Tag Archive: eurasia 2007

here there be dragons

the other thing i saw throughout my trip were excellent renditions of dragons.  here are a few of the best.

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and then, suddenly, the whole big trip was over and we were back in new zealand.  (well – suddenly after the two-hour trip to the airport, then two hours in the airport, then ten hours on the plane, then an hour clearing customs, declaring squid specimens and having them examined amid strange looks, and driving home.)

in reviewing the copious photos taken across the ten countries i visited, a couple of common threads developed, so i'd like to re-post a couple of photos and add some new ones as part of two themed entries.  the first is dedicated to notable signs (loosely extended to products and interesting things in store windows).

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ww3 and i flew out of tokyo at about 7pm, so we had some time to look around on our last day before we went.  my guidebook suggested a nice scenic walk around the nishi-nippori area, where we wanted to do some final shopping anyway, so we followed its advice and wandered past a delightful mix of things tucked away in little corners that felt just right for a final tour. 

one of the things that caught my eye and definitely wasn't included on the official tour was a statue of a tanuki outside someone's house.  it reminded me of our favorite japanese restaurant in auckland, tanuki's cave.

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since i was spending most of my days cooped up in the bowels of the museum (admittedly for an important cause, namely my thesis), ww3 and i tried to get out and see as much as possible outside working hours.  unfortunately a lot of touristy things are only accessible during working hours, as we discovered on the morning we tried to get to the imperial palace gardens at 7 so we could walk through them before a full day's work at the museum.  we wound up walking around the outside, also beautiful (and about 6 km), then visiting the kitanomaru-koen park across the road and having breakfast, and then finally the imperial palace east gardens when they opened at 9. 

both parks had beautiful paths through trees, water features and more open spaces, and the imperial gardens also had various buildings and ruins with enormous amounts of associated history.  the other thing both places had in common were the massive orb spiders (jorō-gumo, Nephila clavata) suspended between most branches and trees, just above head-level.

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the whole reason i was in tokyo, believe it or not, was not to take in the sights while trying (somewhat unsuccesfully) to avoid seafood (breaches in the 'i don't eat that' mantra included prawns and – i think, and still feel awful – moray), but rather to visit ika-san and the squid collections at the national science museum, tokyo.  although i spent all the working hours at the offsite research facility near shinjuku, ika-san also took me to the main museum buildings in ueno, to admire the exhibits. 

before the trip, the pebbles had loaned me his lonely planet guide to tokyo, which i found absolutely invaluable at most times.  however, the lonely liar had this to say about the NSMT: 'generally nothing special: the displays are limited in scope and qualtity, and can be covered in less than an hour.'  this is patently not true – i hope the disparaging remarks refer to the museum ten years ago (it's a 1997 LP edition)  and have been updated, because i have rarely seen more engaging and well-thought-out natural history galleries.  the museum also has a spherical theater – not just imax or omnimax, but an actual full sphere, with the audience standing suspended on a walkway through the middle – which is worth seeing in itself, and while i was there, there was a very entertainig exhibition on robots that included the most advanced bipedal robot designed to date, asimo.  however, robots aren't really my thing, and photography wasn't allowed inside the exhibit, so let me divert you rather with the more esoteric things that tickle a teuthologist's fancy. sadly, i didn't get a shot of the life-sized blue whale model inside, but don't worry, i did get both the plastinated whale intestinal tract (oh, the memories – remind me to tell you about that sometime), and the whale stomach chock full of nematodes.  yummy.  oh, and both the stone carving of the ?plesiosaur (at the front of the site where i was working), and its skeleton on display – this was a new species several years ago.

AmmonitesCrazy ammonitesWhale intestinesWormy whale stomach

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one of our evening excursions was to asakusa, a part of town with an interesting mixture of shrines, market stalls, statues, and stray cats.


we also went to the top of the mori building, in roppongi hills, to gawk some more at the lights and sheer enormity of our surroundings.

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over our only weekend in japan, my cousin ww3 and i headed out to nikko, a beautiful spot about 2 hours from tokyo by train.  it boasts a wealth of shrines and historical Things To See, and the autumn colors were in full swing.  as for the weather, well, read on…

did i mention the weather up there?  hmm, yes.  we had the only snowfall i saw on the entire trip!  just crispy little hard flakes, but the wind was roaring, and the ears, they were freezing.  unfortunately the only hat i could find in the local shops was pokemon-yellow and sported two ears of its own.  well, when you have brain-freeze, you make poor decisions, i guess.

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coming attractions

hello!  i'm back in new zealand now, and obviously waaaaay behind on posting the last of my photos.  i have now added the ones from berlin, and will hopefully get the rest of japan uploaded over the next couple of days.  and lest everyone think i have just been resting on my jet-lagged laurels over here (instead of, you know, working on my thesis or planning a wedding… i know!  eeeee!) we actually took my visiting cousin, WW3 (tee hee), to a few picturesque spots in new zealand, so i'll get those posted shortly as well.

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the friday after i arrived in tokyo, i got up early and went to the meiji shrine, to take advantage of the morning daylight.  this is what it looked like. 

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