Irishman Walking is about my walking the coastal roads of Japan through a series of summer, winter, spring, and autumn stages. Stage 2 began in the city of Noshiro, Akita Prefecture in the winter of 2009, and ended in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata four weeks later in January 2010. Last summer (2012), Stage 8 started at Shibushi Port in Kagoshima Prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu, and ended in the city of Fukuoka six weeks after setting off. Then in winter Stage 9 started from Fukuoka and ended in Hiroshima City on the island of Honshu. The stage lasted for three weeks. Stage 10 is planned to start from Hiroshima this coming spring and will end in the city of Okayama in late-March 2013. The stage is planned to last for about two to three weeks.

“Tomorrow will be Christmas Day, and our thoughts turn to home and the attendant joys of the time. One longs to hear the hansoms slurring through the London mud.” (Ernest Shackleton).

25 Dec, 2009: Last evening as I ventured out of my warm sleeping bag and into the cold air to take a leek (urinate) I got a magnificent glimpse of the moon and sparkling stars spread out along an almost clear sky. In Genesis 1:16 we saw that God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. According to science, the moon did not actually produce light, and that it all had something to do with the reflection of the sun and the position of the Earth to it, and so forth, but that did not matter to me one bit. When you were tramping the road all day long, you would soon learn which ‘light’ was the kindest! Perhaps if I had my head screwed on properly, it would have been smarter had I tramped through the nighttime. The traffic was a lot less for starters. But then, without a good steady shade to lie down under, it would be difficult to sleep through the heat of the day.

There were a number of times, too, when I did not sleep very well and was glad to when morning came so as to hit the road again. Not that decamping went more smoothly at such times! As the sun rose slowly up over the mountains, it took forever to pack up my stuff and hit the road. It too the best part of an hour to be precise! Then, it did not take long for the heavy clouds to block out the rising sun and the fading moon. Soon the gray clouds hung threateningly low over the landscape. My little temperature gage, a gift from my ex-wife from a trip she made to Mount Fuji in 2006, read 10 C. One good point was that the record snow that fell in the days before my arrival in Noshiro were just about gone from the roads. According to the television news, Niigata, where I was heading towards, had its heaviest snowfall in twenty-five years. The snow, which blanketed the area around, lay patchy upon in the fields here and there.

Even after an hour of tramping along the road the sky continued to hang over me threateningly, and change for the worst appeared imminent. It felt like I was somewhere in between the snow squalls as the road ahead was fairly clear. Of course, I could still make out everything in front of me, but for how long I could not imagine. “Surely it would not be long now,” I wondered, “before another squall swept down from the heavy sky?” In the cold it did no good to rest whenever I could for too long. But the cold was much better than the rain and the cold. When I did stop to rest, I liked to do so outside a local shop when I might pick up something refreshing, like yoghurt in the mornings, or a cool beer in the afternoons. Of course, there were more vending machines than shops! Therefore, often my rests would mean squatting down next to one of the many Coca Cola vending machines I passed along my way, or on the steps of one of the many graveyards I came to.

In order to keep my feet as dry as I possibly could, it was advisable not to wander off the roads unnecessarily. This was quite opposite to when I first started out on this winter stage (Stage 2) of my mission, and when I cut though the pinewood forest that led south out of Noshiro City. That was the night when I emerged drenched to the skin from head to toe. Then I had taken a couple of bad tumbles that saw me splashing belly first into puddles of melted snow at least fifteen centimeters deep. Only the continuous tramping and the warming temperature kept me from freezing. It was also the first and last time that I needed to use my snowshoes, not that I needed them then very much then either.

This kind of pissed me of, since I had to carry then strapped to my backpack. The snow surface was annoyingly soft under my feet and the melting snow made the tramping difficult. To the side of the road the snow looked hard and crystalline in places. “Mmm!” For a moment I thought that perhaps it was just as well the police had picked me up for questioning soon after making camp. It allowed me the chance to return to Eiji-san’s house to wash my clothes again and dry them by morning. It was my first winter stage, and I was now better education for that opening day on the road. Then again I had nothing to be grateful for! If the police had not picked me up I would have pushed on in the miserable state I was in, which was a form of learning that I felt deprived of because of them.

Some distance along the road that day, I found myself sheltering from the rain inside a little country post office. I took the opportunity to write out a couple of postcards. "Greetings... I've just stopped by a little post office in Oganaka in Akita to write this and to wish you a Very Merry Christmas. Last night I slept comfortably enough in my sleeping bag and tent, even for the freezing cold outside. Much of the heavy snowfall that fell in the days before my departure had gone from the roads. This made it considerably easier for me to walk. Good! However, I knew that I was carrying far too much stuff. They were mostly old clothes, which I planed to bury in the evenings whenever I finished with them. I'll write again soon. Michael"

Sometimes the weather cleared up, but I knew it would not stay that way for long. During those short clear breaks in the sky the long, yellow rays from the Sun would treat me to a fleeting glimpse of the snow-capped peaks rising out from the mist. Such was their beauty that it was like stepping into a picture postcard. For a moment, the beauty caused me to feel a tiny bit embarrassed about the pictureless inexpensive postcards that I had bought in Tokyo to send to family, friends, and acquaintances from here and there on my mission. Then again, it was too late now to do otherwise.

The winter stage of my mission was not to be taken lightly, I knew that if heavy squalls of snow did come down, I would have to tramp along extra carefully for fear of slipping over or falling under an oncoming car. In a heavy snowfall a person’s vision could be limited at to a radius of less than a few meters. For the most part, my progress was miserably slow! This was in part due to the unexpected patches of black ice that appeared on the road out of nowhere. So I needed to keep my wits about me, as I did not wish to break anything. Another reason for the slow pace was my backpack was not getting lighter quickly enough. And rather the get used to the weight, it became a hindrance as the day wore on.

Still, the first signs of a blue sky and a strong yellow sun shinning through the clouds cheered me up quite a bit. “The sun was always so yellow!” I thought, as I tramped along, while glad it was not raining. All of the stars in the night sky emitted different colors of light, because of their different temperatures. Hot as it was, the sun was not the hottest of the stars, and the stars with the coldest temperatures had a reddish sort of color. The really boiling hot stars glowed blue-ish like. The temperature of the sun was somewhere in between these two, and therefore was yellow in color. Or that was how most people associated its color to be.

