Monday, 26 May 2014

All over the place!

Well this week was huuuuuuuuuge! As they all seem to be! I have had such an odd week in terms of emotions. I spent the first half in almost denial as I had to leave my host family and then moving day finally came; it was tough. But then I had so much fun over the weekend and couldn't be in higher spirits. I never really know what to expect but that's cool, I will just move with the flow!

So I was writing on Tuesday last week because I was just so busy but I will start from Monday's activities today. You might remember that I was in all sorts of pain from the day's training last Sunday and had a fair bit of trouble when it came to simply moving. I made it clear to my hosts that I wasn't really looking forward to school the next day and they kindly said that they will sort it out for me.

~I forgot to mention last week~ On Sunday morning, an ill omen predicted a day of pain. In all my time here in Japan, I've been careful when traveling up and down the stairs at home. I thought I would be able to do the whole stay without falling down them but of course, on one of my last days here I slipped. I had socks on and I was rushing down for breakfast when I lost it. I slid around the corner and next thing I know, I'm on my ass, sliding down a good ten steps. And what a noise it made. Thankfully, only my dignity was hurt but it was hurt bad. Later that day I got beat up so bad that when I got home, I had to crawl up those same stairs.

So on Monday morning when I slept through the alarm and my host Dad came to my room to wake me up, (more of a formality than anything else) he said: "How are you feeling today, Brennan? Oh, a headache? Better stay home."

I didn't even say anything, I just slept until noon and healed up not too bad. Basically I could hobble without the aid of the wall or anything else, I was still pretty battered. I got up and got a few small jobs done but spent most of my time relaxing. It was quite nice.

A while ago I received some mail from home. It had a ton of good stuff in it but it also had a recipe from Mum. I had said earlier that I could really go for some of Mum's lasagna (it's the best.) So you can bet that that recipe was for just that. So my host Mum and I made it for dinner and although I was nervous cooking it for the first time, it came out just like home's. It was great!

Had to cut the top off cos I burnt it real good.
But it still tasted fine, just like home!
 So we had a huge feed that night because the recipe was set for a family of four Kiwi's and here we were feeding a few Japanese. We certainly ate well! And of course we talked late into the night because that's what we do. I don't even need to say that it was great fun because it always is!

As time went by, I slipped into a state of denial. I ignored the fact the I was going to be leaving on Thursday night. It didn't feel right to even think that I was going to be gone later this week. Every time it was brought up I got a shaky lip and lost the ability to speak. I couldn't believe it.

I went to my room and wrote some of last week's blog but I was just too tired to get it all done so I went to sleep instead.

Tuesday was a tough day. I got up with stiff legs and hobbled down the stairs. I made sure not to slip again. It was test week at school so I went and chilled out in the library. I read more comics than I did study but that's not so bad. School finished early because of the tests so I went home early and wrote some more of my blog before going to karate later that evening.

And man, was it rough. I've often said in the dojo back at home that "Tonight we should just fight for the whole hour!" I never really meant it because bugger that. Fighting for an hour, I'm not that crazy.

Well tonight's karate plan was fighting. Fighting for the whole two hours. What?! I didn't believe Sensei when he said we will be fighting all night but we sure did fight all night.

It started off well with proper effort and form but at the end, Fuyuki and I were literally jumping up and down, moving about in a circle whilst taking turns at smashing each other in the shoulder. We were literally just letting each other hit ourselves. It was brutal but hilarious. At the end of class we were laughing whilst nursing useless arms. I could barely move it!
It was pretty rough
On the way home in the car I was trying to take in all the surroundings because I knew I wouldn't be here for much longer and it seems my host Dad picked up on this because as we entered the tunnel that leads to the area where we live he said: "Well Brennan, how many times have we been through this tunnel I wonder." I couldn't really reply because I was scared I would cry.

We got home and I managed to eat dinner with one arm. It's no problem with chopsticks! It was about 11:00 pm when I stopped yarning with my hosts and realised that my blog was still waiting so I promptly went upstairs and got to work.

As soon as I had published the piece I went straight to sleep.

Wednesday was when the roller coaster really started.

