The Bright Lights of Japan
During the month of October, I’m supporting the Colorado flood relief efforts of the American Red Cross. The Red Cross responded immediately to the September flash floods that claimed over 17,000 homes along the Front Range with rescue, food, shelter, care, and comfort for those who suffered severe damage. Help me raise $10,000 for the American Red Cross on my Crowdrise page. Donate $27 or more and you’ll be entered into a monthly raffle to win a Marmot tent!
[Kofu city, our home in japan. Mt. Fuji is covered by clouds]
Driving down the highway in Japan is the real life version of Super Mario. Guardrails lined with reflective tape, giant flashing arrows, red and blue cascading lights, and rows of Japanese symbols warn drivers of turns. Construction zones feature all of the above, plus additional neon signs, men whose sole job is to hold a giant yellow flag, and robot versions of these flag men with swinging arms.
At first, the bright flashing lights, electronic recordings that sound overhead throughout the day, face masks, constant bowing, and selection of unrecognizable foods from the market are nothing short of overwhelming. But with time and questioning came the understanding that these absurdities are actually signs of respect. People take every care to make sure others are safe, healthy, and happy. The recordings are actually words of encouragement, like the daily 5pm “hope you had a nice day” recording that blares through the streets. People wear facemasks when they’ve been exposed to illness or feel a bit sick themselves, so as not to spread germs. Most of the unrecognizable food items are some form of rice (if you’re lucky) or processed seafood (if you’re not so lucky).
I wouldn’t say things are starting to make sense here, as I’m still bewildered and confused most of the time. However, life is comfortable in Japan; I’ve never felt more safe, I can express gratitude with a simple bow, and contrary to belief, delicious food is easy to find and quite cheap…unless you’re looking for an apple, which is twice the cost of a whole squid (but don’t worry, that Fuji apple actually came from Mt. Fuji, two hours away).
The climbing in Japan also requires a good deal of explanation. I had read that Japan is worth the travel for culture, not climbing. I disagree (about the climbing part), as I’m sure the immense number of unworldly strong Japanese climbers do as well. While the weather has been tricky this month, thanks to uncommonly late typhoons, the rock is incredible, albeit difficult to find. Without question, boulders trump routes in Japan, both in quality and quantity. The boulders are spread out and hidden deep in forests, but with some direction from locals (the majority of topos are in Japanese), we’ve climbed problems that leave me wide eyed and gaping.
This month, we’ve chosen to explore and sample a number of different areas, rather than projecting at the same crag everyday. This has been a refreshing change of pace and a fun way to experience such a unique country. More tips, photos, and stories from Japan soon!
[Jon Glassberg works the Candy Crush Project, made more exciting by the recent rise in water level]
[Yuji Hirayama sends the new Hotel Happy Kiss, V10]
[Learning to toe hook, Photo by Jon glassberg]