Thursday, April 11, 2013


After two crazy months of work and travel and thus, blog inactivity, I am writing again from the Netherlands, which was the real birthplace of this blog already many years ago. In the meanwhile, we have been to Tainan in Southern Taiwan and around Chengdu, in Sichuan, China.

After more than 5 years without coming back to the Netherlands, I came for a conference in Groningen, in the North of the country.

Groningen is a nice student town with a compact and beautiful city center. Some buildings are truly gorgeous and the general feel of the city is pretty nice. Groningen can be reached from Schiphol Airport by train (just over 2h). For me, it was the first time to go that far North in spite of having lived in the country for two years.

Now, some photos to show you the city!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

All the way to Cuba. Pasadena, CA

Cuba is literally on the other side of the world with respect to Japan. Additionally, the USA embargo does not allow air companies to fly from the USA to Cuba. But most of the flights from Japan to the America are via the USA! To sum up, it really takes time and money to get to Cuba from Japan.

The easiest way and the most expensive is to fly via Toronto with Air Canada. That solution is simple and fast, but also really expensive... This Xmas, we went there in a more relaxed and cheaper way: Tokyo to LA, LA to Mexico City and Mexico City to Havana. We stopped 2 days in LA to visit friends and to go to Universal Studios Hollywood and 5 days in Mexico city. Doing this, the trip was much much cheaper and we got to see friends and visit other interesting places!

Just after our flight into LAX, we moved to the LA downtown area, to our hotel, where we would meet my friends Alejandro and Romelia, from my time in Caltech. After meeting them, we walked around Figueroa Street, the oldest part of LA and with a clear Mexican feel... Mexican feel according to Americans of course... and then, we moved to Pasadena, the city where I lived almost 2 years of my life, already 3 years ago.


In Pasadena, we went for a walk in Caltech, where I could recall many memories of my life in Southern California... It was nice to be back to my last university and walk around those buildings without the pressure you have when you are a student there!!!

 For dinner, we went to a Peruvian restaurant to eat ceviche and we could also meet my friend and former housemate Bernardo and his girlfriend, Gogui.

 Bernardo bought my American car when I moved to Japan, and he still keeps it in good condition. I could meet my old mate of so many battles... I traveled so much in the American West with him... good old memories! ;)

 Thanks guys for making this stopover in Los Angeles so special!!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tokyo Station

Tokyo Station is one of the main stations in Tokyo. It is located just in front of the Imperial Palace and it is in the real center of Tokyo, in the middle of Ginza, Nihonbashi, Otemachi. The station was finished in 1914 and for some scholars, it was built to look after Amsterdam Central Station. In my opinion, they look pretty similar.

Until recently, the station facade was under renovation and could not be seen properly. This Sunday, before the Setsubun event and party I told you about yesterday, we went for lunch in Otemachi area and could see the station front from a nice view point. Apparently, the works finished recently, so we were pretty lucky to get this nice view over the station :)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Setsubun 節分 平成25年

Yesterday, it was 3rd February and that means the beginning of the Spring in Japanese tradition. 3 years ago, I already talked about Setsubun 節分 in this blog .

This year, we went to Nezu Jinja with our little son for the so-called mamemaki 豆まき. Some demons dance around doing nasty things and then, some people come with many presents (oranges, rice crackers, peanuts, snacks...) and throw them to the crowd as the demons flee. Some kids bring big bags to try to get as much stuff as possible!

At night, we had a party at home to celebrate setsubun. I wore a demon mask and my nephew, niece and son threw me lots of beans for me to leave as they sang: 鬼は外、福は内。 "Demons go away, Luck come in!"

