December 2004 Trip to Japan and China

From December 6-15, 2004, I traveled to Japan and China. The primary purpose of my trip was to give an invited talk at the 2nd annual CREST Symposium on Telecommunication, Teleimersion and Telexistence (December 9-10, Tokyo, Japan) which was organized by my host Tachi-sensei. Here is a brochure. On December 12 I traveled to Hangzhou (China) via Shanghai to visit the family and home town of my former student (friend and colleague) Ruigang Yang. On December 15 I made the 27-hour trip home using planes, trains (conventional and a seven-minute 430 km-per-hour "maglev" train), and automobiles (personal, taxis, limos).

Here are some quick links to my photos: December 6-7, 8, 9a, 9b, 9c, 10a, 10b, 10c, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15. The same links are included in the brief commentary below.

December 6-7, 2004

At 6:00 AM on Monday, December 6, I left my house to catch an 8:30 AM flight from the Raleigh-Durham airport to Dallas (TX), and then on to Tokyo-Narita. I arrived in Tokyo at around 4:30 PM (2:30 AM Eastern time in the U.S.) on Tuesday, December 7. I caught the Airport Limousine Bus to my hotel, the Tokyo Dome Hotel. Here are some pictures from my hotel room (out the window and around the room). Note the fancy electronic toilet.

December 8, 2004

On December 8 (Wednesday) it took me a little time to get going in the morning. I had wanted to get a traditional Japanese breakfast from the hotel, but by the time I got going they had stopped serving that. I had to settle for an American breakfast of eggs, etc. My original plan for the day was to try and make it to the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, but it didn't work out. Everything in the train station was in Japanese, and after waiting about 20 minutes (in a line that was not moving) to speak with a ticket agent, I gave up and decided to head to the University of Tokyo (Hongo campus) to get my bearings and explore that area. I had to go there that evening anyway to meet my host and test the AV setup, and I wanted to see if I could figure out how to take the subway. Here are some pictures from that day, including breakfast, some campus gardens, the auditorium, and the amusement park around my hotel. Here are some subway Tcards (prepaid travel cards).

December 9, 2004

Thursday was the first day of the symposium. We didn't have to be at the auditorium until 10:00 AM so I took my time getting there and took a few pictures. Here are some pictures from the actual symposium, including Tachi-sensei, Prof. Aarne Halme, Prof. Rick Satava, M.D., architect Kengo KUMA, Prof. Michitaka Hirose, and yours truly.

That evening our gracious host (Tachi-sensei) took us to Hyakumangoku for a very nice traditional Japanese dinner. Here are some pictures from that evening. There is one picture of me, Susumu Tachi, Rick Satava, and Aarne Halme, and then one with two other professors from the university, and Rick's son (who is also named Rick). I was able to snap some pictures of the many courses (served with sake and Japanese beer).

December 10, 2004

On Friday morning I got up early and took the subway to meet Rick and Rick Satava at their hotel so we could sightsee a little before the symposium activities for the day. We ended up going to the Sensoji Temple (a.k.a. Asakusa Kannon Temple). Here are some pictures of our visit, which include some shots of the Kaminari-mon (Thunder God Gate), the Asakusa Jinja shinto shrine, and the surrounding area. Both Rick (Jr.) and I "bathed in the smoke" of the Sensoji incense burner for one year of good health.

That afternoon we visited the Tachi Laboratory (several labs) and saw some impressive demonstrations of their Twister II and other displays, robotics, motion capture, etc. Here are some pictures of the lab tours/demos.

That evening Rick, Rick (Jr.) and I visited the Tokyo Tower, the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and had a great dinner of Shabu-Shabu. Here are some pictures from our Tokyo Tower visit. If your interested, here are my tickets for the tower and the museum.

December 11, 2004

I spent basically the entire day Saturday visiting the Imperial Palace. I did a lot of walking. I walked all through the public areas of the interior gardens, then walked the entire perimeter. Here are some pictures of the palace and gardens.

