Sunday, 30 October 2016

Kyoto - where people meet

 Wednesday, October 4th

After morning easy run I left Toyama and headed off to Kyoto. A short trip on a Shinkansen, and I’m in the ancient capital of Japan, probably the most touristy place in the whole country. At least the ratio of tourists (WARNING! many of them French!) to locals is the highest - and it’s very easy to notice while walking the streets of Kyoto.

After checking in to my hostel, I went to for a walk explore the city. It was already past 3pm, so I wasn’t planning on visiting any particular places, more to just get a bit of the atmosphere of the city.
Well, it’s quite different to Tokyo. Is much less modern (or - there are many more old, historical areas). It’s full of temples, it’s full of tourists. It’s beautiful. There is a river flowing through the middle of the city, with nice paths running along it (should be good for tomorrow’s lactate threshold training). There are many shops with traditional Japanese craft. There is a shopping district, with many modern and shiny shops. There is a Geisha district, one of just a few Hanamachi left in Japan.
There is the Imperial Palace with its vast gardens. It’s great, although it rains there a lot! (I found out later it rains only on your first visit, a peculiar way of saying “hello fellow traveler, I guess you’re thirsty and covered with dust, let me refresh you so you are comfortable here”).

After a few hours of walking around I got back to my hostel (stopping for a dinner before - one never misses a meal in Japan! The food is so incredibly good that you just simply can’t. I’d much rather miss my train than my dinner here) and decided to socialize a bit with other people staying there.

One of the nicer things in traveling to the lands far away is the opportunity to meet people from all around the world (not that one lacks this living in London). In places like Japan, that are so different to my everyday environment, it’s really easy to bond quickly with other travelers. We are so excited about everything around us, we’re so eager to exchange our experiences, and sake is so nice, that time passes very quickly. Talking about Japan, about other countries we've visited, our plans, hopes, fears, dreams, jobs, local drinking habits in our countries of origin, politics (don't get me started...), you’re coming to a shocking realization - we’ve run out of alcohol! Anyway, it’s 1:30am, time to go to sleep. Long day ahead.

Thursday, October 5th

I decided to go for a walk to visit two of the most famous landmarks of Kyoto - the Golden Pavilion Temple (Kinkaku-ji) and the Stone Garden in Ryoanji Temple.
It’s a bit of walk from my place. Around 10 km. All well worth it. I went up towards Gion district (the historic old part of the city, and the most famous Geisha district in Kyoto). Then through the market/commercial district, with all its fancy shops, towards the Imperial Palace and its gardens. No rain at all today, nice sunshine, +24 degrees. And much lower humidity! At last! Can’t wait to my evening training. But first things first.
After passing the Palace, I got into, I guess, “everyday”, regular and non-touristy Kyoto. Lot’s of small streets packed with houses, workshops, shops, small bars and local restaurants. Not many people on the streets, nice and quite - a normal day in the city.

Eventually, I got to Ryoanji Temple. Apparently, the Stone Garden is one of the most Zen things you can see in Japan. You can stare for years at it, and you won’t get the point of it.

I decided that 15 minutes of staring without getting a point is enough Zen for me and left to visit the rest of the temple. Temple itself is - obviously - really beautiful. There is a nice pond in the garden, and there is really cool section with specially prepared and cut trees:

From Ryoanji there is a short walk to Kinkakuji. This place is probably the most famous touristic spot in Kyoto. It’s another Buddhist temple, which facade is covered with gold foil. Pretty impressive. Impressively busy.
There is a beautiful garden, there’s a famous tea shop. And there is green-tea flavored ice-cream.
Next, I took the bus to the city center and went to the Manga Museum. Completely different experience, but also super cool. The museum is very modern, opened just a few years ago. It contains tens of thousands of Manga books that you can read. Mostly Japanese, but there’s an impressive international section too. There are many exhibitions about the Manga itself - what it is, how important it is in Japanese culture, how the whole business works, what are the typical technics in Manga, and so on. Cool place, worth a visit. I was thinking it would be cool to have a music video for Todger done in Manga/Anime style. I failed to ask the rest of the band if they too think it would be cool. Probably a smart move though...

