Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Battle of Music — USS ARIZONA band

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Originally printed in the Clear Lake Courier — May 31, 1995

It was Saturday evening, December 6, 1941. Most of the sailors at Naval Station Pearl Harbor were on liberty. The Bloch Recreation Center was filled to capacity for what was expected to be the first annual “Battle of Music.”

Three 21-piece bands had made it to the finals after several months of elimination concerts. Tonight would determine whether USS ARGONNE (AG 41), USS PENNSYLVANIA (BB 38), or USS TENNESSEE (BB 43) had the best band in the Navy’s Pacific Fleet. (more…)

Hiroshima Visit

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Hiroshima Dome

Originally published in Clear Lake Courier — 12 May 1999

My last weeks in Japan arrived sooner than I expected–and found me with things still undone and places still unvisited. These included riding a bullet train and seeing the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima.

After I shipped my household goods and moved out of my house, I took the super-express Shinkansen train to Hiroshima. The Japanese countryside zipping past the train window varied from cities to rice paddies and distant mountains. (more…)

Eastern & Oriental Express

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Kwai River Bridge at Kanchanaburi
Bridge over River Kwai

Originally published in the Clear Lake Courier — 17 March 1999

The Eastern & Oriental Express luxury train runs through Thailand and down the west coast of Malaysia. I recently achieved my goal of experiencing this journey. The train left Bangkok late one Wednesday morning in January. (more…)

USS Belleau Wood — Visit to Australia

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Originally published in the Clear Lake Courier — May 20, 1998

On my way to visit USS Belleau Wood near Australia, I spent a night in Cairns, Queensland. Well-known as an entrance to the Great Barrier Reef, the town seemed to exist only for tourism and diving.

A Marine Corps helicopter came to the Cairns airport to exchange passengers and pick up cargo. Australia’s extremely strict environmental laws required the crew to spray two cans of bug spray inside the helicopter before opening any doors, and then hand the empty cans to the agricultural inspectors on the ground–even though the CH-46E is open in the rear and on the upper sides. (more…)

A Quick Look at Hong Kong

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Originally published in the Clear Lake Courier — 26 November 1997

My one day to spend sightseeing in Hong Kong was hindered by a heavy overcast and steady drizzle. Although I rode the tram up Victoria Peak, the zero visibility at the top permitted no photographs. I was supposed to be able to see a spectacular view of Victoria Harbor and the South China Sea. All I saw was fog.

USS Nimitz (CVN 68), one of the Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, brought me to Hong Kong. I walked aboard in Yokosuka, Japan, and stayed with the ship during its five-day transit past Okinawa and Taiwan. (more…)

Ancient Japanese Temples

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Horyu-ji (Temple of the Flourishing Law)
Japanese temple

Originally published in the Clear Lake Courier — 10 February 1999

I recently walked through the oldest wooden building in the world.  It is the main hall of a Buddhist temple in Nara, Japan, and was built sometime prior to 730 A.D.  Named Horyu-ji (Temple of the Flourishing Law), this complex also contains Japan’s oldest five-story pagoda. (more…)

Kawasaki Fertility Festival

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Originally published in the Clear Lake Courier — June 17, 1998

Cherry blossom time in Japan (early April) means the coming of spring and the opportunity to socialize outdoors after a long winter. One common celebration is a Buddhist fertility festival, established in ancient times to welcome spring and pray for a good harvest. Today people offer prayers for such wishes as success in business, fertile marriages, healthy children and personal health.

To experience one of these festivals, I joined four busloads of Americans (adults only) from NAF Atsugi on Easter Sunday. We went to the town of Kawasaki for the annual Kanamara Matsuri (Festival Of the Steel Phallus). (more…)

Sapporo Snow Festival

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Sapporo snow sculpture

Originally printed in the Clear Lake Courier — 1 April 1998

Since moving to Japan, I’ve been told one thing I need to do (in addition to climbing Mt. Fuji) is attend the Sapporo Snow Festival. So I took four days leave and paid my money for the February tour.

Sapporo is the capital city of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands. With a population of 1.8 million, Sapporo is Japan’s fifth largest city. It hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics and will host the 2002 soccer World Cup. (more…)

Japan’s Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Originally printed in Clear Lake Courier — 28 October 1998

When I moved to Japan, one of my sailors told me I’d soon be a sumo fan. I couldn’t imagine getting excited about those excessively obese men pushing at each other, and I still can’t. However, when my boss acquired tickets to a performance of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo, I agreed to go. It would be a cultural experience.

Six grand tournaments are held each year in Japan. During fifteen all-day sessions, every rikishi (wrestler) fights a different opponent each day. We attended the final three hours of the eighth performance. (more…)

Traveling through Malaysia

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Originally printed in the Clear Lake Courier — 11 March 1998

I spent my Christmas vacation touring Malaysia with sixteen other tourists–Americans from Japan, Australians, Italians, South Africans and British. We traveled 1400 miles on a bus in ten days, through ten of Malaysia’s thirteen states, and stayed in seven cities. (more…)