Because I have been playing Skyrim.
First of all, thank you all for your comments during the trip! It's great to know that people are following my travels :) That being said, I should tell you all that I will definitely continue blogging during my journey home and after that. There might not be great adventures for a while, but I"m sure I can find something to write about.
That being said, let's make yesterday's post a little bit more positive, shall we? Yesterday night after blogging I hung out with my new buddy Fumi, the image recognition expert who walked here. Another guy appeared too, called Nishi, also about the same age and knows a lot about CG modeling. They both work in the Tokyo area. It's quite funny to see how 3 engineers from Tokyo somehow ended up in a tiny fishing village in the southernmost point in Kyushu. That said, I guess we all felt relieved to talk to people we could relate to, and we quite enjoyed ourselves.
Today I woke up around 8AM, sweating as the sun turned my tent into an oven. The weather was awesome today, great temperature and a slightly cloudy sky. In the morning I went out with Fumi and Nishi and walked around the village, shouting 'Good morning!' loudly to everyone and discovering that even in the morning there is no plain bread in the tiny grocery store. After a while we went back to the camp site and hung around for a while. I used the time to adjust my brakes and managed to get them to work reasonably well again. I think they'll hold at least until Tokyo. After that we climbed the rocks at the seaside, which offered some pretty interesting sights along the way.
Since it was getting pretty hot, I suggested mildly that we go to a nearby beach and swim, which my companions thought was a slightly crazy but acceptable idea. Nishi took us there in his car, saving us a good 30 minutes of walking time. When we finally got out in our swimming attire we realized that it was actually quite bloody cold, but we swam anyway, in a beautiful blue ocean at a great southern beach. It was great. Oh, and I took photos of monkeys on the way.
After that we stuck with Nishi and his car since he had to go to the supermarket anyway, which was way too far to reach on foot or by bicycle. We looked around for an onsen (public bath), but found out that there used to be one but was now closed. We then searched for a ramen place but found that the closest ramen place was at the other side of the ocean and we had to take a ferry to go there. Yay countryside... We gave up on ramen and headed back to the campsite.
On the way back we saw a big colorful sign about something that I didn't quite understand. I asked Nishi and Fumi what it was about, and they told it was some Buddhism-related place, but I didn't quite get their explanation. Perhaps they were not sure what it was either. We decided to check it out and took the side road, which turned out to be a very narrow road going into the mountains (and basically jungle, at this point) for several kilometers. On occasion a monkey would cross the road, which became more frequent as we got higher and higher. Then suddenly, in the middle of nowhere, on top of a mountain, there was a huge gate.
We went further along the road, and eventually found this weird place of worship, as you can see in the photos. We couldn't quite figure out what the huge square white building was meant to be, but climbing a nearby hill we found out what was lying asleep on top of the building. Here's a Google maps link so you can see it from the top.
That's right. A huge statue of Buddha facing the heavens. What's incredible is that this place is nearly impossible to find, the statue nearly impossible to see, yet everything is so huge and expensive. Some important guy must have paid a lot of money to have this made in the middle of the mountains.
The area close to the big Buddha building was off-limits, but there was nobody around so we decided to take a peek. As we took the road up to the building a construction crew suddenly appeared within view. We asked them about the building and what's inside of it, and they told us that they weren't allowed to enter the building and were only hired to fix the outside. It's a big mystery that will have to remain unsolved..
I want to post more photos, but I'm very tired, so maybe later. Tomorrow is supposed to be good weather so I've decided to hang around here for one more day. I'm not in a hurry now, and this place is actually quite nice if the weather is good and there are people to talk to.
In the meantime, I've been looking for cheap accommodation in or near Tokyo for longer periods of time. If you're staying in Tokyo for longer than a couple of weeks it's very expensive to stay anywhere. My recommendations were a company called Leopalace, which rents furnitured apartments on a weekly or monthly basis, but even that is quite expensive in the long run. Then again, staying under a bridge in my tent is not an ideal solution either.. Oh well, still a week time to decide, and I can always stay in a youth hostel for the first week or so.
Speaking of not being able to lie in the grass, 10 minutes after starting to cycle this morning I found grass. And plenty of it, all along the riverside. It's still not the 'real' grass, cause it's not nearly thick enough, but still. It's close.
I started off my day by zigzagging my way to the other side of Kyoto. I ended up near Kinkakuji, the golden pavillion. It was still quite early in the morning, so I figured I might as well take a look. It's not golden week yet, and it was early, so I was hoping to find the place quite empty. I could not have been more wrong. There were at least six tour busses full of annoying school children, screaming and running all over the place. The very young children were just playing and running around, but the middle school children just stood there looking annoyed, following their teacher around, taking photos whenever the teacher tells them they should. Must be pretty boring for them. As a big scary foreigner I am mostly ignored by all the boys (except for the occasional scary look or rapid step-out-of -the-way when I approach). The girls start screaming and yelling 'HARRO!!! HARRO!!!'. Yay, I'm back to being a stereotype again.
