Thursday, May 26, 2005

Dodgy searches

I've just been having a look through the "Referrers" list on my
internet counter. I often check it when I'm bored - it's really
interesting to see where people have come from to find your website.

If you have no idea what I'm on about, you can take a look for
yourself - just scroll down to the bottom of the side bar, and click
on the little bar graph under the site counter (or in laymans' terms,
"the colourful little box under the big box with numbers in it"). A
new window should pop up with loads of statistics about visitors to
the website. Now click on "Referrers" on the left-hand side under
"Visitor Analysis". You should be presented with a breakdown of the
ten most recent visitors, and if they clicked on a link to get to An
Englishman in Nyu-gun, the site they came from will be shown. More
interestingly though, if they used a search engine to to find the
site, the term they were searching for is shown as well.

Most of the people who come to my site through a search engine are
usually looking for something like "nyu gun", "asahi", "fukui", "JET"
or something like that. However, I noticed that one chap (and I'm
going to assume he was a chap) found my site after using this as a
search term:

"naked women firing guns pictures"

Apparently I'm way up there for naked-women-firing-guns-pictures,
since Google threw up my site on the second page of searches, along
with an article on the torture of women in Iraq and a treatise on the
Nanjing Massacre. Oh, and a website called "Alex's Girls With Guns". I
suspect the anonymous visitor found what be was looking for on that
last site, although I suppose there's always the chance that our
friend is a gender studies student looking into gun-related abuses
against women.

Though I doubt it.

Anyway, it seems Google picked my site because of a jokey article I
wrote in December about a magazine called "Arms", which had one of the
trashiest covers I've ever seen - a young Japanese girl with
frightening make-up sprawled under a Kalishnikov. I regret it now - if
I'd know it would be so popular with gender studies students, I
would've written more.

What I like most about the "naked women firing guns pictures" search,
is its exactingly specific nature... The author is no longer content
with merely searching for "naked women", he wants "naked women firing
guns". And what's more, he wants pictures. Presumably a steamy novella
concerning the sensual pleasures enjoyed by naked women who fire guns
would not be enough - this particular client demands pictures, and
nothing less.

A sad day indeed for internet publishers of erotic text-based fiction.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Engrish Bonanza

I haven't put any Engrish on the site for a while now, so here's a few
new gems to compensate - enjoy.

I saw this bank of vending machines (or "Self-Cafe" as it terms itself) in Shin-Osaka station. There was some fantastic nonsense written down the sides...

I remember the days when I still felt like a gentleman - before I was drawn in by the subtle and devious temptations of milk and sugar.

Dammit! I want to know the answer now!!! You mean there's more to coffee than the caffeine addiction and mild headaches? Well I never... So the love of coffee comes from within the heart? Is that why Tony Blair had a heart murmur last year after drinking too much coffee? I wonder what his heart was telling him? Probably: "Drink less coffee, Tony, or we're both gonna be up the creek without a paddle".

Whoever wrote this certainly loves their coffee breaks... Although if I was caught "getting energy from my valuables" on my coffee break, it could mean instant dismissal.

I saw this written on a wall in an office in Osaka - I think it might have been a travel agency... Anyway, I couldn't agree with the sentiments more, particularly "A woman does a revolution forever". Bloody women, always revolutionising all over the place. I came into the office this morning and SMACK! What happens first thing? That's a right, one of my female co-workers revolutioned, right up in my face! There were tears till lunchtime, I can tell you.

"Big Pocket - This good is another pocket for you". It's a good thing this pocket has a label, otherwise I'd never have been able to work out what it was.

"Huge Rock - We support your exciting fine". I wonder if they're talking about wrestler-cum-actor "The Rock"? Is his first name "Huge"? Is this a message of support from his loyal fans? And what exactly was the "exciting fine" for? It makes me begin to wonder what other kinds of films he's "acted" in...

In Kyoto station I came across this sign for a 300 yen shop called "3Coins". It's the first time I've seen a 300 yen (1 pound fifty) shop - which is basically a slightly more upmarket version of a 100 yen shop. Upmarket or not, the owners seem to be having more than a little trouble grasping the English language - it just goes to show, money can't buy you grammar.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The School Trip

Yesterday was the post-exam school trip at Nyu High School - in other
words, a free holiday for everyone, yay! Because I'm not affiliated
with any particlar class or year, last week I was given the choice of
either going with the first years, the second years or the third
years. I ended up plumping for the second years, mostly because one of
the second year teachers said her class had asked me to come along. I
was told we were going somewhere called "SST Land" (or "SST Rando" in
Japanese katakana English) - I had no idea what or where this was, but
apparently we would be having a barbecue there.

