Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Tour!

I had thought about doing a post on the “back of the house” of the fish tank so to speak, and tonight I got in the mood for whatever reason. If you ever wondered exactly how everything works, how the water stays warm, how the plants grow, etc., here’s the inside scoop.

 

The lights seem like a good place to start! I run two Ecoxotic LED lights over the tank. They originally cost about $300 a piece, but I got lucky and bought them on clearance for about $65 for the two together. I believe I bought the mounting hardware separate. I’ve had enough tanks where the light just sits on top of the glass cover that I didn’t want to do that anymore; it makes maintenance such a pain. So both lights are suspended from the ceiling, meaning I can get my hands in the tank without disturbing the lights.

The lights are both operated by remote control. If I feel like doing gymnastics, I can usually get one remote to control both at the same time. Pictured below are the two receivers for the lights. The receivers are honestly pretty useless past showing the time (and even then, one runs faster than the other). I have to use the remote to change any settings on the lights. Since they are LEDs, the color possibilities are nearly endless! I have also set sunrise/sunset times so that I don’t have to manually turn the lights on and off every day – also, this provides a reliable and appropriate photoperiod for the plants.
img_2738-1

You can see the little wire shelf stand-thingies at the ends of the light here, to be used if you wanted to set the lights on top of a tank rather than hang them. Supposedly those come off, but I’ve not managed to make that happen yet.

img_2737-1

 

 

For plants to grow well, you have to find the balance of three separate elements: lights, carbon dioxide, and nutrients. I have not found that balance yet (and I suck at remembering to dose fertilizers), so you’ll find some Black Beard Algae in my tank, as well as the occasional slightly yellowed leaf.

I do try to fertilize on the reg, but I suck at remembering to do so. I use dry potassium nitrate and monopotassium phosphate, as well as liquid iron and a pre-made liquid mixture of micronutrients. I also dose some with API CO2 Booster or Flourish Excel, whichever I have on hand, to help decrease algae growth and boost the carbon dioxide a little – particularly on the end of the tank opposite my carbon dioxide diffuser.

I put together a relatively simple carbon dioxide diffusion system. Here you can see the CO2 tank with the solenoid regulator on top (it’s the one on the far right – the black cylinder in the middle is a filter, which we’ll get to later):

img_2727

 

The regulator allows me to alter the pressure of the CO2 coming out of the tank aside from just manually turning the knob. Since it is electric, it also allows me to attach the CO2 diffusion system to a light timer on the wall (pictured at the outlet there), similar to what you might use for your Christmas lights, to only diffuse CO2 when the lights are on. Plants cannot use CO2 when they don’t have any light, and if the plants aren’t using it, then it just stays in the water. Believe it or not, fish can and will suffocate. As such, my timer switch there turns the CO2 on and off at times that coincide with the lights’ sunrise and sunset. Since the pressure is set on the solenoid, this system is effectively hands-off once you find the sweet spot on the regulator for the amount of CO2 you want to diffuse.

You may be wondering how exactly you set how much CO2 to use – well this delightful little glass contraption below does just that!

img_2739-1

 

This is both my diffuser and my bubble counter. It’s attached to the inside of the tank with a suction cup. The tube coming from it goes out of the tank and down to the regulator, which you can see above. The tubing I have running to the diffuser is presently clear, but you may notice that the tubing from the regulator is blue. That’s really just coincidence; there is a check valve installed, which involves connecting two separate lengths of tube to either side of the check valve. This just prevents water from backing up to the CO2 tank when it’s off.

So on top of the bubble counter/diffuser sits a little porous piece of ceramic that works to break up the CO2 into tiny bubbles (which you can sort of see pictured) so that it’s better absorbed in the water – that’s the diffuser part. The glass cup beneath the diffuser is the bubble counter. When CO2 gets to the cup, it comes out of the tube in the form of bubbles (the cup is filled with water so that you can see the bubbles) Based on how many plants you have and what kind, how big your tank is, how religious you are about dosing fertilizers, how much light you use, and other factors, you figure out how many bubbles you want per minute (or per second), count them as they come through the glass cup, and adjust your regulator accordingly until you get the desired amount of bubbles. Mine diffuses about 3-4 bubbles per second.

Since CO2 can be dangerous to fish if left to build up, I take extra precautions by also having two airlines run to the tank from a bubbler. Here’s my Azoo bubbler (the little greyish box to the left; the big grey box on the right is another filter, which I’ll get to shortly):

img_2734

It has Hi and Lo settings and also has two compartments for batteries. That way, if the power goes out, I still have air and water movement to help keep my fish and beneficial bacteria healthy. You can certainly buy smaller, simpler bubblers that just plug in the wall and go.

