Monday, August 29, 2005

Koyasan and a quiet retreat to Japan's holiest mountains

Hello all,

I ventured 50km south of Osaka to visit a town called Koya-san, which is famous as a village town of temples which are still active and have a thriving monastic population. It's in a beautiful setting, 800m above sea level with more than 100 monastaries around a head temple. The village and monks are surrounded by two concentric mountain chains of 8 peaks each, and are said to resemble an 8-petalled lotus blossum...very pituresque. It's a surreal place, very quiet and peaceful. There is a cemetary there called Okunoin which is the most incredible setting for a cemetary I have ever seen!! It was stunning, situated in a forest, tall Japaese spruce, maple trees and lots of hungry, thirsty mosquito's which took a liking to me so I am covered in bites...nice. I was not very happy about it
However, there was nice wildlife knocking aboot but there were hard to get good photos but here's one I got of a dragonfly that was flying around one of the ponds in one of the monastaries. We walked around for the day, just chilling out and getting some fresh air and an escape from the madness of Osaka. Recommended to anyone who visits Japan. I'll post a page on the photopage when I sort through the 200 photos I took!! May take me all week so check it towards the weekend. There are some amazing buildings and colours there...

Well the storm never hit Osaka thankfully but it hit the up the coast a bit but I don't think it did much damage. I see that a mega hurricaine is hitting Louisiana, the price of a barrel of oil is $70(!) and Cobh is a litter blackspot!! I'm listening to a recording of today's Morning Ireland. Madness. If they put bins out it might help and if people were a bit more responsible I guess, then there wouldn't be illegal dumping everywhere.

Not much else happening here. Pariah is a jammy langer who shouldn't be allowed to sit on headlands when there is no body else there...he's not sharing the stuff he's seeing!! Fair play Owen, nice one fella. Not much bird news (I can hear you all cry out in anguish and disappointment, I am sorry!!) but I did see a Jay in Koya-san...which was nice.

Ok then, I'm off to bed to read Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

bye for now

ps: This week I have mostly been eating pomegranates

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

There's a storm brewing and it's heading our way...

Ok, you should really check out this photo of Typhoon Mawar (below) with Tropical Cyclone Guchol on the right in this satellite image. Both storms are far out in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, some 900 kilometers from Tokyo. They are traveling in parallel with each other, both headed roughly northwest at comparable speeds. Mawar, however, will strike mainland Japan on its projected course, and will have built to a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of over 320 kilometers per hour (200 miles per hour) as it strikes shore around Thursday. Guchol, however, will never come close to shore if current projections are correct, and remain a substantially weaker system. So it looks like Mawar could be a biggie... I presume we will be allowed go home early if it does hit which is the norm here I think for extreme weather conditions. Osaka might not get it that badly though due to it being nestled in a nice natural harbour...

On a brighter note, I got permission to take summer holidays even though I wasn't entitled to them as my 6 months is not quite up yet!!!! A whopping 3 whole days!!! As you can see, I got quite excited about the whole thing... Maybe there is a god after all...

As well as that we were asked if we wanted to go out to the big guys house for late lunch/dinner in September so being the good employee that I am, I said I would. It's a fab house so I am going to take my camera with me and take some photos, including the 3 Picassos that adorn his walls..yes, 3 original by Pablo himself, the real McCoy and they are damn good too.

So until next time, LONG MAY YOU RUN!!!!!

This week I have mostly been eating chicken

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Another birding trip report - Amagasaki, Osaka and Ogura, Kyoto

If you don't think you can handle reading about my birding exploits today then turn back now, if you dare...

I met up with Neil and Gabor this morning at 7.30am and we headed off to Amagasaki, on the road to Kobe, on a wader run. Amagasaki, a suburb really or district of Osaka, is built up, loud, ugly and very American actually in it's layout. Gabor was driving as the place we needed to get to was off the public transport route. It reminds me a lot of the Mallow Sugar Lagoons, it is a collection of pools, some with high water levels, others with very little. The Osaka Public Authority are reclaiming land, for what puropose is anyone's guess but Gabor thinks it's a housing development but to ben honest, just like Cosmo Square, it's too out of the way to work. Anyway, we birded for a couple of hours in the unbearable heat and humidity and welcomed a few showers to cool us down.

Birds present were: Terek Sandpipers (30+, calling in flight, magic), LRPs (many), Common Sandpiper, single Red-necked Stint, Spotted Redshank, Green Sandpiper and Mongolian Plover, with flyover Osprey and Black Kite and a hunting Peregrine (3 BOPs in one day here is good at this time of the year). There was other bits and bats aswell but I didn't take any photos as I was too hot to bother. Singing Fan-tailed warblers and the ubiquitous Japanese Cormorants, Great White Egrets, Little Egrets and Grey Herons added to the atmosphere.