Then on Tuesday afternoon I was told that we'd be leaving school at
8.35am, and that I should dress casually. All well and good.

Wednesday morning arrived, but when I turned up to school I was a bit
confused. Where were all the coaches? How could there be a school trip
without any coaches? Then I bumped into one of the English teachers in
the corridor, and he asked me where I was going today. I told him I
was going with the second years to somewhere called "SST Land".

"Wow, you picked the furthest one!", he replied, "That's a two hour
walk! You must be fit!"

Hold on a minute - walking? No-one mentioned anything about walking,
and certainly nothing about a two hour walk... I'd been tricked! I was
told this day was going to be fun!

Still, there was no way out of it now, so I dutifully joined the queue
of second years who were loudly and cheerfully shuffling out of the
school. Almost immediately I started enjoying myself - there's some
really funny kids in the second year, and they were really excited
about talking to me outside of the classroom, so the time passed
pretty quickly.

And then it rained.

For the whole day.

Talk about putting a dampener on things - what was supposed to be a
fun day out for the kids and teachers turned out to be an endurance
test of mental and physical stamina. By the time we arrived at SST
Land (which turned out to be a campsite in the woods - not an
adventure theme park as I was hoping), everyone was soaked through to
the skin. A few lucky people had umbrellas, but most of the students
were just wearing tracksuits, and they looked absolutely freezing.

The barbecue helped warm things up a little bit (luckily the barbecues
were under shelter), but by the time it came to walk back it was still
pissing it down. At this point I thought that maybe someone would have
called a bus company to get some coaches to take everyone home - but
apparently not. With a grim air of determination, everyone stepped
back into the sheets of rain for the two hour walk home...

All in all, not a particularly fun trip I'm sure you'll agree.
However, it was saved from utter awfulness by three things:

1) The kids were still happy and genki despite being dripping wet and
cold, and it's difficult not to smile when you see their enthusiasm.

2) Even in the rain, the countryside round here is still quite pretty
(at least compared to the towns).

3) The rain reminded me of England.

And let's face it, you can't have a barbecue without rain...

The students set off on the two hour walk from Nyu High School to "SST Land". The weather was lovely to begin with - hot, but not too hot - just right for walking.

And then it rained. And rained. And rained....

Most of the kids carry these towels around with them: in summer they use them to mop up sweat, but they're just as useful for keeping the rain off. The funky umbrella was provided by a local oba-chan (grandmother), who rushed out of her house and gave out all her umbrellas to the kids when she saw them walking past - bless her!

I was impressed that the kids were allowed to do all the barbecuing themselves - if this was England, most of the boys would be chucking hot coals at each other by now, and at least one ambulance would have been called.

The scenery was pretty impressive, despite all the rain. The new rice plants have just been put into the fields, so everything's looking very green and lush at the moment - spring has most certainly arrived. I'd definitely like to go for another hike around the foothills of Asahi, but next time it'll have to be sunny... Having said that, it might be worth taking the car, just in case.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Captain Everything!

Last night I was in Tsutaya (my local video and CD rental shop), when
I noticed something quite exciting. I'd just dropped off "Return of
the Jedi", and I wasn't in any hurry, so I thought I'd have a quick
browse around the "CDs to buy" section. What I saw nearly blew my
socks off... Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Captain Everything have made
it to Japan!

For those of you that don't know, Captain Everything are the best punk
band in the world EVER, and not only that, but I used to go to school
with them. They got together in 1998, and they've been getting bigger
and better ever since, and now, finally, they are officially BIG IN
JAPAN.

Nice work guys.

Anyway, I've just had an email from Jon and Rich to say that they're
almost definitely playing a gig in Tokyo on 22nd June, so if anyone's
interested in going with me, drop me a line. Can't wait!

If you want to find out more about the phenomenon that is Captain
Everything, I've put a link to their website in the side bar - go and
have a listen, people! Pure, unadulterated Watford Punk, at its
best... C'mon, Watford Pride! Let's go!

Get it out the way
I'm gonna say
We love ginger spice
WATFORD PRIDE!

Get it out the way
I'm gonna say
Geoge Michael, Elton John
WATFORD PRIDE!

Knackered out town not much culture
Do you wanna get beaten up? (Hell no)

Get it out the way
I'm gonna say
Can we have some more
WATFORD PRIDE!

la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, OI!