I got up knowing that this was going to be my last full day with this family and it had me tearing up from the start. I was still absolutely shattered from the previous night's ridiculous endeavour so when I got to school I was pretty keen to slip back into that horrible habit of snoring on the desk.

But it was still test week so I went to the library to "study." Now normally, I would snooze a little, read a little and study a little but this time I wasn't down for anything really. I pulled some chairs together to make a couch and I lay down and slept for a good three hours. I'm not even exaggerating.

After my nap, I took the train home and got to packing. It felt wrong, I didn't want to do it at all. I got as much done as I could that day before dinner. The rest would have to wait for the next day.

I made my way down the stairs with heavy feet. Host Grandma was the first to say how quick the time's been and how much we've all done together. I couldn't even speak! We had DIY sushi for dinner and it was delicious, as always. I managed to keep it together for most of the night which I was pretty pleased about.

But they had me sign their door frame, where past foreigners who stayed have signed. I wrote my message: "Thank you, from the bottom of my heart."
Kokoro kara, arigatou
When I finished my scribble, I was trying to hide my tears when I turned to my host Mum who had the same expression as me. We both just burst. From then on it was a pretty teary evening. But it was still a great night. We talked about all the things we had done together and it was quite the line up. As I'm sure you've read through my blog, there are almost too many to list.

I'm actually getting a bit emotional now as I write this. 

I hugged my Mum and said good night. We became pretty close over the two months. She even said it was like I was her own son. I'm going to really miss the whole family. Of course I will meet them again whilst I'm here in Japan; We've already half organised another BBQ in the summer. But whilst I can see them, it's not the same.

I have this weird feeling that I don't really know how to describe. It's the same feeling I had when I left home in NZ.

I went into my room and it was pretty bare. I still managed to sleep like a baby though.

Thursday was the day. School was the same as the previous day but with less sleeping. I got some study done before I went home to finish packing. But as I was getting off the train I didn't realise I had left my lunch box on my seat. It wasn't until I was in the car, watching the train depart that I figured out what I had done. I felt like a right dick. No worries, a few phone calls later and it was found at the next stop. When I got home I managed to fit everything into my luggage but shit it was a tight squeeze.
Doesn't look like much but it's all pretty heavy
 I left my room as clean as I could, it was odd to look over the place where I had just spent so much time in as though I had never been there.
Not quite the same as it was when I got here but I tried my best!
I even luxed under the bed!
 We all went outside for photos. It was hard trying to hold my tears back but I didn't cry (until later) all the effort resulted in some pretty unconvincing smiles but that's no problem, I was beaming on the inside.
Yukiko, Mum

Hisashi, Dad

Ryo, Bro

Mayuko, Sis, she's going to NZ later on!
+Yuuki, successful photo bomb

Saori, Sis
Her husband, Yuuki in the background
Kaneyama and Ishimaru families.
My family
Shit I could go on forever about these guys. But I'm already writing a heap here so I will refrain from that.

We went out for dinner and had a mean feed of udon noodles. We ate and talked about all sorts of things, just as we always do and it was nice.
What a meal! I was stuffed after all this
It's sad, but I can still smile. It was the best time.
 We were driving to the next family's house but we stopped off at a convenience store first to get some supplies. It just so happened to be the same shop my host dad and I stop at after every karate training session. "Haha, how many times have we stopped here aye?" Countless times. Countless bruises and countless laughs.

We got in the car and I spaced out again. We were literally moving towards the end of my stay. When we arrived outside the Nunome family's house I burst into tears again, soon followed by Mum and Saori. Some hugs and good deal of effort later, I managed to pull it together. We went inside and talked over some tea.

Mum said told my new hosts how great our time was and I sat there yet again with tears in my eyes. I did my best and got through without too much water works. We said goodbye, thank you and see you again, shook hands with my Dad and that was that.

I had the best time with those guys and I certainly wont forget a minute of them. I can't wait to see them again! Everyday my Japanese is improving so one day I will be able to properly thank them for the love they showed me. I look forward to doing that.

I moved from the Kaneyama family to the Nunome family. It's sad but I'm excited as ever to be where I am now. My host brother is only one year younger than me and we're already great mates because we are in the same class at school! My host Mum is lovely and host Dad is a real cool guy.

