Saturday, May 26, 2007

First Class Alone, and other Tales from HK

First Class alone
Okay, here's a new experience for me with Cathay - I'm sitting in seat 1A (don't worry, 1A is okay on Cathay because no cupboard in front - remember - 2A best on BA 747, 1A on 777), but in fact I have the whole Jumbo First Class cabin to myself, complete with two bathrooms, three pretty and very attentive girls, and enough space to play badminton in - I do ask the ladies if they have racquets - apparently it's not standard to carry them. Perhaps we could improvise with in-flight magazines and tubs of Haagen Daaz?

It's a hard life, but someone needs to have afternoon tea at 30,000 feet. Now, let me see which wine will best accompany dinner, they've offered to open a couple of bottles now to let them air...

Taiwan for a few minutes
We have a stop off in Taipei for about an hour, so I get to claim I've visited Taiwan, though I don't think the rather dingy terminal we step off at really counts as experiencing the country. There is some lovely Chinese art being displayed though.

I wander about before popping into the First Class lounge, just for a quick catch up with emails and a creatively-named Taiwan Beer! Marketing department really went to town on creativity with that one!

45 minutes later, back on to the plane and my cabin for more service assaults from the ladies. As I've explained before, it really is hard work in First, fending off the attention - it's very easy to drink and eat far too much, so now the novelty has worn off, I refuse as much as possible (the nibbles and titbits they get through the blanket ban is always sufficient). Previously, I refused dinner but they appeared with a large piece of pie, begging me to eat it, as they'd already eaten the rest of the pie and couldn't possibly finish it!

This leg, I conceed ground and eat dinner, washed down by a lovely Spanish wine the ladies recommend - Marques de la Concordia Rioja Reserva 2001. As we descend into HK, the TV screen displays connecting flights. There's a BA flight to London. It's probably the only time I feel a longing for home, when I'm in airports and see a BA jumbo.. Knowing that I could hop on it and be in dear London town in 10 or 11 hours… sigh… but it's not to be. Not this time.

Back to HK
At HK I'm off super-fast, but held up by big queues for passport control, it would appear an Air Ethiopia flight arrived just before us, so eventually I hop on the airport express train into town, to my hotel, BP International. I understand the BP reference when I see signs for the HK Scout Centre and large portraits of Baden Powell - I'm staying in a glorified Scout hut! My room's on the 24th floor though, with a rather nice and relatively private view.

Leo turns up and we wander around Kowloon, with its busy night markets - Mongkok etc, and street eateries.

Next day I meet Shu Chang, whom I know from school, for lunch. She works for the HK Monetary Authority in the IFC building, currently HK's tallest, with 88 floors (she's on 82!).

The International Finance Centre (IFC), HK's tallest

For those who know her, she hasn't changed much - longer hair, that's about it!

She takes me round the corner to a Beijing-style restaurant, where she's made a reservation - given that this is the heart of the financial district, tables for lunch are hard to walk into, and generally involve a good wait. There we eat spicy beef, and a strange but tasty tofu thing.

Not Szechuan food though, which was my original request! Of course lunch was finished off with Starbucks for the ol' Green Tea Frapp, when Leo joins us.

The famous Star Ferry

Later, Leo and I wander shops, and I pick up a cheap jacket (will be required for dinner today). We head to the famous Peninsular Hotel, via the Space Museum across the road. The Pen is my kind of place, and so we stop for a quick beer in the lobby, before heading off (not in one of their brand new Rolls Royces unfortunately) to meet Heidi, who is coming back to the Pen with me for dinner at Gaddi's, allegedly HK's best restaurant. I hold off on the jacket until the last possible moment, it's too humid for clothes!

Gaddi's is a French restaurant upstairs in the hotel. It's an old-school, opulent, discrete venue. The staff are friendly and numerous, but surprisingly the restaurant is relatively quiet. We take our seats not far from a "background" band who work their way through various gentle classics. We spend a while choosing, as the menu is surprisingly comprehensive for a restaurant of this type. After starters of lobster for me and frogs legs for Heidi, we have a duck dish for two for main. It's a little salty, but otherwise very tasty, and we wash this down with an Argentinian red wine - or rather I wash it down - I don't think Heidi helped much as I feel slightly light-headed by the end of the meal.

