Wednesday, March 30, 2005

suspicious activities go down in Japan

Do you research to the nth degree everything about your destination before going on a holiday? Are you then disappointed because feature x is no longer at location y, and even after you found x at it's new location, the thing is closed due to some local public holiday you never dreamed of, or the price has increased beyond your allocated budget? If the answer is yes, then go for it - here's your starting point BBC NEWS | Country profile: Japan... Tell me something, because I haven't read it!

Of course you'd be an idiot not to learn at least the essential facts. Especially for the first time visiting a foreign country. Safety first, right.
Australians in Japan are advised to be alert to their own security. As you would in Australia, use common sense and be alert to suspicious activities.
That's the latest advice for Japan from our Department of Foreign Affairs. Hanging around in certain places with certain friends here in Melbourne recently, I've seen lots of suspicious activities happening right before me... Cool, now I'm excited as to what kind of suspicious activities go down in Japan!

The question is, where do you draw the line? How much research is getting to the point where you are not surprised by anything you experience? On the other hand, how much information must you gather otherwise you'll miss the greatest experiences to be experienced at your destination?

Monday, March 28, 2005

what about my outdoors life?

Recent research of my Hiking in Japan book has led me to this point. It appears that the Chugoku region, that surrounds Hiroshima, has fewer hikes than almost every other region in this book! Is this some conspiracy that I am unaware of?

But here's the good news: Winter storms dump large amounts of snow, making Daisen the best place in western Japan for winter mountaineering. Cool! :)

Can you understand though, that I love snow and, like most people I really don't like the cold? I've asked a few people to comment on this in the past. Do you see the difference? Snow is a source of play time, thrills and spills. Cold is generally something you only want your drinks or ice-cream to be.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

empty suitcase

Packing is going great... not! On Tuesday my mum (who had come a long way from Merimbula) spent the day with me and the relatives and she bought me a suitcase! I've never owned or even used a suitcase before, it feels weird. So now I have this empty suitcase standing right there on the floor, staring at me, waiting to be filled...

Actually it seems like every time my brother or another relative takes a car load of furnishings or crap away, another lot of stuff just appears out of nowhere! We really do posses a lot of useless stuff in our lifetime. Next I'm trying to give my skis and skating poles away and probably my tent and car camping stuff to Christie. I even sold my mattress, linen and doona! Now I just curl up on my Thermarest under my sleeping bag.

Yes, definitely at that stage of just wanting to go. In fact I just want to be there and get started. My Japanese language is terrible, or non-existent. I wish my previous Japanese housemate was still living here (and talking to me) so I could practice, or at least learn something.

HiroshimaResearching Hiroshima, I can't seem to get past the fact that the place was bombed 60 years ago! Does anything happen here apart from bombing?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

the last parma

Great Northern Hotel, yes you guessed it, is where I am having the final farewell gig. If you are intending to dine, I am booking tableage from 7pm and will need to indicate numbers so please RSVP as soon as you know. Otherwise just rock up for a pint of your favourite and say "Sayonara".

So that's the Saturday 2nd of April folks at 644 Rathdowne Street,
Carlton North. I look forward to the last parma with you all.

Cheers / Kampai!

Friday, March 25, 2005

atmospheric drinking holes

After the conclusion that Asahi gives Andrew a hang over, our post-work search for the next Japanese beer led us to Robot. Melbourne'’s laneways are dotted with atmospheric drinking holes. I am pleased to have found myself in this great little bar knocking back several Sapporo stubbies and getting lost in the dim and funky atmosphere. This beer tastes great and, in all honesty, goes down all too easy. Hold on to your drinks though as in the dim light, the empties collecting staff might guess you're finished before you've begun!

If you really want this robot, complete with forward walking action and space scene scrolling across the lighted chest, he's up for auction at Cromwell's estimated at $120 to $140 - you can buy anything these days! Or you could just get slabs of Sapporo for about the same price.

A big thanks to my uncle Dave for the home brew donation too. I have added it to the bulging liquor cabinet at my house. I need to eliminate this stockpile before I leave for Japan. Anyone want to help me with this excess problem? It sounds like I am becoming an alcoholic.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

the A-bomb was nothing...

A stupid title really...