Traditional bedding from here on!
I talked with my new family for a bit and went of the do's and dont's of everyday life here in the Nunome house. I soon went to bed. I get an extra hours sleep here because we are quite a bit closer to school than I was before. I will enjoy this!

The next day was a regular day at school. It wasn't too bad of a day but it picked up later when I got to do kendo for the first time in a wee while. It was good to scream again.

I got home and gave gifts to my host family which were well received. It talked with them for a while before I went to bed early. I was traveling tomorrow.

So I got up at 5:00 am ready for a 5:30 am start. I was going to Fukushima prefecture! There was some Rotary thing and four students from our district were going. That's literally all I knew.

Fukushima is better known lately for it's colossol nuclear muck up. That was a result of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that is still causing strife here.

We were taking the bullet train! It was a pretty long day of traveling but we started early so it was only like, 1:00 pm or something when we got to our final destination. On the way there we stopped for a transfer at Tokyo station. There were some foreigners walking about who looked about our age. There was this suspicious feeling that they were doing something similar to us.

So I yelled out "ROTARY?" to them and just like that, instant friends. They were going to the same place as us! We would meet them later in the day.

The district 2630 expedition!
Repping Japan, France and New Zealand!
We get to this big hotel and figure out that it was a big meeting. And a long day ensued. I didn't understand much of the Japanese speakers but there was a of talk about the earthquake and movements conducted by Rotary aimed at giving aid.

The fun started that night when we were given free leash to interact with each other. Lot's of foreign students, Japanese students, students who were going over seas and students who had been and returned.

It was an amazing night of great company, great food, music, dance and so much more.
The meeting
Straight into the food
So I've got chopsticks, but no food?
Mayu showing Jake how it's done!
Piece of cake
Cute poses

So many good people! 

Group photo 

Another version

Japanese students here to give their ideas to the recovery of affected areas

 After our splurge of free time and food, we went back to work. Everyone split up into separate groups and brainstormed ideas for a presentation to be given the next day regarding aid for Fukushima and other suffering areas.

Hard at work!
Some groups finished early (early being 11:00 pm) and went off to relax in the onsen or party. My group worked a bit longer though. We finished up at 10 past 12 which was quite unfortunate. The onsen closed at 12. Damn. I thought I had it bad, finishing so late but one of the girls from my district finished at 2:00 am!!!

Of course after the meetings broke up it was weakly "advised" that we should go to bed. But that was more of a formality.

More good times ensued!
Not so hard at work!

It's so cool when a bunch of exchange students get together because there is always something to talk about! Everyone has their own story that's so different to my own and it's great. There are so many accents and everyone can speak at least two languages but the odd few can do even better than that! I still can't get used to be told I have an accent.

I met so many awesome people and I was actually blown away at how close we all became in such a short time. Friends set for life, really. I can't wait

Earlier, my district's head man got us #2630 kids together and told us of tomorrow's real plans.

We wouldn't be attending the meeting from 9:00 am, we wouldn't give presentations or hang about until mid afternoon with everyone else but instead we would straight up bunk the whole thing and hang out in Tokyo for the day.

I felt a bit guilty leaving early but you can't really say no to the boss, right?

So I went to bed at around four in the morning and got up at six. It took half an hour in the shower to wake me up before breakfast at seven. 

I'm not normally one to complain about food but breakfast didn't do it for me. It was probably because I wasn't all there but I had a small bit to eat. 

We went back to the station, got back on the bullet train and went into one of the busiest places on earth. And shit was it busy.

Arrival in Tokyo
Almost got split up and lost in the station. It was an actual nightmare
Map of the subway.
Good luck
Not too crowded

Managed to find a seat and time for a photo!
Must be foreigners, taking photos of people walking.
But with good reason.
Shibuya crossing. It's pretty damn crowded

Japan in a nutshell?

More of these restaurants where you pay money to cook your own food

It looks like you've already eaten it but it's pretty delicious!
Monja-yaki ~ a mess of all sorts of nice things
 We wandered about Tokyo for quite some time and it was quite interesting. The city is loud, moving and it smells bad. You'd be walking around and every now and then you'd catch a whiff of something totally rank. It was awesome to see the big smoke but you wouldn't want to breathe it for very long.

