I am nomad. Hear me roar.


Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Concerning Housemates

The Shadow moved out the other day.

The Shadow was one of my housemates, a hearing-impaired young man with some serious hygiene issues. Due to the fact, that he didn't clean up after himself and never spoke, he didn't really make friends with the rest of us. It's a bit mean, but I don't think any of us are overly sorry he is gone. He left us three bags of rubbish as a going away present.

'Us' of course, is me and the other inhabitants of the three story rabbit warren, double Japanese townhouse that I live in now. The other occupants being Ink, CQ, Maniac Magnet, and the Lexicon, together we have become a pretty fun household.

I met Ink first, the day I inspected, the poor guy had not been warned that the property agent and I were coming, and was just stepping out of the bathroom in a towel as we were leaving. Good thing that neither of us are easy to embarrass. Ink's nickname is a double reference. Firstly to the totally awesome tattoos he is having completed all over his shoulder, and secondly to the fact that he is here in Japan on a cultural visa, studying and creating calligraphy.

The next day when I moved in I met Lex, also known as Geisha-boy, Lexicon is in pursuit of the cultural visa, like Ink has. He however refuses to define or limit his art to a single media. He is a pianist, a photographer, a cinematographer, a veritable self-titled Lexicon, and his stuff ain't bad. He has been dubbed Geisha-boy too, as Geisha are artists of many talents which refuse to be classified.

That evening whilst I was in the kitchen having dinner, I introduced myself to CQ, who accepted my offered beer and sat down, we immediately ended up in the biggest deep and meaningful. He's just like that.

Then there is the Maniac Magnet, who is the most recent addition to the house. He is always having girl-trouble, in fact that is the reason he is here in Japan, a colossal amount of girl-trouble, led him all the way from Brisbane to Osaka and beyond. He is forever whinging about it but secretly, he loves it. Mr MM has really been the one that has cemented us together, he dragged us all, except Lex out the other night for a truly tremendous night of beer, bravado and blowing shit up. This took the shape of dinner, followed by karaoke and letting off a whole lot of fireworks in the park, which are surprisingly not illegal in Japan.

So that is it, introductions over, I submit to you with the addition of Little Girl Lost, the players in the drama that is 'The Guch'.

Days End

I am sitting watching the sunset from the balcony of an ol' skool Japanese townhouse. Actually technically it is two townhouses bridged on the second level by a few wooden steps, not far from where I am sitting.

The breeze is very refreshing after the terminally hot weather that we have been bombarded with over the last month. I think Summer may finally be coming to a close. I can hear the murmur of one of my housemates on Skype in the other room, just the noise, not the words, but it is punctuated regularly with laughter. It is a comforting sound, one of the many things that is starting to make this house feel more like a home.

I have been working too hard, falling into old habits, not completely a bad thing, I do not need the money yet, but I may soon. Today is for relaxing though, tidying up and chilling out. I hear the traffic in the distance, people rushing, tomorrow will be for rushing again. Today is calm. The sky darkens. Moriguchi settles in for the night. Downstairs, there is a sign sitting on a ledge in the kitchen, that very fittingly reads, 'Welcome to the Guch'.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


A brilliant, stellar cast, all turning out great performances, with an intriguing psycho/philosophic action plot-line, and awesome special effects... really worth a watch.

Work, Rest and Play

I have stumbled onto some pretty darn fun people.

I am now 2 days into my job, the second of which was followed, as all good work days should be, by a trip to the local izakaya with my new workmates. With beer flowing, great food and lively conversation, we laughed away a couple of hours and headed home on the last train, before turning into pumpkins at midnight.

True to the Whitlams form, "Monday's my Sunday, I don't have a thing to do, 'cept try and get up while it's still light". Monday has become my Sabbath, and after not sleeping properly all through training, I spent all day catching up, and all evening knocking back beers with my sharehouse boys. Another good night with great people.

What more could a girl ask for?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Terminal Training

I have just completed 3 days of intense training, which threw my confidence into a terrible tail-spin. I went through one of those learning cycles, where you are so focused on the new skills that you completely forget to do all of the actions you already know how to do, knocking my normally high spirits into a nose-dive.

Once I clear the air-space and my head-space though, I should be flying high once more. I just need to relax and find my auto-pilot.

Turbulence free skies ahead, I hope.

Mobiles, Movies and My Size

My inner shop-aholic has been appeased, last Tuesday being armed with an array of awesome advice from friends and the Being a Broad forums, I went shopping. My aims were a mobile phone and some more shirts for work.

