Monday, 19 January 2009

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The book is available here


Please click on the title to order a copy Japan: 6,000 miles on a bicycle

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Ohisashiburi

Hello. Apologies for not updating this site enough.

At the moment, the book is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.jp. Looking at getting it on Amazon.co.uk in the very near future.

I certainly miss jumping on this site everyday in 2005 and thrashing out the day with the feverish excitement of an inebriated 10 year old. Blogging about how my navel looks like a newly born ferret in certain lights might not be everyone's cup of cha, hence the long paws.

The book is also available from Printed Matter. Please click on the link on the right side .

Articles http://www.tokyofamilies.com/sections/entry.php?id=37
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20080830a1.html
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fb20080817a1.html

Hope this finds you well,

Leigh

Thursday, 3 April 2008

The Ramen Shop in Esashi


Day 32, June 24th:


In Mr Donuts, I got out the map and decided to go round Hokkaido in the opp
osite way I’d planned. I lost my guidebook somewhere in Oshika, so Sapporo was the only place I could get a new one. It was sunny and about twenty-four degrees. Slid in the earphones and it was Ozzy and the Optimistics on the first track.

Reached the town of Esashi around seven. Found no suitable camping spots apart from a children’s park near a ‘Music Bar’. In the mood for being social and maybe busting out a few dance moves, I went downstairs. I quietly pushed open the door at the bottom of the stairs—crushed velvet seats and a bar lady with a face like a mastiff chewing wasps, watching the news. After the usual pleasantries and a quick check of prices, I left.

One thousand five hundred yen, just to sit down. If everyone in town went there tonight she would’ve made about fifty quid.

Walked past a ramen shop with a funky sign—Jazz, Blues, Music, Rock on a background of treble clefs. I went in… women’s volleyball on the TV in the corner.

A guy with gold front teeth and a silver chain around his shoulders welcomes me in. I sit down.
Doko kara? Kuni wa?
“Wales.”
“Oh. England?”
“No. It’s like this…”

A customer joined in.
“England ne.”
“So. Itte koto ga arimasu ka (have you been?)” I asked.
Nai.” Then a slur of some
thing incomprehensible—even to the owner—before he boomed with laughter. He was absolutely caned on sake.
We shook hands.
“Leigh. Hajimemashite (nice to meet you).”
Sugoi. Nihongo jozu (good Japanese). Tencho! (owner) Nihongo jozu!
“No, no, no. Hidoi (terrible).”
Anata wa? Namae wa? (And you what’s your name?)”
“Hiromitsu. Hajime
mashite.
We all gave a big ‘cheers’ and slugged back the beer.

A few moments later, Hiromitsu leant over like he had a secret to tell me.
Americajin ne,”he said quietly, “Americajin,” then pointed at his crotch.
Sugoi ne (surprising) Suuuuuuuuggeee!” as he exploded into hysterics.
The owner’s wife came into the room.
“Yoko-san! Y
oko-san! Americajin! Suuuuggoi ne. Oki (big) ne. Sugoi oki! wooaaahhaahahahah!” he gestured as though he was pulling out a roll of carpet from between his legs. She smiled with some embarrassment.

I finished my second beer and got up to leave. Hiromitsu offered me a cup of sake for the road. I politely refused and left them to it. I started talking to myself as I was about to unlock Babe.
“What are you doing? It’s only eight thirty. Get back in there.”
I put the key in my pocket and opened the door. They all l
aughed. Hiromitsu put a cup in my hand and filled it to the brim.
Kampai!
The owner gave me a bottle of sake and a plate of grilled fish. His few customers filled my cup whenever I put it down on the bar. We poured for each other all night. A bottle and a half of cold sake and five beers later, I thought it best to go home.
Arigato. Tomodachi (friend).” I said to Hiromitsu.
He laughed, grabbed the back of my neck and shook my hand.
I started pointing at e
veryone individually, “Tomodachi!”
I tried to pay. The master just shook my hand. I bowed.
Arigato gozaimashita.”

