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Yamasaki

“As I write these words, in a little black moleskine I bought in Newcastle in
the misguided belief that I am Ernest Hemmingway, I am presently stuck in a
train station in a place called Aioi. I have no desire to be in Aioi, I want to
be in Hiroshima, which is several hundred miles to the west of where I am
currently seated. Failing that I’d settle for Okayama which is where several
trains have promisedme I was going before informing me that they were going to
drop me of in the middle of sodding nowhere. Aioi train station is not exactly
thrilling. I have bought a drink, and thus exhausted it’s possibilities for
amusement. The only thing I can do to possibly while away the hours is to
attempt to work out how exactly one pronounces Aioi, something like ah-ee-oh-ee
which sound a bit like a painful grunt. I will probably type this all up on my
blog if, and this is a big if, I ever leave sodding Aioi.”

Eventually, after over an hour, I did.

How I got there in the first place required a spectacular misjudgement on my part, one of several I had made that day leading up to a not exactly successful start to my trip.

The previous night I had packed my brand new bag. Not knowing what the weather or sleeping conditions would be liked in Hiroshima I had prepared for the worse. I had placed my gameboy, phone and camera on charge and went to bed giddy and excited.

The next morning I awoke, quickly packed my things, had breakfast and headed off to make my way to Hiroshima.

I decided to take the JR rather than the Shinkansen for the simple reason that the Shinkansen costs more money and would be too easy for my poorly planned little adventure. I use the JR quite frequently and have never before had any problem deciphering it’s maps and complicated system of multiple speed trains before. Furthermore when I got to the JR station I discovered that although the map didn’t have Hiroshima listed it did have Okayama, a city I have been to before on the JR and where I had done, well this.

I knew that from Okayama you could get the train to Hiroshima so I made this destination number 1. Now I did mess up somewhat straight away. I remembered from last time that when we went to Okayama we had to transfer once before reaching it. I didn’t remember which station we transferred in so I decided to aim toward Himeji reasoning that they would probably have an Okayama connection there. That’s a reasonable assumption right? Two big cities probably have a train running between them.

In Himeji there were many trains listed as heading to Okayama. I boarded one.

It did not go to Okayama.

Instead it dropped me in a tiny little rural train station and returned to Himeji. However this train station also promised connections to Okayama, in half an hour.

These subsequent trains did not go to Okayama. Instead I had to catch a series of ever progressing local trains inching my way towards Okayama.

All of which led to me sitting in a train station in Aioi for an hour and the rant at the start of this post.

Having said that, the journey was not entirely unpleasant. The scenery was absolutely lovely all the way to Okayama. Japan is really characterised by its mountains. There is no horizon in this country, look far enough in any direction and all you’ll see is mountains. Climb and mountain and there’s still no horizon just more and more distant mountains. Hell look out to sea and you’ll probably spot an island or two. The mountains inform so much of Japanese culture and how the country feels. Leave the city and they really start to creep into your brain, they dominate your thoughts. You simply can’t escape them. At times it can be quite intimidating, you feel squashed in and trapped. However in this instance they were lovely, like the train was boat travelling in a green sea. It was sunny, quiet, warm without being hot and I had nothing to do but read and gaze at trees and mountains.

Having arrived in Okayama I decided to sod the JR and try my hand at the Shinkansen (bullet train). This is such a symbol of Japan that I knew I would end up riding it one day anyway and I was so desperate not to be on a train anymore that I paid the extra fair and set off.

The Shinkansen is more like a plane than a train really. It has its own station that feels much more like an airport than a train station. The doors are airlocked, the corridors are very narrow with low ceilings and the décor and shape just screams plane at you. Except it isn’t a plane, and it has absolutely scads of leg room. I rode it in blissful happiness that I was finally making some progress to Hiroshima.

Eventually I arrived. 6 hours later.