First stop was Softbank for the mobile, the dude that helped me out was amazing. I cannot sing his praises enough, his customer service was above and beyond, even changed the handset over to English for me and set up my email address, before I had even left the store. It was just so perfectly easy.

From there, I continued on to Namba Parks shopping centre, where I found 'Next'. Now, I'm not a really big girl, but generally speaking I do wear the upper sizes available in most chain stores in Australia and even with the kilos I have shed hiking round Japan, I'm still no where near what you would exactly call Japanese sized. As such, I have been having no luck what so ever finding clothes that would fit or suit me, that is, until there was 'Next'. It is an oasis, in the desert called Size 0, with a great range of business and casual clothes in my size, and at reasonable prices. How I managed to stay sane and only walk out with two tops I will never know. I left the store with my little internal retail therapy monster purring away.

Then, much to my delight, I discovered that Namba Parks has a cinema, so I whiled away the hours watching the new Angelina Jolie, which had the added bonus of only being subbed in Japanese and not dubbed, so it was still in English.

A perfectly simple end to a perfectly simple day.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Reckless Rufty's Tour de'Loose-ness

I have a mate coming to crash on my couch in September, or he would be, if I had a couch. Instead ol' Reckless Rufty, as he ill-advisedly likes to call himself, will be hauled up on the tatami, in my room. A brief sojourn on what he refers to as his Tour de'Loose-ness, an awesome world trip that is only just beginning in Japan.

I have been in dire need of a good drinking buddy since I arrived here, and as Reckless has always been supremely happy oblige on this front, I can't wait til he gets here. In fact, I was so excited that I gave him the honour of choosing his own identity preserving nom de plume. It's not exactly what I would have selected, but I'm warming to it. This is what I get for letting people contribute. I am never letting anyone, pick their pseudonym ever again.

The Post Formerly Known as 'Job-less'

On Monday I signed my freedom away. I am no longer amongst the ranks of the unemployed. I now, officially, have a job.

A Winning Hand

I was never without the Queen of Hearts, which is of course, 'Yours Truly'. She is always a strong start and a force to be reckoned with.

I had then been dealt the Ace and Ten of Spades, in the form of a job, with accommodation arranged, in a small town outside of Nara, teaching elementary and junior high kids. By all standards good cards, but not quite the best fit for our Queen.

The dealer then lays on the table the Ace of Hearts, a corporate job, teaching mostly businessmen but with some students and hobbyists, 40 minute English lessons, that will be flexible around my travel plans, and hands me the option of a sharehouse in Osaka, the Ten of Hearts.

Now here I have a choice, do I bank on the two pair, hoping that school children and small town life will be enough to keep me active for the duration of my trip, or do I gamble the lot, discard the Spades and pray that my gaijin 'Jack' card and King of a bank account are waiting for me in the deck. I did not leave my safe job, safe home and safe life in Australia, just to play safe now.

I remove the Spades from my hand, and wait, the heart in my chest as silent as those fanned between my fingers. The next card is dealt, Jack of Hearts, my alien registration card, I still could not sign my contracts without a bank account, it is still a worthless hand without the King. All my hearts begin to flutter as the last card is placed face down before me, all bets are in.

My bank account is taken out, it is the King.

Royal Flush.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Interviewed at Captain Kangaroo

I am famous.

This is the conclusion I have arrived at as, in Japan it would appear, I am unable to walk into a bar without ending up in some form of publication. In Tokyo, it was the men's magazine, here in Osaka, its the newspaper. A very respected, Japanese/English newspaper, requested my comments on the upcoming Australian election, and I was exceedingly happy to oblige.

Random Japanese people have also had a strange habit of approaching me, at the tourist destinations I have been visiting, and asking if they can have their photograph taken with me. Very odd.

I feel like I will have paparazzi knocking down my door any moment now, and that I should go all diva on them, in the manner of Naomi or Russell. Quick! I need a phone to throw.

Don't Stop on My Account

I am determination personified.

On Saturday I arose, showered, dressed and walked straight back into the bank branch and opened my account. Of the thirty two colours available my bank card is Melon Soda which is a very fetching shade of light green. I also had a copy of the page printed, that for most people, I am told, takes a week to have mailed to them.