Getting the hell out of kinkakuji I asked a random person where I could find my real goal: Arashiyama. There's supposedly a mountain just outside of Kyoto which offers a great view of the city, and also has a monkey park. In other words: monkey mountain! It turns out I had to cycle 30 minutes to get there, but the route was amazing. Beautiful nature, great landscapes and wonderful buildings along the way. I'd say that the road between the golden pavillion and Arashiyama is a must-see if you're tired of temple-tripping in the inner city. Really great.
I did take a wrong turn in the end and climbed the wrong mountain, which went remarkably easy without luggage (which I had left at the hostel). When I asked for directions a guy told me I could either go back down the mountain and around it, or climb a little further and go over it. I went on climbing, but it turns out the guy failed to mention that the only way to go down at the other end of the mountain was by taking the stairs... Well, stubborn as I am I carried my bicycle about 50 steps down. Ha!
This area was again amazing. A river surrounded by forest and mountains appeared in view. I took a lot of photos in this area which I must share some day. I cycled along the riverside for a while until I could go no further, and then went back to find the monkey park. Well, the monkey mountain was just awesome. I'll show some photos instead of ranting on.
This guy was busy taking a picture of a monkey far away when this other monkey just walked up to him and sat down next to him.
After the monkey park I zigzagged my way back to the river near the youth hostel, and stayed there for a while until the sun set. A very relaxing day, I must say.
Some thoughts about Kyoto:
- There are a LOT of foreigners. Big scary foreigners that make loud noises all the time.
- There are a LOT of (Japanese) tourists. Tiny loud school children that talk in annoying accents all the time.
- Kyoto's city center is surprisingly ugly. You really have to go out of your way to find an interesting neighborhood to random around in, otherwise it looks just like any other Japanese city.
- Despite that, I really really like Kyoto. I said before that I liked Wakayama, but I admire Kyoto. It's different somehow.
We need to talk.
I've been holding back on this blog, perhaps unconsciously. I have a lot of things that are going through my mind, but for various reasons I never get around to posting them here. Sometimes I'm just lazy, or tired. Sometimes I have nothing to report, or I feel it would only be a repeat of something that I've already said before on this blog. But most of all it's because I am afraid. Afraid that some company that might hire me in the future will look up my profile online and discover something that they won't like about me. Freedom of speech is all fine and dandy, but if you value your career then you'd better make damn sure that your opinions are not in any way different from the masses. Or at least that's the impression that I'm getting in this paranoid brain of mine. Expressing your opinion is fine, but actually linking that opinion to something that allows people to trace you physically is quite different.
As a result this blog has been quite boring lately. Looking back on what I wrote for the past months, I can't say I'm pleased with it. I used to write my posts as a kind of 'brainlog', streaming whatever enters my mind out into the wild, clearing my mind while at the same time sharing my thoughts. So, as the end of the year approaches, it's time to clean out my brain a bit. It's about time.
I'm unable to buy a chair. It's such a simple act! I am physically able to buy a chair. I am linguistically able to buy a chair. But in terms of willpower I am not able to buy a chair. I want to get a nice new luxury desk chair for my room. Winter holidays are approaching and I have no plans whatsoever, so I figured I might as well sit in a nice chair while I explore the deep and dark corners of the internet. But I can't buy one. Every time I come near a store a part of me wants to go in, but another part argues that I am not going to be here forever and any expenses that I make from now on will be a waste of money, because I won't be able to take them with me if I leave the country. That sounds as if I really want to leave, but at the time of chair-shopping that was certainly not entirely true.
My job is awesome. I feel like I'm leveling up every week. Ever since I started my job my work has been varying and interesting, and recently the environment has changed and the pace has risen steadily. But at just the right level, not making things impossibly difficult, but just difficult enough. It's a fair enough challenge, and I'm enjoying the current pace quite well. One consequence of the change of environment is that I no longer have time to support my old software, which I really considered to be my masterpiece. It's too bad, but I'm sure that my software will outlast me by far in our company.
I've got a plan. It's a plan that strikes my delicate balance of safe-crazy and awesomely epic. It's a plan that will either provide the ultimate closure or a brilliant new chance. In any case, it's going to be awesome. It's been a very long time since I've looked forward to something so much as I am right now. In all honesty 2009 has been the worst year since I came here. I am confident that 2010 will be very, very different.
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is the name of a small region of space that the Hubble telescope observed. I thought I'd just mention the awesomeness of this endeavour here. The result of the observation is an image that looks too fantastic and science-fiction-like to even appear in Star Trek, yet it's real. The HUDF is awesome because of two reasons. First, because it shows in great clarity how utterly insignificant we humans are. And second, because it shows, despite our insignificance, how far we've come that we're able to accomplish a thing like this.
Yay human race. Now get a move on and start colonizing other planets.