Sunday, April 18, 2010

Home Theatre Update: Set up! (Well, 99% there)

My Dad helped me a huuuuge amount today in setting up my home theatre system... and we're all done! It took about 6 or 7 hours of setup after a day of shopping for stuff, and I got reaaaally tired by the end of the day, but man was it worth it.

We got the rear speakers attached beautifully to the wall, pointing down at the couch. We got speaker wire, measured it, stripped the ends of it and connected up all the speakers. The rears are attached high up so we could run the speaker wire along the picture rails so it's not messy at all, it looks really good.

The mains sound AMAZING and the center channel is absolutely fantastic. We didn't know where to put the center channel, but turns out it fits perfectly inside the top drawer in my IKEA cabinet, so that works well.

After getting it all set up, we ran the Pioneer receiver's auto speaker tuning utility, and it... sortof worked. First it got confused and thought my front right speaker was connected out-of-phase. We moved all the wires around to double-check, and it looked fine. Then it got confused that I had a 7.1 receiver, but I was only set up with a 5.0 system (no subwoofer). Then it messed up the setting so my 2 surrounds had a very low sound level for some reason. After messing around with it a whole bunch, we got it working... but... for the life of me I couldn't figure out why it wouldn't play DTS-HD Master Audio. That's one of the reason I bought the Blu-Ray in the first place - to play high-def audio signals through my sweet new speaker set!! So that was nuts, the receiver keeps saying "PCM" no matter what the signal is. Man.

Finally I gave up and we just listened to a few tracks from the new Blu-Ray I bought, "Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live at Radio City Music Hall" - awesome stuff. It sounds so gloriously clear and fantastic. But after some more research tonight, I think I've tracked down the problem. Turns out there is a setting called BD Audio MIX which is on by default. This does not pass the Dolby HD audio signal through, so your receiver only shows a "PCM" setting. To send the high quality HD audio through, you need to turn this setting off. This should work, this was the exact problem I was having.
In the player's setup menu you should set Audio Output Priority to 'HDMI', Audio (HDMI) to 'Auto' and BD Audio Setting to 'Direct'. Your amp should automatically detect the audio and decode it correctly if connected by HDMI. Remember that you may have to select the lossless audio through the disc's audio menu (sometimes under 'Languages' like they were on DVD). Also make sure you're using a disc with TrueHD or DTS-HD MA audio rather than PCM (or you will only see 'PCM' engaged on your receiver). If you see the TrueHD or DTS-HD lights activate on your amp then the settings are correct.
Sony BDP-S370 Manual:
BD Audio MIX Setting
On Outputs the audio obtained by mixing the interactive and secondary audio to the primary audio.

Off Outputs the primary audio only. Select this to output HD audio signals to an AV amplifier (receiver).
You didn't say what you were trying to play, bluray/DVD or streaming video ? If the later, PCM is normal. For BD/DVD if you set HDMI AUDIO to "auto" the receiver should show the audio format selected from the disk (DD.DTS,DTS-HD,True-HD).

actually, post #125 has the answer. it's not the "auto" part, oddly. it's the BD Audio Mix to "NO". that did it. it's really strange that it's so hidden.

"Try this. Will enable the player to bitstream the audio. I figured the PCM issue out. Instead of an option for Direct you just turn the "Mix" option to off and it sends the audio out to the receiver to decode. It's under Audio Settings-BD Audio MIX Setting. Options are On/Off. Set to off."

Another great explanation:

what is the advantage to using "Mix" turned On? what are the benefits of decoding the soundtrack in the bluray player, running the PCM through a mixer, and adding in a secondary audio? i have never before owned a bluray player so i'm not even sure what you mean. thx again. Secondary audio is not part of the movie soundtrack. If you want to hear it, it must be mixed in by the player. Secondary audio is not included in the lossless bitstream. Again, secondary audio is sound effects for disc menus and the audio for PIP commentaries.

oh, additionally, i was told by a friend that it is crucial, for the best possible sound, that if one were to have a good receiver, i.e. my Onkyo 807, that one uses the Mix "No" option (plus the HDMI Audio set to Auto), because that way, the 370 outputs the untouched bitstream to the receiver. According to him, this would allow the 807 Onkyo receiver to receiver the purest form of the audio tracks, be able to process it using the RECEIVER's superior audio processing algorithms/powers, and allow us maximum options of audio output.

