I've uploaded footage from the last brass band concert on to youtube. It was probably our best concert so far and was made even better by the amazing taiko drummers that played with us that evening. We'll be giving a repeat performance in June, looking forward to it!
Last weekend my supervisor, Makihara sensei left Tanegashima for the mainland. I was sad to see him leave as when I first arrived here, he helped me out soo much. I was asked to make a banner so we could hold it up as he boarded the ferry for the big city. It only took me four days! (>_<)
In other news, my bike is now back on the road having bought new tyres a few days ago. I'll be posting lots more photos as I travel around the island. Stay posted!
Last Saturday the Brass Band played a magnificent concert in Nishinoomote, the big town to the north of the island. Very rarely do we play in this town so it was nice to attract a new audience. It was a collaboration with a taiko group (the huge traditional drums). They went on stage first and gave an incredibly energetic performance. Compared to these drums, physically, I have it easy playing the kit - their log like sticks dwarfing what seem like chopsticks in my hands!
The Brass Band played around six songs and during the final two, were joined by the taiko accompaniment. "Sing, Sing, Sing" and Ravel's "Bolero", which already have drum heavy arrangements were given a new lease of life as the thunder of taiko and snare drums filled the small concert hall. I traded solos with Nakano san, the taiko master, my jazz rhythms complementing the angular Japanese phrasings. It was brilliant and for a change, the audience went crazy. I hope we get a chance to do it all again soon!
As I was catching my breath after the encore, it suddenly dawned on me that I had to run a marathon the next day, arse. Waking up at 5:00 was a struggle, it would have been a lot harder if I had attended the previous night's obligitory post-gig drinking party! The bus ride to the start followed the course of the race and so we could see just how far we had to run, it was scary. I had ran a marathon earlier in the year and it was nice not knowing the route. This time I knew every turn and incline having cycled down the same roads many times. I guess that's good as you can pace yourself but a tad depressing, knowing how far you have to run. Yep, it was hard. I wanted to beat my previous time of 4:11 but finished at 4:17, nevermind! Crossing the finishing line, it was pure relief that I was feeling, relief that I didn't have to punish my feet any longer. The sense of achievement came later when the pain had subsided. And it felt great, my next marathon can only get easier!
So after a lot of training and rehearsing, I'm taking it easy. I've ordered new bike tyres so I'll hopefully be back on the road again soon - I'm keen to take lots of more photos of the island. This time of year is very busy in Japan, the planting of rice, the harvesting of sugar cane, filling in taxes and changing jobs. Teachers here change jobs every couple of years and this month I'll see many of my favourite colleagues leave. They helped me so much when I first arrived here so it'll be sad to see them go. Then again, I'm looking forward to the new first years in April, genki overload!
Above photo : My friends (L to R), Gushi, Anita, Mutsuko, Pete, Chie, Matt
Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas Holidays. I spent mine in Seoul and had a lovely time. Spending most of my time on the incredibly cheap subway, I was able to travel around a fair bit and see and do lots of things. Some of the highlights included trips to a wonderful zoo and aquarium, sampling the ridiculously spicy cuisine and visiting the Demilitarized Zone on the border separating South Korea with the secretive bods in the North. This was pretty scary, especially when visiting one of the tunnels dug by the North, attempts to invade the South. Some of them were large enough for tanks and whole armies to pass through, their walls painted black in an attempt to disguise them as coal mines. The last one was discovered in 1990, pretty damn recent. When one such tunnel was discovered, the North Koreans accused the South of digging them, I thought that was bit cheeky. The place was heavily fortified with soldiers posted all over the shop. Photography was severely restricted and the only decent photos were of Lee (see photo). Cheers Lee.
I only spent a week in Seoul but I thought it was much more like Shangahi than Japanese cities. Having grown accustom to Japanese hospitality, it was a shock when at several restaurants and shops, having ordered a cheap meal or item, I was told that it wasn't available with a loud "No!". Then, the more expensive option would be heartily recommeneded, hmmmf.
