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This is an extremely detailed account of my climb of Mt. Fuji.

If you read all of this, you're an amazing person because it's long. Thanks for being such a good friend!

It's interesting to hear different people's accounts of Mt. Fuji and the climb. Some people call it a relatively easy climb. They say that it's not terribly long and you can do it in a day…others quit early, don't make it to the top, sometimes develop hypothermia and claim that it's miserable.

Why such opposing viewpoints? I’ll tell you:

If the weather brings about clear skies, no rain and reasonable winds, perhaps 70% of people (those who can handle the physical aspects) fall in the first group. If the weather results in rain and strong winds…those same 70%, along with the leftover 30, would fall into the second group.

Myself, a good American-friend named Merlyn Kelly and another newly-established Japanese friend and guitar player, Daisuke Kuroda, unfortunately—fall into that second group.

I’ve been planning to make the climb since May of 2009. Sasha was coming to visit me and I thought it’d be a great sibling experience and a way for her to develop a bit of bragging rights about her trip here. I scheduled a couple days in the area so that the option was open. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make it due to a variety of minor setbacks and so I decided to postpone it until this year.

Now it was time to find someone willing to give it a go with me!

I posted on some climbing forums and talked to various people about doing it but was having trouble finding a climbing buddy. If you ever climb it, I highly highly recommend doing it with another person. Not only to pass the time but to be able to encourage each other and help each other out.

Anyway, after having little luck finding a climbing partner, I finally talked to Merlyn about it and he was totally for it.

Here’s some info about Merlyn:

Merlyn’s from California. He’s (recently turned) 29 and he’s married to a Japanese girl here in Japan. He just arrived at the beginning of this year and responded to a classified ad looking for a bass player for my previous band. Merlyn’s the kinda guy that’s up for anything. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey, that’s basically what he’s like. He’s also an Anthony Robbins fan which says a lot about the way he views life and living.

I was pretty happy to have Merlyn coming along. He threw out the idea of inviting Daisuke just a few days before the climb. He went to the same music school in L.A. as Merlyn and is an extremely talented guitarist/composer (mainly jazz). Daisuke was ready to go on a whim and we were starting to get excited!

The night before the climb, the three of us spent a night celebrating Merlyn’s birthday at a British-style (yet not quite) pub called “The Hub”. Merlyn and I stayed out til about 5:30am (when the first trains start rolling) with some friends, doing karaoke and demolishing our voices. As we were planning to do a sunrise hike (start late in the evening and reach the summit for sunrise), we decided that that was a good way to get our sleep schedules set up for the hike.

The next day we planned to meet up at one of the central stations along the route at 4:00pm and head off.

Our day had finally arrived!

Daisuke was running late so Merlyn and I took off from the meetup point to make sure we could get to where we needed to be, Gotenba Station. We had to get tickets for a bus that was gonna run us up to the trailhead. That last bus was scheduled to leave at 7:25 so we had to hurry.

Merlyn and I took off and the adventure began!

But…we took the wrong train. (well…that’s not the best start)

That one mishap set us back about half an hour. After course correcting and finding a new route on my cell phone’s internet service, we were back on course.

But…we then passed the station due to an engaging conversation. (Lord)

Now we were set back another half hour. Fortunately, Daisuke was still on schedule so we asked him to make sure to get bus tickets for us and we’d pay him back. He obliged. (one point for Daisuke!)

After watching a mediocre hip-hop dance off at the station, we jumped on the bus and made our way to the 5th station.

There are a variety of trails to the top. The main four routes all start at their trail’s relative 5th station. The other routes (continuations of the four I just mentioned) start considerably lower and take about three times as long to do. Of those four main routes we chose to do the Subashiri Trail. This one is the second longest of the four and has a higher tree line than the others…which basically means you’re covered from the (potential) wind and (potential) rain for a longer time as you start the climb. Most people climb a trail called the Yoshida (Kawaguchi) Trail which starts at 2300 meters above sea level. Ours started at 2000 and promised to be less crowded.

At that 5th station, we got all our things in order, pulled out our hiking sticks and started the hike at 8:45pm or so.

I was pretty confident in my gear and such as I’d done a lot of research as to what to prepare. I put on my first layer light sweater (at 2000 meters it’s already about 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than normal), my beanie, my headlamp and my jeans…I had forgotten my belt…oh well not a big deal. I ghetto-rigged a waist strap for my backpack to keep pressure and weight off my shoulders (easily the best decision I made on the trip).

About 10 minutes into the climb, the rain started up so we stopped and put on our raincoats.

The first 30 minutes was ridiculously hot as we warmed up quickly from the movement…not for long though.

I stayed at the back of the group keeping a relatively slow pace. I’d read a lot about altitude sickness and shortness of breath if you climb too quickly. The guys kept jumping ahead of my but I kept it slow knowing that they would wait for me…sure enough they did. We had a good routine going.

We hiked about 400 meters (~1320 feet) vertical in that first stretch to the 6th station and I was feeling pretty good. No shortness of breath and I wasn’t tired really at all. The other guys, near the end were having a little trouble in terms of breathing but nothing too serious. Merlyn noted that the air was already a bit thinner and it was really noticeable when inhaling deeply.