Here it is - the CD itself, "it's not rocket science", in a shop in Japan. Woohoo! Good work guys! I think they need to update their signs though - "Punk Rock in the World 2004"? Come on people, get with the program!

Captain Everything! are, from left to right: Lewis, Jon and Rich. Big up yo'selves.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Fukui Is Many Nature...

I've just had a fantastic weekend - one of those weekends where you
don't feel sorry about going back to work on Monday, because you feel
you've done so much and had so much fun that it would be greedy to ask
for more. Yes, it was that much fun.

It all started with mine and Flick's six month anniversary on Friday.
Of course, technically speaking, you can't actually have a six month
"anniversary"*, but sometimes you've just got to ease off the
grammatical reins, kick back with a bottle of wine and celebrate the
times you've had.

Then on Saturday Flick managed to persuade me to make my second ever
visit to the gym. I'm not sure if I'm cut out for the gym - I must be
the only person in the world who can fall asleep while doing
press-ups. Still, it's fun to go with Flick, and she enjoys laughing
at me while I try and use the weight machines, so it's all good.

Saturday afternoon was the highlight for me though: we decided to
climb a mountain to the west of Takefu called "Onagatake". Although it
was fairly steep, it only took about an hour to reach the top and the
views were amazing. Fukui really does have some beautiful mountains,
and even though they extend in every direction it's all too easy to
forget they're there when you're surrounded by concrete in the towns.
They look fantastic at the moment too - the new spring leaves make
everything look ultra-green. No wonder most Japanese people I speak to
say that spring is their favourite time of year...

Then on Saturday night it was Nicola C's birthday party (thanks Nicola
- great party!), and on Sunday I ended up playing football with a load
of Brazilians. As you do. All in all, a great weekend. And now I'm
exhausted. And I have a large pile of essays to mark with the title
"My Favourite Foods". The first one goes like this:

"My favorite Foods is apple.
Apple is very delicious food.
All people likes apple.
Apple is popular foods.
I like apple color very much.
I like apple very much, but my family is not like apples.
I want to eat apple every day."

[Sigh] I've got 80 of these to mark. That one was one of the better
ones too. Here's another one:

"I like cake.
Beacause sweet and I am go a long way toward healing an body.
Think you."

Bear in mind that the kid who wrote that last one is 18 years old, he's been learning English for over five years, and he still can't spell "thank you".

It's going to be a long day...

*"The word "anniversary" is based on the Latin "anniversarius,"
meaning "to return yearly." It's based on the root words "annus"
(year) and "versus" (to turn). So by practical definition,
anniversaries can only occur once a year."
(http://www.mentalfloss.com/archives/archive2003-01-17.htm). I still
can't find out the correct word to use for a six month "anniversary"
though, despite a thorough search using Google... "Bianniversary"
perhaps? Ideas anyone?

The view from Onagatake was just stunning. I took this photo about two-thirds of the way up the mountain, but from the top you could see all the way to the Sea of Japan. (By the way, the town you can see here is Takefu.)

This picturesque little shrine awaited us on the top of the mountain.

The lovely Flick relaxes atop the mountain.

Friday, May 13, 2005

With A Little Help From My Friends

I've really been missing everyone back home this week - everyone in
London has been talking about going to the park for a barbecue, and
it's made me a bit homesick... I miss you guys!

Anyway, I thought I'd take the opportunity to put up some pictures of
Simon, Jason and Ian (my old housemates). Aaaah, the Lytton Road
days... Oh, the memories! Simon playing Championship Manager from dawn
till dusk when he was supposed to be marking coursework, Jason making
up songs that centred around the human reproductive system and Ian
playing Risk while wearing his Red Guard cap - I'll never forget his
maniacal laugh as his diabolical Red Army swept through Europe. Is he
an evil genius? Quite possibly.

Sadly, we now all live in opposite corners of the world - I'm in
Japan, Simon's in Australia, Jason's in Germany and Ian will soon be
moving to Canada. The Fellowship has broken...

On the plus side though, there's the potential for me to have cheap
holidays in Australia, Germany and Canada.

Anyway, like I said, I've been feeling a little homesick this week,
but stupidly I forgot to bring any photos of my family of friends with
me when I came to Japan (duhhh). So I want to put out an appeal - if
anyone has any photos from London or uni, or Watford or anywhere that
they can send to me via the gift of email, please do so! I want to
cover my fridge with pictures from back home... My address is:
auntielew@gmail.com.

I look forward to hearing from you all!

