Thursday, January 28, 2010


Keeping the experimental theme going with dinners this week, I tried a lasagne (without a recipe).

It won't win any contests for presentation, but the sucker tasted insane!!

(or maybe I was just super hungry after waiting so long for it to cook...:0 )

On another note, big CONGRATS to HIROTO ARAI making the final of the ISA U16 men's and representing Japan. And of course, GABRIEL MEDINA who won the ISA U18 men's with an almost perfect score and blowing minds with his aerial antics and power carves.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

TV addict?

While Aiko's away this week I thought it would be a good chance to watch some DVDs so I went down to the local store and found they had a campaign renting DVDs for $1 each!! For $12 I rented the TV drama "24 - Season 7".Each night after work I've been working my way through them 1 by 1. It's pretty intense and hard to pull the plug. Last night I was up until almost 1am watching it! BAKA!!!!
And every morning I've been checking in with the ISA World Junior Surfing Champs being held at South Piha in Auckland, NZ. The action has been going off with one little Japanese kid, Hiroto Arai, blowing up in the Under 16s and a Brazilian, Gabriel 'the funky called' Medina, just going nuts in the Under 18s. These kids are MENTAL. Support the kids and check 'em out on the link above. GO NZ/JAPAN!!

Righto, gotta get my butt of the couch! I'm off for a run.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Spring Rolls for Dinner

I'm fending for myself this week so thought I'd take the chance to try something new. Friends have made these for me in the past and I love them!!!By the looks of it, as easy as 1,2,3....4 (it was, too)
The goods: mince, diced onion and shimeji mushrooms pan-fried with Taco Seasoning, cheese, sheets to wrap, and salsa to dip along with a fry pan and oil. Simple
Filling placed and set to roll...1,2,3....4
10 Spring Rolls folded and about to take a dip
cooking....and viola! Spring Rolls for Dinner. Big thanks also to my friends Kumika, for the 'Hijiki & Tuna Salad', and Ken, for the Coronas to wash it down with!!! Cher cher everyone as they say in EnZed (NZ)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Yatta!! Wheels!!

Finally laid down the cash and picked up my new ride!!
Toyota Estima Aeras (T-Model) 2400

Super stoked and far and away the nicest car I've ever owned!! Plenty of space to lay down the back seats for camping/surf trip, to transport the hula team to there events or to pick up my friends/family and their kids from the airport.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another run...

Belted out another one today. A little shorter than the first one as I ran up the river along a walking track instead of along the beach. Still, feeling a bit better. Had a good stretch before I headed out as I am still a bit stiff, which no doubt helped. Wish there were waves though and then I'd have an excuse not to run...hahaha. I'll be able to challenge my little sis any time soon if her knee is up to it. Heal up sis!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

MATA??? (again???)

Japanese love their concrete.
It's the scourge of the Japanese coastline.
When will it end????

Another boatload dumped in the ocean again today :(

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Inspired or Foolish?


When there's no surf I seem to have time on my hands and with little else to do before work I thought "Why not?"

The weather was out of the blue with a warm sunny and very welcome unseasonal 18 degrees!! That combined with some recent inspiration from a variety of sources including;
  1. seeing a picture of Ian, a friend from uni days, competing in the Wanaka Half Ironman,
  2. some students commenting on my 'soft' waistline,
  3. a work colleague doing the hard yards on his bike, and
  4. a television commercial depicting a self conscious middle-aged man sucking his guts in in a gym locker
All of which was enough to get me off my butt. It has been ages since I last went for a run...and it told
8.6km (approx) and 46:45mins later and I might regret that impulse.

BTW, check out this cool website which allows you to plot trips and calculates the distances for you. It's awesome for runners and the like FREEMAPTOOLS

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Where The Wild Things Are

Ever wondered what happened to that toothbrush or hair tie? Wonder no more!! Aiko solved the mystery...hahaha

New Passport

Finally had a free Monday which wasn't a public holiday, so it was into Chiba and the Immigration Office to transfer my Visa stamps from the old passport to the new one. Apparently it is quite a simple process simply requiring both passports and your 'Alien Registration' card issued by the local City Office. However, if you've ever dealt with Japanese Governmental Offices, they're much like anywhere else and often spring a surprise on you. This time though I must've been lucky as it went very smoothly.

