Japan – the Best and Worst

It’s been about two weeks since I left Japan to make a new home in Australia.  Now that I’m unemployed, again, I have plenty of time to reflect on my five years in Yokohama.  Here is a quick list of things I’m already missing and things that I’m definitely not missing!

Japan – The Best

  1. Skiing
    It is amazing.  Great quality snow, a plethora of beautiful locations to explore, all easy to get to and cheap!  It is by far the best place for skiing I’ve experienced.  What it lacks in the ‘après ski’ atmosphere that the European resorts have, it makes up for in actual snow.  This is also how Japan thrashes the resorts in Australia and New Zealand that I’ve tried.


    A different type of atmosphere on the mountain in Japan!

  2. Food
    Sushi, ramen, tempura, sushi, okonomiyaki, sushi, yakisoba, gyoza etc etc.  Did I mention the sushi?


    Shirako (cod sperm) excepted!

  3. Onsen
    Bathing naked in front of other people was not something I thought I would end up ever enjoying.  My first experience of it included a terrible faux pas where I didn’t realise you were supposed to get your own stool.  Instead I sat on one that was already in front of a shower which of course turned out to belong to one of the girls in the bath that began giggling at the clueless gaijin.  In addition, I never worked out how you were supposed to really clean your nether regions whilst sitting on them.
    However, there is truly nothing better after a long run or a days skiing, then coming back to a hot, relaxing onsen.  It’s incredible!


    An outdoor onsen in winter – magic!

  4. Toilets
    I’m warming to my theme!  A toilet that washes, dries, warms your buttocks in winter, cools them in summer, disguises your ‘noises’ with modesty music and does your taxes.  Well, may be not the last bit but my washlet toilet did everything else.  So lovely!


    My beloved washlet has gone to a good home!

  5. Convenience
    Japan has it sorted.  Whether it is the massively efficient and comfortable public transport system or the ridiculously fast internet speeds or the same day delivery or the convenience stores that are everywhere and do everything, there is very little you can’t get done at great convenience to yourself.
  6. Honesty of the People
    I lost my house key once and found it a few hours later perched on top of a drink fountain near where I must have dropped it.  I left my passport on a plane to Okinawa and had someone present it to me moments before I left the airport.  I left my phone in a restaurant and went back later that night to find it had been handed in.  Other people have left phones and wallets in trains or restaurants and all got them back.


Japan – The Worst

  1. Banking System
    This actually broke me.  Japan’s banking system is frustrating, slow and outdated which is surprising since everything else seems to work so well.
  2. Communication Problems
    The last two weeks in Australia, I haven’t shut up once!  I’m talking to everyone!  People in the queue at the shops, Geoff the Telstra guy, the chick at the chinese takeaway and countless randoms I’ve just bumped in to have all copped it.  I was able to get mum’s printer fixed by asking questions at the store!  I love google translate but it is so much easier when I don’t need it!
  3. Shoe Removal
    Mum still makes me do this because apparently I track a lot of dirt into the house and that is fine.  But having to take extra shoes to the gym was a pain.
  4. Street Racing
    This did my head in!  The summer months had either motorbikes or hoon cars doing burnouts right across the water from my flat.  Their peak hours of operation were 1am to 4am in the morning.  It would be so loud, it was like they were revving their engines on my balcony.  Now I have a much more tranquil environment.
    Check out the birdsong in the evening in mum’s backyard.



Sayonara Japan!  I loved my time with you.  Australia, you have a lot to live up to!

Reality Check

I’ve been in Japan for four years now and when I arrived, I avoided the onsen


The onsen at our hotel in Shigakogen which I enjoyed with Alyson!

and public bathing culture to the point of preferring to go unwashed for several days if I couldn’t get a private shower.  However, Japanese culture has a way of getting under your skin and now I really enjoy getting starkers and sharing bath water with a bunch of other people.  I’ve even done it with people I know!  This doesn’t sound like much to most, but it is huge for me!

Today I had a bit of a set back.  I was alone and getting ready to take a shower at the gym when two other people walked in.  I was immediately embarrassed and took the remainder of my clothes off with a towel around me for modesty.  Not a big deal though, right?  I went and showered thinking that for sure they would have left by the time I got out.  Wrong!

I got so flustered by this that I’m now sitting at home writing this up wearing TWO bras!  I put my old bra back on and then put my clean bra on over top without realising it.  After I finished, I looked down and saw what I had done which made me even more self conscious.  So I pretended like that was what I meant to do, quickly pulled my t-shirt on over top and got the hell out of there.