For the last 10 months I’ve been going to the gym twice a week and pretty much practicing vegetarianism…so I was in good physical shape for the climb. I’m pretty sure that’s what kept me energetic and ok throughout the climb despite the length and intensity of it. However, when I was born, I inhaled some amniotic fluid and so I suppose I’m prone to lung conditions like asthma and shortness of breath. I’ve never ever had problems with it but since the current situation was unlike anything I’d done before, I was a little bit concerned (and so was my mom). Fortunately, this didn’t affect me at all during the climb.

Anyway, at that 6th station, the rain was starting to sneak into our raincoats. I was lucky to have a separated jacket and pants rainsuit. Daisuke and Merlyn were wearing only long ponchos. Upon comparing ourselves to the other hikers around us, we realized that none of us were properly protected from the rain. If you’re gonna climb this thing in the rain, you HAVE to have quality rainwear. Conversation over. First lesson learned.

So the rain kept on, though not terribly heavy at this point. We were slowly getting wetter (especially Merlyn and Daisuke’s exposed pants). I could feel the moisture on the back of my neck and my gloves were pretty wet.

Maybe we’d get lucky and the rain would slow up though! (HAHAHA ha….ha………ha)

As we broke free of the tree line, the air was getting colder and a bit thinner but somehow the hike to the second sixth station (yeah there’re two for some reason) was relatively quick and easy. We were pretty happy despite the rain situation. Another 300 meters (~1000 feet) vertical finished! We were making stellar progress.

At that next station we decided that we needed something to eat to fend off the now intense cold around us. We all dug around in our backpacks for the instant ramen cups we’d bought (Yes!!!!!!!!!) and paid 200 yen each (about $2.00) for hot water…

…best $2.00 I’ve ever spent.

The hot water warmed up our bellies and our souls. As we sat there though, the wind started picking up and the rain was a bit heavier (a small test of more to come). Merlyn (apparently the rocket scientist of the group) came up with the brilliant idea of standing next to the station hut to eat, instead of out in the middle of the elements. Thank god we brought this dude along! haha.

Despite the weather getting rough, we were happy that we made it to that station with relative ease and were able to ignore the wind and cold as we were stocking up on excitement and instant-ramen deliciousness.

Our bodies were at this point completely soaked. Finding a dry spot on our bodies was like trying to find a sober Japanese business man on a Monday night (they don’t exist…it’s a building-good-relationships-in-business thing). We put on the last layers of what we had…if anything was left, and started onward. My jeans which were sagging halfway down my @$$ were quickly becoming a pain (damn non-existent belt!). I used the ghetto-rigged waist strap mentioned earlier. I looped it through the front belt loops of my pants in order to keep them up. This was a considerably smarter moment for me than was the one in which I thought eating ramen in the open was a good idea.

With our spirits high, knowing we were making great time, we started our way up to the 7th station which I will, going ahead, refer to as Hell’s Station.

Between the “second” 6th and the 7th is a vertical of about 400 meters (~1300 feet). Upon reaching that station, we’d be at about 3100 meters (10,170 feet) above sea level. Only 670 meters (2200 feet) from the top!!

Life changed rapidly in the next hour. Our spirits fell fast, the wind was ruthless and the cold mixed with our clothing was really starting to cause problems. We made it to Hell’s Station about 5 minutes after the wind had picked up to full strength and the rain was coming down in sheer buckets. At this point of the hike it was 7 degrees Celsius (44 degrees Fahrenheit), we were completely wet, annoyed and starting to get tired. The slope to that point was steeper and rockier. Maintaining balance in that kind of wind with a backpack on is not easy. The fact that our bags, their contents and our clothes were soaked added a plethora of weight that was making the climb tough.

We spent a little over an hour at Hell’s Station trying to plan our next move.

Now, let’s get something straight…

I’m not a drama queen and I never have been (except when I cried at everything when I was little). I can’t stand when people are dramatic and exaggerate things out of reason. I find it immature, obnoxious and a little bit representative of someone who craves attention.

That being said and without over-exaggerating, we were in a scary and potentially life-threatening situation. That hour was by far the most difficult hour of not only the climb, but of anything I’ve experienced. We hugged the side of the hut to stay out of the wind and the rain—which was gliding horizontally off the roof of the bathroom stalls next to us. People were fighting to get as close to the hut as possible.

Imagine standing inside a walk-in refrigerator (like they’ve got in restaurants) with 2 pairs of wet pants on, two t-shirts and two sweaters (all of which are completely wet) in front of an industrial-strength fan on full speed (which is probably STILL not as strong) with a wet backpack filled with more wet clothes and gear after having climbed about 2,300 stairs…in the same conditions of course. Oh yeah, and a couple of your friends are spraying you in the face with water guns.

It’s not exactly paradise.

Our bodies hurt, our spirits had crashed violently, we were tired, sore and really had no idea what to do. We tried to get inside the single hut but as they’re reserved for people sleeping (like a hotel), we couldn’t get inside. We were shivering and huddling up to stay warm but it wasn’t working.

Have you ever been in a constant state of shiver? Usually when people shiver, it comes in quick short spasms. This kind of cold was keeping us in that state permanently since we weren’t moving…we couldn’t. The weather had us immobile against that hut.

