Monday, May 28, 2007

Kawagoe is the Cuts... Final Chapter

Part 4 of my 4(?) part series on why Kawagoe is kinda a whack place to live.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Took a little ride on the bicycle around sunset. I thought I'd see if I could find some new signs in the area. Of course that wasn't too hard to do.

Nothing too special with these ones, though I do like the last one, all old and shit.

Then it hit me, this is probablly the last time I'll go for a random bike ride around my town. In a few weeks I will move into a hotel, train the new teacher, and be off on my adventures.

I've lived in this city for a year. I'm fairly indifferent about it all. The negatives are pretty major. I live a trek from my school and even kinda far from the train station. There's no foreigner scene here. The scenerey is just an urban expanse and traffic. But there are positives too. Some good restaurants with good coffee and free refills. My apartment is larger than a shoebox. I have my own room at my school... with a door I can close. Hmmm... those positives don't sound too great. Fuck it, I'm out!

Oh yeah, I found a god damn park. Like a real park with benches and a basketball court and barbecues and shit. And it's only about a 7 minute bike ride away. Fuuuuuuuck! I seriously went on about 20 hours worth of bike rides looking for this sort of thing in the past. It would have been nice to know it was there. There were people jogging with their dogs, couples walking together, dads playing soccer with their sons. Positive type energy. Whatever, here's some photos of Kawagoe style nature.

The sad thing is, I knew this place existed. On the map, it's called Kawagoe Water Park. Japan has water parks which are kind of like community pools. Maybe a couple lame water slides, and some other stuff for the kids. But I don't wanna hang around in no nasty pee pee water, so I never bothered to have a look.

Check out this mug that Branda made for me for my birthday. She drew a bloody pair of scissors! Sugoi!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I Got the Job!!!

Im very happy. I got the job that I applied for with my company.

I applied a few months ago, and they took a while to make their decision. I was kind of stressing, since I only have 6 weeks left on my contract. If I didn't get the job, I would have to deal with all my material stuff, getting a guesthouse or something, blah blah blah, it was kind of getting to me. I do very well with squashing stress, but it had been leading to me having nightmares almost every night. But enough about all that.

After my contract at Kawagoe, I will be an Emergency Teacher. This means travelling around, filling spots at schools that need a teacher for a short time. It's like a substitute teacher with a shinkansen pass. Except I'll be on my motorcycle. I'll get to see some other spots, meet some new people, its gonna be swell.

So Im looking to do that until the end of February. If anyone wants to come visit, you are welcome to, but I don't know where I'll be. After February I'll most likely be living in Tokyo for a little while, collecting unemployment or working at a host bar or something, I dunno.

And I get a raise. I'll litterally be making millions (of yen).

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Camping with

I met a bunch of foreign motorcycle riders online. People from set up a camping trip over the last weekend. It was... fast.

I rode out Firday night with Tony, aka Fastbike. We were planning on riding up Saturday early, meeting with the people already there, and doing some riding. But the minute I got off work Friday night he called me and said, "Let's go for a long night ride."

"Fuck it, let's go."

So we rode from around midnight until 10am. It was fast and dark. I got to ride where the Tokyo drift racer kids go at night. It defineately wasn't as cool as Fast and the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift, but I got to see some action none the less. Wait, did I just use cool and Fast and the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift in the same sentence? Guess so.

We got to the camp after getting a little lost. By a little lost, I mean we fucked up. We rode some random dirt road for about 10km to get to a campground... the wrong campground. When we finally found the right camp, everyone was up and ready to ride. So I got to take a 5 minute break before riding all day.

Riding fast.

These guys all had much larger sport bikes than me, and a bit more skill on the twisty roads I think. But I got to push myself, so it was all good. Here's some pictures from the trip. If you want to know where I was... it's somewhere west of Tokyo.

Just a minor landslide up in Nagano prefecture...

Views from Route 299, the one that I planned to ride 3 months ago but it was closed. It's late May and there was still snow on the side of the road. It was damn cold. But the air was clean and clear.

Fixing a flat... 2 minutes into our day ride.

Just in case...

The view from the camp site. The site was very remote. It had an onsen (hot springs bath) where I could get naked with some new friends. Very nice but I think some of the other riders would have preferred somewhere close to a fast, main road.

The Ride Home....

We all got up early and were set up to ride about 14 people deep back to Tokyo. One guy hit a bump at high speed and low sided his bike... Off a 50 foot high cliff... Into a ravine. He was OK, since he didnt go down the hill with the bike. But his bike was off the side of a bridge. What to do? Sure enough, the next vehicle to come by was a crane. Completely random. 3 hours and some backyard mechanic work later, the bike and rider were good to go. Good times. Check out the video!

Me and a couple others helped tie up the bike.

The crane lifted with the power of craney goodness.

Rip off this, smash this with a rock, bend this with a big stick...

Its all daijobu!

50 feet down into a ravine... and rider and bike rode off back to Tokyo... that's just awesome.

I logged just under 1000km this weekend. It was intense. No expressways the whole time, just gorgeous mountain roads. And yes... I saw plenty of monkeys on the sides of the road!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mt. Mitake to Mt. Odake Hike

Mt. Mitake is another one of those mountains west of Tokyo. Almost all these mountains seem to start out the same.
  1. Show up at a crowded visitor center.
  2. Wait in line to take some sort of cable car or ropeway up the mountain.
  3. Visit the crowded shrine or temple up there.
  4. Buy your omiyage and go home.