One benefit of all the extra travelling time was that I’d had plenty of chances to consult my guidebook and look for a place to stay. The plan was to try and find a cheap-ish hotel and failing that to just find a coin locker to store my bag in. The guidebook pointed out a youth hostel right smack dab in the centre of the city and next to the peace park. This was exactly the sort of area I needed to be staying in so I headed to the Aster International Youth Hostel.

Asking for a room for two nights resulted in an ominous Japanese collaborative huddle (i.e. they all had to ask each other if it was okay) the end result of which was that yes they did have two rooms but I would need to check out each day and check back in again.

Fine, whatever, I give up questioning you Japan.

And the room was great. Fairly basic but this place was meant to be a hostel! I got a room to myself a TV and an en-suite shower and bath. I’ve stayed in hotels that were much worse than this place.

Depositing my belongings I hit Hiroshima to see what it was like.
It was then that I realised that I had left my camera back in Kobe.

Arse.

The first thing I noticed about Hiroshima, trams. As in it has them, and as far as I know is the only Japanese city that has them. Now I love trams, don’t ask me why. I can’t possibly identify any specific aspect of trams that I find appealing but for some reason I do. I think it might be a boy thing.

And because of the trams the streets are really, really wide. Startlingly wide actually. I’m used to Japanese cities being cramped and busy but Hiroshima was full without being crowded in the slightest. There are acres of lovely space in those streets.

It’s also much leafier than most Japanese cities too, particularly around the peace park and bordering the peace park on either side is a wide, slow moving river. The combination of river and tress was particularly lovely on this hot day with the shade and the feel of the water giving me some much needed cool.

In fact Hiroshima doesn’t really fell much like a Japanese city, it’s got lots of green space, it’s wide and uncluttered and it has a grand river running through it with riverside cafes. These are not qualities I associate with any city in Kansai, in fact at times it feels positively Mediterranean. Disconcerting but perfectly pleasant.

This had all put me in a good mood and I ventured out to explore peace park and possibly get something to eat. I had spotted on my way to the hostel that there was some kind of festival in the peace park so I headed in that direction hoping that they would have food.

I needn’t have worried, this is Japan and anywhere people gather there is always food.
I set myself up with a beer and this thing.

Yes, an omelette on a stick. I have said before that the Japanese have a great fondness for putting food on sticks but even I could not quite believe that they would put an omelette on a stick. It wasn’t bad though, a bit gooey in the middle but it had onions to give it some crisp and was pretty tasty.

I wasn’t quite full yet so I continued searching for more food on sticks and elected to have some barbequed squid on a stick. I was tucking into this delicacy and heading into the park when who should I cross paths with but Steve.

You all remember Steve right, from Yamasaki.

With a mouth full of squid I couldn’t say anything but fortunately he recognized me too. He was on his jollidays from work too and had been in Tokyo the night before. Small world isn’t it?

Turns out Steve also has a blog on deviantart. He was visiting Hiroshima with his friend Daniel. Fortunately both of them are big photographer geeks and have many, many spectacular photos of that night. I will post them as soon as Steve puts them on deviantart.
The festival was a “festival of flowers” and was in honour of “Greenery Day” which is an actual national holiday in Japan. As well as all the usual festival distractions (i.e. food) the main events were a stage with some dancing and a display of candles in peace park.

You could buy a candle, write a message and add it to the display. This consisted of a long table running down the centre of peace park, some fixed candles on stilts in the reflecting pond and some stands with candles on them. There were also giant glass cranes in the style or origami cranes that lit up. The effect was really quite beautiful and as I say, Steve has pictures.

The dancing was much less impressive although not bad. The most memorable part for me were some boys who, judging by their costume, were either from Thailand or India. I had actually spotted these boys in costume when I checked into my hotel and was a little skeeved at the time. Most of the boys were in a masculine costume, a purple robe with a gold effect headdress and some other gold effect components. They looked quite Indian basically and I’m sure you can all guess their general appearance. However some of the older boys had elaborate gold head dresses, skirts, make-up and what I can only describe as belly shirts exposing their mid riff. They were definitely boys, I saw one up close as I checked in but they were dressed in phenomenally feminine costume. Creepy.

