Isu Peninsular

I have been lucky enough to visit the Isu Peninsular to the south of Tokyo on two occassions now. Once when Richy was visiting during summer we went Hiking on the Izu peninsular with Tomomi and enjoyed driving around the coast, swimming, eating amazing and disgusting seafood, and watching dolphin shows. We were lucky enough whilst hiking to get close to some of the local deer.

I was also lucky to visit Izu with Alex, Meg and her friend Hiroko to do the waterfall tour, have real green tea in a traditional house, watch fireworks, take an ocean view onsen under the stars and generally enjoy good company.

The traditional house, set amongst a bamboo forest was particularly impressive – especially as the owner had re-built the whole thing from scratch and using traditional techniques. The wood was hard and polished and joined using traditional techniques and limited nails. The walls had been woven and then plastered with home made horse-hair mud and the whole reconstruction had been photo documented. Impressive.


The temple tour

Angela came to visit me. First time we have been overseas together since Greece, 2000! Was a blast.

Had a ball. A high-ball that is.
Swan rides, DonQi aquarium, terrace beers with the mistress.
Whisky with no ice work house parties,
Living like common people, flea markets,
Nemo Demo and calls on the giant porcelain telephone.
Couch surfing micro brews and insider temple fests with –
Geeky Norwegians, Jerks and Yu.
TokyoDex, The Watanabes, Jimmy Blinks and the Shakehorns.
The golden poo, USDs, downpours, Delphine and Snow monkeys.
Ramen, Gyoza, Izikaya, satay, sushi breakfast, lunch and tea.

And I you.

From seed to soba

Some time ago I was lucky enough to be invited by Yuki* and her boy Hiro-jan to visit some friends in the mountains to celebrate life!

The celebration was at their house and pottery gallery out past Kawagoe (West of Tokyo). It was a beautiful peaceful spot with small plot farms nestled into the steep sides of the valley. The soft rain was somehow apt.

They turned on a real treat for us and some other guests with organic, home grown, home ground, home made, traditionally cooked soba noodles. Delicious! You can see the process from seed to soba in the pics below.

You can view captions, make comments and see a bigger version by clicking on the pictures.

* Yuki is the PwC Japan Sustainability team International Development Assistance Leader.

The good and the bad (warning, ugly is in the detail)

Saturday was a good day. Headed down the now familiar highway 15 to Yokohoma to meet up with Yuta Horie and his very good looking Triumph Tiger 800. We spent a bit too much time at Naps motorcycle store but still managed to have a nice ride along the south coast of Japan from Zuishi to Enoshima. Our final destination was the Enoshima shrine, a ginger ale (BAC limit in Japan is 0.0) and a squashed octopus cracker. It was a perfect ending to the ride. From there we blasted back home along the express-way and I was quite proud of the fact I navigated the entire way home without the iPhone. Those express-ways are pretty scary to navigate!

Sunday was not a good day. I had no plan and ended up sleeping in and procrastinating heavily. It was 2pm before I realised. So I did the right thing and grabbed my ‘Drinking in Japan’ guide and got pro-active with my camera and notebook. I walked around a big loop from Tsukji to Nihonbashi and back again. Half-way through I was thirsty and really looking forward to a beer. Although I must have walked past more than 100 places, I didn’t find one that looked tempting or a single place from the guide. That is Tokyo. So much choice that it is over-whelming and if your looking for a particular place – extremely hard to navigate.

I did manage to find the Latin bar I had seen before, and bookmarked it for Ange’s visit. Like so many others on a Sunday afternoon though, it was closed. I also perked up my spirits when I found another little local grocery store that had meat and veg and was open! I resolved to fixed myself a delicious meal of spaghetti bolognese to make myself a little happier.

Finally, not more than 500m from home I lowered my standards and headed for a beer in one of the small places hidden amongst the Tsukiji fish markets. The proprietor immediately barred his fore-arms in a cross and giggling told me what essentially meant “I’m a racist bastard and I’m not even going to pretend this place is closed, I just don’t want your lousy gaijin ripped jean shiorts in my place, even if your money is good”. A Japanese couple walked past me and sat down at the bar. I was extremely disappointed.

At home I cracked a lonely beer and made a delicious slow-cooked spag-bol with the works – bacon, mushroom, beef mince (apparently) and even some spinach and mozarella cheese. It was a huge meal topped off with chocolate covered pomegranate. Tasted fantastic.

Four hours later, I woke up shivering and shaking and my sides ached. Another hour and I was sitting on the lovely warm toilet seat, but I had banked on the wrong end – I should have figured that after 4 hours it wouldn’t have been processed yet. I wasn’t thinking so straight at 3am. In a heave, I tried to throw myself off the seat and twist my head towards the bowl in one movement. I didn’t get the height I needed and my testicles got squished against the seat. I did manage to get most of the delicious bolognese into the toilet bowl. I resolved after a little while to really cut down on my portion sizes.

