Sunday, January 31, 2010

Running, Sundays and Fevers

I had a great run yesterday afternoon. It was a sunny and warm day here in Kobe and I went for about 12 km. I was supposed to run again this evening, but the rain, fog and cold were telling me not to go. I was also really tired. It wasn't a normal tired. Sure, I have been running 6 nights a week as well as going to Japanese class twice a week, but this tired felt a little weird. As the afternoon and evening have gone on, I have felt stranger and sure enough, I now have a fever. Hopefully I will feel better in the morning. I really have to get on the road and pound out some kilometers. As of tomorrow it will officially be 28 days until the Tokyo Marathon and I still have a lot of work to do.

Yesterday was a cool day because after my run, my wife checked the mail and I received to very cool running related packages. One was my bib number exchange certificate for the Tokyo Marathon. I will bring that to the race expo the day before the race and get my race number and timing chip. I also received a very cool package from the United States. My friend and fellow runner/You Tuber, John Pham (Phampants) sent me some running gels. I mentioned in a recent You Tube video that I use Power Bar gels and another kind called Carbo Shotz. many commenters recommended using Cliff Shots or GU, but I can't get either of those brands here in japan.

Here is the treasure trove of running goodness sent to me from Chicago. If you are reading this John, you can expect something cool coming your way in the mail later in the week!

I almost forgot to mention that in two weeks from today I will be running in a half-marathon. I did the same one last year and loved it due to the convenience factor. Although not a very scenic run, the Kobe Love Run Valentine's Half Marathon (now there is a mouthful) goes on right outside y door. The start line is literally a 10 minute walk from my apartment. This should be a nice motivator before Tokyo!

Friday, January 29, 2010

R.I.P. Rodger Swan

Although I never met him, Rodger Swan left a lasting impression on me as well as thousands of other people. Those who watched his You Tube videos of his life as an American living in Japan will think of him fondly.

Just a few short days ago, this well known Japan You Tube vlogger's life came to an end suddenly and unexpectedly. He first came to Japan as a university student and returned last year as a teacher with the JET Program.

Rodger seemed like a very likable man. He seemed genuine, kind and someone I would have like to have become friends with. In this day of social media, it is easy to make friends online and become close to those you have never met in person. Through Rodger's videos, I felt as if I knew him.

I found out about his death last night when I came home from work. This morning I watched Tokyocooney's video tribute to him. This afternoon I made my own video with my thoughts on Rodger.

Kevin Cooney's tribute to Rodger:

My thoughts on Rodger:

Rodger Swan's last video. It was just posted a few days ago. I still can't believe he is gone.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kobe's International Radio Station

It's amazing how many things you miss even when you've been living somewhere for a few years. I just learned today that the city of Kobe actually has an international radio station. I suppose since we don't have a radio in our house, I never had a chance to come across it. It's also not a new thing. It's been in existence for 15 years. Radio FM YY is a foreign language station that has shows in 10 languages and is run by a staff of more than 100 volunteers. The station was born out of the Kobe Earthquake when there was no way for the roughly 45,000 foreign residents of Kobe to receive emergency information.

I learned about the station today while reading an article on Japan Today.

15 years after quake, Kobe radio station still serves foreign community
KOBE - The Radio FM YY studio looks like a miniature version of Kobe and the city’s more than 43,000 foreign nationals from about 120 countries.

“So, how do people in Latin America spend their holidays?” asks a DJ in Spanish in one recording booth, while in the booth next door a DJ welcomes a Thai dancer in Japanese and tells him to introduce himself through simultaneous interpretation.

The community radio station, which broadcasts music, news and other programs in 10 languages, is in a modern-looking church building near the waterfront in Nagata Ward that bears little resemblance to how the area looked after a magnitude 7.3 temblor hit the Hanshin region on the morning of Jan 17, 1995.

The site was an emergency shelter for scores of foreigners, especially Vietnamese living in the area, after the Great Hanshin Earthquake hit, leaving more than 6,000 people dead and thousands injured and forced into hardship.