I got back to the hostel, had a bit of rest and headed off for the training. 6x6 minutes at lactate threshold pace, 60s rest in between. It was the best session in Japan so far. Probably due to lower humidity, but for the first time in a long time (i.e. since the injury) I felt really good and quite fast. Hopefully, my fitness is coming back. A piece of advice - the path along Kamo River in central Kyoto is a very good spot for training. It’s long enough for even long reps (I don’t know how long it is, but definitely more than a mile I used). It’s fairly flat, and the surface is ok - safe to run even when it’s dark (no potholes or anything like that).

In the evening - more socializing with people in the hostel. I think it’s a quite important part of traveling, to actually meet other people. Maybe the most important part.
And what a great excuse for having more sake!

More photos here.

Friday, 14 October 2016

The Importance of Being Awaken Early - or how I didn't climb Tateyama

 Monday, October 3rd

Today I’m moving to Toyama which will be my starting point for climbing Tateyama.

I’m in Japan for almost a week already and starting to feel a bit lonely. I’m starting to miss my family/friends/colleagues/running buddies/others (choose one based on the category you belong to and whether you want to feel offended or not) - I decided to visit Snow Monkeys. They are quite famous for chilling out the whole day in the hot springs and not giving a single f**k about all the tourists coming to visit them. A bit like visiting Paris.

I arrived at Nagano and checked how to get to the Monkeys. And here comes my fuckup number one. Most of the tourist attractions in Japan close quite early - usually 4 or 5pm. It’s the case with the Monkeys too - the show closes at 4pm. When I checked transport options (train-bus-walk combo again) it turned out I’d have up to 20 minutes with the monkeys. Probably not worth it, and I’m getting slightly tired with the train-bus combo anyway. Just for the record - I still don’t mind walking.
So I decided to visit Nagano instead. Nagano was the host of 1998 Winter Olympics, so quite an important city just for this reason. I went for a walk to the Zenko-ji temple. On the way there you can visit some nice shops selling traditional Japanese craft. It’s very impressive and tasteful. Japanese have many traditional arts and crafts, and the products can be stunning.
The temple itself was beautiful - of course. Buddhist temples are beautiful. And yet whenever I go to see another one, I’m surprised how nice it is.

Another short Shinkansen ride later, and I’m in Toyama. It’s a “regular”, not really touristic city, located by the ocean. I checked in to my hotel and went for a run. I chose a straight, 7 km long street. It goes through industrial suburbs, there’s fairly big traffic, some factories and warehouses around. Basically, it’s quite horrible. But I knew there was a prize at the end of the road. The Ocean.
It was already dark when I got there. Just 200m away from the street, after crossing a line of trees, you can find yourself on a quiet beach. There were a few small fires lit on the shore, probably by the fishermen. And no one else on the beach.
It was a beautiful, peaceful, quiet. And the water was so nice and warm!

Run back to the hotel, showered, got some food (really nice ramen) and decided to try the onsen. Onsen is a traditional Japanese bath, usually with hot springs water. There are some rules regarding using onsen. First of all, you need to go to a shower just before getting into the bath. Second of all, it’s absolutely forbidden to use soap or anything like that. Or to wear any kind of underwear. You just go to the water and relax. It’s great. 10 minutes in, and you need to get out to get a cold shower - and you’re good to go again. Very relaxing, great after a run to loosen up your muscles.

