Monday, October 31, 2005

The week that was

Hello all,

it's been some time since I last graced these pages and so I shall tell you all about my week that was. I am presenlty sitting down listening to "Morcheeba: Back to Mine" and having a glass of vino, something which I havent' done in quite a while. It's quite nice actually. Well, I promise to keep the birding content to a minimum, just a photo or two...really, I promise.

Last week was one of the toughest and mind-draining weeks so far at work. I put in some late nights and didn't have the energy for the gym at all. I am begining to wonder is it worth paying 70yoyos a month now, but I did go on Saturday morning so that was good. Despite the stress of work, my back has been in good condition with the exception of 2 days last week when I worked later than normal. Par for the course, as one man once said. We're packed with cases at the moment and there are due dates coming out the proverbial woodwork, being landed on our desks at the rate of knots. All good of course, why I'd be complaining if we were quiet at work...NOT!!! Good grief moncrief but it would be nice to finish before 8pm some nights. On a point of interest, well to us Patent Agents anyhow, a UK associate is with us for a month and he works the most glorious, music-to-my-ears hours yet...Dolly Parton's 9 to 5. He's a qualified European Patent Attorney and he works for a big firm but they finish at 5pm every day. However, shock horror, he brings work home with him sometimes...we just laughed and when I left work tonight with him at about 9ish, he couldn't believe we were still there. I'm getting my Irish ass to the UK (I know, who'd have thought I'd think about working there) and have a normal working week. Ah, time, ladies and gentlemen, time will tell...

So, went for a few bevvies with the buoys on Friday after work, pished, slightly, on 3 beers! I'm truly turning Japanese as regards my capacity for booze. Good or bad? That depends on who you talk to I guess. Saturday was spent in bed in the morning as it was thunderous with rain, then followed by the gym and a trip to Umeda for some gandering and oogling at really nice lenses. The lotto first, then the lenses I'm afraid. Dinner with TM at a really cool place called the Elephant Cafe, a good mix of Thai, Korean, Western dishes and at a reasonable price. Really good cocktails there apart from the Mochito which was crap, sorry, not up to the Charmo standard.

Sunday morning was spent BIRDing in Osaka-jo park which is quite near work. In the picure you will notice a big blue building, that's called the Crystal Tower and that is where I domicile for 12 hours a day, 5 days a week. It's a beautiful building and I must get some better photos but there's just a taster. There was a Korean festival on also and the food was only fabulous. The music wasn't bad and the people were great. It was packed and the weather was good. After a few hours prattling about there, I went back to me palatial abode and proceeded to cook, clean, wash clothes and generally be a good house-person (let's be PC here people). What a man, what man.

That's about it. I just finished a book called "Living to tell the tale", which is an autobiographic account of the young Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Anybody who has read his books and love to the way he writes, should really get there hands on a copy. It's a joy to read, like all his books, and he tells his young life growing up in abject poverty, revolution, dictartorships, befriending Fidel Castro and how he became a writer and not a lawyer (hmmm, I wonder is there a message in there...). A superb book that I couldn't put down and was gutted yet enthralled when I finished it.

Sin e for now folks...hang on, what's this?? How did that photograph of a Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker get in here?? There so small, about the size of a sparrow, that he must have snuck in. Sorry about that folks, I just don't know how that could have happned...sheesh, I must be slipping up in my old age.

And just for my sister, who's birthday was last week, and whom I have just spoken to on the phone, this week I have mostly been eating chicken, prawns and vegtables, wrapped in rice paper.

If my bro reads this, I'll be on to you this weekend for an ol' natter.

Ah sorry again folks, a fabulous Japanese White-eye just flew in as I was publishing the post...aren't critters just the darndest things....

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Just an observation or three to share...

Just a quick note to inform you of two unusual encounters over the weekend.

1) I went for a bite to eat in a local eaterie and ordered a salad, amongst other delights. The contents of the salad were thus: sliced cabbage, ham, tomatoe, japanese veg (the name of which escapes me, quite nice though) and...CORNFLAKES!! I shit you not. Mr. Kellogg's best. The strange thing was, it was damn good.

2) Whilst "enjoying" a nicotinic-cancer igniter by Phillip Morris outside my front door this evening, I saw an old lady walk her dog (the kind of genetic mistake that one feels like stepping on so that it can't pass on it's genes...Mrs. Osbourne, aka Ozzy's wife, has one) who, as god intended, needed to expel it's digestive excrement. It wasn't the fact that the dog deposited it's load into a carefully positioned plasitc bag that was alarming. It was the fact that Granny pulled out, from her handbag, a wad of tissue and wiped the dog's ass. I kid you not.

