Monday, May 31, 2010

Busy but Fun Spring Days

After mom went home, we had one last day to spend in Tokyo on May 9th. We started by driving to the Sumo arena, parking nearby, and buying tickets for the show. Since it was the first day, Mom missed out unfortunately, and tickets were mostly sold out. Once secured, we went to Ginza to grab that cool looking buffet we saw the night before with Mervin.

For $10 each, we had our own BBQ on the table, and a huge selection of meats to throw on it. Knowing prices in Japan, we easily got our monies worth, as each plate we brought back was easily worth over $10 each. It was really busy, but a good experience. I don’t think I’ve been in a buffet that big or that busy before, but the time limit is still a bit strange to me. It’s good that we eat fast and get the most out of it.

Mervin went home after, so Ann and I went to watch Sumo. If you read my post last time I went, it would be a lot like that; big dudes pushing and shoving. It was still exciting and entertaining, and here is a video of easily the fattest sumo there; you can hear Ann screaming, and the dude has his massive boobs punched ^_^

We had lots of fun, and Ann really got into it. As the matches got to higher levels, more advertisements scrolled out until finally the Yokozuna’s match, when a dozen McDonalds adds were paraded around the sacred circle. This was a rare time when there was only one Yokozuna, as the other one was forced into early retirement for getting drunk at a bar and punching some old guy that was yelling at him or something; imagine if they did that sort of thing with sports back home.

But anyways, after the show we paid for parking, which turned out to be over $40. That was a depressing change of events, but was very slightly consoled by driving through the heart of Tokyo while not taking the expensive “express” ways. The first hour or so was fun, and somehow we were making good progress. According to our little map, we were on a fairly main road, and our path home seemed straightforward.

Unfortunately, ‘accurate’ maps are quite rare to come by, and ours was grossly out of scale. This happens to be my biggest problem with subway maps too, as some stations can be kilometers away from each other, while some, like in Ginza, have atleast a dozen different stations in a 1.5 kilometer radius. Long story short, we got lost for hours in some town outside Tokyo, so much as driving in circles around the Interchange parking area but not being able to enter it before finally finding an entrance much later. We got home quite late.

Moving along with annoyances aside, it was an experience, with good and bad mixed together making it more authentic maybe. The week went along well I assume, though it was weeks ago and I hardly remember it now. I do know that I started teaching my Wednesday night class again to adults, and I have my 4th one coming up this week to let you know how much time has passed…

What can I say; Ann leaves in 2 weeks, and having fun with her in that time is a much higher priority than writing these stories. We have been very busy, and enjoying every minute. I remember now, that it was Ann’s birthday on May 11th. I had been trying to feel out a nice present for her, but she picked up on my soft questions easily, and seemed really reluctant to take much of anything; I was already giving her so much in this Japanese adventure for her. Fair enough. Instead, I got her some cake from a local bakery, cooked her a nice supper with fish, had champagne (her first time), and watched a movie together. It was a quiet birthday, but still memorable and sweet.

That weekend, May 15th/16th, we went on a road trip up north for an Adventure day not unlike what I experienced last year. Unfortunately, Ann’s knee is still giving her problems from that Skiing accident, so we didn’t do canyoning that first day. Instead, we had the (little advertised) kayaking alternative. Since nobody knew about it, it was practically a private excursion for us.

A New Zealand fellow with his Japanese wife and 5-year-old daughter would be our guides. They were exceptionally interesting and very kind. Our kayaking trip was out on a little lake for 2 hours. It was open top, so we didn’t need to take the ‘flip’ training; ie how to recover from being upside down without drowning, you could just swim out. They took many photos, all of which they posted for free on their website. If you have time, take a look, and try to absorb the beautiful surroundings we admired for hours.

It was a nice, leisurely paddle with good conversation. When we reached the end near a waterfall, we all sat down for a break to eat biscuits and tea. The guy told me his wife started this kayak/canoe company as a way to pass the time, but now it was making more money than his job; I think that’s ok, things worked out good for his family that way.

That night we all got together and had a BBQ, much like last years. I still hate charcoal. So while everyone was hungry and waiting an hour for the useless stuff to finally get warm, I went up and grabbed a hot dog from a superior gas like I did last year. I had to promise not to tell anyone else and start a riot (like last year) and I could only have one before they made the grill exclusive for another party.

I didn’t mind too much, as I suffered most of the weekend from heartburn, as my weight hit the tipping point of around 105 kg, when I can feel my high blood pressure and heartburn constantly. It was time to get serious about a diet, once the weekend was over of course. I didn’t have much to drink, and I didn’t grab too much from the grill, although Ann and Richard were good about making sure everyone got food, as opposed to the vultures feeding the most. Again, I hate the style where people sit around and pick off the grill before the chef thinks it’s done; maybe it’s just me.

In the morning it was time for some White Water Rafting. There was just a group of 5 of us, as most people had done it the day before, or were out paragliding today; something I was too heavy to do. I didn’t mind, I absolutely love white water rafting, and suggest it for everyone to try.

The water was cold, but our spirits were high. We ran the same course as last year and had an amazing time. We all jumped into the lake during a calm spot and splashed around for the camera they brought to film promotional materials. We hung off the side screaming to Ann to help us in comical fashions, and she responded by turning around, and jumping into the lake herself ^_^ The wetsuits really help to keep in body temperatures. The water was especially high from the spring melt.

