"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." - President Ronald Reagan.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

National Parks To Get $50 Million For Maintenance and Infrastructure

Above, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Lower Yellowstone Falls. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The national parks will be getting more than $50 million for maintenance and infrastructure funds.

Fox21 News reported:
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK — More than $50 million will be distributed to high priority maintenance and infrastructure projects at 42 parks in 29 states, including Colorado. 
While visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner announced Saturday Rocky Mountain National Park will receive $200,000 in federal funds matched by $200,000 from the Rocky Mountain Conservancy to reduce deferred maintenance on the Alluvial Fan Trail. 
It’s all thanks to Congress, who provided $20 million for the projects as part of the Centennial Challenge program, which will be matched by $33 million from more than 50 park partners to improve trails, restore buildings and increase visitor access to parks.

One such project the funding will go towards is improvements of the overlooks of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

To read more, go here

Lap Up The Madness and Magic of Tokyo

Above, Shibuya Crossing (or Shibuya Scramble). Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It is interesting to read of the different perspectives of people from other nations who've visited Japan.

In an article in The Scottish Sun, a couple from Scotland visited Tokyo and have written about their experiences and impressions.

They begin with:
THINK of any movie, cartoon or wacky story you’ve ever seen about Tokyo.
Then times the bonkers factor by ten, and you’re still not close to how mad the Japanese capital is.
Every day in the larger-than- life city is an experience and around every corner is something wilder than the last. 
We spent a magical week in the futuristic hub, and we barely scratched the surface.
Getting there is easier than you think — we travelled with the superb Turkish Airlines who took us in comfort and style. 
We landed in Narita late at night and took the express train into the city, before transferring to the subway. 
Travelling around Tokyo is a piece of cake. It is really well geared up for tourists so all the travel maps and vending machines are in English. 
Tokyo doesn’t have a centre. It is such a vast city that it’s portioned up into areas, each famous for different things.

To read more, go here.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Monster Japan Travel Guide Reached Facebook 500 Likes!

The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan Facebook page has hit, and passed, the "magic" number of 500 likes today. I didn't know about this until I saw the above graphic posted on the page by Facebook.

I am planning to get seriously cracking on getting the updated edition started following my August trip to see the total solar eclipse. Too many life things had interfered with my earlier plans.

Thanks to all!

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Reasons To Visit Osaka

Above, a restaurant's sign in the foodie area of  Osaka's Dotonbori. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

CNN may be full of fake news these days, but perhaps that hasn't affected their travel bureaus.

CNN Travel has an article of 10 reasons to visit Osaka, Japan from food to shopping (two good reasons, eh?). And they begin it with:
(CNN) — Ask most people where they want to go in Japan, and they'll likely reply without a moment's hesitation -- "Tokyo, duh." 
Romantic Kyoto may come a close second, or tropical Okinawa, but the Japan bucket list rarely includes rough-and-tumble Osaka. It's Japan's third-most-populated city, yet one that is often overlooked by overseas tourists. 
Bayside Osaka -- gutted by World War II bombing and rebuilt rapidly, haphazardly -- certainly lacks the picturesque architecture and alluring natural scenery of other Japanese cities. And its enduring role as one of Japan's economic command centers hardly seems like a reason to stir from your couch. So why visit Osaka at all?

To read more, go here

T + L: The Best Comic Book Stores In The U.S.

Above, Mile High Comics at the 2014 Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It is Comic-Con time in San Diego, California. But you don't have to go there to get your fix on comic books and other fan-related goodies.

Travel + Leisure has an article on "The Best Comic Book Stores In The U.S.".

They begin with:
It's that time of year again, when comic fans, costumed characters, and film buffs descend on San Diego, California. 
That's right. It's Comic-Con.And in honor of the biggest comics convention of the year, we're highlighting the best comic book stores all across the U.S. From Florida's Emerald City to Washington's Arcane Comics, these are the best places to find all the DC and Marvel your heart desires.

