Thursday, March 30, 2006

Reflections and Images Part 2

And so continues our saga...

A beach in Toyoura. This is from the day I made the trip out to Koboro Station. (11/23/05)

Along the coast of Toyoura. Lots of rock formations sticking up out of the water there. It makes for a beautiful drive. I got that fishing boat in the shot, too.

This is Asahihama Station, two stops away from Koboro Station on the Muroran Line. It is ranked on the hikyo-eki list, but unfortunately for all of the mysterious station lovers throughout Japan, trains no longer stop at this station. It closed down as of March 17, 2006.

Get off the train at Asahihama Station, and you'll see...this store. And that's all. Notice that I snuck Wasabi-kun in the picture.

The line just stretches off into the distance.

I love how the snowy mountains show up in the back.

The view of the station as I headed down to the beach. Not much there. Not much at all. The two buildings there are there for some reason that I am unaware of.

The view of the ocean as I walked down the path to the beach.

Cliffs to the left of me.

Clifts to the right.

Strike that pose! You're vogue!

Eight trains stop at Koboro Station each day. Eight. Five going west toward Oshamanbe, three heading east toward Muroran. Why the imbalance? I have no idea. What I do know is if you miss one, you can be in a world of hurt.

Waiting for my train to get away from Koboro Station. It was raining, after all.

A little waterfall I found on the way up into the hills in Hirata. (1/2/06)

How in the hell did that boat get up there?

Sights like these make me believe in God.

Swans in a field along Hakucho Road, Yasugi. (1/4/06)

A 3D representation of a Japanese emergency exit sign, made completely out of snow, at the Snow Festival in Sapporo. (2/10/06)

A giant Buddha, again made completely out of snow, at the Snow Festival in Sapporo.

Maruyama Park, Sapporo.

The purification fountain at Hokkaido Jingu. It was really cold. I mean, just look at that ice.

The changing of the guard. (3/9/06)

Off into the sunset. Tassha de na, Wasabi -kun!

There you have it. My first seven months in Muroran. Let's hope the next seven are as eventful.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Reflections and Images Part 1

I developed some film the other day, and I put all of the photos on CDROM so that I could upload some of them onto the site here. These are all photos that I've taken since I arrived in Hokkaido. Looking at these photos is a good way to take a look back on my first seven months in Muroran.

The first section starts with some photos I took the day (8/15/05) I arrived in Muroran. I had some time to kill before I could catch up with Hiroshi and get let into my apartment, so I headed out to Noboribetsu Hot Springs for a bath and a look around. Here's what I saw.

Lake Kuttara, just across the Noboribetsu City border and over into Shiraoi Town. It is a clear and near-perfectly round caldera lake. This photo actually turned out pretty well. (8/15/05)

Oyunuma (translation: big hot water swamp). Yep. That's what it is. A swamp with a 1000 meter circumference, a 50 degree Celsius temperature at the edges and a 130 degree Celsius temperature at its deepest.

A view of Oyunuma from above.

This day, the principal of Starfish High, another teacher (Fuji) and I went to an Ainu festival. It was a prayer ceremony to the kamui (deity) of the river that salmon would be able to swim safely upstream to spawn. There are chunks of smoked salmon around a small fire on the left-hand side of the photo. I took one home after the festival. It was goooooood. (end of August?, 2005)

The principal of Starfish High and I at an Ainu ceremony in Noboribetsu City. Those are traditional Ainu clothes we are wearing.

Wasabi-kun, with the Hidaka mountain range in the distance. (sometime in September, 2005)

Yours truly at Cape Erimo. Whaddaya mean you can't read the sign?

The ocean. Just look at it. Damn.

I loved the way this shot was framed, but that white spot kind of ruins the effect. It's still a decent photo, though.

My good friends Masahiro (Nabe) and Fusako (Fu) at their wedding in Nagoya. (10/1/05)

Nabe and Fu, part 2.

Nabe and Fu cutting the wedding cake.

This photo speaks for itself.

This is from the day after Nabe and Fu's wedding. A bunch of us headed out to Atsuta Jingu to eat some eel, and while we were waiting for a table, we checked out the shrine. (10/2/05)

From the Cape Chikyu field trip. A view back into Muroran from the hills on the way to Cape Chikyu. The city's pride and joy, the Hakucho Bridge (Swan Bridge), can be seen in the distance, past the factories. (10/5/05)

I like how I was able to get the boat in the picture.

Steep cliffs on the way out to Cape Chikyu.

That is some blue water...

The lighthouse at Cape Chikyu.

All I need now are some red energy beams shooting out of my eyes.

On board the USS Lassen with the captain and Starfish High's principal. (10/12/05)

Rich and Kuni at their Shinto wedding at Usa Shrine. (11/05/05)

Rich and Kuni at their church wedding at Kijima Plateau outside of Beppu.

A collection of remote-controlled ca...wait, those are real. Mini Coopers.

To be continued....

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Shimanesque 6: The Triumphant Return

"So what are your plans for this evening?"

"Well, I figured I would join you all for dinner and then head back to Muroran."

"Aww, c'mon Dustin, we haven't seen you for a couple of years. Stick around and have some drinks."