“Was the Sun really yellow?” I wondered? Actually, it looked whiter to me than yellow! What color was it when seen from outer space? According to the Internet it was whiter in color with just a tint of yellow. Did the Earth’s atmosphere play tricks on everybody? Even my nonscientific brain suspected that the Earth’s atmosphere did have something to do with how people viewed the Sun, or its color. Besides its light, and yellow, or white color, I learnt in my school days that the Sun also gave out red and violet electromagnetic waves. Of course, there was a much more scientific explanation that was way beyond my comfort level! Either way, the Sun had all kinds of powers beyond the human mind, and science for me to explain. According to one helpful Internet site I found, the Sun had many colors and because of their intensity our eyes or brain could not take them all on, the Sun only appeared white. Because the Sun had strong lines of yellow it also gave that slight yellowish tint that people see. Therefore, it was closer to the truth to say that the Sun was white with a yellowish tint. (

Yes, my progress was slow, but what was the point of upping my pace with the ice on the road, and the heavy backpack on my back? Tramping along at the pace of a snail could be rather boring. There was not even the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks to keep me amused. Nor was there the odd bumping of a horn from a friendly motorist, or even the occasional wave from a motorcyclist to take my mind momentarily away from the long hard road ahead of me. Apart from the lone postman on his little red colored 50cc motorbike, I did not see one single Harley roaring by in recent days. At last I came upon my first convenience store since returning to Akita Prefecture to continue my mission around the country. The parking lot of Lawson's in Ogahizume was being cleared away of snow by one hell of a massive snow truck. Two of the store's employees stood looking on. One of them leant on a snow shovel as the waited for the work to be done.

While all this was going on I set at a tiny counter by a window pouring the milk that I had just bought over some of the muesli I had carried with me from Tokyo. Most of the convenience stores I stopped at down through the years did not have a place to sit at, so it was a little treat to sit my tired butt down at one that had. Besides that, the milk and muesli marked the extent of my Christmas dinner, which I tried not to think too much about before hitting the road again. “What the hell! There must be something else I could do to mark this day of days?” I thought, as the muesli was soon gone. A 500 milliliter can of Asahi 'The Master’ beer did the trick. An all malt beer, as the writing on the can reminded me. “My Christmas drink for tonight” I told myself, as I stuffed the cold can deep into my backpack, not caring if it added to the weight.

The darkness fell quickly and soon my tent was erected close to a series of tunnels a little ways outside of Oga. Now the sea had awoke from its calm slumber and crashed mercilessly against some tetra pods placed along the shoreline. Regardless of their value, the tetra pods did not enhance the beauty of the shoreline one but. Beyond the manmade eyesores, away off on the horizon two large container ships could be seen heading in opposite directions. Being Christmas, the beer took longer for me to drink than it would normally. Perhaps it was also due to the weather being too cold to enjoy it properly. It was just as well I picked up only one can, for it was even too cold to read. When the beer was finally gone I boiled a little water on my Captain Stag gas burner. With the hot water, some soap and a flannel I was able to give myself a wee rubdown the best I could. After changing into some clean clothes, there was little else to do but to try and get some sleep. The sound of the powerful waves did not bother me none, for it had been along hard day and I was literally worn out. Nothing was going to keep me from my sleep, not even God!

26 Dec, 2009: The weather could be so annoyingly amazing at times. Often before I bedded down in my tent for the night, the sky was so clear and the moon and stars that shown big and bright made me fell guilty about crawling into my sleeping bag. Sometimes, too, the lights from some distant town, or ship far off on the horizon could be clearly seen. I knew that in the daytime when I would be on the road again all of this beauty would be gone. Gone, gone, gone! Often, only an overcast sky accompanied me in the daytime. Like most mornings, I could never be sure what the weather had install for me. Just this morning, as I strapped the last of my stuff to my backpack before hitting the road proper, a sprinkle of rain fell. It was eight-thirty and the temperature stood at 6 degrees centigrade when I set off. Therefore, it was better to enjoy the calm evenings at camp to the fullest, for sleep would come anyway.

One good thing to report was that my backpack had finally become lighter, which felt better day-by-day. Each morning some of my old clothes were buried, which was not an easy task to perform. The frozen ground near where I camped proved unkind, even to my sturdy little army spade. Sometimes, the side of a disused road or tunnel that overlooked an angry sea, proved a fitting grave for my dearly departed rags. With the rags, a history, or fond memory of a time, a place, or even a face would be buried, too. A respect of sorts was needed! One good thing about the long tunnels that I faced on my Hokkaido tramp in the summer (Stage 1) was that there was no need to stop. They were a place to find shelter from the falling rain and to make progress on the road at the same time. The unfortunate thing about last summer was that the rains fell incessantly, and at times even forced me to stop in somewhere until they let up. This winter the rains greatly hampered my progress, too, and the long tunnels were few and far between.

One thing I got good at on the road was the way a quick glance up at the heavy skies told me how far I would tramp that day. The sky told me that Boxing Day was going to be one of those slow days. And, as things turned out, I was a literally boxed in by the rains and forced to take shelter in a building that displayed Japanese mythical demons. Even then it was not easy to escape the downpour, often aided by a strong wind, would cut in through the open building from all directions. Traditionally, Japanese buildings were built with wood, and had deep overhanging eaves to protect them form the elements, including the heat from the sun. But in my case, a good place to seek shelter was never about when you needed it.

Across Route 101 a road sign told me that the city of Akita was straight ahead and that a lesser route (Route 226) headed right. I could see from the sign that Wakimoto JR train station was on the road to the left. In such miserable weather it was easy to see how useful the train could be. Often, and unlike other developed countries, the Japan had a very high dependence on the railway system. “Measured in passenger-kilometers it was 30 percent, compared with 20 percent in the U.S., and 10 percent in most of Western Europe” (Paul Norbury). Of course, neither of these ways of transport interested me, only the weather and how it would change occupied my mind now. I was well prepared for the snows, for the cold weather, and for the strong winds, but not for dealing with continuous rains, and God forbid the worry it would rain and snow at the same time.

Even a let up in the rain did not mean an escape from the wet, but the opposite in one way or another was often the case. The spray from the roads kicked up by the passing trucks, tour coaches, and cars left me with the same miserable outcome. Drenched! It was true that a train from Wakimoto was an easy way out. To finish my long tramp around the country before it had really begun. But how would I feel about myself afterwards? Giving up with out a fight was somehow not me. What was a life without the wind, the rain, or the snow like, and all of its ups and downs? To paraphrase the American writer and philosopher Elbert Green Hubbard (1858 to 1915), ‘there was no failure except in no longer trying.’

