Archive | September 2014

A SUPrise day trip

Last Tuesday was a public holiday. Was taken on a mystery day trip. Final destination was Moriya where I got to do some SUPing, snorkeling and swimming.

Was a nice relaxing day. Need more 4-day working weeks.

From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing

I think this rope is at a loose end:

From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
From Moriya SUPing
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Ogasawara Islands: Day 1

Ticked off another destination on my bucketlist – the Bonin Islands, otherwise known as Ogasawara Islands – truly paradise.

It’s about 1000km away from Japan yet is still part of Tokyo. It is Japan’s southermost spot.

The Bonin Islands mean “uninhabited islands” and are an archipelago. Two of the islands however are habited – Chichijima (father islands) and Hahajima (mother island).
They were designated as World Natural Heritage sites a couple of years ago.

The ONLY access to the islands are by a 25-hour boat ride from Tokyo. There is no airport on the island. Boats only depart once a week so the basic itinerary is 5 nights. 2 of which are spent on the boat and 3 nights on the island. If you miss the boat or want to stay longer, you have to wait for the next week’s boat departure. Life on the island, as I discovered, revolved around the boat’s island arrival and departure.

I was lucky to go there during August – summer holiday and the end of Obon. Managed to get a spot on the boat, but even harder was finding accommodation. Given that accommodation is limited and it was peak season, a lot of places were filled up. And I had left it last minute. I only decided to this trip 1-2 weeks prior. I did end up finding a small minshuku to stay at.

The only departure to Ogawasara Islands is on a Saturday so I left on Saturday morning and would not arrive on Chichijima until Sunday lunchtime.
Tickets are not cheap. About 30,000yen one way and that was for the cheapest class which was basically a mat in an open-floor room. If you want beds in upper classes except to pay a lot more. And even more for the suites. I ended up getting a spot in the Ladies-only room which suited me fine. The general sleeping floor area fit about 100 plus people in the lower decks. They had a couple of ladies-only room which were smaller closed rooms that fit about 30 ladies. Considering I was traveling on my room, the ladies room was a better option. Got to avoid sleeping next time to snoring men and loud groups of people.

The boat was more like a cruise ship – restaurant/cafeteria, shower facilities etc. I normally quite like boat rides, but there wasn’t a lot of space on this boat – not a lot of free seating area. A bit tight in rooms filled with lots of people and not a lot of personal space.

I was looking forward to the 25-hour boat ride. Plenty of time to chill out and catch up on some reading. But I ended up getting seasick and threw up 3 times within in the first 5 hours. Napped a bit and ate some cup ramen on the deck. Ended up just sleeping through the majority of the trip to ward off vomiting. I got through one movie on my laptop and was in bed by about 7:30pm. Lights were turned off at 10pm.

A pretty long and uneventful boat trip. No wifi or phone reception on the boat either. Was ready for land.
Got some fresh air on the decks, enjoyed the views until arrive on Chichijima.
The Ogasawara Islands were amazing. Well worth the 25-boat ride.
A ticket to Ogasawara:

From Ogasawara boat

Bon Voyage:

From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat

If you’re in second class, your beds are allocated as you bed. I got number 24.
My sleeping mat and pillow:

From Ogasawara boat

Out to sea:

From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat

The next day:

From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat

Approaching the islands:

From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat

Everyone from Ogawasawara village on Chichijima comes to greet the boat on its arrival and all the accommodation owners come to pick up their guests.

From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat

Look for your accommodation sign:

From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat

Welcome to Ogasawara:

From Ogasawara boat

Checked in my tiny room at the minshuku:

From Ogasawara boat

Ate lunch at a local cafe:

From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat

Chichijima – a small beautiful remote island located in the Philippine Sea, 1000km from Tokyo, and World Natural Heritage Site:

From Ogasawara boat
From Ogasawara boat

Next up is some dolphin spotting!

Ogasawara Islands: Dolphin swimming

Ogasawara Islands is known for whale watching and dolphin spotting. The marine life down there is pretty specacular.
There’s no shortage of boat operators there who take you out to the various islands for snorkeling, and whale and dolphin spotting. Winter months are whale spotting season, so I opted for a half day dolphin swimming and snorkeling tour in the afternoon that I arrived on Ogasawara.