"I'd love to, but I have to work tomorrow, and I don't have a place to stay."

"We've got an extra room you can stay in. For free. And you can park your car here."

"Hmmm, I guess if I left early tomorrow morning, I could get back to Muroran in time for work...Okay, I'll stay."

Little did I know that that was only the beginning.

March 26th. Via a car ride, a train ride, and a bus ride, I got back out to Yonago Airport in time to catch my plane back to Tokyo. The flight was slightly delayed, so the attendant at the check-in counter told me that I should hurry after I arrived in Tokyo so that I could make my transfer on time. Oh, and that I should take all my baggage on the plane so that I could just make tracks and not have to worry about my luggage getting switched from the Tokyo plane to the Chitose plane.

Fair enough, but have you ever seen me pack? Not the best example of efficient use of space. So I lug my clothes bag, my backpack and my other bag o' stuff onto the plane, trying to avoid bumping into people and failing miserably.

Whatever. The pain started as soon as I got in my seat.


For an hour and a half. Three rows behind me. A baby. Was crying. Loudly. All. The. Way. To. Tokyo.

And wouldn't you bet as soon as we landed the kid shut up.

So, extremely grumpy, I hustled my way over to my next departure gate, grabbed a quick snack to eat on the plane while everybody else was boarding, and then boarded myself.

This flight wasn't nearly as eventful...until we went into our descent. Then,


In stereo.

As soon as one kid started in, another one thought it would be fun to join. And then another. And ANOTHER. This time, one of the kids was older.

"It hurts, Mommy! It hurts!"

Parents, if you're going to be taking your children on airplanes, please have the COMMON FREAKING DECENCY to either give them a pacifier, a lollipop, or an explanation about how to pop their ears and clear out the pressure buildup. Is that too much to ask?

So after a completely UNrelaxing three-and-a-half hours in the air (total), I was back in cold Hokkaido. I caught the bus back to the parking lot where my car was, and then I headed home.

Or not.

Actually, I headed up to Sapporo. The boys' and girls' volleyball teams from Akaya Elementary, one of the elementary schools in Hakuta, qualified for a national volleyball tournament in Hokkaido. They were coming up to represent Shimane in the tournament.

And one of the parents sent me an e-mail asking me to come along.

Does a bear...? Hell yeah it does. So I made my way up to Sapporo and then called Mr. Anno, who gave me directions to the hotel where everybody was staying. After the conversation above, I went back for my car, parked at the hotel, and then close to fifty people (parents and children, but excluding the team members) from Hakuta headed out into the Sapporo night life.

I tried to take them to a restaurant I had been to before, but I got confused, so I found a different restaurant that I figured would work. Luckily, they had enough seating for us all, so we sat down for dinner.

After a bit of food, the dads started in on me, trying to convince me to stay and cheer for the teams the next day.

"But I already took a week off, and I have to get back to help the first-year students with the play."

"Well, when's the play? Tomorrow?"

"No, but..."

"Then you can always help them another day. You won't have another chance to cheer for Akaya in Hokkaido."

Good point. Will...power...weakening...

Finally, I called up the vice-principal and explained the situation. He said it was okay, as long as I got somebody to cover play practice. I took care of that soon after. So things were cool for Monday.

After dinner, we all headed back to the hotel so the kids could go to bed. Then, I tried to take a group of people to a bar I knew in Susukino, but it was closed, what with it being Sunday and all. So we all headed out for ramen instead. It was decent stuff, and hit the spot. After that, I figured we were going to go back to the hotel.


We ended up going to a bar called "Kento's". (The link is to a Kento's in Osaka, but there are chains all over the country." It's a classic rock bar, and they have live music. The band even plays requests!

It was a lot of fun, although I'm not sure if the band was having much fun. They just looked kind of stiff, and didn't seem to be enjoying themselves that much. Apparently, it wasn't the regular house band, so their repertoire was rather limited, which led to a little frustration at our table as our requests kept getting turned down. Mrs. Anno and I got up and danced, though, so I still think we had a good time. Even if they made a lousy batch of onion rings.

The next day, it was on the bus and out to the Nopporo Gymnasium to cheer on the girls' team. I also wanted to cheer for the boys, but they were in a different location and the girls' team was going up against a hometown team (Ebetsu) in their first match, so I figured I should head that way first.

A couple shots of the girls' team in action.

We cheered hard. (I even messed up once and said "Hakuta" instead of "Akaya". Oops.) But unfortunately, the girls lost both their matches. It was a shame, too, because they could have take the second match. I think they mentally beat themselves.

I found this in a vending machine at the gym.

Who knew that he was in the coffee biz?

After the girls' team finished up their two matches, I said goodbye to them and wished them an enjoyable rest of their stay in Hokkaido. Then the parents and non-team people piled on the bus to head back into Sapporo to cheer for the boys.

One problem. By the time we got there, the boys were finished. The matches had taken a little less time there than at Nopporo, so I wasn't able to do any cheering for the boys. But I did run in and say hello, and told them to enjoy their stay as well.

Then it was back to the hotel, where I thanked everyone for letting me come along, packed up my stuff, said my goodbyes, hopped in my car, and headed for home.

Thus ended my Shimanesque journey.