Touge Express

Since I talk a lot about touge and twisties on here and in some of the articles I’ve had on other sites, I thought I should give a mention to a friend of mine who is the Touge master, and runs the blog ‘Touge Express‘.

Craig has done a lot of riding all over the world, and has sniffed out some of the best routes I’ve ever been on  so check out his site which has a lot of tips and route reports, so there’s plenty to go at.

(He also does excellent water proofing videos.)

Coast to Coast Twistybutt?

Coast to Coast Twistybutt
Coast to Coast Twistybutt

At the tail-end of Golden Week this year (May 5th to be exact) I took part in Touge Express’ 2017 Coast to Coast Twistybutt, an invitational run across Japan from the Pacific Ocean to Japan Sea purely via the mountain pass roads or ‘touge’ as they’re known. 500Km of turns with the occasional short local road connecting them.

If you were on a straight road, you were probably on the wrong road.

So where is the tale of this crossing? I did write one, but it’s not here, it’s on a real motorcycle website, so thanks to Chris and everyone at RideApart for bringing tales from the touge to the broader world – they’ll be all the better for it!

The Twistybutt – Japan’s Iron Butt Challenge

ride apart

New Header Image: Sunset

It’s been a long time since I changed that header image, and since the last one was from a cooling stream, I thought I’d replace it with a sunset, which looks nice and warm, even though I took the picture in late 2013 and it was definitely not warm. The same time I took these pictures I think.

Shonan Winter Sunset
Shonan Winter Sunset

There’s something very calming about sunsets all over the world, over forests, cities, the ocean, wherever. I’m frequently reminded about something the amazing Douglas Adams wrote for the ‘final’ Hitchhiker’s series – Quintessential Phase about boundary conditions, (I’ll dig the quote out for the next post) and a sunset where the ocean meets land seems to be two simultaneous boundaries.

New Header Image: Water

cropped-cropped-waterfall1.jpgIt’s been a while since I posted, and it’s been a while since I updated the head, and since I’ve moved the blog theme to the Twenty Thirteen one, I thought I’d make the banner fit a little better.

There’s been a lot going on of late, hence the lack of posts, and much of it has been in the outdoors, and as the temperatures climb higher and the humidity makes Japan a national sauna once more, it’s good to get into the water and trees of the countryside and cool off.

I took this shot quickly as it’s a park of some steps which make waterfalls for the kids to play in, and it gets decent traffic on these hot weekends in Kanagawa.

Water @ Satoyama

Water @ SatoyamaWater @ Satoyama

New Header Image: Wooden Posts

It’s been a long time since I updated the header image – about 9 months in fact, so I decided it was time for a change. Nothing amazing, as usual, but I thought I’d keep with images from out and about the local area. This one was from a local children’s play park, where they have a trellis on supports over a seating area. The steel supports have these wooden sections bolted to them for cosmetic reasons, and you can see here, they don’t touch the ground any more, meaning there’s a quirky look and a nice texture.

Wooden Posts

The image was taken on my Nikon D3200 on the 35mm lens at the slightly silly 24MP, but cropped all the way down – that’s a benefit of lots of pixels – cropping becomes a lot simpler.


New Header Image: Roof Tile

The Roof Tile - full

Apologies if this is a bit of a [stereo]typical image, it’s just one I snapped on a recent trip in the countryside, at a very comfy, if a little run down looking temple.

The Roof Tile - full
The Roof Tile

I actually only noticed the place due to the long pile of timber running up to the entrance, as I was cycling past in the rain, and semi dismissed it as just yet another temple, but actually, the place seemed to have a certain texture to it, as if it had a more practical purpose, if not now, in the recent past, even if it was a bit overgrown.

A Pile of Timber
A Pile of Timber

I’ll likely post a few more pictures of the site in a later gallery post.

New Header Photo: View from the Skyline

I’m trying to keep to a new header photo every quarter, and for once, I was torn between some of the photos from the New Year’s Day morning, but I thought that was a bit obvious, so I decided to go with one which had been post processed in a Path filter, and in black and white, because that has to make it look more atmospheric, right? It was taken from the Izu Skyline road, looking south east over the bay at Odawara.