3) Went birding this morning with Neil near Kyoto and it reminded me of birding at home with Jim many moons ago when we used to walk for hours and bird away. Today, we walked the river banks and paddy fields of Yawatashi and Ogura for 5 hours in the showers and cold (winter is coming). Saw an incredible 6 species of bird of prey (Peregrine, Buzzard, Kestrel, Black Kite, Osprey and Goshawk) and a Long-eared Owl. Northern lapwings have started to arrive and the wind has a bite now. A good day's birding and plenty of fresh air. The 6.30am alarm was not pleasant mind...especially of a Sunday! However, there were no complaints to be heard...

Ok, later skaters.

ps: this week I have mostly been eating karage.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Hegura-jima...the birding post

It's the literary event of the year (drum roll please)...the moment you've ALL been waiting for (intensify drum roll)....yes, it's the HEGURA BIRDING TRIP REPORT (thunderous applause greets the compere, the crowd go wild)!!!!!

Right lads, this is basically it. We got the de boat to de island, saw shite loads of birds, ticked away to me hearts content, got drenched, got a wee bit pished, birded some more the following day and den went back on de boat to de mainland and went home...fabulous!!!

Oh alright then, here it is. You know how we got there so there's no point going into all that rigmorole again so let's get straight to the facts. A nice island to cover due to it's small size but there's LOTS of cover but thankfully it's flat as a pancake. On the way into the harbour area (picture Cape but a bit bigger) we looked up and there were literally hundreds if not thousands of birds flying around and coming into land very quickly. It was obvious there was a massive fallout happening so we quickly got off the ferry and headed to the Minshuku we were staying in. During the short walk to the Minshuku, Dusky and Plain Thrush were everywhere, as were Daurian Redstarts...I mean EVERYWHERE!!! Some birds were dropping at our feet and looked exhausted. It was really pissing down with rain but we dumped our gear and headed out like the true die-hard birders we are. Neil commented it was the biggest fall of birds he has seen in his 35 years of serious birding, and he has birded in a lot of countries.

One can walk around the island in an hour so that meant we covered the island about 3-4 times on Saturday and the same on Sunday. All we were seeming to see were Daurian Redstarts (1000), Rustic Buntings (1000) and Plain Thrush (5-6000), they were abundant. We were hoping to pick something else out in the bunting flocks but nothing gave it itself up. While walking along one of the paths, we picked up Black-faced (3) and Yellow-throated Buntings (12) and Japanese Waxwing (1). Nice one I thought, I now have all Waxwing species OML biy!! The volume of birds on the Saturday was tremendous but the species count was low for this time of year. It didn't perturb us and we continued on regardless.

A Eurasian Woodcock was a suprise find as we stumbled around a little wooden thicket and an Olive-backed pipit (3) flew from under our feet to perch in a tree (which was nice). As we rounded a corner, a flock of Mandarin ducks appeared coming in off the sea which were probably the flock of unidentified duck we had had from the ferry on the approach to the island. My first genuine Mandarin duck! A fly-by goshawk (2) was the next species to be notched up and 2 peregrines perched on a tower was also new. The warbler count was pretty poor as we had expected more but we managed to see Arctic (12), Yellow-browed (1), Dusky (1) and Bush (3) warblers during the trip. A Taiga Flycatcher(1) was a good find and the Japanese birders were excited by our find when we were giving out our day's species list that night in the inn. A White's Thrush for all of 30 seconds was enough for me and another black-faced bunting gave itself up at the local school ground. Siberian Stonechats were scarce with only 3 seen on the trip. Apparently they are more numerous in winter. My first one since the OHK bird of '89(?). A large flock of Brambling (800) and Siskin(200) kept us company for most of Saturday and it was great to see this species in such good numbers. A female Kestral was a nice surprise as it chased a small flock of Rustic bunts that were feeding near us on the school playing field, keeping the Dusky and Plain thrushes company. In amongst the eonomus species of Dusky Thrush (second photo below) were a few naummani Dusky Thrushes, easily distinguished from eonomus by their rusty red spotting on the underparts and flanks.

Sunday saw glorious sunshine and a clear out of the volume of birds was obvious in the diminished numbers but that didn't stop the speceis list from growing. Adult Vega and Slaty-backed gulls on the pier wall made for a good start and that was followed up pretty quickly with Red-flanked Bluetail(6). As we were looking for pine bunting and siberian accentor which were reported on Saturday, we got news of a black/red-headed bunting near our Minshuku!! We went down and got some cracking views. The consensus is that it's a black-headed and possibly an adult female. The bill shape, size and primary projections fit the criteria as does the darkly streaked crown and rump contrast with the mantle. Nice bird.

