Why did Kirk jump off a mountain?

Thanks to the very nice people I work with and the many new friends I have made here in Japan, it is starting to become a country where I do all the things I normally wouldn’t get round to on my day off. It’s a lot of fun to wonder just where the hell will I find myself a few weeks from here because (within the boundaries of physics and finances) anything is possible.

This week we decided to go paragliding, because why not? After climbing a mountain last week and being forced to merely walk down after, it seemed quite fitting that this time I would get to run off the edge instead. As I had never done this before it was of course a tandem flight, which made it a lot more relaxing as I only had to worry about gravity and its desire to bring objects with mass back down towards the core of the planet. Stupid gravity.

Of course before I could jump off a mountain we had to get to the top, which turned out to be an equally exciting / enjoyable / terrifying experience (depending on which of us you asked). Upon a monorail a traction engine slowly pulled the ten of us, plus equipment, up the side of the mountain which at points felt close to being an almost vertical climb. Personally I thought it was a great time, but perhaps not for everyone as there are no belts to strap you in or anything either side of you for the ascent. Perfectly safe though, honest!

Now this is normally where I would describe the joys of slowly falling through the sky with another man strapped to your back speaking to you in broken English / Japanese. Fortunately though as part of the experience I have a video of the whole thing which is in fact online and can be found here

To summarize though, it was surprisingly relaxing and a hell of a lot of fun. If you get the chance I would strongly recommend giving it a go as even if you are scared of heights the decent is very controlled. In many ways it’s like being in a lift with no floor and you can fly really close to the side of a mountain. Just like a lift, right?

In other news typhoon season is well under way, with all of the worlds water falling from the skies in Japan, which makes for an interesting swim to and from work. Otherwise life is good and Japanese living is proving to be very enjoyable. I also started taking Japanese lessons, which proved to be an interesting experience being on the other side of the table but recognizing the teaching format. Again though, very good stuff and most helpful. Especially considering outside of the class most people here seem to only speak Japanese. Weird that.



Why did Kirk climb a mountain?

To describe Mt Fuji during the day is something of a challenge. While I could be lazy and fall back on the descriptive of indescribable, it doesn’t really feel right to do so.

In many ways it’s like being on a different planet that features excellent views of earth. The red and black and sometimes even purple rock formations give a Martian quality to the mountain, while the panoramic views way down below of cities, forests and even the sea makes this five hour climb/ hike so entirely worth the effort.

And then there was the sunrise;

Such a glorious array of colours bursting through the clouds at 4:30 this morning. From total darkness crept dark reds into orange, before hints of blue shone through.  You could see day breaking for one city while another way still in night.

Although I didn’t actually make it to the very top (I could see it from where I was but it was stupidly steep and I was quite tired) It was an enjoyable experience overall. Challenging, insane and tiring but entirely worth it. My advise would be to only go as high as you feel comfortable with, even just from the 5th station of the mountain where you can be driven by bus should you wish, offers spectacular views. Although it’s easy to think I must get to the top I think I had a much more enjoyable time of it all knowing when to stop climbing and just enjoy where I am.

For the rest of the pictures from this wonderful journey, please check out my instagram account as for some reason most of them won’t upload to here 

Under the Sea

This week has been a good one for new things.

This is the first time I have been to a beach in Japan, the first time I have swam in the sea in Japan. This is the first time I have been snorkeling in Japan and the first time I have ever sung karaoke. (Because how could I not when in Japan.

So to bring some context into this whole situation; as Thursday was a national holiday here most of the people from my school decided it would be nice to spend the day at the beach. As a person who enjoys having fun I thought it would be good to go to, so I did. While the beach itself was more like fine shale than sand, the sea was beautiful and not too crowded with people.

An area was actually sectioned off for people to go swimming in, keeping us safe and away from boats and jet skis. While from the shore it didn’t actually look all that big a space, once we were in there and snorkeling it was clear that it was ample. I didn’t really know what to expect from the snorkeling, as we were so close to the shore I didn’t really expect fish to be all that interested in coming that close to land, let alone the many people splashing around. Fortunately I was delightfully wrong with my assumptions and managed to encounter small schools of fish at one point, as well as a few loners probably off to see what the humans were doing.

