Cycling The Awaji Longride 150 (淡路島ロングライド150)

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Having become quite the avid cyclist since arriving in Japan, recently along with a couple similarly crazy friends we decided to tackle the ‘Awaji long-ride 150’ (淡路島ロングライド150) an annual 150km bike marathon around the island of Awaji 淡路島.

For those that don’t know of Awaji island it sits neatly in between connecting 2 of Japan’s 4 major islands Honshū and Shikoku. Being very close to Kobe particularly where I live if you’re facing south it’s likely you will catch a glimpse of it on the horizon!

The island is separated from Honshū by the Akashi Strait and from Shikoku by the Naruto Strait. As of April 1998 it has been connected to Kobe on Honshū by the Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge 明石海峡大橋, at almost 2km in length it is the longest suspension bridge in the world (no surprise I can see clearly from my school).

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How to get there:
I person cycled to Akashi City 明石市 as its only about 7km from my house, however here is a little diagram showing how much to expect to pay if your taking public transport.
There is a ferry from there that cyclists can use to take their bikes over, as the bridges which connect Awaji with other islands are exclusive open to cars.
One way tickets for adults can be purchased for 450円 and a bike ticket for an additional 200円.

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Here’s a pic of the Awaji team (minus our photographer Pete) on the 7am ferry. We departed on the day from Gakuentoshi at around 6:15am, arriving to Awaji within 20 minutes (it’s all downhill).

It was stepping off the ferry on Awaji that the real challenge began, for the most part the ride is quite straight forward and flat, we chose to go around clockwise as the few mountains that Awaji does have around the coast, are primarily on the eastern side of the island.
After a long morning and about 70km of varying giant hills and flats we all met up in the town of Fukura 福良 at around 1pm for lunch, as this is about the halfway point I would recommend it for a stopover, that said the variety of eateries leaves much to be desired (コンビニましょう?!).

Now our ragtag team all had varying bikes (mines actually a mountain bike) and varying skill levels, unlike the professional looking teams in matching outfits we saw perpetually overtaking us. So for more than half of the ride I found myself alone with the road, it certainly gave me a good 13-14hours or so to think (and sweat). By the time we all arrived back at the ferry port having completed the 150km loop the sun had long since set and we managed go jump on the 8:10pm ferry home.

Despite our fatigue and burning asses we decided to man up and tackle the final 7km from Awaji back to Gakuentoshi. We headed straight for a nearby izakaya 居酒屋 (Japanese style bar) where after one beer the long 165km or so of riding finally caught up with us and we all realized the sooner we were in bed the better (I actually fell asleep in my chair :p).

Anyhow it was a crazy 15 hours or so of pain, however I couldn’t recommend it highly enough if your an avid biker in Japan! In fact my morning ride to school now seems far easier since (it might just be in my head), next challenge……. Lake Biwa!!

Natsuyasumi 夏休み The Happiest Time Of The Year!

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Last Monday marked the beginning of natsuyasumi 夏休み (summer vacation) here in Japan, however compared to what those back home might think of it to mean, summer vacation in Kobe is a whole different kettle of fish!

It’s a well established fact that generally compared to their western counterparts, the Japanese like to work A LOT! Most people work huge amounts of unpaid overtime (teachers especially) every week without a peep of complaint, as that just how the world turns in the Japanese corner of it!
As a Kobe JET we have no obligation to work past our contracted hours, I rarely stay back unless I have more work than I can manage to complete during the day and so I am usually the first one out of the office at 4:15pm.

Now what does this have to do with summer vacation, to quote the words of my mate Matt whilst reflecting on summer in Japan:
It’s called natsuyasumi 夏休み yet both teachers and students must still go to school. I wonder what part exactly is yasumi 休み (vacation).

ALT-meme

That said I ain’t complaining, even though we have to come into school everyday it’s a pretty sweet deal. I spend my mornings training with my students, popping in and out of the various clubs checking out what they up to. The vibe this time of year is amazing, life is heaps chill, no classes, no obligation. Having planned all my classes for the foreseeable future I literally have nothing to do but enjoy life and do whatever takes my fancy.

I know my OTE is a busy woman and this time if year I do my best to help her out with creating materials and correcting stuff that aren’t really my job since I like to keep busy. However even after doing all of that I still find myself with a plethora of time on my hands. Now post lunchtime all the kids have usually gone home, what would I recommend to fellow ALTs to do in this time when you feel like you have nothing to do.

I personally work on myself, read, run, learn, study, write, relax. Natsuyasumi is a great time to reflect on improving yourself mentally and physically. The club activity training the students do is intense, no wonder they are all so skinny! Participating alongside them has done wonders for my relationships with my students, sure my Japanese still isn’t fantastic but when you have just run 5km alongside someone, sometimes that’s all the communication you need to solidify companionship.

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Also a word of advice, buy one of these for school, it will change your life!