To read more, go here

Friday, July 21, 2017

They Won't Be Friends With Trump Supporters

Ben Shapiro has an interesting article in The Daily Wire.

It is, "Poll: Almost Half Of Leftists Say They Won't Be Friends With Trump Supporters".


He wrote:
People tend to hang out with people they like. That often means people with whom they share values and community and life experiences. But now, it appears that our political polarization has grown so wide that Americans who voted differently in 2016 don’t want to hang out with each other. 
That, at least, is the story from the Pew Research Center, which found that 47% of “liberal Democrats” stated that if a friend voted Trump, it would strain the friendship. For all Democrats, 35% stated the same. For Republicans, that number was just 13% when applied to Hillary Clinton.

Luckily for me, this happened to me with two people:

That was it.

Both are welcome back to the fold once they regain their senses and get over it.

To read more, go here.

Best Shops In Asakusa

Above, Shin-Nakamise Shopping Street. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

For visitors to Tokyo, Asakusa's many neighborhoods are meccas for shoppers. There's everything from traditional to modern goods.

Time Out Tokyo has posted an article on the best shops in Asakusa.

They begin with:
There's a lot more to Asakusa than just Sensoji. From traditional Japanese crafts to kitchenware, there's plenty left to explore in this historic neighbourhood. Take a stroll along the Sumida River for stylish finds in Kuramae or hit up the popular shopping streets of Kappabashi-dori and Nakamise-dori for a real treat. 
And, there's toy shops at Nakamise-dori and Shin-Nakamise where Godzilla toys can be found.

Above, I bought this Bandai 1968 Godzilla at Nakamise-dori in 2015. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

To read more, go here

Miyagi Tourism Video Decried As "Sexually Suggestive"

Above, the statue of Date Masamune at the site of Sendai Castle. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

A travel promotional video for Miyagi Prefecture has some female councillors up in arms.

According to the South China Morning Post:
Seven female members of the Miyagi prefectural assembly on Friday asked the governor of the northeastern Japan prefecture to remove a tourism promotion video it is using on the internet, claiming it portrays women as sex objects. 
The video, featuring a well-known model and actress in a kimono, showcases attractions and tourist spots in the prefecture but also contains some sexually suggestive scenes, including one in which the camera zooms in on her parting lips.

I saw the video (it is posted below) and I didn't see anything offensive about it. It spotlights Sendai (the statue of Date Masamune is featured) and Matsushima.

To read more, go here.

Here's the video (you be the judge):

National Park Deaths and Injuries

Above, Tenaya Creek at Yosemite. People have been getting swept down swollen rivers and creeks. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

People have been getting injured and killed in our national parks. I've noticed quite a number of them over the past several weeks and months.

I've noticed drownings (Yosemite and Sequoia), falling into volcanic hot springs and getting dissolved (Yellowstone), falls (Crater Lake and Zion) and heat stroke/dehydration (Carlsbad Caverns).

RV Life has an article on just this subject.

They start with:
According to National Park Service statistics reported by CNN, a total of 1,025 people died in national parks from 2007 to 2013. In the big scheme, that’s not too many deaths compared to other ways to die in America. For instance, in 2015 there were 15,696 homicides and 40,000 fatal car crashes. Regardless of how many people die in U.S. national parks the fact is that many deaths were totally preventable. 
Most vacationers don’t die from grizzly bear maulings or other wild animal attacks. The causes aren’t quite as sensational. The most popular ways to die in national parks usually involves being unprepared and disrespectful of the power of nature.

To read more, go here

Thursday, July 20, 2017

New Annual National Park Senior Pass

Above, the Gibbons River in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

There's a feature that last year's legislation mandating the $80 price hike for the lifetime national park Senior Pass that I hadn't been aware of.

It is a new annual Senior Pass that will sell for $20 a year. But there's more to it.

According to CNBC:
The legislation mandating the price hike includes a new payment plan to help seniors get a lifetime pass. For the first time, the National Park Service will issue an annual senior pass for $20 and once four annual senior passes have been purchased, the individual will automatically qualify for a senior lifetime pass with no additional fee.