Here’s one of the two air stones the bubbler connects to (essentially another diffuser):

img_2735

Any air lines run into a fish tank should always have check valves on them to protect electrical equipment on the other end and also to prevent fires. All of my air lines have a check valve installed; they usually only cost $1-$3 depending on where you get them and what brand. It is worth it to check on them occasionally and make sure there is no water between the check valve and the electrical equipment; I have had one fail before.

On to filtration!

So, in the above pictures, you saw my two canister filters. I run two Eheim brand canister filters, though they are different models.

Before I jump into my setup, let me break filtration down: in a nutshell, you need something attached to your fish tank that the water will be pulled into and then run through filtration media (i.e., filter floss, sponges, little balls designed to have lots of surface area for good bacteria to grow, water-polishing agents such as Purigen, etc.) before being returned to the tank. There are such things called sponge filters that don’t pull water through them so much as just provide water movement and surface area-heavy sponges for bacteria to grow on, but I digress. Here, we are talking about canister filters.

Filters are so important because this is where most of your good bacteria lives – the stuff that chomps on the ammonia generated from fish waste and ultimately turns it into nitrate, which is much safer for fish. A good, established filtration system will always keep your ammonia at 0 ppm by hosting lots of good bacteria on media that is specifically designed to house said bacteria. In addition to changing ammonia to nitrate, called “biological filtration,” filters also provide mechanical filtration – i.e., it removes solid waste and debris from the water and catches it in sponges or floss. You can also add chemical filtration to a filter which can directly remove/neutralize ammonia, or, like carbon, remove or neutralize medications and other chemicals in the water. I personally only use biological and mechanical filtration.

So, if you were to look inside my filters, you would find various media stacked in layers in the canister, each with its own purpose. I also use Purigen, a water-polishing agent, and I keep crushed up shells in the filters to buffer the water’s pH. The filter basically holds anything you want the water to be run through.

Here you see a filter intake (the vertical green pipe) that sucks water in and through tubing down to the canister filter on the floor, and the filter output, in this case a spray bar (the horizontal green pipe) that returns the water to the tank once it has run through the media inside the filter:
img_2732-1

These are closer together than I might have liked, but my thick fake-rock background makes it difficult to place equipment along the back wall.

Here is the other filter intake (the grey thing behind the wood):

img_2731-1

And its output, another sprayer bar:

img_2736-1

 

The sprayer bars just ensure that you don’t have basically a hose blowing water into the tank and creating violent currents.

Now, as far as heating goes, I have a more elaborate system than most. In the interest of heating more evenly and also in reducing the equipment clutter in the tank, I utilize “in-line” heaters. More typically, you’ll see submersible heaters, which are literally long, thin, cylindrical elements that directly emit heat that you just put down in the water. This can lead to hot spots and cold spots if you don’t have good water circulation – also, they can be a pain to hide if you’re going for a natural look.

I use two heaters, each attached to a canister filter’s tubing. This is what they look like:

img_2728-1

So I basically cut the tubing running from my canister filter in half and put the inline heater between the two halves. Now all water that goes through the canister filter also runs through this heater. It is recommended to install these heaters on the output tubing (i.e., the tube that runs from the filter with clean water back to the tank) to reduce the amount of debris that comes in contact with the heating element. Due to problems with different tubing sizes, I have one inline heater installed on the output tube of one filter, and the other one installed on the input tube of the other filter (the output tube of that filter did not match up with the inline heater). So far I’ve had no issues.

These heaters are both electrical, and as such need to be plugged in. Now, for a couple reasons, I have again done this in a more complicated way. For one, I wanted even heating. I wanted the whole tank to be the same temperature – meaning I wanted both of these to be set to the exact same temperature and to turn on and off together at all times. For two, these heaters have a reputation for failing, which involves cooking all the fishies.

So, rather than just plug each into the wall separately and letting it do its thing, they are both plugged in to an Azoo temperature controller. (Sidenote: I really love the Azoo brand. The instructions are usually in the worst Engrish you’ve ever seen and barely legible, but the equipment works great!)

