There and back again – Cycling across the Shimanami Kaidō 広島県しまなみ海道

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Last weekend a couple friends and myself headed down to Onomichi 尾道市 in Hiroshima Prefecture to do some serious cycling over the long weekend across the Shimanami Kaidō 広島県しまなみ海道 (an expressway located in the Seto Inland Sea).

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Also known as The Nishiseto Expressway 西瀬戸自動車道, The Shimanami Kaidō is made up of the longest series of interconnecting suspension bridges in the world, connecting the city of Onomichi尾道市 to Imabari 今治市. The series of bridges represent the only connection between Shikoku and Honshu that is traversable via bike (or on foot if that’s your thing), and since they were erected only 15 years ago they are in very good condition with many small roads purpose built for cyclists.

We headed down via a long string of JR trains (in an attempt to cut costs by avoiding the Shinkansen) on the Friday evening having reserved a room in a very cheap (and dodgy) for both the Friday and Saturday nights. Saturday morning we got up bright and early, geared up and walked a short distance to our nearest bicycles rental station to pick up our the bikes we had reserved for the day.

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There is a very convenient bicycle rental system that has been set up for those wishing to undertake just such a trip as we were embarking on, across each of the 6 islands as well as on the mainland over a dozen pit stops have been set up where bikes can either be rented or returned. There is quite a wide array of bikes on offer to hire including those for children, electric bikes and even tandems! For the modest fee of 500円 one can rent a standard bike for the day, children and students are 300円 and the electrical ones can only be hired for 4 hours (as that’s how long the batteries will last I presume) for 800円.

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But Daniel you ask “Isn’t the one and only skill you will ever admit to possessing, that you are a beast on two wheels? So why would you hire a dodgy rental bike?”. Well concerned citizen you see the thing is as much as I love both my bicycles, and consider them an extension of my own body when we fuse each and every day. Unfortunately taking such machines on trains in Japan is nothing short of a headache (one would need to disassemble the wheels and carry them in a ‘bike bag’) and Kobe is a long way away from Onomichi! In short its simply not worth it over 500円, although it did feel like cheating………

In addition to the nominal fee a 1000円 deposit is required to be paid which will be returned on the condition that the bike is returned to the same station in which it was rented from before 6pm (5pm in Imabari) the day in which it was rented.

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Anyhow I am just going to throw this out there as a warning to anyone who might be reading this with plans to undertake the trip, if all the members of your party have not decided the route they will take or if there is any chance of you splitting up, I would recommend asking for separate invoices for each bike rather than combining them. I will get into it later but half our group dropped off our bikes in Onomichi (where we would be entitled to a refund of the deposit), the other half in Imabari (where they chose to forfeit it) and it took us a good half an hour of arguing with the employees since they tried to cheat us out of our money thinking we were ignorant gaijin (not to worry we had secret weapons and prevailed). If you are looking for details regarding the hiring of bikes follow the link here.

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Shimanami Kaidō has a great range of places to see and thing to do along the way if that so takes your fancy, I however was in it heart and soul for the cycling. For the more touristy things check out the link here where you can find out a little more.

When undertaking a cycling adventure such as this with a group as large as 8 people, its is not at all uncommon that separate groups will form based upon the skill level of each rider. Whilst a couple of us were making great time, there were those who being beginner cyclists lagged behind and it wasn’t long before the constant stopping and waiting became frustrating for those who wish to push ahead.

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I wouldn’t say I am anything close to a pro cyclist but I am definitely what you may call a great ‘cycling enthusiast’, always looking (often to my own demise) to push my body to the limit. For such ambitions however the Shimanami Kaidō is a less than ideal route, being in general very flat, scenic and leisurely.

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I would think that most intermediate cyclist could easily do the 70km it comprises of in a day with little more than a little bit of a sore buttocks to show for it. To my loyal readers you may recall my last big cycling trip last year in which I undertook the ‘Awaji 150’ from my home in Kobe, that route was a good 168km in total and there is a great deal of elevation along the cycling route around the island of Awaji, by comparison Shimanami Kaidō is child’s play.