Towards the end the American sitting far from us yells out requests to the band - New York New York, You are my Sunshine (they're very impressed I know the lyrics of this apparently Louisiana song), to the embarrassment of his wife. We leave satisfied, though if it is the best restaurant in HK, I'd say the restaurant scene is slightly disappointing. It's no Fat Duck!

Back to Heidi's place, I meet her Dad for the first time in 11 years! He hasn't changed much! Last time I saw him, he gave me HK Police Force keyrings. They're bound to still be there, somewhere in the attic! Since I last saw him, he's married off Betty, Heidi's elder sister, and been to Russia, so there are plenty of photos to look at.

Fantastic Macau

Today is a Macau trip with Leo. I meet him at the IFC, managing to time meeting him to the second, I'm impressed myself! Anyway, we wander down to the ferry terminal. We are making the assumption that I won't need a visa. Gulp. Anyway, turns out fine, I don't. The ferry is a hydrocat affair, which takes about an hour to reach Macau, weaving round the Chinese coast between the numerous islands dotting the area.

For those who haven't been there, HK is actually a collection of almost 200 islands hanging off a peninsular. The most famous island is of course "Hong Kong" island, and the peninsular "Kowloon", but there's much more to it than you'd imagine, and if shopping is not really your thing, the islands are the place to go. One of my fondest memories from last time is daytripping to Cheung Chau.

So, the ferry. This trip brings back lots of memories of doing the same with Jackie all those years ago. I remember that Jackie had forgotten her new ID card, so I had to travel with her Mum and sister, which was a bit weird. She joined us later. So what is Macau famous for? In a word… sleaze! It's the gambling capital of Asia, and has most of the other insalubrious associated activities with gambling. According to Leo, just the word Macau throws terror into the minds of most HK housewives! The flipside is that it is a fascinating mix of Portugese and Chinese culture - it was a colony for Portugal like HK was for Britain. Portugese is still widely spoken, and given the temperature, it brings back memories for me of Brazil.

Brings back memories of Copacabana in Rio

We go into the new biggest casino - the new Lisboa Grande. I am surprised at how easy it is to go in - no registration or anything, just a quick bag check. In the UK, in my very limited experience, one needs to register etc, or be a member (usually instant). Here - straight in and dump your cash on the table. Leo tends to play a game involving three dice - one can gamble on whether the total will be low or high, or go for exact totals for higher odds. Simple but he does manage to walk away with a reasonable profit.

The hotel still being built above the newest casino

I don't partake myself. Somehow gambling to me seems like the lottery - the very fact that casinos make such huge amounts of profit puts me off playing. I've always considered lotteries as fantastic taxes on stupid people. I was amused by a recent Today in Parliament programme, where a leftie MP was quizzing a representative from the Lotteries Commission. The MP was suggesting that the LC was run by a bunch of public school toffs who were spending the money raised from decent hard working socialists on toff activities like culture! Quite right too, says I! If only I was there to join in the debate!!

The seafood is also legendary. Last time I was here, I tried giving up being vegetarian for 3 days for Jackie. I was feeling like a real burden not eating even seafood - we were going to crab restaurants etc, so I tried it. I remember it being a hellish three days - every meal time I was filled with dread as to what I'd have to consume. This time it's the reverse - not enough time to try everything! For lunch we eat at a Chinese restaurant in the centre, and have a spicy dish which tastes very Malaysian "satay"ish, chopped jellyfish, a simple chicken dish with cucumber and satay, some peanuts, erm, what else.. That may be it.

What better to eat on a roasting hot humid day than… spicy soup!!

Next we walk up to St. Pauls. It's the shell of a church, with a crypt underneath with the bones of various Christian martyrs from around asia.

After the obligatory tourist snaps here, we have some cold milk curd stuff, supposedly quite famous, before heading out to the go-karting track out at Coloane.

Finally, some cooling food!

It's been a very long time since I last went karting. Possibly Cornwall with HM and Chucky! Anyway, this is a decent sized track here, on the outskirts of Macau - very near one of the Chinese border stations. Helmet on, and we're off. It's fairly quiet - there are 3 or 4 other guys on the track with us. We tear round, me apparently slightly slower, as after a few minutes Leo has already lapped me, dammit! This happens a few more times before, just as our time is up, the chain goes on my kart and I limp to the side. I don't realise at the time, but in doing this, my back has been showered with oil, ruining my shirt. I suppose at least I didn't have a heavy chain smash into the back of my neck.

