That magical time of year

So it has been over half a year since I first moved to Japan and boy how does time fly! 

Since I arrived in summer though it meant that I missed the cherry blossom, or sakura as it’s known in Japanese. As one of the most iconic things about Japan aside perhaps from sushi and schoolgirls I was a little bit sad about that. Fortunately, time has not yet ended which means like all things that follow a cycle, this wonderful season has returned!

This is possibly the most ‘Japan’ photo I have ever taken. The only way it could be more ‘Japan’ is if I had a schoolgirl holding some sushi, but that would be a bit weird and I don’t want to do that.

Anyway, as you can see it’s basically beautiful here and you should all check it out if you visit Japan around this time of year. One of the bonuses of living in Shizuoka is that we arguably get some of the best views this season, along with a much earlier and longer ‘in bloom’ season.

If you do find yourself here, then I would strongly recommend walking alongside any of the rivers in Fuji as they are lined with these amazing looking trees, and since the rivers go on for many miles you can spend most of the day enjoying the wonderful combination of water and cherry blossom. 

A little further east, and then south of Atami you will also find some amazing costal areas which supposedly boast some of the best sakura sites in all of Japan. I will be confirming or denying this tomorrow (because my good readers need to know the facts, and not because I’m a sucker for nature walks) so watch this space for part 2 – the quest for more blossoms.


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 

The Joys of Banking

So first of all, just a quick update on regularity. Now that I’m working full time again I’ll only be updating weekly rather than daily. But on the plus side that means there will be so much more to read about. Like how I’m failing at playing the borderlands pre-sequal (need to level more before trying to so the boss) or how due to the lack of a car I mostly walk for 5 to 10 miles on my days off to get anywhere in Fuji. (I still really like it here but there is a lot of walking to be done).

During my time off this week I decided I would try to avoid being deported and registered my presence in the city at the Ward office.  Considering how bad my Japanese is, and how everything was in Japanese it actually went reasonably smoothly.  Once again the staff were lovely and helpful, and no one said out loud that I was ruining their day so that’s a plus.

It’s genuinely very easy and mostly involved Google translate for the occasional confusing bit, although some of the English variants were really off the mark. But we got there, between me, Google and three members of staff the Japanese government now knows where I live and seems content with that situation.

I also tried to open a bank account today. Again the lady helping me tried her best, and together we got through the forms except for one tiny detail. I needed a hanko. This is an official stamp that you register with the city and use on important things. A signature was right out, so looking online I saw that it can take up to a week to get one. A week! But I have till the end of the month to open a bank account or I have to start dancing for yen in the street, and my visa doesn’t really cover that. Unless of course I use my dancing to teach English at the same time, but it’s a bit of a grey areas.

Fortunately I won’t have to test that theory just yet as I found a hanko shop nearby that could make it in an hour. Only downside is the bank closed before that and I still needed to register it. Plus side, I could still register it today and the bank is open again tomorrow so everything is still mostly on track! Yay.   

So my advise for people moving to slightly more rural cities in Japan. Get a hanko quickly. It’s a bit of a pain as you then need it for everything important, but unless you can find a very foreigner friendly bank you will have problems.

Work wise, everything is good. The students are nice and the other teachers seem to be able to cope with me too. It’s actually a lot of fun, and still rewarding to hear people using what you taught them less than an hour later. 

Also if anyone else does have the borderlands pre-sequal on steam let me know as I need people to play with.

A New Home

Operation moving into new home was a glorious success. After navigating a couple of train changes I arrived in Fuji around ten pm where I managed to meet a few members of the branch team who I will be working with over the next year.

As it was rather dark I could only admire how big my apartment is compared to where I had been staying in Tokyo (Which while perfectly sufficient for my needs and in a great location, was on the small side) and also compared to what people had been saying online. 

Sure it only has one room, with a kitchen, washing and laundry area sort of bolted on to the side, but it’s a good sized room with plenty of storage solutions for the things I’ve brought with me and the many future purchases that are likely to happen. I also have a book shelf again, which makes me feel happy because I’m sleeping in a home with books again. This stuff is important!

Fuji itself is just beautiful. Mountains are all around the city/ town (I’m not too sure how it’s actually classified)  and there are some rice fields and vegetable gardens just randomly located about. 

There are also a number of rivers running through here from the mountains which means there are streams running along side nearly every road. Like I said, this place is beautiful and amazing. I feel very lucky to have been placed here by the company. All hail the mysterious company.

With a bit of help from different people I now know how to use the washing machine with water, while before the best I could manage was the tumbling action plus washing powder. I also know where to go now to register myself as a dirty foreigner who has come over here and stolen someone’s job as an English teacher. Sorry, I mean expat. So I’ll be doing that on Monday in order to avoid the delights of deportation.

There is also this amazing shop called c spot that looks like a garden center from the outside, but on a whim of exploration I ventured inside and discovered that it is infact the place of all things! From beds to clothes and furniture, household goods and sporting items and even food! Best bit is it is a ten minute walk from my house. Basically my life is sorted here, you guys should all come to fuji because it’s freaking amazing.

Only real downside is there is a train track next door to my flat and when I say next door I mean this;

And that’s the distance from the back door to the track. On the flip side though I seem to sleep through the noise if there is any at night, so I’m not too worried.

So once again it’s an overwhelmingly positive review of my day. It’s almost like I’m enjoying myself.