That said we were not as nearly as prepared for this trip as the last (since we left much later in the morning on less than amazing bikes), because of this I was hesitant to attempt cycling all the way to Imabari and then returning in the same day but still wanted to do more than the 76km the one way trip comprised of. Instead half of our group cycled all the way to the 50km pit stop at Oshima before and turning back headed towards Onomichi, whilst the girls cycled all the way to Imabari.

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Quite comically in retrospect (but perhaps not so much at the time) they became stranded on the other side unable to find a bus, ultimately resorting to hitchhiking back to Onomichi that night, their sign says 美女3尾道 (3 beautiful women, headed towards Onomichi) which apparently a convenience store attendant wrote for them on a piece of cardboard!

Another reason why cycling back to our starting point seemed a little more attractive was one can save a little bit of money and a long bus trip doing so, the bus back along the bridges takes 90 minutes and costs the quite steep price of 2200円 for the trip, here is a link to the schedule if you find it useful in addition there is also the 1000円 deposit that is refundable for the bicycles return.

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I must add that there are some small fees for traversing each of the bridges with little collection terminals set up at the beginning of each bridge, although they are quite cheap (adding up to only 500円 for the entire way) you must have the change to pay for them so a pocket full of 50円 coins may prove useful, the list of bridge tolls can be found here. The final fee one encounters along the way is the 110円 for the ferry connecting Onomichi to the first island Mukaishima.

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I am certainly very keen to return to do the trip once again in the future as it really is an amazing ride, one of the things I found really amazing about the entire route was this magical blue line! At times you find yourself passing forks in the road and traversing winding roads through little towns but matter where you are ridding getting lost is something pretty difficult to achieve. One has to simply look down and check if there is a blue line painted alongside the regular road markings, if so you’re on the right track, if not turn around the way you came and find out just where that blue line turned off into!

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Being very very familiar with the perils of becoming lost and frustrated when cycling unknown roads this feature of the trip is a lifesaver.

In addition there are markers every KM you ride telling you just how far you till your destination, finally when exiting each of the bridges there are large blue signs pointing the directions to head if you would like to explore the sights that particular island has to offer (in both Japanese and English)!

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By 7pm on the Saturday night we had all reunited at our ever so dodgy hotel and set out in search of an izakaya for some well deserved drinks, but as we were all quite weary we took it pretty easy.

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Before heading back to Kobe on Sunday however we decided to explore a little of the town of Onomichi since it really is quite a quaint and charming corner of Japan.

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Characterized by a plethora of outstretching narrow laneways and staircases along the文学のこみち(Path of Literature) which head up to千光寺 Senkōji Temple and the adjoining千光寺公園 Senkōji Park in which brilliant views of Onomichi can be seen.

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If hiking isn’t your thing (would not recommend the walk is beautiful) another way to reach the temple is via the Senkoji Ropeway which runs from 9AM-5:15PM, 270円 one way /430円 return.

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When I reached the summit I kind of nostalgia washed over me, which was really odd since this was my first time visiting Onomichi, Suddenly a thought came into my mind ‘huh this city really looks like an aweful like the setting of one of my favorite anime I had watched years prior called かみちゅ! Kamichu! A super cute anime very similar to something Studio Ghibli might make about a middle school girl who suddenly discovers that, overnight, she has become a kami 神(literally a Shinto god). I gave it a quick Google and seems I was right on the money, the series was indeed set in Onomichi over in the Spring of 1983 and many of the temples and landmarks featured in the anime are real locations and faithfully depicted.

kamichuTo anyone who likes a little slice of life anime, I couldn’t recommend it enough; in my opinion it bares a strong similarity to Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi 千と千尋の神隠し (Spirited Away) so if you liked that go for it!!2014-03-26 10.45.01

Our trip back to Kobe turned out to be very long and uneventful, instead of paying the 20,000円 or so that the Shinkansen新幹線(Bullet Train) would usually cost for the return journey we instead managed to find a string of 6 local trains on the JR line that got us back in around 4 hours (and cost us only 4650円 return), my time isn’t worth that much that I am above spending a Sunday train hopping with my buddies so for me it was time well spent ^^

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On that note I’ma go give Kamichu a re-watch for nostalgias sake.

