Tag Archive | Japan

Tsugaru Channel swim: the EPIC video

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. I shall just say that 2018 has been an EPIC year for me. And hopefully I’ll get around to writing about some various highlight at some point before the year end.

But for the past 8 months of the year, I was swimming. A lot. I achieved a bucketlist item of swimming Tsugaru Channel (that body of water between Honshu and Hokkaido) and one of the Oceans Seven swims. I swam it as part of an international 3-person relay with two friends (also expats in Tokyo). And for the record, I’ve been trying to do this swim for the past 2-3 years and was never chosen for a slot. But at the end of 2017, I was finally notified of a last-minute slot for 2018 (I think due to someone else cancelling).

It was quite the journey in terms of training and build-up and the actual swim itself. Will eventually write an epic swim report, but for now, I will leave you with the EPIC video documenting our channel swim which we did on 19-20 July 2018. The film was shot and edited by my amazingly talented friend (and crew support on the swim) Matt.

For your viewing pleasure: (and yes, we really did this!)

Dolphin swimming in Japan

Another opportunity to swim with wild dolphins, this time I got to go on as crew.

It’s pretty amazing to be able to swim with wild dolphins. It didn’t get off to a great start but in the end, we saw a lot. I got in one particular awesome jump.

At one point, we got so close to them, it was pretty incredible.

Coming straight for me:

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

A cool shot as they swam underneath me:

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

These dolphins were particularly playful and stuck around for a while.

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

There were about 5-7 dolphins in this shot:

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

And on a separate jump, we saw a mother and a baby dolphin, but they didn’t stick around to play.

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

Seeing dolphins from the boat:

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

1967, Tokyo Afternoon Tea

Another year, another afternoon tea.

For my birthday last month, I had a small low-key afternoon tea treat with a friend, just the two of us.
Tried out a different venue for afternoon tea – it’s getting harder to find placed I haven’t been to yet.
I had been to this venue for dinner before but not for afternoon tea. The venue was 1967 in Roppongi – an oriental continental bar.

Really nice venue especially in the evenings. The entrance is a little awkward – dark curtained corridor but it opens out into a nice bar area and a terrace lounge area.

From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea

The afternoon tea seemed very reasonable with a Western-Asian fusion. I like when you get the best of both worlds.

From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea

Tea selection was ok, but limited on the black teas. Only one pot allowed. One choice per person.

From 1967 afternoon tea

This place had a good sampling of foods. The savoury elements were particularly appreciated. I liked their modern take and the absence of sandwiches. I’ll take cheese and crackers and these morsels anyday.

From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea

And a little champagne to wash it all down:

From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea

Presentation of the afternoon tea set was also lovely and modern.

From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea

I was quite impressed with the sweets selection – very fresh, delicious and plentiful. And chocolate and strawberries aplenty.

From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea

These strawberries were stuffed with ice cream inside. Amazing and genius:

From 1967 afternoon tea

And there were scones as well. Albeit very miniature scones. Super tasty. Loved the cream. Only complaint was that they were too small. But anything miniature is cute so it was redeemed by the novelty factor and flavour.

From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea

And whilst there wasn’t jam, the scones were served with custard. I haven’t had custard in forever and dare I say it was probably even better than having scones with jam. A winner in this case.

From 1967 afternoon tea

The scones were so small they fit on a spoon. But still cool nonetheless so all was forgiven.

From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea
From 1967 afternoon tea

All in all, this place definitely got my approval. It definitely ranks in my top 10 for afternoon tea in Tokyo and definitely a place I would recommend. It wasn’t busy on this particular Saturday afternoon, lovely outdoor terrace lounge, food was lovely – fresh, delicious, and plentiful. Couldn’t really fault it although tea selection was sufficient, it could have been wider. Also very reasonably priced at 2800yen which is hard to beat for this quality food, and extra for glass of Moet. Both are excellent value. The menu changes regularly which is a not bad thing. Could definitely go back here again. Was super satisfied.