May i ask if you guys agree with that, or, do you guys feel that it is equally good, or maybe even better, if the audio processing were to be done "in bluray player", i.e. ask the bluray player to output PCM?
Your friend doesn't quite understand how things work. TrueHD and dts-MA are really just zip files used to compress PCM and save space on the disc. Decoding unzips the file, turning it back into PCM. It doesn't matter where the unzipping takes place. You get the same PCM either way. No matter where the file is decoded, your AVR handles all processing. In fact, player decoding is better with some receivers that lack the processing power to decode dts-MA and apply Audyssey.

But, there's a caveat with the Mix setting. Many players cannot decode dts-MA and mix secondary audio. So they use the lossy DTS core track instead.

So, if you set HDMI to PCM and Mix to Off, you will get the same lossless audio as you get bitstreaming to your Onkyo for decoding. The Onkyo does all of the processing either way. If you set Mix to On, you'll get lossless TrueHD because the player can decode the TrueHD track when mixing in secondary audio. But, with the Mix setting, you will get the lossy DTS core instead of lossless dts-MA.

The Sony 370's nomenclature vis-a-vis "bitstream output" is very confusing to me. Why won't there be simply an output option called: "Output: Bitstream" and another "Output: PCM"?
Many players do just that. Sony chose a different approach where the HDMI handshake between player and receiver determines whether the player bitstreams or decodes.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Japan/SoKor Day 15: Videos

I took a bunch of videos in Kyoto, here are a few of the best ones. The Monkey Park one is hilarious, the monkeys were really funny.

An awesome day at the Arashiyama Monkey Park

The awesome Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) in Kyoto, Japan

Walking through the Bamboo Groves in Arashiyama, near Kyoto, Japan

Some funny and random ads on TV in Japan

Japan/SoKor Day 15: Kyoto Day 2: Arashiyama Monkey Park, Bamboo Groves, Kinkakuji

December 25, 2009
Japan Trip Day 15: Kyoto Day 2: Arashiyama Monkey Park, Bamboo Groves, Kinkakuji

I woke up this morning in the comfortable room in Kyoto and busted out my iPod Touch + microphone + headphones + Skype to call Angie for her birthday. That was fun and nice to catch up! The iPod is a lifesaver, the Skype app is just as important as the World Clock app for figuring out what time it would be reasonable to call someone in Canada from Japan. :) So that was super fun and nice to chat with the famed "numero" for her birthday, and after that I called Norm while I was in Skype mode and we chatted for a bit too. After that I packed up all my stuff, said goodbye to the funny Indonesian girls and guy, left my bags with the dude at the front desk, and rolled out.

I got a full day bus pass on recommendation from a few people, and trekked out to find the nearest major bus terminal. It wasn't too hard to find, but of course I had no idea where my bus stop was. I asked around as there were a bunch of helpful old people wandering around at the station, and they were all very nice. "Ah-ra-shi-yaama?" I said to one nice old lady and she said, "Hai!" and smiled at me. From her expression I got the impression that she was happy that someone clearly not Japanese was trekking way outside of the regular touristy places and (attempting) to take a local bus somewhere in the countryside that would be 1) far and 2) absurdly interesting. :) The ride to Arashiyama actually did turn out to be quite long, it was ~60-70 minutes! There was some complicated train method to get there that might have been faster, but I was keen to try the bus and it was great. The train tends to be much better/faster in general, but I had lots of time to travel so I wasn't worried about taking my time.

