Sunday, 17 August 2014

More Festivals and More Farewells!

So last week I had just gotten back from the tournament, as tired as ever, and all I wanted was a big sleep in. But nope, there was no time to rest!

My host sister was going to leave for the states tomorrow! We had to get up at around 6 am which isn't actually super early but I was more keen to sleep until noon or sometime around then.

No worries, might as well make a day out of it! I had planned to stay at my mate's place and then go to a big theme park the next day. That was exciting and all but first we had to say goodbye to Mayu.

It took a few hours to get to Nagoya and from there the airport but we got there and we were early. That meant a lot of sitting around and waiting in the airport. There's not much to do there, especially since I've been about a hundred times now! I know the place like the back of my hand!

We had sushi for breakfast and it was pretty delicious.
Sushi and beer for breakfast!? It's a special occasion so why not?
I told my mate that I'd meet him in Nagoya station at about 1 o clock, seeing as it takes about an hour to get from the airport to the station and Mayu was supposedly leaving at 12.

At 12 we found out that she would be boarding at 12:40. Well, a bit more waiting then.

At 12:40 we started milling our way over to the departure gates. Time was ticking on as we stood about exchanging goodbyes. Soon enough it was 1 o clock.

I had better tell my friend that I'm going to be late. This was really being dragged out! But no worries, we had all day so no need to rush. 

Finally came the time for Mayu to go through the gates and start her adventure. It was a little tearful but not to bad.
Mayu's the one with long black hair.
Apparently someone said silly face but I missed the call. Good thing I look silly already!
From there I was all keen to go to the station but my host Mum was worried I would muck up the trains. I tried explaining to her that I've ridden this train more times than I can count and I couldn't possibly make a mistake.

But she made me go with two of Mayu's friends so I would get to Nagoya in one piece. "Sorry girls, could you please take Brennan with you to Nagoya? He wants to meet up with a friend." Said my Mum. I was quite embarrassed.

But it turns out they had no idea where to go at all. So I taught them the way and off we went. 

And we made it to Nagoya on time and in one piece!

From there, Jake and I went and got Turkish kebabs, as is our tradition.

But today there were a whole heap of foreigners in the shop. Now we've been in Japan for long enough to not feel foreign, of course we are and we stick out like anything but we can speak Japanese and what not. So when we saw all of these white people, we got quite intimidated!

They were big and they were loud. Jake and I sat there kind of scared. Then we realised that that's how the Japanese view us. It was like a small epiphany. 

We inhaled our food and got out of there real quick. We laughed at ourselves afterwards.

We took the trains back to Jake's place which was about an hour away from Nagoya. (We had to run to catch our train which was already packed to the brim.)

It turns out that Jake's host family owns a hotel and they live on the top floor. It was pretty cool. We had dinner and played poker all night with his host brother. We also played a whole heap of weird Japanese card games and it was quite a laugh as Jake and I started to forget our English.

We got up early and enjoyed the buffet breakfast that the hotel offers. Jake gets this every day. It was great!

But we had better plans that eating for today. We were going to go to: "Nagashima Spa Land." A theme park that had a big water park and then a big amusement park. I've never been to a place like this before!
We were pretty excited!

No one would take our picture so I had to do a jump by myself. Sad.

We went to the water park first having just had burgers for lunch. Apparently it's not a good idea to ride a roller coaster with a full stomach. I've never been on one before so I assumed my friends knowledge was sound.

The water park was awesome. We started off with this massive slide. Just your regular water slide; you lie down with your arms across your chest and let gravity do the work. It was pretty tall and looked like fun. We get to the top of this thing and it's about 20 metres tall. Cool!

The man at the top asked me if I spoke Japanese as I was lying down getting ready to go down this slide. I said of course I can! As he pushed me down this slide he asked in English: "Wea you fwom?"

And I was gonna say "New Zealand!" But it was more like: "New Zeaaaaaaa--"

It felt like the slide was dropping straight down. Holy shit I thought I was gonna die falling. I could only open my mouth as I looked down. Man it was fast. It gave me the biggest wedgie and when I got out of the slide my shorts had gone from being normal, knee length togs to super short shorts. My white thighs were almost reflective and it was pretty embarrassing cos a whole crowd of people were watching me.

