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Monday, 29 September 2014

Hong Kong


I went on a last minute holiday to Hong Kong with Grace and Addie, (friends I made studying in Bristol). It was pretty amazing that we managed to meet up, Grace flew over from Delhi, and I, Tokyo. We stayed at her very nice apartment aka. childhood home. We ate some amazing local food and got to hang out with Addie's parents who were very chill. We also got to see a lot of Jess, Addies best mate who we had met before in Bristol. We went shopping, hiked up a mountain to an infinity pool, went to a roof-top bar over-looking the city, went to the market at Stan Lee, took a crap load of different forms of transport, trains, ferries, taxis, minibuses, you name it. 

heres some piccie pics:


There's a One Piece ship in the middle of Hong Kong time square:




Jess (left side) is Addie's best friend from Hong Kong, she's frikin awesome just to clarify.


Me and Grace outside the front of Addie's apartment:

Let's go on an adventure:

At the top of a mountain, on the side of an infinity pool:



Addie and z, my hair at it's shortest in my entire life:



I had a personalised t-shirt printed:

Addie's parents were amazing. They drove us around, showed us the sights, took us for amazing meals, let us stay with them at their very very nice apartment and even took us for dinner one night at the yauht club. I love them. Dominic and Irene rock my world.



Dim sum:


The best flights I could find had a stop over in Taipei:

car-venture

Hey, this car is stopped at a red light. I guess that means I should climb in


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Gunma weekend

Photos at the bottom:

I just came back from a sweet-as weekend.

I went with Riles, Robbie, Tiff, Mac and Randy to Minakami, Gunma for a "JET Adventure Mixer". We did everything through the Canyons Japan company. AWESOME. Drove down the night before which turned out to be a good call. Takes three hours to get there from Mito. 

On Saturday we woke up early for Canyoning. We had to wear so much stuff, two layers of wet-suit, special shoes and socks, special gloves, life coat thing, helmet.... got loaded up in a mini-bus, taken to the "nature spot" and went on our very well planned out, over-protected "adventure" with many guides holding our hands the whole time. What an adrenaline rush.

Despite my sarcasm, I was a massive baby. However, about half way through I took a sneaky wee in my wet-suit (ignoring their warnings not to) and that managed to calm me down. We went back, had the best burger of my life and then got ready for rafting. 

Rafting was my favourite part of the day, I for sure enjoyed it waaaay more than canyoning, but its probably because the water-level was particularly low, so the water was slow-moving and there wasn't anything rapid about it. It was more of a leisurely boat ride with paddles and an Australian guide who I was able to mock for the entirety of the trip. Also there were people bungee-jumping over-head, so that was really cool to watch. Being in a raft looking up and being able to watch someone bungee jump about 20 meters in front of you. From this I learnt that I don't ever want to go bungee jumping. Ever...sky-diving, maybe. 

There was a point where they turned one of the rafts up-side down on the side of the river and we could use it like a trampoline and dive into the water. Proud to say I managed to do a front flip into the water. The trick to it, which I learnt from my raft instructor is to "try kiss your bum"... useful to know. Riley took a bad fall, landing on her ankle all funny, and was pretty much out of action for the remainder of the weekend. 

When we got back there was a lot of showering and wet-suit peeling off, changing and relaxing. In the evening was a big DIY BBQ, which seemed like a terrible idea at the time, but in retrospect it was a good "bonding" experience, as we all had to work together to try cook the minimal amount of food we were given. There were 4 bbq's going, I didn't think I knew much about making a bbq, but I realised that I knew waaaay more about it than a lot of the people there, so I ended up being a sort of director for one of the bbq's, it felt pretty good giving people orders, and having them follow without question, stunned at my brilliant confidence and cowering at my fierce leadership skills (possible exaggeration? never). 

