« June 2007 | Main | August 2007 »

July 26, 2007

Living My One Life

biking in Japanbiking in Japan

Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that you really only have one life to live? Have you thought about what you are doing now, and how that compares to what you really want to do? I have. I started to think more seriously about it just over a year ago, prompting me to start making some changes. If I only have one life to live, what do I want to spend that life doing?

I had a plan - maybe just a "big dream". It was something I had thought about for years, but always dismissed as unrealistic, a fantasy. The more I did anything else, however, the more I could not stop thinking about it. The more I thought about it, the more it began to become more real, more "possible". I only needed a little bit of preparation.

That little bit of preparation took over a year.

Not that I have anything to complain about... it was an amazing year. I spent four months of training with Outward Bound Wilderness and Outward Bound Japan. I made many bicycle and hiking trips around Japan, visiting and researching small farming villages andorganic farmers. I took my current outdoor guiding job to gain experience and insights into the industry. I made the leap from big-city and job-security to small country and life on the edge. I fought (many times) with Tomoe about how realistic it was. I feel like I won, but I still live with the irrational fear that somehow I, we, have made a big mistake.

I know we have not.

Now, after much talk and (what feels like to me) a year of inaction, I am finally ready to unveil the big dream. I am finally ready to live my One Life.

I have spent the last year training myself, researching markets, and researching locations for One Life Japan, a new company based our of Nagano that offers fun, intellectually stimulating, physically satisfying, and environmentally sound educational bike tours in Japan.

The minor details of the plan have changed much over the past year, yet when I look at the web-site I created last May, I see that the basic concept has remained the same.

For a year the web-site has simply been a tool I use to keep myself focused. Whenever I had negative, self-defeating thoughts that it was a stupid idea, and that I was wasting my One Life, I would read the site and be inspired. It kept me going, and gradually, as people began to find the site, despite my lack of advertising, I found that other people found it interesting and somewhat inspiring as well. This was clue #1 that I am on the right track.

biking in Japan

It is only now that Now that we have found a great little traditional rural Japanese community to base our operation out of, and after spending a year making connections with farmers and other country folk that share our values and the values of our new company, we are finally ready to enter the One Life Japan web-site officially in the public domain, just waiting for you to forward it to your friends and business associates who will be visiting Japan this autumn, winter, or next spring.

biking in Japanbiking in Japan

July 23, 2007

Canyoning in Japan

CanyoningCanyoning in Hakuba

None of these photos were taken by me.

But... since I have mentioned "Canyoning" a few times maybe, I thought I would share some photos and give a (very) little explanation of what it is as I too had no idea until I started guiding it! I did take a very technical and intensive guiding course, and I am not the lead guide, so its not really as dangerous as it sounds. In fact, for the amount of fun and thrills canyoning offers, it is amazingly safe. We take children as young as nine and seniors as old as... well I didn't really ask, but I am guessing their bone had already begun to get brittle.

Anyway, canyoning is not sawanobori (shower climbing) as I once thought. In fact, in our canyon tour the only "climbing" is up a dirt road for about 100 meters to the start. From there its all down.

The big thrill of canyoning comes from the sliders - imagine sliding down a 20 meter vertical waterfall on your butt with no rope! And the jumping, and the recircs (places where the you get caught in the recirculating white water and just spun around and around and around and around until the water-fall gods have mercy on you or, more likely, one of us pulls you out.

IMGP8720_1IMGP8730_1

I find the description from the Visit Scotland site to be quite accurate.

Not for the fainthearted, canyoning is a white water ride down gorges and waterfalls. Participants run down wet slabs of rock, jump off blind escarpments, scramble up rocks and abseil (rappel) down drops.

Its not all just thrills though. As a hiker, I am usually looking down into the canyon from a higher vantage point, but when you are looking up out of the canyon, the views aretruly amazing. Just stopping to think about where you are and how most people would never even think it possible.

Since the our canyon in Hakuba is filled with frigid snow-melt, we wear two layers of wet-suit, including gloves, socks, and a hood. I usually drink a lot of water before I head in so that if I ever feel cold I can warm myself up the old fashioned way.

IMGP8750_1

If you take a look at the large version of the photo above you will see me in the gray helmet looking guidely.

Links related to Canyoning

Evergreen Outdoors (Shameless plug for the company I am guiding for... if you decide to join a trip after seeing this post, don't forget to mention it!)
Canyons Minakami (Where I took my training course a few weeks back
Wikipedia: Canyoning
Commission Internationale de Canyon(The school of canyoning that my training was based on)

IMGP8748_1

July 18, 2007

Organic Rice Farming

Rice FarmingRice FarmingRice Farming

I have thirty minutes before I "have to" go guide a canyoning trip so this will be short.

First, I have received several emails from people wondering if I am OK after the earthquake. Actually, you probably know more about it than I do. I left Hakuba the day before the quake, and for the past three nights I have been pretty much out of range of news. I was in the south of Nagano, knee-deep in a mucky-mud rice paddy pulling weeds before the rice roots get too established, preventing anyone from entering the paddy until harvest time.

Rice FarmingRice FarmingRice Farming

The earthquake might have done some damage in the area that we are planning to move to, but I have not talked with anyone from there since I got home two hours ago. All in all, it looks bad, and I don't want to take lightly the emotional suffering of those whose houses have been destroyed, but as far as I know this is nothing close to the coming "big one" we all talk about and conveniently forget.

Rice FarmingRice FarmingRice Farming

July 04, 2007

A Waste of Time?

Tomoe Picks Kuwa

The biggest stress involved with moving out of Tokyo has been the pressure to get a car - or at least a Japanese driving license.

While Tomoe and I don't really need a car for our personal lives, my job requires the taxiing of people from their hotel to the boat-launch or trail-head. The fact that I currently can not legally drive seems to cause some major headaches for my co-workers. Of course, given the society we live in, there is no talk of "how can we make it so that we don't have to drive" rather, the talk is about "when the hell are you going to get your license?!?!"

I don't mind having the license, and there *are* rare times when even I would see it as a requirement for this job (transporting an injured client from the site to a hospital is an obvious one). Tomoe and I are even expecting to get our first automobile by the end of this month as we will need it for our own business later.

My biggest worry is that, as with the Internet, cell-phones, and any other "convenience" technologies, we will forget how to live without it. We will become dependant on it and use it when a bike would have done just as well... or better.

A few days ago Tomoe and I took a walk to the supermarket. It would have been a five minute drive, but it took us three hours round trip. Most people would not think twice about hopping in the car. In fact,the concept of *walking* that far would seem absurd - a waste of time. Yet, after the walk, the idea of driving that seems like wasted opportunity.

Picking Kuwa

In the two hours it took us to walk to the supermarket, we gathered a bag-full of edible green delicacies from the forest which Tomoe cooked up for dinner that night. We discovered a line of road-side cherry trees and had our fill. We found three neglected gumi bushes - a small red slightly bitter fruit - and kuwa trees overflowing with edible delicacies. We also were able to take a short diversion to visit a friend and her son - something that was never possible in Tokyo where our closest friend lived a twenty minute train ride away.

The thing that amazed us most about all the delicious fruit we were finding was that no one else was picking it! But then, as we watched the cars speed by it wasn't really that surprising. It must be pretty hard to notice a bush full of berries at 40 mph.

Picking KuwaTomoe Eats Kuwa
Powered by
Movable Type 3.2