It was always good to come upon useful shops, or stores, especially outdoor hardware stores, or even restaurants, especially if the timing was right, like, hungry, or if the rain was too heavy. They were ideal places to take a short break out of the rain. The rain was not long delayed, and shelter was quickly sought. One large general store that I stopped at was called, 'MaxValu' to see if I could pickup a cheap pair of Wellington boots to help me brave the rains better. There was nothing to be had in my size, so I bought a store-made hamburger instead, and then set down on a wooden box outside the place under a shelter to eat it. The rain was bucketing down when the hot water that I had just boiled was poured through the coffee filter into the little plastic cup that had been with me since leaving Cape Soya. “Mmm! That coffee tasted so good!” I thought as I looked about me, hoping the rain would soon let up.

Across the shopping plaza I could see another large store called, 'Homac', a home amenity center. “Mmm!” Just then it dawned on me that what I was looking for might be had there. When the coffee was finished, I hurried across the car park to the store, leaving my backpack under the shelter. The knee length pair of shiny black Wellingtons I settled on was a bit on the pricey side, but what the hell, my mind was made up. Under more favorable circumstances the boots might even be said to have looked sexy. Before setting off again, this time clad in my newly acquired rain boots, I asked a young member of the staff where drinking water could be had. I was then taken to some shelves containing many different brands of bottled water of various prices.

It did not take the young fellow long to get a hint from my facial expression that it was tap water I very much preferred. A couple of steps back from the direction we had just come stood a section of the store that sold household potted plants and flowers. There I was directed to a sink and, with little further explanation, I set about replenishing both of my empty bottles with that clear, colorless, tasteless, and odorless liquid we called water, which was essential for life. Although I was sure that some of my Irish friends preferred to have it tinted with alcohol in the form of beer or something more drastic.

Water had no color, though whether this was because light could penetrate through it without any trouble, I had no idea. As to it being tasteless, water was an important molecule of life! After all, 80 percent of the human body was water. Somehow these did not seem satisfactory enough answers to me!But then what did I know? What I did know was that a good percentage of my clothes I wore contained an uncomfortable level of water. The chill from my damp clothes sometimes drove me to seek shelter at some appropriate place where I might be able to dry them a bit, or change into something more comfortable. This time I stopped in at an inexpensive restaurant called Yoshinoya, a chain of restaurants that were famous for their bowls of rice topped with beef. There I ordered from a cheery young staff member a middle-sized bowl. The Japanese called this simple dish, gyudon (beef bowl). A helping of strawberry flavored soft ice cream for desert followed the beef bowl. Which was soon followed by yet another ice cream, but of a different flavor.

It was well gone twelve-thirty when I finally got back onto the road again, which was perhaps a little later than I hoped. This was partly because of the incessant rain, in which my progress seemed depressingly slow. To make matters worse, the rain looked like it had no intentions of letting up. As if in some heavenly efforts to break me, the rain continued to bucket down to keep me cold and wet until I stopped for the night. And then, what hammering had my backpack taken? Did I have anything dry to wear left in it? There was a little more than three hours of daylight to go. With my clothes soaked through and the weight of by backpack made heavier by the rain, its straps cut into my shoulders. If only I could sit down to make some adjustments. On top of that, it was not easy to stop and rest when all around looked so uninvitingly wet. Pushing on without stops was the only thing to do, especially if I was to get any distance of significance under my belt in this godforsaken weather.

All through the day the rain had continued to needle me. On and off the rain fell even at the closing hours of the day on the road there was no letup. The rain had a mind of its own! It stopped when I took shelter under the roof of a bus stop hut for a while, and it started when I would set off again. The rain was just one of my problems! Like the rain, the police, too, continued to needle me on my long tramp down through Akita Prefecture. This time it was two young chaps clad in the usual dark blue uniforms and caps. I had noticed their car through the corner of my eye some 500 meters back along Route 56. It was parked in a side street that ran onto the main route. For some reason, the children’s television program of the 1960s, ‘Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men’ entered my mind. Funny how I still could recall those preschool days when I used to sit in front of our black and white television with my grandmother to watch Bill and Ben. The Flower Pot Men was on of a series of children’s programs created by Freda Lingstrom and produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation or BBC.

It was the first children’s program geared towards pro-school children, the first of which was transmitted in 1952. The programs, under the heading, ‘Watch With Mother’ were regularly aired for more than twenty years (1973). According to Wikipedia, the title for the series, Watch With Mother, was intended "to deflect fears that television might become a nursemaid to children and encourage 'bad mothering”. However, I did not think my grandmother, who really became my mother, had any such worries or concerns, if I could remember her character correctly. The first televisions came into the houses in our street at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s. It was in the early 1960s when I fell in love with the Flower Pot Men and their antics, a romance or sorts that was usually over by four o’clock, the big boys and girls, as we used to call the older kids back then, returned home from school.

The two policemen would sometimes drive past me then stop and wait for me to pass them. Then, as if something pressing needed to be done, they pulled up into a parking lot and stopped, only this time they got out of the car and waited for me to draw near. Not bothering to make eye contact, I tramped on past the two policemen as if they did not exist. Nothing doing! "Excuse me! But may I have a word with you?” the nearest to me asked me, not that I really had any choice in the matter. "Really! This is the third time today that I have been stopped by you fellows", I answered, with a tired smile on my face. It was really the third time in as many days, bad enough was enough, thought I decided that it was best I did not tell them that in so many words. The usual set of questions and inquiries about my ID, health and financial conditions followed, and were noted into a tiny notepad by the other policeman.

There was a pause in the questioning so as to go through my documents and copy down the appropriate or relevant parts of information into the same notepad. While this was being done the other changed the subject to Ireland with a host of questions about the weather conditions, and customs, and the similarities and differences between our two countries? It was then that I remembered the newspaper article, which was quickly produced for the two of them to gawk over. Soon the policemen seemed contented that I was not such a strange or helpless or homeless or penniless fellow after all, and with some little apologies and a salute for stopping me, they hopped back into the car and drove back up the road. Of course, I could not see myself of how I must have appeared to the average Joe Public on the roads. Japan was a nation of informants or social police, and I could only surmise that someone must have phoned the real police to report the sighting of a suspicious looking character tramping aimlessly down the road.

"It was just that we do not get people like you simply walking along our roads carrying a large backpack", one of the police had said to me with a nervous smile, in parting. His words saddened me a little. "Be careful of the traffic", the other one said to me, as I adjusted the straps on my over sized backpack for the umpteenth time. Soon we were all on the road again headed in our different ways, and in our different directions I was please to note. I had not gone very far when, of all things, a hailstorm began to fall. "A fucking hail storm! This is getting crazy", I mumbled to myself, as I looked about for somewhere to duck into for shelter. How to handle a problem that I never expected added to my frustration? At last I ducked into a small roadside restaurant to wait out the hailstorm that bounced about the glassy road. Darkness came on as I waited, for things to letup. In stead, a heavy downpour replaced the hailstorm and lasted well into the night. Soon I would have to venture out to find a place to pitch my tent regardless. I had just finished writing out four postcards, which was more to kill time than to keep in touch.