Tuesday, October 4th

Today is the day. I’m going to climb Mount Tate - or Tateyama, as Japanese call it. But first - training.
As it’s Tuesday, I’m doing intervals. After last week’s fiasco with 8x800, I decided to downgrade and go for 10x600m at around 5k/10k effort. I started jogging along the street towards the ocean, planning to do intervals “on the go” after the warm up.
But after the 3rd rep I found myself right next to the Ocean again. It was really tempting…
So I decided to finish the training on the path next to the beach. I even met two joggers there.
The training itself went much better than last week, although it was still really hard due to humidity and temperature.
But the Ocean was there…
I think there’s nothing better to cool down after a hard training, than jumping into the ocean. It’s so relaxing! I didn’t want to get out, but Tateyama is calling.
But if there’s a petition to put an ocean next to every athletic track in London for the runners to cool down after the sessions - just tell me where to sign!
Although, if we keep ignoring climate change (and electing people denying it), we may have ocean soon enough. Not next to, but rather instead of athletic tracks in London. And houses, shops, parks, workplaces, and - God forbid! - pubs…

But, the Mountain is awaiting. Jog back home - a bit too long for a cool down (7km), but when dealing with someone of the format of the Ocean, you can bend a couple of rules. Quick shower, even quicker breakfast (well, it’s noon already…), and I’m on my way to the train station. Nice, local train to Tateyama (name of the town where the trail to Tateyama - the mountain - starts. Well…).

And here comes my fuckup number 2. I failed to understand The Written Word on the Internet and thought that it was 3.5 hours walk to the summit and back from Tateyama station. While in fact it was 3.5 hours, but from Murodo. Which is about 1.5 hours on a cable car from the station. And the next car is at 2:40pm. And the last cable car back is at 5pm (ish). Using my superior maths skills I figured that it’s going to be hard to pack 5 hours (1.5 + 3.5 = 5) in less than 3 hours (5pm - 2:40 pm) slot.
It actually makes sense, as the mountain is 3015 m high, Tateyama station is at 475 m, and the Internet said it’s about 600 m climb… There was clearly something missing here.

I went for a walk around the area instead, cursing myself for too late start and sleeping at reading classes at school. I’m sorry Tateyama, we’ll meet another day.

Got back to Toyama a few hours later. Dinner, onsen, sleep. Tomorrow off to Kyoto!

More pictures here and here.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Japanese Alps - Matsumoto and Kamikochi

Saturday, October 1st

I’m leaving Tokyo for now, heading to the Japanese Alps. It’s a mountain range south-east from Tokyo, with peaks of around 3000 m high. First stop - Matsumoto, which will be my starting point to Kamikochi.

Getting to Matsumoto from Tokyo is easy. You’re getting a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagano, and then a local train to Matsumoto.
Shinkansen, the Japanese pride. If your daily commute to work includes using a train, and you don’t live in Japan, please skip this section, as it’ll only make you hate your life more.

Shinkansen is - to say the least - fucking amazing. It’s fast, it’s super comfy, it’s always on time.
You’ve got about twice as much leg room as on any European train I tried. You’ve got reclinable seats, you’ve got a foldable table that is actually well positioned. All the staff is extremely polite (but that’s not only on Shinkansen, Japanese in general are extremely polite. But in some countries (hello fatherland!) even if people are usually polite, staff on trains tends to be rude).
And it really runs on time. You could set your watch to Shinkansen. And all of that in the country that has earthquakes, typhoons, blizzards, snow, proper winters and other disasters.

From Nagano, I took a local, slow paced train to Matsumoto.
When I arrived at Matsumoto and checked in to my hostel, I decided to go for a run. Since yesterday’s hike took a bit out of me, I decided to go for a steady one instead of a hard session. I found out that about 7km from my place was a Buddhist temple, that was worth seeing - according to the Internet. I run there, first through the city centre, then through more countryside like area. Matsumoto is not very big (well, about 300k people…), so the city centre is not huge and it was fairly quiet. The more remote areas were very quiet, not many people, some rice fields, lots of green areas. I finally got to the Temple (Gofuku-ji). It was beautiful. Very quiet, I didn’t meet a single person there. Since it was quite remote, there were no city noises - just the sound of flowing water and chatting birds.

In the evening, after awesome sashimi dinner, I went to visit Matsumoto castle. Actually, I could see it from the window from my hostel. It is absolutely beautiful at night. Just have a look at the pictures.

