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Home: Gary J. Wolff's Blog: Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives, January-March, 2017

Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives
January-March, 2017

This page shows archived posts for Gary J. Wolff's blog from January-March, 2017.



Mar. 29, 2017 - It's already that time of year again!!

If you ever have the occasion to visit Tokyo, try your best to come in late March or early April to catch the gorgeous Japanese cherry blossoms, without question the most magical time of the entire year.

The exact date for full bloom varies from year to year, but in 2017, Tokyo's cherry blossoms started blooming Mar. 21, 5 days earlier than usual, and are forecast to peak in the next week, starting tomorrow. Can't wait!

 2017 Tokyo cherry blossoms
Mar. 28, 2017 Tokyo cherry blossoms

Mar. 24, 2017 - You can take the boy outta the country, but you can't take the country outta the boy!

And by all means, Don't Mess With Texas! smiley

Cowboy Bob's Feb. 5, 2017 New Year party
At Cowboy Bob's Feb. 5, 2017 New Year party
He's my 70-year-old Japanese friend who loves playing country music.
Click here to see him in action.

Mar. 20, 2017 - SPRING HAS SPRUNG (春が来た)!

Finally!! smiley For the Northern Hemisphere, the Mon., March 20, 2017 vernal equinox (春分の日) marks the first day of spring and in the Southern Hemisphere, it signals the beginning of autumn. The word equinox comes from the Latin words "aequus" (equal) and "nox" (night), meaning nights and days are approximately equal in length these days. No matter where you are on Earth, today the sun rises due east and sets due west.

The Spring Equinox is a time of balancing in our life. It represents fertility and creation. This is a time to review and renew every part and aspect of our life. It is also a time to renew our relationships with a clear thought and perspective. The March 20, 2017 equinox occurs at 10:28 am Universal Time (7:28 pm in Japan, 5:28 am in Houston).

And in Japan, the vernal equinox (春分の日, Shunbun no Hi) is a national holiday. Yee hah! Sayonara, winter...

March 20, 2017 vernal equinox and the first day of spring
March 20, 2017 vernal equinox and the first day of spring

Mar. 19, 2017 - Miracle Teenager Survives On His Own For Almost 6 Hours With No Wi-Fi

In what has been hailed as "a miracle," one Waterford teenager has reportedly survived in his home with no connection to the internet for almost 6 whole hours.

Answering to the name "David Gowan," the 16-year-old was found in a distressed state yesterday evening, walking through a Dungarvan neighborhood holding his Samsung Galaxy above his head looking for a signal and muttering incoherently.

The emergency services were notified and David was brought to a nearby Starbucks and hooked up to their Wi-Fi immediately. It remains unclear as to how the teen was left without internet for such a long period of time, and a search has begun to find David's parents, with fears that they may have other kids without even a single bar of coverage.

"David survived without access to any social media or video sharing sites for the better part of an afternoon," said an amazed member of Waterford’s child protection services.

"No GIFs, no memes, no porn. It’s incredible to see him in such good condition, considering what he went through. There's grown adults who can’t go without internet for that long, let alone teenagers. God love him, as he hasn't even seen the new Star Wars trailer yet."

David was not available for interview, with rumors circulating that the poor youngster had lost the ability to speak in anything other than normal English, having not used emojis for so long.


Mar. 15, 2017 - Gary's mountain climbing paperbacks finally make it to Japan!

Recently Amazon changed the way its self-published paperbacks are printed and distributed worldwide, and believe it or not, for the first time in the over 4 years since my first of 2 paperbacks on climbing Japanese mountains was first published, these 2 books are now finally available for sale at Amazon Japan. Yay! How appropriate.... after all, the books were written about JAPAN! smiley

Sadly though, because of the minimum production costs for printing ~100-page color paperbacks, I was unable to reduce the list price for my 2 paperbacks, but in celebration of them finally making it to Japan, I decided to permanently reduce the price of both of the eBook versions to just $2.99, which you can instantly preview below and if you are so inclined, add them to your personal library or share them with your friends. smiley

Thanks so much for your support!


