Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Toys for Boys

I'd been thinking about buying a geiger counter for a while、the problem was always the high price and the long delivery time. We usually have a Russian-made model on the trips up to Iwaki with us so it was never really a priority but finally I realized I needed to get off my arse and get one sorted. They aren't cheap even for a low-end jobber and there was always a 2-3 month or more wait to get it shipped.

I'd heard good things about this Digilert 100 made in the USA so I rang their Japanese distribtuor since their website says that if you're in Japan, you can only buy from their exclusive distributor, SOWA Industries. Fair enough but they were out of stock and estimated about 3 months before they could get more in. I spent all the next day ringing some of their other worldwide partners in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa, France, Denmark, UK, Argentina and finally a few in the US but every one of them was out of stock. Worse than that, every single distributor outside of Japan was charging half the price of their exclusive distributor in Japan, SOWA Industries. Nothing like a bit of profiteering is there! Bastards.

My last call was to another UK distributor that I'd missed on the first run through. I called them expecting the same answer but the guy said he'd just had an over-shipment from the factory and could ship one out to me the next day, and still at half the Japanese price! Result! Done, dusted and forever greateful to both sisters who at really short notice helped with a bit of innocent money-laundering to get around the rule (well more of a guideline) of not shipping to Japan.

Came in handy as a backup unit on last weekend's THJ trip to Iwaki and will continue to do so in the future. The readings vary quite a lot since radiation is random in nature but the top photo above is one I took on my balcony in Japan on the weekend. The photo below is one my sister took in her kitchen in Cambridge, England before sending it over. Let's hope it stays like that.


Monday, 19 September 2011

Shichigahama (Seven Beaches)

A couple of  weeks ago the usual THJ volunteering was cancelled. A typhoon was predicted to land right on top of us but as usual, nobody knows exactly which direction a typhoon's going to take so we woke up on Saturday morning to a dry, calm, if slightly cloudy day. Too late to get everyone together so four of us took the chance to head up to Shichigahama in Miyagi prefecture which is a couple of hours further North than the usual Iwaki.

Shichigahama is a scenic peninsula pretty close to Sendai and is just across the river from Sendai Shinkou, apparently Japan's version of Supertubes in Peniche but I'd never caught it on a good day. Between Sendai Shinkou and here was the oil refinery fire that was all over the news on March 11.

The volunteer centre there was closed for outside work due to the typhoon that never showed up, but we had a good meeting with the lady in charge and there were some people out the back cleaning up photos. A huge amount of photos, trophies and farmed pictures have been found and some need more cleaning than others. When dry, they lay them out in the back of the hall for people to come in and claim. The volunteer centre is just across from a big sports hall so when they run out of space, they take the overflow to the sports hall where they are on permanent display hoping to be reunited with the people they mean something to.

The lady who showed us round was an inspiration. After a tour of the centre she showed us a map of the area with some photos and in a very matter-of fact way pointed out where her house once was but was now just a concrete slab. She'd lost some cousins and other family members when the 17 metre tsunami hit, but luckily her husband, their two kids and grandkids were all OK but have lost everything. They now live all very close to each other again in the temporary accomodation which looked like some sort of army barracks built next to the volunteer centre. She kept saying "Shoganai ne", which basically means, it can't be helped, or there's nothing you can do so you may as well get on with it.  She regulalry sees people she knows, or sadly in some cases knew, in the photos that are brought in to be cleaned.

I read somewhere that if everybody who was unhappy with their life got together and put all their problems in a big pile in front of them so that everyone else could see them and were given the chance to swap, most people would look around, then go back and pick up their own problems and get on with it. I certainly knew nothing in my pile would come close to what this woman was facing.

I mentioned the tsunami here was 17 metres. This telegrah pole is 15 metres tall and sitting at about 2 metres above sea level.

This used to be a typical beach-side scenic drive. It will be again one day.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


Some pics from Miyazaki last month:

Not a bad first wave

Shame it was at the airport

 Curren's Point in the distance. Flat as a kipper's tit.

Reefs everywhere, just no swell.

The Rivermouth, first night. Never quite did it... this time.

The Rivermouth again, just before the first sunrise

2' solitary rights just South of the rivermouth.

Loads of monkeys down there (watch your wax) but these were the only ones I was quick enough to get a photo of.

A win for the marketing men who decided to name this shochu, "Mumblings Of An Old Man". I bought it just for the name, but it was bloody lovely.

A freebie from the owner of the izakaya we went to every night, Sakichi-san. He said these were turtle-feet, and I was relieved to find they weren't actually feet of a turtle. Some sort of shell-fish.
The man himself, Sakichi-san, who apparently I loved like a brother at the time... Jack Sparrow to his mates.

Street light outside the Man Nen Boshi, or Ten Thousand Year Star distillery.

Family run for over a hundred years, the Watanabes were happy to show us round their small but quality distillery on a Sunday morning. Watanabe-san's grandfather started this place over a hundred years ago and now he runs it with his wife, son and nephew. Beautiful stuff and much cheaper down here.

The other end of the price scale is Mori Izou from a small village in Kagoshima. Each bottle here is worth up to 40,000 yen or $500 in Tokyo but I'd been told you could get it cheap around here. There was no-one around but peering through the window of these unlocked double-doors you could see loads of pallets loaded with full crates of freshly bottled nectar. Each create held 12 bottles and were packed 4x3x3 on every pallet.  So each crate was worth $6,000, and each 36-crate pallet was worth $216,000 and I could see more than 10 of them! Over two million bucks! If this had been the UK, I wouldn't have been able to get past security. Here though, I had to open the double-doors and call out for someone to come and see what was going on.
 The guy turned up eventually and said although they only did tours if you won an exteremely well subscribed lottery, they did have a shop he could show us. Behind the counter was a bottle of finest Moriizou in a wooden presentation case, lovingly crafted and selling for only 1,275 yen or about $15. I coudn't believe it and ripped open my wallet wondering how many crates I could fit in the rent-a-car. He saw my excitement and quickly pointed out that they didn't actually sell any of the booze from the shop, in fact you couldn't get it anywhere in town, the 1,275 yen was just for the wooden display box!

Back in town at the shochu dungeon.
these two were having so much fun.

Cliff-top (well, cliff-middle) temple. 

I think I can feel a Tom Jones tune coming on...
 Is that normal?
Well, it's not  unusual.

These wild horses on Cape Toi at the very South of Miyzaki are apparently national treasures.
 Well, they've never had any complaints.