The rest of the dancing was competent and occasionally amazing but substantially less mind searing.

Having wandered around chatting and taking photos we set off for dinner. Hiroshima is famous for two things; seafood and a kind of okonomiyaki called Hiroshima-yaki that is made with noodles. My guidebook mentioned a department store called “okonomi-mura” that promised a wide selection of Hiroshima-yaki places so we set off to find it.

Could we find it, could we bugger.

The map in the guidebook was complete crap and didn’t tell us where the actual store was instead opting to give us a few landmarks and then make us guess. Worse nobody we spoke to had ever heard of okoni-mura or the entertainment district we were looking for. Eventually we found a guy who did know what we meant and directed us to a street we must have passed about 6 times. There we saw a sign saying in hiragana “okonomi-mura”. That meant that when we were asking where the entertainment district Sintenchi was we were in Shintenchi. Yet not one person we asked had ever heard of Shintenchi.

The Hiroshima-yaki was good though. A little bland maybe, with too many noodles and not enough sauce or meat. Still it was tasty enough to satisfy. Hiroshima okonomiyaki doesn’t hold a candle to the stuff in Osaka though.

I finished up in a bar called “Zepplin bar” because I liked the sound of the promised classic R’n’B and rock. Not exactly common music in Japan. What I got was Chicago. Bloody Chicago! Still I got chatting to a nice Japanese bloke who used to live in Canada and had a couple of “just what the doctor ordered” beers.
And that’s it for day 1. Still 2 more days and many, many photos to get through so stick around.

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Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand that was a long time without a post.

In my defence, I have been in a lot of pain. Allow me to explain.

This weekend I was convinced by the very persuasive and charismatic Brindley to buy an Air Soft gun.

For those not in the know, these are replica guns that use a motor or gas to fire BB pellets. You use them like paintball guns and go out into the woods somewhere to shoot your mates.

Not only did Brindley convince me to buy a gun he convinced me to play (which justified the expense of the gun somewhat) and this weekend me and bunch of others got dragged up a mountain in Hanayama to shoot each other.

All was well until Brindley suggested a game called sentry. The gist of which is that nobody has a gun except the sentry, and the sentry has a slow loading bolt action rifle. The sentry walks between 2 points defending a target. Everyone else has to touch this target.

Now there are 2 ways to do achieve this. The difficult but enticing method is to try and sneak up to the target, avoiding the sentry and get close enough to touch the target. The also difficult but probably more effective way is to just leg it anytime the sentry pauses to aim.If he isn’t aiming at you, and you jump around, he’s going to have a hard time aiming at you.

I tried to do the latter and forgot, in my mad dash to to the target, that I WAS ON A BLOODY MOUNTAIN!!!!

Basically as I ran downhill my top half began to go a lot, lot faster than my bottom half and I was faced with 2 options. 1, fall over and roll down a rocky, steep mountain. 2, aim for a tree.

I aimed for the tree.

It hurt.

Quite a lot.

Still does.

But worry not, nothing is broken, I can move fine and the pain is subsiding, hence my typing this tonight. But yeah, for the last few days my urge to blog has been overrun by my urge to lie on my couch and moan softly.

So here, at last is the long awaited conclusion to what I did the weekend before I decided to fall into a tree at high speed.

Having breezed through the more exciting parts of the trip here’s the rest of it. There isn’t much.

Having played with a spider and watched a man flush a toilet we decided to head back down the mountain to a waterfall shrine.

Waterfalls are considering purifying in Shinto. Adepts used to stand underneath them and attempt to meditate whilst enduring the cold and discomfort. Consequentially nearly every waterfall in Japan has a small shrine set up. Usually this is rubbish. When I went to Kyoto a few weeks ago the guidebook advised me to head off to a waterfall shrine connected to a famous temple I was visiting. I was promised something out of the ordinary, something most tourists never see and something beautiful. I got a drainpipe.

