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September 17, 2007

Farewell Party

group2

My work colleagues had a party to bid us farewell from Japan. They are a wonderful and caring group of people with big hearts. Their kindness and generosity in bidding farewell was no exception. You can see pictures of their gifts and exuberance here.

Although I would have a hard time staying in Japan for the rest of my life, I will still miss it so much! In some ways I was ready to leave, but in many I was definitely not. I can't believe how fast the time has flown. I sincerely hope to return someday.

Kamakura

look at the turtle! us with Daibutsu

Kamakura is our fourth of the four historic capitals of Japan: Nara, Kyoto, Kamakura, and Edo (Tokyo). Kamakura was the capital from 1185–1333, beginning from when the new shogun moved the capital to his hometown. There are scores of temples and shrines in the area, as well as some wonderful hiking trails. We started out in the morning with Gil and Jen and headed to the Buddhist temple of Engakuji, which has a beautiful set of garden grounds, a set of caves, and the "Ogane bell." Next we headed to a lunch of okonomiyaki, followed by a trip to the overlook of Hasedera, which houses a large 11-headed kannon and a collection of hundreds of jizo statues. Finally, we made our pilgrimage to the famous Daibutsu (big Buddha). See pictures from our adventures here.

Gil and Jen in Japan

IMG_3338.JPGdance dance revolution

Embracing the family mantra of procrastination, my brother Gil and and his wife Jen joined us for a last-minute visit in our final days in Japan. We took them around to all of the good sites in Tokyo, including Shinjuku, Shibuya, the Edo museum, etc. We also got to tour the ancient capital of Kamakura and the famous port of Yokohama, established after the landing of Commodore Perry, who broke down the borders of isolationist Japan and precipitated the Meiji revolution when he steamed in and demanded a trade agreement.

Gil and Jen are primarily night owls, so we also toured some of Tokyo's vast night life, from the conveyor-belt sushi rounds to karaoke parlors, arcades, and Japan's largest ferris wheel. Our Tokyo and Yokohama exploits can be seen here. See the entry above for the photos and narration of our visit to Kamakura.

JAXA Open House

M3 rocket

I work at a division of Japan's space exploration agency, the Japanese equivalent of NASA. The agency is called JAXA in English, short for JApan eXploration Agency. My division is called ISAS, the Institute for Space and Aeronautical Science. They have a big open house for the public every year, with lots of games and activities for kids and adults alike. I couldn't help out much with the actual open house, because my Japanese is not good enough to explain science cocepts to the public, but I did help with some of the setup. You can see pictures of the day's activities here.