I had a great time in the fashion shops. I didn't end up buying anything nor did I plan on doing so but I had a great time informing shop assistants about the weird Engrish on their shirts. The funniest was one lady who's shirt simply said "BRAIN" and she had no clue. So I told her and she fully freaked out. It was hilarious.

Juliette, the French girl and I went and had a long conversation with one shop clerk about all kinds of stuff. Japanese people's reactions to foreigners speaking Japanese is priceless.

After a very long day, we got back on the trains to go back to the main station. We ended up missing ours stop and had to bunny hop between trains before we finally made it back.

We got our tickets sorted and had literally six minutes to get from the entrance of the station to the bullet train area. We almost became bullets ourselves as we shot through the station at break neck speeds.

I had foolishly played the gentleman card before we knew about the departure time and offered to take some of the girl's heavier luggage. Of course I'm going to show off a little bit in front of pretty girls but once I had offered to take the bags and realised how heavy they were, we were running and it's not so gentleman-like to return the heavy luggage.

I brought it upon my self really.

We made it to the train with seconds to spare. We got in our seats and pretty much all fell asleep.

I should probably mention how cool the bullet train is: it moves at 320 kmph. It feels as though you're gliding as opposed to rattling about like the school train.

Soon enough we were back in Nagoya. We had dinner in the station and then got back in the car for the final leg home.

It was a long day but it was so fun. I'm keen to have another look through Tokyo in the future but I don't think I could live there. It's just too noisey.

I got home and pretty much went straight to bed. It was a good sleep. I quite like futons.

Well that's all for now. Sorry for another late/long update but there wasn't time to write about all this time.

Until next time!!
Japanese technology

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Having a whale of a time

Well this week has been massive. That's probably because I'm late writing the blog and I have to fit an extra few days in here but that's nothing new.

But the week was once again filled to the brim with exciting times. I would even go so far as to say that this week has been one of the best so far! It all started with a birthday BBQ and came to an end yesterday with a leg sorer than I've ever had. That's right, I have once again been beaten up. No surprises there.

I'll start exactly where I left off. Last week I published the blog, shut the lap top and went outside to help fan the flames for the bbq. We had an amazing night! It was a bit windy so we soon moved inside for the feed.

The food was amazing, the company was awesome and the spirits were high.
The view from the back of the house
A beaut day but the wind was rough

Host Mum makes this amazing salad.
I'm not exaggerating when I say I can eat this whole plate

The indoors BBQ

The food was phenomenal!

And a birthday cake!
I couldn't believe it!
About halfway through the night, all the lights went out and a glowing cam from the door. They had made me a birthday cake! We laughed late into the night and it was about 3:00 am when I went to bed. Certainly a night to remember.

The next day went as planned; it was spent relaxing. We had made plans for the next days dinner during the previous BBQ.

We were going to eat whale.

And we did. We went to this shady little restaurant with a menu that was written on a shoddy white board that wasn't even hung up on the wall. It felt like I was in a place where drug deals were made. But I was in the company of friends so I wasn't scared. The old waitress was a nice lady so it didn't seem so bad.

We sat down in at our table and of course there were no chairs. We sat on the tatami floor while other people smoked inside and talked loudly over a few too many beers.

We made our order and I got pretty excited and slightly anxious when we ordered "Whale Steak." That was to come later. So in the meantime we got raw shrimps, raw shark heart and a whole myriad of odd foods.
Shark heart was pretty nice
went well with soy sauce and ginger

*sigh of relief* Sushi!
Atleast I know what this raw fish is

What am I eating?
raw shrimps in the distance there

Ramen! Can't go wrong with noodles
Of course the main was going to be this steak. I was expecting a massive whale of a steak. I told all of my friends about NZ's fight against whaling and how this was damn near blasphemy for me. I even showed them photos of the battered Sea Shepard after Japan "attacked" us. There were awkward laughs all around as no one really knew what to say.

But no worries, the meal was almost here.

Well it wasn't massive

Or much to look at
But it was pretty nice! It was a bit chewy and kind of fatty but still good. It had been cooked with garlic so it was pretty hard to put a finger on the true taste of whale. I hear they sell whale sashimi (raw) in some places so I might have to go have another try. For science of course...