Actually as a slightly random aside I do wonder if fish ever see people in the water and think ‘oh dear, they’ve fallen in again. Best try and get them out.’ And this is why when people film nature documentaries fish will swim up to them.

Anyway, back on track…

There were neons, and zebra-fish, possibly even puffer fish and a whole bunch that I didn’t know the names of but were very colourful, including  a couple that were easily over a foot long. It was a very enjoyable experience and I managed not to accidentally drown when swallowing half the sea at one point. All in all, a good time.

Karaoke is a very different experience here from anything I have ever seen in the UK. For one you have a room for just you and your friends. There is also no song book, just a computer tablet that you can search for different songs and artists. The range of songs is probably what impressed and amused me the most though. From your karaoke classics and modern pop to some pretty obscure 80’s tracks and Norwegian death metal. Yea that’s right, there were tracks from Emperor and Dimmu Borgir on this thing, along with SOAD and Turisas. Naturally this meant that our playlist swung dramatically in direction nearly every other song. The consumption of large quantities of alcohol is also very traditional (I was told) and may have encouraged some of the more extreme song choices at points.

So I have to say, although it can be a little expensive if you buy a lot of drinks from the place itself it was certainly an excellent way to finish a very fun day. Considering karaoke is a very typical way for people to hang out after work I would recommend trying it as soon as possible, especially if you are a bit shy about this sort of thing, as it will help you realize no one cares how bad you are (if you are bad) and it’s a lot more about no one really giving a crap and having fun.

Another Day Older

So as many of you probably already know, I turned 31 on Thursday. While maybe not as exciting as turning 21, or as monumental as 50 it was still a fun year marker. After all, I now live in Japan and have a bunch of new friends out here so it was a very different experience from any of my other birthdays.

Once again I am forced to announce that the people I work with are just lovely. Having known me for a whole two weeks they bought me a cake for my birthday, and then we went to a bar for food after finishing work for the day. They really didn’t need to do this, and even though I’m not really a big birthday person I really appreciated the effort they went to.

The day after I visited another friend in Zama, where we spent the day walking around a nature park and became slightly confused by the myriad of pathways. Fortunately as they were all giant circles in one form or another we were not forced to build a rudimentary camp and survive off the local wildlife when we could no longer escape.

There will also be many photos of this wonderful place just as soon as I have wifi for my phone again. Unfortunately my tourist sim card has run out so I need to sort out a more long term solution, but now that I have a bank account all is possible, so you can expect a mid week update on this post with all the pictures once it’s done.

Forests are very interesting places.

We feature them in so many of our stories and typically they are rather magical places, homes to a great variety of creatures and fictional beings. They are also very polarized places in our collective minds. Either they are wondrous and contain the secret to defeating evil kings, sometimes loaded up with magical items or just sage advise from mystical beings. At other  times they are evil dark places, holding only death an misfortune beneath their haunted leaves. Princesses are poisoned, killed or lost in them. Wicked creatures lead travelers off the safety of the path to become lost forever, while others are homes to powerful but evil magicians who are a little too trigger happy on the curse front.

And I can really see both points of view. During the day time it was a wonderful place to be, full of life and joy. The sunshine filtering through the trees and dancing across the floor as they moved in the wind. There were some really wonderfully bizarre creatures too, easily mistaken for something not of our world for its weirdness. Then when it slowly became darker the trees blocked out what little sunlight remained entirely, the birdsong would echo ominously around the woodland and without clearly marked paths it would have been very easy to get lost there.

This leads me to the conclusion that a lot of our fairy tales were probably written about the same places just at different times of the day, which really goes a long way to show you how important perspective can be when you form an impression of something. Now it feels like I have accidentally stumbled into some sort of morality story, but I suppose worse things have happened from a tangent.