Here is the Azoo temperature controller:
img_2729-1

Sorry the lighting from the LEDs caused some exposure problems there. So basically, I set the desired temperature for the tank on the temperature controller – so I want my tank to be kept at 26* Celsius. The Azoo temperature controller has three cords coming off it. One runs to a thermometer that is placed in the tank here next to this attractive dead leaf:

img_2730-1

 

The thermometer actually has a suction cup on it, but again, it’s hard for me to place equipment sometimes due to the fake rock wall, so it just sits down on the substrate instead.

One other cord from the temperature controller basically runs to a miniature power strip – so I can plug three different heaters into it.

The third cord runs to an actual plug that goes into the wall.

Rather than the heaters detecting the temperature of the water moving through them and turning on and off accordingly, which is how they’re supposed to work, the Azoo temperature controller detects the temperature of the water actually in the tank and then turns the power to the in-line heaters on and off as needed to maintain the desired water temperature.

This tank is my first time ever working with in-line heaters, and I have been a big fan so far (when used in conjunction with a temperature controller, anyway). Not only is my water more evenly heated, but the temperature seems to stabilize much more quickly after a water change if I accidentally used chilly water. I do keep two old-fashioned glass thermometers at either end of the tank so I can quickly and easily spot-check the temperature.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to set up this tank. I loved the engineering and logical challenges it presented, and I’ve been delighted with the final product. In the future I probably won’t use fake rock walls just because they pose such a challenge when placing equipment in the tank, but I have to admit it does look pretty awesome.

img_2726

Advertisements

When left to my own devices…

…I find the nerdiest place I can. 

Originally I had not planned on going anywhere today and was just going to wander and window shop near the hotel and Kyoto Station. Alas, during my wandering I came across an advertisement for The Pokemon Center in Kyoto. So off I went to get on a train!

It was a perfect short visit; it was about 20 minutes one way. I snagged a couple cute souvenirs and looked around before heading back to the train station.
A neat piece of wall art I saw on my way. It’s strange to look at it and think of myself on that little island nation, literally on the opposite side of the world from home.


Capsule machines because Japan!


Cute little photo op in front of the store:


The storefront itself:


I’d been meaning to get a picture of this, so I grabbed it really quick on my way back through Kyoto Station:

I have succeeded in using up the yen I have so I don’t have a bunch left over and also in not withdrawing anymore than I had already done. I have a couple 10-yen coins and a 1-yen coin, but aside from hat I’ve just got a 1,000 yen bill, which will exactly pay the shuttle for checking an extra bag for me.

I’m presently in the shuttle en route to Kansai International Airport! There’s no place like home!

Last Day!

Kyoto Day 2:

I forgot to mention in the vlog, but on the way to Kyomizu, we saw this small temple where the Buddha was actually made from pine trees that were knocked down during the earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima disaster several years ago. 


The gate to Kyomizu:


The Blue Dragon that guards the eastern portion of the temple:


A jizou:


The pagoda I mentioned in the blog for pregnant women, placed far away so they get good exercise for the baby:


A portrayal of an Indian god. The Japanese paint them black to mimic the dark skin. Of course I can’t help but think of black face.


The view of Kyoto from Kyomizu:


Ringing the bell:

The supports underneath the temple:


The water you drink to achieve a blessing:

Kyomizu’s huge pagoda:
Beautiful local street:


Studio Ghibli store!


Maiko-cosplay-rental!


The incredible entrance to the restaurant where we had lunch, Sodoh:


The gardens around Sodoh:


A backstreet outside of Gion:


So these little torii gates are to signal to people walking their dogs that they shouldn’t let them hike their legs on the wall. They also have them near bars to signal to (human) men to relieve themselves elsewhere. 


An entryway with the triskelion “whirlpool” symbol to protect against fire:


The gate at the shrine in Gion:


Heron!

Maiko live upstairs:


Those wood blocks in the upper right corner are name blocks for the maiko living here:


A street in Gion:


Fushimi Inari front gate:


Farther in to the shrine:


The guardian foxes:

Torii gates! They were so pretty ❤


Delicious sayounara tempura dinner!

Our wonderful guide for the past couple days! Akemi was hands down the best. 

Day 1 in Kyoto

Kyoto Vlog!

Zen rock garden!


Panorama of said rock garden:


A fountain shaped like ancient Japanese coins. I heard a couple different translations from our guide and another guide nearby, but essentially I think the writing means “I am content with what I am”


The temple frames by trees:


Starting to change colors!

The weaving pattern under these umbrellas, which are pretty commonly found, is amazing:


The entrance to the Golden Pavilion, complete with beautiful women in kimonos!


The gargoyle on top of a temple building:


More leaves changing. So pretty!