Mar. 11, 2017 - Japanese boy takes leak on Tokyo train station platform

He-he, I knew that'd get your attention. smiley The "Peeing Boy" sculpture is Tokyo's own version of the Manneken Pis (*), the famous 17th century Brussels landmark, and was dedicated in 1952 by dentist Dr. Kobayashi to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the first train line in Japan between Shimbashi and Yokohama Stations. The Peeing Boy can be seen at the southern end of the train platform at JR Hamamatsucho Station in Tokyo (for trains bound for Shinagawa).

(*) 小便小僧 (しょうべんこぞう, shouben kozou) in Japanese

Video of Tokyo's "Peeing Boy" sculpture
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Mar. 4, 2017 - My Ao Nang, Thailand Travel Adventure

Well, on Feb. 23 I posted my pics and video, and this afternoon I finally finished My Ao Nang, Thailand Travel Adventure webpage. On this page I describe in detail the magical 5 days I spent in this gorgeous southern Thailand paradise last month. Whew!! It was a borderline gargantuan effort, but at least hopefully no one will be able to accuse me of not being thorough. smiley

If you should ever have any interest in visiting this beautiful spot which serves as a major launching pad for beautiful beaches and islands of the Andaman Sea, you might enjoy reading my account, including my pics, video, & map. I was very touched by the unbelievable, heartfelt hospitality of the wonderful Thai people! To read more, click here: My Ao Nang, Thailand Travel Adventure


Ao Nang Beach
Ao Nang Beach, Ao Nang, Thailand

Feb. 27, 2017 - 2017 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the world’s largest livestock show and richest regular-season rodeo dedicated to benefiting youth, supporting education, and facilitating better agricultural practices.

As a charity, since its beginning in 1932, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has benefited the youth of Texas by contributing more than $430 million to scholarships, research, endowments, calf scramble participants, junior show exhibitors, School Art participants, and other educational and youth programs.

Out of the Show's overall commitment, more than $200 million has gone toward direct educational program support since the first scholarship was awarded in 1957. Currently, more than 2,400 students are on Show scholarships, attending more than 80 different Texas colleges and universities. The value of these scholarships is approximately $47 million.

These educational and agricultural research programs encourage and promote the breeding, raising, and marketing of better livestock and farm products at public fairs and within the livestock industry.

Providing the musical entertainment this year will be superstars such as Willie Nelson, Alicia Keys, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, and even one of my all-time favorite bands, ZZ TOP!! Wow, wish I could go.

Nearly 2.5 million people attended last year's 20-day event, and the 2017 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo runs from Mar. 7-26. More details:

2017 Houston Rodeo concert lineup
2017 Houston Rodeo concert lineup
(image credit:

Feb. 23, 2017 - Video of My Ao Nang, Thailand travel adventure, Feb. 15-21, 2017

It was a magnificent trip and I was blessed to have sampled so much of the amazing Ao Nang, Thailand culture & beauty.... especially the wonderful people. I hope this video helps you catch a quick glimpse of this spectacular tropical Pacific paradise.

Don't miss out on the beautiful time-lapse sunsets, the 4-island tour on a long-tail boat, my hike up Ngorn Nak Mountain, the tallest peak in the area, the rock climbers on East Railay Beach, fire dancers at the Golden Beach Resort, live music, and even an English-speaking talking bird! smiley

Webpage to follow shortly...

Video of My Ao Nang, Thailand travel adventure, Feb. 15-21, 2017
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

