Time Zones and Geek Levels

Seafood omelet, lox and a schmear

On our way home from visiting my family, we had a two-hour layover in Seattle. We decided to stop in a café since Nana hadn’t had any breakfast. We were working on the Eastern timezone and so wanted some lunch, but in Seattle it was still breakfast time. So we ordered a local IPA and had a seafood omelet and a lox and a schmear.

That turned out to be too much food for us, as Nana only finished half the omelette and didn’t have any of either the sourdough bread or the bagel. But I was eager to sample the lox in Seattle, so I did my best to plough through it all. (As a result, I skipped the meal service on the flight home, but that was no great loss.)

A little early in the morning for that sort of thing?

Anyway, as we were enjoying the food and the IPA, I noticed that one of the waitresses was upselling on the beer. Whenever a patron ordered a beer, she would suggest a shot of bourbon for an additional $5. Where I come from that’s a boilermaker, and I was amused to hear the waitress pushing them at 9 a.m. local time. (I did not verify if everyone having alcohol in the café was, like us, working on a different time zone.)

There are levels of geekdom

The other thing I noticed while we were enjoying the food and drink was that the two waitresses kept talking about a machine that wasn’t working. I didn’t hear what machine they were discussing, but they were agreed that it wasn’t showing any sign of power. “I pulled out the plug and then plugged it in again, and I reset the breaker,” one of them said.

I briefly thought about offering to have a look, but to be honest my geek is more on the software side of things. Give me a couple of hundred thousand pages of content to be repurposed and I’m all over it. Sorting out a shorting bit of commercial kitchen hardware? I didn’t even have a continuity tester on me.

I think the ladies really needed someone like this guy:

(There are hundreds of these videos, and I can sit and watch them for hours.)

Jingle Bells: Preludes and Nocturnes

Thanks to Romain for this variation on a holiday classic:

That performance definitely reminded me of Schroeder playing Jingle Bells for Lucy. Unfortunately, this is the only copy I could find in five seconds of searching:

Then there’s this macabre version:

Happy and/or Merry (in roughly chronological order):

  • Hanukkah (2-10 December)
  • International Day of Disabled Persons (3 December)
  • Chalica (3-9 December)
  • Saint Barbara’s Day (4 December)
  • Saint Nicholas’ Day (6 December)
  • Bodhi Day (8 December)
  • Feast of the Immaculate Conception Day (8 December)
  • Human Rights Day (10 December)
  • Saint Lucia’s Day (13 December)
  • Zamenhof Day (15 December)
  • Las Posadas (16–24 December)
  • Saturnalia: (December 17–23)
  • Yalda (21 December)
  • Soyal (21 December)
  • Pancha Ganapati (21-25 December)
  • Yule (21 December-1 January)
  • Mōdraniht: or Mothers’ Night (22 December)
  • Dongzhi Festival (22 December)
  • Solstice (22 December)
  • HumanLight (23 December)
  • Christmas Eve (24 December)
  • Christmas Day (25 December)
  • Anastasia of Sirmium feast day (25 December)
  • Malkh (25 December)
  • Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Day of the birth of the Unconquered Sun) (25 December)
  • Newtonmas (25 December)
  • Saint Stephen’s Day (26 December)
  • Boxing Day (26 December)
  • Kwanzaa (26 December–1 January)
  • Saint John the Evangelist’s Day (27 December)
  • Holy Innocents’ Day (28 December)
  • Saint Sylvester’s Day (31 December)
  • New Year’s Eve (31 December)
  • Watch Night (31 December)
  • Hogmanay (31 December–1 January)

Sensō-ji (Asakusa)

Hōzōmon with pagoda in background


Sensō-ji, also known as Asakusa for the neighborhood it dominates (and whose kanji it shares), is Tokyo’s oldest and most famous temple as well as one of the most popular temples to visit at the New Year’s holiday. The temple was founded in 645 to house a statue of bodhisattva Kannon (Avalokiteshvara) which legend has it was discovered in nearby Sumida River by two fishermen, the brothers Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari, in 628. The temple and its various structures have been destroyed several times by fire and most recently by Allied bombing during World War II, and the current structures mostly date from the 1960s.

Kaminarimon, the Thunder Gate

Visitors flock to see the impressive Kaminarimon gate — 11.7m tall and originally erected by the military commander Taira no Kinmasa in 941, and moved to its current location in 1635 — with its statues of Fujin, god of wind, and Raijin, god of thunder, as well as the 4m tall paper lantern hanging in the center of the gate bearing the characters 雷門 (Kaminarimon).