    We had three options:

  • Keep climbing (and risk getting blown off the mountain in the cold and wind)
  • Wait it out on the side of the hut
  • Give up and climb down (and again risk getting blown off the mountain in the cold and wind)

For the time being, we went with the second option.

We began to discuss the option of quitting but I wasn’t totally ready for that when it first came up. It came up again a bit later when we were starting to realize that we had literally zero options. The second time it came up, it was a bit more mentally feasible for me but after hyping up this day for the past year, I wasn’t exactly happy about that situation. The problem was that quitting would require us to go back into the wind and rain that we were trying to avoid to begin with. We realized that either way involved us going back into the elements without the shelter of our hut. In the time we spent at that point, about 4 crews had left the station…

..none of them went up.

Just as we discussed it that second time, the wind slowed and the rain calmed down a little bit.

This is the point in which Merlyn took the reigns. He basically just said, “Alright, let’s leave for the next station in 15 minutes while the wind has calmed down.” We thought about it and decided he was right.

“Actually, let’s just go now,” he then amended.

We got our gear and went for it. Seriously awesome.
Current time: Around 3:00am JST

It was a tough trip to that next station but not as hard as the hike to the 7th. We made it to the 8th in reasonably good time as it wasn’t too far away. The trail was pretty rocky at this point. Reaching the next checkpoint showed us that we really could do this. Just the fact that we made it that station was enough fire to fuel us up. The rain and wind had died considerably and we realized that we were doing it and getting through it. It’s hard to describe the power of the mind but that’s all we had to keep us going and it’s actually all we needed.

During that next stretch, we could occasionally see the lights of the towns below us. The height was just incredible.

The sky started brightening with daybreak. We punched through station after station every 50 minutes or so and kept going. We were tired as hell but were close and could feel it although we couldn’t see it.

I didn’t mention it earlier but all we could see throughout the majority of the climb was about 40 or 50 feet in any given direction, sometimes less. Once or twice during the climb, the clouds would split and we could see out across Japan…or rather, the cloud layer above it with tiny bits of land and sea smattered about through the gaps. It was stunningly beautiful and sheer magic for our will power. Words just don’t do anything to describe how stunning that view was. We were so high up it was unreal. Having the view like you’re staring out an airplane window yet having your feet firmly planted on the side of Japan’s tallest mountain was a humbling experience for all of us.

We only stopped for 2 or 3 minutes at each station because the only way to keep the cold out was to move. Just stopping for those few minutes was enough to put the freeze back into our bodies.

We finally hit the summit at just around 7am.

Because of our setback at Hell’s Station and the increasingly strenuous nature of the trail/tiredness of the group, we couldn’t make the sunrise at the top of the mountain but it didn’t matter because the weather was soooo cloudy and nothing was visible anyway.

The summit greeted us with a shrine as well as a “come inside and sit down” restaurant of sorts. We hadn’t seen a heated space (the bus) in 11 hours. The man at the door yelled out to us (in Japanese of course), “Please come in, sit down and rest.” I’ve never been so happy to be under a roof as I was at that moment. We went in, ordered a bowl of miso ramen and got a warm drink.

We’d made it. Wow.

Merlyn and I decided that we wanted to head around to the absolute highest point of the mountain which was on the other side of the crater. We started hiking around but as that voyage is about 90 minutes and since we were already late getting to the top, we decided just to cancel it and start heading back down. We still had a bus to catch and the next one (should we miss it) was a long time off so we had to get moving. Merlyn and Daisuke had appointments later that evening that, at that point, they were still set on fulfilling.

The climb down was actually longer in terms of horizontal distance than the climb up and about half of it was down a sand slope called Suna-bashiri. This area is designed so that you can just kinda gallop down it as it’s soft. With this technique, one can make it down in 2-3 hours through pure speed. As you can probably imagine, this technique is also sheer hell on the knees. At this point, Daisuke’s knees and leg were starting to give him some real problems. He was having a tough time bending his knee. Merlyn and I were really hurting too so we were ok with the idea of taking it a little bit easier to avoid aggravating anything. We got to the 5th base station at 12:35pm, just in time to catch the 1:00 bus after a quick bowl of soup.

We all slept on the one-hour bus ride back to the station. From there, we took an express bus back to the Tokyo/Yokohama area…a much better idea than the trains for sure.

I cruised into my front door at around 5:30. I had to stay awake so as not to screw up my sleep schedule. By the time I went to bed that evening, I had been awake for 37 hours. Nothing was gonna wake me up.

..and thus was the end of our adventure.

If you look around the internet you can find variations of the quote: “A wise man will climb Mt. Fuji once in their life but only a fool would climb it twice.”

As much as I agree with the statement, I think that it really just depends on when you climb. Climbing Mt. Fuji during good weather is definitely a possibility for a large number of people. Climbing the mountain when the weather is bad is a different story. I don’t want to climb Mt. Fuji ever again…in those conditions. However, I would do it if the weather were a bit different.

The fact that the three of us took on the mountain in the conditions we did, definitely makes for a good story and I think allows us to feel more accomplished than those 4 groups who didn’t have the heart to stick with it at Hell’s Station. I’m willing to say that our attempt at Mt. Fuji was under special circumstances and because of that, the fact that we made it is that much bittersweet in my mind. Because of this, I wouldn’t change a thing.