But let's see what kind of effects I can have on Hiroshima! Not too close to the recent earthquake, 4.6 on the Richter scale and the Aftershocks Rattle Japan. I've just heard this afternoon that Hiroshima is where I am being posted to live and work, and I have a special request:
Anyone with a radiation suit they're no longer wearing, I'd love to borrow it!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

super beans & dragons on the Yarra

Dragon boat racing on the Yarra River, Melbourne.
Congratulations to Scott and the crew of Arab Bank of Australia, who won every race they competed in on the day.

Another part of Melbourne's Food and Wine Festival was the barristas' paradise of dozens of coffee stalls trailing away from Federation Square. Celebrate the Bean - Coffee & Chocolate Festival was a coffee lover's delight over pure indulgence with the live demonstrations, the samples and all the fan-fare of inhaling that caffeine aroma every step along the river bank.

If you believe everything you read, here's a quote from the Herald-Sun newspaper, 23rd March 2005.
Exactly what ingredient in coffee is protective is unclear, but it does contain chlorogenic acid which has been shown to have an anti-cancer effect in animal research.
Have you fed coffee to your pets lately? More importantly, the taste of coffee is set to improve even more, yes, you heard right! Check it out at ABC's article on the DNA map to help brew better coffee... Alright, who was the idiot that ordered the caffeine-free coffee?

a beautiful wedding

Congratulations to Lou & Luke.

Luke running rings around Lou

a very happy groom and bride - husband and wife

Louise & Melanie

Mr Warren about to quench his thirst.

Mel inside The Vines of Red Hill for the reception party.

Scott loves the food.

Christie and myself, partying at our table.

Helen, just as happy as the boys to be at a table of lunatics.

Julie and Peter enjoying the night.

Thanks to the Spring Creek Farm B&B, the pool is ace and the breakfast a delicious feast - healthy too I think. Certainly appreciated the chauffer service too. Thank you and Melanie for organising our accommodation that was so much more.

Friday, March 18, 2005

¥ cash and the Fukk Building

Language - a big part of culture defining, for sure. So what happens when you stuff it up? Anyone that's tried to pick up another language knows it can be difficult, but you have a lot of fun along the way.

What else do you need in another country? Cold hard cash is the go in Japan.
In July 2000, the Japanese government issued its first ¥2,000 bill. Currency, particularly paper money, is said to reflect the culture and society of the issuing nation. If so, what does the new ¥2,000 bill say about today's Japan?
I grabbed some yen from the bank today, the exchange rate seems good this week. I see lots of zeros on my ¥10,000 notes. Now I just have to train myself not to do-a-runner when I see large digit bills.

This email came to my inbox earlier today from my great friend Christie. Email is a work tool? - yeah right!
An Asian man was trying to exchange yen for dollars and asks the American bank teller, "Why it change? Yestoday I get two hunat dollar fo yen.- today, I get hunat eighty?

The bank teller says, "Fluctuations."

The Asian man says, "Fluc you white guys too!"
If you haven't already been to, prease, have yourself a look at the Fukk Building, kids make sure you ask your mum or dad first - sure you will!

web economy bullshit generator

All when I was hoping to escape my financial insecurity of working in cyberspace, along comes the web economy bullshit generator. Next time a client holds out on (very) overdue payments, I reckon I'll be on the phone spinning heaps of this, about their current / future projects. It still is a far-cry from hearing those words, The cheque is in the mail when I always want to reply with And fuck you too.

Maybe you can use a variation of these words with your own boss. I'm sure a few of these were on my last resume... The possibilities are endless. If you are seeking escape, try some of these tragic client coping stories at

But if it's all too much, or perhaps you're sick and tired of struggling with a new name in the accounts department each week, get these guys, the cyber law mafia to work for you.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

blog o vfowler subscriptions

blog o vfowler finally has all the features I wanted. You can now subscribe to receive email notifications of my posts.

