Thursday, September 30, 2004

Spider (kumo)

Spotted this little fella on my way out of school today. Probably the biggest I've yet seen in Japan, though there are some big ones hanging around during the summer time.

Sorry for the mess this webpage has turned into over the last couple of days. It should be back together and ship shape in no time. I went and lost all my links and the tracking and everything. You know when you get that prompt that reads: 'Are you sure you want to delete this?' Well I never think twice.


I just found this webiste that has loads of panoramic displays from famous places around the world. The link here shows Kitadake, which is where I`m heading next weekend for a three-dayer. I canny wait man!!

Also, I noticed that this page layout looks really wierd through a windows browser. I use Safari, so I hadn`t noticed until now. How does it look through your window?

Monday, September 27, 2004

A real bargain

I got myself this little badboy yesterday

An absolute bargain at 900 yen. It was sat on the shelf next to other shavers selling for between twenty and thirty thousand. I do believe I landed on my feet with this little baby. Now I can shave while biking to work. On second thoughts, along with my over-sized headphones and bright pink shirt I might look a little bit wierd cycling through town having a shave.

The Bills

I got caught speeding the other day and I'm now left with a 12000 yen fine. That translates into roughly 60 quid or 100 US. Yeah, I was pretty gutted about it, and nervous too. When the guy pulled me over I was really weak at the knees, mainly because of my shaky Japanese, but also because I wasn't sure what exactly was going to happen. The guy who fined me was cool enough though, even if he did have bad breath. I kind of knew what to expect because Aki has already had two speeding fines this year and I was with her on one of those occasions. It's just a case of sitting in the back of a truck looking like you're sorry for driving at 35 miles per hour on an empty road. I'm off to the post office this afternoon to pay it.

This shot shows a big cloud coming in over the Shirakami mountain range, as seen from Dake at the foot of Iwaki mountain. I took it on Saturday when I was on my 'round-the-mountain' bike trip.

Also, if you're interested in the winter sports culture of Northern Japan I've linked a new blog that I found recently. It's called Low Pressure Lover and the photos and movies section features an ex JET that some folks might recognise from a year or two ago. Looking through it yesterday got me pining again. Anyway, I won't be getting excited by low pressure systems for a good couple of months yet. The temperature here is still over twenty and doesn't look set to drop until next week at least. For those of you who are interested at all in Japan's weather systems, here's a brief.

I've also got to send off for my new passport today. That's another sixty notes as well.

Friday, September 24, 2004

sketchy work week.

This week has been interesting because there have been two national holidays. One on monday and the other yesterday. Yesterday I went up to the orchard area just below Hyakuzawa ski resort where there was an annual bbq event being held.

I biked up there with you know who. She had a bit of a tif along the way because her bag kept slipping of her shoulder and she was getting too hot. By the time we arrived at Hyakuzawa, though, she admitted that a bike ride on a beautiful day was better than being stuck in her car.
The rice in this region is in the process of being harvested right now, which is what you can see in the picture above. It gets hung out to dry in the fields before being brought in for commerce. Biking back yesterday, we passed this one old guy who was harvesting by hand, and was so worn out and knackered that he had to do it sitting down on a stool with his legs stretched out. He was right at the corner of this one field with acres and acres left to go. He was probably only going at a rate of five square yards a day. I felt sorry for the old boy; I felt like buying him a harvester machine.

AT the bbq we met up with a bunch of other JETs and sat around for a while chilling. Apart from this one guy from New York called Kevin, the gathering consisted of girls. And you know what girls are like when they get together on days after drinking sessions. I sat and listened to some JET gossip.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Here's a picture that I took from the window by my desk. It's another 'my back yard' shot. I'm collecting them.

This is uploaded without any photoshop alterations as well. It was a fantastic sky to look at. Actually, I've just come back from Hugh's 'going back to Toronto' celebrations. I went with some of the locals down to La Fiesta karaoke suite, and I did a modest rendition of Niel Young's 'Heart of Gold'. Fun, fun, fun!