Ian, me and Jason at paintballing, somewhere in the rolling green hills of England. For the life of me, I can't remember when this photo was taken - any ideas guys? We turned up late after getting lost, and the only team with places left was the pink team - we looked like a crack squad of gay commandos.

Simon finds his spiritual home. I've can't work out how he got so big and strong, when all he seems to live on is cheese and Coke.

I miss that face. He always used to do that face whenever he did the "Condiment Dance". Sigh, those were the days....

Simon and Janey werp it up underneath a giant lobster, somewhere in Australia. Lobster, lobster. (Although strictly speaking, I think it's actually a crayfish).

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Nuclear Fun

The list of things that Fukui is famous for is a very short one
indeed. Crabs is one of them (the crustaceans, not the STD). Rice is
another. The prefecture also proudly boasts to be the location of 90%
of the eyeglass frame manufacturing industry in Japan. Yes, it's that
exciting here.

Fukui is also home to a number of large nuclear reactors. To be
precise, 15 reactors out of a total of around 50 across the whole of
Japan. Now, at this point your thoughts are probably going something
like this: "Wow, crabs, glasses and nuclear power plants! Honey, pack
your things, we're moving to Fukui - I wanna see the giant
bespectacled mutant nuclear crabs!!!!". Well, let me assure you there
are NO giant mutant nuclear crabs. The power plants happen to be
extremely safe: there was only one major accident last year, and only
four people died. So nothing to worry about then.

The circumstances surrounding that accident were unbelieveable: a
steam pipe burst at the Mihama plant because it had totally rusted
through. Apparently it hadn't been checked for corrosion since the
plant was opened........ 27 years ago. Worse still, it wasn't even the
first time that a steam-related incident had occured at that plant,
since in 1991 a pipe burst, causing the release of radiation, though
luckily no-one died.

Recently, the Fukui governor agreed to reopen the fast breeder reactor
in Tsuruga, which was closed after a fatal sodium leak in 1995. The
Japanese government is keen to see the reactor reopen, since the kind
of plutonium it creates is essential for the government's nuclear
waste reprocessing policy. In exchange for reopening the plant, the
governor has been promised that the shinkansen (bullet train) line
will be extended into Fukui. So at least we'll be able to get out of
the prefecture quickly if there's another radiation leak.

Still, at least the tourist board is able to see the humour in the
situation. When I was motoring around the south of Fukui last week I
came across a tourist map near the little town of Oi (pronounced
"oiyee"). As well as showing the locations of all the local beaches
and campsites, it featured a cartoony picture of the local nuclear
power plant, complete with smiling face.

And three eyes.

Are they trying to tell us something? Maybe the giant crab stories are
true after all...

Simpsons reference? Or unfortunate drawing?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Welcome..... to PLANTOPIA!!!!!

Plantopia

There's a really cool botanical garden right next to my house called
Plantopia, but shamefully I've only been there once so far, and that
was last year. When I went in I was expecting manicured gardens and
tropical greenhouses, a la Kew Gardens, but it turned out to be the
complete opposite: a deserted, sprawling mess of forest surrounding a
valley with an overgrown lake at the bottom. I was far from
disappointed though - the forest was packed with interesting plants
and animals, and the slightly ramshackle nature of the layout made a
nice change from other gardens I've been to, where often you feel like
you're being led round by the hand.

Anyway, I recently came across some of the photos I took in Plantopia
last September, so I thought I'd share them with you. I'd only just
got my camera at that point, and I hadn't worked out all the settings,
so I apologise for the poor quality...

By the way, my "camera" is actually my mobile phone - I don't own a
proper digital camera.......yet. Having said that, my phone is pretty
damn good at taking pictures - it's got a 2.1 megapixel camera and a
removable SD memory card, which is certainly more than my phone in
England had. Actually, when I think about it, my phone in England
still had a black and white screen... Anyway almost every single photo
on this blog has been taken using my phone. Not bad for a phone, eh?

"Alien Weeds".

Mucking around with settings on my camera.

Overgrown steps.

Afternoon sun.

A bamboo thicket.

The lake in the centre of the gardens.

Asahi's crazy-looking water tower.

This flower is called "Higanbana" in Japanese ("Red Spider Lily" in English). It's a type of Amaryllis which shoots out of the ground during the autumnal equinox in September, and can often be found around the edges of rice paddies and graveyards. The bulbs are poisonous, so they're often planted around rice fields to keep the rats out. "Higan" is the Buddhist term for the seven days around the equinox, when Japanese families pray to their ancestors.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Park Life

Flick and I went to Nishiyama Park in Sabae on Sunday to do a spot of
"azalea viewing" (oh yes, the "viewing" doesn't just stop at cherry
blossoms you know) and I've got to say, I was thoroughly impressed.
The sheer quantity of flowers was staggering... Well, I don't need to
explain it, you can just look at the pictures below and see for
yourself. Not bad, eh?

