Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cargo ships, sumo, and scuba diving

I'm sure all of you out there are simply dying to know what has finally happened to the mini. Did Japanese customs impound her? Did she get sent home to the US to battle with American customs? Did I send it back to Russia where people kept offering to buy her from me?

The mini, anxiously awaiting her fate at the port of Nagoya

Well, none of the above actually - after spending nearly two weeks in Nagoya trying to work out a plan to get the car to America, I had finally settled on shipping it to Vancouver, Canada, then driving down to the US. Upside: Canada will be country #28 (unless I've lost count...) since departing London. Downside: I get to not just deal with American customs, but as a super extra bonus, I get the Canadians as well... Most of the time in Nagoya was actually spent talking with various people in Japan, Canada, and the US trying to work out the best way to get the car across the Pacific (time difference does not help) and going via Vancouver ended up being the most cost(and time)-effective option.

So, after saying my thank you's and good bye's to everyone in Nagoya, I was free once more to go play tourist!

Joel, Marina, and Taka working to turn the Rumblefish bar (by night) into Cornelius Cafe by day.

It's just a funny picture of Sodai, one of their friends... that is all

Stop 1. South to Fukuoka, on the Kyushu island. Side note (rant?) about getting around in Japan: it's really easy to do. Trains go everywhere, and the famous shinkansen super express gets you there incredibly fast... And it's very expensive! Japan is considered an expensive country to travel in - it's all because of the transportation. Food and lodging are accepably reasonable, but your transportation options are limited to expensive trains, expensive airlines (there's only three operating inside Japan), very slow buses, or if you have a car, driving, but that's just as expensive because all the roads have tolls... Finish rant...

So after shelling out almost $200 for the 4 hour train ride, I arrived at the Hakata station in Fukuoka. The reason to go there was the sumo tournament that was going on there at the time - I figured that after seeing Muai Thai in Thailand, rugby in Fiji, and Aussie football in Australia, I couldn't leave Japan without seeing some sumo... especially with a big tournament going on while I was in the country. So, without further ado:

A bunch of us staying at the hostel in Fukuoka decided to take in the festivities

The wrestlers coming into the arena... looking like fairly normal, albeit rather large, people

The dohyo-iri (entering the ring) ceremony preceeds the matches

Perhaps the most exciting match of the day featured a quick little European guy vs. an enormous Japanese wrestler, easily twice his weight. Quickness won...

I'm dead sexy...

The final match of the day, featuring the Yokozuna (champion). Match ends whenever any part of either wrestler's body leaves the ring or touches the ground. Most matches, including this one, go very quickly.

And the elaborately dressed ref presides over the proceedings.

After enjoying this bit of Japanese culture, I figured I need a break before heading to Kyoto for more culture. Plus it was getting awfully cold and rainy, so escaping South to tropical Okinawa seemed like a good plan. So, one more expensive train ride, and a 24 hour ferry placed me in Naha, the capital of Okinawa in the midst of tropical heat and sunshine! Spending a full day wearing sandals again was exciting.

The ferry getting ready to depart from Kagoshima.

And by the following evening, we were arriving in Naha.

Right now, I'm actually even further south, in Ishigaki (and soon, I'll be heading to Yonaguni, West of here, about 100km off the coast of Taiwan) because this is where the best scuba diving in Japan is. Lott's video of the manta ray in Hawaii was quite spectacular, so I'm hoping I'll get to see some tomorrow as well - Ishigaki is famous for them, even though November is supposedly not quite the best season to see them... Yonaguni promises to be equally spectacular as it is supposedly frequented by huge hammerhead sharks! If the under water case for my camera hadn't been stolen in Krakow, I'd promise pictures of anything I'm going to [hopefully] see, but as it is, you'll just have to trust my descriptions... The only problem down here, unfortunately, is that the beautiful tropical sunshine didn't last as a rainy weather system has rolled in from China... Can't really complain as it's still warm and tropical down here, and the rain has been more of a drizzle so far, but it's a little disappointing...

PS. My mother complained that my last post from Nagoya didn't actually have a single picture of me... Here you go, mom :)

Marina and I in front of the pretty foliage near Nagoya

At a Chinese-style garden in Naha, Okinawa

PPS. Well, and since Lott, found some more exciting things crossing the road signs, I realised that I never posted these:

Racoon crossing?

Are there apes in Japan? Well, I'm not sure, but Japanese drivers are made aware of them nonetheless...

Both appropriately Japanese in their oddness...

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