Dinner is Portugese food, in the "old town" area. What is Portugese food. Well, I've come away none the wiser, but of course the egg tarts are divine. I don't have a photo because I ate them too fast!

Caldo verde soup

Big thick hairy tongue, and lots of it

After we wander the Butler's Wharf (yes!) area, which is a new theme park place with shops, restaurants etc, built in all manner of styles. There's a large volcano, various colonial style buildings, the Roman Colisseum etc.

Pretty, but a right architectural mish-mash

It's now getting late, so we battle our way past the now busy saunas and massage parlours to the ferry terminal.

Extras, Sir?

We get back to HK fairly late, but surely there's time for a quick beer. Leo makes me walk up to the Soho area, which is up the hill above the famous pub district of Lam Kwai Fong, but it's all closing down. Back down, we find a British pub, with music slightly loud for my liking, but they do turn it down. After a pint of Spitfire, I notice they have Ruddles! The guy has just closed the till for the night, so gives us the two bottles! Good work fella! (6 quid a bottle!). What a fantastic end to the day!

Fishing on Lamma
Today is fishing day. I wanted to go to Cheung Chau, but there's a ferry from Leo's home area to Lamma, so he's persuaded me to go there instead. It's corking hot as I wander round Admiralty looking for the bus to his place, on the south side of the island, Ap Lei Chau or South Horizons. After saying hello to his Grandma, we head out, and take the ferry to Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma. Interesting factoid: international film star Chow Yun Fat was born here.

First stop on Lamma Island is the Rainbow Seafood restaurant.

Here we eat spicy clams..

razor clams..

And finally cheesy baked lobster, tasty but messy!

We buy some beers, and shrimps for bait, then hike over to the other side of the island to the beach area at Yung Shue Wan, apparently a popular commuter village for expats, as the ferry from here takes about 45 minutes right into central HK. OMG it's so damn hot. Amusingly the beach faces the biggest power station in HK! Very scenic spot Leo, thanks!

Swimming is not a choice though in this heat. We buy some cheap swimsuits and hit the water, despite the sign saying the waves are dangerously high today (at least 1 foot high, shock!).

Dangerous huge waves crashing in

Next round on the rocks to fish. I don't think Leo likes the trek round on the limpets, there was definitely some blood lost there!

So we're perched on the edge of the rocks, casting off straight into the wind. It's far from ideal, as the wind is quite strong, so we're not getting far. Plus it's very rocky underneath, the hook keeps getting caught, and I have to cut the line. The rough water won't be helping us either. There's a bit of nibbling going on, but we don't bring anything in. Next time..

We rush back to the boat, but get toally soaked.

The heavens really open monsoon style, but we can't really sit it out as I'm supposed to be meeting people in town. Of course once we're on the ferry, it clears slightly.

The IFC after the rain

So, I meet Jessica, Tatianna and Heidi in TST, and we go for dinner - settling on Cantonese food at Canton Deli in Harbour City. Of course, Tatianna hasn't changed a bit. But she has got into Product Marketing! The horror (apologies SA et al.)!

Heidi and Tatianna

Sam and Jessica

After dinner, we head to a British pub, the Bulldog, for Erdinger beer (?! - why do British pubs abroad so rarely have British beer?), and Jackie joining us.

Big beers for small types


Then Heidi and Tatianna split, leaving me to head over to Causeway Bay to meet Leo with Jackie and Jessica, for some NZ Sauv Blanc at a bar up above Sogo department store.

Leo and his bodyguards

It's my last night in HK this time, so after the girls split, Leo and I enjoy one for the road. It's late when I get back to the hotel! Very late! I need to leave in about 3 hours! Just five minutes sleep then…

I wake up without alarm clock (thank god) at 7am! Panic! I rush to Kowloon Airport Express Terminal, go to check in and am told that I may get into trouble with Indonesian immigration as I don't have an onward flight, even though I've got other flights on my ticket. I have to sign a disclaimer saying I will cover all costs in the event of this being an issue. To avoid the hassle, when I'm in HK Airport, I just book an AirAsia flight to KL from Jakarta for the 9th June. Sorted. On the flight to Bali, of course, I sleep….

Where's the blog?

