later I was escorted into a large area with three exam chairs.  An all female staff prepared me for the dentist, a young woman of about 30.  She examined my issue, they took a couple of x-rays, and I was informed that I needed one new filling, that one of my cracked teeth would need to be re-filled and then built up, and that my damaged bridge would need to be repaired.  I got out my translator and asked when they wanted me back to do the work and made sure they understood I was only here for another week.  They shook their head and through the translator indicated all the work could be done right now.  I agreed and got ready for what I knew would be several hours in the chair.

Mind you I have been there a total of 20 minutes at this point.  She asked me if I had any pain and I said no.  She went to work without any anesthesia.   They put a electronic device on one of my fingers (not for was something for pain management) and something with a blue light in my mouth.  The drill sounded and I thought I was going to go through the roof. I felt nothing.  She worked on the one side with two issues.  Did the fillings and the build up, smoothed it all out, did a bite adjustment and then went for the bridge.   Another twenty minutes went by and I was done.

Three new repairs, everything felt good and I was on my way back to the desk where they began to prepare my bill.  I pulled out my credit card and was informed they only accept CASH.  Ugh.  I told them I didn't have much on me, about 5,000 YEN or $48 dollars.  They pointed to the bank across the street.  It had an ATM.  Then they handed me the bill.  I was expecting it to be about $300.  Guess what, I had enough cash.

One new filling.
One repaired filling.
One full buildup of the cracked molar.
One repair of the cracked bridge and crowns.
Full set of X-rays.

$46 USD.  And...if I had been a Japanese citizen with a government issued insurance card...everyone gets would have been free.

Our Third Week in Tokyo

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How We Got Started | How We Do It | USA Adventure | Iceland | The UK Adventure
Our Travel Club Arrives in Paris | Russia and the Trans-Siberian Railway
South Korea | Japan

We've made good use of our time in Greater Tokyo.  Our home has been in Komae (just a bit left of center) and from there we have utilized the train system (literally over a hundred different lines) to get around the city.  Each of the circles below indicates a region or district we visited...some more than once.

We planned our days around the cost of transportation trying to take in as much of a particular district as possible.  This meant leaving the house early and coming back late in the day.  We have two planned more adventures left in the next seven days...coupled with an unexpected visit to the dentist later this afternoon.

We took it easy this week getting in some daily walks through the neighborhood.  Our landlord loaned us bikes and we took in a 25 miles, three hours tour up the river over some pretty nice bike trails and then weaved our way back through neighborhoods to home.
We headed over to the Rainbow Bridge, given its name because of the nightly light show.  We walked across the bridge and into the Aqua City area where we attempted to go to a movie.  Once again foiled by the website in all Japanese, we opted to not pay $20 a head to see a new release and instead wandered the area.

We discovered Liberty's sister in one of the parks.
In the Odaiba area we visited the Museum of Emerging Sciences for a few hours.  Lots of cool stuff, robots and displays of new technology.

At the end of the day we headed home, watched a bit of TV to stay up late for the lunar eclipse, blue, and blood moons.  That was a treat.

Monday, January 29, 2018

My Evolving Art Process...New Inspiration...New Tools

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The teacher in me is alive and well

As time is not an issue these days I thought I would walk through my digital art process.  Since carrying brushes, paint, canvasses, and an easel don't fit into our travel model, I have turned to my laptop.  I have invested in an Intuos Art Pen and Tablet.  It will arrive next week when we relocate to Oaska.  In the meantime I am "old school" using a Bluetooth mouth and stylus pen.  Using my application I am having a blast creating impressions from some of my favorite photos from the trip so far.  When I get back I will have them printed on canvas for proper framing in our new home.  When the tablet arrives it comes with a software bundle of art programs like Corel Draw and Essentials 5.  However with all the plug-ins that Dave Block alerted me to, I may simply stick with  Like all art and our is an evolving process.

Step One - Start with a blank canvas to which I have added a pastel background.
Step Two - I add dots of color for the sunset.

Step Three - I smudge the colored dots to spread out the using a palette knife.
Step Four - I sketch in the distant mountain ridge.  Note the small trees on the ridge line.  A nice touch I think.  Then I fill in the ground with the base color.

