Friday, May 29, 2009

Sick slide show of NZ

Watching this brings back great memories of surfing NZ's pristine coastline.

I surfed out front today after heavy rains last night which flushed the rivers and stunk up our beach with U.F.O.s (unidentified floating objects).

Was careful to gargle and clear out the ears in the shower afterwards!!

Dare to Dream????

Could it be the year of the Chiefs?

I've been tracking their progress all season and have faith in the boys to front up V's the Bulls this Saturday in the Super 14 Grand Final!!

It's been many long dogged seasons since the inception of this competition. Long ridiculed by mates from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, it feels great to get one over them this season and make it this far into unchartered territory.

I'll be watching from the edge of my seat (so I can see my tiny TV) here in Japan this Saturday evening keeping the neighbours awake as I cheer on the lads from the 'kato!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

4 Days of JPSA

The Japan Professional Surfers Association just wrapped up there 4 day stint in Kamogawa, the 2nd leg of their tour in 2009.

Jason Shibata, an Hawaiian with Japanese roots, took out the title for his first ever win on Japan soil in a very tough final with Izuki Tanaka (2nd), Teppei Tajima (3rd) and Darren Turner from Australia (4th).

I saw a bit of the action each morning before work and then got to see the finals on Sunday held in softish, but chest high, clean waves and very contestable. I caught up with Darren after the event and had a chat which was cool.

He used to live with good friends Rich and Nadia up in Ichinomiya until they bailed for the UK. He was full of life and super stoked on his new son and married life back on the Goldy, but obviously a little bummed that he couldn't find the waves out there to be more competitive in the final.

Got to hand it to Jason though, the guy was rippin'!!

Dave, the Hawaiian guy I work with had his BBQ down at the beach and all the Hawaiian contingent hung out after the contest for a bit before heading there own ways. dave whipped up some mean Tandori Chicken and killer Ginger Pork to go with Etsuko's Potato salad. Jason ate a bit before the final for some energy and hailed it as one of the key ingredients to his success!

(L-R:Dave Yamaya, Sei Nagai, Aiko & James, Nick Mita, Yuko Suzuki, Kekoa Uemura, Jason Suzuki, Jason Shibata)

They were all great guys and so grounded and humble. I only just meet most of them for the first time but felt like I had known them longer. Had to feel for Nick Mita, the guy popped his knee in a free surf after losing out in the contest and did his MCL!! I've done that before and it can be really debilitating and niggly as you hobble around on crutches for a week and slowly get it right again. Wish him a quick recovery!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sea Festa prep!

Each year, in the first weekend of June, the city of Kamogawa hosts a "Sea Festa" (predominantly focussed on Hula and Hawaii in general, but also including a surf contest). This year it will be held on the 6th and 7th. Aiko has danced on the main stage on several occasions in the past before taking a year of leave last year when she began studying hula in Hawaii. This year will be her group's debut!!!! It's all fairly low key but there's still a lot to do between now and then.

This weekend was a good chance to work on their skirts. Aiko had wanted to do something a little original and incorporate some of the more traditional aspects of the hula culture. After gathering a few bits of abandoned bamboo off the beach, we cleaned them up, searched for some classic patterns and set about carving some 'stamps' for printing the skirt material.

What we ended up with seemed to represent her group's lives here in Kamogawa and incorporates a wave pattern to symbolize the ocean and triangles which symbolize the mountains around Kamogawa. It's finished of with a sun and moon pattern which so often light up our sky with beautiful sunrises, sunsets and moon rises.

Each skirt requires 4m of material so the actual printing took a couple of hours.

The final picture is of the finished print!

What do you think?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm Da Man

How's this for a laugh.
A good mate of mine sent this along the other day.
I was wondering if he was trying to imply anything.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

大 PaNiC!!

Oh my God! I put a cat amongst the pigeons yesterday when I failed to locate my wallet.

I'd left it in a plastic bag from the supermarket after shopping as my boardies had no pockets. At the BBQ everything was pulled out and the bag remained (with the wallet in it) behind the front passengers seat in the car. As I was clearing out the coals from the fire, the girls started cleaning up and 'that' plastic bag was mistaken for being used for trash!!!