Here are some more backyard pics

Monday, September 20, 2004

Iwate Blues

I went down to Iwate ken with Aki this last weekend. It was all planned out to be a good weekend with the national holiday on monday, but it went a bit pear-shaped before much happened at all. We were going to stay at a love hotel for the night on sunday because I'd never stayed at one before, and then go and climb Iwate mountain, the biggest in Tohoku, the following day. Anyway, we were both tired and when we got into the love hotel we ended up having this big cahoot and came back home that night. I was disappointed with myself because I let happen something that I've been trying to stop for a while now. I tend to get a bit angry when I'm being ripped off, and with the love hotel we were clearly being watered on. So it ended up me going downstairs into the empty courtyard of this love 'motel' complex in my underwear screaming my head off demanding to speak to someone. There was nobody outside in the courtyard, of course, and Aki dragged me away before they called the police, thank god. Aki gave me such a bollocking as well, because I really upset her.

The room that we got was all decked out with disco lights, karaoke, a bar, a drum kit and red couch. All the same, the bastards wouldn't let us out. The only way we could get out was to call the main office and ask them to unlock the door. I was not paying sixty quid for that farce. The Love Pocket was the name of the place, and it felt like we were in somebody's pocket stuck in that little joint.

Would you have stayed in a place like this? I don't know. Saturday saw me climb the mountain again, same old, same old.

Friday, September 17, 2004

And don't you forget it!!

After a couple of hours fiddling with the html for this site I managed to 'open up' the space where I stick my photos. Now you can see them all the more clearly.


Thursday, September 16, 2004

Blue skies for the third year in a row

Today my school had it's annual sports day at Hirosaki Exercise Park. (that's a translation). And yet again, for the third year in a row, the weather presented itself in fantastic form. I just knew it would. The weather each year for the sports day is always good. I don't know why. Anyway, I won't bore you with details about 'what the kids at my school did today' kind of stuff. I'll bore you with some photos instead. This is what never ceases to kill me about Japan:

No, this isn't a dance class, it's what I call the 'ich, ni, san, shi routine' The exercises that people here insist on doing, and that remind most westerners of 7.45 AM in a Japanese factory. They love doing it though, and it can't do them any harm. I dropped out of the routine this year and decided to take piccies instead.

Some wierd game they were playing where they hit each other on the head:

Kid with a flag:

There was a drinking party after, and I went to that. The food was good, but the conversation got a bit heavy after a while. They were two nice guys, but, like most Japanese people, they soon got carried away with the topic and forgot the limits of my understanding in their language. The topic was the fusion between Shinto and Buddhist traditions in Japan. Yeah right buddy. As if I've got a clue what you're talking about!! I had a good excuse to leave early though, which was Japanese class. I think I got out just before Majima sensei was going to begin his explication of the 16th century Shinto rifts.


Wednesday, September 15, 2004

I'm not having a go, but...

I had a funny one at English club tonight. First of all, the session started off pretty slack because I brought along some articles to read that turned out to be too hard for them. After about half an hour of quiet studying and such, an actual conversation started to roll. The topic of the discussion was the situation in Chechnya. I'd brought a couple of articles about the recent 'events' and I was hoping that we could have a discussion about terrorism in general. Not surprisingly, and quite rightly, the brunt of the discussion centred around the dire situation that the United States' Bush administration has gotten the world into. There was quite a bit of verbal stick given to the Americans, but I noticed that when I slowly started to focus more narrowly on the conflict between America and Japan during the second world war and the charges of terrorism that were made in those days, answers started to get thinner and interest in the conversation seemed to wane. Now, I know that the Japanese don't like to talk about their own national history very much, or at least not objectively, but it just felt a little bit wierd tonight, like everybody could feel a collective discomfort come over them. And there was me, oblivious to the reasons why. (I don't know the first thing about Japanese history, or that of the second world war, apart from the fact that they killed a lot - up to ten million - of Chinese people and god knows how many Koreans). Well, the discussion soon got diverted back to Chechnya.