Rather than inundate you with all my Golden Pavilion photos, here’s my best one:

A red pine tree that is growing in two separate directions. The Japanese feel it looks like a boat.


Our guide bought us all incense sticks to light and offer in front of a smal temple. Exposure to the smoke is supposed to heal. In particular, this incense brazier is supposed to heal ailments from the neck up. 

On our way to lunch, we walked by a shrine for pregnant women, so I had to have a picture:


Delicious lunch!


The entrance to Nijo castle:


A close-up underneath the entrance archway. You can see two cranes; one has its mouth open, representing the beginning, and one has its mouth closed, representing the end. Generally open-mouthed statues and engravings are considered male while the closed-mouth ones are female. Balance is particularly important to Japanese culture. There’s also a dragon and a tiger; the tiger is the guardian of the west, and the dragon is the guardian of the east (and my totally badass zodiac sign).

The entrance to Nijo castle:


The shogun lake:


Shogun moat! Those stones are original from 400 years ago. 


Cedar trees. They cut them down, and multiple new trunks spring up. They use the little trunks in construction of temples and such.  


Pagoda trees at Nijo Castle:


A random weird building in downtown Kyoto:


Getting ready for the tea ceremony:


Little Japanese sweet before the tea:


Part of the tea ceremony:

The nicest smoking area I’ve ever seen. 


Weird graffiti near Gion. 


A beautiful sunset in Kyoto:


Gion District:


The venue for the arts show:

The craziness of Kyoto Station:


Escalators going up forever!


Stairs and escalator going down forever!


Wtf is this? Why is there a Christmas tree up before Halloween? Calm down, Kyoto.


Fin!

One more day tomorrow, and then I’ll be looking forward to finally coming home!

Miyajima and Train to Kyoto

On to the pictures! The view from my hotel room in Hiroshima:

Tightly packed restaurants and shops:

Arrived on Miyajima… and suddenly a deer!


The first gate to the shrine.


He floating Torii gate:


The city across the water with a beautifully illuminated building. 


Front of the shrine:


Wash basin in front of the shrine:


More shrine:



Every shrine has male and female guardian dogs/lions. Here’s the female:
An old part of the shrine used for the Noh dance each year:


A bridge that was constructed to be used only by the emperor’s personal messenger. It was really steep. I would have spent all day just trying to scramble up it; I might not have been a very good messenger.

Suddenly a deer!


Stairs up to a shrine. There was suddenly a deer right after I took this photo. 


The maples in Momijidama:



The very crowded shopping arcade:


Looking back from the boat as we left Miyajima:

I took this to show how precise and close together the Shinkansen run. From the same platform, you have two trains leaving four minutes apart. 

I finally got a video of the bullet train pulling in. 

Happy hour on the bullet train!


Kyoto Station from my hotel room.


A tour of my room in Kyoto:

​https://youtu.be/hJgQ6Hmi-ME
Capsule machines at Yodobashi Camera!


My lovely little hotel room:

Hiroshima

Getting ready to board the Thunderbird train to Shin-Osaka!

The misty Japanese Alps. 

The bathroom on the train. Most women’s restrooms in Japan have a little baby seat up on the wall, which I think is quite cool. Nursing rooms are also easily found; overall I think Japan is kinder to new mothers than the US is.

So many sensors! Japanese bathrooms are so interesting. 

The monument at the hypocenter in Hiroshima. 

Looking up from the hypocenter. On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb used against human beings exploded there in the air, 600 meters up. 

The Dome, somehow still standing despite being very near the hypocenter. 

The leaves were starting to change in the Peace Park. 

Viewing the Dome from the T-bridge that was the actual target. 

The mounted photo was taken in 1915 and shows the pre-bombing government building. 

Right around the time I took the above photo, we were having a discussion about the American belief that we dropped flyers on Hiroshima, among other Japanese cities, warning them of an impending attack. Our tour guide vehemently denied this. His mother lived about 20 miles outside of Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped and saw it with her own eyes. She went into Hiroshima sometimes herself and knew people in the city; no warning was ever given. Of note, none of the eye-witness accounts found in the museum mention a warning, either. Having been to Oak Ridge where the bombs were constructed, and now having come full circle to where the bombs were dropped, it’s interesting to me to see the discrepancies that happen according to which side of history you’re on. 
Children singing at the Children’s Peace Monument:

All the various cranes:

More photos of the Children’s Peace Monument and the cranes (yes, that’s Obama – it was made shortly after his visit in May 2016):

The flame that will burn until nuclear disarmament happens, and the pool for the victims who screamed for water:


The monument to the victims:


The top number on this clock is the number of days since the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The bottom number is how many days have passed since nuclear testing had occurred anywhere on the globe.