Don't worry, I'm still alive. I'm currently in Surabaya, Indonesia, heading across Java towards Jakarta, probably via Madura, Bromo, Jogjakarta and some coffee and tea plantations. Left beautiful Bali yesterday after a week spent mostly in and around Ubud. And this after a fun few days in Hong Kong. No blog? Because the internet connections here are terrible, and I can't bring myself to sit all day in a net cafe to upload a couple of pics. So you'll just have to wait. There's plenty there though, just you wait :)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Back under the rising sun

Random cultural difference - Japanese call the green traffic light "blue". And Japanese children always paint the sun red in pictures, not yellow.

Arriving in Japan, I convert my rail pass and head back to Fukuoka, dump bags in Toyoko Inn, then hop on the next train down to Kumamoto. Here there's a pretty castle to visit, along with one of Japan's Three Best Gardens (Japanese Love creating Best 3 Lists). The MOS pulls me in before I've escaped the station, but I walk it off and pop in to the Kumamoto Art Museum on the way, where there is a lovely exhibition about Japanese Modern Painting from the Eisei-Bunko Era. Unfortunately photography wasn't allowed and there was no catalogue, otherwise I probably would have bought it.

Next the impressive Kumamoto Castle, which is one of Japan's 3 most famous castles (remember what I said about 3s).

The real thing

And how the Japanese people see it

Construction began in 1601 and features unique very steep stone walls called mushageishi that are almost impossible to scale.

The main castle building is 6 stories high , about 30m above the stone wall. It performed particularly well in the Seinan Civil War, when they held out against a sustained siege in 1877. Even some of its lookout towers, especially Uto-Yagura and Iidamaru are multi-story and awe-inspiring in their own right.

One of the walls surrounding the castle, Naga-Bei, (The Long Wall) is 242m long. The inside of the castle houses a museum.

Pillow apparently

For this hard man

And finally Suizenji Jojuen Garden was built as a villa residence for a feudal lord.

It's a park with lots of water flowing about, but feature I find especially interesting is that the walk around it is designed to follow the Tokaido traditional route from Tokyo down the country (that the bullet trains now speed along). So as one walks around the garden, one passes a Fuji mound, and other hills that map to real features on the road to Kyoto and beyond.



In the evening I met Akane-chan, who lets slip mid evening that Jose proposed to her whilst over her! Yay! Congratulations! We enjoy skewers of meat and beer (or tea in her case) to celebrate!

Next morning I have the train marathon… From Hakata to Osaka, meet Mariko for lunch

Cully and Omerrette

The back on the train to Tokyo, to meet Eri-berry (which doesn't happen 'cos the dappy girl has left her mobile at home), then Tokyo to Hachinohe, then on to Aomori. Approximate distance? About 2000km! This would not be do-able with UK trains! But in Japan, no problem - start at 9am and even with several hours out, you'll still be in bed by 11pm! When I've got a spare minute (okay it'll never happen), I'll have to work out the exact distance and time to see what my average speed was over the day. I think on the order of 200-250km/hr!

Double decker bullet trains!

The Holy Trinity of Baths
So why have I come so far? If you can imagine Japan as the four islands looking a bit like a dragon - I'm now at the top of the body. Incidentally, when they build the tunnel between the main island, Honshu, and the "head", Hokkaido, effectively cutting the throat of the dragon, there were lots of mysterious deaths, and people at the time attributed this to humans interfering by being somewhere they oughtn't be. Anyway, there are over 2,000 onsen in Japan, from the frozen north to the tropical south. Tohoku, however, is home to the holy trinity of Japan's bathing culture:

Zao (Yamagata prefecture), 40 minutes by bus from Yamagata train station, is an Alpine-style village with an almost all Zen calm about it, famous for the azure waters of its rustic dai-rotemburo (trio of outdoor pools).

Naruko (Miyagi prefecture) is known for its medicinal hot springs research facility and its crowning glory, Taki-no-yu, a fabulously atmospheric wooden bathhouse, which has hardly changed in 150 years. 40 mins from Furukawa Station

But, for the onsen cognoscenti, Aoni (Aomori prefecture) makes for both the most atmospheric and isolated bathing in the north, with its time-warp oil lamps replacing electricity. It's a simple place, close to nature, with thermal waters containing a hint of radium.

So basically I want to visit all three of these, though in the time I have, one or two will do.

Does the JR Rail Pass save much money in Japan?

