Yosakoi

I took a little trip to Tokyo today to check out the annual Harajuku Omotesando Genki Matsuri Super Yosakoi.

Yosakoi is a type of festival dancing with traditional roots and modern influences. I had seen videos before and little bit in a parade, but I really wanted to see some of the flashy costumes and large-group choreography in person.

Alas, after my hour-long journey, this was the view…

There are several stages and hundreds of teams performing over the two days, but it was too wet for me to see much of it. What I did see was pretty awesome, though. I don’t know how the performers managed in the rain, but they were great.

This is what it would have looked like if I went on a non-rainy day last year:

Advertisements

At the gym

I decided to write this post because I’m sad.  haven’t been feeling well and missed going to the gym two days in a row. Woe is me. Well, at least I can blog about it.

I started doing gym fitness classes about 10 years ago, and when living in Australia, I somehow transformed into one of those people who goes to the gym every day at 6:00 in the morning (well, 8:30 am on weekends). I rode there on my bike, too. I didn’t become a real gym rat who spends hours on the weights every day, but I was there every morning, and thanks to Body Attack three times per week along with other classes, I started to feel moderately athletic for the first time in my life. (I’ve always been active, but not particularly athletic.)

There are many things I miss about Australia, but Body Attack and bike paths are among the most mourned!

Fortunately, however, I have a good gym right nearby our apartment, with all sorts of fitness classes that strike my fancy. There are only a few minor drawbacks:

  1. Chiefly: the gym doesn’t open until 10:00am!! The day is half gone by then!! I’m still an early bird but I have to wait for my workout. And the particular classes that I enjoy aren’t on until the afternoon. There’s a weird gap in classes from about 3:00-7:00pm, and I’m not interested in going later than that, so early afternoon is the only option.
  2. On weekdays, my workout comrades are mainly the 60+ crowd, which is totally fine, but it’s a bit different motivation-wise in comparison with being among the oldest patrons at my previous university gym.
  3. There are big gaps in the schedule between classes, usually 20 minutes to an hour, so if I want to do two classes in a row, I’m in for a long time there.
  4. The pool is soooo crowded.
  5. The gym is on the 6th floor and you can only get there by elevator. (I hate taking an elevator when I could walk, and they’re soooo slow.)

But overall, the trainers are good and there’s a nice variety of classes. Even though there’s nothing as challenging as Body Attack, there’s a similar cardio martial arts-inspired one (alas, only once per week!). Y and I have also started going to a boxing class, which is quite fun, but it’s hard to make it there consistently on Sunday afternoons.

ANYWAY, my point in writing this post was to give a little comparison between my current gym and gyms that I have frequented in Canada, the US, and Australia.

Here’s what the signs outside look like (it’s owned by a pro-wrestler, whose image also appears in various locations inside. Cool.):

DSC_0726

The shoe situation is, of course, quite strict. You take off your shoes to go in the locker room (which has bamboo or maybe synthetic bamboo floors), and there are public baths and a sauna.

Generally, Japanese people (especially women) tend not to go outside in workout clothes, so most people change when they arrive, and then back again when they leave.

Shoes that you’ve worn outside definitely CANNOT be worn in the gym. Obviously, this makes the whole experience much cleaner—all gyms should have this rule! People also take off their shoes when using the mats for stretching on the gym floor.

A related point is that the studio floors are swept after every class, and sometimes during the classes as well if it’s particularly humid. Every instructor sweeps and tidies up after the classes, and I even see them cleaning the fans sometimes. Gasp! This is a stark contrast to my, shall we say, gritty Australian experience.

The instructors’ behaviour is probably more formal than other places. They announce their classes and give a little summary over the PA 15 minutes beforehand, and begin the classes precisely at the appointed time (never early, never late). They also end right on time and then rush to the door to say goodbye to everyone individually as they leave.

As in other services and businesses, there are more staff than I would expect to see in other countries. There are a lot of staff whose main role seems to be welcoming people and hanging up signs. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I certainly notice it. (Perhaps the subject of another blog post.) I feel very welcome with the multiple greetings at the entrance and on the gym floor!

This being Japan, there are TONS of ‘please do x’ and ‘please do not do x’ signs all around the gym. I’ve treated you to one below that has pictures. Most of the others are just text, with the most crucial bits in red font (and many of them are 50% red font.)

DSC_0820

Otherwise, I can’t think of anything remarkably different. The equipment is the pretty much the same, except for a hilarious machine that is like riding a mechanical bull, which I haven’t seen elsewhere. (Too bad that I can’t take a video!) The types of classes are similar and the music is probably roughly the same, too.

So that’s a little summary of my home away from home. I’m developing a good vocabulary in words and phrases like: extend, raise, lower, front, back, repeat, 16 more times!

MUHI

Summer in Japan is glorious, but there are mosquitoes. Lots and lots, and they’re big and blood-thirsty. This is the case in many places across the world, of course, but Japan is definitely bad.

A couple days ago, Y was complaining that he had been bitten twice on our way home in the evening, and I said, “oh my leg feels weird; maybe I got bitten, too.” Next thing I knew…*SMACK* *BLOOD SPLATTER* *OW*! Y had caught a mozzie in the act of biting me. Thanks for dispatching her, honey. Yesterday, I was outraged at the audacity of the mozzie that got me on my face, right on my cheekbone.

Fortunately, there is Muhi. Aka, the best thing ever.

File Aug 23, 20 03 28

Muhi comes as a cream in a tube (as shown above) or in a thinner liquid that you can roll on.

When I get mosquito bites, they usually swell up quite a bit, often to 4 cm across (ugh), but when I put on Muhi, the swelling goes down in a minute or two, and the itching disappears quickly.

I got a ton of bites in Western Australia—primarily in the uni gym and occasionally at work in the Law Library—but even if I used Stingose or tea tree oil, the swelling and itching still stuck around for a few days. Maybe I’m just more allergic to antipodean mozzies?

Anyway, if you’re a preferred target for mosquitoes, pick up some Muhi if you ever visit Japan.

Shinkansen: zoom

One of the best ways to travel—out of all the world’s ways of traveling—is by Shinkansen, the famous Japanese high-speed train. High-speed, meaning that it runs at speeds of up to 240–320 km/h (150–200 mph).

I was lucky enough to take two Shinkansen trips this month. If it wasn’t so pricey (for example, $100 for a one way journey of about 300 km), I’d be on it all the time! The video below shows a bit of my quick journey through Aichi Prefecture.

Travel by Shinkansen is vastly more civilised than by air. Although it’s imperative to be on time (the train is precise to the minute and does not wait), you don’t have to show up two or three hours early for security checks and the leg room is massive compared to economy class on a plane. The ride is super-smooth, and you can buy snacks and wonderful box lunches (bento) on the platform, or just wait for the food trolley to come by during the journey.

My tip for first time riders is that you should get up early and wait by the door a couple of minutes before the train arrives at your station. Most stops are only a couple of minutes, and if you don’t get off quickly, you’ll be whisked away hundreds of kilometers before the next stop.

Another tip: if you are a Shinkansen (or general train) fan, visit the SCMaglev and Railway Park, run by Central Japan Railway Company, in Nagoya.

A matsuri

We happened upon a summer matsuri (festival) in the centre of Yokohama. This is a bit of the kids entertainment, singing a song about Anpanman, one of the most famous cartoon characters.

A gorgeous summer night. Lots of food, drink, and yukata (like kimonos, for summer).