After that we drove up to Ogura which is quite near Kyoto, about 90 minutes or so in the car. Thankfully I fell asleep for most of the journey, as is my want, and woke up just before we reached the vast expanse of rice paddies and lotus flower fields . The lotus flowers were quite stunning but in my haste to photograph birds from the moving car, I didn't take any shots of the lotus flowers. We got out of the car every now and again if there was a good spot and we just walked around trying to flush snipes, rails or waders. Our objective in coming here was to see Oriental Pratincole, but unfortunately, lady luck was not with us and we didn't connect. Despite this, we had a good day here and the species tally is as follows:

Latham's Snipe (2, and a lifer), Painted Snipe (3, also a lifer, see below)
Long-toed Stint (to add to the one yeseterday), Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint (see below, a bit distant though), LRP, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret and Cattle Egret, along with Black Kite, Kingfisher and Grey-headed Lapwing. A great day out and thoroughly enjoyable. It was raining on and off but it didn't really matter too much, it was a nice place to spend a Sunday afternoon....

Saturday, August 20, 2005

My first Japanese Twitch...Asian Dowitcher

I got an email from an English guy, Neil Davidson, whom I went birding with perviously, telling me that an Asian Dowitcher had been seen in Osaka on Thursday. Naturally, as they are a globally threatened species and one I have never seen before, I was eager to see it. I headed out this morning to go the Nanko Bird Sanctuary which between getting 3 trains, took me the bones of an hour to get to. It was worth it though as not only did I get the Dowticher, but I picked up another lifer...Long-toed Stint!! There was a supporting cast of Terek Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Pacific Golden Plover, Mongolian Plover, Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover and Grey tailed Tattlers, as well as the assortment of egrets, cormorants, fan-tailed warblers and swallows. It was interesting to witness a Japanese twitch, as most people there were of the semi- or fully-retired age, and with muggins here, tattoos and all getting excited with them. I think they thought I was a bit mad and not quite suited what a birdwatcher's appearance in Japan would be...

The sanctuary was nice, the usual caper with observatories is that they are always designed incorrectly, in this case the windows were wrong and there was a big black band of wood going across the exact point of where the telescope would be viewing...painful, but it's a global thing from what I hear.

Am off birding again in the morning so am off to drink a beer and listen to some Gil Scott-Heron....remember, the revolution will not be televised

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Earthquake 1000km away felt in Osaka today!!!

Well, while sitting at my desk at approx. 11.30am today, I thought I was falling asleep as my chair started to move and my head started to drop but I realised I was feeling dizzy and slightly nauseous, I realized that it was an earthquake! It went on for at least a minute and it was very disorientating to say the least. Being 15 floors up and seeing the blinds move, the chair rolling and probably the weirdest feeling I have had physiologically. It was quite unnerving but at the same time an amazing experience. We thought it might have been an earthquake in Tokyo we were feeling as we are on the same fault line but when we heard it was a 7.3 (richter) over 1000km away, it was quite frightening. I don't think any body was killed in Miyagi prefecture thankfully but there was structural damage and injuries. All the Japanese staff were taken aback by it. You could hear the building creak as well and one of the lads was taking a piss while it happened and he said the river started to ripple and become a bit choppy. I would like to have seen that...the river moving with the 'quake, not one of the lads taking a piss :)

Anyway, my first proper earthquake experience...I just hope a 7.3 or anything like that hits Osaka while I'm at work!!! 15 floors is a long way down although it's a modern builidng so there's supposed to be earthquake proof...and the Titanic was unsinkable

Bye for now

Monday, August 15, 2005

temporary fillings and Natalie Portman

While mezmerized by Nat Portman in Garden State and Closer in one weekend, I managed to dislodge my temporary filling...Jesus, I'm listening to a recording of Tom McGuirk's radio show on Sunday mornings and it's $67 a barrel of oil!!! It must cost a fortune at home then.

Anyway, getting back to my filling. I have to go back to the dentist anyway on Thursday to get the "proper" filling put in, they are making it from the moulds they took last week. It's crazy as I don't have the time to go to the dentist once a week for what will be 3 weeks. The boss came back today but work was still calm. We are on a bit of a go-slow so I got out at 8pm, how sweet that was. My back is so-so and so went to the gym and got it iced for 20 minutes which was good. I feel like a sports star, ice compressions, massages, physio twice a's a good life.