No, I’m being serious, a drainpipe. After an exceedingly long and difficult hike we finally got up the mountain to find a small and very mucky shrine next to a drain pipe trickling some water. Clearly from the shape of the valley there used to be a waterfall here and one day it had dried up. But not content to let visitors down some natty monks had set up some kind of drainpipe to give the illusion of a waterfall. It was crap. Admittedly the view back down the valley was gorgeous but it was a big let down.

The waterfall shrine in Yamasaki was far from crap.

For starters it was a proper waterfall, tall, real water and with a proper river still flowing down the mountainside. It even had a little pool at its base that turned into a second smaller waterfall. And it was in a wonderfully leafy, scenic setting that was totally quiet. It was one of those moments where you think you’ve stepped into another world. Like you’ve somehow stepped away from Modern Japan with its constant background noise, smog, crowds and ugly, ugly technology and into the past.

The point about the ugly technology is true by the way. Japanese culture is obsessed with nature. All those ceremonies and mystic arts are all about finding a balance with nature. Ikebana, tea ceremony, Shinto, bonsai it’s all about communication with nature. Most schools have a small pond to allow some natural beauty into the space. But then if given the opportunity to entire spoil something beautiful with a great big lump of metal they don’t think twice. In the cities where the sheer mass of buildings, signs, adverts and exposed machinery and structures means you can’t see anything but meal and concrete its all very impressive and strangely beautiful. But out in the, frankly stunning, Japanese countryside it can be very annoying.

This is not a habit confined to the Japanese by the way, in fact they do a much better job of preserving scenic beauty than say, America or England. Its just more noticeable because it seems so contradictory.

Anyway this waterfall had none of that. It was idyllic and lovely and we stayed for quit a while, not doing much except admiring the place.

Oh and we played pooh sticks. I won.

When we finally got bored of that we went to a restaurant called “Joy Full” and Steve regaled us of the tale of his friend. A man that would rise at 3 am just to come and sit in Joy Full and drink coffee, everyday. This bloke was English and was so ratty looking he was, on more than one occasion, mistaken for a tramp by locals.

Inside Joy Full they had a big advert demonstrating 2 different ways you could order a hamburger and chicken. One had it smothered under tomato sauce and cheese, the other had it with a fried egg on top with rice and some teriyaki. The advert read “ITALY VS JAPAN”.

Now Japan, I love your food but honestly, who are you trying to kid.

Ah well I guess one missed day doesn’t matter much. At least my frequency is improving.

Anyway, as was mentioned in my monkey related post last weekend me and the actor David Bath went to visit Dave’s mate Steve in the frighteningly rural town of Yamasaki.

To be honest I did not actually think this was going to be much fun. The only thing I actually knew we were doing is looking at a bamboo forest and I had visions of pretending to be in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” that lured me to come. For the rest of the time I had no idea what was planned, but Steve had apparently given us a busy schedule.

We took the train to Himeji (which I didn’t realise was a big city. I thought it was just a famous castle. I really don’t know a lot about Japan do I.) and met Steve there to be driven to Yamasaki. DRIVEN mind you. Yamasaki appears to be the one place in Japan that can’t be reached by the train. It’s positively barbaric, I don’t know how people manage.

On the way there we drove past a couple of love hotels and the biggest Tanuki I have ever seen. Tanuki, for those not in the know, are Japanese mythological animals fashioned after the real tanuki or raccoon dog. Tanuki are friendly, fat, wear a straw hat, are usually depicted carrying a bottle of sake and a promissory note (like an I.O.U.) for the sake. If they put a leaf on their heads they can turn into anything they like, usually humans. They then try and by sake with money that turns into leaves shortly afterwards.

Oh and they have enormous testicles, which are apparently lucky.

