Thursday, February 24, 2005

Moonlight Snow-shoeing

Last night I acted on inspiration fired at me from Luke Elliot's post about moonlight hiking. He posted it some time ago, but yesterday I decided to give it a go myself. I drove up to Ooishi shrine, where I usually hike from in summer, but I could only get halfway up because of the terrible road condition that way. Anyway, to avoid making a long story out of an event that was fairly short-lived and introductory, I hiked around the fields in that area under the moonlight, and today I plan to leave work early and do exactly the same again. It was wicked to be stood on top of three metres of snow, looking inside the top windows of all the shrine buildings that I used to pass by, on foot, just two months ago. I got really scared of the dark last night and didn't quite make it to Akakura shrine, but today I'm going to start in the daylight and hike back down in the dark.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Happy birthday dad.

Yep, apart from my old fella turning a ripe and handsome fifty-five today, there's little else to be said. If you haven't seen my dad before, here're some pictures.

My mum and dad at Whisby Pits. Nice walk on a Sunday afternoon, I imagine.

Down in Cornwall last summer. What I remember about that day was the service we got at this one restaurant after I took photos of our food. I think the management thought I was some food critic or a journalist of some sort, because the service really picked up when they saw me with my camera. I was just taking photos of the food for the kids at school. I knew they'd like some food shots in the slideshow I had planned. So, next time you go out for dinner, take your camera, and a note pad and pen for good measure.

Happy birthday dad.

Monday, February 21, 2005

First free weekend in a long time

For the first time in a long time I didn't go to the mountain this past weekend (strictly speaking that's not true because I did go to Ajigasawa ski resort to watch some of the freestyle snowboarding). There was a good reason for this, which was the crappy cold that I've had, and I felt the best way to deal with it was to stay in all weekend.

The question I asked myself this weekend though, was about how I am going to cope when I go back to live in England. England is a country where there are very few mountains, and those there are are small and not very challenging. Sure, there are beautiful places to visit in England, lots of historical sites and cultural heritage, but there are very few places where a man can hike uphill for hours and see for seventy or a hundred odd miles when he's at the top. That's what I feel I want for the rest of my life. It's not necessarily the skiing that I'll miss, rather the mountains themselves.

My first real moutain was Mt. Sinai in the Sinai peninsula of Egypt. This was a real treat because of its controversial biblical significance. It is claimed, though highly disputed, that this is the mountain where Moses encountered God and received his commandments for the Hebrews. Nobody will ever know if this is where the meeting between God and Moses actually took place or not, but all the same it was pretty cool thinking about the possibility. In addition, the sunrises from the summit are very reliable, and mind-blowing. I met Koreans for the first time on this mountain. I'd never met a Korean before, but there were loads making their pilgrimage to the top when I went up. They all broke into tears at the top, leaving me with the impression that Koreans cry easily.

Before Mt. Sinai I'd climed Masada in Israel, but that wasn't really a mountain as such.

I also have a good idea of the other mountains around the world that I want to climb before I die. I want to climb Mt. Elbrus, which, I think, is a free mountain on the border between Russia and Georgia. It's disputed to be the highest in Europe, depending on your definition of what Europe actually is. Next, Kilimanjaro looks good, and to the best of my knowledge it is also open for climbers without permits.

Mt. McKinley in Alaska, and Aconcagua in Chile/Argentina are also long term attractions, but I'd need to be in great shape to summit mountains at that altitude, McKinley especially.

For the time being, though, I'm content simply to learn more about the mountain I now have in my backyard, Iwakiyama. My first ascent this year is planned for March, when the skies should start to clear and the snow around the base of the mountain should begin its spring melt cycle.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Shinzou daijoubu

For those of you who read this blog, who know that I've had issues with my chest, and who actually give a darn, I went for an ECG (electric cardiogram) today and it seems my heart is fine. My lungs are also fine, according to the chest x-ray. I was amazed because I told him that I had smoked for several years, and I don't think he understood that I'd already quit the habit, so he said, upon looking at my chest x-ray, that I could smoke more if I wanted to.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Golden Moments

This is what happens when you introduce elderly Japanese ladies to the almighty badboy Grooverider at full volume. In my mind this was a classic cultural experience.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Cake and Pills

I bought this cake at the snow festival in Hirosaki last week, a very nice array of ice sculptures I might add, and found that you get a free pill with every cake. I've seen the little sachets of preservers before, that Japanese people always stick in these packeted deserts, but never before have I opened up a cake to find what looks like a disco biscuit.

