Monday, November 30, 2009
After my day in Osaka I made my way to Hiroshima to visit my old roommate and sensei Toru Ishizawa and his girlfriend Tomomi. They showed me a fabulous time from beginning to end. Our first day included a visit to Miyajima to visit a famous shrine and see the Japanese maple leaves. The leaves had fallen awhile ago, but thankfully the temple was still as beautiful as ever. Local oysters were the treat of the afternoon. We then headed to a famous sake brewery for a lesson in brewing and of course tasting. I don’t think I have to mention that I greatly enjoyed that part of the trip. For our evening meal, we elected to have a yakiniku (literally, grilled meat). At yakiniku, you buy meat in small trays of varying kinds and cook them on a small grill at your table. My grand finale was yukke, raw beef dipped in a raw egg. I know many of you have to stop reading and go get that taste out of your mouth, but I loved this stuff. Japan has this amazing talent for making raw meat and fish tasty. It may not be the next California roll but whatever. The next day included a trip to the mall for shopping, a movie, a wonderful lunch, and finally OKONOMIYAKI. This is a local special not to be missed if you are within any distance of Hiroshima. Imagine thin grilled pasta, a thin layer of batter, squid, cabbage, shrimp, pork, green onions, kimchi, mayonnaise, cheese, an egg all put in one giant omelet looking mound and topped with shallots and bbq sauce. It may not sound great when described ingredient by ingredient, but this is a taste tsunami. I was sad to have to leave my friends and what could be my favorite city in Japan, but alas, there is English to teach and this Southern Boy is currently the man for the job.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Let me start out by admitting that I will never be able to totally convey what a great time I had on my last trip. My 4 day weekend entailed enough fun to count for weeks of good times. From seeing one of the greatest symbols of feudal Japan to reuniting with old friends to eating foods that some would consider toxic, it was well worth the trip. I have decided to break this article in two to make for easier reading. Osaka will be posted first. As usual, enjoy!
I started out on a night bus headed for Osaka on my way to Hiroshima the following day. Little did I know that my night bus had been exchanged for a sweat-box on wheels. My hopes of catching 7 hours of comfortable sleep were quickly dashed. After arriving at Osaka and finding some breakfast, I will admit to succumbing to the unholy glow of the golden arches and indulging in McDonalds’ breakfast, I headed to Osaka Castle. Being a student of Japanese history I had long heard of the spectacle that is Osaka-jyo. Built in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a “maverick” (curse you Palin for ruining that word) in Japanese history so to say, the castle was finally conquered by the ultimate unifier of Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu, in 1615. The castle itself is simply superb, and the sloping outer walls are a marvel of martial engineering. I guess what I am trying to say is “If you are even in Osaka, drop by for a visit.” I managed to kill the next few hours just roaming around Osaka. From what I saw, it might just turn in to a trip all to itself quite soon. More fodder for the hungry blog.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
There seems to be no shortage of endurance races on Sado. Over the past 2 weekends,I've taken part in 2 ekidens; distance relay events of varying distances normally composed of 5 or 6 man teams. I was able to run the All Sado and the Boka Ekiden. Ekidens are held all over Japan and Sado has several itself. The Sado Ekiden drew 24 5 man teams. The distances for each of the 5 legs were: 6k, 10k, 8k, 8k, and 10k. I ran the second leg with the Sado Triathlon Club A team. I was able to post a decent time of 36 minutes but the real show was the high school senior and the 51 year old triathlon champion that ran the 10k in 32 minutes. Amazing show!
The Boka Ekiden, sponsored by the Firefighters of Southern Sado, was held last Sunday. In a bit of meteorological irony it rained throughout, so the brave men in the red trucks had little chance of being called back to work. I only had to run 4k this time as this was more of a “sprint ekiden”. Since the course was very close to my home town of Hamochi, a few people on the sides cheered for me by name! Never expected that would happen in Japan. I thankfully did not hear anyone cheer "Go Whitey!" My team finished 2nd overall and we each got a 6-pack of beer for our prize. Don't worry, the high school team got sports drinks and coffee. I’m sad to see this racing season go but I’m sure the rest will be easy to get used to. (The picture is one of my friend Ito passing the relay band off for our team)
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Last Sunday marked my biggest and longest race in Japan, the Niigata Half Marathon. I signed up for this race only 2 weeks after I got to Japan, so I was really excited to finally see it come around. However, I was not happy when an odd pain in my right foot that had me limping came around just 3 days before the race. Despite my best efforts to alleviate this mysterious ache, it persisted right up to race day. Although the pain had gotten steadily more bearable it was still noticeable when I walked. After a 20 minute warm-up jog I surmised that racing was not going to hurt it any worse. However, in convincing myself of that statement, I had to remember the subtleties contained in its meaning: Not hurting it any worse did not mean it was not going to hurt. I could only smile and say, “No one ever said 13 miles was going to be painless.” I was quite strong for the first half of the race, but as my body began to wear from the effort it became harder for my mind to overcome the pain in my foot. My pace dropped precipitously over the last 5 kilometers. I finished in a time of 1.30.23, a full 10 minutes off my goal, but I was proud of my effort considering that I had contemplated not even running the race only hours before starting it. I will be taking place in a 2 distance relay events this month, so I should be able to supply my wonderful readers with more running stories very soon. Hopefully they will not include prefaces about hobbling.