I could witness Japanese mix of New and Old. There are benches under a tree facing Matsumoto castle. Since the place is so beautiful, romantic and quiet, it's a great location to go for a date. So there were a few couples sitting on the benches. Everyone playing with their phones...

When I got back, people running the hostel invited me to have some tea and rum with them (not mixed!). When we were chatting, two Japanese men arrived. They were both bikers in their fifties, slightly drunk. One of them - Murata-san - was speaking a bit of English and was in the mood for conversation, so they both joined us and we had very nice and quite funny chat. I've learned a lot about Buyō dance, that Murata-san was very keen on performing for us...

More great Japanese tea, and bed time. Tomorrow off to Kamikochi for a day.

Sunday, October 2nd

Kamikochi is a quite famous location in Japanese alps. It’s a river valley with great hiking trails, kind of a starting point to the exploration of the Mountains. Unfortunately hotels there are quite expensive, that’s why I decided to stay in Matsumoto and just visit Kamikochi for a day.
Getting there takes about 90 minutes. First, you need to take a train from Matsumoto to Shin-Shimashima, and then a bus to Kamikochi.
In Kamikochi I opted for an easy, relaxed walk up the river, as I had a long run planned for later.
To be fair, it crossed my mind to incorporate my run into the trip to Kamikochi, e.g. to go with the bus one way, and return back running, but when I realised it was over 50km from Matsumoto, I decided it’s probably not the best idea. I need to up my weekly mileage, but not necessarily this way...
Back to the hiking - one of the “points of interest” on the trail is Myojin Pond. It’s beautiful. Just have a look.

There are a couple of nice suspension bridges on the trail, with Kappa Bridge at the very beginning.
And there are monkeys! I met this one out of the blue. It was walking on the path, not paying too much attention to other tourists. Everyone is so polite in this country, even monkeys!

Ok, maybe not everyone. Seems black bears may be a bit rude at times:

I got back to Matsumoto around 8pm and went for a run. It was still warm and humid, so the run was fairly slow, but very nice as well. Running in Japan is very safe. Roads are usually well illuminated, drivers are careful and don’t drive very fast. When overtaking runners, they taking really good safety margin. Although it’s good to wait at traffic lights, as they tend to jump on the yellow light.

More pictures from Matsumoto here, and from Kamikochi - there.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016


Friday, September 30th

Mount Fuji hiking season ends in the early September. They say it can be dangerous after that, mostly because of changing weather, snow, avalanches and so on. They say you shouldn’t climb Fuji-san in late September or later.

I sometimes like to think of myself as a person who doesn’t need to be told the same thing twice. So at 5 am on Friday morning I was already on my way to Fujisan.
It’s a bit of a journey from Tokyo. First I had to get to the train station. Then take a train to another station on the outskirts of Tokyo (Takao station). Then another one to Otsuki. Then one more to Fujisan station. And then the bus to the 5th Station by the Mountain.

Overall it took me over 5 hours from getting out of my hostel to arriving at the 5th Station.
The 5th Station is a place where hiking trail to the Mount Fuji starts. The station is at an altitude of 2400m. From that place you’ve got around 7km long hike. With about 1400 m climb, that gets you to the rim of the crater of Mount Fuji.
The good thing is that clouds on that day ended at about 1500 m, so it was already sunny at the 5th station. I checked what time the last bus down to the train station was (17:50), and set off. It was just before 11 am.

Some online resources say it’s about 5-6 hours to climb Fuji-san from 5th station, and about 3-4 hours to get back. That would mean I’d struggle to make it back for the last bus, but I already knew that those times are usually with a good margin. The weather was great, no trace of snow - it shouldn’t take nearly as long.

The first obstacle arose just after 10 minutes of walking. A sign saying that the trail is closed. But there was no sign saying it’s forbidden to use it, it just said that the local authorities won’t be held responsible for any injuries or fatalities when the trail is closed. Fair enough. From my online research (I mean, a website I read. But it’s cooler to call it “research”, isn’t it?) I knew that people basically ignore this sign and carry on. So did I.

