Snow monkeys & nude dudes

Nude dudes, really ? Yep, keep reading ... The day is packed with plans as we head out early from the… [more]

Snow monkeys & nude dudes Snow monkeys & nude dudes

A dose of Mother Nature

Now that the title got your attention, I thought I would take a few minutes and fill you in on the past… [more]

A dose of Mother Nature A dose of Mother Nature

Back to Japan …

30 straight hours of travel; consisting of 2 car rides, 2 plane rides, and 2 train rides and I finally… [more]

Back to Japan … Back to Japan …

A Mucking Good Time !

It seems impossible that it has been nearly a year since my last update on this site. I guess I use Facebook… [more]

A Mucking Good Time ! A Mucking Good Time !

Joys of home brewing

After watching a few episodes of a new TV program called "Brewmasters", my passion for home brewing has… [more]

Joys of home brewing Joys of home brewing

Travelling Around Ireland !

I recently returned home from one heck of a 10 day trip to the Emerald Isle ! The "reason" for the trip… [more]

Travelling Around Ireland ! Travelling Around Ireland !

Finishing Strong …

I did not get a chance to update you with a new post because the last couple days have been a blur. I… [more]

Finishing Strong … Finishing Strong …

Fish Market & More …

Today was another early start ! Now, everyone who knows me, knows I love to go to markets, but this one… [more]

Fish Market & More … Fish Market & More …

2 Years Later !

They say that hindsight is always 20-20 ... and I would be inclined to agree ! It was 2 years ago this… [more]

2 Years Later ! 2 Years Later !

Fish Market & More …

Posted on : 07-05-2010 | By : Nathan | In : Travelogue | Comments


Today was another early start ! Now, everyone who knows me, knows I love to go to markets, but this one was a bit different. The Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo is the worlds largest and busiest fish market, and it is not to be missed. It opens at 4:30 am, but I did not make it there until around 6:00 am, still allowing plenty time to see some action.

As I walked through the market, being careful not to get run over by the hundreds of scurrying vehicles, I was in amazement at what I saw. There were live eels of all sizes in slithering around in barrels, gigantic tuna weighing hundreds of pounds, thousands of people running to and from looking for the best deal on a given catch, and even people using band saws to cut up frozen fillets that had just been purchased at the auction. Row after row, aisle after aisle, full of nothing but seafood. To give you an idea just how large this place is, imagine a Target store, then multiply that by 10. There was no smell, there were plenty of unique and interesting sights, and it was everything I thought it would be. I have wanted to see this place for years, and I can now check it off my list.

Another cool spot I have been reading about is called: Akihabara. It is a really busy area that sells nothing but electronics, video games, PC’s, comic books (manga), and a few sex shops thrown in here and there. As soon as I located the street, I knew I was in the right place. It was like sensory overload in every direction. 5 story buildings painted in wild colors, animated signs everywhere, people dressed up in costumes trying to get passer-byes to come in and buy electronics, and non-stop sounds like you hear in a casino. I checked out several shops, decided I can get most of the stuff way cheaper at home, and took a few pics. Very cool place to have a roam around though !

There was one final temple that is on every top 10 things to see in Tokyo, and that is Sensoji Temple. While it is on the outskirts of the subway line, it was well worth the journey. There is a huge shrine holding a 20 foot lantern designating the route to the temple. The route was lined on both sides with dozens of small shops selling everything from homemade candy to samurai swords. Once I made it to the temple, I was again amazed at what was standing in front of me. A very beautiful and spiritual oasis, sitting in the middle of a concrete jungle.

My final stop of the day was: Ueno Park & Tokyo National Museum. I took a brief walk through this monstrous park, on my way to the National Museum. The park had performers, gardens, and tons of school kids gathering to hang out. I made my way through the people-maze, and reached the gate of the museum. Filled with artifacts, kimono, scrolls, swords, samurai armor, and intricate jewelry, the Museum was all I had hoped it would be. Some of the items were over 1000 years old, and they did a good job of translating the information into English for tourists/foreigners (gaijin) like me. There was also a special display with the history and artifacts of Buddha. Very cool !

unordinary: Japan’s answer to McDonalds … Mos Burger … Freakin tasty, let me tell you !

More pics added to the gallery. Leave a comment & have a good one !