That's a great idea! Seniors won't have to pay $80 for the lifetime Senior Pass in one pop. All they have to do is purchase four annual Senior Passes to qualify for the lifetime pass. The price hike goes into effect August 28.

To read more, go here.

Three Shops To Buy Japanese Kitchen Knives In Kappabashi

Above, the giant chef marks the entrance to Kappabashi "Kitchen Town". Photo by Armand Vaquer.

In 2014, I made a stop in Kappabashi to pick up a chef's knife for my then-roommate Jessica. It was during that trip I was stuck on a train overnight during a snowstorm.

After I checked into my hotel, I went via taxi to Kappabashi, known as "Kitchen Town", Tokyo to get the knife. Since then, I have bought chef's knives for my daughter and myself at Kama Asa Shoten (or Kamaasa Knife Co.) while in Tokyo. I've also mail-ordered cutlery from them.

Above, Kama Asa Shoten's knife shop in Kappabashi. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Goin' Japanesque has an article on three shops where visitors can buy quality Japanese knives. One of them is where I bought ours, Kama Asa Shoten.

They begin with:
Kappabashi Dogu Street (Map), located in Asakusa, is the number one shopping arcade in Japan for kitchen implements. Frequented by many professional chefs, there are about 170 shops lined up across 800 meters of street. Today, we’d like to tell you about some shops where you can pick up high-quality Japanese kitchen knives. Be sure to use this information if you’re picking up gifts for people back home. Just going to have a look at these incredible knives makes for a great experience.
Above, Jessica's knife from Kama Asa Shoten. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

To read more, go here

Cousin Eddie's Brother?

Hirohito "Powerless" To Stop The War

Above, Emperor Hirohito and President Nixon meet in Alaska.

It is interesting when documents that deal with historical events and personalities turn up. Such is the case involving Emperor Hirohito (now known as Emperor Showa) and World War II.

The Asahi Shimbun has an article on Hirohito.

It begins with:
LONDON--A newly released letter written by the British ambassador to Japan after the Jan. 7, 1989, death of Emperor Hirohito absolved him of responsibility for taking Japan to war, saying "he was ultimately powerless to stop" the nation's drift to militarism. 
The bitter memories held by many British veterans about their treatment at the hands of the Imperial Japanese military led to strong calls about the responsibility held by Hirohito, known posthumously as Emperor Showa.

It was Hirohito who broadcast the message to the the Japanese people telling them that Japan will surrender to the Allies. It was the first time that the Japanese ever heard him speak.

To read more, go here

The Cost To Get To Tokyo From Narita Airport

Above, inside a Narita Express car. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Now that Haneda Airport in Tokyo has expanded international flights, people now have that as an option instead of arriving and departing from Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture.

Narita is Japan's biggest air travel hub, but its disadvantage is that it is about an hour away from Tokyo.

In each of my eight visits to Japan, all my flights were into and out of Narita. Only once did that present a major problem as one of the biggest snowstorms to hit the Tokyo area (and beyond) at the same time as my 2014 arrival at Narita.

Above, the Keisei Skyliner at Narita Airport Terminal One. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

I got out of the airport okay, but midway between the airport and Tokyo, the snowstorm forced all train service to come to a stop. I had to sit inside the Keisei Line train for hours. I didn't get to my hotel in Tokyo until almost 24 hours after arriving in Japan.

But that was a fluke occurrence.

There are different means of getting to Tokyo from Narita Airport and City-Cost.com has an article on them and how much they cost. My favorite is the Narita Express.

They begin with:
We should probably kick off by cautioning travellers to avoid the same mistake that we've just committed here - specifying only the name "Narita" in searches.  Narita is in fact the name of the city next to which sits the airport.  Narita has its own train station which it is not practical to walk to from the airport.  No, in your searches be sure to enter, "Narita Airport" (you can probably skip the "international" bit).

