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Kanagawa Geography Flashcards

2021-10-23

This is a deck of cards showing maps of cities, towns, villages, and wards in Kanagawa Prefecture. Kanagawa Prefecture is just south of Tokyo, and it's part of the urban sprawl. There are nineteen cities in Kanagawa. Three of those cities are divided into wards. There are also over a dozen towns and villages.

Here's the 58-card package for Anki.

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Hiking in Gunma

2021-08-21

For summer break I rented a car and went camping and hiking. In the COVID era, it's nice to be outdoors for daily activities and lodging, and camping and hiking are fun regardless.

Gunma

There are two free campgrounds NE of Numata, 自然の森野営場 and 川場谷野営場. The former is a nice little campground along a narrow mountain road that sees almost no traffic. There are a few dozen campsites, plus two restroom buildings with running water. The latter is not a great place to stay, because it's at the end of a beat-up gravel road and has tons of bugs but no views, although because of these factors it's quiet. Neither campground has cell service for me, although that tends to happen in rural areas if you use one of the cheap cell providers.

It rained every day I was here, except the day I took the train to Tokyo for the COVID-19 vaccine. I got drenched climbing Mt. Nantai in a torrential downpour complete with thick fog and high winds. Mt. Nantai is quite the climb — it's mostly straight up, few switchbacks, and the trail becomes a stream when it rains. A few days later, during a break in the weather, I got a nice ascent on Mt. Shibutsu. This trail is well-maintained, and it was a nice morning 10 km.

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Jōshin'etsu

不動滝キャンプ場 is a free campground SW of Itoigawa in Niigata. Unfortunately, the campground rules banned visitors from prefectures in a State of Emergency. I stealth camped there one night and then moved to the non-free (but still cheap) 能生海洋公園 荒崎キャンプ場. This campground is just up the hill from a rest area complex with restaurants and a convenience store, and it even has a cheap hot shower — great for the continuing rainy weather. One day I hiked up Mt. Amakazari. Another day I took a long walk down the walking and bike path that parallels the coastal highway. The town is famous for crab, I ate some, and it was good.

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On the way back to Tokyo I overnighted at 和平公園, a free campground way up the side of a mountainside roughly south of Nagano City. It was a nice way to break up the long drive.


Camping in Fukushima

2021-03-30

For spring break I rented a car and went camping in Fukushima and Ibaraki. One good thing about Fukushima, and all of Tohoku, is the presence of good free campgrounds that don't require reservations. I particularly like free campgrounds with fewer services (e.g., no running water, pit toilets) because it keeps the party crowd away. Then you can hear the birds chirp and chill out in nature.

The first place I stayed is open year-round, but the facilities are locked in the off-season. It was an excellent pine forest campground on the shores of Lake Inawashiro. Another night I stayed at Shibayama Natural Park, which has a large grassy hill and views in all directions. Later I spent several nights at Kodama Dam.

There was some hiking. There was a cave, and then a ginormous waterfall the day after a huge rain storm, which was awesome. There was some reading and relaxing. Eastern Fukushima is not famous for outdoor activities, but it turned out there was plenty of fun stuff to do.

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Thanksgiving and Turkey

2020-11-23

Every year November 23rd is a Japanese national holiday, Labor Day Thanksgiving. This year, my friends and I decided to celebrate American Thanksgiving instead. Because of COVID-19, international travel this summer was a total no-go, and the winter doesn't look so hot either, we were quite excited to have a get-together. A potluck celebration at Jimmy's place, marvelous.

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I have an oven, Julie's old oven, and it's big enough to cook a turkey. So I ordered a turkey from the Meat Guy. Here's how I cooked it. This is a variant of a recipe from Food Network Magazine.

Start with a frozen turkey. Defrost the turkey in the microwave at 150 W, 6 minutes per pound, rotating occasionally. (It is recommended to purchase the turkey several days in advance and thaw it in your refrigerator instead.)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Place the oven rack in the lowest location. Lightly oil a 12" cast iron frying pan. Pat the turkey very dry with paper towels. Rub inside and out with salt and pepper. Dice the onion, carrot, and celery, and stuff into the cavity.