Never before had I experienced this dropping sensation before. I was pretty confident walking up the stairs to this slide, I'm not even afraid of heights! But shit! It was pretty damn scary!

Next on the list was another big slide that had been advertised on TV recently so it was quite a new attraction. It was fully worth the hour long wait.
It was pretty huge
(I didn't take this photo)
Jake, myself and our German friend all lined up and climbed the stairs to ride this thing. We waited for literally an hour. We got to the top and had to be grouped up with another group of three because it was a six person minimum thing. No worries, we spoke English and they had no clue.

We waited in this raft thing at the top as the staff started to spin us in circles. This should be fun! One final push and off we went. It was pretty tame for a start. Tame but fun. We laughed as we spun in the raft down this big tube. When we got to the drop, I was facing the opposite direction and didn't see it coming.

Oh man. I almost lost it. I couldn't help but scream as I plummeted backwards. We were moving so fast it was unreal. The picture above doesn't do justice to how big the ride is but it was massive. I was still facing backwards when we scaled this wall. It was like we were levitating.

As we got higher and higher, I could only look down this wall and fear the inevitable. Of course it was all safe but i felt like we were falling without control. What an adrenaline rush. It was truly amazing. It was insane! I was so scared but frightened at the same time. I'd do it again in a heart beat.

We had a go on a bunch of these water slides and it was awesome. We didn't realise how long we had spent in the water park so we decided to leave and go straight to the biggest roller coaster in the amusement park. Our German friend, Florian decided against riding it and Jake was pretty nervous. I wasn't sure of what to expect but I was pretty excited. 

The Steel Dragon 2000, a pretty cool sounding roller coaster.
It looked like fun!
So we had to wait for another hour but time went by pretty quick and before we knew it, we were at the front of the line. I wasn't nervous at all but I was pretty excited. Jake was getting real nervous. I would soon find out why.
It's insane. It looks big from above but from below it's awesome.
(Not my photo)

Makes you feel pretty small
It looks like it should be a fun ride!
(Not my photo again)
So we got to sit at the very front. We were pretty lucky actually.
Number one!

Keen as!
So we're rolling up the coaster towards the big drop. Jake is starting to look real scared and I don't even know why. He asks me if I'm scared and I said I don't know what to be scared of.

But I found out real quick.

Real quick.

We got to the top and it was like the track had stopped. I couldn't see the track in front of me and all of a sudden we were dropping and oh my God it was like nothing I've ever experienced before. I screamed. Jake might have screamed as well but I couldn't hear anything over my own voice and the wind rushing past us. 

I didn't realise it but my hands were in the air as we moved at speeds unknown. It was amazing. Round and round we went around these loop things that pushed us against the seats. It was like gravity was coming at us from a different angle. 

Eventually the ride started to slow down and come to a finish. I didn't realise it but there were tears coming out of my eyes and streaming not down my face but rather backwards towards my ears. I wasn't truly crying, it must have been the wind or something...

But man, what a thrill. It was amazing. My throat was sore because I think I was screaming the whole time. Once again, I'd get back on that thing in a heartbeat. 

I later found out that the steel dragon has a drop of 93 metres at 65 degrees and reaches a top speed of 153 km/h. 

It was pretty extreme.

We walked off towards our next ride, the Giant Frisbee. It looked pretty cool until I got close.

It looked like it would do horrible things to my stomach and I wasn't sure if I was keen. But I was still pretty buzzed from the Steel Dragon so I jumped on without thinking too much.

Next thing I knew, I was upside down, looking at the sky, plummeting towards the earth, falling towards the sky?

I didn't even know. But it sure did do odd things to my stomach. Aside from being a tad sick, I loved it. I screamed at one point but then couldn't help but laugh. I don't know why I laughed but I just couldn't stop. It was a pretty good feeling.

We had time for one more and it was essentially the "lamest" of the lot; just your plain, rock back and forth boat. We got on laughing because we had just conquered the biggest and scariest rides in the park.

It started rocking and had barely started when some wee girl sitting not too far away from me started crying. Her big sister looked over at me with a half amused, half embarrassed look. I just smiled.