When I woke up Monday morning, I went to make coffee but there was no milk. I was all set to head off to the store when I tried to remember where I had left my wallet (with everything in it!! bar a lot of cash). I started rummaging through the car, realized that it may have been used for rubbish, then began rummaging through our trash can, but all to no avail.

By the way, Monday is trash collection day in my neighbourhood!!!

I woke Aiko and she told me that Sei had volunteered to take the rubbish as her condominium had a big communal waste collection area!

Yikes!! I was on the phone in a split second, but no answer. So I pedaled my bike as fast as I could go and tried Sei again on the phonewhen I got to her condominium. Luckily she answered and I told her my dilema. She was just on her way out for a surf so I was lucky to catch her.

We quickly rounded up one of the staff that had bagged all the rubbish and put it on the street side and between the three of us tracked it down. (pretty quickly fortunately)

I let out the biggest sigh of relief ever!

It stunk a bit of Kimchee, but no worries. I was just stoked to get it back before the rubbish collectors arrived.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Never leave your wallet in a supermarket bag in Japan! Or anywhere for that matter

Monday, May 11, 2009

¥¥ Fresh Produce ¥¥

Who ever said Japan was expensive must've lived in Tokyo. Today I went down to the local growers market/supermarket and picked these up for a grand total of only ¥1,268 (NZ@$20). Pretty reasonable, don't you think?
  • 5 carrots (¥100)
  • 4 bananas (¥268)
  • 10 organic eggs (¥200)
  • 5 tomatoes (¥300)
  • ginger (¥130)
  • 5 cucumbers (¥100)
  • 2 bags of spinach (¥90 each)
  • 1 bag of Japanese spinach (¥90)

Happy Sunday!!

With the weather forecast for sun and 28 degrees the decision was made at work on Saturday to BBQ. It's been awhile since I'd BBQ'd with Dave and his family, Etsuko and Mahina. A change of venue was proposed and with that in mind we settled on a grassy patch near the Marina. We were joined by a few friends and everyone had a good time by all accounts. Mahina had her little push car and was zooming all around. Aiko, Etsuko and Sei began collecting flowers for lei making and were joined by Mitsuki who thought it would make a top-notch Mother's Day present. (It went down very well with Kumika) And even Yashi joined in the fun and games running around with a beer bottle looking every bit like his Dad and Uncles.

Golden Week 2009

Well, this year it was decided that we would stick around town rather than brave the traffic congestion and try to save some coin!

At this time of year you'll always see 'koi no bori', colourful carp banners, as they are hoisted to celebrate Children's Day on the 5th of May.

It was a good chance to work on our small seasonal garden. In years past we've attempted to grow lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, egg plants, and green peppers. This year however, the strawberries are in and just beginning to ripen.

We're not the only ones planting things! The local farmers have all been busy getting their paddies flooded and rice planted.

Not much in the way of surf to start the holidays so Taro Taniuchi of Grace Surfboards offered me the use of his Stand Up Paddle board. I had never tried this before and it showed, but I had a hell of a great time trying to master it and ride a few waves. Standing over the water gives a whole new perspective and great view of the fish below! Aching legs the next 2 days though as it used muscles that haven't been used in a long time to keep balance.

Friends of ours recently built a new house on the banks of the Kamogawa River. Their friends from Tokyo were visiting and we all got together and BBQed 2 days back-to-back!
Awesome house and location. It really makes me envious with my current housing situation and lack of space...just need to win the lottery!

Drove to CostCo in Makuhari, a large warehouse style American supermarket chain, and stocked up on some essentials. got home and cooked some burgers for dinner. They made for some mean KAI!

A "mid-life crisis"??? Not sure but bought this retro(ish) style surfboard off friends of mine for next to nothing. It goes really well and is super fun in small waves. Aiko has taken to it like a fish to water and finds it easy to catch waves and turn. managed to get a snap of her out front at Seaside.


The BUNNY has arrived!!!
Super stoked when this little package arrived on my door step. Mum really came through and we devoured the lot!! Aiko wants more of the same next year if poss. The golden bunny was especially a hit! All the way from Switzerland (via New Zealand).