When we got to Yamasaki and checked in, a process that apparently necessitated an explanation of where the café is that lasted half an hour.

“Come down the lift, step out the lift, then step forward and turn left and step forward again and there is a door on your left, go through it and step forward and remember to breathe turn left using the groups of muscles in your right leg, first lift your foot up, extend it, place it on the ground so that you should have legs stretched apart, then get your foot that is now some way behind the proceeding or right foot lift it up and extend it not just to match your right foot, although this is acceptable, but all the way past your right foot, continue with this process and you are in the café.”

Why did we have to go to a hotel? Well, because Steve’s room consists of a bed, masses of electronics and just enough space between the two to squeeze to the kitchen. It was one of those rooms where you’re slightly unsure if the floor is actually there. Oh and he had some pet frogs, and a dead pet beetle.

First stop, a local shrine. It seems that everywhere you go in Japan the first thing you do is go look at a shrine. Admittedly this was a very nice one, in a pleasant forest up a mountain. It had a lake outside it with turtles and was just generally very…shriney.

Oh, one thing. The pleasant forest did have signs up warning people not to step on the most dangerous snake in all of Japan, which lives here. Alas we didn’t see anything so exciting as an animal that could kill us. Steve has seen one in the past apparently, which spent the whole time Steve was there doing its best stick impression. The most dangerous snake in all of Japan is apparently terrified of everything and rarely bites things it isn’t trying to eat. Unless you step on it.

After the pleasant forest we went to one of Steve’s locals for dinner, consisting of a burger…..and rice. Something I mocked my friend Joe for eating for months. I still think it’s a weird combination. It wasn’t bad though.

Then we went to the monkey shrine. Words can’t do justice to monkeys so here are lots of pictures of them.

By now quite bored of looking at monkeys, and hungry, we set out for food at a local Izakaya, and damn nice food it was too. I had something called a dice steak. No, not diced steak. Rather you roll 2 dice and that’s how many pieces of steak you get. If you roll a double 1 they take a photo of you and put it on the wall. Now obviously I was hoping for an exciting result, either a double 6 or a double 1. Alas all I got was an 8, a fair bit of steak but not a great story.

We then proceeded (by now slightly drunk) to something called either a Gan Pen or a Kan Pen, basically Japanese speed dating. On one side of a table the girls, on the other the guys and every so often you move down. Now Steve, bless ‘im, has been trying to get his end away ever since his last girlfriend broke up with him. He’s a little bit obsessed by it even, and lots of the barmaids he knows in Yamasaki keep trying to set him up with women. So Steve had already been invited to this Gan Pen when he made his plans to invite us. In fact he had to ask permission to bring me and Dave along, which met the response.

“NO! If you bring the foreigners there won’t be any girls left for us.”

Fortunately Steve convinced the organiser that me and Dave had girlfriends (well we do) and wouldn’t take any girls. So we were grudgingly allowed in.

Now Steve did think that us three wouldn’t be involved in the actual dating business as such, but rather would be at a separate table watching Japanese guys try to use pick up lines (they’re remarkably unsubtle and I heard the Japanese word for cock more than once). No such luck, me, Dave and Steve all got seated at the table where the action was occurring and being exotic foreigners we drew more than our fair share of the attention. Something that was visibly pissing off the Japanese guys there. Steve was loving it though, and got 2 numbers.

Oh and I ate something called soft chicken bone, or chicken’s knuckles. Ready for it. Fried, battered chicken gristle. Now some JET’s had told me bout this beforehand and my reaction, like any sane persons, was, urgh! But actually they’re not that bad. I wouldn’t ever buy them myself but when they were in front of me….well I couldn’t stop eating them.

I will say this, all the asian JET’s absolutely adore them.

So having probably screwed up some desperate Japanese blokes attempts to pull we made our way to a “snack bar”.

Now at this point I should own up that I did know one thing about Yamasaki before I went there.