The next Monday was good. I had my conversation practice again and this time my theme was NZ history. So I schooled my teacher in Kiwi history for a good 40 minutes. All in Japanese of course. It went really well and I was quite stoked to have been able to communicate in the way I did. 

I had a really good lunch as per usual and it was an awesome day at school.
Sesame Street lunch box.
The coolest.
I had Kendo later on and it went well. I didn't get too bad of a head ache which is always good. I got home and talked about all sorts of things with my host family. I say this a lot but I have really connected with these guys and I can't believe how fast time has slipped by. It's almost unfair. I don't like to think about moving because every time I do I get a bit teary.

Tuesday was my actual birthday. Wow. 18 years old. I felt no different to the day before but that was just fine. On the train ride to school my friends sang me Happy Birthday and made quite a scene. It was so cool. As I got to school,more and more friends said happy birthday to me. It really did make me happy.

School was otherwise regular. And at the end of 6th period maths, I was keen to whack someone at Kendo. But I was horribly surprised. Today was a seven period day. 


Prior to that Tuesday, only Mondays were seven period days but from now on we get two of those days a week. Shiiiit. Schools tough here.

Anyway, Tuesday means karate and a five 'o' clock train home. With school finishing at 4:30, I wouldn't have much time for Kendo. I would be able to get changed, warmed up and put my helmet on before I would have to whip it off and run to my departing train. So I didn't get to do Kendo.

Bugger, but there is still karate! And of course it was great. Unlike Kendo, karate is still good fun even if I get hit hard. (This misconception would change on Sunday.) 

I was walking to the dojo from the train station, which is about a 40-50 minute walk, when I was attacked by a bout of vicious sneezing. Yea it sounds dumb but it was pretty horrible. I would sneeze once or twice and then look as though I was drug addicted vagrant as I staggered about with snot dribbling down my face and then sneeze a couple more times. This went on for the whole walk. Oh it was horrible. 

I guess I was just getting used to my new "18 year old" body or something stupid like that. No worries, I got to the dojo in one soggy piece. Sneezing makes all my muscles tense up which doesn't really do much but after 45 minutes of walking and having these muscle spasms caused me to heat up quite a lot. So I was quite sweaty when I got to training.

Sensei went out and bought sports drinks for everyone and even got creme cakes for us all because of my birthday and we had a good night. Training wasn't super strenuous so I was actually kind of grateful. I had fun without limping home. 

When I did get home, my host sister had made a mean cake! Stoked! And whats more, it was like a wee birthday dinner had been put out for me!
Can't wait to dig into that!

But first I'm getting into this!
What a good night it was! It was an awesome day too. All of my friends said happy birthday to me on facebook and Mum sent me a message that may have induced a few tears. I was keen for a sleep after the long day so I got straight to it.

Wednesday was just a generally nice day. I don't know if I've mentioned it before but I get to help out a lot in my English class and I get to be like an assistant teacher in another practical English class. In the regular one, I'm always reading stuff out with my fluent English and then I get to help the students with their work. In the practical English class I get to help everyone with their speech and when we do tests I have to do the same stuff but in Japanese so it's quite good. Everyone learns and I get a taste for my dream job. I'm pretty damn lucky to be in the country I had fantasised about for so long, learning the language that I love and whilst I live this dream I get to put my try my hand at my future dreams. I don't know how many people get this opportunity but I feel truly blessed.

I took a day off of Kendo because I had made plans with my host sister's husband's family. We decided during my birthday BBQ that we all needed to go out for dinner sometime and Wednesday was the day. I used the dinner as a bit of an excuse to relax from kendo for a day; a plan that would blow up in my face later that night.

Anyway, I was picked up from home at about six and we went out to this restaurant that was something like over 100 years old. It was quite cool. We ordered our meal which was like a mutton stir fry which came out half cooked, still on the pan. Of course this surprised no one but me and my companions got straight to finishing the meals.
DIY stir fry

Might aswell chuck some noodles in it too
It was an awesome meal! About halfway through our feast the restaurant started to get crowded and nonw other than my kendo mates came through the door. Well shit. I waved, smiled and said good evening to them and they all said good evening back except for this one guy who is quite possibly my best Japanese friend punched me in the arm and said in front of my company: "You fully could have come to kendo you slacker!" It was harsh but he was just joking. It was a good laugh.