Jake and I were cheering and making a good scene as the boat reached some decent heights. But real soon I got that horrible acidic taste in my mouth. Oh man. My stomach was not where it should have been and I felt like I was gonna blow chunks yet the ride kept going.

I did my best to keep it down. I looked over at the wee girl who was scared before. She had her face buried in her sisters lap. Poor thing. Her sister laughed and so did I, it was kind of comical.

The boat slowed down and just in time too, I really thought I was gonna chuck.

I looked at the time, I had about an hour to get back to Nagoya station so I could ride the train home. My planned route to the station; Bus, small train station, local train, change train, station. Would take about an hour. No worries! Should be right.

We got out to the front of the amusement park before the bus stop where I planned to go. But it turns out there was a bus going from the park straight to the station!

I sure hope this is faster then my previous route. I got on and hoped for the best!

I did manage to make it in time and got home without a problem. My stomach was still in knots though and the bus ride did nothing good for me.

I got home and all I could do was talk about roller coasters. I had to go to bed early though because I had more plans for the next day.

I was going back to the hostel! This time as a customer instead of an English teacher. I was going with my previous host family because their daughter had come back to Gero-city for the Uni holidays. I had only met her a few times so it was cool to see her again.

We got to the hostel at the wee village called "Maze." I know this place pretty well now too. We get inside and I already know everybody. There's always a few new foreigners coming or going but I know all the permanent residents. Rocky, the boss, comes up to me and says:

"Brennan! Today would you mind being a guide for the ropes course?"

We had planned on doing the ropes course anyway so it worked out great! I was a staff member for the day, explaining the course in Japanese and instructing all the newbies at how to do it. The best part was that I, of course, got to do the course with them. For free!
Woo! I'm teaching!

Can't climb as well as my little brother though

I was going along this and literally said:
"Look Mum! No hands!"

And then I fell off.
Good thing I had the life line attached! 
As I fell off a part of the log I was standing on broke and dropped to the ground. I almost dropped a log of my own as I just about fell to the ground.

Naoko, myself and Nobuhiro
Nobu has a fear of heights so it was quite the achievement when he finished the course. Good effort!

Naoko did an exchange year in France a while back and is fluent in English, French and of course Japanese. That's pretty damn cool.

After we went around the course, we returned to the lodge and then went out for lunch. From there we went back to the lodge and chilled in the river.

We ran into one of the families that I had helped teach before and we hung out with them. It was quite cool! I've made so many friends and I just love it.
Dunno why we're all doing press-ups here but it was a good laugh!
Once the river got a bit too cold, we decided to go to the onsen!

And it was pretty good! I love relaxing in the hot waters. I'm totally used to the fact that everyone is butt naked now. It sure shocked me when I arrived here in Japan.

I got back home and ended up talking late into the night with my host family. We talked about almost everything there is to talk about! We had a beer over dinner and maybe I had one too many because I was doing most of the talking that night.

But it was great fun. I learnt a fair bit of "bad" Japanese which is used pretty frequently when I have a conversation with my host Dad. It's quite a good laugh and there have been many times where we've been sitting around the lounge, unable to breathe because we are laughing so hard.

Standard stuff
There was to be another festival on Thursday! So of course we were going. We had a bbq for breakfast and then a decent sized lunch before we set out for the evening's festivities.

Everyone was having a good time!
I had a go at the traditional dancing
And won a few coupons!
Probably because I'm foreign but I reckon it was my dancing !
We at lots of food and once again talked late into the night. We won something in this big raffle and we were stoked! It was a box full of hot chocolate sachets (which turned out to be delicious) so it was a pretty good win.

Unfortunately, the weather really packed it and started bucketing down before we left so we got soaked on the way to the car. But that didn't dampen our spirits!

We got home and kept laughing into the night, all excited for another big day tomorrow.

And Friday sure was a big day!

We had a huge assortment of meats for breakfast! It was amazing! Steak, bacon, tongues, pork and fish. I ate far too much but it was just so good I couldn't stop!

I forgot to mention that it's currently a big national holiday so everyone gets a few days off. Hence all the eating and late nights lately.

