Hiking in Nagaokakyo
Our neighbour Mr T. had been asking us to come along to the hiking club for a while, but a few things got in our way. Finally on this day I was able to get along, although Ritsuko was not. This was good thing because it meant I had to use Japanese as much as possible, because no one else who came on this particular day spoke much English (although it's not always the case).
It was a good chance to connect with people in the community and enjoy the beautiful autumn colours in the mountains near Nagaokakyo (a gallery on this hike will be coming later).
If you're wanting to come along on one of these hikes all you have to do is to meet at the start point, I've geotagged it to this photo (click on view map). On Tuesday mornings at 10:00 (for a 3 hour hike) or Friday afternoons at 14:00 (for a 2 hour hike). The start point is very close to Hankyu Nagaoka Tenjin Station. The hikes are free. Good hiking shoes/boots recommend, dress suitably according to season. Bring: jacket, water/drink bottle, snacks (with enough to share), hiking pole. Note the mountain trails can be quite steep and rugged in places.
I can't guarantee I can always be there due to church, home, and work responsibilities. However if you want to know if will be there on a particular date you're welcome to send me a PM.
Well, late autumn and early winter is certainly the time for colour in Japan. Coming from Perth Australia where all of the native trees are evergreen and the majority of the imported deciduous trees that grow in Perth only go brown for autumn, the colour change sequence in Japan was quite fascinating. First I saw the Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) go orange, then these Ichou (Ginkgo) turned yellow, next will be the maples, but you'll have to wait a few entries to see those...
After we had settled into our house and were hoping we'd get going with English teaching and various ministries, but we were prevented from doing things by many circumstances outside of our control. I started to despair a bit wondering just what was going on, what was God's plan in all of this? I had given up my conformable life in Australia with a good stable job to come here only to find myself with not much to do and no internet connection. I really felt at a loss. Since it was cold inside the house, I decided to take a walk to find a nice sunny spot. The best sunny spot I could find was near the railway line, which just happens to be one of the busiest railway lines in Japan. It was then I received an inspirational idea, I'll start photographing the various types of trains on the line. It was very therapeutic, not only that it helped me connect with other people in the community who saw me spending a few hours at the railway line capturing the trains. I even met another photographer on a Saturday who gave me many good tips about which spots are along the line are best for what focal lengths. So expect a train related gallery or two on this site in future.
Well Ritsuko and I went out to Rokko Island (about an hour and twenty minutes by train from here) to pick up the last 11 remaining boxes from the port.
So arriving at Rokko Island the first thing I noticed is how un-Japanese the place looks, there's no sign of traditional houses, shrines, temples our anything else Japanese. The roads are wide and tree lined and the apartment buildings are tall and colourful (instead of low rise and drab colours). Also I saw more gaijin (non Japanese people) walking the streets than anywhere else in Japan. Unlike the gaijin I meet in Nagaokakyo they didn't look like English Teachers, no these people seemed like well paid ex-pat types or their families. It was almost like we were somewhere like Singapore's Holland Village except that the weather was cooler than it ever gets in Singapore.
Now being the kind of guy who likes to save a bit of money for decided to send most our stuff by sea and being even more thrifty I decided to use a freight forwarder rather than an international removal company. So we first had to go the customs office and we spend three hours there filling out forms. Then we have to go with a customs officer from the customs office to the shipping company to clear the boxes. We were told by the guy from the freight forwarder we could organise transport of our boxes to our house with the shipping company, but they didn't want to help and scolded us for not using a international removal company for such a small amount of freight. In hindsight we should have rented a small van in Nagaokakyo and drove it there, because there were no rental places around the port. In the end we phoned our friend Mr Sakamoto who lives about 15minutes away from Rokko Island. He was between meetings for a few hours (he's the boss of his own company) so he was able come and bring the boxes to his house and then bring them to our house on the following Sunday since we live near his church. So we got the boxes and nothing was broken or missing, but maybe I should have paid 10x more and used an International Removal Agency for less hassle. Note if you don't have someone who speaks Japanese with you, it would be next to impossible dealing with the customs and the shipping agency.
Inspiration for this site & BIC Camera
While I was waiting for Kyoto store of BIC Camera to open (everything opens at 10am in Japan), rather than stand out in the cold, I went for a walk around the underground shopping centre (named "Plaza Porta"). Since I had my F80 camera with me and it was loaded with Fujichrome Provia 400X, I thought it would be a good opportunity to test the film's low light capabilities. While in the underground shopping centre I came across an outlet of Lotteria, which brought back bad memories of an experience many years ago ( http://www.globaldial.com/~jamesc/day013p5.html
When I wrote that first website I decided to research about Lotteria and came across Mike Beddall's BLOG about a Lotteria ( http://www.mikesblender.com/indexblog44.htm
) from that time onwards I kept going back to Mike's site ( http://www.mikesblender.com/
) regularly because it is one of the best Japan BLOGs around (and I've read a lot of Japan BLOGs), and it has inspired me to BLOG about my own move to and life in Japan.
BTW another Aussie who lives in Nagaokakyo has reported that Lotteria has improved as of late, but I'm not going to test it. If you want a good Japanese Hamburger go to MOS burger.
BIC Camera is one of the best sources of Apple, PC, and Camera (including film) gear that's not too far a way. Only a 13 minute (210yen) train ride from Nagaokakyo. However at the moment all I can afford to get there is film (and there's plenty of kinds to choose from their huge film fridge), until I start earning some more yen... Here's somethings on my wish list: Nikkor 105 f/2.8 VR N Micro lens, Nikon D700... More dreaming...