Thursday, June 25, 2009

Camping? (Long lost blog)

(Here's an old post that I wrote, got lazy with attaching pictures, and pretty much never posted it. Enjoy!)

Kim and I took a little camping trip with some friends up by Mt. Fuji around mid May. Our friend Taleb rented a car and we were off for a new adventure. I have been dying to go camping ever since we landed in Japan. I had all the necessary camping equipment to ensure our comfort and safety, medical kit-check, gas stove-check, sleeping bag-check, rope-check, dynamite-check, emergency bivy-check etc. Kim thinks I'm a bit too over-prepared, but to hell with that you just never know when a grizzly is going to attack! A man must be prepared for anything. The car ride was about, I don't know maybe 2 1/2 or 3 hrs, but time flew by when you are surrounded by good company. Clayton was designated DJ and we played a game of 'guess which movie the music by John Williams is from.' You may think you don't know who John Williams is (I didn't), but trust me, you do know who he is you just don't know it yet. The man is a genius!

After a few detours we arrived at the campsite at around 2 PM. The site was a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. It was visually stunning, and completely not what I was expecting. Scenic, yes, hotels and bungalows completely surrounding the lake? .... not so much. Not exactly escaping civilization, but it was away from the madness of Tokyo and that is all that matters. When we arrived it basically started raining. Those that were originally going to camp decided to throw in the towel against the elements and sleep in a bungalow. Everyone tried to convince us to stay in the bungalow as well, but I was having none of it. By God we are freaking camping! I did not care if a typhoon came through I was determined to sleep in my tent. Kim being the best fiance a man could ask for stood by her man and we set out to put together our tent.

From about 3 PM on we basically started to eat and drink the day and night away. Taleb marinated pounds and pounds of meat with spices from his home country of Bangladesh. Wee Li, Nix, and Imelda fixed up some fine Singaporean cuisine. It was awesome! We ate so much food it was ridiculous. At one point we even had a card game where instead of taking a drink you had to eat food (thanks Wee LI). I do have to give thanks to Franky for doing a most excellent job of manning the grill.

As for our thrilling night of camping I hardly slept a wink. The rain picked up and pelted the tent, not to mention I thought it was a bright idea to set the tent under some brush to theoretically lighten the blow of the ensuing rain. The rain may have abated a bit as a result, but it didn't stop the wind swept branches from colliding with our tent all night long. Needless to say I've had a better nights sleep and I couldn't help but feel a bit jealous of our friends emerging from the bungalow fresh and rested.

We left the campsite around noon and headed off to Tokyo, but not before taking a quick bath at an Onsen (hot spring) and sampling a bit of the local flavor. The Onsen we went to was equivalent to a really nice spa. The guys broke off from gals into our respective locker rooms. Here you strip down butt naked with your friends, dignity towel in hand, and take a shower next to each other at these little stands (If you have ever seen Mr. Baseball you will get the idea). Coming from the USA this is a rather awkward experience to be hanging out with your boys ... naked. Then you go and relax in the various hot tubs. After the spa treatment we sat down for nice meal of udon noodles with a side of raw horse sashimi. Believe it or not raw horse tastes just like beef. You dip it in a little ginger and soy sauce and you have pretty delicious meal. Cheers!

The Japanese waiting outside a pachinko parlor at 7 am!

Geared up and ready to go

Not entirely sure what I'm doing



Eating Kimi

Crayton, Sang ho, Yu-chan, Kimi!!, Imelda

Skipping rocks

After I'm done poking you I shall thwack you with this ladle!

So I asked Yu-chan to look as gangster as possible and this is what I got. Yu-chan you would make a terrible gangster :P

Warming our buns

The Gang (on the left Yu, Sang ho, Crayton. On right Imelda, Nix, Taleb, and Franky)

Our mighty tent

Imelda, Wee Li, and Yu-chan

Eating Udon Noodles (at least I think that's what it was)

Ahh nothing like a little raw horse sashimi to top off a hearty meal. Yummay!!!!

