Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween in Kofu, Yamanashi 2011

NEC_0005-1Its been about three years since the last time I even thought of going out to a bar for Halloween in Japan. I’ve really lost a lot of interest in going out to bars most likely due to the fact it’s a fast way to kill your wallet here.

With my recently made friend Joel, we attended the Halloween parties that were being held in the two expat bars in downtown Kofu, the Rink and the Vault. Even with my reservations on spending money drinking out when I can do it cheaper at home I decided to go out again and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself having a lot of fun again.

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The parties weren’t actually on Halloween night as that was a Monday and most people probably wouldn’t have been able to attend a weeknight drinking binge. So the parties were held on the last Saturday night before Halloween.

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Joel dressed up as a California Park Services Ranger and I dressed up as a Ghostbuster. I really enjoyed walking about dressed up as a Ghostbuster that night. I got a few high fives for my costume and was happy that I wasn’t confused for a fumigator or janitor.

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We spent a good chunk of the night at the Rink as we preferred the live DJ and the friendlier atmosphere there. The only downer to the Rink is the unisex restroom. Its really hard to concentrate when ladies are walking in and out on you. Embarrassed smile

A couple ladies even flirted with us while we were there and Joel even got a number off one of them. Probably nothing will come of it but at least it was fun! Of course I’m a married man so I stuck to my bottle of beer and nursed it good to avoid any trouble with the ladies. Open-mouthed smile Plus, Joel’s the better looking one out of both of us. I am sure they were around because of him.

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There was a costume contest at both bars but I only entered into the Rink’s. The DJ ended up choosing the winner and it was an original costume hybrid of the Godfather and a fairy godmother. Pretty funny and the guy who wore it was a really friendly guy too. I got his contact info and might get him to join Joel and I on a hike sometime if I remember to get a hold of him.

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We spent about 5000 yen each and had a good buzz going through the whole night. It was nice to have non Japanese beers for once. The only downside to the night was the next day when I had a minor headache that went away around lunch.

Hiked to the summit of Amariyama in Nirasaki

My attempt at an artsy blocking style.My friend Joel suggested we hike up a trail located on Amariyama in Nirasaki city, Yamanashi. Finding the place was pretty easy to do, especially now that I have a smartphone with GPS navigation software on it. Its really nice to have it just incase.

Anyhow, the drive up to Amariyama’s trail head is kind of long and on a narrow semi-two lane road with open ditches on each side but the hike on foot is less than a half an hour walk.

Here’s a video of part of the drive up. My written description of the road can only explain so much. See it for yourself to understand.

DSCF0024It was a surprise to find that the parking lot at the beginning of the trail was full of full sized tour busses. Its amazing where Japanese will take a bus here. The drivers must have nerves of steel.

Unlike the first hike we took at Shojiko near Mt. Fuji, this hike was MUCH easier. Not only was the trail well marked and paved with wood for most of the way, it was also well groomed. From the parking lot to the “summit” it is a cake walk clocking in at less than 25 minutes.

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Even though the hike is very easy its still very rewarding because of the view you are treated with at the end. We were very fortunate to go there on a clear day and were treated with a perfect view of Mt. Fuji and the Nirasaki/Kofu skyline below.

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What was really interesting about our hike up Amariyama was that we went there on the same day that a local volunteer trail club was cleaning up the shrubs on the side of the trail. From what we got from a conversation with one of the volunteers, they were clearing the invasive species of grass from choking off the flowers that grow on the side of the trail each year. I can’t remember what species it was but I think I want to come back in the spring and see them if possible.

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If weather permits next Saturday, we’ll hike back up Amariyama and take another trail that leads us to an even higher peak about an hour or two away. Hopefully it will be just as clear as it was our first day out.

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I love pictures like the one above. Makes it look like we really struggled to make it up there eh? Smile

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sega Saturn collection complete?

The-worlds-thinnest-Android-smartphone-NEC-Medias-N-04C-is-selling-in-JapanToday I went to the biggest recycle shop in town, Mandai Shoten with my wife. We went there to sell off our old phones because we just got shiny new NEC Medias Android smart phones for ourselves. While waiting for our phones to be appraised we browsed the store for a while.

After we parted ways in the store I was handed a bingo card for the store’s 7th anniversary customer appreciation celebration. So I got Yuko to grab one for herself and we sat down for some Bingo. Yuko ended up winning a 1000 yen in store gift card and I won nothing. Since Yuko isn’t interested in anything in the store she handed me the gift certificate.

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So I walked about the store looking for something to buy with my free cash. I ended up coming across something I had only dreamt of since I was in junior high school. I found a SKELETON SEGA SATURN. One of the rarest Saturn versions outside of the JVC Victor version. I already had the standard Model 2 US black version since I was in junior high and I bought a white one back in 2007 but now I found the holy grail of my Saturn collection.