Waiting for the hailstorm and then the rain to let up made me feel hungry. From the menu I ordered a plate of yakiniku teshoku, a kind of BBQ beef with vegetables and rice.Also, there was another bottle of Asahi 'Dry' beer was ordered to wash it down. Then a search through my pockets for the little bicycle clock that had served me reliably well on the first stage from Cape Soya to Noshiro, told me it was time to get my butt into gear, six-seventeen. It was not easy in the dark to find a place to pitch the tent for the night. It would be nice to get a bit of 'shut-eye', as the Americans put it. “Good!” A glance out of the window told me that the rain had finally stopped. At least for the moment! The background noise in the restaurant was a mixture of Japanese pops and foreign singers. To me the songs were like a breath of fresh air, as I thought the Japanese DJ and his guest would never shut up. Each time the songs or music stopped the two of them would rattle on again like there was no tomorrow; they spoke so quickly, that the words sounded like a semi-automatic weapon being discharged. “Mmm!” There voices were beginning to give me a headache, so it really was time for me to move out!

27 Dec, 2009: Pitching my tent in the dark last night proved more difficult than finding a place to pitch it in. A wind that blew in over the Nihon Kai (Japan Sea) picked up steam with the passing minutes. There was a similar, if not even more frightening experience that hit me in Tappi Zaki in Aomori Prefecture. It was while camping there that one hell of a powerful wind and rain, short of a gale that literally blow me and my tent away, was still well embedded in my brain as if it had happened yesterday. At that time, the tent was blown over onto its side, and for the next couple of hours it was somehow kept in place by the sheer weight of my camping gear, body weight, and shifting effort inside it. To make matters worse, the tent leaked and the rain dripped into the interior soaking half of everything inside, including myself.

Earlier on that day a local fellow I had stopped to chat with for a while had warned me about the natural calamities that campers often had to deal with there. Of course, I failed to take the information to heart. Of as the saying went, 'believe nothing of what you heard, and only half of what you saw'. And which was, for whatever the reasons, something that had long been a rule of thumb with me. That unfortunate night at Tappi Zaki taught me the hard way to listen more carefully in future to those in a better position to know things. It also taught me to take more care with the supporting strings, tent pegs, and to be more respectful of whatever shade against a strong wind could be had. And not to take the weather conditions lightly, regardless of how they appeared to look at first, as nothing could be more changeable than the weather itself.

Back to the present, I was able to make camp by the side of an old wooden building that stood next to a sandy beech. It was a large building that offered a place to sleep and eat for surfers in the summer months, but was closed up for the wintertime. All that I needed was a shield against the wind, and in that it did just dandy. If it had not been for that building, only God knew what would have happened. The old building took the blunt of the wind through the course of the night, but even still, my trusty old tent swayed from side to side well into the early hours of the morning when the wind finally showed signs of abating. In fact, such was the extent of the strain placed on the tent poles by the wind that I was kept awake much of the night with worry. Even between the short letups in the force of the wind, the tiny flutters of snow upon the sides of my tent could be heard, which was not exactly music to my ears neither.

Being unable to get any worthwhile shuteye during those early hours, I sometimes left my tent for the cold surroundings outside. The sand and grassy bluffs around seemed dry, which surprised me a little, for the rain that fell. Perhaps this was because of the strong winds that relentlessly swept over the beach. Also, the snow that lined parts of the area here and there earlier had just about disappeared. “Mmm!” I thought that perhaps the early morning air was not as cold as I had expected it to be. What all of this meant to me in the longer term, I did not have the foggiest, nor did I care anymore! “Mmm!” I thought again, as I tuned in the direction of the tent, that perhaps I had become hard!

It was always good to crawl into my down-sleeping bag in the evenings to sleep, only to wakeup to the knowledge that everything had to be gathered up again in the mornings before hitting the road again. This depressed me! Rolling up the camping gear meant making sure that everything was accounted for. Upping camp was not something to be done hastily, for the stuff that I had already lost along the way. The most dangerous time to lose stuff was when things were wet from an evening down pour. So extra time was needed, and often the decamping operation could not be done even within the hour. When seen in terms of money, losing anything was not to be laughed about afterwards; even when I got back to by apartment in Tokyo where all the positive feelings of achievement came together.

Alas, it was good to sit down to a hot cup of tea or coffee the mornings before setting off. No doubt digging into the sandwich that I acquired from the kind benefactor earlier worked a treat. I recall that I was the only customer in the restaurant then, perhaps it was because it was a rainy evening that the owner took pity on me. Although businesswise it was not good for the restaurant, I guess it was good for me, especially as I felt too tired to have people looking at me, which was a common occurrence at just about every place I stopped at. After an exhausting day on the road, any sense of space had its limits. And, from time to time, I would try to appear as maligned as possible to deter people from talking to me.

28 Dec, 2009: As I was paying up and leaving the restaurant last night I never expected the elderly fellow who ran the place would ask me about my breakfast. "Oh! I hadn't thought about it", I told him. And before I could utter another word, he took out from under the counter, what looked like, a little silver block, and slid it over to me. "It's a sandwich! A hamburger sandwich!” he said. I did not expect to receive such kindness from anyone, let alone the owner of the restaurant I ducked into only to escape the elements. Apart from Eiji-san and his good wife Emiko in Noshiro, the restaurant owner was the third person to show me the true colors of his character, for the little gift was most apprec1ated, and would indeed fuel me for some distance on the road. Soon the pot of water on my little gas burner was boiled for the tea. And with the tea now ready to drink, I tore the tinfoil wrapped covering way from the sandwich. Yes! It would see me good for the next couple of hours.

It was a relief to see that by morning the wind had at last abated. Otherwise, I may not have been allowed the chance to have boiled water and eat my humble breakfast with so little trouble. On the road now, bound for the city of Akita, I was amazed to see the snow had gone. An expensive pair of snowshoes that I had bought at an outdoor store in the Kanda area of Tokyo dangled uselessly from my backpack. They had been used but once when I tramped through the pinewood forest that took me out of Noshiro. I had gone to the trouble of getting a new pair of snowshoes on the advice of two very knowledgeable friends when it came to winter travelling on the snow. But where had all the snow gone? The advice, which was well meant, caused me to wonder about placing too much importance on the advice of others over learning firsthand. After all, I had long been a keen advocate of learning to swim in the deep end, so to speak. That said, I have had a fair number of sizable and painful disasters over the years for my efforts.