0:00 Busy traffic at Ao Nang's main intersection (Beach Road Rt. 4203 & Soi Aonang 17) 
0:25 Morning panorama of Ao Nang Beach on Feb. 16
1:02 Beauty salon animated blow-up advertising doll (Come on in!!)
1:12 Aboard long-tail boat @ beginning of 4-island tour
3:07 Panorama of West Railay Beach
3:59 Lunchtime @ Poda Island
4:29 Chicken Island
4:43 Female rock climber on Phra Nang Beach
5:06 Cute monkeys on Phra Nang Beach
7:20 3-wheeled tuk-tuk ride to Ngorn Nak Mountain
7:55 Waterfalls on Ngorn Nak Mountain (see pics of this gorgeous peak in my Flickr album)
9:43 Sunset timelapse from Ao Nang Beach on Feb. 17
10:00 Morning panorama of Ao Nang Beach on Feb. 18
10:32 Koi pond at Nopparat Thara Beach
11:06 Retail shops on main road to Krabi Town, including 7-11
12:02 Sunset timelapse from Ao Nang Beach on Feb. 18
12:38 South African band Ricardo @ Crazy Gringos Tex-Mex Restaurant (grrrreat guitarist & female singer duo)
15:52 Solo fire dancer on stage @ Golden Beach Resort
18:32 1, 2, then 3 fire dancers on Beach Road in front of Golden Beach Resort (Oh NO, one guy lost his fire baton!)
22:22 Talking bird can say "Hello" and make a cat call (CUTE!)
23:48 View of Ao Nang Mosque from a tuk-tuk
24:00 Busy long-tail boat loading area on Ao Nang Beach
25:10 Ladyboy cabaret dancers from the Blue Dragon, drumming up business prior to one of their 3 nightly shows
25:57 Advertising truck for Thai kickboxing match @ the Aonang Krabi Stadium
26:18 New Yorker Jimmy Patrick Roche performs "Smoke on the Water" @ The Beach Bar (I really liked this guy and went to hear him 2 straight nights!)
30:12 Long-tail boat ride to West Railay Beach
31:13 Rock climbers on East Railay Beach
34:47 Panorama of East Railay Beach
35:23 Return long-tail boat ride from West Railay Beach back to Ao Nang (nice view of the NOISY automotive engine commonly used on these boats)
35:45 Panorama of Feb. 20 sunset from Mum Aroy Beach Front restaurant 
36:43 Sunset timelapse from Mum Aroy Beach Front restaurant on Feb. 20
37:06 Nighttime landing @ Tokyo Haneda Airport

Feb. 23, 2017 - Pics of My Ao Nang, Thailand travel adventure, Feb. 15-21, 2017

Some years back, a Facebook friend posted some rather stunning photos of his vacation in Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand. Ever since, I've had it on my bucket list and this past week I finally got my chance to go visit.

Wow! One of the most exciting things I saw the entire week was the beachside stalactite cliffs just outside the cave on Phra Nang Beach. This was part of a 4-island, long-tail boat tour I took.

I also had the opportunity to climb the highest peak in the area, Ngorn Nak Mountain. It was a fairly easy, 2-hour trek, gaining nearly 500 meters in elevation, with breathtaking views of the Andaman Sea from the summit.

I hope you enjoy my pics! Video and webpage coming soon...

Ao Nang, Thailand photo collage
Pics of my Ao Nang, Thailand travel adventure
(You can view the entire album @ Flickr.)

Feb. 14, 2017 -  "My Summer 1974 Hitchhiking Trip to the Grand Tetons" eBook

Amazon description: "From August 3-18, 1974, a young, wet-behind-the-ears college student with a severe case of "Rocky Mountain High" embarked upon a 16-day, 2800-mile roundtrip hitchhiking journey from Austin, Texas to Grand Teton National Park where he enjoyed a 5-day, solo backcountry trek in the gorgeous Teton wilderness of Wyoming. This eBook chronicles that amazing trip, describing all the sights, sounds, and magic of the adventure, including the unbelievably diverse and fascinating group of people he met along the way."

Ordinarily, I probably wouldn't have remembered all the details of a trip which occurred a remarkable 42 years ago, but as it turns out, I had forgotten about the daily diary, a kind of travel journal, that I had made in the back of my Teton Backcountry hiking guide, which I discovered by chance last summer while rummaging through some of my old stuff in mom's house in Houston.

So when I discovered my travel notes from this amazing hitchhiking trip, I told myself that I was going to someday share the story with the public by publishing it.

And so it has now become reality. It is now available from Amazon for only $0.99, their minimum price for an eBook. I hope to reformat it soon as a free download from Smashwords when I get a chance.

I hope you enjoy it!

Feb. 9, 2017 - Subway sandwich shop in Tokyo grows their own leaf lettuce right in the middle of the store's eating area

In the Subway sandwich shop in Tokyo's Marunouchi Building (丸ビル), they are growing their own hydroponic leaf lettuce right in the middle of the store's eating area. It takes 49 days from seed to cultivation, and they are able to harvest up to 20 heads of lettuce per week.

