There are many nice things about training for a long distance race. Firstly, no matter how far you run, it probably isn't going to be as far as the distance you are scheduled to run. Thus, if you are me, you keep telling yourself "just a little farther, at least 1 more kilometer". When you run that extra kilometer, amazing things start to happen. Take Monday's run to Akagi. I got to the other side of the river and said to myself "I'm going to run up that hill before it gets dark." It just so happened that the top of that hill was one of the most beautiful places I have been to in Japan. Red flowers, green rice fields, blue dusk, white moon.
And then there was Wednesday's run to Komochi where I ended up on a freeway that hasn't been opened to the public yet. Then I stopped by a vegetable stand, started a coversation about how the vegetables were very good looking with someone who I thought was a customer and turned out the be the owner, and went home with 7 pounds of vegetables that he insisted that I take for free.
Friday's run, where I did speedwork on the bike path that follows the river in a typhoon at night. By the way, speed work is easy when you have the eire sensation that something is chasing you. And you've realized it's a stupid idea to run in a typhoon.
Or Saturday's run, which consisted of 8 kilometers of constant uphill, as I ran from Shibukawa to Ikaho.
Training for a long distance race is interesting, to say the least.
Anyway, on to other adventures. Well, the weekend for me started on Sunday, since I slept basically all Saturday. I needed it though. Anyway, on Sunday I went with my neighbor Kate (from Australia) up to the top of Mt. Akagi to see the Samurai festival that was being held at the Akagi shrine. Well, it was a beautiful fall day down in Shibukawa. Little did we know that the top of Mt. Akagi felt like winter, what with the wind and the rain and the water spraying off of the lake and the fact that it was 6 degrees.
But that didn't stop us once we had already driven the hour to get there. A pair of the cheapest and most worthless raincoats ever at least gave us the confidence to walk to the shrine, though they hardly gave us any warmth. Fall as you can see, is starting on Akagi, and Japanese hikers, as you can see, are often prepared for the weather. It helps when you can understand the weather report. Understanding the weather report helps you realize things like "oh, this rainstorm is a typhoon, maybe I shouldn't go running today".
Here is a guy in a Tengu mask at the shrine. His clothes looked warm at the time.
Guy with great hats.
And it isn't every day that you see a man in a samurai costume with antlers pulling a cannon down a wheelchair access ramp.
When we were quite frozen, Kate and I decided to leave, but not before I gave the cheap rain coat to her friend who was dressed in an even thinner shirt than me. It took me about 10 seconds to realize that the coat was actually very helpful. At least her friend was warmer.
Well, we drove down the mountain, went to one of my schools where there was a fundraiser bazaar on, bought some stuff and went our separate ways. She went to Shibukawa and I got on the train for Maebashi, where I had arranged to meet with a girl named Kyoko, who I had randomly gotten into a conversation with on the train the very first time I came to Gunma. We exchanged information at the time, and then I thought "nah, she isn't actually looking for a friend, she just gave me her information because I gave her mine." Well, one month later, she sent me an e-mail. Sure enough, she was indeed looking for friends in Gunma because she had just moved back to Gunma after 7 years in Tokyo/Korea. So we arranged to meet at Maebashi station, where I also met Yuma-chan, the mascot of Gunma.
Well Kyoko took me to her house, which turned out to be a huge Buddhist temple at which her father is the head priest. Her mother teaches ikebana (flower arranging). As you can imagine, my visit was quite interesting.
Here I am in front of the main entrance. I am very fortunate that I speak Japanese, otherwise it would be impossible for me to have experiences like this.
Finally, after chatting with Kyoko and her family for a couple of hours, we decided to go on a tour of Maebashi. I was thrilled to discover that the tour included climbing a jungle gym. By the way, if you can climb a jungle gym in heels, you are cool in my book.
After a tour of Maebashi, we went to Ninniku-ya, which translates as "the Garlic Shop". I have stated before on this blog that the major flaw of Japanese food is its complete lack of Garlic. Thus, every once in a while I get an urge to eat tons of garlic. Ninniku-ya did not disappoint. Each of us probably consumed the equivalent of a head and a half of Garlic, and emerged from the shop smelling like socks.
Then I caught the train home. On the way, I passed the Hezo Jizo, the statue of Buddha that stands at the very center of Japan. Well, his hat had come off in the wind, so I stood on the dais in front of him and replaced his hat. Just as I finished replacing his hat, I looked down, and there was a weasel sitting there watching me. It was the first time I have ever seen a weasel. It seems that this particular weasel lives in the bushes behind the statue and sustains itself on a healthy diet of garbage.
When I got home I discovered that, in my absence, our local farmer had harvested his rice. It was a little sad to see the rice go.
But it sure was a beautiful night. Almost a full moon after all.
Well, the next day I meet my coworker Aimi to go apple picking with her church group. It just so happened that the other passengers in our car were 3 of the most quickwitted preschool girls that I have ever met. They were able to come up with original ways to tease Aimi for the entire hour long car ride. She took it like a champ, and I laughed the entire time. The apple orchard was beautiful as you can see. As a disturbing footnote, at around the same time as I was picking apples, North Korea was testing a nuclear weapon.
Here is Aimi with my glasses.
And my apples.
Well, the reason I was invited to attend a church function was so that I could speak English to the children, and also so that I could teach this game. There is no such thing as bobbing for apples in Japan, believe it or not!
Since it is an American game, I had to wear my bandanna. Consequently, I was the only adult to successfully get an apple.
I didn't do as well in the apple peeling contest. The goal was to cut as long of a strip as possible. My knife slipped, and I lost within one second.
Here are the results.
Afterwards, all of the adults went to an Onsen together.
So yes, a good week. Next weekend mom and dad come. I hope you are all looking forward to it as much as I am. Here's hoping mom and dad don't mind the sound of the Japanese Self defense Forces (read as "Army") on high alert.