Ishigaki 5km OWS swim race

First open water swim race for the summer and the year was a 5k-er. The destination – idyllic. Water temp – too hot.

I had wanted to do an open water swim race in Okinawa for a while now – Japan’s answer to paradise. Ishigakijima did not disappoint. A really beautiful island for water lovers. Even managed to round a few friends to join not only the trip, but also the swim.

Headed down on the first flight on Thursday and spent Thursday and Friday sightseeing. Saturday May 30 was race day. It was a scorcher. In the mid-30 degrees, but felt closer to 40. And the water was like a bath. Ugh. Much too hot and uncomfortable for my liking.

The race was held at a beach off the ANA resort hotel.

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

This waterpark was probably going to be a lot more fun than a 5km swim:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

The water was so clean and clear, but oh so warm.

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

The course was 1.5km and required three laps and a bit to make up the 5km.

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Three of us had signed up for the 5km swim.

Aquaholics Anonymous:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

The boys were gonna be fast. Was also going to test out my brand new Garmin in my first open water swim race for the year. My goal time was to do it comfortably under 2 hours, anything around 1hour 45 I would be happy with. The last 5km swim race I did back in November without training, took me just over 2 hours to do. But since then I’ve gotten back into the training.

Ready and genki:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

And we’re off:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

The view from the water:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Scored some action pictures from the race organiser:

Me at the top in the pink cap:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Me again – check out the high kick:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

This is cool action shot:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Much of the swim was pretty shallow over reefs.

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Coming into the finish:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Yay. Finished!

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Pleased to say I swam a time of 1 hour 40min which was on par with my expectations. Not overly fast but not bad for the first race of the season. Got to leave more fuel in the tank this year, as I have decided to do a 10km marathon open water swim.

I got first place in my age group for females, so not bad. Snared me a gold medal. It’s always nice to not go home empty handed. The boys also kicked arse. They took 2nd and 3rd place in the male age group with way faster times than me, both beating me by over 20 minutes.

Well done all round:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

As for the swim race itself – water was way too warm. Wetsuits definitely not required. It was also quite a shallow swim, as we swum over reefs. Got to see a few fish. Also a bit of a current, but all in all a decent swim. Course was a little tricky though with many overswimming the course. It was a 2.5km course, requiring 2 laps.
And much to my disappointment, something happened to my Garmin. Must have hit a button as a swum. Timing was pretty spot on, but it didn’t register the whole distance.

It was a fun swim to kick off the season:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Niijima Open water swim (ows) again

Another belated swim race report from last year.
Race date: July 2015
Venue: Niijima island

You might recall that I did this race back in 2011. Back then it was the longest distance open water swim race I had done before. Since then I’ve done a few 5km, an 8km and a 10km race. I’ve pretty much gotten to a point where I usually don’t like to enter in swim races less than 4km. Am trying to do more endurance swims, but I’m still pretty slow.

Last year, we got a small posse to come to Niijima island for the swim race again. In addition, a small group of Aussies from the Brighton Icebergs also came to Japan to do this swim and I got to meet up with some them.

The Niijima swim once again involved getting an early jetboat ride from Tokyo to the island. Perhaps too early for some.
Here is everyone passed out or perhaps they are just conserving their energy.

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

Here we are wide awake!

From Niijima OWS 2015

We had rented a van for the six of us to make the most of weekend.

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

Again we were blessed with another beautiful hot sunny day. And the water conditions were good.

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

A beautiful day for a swim. And the water so clean and blue.

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

I like this particular race. It’s always well organised and entry fee includes refreshments and a free towel for every finisher.
The bananas this year even had messages of motivation which was a really cute touch.

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

Gaijin swimmers represent!

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

The race has a great atmosphere.

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

And yes, this is why we swim:

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

A cool close up of a grasshopper:

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

I did the 4.5km distance and my time was super slow. 1 hour, 49minutes. The last time I did this swim, I did it 1hr, 36min. I was 13 minutes slower.
Last year was not a great swimming year for me. In 2014, I ramped up my training to do some endurance swim races so last year I significantly cut back on swimming. This year, I am trying to ramp up again with my eyes on a couple of marathon races.