-Dan (and here is a kancho for good luck)

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Whynot Nagano Ski Trip 2014

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Over the last weekend of Feburary, a grand troupe of us Kobe kids (along with another 230 so people) pilgrimaged up north to the snowy slopes of Nagano’s Kashimayari Ski Park, on the annual WhyNot ski trip.

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WhyNot is a company that runs International parties and events across Japan. They typical host very ‘gaijin friendly’ nomihoudai (all you can drink) nights across various bars and clubs in Osaka, so they are a company many a Kobe JET is very familiar with. Our ski trip was run by the WhyNot47 project, a section of the organization that plans and runs various trips around Japan to each of the 47 prefectures, in an effort to dismiss the misconception that Japan is a dangerous place post 3/11 disaster. If you would like to know more the link is here.

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Gathering on the chilly evening of Friday the 28th of February loaded up with snacks and booze aplenty, we boarded our bus departing from Sannomiya at midnight on the dot! Spirits were high in the hour after we set off, jikoushoukais (self introductions) were given and many a ‘beverage’ consumed, however at the back of our minds we all knew we would have a physically demanding day on the morrow the bus grew quiet after our first rest stop. I awoke in the early hours of the following morning, stiff necked and groggy due to a sleeping awkwardly on the bus. Casually glancing out the window at irregular intervals as we made out way up progressively further north, it almost seemed as if the seasons were winding back, the snow falling thicker and thicker as we ascended the mountain.

Upon arrival at the ‘Tateyama Prince Hotel’ a very fancy ryokan 旅館 (traditional Japanese style hotel), I was nothing short of overwhelmed as I had been expecting lodging far below its station; in fact my first thoughts that have stayed true are ‘this place is too nice for us’!
After jumping off the bus we check in our luggage, grabbed our rented gear and suited up, the next thing we knew we were boarding the transfer shuttle taking us to the slopes of Kashimayari Ski Park!
WhyNot were very accompanying for those even with the most basic of experience in winter sports, offering to take care of all the equipment and lessons for a fee.

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As it was my first time seeing snow in all my days (being from the Australias) I opted to try my luck at skiing and booked a beginner ski lesson. Luckily my mate Erik was also in a similar position and accompanied me in my attempts to learn the basics of getting around the slopes. Unfortunately the lesson provided by our instructor left a lot to be desired, the general noise about the slopes compounded alongside his broken English left us in a position where we were getting very little out of the time we were spending under his care. An hour passed by and we had done little more than learn how to put our ski’s on and walk around a few meters, it was then he proposed a half an hour break! Looking out at the slopes, we glanced our friends enjoying themselves in envy, it was then we concluded amongst ourselves (pardon my French) ‘Fuck this shit’ and jumped on the nearest ski lift’s up to one of the gentler slopes.

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At this point we had a fair idea of how to ‘go’, but little knowledge of just how to ‘turn’ or ‘stop’, I thought back to what the ski instructor told Ike in the episode of South Park in the boys go skiing ‘If you french fry when you’re supposed to pizza you’re gonna have a bad time’, and felt pretty confident I had this.
Over the next few hours I only fell over 70 or 80 times. I became terrified each and every time I reached a speed my body was not yet comfortable with, my legs instinctively failing me resulting in me ‘eating it’ time and time again. It wasn’t until the afternoon in which one of my buddies who is a very proficient snowboarder found me still failing epically at even the easiest of slopes, and insisted I come up to one of the tallest ones for a ‘trial by fire’. Reluctantly I jumped on the lift up heading up to the mountain whose peak was obscured by clouds, upon reaching the summit all I could think was ‘oh hell no’, as I looked out at the white abyss beyond. Somehow I made it down inch by inch (most of which I was on my ass), yet miraculously after having conquered the beast mountain (albeit in the least fashionable of ways), by comparison those gentle slopes which had tossed me around in the morning I could now traverse with ease. I think what it really came down to was a confidence issue, soon as I had it in my head that this was just ‘a little slope’ I stopped falling over every 10m and all of a sudden skiing was a lot more enjoyable!

