In what is becoming something of a tradition here now, I’m posting something I did almost 3 months ago – simply filming a second or so or video a day, and putting it together in chronological order, which is something that I’ve seen a lot of people do, and I actually kind of enjoyed doing it myself. Maybe I’ll do it again for August since I’ll be on holiday during it.
I live in the Shonan area of Kanagawa, so in the summer we often go down to the beach area, which is what the area is really famous for, and after a day hanging around, getting into the ocean and walking around the beach, you can get some nice sunset shots and people venture home. Of course, if you’re in the water, take the waterproof camera (in my case an old GoPro 2). Actually this day, it wasn’t so busy, as usually the beach hut bars are fairly crowded.
It’s been a while since I posted, and it’s been a while since I updated the head, and since I’ve moved the blog theme to the Twenty Thirteen one, I thought I’d make the banner fit a little better.
There’s been a lot going on of late, hence the lack of posts, and much of it has been in the outdoors, and as the temperatures climb higher and the humidity makes Japan a national sauna once more, it’s good to get into the water and trees of the countryside and cool off.
I took this shot quickly as it’s a park of some steps which make waterfalls for the kids to play in, and it gets decent traffic on these hot weekends in Kanagawa.
In January, we took the family up to Rusutsu in Hokkaido for a bit of snowboarding and skiing. Yes, this post is a little late.
The resort feels very much like a bubble place, but essentially is a collection of hotels and a few chalets around three main mountain ski areas. We stayed in the Resort Hotel North, which is at the base of one of the ski areas. Is it really a bubble era hotel? Well, it has an animatronic talking tree, some animatronic bears (or dogs, perhaps), and a full double decker carousel in the foyer which you could ride for free every evening, so yes, it’s very much a bubble hotel, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you aren’t paying bubble fees.
We went for an all in package with breakfast and dinner, especially as the food at the in-house restaurants was good – believe me, we’ve stayed at places where the breakfasts were awful, and yes, I’m looking at you, Yamada Onsen in Niseko! As I’ve learned, with kids, having a buffet with a decent selection is vital to keep the complaints down.
Rentals weren’t too expensive, and the kit was very good, as is pretty much standard here nowadays, and the staff were fairly multi-lingual given the decent number of Chinese and Australian guests – also pretty much standard here nowadays. The instructors were good too, and our eldest got some lessons in when she wasn’t skiing with me. For once I wasn’t renting ski boots, having picked up a cheap pair of Head ski boots in Jimbochou for Xmas last year, and it was nice to have a consistent setup for a whole trip.
Rusutsu’s got a good selection of courses too, and on clear weather days, some great views. I’m not sure whether I prefer it to Niseko, but it’s still got a decent selection of runs, and some hilarious tree routes. There’s a snow park, where I spent a morning. I’ve never been much into jumps and such, but I did actually have a good time in there, so next season I might invest a bit more time in the snow parks and see how it goes.
I also took my GoPro out, and got some great shots of the kids skiing, and us out on our snowboards. As I’m a much better boarder than skier, it was interesting to shift from trepidation on even easier intermediate slopes on skies, to double diamond slopes through the trees on my board, and just feeling challenged, rather than concerned I was going to break something.
I tried the camera both mounted to the board, and a headcam, and actually, I think it works as both, but obviously you get a lot of snow blowing up onto the camera on it’s board mount. One note though, unless you have the anti-fog inserts, you’ll want to regularly open the casing to lot the condensation dissipate after about 20mins.!
All in all, we had a great trip, and even the flights and travel went fairly smoothly, so no complaints there.
Another New Year comes crashing around, and I’m hoping for another good one. No retrospectives, or lists or anything by the way; I tend to want to look forwards at this time of year.
As far as our New Year celebrations went, we had a quiet one at home for the midnight tick over, but then we were up just after 5am this morning to get the family ready and down to the beach to watch the sunrise with a few thousand other people. I did this last year, and though it was busy, it was fairly quiet. This year it seemed to be a complete circus, not just with the thousands come to see the sunrise on the Pacific beaches, but the roads were busy, especially with young guys in heavily modded cars. If anything, it added an extra flavour to the morning, and in the cold and with a few clouds, we watched the sun rise for the first time on 2013.
Given the shape of the bay, we could also see the sun’s rays hit Mt. Fuji for the first time, as surfers got their first waves of the New Year in. It was all quite relaxing given the hour and the temperature. Potentially the kids may not share my opinion of that.
As soon as the sun was fully up, people began bustling away, and we got some breakfast at one of the cafes which was open on the beach road, and then made our way home. I have to say, I do quite like this ‘first sunrise’ event, called ‘Hatsuhinode‘ (初日の出), and even if we left Japan, it’s something I’d probably still do.
Soon after lunch though we were out again at the local jinja (that’s a Shinto shrine, not an o-tera, which is a Buddhist temple, and they’re usually attended at midnight on New Years Eve) to pray to the local deities and made a small donation. I’ve been to a few shrine events, so I just had to help the kids get through throwing the coin, two bows, two claps and a prayer and move on. It went went well apart from my youngest, when seeing us close our eyes shouted, “Don’t go to sleep!” which got a ripple of laughter from those behind us in the queue.
There’s always a queue on January 1st., and for most of the o-shogatsu period, as people pray for good luck for the year, and pick up various objects to bring good luck for the year, such as a hamaya, which is a small wooden arrow to bring luck, given it’s origin is that of a weapon to slay demons. We picked one of these up for a small fee, as my wife had never had one when she was a child, so she was keen to get one with our kids.