The disaster was made worse for some foreigners because they couldn’t understand Japanese.
Read the rest of the article

Of course, Japan wasn't able to avoid the economic meltdown in 2009 that hit other parts of the world. With a bad economy comes less drinking money in one's pocket. How do you solve this problem? The 50 yen izakaya (50 cent pub).

50-yen 'izakayas' emerge for cash-strapped workers
TOKYO - These are hard times for the average salaried worker, with no pay raise and reduced bonuses. But the happy news is the emergence of so-called “50-yen izakayas.”

According to gourmet writer Ryuji Tazawa, “In recent years company employees have no more than 20,000 yen to 30,000 yen a month as allowance money. After deducting lunch costs and others, you have at most 10,000 yen for after-work drinks. If you spend 5,000 yen a night, you can only go out twice a month. That’s the situation. So this year, I expect an increase in low-budget izakayas to meet the demand of such people. A number of places already serve 50-yen appetizers, so a customer can eat and drink plenty for 1,000 yen. The 50-yen izakayas will probably become very popular this year.”
Read more

Sunday, January 17, 2010

15 Years After the Big One

Today was the 15th anniversary of the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake or the Kobe Earthquake. In 1995, the city of Kobe was flattened by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake.

Here is a short video I made today while visiting a photography exhibit about the disaster.

On a lighter note, I picked up a new pair of running shoes today. I have been battling an old tendon injury recently and hopefully new shoes with better cushioning might help. I am a loyal ASICS man and wear the Gel Kayano series since they offer the best foot support. I have low arches and these shoes are designed for folks like me.

Here is the brand new model in the Gel Kayano series. This is the Gel Kayano 16. I went for an 8 km run this evening in them and they felt great.

Monday, January 11, 2010

More running

Yesterday saw me run about 22 km. It was a long run and next Sunday I plan to do between 25-30 km. Often people ask me what I listen to while I am running. I suppose that I am a fan of podcasts. One of the first things I do every morning is eagerly start iTunes and hit refresh on my podcasts to see what new ones have come down the pipe. At times I choose music, but about %95 of the time while I trudge through the kilometers, I like to listen to shows about current affairs, politics, arts, culture and technology.

My favorite podcasts to listen to are as follows (not listed in any particular order):

1. Stuff You Should Know
2. Diggnation
3. Q
4. DNTO (Definitely Not the Opera)
5. Spark
6. Seoul Podcast
7. Search Engine
8. As it Happens
9. The Current
10. Vinyl Cafe

There are others I listen to of course, but I suppose that these are the main ones I always come back to and enjoy the most.

Osaka Evening

I shot the footage for this video last Saturday evening while in Osaka with my wife. I like how it turned out.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

49 Days Til Tokyo

Only 49 days left and I will be running the Tokyo Marathon. It is on February 28th. This will only be my second full marathon so I am still filled with nerves and butterflies. I finished a 22 km (give or take a kilometer) training run this morning/afternoon and it felt great. I was concerned this week with some leg issues. I was feeling some strange pains in the tendons behind my left knee and sometimes while running downhill, it felt as if my knee would give out. Some ibuprofen and some extra rest and today I felt amazing.

Tomorrow I plan on a 10-12 km training run. Monday is "Coming of Age Day" in Japan, which is a National Holiday.

Speaking of running, there was an interesting yearly event held this morning at Nishinomiya Shrine. That is where I went with my family for New Years' prayers.

Some 6,000 men burst through the gates of Nishinomiya Shrine in Hyogo Prefecture and race 230 meters toward the shrine’s main hall at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning with the frontrunners attempting to capture the title of “fuku-otoko” (Lucky Man). The annual ceremony, which has been held since the Edo period, is associated with Ebisu, a god of prosperous business. The first three participants to reach the main gates are considered Japan’s luckiest men for the year. Japantoday

Yesterday I went into Osaka to meet my wife. She had been in there doing some shopping while I was working. I shot a lot of footage for a video I will begin editing later this evening. I was wanting to capture some of the sights in Umeda, a downtown district in Osaka, at night time. I posted a few little videos about some other random things I saw.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Seoul, 3rd Worst City in the World

Apparently, according to a new Lonely Planet reader poll, Seoul, South Korea has been given the dubious distinction of being the 3rd Worst City in the World to live in! I thought this was particularly interesting since I lived in downtown Seoul (3 locations) between 2004-2006.