The 2011 Nutshell

I’ve never been one for massive reviews of the year just gone by – it always seemed somewhat redundant if not impossible to squeeze 365 days into a post – but here’s a few observations of 2011, and some things I’m hoping to look into in 2012.

Obviously 2011 was dominated as far as events go by the massive earthquake of March 11th, and the thousands which followed it and the social questions it triggered. Right now it seems we’re back to ‘normal’ levels of earthquakes. It was all quite surreal. For me, the trip to Iwate to help in some of the tsunami clean up re-enforced how resilient people can be in the face of true tragedy, even the though the continued leaking from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor captured the news headlines.

On a smaller, but also personal note, our family car was written off in July by some person running a red light, but thankfully no one was injured in either vehicle. It also seemed odd that in 2011, hospital staff were complimenting us on having our kids fastened into the appropriate child and baby seat, but it brings home the fact that still in Japan, children are either held by parents (or more usually, grand-parents), or are allowed to wander around the vehicles whilst in motion.

But enough about me.

One thing I have been following was my meagre 25USD Kiva investment, which is now 91% paid back by the Mật Sơn 1- Đông Vệ Group, who I loaned the money to as part of a larger group loan to help their manufacturing business. I’m now going to re-invest that amount into another group, and add another 50USD to my fund and support another group. Right now I’m looking at fishing as well as manufacturing in Asia. I think microloan groups are a worthy investment to help communities grow and support themselves, and since I live in Japan, any money would accrue such tiny interest it’s hardly worth it anyway.

This blog actually hasn’t done too badly this year, going from ~150 to 450 views per month, but it’s a personal thing, so thanks to those people who visit it. Every now and then I think I should spend more time on it, or concentrate on a single vertical, but in truth, I’m interested in a lot of things, so it’s unlikely I could ever settle on one thing. WordPress does let me pull out the five most popular posts of 2011 though, so here they are!

1. Home page
2. Dog Day (犬の日)
3. The Baker and the Bromate
4. Volunteering in Iwate Prefecture
5. New Header Photo: Heads
6. Quakebook

OK, so the home page doesn’t really count I suppose, hence the #6 in there. The Dog Day post I noticed a while ago constantly gets a few views per week, which has convinced me to do a few more articles on perhaps lesser known Japanese cultural traditions. ‘The Baker and the Bromate’ was probably the most researched post I’ve ever done, and I was quite pleased with it; the ‘Volunteering in Iwate’ pretty much wrote itself, and I was pleased to receive a few emails to say it’d helped people prep for their own work there. The new header photo post making the top 5 is probably more of a tribute to Jaume Plensa and his sculpture work – thanks Jaume! Bringing up the top five then was my review of the crowd sourced ‘Quakebook’ which was put together after the quake to get some peoples stories out, and help raise fund for survivors of the tsunami.

I was also quite surprised that two of my posts were mentioned in podcasts – the ‘Baker and the Bromate’ post was on JapanTalk #228, and the slightly more whimsical post about the “City of Ghosts” story was mention by John C. Dvorak on the No Agenda podcast.

Towards the end of the year I decided to give the National Novel Writing Month a go – writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. I’ve written short stories and such over the last five years, but this was a whole new scale of things. As you see from some of the posts, it somewhat took over my life for the month, but I was actually really pleased with what came out, and over the next year I’m hoping to revise it a little bit to make it at least readable and understandable to a third party.

Right at the end of 2011 I stepped in to update the website at the last minute to upload info for one of our large toy runs, which was the first web coding I’ve done in a very long time – at least it seemed to render OK and no one complained. I think in 2012 I’ll spend a bit more time on the overarching site we’re looking to put these toy runs under, reviewing some old HTML, CSS and JS knowledge, and see how it goes.

So on the whole, 2011 ended a bit more on the upbeat than it was looking at the beginning, but a reminder that the people of Tohoku are going to need support for a very long time, and I hope the Japanese government stop squabbling and mucking about, and actually deals with the issues.

2012 then, should be a good challenge, and I’m looking into new professional qualifications, language tests and whatever else is of interest after the family time and work!