I got home and talked the night away with my parents again. It's always a good night.

Thursday was day of vigorous training but first there was school. Today was out of the ordinary because there was a lady who was going to come to the school and give a speech. That's all I knew about the plan so I wasn't to fussed. But I was quite blown away by this lady's speech.

Firstly, she was a 24 year old who was born with only one leg that had three toes. Other than that she was just a regular person. Her main message was to smile no matter what's going on and give everything your all even if you are confronted by obstacles. It was awesome. She had so much good energy and soon had the entire school of 700 people laughing and smiling with her. It was quite inspiring.
When we asked for a photo she called us Harry Potter
It left everyone in really high spirits even though the weather was dull.

I had a really proud moment at kendo that night but it was shot down pretty quick. Still proud though. So I had karate that night so I had to take the five 'o' clock train home. This means that I had to leave kendo early. Before I left I had to tell the teacher why I was leaving. I've mentioned before how compassionate and understanding the kendo teacher is. *sarcasm* 

I went over to him and threw myself at his feet with my head down bowing as I said sorry that I was disturbing him. I then sat up in the kneeling position and shouted that I was taking the five 'o'clock train home, I'm sorry again to disturb you, please excuse me for leaving before you, sorry, thank you, sorry. (That's the literal translation of what I literally said.) He gave his grunt of acknowledgement as per usual but when I stood up he took me by surprise and said:
"Haven't you gotten good eh?!"

I was honoured. The great man himself had complimented me, wow, I didn't know what to say. Of course I said thank you but as I was expressing my gratitude he shot me down and said:

"But not so good, a fair way to go yet." 

And that was my Que to leave. I got on the train and went home. I had a rival to fight tonight! I can never be down when there is karate!

So that guy was back, the one who made a mark on my chest last time. But I wasn't gonna let that happen again. We warmed up together and did all the usual training before we had a 5 round fight. It was actually really cool. We had one minute bouts with 20 second rests in between.

And it got pretty intense.

The first round went as all first rounds go. We traded hits kind of tentatively as we knew there was a long time to go yet and it would be suicide to burn yourself out in the first minute. Because that would mean four minutes of merciless, one sided pummeling.

As the rounds progressed I noticed his expression was changing. And I could clearly see he was getting angry. This is never good. Especially when he was on the same level of strength as I, if not stronger. This means that if he gets worked up enough, he's going to absolutely kill me.

I decided to take on a calmer demeanor in the hope that he too would calm down a bit too but it didn't help much. By round three, he had thrown two aggressive punches that were so out of control that they hit me in the throat. I told him to watch it when he did it a third time and decided that I would drop the calm act and just go for it.

So we really did battle it out for the last two rounds, hit for hit and man, I was in pain. He landed some really nice rib shots and upper cuts that had winded me slightly but I think I got him too. He almost kicked my head off near the end too. But thanks to a well time dodge (it was a flinch, I was so scared!) I managed to keep my brains in between my ears. That's always good.

Our war ended and we were smiling again. This guy is cool but I don't know how to read him, it is quite scary in the ring. I wasn't too phased though, this "fear" was nothing in comparison to Sunday's training.

I got home that night with a ripper headache. I don't even know how, I didn't get hit in the head at kendo nor at karate so I couldn't figure out what had me in such pain. I took some drugs and went to bed. I was beat.

I woke up on Friday morning after a cold and restless sleep with my head still pounding. And I was not feeling good whatsoever. I went downstairs and fell into my chair. I slowly swallowed my breakfast and sat at the table looking all spaced out.

My host Mum noticed and talked to me but I couldn't understand. I was so lost. We took my temperature and it turns out that I had a mild fever of 38.1 degrees. My body was hurting in all sorts of places from the previous nights ordeal and we decided that sleep was the best remedy.

But there was a problem. Today we were going to Gifu, a city about two hours from where I stay. It was a Rotary event so all of us foreign kids and the all the Japanese girls who were going to be going overseas were going to be there. We were to leave at three 'o' clock in the afternoon on the train for an overnight stay with the schedule of:

Five something: arrive and settle in to hotel.
Later than five: Cormorant fishing.
Real late: Return to hotel.

