Author Archives: druez2

Oh Yeah, …

Tokyo has lights! And narrow alleys with flaming winds of soy and teriyaki just recirculating the stale air between restaurants less than a meter apart and rarely seating more than ~10 people. Fortunately, you can sometimes get to an upstairs room where there is also no AC and a cover charge. OK, this photo is before that dark time in that … “restaurant”?

Soy Sauce – Gunma Style

Salt + wheat + soybeans + mold + 3 years = soy sauce at the only place in Gunma Prefecture that produces it.

As I lay my hand on a 100+ year old vessel that can hold 6,000 liters of soy sauce, please allow my earlier tribute at the Shinto shrine turn this into sake.

Takatsudo Valley

I almost chuckled to hear Mr. Sasaki talk about the public backlash regarding the construction of the Takatsudo Dam. The valley had to be restructured, and aquatic life both in the reservoir and downstream changed. Well, although hydroelectric plants produce large amounts of energy, create reservoirs for municipal water use and recreation, and are (generally) low maintenance, there is inevitable environmental damage from multiple perspectives. Some of that research has just come out in the past few weeks – so I’ll leave that to the Blue Lions to discover.

Takatsudo valley downstream from dam. This is the Watarase River, which flows through Ashikaga, directly in front of our hotel. Until a couple hundred years ago it emptied eventually into Tokyo Bay.

UIS students exploring the spillway.
Silent thought: “I can SO make this jump to that wet rock.”

Lake Chūzenji

This high altitude lake was formed about 20,000 from the damming by a volcanic eruption. Humans started building shrines in the area about 1200 years ago. The main volcano (Mt. Nantai) is still considered active – and it was odd to look around and see so many volcanic craters surrounding us during the boat ride around the lake. I could also see the paths of recent lahars, and geomorphic contours clearly indicated locations of the next constructions to succumb to gravity.

A little bit of archery never…

OK, I got a blood blister doing this. I somehow neglected to put on the glove. At some point later it was pointed out that I was wearing it on my shoulder. Oberservational…skills…dying. But then six others in our group tried to walk off wearing their gear. I could seriously get into this art.

Time Travel

So I woke up on a Friday morning and apparently arrived somewhere a few days / hours / countries later. Chicago to Vancouver wasn’t a bad trip. I think I slept for about half of it. Missing my midflight cookies was disappointing; can’t they just balance them on my head so I can get them when my slumping head wakes me up. But the Vancouver airport woke me up. Clean, new, beautiful…let’s say it wasn’t O’Hare.

Narita airport was a bit unexpected. Clean, but plain. And empty. Silent. I swear I entered the restroom and when I came out the flood of humanity confined to the same steel flying tube had disappeared. For what seemed like kilometers three of us moved along the only path available. A path we hoped would lead us to a quick drive to the hotel…even we knew that was not to be. No, it was not to be.

Actually, I was anticipating a 3-hour ride from Tokyo to Ashikaga. It was only about two hours. Sweet! An extra hour of sleep. However, our kind driver wanted us to have dinner before the hotel. We three Americans all said we really weren’t hungry, but we stopped at a chain Italian restaurant. We ordered pasta, which apparently came with a salad bar and slices of pizza coming at you every couple minutes. We three Americans barely touched our pasta.

Sleep deprived, we checked in to the hotel. I couldn’t recognize numbers and couldn’t open my hotel room door. A few hours later a magnitude 4.9 earthquake started shaking my 8th floor room. Am I still jet lagged? (Well, yes.) Dehydrated? (Well, yes.) Just not all there upstairs? (Please don’t leave a comment.) It did actually take about 5 seconds before I realized it was an earthquake. Welcome to Japan. Bring on Godzilla.

Meters in prep

Some of the equipment to be taken to Japan and China being calibrated on campus.


What is the one thing you will pack for a long trip that you really don’t need?

Departing soon!

In a few days four of our UIS Wanxiang Fellows (Illinois Blue Lions) depart for Japan, where I and two other UIS students will meet them a week later. Then we travel to Beijing to meet the Illinois Red Lions (UIC) and Illinois Orange Lions (UIUC). I’m already tired…