I'm here for 4 days. Now admittedly I'm packing it in, but here's what I'm up to, and how much the train would cost:
Arrive Shimonoseki
Shimonoseki - Hakata 10UKP (from memory when I had to buy it last time!)
Hakata - Kumamoto - return 30UKP
Hakata - Osaka 65UKP
Local journeys around Osaka - 5UKP
Osaka - Tokyo 67UKP
Tokyo - Aomori - 70UKP
Aomori - Hagasaki - return 10UKP
Aomori - Fukukawa 50UKP
Fukukawa - Naruko - return 10UKP
Fukukawa - Tokyo - 50UKP
Local journeys around Tokyo - 10UKP
Narita Express - 14UKP

Total value (estimated approx) 400UKP
All this for a pass costing 110UKP!! Don't ever come to Japan without one! You will regret it!

Not the Aoni Onsen!
I'm sitting on the train next to the toilet in a carriage full of women with no bladder control.

Today I tried to go to Aoni onsen. Unfortunately I caught the wrong train, which wasted several hours, and so ended up going to Nuruyu Baths instead. I may be the first Westerner to go there. I certainly was of much interest naked to the other men. It wasn't a gay joint before you ask. The baths were called Tsuru No Yu, or Crane Hot Springs, and were a twenty minute bus ride away from Kuroishi Station, itself a 45 minute (private) train ride from Hakasaki station, itself an hour by train from Aomori, whence I set off this morning at 8am. Aoni is supposed to be one of the holy trinity of northern onsen, but they are seriously remote, hence the early start. With all the time wasted by hopping on the wrong train (exactly the right time, wrong company), it was too far to go without staying overnight. Not in itself an issue, but I have a reservation elsewhere.

In Japan everything is considered

Anyway, I was helped to sort out the alternative option by a very nice lady who was travelling with her husband to another onsen. They are onsen maniacs, and have visited over 100 all over Japan! Respect! They dropped me and pointed to a sign, saying the baths were here. They weren't, this was the car park. After trying all the houses surrounding the car park, disturbing an elderly lady from her siesta, I decided to wander the seemingly deserted village and find someone else to ask. Eventually I was pointed, then finally handheld, up to the baths. Pays my money, goes in, and discover that they do not provide towels, or soap, or shampoo. Ah.

So I take my seat on one of the little plastic seats under the showers, and rinse away. The idea in Japanese baths is that you wash yourself thoroughly before heading into the shared big pool. This I would not be able to do properly today. Anyway, a full rinsing later, I potter over to one of the two pools. By accident I choose the hot one first. It's no disgrace in onsen to yelp as you slide into the scalding water, which I almost do. In and soak away all that dirt that I wasn't able to soap off! That'll teach you lot to not provide washing materials! Back and forth between the pools and the showers a couple of times, and I've had enough. Now to.. err.. dry myself.

There's nothing to be done but a general rubbing of water off. It doesn't work very well. For those of you who have seen photos of me recently, you will know that my hair resembles a mop. It functions as one too. I decide I'll have to use my Rohan jumper as a towel. It doesn't work especially well, but does get me to the point where I'm only "quite" wet and therefore can throw the rest of my clothes on and let them soak up the excess. Messy. I leave the changing area and head out to the relaxing space, sit cross-legged on the tatami mats, and let my body heat dry my clothes. The jumper is sodden, so I don't even try with that.

Still a while till the bus back, so I walk around town, buying some beef udon noodles which an old lady heats up on my request. Unfortunately I ask for little hot, which she takes very literally, as I find out when I eat the off-cold noodles looking down over the river and cemetary. Training it back, I enjoy a Yebisu malt with some japanese nuts. It's interesting that there are so many private railways in Japan. How does the funding work? Why are there not private lines in the UK? Perhaps something like the Heathrow Express counts as one. Presumably they make a profit here otherwise why would the firms be running them? Unlike HEx, these are not expensive. JR (Japan Railways) is the state railway company here, but in almost all towns and cities there are private lines or even networks. I wonder how a Whitstable - Canterbury railway would fare back home.

Not the Naruko Onsen!
Cough, not doing very well with onsens. Stayed the night in Furukawa, but unfortunately Alastair drops the bomb-shell on me… the Grand Sumo tournament is on in Tokyo at the moment! This means the only way I would get to the onsen (and get down for sumo) is by taking the 06:05 train. It's just not happening. To my credit, I try. My toes make it out from under the duvet at least twice. Anyway, shinkansen down to Tokyo, couple of stops on the local trains - Akihabara, change Sobu, two stops and out at Ryougoku Station. Walking round I catch up with a fairly large chap waddling along in his yukata.