Mt Fuji Story

Posted on : 06-05-2010 | By : Nathan | In : Travelogue | Comments


We were able to reserve a compact rental car in order to make the 2.5 hour drive from Tokyo to Mt Fuji. We started out 1st thing in the morning, maps & GPS in hand, and well provisioned packs on our back. The rental car’s GPS was not working properly, our GPS had old maps, and the 3 maps we had were greatly lacking in detail. However, after some initial navigational issues, we were able to reach the Mt. to start our ascent.

The mountain is officially closed for climbing due to snow, wind, land slides, etc… It does not open for the season until early June. We decided to throw caution to the wind and anyway. We figured “how hard could it be” right ? We were able to make it to station 6 in a decent amount of time, though the trail was quickly becoming scarce. A quick snack and some hydration, and were were off to station 7.

Only a few meters toward 7, things started looking really rough. There were sections where we could not even follow the marked path, as snow and rock slides had everything completely covered. Derek was blazing the path and keeping a good pace, but I was definitely lagging behind a bit. Not sure if it was the lower amount of oxygen in the air, or the fact that I am completely out of shape ;) (maybe both)

We were around 9000 ft of elevation and the snow, running water, and extremely loose igneous rock cover was wreaking havoc on me. I was slipping & sliding as I fought for traction on my way up, and the ridiculous wind gusts were trying their best to toss me off the side. At this point, I realized that the Adidas tennis shoes I was wearing were not likely the best choice for this type of terrain/climb.

As we continued to climb higher and higher, the temperature dropped substantially. While I did have layers for my torso,  I realized that I should have brought some gloves. These would also have come in handy every time I lost my footing and slipped, which caused me to scrape my hands on the sandpaper like rock surface over and over. We just kept pushing through the terrain, higher and higher.

We were only a few meters short of station 7 and the snow was completely covering the pass. Derek went first since he had better boots, and I followed with a few final tentative foot steps. We were excited to get here, refuel, put on more layers, and push on. However, we took 1 look at the path, and it was completely gone. There were 4 feet of snow covering the trail and we had no idea where to go. There was no path,  hardly any visible rock, and no rope …

Derek and I looked at each other and we knew it was over. We had to make the gut-wrenching decision to pull the plug on the climb where we stood (around 10,000 feet) and start the descent. It was simply too dangerous to continue with the lack of proper gear. We needed crampons and gloves at a minimum, period ! I did not come all this way to fail, but we were not going to continue given the current situation.

We headed down, which was actually more dangerous then the ascent since it was so loose and steep. It took us about 1/2 the time to get down then it did to come up. It felt like a “descent of shame” since I have been waiting to do this for years, but it was poor planning on my part that ended things early. If there ever is a next time, rest assured I will have the proper gear to get the job done.

On a high note, I have never actually encountered scenery quite like this. It was absolutely beautiful. The day was clear, the views were expansive, and the experience will stick with me for the rest of my life. Derek busted his a** to make this adventure excursion happen for me, and I really appreciate his help. He was basically a climbing guide for me throughout our hours on the mountain. Even though I did not make it to the top, I saw and experienced things that were new to me and that words cannot do justice. I really enjoyed the entire day, from top to bottom, no pun intended.

View Mt Fuji Gallery

We headed back to Tokyo to return the car (which was an adventure in it’s own right) and had a really good dinner at a Japanese Steak House. I am bushed and heading to bed … Thanks for stopping by and checking things out.

Around Tokyo …

Posted on : 05-05-2010 | By : Nathan | In : Travelogue | Comments


After a bit of quick internet research, we were able to come up with a pretty good plan of attack for the day. We decided to tackle a couple of the major districts of Tokyo that we had not had the pleasure of touring yet.

The first thing we did was take the metro to Shinjuku station. There we were able to visit: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. What makes this building so great, is they offer a 360 degree view of the city from 43 stories up. “City-sprawl” does not even begin to describe the expanse of this great city. It was a bit overcast, but the views were amazing.

Next we ventured to: Yoyogi Park. This park is one of the only places you are actually free to do pretty much whatever you like. People were practicing all kinds of sports, exercising, biking, walking their dogs, playing musical instruments, and even catching a nap. We walked the main loop around the interior of the park, and had quite a bit of quality people-watching.

After the park, we headed to: Meiji Shrine. What an amazing temple, right in the heart of Tokyo. There was a nice tree-lined walk back to the temple complex. When we arrived, we were lucky enough to watch a ceremony taking place. I snagged a picture, and subsequently got reprimanded by a staff member, as no pictures were supposed to be taken during the ceremony. We toured the grounds, took it all in, and worked up quite an appetite.