One quote from the Lonely Planet poll of the worst cities to live in described Seoul:

It’s an appallingly repetitive sprawl of freeways and Soviet-style concrete apartment buildings, horribly polluted, with no heart or spirit to it. So oppressively bland that the populace is driven to alcoholism.’

Now, I have to admit, that I did indeed have a few bad experiences while living in Seoul. I once was hired by an illegal private school. They claimed to be above the board and seemed so, but when immigration started sniffing around, I had a bad feeling and quit. I also had a few run ins with some rather unsavory drunk men. For the most part though, my time in Seoul was rather enjoyable. The night life was great and I made a lot of wonderful friends there.

Eventually though, due to a company transfer and general claustrophobia, I opted to move to South Korea's second largest and much smaller city, Busan. Busan was far more relaxed and friendly. Like Seoul (or any other Korean city), it didn't particulalry look nice, but I liked it.

Does Seoul deserved to be dubbed "The 3rd Worst City in the World"? Probably not, but I think Korean people and the government should take notice. Poor treatment of English teachers and discriminatory attitudes and legislation towards non-Koreans living in Korea is coming back to bite them in the ass. This is now a world where English teachers who are ripped off by crooked private school owners or mistreated by drunken men on the street can quickly spread their opinions via You Tube, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I suppose those in power in Korea need to start thinking more about foreigners who come to live and work in Korea. They should be extending more of an olive branch as opposed to marginalizing them!

I don't think Seoul is that bad of a city, but many (and I mean many) teachers who leave Korea, leave with a huge chip on their shoulder. The city doesn't deserve this sort of rating, but I am not surprised that it got it!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

3 Kobe Climbers Missing

3 missing in stormy conditions in northern Japan alps
Sunday 03rd January, 07:00 AM JST

Three climbers heading for 3,190-meter Mt. Okuhotakadake straddling Gifu and Nagano prefectures in the northern Japan alps are feared to be missing, police said Saturday. Due to stormy conditions, Gifu police have suspended rescue operations for the day and plan to start searching for the three on Sunday or later once the weather improves, they said.

According to police, the three are Mitsuru Honjyo, 59, Mikio Zenitani, 52, and Aiko Irie, 58. All three are residents of Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture.

The three climbers arrived in the alps on Tuesday and were scheduled to descend Thursday after climbing Japan’s third-highest peak, according to the police.

A local alpine club in Kobe said it had lost contact with the three climbers.

Local meteorological agencies said snowfall and gusts have continued for several days in the alps with poor visibility at high altitude due to blizzards.

Meanwhile, a married couple from the city of Shizuoka climbing in the southern alps asked for help Saturday afternoon, Shizuoka prefectural police said.

Yoshitaka Kakegawa, 44, is believed to have suffered minor frostbite and his wife Hiroyo, 45, cannot move due to exhaustion, police said, adding they will search for the couple from Sunday morning.

A corporate worker from Saitama Prefecture who was part of the climbing party descended to the Nagano Prefecture side safely on Saturday, the police said.

Source: Japan Today

Friday, January 1, 2010

Mount Fuji

A few weeks ago as I flew to Canada for my Christmas vacation I took a few pictures from the airplane window of Mount Fuji. It was a beautiful sight. Mount Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan and as you can clearly see is a volcano. This big fella is actually a dormant volcano so there is still a chance that at some point, it may become active again.

Mount Fuji is 3,776 m or 12,388 ft tall.

The official climbing season for Mount Fuji is ever summer between the beginning of July and the end of August. It s more of a hike as opposed to a climb. It can be a dangerous place to climb off season though. Just last week, two climbers were killed on the slopes of the mountain.

This is one of my favorite videos about climbing the mountain. It's by Chris Gen of StreetEnglish TV. he makes awesome videos, but these days has dropped off the You Tube radar. I hope he gets back into making videos for You Tube soon.