I left like an old man trying to stand up on a lilo.

Got on the bike, barely able to see, and headed for the coast. Plonked myself outside a shop and lay down. Well and truly hammered, I picked myself up and headed back up to the tiny park. Staggered over to the bench by the toilets, rolled out the sleeping bag, clambered into it and lay there like a pissed fajita.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Biei Police Box

Day 40, July 2nd: Set out for Asahikawa via Patchwork Road. The weather was perfect, the odd farmer, the odd tractor, perfectly rolled bales of hay, and cows lying next to a mountain of manure. I decided to move on around three o’clock, but felt I’d forgotten something.


Early Morning, Patchwork Road

In all the excitement of seeing an idyllic field complete with hay bales, I lost my camera. Must’ve left it on the rear pannier, put in the earphones and cycled off. Two hours later I walked into Biei police box. Nobody there. I rang the bell round the side. A guy told me to go in, pick up the phone and I would be through to a policeman.
I did as I was told. Sat down behind the desk and picked up the phone.
Moshi moshi.

Moshi moshi, sumimasen, eigo o hanashimasu ka (do you speak English?)”
Chotto matte o kudasai (just a moment).”

I waited. A guy walked in holding some kind of fisherman’s anorak and saw me on the phone. That must have confused the hell out
of him.
Then the local policeman appeared. I put the phone down and stood up like I was at a job interview. After explaining my situation, I was asked to sit down. I was then asked to show my passport. He photocopied it and tried to fax it somewhere. The phone rang. The policeman said it was for me.

“Ah hello. Sorry for your waiting. I am from F
oreign Affairs. The policeman cannot understand your passport; he is faxing it to us. Please wait. Sorry.”

Foreign Affairs? The phone rang again five minutes later.

“Do you have your alien card?”

“Uhhh no—uhhh, I dunno—yes, I think so.”
“Please show to policeman. Sorry for your waiting; we are just seeing if you can stay in Japan. Sorry.”

I sat there watching the guy take a whole hour to figure out the fax machine. The phone rang again.

“Okay no problem Mr Norrie, you can stay in
Japan.”
“And, uhhh, my camera?”
“Oh camera. Hai, we will call you if found, so what are you doing in Hokkaido?”
“Oh, just cycling around, it’s a project of mine, should be finished in Okinawa by January… uh July… yes July actually… next week in fact. Uh… Hokkaido! It’s lovely here, have you been?” Totally not enabling the filter function in my brain. Not having a job to go to, I s
hould've spared the details.
“Yes I have. S
o, enjoy your time in Japan. Good luck.”
“Yeah, arigato… anata mo (you too).”

I snatched all my shit back from the highly technical police officer and went to eat. I slurped down the miso-based fuel at the ramen shop, asking for water every couple of minutes to have an excuse to talk to the girl.

It was dark. Sat outside 7 Eleven, people-watching until two o’clock: mostly dudes with dyed orange hair, and girls in come-fuck-me boots getting in and out of cars.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

May 18th, What The Dickens, Ebisu

See you there. More info will be added before then.

Please keep coming back. Thank you for all your support.

It's grim up north

Day 54, July 15th: Picked myself up off the kerb outside SeicoMart in Shibetsu at around two thirty. It was a gloomy, cold start. I spent twenty minutes watching the occasional headlight zoom past, trying to summon up even a gnat’s worth of enthusiasm. It got light enough for me to see, so off I went with my nose dripping onto the handlebars. Stopped off at a lake. I could just make out what looked like giant bats flitting in and out of a wall of fog. The sound of the water licking up to the small stones by my feet, and the occasional caw resonating from the white air told me to move on. In this grey, Mordor atmosphere I saw a fox crossing the road. He looked at me inquisitively. I crossed the road and crouched down. We looked at each other for a couple of minutes, before it skipped along a path and under a gate.