My main destination in Arashiyama was to see the bamboo groves, but... wait... a monkey park?!!! I saw some signs for a monkey park and, especially since I'd forgone the snow monkey park last week, I definitely had to check it out. That was a really good decision too cause MAN was it awesome. The walk up the mountain was tree-lined and had sunbeams bursting through the trees, and it was quite and peaceful and AWESOME. Then as I got further up the mountain there was a fantastic view of Kyoto city, and a big cage you could stand in and feed the monkeys. I must have stood in there for 30 minutes taking photos of all the hilarious monkeys, they were really funny and had a lot of personality. There were monkeys everywhere, climbing on things, standing on a wooden post and launching themselves at the cage fence (that was hilarious), there was a zen monkey sitting in a lotus position on a post, and even lots of babies that were playing under the watchful eye of their parents. So cute and hilarious, and it was a great experience. (See lots of photos below).

From there I went to the Bamboo Grove, which was super nice. I took some interesting photos and I bet that place would be crazy at night and in different seasons - I hear at night there are lights pointing up at the Bamboo and it would look even more fantastic. I wandered there for a bit and it was really relaxing, I am really glad I made the trek out to Arashiyama. I got a tasty snack of some teriyaki rice balls, we got them yesterday when I was with Tatsuya, and I'd been looking for another vendor ever since. Soooo good. After the walk through the Bamboo Grove, I got some lunch of ramen and tofu, and some "guh-reen tea-uh ice-u keu-rim" ("green tea ice cream" - I think I pronounced it well and the ice cream man was happy I was attempting some Katakana). :)

From there I took the bus to the middle of nowhere. I got off a stop or two too early because the map was super confusing, and I hiked for a little while to the next stop along a quiet side road. Haha. I was pretty lost but I knew I'd find the transfer bus stop eventually, and the area was also pretty frickin' beautiful and it was a great day, so it was totally worth getting absurdly lost! I got to the bus stop (which actually looked like some sort of bus depot), and it was deserted save for me, the attendant, 1 bus driver and about 10 parked busses. Haha. There were several routes leaving from there, but I think they felt bad that I looked lost so they started the bus up and left along my route within a couple of minutes... awesome.

After a while of windy country-ish roads, I got back closer to the city and more people and got off at Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. This turned out to be EVEN BETTER than anything else I'd already seen in the glorious city of Kyoto. I LOVED IT. I got there about 4:00pm-ish, just as the sun was hitting the Golden Pavilion, creating a beautiful shimmery reflection in the lake surrounding the pavilion. I took a bunch of photos which caught the attention of a family. Their daughter, about my age, called me "Canon Man" and asked if I could take a photo of them. I chatted with them for a bit and then they called me "Canada Man" once I said where I was from. They said they were from Jamaica, and joked around asking me "Are YOU from Jamaica?", to which I answered, "I wish!" They liked that, of course. :)

After I left the Kinkakuji area, I bought a few more souveniers, and bussed back to the hostel area to grab all my stuff. At this point it was getting dark and eveningy so I wanted to keep moving cause I was heading off to Kobe to stay for the night. I got my bags and headed to a bus which would take me to the train station with all my crap. The bus was very busy and I had SO much HUGE baggage... well fortunately I got to practice my "sumimasens!" Instead of taking a Shinkansen, the ticket attendant suggested I just take the local train from Kobe to Sannomiya (the specific area of Kobe that I was going to be staying in) - that was kinda insane, but was direct so I did it, amongst many more "sumimasens". When I got out at Kobe, I was looking forward to setting down my stuff and relaxing after a busy day... and then I got totally lost. I reaaally should have just got a cab from the train station, but I didn't have any cash on me, and finding a bank to take my card at that time of evening would have been almost as hard as just finding the hotel. Oy! So I just kept wandering, and asked a few people along the way, who weren't sure. I eventually found a 7-11 and asked for help there. All the employees came out to help me and were super nice, and unfortunately told me I was going the completely wrong direction... d'oh. My shoulders and legs were starting to hurt from all the walking, and my knees were starting to hurt too (given the 60+ lbs in my back/front packs!) Oh man.

So after some more walking and asking for help I FINALLY tracked down the hotel! SO glad I decided to stay in a hotel in Kobe rather than another hostel, it would be perfect for having a nice shower and a good sleep. I got into the hotel and was suuuper sweaty after a 2hr hiking expedition through downtown Kobe, I put down my bag, and said... of course... "sumimasen!" haha. I dropped off all my stuff and relaxed, had a REAL shower and a shave, and felt like a new man. It was too late for real food and I was too tired to explore downtown any more than I already unexpectedly had, so I just went to the local 7-11 and picked up some sushi and junk food, and had a relaxing night inside, watching some funny local TV shows.