We got into rivalries with other boats like last year, splashing each other as desired. There were groups of university students from Tokyo near the river, making sketches for their art class or something. We ran into a group of snobby girls eating ice cream that didn’t say hi back, and the boat behind us took liberty in splashing them with cold water. There was an older couple nearby watching, and I’ll never forget how happy that old guy looked to see that. He stood up and laughed loudly while pointing. I joined him and laughed uncontrollably for 5 minutes; that boat contained my heroes.

What am amazing ride, Ann loved it too. Our guide was really cool too, telling jokes and leading us on strange paths, like paddling hard straight into large rocks so we would get soaked, or pinning us under a frozen waterfall until I got a headache from the cold water. What an awesome experience.

The only downer, like last year, was the photo company. They updated their policy since last year’s loud and drunken revolt at the insultingly high prices. It was still bad, and in some ways worse, so we didn’t get any pictures at all. Please look at the (expensive) ones we bought from last year, and picture it a bit different if you need an idea.

We went for Ramen, and although I wasn’t 'hungry', it was no problem putting that large bowl of noodles away. This was when I really got serious though, as my main diet is simply ‘portion control’. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry basically, and stop when you are.

I think it wasn’t even 2 days later when we went for sushi. I know Ann was joking around by offering me cake, but my resolve was absolute. I was damn proud of myself when we left later, as I only ate 7 plates as opposed to my normal 12 or so. I was going to lose weight, and that was that. By the time Friday came, I had lost 3kg.

Those early pounds are always easy to lose though, and I’m glad the heartburn has stopped. Of course it’s still a struggle even now, but I know my stomach has shrunk a lot. During the week Ann wanted to join me, and started cooking more ‘diet’ food. She really is an amazing cook, and it’s always a delight to eat what she’s made.

The next Saturday, the 22nd now, there was a large event in Ina near the Onsen. I had stayed there before in the cabins for a block party a couple years back, and this day we were having a “NagaYes” event (a play on words from Nagano). The various blocks host these events, and the last one was ours; perhaps you remember the last one I attended with the sushi eating contest, or the one with the bowling.

The event was a “triathlon” containing an obstacle course, mallet golf, and poker. I started our group off with a bang jumping over logs in the ground. There were various events, and our block had enough people that my participation wasn’t required more than once. Ann even had a shot running over some moving logs on a bridge. In the end though, another block had the best time, but we all had fun screwing around in the beautiful park, enjoying the sunny day.

We took a break for lunch, but I ‘wasn’t hungry’ by definition, and had to pass on the amazing hamburgers they were selling; I would be back for one at suppertime when I ‘was hungry’. We gathered in the afternoon and played mallet golf in random groups. I was in the only 3-person group, but it was ok since we struggled quite a bit.

Go figure that mallet golf is more dangerous than recklessly cruising through an obstacle course; I rolled my ankle on one of the earlier holes as the ground was little more than well-traversed paths through a jungle, and I was busy writing down scores while walking. I tied my shoelaces tighter though, and the pain went away in ½ hour or so. In 18 holes, I shot a 92 game, maybe 20 over par.

It was just good fun. Chris and Molly were in my group, and Chris was dressed like a raccoon. He bought the suit a while ago, as after many adventures, he figured this would be its last. Funnily enough, there were two cotton testicles attached to it, and earlier a little boy ripped one off; we had attracted a number of crowds during our obstacle course fiasco. Needless to say, countless road kill/poaching jokes were made at his expense.

Ann did well too, and had so much fun; she would really like to go again before returning home… perhaps we can do that tonight if there is time. It took about 2 hours for the 18 holes, and it wasn’t very busy. When older groups went through though, they went FAST. These older couples were pros, and we took pointers.

After the game, I grabbed that amazing burger, while Ann got some cooked sausage. How they served it though, was by suspending it on a metal coil, and giving you a pair of kitchen scissors to cut off pieces. Quite odd when you think about it, but it was delicious regardless.

I went home with Ann to pick up my video games and Onsen gear, and we returned to join the festivities. I wasn’t drinking in part because of the diet, and because we were going to wake up early the next day for a road trip. We had eaten already which was good, as they were using the ridiculous charcoal again to BBQ… to be fair you don’t have much of a choice in Japan, I still remember when I searched for hours in many stores for a gas grill.

I set up the games, got out some poker chips (fake money coins, since finding real chips is nearly impossible), and went to the Onsen to relax for over an hour. Crazy Ann however started drinking before getting into the hot water. We had found a delicious drink; Pineapple Chu-Hi (Japanese alcohol). Sure it can in a small can, but it was worth it.

She didn’t stop there though. Ike had a huge present for everyone at the party. A friend of his in his hometown owned a restaurant. Some beer ‘expired’ and it was illegal for him to sell. Long story short, he got over $200 of free beer, and after a month of trying to drink it himself, it was deemed impossible. Enter the block party. After that Chu-Hi, she had only one drink, that lovely “Orion” from Okinawa (I’m all about trying to have new and different experiences). After that, she had one of the big bottles from Ike; these things are maybe 3 beers each. She finished 2 of those, and a Coors, which she hated.

I could tell she was at her limit though, and cut her off, but not before everyone had a wonderful evening. I actually get tired of poker after one hour and didn’t play like a lot of people, but there were video games, card games, and many great people to talk to. For example, we made plans to stay at Ashley’s this weekend while doing an English camp like last year.

But I had to take Ann home before things went downhill. I made sure she drank water before passing out, and had a basin nearby in case she needed it; she didn't. She actually got the first hangover in her life, but took it like a pro.

We got up early and I made breakfast. Thanks to tests at school I had holidays on Monday and Tuesday, and despite the pouring rain outside, we started the 650 km drive to Hiroshima.

"Life is the sum of all your choices. " -Albert Camus


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