A Whale Of A Problem

Posted by on Sep 30, 2011 in Travel Volunteer Journey, Yamagata | 4 Comments
A Whale Of A Problem

There’s a saying in the southwest of China: “We will eat anything with legs, except a table. And anything with wings, except a plane.” It’s not a philosophy that Katy and I always subscribe to. We’re not total killjoys: on our travels we’ve eaten camel, wood-worms (pictured left) and guinea pig. But at other times ...

Six Months Later – Part Two

Posted by on Sep 29, 2011 in Miyagi, Travel Volunteer Journey | 5 Comments
Six Months Later – Part Two

At 2.46pm on 11th March, about half a minute into the earthquake, Yoko Matsumoto was evacuated from the third floor of her office block and into a public park with hundreds of other people in central Sendai. The world shook for another 90 seconds, glass cracking, pavements rupturing. Soon a tsunami warning would ring out. ...

Six Months Later – Part One

Posted by on Sep 28, 2011 in Miyagi, Travel Volunteer Journey | No Comments
Six Months Later – Part One

Six months ago, my friend, mentor and sometime drinking partner Stephen Phelan stood where I am standing now. That day in Onagawa the view was not pretty. “In the middle of town, near the seafront,a few buildings remained upright, though stripped down to red metal frames and loose hanging wires,” he wrote in a piece ...

The Tranquil Hill

Posted by on Sep 27, 2011 in Iwate, Travel Volunteer Journey | 4 Comments
The Tranquil Hill

I can think of no other country in the world that feels so simultaneously futuristic and steeped in history as Japan. Without ever having come here, I always imagined that Japan essentially existed five years in Europe’s future. Yet no right-minded wee boy would fail to fantasise about the machinations of the samurai and ninja. ...

A Blessing And A Verse

Posted by on Sep 26, 2011 in Iwate, Travel Volunteer Journey | 3 Comments
A Blessing And A Verse

Because of a defective part of my brain, and because studying English literature largely removes the fun from reading, I don’t like poetry. That’s a pretty sweeping statement, and of course not true in every case, but for the most part it just doesn’t grab me. I don’t see poetry as more layered than, say, ...

The Art of Aomori

Posted by on Sep 25, 2011 in Aomori, Travel Volunteer Journey | One Comment
The Art of Aomori

No matter where you are in the world, towns can be pretty boring. And it’s very easy for them to fall into the mould of being dull rather than daring, having functionality rather than flair. With the global economy the way it is, perhaps small towns with few obvious resources would be justified in sticking ...

How Much Wood Would A Woodchuck Chuck?

Posted by on Sep 24, 2011 in Aomori, Travel Volunteer Journey | One Comment
How Much Wood Would A Woodchuck Chuck?

I’ve always admired Japanese products. More often than not, they’ve got an elegance to them, a tactility that makes them a pleasure to use. I remember the first day I saw a Sony Playstation. It had been imported to a shop in my home town early, of the European release. The graphics were, of course, ...

The Wind Began To Switch…

Posted by on Sep 23, 2011 in Hokkaido, Travel Volunteer Journey | 12 Comments
The Wind Began To Switch…

Jamie was going to talk about our hike to the summit of Mount Hakodate today. He  was going to mention that we passed through the almost San Franciscan dock area; that some locals seemed genuinely surprised to see us on the streets at all; and that with the sun shining, the world feels like a ...

Sapporo Me Another One

Posted by on Sep 22, 2011 in Hokkaido, Travel Volunteer Journey | 4 Comments
Sapporo Me Another One

It’s taken eight days of our trip to reach one of Japan’s big cities. With a little under 2 million inhabitants, chilly Sapporo, capital of Hokkaido, may be a fraction of the size of Tokyo, but there’s no doubting it’s a major city; if it were in the UK, it’d only have London ahead of ...

Home Sweet Hostel

Posted by on Sep 21, 2011 in Hokkaido, Travel Volunteer Journey | 3 Comments
Home Sweet Hostel

There comes a time in every traveller’s trip when homesickness comes calling. The timing of it is often weird. We both felt terribly homesick in the Galapagos Islands once, after travelling for 11 months. Given that it’s one of the most heartbreakingly unique, unspoiled places on Earth, it shouldn’t have happened – it wasn’t like ...