Lake running through Arashiyama, about 60 min out of Kyoto

I was surprised to see a bunch of people in Santa Claus outfits... then I realized it was Dec 25th!

Boat Tours

Ah, I think this must be the monkey park

BEAUTIFUL walk up the mountain

This was amazing

I kept my food well hidden!

More funny "don't feed the monkey" signs

My first monkey sighting

Taking photos from the caged area

This guy was going to town on this orange

Peeling an orange

Zen Monkey


One of my favourite photos of the whole trip. "You be careful now, I'll be right here watching you" :)

Mom and Baby

The monkey on the left looks so serious


View of Kyoto, and more monkeys

Nice lake

I got some of the Teriyaki rice ball dessert things again, these were soooooo good

Bamboo Forest

Cool roofs and architecture here too

Me in the Bamboo Grove

Awesome walk through here

Being artistic

Can't see the forest for the... uh... trees?

I got a ramen and tofu soup for lunch with a "C.C. Remon" which was REALLY good. The label said something about harnessing the Vitamin C "Power of Lemons" :)

The place where I bought my tasty lunch

I love these roofs!

Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. One of my favourite sights of the trip!

Me at the Golden Pavilion

Side view


The walk around Kinkakuji was fantastic, too. Lots of cool ponds and sculptures and wildlife.

This was cool, these were Fortune vending machines, very similar to the one I modeled for one of the many items in Wall-E's truck!

And... off to Kobe. I arrived in the late evening to Kobe and I was quite tired, but staying in a proper hotel room. I got a bunch of to go junk food and snacks and sushi form the 7-11 nearby, and had dinner while watching lots of weird stuff on TV.

One of the many random things on TV that night!

Best. MacRumor. EVER.

Who knows if this is anywhere close to true, (given by the fact "rumor" generally means, well, "rumor")... ha, but anyway, MAN this is the best MacRumors post, possibly ever.

Attn: Awesome Apple friends - if you turn the next Apple iPhone into a Dick Tracy-esque camera phone so I can easily video chat with my family in Canada while on-the-go... and even put it on Verizon so I can keep the current network I have...

...then this guy is definitittteeeely willing to camp out overnight at the Apple Store ;)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Faith After Auschwitz and the Memory of the Shoah

Tonight I shook hands with a Holocaust survivor, for the first time in my life.

Dr. Rabbi David Weiss Halivni's story is as profound as any I've ever heard. From being deported to Auschwitz as a teen, to becoming one of the most respected Talmudic scholars in the world, a Rabbi with a Ph.D - his story is a great account of personal triumph to hear during the week before Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Rememberance Day). He arrived in the USA in 1947, a child prodigy, already a scholar and already ordained... but without having finished even elementary school. For the next decade, he completed elementary, high school, and bachelor's degrees, as well as two master's degrees and a doctorate. Then he became a lecturer and eventually a full time Professor at Columbia University.

To pretend I could carry about my evening as usual after this lecture tonight would have been foolish, indeed. I figured I would instead share a few feelings on the blog, helping me to process my thoughts and sharing them as part of the process.

Joining Rabbi Halivni on the stage was another iconic Ph.D. Rabbi, Dr. Michael Berenbaum. He was the creator of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and the President of Stephen Spielberg's The Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.

This lecture was, as all lectures at the JCCSF tend to be, inspiring, intense, eye-opening... and opened with some sort of intellectual humour. :) The way that Rabbi Halivni opened the lecture was interesting, hilarious, and so very Jewish. He said, "I'll start with a story." (I'll do my best to repeat it here from memory.) He talked about a young boy, awakened by his father at a very early time in the morning. The boy wanted to sleep, "as children do", but his father said he must get up so they could go to the Synagogue in the early morning to start their prayers. As they walked to the Synagogue, the boy found a coin in the street! He was very excited, and his father said to him, "You got up early to come to Synagogue, and see, you've been rewarded!" He said in response to his father, "Yes, but the man who dropped it got up even earlier than me!"