This is what hiking is to most Tokyoites I guess. You'll see a lot of girls in high heels and guys in business suits in nature here. It's defineately whack, but the culture is just into that sort of thing.

Like most mountains west of Tokyo, though, if you hike a little past the omiyage shop and famous shrine, like a few hours, you are in beautiful scenerey.

This hike is in Lonely Planet's Hiking in Japan book, under Mitake to Oku-tama. I only did halfway, cause it was getting late and I didn't want to get caught in the dark. But the halfway point is this awesome little area with a view. Best part, there were only a few people the whole time. Ive been doing the nature thing a lot lately. Going camping this coming weekend with a large group of motorcycle riders. And I'm still planning on climbing Mt. Fuji next month. Who's with me?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Magical Maebashi

Off to Maebashi in Gunma prefeture to check out Branda's hood!

For some reason the toll on the expressway for the almost hour long trip was only 1700 yen. I don't get it, it costs me 1300 yen to get to the mountains which are only about 20 minutes away. The whole toll system is kinda mendaksai, a pain in the neck. At least the drivers in Japan are good. The sterotype for Asian drivers does not hold water here. I'm able to drive down the expressway at 80kph through standstill traffic and not feel too worried. Back in America, people in their Hummers and Expeditions and Canyoneros tend to change lanes out of the fast lane as often as they can, and I've been cut off while splitting lanes a few times. Maybe its cause its damn hard to drive here. The licensing process in Japan is very intense, involving a $3000 driving school and all kinds of tests. Even for motorcycles, you have to take different lessons for different sizes of bikes.


Back to Gunma. Gunma is apparently an acronym for Gentle Universal Nature Magical Always. Totally.

Branda making her best G face.

What to do in Maebashi? Branda showed me around. Theres a nice park, lots of cafes, an observatory in the government building, good food, and a giant mall. So thats what we did.

Cool place, it's a staple of Branda's diet here in Maebashi. Standard Indian fare with a funky interior. They had some serious Chai there too, all authentic and shit. They had a whole menu devoted to their Chai blends.

The bathroom in the government building had a spectacular view! A nice place to contemplate the meaning of life... for about 30 seconds.

Maebashi sake is awesome!

This Japanese schoolgirl is totally molesting herself with zombie hands! Holy shit!

The next day we got toured around by a family from Branda's school. They showed us all the sights on Haruna mountain. Temples, natural wonders, lakes, and Ikaho onsen city. We did the onsen thing there. Here's some photos, I'll put up more later when I get them from Branda.

Branda and Hanae looking for something...

Get a blank fortune, run it under the spring water, and *poof*, let the magic happen! Me and Branda both got the same fortune, so I guess it wasn't too magic.

The next day I rode home in pouring rain on the expressway. Not cool.

And check this out. No tattoos muthafucka!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Messed Up Architecture in Tokyo

Woke up early for some reason so I headed into Tokyo. Enjoy these photos of some wierd, fucked up places:

This building looks like a biomechanical H.R. Geiger creation. It's smack dab in the middle of a normal part of town. Kind of off on a side road.

The lobby is awesome!

All the lights had hands holding them and there were tubes going up the walls. Stained glass finished the effect. Awesome. Of course, I have a tattoo that is a replica of a Gieger piece, so I'm a little biased!

Check out this fucked up, depressing building!

It's like out of 1984 or Brazil or Soylent Green or something. Maybe this is a prototype for a bleak, bleak future. It looked condemned, but there were people living there. Check out the roof!

Don't ask me about hostess clubs. That shit is researchable online, and off limit to foreigners so I'd never know anyways. But one thing is they are pretty discreet. Touts work the streets, but the girls are tucked away inside. But these are host clubs! There's a fucking block long advertisement showing which guys you can hang out with. They all have the same androgenous looking style of hair and dress, but there are a couple random ones. One was a fat goofy looking guy. There was even a "metal" looking dude. Rock on... sorta.

Karaoke place.

Korean barbecue restaraunt. A giant pig cooking pork meat. But look at him closely, he's go some crazy evil goggles on.

I ate at this place. It was some damn tasty Korean food a little north of Shinjuku. The logo is a potato I guess, but it looks like a big ol' nut sack to me...

Random atsy looking playground. Some creative tagger just wrote "sex" on it. Good to see the graphitti scene in Tokyo is going strong.

After my photo explorations I saw Spiderman 3 in Roppongi.

I had some time to kill, so I went to Tokyo Midtown. I went on openning day a few weeks ago, and ran out after 2 seconds. It was packed! So this time was a little better. Better in the sense that there weren't thousands of people. Other than that, this place is still whack. How can I describe it...

If you can't decide whether the store in front of you is selling chocolate truffles or laser guns... you're at Tokyo Midtown.

If you just waited for 45 minutes in line to look at glassware and bowls... you're at the right place.

If you just dropped $800 on a Puma brand sweatshirt... yeah, you got it.

If maybe, just maybe, eerie blood red chandeliers with white pocka dots covering an entire store doesn't make you want to buy pet food... bingo.

It's kinda a sensory overload. But since shopping is the national sport of Japan, a place like this is pure candy. If you go there, look at the floor. It's all covered in little dents from high heels. 1/3 of Japanese women wear high heels year round. Trust me, I counted. I've seen high heels in the snow and on hiking trails in the mountains.