We saw neither the pine bunting nor the accentor that day but the comepensation came in the shape of a marvellous Brown Hawk Owl perched in a tree which was pretty cool!! It didn't seem to mind our presence and just stared at us for the 20 minutes we spent looking at it (see below). At about 1pm we headed back to the area near the Minshuku to see if the Black-headed bunting was still on show. On the way we passed the school playing field which was awash with Rustic Buntings, Dusky Thrush, Brambling and a self-found Red-throated pipit which was joined a short time later by a second individual. Nice. A couple of minutes later, as we turned the corner towards the Minshuku, we could see the crowd of photographers assembled en masse, training their big lenses in the same direction so we knew the bunting was showing itself. Nice views were had by all and the consensus again was for Black-headed. The hope of seeing the Lapland Bunt before we boarded for the ferry were dashed as it was time to go. A marvellous trip and I am most certainly going back again in the spring. Other highlights of the trip were Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Blue Rock Thrush, Red-rumped Swallow, Sand Martin, Black-headed gull, Grey-Streaked Flycatcher, Goldcrest, Japanese White-eye and Hawfinch.

On the ferry back, in perfect weather, about a thousand Streaked Shearwaters were gliding over the gentle swell and they came close to the boat on a few occasions. I must have rattled off about 30 photos but I only managed one semi-ok one is on the photopage. As one learned friend of mine said, if one shot out of a 36 roll is good, it's been a good day. I still haven't got the panning right yet, but there's time to learn....

I hope you enjoyed the read and the photos. Maybe it gave you a bit of a feel for what the place is like. There are more photos on my photopage for those of you interested in seeing them.

Thanks for listening. I bid you goodnight (the crowd stand to as the compere bows, roses are thrown on stage, applause and shouts of encore greet the closing curtains....)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Hegura-jima...the non-bird post

Hi all,

seeing as I was told that my beautiful and loquacious tales of birding in Japan were worth putting into a separate blog, I thought I'd split the Hegura-jima trip into two; a non-birding tale and a birding tale of magnificance that will blind the imagination of the birding fraternity who read it. I am not complaining in the slightest as I am sure that those amongst you, with no passion for the greater art of birding, loath the sight of another birding adventure.

Herein lies the tale of the trip to Hegura. It started off by getting into the Nova Ace (better than a Hiace, it has windows) and being driven the 6-7 hours north to the Sea of Japan. The night passed without incident except in my dreams as I slept in the back of the automobile for the majority of the trip. When dawn appeared the rain came with it and our dread that the ferry would not go mounted. However, the skipper was happy to go so with much glee and anticipation we boarded and set off with 8 other fellow passengers, fishermen and birders. Before boarding the ferry, I went to a local convenience store to get some water and there on the window, with a poster of Harry Potter for a background, was a tree frog...he was pretty damn cool (see above)!!! The island is 90 minutes off the coast by ferry and the crossing was rough with a heavy swell throwing us around a bit at times. We stood out on deck for most of it because we're birders. It was so refreshing spending that time out on deck, smelling the clean sea air, and reminiscing on my many trips to Cape Clear with Ciaran and Jim. I was buzzing. We hit the island in the pouring rain and it didn't stop for the first 24 hours. We put our belongings in our room in the inn, a simple room with tatami mats on the floor and that's it. Beautifully simplistic. The outside of the inn reminded me of the buildings on Nantucket that the whalers built in the 19 century,long lengths of wood making up the framework and structure. Weatherbeaten and rough. A very simple way of life but they looked so content.

After a day wandering around the island we went back to the inn, showered, changed and sat down to dinner. There are no animals on the island so the staple diet is fish and vegtables. Dinner consisted of a whole fried fish, raw fish, misu soup with seaweed, turnip, fried mackerel and of course, rice. It was one of the best meals I've had in Japan, simple but wonderful. The island is tiny, it takes an hour to walk around it but it's wild and feels very remote. There are approx. 30-50 inhabitants who make a living by accomodating fishermen and birders alike. The place had a very old and traditional feel to it and it was so so quiet. Although there is nothing there of any note, the place was truly beautiful in its serenity and cleanliness. The locals were very friendly and enjoyed our sometimes loud conversations after consuming many bottles of beer. However, it was lights out at 10pm so to bed we went.