The cloud lifted, and eighty miles later, I arrived at Nemuro—signs both in Japanese and Russian. Just imagining who lived in some of these run down apartments and shacks, kept the day surreal. As usual, huge pachinko parlours, tyre centres, convenience stores, shops, hotels, garages, and the coast crying for attention.

Farmhouse, Nemuro

In the warm mid-afternoon sunshine, I rode through a small neighbourhood. A middle-aged guy with an enormous, brown handlebar moustache was standing bolt upright in the garden wearing a beige shirt, brown waistcoat, and brown slacks—his Sunday best. He was standing with one arm across his chest while smoking a pipe with his other hand. It was though he’d been placed there to fuck with my head. I looked back very uncomfortably.
‘What the fuck does that guy do?’ I thought.

Welcome to Royston Vasey.

This city is a mix of Japanese and Russians all living together in this low-on-laughs part of Hokkaido. Tensions over the Russian occupation of the four islands just off Noshappu, added to this weird atmosphere. Went past a statue earlier in the day: three figures pointing and shouting in the direction of those islands.

Nosshapu Cape is where Mad Max meets Little House on The Prairie.

On the way to Japan’s most easterly point, went past pictures of Russian soldiers and flags painted on signboards. The fog and the distant toot of a ferryboat added to the momentous occasion.

On the way back—pylon after pylon. Got me thinking about how Japan doesn’t exactly go out of her way to please tourists. Malaysia, India, Thailand, Singapore, Bali—all have great commercials. Japan could and should make a kick-ass commercial.

Angelic music playing throughout. Camera glides over a snow-capped Mount Fuji. Cut to cranes skimming the marshes in Kushiro in December and then to the temples of Kyoto surrounded by shocking red autumn foliage. Camera pans away from dark-skinned Shibuya girls complete with over-sized white socks playfully pushing each other down the streets of Harajuku. Cut to a deep orange sunset with silhouettes of farmhouses in the Iya Valley, then to some people grinning in a hot spring with monkeys on the periphery and icicles hanging off the ancient burnished beams. Cut to them eating from an immaculately arranged spread of sashimi. Camera pans across dolphins leaping out among the glistening icebergs of the Okhotsu Sea. Then a beautiful Japanese girl parasailing over the beaches of Okinawa. Cut to a sweeping night shot of Tokyo with a spectacular firework display lighting up the sky. Camera pulls beautifully away from a geisha smiling under a red umbrella in Kyoto with ‘Choose Japan’ at the bottom of the screen.

Boom, and there you have it. Simple, but we will never see that commercial and I don’t know why. A more realistic commercial would be:

A pan-pipe version of ‘The Winds of Change’ playing throughout. Camera shakes over the rice paddies on an overcast afternoon on the outskirts of Tokyo with spots of rain on the lens. Cut to dams and stagnant water with a crane moving a plastic bottle around with its beak. Camera pans away from a group of elderly hikers slurping on oden at the base of Mt Fuji. Cut to thousands of people stuck to one another on the subway. Camera glides over the pylon-scattered hills and dales in Hokkaido, sweeping toward the tetrapod-lined coastline. Cut to a test card image of cherry blossoms flickering in the wind. Cut to a wide-angle shot of a shinkansen hurtling past Mt Fuji in the summer. Then a final cut to David and Victoria Beckham with their tattoos digitally removed sitting in an onsen holding a can of Suntory Malts with ‘Choose Japan’ at the bottom of the screen.
Boom, and there you have it.

❄ ❄ ❄

On the way out of Nemuro an old guy shouted “Nemuro?” out of his car window while pointing in the right direction.
“Hai, so desu.”
No reaction, he just struggled out of his car, faced me and took a piss at the side of the road right in front of me and his wife.

Stopped at a hostel in Attoko after a hundred and ten mile day. Crashed onto the futon.