Sunday, November 24, 2013

Marathon man (and 10k woman)

It's taken us 12 years, and we only just managed before leaving, but we've finally discovered what Tsukuba city is good for - road racing! Flat with wide tree-lined roads in full autumn colour, it was as good a course as you could hope for. It is one of the early marathons in the winter season and I had failed to enter the more local Shonan marathon in time, so it was the only option.

The start..and the inevitable mascot.

Based on previous half-marathon results I did have rash hopes of beating 3 hours, and after the inevitable congestion at the start I was only a little behind schedule by half way and was still feeling pretty fresh, but quite suddenly around 26k or so it all started to go a bit pear-shaped so at that point I decided to call off the attempt and complete the rest at a more relaxed pace. Jules was very insistent (and I was happy to agree) that in return for tolerating my training over the summer, I had to make sure I enjoyed it and not knacker myself too much.

Just as well I restrained myself a bit, as it got a lot harder in the last 10k anyway! I even ended up stopping briefly at a couple of feed stations to get in a good drink, as it was hot and thirsty work in the sun (which is why my Garmin time is a bit off, as it's set to pause at stops). Ended up with a real time of 3:06:51 and a position of 735, out of about 11,500 entrants (though probably fewer starters). The official timings are here, (this may be more permanent) but it took me about a minute to even get to the start as I'd been put in the B starting block. There were a lot of slower people in A and the overall winner was a B so I'm not sure how they worked that out. The crowding was a bit annoying for the first 2-3 k but obviously didn't really make much difference in the end.

Jules decided to have one last blast at a proper race rather than just fun running, and easily smashed her previous best 10k with 51:06 (51:42 in net time), making her 109th woman out of 1100+. No pics of her though, because that all took place during my race.

Resting on a handy verge. I'm looking forward to replacing the 2900 calories that my watch tells me I burnt!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Leaving-but-not-leaving Japan

We will be out of here in another few weeks, but because of our permanent resident status (which we would like to maintain for the time being), it's not necessarily quite as simple as for most foreigners on shorter visits.

It is fairly clearly implied by the various documentation (eg here), but the system was changed recently and our situation is not that usual, so it was a minor relief to find out that we really can maintain our permanent residency rights in Japan for as long as we want after we leave. The PR status does not have an expiry date in itself, but in the past everyone has also needed a separate re-entry permit to get back into the country after an absence. The requirement for this old re-entry permit was recently abolished for any absence of up to a year (even for short-term visa holders) but no-one batted an eyelid when we turned up at immigration yesterday, told them we were off on a long trip and not returning inside a year, and applied for the old-style re-entry permits, which still exist. So now we've got these re-entry permits, valid for 5 years - and if we come back at the end of that time, there's no reason why we couldn't get new ones ad infinitum. The PR residency card itself also needs to be replaced every 7y, and furthermore jules' and mine are a year out of synch, but that's an annoyance for the future.

Not that we have any particular plans to return, but it's nice to feel that our options are open. More importantly perhaps, are the financial implications, which require a longer blog post to come...

[jules' pics] New website!

hachinamngu (1 of 1)
Inspired by the blue skies which are the norm for eastern Japan at this time of year, I started work on our new website this week – seems quite good. I tried a couple of others, but they mostly seem focussed towards simple display of piccies rather than useful things like uploading and linking to PDFs. Next step is to try to get the blog posts to forward to James' Empty Blog - so if you see a few weird things there in the next few days, that will be our experimentation!

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 11/23/2013 04:49:00 PM

Sunday, November 10, 2013

[jules' pics] Blue skies research

Since that was (sniffle) the last Japanese mountain adventure ever, and soon we are off to do blue skies research in the land of famously cloudy skies, here are some unashamedly gratuitous bonus blue skies!!

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 11/10/2013 08:04:00 PM

Saturday, November 09, 2013

[jules' pics] Akadake

The aim of the day was climbing Akadake, Yatsugatake's highest peak. With Fuji-san visible from early morning, we set off expectant of blue skies.
Deciduous leaves were already gone at this altitude, leaving the berries to flaunt their red-ness against the sky.
As it was a public holiday (exercise day, no less), there were plenty of stumbling grockels around. Knowing the fun scrambling that lay ahead, we felt quite sorry for one woman, when her legs started to visibly shake before the first ladder of the day. But she carried on, so I expect she followed the all white circles all the way to the top, eventually.
The top is, of course a bit wrecked, with some bits of concrete shrine things and a hut just over the summit.
With plenty of people milling about on the top of Akadake, we didn't hang about for long.
Over the other side of the mountain, the far end of the Yatsugatake range was visible...that somewhat Fuji-san shaped mountain in the distance is the last peak. We once spent several days walking the ridge the other way from that end, but that time we didn't make it to Akadake, due to being blown off the mountain by a blizzard.
After coffee at the second hut over the summit, it was a romp through changing seasons, 1500m down the valley.
We had a bath at the hut next to the bus stop before catching the public transport home.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 11/09/2013 07:48:00 PM

Thursday, November 07, 2013

So long and thanks for all the sushi

Since xkcd has started posting cartoons about our time in Japan, it's obviously time to go public:

We've been playing chess on a go board for over 12 years now (though unlike white in the above we did realise this a long time ago!), and have decided it's time to stop. We actually gave up on JAMSTEC about a year ago, 6 months after they effectively gave up on us and our research. More on that in another post. But we've been a bit busy since then, and this is pretty much the first chance we have had to leave.

So we have resigned from JAMSTEC and will be in the UK before Christmas. We are looking forward to doing do a bit of freestyle science over the coming months - jules has already been invited to a couple of workshops next year, so we will see how things pan out. If by some miracle, suitable paid opportunities appear in the future, we'd certainly consider them, but at this point we are looking forward to some blue skies research.
We are a bit sad to be leaving Japan,and particularly Kamakura where we've very much enjoyed living. But we are also excited about going to Britain!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

[jules' pics] The Importance of Verticality

Another view of Yatsugatake, for those who have forgotten the story so far (sorry for the delay in posting).
There was a hut just over the peak, where we had stayed before,
but from the peak we could see in the distance another hut so we decided it was our goal for the night. It took only about 90mins to get there. I'm not very good at taking level photographs (but I note that neither are some great artiste photographers), but how come the people are vertical while the hut is not? None of my camera lenses have that much distortion!
The truth became very clear when I tried to walk up the little corridor inside the hut and fell over instead. The hut was vertically challenged!
Actually most people seemed to not have as much of a problem walking straight in a crooked hut, and perhaps some didn't even notice. There was a newish looking diagonal wire on the outside of the hut. Perhaps it was helping slow down the rate of slide, but it seemed likely that the ground was moving under the hut, causing it to tip down the mountainside.
Actually, at altitude, I quite like to have my head well above my feet while sleeping, so it was quite comfortable in some respects. In others it was not so good, as the sleeping theory of this hut was access to the upper sleeping floor from one end, with everyone sleeping in a row, such that everyone further from the door had to step over your body when they wanted the toilet in the night.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 11/05/2013 08:17:00 PM