Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The weekend in Shirahama...Australian heaven

Hello all,

well after what was a shite week at work (I can hear you all now saying, Jesus if he mentions work again I'll kick his ass!!) we headed off to Shirahama on Saturday morning, early! It's a small town about 250-300 km south of Osaka. We met up at Kyobashi station at 8am and got the slow train there which took 4 hours...it was long but pleasant, a couple of bruskis down the hatch and it didn't seem too painful. Mind you I think it went very quickly for the Chu Hai Queens, Nina and Lisa...

We arrived at Shirahama amid strange and curious looks from the locals, we were kitted out for beach, all wearing straw hats carrying buckets, beer and footballs...ah the memories of childhood :) One must realise that the strange looks were getting were not the fact we were a 13 strong group of Gaijins (at least that is what we told ourselves), it was the fact that the "official" beach season does not start until July 19th! Yes, on that weekend, we get a national holiday celebrating the begining of the summer season. The Japanese are just unbelievably scary. The beach at Shirahama is reputed to be the best in the country predominantly due to the copious tonnage of sand that is imported from Australia every year to keep it a certain level!!! I kid you not here folks, my tax money is being spent by the government to ship sand into the country from Australia to enable little Japanese kids a chance to make decent sand castles. Aparently there is very little sand surrounding the coast of Japan, decent sand that is. I guess one would expect this from a volcanic archipelago. However, complain we shall not as it was a great beach and it was quiet...can you imagine it being 26 degrees C, sun blazing and the weekend ahead of you, Ballycotton would be black, feck it the Lee Fields would be black with people. As it was not the "season" yet, there was nobody there apart from us Gaijins and the locals. Some of the Japanese staff we spoke to last week thought we were crazy going to Shirahama at this time of year!!! Fabulous people. I took my first dip in the Pacific and it was just as I had expected it to be...salty and cold, but not as cold as home, because it's never as cold or as tough anywhere as it is swimming off Nohoval Cove.....

The beach was the beach so we played soccer, drank beer, chatted, got sun-burned and ate what we had. The hotel we stayed at was a 4-star but because the "Firm" has a membership with this particular chain of hotels, we get a discount on the rooms. They generally can sleep 4 and they are very nice. However, I discovered that my back does not like sleeping on a futon with a tatami mat base. Anyway, we drank and ate our fill when we got back there and partook in the onsen experience. Public baths with all sorts of lovely relaxing baths to sit in, drink a beer and chat with the lads. Marvellous inventions I still think. After an hour there we retreated back to our rooms where we consequently all crashed and burned early due to copious beerage during the day and over eating the Roman way in the evening. Thankfully no vomitoriums were required but the robes were cast on and we all felt Japanese.

The following day was more of the same apart from one of the girls getting groped in the toilets by some young fella so the cops were called, interviews were conducted and photos of the crime scene were taken. No doubt the villian will be apprehended anytime soon. After that piece of drama we took the "fast" train home and that got us back in 2 hours. Sunburned, hungover, sore from soccer (I didn't do anything to G who dislocated her shoulder, I was nowhere near her!!! I promise!!) and glad to have spent a nice couple of days at the beach.

We still think we left our brains back there so we are planning another trip there soon before the beach season opens to retrieve them.

On that note I leave you with the BIRD NOTE of the trip (apart from TM) so here they are:
Black-crowned Night Heron, Kingfisher, Black Kite, Osprey, Hawk Eagle, Blue Rock Thursh, Meadow Bunting, japanese Bush Warbler, Asian Scrub Tail, Little Cuckoo

Hope all is well back home...

Bye for now


Sunday, May 22, 2005

A briding trip to Ibukiame...disappointing day off

Well I met up with 2 guys today and went birding in a place called Ibukiame, a very mountainous region near Lake Biwa (the largest lake in Japan). While the weather was terrible the scenery was amazing and the size and immensity of the mountains still blows me away. However, spending 14 hours out and 9 of that in the car, 2 on the train, it seems pointless to go on these excursions. Osaka is probably the worst place for birds in Japan so I think I have to accept that fact and bird what are now my local patches in and around the city area. I just can't enjoy sitting in the car for so long in slow traffic and ridiculous speed limits (50-70 kmh on the "main" roads!!!). It has made for quite a melancholic day and one that could have been spent on more interesting and time-efficient pursuits.

For that reason I am not writing anymore.

Here is the BIRD NOTE:
Ashy Minivet; Stub-tailed Warbler; Japanese Grosbeak; Oriental Cuckoo; Hodgkin's Cuckoo; Little Cuckoo; Common Cuckoo; Blue and White Flycatcher; Narcissus' Flycatcher; Meadow Bunting; Japanese Green Woodpecker; Pygmy Woodpecker; Fan-tailed Warbler; Grey Thrush; Black Kite; japanese Bush Warbler; Brown Dipper; Japanese Wagtail; Grey-headed Lapwing; Bull-headed shrike; Eastern Crowned Warbler; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Cattle Egret; Intermediate Egret and Pheasant sp.

An impressive list I know but you would have had to have been there to appreciate the frustration of not being able to bird properly!!

I leave you all now as I must cook some salmon...