If there were a mood setting function on my blog, I would set it to 満足.

Mt. Fuji defeated: August 9th, 2010

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FINALLY!…My site is finished and live!

After months upon months of trying different methods of getting my site up, I decided to just do it the simple way (HTML and CSS) and get it put together. Initially, I started building my own theme for WordPress but was having too many problems with a web language called php. A language that I now have a “working” knowledge of but not much more than that. After failing with that method, I decided to download a free theme and just adjust the styles…I started getting too picky about the layout and such so I just brought it down to the basics. I built a simple, 5-page website in the two languages I know reasonably well and now it’s up.

It took me a long time to get it working across browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari) but I finally got it to a presentable state. I think it looks pretty nice.

The next few months will see many small changes to it. I’m going to incorporate a blog (hopefully with the help of someone who knows how to do that…ahem, Colin. ; ), finish the portfolio page and I’m also going to work on some alternate pages for the site including error pages, a sitemap and so on. I was planning to do a favicon (the little icon right next to the address in the address bar) but I managed to get that done today pretty quickly. It’ll probably get redesigned later but it’ll do for now.

Anyway, a work in progress but it’s finally up. and presentable. Please let me know what you guys think of it and be honest.

http://www.humblebunny.com for those of you who didn’t catch the link at the top of this post.

In other news, my band just had its first live performance. We played at a bar called Doobies in Ueno (north side of Tokyo). It actually went really well! I was a bit nervous as our songs aren’t as tight and honed as I’d like them to be but we did ok. A few very minor hiccups but nothing that anyone noticed…I don’t think. Anyway, now we’re looking for a bass player and since our drummer is leaving in July (moving back to France) we’ll probably be searching for a drummer in the next couple months here.

I’ve got two more days of work and then another week off as well. I’m pretty excited about it. I like vacations! I’d love to go somewhere for it but unfortunately, I’ve been paying down a bunch of stuff lately so I have zero money! It’s too bad too because right now would be the PERFECT time to go to Okinawa. I just signed up for health insurance and paid the entire bill (for a year) in one swoop so that drained me out. I’ve also got taxes to pay pretty soon. That should cost me around 1700 dollars…maybe more. They don’t pull it out of your paycheck in Japan they just charge you for it the next year after they’ve calculated your income and such. It’s usually pretty high but doing the math, it ends up being less than in the states.

Basically, from July, I should be on the fast track to saving money again. My May and June paycheck savings will have to go to those taxes I imagine, then from there it should be ok. We’ll see.

Well, I’m gonna get off of here and do a little bit of cleaning around the place. Bye!

Spring Vacation has begun—although the weather doesn’t seem it.

It’s been pretty cold lately. What looked like the soon arrival of the cherry blossoms has been temporarily halted by the cold. Looking down from my balcony, a few of them are visible but not many.

On Monday, the 29th, I got back from a trip to my old town, Nagaoka, in Niigata Prefecture. I was able to meet up with a lot of people who I didn’t have a chance to see back in December when I went out there. That was really nice. I also played an acoustic show at my old company’s office. I played a solid hour and forty minutes of music, littered with mistakes of course! : )

I even recorded the show and sold the disc. I ended up selling 6 of them and then made some money from the event as well. My old company covered all my food and transportation as well. In the end, I made more money by going out there than if I had just stuck around here for those few days!

This Saturday I’m going to a Hanami (sakura-viewing party) in Yoyogi (near Shibuya, Tokyo) and then in the evening I’ll be playing some more music at a small cafe in the area. This time though, I’ll be playing with my band. It’s going to be a quiet acoustic show and since there are currently only three of us (we’re looking for a bass player) it should be pretty relaxed. I’m just hoping that I’ll be able to play considering the first half of the day will be with a group of beer brewers and some (undoubtedly) heavy drinking. I’ll have to go slow just to make sure I make it though the whole night. Lots of water!

Monday, classes start back up and it’s going to be pretty crazy. I’m partially excited and partially not. I’m excited to be starting fresh with some new classes and some new textbooks. It’s good to start anew. Also, we’ll have a brand new office and our school’s space will have doubled. The only part I’m not looking forward to is that my preparation time (for classes) has diminished pretty drastically. It was nice having Monday and Tuesday mornings to just get in a groove and get everything set up and ready for the week. I won’t have that anymore. I’ll have to do a good job organizing my time around it.

Well, I’ve gotta get off of here and try to get some design stuff done. More to come!

Wow, Saturday was a crazy day!

First off, the weather was stellar! It was sunny, beautiful and warm. You know that feeling you get on the first day that it’s warm again and you just feel fully-loaded on life. I was knee deep in that feeling. It was fabulous.

Anyway, I went to work and continued my day as usual in a particularly good mood. Did my first couple classes, had lunch and then started my last 3 classes around 1:45 in the afternoon.

As I started that first class, my eyes started to get a little bit itchy. The damn pollen season had flown in upon us and was giving me a dose. I suppose that’s expected on the first warm (and windy) day of the year. Anyway, I continued class as usual knowing that it wouldn’t be too bad although my right nostril was starting to stuff up. All this and I was planning on doing some singing in the evening (practice for an upcoming show).