December 12, 2004

On Sunday I got up early, took the Airport Limousine Bus back to the Tokyo-Narita airport, and flew to Shanghai. I arrived there around 1:30 PM, and was met by Ruigang Yang's parents and his brother. Ruigang (wife Rebecca, and son Evan) were not due to arrive until 8:00 PM, so his parents took me into Shanghai to sightsee. We spent most of the time in the "old town" area (original city center), eating both a late lunch and dinner. There was a wedding reception taking place in the restaurant where we had dinner. Here are some pictures of that afternoon/evening, including Ruigang's parents, old town, lunch, the wedding party, and the Huanpu river front. (There are also some pictures of my hotel room in Hangzhou.)

We went back to the airport around 8:00 PM to get Ruigang and his family, but unfortunately their plane was delayed until 10:30 PM. We finally started out for Hangzhou about 11:00 PM. It's supposed to be about a two hour drive, but the fog was amazingly thick. So thick, the highway was closed! They routed us off the highway and we got lost. We finally hired a cab driver to lead us out of the city. Then we took back roads through the country through amazingly thick fog. There were times when I wondered...very surreal. We finally got to Hangzhou around 3:30am. (See the last three pictures here.)

December 13, 2004

I had a really nice day with Ruigang in Hangzhou on Monday. It is very pretty. We took a taxi to the Six Harmonies pagoda, walked a lot, then took a boat ride, lunch, then walked more, had tea by the water, etc. During the boat ride we stopped at a pearl store on the lake. (Pearls grow naturally in the lake, so they harvest and sell them in jewelry.) I purchased a set of pearl earrings for Linda. We ended the day with a wonderful dinner out with Ruigang's family (wife Rebecca, son Evan, his parents, brother, and aunt) and Rebecca's parents. Here are some pictures from the day, including the Six Harmonies pagoda, our boat ride on the West Lake, musicians in the park, and tea by the lake. If your interested, here are my tickets for the Six Harmonies pagoda (one and another) and the receipt for the pearl earrings.

December 14, 2004

Ruigang and I began Tuesday with a brief visit with a student at Zhezhang University (he had coincidentally contacted me a week prior, asking about admission to UNC), then a walk around the Zhezhang University campus (Ruigang's parents are both Professors there—his father in Computer Engineering and his mother in Chemistry). We then visited the National Silk Museum. (Hangzhou is famous for its silk and tea.) There I purchased a silk blouse for Linda and a tie for me. I learned how to tell real silk from artificial/imitation synthetic silk. (They have different melting points. You can move a lit lighter back and forth over real silk many times and it will get very hot but will not melt. Synthetic materials will begin to disfigure/melt.) Ruigang's father then joined us for a great lunch, and then the three of us went to the a Song Dynasty City theme park! At first Ruigang and I thought it was going to be a "living museum" but it turned out to be more of a theme park, with facades, actors, etc. Still, it was pretty neat and we enjoyed both the park and an impressive evening show with dancing, etc.

Here are some pictures for the day. The pictures include Zhezhang University (and the big statue of Chairman Mao), the silk museum, the amazing "you point to what you want" layout at the restaurant where we had lunch, and the Song Dynasty City park and evening show. (Here is my ticket for the Song Dynasty City.)

December 15, 2004

Wednesday was my long journey home. I left the hotel in Hangzhou at around 6:00 AM and arrive home at around 9:00 PM the same day (27 hours). First Ruigang's father took me, Ruigang, and Ruigang's aunt to the Hangzhou train station. There we caught a train to Shanghai. Then we caught a taxi to the "maglev" train station. I decided to splurge and spend 80 Yuan ($10) on a first class ("VIP") ticket for the seven-minute ride to the airport. (It's normally a 40 minute taxi ride.) I caught my plane to Tokyo-Narita, then had an insane connection experience, Tokyo-Narita to Chicago-Ohare, another insane connection (and customs) experience, and finally back to Raleigh-Durham and a limo ride home to Linda, Donal, and Carlos.

Here are some picture from that day. They include a shot of approximately 182,000 Yen (around $1,700—my host reimbursed me in cash; this picture is only about half of the reimbursement—I used some to pay the hotel), the maglev platform and train, and the display inside the maglev VIP coach showing the top speed of 431 km per hour (270 M.P.H.).