I have to say a HUGE thank you to Ko-chan and Kayo for lending me there car. I'm still without wheels but not for much longer!!!!

This was one sweet (hybrid) ride!!!

We also swung by Ikea, a furniture outlet, to check dining tables and clocks, as well as Costco, an American food warehouse in Makuhari, where we picked up a few treats.

Blueberry muffins with my morning coffee today.....Mmm, I could eat these everyday....

House Party

We had some friends around for dinner and a few drinks on Sunday. It was our chance to 'break-in' the new place. Our new place is far more user friendly as far as having friends come visit. There's plenty of parking out front and a swimming pool which the kids will dig in summer I'm sure!

Thanks to everyone that came and all the fantastic food and drinks.

Ko-chan, seated with the yellow cap, is a chef at the hotel where we married and whipped up a couple of really good dishes including some A-5 grade (the top in Japan) Roast Beef!!!!!

Yashi, Jun's boy, is 2 later this month and was running around exploring all evening. He's such a cool kid and fun to hang out with. I can only imagine what my sister's boy, Ben, is like.....a ball of mischief, energy and laughs if Yashi is anything to go by.

Since the first party went so well, I'm looking forward to #2.....bring it on!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wellington, NZ

It's been small and cold here as far as surf goes since X'mas but it seems as though everywhere else has had waves!! Hawaii has been off the radar with those same swells hitting California and by the looks of these pics (from Mark Gee c/o windy Wellington has had it's fair share, too.
Lyall Bay, Wgtn, going off.A pulled back view with the wave breaking off the Wall by the international airport runway.

Fingers crossed we get some decent waves soon

Monday, January 11, 2010

From Tomoko

This is a Christmas card I received from a student of mine, Tomoko. She really loves her art and has quite a talent as you can see. She has entered competitions to design the city logo as well as designing a memorial T-shirt for one of the local elementary schools before it merged to form Nagasa School. I was super happy to find it in my post box and really appreciate the extra effort she went to to decorate the envelope.

Thanks Tomoko!
Keep up the great effort with your art and studies in 2010!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Hiroshima is one of those cities that everyone is familiar with due to the horrific circumstances of that fateful Atomic bomb on August 6th, 1945, where it became the world's first Atomic Bomb target. As such, many friends often inquire as to whether or not I'd been there to see things first-hand. So it was with these motivating factors and rumours of the beauty of Miyajima that the plan to go was hatched.

I thought that I'd give you a bit of background info into the city and the sights, aided by my travel worn Lonely Planet Japan guide book with the hope of helping you out if you ever plan to visit yourself. It's kinda long, so I hope you don't get too bored :)

Hiroshima's city history dates back to 1589 when the feudal lord of the time, Mori Terumoto, named the city and built his castle, the remains of which were destroyed by the A-Bomb and thus was rebuilt in 1958 where it stands tall and proud today just a few blocks from the A-Bomb's epicenter.

Hiroshima has long been a bustling center for trade and was built on a series of sandy isles at the mouth of the Otagawa River as it enters the Inland Sea. It also boasts a great reputation for seafood, notably the oysters which are farmed in the waters surrounding the area.

These days it has a bustling population of just over a million people but remains a very compact city with one of the few extensive remaining tram/street car services in Japan that'll get you to all the main points of interest.

(If you're traveling there, I'd recommend getting a 2-day tram pass which includes the return ferry to Miyajima and the return Gondola to the top of Mt. Misen as well as endless tram rides for that 48 hour costly mistakes)