About 15 minutes into class my eyes were realllly bothering me and nothing was moving through my right nostril. I hate allergies, apparently it’s my season to start really being bothered by them.

About 30 minutes in I was really having a hard time. My left nostril was starting to clog up too and I was breathing entirely through my mouth. My skin had started to itch a little bit too.

Pollen makes your skin itch? Not that I know of.

The last 20 minutes were pretty much miserable. I couldn’t breath through my nose, my skin was itchy, and turning red (at least my hands were), my eyes felt like someone had sprinkled itching powder into them and it was starting to get difficult to see because of the reaction.

Definitely not pollen.

After class, I walked into the office to express my discomfort when my coworkers reacted abruptly telling me my face was red and I looked terrible. I cruised over to the bathroom to see what I looked like and upon looking in the mirror, my eyes were completely bloodshot, both lids were swollen over and my face looked like a red delicious.

My boss immediately ran into the room where all my teaching materials were waiting and proceeded to prepare to teach. “You can’t teach like that,” she said in a panic. I sat there in the office for the next 2 and a half hours with ice over my eyes and an amazing lack of productivity sitting in. My coworkers were worried about me so I decided to stick around just to make sure that the problem didn’t get worse. What all started around 1:45 had completely subsided (except for a little puffiness) by 5:30.

It was incredible.

That day I had eaten some right-side flounder and (I think) that that’s what caused my reaction. Take a look at that link and tell me if you would eat that ugly thing. If I knew what it was beforehand I probably woulda said “no thank you”.

After I went home (around 7) I emailed my boss on the hour so she knew I was alright…and now I’ve inquired about health insurance. Can you imagine if I had to go to the hospital for that? I would have had to pay so much money to cover everything.

I backed out of national healthcare back in December and have been shopping around for a healthcare plan for the last couple months. I received information from about 4 different companies but couldn’t decide on what areas I wanted to sacrifice and what areas I needed. It’s hard as hell to choose that stuff cuz you never know what you’ll need. Anyway, that night, I chose one and sent an email to the guy selling it to me. I gotta get that shit set up…now.

In other news, today was White Day so I went to coffee and lunch with my friend Anna. For those of you who don’t know what White Day is…

Japan’s Valentine’s Day is the same day as America’s except that on this day, women give gifts to the men! Sounds nice huh?

…not really.

White Day is exactly one month later, in March, today. On this day, men give to the women. So, I took Anna out for lunch and coffee and did some meandering around Shinjuku. It was nice and relaxing. The weather was marvelous so it was good.

Now I’m just winding down. I’ve got work tomorrow so I’ll probably just have a beer and clean up a little bit here. Well, more soon. Lots of love!

…that’s just one of the many false notions going around about Japan.

I’ll tell you one thing that I’ve noticed about Japanese women, they’re very secretive.

There always seems to be something that they’re not telling you. It’s to the point where I feel intrusive asking what they’re doing on a certain night. It goes something like this:

  • Dashing American Boy: “Hey, what’re you doing Friday? Do you want to hang out?”
  • Saucy Japanese Girl: “I can’t, I have plans.”
  • D.A.B.: “Oh that’s too bad. What’re you doin?”
  • S.J.G: “内緒” (Pronounced: nigh-sho) Loosely translated to: “That’s a secret.”

I promise that this exact instance has happened to me at least 3 times. It’s ridiculous.

While you may be wondering why I just decided to pull this random information out of the air, it’s unfortunately, not so random. I wrote in my last post about some potential romance that was building.

Well, things fade I suppose.

What sparked its end was the fact that not only was she not being totally honest about her feelings about someone else, but I was also a secret to a lot of people within her circle…and it looked as if none of these things would falter for a long while (at least a year, and yes, it can be precisely gauged due to her situation). Basically, secrets were kept from me…and I was a secret.

Ouch.

It was great to meet a girl with dreams and passion and an interest in doing something with her life. There aren’t many people like that in the world…despite how elementary the concept really seems (and is). It also really goes to show that experience and wisdom really do come with age. The girl I was dating was about 5 years younger than me and at my age, a lot of change can happen in those 5 years. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to have a meaningful relationship with someone younger than you but the odds of failure and the mutual respect that come along with having a few more dating years under your belt, is pretty priceless.

To give her some credit, she wasn’t happy with her situation and I came into her life and she got herself into a situation that she didn’t mean to. I have no doubts that she has feelings for me and that she wants things to be right, it’s just that she messed up with the way she went about it, and was a little bit selfish about it. For the sake of not pointing fingers, I didn’t use my best judgement and just say no when I knew there could be trouble.

One thing I’ve definitely learned about dating is that taking things slow is hands down the best way to go. We didn’t exactly take things “fast” but maintaining a distance has its benefits when spontaneous problems force you to move on…and I’m glad I kept reasonably away from her. You jump in too fast and things can start to hurt real quick and that’s the kinda stuff that gives you bad feelings or expectations of the opposite sex.

Well, some news to be more happy about is the fact that I’m going to be heading out to Niigata at the end of the month to play a show at my old company’s coffee shop. It’s gonna be nice to play for all the old faces and reminisce a bit. I could use a good mocha too. The logistics of the show are going to be a bit of a pain but it’ll be worth it I think. Gotta practice I guess.