I got to see lots and lots of dolphins. Oh, happy days!
They got really close to the boat and there were so many of them.

From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling

Ogasawara Islands: Snorkeling paradise

Ogasawara Islands was a snorkeler’s paradise.
On the boat trip they took us out to a special spot where all the fish are. Didn’t get as long a time that would I have liked here, but that’s only because we were lucky enough to see dolphins and spent more time dolphin watching which cut into snorkeling time. I ended up going back out this to snorkeling spot on another boat trip on my last day.

The snorkeling was amazing! So much fun.

From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling

Snorkeling is awesome.

Some cool cloud photos:

From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling
From Ogasawara day 1 – minami jima and dolphin snorkeling

Onjuku OWS 2014

I finally got to swim the Onjuku open water swim race.
I entered in this a few years back but it was cancelled because of a typhoon. They still sent us a race t-shirt though even though the race was cancelled. Wanted to do it last year as well but was back in Sydney when the race was on. So finally got to do one of the few Japan swim races left on my bucketlist.

Onjuku is a great beach. Probably one of the beaches most closest to an Aussie beach.
The swim was 3.84km but was a bit over 4km.

The swim was the entire length of the beach and swimming into each of the fishing ports on each end of the island.

Nice swim. Long though. A little bit choppy.
Sighting and navigation is still really difficult for me. I think I swim way more than I need to.

Was a good day out with a bunch of us doing various distances throughout the day. A handful of us did the 3.84km, a couple of others did the 1.5km and the guys did the relay as well.

My overall time was 1hr 25min for about 4km. Was happy it was under 90minutes but still a slow swim for me.

Check out this crab on a wall:

From Onjuku OWS

A great day for a swim:

From Onjuku OWS

Beautiful white sand beach:

From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS

Onjuku open water swim:

From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS

The course around the whole beach:

From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS

Lifeguards ready:

From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS

Post-race, enjoyed some SUPping!

From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS

Wipe out!

From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS

We tried to tandem SUP:

From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS
From Onjuku OWS

The end of summer.

Snorkeling at Hirozohama

Have been on a bit of a snorkeling spree lately. Here are some pics snorkeling at Hirizohama (southern Izu peninsula) taken a couple of weeks ago.

From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling
From Hirizohama snorkeling

Travel Notes:
Went for the weekend staying overnight at Yumihahama. Access to Hirizohama is difficult without a car as public transport is limited and infrequent.
At Hirizohama area, you take a boat to the snorkeling spot (1500yen return). The snorkeling spot is super crowded in peak summer period and everyone brings their tents. It is very rocky. But plenty of sealife.

G-Cans Tour: Tokyo Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Tunnel

In between jobs I had some time off, which meant I had few spare weekdays up my sleeve. I was lucky to score a tour of the G-Cans, which is only available on weekdays. Signing up for a spot on the G-Cans Tour is almost like winning the lottery. You’ll be hardpressed to get a spot. Bookings are only available in Japanese and open one month prior at the stroke of midnight. So many people try to book at midnight that the site crashes. For hours I kept refreshing, fell asleep and then woke up at 4:30am to check what spots were left. Only 2 spots left for the month! I snapped them quicksmart.

“I’ve got a golden ticket”:

https://photos.google.com/album/AF1QipMISlLyP5xlkoTQ4B7mDuuLCfQyySoZohbTKtyU/photo/AF1QipNnG_vDHUPix8CLVd6bV9Y2sYamF1LR2tIIuA0h

Be prepared to get up really early or stay up all night to book your spot, and you’ll need to navigate the site in Japanese. Got my online confirmation, so all good to go. Tours are only available in Japanese so you’ll need to understand Japanese or take a Japanese speaking person with you (just make sure that you’ve booked for the appropriate numbers). You can book for as many as you like (from memory, may have been capped at about 6 people though, although separate bookings are made for group bookings.) If you turn up to the tour and your Japanese is inadequate, they can refuse you for safety reasons.