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One of the fun parts about WhyNot trips is that they always include a nomihoudai 飲み放題 (all you can drink) party in the evening of the Saturday night, very aware of this, myself and a couple mates retired early from the slopes to relax in order to utilize the hotels onsens and take a nap prior to the evenings festivities.
Having paid the very reasonable additional surcharge of 1000円 to reserve a private double room instead of a communal one, my mate Ryan and I who I was bunking with were delighted to discover that the small fee had bought us an identically sized room to that of our other friends who were sharing 7 in the same space! Needless to say we found ourselves with room a plenty.

After a long soak in the onsen, a brief nap and the amazing buffet dinner the hotel provided, I found feeling somewhat like a normal human being again. Onsen are a funny thing when you think about them, when I first arrived in Japan they terrified me, I couldn’t fathom why anyone would possibly want to get naked with their peers! Almost two years down the roads having been to them dozens of times they now don’t faze me in the slightest, in fact they are a rare treat! The whole concept of the naked body being shameful for some unknown reason is really a western concept, one that if you are to bath in Japan you must discarded with your underwear!

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Anyhow I digress, at around 8pm the nomihoudai party began in the bottom floor of the hotel. If there is one thing WhyNot will always do well it’s alcohol! They had a wide array of canned chuuhai 酎ハイ (Japanese liquor that is often used in place of vodka and added typically to juices or sodas), beer and the ever abunai Strong Zero’s.
I think I know my way around liquor in Japan by this point in my adventures, and there are two kinds of nights out drinking you have do here:
1. Regular drinking
2. Strong Zeroing
The thing is, the morning after a night in which one was drinking Strong Zeroes are going to be agonizing without any doubt. The reason these drinks are so dangerous, is that although they don’t taste particularly alcoholic they are 8% alcohol, even drinking one tall can has 3 standard drinks in it! Personally I would usually only be willing to drink 1 or 2 of these a night before switching out for beer, however since they were all free things got out of hand rapidly.

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There were more kampais than I will ever recall, shenanigans a plenty and at one point I found myself in some sort of circle pit screaming the lyrics to ‘what does the fox say?’. Needless to say I found myself spread out on the floor of my room, still fully clothed alarm blaring at 8:30am the following morning, my room buddy not in a dissimilar state.
We had almost missed breakfast but we discovered there was one bus headed back to the slopes at 10:30am. By this point those dozens and dozens of falls the day before had caught up to me, and my body was screaming for rest. Never being one to know my own limits I decide to ganbare and head back out to the slopes one more time (we had paid a good deal for the privilege after all)!

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In retrospect the amount of damage I ended up doing to my back (was wearing a back brace for a week after the weekend) heading out for the second day was perhaps not one of my wisest judgement calls, however with a little experience under my belt skiing in general became a whole lot more enjoyable. I even managed to tackle the mountains highest slope that took me a whole half hour to get down (however half the time I was on my ass)!
12:30pm marked the last bus back to the hotel before our departure home, luckily most of the guys managed to squeeze one last onsen in before we left to defrost our frozen limbs.
We packed up and checked out with haste the 8 hours later we arrived home in Kobe, tired and weary but with a grand sense of accomplishment!

There are worse ways the spend the weekend ;)

-Dan

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In case you are interested in going next year (I know I am certainly keen to do so) here was the flyer for the event.>

Where The Adventure Times Are!

Every year we are given a work diary at school. I like to decorate mine each as they are otherwise a little bland.
This year I went with a mashup of Where the Wild Things Are and Adventure Time ^^

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…….yeah it’s been a slow day at work.