Everyone in the audience laughed. Rabbi Halivni then, without missing a beat, said, "I am only here today because of all the people who got up earlier than me." With one sentence, he turned (on a dime, as it were) a humorous story of father-son time, into a poignant recognition of all the scholars and historians that have come before him and an appreciation for the giants on whose shoulders he feels that he clearly stands upon. So after the first 30 seconds of the lecture, I knew this was going to be one to remember.

He spoke with Rabbi Berenbaum about how faith, prayer, belief, even daily thoughts and actions have changed since the Holocaust. Something I found very interesting is that they were both very comfortable with the often-discussed idea of "Never forget" - they spoke with certainty that due to "modern technology" (a sort of indirect reference, I think, to the work of Stephen Spielberg's Shoah Foundation) , that yes, sure, most certainly, the historical accounts of the Holocaust have been carefully and accurately preserved. (Specifically, Spielberg's foundation filmed 50,000 video testimonies of Holocaust survivors.) I found it quite motivating that they spoke almost casually that this truly incredible milestone has already been achieved and those memories have been preserved. But as always, there is more work to do. They both spoke with incredible passion about the necessity not only to recall the history, to read it in a book or to take a college course and write an academic paper on the Holocaust ("I've seen enough papers in my time", Rabbi Halivni quipped), they spoke about the importance of having an emotional connection to it. They spoke about how the Holocaust needs to be remembered "with great care, in a world that is not careful with things."

The lecture was not bleak or negative at all, but in fact rather hopeful, and more of a sort of intellectual and emotional wake-up call: a pointed reminder that active, passionate remembrance is our duty. We have the incalculable fortune of being born at a time in history when being a Jew is not a crime worthy of relentless persecution. I think it's our job to remember this fortunate circumstance, as taking this freedom for granted would be a tragedy.

Well, what else can I do? I think, for me, personally... writing this blog entry tonight is something. You, thoughtful reader, have hopefully learned something new or been inspired to learn more. That, maybe, is one of the things that I can do.

At the end of the lecture, I bought a copy of Rabbi Halivni's new book, "Breaking the Tablets: Jewish Theology After the Shoah." I was first in line, waiting to say hello to the Rabbi, to shake his hand, and to have him sign my book. He asked for my name, "Mike", I said, "Mordechai". He said, "No, no, your family name!" I wrote it down for him, "Jutan." Figuring he'd be interested, I then followed, "My parents are from South Africa, and then moved to Canada... and before that...", and then at the same time, I said "Lithuania" and he said, "I bet from Lithuania." How interesting that he would know that. Although if you're a Rabbi with a Ph.D. with as much determination and relentless spirit as Dr. Halivni, then I bet there's not a lot you don't know. How unassuming and humble a character, for a man who has lived through so much and has made his life's mission a search for truth and understanding.

More Audio research: In-ear noise isolation earphones

Since I've been obsessing about Audio so much lately I figured I should step it up and finally get some noise-isolation headphones so I don't have to listen to all the people yelling at each other every time I take the bus :) This will also be AMAZING next time I take a long bus, train or plane trip. Awesome stuff.

I wasn't gonna go for a noise-cancellation option, those are the ones that send out an opposing signal to cancel out all the noise around you. Instead, noise-isolation is basically earplugs + earphones, so this should do the trick.

Here's the ones I was looking at, mostly based on What HiFi's reviews, and some comparative reviews on PCMagazine, CNet and a few other sites. I also read a bunch of User Reviews, and I've found those actually tend to be pretty good too, especially the ones.

Here's the general list:
I ended up going with the Shure SE115's. The Black ones are on B&H Photo-Video's site for $69, and if you don't mind the Red colour, (actually it's pretty nice), the Red ones are on B&H for $59, pretty good deal given that they are about $129 list, and they also come with a pretty solid carrying case. The cables look nice and thick too, which is good cause I can be pretty tough on headphones!