A reggae band played, drinks were drunk, dancing occurred, one man tried to go for a swim on a pool table to which one of the guides working at the lodge's response was "please stop, this is how the pool table got broken two weeks ago". We got to know some of the Gunma JET's which was good. First time I've met normal JET's from another prefecture. It seems they have a pretty fun crew... well, disregarding the obvious load of freaks and geeks sprinkled about, an inevitability in Japan gaijin life, but on the whole I was medium to somewhat impressed. 

I actually love meeting groups of JET's from other prefectures, its like peering into a parallel universe of what life might have been if I was placed elsewhere. 

On the Sunday I went with Riley, Robbie and Tiff to an incredible Onsen. The Takaragawa Onsen in Gunma is one of the most famous Onsens in Japan. It was so beautiful, all outdoors and mixed, meaning we had to cover up with towels on (well, the women did...), very relaxing. The four of us had a chilled road-trip getting home, listening to Elton John, Frankie Valli and a bunch of other old-school stuff.. 

Another great weekend adventure, brought to you by Japan. Sayonara suckers xx 





Monday, 22 September 2014

the drowned shrimp

Zara and Cass went to an amazing music festival at the Saitama Super Arena.


Mega かわいいですよ:




見だけ:


新し友達:


Cas fell in love:


だれと??:



Sponsored by:



This guy:


Met Taka;


rode a drowned shrimp;




Cass was unaware of the different between AM and PM. But that's to be expected of someone from Florida. I saw some of the greatest live bands in, well, maybe someone elses life. 


An open letter to Japan

To Japan,

I know you mean well, but please stop this madness. I am trying to take life seriously, exercise regularly, eat well, get enough sleep and keep things generally together. However, you have not stopped throwing fun ridiculousness in my direction and it is getting out of hand. How am I supposed to do my laundry when you keep me up until 4am doing karaoke on a regular basis? I have had no time to be sad, wallow or even feel sorry for myself, because you are so persistent. This selfish behaviour must cease, before my happiness level reaches that of an unhealthy level. You are putting me into a state where my cheeks might be stuck to my ears in a permanent grin. This is a serious risk, and because of it, I am almost worried about my future physical appearance. I have not had time to write about all the fun wonderful things happening on a weekly basis, as you suddenly and quite arrogantly busy me with the next lot of it. This again is a terrible scenario, how will I possibly remember all of the best memories of my #bestlifeever when you don't even allow me that?

keep up the good work. You selfish beast.

Z


Monday, 15 September 2014

tokyo tokyo tokyo

This is reference to last weekend, not this one... unfortunately I'm behind in my blog keeping, so I am posting about two Tokyo weekends in one day.

However:

       "A weekend spent in Tokyo is worth two in Ibaraki"

                                            - Anon

I had a great Tokyo weekend, one to restore my faith in this place and remind me of how great it is to be here.

It consisted of the best gig I've yet been to, Jiro's, free champagne down Omote-Sando and a pizza with honey on it. 

Need I elaborate? Would it be much of a blog if I didn't? Hey, after a year and over a hundred posts, this gets very tedious. I'll return to this space this afternoon when I feel more alive.

On the Friday night I went to a great gig, by Anchorsong and a few other very awesome bands. 

saturday: Jiros - the restaurant. The most expensive sushi meal I have ever had.

Saturday night: Tokyo Shopping night out, free champagne all down Omote-Sando, and two gay guys to enjoy it with. Naturally ending up in Nichome. 

All in all, it was a weekend that ended in a handshake. 

3 day weekender

3 days of not changing my clothes. impromptu night at the duck after a late finishing Japanese class and a full day of work, followed by a JET meeting in Mito, gotta love them. Although I always end up getting way too hyperactive. 45 friends in one room and suddenly being able to be yourself, no holding back, too much to handle.

This of course is always followed by a night at the duck, that's 2 in a row for those of you counting. This means two nights in a row of sleeping on a futon round Robbie's. Saturday morning I met some of the boys down at the batting cages and had some therapeutic swings. Found out my new favourite Tskuba JET, Derek (or Jeremy for arguments sake) has one leg longer than the other. 