Hadaka Matsuri 裸祭り (The Naked Man Festival)

Last weekend I headed down to Okayama 岡山 along with a couple buddies to participate in Saidaiji Temples annual Hadaka Matsuri 裸祭り. This has been an event I have long wanted to participate in, so it was certainly a check off my Japan bucket list.

Every year in the second weekend of February 9,000 or so men take part in the celebrations which in English are usually translated to the ‘Naked Man Festival’!

A brief summary of the festival would entail that a plethora of men annually head to the temple in the middle of winter.
At which they run laps of the temple grounds in teams of four wearing little more than a fundoshi 褌 (Japanese loincloth) and tabi 足袋 (traditional Japanese socks).
During each lap the participants jump into a waist deep fountain where their bodies are purified by the water.
After several hours of seemingly aforementioned insanity participants gather onto the temples stage, where they proceed to fight to obtain one of the lucky sticks that are thrown out of the upper floors by the temples priests.

It is believed that the man who successful makes it out of the chaos with a lucky stick, will be endowed with and entire year of good fortune!

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That’s the basics of it, but I’ll get into exactly what went down first hand.

Getting up early Saturday morning we departed Sannomiya 三宮 the center of Kobe on a 3 hour bus down to Okayama 岡山 where the festival is held.
To those who know anything of Japanese folklore, Okayama prefecture will ring familiar as the location of the immensely well know story Momotaro (Peach Boy).
The story holds a special place in my heart, as shortly after arriving in Japan, I played the main character Momotaro in a play at the Kobe Board of Education. Showcasing the feeble amount of Japanese I learnt during a week of intensive Japanese classes. To many ALTs it is also very familiar as a chapter featuring the story in English is contained within our students 6th grade textbooks.

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Anyhow us Naked Man lads striked a pose in front of the Momotaro statue at Okayama station prior to the event.

One thing about the festival is that tattoos are absolutely forbidden, an attempted discouraging the heavy yakuza presence that has plagued previous years festivals with violence and unnecessary injuries.
Having had a sizable back piece done a few years ago, I invested a great deal of thought into how to exactly circumvent the temples ruling on the issue.
I had considered covering it with large bandage, sticky kairo and even spray paint! However a few hours before the festival I reached an epiphany, electrical tap! Although I am quite confident it’s short of amazing for your skin it worked a charm for me , never did it begin to peal despite what I put my body through. Better yet no one said a word about the large patch on my back, although I wasn’t as if I was the only one in such a position.

Anyhow onto the meat of the tale, after a day of loitering around the city we boarded a bus alongside a couple dozen other ALTs from all over Japan, which transported us to Saidaiji Temple.
On route the manliness aboard said bus was tangible as bottles of whiskey, tequila, vodka and sakè flowed freely up and down the aisles.

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Our leader a representative from AJET fired up the boys, explaining in detail what exactly was going to go down that evening. Comradely bonds were forged between us through manly chanting, filthy exchanges and the consumption of grand quantities of liquor. By the time we arrived the windows to the bus were fogged over and sprits were high!

We marched as a great gaggle of gaijin to the temple grounds, nearing the entrance we sighted the stall selling our required outfits the fundoshi 褌 and tabi 足袋 costing us 2000円. After purchasing said ‘outfits’ we entered a large adjacent tent where we handed over another 1000円 to have a couple elderly volunteers ‘dress us’
Inside we were motioned to strip naked and queue alongside the other similarly butt naked guys. Reaching the front of the queue an old man unrolled my fundoshi material told me to hold the top of it under my chin as he strapped it around my waist ‘extremely’ tightly!
I’m not going to go into the mechanics of exactly what happens when that amount of pressure is exerted against ones manly parts, but use your imagination, thank god it was already cold.

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The boys after our first lap around the temple.