We ended the outing with some lunch in: Harijuki. This was one of the busiest places we have been (next to Shibuya Square). It was packed with young people shopping, hanging out, eating, and doing whatever young people do. We had some Udan and tea, rambled around a bit, and headed back to the hotel for a rest before dinner.

Dinner was fantastic. We went out for Yakiniku, which is basically grilling lots of fresh ingredients over hit coals right there at the table. The restaurant we went to was supposed to be the best in Tokyo, so I am glad we hit this spot ! The niche of this specific place was that they only use female cow meat. They say that it is much more tender and tasty. I agree !

unordinary: Check out this classic shop !

Don’t forget to stop by the gallery section, as I added some new photos. I appreciate you reading ;)

Last Couple Days …

Posted on : 04-05-2010 | By : Nathan | In : Travelogue | Comments


Before we made our way to Tokyo, we wanted to spend the morning at one final national monument. It is called the Fushimi Inari Shrine
. It consisted of thousands of “Torii” going all the way up an entire mountain and back down. I added some images of them to the gallery so check them out.

We made it into Tokyo after taking the bullet-train from Kyoto at around 3pm. We then checked into our new hotel, which is actually run for the military, right in the center of Tokyo. the hotel is super plush and is only 1 subway stop away from the Rappongi district. After unpacking and taking a refreshing swim, we ventured out to meet some of Derek’s friends.

I was starving, so we arranged to go to the “Ninja Restaurant“. It is a themed restaurant that included our very own Ninja training, private dining hall, and magic show. We had a blast and I highly recommend this to anyone traveling in Tokyo or New York (they just built one there). After dinner, we headed to sing Karaoke at one of the many karaoke bars, then finished things up at a 70′s Disco bar called “Sonic Boogie”.

Next Day:

I have always wanted to visit the Sony Building in the Ginza district, so I can finally mark that off of the list. It was awesome, as I got to see loads of things the US likely wont have for a couple years. We also made it to Shibuya Crossing, which is famous for being the world’s busiest intersection. As part of the traffic cycle, traffic stops in all directions to allow people to cross in one of 5 directions. Really cool …

We made it to the Tokyo National Gardens after 1.5 hours of searching. However, it had closed about 30 minutes prior to our arrival. Bummer … back onto the subway and looking for some dinner. I finally got some sushi ! Now, time to get some rest …

unordinary: Check out the Wiener Dog … Read the description at the top for a good laugh.

Kyoto National Museum & More

Posted on : 02-05-2010 | By : Nathan | In : Travelogue | Comments


Today we ventured into the realm of National Monuments & Museums. We started the day off early at around 6am, but nothing was open except Mcdonald’s @ the Kyoto Train Station. After some breakfast and some quick research, we made our way to one of the most famous national monuments in Japan.

The name of the monument is: Sanjūsangen-dō and let me tell you, this place is completely amazing ! The main draw to this 800 year old templs is the 1000 statues that it houses of the “Thousand Armed Kannon” deity. I was not able to take any pictures while on the tour, so you will have to check the web for more info. The main hall which houses the 1000 statues, and the main shrine in the center, is gigantic. It easily covers  a city block in length. The exterior gardens are amazing as well. There was no line, a modest entry fee, and it was easily worth the travel out to see it !

Directly across the road is the Kyoto National Museum. The building looks a little out of place when you compare it to what sits across the street, as it is a one hundred year old French building. It houses numerous art works from centuries past, consisting of scrolls, pottery, calligraphy, and other fine arts related to the Kyoto Prefecture. The line to get in was extensive, but very well organized. Women do not like to be out in the sun here, so everyone had umbrellas to keep from getting exposed during the hour-long wait. This exhibit was interesting, though not one of my favorite thus far.

We had definitely worked up an appetite, so we headed down the road to eat at Coco Ichibanya once again. This place’s food is AWESOME, and I would highly recommend Japanese curry to anyone traveling here. Once lunch wrapped up, we rambled around the streets for a few more hours and stumbled on to several other temples and historic treasures.

unordinary: Check out this beverage can. I bought it to try just because of the marketing they put into the design. It was called “Fanta Cider Zero”. In truth, it looks way better then it tastes, which is more like metallic red cream soda.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to leave comments. I am heading to bed ! (since it is 3:51 am here)