I don't know, you know. I think the Japanese deserve a lot of praise for the way they have embraced their new peace-loving national identity. And I've always thought that people who criticise them for not contributing to war efforts are short-sighted. But their shyness towards speaking openly about and discussing what their parents and grandparents did in the past is a bit worrying. It's not their fault for crying out loud, so why should they get wierd about it. It's a kind of arrogance, though, that I have found to be quite common in Japan. The pervasive idea (and this is no new observation by any means) that things can be ignored out of fact and reality. Ignored out of existence. If something doesn't suit, then ignore it. It's what we would call pure childishness, but perfectly acceptable here in Japan. Don't deal with difficult matters; Ignore them. It's not conventional ignorance though, and I find it better described as a mild form of arrogance. I don't know. I've nothing original to add to the dialogue regarding Japan's wierdness. I can tell you one thing that's for sure though. The folks in my office think I'm the most immature thing since who knows when. And they're probably right!!!!!!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

My first eagle

Yesterday I caught a really good look at an eagle on the top of Iwaki mountain. I've seen buzzards before, and other birds of prey, but never an eagle. I think it was a golden eagle, but I'm not entirely sure.

Here's a picture.

The hike was, expectedly, much like all the other hikes up Iwaki that I've done before. I really enjoyed it though, and I'm thinking about spending a night up there before going to Yamanashi ken next month for the big three day Southern Alps tour I'm planning on. I need to test my equipment you see.

Lately I've been pining for snow. It happened like this around the same time last year, and I've been getting the same symptoms. I see snowy mountains in my dreams, and I keep getting all my ski gear out and looking at it. I've been trying my ski boots on and I've found myself looking at ski magazines, making 'whoosh' sounds as I imagine the skiers in the pictures descend big powdery mountains. I know it's sad, but last season was cut short due to me breaking my arm and I feel sore about that.

However, the colours are changing round here now, at least further up the mountain they are, and autumn will soon be upon us. And that should be a pretty thing to see in the coming weeks. This shot shows how all the rice has turned yellow now.

Well, it would have done if I hadn't messed around with it in photoshop. It looks a bit psychodelic now.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Olympics, at Dai Ni Yougo Gakkou

Today I went on one of my lucky escapes, formally referred to as business trips, to the school of Dai ni Yougo. It was a special school where all the kids had pretty severe physical handicaps. Basically, I was pushing kids around in wheelchairs all day. I had a good time though, and the main activity of the day was a special Athens Olympics event where all the kids had to launch empty pop bottles from home made catapults. Like this:

They all did really well, though not as well as me of course. I got the highest score, yeah!! I did some other stuff as well, but spent most of the day in Koucho sensei's office talking about his son and daughter who now live in England. Before I left, however, they asked me to croon one of the school's old classics; See You, See You.

The lyrics go a little like this:

See you, see you, see you again,
See you, see you, see you again,
It's time to say goodbye.
See you, see you, see you again,
See you, see you, see you again,
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

I didn't make such a bad job of it either. What with old Franky Shintaro stroking his keys behind me, we put smiles on everyone's faces.

All the kids were good fun to be with, but overall I have a favourite. His name is Kenta, and I remember him clearly from the last visit I made there. He reminds me of Dr. Evil's Mini Me because he's always doing stuff with his fingers in front of his mouth. This is a picture of the kid who couldn't stop smiling:

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Kate Bush, the new typhoon and the dog.

I'm here again early morning because there's another typhoon chasing through the streets, and the winds are so loud I can't stay asleep. I'm getting a bit bored of this routine now, waking up early to the whistle of strong winds and then feeling shagged for the rest of the day. At least I've got my new Kate Bush album to keep me company though!! I picked it up during the week and I've listened to it about ten times now at least.

Every ten minutes or so it sounds like somebody punches the window from the outside. It's a bit like the time I woke up and thought some bastard was in the room rocking my bed. That turned out to be an earthquake. Well, I did nip out quickly a few minutes ago to see if I could get some good shots of the wind. I soon realised that it was going to be pretty fruitless, so I just took a quick snap of our local ghetto hound, Myuu chan.

While I was there chatting to Myuu the winds kicked up again and I decided it was too dangerous to stand around doing nothing, so I came back in. It was either that or jump behind the steel fence with old Myuu, and I don't think Myuu's mum and dad would have appreciated that too much.