(Note following this post from last night: B&H is a fantastic store and well worth your support. They are closed on Jewish holidays and on Friday night-Sat night for the sabbath, but it's always well worth ordering from them. Their support and quality of service is unmatched! I bought my camera and lenses from them, as well as other electronics like these headphones. Their price is usually matched or very close to other online retailers, but personally I really like supporting this company. I like their attitude, and I love their quality.)

Cables look pretty solid

They look sweet

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Mike Jutan's World - now in HD :)

I've been noticing some pretty gross formatting issues on the blog lately, especially since the YouTube move to HD and the fact that I took a bunch of HD videos in Japan with my camera. You'll notice today the format of this blog is wider, and the fonts have been enlarged a bit, too.

I was going to change the template, and the format even more, but I experimented with a bunch of stuff tonight and I didn't like any of it - so back to the good 'ol reliable polka-dots. You will notice a wider main window, and some items shifted around, etc. This is mostly to accommodate high-def YouTube links, and also just to do some spring cleaning.

I've also re-blogged all the video posts from Japan. All standard-def videos are now larger, and all high-def videos are now as wide as possible for this format. If you're watching an HD video, I still suggest clicking twice on the video to be linked to YouTube, where you can watch it in 720p.

Any comments, please let me know!

Japan/SoKor Day 14: Videos

An awesome day in Kyoto with my buddy Tatsuya. Wandering in the alleyways, walking around Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion) and walking on the Philosopher's Path

Monday, April 05, 2010

Japan/SoKor Day 14: Kyoto Day 1

December 24, 2009
Japan Trip Day 14: Kyoto Day 1

Today I got up and had some breakfast and set some emails so I could wait at the hostel for Tatsuya to come and meet me. He has been staying with his family in Japan since we hung out at Siggraph ASIA last week, and we planned to meet up again in Kyoto. Tatsuya said he would meet me sometime between 11:00-12:00... and as I was checking my email, at 10:58am... in walks Tatsuya! He was so amazingly punctual, I told him "You are like the Shinkansen" :)

Today was TOTALLY AWESOME. We started off the day wandering through the very interesting alleyways, there were lots of really beautiful, Japanese houses. Tatsuya was very excited to use his new 3D Point-and-Shoot camera to get some really cool perspective shots, and we stopped to take lots of cool photos. We made our way through the streets towards the Kiyomizu-Dera temple. It was fantastic, and I really love the bright colour of paint under the temple roofs. This seems very common in Buddhist temples as I've seen so far, and it looks great. We wandered for a while there and took a lot of photos.

For lunch we got some EXCELLENT Beef Udon noodle soup. It was SO good. We also tried some triangle-filled pastries, a popular Kyoto treat. They were filled with red-bean paste, of course! We did a little bit of shopping which was fun - we found a store with a lot of Totoro merchandise, and I bought a little Catbus & Japanese house sculpture. It is great! They packaged it very well so I will be able to carry it around for the next few weeks and get it home safely! We tried a few more tasty street vendor food, including teriyaki rice balls that were awesome.

From the Kiyomizu-Dera area, we took the bus to Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion and gardens. The garden was especially beautiful. From there we walked along the Path of Philosophy, something I was really keen to do. This was a long stone-lined walk along a steam, and was very peaceful and surrounded by lots of cool architecture and people out walking their dogs. We saw several "Philosopher dogs and cats" along the way, and took lots of photos of course!

After a great walk, we went downtown, and I got a gift for Alex - an English translation of a Manga comic book. At the bookstore I also bought myself The Art of Totoro. Tatsuya and I then went for a great wind-down dinner after our long day of walking. We got some shabu-shabu again, but this time with 1/2 of the bubbling pot as a soup broth mix and the other half as a sort of teriyaki sauce. It was great. Just as exciting as the dinner itself was a group of businesspeople behind us, all out for dinner together. It was very interesting to see the interaction between the workers - the seating appeared to be very hierarchical - the owner or lead businessman was at the head of one of the tables, and addressed everyone before they ate dinner. Tatsuya said it had something to do with congratulating them on their sales for the year or quarter or something like that. What was most interesting was the hierarchy - the table with the owner contained mostly older men, (and a couple of women), most probably 50 and over. These appeared to be the senior or experienced employees. The other table was all younger folks, clearly the junior employees. They were louder and more laid back, but it was good to see both tables celebrating equally, I think the older table drank more beer than the younger table! That was really interesting and cool to see.