Not only did I find such a rare Saturn console, it was also priced insanely low. They were selling it for only 1980 yen which happened to be the same price as any other boring old Saturn system there. So I quickly snatched it up and hustled to the checkout counter with my gift card at the ready. I ended up paying only 980 yen out of my own pocket thanks to Yuko’s bingo gift certificate.

DSCF0004After paying for my skeleton Saturn, I found Yuko and we went to check up on the appraisal of our phones. Before we turned our stuff in, we agreed Yuko’s phones would catch a higher price because they were newer and in near perfect condition compared to my worn out phone. We were both wrong, my phone ended up going for 5000 yen even though it was in fair condition and about 2 1/2 years old. We were both shocked and I was excited that I just got 5000 yen for a phone I was going to hand over to DoCoMo for worthless points. The funny thing is that I got that phone for free because of some weird promotion I got lucky with. Also my Medias phone was only 1500 yen because I had a lot of points for not changing phones for over 2 years.

DSCF0008So today ended up being an awesome day. I ended up making money off of something that held no value to me and I found a rare and valuable addition to my game collection. I’m very pleased! Thanks Mandai Shoten and Yuko!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Finally! Yakiniku BBQ with my in-law’s.

DVC00005I love barbecue! Not only do I love barbecue, I especially love Japanese style.

Where I come from barbecue means hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken, and corn on the cob on the grill. In Japan, its thinly sliced beef, pork, chicken, and various vegetables. Another difference in barbecue style differences is that the typical Japanese barbecue uses wood coal instead of briquettes.

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I’m not too sure what the difference is but I do know that the Japanese wood charcoal is a lot more messy than the briquette variety. I do think the wood charcoal makes the food taste a little bitter than the briquettes too. I’m not sure which I like the best but I think Japanese style is starting to edge out the good old standby hamburger.

Since spring this year, I’ve been asking when we’d have another barbecue and like clockwork something’s always come up to ruin my barbecue dreams. Well this weekend the stars must have aligned properly because it was the perfect day for a barbecue.

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We had mostly strips of marinated beef and some chicken. Once we finished off the meat, we ended with a veggie yakisoba. It was an awesome barbecue. I wish we had more over the summer instead. Oh well, at least I finally got to barbecue. I am not sure when we’ll get to do this again. Now that I have a baby on the way soon, I doubt we’ll be able to manage one anytime soon. Bummer.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A hike that turned out to be a long day of tourism.

DSCF0030One of the newer local teachers and I connected recently and we agreed to go out on a hike sometime. So the time finally came to do it and we ended up taking a hike through the Panorama-Dai trail near lake Shojiko.

I haven’t been on hike in Japan for years so I really didn’t know what I was in for. The trail for Panorama-Dai was a little steep but well marked. We didn’t encounter many other hikers on our way up but when we did they always greeted us with a kind “konnichiwa”.

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The trail leading up to the Panorama-Dai summit, isn’t all that interesting really. You can’t really see the surrounding lake and mountains from the trail because it is shrouded in tall trees. But the actual trail is kind of a nice change from seeing city life every day.

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I got pretty winded about half way up because I wasn’t anywhere near as fit as I should be. I did finally catch my second wind though. Once I found my rhythm though, it was alright.

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My friend Joel and I talked a lot as we hiked toward the summit. I got to know a lot about him as he did me. Its been a long time since I’ve talked so much to another person in English and had so much to talk about. I had a great time on the hike.

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Once we got near the summit, we found a pair of really nasty looking port o potties. It’s kind of nice to have something like that in the middle of a mountain trail but they really looked like you could get tetanus from just handling the door knob on them. They weren’t brown because they were painted that way. They were covered in years of accumulated rust. But if you gotta drop a bomb, might as well do it in the privacy of a box. Smile

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The view from the summit of the Panorama-Dai that day wasn’t all that great. It happened to be pretty cloudy once we reached the top. We could barely make out the tip of Mt. Fuji and see a couple of surrounding lakes. It was still a good hike and we had a much easier time heading down in no time.

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After we finished the hike, I suggested we go to a nearby series of caves by lake Kawaguchi called Fuuketsu, Hyouketsu, a Bat Cave all in nearby Narusawa. The caves were all made by ancient lava flows that came from the base of Mt. Fuji.

Pictures from Fuuketsu (wind cave)

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The caves all went very deep and were very, very cool. Hyouketsu and Fuuketsu both had some ice in them year round. I’ve been to Hyouketsu and the Bat Cave with Yuko a few years back but this time we stuck around a bit longer and explored a little more of the caves than last time.

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Pictures from Hyouketsu (ice cave)

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Used to be a natural cooler in the past.

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Bat Cave

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Where the bats live. No humans beyond this point.

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Luke seemed pretty happy with all the hiking and spelunking we did as was I . After we were done checking out all the caves, we hopped in my car and drove back into town for a kaiten sushi lunch at Kura Sushi. Luke won a key strap figure on his first try there. It was a very lucky day for all of us.

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