I’m feeling very supported right now!

Time to Get Serious

I have registered for my first (possibly also last) marathon.  It will take place in Okinawa on the 19th of February next year.  I’m super excited and super terrified all at the same time.  I had hoped to get into the Tokyo marathon to be my first 42 km race but unfortunately, my number did not come up in the lottery.  My second choice was Osaka and again, I failed to win that lottery too.

So I found the Okinawa Marathon which must be a lot less popular because there was no lottery involved!  I registered for the race at home and the very next day, applied for my personal day from work for Monday 20th February as I’m pretty sure, I’m not going to be able to stand up.

30 km

Reminded of my denial for Tokyo!

Yesterday I had my first big test.  A 30 km training race in Tokyo.  Jim (one of my marathon trainers) tells me that 30 km is the half way mark of a marathon!  My 30 km was a mixture of success and defeat.  Success because I managed to run further than ever before.  I ran for the best part of 25 km with just a bit of walking at the aid stops to eat my gels.  I felt better than I had during a long run for a month!  At the 22 km mark, I really thought I was going to make it the whole way.  I had a smile on my face almost the whole way.  At the 23 km mark, I started to feel the beginning of some cramping in my legs which slowed me down but was still manageable.  I still thought I was going all the way.

Defeat because at 24 km it started to bucket down.  I hoped it would be just a brief shower and then I could dry off but it kept on raining.  By 25 km I was soaked through and my iPhone had given up the ghost.  Here I started to alternate walking with running.  By 27 km I was wet, cold and miserable.  The smile had gone.  I gave up.  I was worried that Simon might be waiting for me in the rain at the finishing line but not worried enough to compel me to keep running.  So I walked the last 3 km.  Sorry Simon!  I had toyed with the idea of running the last 1 km but after trying a few steps, I realised that I would be faster if I kept walking!

Defeat because once reaching the finishing line (where Simon was indeed waiting for me), I had to collect my bag in the mud which contained nothing to help me.  No towel, no change of clothes or shoes.  Luckily I got a race shirt that I was able to change into but I was still soaked from the waist down.

30 km

I’m so glad he waited for me!

Simon and I were both starving but because of my inability to prepare for the conditions, I had to insist that we choose a restaurant for lunch that had vinyl seats.  Luckily they are more common than not in Japan!  I also had to borrow his towel for the train ride lest I leave an unfortunate sign of my wet pants on the cushioned seat.

Getting Serious

Most of the reason for my failure though has been due to a lack of motivation and an overall slackness on my part.  I’ve counted 16 weeks back from the race which means I need to start getting really serious from the last week of October onwards.  This week I will run a bit for recovery, next week I’m on the grade 7 expedition which will mean little opportunity to run but then, it is going to be all out for 16 weeks.

I will…

  1. Stick as best as I can to my training plan.  It will be my priority.  Above work (where possible) and social life.
  2. Back to no drinking.  This has crept back into my lifestyle but it will be out again come the end of Oktoberfest … I mean October.  I did six months last year so 16 weeks will be a piece of cake.
  3. Stick to a healthy diet.  Basically this means avoiding the staff room at break time.  This will also help with #1 as I will need to work through breaks if I’m going to devote my after school time to training.
  4. Get to the gym a minimum of twice a week.  I’ve found it really hard to do this now that work has started but with the 20 minute workouts I got from Renee during the summer, there really isn’t any excuse.

A Call Out

I’m going to need someone to come with me to Okinawa.  I’m a bit worried about finishing the marathon without having someone there at the end to pour me into a taxi to get back to the hotel.  I’m not sure I’ll have enough where-with-all about me to even remember that I am staying at a hotel.  All the job entails is following my dot on the RunKeeper and turning up at the finish line about 5 hours after I start.  I can’t guarantee that I’ll have dry pants so you’ll probably have to bring a towel.  But that’s about it.  Let me know if you’re interested!


21 km Done and Dusted

I’ve had a week to recover and I finally have enough energy to sit down and bash out the story of last weekend and a really fun run!  Here are the highlights!

Road trip!

Fujiyoshida half marathon


Simon drove me and Ange in his zippy, Japanese-sized car.  It was great to be able to go somewhere with the convenience of a car for a change and I was able to bags the front seat too!