The trail is pretty steep. If you do the math and divide the altitude gain by the total distance, you will know that it really is. Since the trail starts at a fairly high altitude, the forest ends quickly and you walk on uncovered, steep, volcanic ash covered slope. Surprisingly, there are plenty of construction workers around, building new paths and constructions to block avalanches and to prevent debris from falling (and killing people - there are casualties every year due to falling debris and avalanches). Apparently, avalanches are quite common when it gets snowy. It makes sense, as the slopes are just soft volcanic ash and stones, with almost no vegetation.

But seeing all those workers and heavy machines they use makes you think that it’s probably not nearly as dangerous as they try to convince you. I guess it gets dangerous when snow falls, but not on a sunny, warm autumn day.
But there are good things that one owes to all those scaremongers - there are almost no other people on the trail. During my hike, I met less than 20 other tourists, and around 10 workers (although they were present only in the lower parts of the mountain). In the summer there can be up to 10000 (!) people on the mountain in one day! I guess it kills the experience a bit.

Back to hiking. It’s not very long, but it’s steep, and therefore hard. And it’s on altitude. The summit is at 3776 m above the sea level. Covering that much in one day (starting from Tokyo at near zero altitude) is a lot and you can feel it more and more, the closer to the top you get.
Anyway, after just over 3 hours, passing several stations and shrines on my way, I got to the rim of the crater at the top of the mountain. You don’t need to look around to figure you’re on the top. The Wind suddenly gets twice as strong as a minute ago. But the view is amazing. Then you realise that the actual summit is on the other side of the crater, a bit higher than where you are at the moment. And about 40 minutes away. Well, since the timing was good, the weather was nice, and the peak wasn’t reached yet - I set off to the summit. It was a pretty nice walk around the rim of the crater, with amazing views of the sea of clouds beneath the mountain. On the opposite side of the crater, I found a window in the clouds, allowing me to have a peek at the valley by the foot of the mountain. Green fields, streaming rivers, seen from the height of 3km. Pretty neat. Well done guys, well done.
A piece of advice: practice your all fours walking skills before, as the wind gets so strong on the crater that there is a risk of being blown away into it. Not that there is any hot magma, burning inferno, angry crocodiles or Millwall FC fans in it, but still something to avoid. Good all-fours crawling workshops can be booked at

Finally, I got to the summit, took a mandatory selfie with a sign (I hope it was saying that it’s what I thought it was. Could’ve been tofu ramen recipe as far as my language skills are concerned, but Japanese are clever and practical people. Why would they made people take pictures with a ramen recipe carved in the stone? Or - if they wanted - what would be the point of getting them all that high, while you can make perfectly fine pictures at the train station, or at the airport).

Since it was still early and I was expecting descent to be much quicker than the ascent, I thought I may be able to catch an earlier bus. I walked back around the crater to the Shinto temple on the other side (yes, that’s true. There is a temple. At 3700+ altitude. It didn’t grow there, someone had to carry all that stuff there and actually build it). I guess it’s an important one as well, as Mt Fuji is one of the three holy mountains in Japan (along with Mount Tate - Tateyama, and Mount Haku - Hakusan).
The first part of the descent is a kind of stone stairs, so you can’t go much faster. But then - next to the main trail - starts a series of wide paths prepared by bulldozers. Since the surface is covered with thick ash and small stones, it’s easy to go down really fast. Actually, I figured out that if you lean backwards, you can start running/jumping down. Add a bit of twisting and you have something that resembles downhill skiing. With the difference that instead of nice, white snowy dust, you’re leaving dark grey volcanic ash dust cloud behind you. But it’s not diminishing the fun in the slightest.
So I started doing that remembering to apologise to my quads later (quads have to work hard, as you need to be braking almost constantly). And I guess I got a bit carried away. After some time (probably not very long, as you can go pretty fast this way) I noticed that the trail that used to be on my left side is not there anymore. It got lost and replaced by a forest. Since I had no idea how to call a trail in Japanese, not to mention how to ask it to come back, I decided to look at the map.

