Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Japanese Surf TattooIt is time for me to move on already and I will miss Japan, which incidentally has the largest market for surf merchandise in the world. Some Japanese surfers are passionate enough to get surf themed tattoos such as the one you see here, and you can see the enthusiasm for surfing at every coastal town.

They love it and it is a shame that some of the country’s best breaks in Fukushima prefecture have been tarnished, to say the least, by the damage done to the nuclear reactors initially caused by the 2011 tsunami. I hope they can at least make the situation safe there soon. However on returning to the airport which is between Tokyo and Fukushima I saw plenty of surfboards heading out to the Chiba peninsular in search of waves just down the coast from the power plants so the local surfers don’t appear to be too bothered about it anyway.

obama_shakaIt has been great to see so many people in the water at every beach I have visited regardless of the conditions, time of day or day of the week. I have also loved the people who have only been generous with their time and assistance for me while I have been here.

There is clearly a language barrier but giving people a shaka hand signal (as demonstrated by Barrack Obama) usually generates smiles all round.

Korean PeninsularNext up on my itinerary is the Korean peninsular.

I guess there is a small chance of me getting into a spot of bother in this geo-political hot spot.

Time will tell what mischief I will find there.


William AdamsWilliam Adams (24 September 1564 – 16 May 1620) is known in Japanese as Anjin Miura (“the pilot of Miura”). He had served in the Royal Navy under Sir Francis Drake and saw service against the Spanish Armada in 1588, but later worked on Dutch vessels as a navigator.

In 1600 his ship was the only one of five vessels that had started their voyage together that was still afloat. It was brought to anchor off the island of Kyushu at the south of Japan, when only 24 crewmen, of which Adams was the navigator, were still alive with the other 76 having died from starvation.

Once nine were able to walk they were summoned by Tokugawa Iesayu, the future Shogun, who so liked what Adams had to say about European affairs, religion, science, mathematics, navigation and armaments that he made him his personal advisor.

He later served the Shogun as a diplomat and interpreter, broking deals with the European powers. He also oversaw the construction of Japan’s first western style sailing ships, setting up the shipyard at Ito on the coast south of Mount Fuji.

ShogunAdams had a family back in England who he continued to send support to, but was forbidden to leave Japan and eventually remarried. However his work was rewarded when he was presented with two swords representing the authority of a Samurai, with the Shogun decreeing that William Adams was dead and that Miura Anjin was born. He held the honour until his death and is the only westerner to do so.

He was the most influential westerner on early dealings with Japan, and he was the inspiration for the lead character in James Clavell’s novel Shōgun. There are monuments to Adams in both England and Japan. 



EnoshimaEnoshima is the town named after the island shrine you see here, which has been linked to the mainland by a narrow causeway. It is a short drive westward from Kamakura after my morning hike around the Zen temples and chatting with Buddha.

It should be possible to see Mount Fuji from the water here, but it is completely overcast today. So much so that even seeing the other end of the beach is a bit of a challenge!

WP_20131009_017I parked up in another underground car park, emerging on the sea front next to this emergency tsunami platform.

I think it is somewhere for people to climb up above the level of the incoming surge, but given it is only 7 metres high I wouldn’t rate your chances of surviving here very highly.

DCIM101GOPRONot that I had much to worry about on that score though, because as well as yesterday’s howling wind, the waves have also dropped here. They are about two foot high but very clean, with maybe an extra foot on the sets, and coming in consistently.

There is a staggering amount of people in the water, especially so because it is mid week during office hours. I don’t think I have ever seen so many people in the water at one beach. It was certainly in the realm of hundreds, and I thought Snapper Rocks was busy!

DCIM100GOPROI had decided to risk wearing just shorts and a thin neoprene shirt because the water had seemed warm on previous session nearby and there wasn’t much wind to bite through what I was wearing.

Speaking of bites, it didn’t take long before I was getting dive bombed by eagles again. You can see a couple in the sky behind me.

DCIM101GOPRODespite all the people in the water there was hardly a word being said between the surfers, which was a bit odd, but my cheesy grin seemed to always get a good response. One pretty girl wanted to know about the GoPro but the conversation didn’t last long beyond Konnichiwa because of my lack of Japanese.

