Fuji-Q Highland 富士急ハイランド

Last weekend along with couple friends  l headed up to Fuji-Q Highland 富士急ハイランド for some roller-coaster enjoy.

https://www.fujiq.jp/en/attraction/

Situated at the base of Mount Fuji, Fuji Q is Japan’s premier roller coaster theme park sporting several of the world’s most intense rides. The park boasts dozens of rides and attractions but there are four coasters which the park is round for, several having held Guinness world records at their release, each delivering a unique costing experience.

Fujiyama @ Fuji-Q Highland

Fujiyama 高飛車 : 79 metres tall, 130 km/h, it was once the world’s tallest roller coaster. I fondly named it the rough bang out ❤


Dodonpa ドドンパ: 52 metres tall, 172 km/h, it was once the world’s fastest roller coaster but still has the worlds highest acceleration from 0 mph to its maximum speed, 172 km/h, in 1.8 seconds! Reaching up to 2.7 G’s, it’s pretty much like being shot from a giant cannon!


Eejanaika ええじゃないか: 76 metres tall, 126 km/h, is only the second “4th Dimension roller coaster” ever built, it is the roller coaster with the most inversions in the world and can rotate 360 degrees forward or backward in a controlled spin.

Takabisha 高飛車: The steepest coaster in the world, it contains a 121° freefall, as well as seven major twists over 1000 metres of track, and a drop of 43 metres. This ride is a total troll going insanely fast then suddenly pausing for before the drop!

Here is a cool POV video of a dude riding Takabisha!

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Since Kobe is a long way away from Mt Fuji the way we managed to make it there and back in a single weekend was to take a night bus there and back. Ridding in a long haul bus in Japan is a fairly horrible experience, primarily since every 2 hours they typically park at a rest stop for anywhere from 30-60 minutes for some reason. To add salt to the wound during this time, all the lights on the bus are turned on, seriouslyyyyyyyyyy ಠ_ಠ

That said our tickets were only about 12000円 including admission to the park, so with a some good company, a beer or 2 and some stupid next level selfies the trip wasn’t so bad.

In addition to the awesome roller-coasters, Fuji Q also has the worlds largest haunted house the Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear 戰慄迷宮. Set in a haunted hospital the walkthrough totals 900m in length and takes an average of 45 minutes to complete.

Inside the haunted hospital are dozens of rooms and containing actors dressed as zombies, as one makes their way through one creepy room to another the actors will pop out from behind and attempt to scare you.image

Although rationally in your mind you know its all fake and despite the manly front I put up, I can honestly say there were a couple moments where zombies popped out that gave me a fright. This place is seriously creepy, I can imagine if you ever went through on your own the experience would be that much more terrifying.

Now having been a huge Neon Genesis Evangelion 新世紀エヴァンゲリオン fan since the original aired, I was incredibly excited to visit Evangelion World. It is a walk through exhibit containing life sized 3D models and has numerous fun photo opportunities where visitors can insert themselves into iconic scenes from the anime.

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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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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!

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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Seasons Change Fast in Japan

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Now the Japanese tend to like to make a big deal about how the Japanese archipelago has 4 distinct seasons, almost as if they seriously believe that this is an attribute unique to their country (to be honest though the day I do come across someone who beloved this I shan’t be surprised).

Anyhow what I want to talk about today is just how rapidly these very distinct seasons suddenly come about. Having been living in Japan for what is coming up on a year now I have seen each if the 4 seasons come about.
When winter arrived it was more or less a slap in the face to the unprepared Australian, it wasn’t that it was just unbaringly cold for someone who had never seen snow before but more so its rapid onset.

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Thank god winter is behind us for another 9 months but what I’m really amazed with is just how fast it seemed to disappear. Above is the weather forecast for Kobe this week, strangely quite comfortable, the odd thing is that 2 weeks ago the average was little more than 0-4 degrees. That’s an average jump of 10 whole degrees in 2 weeks! It’s like there are little men in the clouds who be like ‘oh shit son Feburary is over, switch out the snow and fill up the weather bukake machine with Sakura!’.
Anyone else from other parts of the world experience seasons changing so abruptly? Back home in Melbourne we don’t really have well defined seasons, they all kinda bleed into eachother on top of that you can have freezing days in hummer and warm ones in winter…..

Anyhow things are looking up in my little corner of the world. I leave you with imminent Ned….. On vacation it seems.

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