Friday, April 29, 2005


I've been a little bit miffed lately as to why my images always end up looking doctored through photoshop even though the only reason I use photoshop is to reduce their size for the internet. I can't recall encountering this problem when I first started using the said software about a year ago, but recently, for some reason, it has been making my images look tone crazy. The shots below, I'll admit, were captured through using the light setting on my camera designated for indoor shots. It's called 'tungsten'. Regardless, even when I take shots using the normal settings I find that there are significant discrepancies between the original image and the image presented through photoshop. Anybody else have the same problem with their images?

In the above shot, if you look closely, you'll notice that the skyline is quite heavily pixellated. It's a real bummer because I like taking pictures of blue skies. The next shot is much the same.

The clouds in this shot look like they've been stuck on or something. If you want proof of the difference check out my Flickr page to see the originals.

Anyway, I shalln't bother you with the details of another day on the same old mountain, which is exactly what today was. Instead, I'll risk being thought of as a lunatic and tell you that I intend to do the same old hike again tomorrow. I have an excuse though: I planned to journey down to Yamagata ken for a Choukai climb this weekend but had to change my plans due to a misappropriation of funds that found their way into the hands of the lady behind the front desk at Hirosaki Memorial Hospital. Yes, I'm gutted. Purling weather forecast for tomorrow though. 快晴

Sunday, April 24, 2005

In a word Mike...

No, I doubt I am thinking what you and your band of breathing fossils are thinking. I grew up through 18 years of Tory rule in Britain, and like so many other people my age I consider the Conservatives a bad joke of a political party. I couldn't really point to the particular policies that I disagree with. I don't follow British politics that much, I find it very dry, but I do know that these monkies will never get my vote so long as I live. Well, so long as I'm not a dinosaur anyway. Oliver Letwin caps it all off for me. There's no way I'd vote for that prick. I've seen him on TV and he's definitely the kind of guy that'd wind me up if I had to spend any length of time with him. Same goes for Howard. You see, the way I look at it, the status quo is too far from where I'd like it to be right now, so I see no point in actually sifting through the minute cleavages in policy between the parties. I just don't bother to vote for any of them. They all make me feel depressed. Apart from the odd few of course. Tony Benn was always a favourite of mine. Roy with the lips, and a few others.

Anyway, the thing that really does stick in my mind about the Tories is the 1994 Criminal Justice bill that they legislated, which made illegal things like more than ten people dancing to repetitive beats together on unlicensed premises. That shit just did it for me, since I was into repetitive beats at the time. Much like many other British teenagers in the early nineties.

They're going to lose anyway. They're going to lose to that vicious git Tony Blair because he's the only guy with enough credibility to woo the masses. Charles Kennedy should get a chance I think, but the dumbed down British voters won't give it to him.

This is what Michael Howard would look like if he came to Japan and tried purikara.

Now, for somebody who studied politics for four years you might think my views are a bit base. Well here's my conclusion: there's no politics out there anyway. It's all a facade, a daily simulation of nonsense that you and me could never have any purchase on even if we wanted it. It's a middle class soap opera and the one with the biggest grin gets to play the starring role.

On a different note, I had a walk on Saturday and I took some sepia tones. Take a look:

From the park.

Old thatched roof near Iwaki river.

Check out my flickr page if you want to see some updates. There's a link on the right hand side of this page.


Friday, April 22, 2005

Titanium for sale

If anybody would like to buy an 8 inch piece of titanium, circular, and about a centimetre thick, please let me know. I've just had one taken out of my arm and I'm at a loss as what to do with it.

If anybody asked me what I'll remember most about this visit to Hirosaki Memorial Hospital, I'd have to say it was the wires and pipes. I woke up last night with wires all over the place. I had three wires stuck to my chest (one right next to my left teat), two pipes pumping air into bags wrapped around my feet, one pipe stuck into my arm with a drip connected to it and my arm all bandaged up, covered in cooler bottles. I felt like I'd just been in a car crash.

Above, the three wires to make sure I'm still alive.

The foot pumps, to keep my blood circulation steady. These crazy things went on through the night, and I kept having dreams of dogs licking my feet.

The drip. Four bags of gooey stuff. Standard procedure in Japanese hospitals from what I can gather.

All wrapped up in safety measures.

Just before the valium knocked me out for good. I don't remember much after this, apart from telling the doctor how much I liked his shoes, then it was all a blur.

