Thursday, May 26, 2016

Writing from Japan

Today is the day before our final day on our Tour of Japan. It's been a wonderful journey. President Obama is here and we visited Obama (the town) last night. I will post some photos that i took from my iphone once I return. This was the first trip that I did not bring a camera. Hopefully the files transfer so you can see some shots from this splendid country.

We flew into Tokyo and spent four nights cruising the town. We made sure to find Starbucks near our hotel which made our morning endeavors that much more invigorationg. Nothing like a Java jolt from Corporate America to get you started on your day.

Initially I thought I would be stuck drinking tea the entire time but I have found Japan quite hospitable to our coffee cravings. No Dunkin' Donuts however. tsk, tsk.

Our first day in Tokyo was spent taking the double decker tourist buses around the city. We spent the entire day traipsing around trying to get a feel for the enormity of the city which I think is the biggest in the world. If it's not it sure as hell feels like it.

We got to see the ports and the Skytree and the Tokyo Tower and Shinagawa and Ikebukero (where we stayed) and Shibuya, the Imperial Gardens and much much more.

The following day we walked the gardens and I took some great shots. If anyone is on Snapchat and is reading please follow me at Conrtst. I have done a great job of showcasing the highlights there each day.

We walked to the beer HQ Asahi but unfortunately there were no tours so we could not do anything but smile and wave at the gorgeous receptionist.

We did make it to the Skytree and spent a couple hours up there admiring Tokyo. It's Tokyo's equivalent to our Space Needle.

The people were quite frinedly. There English is not as proficient as I expected but their respect and smiles and general friendliness makes up for it. It is far and away the most polite Asian country we've visited.

I unsuccessfully tried to obtain tickets to Sumo Wrestling but they sell out months in advance. For the next trip though I will research it early. We did catch some highlights on TV and holy shit these guys are strong and explosive. WE saw one life a man maybe 350 pounds straight off the mat and fighting put entirely. It was wicked.

We took the train to Kyoto (where we met up with our group). Kyoto was a grand city I wish we had more time to spend there. We did some walking along the canals and had an exquisite Japanese feast near Giyo which is the old Geisha district. I snapped a couple pics of the white makeuped faces as the ladies were ushered into cars and driven away like celebrities.

The next morning we met our group. Our leader's name is Tomas. He is Belgian, and he turned 37 two days ago. He is handsome, rugged looking with a short beard. Japan Biking is his company that he runs with his wife. She is Japanese and they live together with their two kids in Izumi (where we conclude the tour tomorrow). He is very lean and a strong cyclist. He is a skilled bike technician and he lacks a bit in the cultural explanations he makes up for with his pleasant attitude.

Stu and gaye are a couple from Australia. They have two kids and are retired. They told me they are busy skiin. I said what's that? They said Spending the kids inheritiance! I got a laugh on that one. They are 70 and 65 respectively and both fit and good cyclists. A pain in the ass to be around sometimes because they are inflexible and love the rules, but gereanlly good people.

Two cousins Lonnie (65) and his cousin Andy (same age maybe??) are traveling together. They share our Jewish lineage and we have good political discussions. They support Hillary. I love Bernie. We hash it out and talk about trade and economics. Andy was a journalist for many years and Lonnie is a pediatrician.

Peter looks a bit like my father-inlaw. He loves his coffee. I believe he is in his late 60s. He is always smiling and good natured and if you follow him on the bike you may fucking die at any moment because he is prone to veer off the road on a whim to take photos.

Penny and her Dad (rob??) are traveling together from Australia. They live in Brisbane. They embody the work hard play hard mentality. They drink every night 5-6 beers each. And they are strong and fast on the bikes. Penny (31) is super fast. Today she and I took off together on our ride. She beats me on the climbs. No one used to but now I am fat so that slows me down a bit.

Norah and John Mark are a honeymooning couple from Oregon. Norah is blonde and super-fit. They both brought their bikes with them and built them back up here. She was a former ballerina and she practiced some yoga today on the boat ride to our island. Jean Mark sells software and he is quite knowledgable on a wide array of topics. Both mid 30s I believe. We talk about Portland a lot (where they live).

The we have our driver who resembles Rocky Balboa the Japanese version. He likes me a lot we tease each other relentlessly. It's even better because we dont know what the fuck the other is saying because we dont speak the others language. Hes a nice man and despite him being relatively usless to our trip, he provides comic relief.

So with that I'll conclude for now and hope to update a bit about our bike journey and more cultural notes tomorrow or the day after. Please also stay tuned for pictures. Lets hope those ipics let me post on here. Wishing everyone the best.



Thursday, March 31, 2016

Japan Dreaming

Not more than a few months pass before I become Mr. Antsy Pants and yearn for my next adventure. I've been caught a few times daydreaming of Columbia recently and man oh man I miss that place. I think Columbia is a country where I could not just visit, but move permanently. That train of thought got me thinking about our annual cycling trip...we batted ideas around for a few weeks before settling (if you can call it that) on Japan. I know what you're thinking...back to Asia...

AGAIN! It looks like it!

I'll be traveling with my brother and Pops via japanbiking.com on their May 19-28th tour. Afterward I will be able to identify each and every ethnicity by face within the continent of Asia. A feat not a lot of white dudes can claim.

I've wanted to visit Japan ever since learning about WWII and the insanely cruel things humans do to one another. I remember debating America dropping the nuclear bombs in my English Literature class in 8th grade with Kai Sato (a successful dude, I've googled him). I was quite the utilitarian philosopher back in those days and believed that in order to stop the violence, drastic measures needed to be taken. I believed it was the best choice in a litany of bad alternatives.

Suffice to say, I disagree with my younger self today. Dumbass younger self. Go sit in the corner and stop listening to Tupac while you're at it.

If you peruse the website above, you will see that we stop at Hiroshima, where the first Atomic bomb was dropped in warfare. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about the level of destruction and the pain and anguish that city and its residents endured on that fateful day in August, 1945. And to think, my father was born only 2.5 years later. I am preparing for an emotional rollercoaster that day similar to my experience visiting My Lai in Vietnam.

We fly into Tokyo, where serendipitously, my former roommate is now living. She is providing me tips to make our trip move smoothly. I know Japanese like I know cooking, which is to say even making Mac n' Cheese is a struggle. I lived with her during my graduate school years attending American University in Tenleytown. She was an undergraduate. I hope to connect with her and her friends at some point since we have about 4 days in Tokyo on the front end of the trip. In preparation I found a delicious Hibachi restaurant down the street so my taste buds are prepped.

Another key highlight of this trip will be Kyoto. I have heard many wonderful things about Kyoto -- its sophistication and charm so I am enthused about this part as well. Hopefully I can find a geisha or two...just kidding!

I am biking a bit more lately and trying to lose a little of my gut so that I won't be the slowest one up some of the steep ascents awaiting. I've been unwittingly beefing up recently by eating more, lifting more and reducing cardio. Apparently that's a recipe for weight gain...who knew?!?!?

Besides that I am excited to be moving south to Richmond, Virginia in the next 3 months. I am actually incredibly excited as I have grown more and more dissatisfied with the big city life of DC. I am eager to buy a home and make it our own and I'm anxious to join new clubs and groups and make new friends. The next few months entail many hours of job hunting and home searching and traveling (to visit my sister and her new baby in San Diego!)

I will make an effort to keep you apprised of any new developments and start posting again. I miss it. After being absent the past 6-8 months I can definitively say I miss the cathartic nature of sitting down and typing.

Please comment with any thoughts, comments, suggestions and of course flattery if I have any loyal readers left who check this thing once a year. I will also be posting photos of course of our journey so look out for that!