After the dressing (if you can call it that) was done with we took to the streets! From the moment I stepped outside the relative warmth of the tent and felt the chill of the cold night make it’s way across my skin a sudden yet brief panic came over me……. you know the feeling, the fuck fuck fuck what have I got myself into kind.
Luckily it was short lived as I grasped the shoulders of my almost but not quite naked comrades. We ran from the tent in teams of four, arm in arm, ribs pushed up against one another’s in an attempt to salvage any scrap of warmth we could from our buddies.

We ran through streets towards the temple grounds, flanked by thousands and thousands of onlookers separated by a long chain of uniformed police presence. Camera crews and photographers ran alongside us trying to capture every moment, putting forth a plethora of questions. However my mind was ironclad focused on the task at hand, one foot in front of the other.
As each team runs, one guy in each foursome chants わっしょい (wasshoi) which is then echoed by a reply wasshoi by the other 3, the chant I guess might be equivalent to something like Heave, Ho! in English.

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After a few minutes of running we come to the fountain, we hesitate, but are swept by the momentum of the group and the anticipation of the eager crowds. I waiver, I regret, but ultimately I clench! The waist deep freezing water hits me like a ton of bricks, my body stops accepting my commands for a moment, the cold takes me, yet I 頑張れ!

Look I guess cold is relative depending upon where in the world you hail from, I myself came from the down under and not even a particularly warm part of it at that. However that said running around in my underpants dripping wet on a night a degree or two above freezing, certainly left me colder than I had ever found myself in my life prior to that point.

We run from the fountain to the empty stage, my body no on autopilot. We stop for a moment and turn around, this is the first time I look out at the spectators and fully appreciate the true scale of the event. Eyes are all on us as the night is still young and there are few teams out running.
In lieu of returning to our team tent to try and claim a few moments out of the cold we then make what I now consider a poor decision in hindsight.
A YOLO moment takes hold of us (in the most un-ironic of ways) screaming もう一度 (one more time) we charge once more towards the purification fountain.
After the first plunge my feet had begun to feel like pieces of dead meat attached to my body, the second time in a span of a few minutes allowed this sensation to creep up towards my thighs.
Needless to say by this point instinct had taken hold of me, little time was spared in deciding it was indeed time to return to our tent.

Upon entering I was disheartened to realize there was one tiny stove burning to warm the hundreds of participants sharing the tent for the night. Luckily however it was not long before a large group of those crowding around the one small source of warmth decided to charge out once again into the chilly night air towards the fountain.

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As mentioned earlier, our fundoshi are not something we can simply remove and re-adorn, so if you need to take a slash once in the get up it’s game over. And so we switched over to consuming straight liquor to keep spirits high and bellies warm, perhaps not the most amazing choice of beverage for a chilly winter night tuning a makeshift marathon but it got the job done.
These efforts combine with the somewhat dangerous (in hindsight) practice of pushing my numb feet directly into the metal of the burning stove, slowly allowed me to reclaim my previously frozen flesh.

Now I guess towards the later hours of the evening the proceedings became a little fuzzy. However after the grand scramble for the lucky sticks the festival ended quite abruptly and I was left feeling a little disappointed at the anticlimax of it all. I soon found myself once again donning my heavy jacket and downing a midnight bowl of udon from a roadside vendor, before boarding our bus back to Okayama station.

Of course with such a large festival being held in what is realistically quite the modest sized city, accommodation was more or less impossible to secure. I tried hotels, mangakiss and even love hotels finding little more than no-vacancy sign at every turn. Eventually we resolved to spend the night in the only warm place we could find, a 24hour McDonalds, an experience I will surely never recommend.

Anyhow the morning eventually rolled around and we got our 7:15 am bus back to Kobe. All in all Hadaka Matsuri made for one hell of a weekend, one I’m fairly sure I will be keen to repeat next year!

Wasshoi Wasshoi!

-Dan

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A very Australian Christmas (a 2013 retrospective)

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Where have I been you ask, did I drop off the face of the earth? Yes and no….. Over the Christmas and New Years period I returned home to the down under to spend the holidays with my family in Melbourne.