Melt the butter in a small frying pan. Mix in the paprika, sage, and thyme. Put the turkey in the frying pan. Butter the turkey. Roast for 1 hour. After 1 hour, baste the turkey with drippings. Continue roasting for 1-2 more hours, basting every 30 minutes, until the skin is golden brown. Use a meat thermometer to measure breast temperature, and stop roasting when it reaches 74°C (165°F). Wait 30 minutes before carving.

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After the turkey is in the oven, start making the gravy. This is a variant of a recipe by Slowturtle.

Dice the onion and celery. Put the broth, onion, celery, giblets, salt, and pepper in a pot. Cover and simmer for 2 hours. When the turkey is nearing completion, strain the broth. Heat the broth in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the turkey drippings and flour. Cook and stir for around 20 minutes. Use a blender to smooth the gravy out.


All the Prefectures

2020-11-02

This was a long weekend trip to Ishikawa with a dash of Fukui and Toyama. I'd been to Ishikawa and Toyama before, but only the big cities, and the Noto Peninsula to the north looked interesting. Fukui was the last remaining prefecture for me to visit in Japan. Now I've been to all 47!

10/31After work I biked home, grabbed my duffel bag, and walked to the train station. 🚅 Tokyo → Shintakaoka.🏨 Toyoko Inn Shintakaoka
11/1I rented a car and headed south to Tojinbo, a rocky outcrop in northern Fukui. Nice views. Then I headed north and drove on the beach at the Chirihama Nagisa Driveway, a famous 8-kilometer road right next to the sea. This road is also on my sixteen motorcycle roads list, but it was perfectly enjoyable in a car, especially given the warm and clear autumn weather. In the evening I continued north up the Noto Peninsula, eventually arriving at a remote campground just after sunset.⛺ Minazuki Campground
11/2The rain and wind kicked in overnight, but it wasn't an issue. Turn on the heat in the car to full and you dry out fast enough. I headed SE to Noto Island and checked out the Notojima Aquarium. It was a pretty cool aquarium. There were hammerheads, dolphins, penguins, and a neat projectors-and-mirrors room with psychedelic visuals along with the fish. After lunch I stopped by Wakura Onsen for a bath. It was a giant wooden building, quite majestic. In the evening I continued south to another free campground near Himi. Rain continued until around five the next morning.⛺ Amarabashi Camping Ground
11/3It was a short morning: get up, boil water, eat instant ramen, drink coffee, pack up, and head back to the car rental place before hopping the shinkansen. This was a short trip, only two full days, but there was fun stuff to see and do. 🚅 Shintakaoka → Tokyo.

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We Have Power to Make Things Better

2020-10-31

The following is a letter I wrote that appeared in the Grand Forks Herald on October 31, 2020. The title it was given is, “We have power to make things better”.

Over the last month, COVID-19 cases in Grand Forks and across the state have risen to shockingly high numbers. The governor talks of “personal responsibility”, but personal responsibility can't stop a pandemic. Earlier this month, the mayor created a toothless rule that required masks in city buildings, except it didn’t include the one place in town that’s seeing a lot of traffic this week, the Alerus Center.

As we watch state and local leaders mismanage the pandemic, it’s easy to tell ourselves that nothing can be done, that we’ll just have to “wait it out”. Please, don’t believe this. We have the power to make things better. We can combat COVID-19.

Look at other cities in other states. Look at other countries. New Zealand has only four active cases today, yet their population is six times larger than North Dakota’s. Why don’t we learn from them? It’s not easy to implement a solid COVID-19 reduction plan, but people in other places have succeeded, and I believe that North Dakota can, too. Even a small percent decrease in transmission rates can save a large number of lives, and we all have a responsibility to try.

Douglas Perkins

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