Monday, May 31, 2004

Pretty Crappy Day

Had a pretty crappy day today. My supervisor is still acting like a kid. He's a very competitive man; maybe he thinks he has something to prove, I don't know. I've now decided to ignore him. Like I said, there was a lot of drinking and the like being done this past weekend. Aki and I went out to Romantopia onsen with Erica and her friend Mishi from Hungary yesterday. That was really cool as it was a sunny day and I got the chance to use my new bike again. We went to Darumaya, the world's greatest ramen restaurant afterwards, and we even picked up some Hokkaido ice-cream on the way back as well.

On Saturday night there was a dinner for local JETs who support a school in Nepal through a charity called Everest of Apples. That was a good laugh, and afterwards we went back to Hirosaki for some serious ripping up of the dancefloor at Magnet. I didn't get any piccys though. Friday night was spent at Genya drinking yet again. It was a great night until the barman came and presented us with a ridiculously large bill. I wasn't in the mood to query it, but I just remember thinking to myself that it was certainly not worth one hundred pounds, or the equivalent in Japanese yen. That's precisely what we had to pay between us though. I ain't going back there again.

Also, if it takes a lot longer to load this page now because of the photos that have been uploaded just let me know. It shouldn't take any longer with a high-speed connection, but if you connect to the internet via a dial up, it might drag things out a little longer.

Aki in her cycling flip flops

The expensive restaurant

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Just felt the need to direct your attention to this cracking little website I found the other day. It goes by the name of The Man in Seat Sixty One, and it's a brilliant guide for those looking at alternative travel throughout the world. Lord knows where he gets his money from, but he seems to have travelled all over. The site is geared up mainly for UK departures, but there is information for more or less every regular form of train or locomotive travel, everywhere.

Also, because I'm still really excited about being able to upload images onto this webpage, I've got a lovely one of Mt. Iwaki for you mt.Iwaki.jpg With it's head in the clouds.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

He heh, I've managed to get a photo up! The one below this is of Aki. This, of course, is me. The guy on my profile is also me, except I'm wearing my religious attire in that one.
Hello. It's Wednesday and I am currently trying to figure out how to upload images onto my blog. I have the right blog account now. I was given it complimentarily due to there being a problem with something or other. However, I can't seem to get the photos to publish for some reason.

I'll work on that, and I'm sure I'll be able to share my new collection of digi photos with everyone in no time. Last night I ate grilled fish from Max value. These particular fish are a traditional Japanese thing that people like to eat round here. You just get them, whole, and stick them under the grill. When they're done you eat them, bones n' all. The fish are small so their bones aren't hard after a good grilling, and they actually taste pretty good. The night before last I got me a whole big fish, from Max Value as well, and prepared it myself. I had to cut it, gut it, skin it and cook it all myself. When it was chopped up ready for action I did my usual sauce and bread crumb trick before sticking it in the pan to fry. I ate it with a bowl of rice. It was nice. And then I rolled some dice... I'm just messing around now!!

It's a beautiful day today, but I've got classes all afternoon so I'll be stuck inside, sadly.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Monday morning. I've just had a class with Kanaya sensei and it went ok. I get a bit bored during some of the oral communication classes because I don't get the chcance to engage all that much. However, today I struck the students with one of my mega-hard maths exercises. It used clauses like "subtract that number from...", and "divide that number by the sum of etc." The students were a bit put back, but they managed to get it after a lot of coaching in Japanese.

Yesterday Aki and I went to a bbq at her pharmacist's house. That is, the woman she works with in the pharmacy. It was pretty cool and the sun was shining. One of Aki's workmates turned up with her little two year-old twins, and most of the afternoon was spent watching them fight over a piece of plastic that, coincidentally, they both wanted to play with at the same time. I drank quite a bit of beer and ate a good portion of the food, but we left at about 5:00 because I was expecting a phonecall from my Mum. Of course, I was pretty drunk when I spoke to her. She told me that my brother was in a brace because he'd fractured his collar bone by falling of his bicycle in central London. He's back at home now though, and from what I hear it could have been a lot worse if he hadn't been wearing a helmet.

I did a bit more spending on Friday night. I went and got myself that snazzy little ipod that I've always wanted. I'm happy with it but I've noticed already that the battery life is just as lame as all the reviews had reckoned it to be. The battery lasts for a meek 8-10 hours on mine, before having to hook it back up for another 8 hours to recharge. Apple really need to fix this because it is a genuine problem, but with there being very little competition in the market right now I doubt it feels the need to start redesigning it's already hugely successful product. It's a good little mp3 player, and I'm glad that I bought it, but the battery really does suck.