Now I did the same trip last year and expect I will do much the same this coming Christmas. However the relationship developed with a country left behind in lieu of another is a bittersweet one, the return to said country equally so.

Upon leaving Australia after my last trip I retained a residual distaste for the country, questioning whether I would ever want to return to live there in the future. Despite having spent a fantastic few weeks with my friends and family, I found myself longing to return to Japan. This year however I have returned to Kobe in quite the opposite headspace.

For so long firm in my mind was the firm belief that I was a black sheep, not only amongst my family and peers but also within my country of origin, that I was somehow different from everyone else’s.

If there is anything that can shatter long held beliefs and redefine a person it’s two things, time and distance. As the saying goes ‘you ain’t know what you got till it’s gone’.

I guess the major turning point for me was finding myself begin to contemplate my future, not in Japan but post-JET. I guess seeing my long term friends my age back home getting on with their lives caused me to reflect upon my own situation. What am I doing in Japan? What kind of career do I want in the future? Shall I return to university for further study? What will my life have shaped up to be by my later 20s?

Over the past few weeks I have sincerely had some of the greatest times of my life, simply enjoying the company of the family and friends I left behind half a world away. From this experience I experienced a major shift in my mindset of what exactly Japan and the JET program mean to me.

Having had aspired to reaching my alleged ‘ultimate goal’ of living in Japan for almost a decade. I can now see with definite clarity that I had put the country on a pedestal, the way one might put a pretty girl.

Now I’m not saying I thought the country was all Sushi, anime and geisha as many do who have never been fortunate enough to visit Japan. Nor would I want to downplay the profound respect I have developed for its people and culture. But instead I would like to put forth that yeah, if you get an awesome placement like Kobe on the JET program (or even if you don’t), Japan can be everything that you ever dreamed of and more. But at the end of the day the experience like anything in life is going to be what you make of it.

I know I have said this in past posts but you can grow up and discover where you want to go in life quite rapidly here, today is the 588th day of my journey here so I would hope to have made some progress. Whether that is the product of conquering the hardships of living alone in a foreign country for the first time or unique to JET I couldn’t say. However I am a firm believer that this experience has helped set me on the right track to becoming the man I always needed to become.

I arrived in Kobe coming up 2 years ago a person I can look back upon with distaste, self-righteous, unempathetic and stubborn as hell. I like to think I’ve made a little progress since then, yet I realize the road ahead is long but if I have gained any insight it’s this:

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of ones ignorance”
-Confucius

I don’t want to say that I have come to some great epiphany either, rather that I am just walking my own path one step at a time learning with each one.
What I have learnt is to truly appreciate and treasure those you who love you, whether they live next door or a world away. Rather than worrying about winning the affection of others and what they think of you, simply be the best you you can be. Show a sense of empathy, respect for others opinions and a sincere interest in what those around you say and you will never want for company.

I have met so many amazing people in Japan from all corners of the earth in the short part of my life that I have been here, but I will be sure never to forget those friends and family I had in Melbourne neither.

To all that I saw and spent time with during my visit home I thank you for making my trip amazing. Particularity the efforts of my parents who took every step imaginable to do anything and everything to make my visit home a memorable one.

Till next time,

-Dan

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I’m coming home!

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Once again I’ll be headed back to Australia to spend the Christmas holidays with my family!
Currently sitting at the terminal in Hong Kong waiting for a connecting flight with a trusted rilakuma at my side.

To all my readers I bid you a Merry Christmas and happy new year from nihonomnom.

-Dan

Elementary Christmas Cards 小学校クリスマスカード

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Today after teaching a Christmas lesson to one of my favorite 3rd year classes at my elementary, the kids took me by surprise!
Soon as i finished the farewell, they all ran up to me at once pushing dozens of Christmas cards they had written for me into my hands!

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I thought this one was cute. My Japanese isn’t amazing but it basically says.

Dear Daniel,
English classes are fun, even though I don’t understand any English at all!
I now understand because the explanation was clear.
Please continue to teach me in the future.

All of the feels!