Afterwards, we ate some large sushi rolls. For the first one, you must face South South East and eat the whole roll without speaking and thinking about your wishes. They will come true by doing that! ;)

Another traditional thing to do is to eat the same number of soy beans as your age. Fortunately, 30 beans is still manageable after a sushi feast!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

La Habana (III)

This is the final post describing our trip in Cuba. Our last day and a half in Havana. So expect lots of photos ;)

We came from Santa Clara in a local taxi with lots of people and this time, we were just left in the local bus station, not a door to door service. Since the local bus station is near the Monumento a Jose Marti in Plaza de la Revolucion, we went there again to try to get to the top of the tower. However, we were late again and could not climb up there for the views...

Anyway, we could take a lot of photos with Marti and Plaza de la Revolucion...

Our hotel was next to Habana Vieja, and in our way there by taxi, I asked the taxi driver to stop for a little while at University of Havana, a city landmark and the most important university in the country.

We got to our casa particular one day before that we were expected and it was full. However, they could find us accommodation in the same building and the next day we just had to go upstairs. Yuuhi found a friend there ;)

The first night back in Havana, we could meet Seppo and Cynthia again! We had dinner in Los Nardos/Asturianitos just in front of El Capitolio...

... and afterwards, we went for some daiquiris in El Florida, one of Hemingway's favorite places. There is even a bronze statue of him in the bar! However, Yuuhi did not seem to like it much...

There are many different daiquiris in El Florida. However, we all took the signature drink, Papa Hemingway, which meant no sugar and lots of rum. The result was a pretty rough cocktail, pretty different from normal daiquiris and because of that, pretty interesting. I liked it :)

Some photos of all of us now!

... and again, Hemingway.

Back in our Casa Particular, I really could not ceased to be amazed at how high ceilings are in Havana! They are like 4 or 5 meters high!


he next morning, Seppo and Cynthia were out of the country. We decided to take it easy and walk in Havana at our pace. We started with the sea front Malecon, with great views of the city.

In the end of El Malecon, we found El Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta.

Afterwards, we walked towards Habana Vieja and visited the Museo de la Revolucion. On the way there, we found this building with Che, Cienfuegos and Fidel or Raul Castro's faces.

The Museo de la Revolucion is located in the former Presidential Palace and the Palace itself is well worth the visit.

The palace is really interesting and the museum is the ultimate place to understand how the revolution succeeded and what the next steps were in order to create a Communist country.

There were even some rooms just explaining about Camilo Cienfuegos and Che Guevara.

.. and there was also an interesting corner called Rincon de los Cretinos... (assholes' corner)

Next to Museo de la Revolucion, there is a small memorial with lots of military stuff and the Granma, the yacht revolutionaries used to go from Mexico to Cuba at the beginning of revolution.

After that visit, we were back in beautiful Habana Vieja, with its pastel colored delightful crumbling houses. It is amazing how beautiful decrepit buildings can look like!!!

Lunch was in Obispo Street with lots of Cuban live music.

Then, time for more walking and shop visiting...

... before getting to Hotel Ambos Mundos, a hotel were Hemingway spent a lot of time while in Havana.

From there to Plaza de Armas and Castillo de la Real Fuerza, it takes just a few minutes walking and thus, there went we. By the way, the small figure on top of the tower in the photo sbelow in el Castillo de la Real Fuerza is called La Giraldilla and it is the symbol of Havana Club rum.

A short walk brought us to Plaza de San Francisco, the last of the four main plazas in Havana we visited. I liked it a lot...

... and from there, we ended up back in Plaza Vieja...

From there, we walked along San Ignacio street and buildings got really decrepit... it was the area far away from the touristic center and which does not benefit from UNESCO money... We ended up in some kind of market with paintings and art craft, the Antiguos Almacenes San Jose.

Coming back towards Capitolio, we found the longest section of the original Spanish city walls still standing...

... the train station...

... and the house where Jose Marti was born.

At night, it was time for some more live music...

... before sleeping a little bit just before leaving the country after 10 very intense days!!!

Cuba was definitely an amazing experience and it was totally worth going to the other side of the world from Japan to visit this wonderful country. This country is amazing in terms of culture, music, sightseeing and people meeting. A totally recommended destination!