Despite it being just down the road, yesterday was only the second
time I've been to Nishiyama Park, and it was the first time that I've
really taken a proper look round. My first visit was with the Nyu High
School drama club - one of the teachers roped me into appearing in
short film about internationalisation. I had to pretend I was a
tourist asking directions from some Japanese students, who then ran
away because they couldn't understand me. Moral of the story: "learn
English kids".

Anyway, it turned out to be a really interesting little park, with
loads of odd little things dotted all over the place (including one of
the best adventure playgrounds I've ever seen).

Then we saw the zoo.

It was awful - all the animals were in concrete cages that were far
too small for them, and most of them were moping around dejectedly or
pacing back and forth. It really was a hideous sight, and
unfortunately put a bit of a depressing slant on an otherwise great
afternoon.

From what I've been reading on the internet this morning, it seems
that Nishiyama Zoo is fairly typical of many zoos in Japan as well,
with many wildlife groups criticising Japanese zoos for their cruelty.
Zoos are popular here too - nationwide they have over 40 million
visitors a year, and if you factor in aquariums too, that figure goes
up to around 67 million. I've no idea why they're so popular - I can't
really see the entertainment in watching listless animals pacing
around a tiny cage...

However, things are changing slowly. Asahikawa zoo in Hokkaido has
recently experimented with displaying animals in a more natural manner
(ie giving them trees instead of concrete), and visitor numbers have
surged as a result. Hopefully some of these ideas will trickle down to
other zoos in the near future.

I really enjoyed my visit to Nishiyama Park, but the "zoo" was just an
embarrassment to the city. It was pointless too - there were only a
few animals there, and the whole thing seemed like it was tacked onto
the park as an afterthought. Come on Japan, you can do better than
this - it's a sad day when the flowers get more love and attention
than the animals...

The stunning azaleas in Nishiyama Park.

When it comes to flowers, the Japanese certainly don't do things by halves...

The azaleas only make up part of Nishiyama Park - the rest of it is a mountain covered with pine trees and adventure playground equipment. After we climbed to the top ofthe hill...

...we came across this odd looking thing. It's a circle of loudspeakers for playing the "going to/from work music". I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but every town plays music to wake people up in the mornings and to tell them when to go home at night: in Asahi the music is played at 6am, 6pm and 10pm. No-one really pays attention to it though, as far as I can gather: apparently it's an old custom to let rice field workers know what time it is. It's bloody loud though, as well as being a bit surreal: especially since they play the theme tune from the Hovis advert at home time. Japan meets Yorkshire.

The view from the top of Nishiyama Park was fantastic. This is the view to the south - Sabae is in the foreground and Takefu is behind it. As you can see, there's absolutely no indication of where one stops and the other begins... and it's the same story as you head north towards Fukui city. Although it's supposed to be "inaka" (countryside), the north of Fukui actually resembles one massive great big urban conurbation.

This is the view to the east - note the flooded rice paddies everywhere. This is a pretty typical view: except for the mountains, every spare inch of space is being used either for building or for growing rice.

A lesser panda roams around its concrete cage. I must say, seeing the "zoo" at Nishiyama Park cast a pall over an otherwise thoroughly pleasant day.

Two monkeys huddle next to a gas heater. I felt so sorry for them... They didn't even have a tree to climb on, just a few planks of wood and a tyre.

Musical Buddhas

Some of the more random things I came across in Nishiyama Park were
these musical Buddha statues. There are thousands of Buddha statues
scattered everywhere in Japan, but this is the first time I've seen
them get together to form a band. Things like this make me wonder just
how seriously people take religion in Japan... I mean, most people in
Britain aren't very religious, but can you imagine someone putting up
a statue of Jesus wailing on an electric guitar in Hyde Park?

Having said that, it's nice to see people injecting a bit of fun into
religion for a change. Let's face it, if people had more of a sense of
humour when it comes to religion, they might not be quite so eager to
launch into wars against each other.

Ladies and gentlemen, Club Enlightenment has a very special act lined up for you tonight... Yes, that's right, direct from Nirvana, and fresh from a residency at the Dunes Hotel in Vegas, please welcome... THE BUDDHAS!!!!! (screams, band starts to play). First up, put your hands together for Axl Buddha on vocals!