As chief navigator, I relied on google maps to get us up and back.  We questioned google’s advice on the way up and got stuck in a traffic jam so on the way back we decided to just do whatever she said.  There was one point where Simon was still a bit suspicious of the instructions though.  Google told us to continue straight ahead into what appeared to be someone’s gravel driveway.  It did in fact turn out to be a bit of a driveway but google was right and it did connect us to an actual road again and back on the expressway.  And we got to wave at residents as they came out to see who was coming along their alleyway.  We didn’t question google again!

Winter in summer

IMG_1919Since returning to Japan at the beginning of August, I had found running to be quite challenging in the heat and I was worried about doing a half marathon in the summer.  It was hot and humid when we left Yokohama but by the time we got up the mountain, it was raining heavily and absolutely freezing.  Despite all of us being seasoned travellers, none of us had had the forethought to pack anything but short sleeves.  During our visits to the caves and other tourist spots, I kept my eyes peeled for a jumper shop but no luck.

The upside of this though was that the race day on Sunday was also cool with just a light mist of rain – perfect for running up a big hill!

Carb loading

On the rainy Saturday, we had to find indoor activities to amuse us and Mami booked us in for a cooking lesson for lunch.  So all six of us landed at what turned out to be someone’s house to cook ‘hoto’ noodles.  The noodle is made from just flour and water and I volunteered to do the mixing.  Our finished noodles did not look that pretty but they sure tasted great!

Fujiyoshida half marathon

Fujiyoshida half marathon










Fujiyoshida half marathonFujiyoshida half marathon


Fujiyoshida half marathon
For dessert we decided to stop by an ice-cream stand despite the fact we were all freezing!  There were a lot of flavours to choose from and some were quite unfamiliar to my Australian experience.  Here are some of the flavours that were unusual to me:Fujiyoshida half marathon

  • cheese and biscuit
  • sweet potato (purple)
  • sweet potato (orange)
  • soba (buckwheat noodle)
  • wasabi
  • macha (green tea)
  • black sesame
  • azuki (red beans)

I settled on giving the wasabi a go but when I tried to order it, everyone around me including the ice-cream lady herself, gasped with shock!  Quite a lively commotion ensued with everyone getting involved in trying to dissuade me.  The ice-cream lady said it would be too hot for me and flatly refused to sell it to me!  I finally convinced everyone that I could handle it but the ice-cream lady felt that she couldn’t charge me full price for what she clearly thought was an insane choice of flavour and gave me a ¥50 discount!

The race

Finally we made it to the race venue and we were all excited and ready to go!

Fujiyoshida half marathon

Next we did a warm-up with all the other participants.

Fujiyoshida half marathon

And about two and a half hours later we were all finished with just enough energy to do one big jump.

Fujiyoshida half marathon

I was really happy with my time considering I did a 500+ m climb over the course of the race!  Here is a snapshot of my results both official (right) and unofficial (left)!

Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 3.28.32 PMScreen Shot 2016-09-03 at 3.47.16 PM


Thank you

A BIG thank you to our support crew of one – Angela!  She had many duties over the weekend including covering my back in bandaids so that my sports bra didn’t rub all my skin off and being my modesty curtain when I was trying on a top at one of the race stalls.  You’re the best Ange!  She was also the official photographer for the weekend and took most of the shots I’ve used in this post.

Finally it was time for a well earned drink – not the grass we were drinking in this photo below though – and to head back to Yokohama.  Simon’s small Japanese car proved to be a prison of pain for me after about half an hour into the trip but we pushed on to get home as quickly as possible so I could finally stretch my legs out again.

Next challenge – 30km run in October!

Fujiyoshida half marathon

My Pokemon Go Adventure

When this was released I had to give it a go.  I justify this by the fact that in a few weeks, I’m going to be back teaching a bunch of twelve year olds and it is important that I can relate to them about topics they are interested in.  I’m basically just doing my job!  Being in education is a great way to get away with doing stuff that no self-respecting 42 year old should admit to be doing!

But seriously, where do the coins go?

So whilst I was down in Australia at mum’s place in Lake Clifton, I downloaded the app.  This took a while because mum’s internet connection is not exactly up to Japanese standards.  She lives one hour from the largest city in the state and has no mobile phone coverage unless you stand out the back by the bins and no reliable tv reception without the use of a satellite dish.  Strangely enough though, she gets perfect reception for the community based channels but the no signal error frequently pops up on the big commercial and government channels.  If all she wanted to do was watch Russian state news and informercials about the Wonder Wallet, she’d be set!  (By the way, I don’t see what’s so wonderful about this wallet – where do you keep your coins?)