All went reasonably well until, of course, I got to the reception desk downstairs and found that the original quote for the operation had grown by 25%. I could kind of see it coming though, and after a bit of huffing and puffing on the way home I came to the conclusion that there is nothing I can do but comply. Such is Japan without the ability to speak fluent Japanese. I just hope I can get a good price for that titanium though.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

入院する日 Going into hospital

Some folks may already know that I have to go into hospital today to have removed the piece of metal that has been holding my humerus together for the last year. I'm pretty pissed off about it because I can't eat or drink this morning (that's why I'm writing this blog right now) and the major reason is because I have to pay 30% of the costs myself (the other 70% is covered by national insurance). My private insurance company told me that they won't pay for medical expenses incurred after 180 days from when the accident happened. The bas**rds! Thus, after a night spent in the stuffiest, hottest and unhealthiest place in Tsugaru, with a throbbing arm and nothing to do all weekend, I have to fork out what has been estimated at 5 man (250 quid / 450 USD). This, I am sure, will turn out to be an under-estimate when I get to the front desk tomorrow afternoon. They'll probably claim that I ate from the a la carte menu or some nonsense like that.

Anyway, I'm not happy about what's going to happen to me over the next two days, but I will be glad to get rid of that piece of metal. I just hope they give me the damn thing as a gift or something. I payed towards it in the first operation, and I've had to carry it around for the last year, so I should at least get my 30% of it. Knowing that place they'll probably have someone in the next operating room with a broken leg waiting for me to get done. You can just picture it: "Sorry doctor, we'll just have to make do with seventy percent of it. He insisted."

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Saturday and Sunday

I can't think of any catchy little title for this post, so I'll settle for the basics. Anyway, I was on the mountain, and it was cracking. Absolutely nobody up there but myself on Saturday when the weather was at it's best. I went up with fellow mountain maniac Eric from Morita today though, and I took my snowboard and he took his skis. I didn't bother with my camera today since I was happy enough with the ones I got yesterday. It was wierd being back on my board again after about three weeks of no snow sports, but incredibly gnarley coming down.

Shashin o douzo:

Look closely at the back of the building and you'll notice that, along with so many other buildings this year, it has collapsed under the weight of the snow. There are altogether four buildings in the Shrine area that have collapsed under the strain of snow. I just hope they are insured. Also, driving back I noticed another place by the side of the Apple road that had fallen through as well. That makes five. But if you count my mate Naoki's house, and his rose shed the number comes to seven. Seems like the whole world is falling to pieces.

Eric was saying today how he'd love to ski this chute. I think I'd have to meet him at the car park if he did.

Looking up to the spot where I once had close encounters with a very large eagle.

I wanted so much to keep climbing on Saturday, but I'd promised this guy I know that I'd play football with him in the afternoon. I was gutted. The guy, who invited me via email, turned out to be someone I barely knew. I just assumed it was this other guy that I know who I play with from time to time. It's a difficult one to explain, but let's just say it was a bit of a let-down. I played like a right turkey as well.

Remember this tree? No, I don't suppose you do. Last december I photographed it looking like this. It's the first shot on the page. I had to make this link because I seem to have lost the original somewhere. Bummer!

The small shrine at 1078m.

I still haven't made it to the top yet this year. Today was going to be the big day, but Eric's knee started playing up so we headed back down after 1100m. Not to worry though, there's plenty of time left.

Friday, April 15, 2005


今週 相変わらずいっぱい暇だった。でも昨日と一昨日入学生に英語クラブにすいての情報を伝わった。今日も授業したところなんだけどテキストから直接教えていたので生徒のためにちょっとつまらなかったと思います。週末の予定は 今夜 その有名な『よしともなら』という芸術家の自己紹介を聞く為にマグネトへ行くつもりで明日、朝早く起きて山に登ります。でも一時半にサッカーの約束があるので早く登らなきゃね。ね >0<。日曜日も友達と一緒に岩木山に登ります。今回 皆 頂上まで登りたがっていると思います。怖いね。。。。じゃあ、wish me luck!

I wouldn't imagine that even Japanese people find my posts in Japanese at all interesting; I do it purely for my own benefit. I usually get some interesting feedback from native speakers, which is good for me. However, if you really want to know what I'm trying to say, here is a rough, rough translation:

This week, same as always, I've had lots of free time. However, yesterday and the day before I handed out some information to the freshmen regarding my English club. I also had a class today but because we taught straight from the text book it was a bit boring for the students. My plans for the weekend are to visit Magnet tonight and listen to the self introduction of that famous artist, Yoshitomo Nara, and tomorrow to get up early in the morning and climb the mountain. However, at 1.30PM I've arranged to meet some guys for a game of soccer so I'll have to climb quickly, heh. Heh >O<. I'm also going to climb Iwaki with some friends on Sunday. This time, I think we all want to climb to the top. Scary, isn't it.... Right, wish me good luck!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Farewell to old friends

As the new climbing season approaches northern Japan, I have found myself having to say a seasoned farewell to some old friends.

When your hiking boots start to give you blisters, and when they get your feet all wet in the snow, you know it's time to have them put down, metaphorically speaking. Or strung up, or any other snappy little analogical sentence that comes into your head. However, I won't lose too much sleep over their redundance because I've bought myself some new beasts:

Marvel at the spikey crampons I bought to go with them. The spikes I bought last year were about as small as you can get, and I found that they were next to useless in the warm snow later on in the year. I dropped a bit of cash on them, mind you, but in the long run I think they'll be worth it.