I wasn't quite sure whether I should either report it to the police, throw it away, or just neck it there and then to help me through what was looking like a tediously boring day. Naturally, I threw it away. I know too well that drugs are for mugs.

And on that note, here is yet another shot of a mountain that regular readers should know all too well by now

Taken this morning on my way to work.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Breathing Problems

No, not me, not today. But the fella sat next to me in this office. I originally just wanted to sit here and post a couple of photos, but this man's breathing is pure, unfettered madness, I have to relate it. Well, it's not that bad, and when I think about it it's a pretty tight complaint to make (excuse me, I don't like your breathing) but it's just so fast. He breathes at twice the rate I do and he's sat doing the same kind of work. It's like when you haven't shared a bed with anyone for a while, and the first time you do, you find yourself put off by the other's breathing patterns. I've shared a bed with some huffers and puffers in my time, but this guy's missus must have hell to put up with. She can't have had a decent night's sleep in years.

And not only is it the speed at which he breathes, but also the whistle he makes through his nose. I really like the guy. He's always been good with me, he's never been unreasonable and he always smiles, but sat here listening to his whistle is making me feel like having a heart attack. When he gets up to go into the printing room I take a big deep breath to slow my heart rate down, it's that nuts. He's making me all hot and exhausted.

Anyway, this wasn't supposed to be a complaint about the guy sat next to me, it was just supposed to be a couple of photos I took over the weekend. The road back from Hakkoda again. I went snowboarding on Friday (national holiday) and Saturday, and on the Thursday I had a ski class with the students at Owani high school.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

People come and go.

I'm always a bit hesitant about using titles for purely photographical posts. It's not that I don't think photos and words complement each other, because in the right circumstanes they do. It's just that whenever I put words to my photos I usually regret it at a later date. Maybe that's just me. Maybe it's because I'm the kind of person who sees his own artistic efforts as intrinsically cheesy, and as a result I'll probably never produce photos, writing, drawings and paintings even, that represent the inner, deep, organic Lukey.

Arty farty. I've never been into the fart that often accompanies art. And although the fart is not always there in the piece of work itself, it's so easy for one to fart in the appreciation of art. Do you follow? Maybe not. Let's just say that the reason I've never really taken to artistic expression throughout my life as willingly as I might have liked to, is because I've long thought of it as poncey and something that those who are obsessed with themselves do. I know I'm wrong. The above shot was there for the taking. Walking back from MaxValu with groceries in my hands and my camera in my ruck-sack, I went for the kill.

People coming and going.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Passed the test

Here's proof, and it shows just how bad my listening is. This is the result that I've been waiting on for so long now, so I'm very, very pleased. I owe it to the hard work that I put in before the test, and especially to the young girl who puts up with my nonsense every week at Japanese class.

Am I thinking about level two? Maybe, but first I need some motivation to learn again. I took a big break over xmas and it felt so good for that period not to have to bang my head against the brick wall that is the Japanese language.

Night shots

Along with these night shots, I might just tell you about the highlights of the weekend. On saturday, I did some work for a group called ECC in Hirosaki. ECC stands for English Conversation Club (I think) and they were running evaluations for their students in the form of an interview conducted by native speakers (Me and Dinah, another ALT from round here). That was good fun, though I was pissed off with the apparent lack of education these kids are getting. There are various teachers working for ECC in this area, and when you get to test all of them together in one go you notice just how good, or bad, the teachers themselves are. We had some groups of students coming in and getting full marks, and then other groups who'd come in and stare straight at you with no idea what was going on. It seemed to me like an obvious lack of achievement on behalf of certain teachers.