Anyway, I digress…

My first experience of searching for Pokemon down in LC was very disappointing.  I wandered around mum’s house with the limited internet connection I had and couldn’t find any.  LC is a Pokemon desert.

I tried again the next time I went up to Perth.  In Perth, I could see a bunch of Pokestops on my phone but still no Pokemon appeared for me to catch.  This was a bit weird because my sister then tried on her phone and she was spotting Pokemon everywhere.  I put it down to the fact that I was using the free shopping centre wifi and she was using the real stuff you pay for.  Who knows if that really is the reason but that is the story I’m selling.


Lake Clifton -the middle of nowhere!

Meanwhile I got my revenge as I turned my nephew into a Pokemon nut.  As my phone wasn’t cooperating, he could only play with his mother!  Ha!  In the end, when I returned home to Japan, she told him that I had caught all the Pokemon in Australia and had taken them with me.  It worries me a little that he swallowed this story so easily, even though he is only five.

Harrison Go!

Harrison Go!

I returned to Yokohama on Wednesday and the game has just been released here.  On Thursday, I went for what was supposed to be a 12 km run that ended up being just 9 km as the shock from running in 15ºC and low humidity weather to 28ºC and high humidity, was just too much for me.  I started walking about 3 km from home in the middle of Minato Mirai – the most beautiful and tourist dense part of Yokohama.  As it turns out, it is also full of Pokemon!

Pokemon Go Adventures

68 Pokemon and counting

By the time I got home, I had caught a lot of Pokemon and visited a number of Pokestops along the way.  My favourite being a child’s playground in my apartment complex which comes up in English as being ‘object of ship’.  But frankly, after the initial thrill of catching your first few magikarp and so on, having to stop every five minutes when more Pokemon appear to catch, really ruins a beautiful summer evening’s walk.  But for the first five levels, you can’t do anything else.  It wasn’t until I had reached my apartment complex that I finally made it to level six and the opportunity to put my collected Pokemon into battle at a Pokegym.  Unfortunately, I had also reached the limit of my phone’s battery life and my will to continue with the game.

Pokemon Go Adventures

My closest Pokestop!

Although I had reached a point where I was already a bit bored with Pokemon Go, I decided last night to try to do battle at a Pokegym to see if this next level could reignite my interest.  Luckily, there is a Pokegym very close by my apartment at my local Homes store, so I walked over there on the pretence of picking up a new outdoor light for my balcony.  Once my shopping was completed, I walked over to the canal where the Pokegym was.

I tried to battle one of my Pokemon but couldn’t really work out what I was supposed to do.  In the end I selected run away which then really confused me because I was told I had won the battle!  Not sure how I did that and after three minutes of trying to work it out, I was over it.

Not surprisingly, I wasn’t the only person playing at this Pokegym.  There was one other player – a bloke about my age dressed in a suit.  Considering this was a Friday night, I realised that we may be the two saddest individuals in Yokohama and possibly the whole of the greater Tokyo metropolitan area!  I gathered up my shopping, tucked my phone into my pocket and walked home.

So that now completes my Pokemon Go adventure.  I’m not quite ready to delete the app from my phone yet, but I doubt it will be long.  What I am excited about, is what must now already be in development for new location based games for my phone.  Someone somewhere is developing something that is fun, interesting and suitable for sad 42 year olds!

Accident Etiquette


I forgot to charge the battery of my electric bike last night.  This resulted in an accident on the way to school this morning as I was riding up a very steep hill.   As I compensated for the lack of battery power by shifting down gears, the bike slowed down so much, it tipped over!

This hurt me physically but that was nothing compared to the emotional hurt I was about to experience as I laid there on the side of the road.

First, a car went by me.  It slowed down to avoid me but didn’t stop.  I didn’t think too much of it as it is a narrow road and I reasoned that may be there wasn’t enough room for the car to pull over which explained why they kept going.

But then a number of people, all by themselves, walked by me too.

I thought this very strange and not a little bit hurtful!  Did they think that I was casually taking a rest on the side of the road with a heavy bike on top of me?  Did they think this was normal?