Whenever the view became blocked out, things on the road could really turn rather annoyingly tedious. The steel barriers that were put up to block out much of the winds and snows that hampered properties and farms along the entire coastline, now accompanied me on Route 1 for a good number of kilometers. From time to time a pinewood forest of some depth also stood behind the steel barriers, which kind of told me that the elements were very server along these parts. Still, having lived much of my life in cities, it was nice to see an abundance of trees anywhere I could. After all, the trees were essential to human life! The forests provided much of the oxygen that I breathed on the roads. It was the trees that helped to purify the atmosphere by absorbing the carbon dioxide from the endless traffic that I also faced.

Then there were the many factories I passed by on the roads that kicked out all sorts of obnoxious smell. So it was not hard to imagine how worse things could get without the trees being about. Like the steel barriers, the pinewood forests were used more as a buffer zoon in these parts against the impact of the elements. In addition, however, the forests provided home to countless species of wildlife that made homes in the shady undergrowth. God forbid, any deterioration of the forests would bring with it far reaching implications. Absence of the forests meant the onslaught of floods and an increase in land erosion, especially along the mountainsides that were home to many of the major tributaries, such as, rivers, lakes, and streams.

Already in many countries, forestland had decreased greatly this last couple of decades, because of the unabated logging for the construction of roads and dams, mining companies, and farming. Since the 1990s, deforestation occurred at almost ten million hectares per year in countries like Western Africa, and in South East Asia (e.g., Thailand, Bhutan), Central, and in South America (e.g., Brazil), where some of the worst destruction occurring in the Amazon region home to a third of the world’s rainforests. This did not occur in Japan for the strict laws in place, however, Japan was the biggest importer of timber on the international market. A fact that got the country into hot water for being a major force behind the destruction of the world's forests. Some measures have already been implemented to lesson or slowdown the destruction of the rainforests. One example was the ‘debt-for-nature-exchange’. Here a third world or developing country’s (e.g., Bolivia) international debt was reduced in exchange for letting a non-government organization (NGO) oversee the development of its ecosystem. After all, there were many reasons for preserving the rainforests, one being their priceless help for combating global warning.

One other means involved groups like the Conversation International (CI), and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that was set up in 1993. For the FSC sustainable forest areas were identified, managed, and promoted. The FSC not only allowed its logo to be used by companies that produced its goods from sustainably managed forests, but had also voiced the importance of tropical rainforests to our lives and to the future of the world at large. Likewise, the CI model had been adopted in many countries, including China, through financial support for the protection of the rainforests. Of course, more confrontational tactics had been used in international campaigns to protect the rainforests, such as, the boycotting of products of the corporations involved in the destruction of the great rainforests; even with such drastic actions, the destruction continued. Some of the people involved in the anti-destruction campaigns were even murdered by those who supported logging and the negative commercialization of the rainforest land.

In terms of people, Japan made up just two percent of the world’s population, but its enormous market for wooden products was second to the United States of America. To paraphrase one CNN report I read recently, Japan imported more than thirty-three percent of internationally traded wood products, a level of consumption that some had described as wasteful and excessive, marking the country as the greatest contributor to global deforestation. For an educated country like Japan, this would appear surprising since many less wealthy countries (e.g., Ecuador) were making efforts to suspend and reduce their exploration, for example, in the Amazon rainforest. Of course, building and development was said to be for the good of the future, therefore, why cannot the world’s rain forests also have a secure future?

One thing that caught my eye over all else was the way almost all of the trees bent inland at a keen angle. At times I too found myself struggling to make progress against the prevailing winds, for the force on me. It was not long on my tramp when I finally came upon an old friend or sorts, and as I came upon many a time during the Hokkaido stage last summer, a great windmill. The sight of such giant beauties never failed to get me to think about the environment. One main cause of carbon dioxide emissions came from the nuclear power stations and small and large factories. And whether or not nuclear energy was necessary, was itself a question that had never been satisfactually answered.

Earthquakes were frequent and widespread, and the continuing threat of a catastrophe happening was forever present in the Japanese psyche. Not only Joe-public on the streets, but the Japanese seismologists had long anticipated another great earthquake occurring in the not too distant future. People better informed than the average Joe based this on a seventy-year cycle. The seriousness of this could be noted by the fact that emergency survival kits being sold in many large stores, and which people had been advised to keep handy. In addition, earthquake drills were being carried out on a regular basis in local areas. In part because of this, I never quite understood why the industrial world dragged its feet when it came to this wind-powered technology, or any of the other clean, renewable energy sources for that matter. What was better to the long-term good of the plant than to phase out the use of fossil fuels?

Surely all of the clean, renewable souses had their advantages and disadvantages, but that was no worse than the current sources being used. Nuclear energy, for example, was said to be relatively cheap, but it was far from being risk-free. And then there was another question about what to do about the radioactive waste they produced? Not a cheap problem to solve! Conversely, even if the wind turbines did not work when the winds failed to blow, there were so many other clean and renewable energy sources to consider, like, rivers, waves, tidal power, solar energy, geothermal energy, wind, and fuel cells, which I guess needed platinum, a clear disadvantage since it was a rare and costly metal. “Regardless, all of them should be accepted and developed for what they were worth,” I thought to myself as I stood under the great moving blades above me. For the sound of silence was there to be enjoyed!

The windmill stood like a commanding figure, and this Don Quixote-like figure that stood looking up at it was none other that a weary Irishman. But unlike that ingenious gentleman Don Quixote, my feud was not with the windmill, but the long, hard roads, and the elements, which maltreated my body and mind something terrible. In some ways, too, it was funny the way the human brain worked, or recalled unrelated memories, like, Don Quixote. First written by Miguel de Cervantes in two volumes between the years 1605 and 1615, Don Quixote was undoubtedly one of the greatest literary works of all time, and certainly one of the most enjoyable books that I had ever read.