Now, if you're sat there thinking this is not a night shot, you're quite right, it isn't. Just thought I'd show you how much snow I have on top of my shed right now. Around 150cm, if the photo doesn't give you enough perspective. Actually, in Niigata right now there are places where the snow is 370cm deep in the towns. These towns might be at elevated altitudes, who knows, but that's still an incredible amount of snow. Buildings are collapsing under the weight. Ironic really, the North East US got six feet and it was on every news website on the internet. Northern Japan gets twelve feet and you have to hear about it from me.

This is what I meant when I said night shots. I was just walking home when I thought I'd whip it out and see what kind of impression I could make. Oh, my camera, that is.

So yesterday I went up Hakkoda where there was a nice 50cm of fresh waiting to be had. I used my board, and I managed to get in eight runs before the lift stopped running for the day. It was a very pleasing day all in all, but I know my car is starting to feel the winter. On the way up the mountain yesterday I pulled a 180 from sliding into a bend. It was actually on a downward patch of road, and I couldn't see the damn bend for all the snow and mist. Luckily, I didn't hit the snow-walls either side, or any on-coming cars, and to be perfectly honest the first thing I said was "that was fucking great man!!" to Hugh, who was sat next to me with a roller-coaster grin on his face. It was a wicked stunt, but I certainly don't want to do it again. I felt lucky there was no damage done to the car.

And if you want to see me doing a horizontal attempt at a 180 on my snowboard, then just check out Hugh's website

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

My Dreams

I don't know why, but people are still dying in my dreams. I recently moved my bed from the far room into the living room because of the cold and it has been playing about with my sleep. I can remember times like this before when I've changed rooms, or moved to a different house.

Huge mound of snow. (Frequently in my dreams)

When I arrived at the kibbutz, for example, in my first week I must have dreamed about at least three murders, each of which involved me being the victim. I was sharing a room with Henning, a German guy and Conrad, a South African. They were both really friendly guys who showed no aggression towards me at all. And I had the same impression from the whole Kibbutz community; that they were a good bunch of peaceful people.

The dream I remember most vividly had this Ukranian guy in a black car with tinted windows following me down a street. The Ukranian guy was one of the Jewish immigrants who was there on the kibbutz learning Hebrew and working in the chicken sheds. Anyway, he wound down the window slightly and then he poked a sawn-off shot gun through the crack and pointed it at me. He was about to shoot me but I woke up. I always experience these wierd dreams when I'm sleeping somewhere new, I accept that. It's just that I've been in the living room of my house for three weeks now and I'm still getting involved in murders at least twice a week.

This time around I haven't been the direct victim, but just an innocent by-stander. I've been getting drawn into plots designed by other people to kill other people. Last night's was a very well planned murder by a group of people I didn't recognise off-hand. They were preparing to kill this one guy who was some kind of business associate of theirs, so they could take firmer control of the business. I remember a river and a dark room and some wires being set up to muffle the sound of this guys voice as he was being killed. He was going to be stabbed to death and I was supposed to be there to secure the location where the murder was going to take place. I didn't want to let on that I wasn't in favour of murdering the guy in case the murderers turned on me and killed me as well, so I decided to hide in the bathroom when the victim came in the room. The last thing I wanted to see was someone being stabbed to death. When I got in the bathroom I found that half of the door was missing and everyone outside, including the guy who was on the verge of being killed, turned and looked into the bathroom at me. Then I woke up.

It's really screwed up, and I think it's time I went back to dreaming about girls in bikinis. Anyway, it's much warmer in the living room and at least I can watch the TV from my bed now.

Guys clearing the snow by the station. (Not in my dreams)

This is my school's backyard. The big netting marks the perimeter of the baseball pitch. (Rarely in my dreams)

For those of you who feel bad for me because I have these dreams, don't worry. I've had them for so long now I don't even wake up in a sweat anymore. I just wake up and think "Oh well, just another murder. They come, they go", that kind of thing. I would like more bikinis in my dreams though.