My reasons for cruising all over town to catch bits and pieces of the festivities was to support my good buddy Dave* who ran like the dickens, beating his goal time by some 30 seconds. For all the stats and times, you'll have to check in with his blog tomorrow where he'll have a much better wrap up than me.
Despite getting rather lost (numerous times) on a rented bike that had only one speed that wasn't exactly perfect for the starting and stopping required for city sidewalk riding* and getting a little wet and really wind blown, it was a good day. There is nothing like a good mission to give purpose to your day.
|Sunday March 22 2009||File under: travel, Japan|
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|I've heard stories of the crazy turlets* in Japan and how they analyze your pee to make sure you are getting enough iron and tell you all sorts of fables to inspire you to do your best in there. Well, I haven't found any that do any of that, but I have found a few difference that are kind of interesting.
First, the picture at right* is of a fancy turlet they've had at the last couple hostels I've stayed. There is a built in bidet, deoderizer, flushing sounds that cover up "bathroom noises", and more. It is all a little fancy for me, but some people dig it. The one thing that I don't like about these toilets (besides the fact that they are overkill and use energy needlessly) is the heated seat that I haven't figured out how to turn off. My butt produces plenty of its own heat, thank you very much.
Second is the ubitquitous squatty potty. They were all over SE Asia and China when I was there a couple years ago but I don't think I ever got a proper picture of one. It is rare to find them in the fancy places in Japan, but this one was in a small park that was definitely off the beaten path. Again, they don't quite do it for me, but some people love them.
Finally, perhaps the best turlet invention I've seen in Japan, is the hand washing station built in to the toilet. The water that goes to fill the toilet tank first comes through a faucet so you can use it to wash your hands. Genius, I say! They make most sense in public washrooms that will be flushed every use*. As an added benefit of saving water by providing it for hand washing, it goes to demonstrate how much water is used by each flush of a toilet. The first time I used it, I frantically looked around for the off switch because I had finished washing my hands and it killed me to see the faucet still running. Then I realized it was okay. My only critique of this particular turlet is that enthusiastic handwashing can leave water on the back of the toilet seat, which is never pleasant for the next person to us.
Yep, culture, food, and beautiful sights are not all that catch my eye when traveling. Some things just can't help but be noticed.
|Friday March 20 2009||File under: travel, Japan|
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|Tuesday March 17 2009||File under: travel, Japan|
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|"We'd now reached the stage familiar to all you seasoned travellers where one city starts looking pretty much like another. You know how it is; first time away from home, you start off thinking how wonderfully different everything is - gods, you say to yourself, in these parts they roof their cattle-stalls with osiers and have an entirely different way of lacing their boots, isn't this incredible? And after a while, once you've trudged far enough and seen enough of the cities of mortal men, you tend only to notice the similarities, the basic shapes that are common to all human settlements - here's the city gate, here's the square, here's the well, here's the palace wall, big deal. I don't know if either way of seeing things is right, or better than the other, although you could say that since the latter view comes with age and experience, it ought to be wiser and therefore more valid. But I don't know. Don't care much either." Tom Holt, Olympiad
I don't intend for this passage to be indicative of the way I'm feeling (I see and appreciate new things everyday), but I came across it in the book I'm reading* and it definitely struck a chord and got me thinking about differences and sames, and how we choose to focus on one or the other and to what degree that can – well, suffisive to say, it made me think.
|Monday March 16 2009||File under: quote|
|A good idea is a good idea, and today I stumbled on just that: footspas are a good idea. If someone said, "Hey, I've got a good idea. Let's go to a footspa.", I would respond with something along the lines of, "thanks but not thanks." Luckily no one told me to go to footspas. I stumbled upon them all by myself.*
I'm now in Kagoshima, the southern most point in "mainland"* Japan. Just across the bay sits an active volcano. The plan for the day was to ferry across the bay, go climb up the volcano (or at least to wherever they allow), take a picture*, and then come back. My encounter of the footspa came at just the right time. There is just something about sitting outdoors almost up to your knees in [naturally] warm water after a respectable hike and watching a wonderful sunset. If I had brought a clean pair of socks, it would have been that much better, but I'm not going to complain.
|Sunday March 15 2009||File under: travel, Japan|
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|Thursday March 12 2009||File under: Japan, poetry|
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|Dave Sensei the last week, is a special place. I felt that my previous Zamami post didn't really do it justice, so I've worked up a proper one so you can hopefully share in some of its specialness.
Zamami Island, where I've been staying with |
Zamami, part of the Kerama archipelago, is some 40km* from Okinawa, although it feels much farther*. Its 6.5 square miles of area are basically covered by 15 or so miles of paved roads, which can easily be explored by bicycle* in one day. Of the 600 inhabitants of the island, 500 live in the main village, a perfectly sized city, at least for some good down time. (Here's a shot of Dave walking to school on Main Street*.) Big enough for a few restaurants but small enough that you start to recognize the same people around town, it has served as a great counterpoint to Taipei and some of the other cities of Taiwan for me.
Despite the small size of things, there is plenty to explore. (With exploration, of course, comes geocaching.) Around the island on tops of various bluffs and hills, there are 5 observatories for checking out the views and trying to spot whales. Beaches and snorkeling are popular (when it isn't raining, of course) which I hope to get some time in for later this week. But my favorite activity so far is just soaking in the wonderful small town vibe. Having an in with the community to introduce me around and get us invitiations to community-type events has only helped that vibe.
People have been asking me, "How's Japan?" I'm somewhat unable to respond. I know practically nothing of cultural/societal Japan is represented here on this island. But time for Japan culture and society will come soon enough. For now, I'm enjoying Zamami.
|Monday March 9 2009||File under: travel, Japan|
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|A friend sent me this quote today and I've been thinking about it all day. Unrelatedly, another friend asked what happened to my Monday quote series. Talk about kismet.
"Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty—his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.�
- Aldous Huxley
|Monday March 9 2009||File under: travel, quote|
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|Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day. That's pretty much been my sentiment since arriving here on Zamami. My usual routine of roaming aimlessly around looking for neat stuff and taking silly pictures has been greatly curtailed. I got one good roam session in in the 4 days I've been here. Said roam session was great as I saw beaches, tiny villages, and more, but my legs are getting restless.
Luckily there have been indoor activities to keep me not only entertained, but getting a backdoor look at the Japanese (or at least Zamamian) culture. I got to watch Dave's Taiko drumming class practice where presentation was focused on just as much as the music being produced. We also went to his boss's house last night to watch Japan play Korea in the World Baseball Championship*. A night of being in a place where I was the only one that didn't speak Japanese* is a definite cultural experience. And in a brief window of no rain, Dave and I headed out to meet up with his grade schoolers from Geruma while they were on a field trip. It basically turned into babysitting duty/play time. As per usual, my juggling and stupid human tricks made an appearance with positive results.
While nights sitting around a room not knowing what's going on or spending a couple hours having pillow fights with kids isn't my normal independent travel routine, it is my experience on Zamami so far and you aren't going to hear me complain.
|Saturday March 7 2009||File under: travel, Japan|
|Friday March 6 2009||File under: travel, Japan|
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