5:30 am: leave hotel for mountain hiking.
I-have-no-idea-what-time-is-what 'o' clock: Tour around the town, go to a museum, do stuff.

That was my perception of the weekend. It promised to be fun.

But my body wasn't keen. It was recommended that I stay home for this one and rest.

So of course I was as stubborn as all hell and said that I was good as gold.

All loaded up on drugs and limping pretty badly, I got to the train and off we were.

I am so glad I went. I healed up by the Saturday and was in high spirits again.

Cormorant fishing is an ancient Japanese traditional method of fishing. They get in their long canoe like boats during the dark of night with a great big brazier hanging off the front of the boat. This flame attracts a heap of fish to the surface of the water where these birds catch them.

The birds all have ropes tied around their necks so the can't swallow the fish or fly away and one man holds all these ropes to control the birds. It's pretty damn cool.
We watched the action from a cool wee boat

It was an amazing day
That was the mountain we were going to walk up the next morning
Almost dinner time
Grub's up

It was quite serene for a while

The camera didn't pick it up so well

Pretty sure they are just winging it
After the fishing we all went back to the hotel. We had a good look about and found there was an onsen on the top floor. At the onsen you could actually go outside onto the balcony and have your bath whilst you looked over the city.

There was nobody in it so we took photos.
Can't see anything!

Always have to wash yourself before you get in the baths
And it's normally beside some old man
Incredibly relaxing

Ate too much chocolate pudding
(Wasn't brave enough to get in this pool.)
 We went back to our room and invited the girls over for cards and ice cream. It was a great night and we hung out until about midnight, pretty dumb considering the 4:30 am alarm.

The ice-cream wasn't bad
Too much of it is never too good though

We actually got some school work done too!
That horrible sound started playing at 4:30 am and no one was in the mood. But we managed to roll down to the lobby in preparation for our hike. I was feeling a lot better but I still had a slight headache and sore muscles. I was once again told to take the day off and chill out in the hotel by myself.


"Stay in the hotel'
Not a chance

Oh look! A castle!

We were all thinking it was lunch time but it wasn't even 7:00 am yet.
 Fun story:
So we all stopped at this clearing, about half way up the mountain. We had a quick drink of water and took some photos. Out of all of the students, that's foreigners and Japanese included, only three of us are guys. So there is obviously a lot of showing off.

So of course, with all these girls around, we had to run the rest of the journey. There was no choice.
So we did, we started off our jog which of course became a race. When we realised that we had gone so far that they couldn't see us anymore, the reasons for the race changed. It became a power struggle.

Who's going to stop first? Not me. We all had the same idea. So we raced each other up this mountain and when we finally got to the top we were so wasted that we didn't even care who got there first. We all sat down on a bench, sweaty and panting when an old lady who had just walked up from the other side of the mountain came up to us and had a good yarn. We must have jabbered on for a good 10 minutes before the rest of the foreigners arrived. It was quite nice.
We ran from here, it's a lot tougher than it looks!
Surprisingly, the mountain air had cured my headache but I was still sore, if not, sorer than before. No problem. We made our way down the mount and walked back to the hotel. The sun was out and it was a scorcher.

We got back to the hotel, relaxed in the onsen and had a feed. We still couldn't believe how early it was. We checked out of the hotel and got in a bus to go to this museum.

This museum was based on the previous nights fishing and it was quite awesome.

That fish tank is cool~~ She stole my glasses!
He looks like a gnome

So the museum was actually a lot better than expected. But we soon made our way outside to have a tour around the area where the fisherman live. Not just anyone can be one of these guys, there is something like six at a time. They all train these birds and pretty much dedicate a huge chunk of their lives to the traditional fishing.
Each of these fisherman get all the birds

Plenty of wood for those fires

It's a pretty choice place

Exchange family photos are the best
It was an awesome day but after all the walking and the hear, everyone was keen to get home. I couldn't sleep very well in the car but I certainly slept well when I got home.

Sunday was a day of pain and sweat. I just didn't know it that well yet. I had a karate camp-like training session that day. A whole heap of dojos would all come to this town called "Toyota" and beat the crap out of each other. 