Soon I found myself tramping past a number of containerships, and hundreds of massive container boxes neatly piled up on the wharf. A whole area was given over to various kinds of scrap metal, including millions of drink cans, crushed to smithereens to be shipped to some foreign land. In truth, I had no idea if the shipment of container boxes and crushed cans were coming or going, import or export. Of course, I did not care one-way, or the other! Why should I as there was still along way for me to tramp before I could call it a day. A bicycle bell was suddenly sounded behind me, and without looking around I stepped up onto a tiny snow covered rise to let the person pass. As it turned out, two Chinese men I surmised were crewmembers from one of the containerships went past. I nodded my head as they went by, one smiled and the other gave a little wave, and soon they were gone. “Mmm!” I wondered what they were talking about and where they were headed on their bicycles. One of them glanced back at me from a distance. I supposed they, too, wondered about me, or where I was headed.

At long last I reached the outskirts of Akita City. I was unable to remember much about the area when I met a friend here in early September 2009. To me, Akita was an unattractive city. As with that great ugly metropolis called Tokyo, the buildings in Akita were a hodgepodge of architectural mayhem. You did not have to look very far to see damage incurred by the recession, either. There were vacant parking lots, empty buildings seeking a new tenant, boarded up houses, and closed down hotels, and signs of economic depression all around. It was a little strange to see this in Japan, since the country remained the world’s second-largest economy behind America, and a significant world player in economic terms.

As I entered the city the roads were busy with traffic, which I supposed could be induced as a good thing, people had some place to go to. At last, I recognized a turning and took it. And soon I stood in the lobby of Dormy Inn. It looked just as warm a place to be in, out of the cold, as it did the last time I stopped there in September. I told an attractive young girl manning the desk that I had a reservation. The appropriate documents were produced, filled in, credit card presented and returned, signature done, and in no time at all I was sitting on the bed in room number 636 contemplating my next move.

Whatever my next move was, a good shower and a change of clothing was something that needed little thought now. A visit to the eleventh floor, where the public bathroom was located, was not among my thoughts. In fact, I would have loved to relax in a large hot bath, but I simply loathed the idea of being around other naked men. Culturally speaking, taking a bath was serious business in Japan, quite on par with eating and sleeping. To them it all had something to do with being healthy and feeling happy. It was a real social activity! Parents in particular loved to bathe their children. The times in the sento I had seen fathers soaping up and scrubbing down their tiny giggling children, boys or girls, all enjoying the family experience together.

How the Japanese people loved to soak in the bathtub for a long time, was beyond me; or something that I saw as a complete waste of time. My early visits to the local sento were not comfortable memories. The soaping down and then rinsing off the dirty water, then climbing into a large, scolding hot, chin level deep, bathtub, under the prying eyes of naked men as I did so. Perhaps it was around that time that I suffered tiny bouts of paranoia, which I put down to just symptoms of growing up. Many Japanese flocked to resort places famous for their onsen (hot springs), as indicated by the symbol; they were not exactly cheap overnight stops either.When I first came to Japan in the late 1970s there were quite a lot of homes that did not have an ofuro (bathtub). Therefore, not a day passed when I never failed to see people heading in the direction of the local sento (public bathhouse), a nightly ritual, each carried a little plastic basin in which you could clearly see the soap and shampoo, etc.

On the other hand, if it was at all possible to bathe in the same waters with the opposite sex, then I am sure I would have gladly been open to persuasion. I was not out of the shower very long when the phone in the room rang. A girl at the reception said that there was a call for me. It was a call from my friends who had been kind enough to book the room for me. She knew well that I was tired and dirty from life on the road, and persuaded me that a day or two at some hotel would do me the world of good. In this she was correct, for which I was to tell her. For my main purpose of stopping in Akita was to do little of anything, and relax a lot.

When I passed through Oga City a couple of days earlier I had stopped by at a general store to escape the rain for a while. There I bought three DVDs, The Alamo (2006), My Fair Lady (1964), and The Longest Day (1962). This I mentioned to my friend on the phone, and told me that I should be able to rent a DVD player from the reception desk. After our little chat, I took the lift down to the lobby to do just that. And with the choice of films in my backpack, I felt the five hundred-yen rental fee money well spent. But before I could even decide on what to watch that night, it was first out into the cold evening air to the nearest convenience store to pick up some food and a bottle of inexpensive red wine. It was that time of the year that store shelves were stocked with the young red wine, Beaujolais Nouveau, which to me tasted like piss water. According to what I read in the newspapers, it was believed that around six million bottles of the red stuff would be imported into the country this year.

Soon I was back in the comfort of the room where I decided to watch the war epic, The Longest Day, which enjoyable as it was, turned out to be the longest of the three films and weighed heavily on my tired eyes. Fortunately, the film finally ended, or to quote from the film itself, 'the end of the longest day.' My eyes felt leaden with tiredness. Soon I too was through with the world as I knew it and snugly fell asleep in the hotel bed dreaming about tomorrow.

An evening shower before hitting the sack and another one in the morning had become own little ritual back in Tokyo. One the roads however, not knowing when I would next have a chance to wash again, an early visit to the bathroom was in place. The clock on the sideboard loomed nearly eleven o'clock, close to checkout time, and the thoughts of packing away my stuff into the backpack was something that I had never easily come to terms with. But at long last all was completed and I was out the door and in the elevator heading down to the lobby just on time. There were a couple of, I suspected, young newly married couples at the counter, so I made my way over to the computers by the large window that looked out over the main drag that I would soon walk along. Across the road water fountains gushed triumphantly from the manmade pond. Behind the pond a large and somewhat attractive building stood. It was a private high school waiting to welcome back the students from their winter holidays.

The fountains were not the only things spraying water up into the cold morning air. The rain bucketed down from the heavy dark clouds like there was no tomorrow. Dropping down my heavy backpack by the stool at one of the computers I made my way back to the reception desk, now clear of guests. There I handed over the DVD player that I rented last night. With a smile and a thank you, I went back to the computer to check on my e-mails. From time to time I glanced out of the window. The rain continued to beat down onto the asphalt. "How could this be?” I thought to myself. Just this morning the weather forecast on the television spoke of a strong possibility of heavy snow, not of heavy rain. Rain, heavy or not, tended to make my kind of travelling feel like hell. At least on the roads in the summer months during the Cape Soya to Noshiro tramp I could dry my clothes quickly, but in the wintertime that was nearly impossible to do.

The time passed quickly at the computer. My little bike-clock in my pocket told me it had gone noon, but the rain was far from gone. "It was too late to hit the road now" I thought, "What should I do?" Soon the clock struck one, and the rain was now pounding down hard against the front windows. It would not take that kind of weather to absolutely saturate everything I had with me! My mind was now made up as I rose to beat back a rush of anger. "The fucking rain!" The girl at the front desk looked at me. "Hello again!" "I would like to stop one more night, please. And…!" I said pointing to the DVD player, which she handed me back over the counter, and in less than five minutes I was once more sitting on the chair in front of the television of room 636. All that I could do now was to hope that tomorrow would bring with it a brighter sky, snow or no snow, but to hell with that rain. It was too early to watch one of my DVDs now. For want of something to do with myself, I made my way along the rain swept road to the main square. Across the way my eyes fell on a Starbucks coffee shop. There I sat for the best part of two hours reading, writing, thinking and just hoping about tomorrow.