Also in this weeks repertoire of musical aquisitions is a live Cream album. It's got a really cool 13 min. version of Stepping Out on it. I'm onto it right now!!

To keep me entertained and to have a focus in life I've decided to learn how to knit. I remember a bit of it from when I was a little boy, and my mum taught me how to cast on and do the first few rows etc. (maybe that's where it all went wrong: ) I haven't got very far on my current project though, which is going to be a hat once I've got good enough.

Right. I'm off to school. I'll tell you about my dream later.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Same old, same old...

Did the same routine yesterday. Went up the mountain, but this time Aki came with me. It was a pretty good day all in all. The weather held, and we even made it to the top. I was really impressed with Aki because I'd thought that she might have quit half way. She kept pushing forward though.

We met up with Steph later that day and went for a meal at this Italian restaurant that had appealed to me the day before when I'd walked past it. Well, I say it was a restaurant, but it was more like a caff. And I say it was a meal, but it was more like a starter. The pizzas were on tortilla-like bases, and they were really poxy in size. Afterwards, me and old Aki came back and I polished off the curry I had left from the night before as well. Then, quite late at night, we went to this new 24hr onsen place that Steph had told us about. It was on the top of a department store, which is odd because before I came to Japan I had in my mind that all onsens were on top of mountains, but it was pretty damn spangly all the same. Inside, this place looked like it was fit for royalty though, with about ten different baths and a shared sauna and a private sauna and massage and all that kind of stuff. It felt really good after the mountain.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Wot Went Wong Wobbo?

Here's something I didn't expect to see. I mean, I don't really keep a keen, keen eye on what goes on at St. James' Park whilst I'm out of the country, but the dismissal of manager Sir Bobby Robson really surprised me. I'm not into football like most others are. I don't like to follow the season step by step, worrying about transfers and line-ups for each game etc. But this tickled me because I've always supported Newcastle for reasons outside the competition. Admittedly, they have had periods of starlight success and they've had their fair share of foreign players showing off their skills and all, but what I like most about Newcastle United is the characters. Take old Tino for example. What the hell might he be doing now? I don't know, but when he played for Newcastle he was a chip off the old block. He was fast, agile and most of all he was a character. This is what the editor of has to say about old Tino:

"Often appearing disinterested during games, 'Tino' Asprilla regularly lurched from the sublime to the ridiculous; possessing seemingly rubber legs he could devastate defenders with his skill or fall over attempting a simple pass."

Those back flips were only the tip of the iceberg in my opinion. And then there was old Beardsley, a man brimming with charm and character and style. The names could be reeled off, but my main point is this: Robbo, we'll miss your smile old boy.

And for all those Everton supporters out there who are grieving the loss of the superstar, wonderkid Looney Rooney, well, you can always start supporting Man United, can't you. No, seriously, it's only like an hour from Liverpool or something like that. It's no problem at all. If I wanted to see him I'd have to fly back from Japan, so think yourselves lucky!!

I've just got back from a nice little kip I had in the teachers room on the tatami carpet. Like I've said before on this blog, it's one of the perks of the job at this place. I mean, I really don't know why they bother to employ me full time if they are happy with the fact that I've got time to sleep on the job. It stumps me. The first thing I did today was a class where I put up a slideshow of my photos from England using a projector in the multi-media room. It kind of flopped because I had to close all the windows to stop the blinds from flapping and letting in light, which made it all hot and stuffy so the kids eventually fell asleep. In fact I felt like sleeping as well. It is really hot today though. It must still be the warm air brought up by the typhoon or something. Anyway, before I went to the class I checked my photos on my photo/slideshow programme and they have all disappeared. I still have the originals on my hard drive, but I can't find them in the slideshow programme. The slideshow that I wanted to do for the kids I saved onto disk anyway, so that wasn't a problem, it's just that now I can't look at most of the photos I've taken this past month on my convenient little slideshow programme.

I sent off my application for the Japanese proficiency test today, so I'm off to study a bit of kanji now.