From our excellent dinner I said goodbye to Tatsuya at the train station, and headed back to my hostel via 2 different trains. I'd already done this trip once, so now I was an expert and didn't need the map anymore. :) I got back the hostel late, and so happy with our accomplishments of the day. I chatted for a bit with 2 Canadian students from McMaster, and told them what I'd gotten up to that day. They said, "We feel so lazy now" when comparing their day to mine :) They were really impressed with my rampant pace of travel and my energy which was a pretty awesome compliment. We chatted for a bit and they showed me some photos of their first day in Tokyo. They had arrived on the Emperor's Birthday... and went straight to the Palace in Tokyo. They said it was insanely busy there, but everyone stayed in their place and it was surprisingly orderly for a group of that huge size. They showed me photos of the palace and photos of the Emperor that they took from the crowd! That is SO cool, it looked like a great experience.

Kyoto is really amazing, I am loving the architecture and this is a paradise for photographers. Tomorrow I will head to the Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama, and definitely go to the Golden Temple too.

Cool alleyways in Kyoto

A really cool garden with a Koi pond!

The restaurant with the Koi pond

Let the cool architecture begin!

Tatsuya super excited about the architecture

I love the roofs!

Geisha?!?!? Could it be?!??!

Some people stop to look at the Geisha, and some don't... I wonder why...

Then we saw the one lady take a photo of the other lady! The one lady in the Geisha clothes also had her son with her. Tatsuya thought that maybe these were likely "Tourist Geishas" - as a visitor, you can pay to enjoy a traditional tea ceremony and dress up in Geisha clothes and wander through the streets of Kyoto in traditional clothing.

A very Japanese dog, waiting politely

An old man walking

Cool ceramic work, I believe these are chopstick holders

Lots of teacups and sake cups

More cool streets


Nope, there's the REAL Nekobasu, and his friends GiGi, Ponyo, and Totoro!

At the entrance to the famous Kiyomizu-dera temple

This place was awesome

More bright roof painting

Water at the temple entrance

I love it! Beautiful design!!!!!!!!

From the back of the entrance area

More bright paint colours

A strange set of masks at a tourist shop

Haha, Akbar.

Our fantastic lunch

This beef soup was SO good

Tatsuya taking lots of 3D photos with his new camera!

Amazing sand design in the gardens of Ginkakuji, the Silver Temple



The happiest gardener ever. This man was so funny, he was sweeping the garden floor as was so happy and excited to be there. He smiled and laughed as he worked, and was happy to see us.

The gardener continues his happy day.

Tatsuya loves his camera!

Ginkakuji and greenery

More cool Japanese roofs

This was a gorgeous garden

Ginkakuji from the walkway

Walkway through the temple

Me and the Silver Temple

Tatsuya with the Temple

A pensive dog, at the start to the Path of Philosophy

Our start along the Philosopher's Path, a famous walk in Kyoto

A shrine, and a vending machine

Cool Japanese writing

Tatsuya on the Path of Philosophy

A couple of nice people we met along the way

A photo of the Emperor and his wife when they came to visit Kyoto


An interesting house

Really cool roof tiles

A man in a Japanese army uniform, perhaps?

The sun started to set

But still, we had more walking to do!

More beautiful architecture in Kyoto

A Philosophic cat on the Path of Philosophy

The most pensive cat, ever

Still thinkin'

Tatsuya and another interesting house

Ninja mask

Back to downtown Kyoto

One of the main streets in Kyoto

Out for dinner to a nice Shabu Shabu place


Very nice food

Tatsuya starting to heat the food, and a big company of businessmen out for dinner behind us

Minamiza Theater, near my hostel

Cool post at Minamiza theater

Theater patrons posting outside of Minamiza theater