One of the four cranes made and presented by President Obama, as well as his letter to the people of Hiroshima (this is th only exhibit photo I took in the entire museum):


The photo below may not look like anything significant, but I took it for a reason. We had just left the museum and had been walking through park and buildings, watching rush hour begin in a normal modern-day city, then we came around the corner and suddenly the Dome was in view. It was jarring in a way I can’t describe.


On a lighter and much different note, my hotel room tonight:


And I snagged a quick photo in between courses at dinner:


And the outside of the restaurant we ate at, Tenko Honten:

How do I get to floor 2.8?

No, but seriously, how? After this blog post, I intend to try to find the vending area, which is apparently on floor 2.8.

So here’s the vlog, split into two parts because the internet at this hotel is a little janky.

On to the pictures!
Kenrokuen Garden, which is supposed to have six attributes: open spaces and secluded spaces, artificiality and nature allowed to grow wild, and lots of water and panoramic views.


To prepare for winter, they set up supports underneath the trees so they don’t become damaged under the weight of snow:

Looking back at the Japanese Alps from the garden:


A tree being helped to creep along the water by supports, displaying two contradicting garden attributes: nature allowed to grow wild and artificiality. 

Me with my two favorite ladies from our tour group, Angela and Cristina:

It is said that once you have looked upon this bridge, you will live to be 100 years old:

One of the many stone lanterns:

Another stone lantern:

One of the water ways:

Beautiful bright green moss:

Koi!

Kanazawa Castle, which the garden was originally established for:

The Samurai District!

The doorway to a middle-class Samurai house. The near window-type outcropping is the lookout, and the one in the opposite side of the door is where the stable would have been.

The gateway to the home where the last known Samurai descendants currently live:

More housing in the Samurai district:

The first generation Samurai suit worn by Nomura:

The Nomura house garden:

Traditional Japanese structures use alcoves to indicate where guests should sit, so here I am sitting in the Nomura guest area!

More of the Nomura garden:

A much smaller garden enclosed by the house. This was used for ventilation, letting in more light, and also meant there were more sloped areas to the roof to help some to fall off into the garden and keep weight off the roofs:

More koi!

Second story window overlooking the garden:

There was a smal museum of Samurai era artifacts in the Nomura house. I thought it was particularly interesting that these delicate little butterflies were used for ornamentation on a weapon meant to kill (these are original swords used by the Nomura Samurai):

Best thank-you note ever:


“To Mr. Nomura Shichiroguro,

A Thank-you Letter from

YOSHIKAGE ASAKURA (Echizen)

We appreciate that you worked so hard to kill one high ranked soldier on the fourth of last month at the Yokokitaguchi Battle in Kaganokuni Enumagun.

We are very happy that you brought us his head. 

October 9th, 1566 (Eiroku Ninth)”
Enjoying the garden:

The formal downstairs used to entertain guests:

After returning to the hotel, I paid a visit to the nearby Kanazawa Station, ranked one of the most beautiful stations in the world:

A video just inside the glass canopy of the station:

Some fantastic Engrish in the mall:

And last, but not least, the magnificent Mega Mug of beer the waitress gave me:

Tomorrow, on to Hiroshima!

Seriously Against the Law

Sorry for the delay! This is my 10/26 post. I fell asleep last night (or, for those of you in the State, this morning) while uploading the videos to YouTube.

The bus to Shirakawa-go:


Fasten your sheetoberuto!

A sign at the bus station. Seriously, we’re not joking, guys. 

As you can see, Shirakawa-go was beautiful. I’m keeping comments to a minimum as I’m frantically trying to get this post done before we leave for today’s adventures. 

Steam coming off a thatch roof:

Inside the Nagasaki house:


Scarecrows! Their faces were made with hiragana characters. 


Idyllic little houses and farm plots:


And beautiful natural scenery with emerald colored water:


On to Kanazawa! The geisha district:


Tea House Kaikaro:


Playing the shamisen, the Japanese guitar:

Japanese Drinking Game!

Tatami mats covered in gold leaf, apparently cost as much as a new Ferrari:


Laundry night!

Monkey babies!