Last Friday afternoon, the housemate and I had time off work to join the 3pm G-Cans tour. So what are the G-Cans? It’s the Tokyo Metropolitan Area Underground Discharge Tunnels. The place though is located in Saitama and will take over an hour to get to. Literally located in the middle of nowhere and then about a 40min walk from the closest station (or a very short taxi ride). The tunnels are part of an underground discharge network for Tokyo’s river systems to prevent flooding. It is the world’s largest underground floodwater facility and you can enter a portion of the underground part if you join a tour. And the tour is free.

The drainage facility is nicknamed the G-Cans and it has become a popular tourist attraction having received a lot of media attention when a car commercial was filmed there. It’s become popular photography spot for photo shoots etc. It’s quite the hike to get out there. You’ll spend more time getting to/from there than on the actual tour. From the closest station, we took a taxi there (about 1000yen). You need to bring your online confirmation receipt and then register and fill out a form when you get there.

If you get there early enough (about 15min prior), you can request to watch the English video which explains the facility in English. They also have an English brochure which was super informative. And then the one-hour Japanese tour begins. The tour starts in the museum with a video and some diagrams and displays of the function of the facility and then the fun part – going underground. You only get about 15 minutes in the underground tunnel which resembles a temple. And 10 minutes is allowed for photo free time. Also the area in which you are allowed to roam about in the underground aqueduct is also limited to a roped off area. Who knew drains could be so much fun?!

All in all it was cool and interesting. Super fascinating and really informative. People go there mostly for the photo op though. Pro photographers, media and press are also allowed access but need to get media/press permissions (applications are through their website in Japanese). I was super thrilled to be able to have the time on a weekday to do a tour there. Due to personal logistics, I didn’t take my SLR camera, although totally wanted to. Enjoy the photos….they get better towards the end…maybe…. no guarantees.

From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans

The Control Room…which no one was in control of….

From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans

The underground tunnel actually lies beneath this soccer field.

From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans

The entrance:

From G-Cans
From G-Cans

And then down a flight of 106 stairs and into the “temple” where I went overboard with photos, but that’s my style.

From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans

And here’s a GIFt for you:

From G-Cans
From G-Cans

I should add, that it’s wet and cool down there. In cases of heavy rain, tours will be cancelled as these tunnels will actually be functional.

From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans
From G-Cans

We ended up walking back to the station after the tour as we were literally in the middle of nowhere and no taxis. The walk back took about 40min. Along the way, we came across an awesome mural which was the perfect spot for some fun illusion photography.

From G-Cans

It’s a giant painting of a bench, but it looks like I’m actually sitting in it. Some nice squat work by me.

From G-Cans

5193573 2014-09-04 21:29:57

Run! Godzilla

I’ve been too busy to blog lately.
I’ve been attacked by Godzilla.

From Godzilla
From Godzilla
From Godzilla
From Godzilla

I haven’t quite been attacked by Godzilla, but I was recently attacked by jellyfish and sea lice. More to come on that in a future post.

Life has been hectic recently, hence the absence. But it’s all been good hectic. In a nutshell over the last 2 months, I’ve quit my job, got a new job, older brother visited me in Japan, went on a holiday, started new job and last weekend and this weekend have had/will have open water swimming races (race reports to come), and so many travel posts I don’t even know where to begin. Lots of fun and interesting times had recently.

Rest assured, lots of cool posts and photos to come soon!

Shonan 10km OWS: Race Report

My first DNF in a swim race.
Sadly, after 9 months of training and lot of hours spent in the pool, I was pulled from this 10km open water swim race.
Honestly, it was a race that I did not want to do. I refused on principle simply because of its location, but was talked into by the housemate. He’d done the race before a couple of years ago, and was prepared to do it again. The swim was a point to point swim – from Zushi beach to Enoshima beach in the Shonan Area. The last time I swam at Shonan, this happened to me. I vowed I would never swim in those waters again. Before you know it, I’ve gone and signed up for it.

This was to be my first actual open water marathon swim race. I’d already done an 8km ows, and a 10km pool race (which was probably about the equivalent of 8km in open water). This was going to be one reluctant swim. And 3.5 hours in which to do it.

Tough conditions this year though. I was stung by jellyfish, eaten alive by sea lice, and battled currents. I was unable to make a lot of ground. There was 1km cut off at 20minutes, and then another 5km cut off at 1hr 40min. Water was about 22-23 degrees but felt warmer.