I’ve signed up for 4.5km swim race again this year on Niijima island and I’m hoping to improve on last year’s time. But I feel I’m getting slower as I get older.

Snowboarding weekend in Hakuba

I have a massive backlog of blog posts. I didn’t snowboard much this past winter. Only managed to get out a few weekend. But here is a post from Winter 2015 (March last year) of a snowboarding trip to Hakuba.

Just photos. No words.

From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba

Break time:

From Hakuba
From Hakuba

Enjoying an apres drink:

From Hakuba

2015 Onjuku open water swim

Another year, another Onjuku swim. This one is tradition on the racing calendar with a decent enough following with fellow swimming friends. We had a small contingent of us turn up for this race, back in September last year.

It’s a 3.84km swim at Onjuku beach, one of the better beaches around and a favourite in the summer. Had also swum in the previous year.

It was a nice day for a swim with a good atmosphere:

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
From Onjuku ows
From Onjuku ows
From Onjuku ows

Water conditions weren’t great. There was lots of seaweed upon entry.

I have also spent quite a fair bit of time at Onjuku, and what was surprising this year was the amount of jellyfish out there. I was a bit worried and thought about pulling out when they had warned us of jellyfish. I thought I’d at least start the race.

Holy moly, I have never seen jellyfish this big. These were really big ugly jellyfish that were the size of soccerballs. It really was quite phenomenal. I, of course, got stung on the hand by a big one, but decided to still swim on. It was a bit of a tough race trying to dodge all the jellyfish. I always find the Onjuku course quite tough. It requires swimming into the ports at each of the beach.

My time was on the slow side and it was slower than last year as well. For 3.84km, my time was 1hr 31min. But ok considering I was stung badly on the wrist and had to actively dodge jellyfish for the rest of the race. Had never seen jellyfish so big and so ugly. They were nomura jellyfish.You should google them. Ugly things. I ended up getting quite a bad reaction from the water here and ended up with a rash. Last year was particularly bad for my swimming rashes. I get really bad allergic reactions.

Another funny thing about this swim was that both The housemate and I featured on the race promo poster! It was an action photo from the previous year’s race that was used for the 2015 event.
I’m the one that is basically stacking it in the water, yes, ever the clutz am I. We were able to score a few of these posters as well.

From Onjuku ows
From Onjuku ows

Will most likely enter this race again this year too.

Elusive kamoshika spotting

Over the winter, whilst on a snowboarding trip to Nozawa Onsen, I spotted me an elusive kamoshika. A kamoshika is a Japanese goat-antelope animal usually found in the mountains. I was surprised to find this one near the streets of the village, right outside my favourite onsen at Nozawa, it was just amongst the bushes.

They are rather an unusual looking animal, and it was the first time I had ever seen one.

From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika

Naoshima Diary: At Uno Station

The Cliff notes of my long weekend trip to Naoshima:

Friday night: Depart Tokyo station after work. Board 7:30pm shinkansen to Okayama station. Arrive Okayama station at 11pm. Check into hotel for the night and crash out into bed.

Saturday morning: Early breakfast. Check out of hotel at about 8:10am. Board the 8:24am train departing Okayama bound for Uno station. (Change at Chayamachi enroute to Uno). Alight at Uno station about an hour later.

Destination Uno reached. A most awesome name for a train station and a small port town.
I was quite excited to be at a place named after a card game.

From Uno station
From Uno station
From Uno station
From Uno station

At Uno with numero uno!

From Uno station
From Uno station

Okay, let’s try that again and let’s try to not get hair obscuring the face.

From Uno station

That’s more like it.

Outside Uno station are two giant monuments. This one….

From Uno station

And this one: the Goddess of the Sea:

From Uno station

And now it’s time to smell the cheese:

From Uno station

And incidentally, ticked off another prefecture – Okayama prefecture done. Only another 8 (?) to go!