It's something like 2 or 3 hours from where I live, hence the early get up.

I got up at 4:50 am and got ready for the day. I slept in the car on the way to training and then stumbled into the big hall which would later act as a prison to me.

There was no mucking about, we got straight to fighting! There were eight wee rings set up (squares) and we were put into small groups. I joined a group of adults and was quite excited. We wouldn't be using headgear or gloves in our fights so it was going to be quite raw.

I had a few good fights for a start but then came a small hiccup. Because I was 2nd place at the previous tournament, I was rewarded with the opportunity to fight one of the other guys who also placed in their division. 

I was paired up with the 1st place getter of the men's divison.


He was a real man too, like a proper adult. Here I was, a young kid and there he was, in his late twenties with a beard. He was gonna wreck me.

It went well until about the end.

He stuck me real good in the ribs with a punch that had his whole weight behind it.
Face says it all
Oh shit did that punch hurt. The best bit is: He hit me there repeatedly. Over and over again. I wanted to die! There was no oxygen in my lungs and I don't even know how I stayed standing but I wasn't going to waste precious energy on thinking.

Hurts to touch.
But that's not where the day dropped. There was worse to come. I had confidently challenged this one guy to what I thought was the usual one minute round. What I didn't know was that he was the All Japan Champion for 10 years and the round was going to be five minutes. 

Should be right.

I've fought this guy before, although I didn't know his status, I knew he had a mean low kick. 

I was pretty cocky, I don't feel fear of getting hurt infront of a fight. I get nervous, but it's not because I'm about to get beat up. It's been a very long time since I've felt real fear in a fight.

I was about to get a blast from the past in the form of kick like I've never felt.

Our bout started and I started laying into him. He just smiled and took it all. All good! I was puffing with about four minutes and 50 seconds left on the clock. Going well.

And then whack.

I can only compare it to being hit on the thigh with a baseball bat. This kick shunted me sideways with all this force and I knew straight away I was in for it. "Oh dear, what have I done."

After a few more of the kicks, he moved in and started dealing to me. I could see his punches load up and I could even predict his combos but I couldn't block them. They were just so fast. And as you can probably imagine, they hurt like anything.

I must have spent three of the five minutes just dancing around, trying to get out of his way. All in vain of course. At one point he literally hit me so hard that I was flown into a crowd of kids who were sitting on the edges of the mat and watching. It was quite the chaotic mess.

When I saw his kicks loading up I could only pray and hope for the best because if it landed, it hurt more than I care to say and even if I blocked it, it felt as though my shin lost mass. 

I was actually very scared. I couldn't do anything to hurt this guy and I could do nothing to stop his strikes. This was fear I haven't felt in a long time.

But a glimmer of hope! I landed a kick on his head! Elation! I did it! I landed something! I can't belie--

I was interrupted by a kick that caught me across the jaw. Right. I wont do that again.

I bout finished and I was about ready to cark it.

I couldn't walk properly, I had busted my right knee and my left leg felt as though it was locked in a cramp and there was nothing I could do about it. 
left man is the one who killed me over five minutes
right man is the one who gave me that ripper in the ribs
I actually asked for a normal photo and then they literally kneed me in the guts. It was a good laugh but I was still in a lot of pain.

I was literally writhing in pain on the car ride home and I couldn't sleep at all because my leg was as sore as hell.

We did stop off at this nice little restaurant though. Took me about five minutes to hobble in and sit down and I'm not even exaggerating.
I eventually got home and we had another BBQ dinner! But I was pretty buggered.

It's probably my last BBQ with these guys so it was kind of sad. But nonetheless a good night.
With good food and good company, only good times can ensue.
I actually went to bed early because I was so past it. I literally crawled up the stairs and snaked into bed. I've never had a leg so sore. I'm going to have to fight that guy again and get him good.

That's all I've got for now. I know it's Tuesday or Wednesday at time of writing this but I will leave the stuff I've done from Monday on wards until the next blog. It's 2:00 am in the morning here and I'm pretty tired. I am very sad to be having my last night here on Wednesday. From Thursday I will be starting a new chapter of my adventure but that can wait until then.

Apologies for this lateness!
Until next time!
Japanese Titanic