Thank you, no applause necessary.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Wards & Banks

I have been encountering some further points of frustration over the last couple of days in my ongoing quest for a bank account. The biggest step forward having been achieved in gaining permanent residence in a sharehouse. I then just needed to proceed down to my local ward office and register my change of address, or so I thought. It turned out, after some very broken Japanese/English conversation between me and the very helpful girl at the ward office, that in trying to be organised in Kyoto and starting the process that I had actually slowed it down. They now had to send to Kyoto for my details, and it would take a week for them to arrive. I offered to go to Kyoto and pick up my forms, this was not possible. I offered to go to Kyoto and cancel my registration to reapply here in Osaka, this was not possible. All I could do was wait, in the full knowledge that I had shot myself in the foot. Devastating. This was Monday.

Today, not being able to stand it any longer, I went back down to the ward office just in case a miracle had occurred. To my great astonishment, my helpful girl, recognised me with a smile, and brought me not only the forms that I needed for the bank, but my Alien Registration card which was not meant to be ready for another two weeks. Winner. Friday the Thirteenth, not so unlucky for me.

With my paperwork in hand, and viewing the success at the ward office as a bit of an omen, onwards I travelled to the bank. I had a fair wait, but when I sat down the lady at the counter worked quickly confirming all my details. Passport, check. Alien Registration card, check, Address, check. Japanese phone number, what? Foiled. I cannot open a bank account now without a Japanese phone number, I felt utterly defeated. It is the second time now that I have been so close, so close to my bank account, that I can smell the sweet aroma of my little Yen inside, just to have my hopes dashed. So I did what any rational person would do in this particular situation, I burst into tears, only a few, but tears none the less, right there in the bank. Very embarrassing, I wish I could tell you it had been otherwise, but no, I had the ultimate girl reaction. Some Warrior Woman I proved to be.

Seconds later, when I had left the branch, the sobs ebbed, Minutes later, when I had walked to the train, my resolve was formed. I will tackle the bank again tomorrow, with the number for Pizza Hut if I have to, I will get my account. I will not be beaten.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Ultimate Fusion Cooking - Episode 1

Last night I made my first attempt at ultimate fusion cooking. My goal, seven mushroom risotto.

I started at the supermarket, at which I bought every single type of mushroom and fungi that I could discover. Seeking stock was difficult as I was unable to read the labels, I resigned to making it fresh and purchased chicken wings instead. I also found a very nice drop of South African Chenin Blanc, most of which, I promise, found its way into the risotto.

Having carted all my produce home, I set to work. Browning the chicken, deglazing with a bit of wine, adding parsley stalks and good ol' aitch-two-oh, and set it all about bubbling for a couple of hours. Once done, I set half aside with the chicken pieces to become soup for another night, and began on the mushrooms.

They are wonderful, I still don't even know what half of them are, there are shiitakes, buttons and something like a Swiss brown at least. Of the others some are blessed with long thin white stalks and itty bitty caps, others big bulbous bases with slightly upturned caps, others are just a feathered clump almost like a bracket fungus, and lastly the cutest arrive joined all at the base still, a little round knot of petite brown caps. I set to washing and chopping them up, then sauteed lightly and placed to the side, leaving all the mushroom-y juices at the bottom of the pan. This was soon accompanied by a bit more oil and half a diced onion, tossed til translucent, and the uncooked rice added.

The rice was where things began to go awry. It was my mistake, I overestimated the amount required as I often do with rice, it began to swell and threaten to devour the world, as I poured in the stock and wine as required. In hindsight, I should have at this point removed some of the rice, but I endeavoured instead to simply make a bigger meal. I mixed in the sauteed mushrooms, and Parmesan, and discovered to my dismay that my beautiful risotto due to its sheer size had sealed itself in charcoal to the bottom of the pan.

I managed to rescue most of the meal but it did retain a very slight burnt aftertaste. Disappointing, but not discouraging. This is only episode one, my forays into ultimate fusion cooking will continue, and the leftovers have proved to be very appetising with Tabasco and pizza cheese on top. Tasty.

My Civic Duty

Yesterday I sourced out the Australian Consulate in Osaka, which is a very cramped, unimpressive office in a tall building which is mostly mall, clearly there are less of us to serve here than I thought. My purpose was to vote.

Generally speaking, I am not a overly political person, however my interest has been piqued in this particular election, due to my absolute detestation of the views of one of the party leaders. I cannot think of anything worse than prospect of this person becoming Australia's highest representative, and I will do everything in my power to oppose it. My power being limited in this capacity to my one little vote. So I shuffled into the cardboard polling booth set up in the dingy little office, and cast my one vote, in the hope that it will become a single drop in an ocean of like-minded votes.