Were they worried that if they asked me if I needed help that I wouldn’t understand the Japanese?  This is definitely not the case.  My Japanese may consist solely of sushi ordering vocab and taxi instructions but lying there, prostrate, bleeding and in not an insignificant amount of pain, you could of asked me in Swahili if I was ok and it would have been clear to me.  You could have used one of the rarer Inuit languages to ask if I needed help and I would have understood you like it was my mother tongue!

Come on people!  When you stumble across a woman on her arse under a bike, help her up.  The bike is heavy and her day has not begun the way she planned.  Don’t ignore her and make it worse.  Lift the bike off her!

Image Credit
Shared on Flickr by Jhane (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In Niseko…

Near enough is good enough in Niseko

When my name gets put into katakana is looks like this - ウィンスラド  メリリン!
When it gets translated back from katakana to romanji it looks like this:



Naked bath time in Niseko

One thing about travelling in Japan I’m always a little apprehensive about is the shared bath situation otherwise known as the onsen.


Vegemite is in demand in Niseko!

Today I arrived in Niseko.  The town is teaming with Aussies and foreigners in general, just as I expected.  I went to book lessons at the English ski school only to discover they were almost booked out.  The queue at the local shop to pay for your vegemite was around the block.

But at my little, no-frills, Japanese style guesthouse – I am the only guest!  Private bathing guaranteed!


No-frills and no worries in Niseko

My accommodation takes basic to a new level.  The room is an empty tatami room.  I have two wafer thin futons that I have double stacked but I can still feel my hip bones grind on the floor every time I turn over.  They have supplied me with an abundance of pillows however, most of which I have fashioned into a chair so I can watch a movie on my computer in the evening.

On my first night, I discovered that I wasn’t supplied a towel in the room and I didn’t pack one either.  (I can feel my mother’s groan as she reads this!)  I contemplated the drip dry but it is way too cold here for that.  I had to beg a towel from the owner and he said that because I was staying so long he would let me have one!  Phew!


Nearly private lessons in Niseko


Great weather so far. Hoping for some powder on my last day!

Yesterday I had a half day lesson and it was great.  The instructor said I should try the level up the next day so when I went to my lesson today, I explained this to the instructor for level 6 but he didn’t seem too keen in taking me.  In the end I stayed with the level 5 group but I pushed for the instructor to take us off piste and to do a couple of blacks as well.  The two other students weren’t that keen with this and after lunch they decided not to come back.

That meant I had a private lesson that afternoon for no extra money and it was great.  The instructor took me to do more off piste and a big long black too.  It was so much fun!  Can’t wait to scare some people off my lesson tomorrow!  😛

Update – another private lesson in the afternoon today with more off piste tree runs.  Super cool!


No wine in Niseko

I’m still on my alcohol free kick that I’ve managed to sustain since September.  Originally, I had decided to stay on the wagon until Christmas when I would re-evaluate the situation.  I was explaining this to the bar tender last night over my glass of water (straight up, no ice) and some edamame.  He turned out to be a Perth boy and he was both shocked an appalled at my sobriety.  He said if I came back at Christmas he would buy me my wine!

Now I’m really torn because I had almost decided not to break my sobriety after all and push on through to January when I’ve booked the Robot Restaurant for Jazz and co.  But it is free wine we are talking about here!

Update – I’m hanging on until 23rd January!  🙂


Notable quotes in Niseko

After attempting to ski off a ridge amongst the trees and stacking it at the base, I struggled to my feet and my instructor began to laugh.  He said, “If you want to know how hard you fell, take a look at the size of the hole you made!”

I turned and looked at the ginormous, arse-shaped dent in the snow.  I laughed with him but I died a little inside!

No more Niseko

It is time to head back to Yokohama and start recovering ready for my next ski trip in a week’s time.  This time I will be skiing closer to home in Shigakogen with team ‘Over-the-Hilbournes’!  This is a Japanese resort so it will be goodbye to Perth bar tenders and flat whites in the the cafes and hello eating in the hotel because there are no other options, anywhere!  I may get a onesie to blend in better amongst the locals as well!  Goodbye Niseko!


These outfits are for all occasions – skiing by day and sleeping at night.


Image Credits

All images are by merilynw and shared on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Osaka in Spring with Ice


Sakura season – hard to get a hotel? That depends on how fussy you are!

This is a post from spring that I have only now managed to find the time to publish.  Hopefully my summer postings will be more timely!

