Is Starbucks a good thing?

For years, I looked at Starbucks with suspicion, considering them a predator that pushed small coffee shops out of business.  Then I worked for a few years in Fort Washington (by Philadelphia), where Starbucks was the only option of getting coffee (not counting the horrible office coffee).  That already changed my opinion, as their quality is good, and the were active in the community, too.

I just read this interesting piece on Starbucks in the Economist, and they mention a few more tidbits that show that Starbucks, indeed, is different:

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Hiroshima and the atomic bomb

It’s been a while since you heard from us. Since our bike trip, we enjoyed Hiroshima for a few days, and are now at our last destination, Tokyo.

Hiroshima was mainly about kicking back (well-deserved after 560 km by bicyle) and, of course, the Atomic Bomb installations. Below you can read my impressions.

Maha added two essays to her pages: Hiroshima things besides the A-Bomb (like… the world’s largest rice paddle), and a page of random notes with plenty of pictures.

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561 bicycle-kilometers later

On September 10, Maha and I left Kyoto on our bicycles, with Hiroshima as the final destination. We took our time, enjoyed the ride and smelled the roses, and arrived safely on September 25 at our destination.

The ride was full of surprises. For one, we were cut off from civilisation – no Internet cafes on the way! Also, initially we were stunned by how urban the ride was. However, once we left Japan’s main island, we were surprised how rural (and at times stunningly beautiful) the ride was.

Maha describes the ride in detail on her pages, including the daily milage and a map showing our route – don’t miss that! I won’t describe the riding at all, but give an impression of the land we rode through. Enjoy the reading!

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Monestary Life

Our next stop was supposed to be a one-week stay at the Kyoto Kokusai Zendo, a Zen monestary. Things didn’t turn out exactly as planned – I got sick and Maha realized very quickly that the spiritual approach in this monestary didn’t work for her. So we both left early, albeit for different reasons.

Maha wrote her impressions on the monestary in her blog, mine are below. She also added a few notes about our first two days of bicycle riding – we rode over 100 km so far.

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First pictures!!!

Share the first batch of pictures with us: Turkey: http://jastram.no-ip.org/gallery2/main.php/v/Travel/turkey2005/ Japan: http://jastram.no-ip.org/gallery2/main.php/v/Travel/Japan-2005/

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Bathing Monkeys and Chanting Monks

Where next? We’d have our Meditation Retreat early September near Kyoto, and wanted to catch a day of the World Exposition in Aichi on the way down there. Other than that, we were free as birds and decided to take a break in Nagano, without knowing much about it. It turned out to be a really plesant stay in the nicest Ryokan so far, and we visited the famous bathing monkeys from Yudanaka.

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