Why subscribe?
  • Might be an easy way for you to catch up on what I'm thinking, doing, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, trying, experiencing...
  • You'll automatically know when I've bothered to write (if I haven't written for a few months, please call the police and tell them you'll want fries with that).
  • You might be a loser on my address list and need a friendly email from time to time.
  • Browser bookmarks (or Favorites) keep changing out of your control.
  • Because not much in life is free, except love and my blog posts.
To subscribe:
  1. put your email address in the box under the subscription heading (found in the sidebar).
  2. if you still don't know that you can submit forms by pressing Enter, hit the nike button.
To remove your subscription anytime:
  1. follow the same steps as subscribing!
I hope you find my blog interesting... or at least a distraction from your 9 - 5 (or whatever hours you work these days).


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Mountain living 'good for heart'

BBC NEWS | Health | Mountain living 'good for heart'
I knew there was gold in them there hills! I believe there are (and have been) several members of my family with heart problems. I'm making tracks for the highlands and starting my acclimatisation program immediately...

Anne and Marthijs hit the big 60

Marthijs and Anne on their recent night out clubbing in Japan!

Well you buggers, after organising your combined 30th birthday party all too far in advance, (don't ask me why I turned up at the pub last Saturday 19th), I now can't come along because I have Louise and Luke's wedding to attend! In fact I know I had less notice of their wedding than your birthday party. Therefore I have concluded that you guys are too organised for my own good! Yes I am being rude by taking the later invitation after committing to attend (twice) to your party - maybe there's a lesson for all of us... maybe not.

Hope you all have a great night - I'll make a toast to you both from the peninsula!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Viagra "protects climbers' lungs"

That's simply brilliant! I'll have to order some from my junk email next time.
BBC NEWS | Health | Viagra 'protects climbers' lungs'
The anti-impotence drug Viagra can protect mountaineers from developing lung problems sometimes associated with high altitude, researchers have found.

Japanese interpretation versus roommates

My brother pointed out Matsumo's blog to me:
Japanese highschool teacher

Want to learn anything about my country? Then, why don't you visit my blog?

Very appropriate considering my upcoming departure and change of work/house/life/everything! Learning about another culture is always fun, interesting, challenging and sometimes embarrassing. And what of the reciprocal? Will the Japanese learn anything from me? Have a read of Matsumo's intepretation of roommates. I think this is why we tend to call them housemates as opposed to roommates.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Cyclone Ingrid makes impact felt in Territory

Cyclone Ingrid, expected to skirt around Darwin, this satellite image from 4 am ACST, Monday March 14

Sunday, March 13, 2005


St Patrick's Day is fast approaching. It sounds like the place to be is Finbars Irish Pub down at Brighton (did you say Brriiighton?). I've heard rumours of some great band playing there on the day - that's this Thursday, the 17th if you are a complete idiot without any sense of time or day. If you wind up in the wong end of town, you might want to know how to say "Cheers!" in another language. You know, last time I checked you couldn't get beers like these in Brighton at all...

Smells like chicken...

Did I mention that crossing cultures was never going to be easy to understand? Even the simple things in life can seem completely backward, upside-down, inside-out, and still nothing close. Today, let's tackle the fundamental topic of food. Of course it is always interesting and I always want it, hence a favourite topic.

So what can possibly go wrong when 2 friends walk the whole 140 metres from the front door to the Matsumoto Japanese Restaurant for dinner? Crossing Lygon Street is always full of danger, but a manageable risk. One might be confused at why chop sticks are called such when they are near useless for cutting the final spring roll to share. (Just like Tim-Tam's, they always serve an odd number of them!)

In my best attempt at the pronunciation, I ordered Tonkatsu, and somehow I knew I would enjoy a dish I've never tried before. Upon receiving my meal, we both were left guessing what type the meat was! It looked like a crumbed fish fillet, but there was definitely no fishy texture nor aroma. Upon further examination we both concluded that it must be chicken... A delicious BBQ sauce, salad and rice all went down well. Certainly no complaints from the taste buds and when your friend pays out the bill, I'm convinced of a winning evening.

Slightly embarrassing, but the meat was in fact pork. I guess the point is, you don't need to understand everything to enjoy it... Or something like that.

Okay, there's no confusion on this matter: It's Mount Fuji!
That volcanic cone... More on this in a later post.

I tried a Google search for Matsumoto in attempt to learn of the name's origins or history. Again more stumbling and confusion of how bikini clad women standing around touring car championships has anything to do with my search. Is my internet broken? What do you get when you search for Matsumoto?