Step Five - Add in the mountain ridges and place color.
 Step Six - Spread the color around using a palette knife.
Step Seven - Define the tree lines.
Step Eight - Bring in the foreground base color.
Step Nine - Bring in secondary base colors.
Step Ten - Build the shrubs in the foreground.
Step Eleven - Enhance the foreground.  Grasses and large leaf clustering.  Tedious, representative work but the final effect will be grand.
Step Twelve - Bring in the major trees, shrubs, and begin enhancing the perspective.
Step Thirteen - There's a rock wall of sorts....a bit overgrown.
Step Fourteen - Enhancing the trees...bringing the rocks down a bit...balancing the foreground.
Step Fifteen - Softening the mountain and tree lines.
Step Sixteen - Adding in the element I have been hiding all this time...

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A Month is a Long Time.....

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The plan is ever-changing...and so are we.  We are discovering that some of our "best-laid plans...often go awry."  We started to look hard at our model after spending a month in Sapporo.  After the first week we were looking for way to spend our time.  Of course it was winter and there was all of that white stuff.

Based on our budget of $40 a day for accommodations, $20 a day for activities, $15 a day for food, and $10 for surprises, we are finding that a lot of the touristy stuff is out of riding up to the top of the Sky Tower...or taking a train out to the far eastern coastline to visit a nature park...even that "amazing" museum or art gallery can have its limits.  Mind you, we aren't suffering.  Our blog pretty much proves that out for sure.  We try to pace out our larger expenses and plan those that peak our interest the most.
However even with all of this
discernment, we are finding we have a lot of free time on our hands.  Volunteering has not as of yet worked its way into our sphere.  Language barrier and time have limiting effects on what we can do.  We had this fantasy that we could simply walk into a place that interested us and offer our time...not even a possibility so far...our American arrogance is showing its face...sadly.

After two full weeks in Tokyo we find ourselves down to a few "must dos" on the list and two weeks left.  We've covered just about every square meter within a three mile radius of home with daily walks and wanderings.  We are finding the locals are truly NOT interesting in engaging us unless there is a counter and a cash resister in between.  And we aren't shy.  There simply aren't that many opportunities.  Folks have busy lives and we are simply another fly on the wall buzzing around aimlessly looking for a place to light and have a taste...and we get shooed away.

We have been playing with the idea of limiting our long term stays to weeks instead of a month.  Then the discounting factor, or lack there of comes into play.  Our upcoming apartment in Osaka, through Airbnb, is costing us $1,183 or $38 a day for 31 days.  If we shorten it to two weeks, then we loose the monthly discount and it goes up to $47 a day and that is over our daily housing budget.  Couple the move with additional transportation cost and we are once again limited....even if it is a move just across town.

In the meantime we re rediscovering small hobbies that can be contained and adapted to our lifestyle.  For example I am now experimenting with digital art, painting and drawing on the computer screen.  My technique is improving as I learn the program.  I'm a quick study.

I've downloaded a few "musical" instruments like a piano and a guitar.  Composing on the computer has its challenges and it is time there is that.  Bobbie has jumped into online investing and she can research stuff for hours...and then there are all the books she reads.
Looking at the next eleven months we are committed to another month long stay in Kathmandu.  In between now and then are shorter periods no longer than two weeks so we will learn something from that...long enough...not long enough...who knows.  We have folks joining in for short stays along the way.  This will help.

Being nomads is certainly an evolving process.  We are figuring it out.  It takes time.  Seems we have plenty of  Stay tuned.

Here's the library to date...

Figuring out the brush and color palate in a sketch of Amsterdam.
Birch forest along the Trans-Siberian Railway.
The Tsai or Alai Mountains from the Trans-Siberian Railway.
This one is a work in progress.  I finished the hair yesterday and started on the kimono today.  Now that I have discovered some techniques I'm getting dangerous.  I may invest in an art pad and pen to go with my PC.  That will take me to a whole new level.

And the final piece...

Friday, January 26, 2018

Our Second Week in Tokyo - A New Daughter, the Zoo, Museums, a Visit to the US...and Shopping!!!

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Sometimes a chance encounter turns into a love story.  We met Sasanna Yee at the archeological park and invited her to dinner.  It was fun having a fellow American over...she's from San Francisco...and the evening was great.  She was quite a distance from her accommodations so we invited her to the stay the night and head out in the morning.

Two days later we got a note from her that her "couch-surfing" deal had changed and she wondered if she could bunk with problem...we have the extra bedroom.  Over the next four days we really got know the bright, charming, engaging woman, her story, and embraced her energy and sense of adventure.  She too is embarking on a nomadic journey...albeit not quite as long as ours.  When her plans were finalized she bade us goodbye with a promise to stay in touch...and she will...that we know.

And this made it all worthwhile in so many ways.