Maybe it's just me, but I couldn't help but have that "back to nature" feeling, eating a fresh sandwich with pesticide-free vegetables being grown right before my eyes. smiley The Subway Yasai Lab (サブウェイ 野菜ラボ 丸ビル店) is located on floor B1F, across from the American Pharmacy ("yasai, 野菜" means "vegetable" in Japanese). 

Tokyo Subway sandwich shop hydroponic leaf lettuce Tokyo Subway sandwich shop hydroponic leaf lettuce
Tokyo Subway sandwich shop grows their own hydroponic leaf lettuce
right in the middle of the store's eating area

Feb. 4, 2017 - Diamond Fuji Viewing Spots, Dates, and Times in Tokyo

It's already that time of year again when we might get a chance in Tokyo to view an amazing phenomenon known as "Diamond Fuji," when the sun sets into the cone of Japan's tallest peak, setting off sunbeams that resemble a glittering diamond, and which is a popular target of both amateur and professional photographers in Japan.

Until Feb. 11, if you're lucky, you might be able to catch Diamond Fuji from the top of some of Tokyo's tallest buildings & towers.

In December 2014, I decided to put together the webpage linked below, listing the best high-rise spots in Tokyo for viewing Diamond Fuji along with recommended dates, sunset times, admission fees, and links to their Google maps: Diamond Fuji Viewing Spots, Dates, and Times in Tokyo

Berndt's Diamond Fuji
Diamond Fuji photo taken Feb. 17, 2011 by Berndt Otto

Feb. 1, 2017 - Japanese university students having fun learning English!!

I've never seen anything like this. It has been a real thrill to see my university students use the new Quizlet Live game, as they truly LOVE it! I can honestly say I have never seen this same degree of excitement for a classroom language game during my entire quarter-century of teaching Japanese learners of English.

The video below shows my students in action and was created with the new "Memories" feature in the iOS 10 Photos app. For more info on the Quizlet Live game, you may wish to refer to my article written about it last year: Quizlet Live: The Classroom Game Now Taking the World by Storm

Quizlet Live: Japanese Students Having Fun Learning English
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)


- I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger.......then it hit me.
- To write with a broken pencil is…….pointless.
- When fish are in schools, they sometimes…….take debate.
- A thief who stole a calendar…….got twelve months.
- When the smog lifts in Los Angeles…….U.C.L.A.
- The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes…….was on shaky ground.
- The batteries were given out…….free of charge.
- A dentist and a manicurist married…….and then fought tooth and nail.
- A will is a…….dead giveaway.
- If you don't pay your exorcist…….you can get repossessed.
- With her marriage, she got a new name…….and a dress.
- Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I'll show you…….A-flat miner.
- You are stuck with your debt if…….you can't budge it.
- Local Area Network in Australia: …….The LAN down under.
- A boiled egg is…….hard to beat.
- When you've seen one shopping center…….you've seen a mall.
- Police were called to a day care where a three-year-old was…….resisting a rest.
- Did you hear about the fellow whose whole left side was cut off? …….He's all right now.
- If you take a laptop computer for a run, you could…….jog your memory.
- A bicycle can't stand alone:…….it is two tired.
- When a clock is hungry…….it goes back four seconds.
- The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine…….was fully recovered.
- He had a photographic memory…….which was never developed.
- Those who get too big for their britches will be…….exposed in the end.
- When she saw her first strands of gray hair…….she thought she'd dye.
- Acupuncture: …….a jab well done.
- You can tune a piano.......but you can't tuna fish.
- Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Jan. 24, 2017 - Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund Music/Art for Fukushima Project slideshow

My good friend, Mississippi native, and globetrotting bluesman Rambling Steve Gardner just returned back from the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund Music/Art for Fukushima Project for elementary schools in Fukushima, where shows and workshops were conducted at Sakura Elementary School and the Yoshida Community Center.

Taylor Anderson, from Richmond, Virginia, was a JET (The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) English teacher from 2008-2011 at elementary and junior high schools affiliated with Ishinomaki Senshu University in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture, where she lost her life in the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Donations to her memorial fund can be made here

Not only is Steve without question Tokyo's most accomplished harmonica playin' & finger pickin', slide playin' blues guitarist, but he spends a LOT of his time in Fukushima, having made over 50 trips in recent years, working in association with the Tokyo American Club’s Women’s Group to play his music or conduct workshops, especially to boost the morale of child victims of the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami who are still suffering from a fairly high level of depression.

