Izu’s Shirahama Beach

MJG Guides, Japan 2 Comments

Going to Izu and digging holes on the beach is now a firm tradition with me. It started two years ago, when a motley group of frisbee friends and I packed up our rental cars and went to dig and surf and camp on the beach. The second year was a smaller group but we did basically the same things. This year I went without the group (with SY), didn’t camp on the beach, but made certain to get down to Shimoda to dig a big hole. Perhaps you’d like to see a few other holes I’ve dug? March 08 …

Healing Villa Spa Resort

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Last week one of my students told me about a great onsen/spa/resort he frequently visits, called Healing Villa, located somewhere in Chiba, with huge outdoor pools, a great big sauna, and an overall healing and chilled-out vibe. I’m all in favor of those things, had a weekend coming with no plans, so decided to head off to check it out. Generally I’m not one for spas, or massage, or any of that ‘relaxing, healing’ stuff. People in Japan often go on onsen holidays, and while I’ve always liked onsen myself, I could never imagine spending a whole day dipping in …

Asahi Beer (Factory, Ibaraki)

MJG Guides, Japan 8 Comments

Asahi Beer is the juice that Japan runs on- it fuels the salarymen and the office ladies alike, keeping them lean, mean, and ready to work 18 hour shifts until karoushi (death by over-work) drives them into the ground. Asahi is the beer in a silver can- its most distinguishing feature by far. Kirin and Sapporo in their gold and white cans with cluttered labeling scream respectively- ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ and ‘nothing to see here, move along’. Asahi Super Dry is where it’s at. Asahi Factory Front.

Scott and Makiko’s Wedding, Niigata

MJG Guides, Japan 12 Comments

2 weeks ago my good friend Scott and his long-time girlfriend Makiko had a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony, in a hotel up in Niigata. I say ‘had a ceremony’ rather than ‘got married’ because of course- as things are done here in Japan- you get married first in secret at a local ward office, just by signing some papers. Then, when its too late for the parents to protest, you notify them that they’ll need to pay for the ceremony. Hay-ah! How do you like that, parents? I went up with some friends on the Shinkansen to attend. I’m on …

Arakawa Cyclo-Campers

MJG Guides, Japan 5 Comments

The Arakawa river stretches up out of Tokyo Bay and into the Saitama mountains, passing straight through the bulk of the city, picking up stray cyclists looking for a place to go as it meanders above and below ground. Some of the cyclists that accrete to its bike-pathed banks come prepped with tents and gear to camp out, BBQ, and generally make merry. That was us.

Meiji Memorial Gallery, Aoyama Itchome

MJG Guides, Japan 2 Comments

The Meiji Gallery in Aoyama Itchome holds 80 works of art depicting scenes from the life of Emperor Meiji (1852-1912), half painted in the Japanese style and half in a Western style, each about 3 meters square and really quite stunning. I discovered this Gallery unconventionally. In fact, I’d thought a long time ago that the museum/impressive building scene in Tokyo was played out for me. I’d been through several solid guide-books and already visited every place that seemed of interest. It seems I was wrong.

Fukutoshin Shibuya Station

MJG Guides, Japan 6 Comments

The new subway station on the F-line in Shibuya is remarkably large, spacious, and modern. It reminds me of the subway system in Washington D.C. for all its brushed concrete blocks and cavernous oval underground spaces. Even now a week after it opened there are still lots of people with cameras snapping away at its sights- of course, including me. This is the concrete hub squatting over the escalators down.

Stopped by the Police

MJG Guides, Japan 9 Comments

Last night I was stopped and questioned by the police. I was riding home on a friend’s tiny BMX-like bike at around 2am, just coming to the hill on Meiji Dori before my house, when I heard something from behind me. I turned around and saw a policeman running up behnd me. I did a double-take, for a second dis-believing that he was following ME, then realized he was, so stopped the bike. He came over and explained he was doing a bike-theft check, and proceeded to ask me questions: was it my bike, whose bike was it, was I …