Itaewon is the district where American GIs and ex-pats hang out. So there are lots of places to cater for Western tastes, food, music etc. Sounds good but it was pretty grotty, the red light is affectionately known as "Hooker Hill" - walking through Itaewon was more like trying to Escape From New York, Kurt Russell style. Military Police patrol the streets around midnight to make sure there are no soldiers breaking the 12 pm curfew. I got a stare from some grunt, I thought about what might have happened if I had been told to go back to base and being inadvertently enrolled into the marine corp.
Upon arrival back in Japan, I got a bug and was laid up in bed for about a week. It was so cold in Korea and can probably attribute my cold and loss of my voice to going hiking my last day in Seoul. So New Year wasn't all that good but while at home eating tangerines I was able to download some great films - Pan's Labyrinth and Apocalypto, I recommmend both! Before Korea I was torn between traveling or staying home to train for the marathon. My decision to visit Seoul came back to bite me when I was struggling to jog for even 30 minutes in preparation for the Ibusuki Marathon.
And bringing us back up to date, the marathon is now over and done with having completed the race last Sunday. I went to Ibusuki last year and participated in the 10km course but this the big one, 42km. Woah, it was hard work but running through the breathtaking scenery was worth it. I was able to stay up with the 4 hour pacemaker for the majority of the race but drifted off at around the 30km mark. My end time was 4.11 which I was pretty pleased with. I'll try and beat it in March when I'll attempt the Tanegashima Marathon - time to roll out another barrel of gambaru!
Wow, I actually did it. I updated my journal. It's been months since I last wrote so apologies.
There was a rocket launch today and it was great to see one go up under blue skies. We were able to watch it shoot right up and could even spot the rocket cylinders as they fell away from the satellite thingymajig. I'm still training for the marathon which is in around three weeks. It's hard to keep in shape when you have to attend numerous end of the year drinking parties. And jogging in the cold is no fun either. Well, it's not exactly cold, just hard to believe that this place was baking back in August.
What else? Um, another Brass Band concert a month or so back. It went very well and we were lucky to have a guest trombonist sitting in. A professional musician from Tokyo, he was awesome. I visited a sugar factory a few weeks ago, actually much more interesting than it sounds. Oh, and I'm off to Seoul on friday. My original plans to visit Hokkaido, Japan's snowy wonderland weren't going to work when I found out how pricey the flights were. From where I am, it's cheaper to fly to Shanghai or Seoul than it is to fly to Tokyo! Anyway, I'll be sure to update again with some Seoul pics upon my arrival back in Tane.
Merry Christmas everyone and all the best for the new year!
Excuse the long absence, my friend Chris came to visit me the other week and so I've been rather busy. Having not seen him for two years, it was great to catch up and show him around my town and introduce him to my friends. We went to the beach as a typhoon passed by, had a tour of the rocket centre, went hiking in Yakushima, attended sports day, oh and we had dinner with the mayor. Great times and I took lots of photos, all taken with my brand new fancy pants camera. To see more, go here.
Cycling in Tane can be a dangerous hobby, not because of the bad drivers but because of the many dogs that loiter outside the master's homes. And more often than not, these are the really scary and pointless kind. I don't understand why people have these kinds of dogs. Why can't every dog in the world be a Golden Retriever or a sheep dog or Lassie. Any of these would be preferable over the kind of dogs I seem to come into contact with which have are all teeth, muscles and eyes that glow red - as if the devil himself was looking out from within the mutt's skull.
Earlier in the year, I almost took a tumble when the Hound of the Baskervilles appeared out of nowhere and started chasing me along a quiet coastal road. The same thing happened tonight. This time I was on my way back home from a long bike ride and another hound of hell seemingly appeared out of nowhere. My first instinct was to apply the breaks, which I know admit to be a bad idea as it enabled the beast to gain ground on my already fatigued ankles. So I had to pedal like the wind. I was in my highest gear and so it was an almighty struggle. As the hound started to close in, all that went through my mind were images of pistons, steam engines, the sweaty engine room in Das Boot, hell the whole entire Industrial Revolution. This dog must really have been raised by Satan, that or its legs must have been made of steel. It managed to keep up with me for about twenty seconds and I was going faaaast. Well I lived to tell the tale, I'm more of a cat person.
I did manage to take this photo of Homan lake, the biggest in Tanegashima. You can see the rocks of Takizaki beach in the distance -
Google Earth is imazing ne. Here are details of where the photo was taken and by zooming out, my town -