- Japan (07, 09-10, 13), Denmark (08, 11, 16-19), Korea (13), France (08), Thailand (09), China (10), Mexico (14, 15)
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Posts tagged reviews

“Eco Living Japan” review


I mentioned a while ago that I began reading this book. Although I finished reading Eco Living Japan: Sustainable Ideas for Living Green by Deanna MacDonald months ago, I never got around to writing a review–until now.

Once upon a time I was going to be an architect so design, buildings, etc. have always interested me since. In addition, I’ve always appreciated the clean look of some Japanese and Danish architecture and design. Someone not interested in Japan and/or these items probably won’t be very interested in this book.

The text wasn’t usually riveting for me, and the prose was fairly repetitive and unenlightening, but I still enjoyed the book–mostly because of the photos. The good news is the book is mostly photos.

Another critique I had with the book is the subtitle of “sustainable ideas for living green” should have the words “if you are extremely rich” added. Most of the projects examined are for relatively large, custom properties in Japan using materials that would cost several times the amount of more common construction. A very minor segment of the Japan’s population could afford these “sustainable ideas for living green”.

That said, the properties explored are fun to consider if you, like me, enjoy dreaming big.

Getting the best rate on foreign wire transfers

Wells Fargo stagecoach shooting Native Americans (Jacksonville, Oregon)

Wells Fargo stagecoach shooting Native Americans (Jacksonville, Oregon)

@xe @WellsFargo

A couple of my more popular posts have been Wells Fargo International Wire Transfer still stinks and Beware of banks ripping you off on foreign currency wire transfers!.

Seven years have passed since that first post and more than six years have passed since the second post. Have things changed? Yes. They have gotten worse!

I had to wire DKK to my landlord in Denmark for this summer. Wells Fargo online quoted me a rate 3% off from the market rate, and the wire fee has gone up from $25 per transfer to $35 per transfer. The net result was going to be a cost of $2,165 for my rent. I called Wells Fargo to try and get a better rate and was put on hold for half an hour. At that point I hung up.

I then went to and within 15 minutes I had transferred the same amount in DKK (from my Wells Fargo bank account no less!) to my Danish landlord for $2,087.

Conclusion: you can waste your time and money with your bank, or you can use one of several online services that will transfer your money for you for less.

Tokyo on Foot: Travels in the City’s Most Colorful Neighborhoods

tokyo on foot


Tokyo on Foot is not what I expected. And that’s not a bad thing. I was expecting something like Foot Loose in Tokyo or A Flower Lover’s Guide to Tokyo in which the reader is given guidance on various walks in Tokyo. While Tokyo on Foot could potentially be used in this way, I look at it more as art/manga appreciation than a guide book. Florent Chavouet’s art is fantastic. The attention to detail and capturing of Tokyo scenes is captivating and the type of work that you can frequently revisit without becoming bored.

If you’ve visited or lived in Tokyo I think you’ll like it more than someone who hasn’t (not that a future visitor won’t want to take a look at this book to get an idea of where to go and what to see in Tokyo). Remembering views that are slumbering just beneath the surface of your memory can be lots of fun.

Unrelated public service announcement


Over the past 10 years or so I’ve changed TV service providers every two to three years due to price. They (Charter, DirecTV, Dish) usually give you a good deal the first year, an OK deal the second year, and then a lousy deal after that. At least that’s been my experience. So usually in year three I switch.

I just began year three with DirecTV and watched my bill go to over $100 a month (from under $50 a month the first year and under $80 a month in the second year). So I called them to tell them I was cancelling if they didn’t give me a break. They did. By agreeing to stick with them for another 12 months they are cutting my bill by $40 a month. I’m happy, and I don’t have to go through the hassle of switching.

If you are in a similar situation, give them a call. If they don’t give you the discount, ask specifically for the loyalty discount ($10 off per month) and the additional 12-month agreement discount ($30 off per month). You have to be with them for at least two years to get these discounts.

If you aren’t a DirecTV customer yet, you can sign up here for an even better rate. You get an additional $10 off for 10 months by using that link than you would just going to their site or calling in based on a mailer. After you’ve been a customer for a couple years be sure to call them to get your rate back down to a reasonable number.

Kashima Honkan Fukuoka Ryokan

kashima honkan fukuoka ryokan

Kashima Honkan (Ryokan in Fukuoka, Japan )

This was the place I stayed at in Fukuoka. The price was very reasonable and the description of rustic ryokan seemed interesting. It was far from the nicest ryokan I’ve stayed in, but it definitely came through on the rustic part. This place is old by Japan standards, where most buildings are torn down and completely rebuilt every few decades. My room was large and fairly clean, but some things in the place still kind of felt like they could have used a deep cleaning. You may notice some permanent stains on things that should probably be replaced.

The location is fantastic. This place is a stone’s throw from the famous Kushida Shrine. You won’t have to walk far to get to Fukuoka’s night life, Shofukuji, or Yatai from Kashima Honkan (鹿島本館).

Ramen in Portland

mirakutei portland oregon ramen

Mirakutei ramen in Portland, Oregon

Whenever we visit a “big city” these days we try to find the best ramen they offer. Ten years ago such a thing would be impossible in the USA, but there are now decent ramen shops in some places. Portland is one of them. This time we tried Mirakutei (味楽亭). The waitresses were all Japanese. The cooks were Mexican, but the ramen was still authentic.

Three of us had the, above pictured, Tonkotsu Ramen. One other went with the Original. Everyone was satisfied. The Original is your more typical Japanese ramen. The Tonkotsu is subtle but still wonderful.

Mirakutei is east of the river on Burnside.

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