Time will tell.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Noble Cicada

I have recently found myself in a very strange position in conversation over the the last week or so, in fact it was the same position, twice, I found myself defending the attributes of, our friend, the noble cicada.

The summer air, at dawn and dusk rings with the iconic cry that I had always previously associated with the Australian January. But as it turns out the cicada, or 'semi' as he is known here, is just as iconic in Japan. So much so that, in manga to simply write the sound made by the 'semi' in the background of a scene, is to indicate a hot, summers day. Now I, who have a long history of hunting down and collecting cicada shells, summer after summer, barely register the constant chirping hum he produces with his wings, I am too accustomed to it to even really hear it anymore. This appears however, not to be the case, for those who have travelled from the North American continent, as on more than one occasion now I have been drawn into conversation where I was being advised on how abhorrent, disgusting and annoying he is, something that I just couldn't agree with, and I will proceed by sharing my reasoning.

Firstly, as bugs go they are mostly harmless, other than having a somewhat unfortunate habit of coursing directly into the side of your head at times, he does not bite and he is not poisonous. For an Australian child, growing up in a country where most things you could wish to poke are deadly, this is already a major plus.

Secondly, despite not fitting the conventional standards of beauty, the way for example a butterfly does, the cicada does sport in some cases gorgeously, almost snake-like patterned wings, and in others a glass and lead light transparent type. Growing up, cicada wings were the ultimate find, the highest in playground currency, worth at least a hundred shells, and highly coveted.

Beyond that, the black cicada most common in Japan is a warrior, wearing his thick armour plating to prove it. He is at war with the crow. His foe, a giant creepy Edgar Allan Poe-esque thing, caws and pounces on our hero, without a moments notice, who would never escape if not for the utilitarian shielding that adorns him. There is beauty once again to be found here, in the same way there is beauty to be found in a crushed helmet that saves a skull, and I have seen too many of those in my time.

Our hero is, encumbered with bulging eyes, which I think is where he loses much of the observers favour, but this is where it does well to point out, you will come across a similar problem if you look too closely at the butterfly. As for the noise, it heralds in the hot weather, when the beach beckons, and could therefore never go unwanted by me.

Lastly, I was raised on a diet of C J Dennis, he being one of my father's favourites, and was regularly fed 'The Triantiwontigongolope'. I believe that my soft spot for our hero has stemmed from this, listening to my Dad read the poem I always envisioned a creature very like, the very handsome and noble cicada.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Home Sweet Home

For better or for worse, in my constant pursuit of a bank account, I am now living in a sharehouse in Osaka. I have a cute, air conditioned, Japanese style tatami-ed room, complete with western style single bed. I have a desk, chair and lamp for Warren sitting in one corner facing the window, and a black leather arm chair for me to curl up in with a book, in the other. Outside it has just started to rain, which should take the edge off the heat. It is a room that I believe I will be quite content in, and seeing as I am contracted into a minimum of 3 month stay, this is a very good thing.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Ode to Mickey

Before I left on my travels, a very good friend of mine was married and went on her honeymoon to Disneyland in Florida. When she returned she gave me a gift, which consisted, amongst other things, of a few items pilfered from the Disney hotel, that she thought I might need on my trip. Some of these were toiletries items, that I will have to brave her displeasure and admit that I left at home, due to the nature of my trip and their 'travel-size', they were not suitable and space in the turtlepack is very limited. One item however, a Mickey Mouse Pirates of the Caribbean face washer, I did pack, as it was one of those sponge packed washers that do not expand to their actual size until water is added. At the time, the way it was sealed it was about the size of five fifty cent pieces piled together, and even though I have never really been one for face washers, I thought I may as well take it as not, it might come in handy. Little did I know exactly how useful it would become.

In 'The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' the Guide gives some very strict advice on some subjects, the first and most prominent of which is "DON'T PANIC", in fact in most print copies this is actually emblazoned on the cover. This is very good advice in all life situations. I do realise also, that it is often easier said than done, but it is never productive.