When Kate arrived, I suddenly remembered that I had promised to book accommodation for us in Osaka months ago. My friends said I would have no chance booking something this late and so close to Sakura (cherry blossom) season. Well I did and I’m sitting now in a nice hotel, taking a break from sight-seeing to write this post.

It hasn’t all been carrots and potatoes though.

We left for Osaka on Monday. The previous day we had activated Kate’s rail pass and booked our tickets. We were leaving on the 10:22 am Shinkansen (bullet train) from Shin-Yokohama.

I had planned a bit of extra time to get from my house to Shin-Yokohama as it isn’t a route I would normally take and I have gotten lost on the way there before. On top of that, Kate had lost a lot of confidence in my ability to lead our travels when Sunday’s trip to Kamakura ended up in Tokyo which is entirely the wrong direction! Kate is still hoping to visit the picturesque village of Kamakura some time in the future.

On this journey, I was determined to regain some of the respect I’d lost. I had planned a route that would involve one bus and then a train to get us to Shin-Yokohama. Unfortunately, we over shot on the bus and missed the stop for the transfer to the train on the blue line. We got off on the next stop and then walked the rest of the way to Yokohama station to transfer there. Thanks to my good planning though (I had included a time buffer), we were still on track to make the train.  On arrival at the station, Kate stopped short in her tracks.


The face of despair when Kate remembered she’d forgotten her Japan Rail Pass.

“I’m just having a panic attack that I’ve left my rail pass at home,” she said. It turned out that her panic was well founded. We changed our reservation for the Shinkansen to a later time and went all the way home to pick up her rail pass!

In actual fact, this was helpful for me as I had forgotten to pack my iPhone charger, my camera and my hat. All of these I could have lived without but I had also forgotten a solo traveller’s best friend – my selfie stick! After reloading with all the stuff we’d forgotten, we headed back towards Shin-Yokohama and finally boarded the Shinkansen with just a two hour delay from our original plan.

Once on the train, I settled in to a false sense of confidence that we would be right from here on in. This was shattered when I knocked my drink over and I watched as the movement of the train caused the liquid to run down the aisle. I tried wiping it up with toilet paper from the loo but there was just too much liquid and not enough paper. This also left little bits of toilet paper stuck to the floor all around me so even new passengers arriving could tell I was the culprit!

On arriving in Osaka, we found our hotel and I congratulated myself on a good choice. It is in an excellent location and there is free wifi everywhere. When we got to our room though, we were a bit disappointed. It reeks of cigarette smoke and the one bed for the two of us is snug to say the least! Hence I’m currently sitting in the lobby writing this whilst Kate is upstairs sleeping. We are using the bed in shifts!

Last night, we walked to the river area for dinner and found that it is much colder in Osaka than in Yokohama. I hadn’t brought any warm clothing. I had a jumper on and a pair of light spring pants. Kate was also without any warm layers to put under her fleece. And to add to her problems, she noticed that the only two pairs of pants she had with her had blowouts in the inner thigh area making walking a risky adventure.  On the way to dinner, we managed to find a cheap beanie for Kate and a couple of cheap extra layers for me but we knew we were going to be in trouble.

Today we decided to walk around the parks and Osaka Castle but it was bitterly cold. We bought extra gloves and scarves to help but we knew we were defeated when it started to sleet as we made our way to lunch. Actual ice was falling on us. Kate was not happy by the time we finally found the ramen restaurant we were looking for and sat down.  She ordered a coke, only for it to arrive in a super-chilled tankard.  She had to keep her gloves on to drink it.


Two days pass…

We have now completed our trip and are are back home.  We are both snug and cozy in our dressing gowns, relaxing in my warm and comfy apartment.  We need this.

The final two days didn’t go much better than the first two.  On Wednesday we decided to take a day trip to Nara which is just an hour away from Osaka.  At one of the first temples we visited, there was an opportunity to get a paper with your fortune on it.  Kate decided it was a bargain to have the rest of her life mapped out for her for just ¥100 so she picked a fortune.  It was uncanny!  And a really positive fortune too!  Based on the test sample of one, I decided that this must really work so I too parted with ¥100 and picked a fortune.  Mine was not so positive.  There was a message saying that you could improve your fortune by tying it to the tree.  When I tried this, the paper ripped in two.  At this point, I should have taken the cosmic hint and insisted we went home but instead, we ventured further into the park.

In Nara Park, I was continually terrorised by the ferocious deer that are all around.  At first they look harmless.  Children are petting them.  There are people everywhere selling deer biscuits so you can feed them.  The deer aren’t trying to eat the deer biscuits in their neat stacks by the sellers.  This fools you into thinking the deer are docile creatures.