My old leather jobbies were good to me. They took me up the mountain at least twenty five times last year, as well as occasional trips elsewhere, and with a bit of luck I'll get twice the runs out of my new ones.

Bring on the weekend!

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Big Brick Building

It ocurred to me today as I was walking to school that only in a town like Hirosaki, with a general absence of brick buildings could you describe something's location as 'near the big brick building'. Maybe there are towns and cities all over the world where brick buildings are sparse, but coming from Lincoln, England a lack of brick on the architectural skyline is quite a novelty for me. It's what makes a place seem more foreign, I suppose. If you described the location of something in Lincoln as being 'near the big brick building' you'd be no use to the recipient of that information at all. I suppose it was the same in Israel and Australia when I was out there, I just didn't pay attention.

Anyway, this is Hirosaki's brick building, and it seems to be getting readied right now for the on-coming art exhibition this summer. A guy called Nara Yoshitomo, who actually graduated from my school, will be exhibiting his works for the public to enjoy just as he did nearly three years ago when I first arrived here. He's quite a famous artist.

In my personal opinion, I don't really take to his artwork on account of it being too farty. The sculptures and installations weren't too bad though.

So, that's pretty much all there is to say about the brick building, except that seeing it kind of makes me want to spend more time among the red brick architecture back home. Thing is, if I were back in England among all the nice brick buildings I'd only be whining about the lack of mountains.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


明日 久しぶりに初めてちょっと仕事をしなきゃ。。。怖いだね。もし長い時間で何もやらないなら早く慣れるよ。昨日職員は 皆 パークホテルでの歓迎会に行った。僕もその飲み会に行ったらお酒を飲まなかった。それで 成るべく上手に日本語を喋られなかった。いつもより余りノミュニケーション出来なかったね。大抵 お酒を飲むといつもより日本語で二倍話できると思う。多分三倍でしょう。中々宴会が早く終わってお家に帰った。最近毎晩九時にジョッギングに行ってるから昨夜は違わなかった。Thus I was thoroughly exhausted!!

Monday, April 04, 2005

The possibility of India

I've just come to the end of a book that has had a powerful influence on my will to travel. I've long had the idea of travelling for an extensive period when I eventually leave Japan (could be a way off in the future, mind you), but apart from China as a first port of call I haven't been able to settle on anything else for certain. The book that I've been reading is Marco Polo's Travels, originally written toward the end of the thirteenth century by an Italian guy called Rustichello of Pisa. Rustichello was a romance novelist who Polo met in jail. They wrote it together since they both had quite a bit of time on their hands.

Anyway, that's not really important. What is relevant to this post is the way Polo describes the places he visited. I've been stuck, over the last few weeks, with this image of Indians as folk who never wear anything but a loin cloth around their privates and who have houses infested with tarantulas and who won't go on a journey if they hear someone sneeze just once, but will readily leave home if they hear that person sneeze twice.

Marco describes a lot of really wierd stuff and he makes the countries he visited sound incredibly exotic. The funny thing about his descriptions is that he usually starts off by saying "These people are idolaters (buddhists), they are subject to the Great Khan, they use paper money and they burn their dead." I think it's really funny.

So now I have India on my mind as somewhere I'd like to spend a bit of time, both because it's vast and interesting and also because it's cheap for travellers. Getting there overland is going to be the most difficult thing for me because I am determined not to spend money on air travel. Another thing is that if I go through India I would have to sacrifice the journey I had planned on the Siberian Railway. Or would I?

Marco Polo

Another point of interest in The Travels is Polo's description of Japan. He didn't actually visit Japan, but he'd heard a lot about the place since he was in Manxi around the time when Kublai Khan sent his troops over to conquer it. If you ever wondered where the word 'kamikaze' comes from, Polo could give you some clues. He writes that the Khan's men, on route to Kyushuu for a blood fest, were defeated by a freak typhoon which blew up from the south, saving the Japanese from a right royal thrashing. The Japanese were in no way ready to take on the might of the Mongolian empire, and were over the moon when they saw that the Khan's huge fleet had been trashed in the storm. Thus was born the term 'kamikaze' (神風, or, wind of God); a wind that had been sent from god in order to protect the Japanese from certain ruin.

Marco Polo also tells you that in order to get to Japan from China it takes a full six months by boat. That's because you can only sail there in winter (on the back of the all-too-familiar East Asian winter monsoon that blows cold air and snow South East from Siberia to Japan), and back again on the southerly wind that blows up from the Pacific in summer. I've often wonderd how people in Japan used to cope in these harsh conditions way back then.

So, although it's a long way off still, and although I'm going to look for another job when I finish at this school, I have the hassle of working out how I can fit Siberia, Mongolia, China and India all into one five month stint, all overland. I'm working on it.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Look out bloggers

Watch this space. Akiko has just opened a new dimension of office entertainment. Bring it on!