The second piece of advice the Guide provides, has proved to be just as important when touring Japan in the Summer, as it does during intergalactic space travel, always knowing where one's towel is, and this brings me back to Mickey. Mickey, now I have to say this very quietly so that Warren does not hear and become jealous, would probably have to be the single most invaluable item I have in my travelling arsenal. I could not survive a day without him, and everyone in Japan seems to travel with their own version. Some are bright and cartooned, suited for tweens, others more sober, more for the use of the business man. Some are designer, I have seen samples from most of the most coveted labels, Burberry, Chanel, Louis Vuitton. People carry various sized towels, some just face washer size, like my own dear Mickey, others larger, almost full hand towels. My personal favourite is the version of scarf-like dimensions that is worn around the neck or tied around the top of the head like a bandanna. There are a few reasons for this phenomenon of towel-carrying. The first one being, to deal with the constant presence of perspiration, that is a part of hourly life here in the heat and humidity that is Summer in Japan. The others are that it doubles as both bathroom hand towel, and napkin, as there is rarely any where else to dry your hands. It took me mere days to pick up this habit of Mickey-carrying, and it had been so impressed on me, that when it came time for me to greet M at the start of her travels, I did so at Kyoto Station with a gift-towel in hand, for her very own.

In retrospect, I thank my dear friend, very much for giving me Mickey, I appreciate him more than she could possibly know, and I would just like to advocate, 'Hitchhikers' time honoured advice, having personally experienced the daily need for it, to always know where one's towel is.

Cyclone Turtlepack

The last couple of days have been a haze of maps, trains and directions, of meeting people here, missing people there and crowds everywhere. In the midst of this, there was a house inspection, a second job interview, and a spectacular fireworks display at Juso.

My head is reeling. It feels as though the powers that be, whoever or whatever might be up there watching, have said "Hey, let's just see what she can handle, let's just push the envelope of her brain, test the limits...".

My response to that? "Bring. It. On!"

Friday, 6 August 2010

Reflections of Osaka-jo Koen

Sweet Concrete

Having spent the last two days, doing some very necessary job-hunting, attending interviews and generally being all sorts of responsible, I required a bit of a break. Two days is tough stuff, people. Look, I'm easing back into it, okay?

For my hard earned vacation, I took a trip to Osaka Castle. Osaka Castle was originally, a defensively built structure comprising mostly of granite. It was not, very successfully defensively built however, as it was breached and almost completely destroyed. Twice. Now, it is still a very impressive beautiful building, but it is a mostly concrete reconstruction. The added benefit of this is, that it does have an elevator that ascends its 8 floors, which I'm sure, was not part of the original blueprints. The Castle also houses a museum dedicated to the wars that had been fought in the Osaka area, primarily being the Osaka Summer Campaign and the Osaka Winter Campaign. One can only assume due to the flowers blossoming, and the foliage changing, that Spring and Autumn are just too pretty to fight during.

One of the suits of armour on display, that would have made a fearsome sight on the battlefield, was covered almost completely in real black bear fur. It was a very interesting garment to behold, I still couldn't help but feel sorry for the bear though.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Train of Thought

After some serious sleuthing, I discovered the mystery of my random steam train, was simply the Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum. Set in a quaint renovated station building, with an antique fan shaped locomotive house with turntable at its rear, it has 20 different models of steam train on display. One of which, takes tourists on 10 minute rides, right past the park bench I had been sitting at the other day.

Not quite polite

I would like to start today by dispelling an urban myth about Japan. The one that states that all Japanese people are polite. I have a slight correction, most Japanese people are polite.

In order to continue with my dissolution of this myth, I would like to firstly present to you, members of the jury, Exhibit A, if you would kindly look to your left you will see the gorgeous cartoon depiction of myself enrobed in what has become my usual travelling gear. You will notice the navy velour trackies, and cotton singlet for comfort, the Chinese dragon printed Hawaiian shirt for the dual effect of sun protection and sleeves to prevent the turtlepack from digging into my shoulders, and the newly acquired frolicking animals scroll print trilby which also provides added sun protection. I am aware this is a sexy look. What I did not know was how much scrutiny it would open me up to from front desk staff as I attempted to check in.

As I walked up to the reception area, I saw the clerks face drop from a serene smile, to a mask of distain. Not to be disheartened, I flashed a grin.
"I'd like to check in please, I have a reservation" I started sounding a bit tired, but pleasant.
"You? Have a reservation?" was the response I received, dripping with contempt, and believe me, I now know, contempt knows no language barrier. My smile discarded on the floor. I answered both her questions, as there is no punctuation error above, she had clearly asked me two questions.
"Yes me, I have a reservation"
The disdain switches to disbelief then surprise, as she asks for my name, finds it in the register and checks me in.
"BAM! Bitch, back in your box!" my thoughts cheer.