Anyway, sin e really, not much happened this weekend. Didn't get to see the Wallabies vs. All Blacks game which was a shame. Walked around Shinsaibashi on Sunday afternoon and it felt like being in an ant hive(?) there were so many people there. Funny thing about today was that there is a pseudo-national holiday here so alot of Japanese companies are closed. The trains were dead quiet this morning and it was just funny walking to work and not having throngs of people running past and looking stressed at 8.30am.

Hope all's well with you all...


Friday, August 12, 2005

Just a few photos...

Well, I just wanted to show you some photos of some of the birds I saw on the Yodogawa River, near Ebie last weekend....

A chiropractic and dental week...

First of all, this is for Deb...saw a "bloke" wearing your purse in Kobe a couple of weeks back so had to take a photo :)

Well, I find myself at 11pm on a Friday night, sitting in front of my PowerBook, listening to Late Night Tales:Nightmares on Wax (a thoroughly excellent album), feeling lightheaded after a few glasses of wine and wrenched from my head to my toes. I guess I should start by saying that on Wednesday I thought I had what was the second and final installment of the dental procedure but to my expected dismay, it looks like there's going to be part 3! I was injected, drilled, and cleaned (but only my top set of teeth, mind) then had more molds taken of the top RHS of my jaw, then my bottom RHS (drilled tooth and all) and finally more molds, the tooth refilled with a temporary filling (which subsequently came out this evening) and told to come back next week. Apparently, it takes a week to make the metal filling which the construct around the mold they took on Wednesday (I honestly belive I am dyslexic, I always mix up the middle letters of every wrod). Crazy. As well as that, there were at least 4 dental assistants always hovering around...some cute, others not. So, I am sure you are ALL dying to know what happens...stay tuned, same bat-time, same bat-channel

Anyway, tonight I got some chiropractic services...oh man, that was fun :) He told me that my lower back vertebrae are a tad knackered and my lower back muscles and buttock muscles (steady on the slagging here boys) are too tight and that is why I my nerves are all over the place down my legs. He put me through some torture but it felt really good afterwards. He didn't want to take any money off me as I was a friend of a friend of his but I bought him a cool plant from the "expo" near work on the way home this evening. He also gave me exercises to do and told me I would need a few sessions to put it right...the saga continues with the back...don't you love turning 30 (eons ago)....

Well, I am going to watch the game between OZ and NZ tomorrow with TM, so I will be cheering on the Blacks (just for you Vicki!!) and I am looking forward to the game, should be quite good, especially after the Boks beat the Blacks last week. Apart form that, gym and swim in the morning followed by a back massage, bit of breakfast in Starbucks (just for you Sara) ie a big mug of coffee and then whatever.

I need to find a new host to put my photos so if anyone is reading this, please let me know of one where I don't have to mail everyone whenever a new album goes up as that would be a pain in the ass. So if anyone knows of a service that allows to post a homepage of photos without the emailing bit, please let me know and I will be entirely grateful.

Ok then, fair thee well sweet wags...

LONG MAY YOU RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ps: Pee, sounds like a great trip to Fiji, whether you'll stay grass-free in preparation is another matter entirely!!! Will be on shortly

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

listening to Zero 7, chillin with the music and a glass of vino...niicceeee

Hello all,

well with the boss away last week and this, work has been somewhat less frenetic and more productive. I even had the amazing experience of leaving work at was even bright outside (this kind of behaviour can be seen listed in the Red Data Book!!)!! The reason for leaving work early (the earliest I have left since I started working here, nearly 4 months ago) was to try and see the physio at the gym (i joined a new gym called Tipness, it's pretty cool) as my back has finally caved in and hence I am walking like I have something stuck up my... and as a result I can not get any sleep and even sitting down is somewhat uncomfortable, as you can well imagine :) So, I walked in to the physios and thankfully one of the girls spoke English and she informed that there is no appointments system, it's just walk-in and be seen. So, I endured what was the most amazing painful, tortuous hour of pure heaven and my back feels somewhat relieved of the tension and tightness that I have had for the last while. What was even more beautiful was that it cost 1750Y (about 12eruo) and the everyother visit form now on will cost 750Y!!!! That is cheaper than buying 6 apples or half a water melon!!! Fantastic. Then to put the icing on the cake, I came home to (unfortunately not a naked woman) but a phone call from one of the girls saying her friend, who's a chiorpractor, will be able to see me on Friday evening and he's not going to charge me!!! Bonus or what!! I am psyched about that. My back was really getting to me and it was such that I couldn't lift my right leg due to the severe pain that ran down it if I tried.