I bought a packet of the biscuits and immediately the seller barked at me, “walk”!  I hesitated a moment because I didn’t quite understand her but it was already too late.  I was surrounded.  Deer were coming at me from every direction.  I managed to get a couple of biscuits out of the loose binding to feed to individual deers before I was just overwhelmed.  I couldn’t get the biscuits out quick enough.  In the end I gave up and threw them into the pack and fled!

For the rest of the afternoon, deer would sidle up to me without me knowing and attack me at the last minute.  One terrified me when it tried to eat the map I was studying.  Another came up behind me and menacingly removed my temple ticket from my back pocket and ate it.  I was glad to finally head back to Osaka.


I’m so terrified, I couldn’t keep the selfie stick still!

It wasn’t a simple trip back however.  We boarded a train we thought ended at Namba (the station closest to our hotel) but when we reached Osaka central station, we realised we’d completely missed it.  We then continued to board the wrong train again and again, until after taking no less than six separate trains, we finally made it back to Namba.

Yesterday we left Osaka for Mirajima Island off Hiroshima.  We had both visited the island before but I had thought that it would be nice to stay overnight and experience the island when the day trippers had left.  Wrong!  We discovered that the reason why people only go for the day is because everything shuts at six.  And I mean everything.  There was only one restaurant open for dinner and it was under quite a bit of pressure to accommodate the other hapless tourists who were also marooned there for the night.

And of course, there was the deer.  These ones aren’t fed but they are still pretty inquisitive towards anything you might be holding that’s made of paper.  Kate couldn’t find a bin for the paper bag her snack came in but it didn’t matter because a deer took care of it for her.

We also made one other discovery worth noting.  Thanks to Ylvis, we all now know the answer to the question, what does the fox say?  And thanks to our careful observations, we are pleased to report that we can now answer the next driving question.  What does the deer say?

They really do sound like that.  That toy was uncanny and fully worth the ¥500 Kate paid for it!

Today we left Mirajima with plans of walking around the Peace Park before boarding our two o’clock Shinkansen back to Yokohama but we got potteried along the way and ran out of time.  When we got home, my apartment was as we left it as my cleaner had called in sick – dirty dishes in the sink, a pumpkin that had liquified in the kitchen bin and the only other clothes Kate had with her, still unlaundered in the basket.  So we ended our trip with a few household chores.

Tomorrow, I’m going to take another crack at getting Kate to Kamakura.

Nail Trails

How many nails do you have to lose at the gym, before it becomes a bit of an embarrassment?

  • Loss of Nail #1
    CND Shellac Tropix

    You can see why I wanted to save it!

    It was only a week after I had the shellac done.  I was showering at the gym after my swim.  I looked down to see that my middle finger was no longer deep purple in colour.  At first I thought that I must have lost it in the pool, but to my relief, I noticed it on the shower floor.  I picked it up with a view to saving it and gluing it back on with some super glue when I got home.

    I got out of the shower and went to the powder room to brush my hair and clean my ears.  I put the nail on the bench there while I fixed up my hair and face.  Half way home on my bike, I realised the nail was still sitting on the bench.
  • Loss of Nail #2
    It was the following Sunday and I was changing for my first hot stone experience with @mscofino when I noticed something on the floor.  It was my index finger nail.  Since I already had one nail out of sync with the rest (I had painted it deep red as that was the closest I had to matching the others), I didn’t think this nail was worth saving.  So I left it on the floor.
  • Loss of Nail #3
    This happened last Saturday, nearly a full week after the previous incident.  Many of the nails had begun to come a little loose.  During my swim, I noticed some extra drag from my thumb nail as the shellac coating was flapping with every stroke.  About half way through my 40 laps, it was gone.  On the next lap immediately after I noticed the nail’s absence, I spotted it on the floor of the pool.  I swam past it.  I decided that this was a bit gross and that I should pick it up, put it inside my bathers for the duration and discard it in the bin when I changed.  Unfortunately, it must of changed lanes, as I never spotted it again.

I’m back to the gym tomorrow for my next work out and swim.  With three nails down, I decided to remove the rest so at least I couldn’t be identified as the culprit if my third nail jammed the pool filter on my last visit!

Image Credit: cc licensed image (NC SA 2.0) by Melanie Allan

Bottoms Up!

