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Tsukuba Area 51

by Moto Japan

What a day, what a day in Tsukuba! We just returned from a short day trip and have to share it with everyone: Tsukuba is one funky magnificent place to visit! We didn't believe our friend Rok who kept inviting us to go there together on many occasions. Being so close to Tokyo, moreover only an hour (and 1000 JPY) train ride from our home in Asakusa, we doubted that a place in such vicinity can offer so much excitement. You live, you learn, and you learn faster soaking your head in science and gamma waves - like we did today!

Honestly, one of the main reasons why we rented a car today was to visit Dainese D-store to try the sizing of the new moto gear. Kazuto gained a lot of weight and doesn't fit into his previous pants/jacket set. For the past few trips, he was pretty immobile on his Hayabusa, like a crazy mantis overdue for metamorphosis. And as we had to run some errands around town on a supposedly rainy day, renting a car was the thing to do (given extremely cheap deals at One's rental). Long story short, we planned to go to the seaside, changed our minds and set the navigation to Mito, detoured and learned that there's a Space museum in Tsukuba. Both of us got a little spark in our eyes, and quickly agreed it's the place to go. We haven't been to a museum together in a long time, and an instant mutual excitement took us by surprise. Since wanted to go to Ibaraki Prefecture in a long time, we killed 2 birds with one stone (一石二鳥 as the exact proverbial equivalent in Japanese).

Doho Park in Tsukuba

On the way to the Science and Space museums, we googled Tsukuba and saw a tripadvisor picture of a pony in a nearby park (see below). Cause we're both kids, we immediately decided that museums can wait, and went to look for ducks, dogs and potentially ponies.

We didn't find ponies, but instead we found our inner piece: While the weather app displayed our current location as wet and depressing, we found ourselves in the middle of magnificent park with the softest greenest grass by the pond perfect for shinrin-yoku (the Japanese word for "forest bathing" that created a buzz (and opened new doors to spiritual business) overseas lately). After giving up on doing a handstand, I joined Kazuto on a bench by the pond, and following his example (of a well-trained Japanese salaryman) fell asleep like a baby.

Japan has many parks, but Doho is spectacular. In addition to having sports and entertainment areas (including a 50m swimming pool that makes me wanna go there again for a training & chilling offsite), it is rich in diverse plants that allow amazing ambience around them. All birds, insects and other small animals in the park sing their songs at a different tone than in Tokyo. The air is different, you can smell the aroma of the trees that soothes your body and soul with every breath. We're far from spiritual people, but today, we were devoted tree-huggers (not literally, but even worse - we felt our auras taking a break for a little climb up the tree)...

Off to space!

After finding our inner balance, we went to explore the outer space. Nearby headquarters of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are right next to the park and the Tsukuba Space Center operations facility serves as the primary location for Japan's space operations and research programs since 1972. Japanese astronauts involved in the International Space Station are partially trained here, and partially in Houston, Texas.

The 530,000 square-meter site is placed right next to beautiful natural surroundings, and the exhibition center that is open to public lies right next to the world-class equipment and testing
facilities. At this very place, JAXA develops and operates satellites, and analyses acquired observation data (mainly images). Tsukuba Space Center offers tours of its facility and exhibitions, and snooping through the exhibition hall called “Space
Dome” is completely free. Also free of charge. There we learned more about Japanese space missions and equipment, saw full-scale satellite models, real rocket engines, and a
life-size model of the “Kibo” - the Japanese Experiment Module for the
International Space Station.

We joined a short part of a guided tour, fascinated by the multi-layer insulation foil in which the satellites are wrapped (tour guide let us touch and feel the layers of material). The reason for our fascination lies behind the fact that our motorcycle cover sheet melted and ripped due to overheated muffler (hot Tokyo summer) and we taught wrapping them in this foil would be a great idea. After learning about the price, we realized that it really fits a certain kind of Hayabusa, not a bird, and not the GSX1300r parked under our apartment.

Wait, what's a Hayabusa again - and which one is the fastest?

For those who aren't familiar with this Japanese word, Hayabusa (隼) literally means a "Peregrine Falcon", a bird-eating raptor. It is renowned for its speed, reaching over 320 km/h during its characteristic hunting stoop (high speed dive), making it the fastest member of the animal kingdom.

Hayabusa is also the name of an unmanned spacecraft developed by JAXA to return a sample of material from a small near-Earth asteroid named 25143 Itokawa to Earth for further analysis. Hayabusa studied the asteroid's shape, spin, topography, color, composition, density, and history. In November 2005, it landed on the asteroid and collected samples in the form of tiny grains of asteroidal material, which were returned to Earth in 2010. The latest asteroid sample return mission, Hayabusa 2,  is on its way to asteroid Ryugu, expected to arrive there in the summer next year.

The Suzuki Hayabusa (or GSX1300R) is Kazuto's biggest love. This sports
type motorcycle has been in production since 1999, and it immediately
won acclaim as the world's fastest production motorcycle, with a top
speed of 303 to 312 km/h (pretty much in line with the bird).

Conclusion: Shopping was successful, so we can ride to Ibaraki again next weekend!

As mentioned, the excuse behind this short trip was stopping by the Saitama Dainese D-store for Kazuto's new motorcycle gear. On the way to Tsukuba, we took a detour by the Ushiku Daibutsu and swung by the Ami Premium Outlets to buy a lunchbox cooler bag (useful for work, as well as riding trips), and Tsukuba showed its comprehensive awesomeness in that aspect as well. The Buddhist and consumerist amusement parks were situated at the very border of the city, very easy to find, park and visit both.

At the outlet Kazuto bought me a T-shirt and while I contemplated whether I should get a white or black one he voted for the latter, as "black emphasizes my innocence". I take as a compliment whatever I don't fully comprehend, and conclusively, with inner peace, education, shopping AND a compliment, I cannot imagine anything that would make this trip to Tsukuba better.


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