29 Dec, 2009: I awoke to a morning call. The clock read eight! However, it was not from the front desk that I had requested last night, but from a friend in Tokyo. "Good morning! How is the weather?" she asked. "Good morning! I don't know yet", I replied. Telling her to hold on, I clambered over the bed towards the window to draw the curtains aside. “The sky was heavy, but the rain had stopped! Well, it looked good enough to tramp in", I told her. "Good! I'll pray for you". A practicing Catholic, my friend attended the Franciscan chapel in Roppongi in Tokyo. The chapel used to run a language school in the building next to it. It was there that I first studied the Japanese language, especially kanji, though I was not the best of students. Without going into too much detail, my short and untimely ending at the language school came about after telling one of the other students there to fuck off. That was way back in the early 1980s. I could still remember all of the students hurrying down the stairs to get a glimpse of Mother Teresa who had come to the chapel more than once on her visit to Japan. I was not interested in anything religious and remained in the classroom trying to memorize stuff that the teacher had written the blackboard. When I looked back on those days, I was probably the only student in the little schools history to have been threatened with expulsion after telling that obnoxious student to fuck off. And to the delight of some, I quit the school soon afterwards anyway.

After hanging up the room phone, I was soon under the shower washing away the wet dreams, and the sweat from a well-rested body. Breakfast was the strawberry yoghurt I bought at a convenience store last night, with some muesli (and milk) that I took with me from Tokyo. Soon the hunger pings were soon gone, though nothing was complete without a nice hot cup of strong tea, a good thing to have before hitting the road again proper on any given day. Whenever I did get on my way, one of the first things I needed to look out for was a post office to get rid of the DVDs I picked up along the way. I was sure that my friend in Tokyo would be happy to watch, as she was a classic movie buff like me. On the second night at the hotel I watched the more recent historical drama, 'The Alamo', which of course was eased along nicely by a few cans of cool beer. Written by Matthew Patay, the film was based around the famous siege of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas (in 1836). It was the sort of heroic thing that Americans love to watch, for one hundred and eighty-three defenders died defending the mission against a 2,000 strong Mexican army force under the personal command of General Santa Anna, the dictator of Mexico.

Getting out of Akita City was not what I would call an enjoyable experience. Actually, I was forced to tramp along three key roads before I got completely to the outskirts of the city, with the dodging of traffic in between. Route 13, a lesser road, then Route 56, and at long last Route 7 that would be my new companion for a good while. It was on Route 7 that I finally got my first glimpse of my old friend, the Nihon Kai (Japan Sea). Not that my tattered maps were completely or reliable tools, they made me feel somewhat certain that I would be seeing a lot of the Japan Sea from now on in, or so it was hoped. Normally whenever I tramped the roads I preferred to do so against the on coming traffic. Not that I wanted to look at the drivers and hoped that they saw me. Perhaps it was a false sense of security, but at least I felt it was safer that way.

Often this was not the case when tramping along the coastal roads in Akita Prefecture. The miserable long faces on so many of the drivers, or their passengers, did not exactly make it easy to keep my mind focused. It was important to keep my mind focused on all around me and to stay in a positive mindset. It was in this mindset, which I drew encouragement from. Fortunately enough, there were often sidewalks on both sides of the roads I tramped along, which of course made my going easier. So often, too, sidewalks were nonexistent. Whatever the road conditions I tramped over, or the elements I faced, a positive attitude was key to measuring the end of my journey each time I set off in the mornings. That meant pulling on hundreds of positive thoughts and memories from my brain through the course of the day.

As to the elements, this morning’s television weather forecast spoke of snow. Other than a few tiny flutters from the clouds, the snow was to put it simply, nonexistent, too. Still, the clouds hung heavily over me up until around lunchtime. Then it was exactly at twelve-fifteen that a bright sun finally broke through and hit me smack in the eyes. I wanted to believe that any sign of the sun could only be a good sign. As the time wore on the clouds began to break more and more apart, allowing more opportunities for the sun to wreak havoc on my eyes. In a nice sort of way, I was thankful for the sun whilst it lasted. Its warmth glowed in a gentle fullness upon my face.

It was around four o'clock when I entered the town of Iwaki. There was still a good hour of daylight left to make camp, so I felt no pressing urge to keep my eyes open for a good place to do so. Just then the sight of a little roadside cafe called 'Kidoairaku' caught my eye. The cafe specialized in various kinds of ramen dishes (noodles), and I settled on treating myself to a hot bowl of shio ramen, and a side dish of gyoza, Japanese style dumplings of ground meat and vegetables rapped in thin dough covering heated in a frying pan. Gyoza was originally a Chinese dish it was now very popular in Japan. So popular it was even available at many Japanese and Chinese grocery stores.

This was washed down with the help of a 500-milliliter bottle of cool Asahi 'Dry' beer. It was not my favorite of beers, then again ‘beggars could not be choosers’, as the saying went. It was not quite dark yet when I finished eating. A glance over at my backpack, which lay against the wall near the entrance, reminded me that making camp would soon need to be seen to. I paid the bill and then shouldered my things out the door and on to Route 7 once more. The road was not busy with traffic, and soon I was across it next to a grassy bluff, which lay between a wind swept beech and the road. Here the tent was finally erected just where the grass touched the sand. Then all my things were soon stashed inside the tent. With everything now in order, I retraced my steps back across the road to the cafe where I ordered another beer and another plate of gyoza. Interestingly, on the road my variety of food was rather conservative, noodles, fired rice, and not much more, and which was of little value to my nutritional body needs. Come to think of it, I read somewhere that the diet of our prehistoric ancestors had much more variety.

As I waited for the gyoza, I spread a map out across the table to see how the distance I tramped today looked on paper. “Not bad!” I mumbled contentedly under my breath. Now my mind felt totally relaxed at my progress, or was the beer taking effect? The words seemed to flow smoothly from my tired brain onto the pages of my notebook. I felt happy! To cover twenty kilometers on foot in wintertime was an honorable distance, not to mention with a surmountable amount of weight on my back. In such instances sleep came easy. Not for the distance, so much as for the contented feeling of achievement of a job well done. A good mathematical study of my map also left an element of depression in my heart.