From the get go, it was not a comfortable swim. I was getting stung by sea lice for much of the swim.
Despite being pulled from the swim, I still swam for about 2 hours. I think I got caught in currents and basically either kept going in circles or zigzagging between the buoys. Just shy of the 5km mark, I was stopped. I pleaded to continue, but a pack of us were put onto jetskis and then hauled onto boats. So for about 2 hours I had been swimming and had only covered about 4.5km of the course. I am taking solace in the fact that about over 25% of starters were pulled from the race or voluntarily retired from the race. There were about 100 non-finishers of those that started. The official statistic from the race organisers was that there was only a 73% finishing rate. It was a very tough race. I even know of someone who was pulled at 3.5 hours in. Disappointing for us. JC however did well and finished in just over 3 hours with a time of about 3hr 2min. His previous time for the same race was 2hr 36min. And JC is one of the top swimmers I know.

The race time limit was 3.5 hours. Last year everyone was within that time limit. This year, there were over 80 people with times between 3.5-4 hours, reflecting a much tougher race in tougher conditions. Well done to all those that finished. So many people bore the marks of jellyfish stings. You could see all the jellyfish and another nasty crap as we swam in the water. Do not swim in Shonan waters. Dirty, dirty, dirty.

So what’s it like to be pulled from a race?
I didn’t want to be pulled. I wanted to at least finish the race, no matter how long it took me. I knew I wasn’t yet at the 5km mark, but I also didn’t know how long I had been swimming for. When I was stopped, I had asked what the time was. Ugh. At that rate, I was going to be just over 4 hours. I still wanted to finish, coz at the end of the day, no one wants to retire voluntarily. I had spent months training, so many hours at the pool, paid over 20000yen for the race entry alone, had travelled all the way, gotten up really early to do the race etc. But a little part of me was also relieved, coz I was also suffering from bites and stings. At one point I couldn’t even kick properly because I had gotten stung between the upper thighs so that every time I kicked, it irritated. I basically did a waddle kick with my legs apart for a short while until the stinging wore off.

So we got dragged along in a jetski 2-3people at a time and then hauled onto a boat. There were a couple of packs of swimmers, and two boatloads of people at this time that were brought into shore. We were offered water, blankets etc. Handed in our ankle timer chips, and taken to the port. When we alighted from the boat, they had laid out over 30 pairs of thongs/flip flops for us (only in Japan ay), and provided us with some blankets for the walk back to the finish line where all our luggage bags were located.

I was gutted not to have finished, but it was an extremely tough race that would have taken me over the race time limit.
I don’t plan on a redemption swim for this particular race.

Am sporting a nasty itchy sea lice rash at the moment:

From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS

And that’s just the PG-rated photos.

Below is the pictorial race report:

Friday night-pre race registation centre:

From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS

I was amused on the race disclaimer, that in the absence of a hanko (name seal/stamp), they wanted us “foreigners” to give a fingerprint instead:

From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS

Because it was a point to point swim, it meant that all our gear was transported from the start line to the finish line. We were given race souvenir bags to put all our gear in. I had been worried about the size of the bags we would be given. I carry a lot of crap to races. The bag was satisfactorily spacious – 55cm x 45cm with backpack straps.

From Shonan 10km OWS

I even paid for a race t-shirt, and I didn’t get to finish the race:

From Shonan 10km OWS

Unfortunately, no finisher’s medal for me.

Weather forecast conditions:

From Shonan 10km OWS

Saturday morning:
Up very early to prep and fuel. It was a 7am registration kick off for a 9am swim start.

From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS

Conditions at Zushi beach looked deceptively calm:

From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS

We basically had to head for this island at Enoshima, but then swim into shore:

From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS

There were a lot of rescue and lifeguards on hand. It was a well supervised race – plenty of lifeguards, rescuers on paddles, jetskis, and boats out there.

From Shonan 10km OWS

The bouys were pretty much a km apart throughout the course, marked with numbers, counting down the remaining km’s.

From Shonan 10km OWS

Looking optimistic:

From Shonan 10km OWS

Warm up swim:

From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS

At the finish line: unfortunately I didn’t get to run across it:

From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS
From Shonan 10km OWS

Oh well.

Have another shorter swim this Saturday at a much cleaner beach. Let’s hope I make it to the finish line.