Narita Airport is serviced by two train operators - JR and Keisei.  Both of these services can be accessed from the B1 floor of terminals 1 and 2 (not terminal 3).

To read more, go here

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Drat! (Sort Of)

Above, The Beast at Reseda Automotive last year. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

For the past two years, I have taken The Beast to Reseda Automotive for its oil changes and pre-trip checks. I've liked their service since they did work on RVs.

I called them up this morning to set an appointment to bring it in for an oil change (I use synthetic oil for it) and a pre-trip check before I hit the road for Idaho to see the eclipse. Lo and behold, they are under a new name and management. In other words, a who new regime has replaced Reseda Automotive.

Well, I do have a regulat mechanic for the Mustang. I stopped by his shop and he says he can do the oil change and trip-check on the motorhome. So I'll bring it there.

It seems that almost every time I find a vendor I like, they go out of business (just like El Paso Barbecue Restaurant). Yeesh!

Japan's Foreign Tourists and Spending Reached New Records

Above, Asakusa's Nakamise Street. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan, during the first six months of 2017, has set new records in foreign tourism and their spending.

The Japan Times reported:
The number of foreign visitors and spending by the tourists in the first six months of 2017 both hit record highs, government data estimates showed Wednesday.
The Japan Tourism Agency said the number of foreign visitors in the January-June period grew 17.4 percent from the same six-month period a year earlier, reaching a record 13.76 million due mainly to an increase of South Korean tourists.

To read more, go here

Things To Know About The National Park Senior Pass Price Hike

Above, Yosemite Valley in the early morning. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Regular followers of this blog are aware that the national park Senior Pass is about to cost more starting August 28.

The Dayton Daily News has posted five things people should know about the price hike.

They begin with:
Columbus - The price for the lifetime senior pass to visit National Parks is about to skyrocket from $10 to $80 —the first price increase since 1994.

To see with the five things are, go here

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How To Photograph The Eclipse?

Above, a partial solar eclipse projected through foliage on a wall. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

On the day of the solar eclipse, I may use two still cameras (one for stills and the other, set in video mode, to shoot the darkening area around me) and one "old school" Hi8 camcorder (provided the battery still is good since I haven't used it in a while).

People may be wondering, How to photograph the eclipse?

The Oregonian has an article that'll tell you how.

They start it with:
This summer’s total solar eclipse, coming Monday, Aug. 21,  is expected to be the most widely-viewed eclipse ever, as millions of people pack into the narrow band across the United States where it can be seen, stretching from the Oregon coast to South Carolina. 
And in this age of constant digital documentation, it could also wind up being the most photographed eclipse ever. 
But documenting the cosmic event won’t be as easy as pointing and shooting – photographing a solar eclipse takes specialized equipment, patience and practice, according to Fred Espenak, a retired NASA scientist who has spent decades chasing, documenting and photographing total solar eclipses.

To read more, go here

Camping For The Eclipse?

Above, camping or not, don't forget your eye protection!

Next month's eclipse event is likely to bring a lot of people out of the woodwork to camp out in an area where the totality's path will cross.

Unfortunately, many probably haven't set up a tent since college or, even worse, since their Boy Scout days.

But, there's some help for you city-slickers!

WFMY News has some good tips for those of you who are in need of some refresher tips before you head out.

They begin with:
Are you planning to camp during the total solar eclipse on August 21? That's great! You are in for a memorable experience. On that Monday, you’ll get to see the moon fully cover the sun, darkening the sky and making stars visible during the day. Campers headed away from city centers will have some of the best views, with less pollution clouding the rare celestial phenomenon.

But camping can be tricky. If you’re not prepared, you could be struggling to set up a tent, find your campsite or making a dash for more provisions when you should be laying on a blanket, watching a once-in-a-lifetime show.  

So, to read more and prevent having a disaster fall on you like a ton of bricks, go here.

