Sunday, August 28, 2005

Peace out.

Today my old mate Hugh Je left bound for Tokyo where he's going to spend a few days before he goes back to Toronto, Canada to start a new exciting life. Hugh was the only other Hirosaki JET who came over at the same time as me and stayed the full three years. And although we've rubbed each other up the wrong way in the past, he's always been a good mate.

I'll keep in touch Hugh, but the best memories I have with you are the drives back from Hakkoda, exhausted from all the wicked snow and the whaling around in chest-deep powder, listening to damn good music, thinking about what to do that night. I'm pretty sure we can do it again, either this year or next, Japan, Canada, anywhere you choose.

Now that I've just started a new contract here in Hirosaki, I've been thinking about what new things I can explore to stop this place from feeling like home. So, I decided to take a visit to the local climbing wall the other day and I really liked it. I liked it so much that I went out and bought myself these nice little Italian jobs:

Anyway, I went up to the wall tonight, officially called the Rat Gym, all excited to break my new shoes in, and found that they close early on Sundays, so I'll have to wait another few days before I can use them. I've heard that there aren't any good places to climb in Aomori ken, and that the closest place to climb good rocks and boulders is Hokkaido. The gym's a really cool place to hang out though, and it's good exercise.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Yamagata trip: Hawks along the beach

Yep, I've been internet forsaken for a while now, and to be frank I haven't been doing an interesting deal with my time. I did, however, take a short road trip down to Yamagata prefecture to bag a couple more of Japan's hundred most famous peaks 百名山. First, if you want to look at some of the shots I took down there go here. I've stuck a few along with this post as well.

The first thing I want to say is give me a round of applause, because I summited three different mountains in three consecutive days, and I was on vacation. Not three seperate peaks, but three actual whole mountains. It really kicked my bum, but it was the way I wanted to spend my holiday and it all worked out just as planned.

Been seeing way too many of these fellas lately:

I saw this chap on Choukai san, which was the first mountain I did down there. I was surprised because amid all the signs warning folks to look out for bears, there was nothing that referred to snakes. Anyway, that night I had to camp really close to where I'd seen it, and if it weren't for all the ultra-vicious mosquitos and huge horse-flys keeping me awake all night I'd have been up with worry anyway.

Lots of huge rocks at the top of Choukai:

Anyway, I got about five hours. I woke up at five the next day and drove up to the trail head, which started at around 900 - 1000m. There's nothing too demanding about the climb itself. And like any other mountain in Japan, the other climbers are usually around 60 - 80 years old.

Great views of the coast from the top though, even in summer. It must look awesome any other time of year. Gas-san was also a good climb as well. It had a lot of terrain you could really get your teeth into. The terrain and the beautiful scenery aside, it was a farce of a mountain to climb. To get to the trail head you have to pay 500 yen, then when you're at about 1975m, which is just below the summit, you have to pay another 500 yen for a compulsory spiritual cleansing before they let you onto the top. I scoffed at that nonsense and was happy to sit and eat my lunch just 10m below. A good mountain though, and one with a lot of snow on the ground as well. There were a number of folks skiiing up there when I was there, and that was August the 4th!!

When I got back down I decided I'd take a swim, and without much preparation I just stripped off and ran into the sea. Of course, when I caught a glimpse of myself later in the car mirror I noticed I had a bright red head, and that was probably the reason those girls on the beach were smiling at me and looking at me. Doh! Then a friend of mine called me to wish me happy birthday at around 6 o'clock in the evening. Doh! Birthdays tend to have less clout as you get older though, so if there's noone around to remind you it's easy to forget.

On the evening after Gas-san I sat on the beach with my Henry David Thoreau book contemplating what to do next. Luckily, there was a Max Valu supermarket just a couple of streets back from the beach, so I had quick easy access to food and beer. Just me, Dave, a bento, a couple of Yebisu and a deep forgetful sunset. That's the life.

I decided to drive back up to Aomori the next day to have a crack at Mt. Shirakami in the great national park that sits along the border with Akita. Shirakami, for anybody who's never done it before, is a nice day out. The day I went was a corker, but most of the climb runs through forest so the sun wasn't too much of an issue. I started to feel weak towards the top, so I dropped my bag and did the rest without it. I wouldn't give up for love nor money. I'm going back there in another couple of weeks to speand a weekend on the beach. I saw a nice campsite down that way and I want to check it out.

Apart from Yamagata, this month has been the festival season, and everybody's been out having fun on the streets. Just want to show you all my picture of Hard Gay, ハードゲイ. Hard gay is a phenomenon in Japan that I don't know much about. But if you asked any junior high school kids I'm sure they'd know all about it. It's either a TV act or some pop band, but I couldn't tell you for sure. I just hear the kids talk about it all the time. Being a solely Japanese phenomenon, people don't really understand the connotations of such an expression. The guy below was dressed as this hard gay man, or men, and I got a quick snap of him.