I also bought myself a bike from homac. It's a nice moutain bike that I plan on using for some semi backcountry action in the Shirakami mountains. It's not a mega strong one with all the trimmings, and it still makes a bit of noise when I pedal hard (the gears need tuning properly), but it will do the job that I want it to do. I just need to buy a helmet now and avoid those sneaky little pot-holes.

By the way, the weather today is marvelous. Absolutely marvelous.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Well, last night I got my hands on one of these. Yep, it's that camera I've been thinking of buying for the last two years. Even though this model is a fairly new release, I've wanted to get something like it for a good while now. Also, I spent most of my evening down at homac looking at a mountain bike that I'm probably going to buy before the weekend. I can't find a piccy of it, but it will do me for the time period I'll need it for. The bike has been reduced in price by one man yen (fifty quid), so it's quite a bargain.

I went to Owani koko today for the first time in about three months, and it was a good laugh. There are two new English teachers there, which also means there's a whole new English department, and they both seem like nice people to work with. The students there are little bastards, but it makes a change spending time with a different level of ability. After work I went to the hospital for a shinsatsu (chat with the quack) and he told me that I needn't come on a regular basis anymore. The nurse also said that tomorrow would be my last rehabiri (physio) session, which is a bit daunting because I've become a regular on the second floor over the last three months. You know what this means don't you! No more dodging school on Thursday mornings! Then again, my kyoto sensei needn't know about it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Nothing much to say to anyone about this week, apart from the fact that I have now received my insurance cash, and I'm going to go crazy spending it anytime soon. Could do with a bit of advice regarding ipods. I can't seem to find them on sale anywhere in Hirosaki and just wondered whether anyone else has seen them in shops about the place.
Also, the weather seems to have gotg a lot warmer these days. I can tell it has because even the teachers in my office have begun to open the windows before I can get to them.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Well, today I went up the mountain again. I got to the top after a lot of shimmying in diagonals and slipping on my arse from time to time. It really was amazing to see just how much the snow had melted since last week; literally two or three feet in places. And there was so much more greenery among the trees. The sara shoots were re-greening and there were lots of leaves on the trees as well, in quite stark contrast to last week. It's not surprising though, since it has been about 20 degrees up there all week.

I got into a bit of a mess on the way down though. I was so busy enjoying myself, sliding down the snow on my red and rosy that I totally missed the turning that led back to the official track. I soon found myself about four hundred metres off track and had to climb back up to get to where I wanted to be. That was not all. I got back to the point where I went wrong and started to descend again, only to find myself even further out of it. I got a bit scared and decided to walk all the way back to the hut at the top of the tree line. From there I could just about find the track, but I managed to create an extra 1km of uphill hiking for myself.

I'm not going to do the mountain again for about a month or so, but instead I want to get a mountain bike and go into the Shirakami mountains just south of Tsugaru. I know a good road to bike on, and it'll be unseen territory for me as well (the only time I've ever done this road was driving at night).

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

This is an article that I found on the New York Times webpage. It's about Japanese people not being able to come to terms with foreigners in their country. By the way, this week there was a burgalry in Hirosaki and one man was killed. The wife of the murdered man said that she saw two Asian men of non-Japanese origin fleeing from the crime scene. I, for one, have met very few Asian looking men of non-Japanese origin (apart from Hugh and the other Asian looking guys on JET etc.) since I came here to this city. It's funny that those who are here are criminals, don't you think. Also, last night I was at English club (just in case you were wondering, I'm now thinking very seriously of giving it the push) and Saori and Mihoko were talking about the Phillipino girls who work on Kaji machi. Nothing explicitly discriminatory was said, but I just got sick of the sentiment of those women towards other Asian immigrants in Japan. They did nothing but bitch about their inability to speak Japanese (what about half of the JET programme), and they tried to gratify themselves by coming to the conclusion that they were here to profit from the immense riches of Japanese society. And if the crime rate does have anything to do with the immigrants from Asian countries, I'm not in the slightest bit surprised. It must be so damn difficult to get a job in this country if you are not Japanese, even if you can speak Japanese. I know I wouldn't be here if I wasn't a native English speaker.

Anyway, here's the article


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

I'm having a pretty Kushty day at school again today, though I have got classes this afternoon. I watched a film at English club yesterday and today I've got the Wednesday night conversation classes with all the old girls. Still looking forward to going back home in July. I know it's still a good couple of months away, but it's the next big thing for me. It's giving me something to focus on. I also have the joyful thought of receiving my insurance payout when it comes. I thought today that when I get it I'm going to treat myself to a host of goodies. It's a bit like writing a letter to Santa. I'm gonna get an mp3 player and an MD player and a new bike and a rice cooker and a new pair of climbing shoes and I'm gonna get a nice bag from the shop that I pass on the way home from school and I'm going to buy myself a new iron (my old one is useless), and a load more material for my apartment so I can continue the decorations. Theres so much that I want!