Zinke and Panel Meet To Boost RVs In National Parks

Above, The Beast at North Pines Campground in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is looking to modernize campgrounds in national parks to better suit recreational vehicles.

According to E & E News:
Expanded and modernized spaces for recreational vehicles in national parks might be where the rubber meets the road as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke pushes for improved public-private partnerships. 
After Zinke met with recreation industry representatives today, he cited "Eisenhower-era" RV spots as one area where the Interior Department might work alongside industry in meeting contemporary park visitors' needs. 
"A lot of our infrastructure is still stuck in the '50s, and in some cases before," Zinke told participants in what was billed as a recreation leadership meeting, adding that "we have to adjust to [what] Americans' outdoor experience is today." 
The industry representatives, from groups including the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association and International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, delivered 27 recommendations to Zinke during the approximately hourlong meeting in a fifth-floor conference room.

To read more, go here

ObamaCare To Be Repealed First

Well, they've finally on the same page regarding ObamaCare.

Young Conservatives reported:
President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have officially done it: they’ve all called for a full repeal of Obamacare. 
Following the announcement by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Mike Lee (R-UT) that they will oppose the GOP healthcare bill as it currently stands, Trump, Pence, and McConnell must have decided to spring into action.
President Trump Tweeted:

To read more, go here.

7 of The Most Awe-inspiring National Park Landmarks

Above, Yosemite's Half Dome. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

When one thinks of Popular Mechanics, there's one subject people wouldn't consider that they'd cover: national parks. But, on their website, there is the topic of "7 of The Most Awe-inspiring National Park Landmarks".

They wrote:
Every region has its landmarks, but the most awe-inspiring of them can define not just a region, but an entire country. From all our country's National Parks, here are seven of the most awe-inspiring landmarks.

One of the landmarks listed is Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. In such a list of landmarks, it is pretty much a given that Half Dome would be one to be listed.

To see what the other six landmarks are, go here.

Nagoya Seeking Donations To Rebuild Nagoya Castle

Above, Godzilla (Haruo Nakajima) is about to demolish Nagoya Castle in
 Mothra vs. Godzilla (a.k.a. Godzilla vs. The Thing). Photo by Toho Co., Ltd.

Nagoya Castle is about to be demolished again. Not by the U.S. (as was the case during World War II) or by Godzilla (as was the case in Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)). It is to be dismantled so that a wooden version can be built on the site.

The Japan Times reported:
NAGOYA – The city of Nagoya will start accepting donations Friday to finance a restoration project that will re-create the original wooden structure of Nagoya Castle’s main tower. 
The city aims to collect ¥10 billion through its Kinshachi donation campaign, which is named after the two statues of the kin no shachihoko (golden tiger-headed fish) on the roof of the castle’s donjon. 
Those who donate ¥1 million or more will be entitled to enter Nagoya Castle free of charge for 30 years. The city aims to complete the restoration in 2022 at a maximum cost of ¥50.5 billion. 
“We can expect donations not only from Nagoya but also from all over the world,” Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura said at a news conference last Monday.
About ¥10 million has been already donated, according to the city.
The current Nagoya Castle was constructed in 1959 in reinforced concrete.

To read more, go here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Zion National Park Considers Entry Reservation System

Above, Zion's Checkerboard Mesa. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

With more and more people visiting Zion National Park in Utah, the National Park Service is considering a reservation system.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Like a trendy new restaurant with a long waiting list, getting into Zion National Park might one day require a reservation. 
The National Park Service is considering a year-round online reservation system for access to Zion’s most popular trails and attractions in response to a massive surge in visitation at the park 160 miles northeast of Las Vegas. 
Under one of two “preliminary alternative concepts” unveiled by park officials late last week, visitors would be required to get advance reservations to enter the park. The second, more restrictive alternative also would require reservations to access specific trails and sites within the park.
It is unfortunate that such a system should be necessary, but with congestion a big problem, the National Park Service has to come up with plans to protect the park. Congestion is the big reason that I prefer to visit national parks during the off-season.

To read more, go here.

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