We awoke at 5.30pm to sound of the dawn chorus and a clear sky. The rain had passed during the night and it was a fresh, breezy autumn day. Quite spectacular, not a cloud in the sky and a hangover from hell. That hangover reminded me why I never drink when birding on Cape and I'll never do it again on Hegura either!! We spent the morning and early afternoon walking around the island again taking in the wonderfully rare sights and enjoying the sunshine. With heavy hearts we departed the island at 3pm and boarded the ferry back to Wajima and the long drive home. Upon leaving the inn, there upon the washing line, hanging up with the shirts and trousers, an octopus freshly caught being dried in the sun. Unfortunately my camera was packed away and we were rushing to the time. There will definitely be a next time. The ferry back was glorious, beautiful blue skies, a fresh wind and a gentle swell. On the way back we saw some flying fish and the biggest jellyfish I have ever seen!!! Seriously, the bell of the jellyfish was easily 5-6 feet in diameter and 6-7 feet in height!! The tentacles(?) were massive!! Crazy beasts.

When we got to shore at 4.30pm it was into the car and off we went. Neil drove like a man in need of finding a bathroom and we made it back in 5 hours to Kyoto! So I was home by 10.45pm and in bed by midnight. As I said in my previous post, the most expensive part of the trip was inn and the cost of driving there. The cost of the accomodation, for 4 of us which included breakfast and dinner as well as a place to sleep, was 30,000yen (about 200yoyos), while the cost of petrol and tolls came to 24,000yen!! It is SO expensive travelling within Japan and accomodation is expensive also. One gets used to it quickly otherwise one has no money left by the end of the month. So, don't complain about the expense of the tolls readers in Dublin (I believe there's been a bit of a furor of late)!! It's pittance. Regardless of the expense, it was a fantastic trip and I hope to get back there again in the spring but this time it will be for more than just one night. I really felt relaxed there, a wonderful place to visit.

And so, my non-birding tale ends. I hope you enjoyed it. Now, it's off to bed and sleep for me...goodnight.

PS: this week I've mostly been eating dried squid, which was nice

Friday, October 14, 2005

I'm getting twitchy......

Well folks, just a note to say hello and put up a map to show you where I'm off to in the morning. We're driving up tonight (about a 6 hour drive) and spending the night tomrrow night (Sat) on the island. It's so small, it's not marked on the map!!!

One thing I'd like to point out, just to illustrate what it's like at work. I had to sneak out of work today and I left at 6pm!!! It's nuts, just bloody nuts. You either need a doctors note, suicide note or a letter of resignation to leave "early". Anyway, I'm going birding for the weekend so frankly, my dear, I don't give a...

Later skaters and good luck to my good friend Pee Wee who's jumping out of a plane at 30,000feet tomorrow in NZ...go on my son, LONG MAY YOU FREEFALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Fushimi Inari and Migrants

A 4.30am rise this morning killed any chance of a lie in but it was all in a good cause...migrants! I was meeting Neil, Gabor and Mike Yough (an American who came down from Aichi, where the Expo was this year) at Fushimi Inari, near Kyoto at 7am. Fushimi Inari is THE single most important temple in Japan. Apparently, during the first week of the new year, the place is thronged with, literally, millions of people who come to pray there. A bit of a Croagh Patrick scenario but on a scale of Mecca proportions. It's situated in amongst an amazing primeval forest with ancient bamboo scattered in copses throughout the area. To watch the sunlight sneak into gaps in the canopy and shine on the biggest spider webs I've ever seen (some are 4-6 feet in diameter!), was spectacular this morning. There are thousands of torri lining the pathway to the various minor temples scatted up and around the hill. A stunning place and somewhere I will have to come back to for tourist reasons...

The reason for surrendering my precious lie in this morning was not to visit the temple but a bird outing and a chance of some migrants, particularly birds of prey. Needless to say we were not disappointed. We spent the bones of 6 hours walking through the primeval forest and hills looking for at everything that moved. We reached an amazing view point which looked over the valley and the sprawling concrete jungle of civilization below. We had some nice birds of prey flying across the valley towards us and produced the following species:

Black Kite (commonest bird of the day nearly, see bird above)
Oriental Honey Buzzard (2)
Japanese Lesser Sparrowhawk (2 - a new species for me)
Goshawk (3) (genuine ones too Pariah!!)