Today was our day in Takayama up in the mountains. We actually had most of the day free, which was nice, even though it was rainy most of the day.
The view from the hotel hallway window this morning:


Walking in formation to our first tour stop. I feel like that face is pretty representative of his personality. That’s the older gentleman who’s now walked out into traffic twice.


It said to take a picture with it!

Kokubun-ji! A very beautiful Shinto shrine. This was the entrance – notice all the Sarubobo (monkey babies!). These things are everywhere around Takayama.

Our guide Miko talking about the Sarubobo at the shrine:

And of course, the sign, because otherwise I’d never remember the name:


More Jizou images, just like in Kamakura, to ask that Jizou help the deceased children and babies cross the river out of hell. 

The shrine itself:


1,200 year old ginkgo tree, the “Milk Tree:”

A Jizou image tucked into the Milk Tree trunk:

Just a pure vanity selfie:


Some fun Engrish. At least it’s not far:

The river in Takayama:

A not-very-good shot of the outside of the Takayama government building:


Shoes off and toes cold! The fancy border on the tatami may indicates this room was used by high-ranking officials.

And the inside. I was trying to get a decent shot of the architecture, which is difficult with so many people around. 


The garden view through the shijou:


The tiniest of tea rooms!

The Japanese version of a Hope Chest, which I didn’t even realize was a thing:

Ancient Japanese rain coat 🙂

Oshirasu, where they interrogated and punished prisoners:

Just part of the beautiful projection sequence inside the building:

Sanmachi, the old preserved homes:


Enjoying some sake!


A couple old Japanese gentleman showed us that you’re supposed to spoon some salt into one hand, lick one finger on the other hand and dip it in the salt, then lick the salt and drink the sake. Kind of like a tequila shot. This is the salt box.


Enjoying sake!


Some beautiful hangings inside the restaurant where we had lunch:


More beautiful wall art where we ate:


My delicious Hida beef and rice:


An old street leading toward a shrine:

The gate in front of the shrine:


Stairs leading up to the shrine:


Aforementioned shrine, with me and my adorable umbrella:


But… what if I prefer the forceful stairs?


Hilarious sign in a bathroom stall in the Matsuri floats museum:


The floats! Those mannequins are life-sized, so you can tell how big the floats are! They were so intricate, too. 

The omikuji machine! So fun. The next time we did it, we all howled along with the weird noise it made and annoyed other tourists.

Me bumming around my hotel room in slippers, which most hotels in Japan provide for you. Unfortunately this one does not provide a robe or yukata, though. 


I know I said at the end of my video that I was about to go meet the rest of the group for dinner, but I opted instead to pick up some delicious sesame noodle salad from the local Family Mart and enjoy an evening in with some Supernatural. The introvert in me was about to have a crisis if I didn’t get some quiet alone time. Next in my plans is to go enjoy a nice, hot bath in my Japanese-style bath tub!

Tomorrow, onward to Kanazawa and Shirakawa-go! We keep the same guide, so hopefully everything will continue to be smooth sailing.

Sightseeing in Hakone

Vlog part 1:

Vlog part 2:

Leaving our ryokan in the morning:

Hakone train station:

Hakone switchback cable car:

Reached the top! It was absolutely beautiful. I wish more of the leaves had started to turn. 

A panorama of the view before we got on the Gondola:

Gondolas!

You can see here where all the trees have started to die being so close to volcanic vents:

It looked like something from a post-apocalyptic movie. It’s an active volcano and actually pretty dangerous. 

Trees all dead from the gases being released. 

Owakudani!


The first picture I took on our way down the other side of the volcano – I noticed Mt Fuji the moment I took the photo and gasped and yelled “IS THAT FUJI?” at which point I think everyone just about rocked the Gondola off the cables.

Fuji coming up out of the clouds!

We took a boat across the lake, and as soon as we got off we were very lucky to see Mt Fuji again. 

Mt Fuji!


The Marquetry master in Hakone. I can’t remember his name, but I have it written down somewhere:

I gave him omiyage, and he gave me a couple pieces of his woodworking in return. 

The outside of his shop:


About to board the bullet train to Nagoya, where we transferred to an express train to Takayama:

It felt almost like an airplane. 

My bento box lunch. It was okay. 

For the express train, I got sake in a cup!


We arrived at our hotel in Takayama, and this was in the lobby. Super cute!

We had dinner next door. This is a little grill they lit for you at your table:

And this is shabu shabu. You parbroiled your own meat at the table:

And now I’m all caught up! New guide, new day tomorrow. Hopefully the ride continues to be fun but gets a little more peaceful!