I finally had the chance to go home and take a much needed shower after this. Met Randy on the beach for a run, something I've been wanting to do since I discovered running the start of this year. barefoot in the sand. Glorious. Train into Mito, again, to meet a larger group for a tempura dinner. There was 8 of us, I will not do the boring task of listing them off. Two hours of karaoke. No nomihoedie, thank god. 

Sunday headed down to Ishioka for an incredible matsuri. Definitely the best one I've ever attended. Huge dragon floats, portable shrines, the drums, the kimonos, and about 6000 yen spent on every type of festival food I could get my hands on.  I won a turtle named it Sharon Van Terrapin. 

Monday I went to a music festival with Cassidy in the Saitama Stadium 2002. AMAZING. The best day so far. Pictures to come. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Interactive forum and Tsukuba

Robbie and I drove down from Mito to Tsukuba on Thursday after work. We were heading down for the Interactive Forum, a competition that I wouldn't wish even upon my worst enemies to participate in.

After a year of living in Ibaraki I had never been to Tsukuba, the second biggest city in the prefecture. Tsukuba is largely a university town, with many foreign students, a lot of modern architecture and actually good restaurants... so, it felt pretty out of place to the rest of the prefecture. I also realised that those who were placed in Tsukuba got a very deal. The Tsukuba express takes 45 minutes to get into Ueno, Tokyo. Much better than my usual 2 hour bus ride.

-Thursday night was an unexpected treat. We went on a mini bar crawl (and by that I mean 2 bars) with Josh Grover and one of the new Tsukuba JETs Jeremy (which might be pronounced as 'Derek', but at this point in life who can really tell?). Rachel (New Zealander, fake tits) came with a random Italian dude and we all had a pretty nice time. We left at around 1, got some rest and were up bright and early to judge the competition.

- Friday: the day of the competition. The 'Interactive Forum' is the strangest English language themed event I've ever witnessed. The 'interactions' are as far from a natural English conversation as you could possibly get. Groups of three junior high school students being forced to fake an enthusiastic conversation about... whatever, with a 5 minute time limit, and being watched by two judges. Then the students with the highest scores had to have another 'conversation' on a stage in front of a team of parents/teachers and judges. You could smell the nerves.

- the worst/most cringe part of the day was a group karaoke session in which everyone at the competition had to sing the most annoying song of this year, frozen's "let it go".

Let me just point out that it has taken me a year to discover the best hang over cure in Japan. Pocari Sweat. Love that stuff...now that I've gotten used to its weird medicinal taste.

I ended up staying in Tsukuba that night, after cancelling plans to go to Tokyo. This was certainly the best decision I had made all week. A great posse gathered for what turned out to be an exceptionally fun, ridiculous night at a local student bar. We danced all night with Eastern-Europeans, we met the Polish version of Robbie, and a beautiful yet clearly mental Polish PHD student tried to kidnap me on the back of her mamachari. We just so happened to pass a combini where a hungry, yet sobouring John Dicks was leaving and I encouraged her to pull over to say hi.

We ended up in the mini-van of the bar-owner back to Josh's. What customer service. A strange guy who had stuck with us since the Interactive forum, whom none of us really knew, yet could collectively tell was very strange, with an indistinguishable air of desperation had stayed with us the whole night. Although it was no earlier than 4am that we passed out on the futons that we had oh so smartly laid out beforehand -  When I woke desperate for a glass of water a couple hours later he had already disappeared. Naturally I checked to see if my ipad mini was still there. It was.

The next day I took the train back to northern Ibaraki with Tommy. I then went round to his to stay the night, we were supposed to stay up all night gossiping and watching movies, but I was out cold by 10.

On Sunday we filmed each other doing the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, and then went for a meal at Denny's.