After the initial bout of vomiting I was leaning over the bowl with my fore-arm unwisely pressed on the Toto arm-rest control board. I heard the whirring noise but wasn’t prepared for the jet of hot powerful spray leaping out at me from the bowl. Lucklily I had flushed the last lot down already. After the initial shock I lept (more like leaned probably) to the side, and took most of the jet in the shoulder before I toppled over and hit my head on the bath-tub. My bathroom really is pretty small. The jet of water from the arse cleaner continued to squirt well into the kitchen before I could turn it off. The toto is an amazing device and to be fair to its creators it is probably not designed to deal with these situations, still some kind of anti-forearm press shouldn’t be too hard to design?

A shower and a day in bed and I still feel ridiculously weak and sore. Another night and hopefully I’ll be back to normal. The moral of the story – don’t eat the mince in Japan.

Great big read

I love reading
Stimulating the imagination or stimulating the mind
Theres nothing quite like
A good blog find.

Needs a decent Sunday afternoon to do it justice,  it is good for stimulating the mind, or trying to understand it, or to marvel at its complexities and nuances. It is a blog that does a much better and focused job of explaining philosophy and in particular the philosophy of the mind.

Recently, they even got onto Climate Change! Check it out.

I got my helmet back!

I was riding home from a joy ride to Liqudoe with Paolo on the weekend when I spotted my very precious stolen helmet! I was very very annoyed when this helmet was stolen and this frustration and anger bubbled out of me when I spotted the helmet on the street. I promptly locked up the back wheel in front of the Presidents Palace and the crowd assembled for the Independence celebrations. Dropped a U-Turn and roared off after the Helmet. I raced passed a truck load of transit police, over the canal on Comorro Road and finally caught up with the culprit outside Tiger Fuels. It was definitely my helmet, albeit with a few new stickers.

I hemmed the other bike rider behind a taxi and some other bikes and screamed at him to pull over, waving my left arm to tell him to pull over. He tried to duck around the inside of the taxi then the outside but luckily a parked car and myself kept him on the straight and narrow. More yelling and hand waving and with me guiding him to the gutter he pulled over.

He was riding a 125cc Yamaha motorbike but by no means looked rich or tough. His pillion passenger was a bit bigger but I hardly noticed him, he was grinning. I was making a scene and he looked pretty shocked. Still yelling, somehow some rational thought got through to my sub-conscious and after telling him that he was wearing my helmet which had been stolen 3 months before, I asked him where he bought it. Of course, he had bought it from a friend and it had cost him $60. I explained it was my helmet, showed him the Australian Standard sticker and demanded it back. He rather feebly said that he had paid $60 for it. I had paid $50 for the best helmet I could find in Timor, and I told him he could have it in exchange for my helmet. Amazingly, he accepted, I got my helmet back!.

At this point I calmed down a lot. Then, I explained that his ‘friend’ also had my gloves and that I would be willing (not really) to pay $10 for the other glove (read the full story on why I have one glove and his friend has one glover in this blog post). I gave them my number but never expected to hear from them. 

The next day they called me and wanted to meet. It seemed like they had the other glove. We arranged a meet and I gathered a ‘crew’ for the show-down. Paolo and James were back-up and we headed to Timor Plaza for the meet. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the gloved and just wanted another $10 because he had paid $60 for the helmet and I had only paid $50 for the one he ended up with. Fat chance.

When I re-tell this story I’m surprised at my own stupidity and the amygdala reaction to fight. I’ve never been in a fight in my life and I don’t harbour much frustration or anger normally. I’m not sure why this is different, but I guess the blatant act of crime right under my nose might have been the reason. I guess in some situations, you can never know what you would do until it happens.

Moral of the story: don’t buy stolen goods. if you don’t buy it, they wont steal it.

Nomad – Iron Maiden

A friend dedicated this song to me and I’m quite pleased! Thanks Roni.

Nomad by Iron Maiden

Like a mirage riding on the desert sand
Like a vision floating with the desert wind
Know the secret of the ancient desert lands
You are the keeper of the mystery in your hands

Nomad, rider of the ancient east
Nomad, rider that men know the least
Nomad, where you come from no one knows
Nomad, where you go to no one tells

Undercover of the veil of your disguise
The men that fear you are the ones that you despise
No ones certain what your future will behold
You’re a legend your own story will be told

Nomad, rider of the ancient east
Nomad, rider that men know the least
Nomad, where you come from no one knows
Nomad, where you go to no one tells

No one dares to even look or glance your way
Your reputation goes before you they all say
Like a spirit that can disappear at will
many claim of things but no ones seen you kill

Nomad, your the rider so mysterious
Nomad, your the spirit men fear in us
Nomad, your the rider of the desert sands
No man’s ever understood your genius

Those who see you in horizon desert sun
Those who fear your reputation hide or run
You send before you a mystique that’s all your own
Your silhouette is like a statue carved in stone

Nomad, your the rider so mysterious
Nomad, your the spirit men fear in us
Nomad, your the rider of the desert sands
No man’s ever understood your genius

Legend has it you speak an ancient tounge
But no ones spoke to you and lived to tell the tale
Some say that you have killed a hundred men
Others say that you have died and lived again

Nomad, your the rider so mysterious
Nomad, your the spirit men fear in us
Nomad, your the rider of the desert sands
No man’s ever understood your genius