There are two must-see sights for any foreigner, or Japanese for that matter, visiting the area. The first is the Atomic Bomb Dome (Gembaku Domu) and the Peace Memorial Park and Museum. Amid some controversy, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in December 1996. Located just to the west of the main city center by the T-shaped Aioi Bridge on Aioi Dori, the propped up ruins of the A-Bomb Dome, one of the only buildings left standing following the Bomb blast and rampant fires that followed, remain as a reminder to the tragedy that occurred.
The number of people that perished in this one simple act is unfathomable. Japanese were not the only ones to suffer, but what is less known is that approximately 1 in 10 of the victims were Koreans.
Across the river, a Peace Memorial Park has been established with a Museum which gives one an alarmingly detailed description of events leading up to the bomb and the hardships of victims of all ages. It is very informative and well worth the 50cent admission and forking out a little extra for the English headphones which give a rundown in English of everything. The park also includes a Children's Peace Memorial where children the world over send folded origami cranes in a plea to end nuclear weapon proliferation. A flame burns with the hope that one day all nuclear weapons will be destroyed, at which point the flame will be extinguished. The Mayors of Hiroshima City are constantly writing to the leaders of the world showing dismay at further weapons testing and hounding them for their desire for a nuclear free world.

The second sight, one of the three "Best Views" in Japan, is the Itsukushima-jinja on Miyajima Island. From Hiroshima take the tram to Miyajima Port, then it's a quick 10 minute ferry ride and short walk along the waterfront to the shrine. The shrine is unique in that it is built on stilts above the water (on high-tide) and has a floating Torii or gate in the middle of the small bay which is extremely picturesque and often used as the face of tourism both domestically by JR and internationally, hence the large numbers of foreigners and the foreigner friendly signs, information and maps. The shrine itself is not all the island has to offer. There is a 5-storey Pagoda, a huge historical Pavilion called Senjo-kaku, a Maple tree grove that attracts thousands in autumn with the colourful leaves, tame deer walking fearlessly among the tourists and the tracks and trails of Mt. Misen with wonderful views from the summit and very interesting rocky outcrops. (I'd advise you to take the gondola, especially in winter or summer to avoid the steep climb unless that's what you're into)

Finally, what does it all cost?

Well, from Tokyo a return non-reserved seat on the Nozomi Shinkansen will cost about ¥36,000. The 2-day tram/ferry/gondola pass is ¥2,000 and a cheap hotel near Hiroshima Station start from about ¥3,000 per person per night including breakfast. So throw in meals and you're looking at something like ¥45,000 for a two day/one night whirlwind tour. It's not cheap, but hey, you only live once!

For those traveling from overseas, Japan Rail (JR) offers a railpass (I think for 1 week??) which enables you to use JR trains for the one initial ticket price which is definitely good to save money.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Winter Vacation, X'mas & NY...

This year's winter vacation was action packed from the get go. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and today it's back to work. It'll be good to catch up with all the students and hear what they got up to over the break.

As for me, they say a picture tells a thousand words and I took a thousand pictures!!! You do the math!!! The following is a summary of events...(I tried to keep it short...hahaha)

Mt Fuji across Tokyo Bay
The "Nozomi" Shinkansen (Bullet Train)
Lunch on arrival. Hiroshima style "Okonomiyaki"
Hiroshima CastleThe A-Bomb Dome Hiroshima City lights showing the Trams running down the center of the street.
Wild deer greet Aiko as she disembarks the ferry to Miyajima
Itsukushima-jinja Torii, or "Floating" Torii, classified as one of the top three best views in Japan Miyajima is also famous for it's oysters!!

Osaka and Kobe
Aiko and her Grandmother about to eat in Korean Town in downtown Osaka
Nene-chan, my niece, and Aiko in Kobe
Me in front of the Kobe Port Tower. Kobe's waterfront resembles Yokohama a lot and even has a Chinatown, too.

Moving House
The new place
Above, the living room before we moved our stuff in. Below, me trying to figure out where everything will go!!A huge thank you to everyone that helped with the move. Without your help it would've been so much harder. Thanks especially to Komori-san and family, Shinya, Sei and the Nakashima family.

New Year
Sei and Aiko watching the New Year sunrise from the balcony
The first sunrise of 2010
This year's New Year coincided with a full moon and we were able to see the moon as it set over the hills from the back balcony.

Snowboarding @ Kawaba Ski Resort
All photos courtesy of Dave and Shu.
Perfect conditions!!! Blue skies and powder!!!Getting ready to hit the slopesEtsuko, Dave, Shinya and Me at the top
Me making my way down The crew after a superb day of boarding. (back) Shinya and Shu (front) Me, Dave and our host Motoki Ushiyama who runs a pro snowboard school and scored us deals on lift passes. Thanks everyone for a fantastic day!!!