It was my last surf whilst in Japan and I made sure I caught plenty of waves because I am unlikely to get any surfing done through much of the next few weeks. This was probably the best ride of the session.


JinrikisyaKamakura where I have been based for a few days, is an historic city from which the whole of Japan was ruled for over a hundred years by the Shogun until the Mongol invasion in the fourteenth century.

In a blast from the past these Jinrikisya human powered taxis are still in use but are largely for the tourists and Japanese who come to visit the city’s shrines. I thought it would be unfair to get a small Japanese man to drag my big lump and my surfboard around the town.

WP_20131009_003I have been staying in the New Kamakura Hotel that you see here, but cannot get used to all the slipper changes I am supposed to make as I move about the building, which are quite commonplace in Japan.

You take your shoes off and put slippers on as you step through the door. This footwear change process is repeated as you enter either toilets or bathrooms, and failing to do so will cause great offence. The hotel is lovely though and I’m glad of the air conditioning in my room because it is so humid.

WP_20131010_072It is my last morning in town and I start the day by checking out a number of temples and then decide to take the footpath to see the statue of Buddha, known as Daibutsu. This was a mistake because it was a 4 mile round trip over the top of a mountain that was not even close to flat at any stage and incredibly hot and sticky the whole way.

By the time I arrived to pay my respects to the giant bronze statue that overlooks the town I was drenched in perspiration and could only slump down on a plinth near to the big man.

Whilst there I couldn’t help meditating on what he would have made of the longboard surf manoeuvre that is named after him. (You sit cross legged on your board facing forward whilst riding the wave in.) I think it was meditating but it may have actually been the onset of a coma after near killing myself on the hike. I was seeing stars!

WP_20131009_058The town is also laced with a huge number of Zen temples, many of which are marked on the local guide maps with swastikas.

I should point out that this is not some throw back to the Axis powers during the second world war, but somewhat ironically is because a swastika has been a symbol of auspiciousness in Buddhism and Hinduism. It comes from Sanskrit, literally meaning ‘it is good.’

WP_20131009_077There are too many other shrines and temples here to document them all so here are a few pictures:WP_20131010_006 WP_20131010_013 WP_20131010_018 WP_20131010_023

WP_20131009_071 WP_20131009_070




WP_20131009_082I pushed further west keen to bag another beach today, but there are no spaces anywhere where you can pull in for a decent surf check. I really do mean none.

Any space that you might ordinarily sneak into for a minute or two to see what the waves are doing has been populated by automated car parks such as you see here. It isn’t hugely expensive but the standard argument I have had with car park attendants all over the world is particularly true here. ‘I just want to check the waves.’ However you get no more than about 30 seconds before the mechanics under your car lifts a hatch to stop you leaving without paying.

WP_20131009_005After a couple of these annoying stops I opted for the southern beach at Chigasaki where once more there are already people in the water and eagles in the sky.

I bumped into an English surfer drying off in the car park, who correctly predicted my session would largely be paddling. I didn’t take out the camera again because I knew he would be correct. He was right and I only caught two rubbish waves in the soup close to shore before getting out. It was grim in the 30mph onshore wind that whipped across the beach, leaving you feeling like you were being sand blasted on the way back to the car park.


WP_20131009_035After finally catching up on the blog I take a short drive in the car around the headland to the next town called Inamuragasaki.

I find a place to park by the station for the old fashion tram which runs along the coast and went to check out the surf.

WP_20131009_053It is typhoon season in this part of the world and remnants of Typhoon Fitow are just hitting the shore here. As a result of the onshore wind the sea is largely blown out, and it is looking about as uninviting as surfing gets even if the water is quite warm.

However there are still a few people in the water so I get my wetsuit on and paddle out to join them.I thought it was going to be awful because the winds was howling onshore, so didn’t bother with the GoPro suspecting I would have thousands of shots of me just paddling into the wind. 

EagleIt wasn’t as bad as I thought and I did catch a few but the rides which you picked off more by luck than judgement were at best short lived

The only other thing to report is how many Sea Eagles there are here. There is normally one soaring only slightly overhead while you are in the water always ready to swoop down and grab something from the sea very close to you. I am more than used to having sea gulls behave in such a way but have never been dive bombed by birds of prey before, and have to say it is a bit of a worry when a giant bird with talons whistles past your ears!