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Bib wearing buck's night

For those who are yet to experience a Teppanyaki style restaurant, be prepared:
  • chop sticks skills are useful but not essential
  • frisbee skill is highly desirable
  • bib wearing is crucial, not childish, crucial.
Teppanyaki foodGinza Teppanyaki is the place to be for watching the chef do a few more tricks than just your regular barbecue practise. It can be hilarious to watch your mates fumble as food is launched at them, but your turn will come...

Sapporo beer, yumThis is the place we met at to commence the buck's night of young Luke Meikle. It is not unheard of for a few eyebrows to be singed off by the roaring flames at these restaurants. Your vision and co-ordination are enhanced somewhat after several Asahi beers, then tested by the chef tossing the bowls one after another to anyone game enough.

I'm learning that there are more ways to advertise beer. I might have to try this Sapporo beer sometime...

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Birthday crowd control

Sometimes our circles of friends are bigger than we realise. This is great! However, when making your booking at the Napier Hotel for, at least the 3rd consecutive birthday party, you should know by now, regardless of how many friends are not in the country, that a table of "10 or 12" will NEVER suffice! To all the folk who missed out on better seating this year, I'm sure we can arrange front row tickets for the big one next year. Also, if you do not wish to participate in crowd surfing, please be sure to wear inappropriate attire.

Photo taken 2004_06_19.

To my dear friend of long time, I hope this is another year of fun, laughter and great times.

Any one seen Tom's stolen bike? Some ratbag cut the lock and rode off with the goods while we were partying! Our local police officer has drawn a likeness from your description: blue, hard-tail, ...

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

100 India 2004 photos on flickr

Banghatia - unclimbed..., originally uploaded by vfowler.

100 photos from our India experience late last year, are the current photos posted at | slideshow

Be sure to check them out before April, as I hope to be replacing them with new photos from Japan.


Just another tropical cyclone threat...

Tropical Cyclone Ingrid Threat Map
The legend on this map says red is Very Destructive Winds - and I thought my father's bum was the source of it all.

Back on a more serious note, no one has forgotten the devastation caused by last year's Indian Ocean tsunami. My brother reported massive snow dumps in Warsaw just this morning. Everyone has seen our beloved PM walk away from the Kyoto protocol... Anyone who has seen the film The Day After Tomorrow might be following along closely about now...
Meanwhile my aunt in northern Queensland speaks of a 1997 experience:
"I sat through an eye in 1997. Really weird to have massive storm, then not just total calm, but the sun comes out, the birds start to sing. Then suddenly from the other direction WHAMMO!"

I put the question to you: What's next on our global climate?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Radio Free Nepal

So far my trekking aspirations for Nepal have been put on hold. This sounds selfish, I realise, but they have got the biggest mountains in the world... And a pretty big issue on their hands!
Democracy Takes A Beating in Nepal 19/02/2005

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Ending of Sleepless in Brunswick

My Japanese housemate flew home to Tokyo this morning. Not much of a "Sayonara"... Coincidently it was only yesterday I found out my own flight (1 month away) will be landing in Osaka. Of course I have already been in training for life in Japan : I have to admit though, the most obvious language teacher and I haven't exactly talked very much for months - I can't even begin to understand how this has been possible, to share a house with someone who doesn't speak to me at all.

I learned at a pre-departure seminar yesterday, perhaps all too late, that the expression on the face of a Japanese person can be identical for all the emotions we might expect.

Now I look forward to the million challenges of my own misunderstandings of Japanese culture.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Driving Miss Daisy

This one is for the petrol heads.

Ever wanted to test drive a new Ferrari? Or any new sports car? The practicality of actually owning it seems rather crazy though :
  1. First of all the finance will blow your mortgage for life (but at least it would be a fast one!)
  2. Second, do you live anywhere near where you can really open 'er up? Last time I checked the speed limit was being reduced, not increased.
  3. And my favourite part, is when you're sitting in grid lock traffic just like the other vehicles and cyclists passed you 10 minutes ago and you have no chance of catching let alone passing!
Take me for a test drive in a Mini Cooper any day, thank you. Or a friend's motorcycle!