A supporting cast of Arctic Warbler (a new species for me), Japanese White-Eyes, Japaense Pygmy Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Grey-Streaked Flycatcher, Jay, Brown-eared Bulbul and Varied Tit made for a wonderful morning's stroll. The mozzies were a pain but it was worth it.

The Goshawk was bird of the day for me, a stunning male and a HUGE female flew right over us on separate occasions, looking down into our eyes...a truly fiercesome creature and a beautiful sight. The ferocity of the facial expression outlined by the contrasting feather colouration around the head gives the male a majestic appearance in my opinion. Wonderful bird.

Now I'm back home, listening to Tom Waits in a quite relaxed and weary way. I also post up a photo (poor at that) of an Osprey which flew quite close to me while on Miya-jima last weekend. I hope you like it. I am pumped about going to Hegura-jima next weekend...hopefully it will produce a surprise or two.

I'll relay the expense of the trip after we go through the exorbitant tolls...they're cheap at home folks, so all you Dublin readers, get over the cost increase!! At the moment, it's costing 100yoyo's for the ferry and a night's accommodation (dinner and breakfast included) in an inn on the island. It may double when the petrol and tolls are taken into account. I kid you not. Petrol and the priveledge of driving on the wonderful expressways (max speed 80kph) could double the cost of the trip...madness.

Ok then, I'm off to listen to some reggae bands that are apparently playing near Osaka-jo (castle), I just got a phone call to inform me. I am looking forward to listening to the Japanese guys pretending to be Rasta, should be amusing.

Bye for now

ps: this week I have mostly been eating ramen, which was nice, I guess

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Throwing Muses

I would just like to point out a couple of obersvations I have made recently, which may be interesting, or may be not. It's Saturday morning here, there's a pretty vicious thunderstorm going on outside and I'm listening to Gift Grub on roy is still the best I think. Anyway, observe away with ya:

1) The myth that Japanese people can't drink is, without doubt, not a myth (it seems that a little enzyme which breaks down aldehyde is certainly extinct in the majority of the locals). I have witnessed this all the time I get the train home at night, watching the salarymen stumble around, sing loudly and generally behave in ways that would insult their very morals should they witness it themselves! But what struck me as being utterly hilarious and somewhat disconcerting was the scence of my very first vomitorium. While walking to hit a few baseballs with the lads after work on Thursday night, we passed what I can only discribe as a group of early 20-somethings, dressed in the hip-hop style which is huge here, vomiting in a violent manner on the side of the road, with the obligatory girl with their arm over the shoulder of the human fire extinguisher, patting him gently and laughing silently. What hit me first was not the smell of puke but the smell of disinfectant! It is obviously a regular occurence. It was hilarious. Casting an eye across the assembled participants, one was struck by the normality of it all. I've seen guys (95% of the time it's men, I'm not being sexist here) as they are about to board the train, kneel down, upchuck in the gap between the platform and locomotive, stand up, smile at his fellow salarymen and get on board. Then the nervous journey begins as one hopes that he doesn't decide to upchuck in one's general direction...I have yet to see them puke on the train though. At least they have some decorum.

2) Kyobashi is a busy hub in Osaka, the train station is a changeover stop from the subway to various train lines going to various destinations. As a result, the surrounding environs of the station have become the biblical Sodom and Gommorah, with the sex industry thriving there. There are pimps everywhere, general gigilos with buffaunt hair and black suits. It's quite comical really and I think it's very tongue-in-cheek, but they probably take it seriously. There are the usual dancers and the like, but what is the main draw are the girls in the bars. The way it works is, so I've been told, OBVIOUSLY, is that you just go in, pick the chick that you fancy and pay about 150yoyos, in some places, to spend 60 minutes with her....TALKING! Yup, they just sit down with you and chat. I guess it's in the strictest tradition of the geisha (of which there are very few now in Japan...Kyoto still has some genuine Geisha) but why would you pay that much moola just to chat to someone. It's not that I'm saying for that much money you should get jiggy with it (outcha Tayto) but it's an expensive way to get to talk to someone...anyway. I just thought it was amusing as the usual post on the floor when I come home in the evening are flyers for these places.

I was going to write more but my brain is addled and I need to eat so....smell ya later

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Hiroshima, Atomic Bombs, Baseball and Quiet Islands...but alas, the macaques elude me yet again

Well folks,

I have returned, safe and sound you'll all be glad to hear, from Hiroshima and the surrounding islands of the Japanese Inland Sea. I am glowing, but in a healthy way, not in a "Springfield-esque" kind of way. Where to start, where to start...Hiroshima I guess. We departed on the Shinkansen on Wed morning, bright and early. The Shinkansen is mad, it's like being in a plane about to take off for 90 minutes...the ears pop at intervals and the speed is cool. We caught the super fast train with only 2 stops before Hiroshima. Once we arrived at Hiroshima, we headed to scour a place to stay, the day was beautiful, hot but it didn't dampen our spirits in search of a bed. Having found cheap accomodation (30yoyos a night) in the Aster Plaza, we dumped our gear and out we went to see the sights of Hiroshima, camera in hand.