We had this massive breakfast and got straight on to planning lunch. We were going to travel up into the mountains and go this shop that is literally in the forest, only accessible by foot from a certain point. At this shop there were these long bamboo shoots with cold, flowing water running through them.

Near the shop there was this big waterfall that was pumping out a ton of water due to the heavy rain we've been having recently, it was pretty awesome.
"Norimasa O-taki"
The spray coming off this was soaking us as we tried to take pictures

Noodles would come down these shoots and you'd be sitting there, ready and waiting with your chopsticks to catch them. It was great fun and delicious at the same time!
Asahi, looking the wrong way while waiting for the noodles

Fresh wasabi!

Got em!

Action shot!

Picking some more wasabi!
After the noodles we got stuck into the "kei-chan"
A local dish of chicken, garlic and a bunch of vegies. It's delicious!
Good food, good people; it's all good!
After a big feed, everyone went home and slept. We were pretty exhausted from all the eating and needed a rest before we had dinner.

Of course dinner was at the festival again!

Bigger turnout for the second night

The power went out!

Better add to the confusion with bright camera flashes and silly poses
The guy serving drinks had had a few too many himself!
He had the loudest voice at the festival and you could hear it over all else. No matter who came up to him to buy a drink he would scream "OK!, Thank you Baby!" With a real strong Japanese accent so it was more like "OKEI, Shank yuu beybey!!" His daughter (my age) helped run the stand and she was so fed up it was hilarious. He was talking yelling at us when she said to him "Oi! go serve the customers you old man!" It was hilarious!

It was another awesome night with lots of food eaten. We won something in the raffle again but this time it was some dried fish or something. Not as nice as the hot chocolate from yesterday.

Before the raffle though there was this lolly-scramble-ish event. Except they threw out a bunch of bags of chips and the like. You were allowed to bring a bag to catch the goodies and there was a whole army of wee kids ready and waiting.
The event was inside because of torrential rain.
The tension was still as high as, though!
So we took advantage of the fact that I'm taller than a lot of the Japanese kids but unfortunately my shitty catching skills totally negated our advantage. We were still able to walk away with enough snacks to last us for weeks though!

We got home and talked for a while, it was a big week so we were all keen to go to bed.

It turns out that in this one week, I had put on a shocking four kilos. And my gut showed it too. Oh dear.

Looks like I'll be laying off the sweets for a wee while. I'm blaming the weight gain on the holiday season and lack of karate (it's karate holiday too because of the tournament) so I haven't been active whatsoever. 

I'll have to fix this once karate starts up again on Tuesday!

Saturday was another day of rain. It's been heavy all over Japan lately causing flooding in some areas and soaking all of the holiday-goers. 

Regardless of the rain, we decided to visit an old, authentic wayside town and have a feed of soba.

These towns often had small inns for travelers back in the day who didn't have wheels to get around on
A fair bit of water running by

These hats were being hand made in the store

I wonder how many people have walked here before me

More horse meat!

Zaru Soba -- Buckwheat noodles
Zaru is the round bamboo plate

Vanilla ice cream with green tea mochi
There were cornflakes inside the cone too!

Traditional Japanese 1800's passtime

The rain came back and it was time to go home!
We got absolutely soaked in the process.
We had planned to go to another one of these wayside towns but the rain was so heavy that we couldn't see the turnoff and ending up going home. It was still a pretty big day with lots of driving about but it was nice to get home to the warmth. 

We had a hot meal and watched some scary movies. The whole time we were watching these horror things, thunder was booming about the mountains making for an awesome atmosphere.

The movie itself wasn't so scary but there was a whole lot of suspense. Host Dad did the classic "BOO!" to Kumi during one of the scary parts and she screamed like anything. It was hilarious and none of us could stop laughing.

That's all I have for now! I'm sitting here writing with a big grin on my face because everything is just so fun. We're all poking fun at my big belly (figuratively and literally) and I'm laughing about it too but whilst it's a good joke and all, I'm not very happy with my current physical state.

I'm determined to shape up! I don't know how I'll be able to cut back on the eating (I do over eat a lot) because the food is just so good. 

Take everything in moderation, including moderation.

Until next time!
He was a good laugh!
"Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll" He'd keep saying

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