Of course, it's part 2, and hopefully the concluding episode, of the dentist saga tomorrow (and no Mum, I was not in pain so you can cancel the flights). I had to get a filling done as one of my other fillings fell out, as they do. So, day one was getting the tooth drilled (why seeing as it was already done from the last filling that was in there), filled with a temporary cement after they took a mould of the tooth. Therefore, part 2, tomorrow, entails getting the cement taken out and the moulded filling put in in it's place. All a bit mad and I will probably have to go back a third time to get my teeth cleaned!! Nice premises can watch a dvd of swimming dolphins in the nice blue sea to settle one's nerves should you be nervous, on a screen right in front of you.

One last thing, I would like to wish my cousin Peter a very happy 18th birthday tomorrow!!! It's hard to believe you can come home legally drunk now and be hungover safe in the knowledge that you didn't break the law!! Sweet as it may sound, my Mum used to give me hassle about coming home drunk until I was.....hell, she still does!!! So be wide!! Anyway, I can remember changing your nappies when I used to babysit for your folks many moons ago, but come to think of it, you used to show me what to do as I hadn't a clue...even then you were ahead of your peers!!! Well I hope you have a good one and we'll have to go for a pint when I come home. Good luck next week, I'll be on to see how you got on but I'm not too worried, you'll fly it.

So after coming home, I ironed my shirts (come back Debs, all is forgiven!!!!), made my lunch, turned on the music and I am now listening to Zero 7 which I downloaded yesterday, having a glass of vino to wash away the stresses of the day....

Ok peeps, sin e for the moment, here's to a full night's sleep......slainte

Saturday, August 06, 2005

On a sadder note....

I regret to inform you all that the end of an era, nay, my youth, has finally come to pass....the last remaining piercing I HAD is now no more....yes, my tongue piercing is now gone, finito, criochnaithe(? it's been a while), taken out on Thursday when i went to the dentist (another Japanese story worthy of it's own entry!!) and not returned to it's rightful place.

First it was the suit, shaving everyday....

Now, bereft of all body piercings....*sigh*

I'll have to get another tattoo then :) last

Good morning folks,

I am not long back from birding this morning, although quiet, it was worth getting up at 5am!!! Before I go into all that, the last week has been mind-numbingly repetitive. Work, gym, home, glass of vino, pass out comatose in bed, wake up, work, gym, home, glass of get the idea. We're very busy at work which is great and the days are flying by. Went for a few beers after the gym last night with the lads but headed home early (midnight) to get some sleep. Couldn't believe it when the alarm went off but I managed to haul my ass out of the scratcher and got myself to the train station in one piece.

I headed out to Ebie which is near the Yodogawa River, the site only 30 minutes by train from home, if even that. It has 3 man-made "islands" which were put there for waders and such, it's pitiful but it works somewhat. This part of the river is tidal so when I got there, the tide was fully in (just my luck) but I hung out there for a few hours until I couldn't stand the heat much longer, which was at about 9am. Honestly, 30 degrees at 9am is not pleasant plus the added bonus of high humidity and you get the idea.

It's a noisy spot, right by a main road, loads of bridges carrying automobiles and trains. There are some homeless people living down by the river, and this set up was by far the "nicest". They had their own garden which had everything from aubergines, peas, carrots, fruit, and potatos. The homeless probelm in Japan is quite serious and there are little enclaves of, what are essentially, shantytowns dotted throughout, mainly in parks and under bridges. It's a side of Japan that one doesn't hear about. A universal solution it seems to deal with the problem...pretend it isn't there. This collective were fishing and some of the locals joined them for conversation and tea...quite civilised really.

Not much planned this weekend. I am going to sleep 'til I sleep tomorrow and get food for the week...the usual Sunday affair. I saw a watermelon for sale in a fruit shop last weekend that cost over 90yoyos (13000 yen)!!!! I shit you not...90 euro for a watermelon, and I mean a regular sized, green watermelon. I'll take a photo if I see this wonder it's the second most expensive city on the planet!!!

ok then, I'm off to hit the shower. There should be some photos of this morning's adventure on the photopage shortly. Oh yeah, a singer/songwriter chap by the name of Sufjan Stevens (album called Illinoise) is well worth checking out.

Bye for now

BIRDING NOTE: Whimberl, Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Grey-tailed Tattler, Common Sandpiper, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Striated Heron, Chinese Egret (!!), Black-tailed Gull, Kingfisher and Temminck's Cormorant were of note this morning. Very quiet.