I might expect this kind of behaviour if I had been checking into the Ritz, but not some cheap 3 1/2 star dive, where the room smells of smoke, the toilet gurgles whenever someone next door flushes, and they do not offer room service. The pay TV only shows sport or porn, what does that say about their usual clientele, and she is judging me on the way I am dressed. I would have complained however, technically, she didn't actually say anything rude.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case, most Japanese people are polite.

Happy Japan-niversary!

Today I have been in Japan for one month, and short of a few minor bouts of homesickness, I am surviving well.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Maiko Makeover Magic

Having suffered defeat at the hands of the banks, I needed some fun to take my mind off it all, and a Geisha makeover was something I had had planned for a long time.

Geisha, or Geiko in the Kyoto dialect, are artisans that traditionally entertain wealthy businessmen, and in Kyoto there are studios that you can visit to be dressed-up and photographed as a Geiko.

I opted for the Maiko, apprentice Geiko, makeover instead as the Kimono and head-dresses are more colourful. The experience started with me selecting my Kimono, a bright ultramarine one, with fresh green leaves and pink, salmon and white flowers printed on it. I changed into the undergarments provided me, a plain white cotton robe pulled down low at the back to allow for the nape painting and toed socks.

I am led to a chair with a large mirror facing me, my hair tied up in a net, the make-up artist begins to paint, whiting out my face. I close my eyes, I feel the cool paint brush, mark the distinctive, alluring, suggestive shapes on the nape of my neck. I follow the artist's instructions obediently as she works on my eyes, look up, close, open, look up, the red tinges of the eyeliner intensifying the green flecks in my eyes.

Make-up completed, I am dressed by the attendant, layers draped over my shoulders to create the red frame for the nape paint, and an under-skirt to be visible where the Kimono robe parts at the front. The robe follows, is tied expertly in place, I wonder briefly how the real Maiko can stand all these layers in the heat and humidity of summer, that all of the expertly painted on make-up does not drip straight off again. My obi follows, a cream with salmon flowers sash, designed to reduce and hide the curves, that most other cultures seek to enhance.

Last but not least, a wig is placed over my hair net, the transformation is complete. I face my reflection, I can barely see me peeking out from under the false hair and make-up, only the shape of my face and hazel eyes betraying me.

The photo shoot was fabulous, and the photographer was engaging, guiding me into the poses, placing all the props just so. It was simply magical, as were the results, 20 pictures, capturing all my Geisha glory, presented to me on a sample page and CD.

Definitely distracted from the day's dilemmas.

Red Tape

I am Jack's semi-irate little ball of red tape. Today I attempted to open a bank account. Generally speaking what I was able to discern with my limited Japanese today is that most banks will only give me a bank account if I have a job. I have been told that I will not be hired without a bank account. Catch 22.

I did manage to find one bank that will give me an account as long as I have my Alien Registration card, the one that I am not able to pick up for another month. Frustrating.

I have an interview in 3 days, for which they requested I provide my Japanese bank details and no bank account. Pickle.

Earning my Onsen

Yesterday, I caught the train up to the mountains above Kyoto city and visited Kurama. Following the LP's advice I hiked over the mountain, passing some beautiful shrines on the way, to nearby Kibune. About half way there it becomes very clear to me why the Japanese are generally so thin, everything about their worship has them climbing some type of stairs, or hill, or mountain in order to pray, it ensures that if you are even slightly religious you are very fit.

On the other side of the mountain the LP had promised me, beautiful restaurants, serving delicate lunches, where the guests are seated on tatami-ed floors suspended above the river flowing over the feet of the mountain. I hiked for two hours dreaming of, nay savoring the meal that waited for me at the end of my journey. For the first time ever, the LP let me down.

Don't mistake me, the restaurants were there all right, in all their cool, delicious looking splendour, but if anything this only made the disappointment worse. None of them, not one, would admit single diners. Something that the LP had either not known or neglected to mention. Sulking, and feeling discriminated against, I did the only thing I could think to do, and walked back over the mountain, stopping outside a pretty stone shrine, to eat my well earned lunch of cold tea poppers and Soyjoys. The hike back was intense and invigorating, the humidity in the cypress forest carpeting the mountain though was stifling, soon I was drenched. Perspiration absolutely coating me, I no longer had sweat patches, it looked as though I had just jumped into a bath. So I decided to do exactly that.

Having returned to Kurama, I sought out the natural spring baths, the onsen, in the vicinity, got naked, showered off, and stepped in to soak. It was glorious, the pressure of the day on my muscles melting away, I gazed out over the view of the cypress laden mountains above me, and drifted away.