I’m also still holdin strong at the gym. I usually have no perseverance when it comes to working out and such but excluding a few weeks of only making it one time, I’ve been doing pretty good. Interestingly enough, despite doing a little bit of weight training since I started in October (5 months) I’ve gained no muscle mass, only lost fat. I’m going to try drinking lots of whey protein for a couple months to see if it has an effect or not. I’ve been drinking it a little bit but not as much as I should probably. After losing some fat weight, now I’m just skinny so I gotta figure out a way to keep the fat down but not look Ethiopian all the while.

The main thing, however, is energy. My energy levels are much better and despite having to hold back yawns in some of my classes, I’ve been sleeping better and everything.

Well, that’s all for now. Much love.

Well, it’s been quite some time since I’ve updated my blog and many things have happened.

I had a couple weeks off in December for new years and had a really good time visiting old acquaintances in Niigata. I actually went up there twice. The first time was to meet with old coworkers and the second was for a bit of snowboarding. It was nice being up there, going to the hot springs (twice) and being able to hit some good Japanese snow. It felt like my first time snowboarding despite having been doing it for 2 years now. A few righteous spills but nothing too destructive.

On a considerably less fulfilling note, my first meal of the year was a quarter pounder with cheese, french fries and a coffee.

What the hell.

My Japanese friend went to McDonald’s in the morning after a long night of counting down and drinking. I was thinking, “Ok, it’s 10am and he’s going to McDonald’s. Any of the breakfast food will be fine for me right now.” Apparently, that’s not the way it happened. Who goes to buy breakfast and comes back with double cheeseburgers!? Oh well, there’s always next year to start off right (i.e. a salad).

In recent work-related news. I was offered a one-year extension at my job (much to my delight). I like working with the people there. The atmosphere is (98%) pleasant and everyone gets along well. Not to mention I got a raise. It’s only about 100 bucks more a month but that’ll help. I haven’t been able to save much because of a lot of different expenses but that’s become one of my New Years resolutions. Save money!

Let’s talk about the value of being financially comfortable. I was for a couple years in Niigata but I haven’t been since coming here. I have to make sure that it will be back in my hands in the very near future and I’m extremely excited about it.

In other news, romance may be making a comeback (3 years later) in my life. There’s someone who has sparked a bit of my interest and while it’s too early to tell how it’ll pan out, there’s a bit of promise there. I don’t want to elaborate too much because getting too excited about things too soon tends to end up being potentially difficult (and possibly painful) but…She’s a couple years younger than me yet she is positive-minded, smart, outgoing, extremely talented and has ambition for her own future. I like people who can take care of themselves and it’s difficult to find people who are willing to put for the effort to make their lives more marvelous. We’ll see how that goes…hopefully well. Sorry to be vague but I’m not in the market for a jinx.

And now…Deep Thoughts by Nathan Hoernig: Winter is cold.

It’s not as cold in Japan as it is in the Chicago area but I’m becoming more susceptible to the chill as time goes on. I’m now a scarf-wearer. Never thought I would be but when I leave home without one I may be found quietly cursing and staring intently at my canned coffee while waiting on the train platform.

I’m also in a band now. It’s hard to say how it’s going quite honestly. It’s difficult to push for something when you get the sense that a few of the others aren’t as serious about it. It’s also a little discerning that a few of the members intend to leave in the next 6 months or so. I’m a little bit torn. While I enjoy playing music with them, I don’t want to pay 1500 yen a week to just have fun jamming. I wanna do something valuable with my music and have a destination. It’s hard to reach a destination when some of the vehicles in the caravan are driving in different directions. I also feel that it’s a bit, for lack of a better word, wasteful, to spend 6 months getting acclimated to others’ styles and then the band falling apart. Hopefully a fix will come to us in the near future so we can gracefully avoid any issues.

Well, that’s about all I can put out there right now. I got a minimal amount of sleep last night and need to get some tonight…desperately. Hope everyone is well!

So I decided to record a video of myself, in the bathroom. Or to be totally accurate, my “shower” room.

I don’t usually sing in the shower but one time I found myself doing it and noticed, over the noise of the shower, that the room has really nice acoustics. It’s really small and the walls are covered over with tile, thus giving it a nice natural reverb effect. With that considered, I decided to try a recording in there.

At the end of the day, once the water had all dried up from the floors, I jumped in there with my guitar and my laptop and did a cover of the Tyrone Wells song, “More”. It turned out alright I suppose. I think some day if I do a serious track recording, I’ll use that room for my vocals and for the guitar parts…whenever that day may be.

Here’s the video!

For all you audiophiles wondering what sort of a difference it makes, pay special attention to the low end of the guitar. In particular, when you hear me hit that third chord during the intro, you can really hear a nice full low end on that C chord. I can only imagine what that would sound like in the same room with my nice condenser mic plugged in as opposed to the built-in mic on my Macbook Pro…

Perhaps bliss.

In other news, I’ve been doing a hefty amount of design work lately. I’ve done 3 posters for my school and the slew of events we’ve had recently as well as finishing off a logo design for a local hip hop artist. If you’re interested in getting a shot of that logo just follow this link to see its debut appearance on youtube. It’s the image on his hat. Not very clear but you can maybe kinda make it out.