Also, I've quit smoking, and I think it's going to last. It's been a couple of weeks now since I last had a ciggy and I think I have the right strategies in place to take the battle to nicotine's end. Wish me luck.

Monday, May 10, 2004

From time to time a man needs to listen to Elvis. So this morning I did just that. I don't know what it was that gave me the urge, but I can tell you that I felt all the better after just a few tracks.

This weekend has been dull due to a serious shortage of money. I had to pay a massive hospital bill this month, leaving me with 2000 yen (10 quid) for the last two weeks before pay day. Only yesterday did it occur to me that I could use my credit card at the local Mark's and Spark's style supermarket for a food stocking mission. It felt so good after a week of assuming poverty to walk around that shop knowing that I had a credit limit of 500 big ones.

On Saturday I went on the mountain. It was an absolutely amazing day and I got up really early so I could get started before it got too hot. I actually went to a local golf driving range first, which is at the foot of the mountain (the coolest driving range I've ever seen.) After scuffing a few balls in the early sunshine there, I went back down to the Hyakuzawa ski lifts where I picked up the climbing trail. After about forty minutes climbing I hit snow on the ground, which made the climb that bit more interesting than usual because it elevated the trail and flattened down the surrounding bushes making for a better view off the mountain. All in all it was a wicked climb, even though I didn't actually make it to the top. I stopped at the edge of the alpine line and stuck around there for a while. I was going to go all the way, but because I'm an idiot I forgot to carry water, so I thought it wise to get back down before I dehydrated. There were some other people just a bit further up, who seemed to be using climbing equipment and winter outdoor-wear to get up the incline near the top. I really wanted to just walk straight past them in my shorts and T-shirt and the branch I was using as a hiking stick, but I decided against it because I was getting thirsty.

I'm in school again today. It's going to be a pretty kushty day because the teacher who I was supposed to be working with is absent. I do have some other stuff to do though.

Take care.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Howdy folks. This last week has been what the Japanese call Golden Week. There were three national holidays in a row (Mon, Tues, Weds), as well as one on the Thursday of last week, so it has felt a bit like holiday season over the last few days. I went up to Shimokita with Aki and a few others for a spot of camping, which was pretty good. On the Sunday we set of early and got to Yagen Valley by about 4 in the afternoon. The weather was really good and we had a barbie and sat around drinking with these Japanese biker guys until late. I drank a bit too much and echoes of Niseko rang through my ears that night.

The next day was overcast, but we all got up and went off to see the sulphur lake behind Osorezan. It was pretty cool and there were all these steaming geysers and things. After that we went to Mutsu city to get some more beer and food in before jetting down to Wakinosawa to see Shimokita's famous monkeys. They weren't there, of course, so we went back to the camp site for food and beer. On the way back we were met by fog on the haunted mountainside of Osorezan, which made everything seem really spooky. Aki got scared and started to cry. Ha, ha, ha, what a wuss! There were lots of bats and frogs about as well, so Aki was really pleased when we got back to the camp site. Another casual night was spent with a camp fire and Yaki niku/soba cooking on the bbq.

The next day I went off to do some exploring on my own. I drove my car down the road towards Sai village, which soon turned into a dirt track, and found lots of small dirt trails leading off to each side of the road. I went down a couple of them and nearly ruined my motor, but it was fun all the same because the scenery turned into a jungle and there were lilly pads floating on ponds to the side of the road. I was really deep into the Japanese countryside, which is where I wanted to be. I did fail in finding either a bear or a monkey though.

Next I drove back to the onsen near our camp site and dumped my car at the side of the road. I found a narrow walkway back to the camp site and walked back expecting to find either Gavin or Alex to give me a lift back to my car. They had already gone to the onsen though, so Aki and I walked back down the same track (about 2 miles) to get my car. The track was cool because you could see naked people in the onsen on the other side of the road. The only bummer was that I forgot my glasses (I left them in my car!!) so I couldn't see if they were men or women. Gavin, Mark, Alex and Junayd went off to drive around the Axe of Shimokita (Shimokita is axe shaped) and Aki and I went back to Tsugaru after curry rice and ramen. One more thing I should mention is that Aki cried yet again on the walk back to get the car. We had to walk through this dark tunnel and she started whining, and when I walked off quickly in front of her she burst into tears. What a cry baby!! "I'm scared of the dark" she said. It was really cute.

I'm back at work and I'm currently finalising my insurance payment documents. I'm going to post them off on the way home.