Friday, March 29, 2013

Confirming Coolest Parks EVER!

Living on a base full of Americans, when someone finds something good, soon everyone finds out.  The latest, Hachigamine Park near Otake and its 1/4 MILE roller-slide.  We didn't know how to get there, but knew it was around Otake.  Looking at satellite images made it an easy find.  Not only did the roller-slide jump out at us, but a Ferris wheel, giant obstacle course, sports fields, and wonderful kids playground.  Here's some of the fun including video from the entire slide...

Electronic lift up to the top of the slide

Start of the roller-slide
And a fun steep part...
Part of the obstacle course

Koi pond at the park

 Here is the pricing for all the "real" rides.  The roller-slide is 300 yen for 3 times down.  They also give you a mat to sit on so you don't burn your tush. ;)
 Finally, here's our video...

Now don't go down the roller-slide without getting a mat to sit on where you pay.  These roller-slides can really burn your buns. ;)  That's why we're all wearing jeans.  Though roller-slides are always fun!

Go try it!!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Reading Japanese Food Labels...

About a month and a half ago I finally got permission to do personal training on our base.  In that short time, personal references have led to a completely full schedule and many, many, many questions about nutrition.  I realized, how can I expect weight-loss clients to track their calories if they can't read the labels?  So I went on a search for Japanese food label translations.  I found this excellent source: The Ultimate Guide to Reading Food Labels in Japan  Of course then I had to copy it all and print it out into booklet form to give to my clients and a copy to take shopping myself, and even to restaurants.  Hmmm, no more excuses for buying the incredibly delicious Japanese pastries and custards, darn.
(Though it's all fine in moderation, right?;)

First True Japanese Race!

Since living in Japan my husband and I both competed in our base triathlon, and I have also done their duathlon, and several short races 1.5-5k.  FINALLY I signed up for a true Japanese race off-base, and it was quite an experience.  The first interesting ordeal was just signing up!  They had flyers at our gym, but they were all written in Japanese Kanji.  The only things I could really make out were the distances (10k or 1/2 marathon) and the date of the race.  I liked the sound of the 10k as it's a bit more of a challenge than I usually do, but hopefully wouldn't further damage my already meniscus-deprived knees.  Luckily there is a kind Japanese woman that works in our base gym who filled out an entrance form for me.  Then I got to drive it with my yen to the post office and hope they knew what to do with it.  Here you pay for the race at the post office along with your postage instead of just mailing in a form with a credit card number (or online) like you could in the states.  You can apparently get an account to sign up for races online, but it sounded like too much of a hassle at this point.  Anyway, the post office got it right, and my race number showed up in my mailbox about a week before the race with course info.

The day of the race we showed up early to avoid any parking difficulties and leave time for any communication struggles.  It was fun to see tents and tents of Japanese food and items for sale along with silly mascots wandering around, and some athletes in silly costumes...

Before the start of the race they introduced several people wearing suits, who we assumed helped organize it.  Then they led group warm-ups and stretching...
Even the race staff got into it

The 1/2 marathon started first.   I had several friends participating in it.  Here's the start and a couple of them running by around their 5th mile or so...
My friend in the pink WON the womens 1/2 Marathon.
She is an amazing ultra-marathoner

Another wonderful American friend in the group
Kids had fun playing while we were waiting for my start...

Finally we got to start the 10k about an hour later.  It was interesting just joining in the crowd trying to figure out what officials were saying.  I did figure out signs they had, "40+" and "50+" etc. people were holding in the crowd, meant stand there to start if you're over that estimated race pace.  This turned out to be wonderful as people weren't tripping over slower people at the start and more accurate race times.

And sorry, there's no photos of me racing (though there probably is somewhere since there were race photographers all over).  I was happy to finish my 10k at under an 8' mile pace.  As only my 3rd 10k ever, that was plenty fast for me. :)  Here is me with several of the other American finishers for the 5k, 10k, and 1/2 Marathon...

A great experience for sure!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Kanmuriyama Park

A couple weeks ago a good friend of mine invited us to a picnic playdate at Kanmuriyama Park in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture.  The park has traditional Japanese gardens, a beautiful Koi pond, a nice little hike, and a playground for the kids.  At this time of year, plum blossoms fill the hillside with color.  There was a stage set up for many weekend events including a Japanese tea ceremony, a Japanese dance, and a flee market.  We were there on a weekday while the big kids were in school, so we got to see some beautiful uncrowded scenery.

View entering the park.  The pond is full of giant koi.

Entrance to the playground

Hillside hike half in bloom with plum blossoms
Looking down at the koi pond

Beautiful decor inside a meeting area/tea room where we ate our lunch
We found this bridge on the back side of the hill and had to figure out where it went...
View of the beautiful shrines across the bridge.  The rope hanging on the Torii gate (red gate) is a "Shimenawa",  a maker of the boundary of something sacred.  A few more of these ropes were around the area, marking sacred entrances to the shrines and sacred trees. 

Here my friends are washing their hands in a "purification trough".  These are used to clean faces and hands before approaching the main hall of a Shinto shrine