It is crawling with the Yakuza, or as Steve calls them to avoid saying the word yakuza, pineapples.

Now I have never, ever in my life been faced with a situation where I was in danger of meeting a gang member. Let alone someone belonging to an internationally famous criminal gang, and Steve was planning to take us to a bar that they run, quite openly apparently. The Yakuza are like a lot of Japanese “problems” an open secret. Everyone knows they exist but everybody, EVERYBODY pretends that they don’t. The Yakuza speak their own version of Japanese which is used in films bout the Yakuza, but if pressed a Japanese person will always say that they couldn’t possibly understand what is being said in those films.

Now the pineapples do generally restrict violence just to other pineapples. Nonetheless I wasn’t really in any mood to meet any pineapples, but according to Steve if you want to drink in a decent place in Yamasaki you need to go to a pineapple bar. So off we went.

“Snack Bars” are fairly cheap to buy beer in but give you a bowl of peanuts which can cost anything from 2,000 Yen to 20,000 Yen depending on how much the proprietor likes you. Fortunately the landlady, Miyuki, likes Steve a lot so she totally waived the snack charge and just let us drink as normal. In fact she dropped the charge for Karaoke too so she must like us.

Miyuki is one of the most outgoing Japanese people I have ever met. She’s loud, brash, rude and very funny. And according to Steve the most perverted Japanese girl ever. On one of his first nights in the bar he got a back massage from one of the barmaids. Miyuki called out from the bar, so that the whole room could hear, “she also does good dick massages too Steve”.

She was apparently on her best behaviour when we went, but she did do cheeky girls on the karaoke.

And what a karaoke! It had a feature called “pervert mode” that rated your singing performance and then stripped blocks off a picture of a naked lady. The higher your score the more you got the see. My Score of 84 doing Elton John’s crocodile rock let me see some nipples but alas no one scored highly enough to uncover the downstairs departments.

By this stage we were well and truly hammered.

So of course the sensible thing to do is to recruit a load of Steve’s mates and wander up a mountain in the dark looking for Ghosts.

The Japanese lads with us did their very best to scare me and Dave, trying to convince us that ghosts were real and what we were doing was really dangerous (bollocks) and actually I think they believed it. Japan is quite a secular country generally but it is very, very superstitious and I think stuff like belief in ghosts is taken a lot more seriously than back home.

Still they weren’t taking it very seriously at all and were mostly laughing at the, by now totally gone, gaijin drunks.

I frankly was more scared by the mountain edge and the combination of alcohol and the dark meant my fear of heights kicked in big time and I did my best to keep everyone away from the edge. I realise I was being paranoid and annoying but I like to think my fears were proved right when Steve fell off the mountain.

Yes he fell of a mountain.

He went over a bandstand, which unbeknownst to him had a sheer drop behind him, fell down and landed on a hillside, twisting his ankle.

So by now, injured, scared, tired and very, very drunk Steve receives a call from the owner of another snack bar demanding that she pick us up and not letting Steve walk into town. Steve acquiesced and we descended to find a Jeep waiting to take us all back.

I have never been so sure I was going to die in all my life.

That Jeep was HURTLING down the mountain, in the dark, with no road barriers, in the dark, on a mountain!!! A MOUNTAIN! For the first time since I was a child I shut my eyes, held on for dear life and refused to open them until the Jeep stopped. Dave has a photo. The Japanese lads thought this was hilarious.

And this other woman, well I have no idea who she was but she was forceful. She all but made us go into her bar for another drink, a drink that, having just consumed heroic quantities already, and then having my stomach shaken violently in a Jeep, I really didn’t want.

I had it though and then next thing I know I am somehow back at the hotel and I go to bed.

The next day was infinitely more sedate. It was necessary, everyone was hungover. Everyone except bloody Steve.

Regardless, after a breakfast consisting of…um, tea, with cream in it, we set off to go up another mountain. This time on a monorail.