The first port of call was the omnipresent Starbucks for a well earned coffee and a cinnamon scone...yup, they even have scones here. After my medium Mocha Frappachino (I'm getting well posh these days) it was off to the Peace Memorial Park to see the Centopath and the A-Bomb Dome, that famous of all sights that is recognized the world over. The park itself was okay, plenty of tourists and the like but the A-Bomb Dome was pretty hard hitting on the eye, surrounded by trees, rivers and a modern thriving city. It is certainly an eerie place, a weird feeling surrounds the building but the message is there and the destruction is there to see also. Definitely worth visiting and definitely worth spending some time there by the's very peaceful at the same time as being haunting

We also went to visit Hiroshima castle which was one of the better castles I've seen since coming here. The museum inside was cool giving detailed accounts of how the castle came to being and the warring samurai who ran the city over the centuries. One could try on a traditional samurai war helmet and a top that they wore for protection. Excellent.

After that we took in a baseball game to watch the local pro team the Carps play. It was a great laugh and unfortunately my camera battery died so no shots of the game. It was my first time at a baseball game in years, beers were drunk and celebrating with the locals was done. We even were on the big screen during the game so we all danced a jig much to the delight of the crowd...a good night.

The following day, and the next day for that matter, was spent on Miya-jima, an island not far off the mainland. It is a beautiful place with plenty to see and do. Beaches to chill out on, moutains to climb, birds to see and tourists to watch. The 3rd biggest tourist draw in Japan is there, the O-Torri Gate which is out in a small inlet, leading to the Itsukushima-jinja temple, which, incidently, was damaged by the recent typhoons. In fact, much of the island was hit hard by the typhoons and there was a lot of repair work going on while we were there. The Torri gate is mad, a large red wooden structure marking the entrance to the temple. We strolled around there, paddling in the sea and watching the deer fight and causing mayhem. They eat just about anything. There is a cable car to the top of Mt. Misen which we duly took as it was too hot to climb. At the top there was the promise of the elusive Japanese Macaque...and once again, they proved to be elusive!!! I'll have to wait for the winter before I can see them I think. Anyway, the view from the top, once one traversed the remaining 500m to the top, was stunning. A panoramic vista of the bay and islands...truly magnificant. Of course, spoiling the view was the sight of an American sub powering through the channel, making it's way to the base that is situated in Hiroshima. There are a lot of marines in the city and some of them are barely able to shave let alone handle a rifle. The locals tolerate them but when I asked a local bar owner what he thought of their presence, he said they cause trouble when they are out drinking but they are fine when they are not. It's an added economic bonus to them so I guess they won't complain too much.

The rest of the time was spent walking around Hiroshima. It's a magnificent city and it certainly knocks Osaka out the water. Hiroshima is by far more sophisticated, funky, vibrant, gentler and more content in itself I think. We found the people not as garish, lound or obnixous as the Osakans. In fact, the people from the two cities don't like each other at all, a bit like Cork/Dublin rivalry. The bars there were excellent and the city just had something that Osaka lacks...I could definitely live in Hiroshima, I'd move there in the morning in fact. The trams were cool and the bridges were stunning. The streets are broader and the city is CLEANER! A beautiful city with so much to offer, I'd highly recommend a visit should you decide to visit this amazing country. I felt part of the city, comfortable even, for the first time I have felt part of Japan since arriving here. I will definitely go back there. Having met some cool people who were genuine and sound. A guy called Bom owns the bar Koba which was pretty damn cool, and he has jammed with the crowd from Stomp who have played in Hiroshima earlier this year. A nice fella and his bar was superb, great design and atmosphere. It's certainly a happening city...

I could go on and on about Hiroshima but it'll probably bore you so here I shall stop. I thoroughly enjoyed my time away from work, Osaka and the drudgery of everyday life in Osaka. I feel rested and it was nice to sleep in a second time since I arrived here in April!!! Oh, such bliss...the back behaved itself, moderately, over the few days. The scans will be needed though.

Until next time, I bid you all adieu.

ps: this week I have mostly been eating oysters