As goes the story of my life, my site was (and is) on the back burners while I was workin on that stuff. I’ve still got some other design work to do for that client so that’ll be where the brunt of my effort is going for the time being.

What else?

As many of you know, I started doing a little bit of exercising to try to get in shape and bump up my energy. When I initially started, they had me do a body scan to tell me how much fat and muscle I have. Then I worked out (about twice a week) for a month and a half and took the test again. The second time around I was expecting some nicer numbers.

Negative.

My body fat went up and my muscle mass went down. I did a little research and came to the the conclusion that I was doing too much cardio and that’s why my muscle mass was decreasing. I also found out that if I work out regularly and want to sustain (or build) muscle, my calorie intake would have to go up. So, I’ve been eating more than usual and doing less cardio so hopefully my numbers will be better next time.

The perplexing part is how I was doing a lot of cardio but gaining fat when eating not so many calories. Who knows.

Well, that’ll be it for now. Hope everyone’s doing well and happy Thanksgiving! I cleaned all day that day…and ate absolutely no turkey. I did, however, eat five 6-inch shishamo smelt. Head, tail, fins, bones and all. It’s interesting how remarkably normal that becomes to someone after they’ve lived here for a couple years.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concepts and challenges of trying to be a good employee and being professional. I realized that the best way to become a great employee is to have jobs that you hated or despised. Basically, being overworked, entrusted to impossible expectations as well as a simply having a supervisor/boss who you’d rather see in a hearst instead of in the office…subsequently, leads to a good work ethic. I think about the jobs that I liked and how much they’ve improved my work ethic…and there really aren’t any. Then, I think about the jobs that I disliked or even hated, and realize how well they’ve refined my sense of being a professional.

The thing is, these jobs don’t have to be the shadowed dungeon-y existences of past, some of them can just be extremely challenging and through that, we learn to be incredible at what we do. It really goes to show that professional experience is really the only way to be a great employee.

I just think it’s interesting to consider the fact that the jobs we dislike, while not being our favorite jobs, were possibly (or most-definitely) the best jobs we’ve had. Something can be said for happiness, and that’s the ultimate importance, but without dealing with the burden and annoyance of that obnoxious, never-to-be-satisfied superior, we wouldn’t be able to truly become awesome in our work situation.

Think of a job you enjoyed and think of a job you hated. Which one did you really learn from?

Just a thought.

In other news, life has been pretty stable for me lately. The only thing not stable are my finances. I’ve been living paycheck-to-paycheck the last few months and I’m completely over it. In Japan, once you live here for a full calendar year (January to December), you have to start paying local taxes and your national healthcare premiums get adjusted based on the previous year’s income.

If you make $80k a year and then the next year, move to a job of lower income, you basically get completely screwed because your payments for the latter year will be based off the higher-incomed salary. However, vice-versa is also the case.

This isn’t the case with me as my salary’s gone up from my past job but my expenses certainly have not.

Here’s a quick lowdown of how expensive life is out here. I pay 720 a month for rent, I pay 60 for my cell phone, I pay about 150 for train fees, 150 for utilities, 150 for student loans (to the states), 75 for my credit cards, 300 for National healthcare (ridiculous…although I managed to get off of it so that’ll change) and 200 for local taxes.

For a single guy living in a tiny apartment, I’m pushin about 1800 dollars out every month just to live. It’s pretty outrageous that it’s all costing me that much but because of that, I haven’t been able to save anything. Like I said though, I managed to get out of national healthcare and am about to enroll in private insurance. Paying 3500 dollars a year for health insurance as a 26-year old healthy (knock on wood) guy is pretty steep I’d say.

While my financials aren’t as great as I’d like them to be, I should be balanced after December. Other things in life are looking good though:

My friend Martin and I are possibly putting together a little musical group. It’ll be nice to get back into a band again. The concept is still too fresh to really say too much about it or get too excited about but we’ll be having our first session this week at a studio in Shibuya. The hard part is finding a drummer but we may have one lined up…the studio session should confirm that or not though.

My design work hasn’t had any hiatuses lately either. I’m working on a series of logos/images for a hip hop artist out here. Also, I’ve been pushin pretty hard to get my website finished up and it’s getting very close now. The design is completed and as of now, I’m just working on the code. I have very little coding experience so it’s been a slow process but I’m trying…that’s good for something right? I’ve also done a lot of design work for my job also. Basically working on it in the evenings after work. The bosses really appreciate it so that’s good enough for me.

My current love life is as bountiful and refreshing as the current water supply in Venezuela. I went out on a few dates with a girl and was starting to become interested in the situation but her effort just wasn’t there. Women in Japan seem to be much more reliant on the male taking initiative to contact and set things up. There’s a strong part of me that wants nothing to do with that though. I’d prefer a girl to put forth an equal amount of effort as I am…otherwise it’s too much work. I don’t want to work for the relationship, I want it to work naturally…or at a minimum, the effort put in to be equal on both sides.