Views around the lake



Friday, June 12, 2009

Fertility Festival

April was a big month for Kim and I. Not only did Kimi turn the big two six, but we got out and about with friends and explored the stranger side of Japan. We went to the Fertility Festival or as most of us Gai Jin know it as the "Penis Festival." It is a celebration of manhood. The men parade around in low cut kimonos with sumo type undies. They hoot and holler as they raise giant phallic symbol shrines into the air. The best part about the festival is the things they sell, from penis pops to penis key chains. You could even buy a daikon (Japanese giant white radish) in the shape of a dong. Overall I wouldn't recommend going to the festival. It was literally packed with Gai Jin, and everyone is pushing and shoving to buy their most favorite Penis memorabilia. I must say it was quite unpleasant. However eating Korean food afterwards with Wee Li, Imelda, Nix, and Renee made it all worth it.

Kim and I also went to an Irish games festival with a soccer team that I played with a couple of times and got a shot at attempting to play a little Gaelic football. I admit that I was absolutely terrible at it, but Kim gave a good showing with her blinding speed. I could go through the painful effort of trying to describe it to you, or you could just click on the hyperlink and read about it. I choose the latter, enjoy.

Last but not least we had our second BBQ event in Tokyo. It was on the same river as our first one, but this time we had a luxury not often found in Tokyo......grass. That's right, good old fashioned natural turf found all over most parts of the world, but seemingly missing from Tokyo. Everyone chilled out for golden week by bringing lots of food and drink and just having some fun in the sun. Will and Clayton provided entertainment by playing the guitar and trumpet while we all sang along to such familiar tunes as John Mellencamp's "Cherry Bomb."

If there is one thing I love about living abroad it is being part of the expat community. You meet so many people from all over the world, and instantly friendships develop. After a soccer match one day I was having a few beers with the boys and had an Englishman to my left, a Kiwi to my right, and a French, Irish and Canadian sitting across from me. You can imagine the fantastic conversations that were shared over a tall glass of cat piss (Japanese beer). Basically everyone prepared to make fun of the lone Frenchman...."um who liberated France again?????" All in good fun and he took it well. I'm sure the Irishman took a couple stabs at me, but I really couldn't understand what the hell he was saying. Good times

Does anyone know where I can find a keychain of a monkey holding a giant penis?
.....those aren't women.....
All these people were pushing and shoving to see some spectacle, so I held up the camera in the air to see what it was. Basically it is a girl riding a rather large wooden dong. Apparently it gives you good luck in the baby making department.
The outfit of the shrine carriers.
The gang: Wee Li, Imelda, Nix, Kim, and David the Glorious

They come in all shapes and sizes.
Kimi tearing it up at Gaelic Football. She is the one with the ball. You can literally see the fear from her opponents.
The Gaelic Football Team
Kim and Clayton doing their Asian thing

Yu-chan and Renee enjoying the finest Chu hi in the land
John is a grilling machine
See I wasn't lying, grass!
Yohei......I think he's drunk
Kim, Rie-chan, and Renee
Terry explaining "G-Bangers" to Yohei

video Will singing away

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hanami

Hanami, translated literally means "flower viewing." This the term for going out and looking at cherry blossoms in bloom. I always wondered what was the deal with the Japanese and their cherry blossoms. I mean its a tree with flowers. It would be like driving through the blue ridge mountains and seeing the leaves change in autumn. whoopedy do! You've seen it, its beautiful, move on. It wasn't until I came to Japan that I discovered the true spiritual nature of Hanami. It's not about the flowers and how the trees are lined up to create a beautiful array of color that stimulates the mind, body and soul. No no, its much more than that. Its about throwing a tarp or blanket down with your friends anywhere there is a cherry blossom tree. Everyone brings food and lots of "beverages." It turns into an all out party in Japan for about two weeks. Kim and I celebrated our Hanami in Naka Meguro on a Friday night. We spent it with some of her co-workers and literally we had a tarp down on a sidewalk just eating, drinking and socializing.....good times.

I saw literally a group of about 30 people on a Monday night behind our apartment in our hideous gravel park that contains one cherry blossom tree celebrating Hanami. I have to say I truly embraced Hanami, what a fantastic event. We also went to Shinjuku Koen to view the cherry blossoms there and I must say that is probably one of the the nicest parks I've been to. Extremely well landscaped and the cherry blossoms were not half bad either. All pics are from Shinjuku Koen.

The legions of people celebrating Hanami
Look at the beautiful cherry blossom it is glorious!




Ninja kicks