I put my destination in, and it said I’ve got 2 hours and 8 minutes to the 5th station, where my bus was leaving from. And that meant going back uphill for quite a while, and then turning right, and going down for another while.
It was 16:04, which meant I didn’t have 2:08, but less than 1:46 to get there (the last bus leaves at 17:50).
Panic starts. Suddenly my ramen dinner I was picturing for the last couple of hours started disappearing and turning into tree bark, roots, and small, injured-or-terminally-ill animals dinner. Nah, that doesn’t sound good.
But if map says to go up and right, what if I go right straight away, without going up? That seems like a better plan.
If only local road builders had known my plan before, I’m sure they’d made it easier for me. Unfortunately, their technology is not that advanced yet, so I had to make my way through the forest. Luckily I found a path quite soon, that - as it turned out later - was designed for idiots like me (later on the bus I learned that at least 5 other guys did pretty much the same thing that day).
Part walking, part running, constantly blessing Japanese path builders for marking it clearly, I made my way to the station. With enough time to take some photos of the sun setting behind the mountain into the sea of white clouds.

About 4 hours later I’m back in Tokyo. Ramen was delicious.

More pictures here.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Tokyo - take 1

Tuesday, September 27th

Arrived at Tokyo around 10pm. +27 degrees. I think I’m going to like it here. Got to my hostel just after midnight and fell asleep almost instantly. I guess figuring out when did Tuesday go exhausted me completely. At one point I was tired boarding my plane in London, on Monday evening. 14 hours later, and I’m tired leaving a plane at Tokyo. Time, what a tricky bastard…

Wednesday, September 28th

Just after I woke up on Wednesday morning after a nice refreshing sleep, I fell asleep again.
I woke up a couple of hours later - and I fell asleep again.
After short nap, having the feeling that I’ve finally mastered the cycle, I got out of bed and went for a mandatory run around the Imperial Palace.
For some reason I decided breakfast could wait but this freaking palace, standing there for centuries clearly couldn’t.
The distance to the Palace from my place was just under 5km each way (actually more like 6km considering my superior navigation skills).
I started jogging through midday Tokyo, getting the first impressions of the city. So far so good. The city looks nice, full of Japanese people, Japanese signs, Japanese cars. Lot’s of cosy, narrow streets, packed with shops, small workshops, cafes and restaurants. Very nice vibe.
After a few stops at traffic lights I started noticing running wasn’t as easy as expected. It was getting quite hard to be fair. First I was trying to blame traffic lights for it, but then I realised I’m not scared of them anymore, as I was already introduced to them prior to this trip. Then I was trying to blame lack of sleep, but somehow I managed to come to the conclusion that I just had 10+ hours of it. In intervals!
Then I realised it was humidity. And temperature. When I left the hostel I didn’t realise it was that hot. Hostel has air-con. Tokyo doesn’t. It was clouded, but still +30 degrees or more. And humidity of approximately 219% (before you start - don’t. Just don’t. I’ve been here and I’m telling you it was 219% humidity. Do you really want to argue with someone who’s been to Tokyo?).
I stopped at one of the shops and got something to drink. Smart move - now I had a bottle I could refill at one of the many drinking-water fountains.
I got to the Imperial Palace and it’s vast gardens. Actually you can’t really get inside (I think they are letting general public in only twice a year), but just running around is nice enough. There are a lot of runners there, seems it’s a quite popular running destination for Tokyo’s joggers.
Eventually I managed to run around the Palace, and got back to my place. Just over 18km, just over 2 hours (!)
That was definitely the slowest run in my life. Even considering all the picture-taking, traffic-lights-waiting and water-refilling stops.
Oh, after all I missed my breakfast, as by the time I was out of my hostel again, it was almost after the lunch time.
Lesson learned: breakfasts are more important than palaces.