Purple People EaterGiven the almost monopolistic position that the Japanese brands of Suzuki, Kawasaki, Honda and Yamaha have created for themselves in the world market place. I have to say I am staggered by how few motorbikes I have seen since arriving in Japan.

This Honda by the way was the Purple People Eater which was the first bike I bought after passing my test back in London. I have owned vehicles from all the marques apart from Kawasaki, which my brother likes, and am somewhat disappointed that there are not more of the Rice Rockets on the road here.


Japanese-blood-typeThere exists a popular belief in Japan (and other East Asian countries) that a person’s blood type is predictive of his or her personality, temperament, and compatibility with others, in a similar vein to the use of astrological signs in western countries. However blood plays a much more prominent role in Japanese society.

Discussion of blood types is widely popular in women’s magazines as a way of gauging relationship compatibility with a potential or current partner. Morning television shows and daily newspapers feature sanguine horoscopes. 

love-japan-flagIt is common among anime and manga authors to mention their character’s blood types, and to give them matching characteristics.

Some video game characters also act according to their published blood types, and users can select blood options when building custom avatars for many games too.

Blood-bagsMany people have been discriminated against because of their blood too. This blood type harassment, called “bura-hara”, has been blamed for bullying of children in playgrounds, loss of job opportunities, and ending happy relationships. 

Employers even sometimes ask for a candidate to supply the information during interviews, and children at schools have been split up according to their blood type. The national softball team has customized training to fit each player’s classification, and companies have given work assignments according to their employee’s blood type.

The understood traits by classification are as follows:

Type A

Best traits – Earnest, creative, sensible, reserved, patient, responsible

Worst traits – Fastidious, over earnest, stubborn, tense

Type B

Best traits – Wild, active, doer, creative, passionate, strong

Worst traits – Selfish, irresponsible, unforgiving, erratic

Type AB

Best traits – Cool, controlled, rational, sociable, adaptable

Worst traits – Critical, indecisive, forgetful, irresponsible, split personality

Type O

Best traits – Confident, self-determined, optimistic, strong willed, intuitive

Worst traits – Self-centred, cold, doubtful, unpredictable, workaholic


YuigahamaI am delighted to see loads of surfers in the water at the first beach I stumble across and more importantly there are small but very surfable waves here too.

I get my board out to put the fins on and am disgusted to discover a huge hole in it, which is almost certainly from the airline travel from Australia. However I do a quick ding repair with my emergency solar-cure resin and I am walking down the beach shortly afterwards.

DCIM100GOPROThere must be more than a hundred people in the water in the middle of the day during the week, and I am surprised at how high the percentage of girls is here too. Being the only Geijin isn’t a problem though and I am greeted with smiles all around.

I am quickly to my feet during the session and catch loads of waves while here. It is good to wash the dust of travel off and bag another country for my tour. It had been a long day already though so after an hour and a half I got out and walk back across the beach towards my car.

DCIM101GOPROI had parked in an underground car park upon arrival because there are no parking spots on the sea front, but am clearly not the only surfer to use it.

So much so, that there are steady stream of people heading to, and coming back from the beach carrying boards. There are also showers in the car park where you can freshen up after your session.


WP_20131008_001It is the morning after the Shinjuku night before, but I have to get up at dawn. I have to travel all the way back out to the airport to hire a car because I wouldn’t have a hope in hell of finding a car hire shop anywhere else.

I also wouldn’t have a hope in hell of understanding anybody or being understood myself anywhere else.

WP_20131009_001Despite my lack of sleep and probable whiff of alcohol I collect this car and then have to figure out how to get back to the hostel in Tokyo so that I can collect my stuff.

I am given an awful demo of the Sat Nav system so spend ten minutes going the wrong way before pulling over and seeking the help of a pretty woman doing her shopping. Luckily she has a few words of English and I learn how to get to the hostel if nothing else.

WP_20131008_005After finding the hostel and loading all my gear I then navigate south across the city using only the sun i.e. keeping it in front of me at midday.

I am on a stretch of toll roads for ages, and wonder when the countryside will start, but it never does all the way down to Kamakura which is a small city by the coast. I keep following the same navigational ploy until finally I find a beach.