At any rate, tramping into that grand city of Niigata by 6 January seemed impossible. Before setting out from Tokyo I had marked Niigata out to be the final stop on this stage of my long tramp down along the coastal roads. Without any help from God, it was easy to see that my plans needed to be redrawn. Then again, every stop I made was progress or sorts, regardless. With this newfound understanding now cemented in my brain, and influenced by my fourth bottle of beer, I felt more than ready for tomorrow. But it was the present that counted most to me now, and I knew where I would be in a little while. Not in this world, but in somewhere else, if not solely in the confines of my warm sleeping bag. There was no escape from what awaited me, for I knew that my dreams would have something to do about road tomorrow.

30 Dec, 2009: The dark heavy clouds spoke of snow. The heat-sensitive liquid of my little thermometer reminded me that the outside air was 3 degrees centigrade on the Celsius scale. All through the night it had been an on and off sleep, but I felt contented. Any rest was better than no rest! Having to up camp involved the tedious motions of getting my stuff as neatly and as quickly as possible back into my battered old backpack. It was not the most positive of chores to arise to, but it had to be done. To my anger and dismay it was then that I noticed I had only one Wellington boot. Clearly I had failed to strap them to the back of my backpack properly. It was pointless retracing my steps for the boot could have fallen from the backpack as far as ten kilometers back. Only God knew exactly where, and I was fucked if I was going to get down on my sore knees to pray for help. In terms of money, the loss of the boot set me back ¥3,500 yen.

Clearly I was a fool to buy them, for they were as new as new as the day was long and had only been used once. In my heart I was glad that the weight would be lighter. So with one boot now lost and the other led to rest in the ground, together with some old clothes to keep it company, for what was the point of one boot, there was little else to do but turn to the road. Thoughts of the loss remained with me for sometime that day, for I was furious with myself for not hearing it hit the ground. However, any onslaught of conjecture and self-criticism was not going to do me much good, and I really needed to keep my mind on the road ahead and the traffic on it. After a while I was able to dispense with thoughts about the lost boot altogether.

The traffic in either direction remained constant all through the day. On a positive note, it was good that the snow and rain failed to materialize. At one o'clock sharp I stopped in at a Lawson’s convenience store to pay a quick visit to the john, and to wash the sweat from my face. That done, I then bought a 500-milliliter can of Asahi 'The Master' all malt beer, to quote the printing on the can, and set outside the store to drink it. A local lady out for a brisk walk passed me, an umbrella in hand. “Mmm!” I wondered. “Did she know something I did not?” Besides, it was time to move on. Once more I was on the road and soon I was across the Honjochashi Bridge. The bridge was built in the forty-first year of Showa (1966), and spanned the lazy Koyoshi Gawa (River). Soon both the bridge and the river were well behind me and out of sight. The beer, if not the sight of the umbrella earlier, had clearly pumped some badly needed fuel into me. I felt good!

Night came on quickly as I pitched my tent beside a high bluff next to the road. I could see that the sides of the bluff lead down to the sea. A way on the horizon I could just about make out the shape of Tobi Shima (Island). A wind was beginning to kick up again, so I made sure that the tent pegs were driven deep and firmly into the ground. The ground was soft from an earlier rain, but the pegs should hold providing the wind did not blow too strong. On the far side of the road stood a number of houses, some with inquisitive occupants who looked across in my direction as I pottered about securing camp and tossing stuff into the tent. Something told me that their interest in me was not a good sign. For much of the night I awaited the arrival of a police car to take me away for questioning. “After all, it had happened once before, so why shouldn’t it happen again?” I thought, trying not to care too much, as no crimes were being committed. I drifted into a light slumber for sometime only to be pulled from it by the sound of siren, which turned out to be nothing more than a passing ambulance. Sleep did not come easily, for there was no such thing as an empty road in Japan.

As it was, the noise from the traffic on the road did not let up at all through the night. If the noise from the traffic was not enough, the sky opened up at around eight o'clock and bucketed down well into the early hours. A westerly wind now blew in over the sea. My tent now shook, rattled and rolled with the rain. Still, I felt good with myself, for the kilometers notched up had been steady and reasonable all through the day. Unlike the present, apart from the cool wind that had kept me company on the road, it had been free of rain and snow. It somehow seemed unimportant that the heavens were having its time now. With the rain and wind I settled somewhat uneasily in my tent, I was warm, comfortable, and dry. What I would not give now just to sit for a while in front of a blazing fire on a night like this. That was the way it was on such nights at our little clay-bricked house on Saint Katherine’s Road in Belfast donkeys years ago. But this was no time for dreams, as it was the weather conditions tomorrow that mattered most.

Author's Bio: 

I am a somewhat disorganized yet, coherent, tidy, clean, healthy and happy Irishman with few regrets. I have lived my life somewhat backwards (e.g. travelled, worked, educated, born, and reborn, etc, etc, etc). In general, my views and outlooks on life are quite open minded and liberal. I have a very good sense of humor and love the company of similar minded people. I am also a lover of hiking, long distance cycling, camping and large (American style) motorbikes, to name a few of my interests. These are all the more worthwhile when done with someone you are comfortable with. Right? When I have free time I just love getting away from Tokyo (on my bicycle or on my motorbike) to some relaxing and interesting place.

If that is not possible, then I love to talk to friends. I honestly don't know what friends say about me. I am sure they say so much, or at least they think about me, I hope so as I think about them. Ha! Or like Oscar Wilde once said: "The only thing worse in the world than being talked about is not being talked about". So true! On the whole, I think better of those people who talk directly to my face than behind my back.

What makes me happy is a sense of achievement in all things I set out to accomplish. I wonder if this also includes that thing we call 'love'? What makes me Upset or Frustrated? Stupid people -- racists, bigots, and warmongers, or even the blood and gore in war movies. On the other hand, I have so many favorite movies, or two that come to mind: 'Love is a Many Splendored Thing' (1955), staring Jennifer Jones and William Holden; and 'Roman Holiday' (1953), with the great Audrey Hepburn, not to forget Gregory Peck. Why I like this film so much is that the film is about prejudice and overcoming it regardless of the consequences. Of course, I think, why one likes a film so much is really in the eyes of the beholder.

My favorite music? I like many kinds of music. Perhaps classical is foremost among my favorites as it can be very relaxing and thought provoking. Also, movie theme music really brings memories flowing back to me -- times, people, places, etc. Oh how I long for those yesterdays again! As to my favorite animals, I like all animals, especially dogs. It is said that a man's best friend is his dog, right?