Reminds me of that photo of me with Chris Fisher

And in…

Inside I'm up in the heavens with a cheap seat - 3600Y, or about 16UKP. There are boxes available for about 200UKP! It's a good atmosphere, with people coming and going, popping out for refreshments, and a mix of ages and sexes watching - even several girls on there own. The refreshments are beer, soft drinks, popcorn, hot dogs, and steamed buns. There seems to be some kind of betting system present, but even were I interested in participating, I can't work it out.

Flags outside of the stadium

So what's the format? The stadium is almost round, like a boxing ring, with large photos of the competitors or past champs lining the roof.

A wooden roof, which is supposed to represent a Shinto shrine, hangs over the stage with a large japanese flag above it. The raised ring itself has small steps leading up to it, no ropes or anything, hence competitors frequently crash out on to those sitting close by, especially the judges, of which there are five, dressed in black with a black cloth covering their cross-legged sitting position. Any controversial decisions they all step up, form a circle in the middle and debate.

The lead judge announces the decision over his microphone.

Pick up the match listings

Sumo has a long history in Japan

I decide it's appropriate to tie my hair "sumo style". I can't find an elastic band in my bag so have to use a BA First luggage tag, ahhh I'm a tart I know! So the competition is divided into an East vs West system, with half of the wrestlers on each side. Not sure whether they are allocated according to where they are from geographically. Then they all have rankings within two groups. The match chart tells you how many bouts they have won and lost in this competition, but today's only day 2 (of 15?), so it's either a single previous win or loss. Each day they play a different person, so presumably over the two weeks, they get to play everyone.

It's interesting that there is a vast difference between the size and experience of different wrestlers. Some have been in the top division for years, others are only on their second (top level) fight. Some are huge and immensely tall, others short and squat. There's a lot of fat about though, presumably with a fair bit of muscle buried underneath. Between the two hulks stands a ceremony master, or referee, all dressed in lovely colourful yukatas.


So, the two competitors step up into the ring. They bow at each other, then go through some sort of warm up, involving lifting one leg then the other leg up as far as they can stretch, squatting, pottering about a bit. They clap. Then they squat down at the lines as if to fight. Generally then one will get up again and stretch, and they potter again. When they're almost ready, they go back to their corner, have a sip of water, throw some over their selves, quickly towel, and sometimes throw some salt into the ring (symbolic - salt is purity, maybe?). Then it's time.

I decide to adopt a sumo cut

Crouching opposite each other, they spring up. These guys weigh 150kg, more.. So this is a lot of body crashing into body. The technique seems to be to launch yourself at your opponent as hard as can be to destabilise him, then slap him around the face like a little girl as he topples backwards out of the ring. Sometimes they get stuck in locks where official needs to reach between them to tighten their pants (don't ask!), then he slaps them both on the backside and they continue. All very interesting. If either competitor is thrown out of the ring or hits the floor, they lose and it's over.

The winner gets to stay in the ring and squat for a second, whilst the losers are straight out. Several more competitors hop and shake about in the tunnels, warming up before coming out. The wrestlers about to come on sit on cushions by the side of the ring. I get the impression that there's a lot more going on, but this is my ill-informed understanding. I do get a bit more because of NHK, the Japanese TV station, broadcasting an English commentary on FM radio, which I pick up.

Im between fights, occasionally there are ceremonial things happening. Sometimes all the wresters troop out, stand in a ring on the stage, raise their arms and generally demonstrate a show of force, the troop off again.

East and West separately, as, if nothing else, there wouldn't be room for them all out together. When they do this, they wear a kind of dress, all of which are different and beautiful patterns, very colourful. There is also a moment when one of the more senior wrestlers does a special dance thing.

No idea what it means. search please!

Anyway, what a marvellous experience! Sumo was one of the two things I still had left on my list for Japan. The other is eating fugu, the potentially poisonous pufferfis whih apparently is fairly bland and tasteless. Anyway, got the sumo done, I can leave Japan happy.

The pufferfish (fugu) that got away…

Sayonara Eri-berry and..

Sayonara Japan!