I visited the fabled Unajin restaurant in Wada with a student of mine, Yukio. He's Tomoko's cousin, who, by the way, is back living in Kamogawa after a short stint in Tokyo that didn't really work out .... Too far to the beach for Hokuto :)

I dined here with family as guests of Hokuto and Tomoko following my wedding.

On the menu was the river eel, from which the restaurant gains it's name and fame. Looked so good that I ate it all before realizing that I had the camera with me. Stupid!!

Anyway, I had the grilled eel on bamboo skewers with wasabi that was as delicious as always. Yukio ordered the same , only with a 'tare' or Japanese sweet marinate sauce. Both were killer!Also on the menu was 'yakitori' or BBQed chicken on skewers. We ate the wings (see pics) and also ordered some good ol' kumura fries with butter.Great spot for a night out with great hospitality from the staff and interesting unique Japanese styled rooms with collections of odds and ends

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Going Bush...

About 20 mins south of here is a small fishing village called Wada. It's better known as a "whaling" town, but it also has a waterfall called Kuro Taki and a series of hiking trails meandering through the hills behind the town.

On what was a picture perfect spring day with temperatures around 20 (and small waves on offer) we decided to finally go bush. I'd been talking about wanting to go up here and look around for the last 5 years or so but had never gotten around to it.At the entrance to the trails, there is a decent sized park suitable for a bit of backyard cricket or frisbee tossing. There was also a BBQ cooking area, a small flying fox and lots of colourful trees and flowers.After a quick 5 min walk along a quite stream, we came across the waterfall. It was very secluded, and although we came across several others hiking, it felt like we had the place to ourselves.Being my adventurous self, I wasn't satisfied with just 5 mins of hiking so we decided to push on and tackle the stairs and trail to the top of the hill. At the top there was a mountain cherry tree. Unfortunately, we were about a week late to capture the blossoms in all there glory. It was a decent view though and worth the walk although both of us suffered aching legs the following day...

Monday, May 4, 2009


Cherry Blossom season is upon us!!!! (well actually it was mid-April)
This generally a really beautiful time of year when all of the Sakura trees blossom. You can always find a nice tranquil spot somewhere to just lay down and relax.

However, this is not top of everyone's agenda with a lot of people opting for the "Hanami" party/picnic. It's not uncommon for company's new recruits to be sent to a nearby park to scout out a decent tree and lay claim to the surrounding area by placing a big picnic sheet. Co-workers follow later, once their work is complete for the day, and bring the food and drinks. lots of it!!

I've yet to join such a typical party but we often gather at friend's houses that are lucky enough to have a Cherry tree in their yard and we BBQ. Last year was at Shinya's, the plan for this year's was Jun's, but due to unforseen circumstances, we moved it to Dave's.

Good times had by all!

Attempt at a beard...

Pretty lame attempt. I was just beginning to get somewhere when I noticed a few strange (terrified?) looks from some of my younger students and thought better of it. Back to being clean-shaven for now, which will at least keep my mother pleased. Hats off to my brother-inlaw, he still wins hands down in the 'beard' category :)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Snow Boarding

Straight outta the warm climes of Hawaii, a week back at work and up the slopes for some snow boarding.
Dave had this sweet little deal sussed whereby if we bought a shinkensen ticket we got a heavily reduced day pass for one of the ski fields aligned with/owned by JR (Japan Rail). Anyway, 3 of us,

Dave, Shinya and Me decided to do it.
So, the "MISSION" began! It entailed the three of us getting up mighty early, before the crack of dawn, and leaving Kamogawa at about 3 am. Our first mission was to locate the JR parking building (underground) by the Tokyo station and the ticketing office where our electronic reservations would be confirmed and our tickets collected. this proved to be remarkably easy given the rabbit warren of streets that crisscross there way through downtown Tokyo. To celebrate this little achievement, shinya shuffled off to the Kiosk on the Shinkinsen platform and bought 3 big tall cans of Kirin's best. Nothing like a beer at 6am! Suprisingly, on the train, we were not alone. I think the only ones not drinking were kids!!!!!!

Once there, the snow was lightly falling and we changed into our gears. The base station has a hot spring attached for those not inclined for the thrill of adventure sports. At the top there was more snow and a bit of wind, but not too bad.

Everyone had a ball and plans are underway already for next years excursion. Hands up anyone that wants to join us....