For more on Steve and his amazing music, including his videos, photos, blog, and live gig schedule, head on over to:

Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund Music/Art for Fukushima Project slideshow
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Jan. 15, 2017 - "GW’s 2016 Wild West Road Trip: 28 days, 7700 miles, 8 states, and 10 national parks" (the eBook)

Hot off the press! It was a gargantuan process, but the eBook project I started on Dec. 29th to document my amazing 2016 summer road trip... now 13,560 words(*), 87 pics, and 34 video links later...  is finally complete.

The main purposes of the trip were to reconnect with old friends, revisit some of my favorite national parks as well as seeing some national parks I'd never been to before, check out some of my former workplaces and abodes, and to revisit some spots where I'd previously mountain climbed or camped as a boy scout in my MUCH younger years. smiley

And here's a short excerpt from the next to last chapter entitled "Road Trip... By the Numbers":

- Most miles driven in 1 day: 650, on Sept. 8 from Silver City, New Mexico to Kerrville, Texas

- # of National Forests driven thru/camped in: 22

- Nights spent staying in motels: 10

- Nights spent staying with friends: 8

- Total road trip cost: $2990

- # of times I crossed the Continental Divide: 11

- Most northerly latitude: 48.73° N, Moyie Springs, Idaho (in the Idaho panhandle just a few miles east of Bonners Ferry)

- Most westerly longitude: 116.86° W, Spirit Lake, Idaho (just west of Farragut State Park)

(excerpt from the eBook chapter entitled "Road Trip... By the Numbers.")

My new eBook is now available on 2 platforms... at Smashwords as a free download in 7 different formats and in the Amazon Kindle Store (アマゾン日本) for only $0.99 (the minimum price they will accept). If you prefer the Kindle version, but don't have a Kindle (neither do I), you can download the free Kindle app to read my eBook on your PC or mobile device.

[The easiest way to read my eBook is to simply download the free pdf at Smashwords, which you can then read on your PC or mobile device, or even print out if you wish. (This pdf doesn't include the eBook cover, but if you like, you can download it here.)]

I hope you enjoy my latest publication, just as if you were taking the trip with me! smiley

(*) an estimated 142 pages if it were a physical book

Jan. 8, 2017 - A quote from one of my favorite mentors

As a guiding principle for Twenty-Seventeen, I may borrow a quote from one of my favorite mentors, the late great Mr. Zig Ziglar: "I'm not gonna ease up, let up, shut up, or give up until I'm taken up. As a matter of fact, I'm just getting warmed up."  smiley

Jan. 5, 2017 - His & Hers Japanese pillows

Special Japanese pillows for the lonely. Ya gotta just LOVE Japan! smiley

His and hers special Japanese pillows

Jan. 1, 2017 - Jacquie Lawson's stunning New Year's animated greeting card - WOW!

This absolutely amazing animated New Year's greeting card by famed UK graphics design artist Jacquie Lawson was sent to me a few years ago by a Tokyo friend, and features fireworks celebrations in Sydney, Moscow, Paris, London, & New York City. Click photo or link below to view this beautiful animated New Year's card. Wow....

New Year's greeting card
Jacquie Lawson New Year's greeting card

Japan-Texas ebook cover thumbnail
A FREE download at Smashwords

Pattaya ebook cover
Only $1.99 at Amazon
(¥214 at アマゾン日本)

Alaska ebook cover
Only $2.99 at Amazon
(¥340 at アマゾン日本)

Summer 1974 hitchhiking trip ebook cover
Only 99¢ at Amazon (¥105 at アマゾン日本)

Let's connect!!

Gary J. Wolff
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GW's road trip ebook cover
Only 99¢ from Amazon
(¥114 at アマゾン日本)

new Climbing Mt. Fuji book
Only $2.99 at Amazon
(¥343 at アマゾン日本)

Only $2.99 at Amazon
(¥343 at アマゾン日本)

What's New?

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  3. Any recommendations on booking a mountain hut, many which are rapidly becoming fully booked?

    May 14, 24 10:16 PM

    Gary, I have enjoyed your website while planning a trip to Japan with my wife and son. My son is graduating from high school, wanted to go to Japan to

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