Working out has been going well. I haven’t really gained weight but I’m slightly more defined than I was, which is good. I’ve been successfully getting to the gym about twice a week since the beginning of October. During my week off, at the end of the month, I got in there (I think) four times. My back spasmed really bad at the beginning of the following week and I could barely move for 2 full days. It was nasty. I took a bit of a break and headed back in there yesterday. After talking to the trainers, I got some advice on what to do differently…some of which include some stretching techniques as well as how to develop those muscles.

Well, that’ll be it for now. Hope all is well and leave a comment if you have a minute!

Well, the company Halloween Parade is over. It went very well and was alarmingly smooth! I was going to head to the local discount shop and pick up a cheap costume but had a harsh case of the lazies and never made it over there. My company has a bunch of old costumes in stock so I just grabbed one and went with it. I was Jack Skelington from Nightmare Before Christmas.

After the Halloween extravaganza, we (my coworkers and I) went back to the office, ordered pizza and just hung out for about 3 hours doing nothing but eating pizza and drinking beers. After that, someone had the idea that we should go to karaoke. I think it was Neil. The 5 of us all ran over to karaoke and laughed as Lee (the oldest of the bunch) was doing back-up vocals for the Japanese songs and dancing. Alita entertained us also with her rigid adherence to only Japanese songs of which she was singing through quite flawlessly to our surprise. Upon finishing up, we came back to my place (minus 1) for our last hurrah before everyone headed out. I drank LOTS of water and was able to avoid a (completely) useless day…although I didn’t do much except head over to the gym for an hour and a half.

Tuesday (the 20th), I ran over to Neil’s in Aobadai at about 10:30 in the morning to do an all-grain batch of beer. We spent a good six hours creating beer straight from water/hops/whole nuggets of barley all the way to the fermentable wort. It took a long time to do but was a pretty cool process. I always do liquid extract brewing which is considerably easier and doesn’t require all the grains and such. There’s a variety of other equipment as well that you can get away with not using. Anyway, we spent the early-late evening sampling a variety of different drinks:

  • Oatmeal Stout
  • Wine Cask Aged Oatmeal Stout
  • A couple lighter ales
  • 2 different kinds of Mead
  • A 4-month Umeshu (Japanese Plum Wine), a 6-year Umeshu and a 14-year old Umeshu

That last one was made by Neil’s wife’s grandfather just a year before he passed away. We toasted to him and the umeshu was really delicious! I’m considering maybe making some next year when it’s in season. It’s really just a combination of Umeboshi (Japan’s really sour plums) and Shochu (a distilled Sake)

Today was my progress day. I worked out again (today was a leg-focus day) and have been doing a decent amount of design work all day as well. My website is about 80% designed. By that, I mean that all the imagery, colors, typography and layouts are almost finished. I still have to prepare my portfolio pieces and figure out some good javascript or something to help me lay in a good presentation of it however.

After this design stage is done, I’m going to start piecing it together into a website (finally) and get it posted on the web.

I’m also working on my company’s Christmas flyer and a local hip-hop artist’s series of logos so delays may continue to come but that’s why I’m trying to push while I’ve got this week off.

Well that’s all for now. Missing everyone and much love!

Well, I’m not usually one to lay prey to stuff like these social “movements” but I saw a site all about Blog Action Day and thought that it sounded like something worth being a part of.

The site is designed to improve the world’s knowledge of a certain situation or problem that is of current concern to us while allowing people everywhere to use that day to discuss the issue.

The founders of the site are two really influential designers who’ve created the envato websites. I follow their blogs pretty regularly and respect the role they play in the online blogosphere as well as their entrepeneurial spirit.

This year’s issue is all about global warming.

I’m not an expert on the issue in the slightest, nor have I given it much thought but I am interested in preserving what we have here and taking care of it.

Littering annoys the hell out of me

and all too many times have I witnessed complete disrespect for one’s surroundings. This is definitely one of the reasons I enjoy being in Japan. You can go to an outdoor event or party and after the thousands of people have left, there’s almost no trash on the ground. Japanese people are quicker to take their trash home with them in a plastic bag than they are to leave it where it was made. It’s awesome.

I’m not sure how that would tie into global warming but I suppose that’s one aspect of protecting our homes and the environment that I’m passionate about…and so that’s what I choose to speak my mind about on this year’s blog action day.

There are almost no garbage cans in Japan. You could walk around for literally hours before finding one or not finding one at all. In America, if that were the situation, people would either A: throw it on the ground or B: walk into a McDonald’s and toss it into their garbage cans. It’s not like that at all here. Like I said, people just take it home.

The only kinds of trash receptacles you’ll see in Japan are bottle and can containers which are (9 times out of 10) set up right next to a drink vending machine.

…in that image, the gray can on the left is the garbage, the second machine from the left is a beer and sake vending machine while the middle one and the skinny one are tobacco vending machines…

Point being…would you rather be in an area where everyone has an “I don’t give a f#@!” attitude or an “Of course I give a f#@!” attitude. The former should be saved for situations in which someone is about to go sky-diving or maybe bungee-jumping but let’s agree to realize that it has minimal place in the world outside of anything involving the brain as a tool to make rational decisions.

You should spend the day (October 15th) picking up after yourself.
Or if you give a f#@! (and you should) maybe make an effort to take care of what we have and support/allow others to be of the same form.

The Older Obsolete Stuff

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