Apparently Yamasaki is trying to turn itself into something of a tourist attraction and has recently installed a few touristy things in order to encourage visitors. I would think a train stop would be the number 1 priority there. This monorail was one of them, along with a sort of ecologically friendly visitors centre at the top. When we got there it was hosting a gardening club and I assume it does other things.

The view from the mountain was phenomenal. I realised Japan was mountainous but I never realised just how mountainous it was. On all sides, for as far as I could see, it was just mountains. Stretching on to more mountains and yet more mountains. Hundreds and hundreds of them. It was beautiful and awesome (in the original sense) and just generally wonderful.

It was of course at that moment when the camera in my battery died.

Back in the visitors centre we amused ourselves by staring at the biggest most evil looking spider I have ever seen. It was yellow and black with a green body and a red head, poison colours if I’ve ever seen ‘em. Oh and it was very sharp and pointy. We three were all debating if it was poisonous or not when an old man picked it up in its hand and started using it to scare a small child. Well that was enough for Steve who demanded he got to hold it. We attracted a small crowd, mostly children and had endless fun trying to catch webs and then dangle it in the face of squealing delighted kids.

I tell you what, its webs were strong. Hours later Steve was still picking them off his clothing.

Bored of this we attempted to decipher what some of the signs meant. One was clearly demonstrating that the building used Solar Power. But another one, to do with water, was puzzling us. We all got that first few parts but there was one picture, with a tank filled with oysters that was confusing. Was it saying that oysters were used o filter the water? Well at that moment a helpful old man came over to explain what the sign meant. He started talking to Steve in Japanese and gestured at the toilet. He flushed the toilet, Steve left to go look at the Spider again and then the man looked up at me expectantly with a big grin on his face.

There is nothing quite so surreal as standing in a toilet cubicle with another man who has just flushed the toilet and is now smiling at you.

Which is all you’re getting tonight. Bed is calling me. I shall finish my Yamasaki adventure briefly tomorrow hopefully.

Short post tonight as I am sick as a dog. I really do want to get into the habit of doing a post every night though (except weekends) so here is a video to entertain you all.

But first the backstory.

Me and David Bath (usually referred to as “the actor David Bath”. Which is a great nickname but a bit difficult to type every time) went to vist David’s mate Steve in Yamasaki. Yamasaki is pretty much the middle of nowhere, so far away from anywhere else in fact that you can’t even get there by train. This is simply unthinkable in Japan. It is bloody bueatiful though. A small town (well officially it’s a city but it really isn’t) surrounded on all sides by mountains. Even if you climb up the mountains all you can see for is yet more mountains stetching into the distance. It’s got phenomenally nice views.

But the main reason we went there is that Steve is lonely because he doesn’t really get along with the other Gaijin in his town. Thus he doesn’t get a chance to speak English much unless he comes to Kobe or Osaka to meet Dave or his other friends. For a change we went to visit Steve and had, unexpectedly, a really fantastic weekend.

The highlight of which was easily when Steve took us to a monkey park. Now when I say monkey park I don’t mean some sort of fenced off area. Oh no. This is a shrine, up a mountain and all around it are monkeys roaming freely. You can touch them if you want, and they can touch you.

And rather stupidl Steve had wandered up there eating a bag of pretzels.

The monkeys wanted the pretzels.

Now unfortunately the video doesn’t really demonstrate quite how scary this was. The monkeys really were screaming at Steve and were trying to surround him on all sides. They were clearly scared of him as every time he moved they backed off but we were a little bit scared of them too. I mean who knows what a monkey is going to do. They genuinely were trying to grab at the bag and were getting very close. Eventually Steve confused them by putting the prezels inside his shirt, a technique that totally fooled the monkeys which then lost interest in us entirely.

Oh and I found out what the float thing was all about earlier in the week. I shall be posting all about that tomorrow night. After that more stuff from this weekend including lots more monkey videos.

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