Kaminarimon -- entrance to Sensoji
Kaminarimon — entrance to Sensoji

Kaminarimon paper lantern
Kaminarimon paper lantern

The reverse side of the gate features status of the god Tenryū and the goddess Kinryū, carved by master sculptor Hirakushi Denchū when he was 106 years old.

Tenryū, by Hirakushi DenchūKinryū, by Hirakushi Denchū
Tenryū and Kinryū, by Hirakushi Denchū

Shopping for Japanese kitsch in Nakamise-dōri

Nakamise-dōri, stretching 250m from the Kaminarimon to the inner Hōzōmon (Treasure House Gate), is home to about 90 shops offering lacquerware, painted fans, yukata and kimono (in various degrees of authenticity) and assorted Japanese bric-à-brac and kitsch such as Godzilla toys and maneki-neko figurines. The crowds are often at their thickest here, and it’s not unusual to encounter foreigners in rented kimono.

Shop decorations, Nakamise-dōri
Shop decorations, Nakamise-dōri

Shop decoration, Nakamise-dōri
Shop decoration, Nakamise-dōri

Maneki-neko "beckoning cat" figurines
Maneki-neko “beckoning cat” figurines

New Year's shop decoration
New Year’s shop decoration

Uchiwa -- Japanese fans
Uchiwa — Japanese fans

Happy Year of the Boar!
Happy Year of the Boar!

Eaves of Nakamise-dōri shop building
Eaves of Nakamise-dōri shop building

Tengu, fox and other masks
Tengu, fox and other masks

Visitors often dress in kimono
Visitors often dress in kimono

Hōzōmon, the Treasure House Gate

Hōzōmon, the inner gate at 22.7m tall, was first built by Taira no Kinmasa in 942. It houses two enormous Nio deities and a pair of giant sandals. Because the gate in its current incarnation is built of fire-resistant materials, the second story is used to house the temple’s treasures, including a sutra that is designated a National Treasure.

Hōzōmon with pagoda in background
Hōzōmon with pagoda in background

To one side of Hōzōmon stands a five-story pagoda, and to the other are statues of two bodhisattva, including Kannon (Avalokiteshvara), the enshrined deity of Sensō-ji.

Bodhisattva Seshi and Avalokiteshvara
Bodhisattva Seshi and Avalokiteshvara

Approach to Hōzōmon
Approach to Hōzōmon

Detail of Hōzōmon
Detail of Hōzōmon

Jinrikisha guide points out Hōzōmon
Jinrikisha guide points out Hōzōmon

Sensō-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple

After Hōzōmon we come at last to Sensō-ji itself, a high-peaked structure dedicated to bodhisattva Kannon.

Sensō-ji, Tokyo's oldest temple
Sensō-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple

Ceiling mural in Sensō-ji
Ceiling mural in Sensō-ji

Priests inside the temple chant as clouds of incense rise among fabulous gilt decorations. Outside, visitors line up the steps to the portico to toss in their five-yen coins and offer their prayers. The large inner foyer, topped by faded and peeling murals, offers ample opportunities to purchase o-mikuji.

Sensō-ji with Tokyo Skytree and crescent moon
Sensō-ji with Tokyo Skytree and crescent moon

Daihizan Bujouji

Niomon Gate of Bujouji


Bujouji (sourced from Google Images)

Bujouji is a platform-style temple suspended from a cliff, similar to the larger and more famous Kiyomizudera in nearby Kyoto. The temple was founded by Kankou Seinen in 1154 by order of Emperor Toba.

Construction of the platform is interlocking wooden posts and beams, without the use of nails. The platform’s thick posts rest atop the stones of the cliff. They are not sunk into a foundation but are held in place only by the weight of the structure.

Entry to the temple is via the Niomon Gate, constructed in 1350. Visitors must then climb 410 steps up the side of the mountain to reach the temple and enjoy the vista of cedar and pine trees. Photography is prohibited: visitors are required to leave all cameras, phones and other electronic devices with the attendant at the entrance before ascending to the temple.

Niomon Gate of Bujouji
Niomon Gate of Bujouji

The temple is home to many important cultural artifacts, including wooden Buddha statues dating from the foundation of the temple in 1154. These are on display only three days out of the year: May 3, Sept. 17, Nov. 3.

Daihizan Bujouji「大悲山峰定寺」

Three-trunked cedar tree 花脊の三本杉

Hanase no 3-bon sugi
Hanase no 3-bon sugi

A 15-minute walk from the temple entrance is the ancient three-trunked cedar tree, estimated to be 1,200 years old. The Eastern Trunk is the tallest cedar in Japan at 62.3m. The Northwestern Trunk is 60.7m, and the Western Trunk 57.2m.

The circumference of the tree trunks where they join at the base is 1.36m.

Hanase no 3-bon sugi「花脊の三本杉」