We also got an ‘omikuji‘ (お神籤), which is a printed fortune selected by which piece of wood you get at random from a drum. Some people tie them on frames of string, or trees and such near the shrines. (For what it’s worth, ours was a pretty good one – dai-kichi).
After that, it was late afternoon and time for a break, so we’ve concluded New Years Day with a lamb stew I’d been cooking for a few hours, a glass of red wine, and having an evening in with the family. I should say that there is some traditional food for this period, called ‘osechi ryouri‘, but we don’t have them (my wife really doesn’t like them, and I’m not keen), and instead take the time to cook a few more winter based meals.
All in all a great start to 2013!
Over the last couple of weekends I’ve managed to get out for a couple of morning bike trips; from the first one I put some video together from the Hero2 mounted on the handlebars. There are three main routes – #134, the Pacific Coast road along Sagami Bay, the Toyo Tires Turnpike, a twisty mountainous toll road, and then the Izu Skyline Parkway, another long stretch of twisting roads with some great views of the coastline as it snakes south down the Izu peninsula.
The second trip I met up with my old friend Colin, and his rather nice Triumph Daytona 955i, at Kawaguchiko lake after a 100Km ride up some normal roads and the Tomei expressway, and we meandered back homewards down the 413 Doushi road, another relaxing, scenic road through mountains and valleys, except this time we had to break out the rain gear.
We also stopped off at Cafe Gout Temps which has to be seen to be understood – it’s a Japanese house with British castle and tea shoppe fascias bolted on, and crammed with authentic looking church pulpits, pub statues, doll houses and all manner of oddities. It serves a good avacado and mushroom pasta dish and some fine English tea as well.
It’s been a while since I stuck a small gallery up on here, so I took a few random photos from the library to put up. They’re from a few places, mainly Japan and a recent trip to Guam and from the beaches and from the woodland.
Last night we went down to the BMW Stadium in Hiratsuka for a family night out to see a live football game between the local team – Shonan Bellmare – and visitors Tokyo Verdy. It was a very decent night out all told – the stadium is in a nice park and there was a lot of stalls almost like a mini-matsuri outside, selling shaved ice with fruit syrup, beer and a decent array of snack foods. The stadium is a nice, if somewhat Soviet-era looking concrete construction which apparently can hold around 18,000, but it felt plenty full with last night’s attendance of 9,370.
Shonan play in J2, the lower of the two Japanese professional leagues, but that’s OK – my local team in the UK isn’t exactly top flight, but that doesn’t stop an entertaining game, and the crowd were treated to some good football for 90minutes, and even two well taken goals in the second half giving the final scoreline of 1-1. Points have to go to the Verdy fans who put up a solid 90minutes of drums and chanting, and at least from where we were sat, drowned out the locals.
It’s been a while sine I’ve been to a J League game actually, though I always watch games when I go back to the UK, and whilst the support style might change around the world, the community feeling on the terraces and the appreciation of the play seems fairly constant. I have to say though, watching an evening game 3Km from the Pacific Ocean in a t-shirt and shorts contrasts oddly to Boxing Day games in the north of England.
Bottom line: if you’re in Japan, and you haven’t checked one out, go and see a J League game, and if you’re visiting, put it on your to do list.
I didn’t take many photos as I was assisting in keeping the kids under control as it was their first ever live football game, and whilst my eldest said she liked it, she was tired after 75mins., and my youngest spent some time with one of us walking about as he was fascinated by the stadium and all the people.
I was walking through my local town at the weekend, and for the first time in three years, I noticed these small town logos as part of one of the footbridges nearby. Most towns in Japan have these logos, usually simple icon style things which identify the local authority,often embedded in road-side railing etc., but I hadn’t seen any in construction like this.
Depending on how you look at it, Enoshima (江ノ島）is either a very small island or a large rock outcrop, a few hundred metres away from the beachfront near Kamakura in Kanagawa prefecture, to the south west of Tokyo, connected to the mainland by a road causeway.
It’s a popular tourist spot, and quite iconic in the local area. Even though we’ve lived near it for a few years, it was only last month we decided to actually go and take a look around, all the way to the small tower on top, now known as the Sea Candle.
The east of the island is mainly marina, parking and walking areas, with the west being the rising rock, which forms the main climb and attraction of the island. The lower third is a tourist zone, which has some places to eat, and some ‘interesting’ tourist gift shops selling items like puffer fish lamps, flattened grilled octopus and such.
Climb up a bit further, and you can access the escalator which speeds you to the top, or you can walk the steps up. It’s not actually *that* far up, and the walk down is quite leisurely. The middle third is mainly temples, some gardens, ponds and increasingly beautiful view of the coast on one side, and the Pacific Ocean on the other.
The top is actually a lot flatter than I thought, with some beautiful Asian and European gardens, and some nicer (and more expensive) places to eat than you find at the base. We had a late lunch at the Lon Cafe, and I have to say, that was the best French toast I have ever had.
The Sea Candle is only a few floors high, but it still commands impressive views of the whole area, and you really get a sense of Sagami Bay’s size, just being that little bit further out into the ocean.
It can take a good part of the day to wander around and sit in the gardens, and have a look around the temple areas, and some of the thousands of notes and ema (絵馬), which are commonly found at temples around Japan. You can even stop for some tea, or take in one of the regular events.
After Enoshima, we decided to drive a kilometre down the coastal road to the Moana Makai restaurant for some Hawai’ian / Japanese curry and food. It’s very, very popular so expect a wait, even for parking as it’s rated as one of the best places to eat in Kamakura, and you get that great view over the ocean.