Carmo, slightly melancholic

Friday, May 20, 2005


another thing I wanted to say is that the banking system here is very archaic! Everything is done on paper. There are no computer systems at the banks that I could see. I was observing the tellers and staff behind the counters while waiting there today and the teeming mass of worker ants in the background had their heads in filing cabinets. One can't even get a cheque book here!! The ATMs close, ie they are switched off, at weekends and after 9 or 10pm every day!!! Switched off. What would the Wallace do if she couldn't get more money after running out in the Raven???

Also, when I was at the Ward Office today collecting my Gaijin card, there was not one computer to be seen, they just went to filing cabinets and retrieved the data that way...for a technologically advanced race, they are light years behind in certain aspects...end of rant

An unexpected journey through Osaka, a sick day adventure

After being barred from coming into work today due to a chest infection, throat infection, copious perspiration, bellowing cough and niagra from my nasal passages (went to the doc, gave me 5 types of drugs and it came to the grand total of 1100yen, about 8yoyos!!!) , I was able to run some errands around the environs of Osaka.

Before I tell you about that, I just want to tell you about the medicare system here. I pay medical insurance with the Firm. This allows me to get free medicare, ie no GP visit to pay for and the drugs are ridiculously cheap. It's a fantastic system for the basics and it beats the hell out of paying 50-60 euro for a GP visit back home!!!

Let's begin: I picked up my Gaijin card, the alien registration card that I need to carry on my person at all times. It allows me to open a bank account, get a mobile phone and generally prevent me from being deported or thrown in jail. If the police stop you and you don't have it on you, they will drive you to your apt and make you get it or they will throw you in the local cell and call your place of work instead. All in all, a necessary piece of id. The Japanese call any white person or a person not from Asia a Gaijin, it's a derogatory term but it has been taken on board by us Gaijins as our identity in Japan. It is still amazing to be the only westerner sitting on a packed train in the morning or anytime for that matter, while the little kids just stare at you. It only makes me wonder what isolated tribes must be have felt when they first encountered white folk and the shite that they bestowed upon them...that's another rant for another day

Anyway, i then had to go to the Suit Company (I wear suits now you know) again as they took up my pants last week but it was too short...it's good to be tall :) That meant another 20 minutes on the train and a walk through a 7 storey shopping bonanza. Amazing camera stores and the like. I am thinking of buying a digital SLR but I was not too sure after talking to C whether or not I could attach it to my scope. However, they had attachments for digital SLRs enabling them to be mounted onto the eyepiece of the scope!!! Looks like I may be getting a dig SLR but without the need for a big lens....Dad, is it a Nikon DC70 or the Canon EOS I should purchase??? I can get both second hand and with the new models of both just released there should be a bounty of second hands from the older model. Once there is a new model, the Japanese will buy it, even if the only difference is the colour!! Once they do something they get ALL the accessories...I saw a guy who is a worse swimmer than me in the pool on Tues night with a body suit on, just like the one Ian Thorpe wore in the Olympics!!! Madness...

(By the way, while at Yodabashi, I bought the latest release called The Bedroom Cam, especially for Deccie Leurve and Trish so they can tuck me in of an evening....D and T, I am looking forward to it....)

What struck me while sitting in the bank today is the type of jobs that are created to employ people and keep the unemployment figures down. In a bank no bigger than BoI on Panna, they had 12 tellers, 4 security personnel and at least 6 women just showing people where to sit, what ticket number they had and generally just smile and nod. The culture here demands that the service is exempliary, bordering on the unnecessary. For example, while getting petrol, you will have your windscreen and windows cleaned, you will be given a cloth to wipe down the dash, the petrol will be poured in and this bit amazed me, they will stop traffic, signal you out and bow until you are out of sight. When this first happened we couldn't believe it so the next time we stopped out on the road after we got petrol and the guy still bowed until we started again and went around the corner. I know that that was a tad childish but we just wanted to test our theory. They all wear white gloves. Can you imagine 5 people fussing over you at a petrol station on Western Road?? Christ, they hardly smile let alone sat thank you. That's another thing, they thank you for just walking past their shop!! They are an obsessively polite race...a pleasant change.

Well then, I am about to watch some pirated...I mean borrowed films for a while and get an afternoon nap. I could go on and on but it was a boring ol' day and just doing boring ol' errands. We are off to Shirahama next weekend for a piss-up, staying in a 5-star hotel we get cheaply as it is connected with work and they have onsen, and lots of them...they are the best invention in the world, public baths with men only and women only sections, thermal springs feed the baths and it is just sooooo relaxing...every home should have one. Now that is gooooddddd

only interesting sightings today were 2 Spot-billed Ducks on the River near Suminodo with a greay heron sitting close by. The usual Rufous Turtle Doves, Brown eared bulbuls and Grey Starlings in abundance.

Bye for now


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

this may just work


after finishing work I went to the gym, my first time going and it felt good. having not got home until after 11.45pm (!) I am wondering if this blog is worth it as there is not enough time in the day for it. But now that Col has started one on Surfbirds, I might just keep it going, particularly to grip the lads off with the birds I WILL be seeing should I ever get out of the damn office/Firm and have the energy to navigate the subway/train system to get to places.......keep tuned


Monday, May 16, 2005

sleep...a necessary commodity


I have inadvertantly created this behemoth while in sleepy haze...now I must go and find some cool birds and see a bit more of ol' Osaka....it's going to be melting out there today, shiza


Well i think I need to get some serious sleeping done this week...it hasn't been productive of late. Joined the gym so start that tommorrow, this shoudl help matters, particularly my back

Good night and be careful out there