On slide guitar, the one, the only, Hank "Bleeding Fingers" Buddha!

Let's give a big hand to Formby Buddha on ukelele!

Playing a mean sax, please welcome Courtney "Wails" Buddha!

And last, but not least, we have "Bongo Buddha".

Friday, May 06, 2005

Carry On Camping

This week was "Golden Week" in Japan: the week when four national
holidays fall at roughly the same time. Which means that everyone in
the country goes on holiday at the same time. Which also means that
all the flights anywhere are hideously expensive, every hotel and
guest house is fully booked months in advance and the country's
transportation system grinds to a halt for seven days as millions of
pleasure seekers cram the nation's highways and trains.

I was unwilling to sell a kidney to fund a flight abroad, and the
prospect of staying home in front of the telly for three days didn't
really appeal, so, along with Flick, Tilly and Laura, I plumped for
the third option: camping. It's the perfect solution - sling a tent in
the car along with a couple of tins of soup and a can opener, and
you're off.

The plan was to drive down to Amanohashidate in Kyoto prefecture, stay
the night there, then drive on to Tottori to have a look at the famous
sand dunes along the coast. Predictably though, after spending nearly
five hours in a traffic jam we were still in Fukui, and since it was
getting dark we had to settle for spending the night in Takahama. Not
a good start. Having said that, Takahama is one of the prettiest spots
in Fukui (being relatively free of massive concrete sea defences), and
after food and rest we were ready to continue our incredible journey,
come the morrow.

If anything, the traffic was worse the next day. Still, we made it to
Amanohashidate by mid-afternoon, and, after beating our way through
throngs of people, we managed to take some quite nice photos. For the
uninitiated, Amanohashidate (The Bridge to Heaven) is a natural sand
bar that is widely known as one of the three most beautiful views in
Japan. It's undeniably pretty, but its fame means that every man,
woman and child in Japan was there on Wednesday, all trying to muscle
their way onto the chairlift up to the top of the mountain to get a
picture just like the one in the guide books. It's a nice place, but
to be honest I was glad to finally get out of there and into the
deserted countryside a bit further north, where we camped for the
night.

Actually the camping on Wednesday night was probably the highlight of
the trip for me, since I finally got to see a tanuki. Well, two
actually. Tanuki means "raccoon dog" in English, and they're odd
creatures: they have a stripe across their face which makes them look
like raccoons, but they're actually part of the dog family, and look a
bit like foxes. There's loads of stories about them in Japanese
mythology - they're said to be able to change their shape, and they
often play tricks on people by turning into humans. They're also said
to love alcohol, which is why you often find a tanuki statue outside
retaurants, beckoning the customers in with a bottle of wine. They
also have enormous testicles. No, I'm not kidding... you can read more
about them by clicking on "Carry On Camping" above.
Unfortunately, it was too dark to verify their testicle size, but the
tanuki were certainly mischieivous - no matter how many times we
chased them away, they kept coming back to try and steal our food. Or
possibly our beer, if you believe the stories.

Still, we passed the night without being attacked by drunken tanukis,
and in the morning we spent a couple of hours driving along the coast,
admiring the stunning scenery. Japan really has some wonderful
coastline - it's a shame so much of it in Fukui (and in most places,
I've heard) is covered in concrete. In the afternoon we met up with a
teacher called Jason, who's a friend of Tilly and Laura's, and after a
short soujourn on the beach it was time to head home...

So the big question is: would I do it again next year? Well, I'd
definitely like to go camping again, and the places we went to were
great, but travelling anywhere in Japan in Golden Week is a complete
nightmare in terms of traffic and crowds. Maybe next year I'll just
have to bite the bullet and get a flight somewhere...

"Hello, Japan Air Lines..."

"Hello, this is Mr Packwood, can I have a flight to Australia please?"

"Certainly sir, that'll be one kidney, plus tax."

Our first port of call: Takahama in southern Fukui.

After setting up camp and sinking a few beers we sat by the water and watched the sunset. Which was amazing. Then it got very cold, and suddenly I wished I was staying in a hotel rather than a tent.

I've been inspired by "The Honest Photographer" on the Quirky Japan website (see the link in the side bar), so here's a classic example of what the guide book doesn't show you. This is part of a rather beautiful little shrine in Amanohashidate. However...

If you take a few further steps back, you get a somewhat different view: power lines and concrete souvenir shops. Mmmmmm, nice.

This is the photograph of Amanohashidate you see in the brochure... Pretty, isn't it?