After being cooped up because of the surprise EIGHT inches of snow, the weather finally broke, "spring" returned, and we decided to take in the Tokyo Zoo.  It is small by world standards, older having been started in 1883 with small enclosures.  That part was sad of course since we are not "zoo" people. Kenya and the Serengeti have spoiled us forever.  The animals however looked well cared for and we saw a few species we have never been exposed to...the park was lovely with all of the manicured trees and gardens.

This fellow pretty much summed up his caged environment.

Asian "collared" bear.

Asian Stork.

Spent lotus pods.

From the zoo we wandered around Ueno Park viewing the pagoda and temple grounds.

Tulips were planted around  large fountain and pound.  And it is JANUARY...with snow.  Amazing.

We met our landlord and some friends of his from Canada on our first night.  Tonight we entertained with our first dinner party overseas.  The meal centered around Louise's request for linguini with clams.  It was a grand evening.  We had so much fun we forgot to take a few photos except for this one of the table before everyone

To pass the time we attached our luggage weight issue again.  Now that we have been on the road for 18 months it was time to shed a few pounds...and once again a few things made it to the local charity bins.  Here's what there was before the sort.
 Here's what was left after the purge.  I am now down to 21 pounds (9 kgs).  Bobbie is unwilling to let go of anything.
 The museums and attractions offer 9X12 flyers of current events and exhibitions.  The flyers are free so we grabbed a couple and put them art for the walls.
 Our collection grew over the next few days and now we have a lovely collage to leave behind for future guests....yup, we're redecorating again...LOL.
Ueno Park has several museums as well as the zoo.  We returned on a Sunday and visited first the Naitonal Musuem of Japan - Tokyo.  It is a six building complex housing art from around the world.  We focused on the Japanese and East Asia collections.

A superb mummy reminiscent of Egypt.

The gardens behind one of the buildings.
Amber jade.


The Museum of Nature and Science was older and not moderized.  It's displays reminded us of Chicago's Field Museum.

This massive Blue Whale sculpture graced the front entrance.

Being time to update immunizations we headed over the the US Air Base at Yokota.  It took us two hours by train and was worth being able to spend a day in the USA.  Once you enter the gate you are on US "soil," everything is in English and it is like being home.
Besides a visit to the hosptial and pharmacy for needed updates we got a chance to shop in a Safeway/Kroger store.  EVERYTHING on the shelves is American and in US dollars...even the meat.  We stocked up on a few supplies we have been missing (extra peanut butter, coffee, cheese) and a few treats.

This is the building Bobbie called home for her six years here back in the 80's.  She said the building had not changed much.  The base had of course if so many ways.
Back home that night is was TACO night.  The first one we have had in 18 months with REAL Texmex flavors.

A ribeye steak dinner with a baked potatoe and a salad with blue cheese followed the next day.
We collect masks, all kinds of masks, and in Japan and central masks are ceremonial and not that easy to find.  After some reserach...a lot of research...we discovered that our best changes would be in the Asakusa district.  It happened to be true...and not just for us.  Yikes!

The place was a tourist trap and packed.  The shopping malls and streets were full of tourist stuff and the side streets that were less populated offered some wonderful finds.  We now have two new masks to send home and be saved for display in our collection.
The Shinto Temple is the primary site in Asakusa...unless you are a shopper of course..and the grounds and buildings were lovely.

This pruned and manicured tree is mulberry and said to be over 300 years old.

There is a street completely devoted to Cosplay with costume shops lined up along the way and lots of young...and not so young...shoppers.

A few kilometers from the temple area is Kappabashi Kitchen Street.  It is an 800m long street...several long blocks...with over 200+ shops that specialize in everyting for the kitchen and cooking...both domestic and commercial.  We spend a couple of hours walking through many of them.

Nothing but coffee stuff.
Food cutters for veggies, dough, pies, etc.
An entire store devoted to chopsticks.  Millions of them.

Fake food.  This was hoot.

More bowls.
And then's killing me...truly killing me that none of this can come home.  Shopping for "stuff" is taboo in our agenda...and the shipping costs would be astronomical!!!

We then started a three mile trek to the electronics district.  We had a short list.  Along the way we happened upon a massive Shinto temple and cemetery.  Awesome is so may positive and sad ways too.  The tombstones sit atop vertical vaults where folks are entombed standing up in narrow caskets set into narrow vaults.

The electronics district comprising sevearl full blocks of everything electronic.  We ventured into two of the "large stores," this one being six floors jammed with stuff.  We made a list and went to it.

A long train ride brought us back to our little hamlet.  it has been a pretty full two weeks so far...and TWO MORE TO GO in Tokyo.