Now outside of work this is a very exiting time of year for JETs, we have just said our goodbyes to the leavers and in the next 2 weeks the new kids will be arriving! In Kobe over the summer we have job training and run a week long summer school!

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In addition to all this we also have quite a bit of tokkyu 特休 (summer leave) which are extra free days off that we can use any time during the summer break.
I will be spending mine in a couple weeks time, heading down to Okinawa to get some relaxing, exploring and summer fun in with a couple of my good friends!

Last weekend I headed up to this little inaka town called Takeno with the krew, we hired a car since it was about 3 hours north of Kobe, around HERE

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Got some camping, BBQing, swimming and bonfire action in! My mate Pete and I took a heap of stupid photos along the way 😄

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There is a certain magic and electricity on the air this time if year, life is good, the future is bright, THIS MOMENT, THIS TIME is exactly what I live about Japan and my life here as a Kobe JET!

tl;dr Summer in Japan is bangin’!

The Most Handsome Man in Space

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It’s been one of those shougakkou 小学校 (elementary school) days that are bad for my ego.
Three of my san nen 三年生 (third grade) girls got in a heated argument that ended in an epic janken battle!
Kana: Daniel you are the most handsome man (lit:イケメン) in Japan.
Hana: No you’re wrong, he’s No. 1 in the whole world.
Ayumi: No no no, in all of space too!

tl;dr According to 8yr olds I’m the most handsome man in space!

Ice Breakers Review

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Based upon my love of the Mintia mints I decided to branch out to an almost identical competing brand Ice Breakers.
Although similarly shaped and packaged the novelty Ice Breakers bring to the table is that rather being cool and minty as the name might imply they are in fact sour!
So far I have only come across 5 flavours, all if which I’m quite fond of, lets take a look at each!

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Ice Breakers – Sour Lemon

These would be what I consider to the the flagship flavor of the brand, slightly sour and fizzy they bring the lemon candy taste to the table right off the bat! A lot bolder than most of its Mintia counterparts, the only criticisms i have for the Sour Lemon flavour is that it breaks apart and dissolves quite rapidly and can get a little sickly if you choose to consume too many.
On a final note it leaves the mouth with an almost minty cool chill.
4/5

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Ice Breakers – Sour Blood Orange

Next up is Sour Blood Orange, although they feel remarkably similar as the Sour Lemon flavour when you pop one in your mouth and dissolve just as fast I feel they lack the kick of their cousins. The overall feeling I get from them is disappointment and a since of deflation, perhaps ultimate deliciousness is just too much to ask of an orange flavored candy……..
3.75/5

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Ice Breakers – Sour Green Apple
Ok we’re seeing a trend here with extremely similar tasting flavours, these ones at least have a slight green tint to the particles in them so I can tell them apart…… That said its not that their not delicious, only that they taste 90% the same as the lemon flavour.
Honestly though although its not appleish in the least they have this certain tanginess to them that is a little bit amazing. Definitely have won a place in my heart as an amazing sour candy!
4.25/5

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Ice Breakers – Sour Grape

Last but not least we have the Sour Grape flavour, these taste quite similar to the grape Minita just with an awesome sour fizziness to them! That said these really bring the sour to the table, not in a puckering way but at least it’s a lot more prominent that in the other Ice Breakers varieties.
Again the only way I can tell them apart from the others if I mix them up is by the purplish colouring that indicates the grape flavouring, still awesome!!
4.25/5

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 15 Gomatamago ごまたまご

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Welcome to another instalment of the Mochi Diaries, Chapter 15 Gomatamago ごまたまご! Once again these guys really aren’t mochi but in fact intricately designed cakes, however they are omiyage お土産 nonetheless and so kawaii I couldn’t resist!!!

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During my last top to Tokyo 東京 I picked a box of Gomatamago ごまたまご (Lit. Black Sesame Egg) cakes on my way home as the packaging intrigued me. Furthermore Gomatamago are a meibutsu 名物 (Specialty product) of the Tokyo region, so it’s not as if I would have the opportunity to purchase them again in the near future.

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As far as omiyage go these are on the pricy side of things at 700円 for a box containing 8 pieces, that said they are each individually wrapped and sizeable.

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The centre is a sweet paste consisting of kurogoma 黒胡麻 (Black sesame seeds) and anko 餡子 (red bean paste) which is supposed to constitute the ‘yolk’ of the egg…… Perhaps they are piitan 皮蛋 (Chinese century eggs) ( ^ω^ ).

This ‘yolk’ is then coated in a thin layer of kasutera カステラ (castella cake), a type Japanese cake originating in Nagasaki through trade with the Portuguese in 16th century that is immensely popular here. Finally the tamago is coated in a thin layer of white-chocolate to form a delicious crispy ‘shell’!

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All in all I was quite impressed by this tasty treat, I imagine they to well hand in hand with a cup of afternoon tea.
The centre retained a perfect level of moistness and was not overly sweet.
If your ever in Tokyo give a box a try! 4/5

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