I’ve spent rest of my day walking around Tokyo, visiting temples, museums, even the Sky Tree tower - a new structure, apparently the highest free-standing tower in the world. Freaking impressive, the view from 350m deck is really impressive. I guess the view from 450m deck is even better, but since it was dark already and couldn’t see too far due to clouds (this city is really cloudy!) I decided to skip that one.

Thursday, September 29th

I woke up earlier this time, and decided to go for a run before the breakfast (again! I know, but this time I wasn’t planning 2 hour long run, and even if that happened, I would still have enough time to get my breakfast. Yeah, early bird…)
I wanted to do 8 times 800m intervals, at something around my 5k - 10k pace (or rather effort, as my paces are still nowhere close to my pre-injury ones).
The day before I figured that there is a nice, long path along the river, just a couple of hundred meters from my place.
I run there, did about 3.5km warmup, then some mobility exercises and dynamic stretching + some strides. Basically my typical pre-session warm-up routine.
It was 9am, but it was already quite hot. And bloody humid.
I set off for the first rep. Man, that’s hard! Anyway, I managed the first rep in 2:56. Not that terrible considering the pavement was wet after the rain, therefore quite slippery at places. But I felt quite tired already, after just one rep! And there are 7 more to go.
Ok, 90 seconds rest, and here we go again - opposite direction. 3:03. That’s not looking good. Next one - 3:06. Then 3:05. I’m sweating like a bacon source already, completely soaked. 3:10. Shit, that’s hard.
3:19 !!. Fuck it, that’s enough. I’m going home.
Seriously, it’s bloody hard to run in this city. No traffic lights to blame this time (I already stopped blaming them, didn’t I?).
Just humidity and lack of fitness.

After the breakfast I went out to explore more of Tokyo. First I went to see Miraikan - the Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. It’s located in university park, near Tokyo port. Getting there on a fully automated monorail train I realised, that Japanese are probably not getting enough recognition for their amazing engineering skills.
I mean - of course, they are praised for robotics and electronics, but they are also absolutely mind blowing when it comes to the civil engineering. Roads, trains, all sorts of construction works. It’s simply unbelievable. Because the space is of great value in Japan - country not much bigger than Britain, but inhabited by more than twice as many people. And 70% of Japanese landmass is actually mountains and forests, so there’s a very little space left for people. So they are really industrious and creative when it comes to the use of space. There are plenty of multi-level roads (say, 2 or 3 levels of a highway), with the train lines above. Everything looks very light and elegant, yet seems to be really durable at the same time. When you come to think that Japan is one of the most seismically active parts of the world and all that stuff must be strong enough to survive an earthquake, that puts it all on even higher level. So, hats off to Japanese engineers.

And then I got to this museum. Wow.
I don’t know where to start. It’s beautiful, it’s amazing, it’s futuristic. It’s full of school kids who actually look really interested in what’s going on there. Which is quite nice and reassuring to know that at least some parts of the world would be in good hands.

What is quite interesting about this museum is the emphasis on mankind survival. There’s a lot about climate change, about technology protecting us from natural disasters (emphasis on volcanoes and earthquakes). They talk a lot about bio-engineering and designing better drugs. A bit about space programs. Artificial intelligence.
And obviously robotics.
Japanese really love their robots, they have plenty of them, and they are really good at constructing them. During the visit in Miraikan I’ve seen Asimo - the famous Honda's robot. They have 10 minutes long shows every hour or two. The door to a small room opens, and Asimo runs out of it into the open area, surrounded by spectators. I must admit - pretty good running technique!
And then there is a short presentation of it’s incredible skills. They really nailed it’s bio-mechanics (or robo-mechanics). Impressive.
 After that I walked more around Tokyo, went to Meiji temple, walked more. What’s really interesting here is that super-modern, even futuristic stuff lives in a harmony next to the traditional. Old fashioned temples, workshops, clothes, customs. It seems like a well balanced coexistence of The Old and The New, with both of them benefiting from each other (yeah, the day before there was a robot in the temple giving pieces of paper with prayers on to the people, who fed it with 200 Yen).

Some pictures for your enjoyment. And much more pictures here - in completely random order though.