I wasn’t going to blog about this because I thought that some people might find the subject distasteful, but I just can’t help myself!  So here it comes, my blog post on Monday’s colonoscopy!  [Warning – Ben Keith – read no further, this one’s all about my bottom!]

After mum’s diagnosis, all my immediate family members have gone through this procedure.  I was the last one.  I’d been putting it off you see, as I wasn’t really excited about having someone poke around my bum.  Terri and mum had both told me about what happens and so I knew that I wouldn’t know what was going on as I’d be asleep or at the very least, completely out of it, but I still took a long time to organise it, using work as an excuse.  First week of holidays, and that excuse vanished so I went to a doctor and organised the procedure which actually took place last Monday.

My experience here in Japan, was nothing like that described to me by Terri and mum in Australia.

Firstly, the day before, I was still allowed to eat.  Just no fruits, vegetables, seaweed or nuts.  So I ate bread and cheese.

I had to begin fasting after my dinner.  At 7pm, I took the laxatives.  For some reason, I thought they would work fairly quickly.  Three and a half hours later, I went to the loo.  At this point, I knew it was going to be a long night.  At 1am, I finally had the confidence to leave the toilet and go to bed.  I hadn’t experienced the volume, frequency and consistency of this kind of bowel movement, since having amoebic dysentery in Ghana in 2010.

At 5 am the next morning I awoke due to an alarm set by my bowels.  My instructions for the day were to report to the hospital in Tokyo by 9 am and bring 1L of water to drink as I would need to take more laxatives once I got there.  The hospital was happy to supply the laxatives but I was instructed to bring my own water!

At just after 7 am, I entered the train with my 1L of water and my buttocks tightly clenched.  I arrived at the hospital just before 9 am, where I missed the entrance but found the toilet and sweet relief.

After registering, the nurse gave me the instructions to read in English and a form to sign.  A quick look around at the other patients, revealed that I was the youngest there by about twenty years.  I was then led into the colonoscopy rooms and sat at a table.  A woman was brought in to translate for me and she gave me the instructions once again verbally.  I had to drink the 1.2 L of laxative medicine they put in front of me in the next twenty minutes.  I should then wash that down with another 1L of water, which I had to supply myself, over a period of one hour.  Then, I had to use the special toilets in the room when I needed to go.  But don’t flush!  Instead, I had to put a little magnet board with my name on it on the door and fetch the nurse.  She would then come and inspect the contents of the bowl to determine if I was ready for the procedure!

Doing a poo and then having to call someone to have a look at it, is not what I had been prepared for!  Terri, my sister, found this particularly amusing.  It took three attempts before the nurse cleared me.  Terri then asked how I felt when I woke up.

Woke up?  I was awake through the whole procedure!  She asked how I got to the room where they did the colonoscopy.  Apparently in Australia, you are put on a bed, heavily sedated so that you fall asleep and then wheeled off to the colonoscopy room and back to recovery where you awake, blissfully ignorant of the entire procedure.

How did I get to the colonoscopy room?  I walked.  I had put on a robe and was wearing a disposable pair of underpants with a hole in the rear and I mounted the stairs up to the table, fully conscious.  The doctor, who was very friendly and nice and thankfully could speak English, explained that he was going to give me three drugs.  One to stop my bowel from spasming, a painkiller and a sedative so I would probably fall asleep.

Now here’s where I think they went wrong.  They never weighed me.  I think they gave me the dose of sedative for the average forty year old Japanese woman.  In other words, I would have been put asleep by this drug if I weighed what I did when I was six.  Two seconds after the injection, a wave of sleepiness swept over me and away.  I came up the other side and felt bright as a button.  I watched the whole thing on the monitors and chatted with the doctor throughout.  My second favourite part was when he showed me the entrance to my small intestine.  My absolute favourite part was when he showed me my anus, from the inside!

Terri then asked me, “But how did you get to recovery?”

My answer was the same, I walked!  The nurse did have to spot me at the elbow.  She put me in a lazy-boy chair and covered me with a blanket.  I lay there for a bit, not knowing how long I was supposed to stay there or what I was supposed to do next.  When the old man beside me got up, I did too.  I got dressed, collected and paid my bill, and caught the train home.

The good news is my colon could not be healthier.  No cancer, no polyps, no need for another colonoscopy for at least five years.  Who knows which country’s medical system I will be using then.  After this experience though, I may fly home for the privilege!