Autumn Cycling with Owen

 

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Harvesting Rice

Sunday afternoon Owen and I went for a bike ride up in the forested hills north of our suburb of Minoh. I just love cycling and going with my son combined with the scenery, it made for such a pleasurable afternoon. Many of the farmers we passed were harvesting rice, one of the many signs of autumn. Most of the rice fields near us our small and farmers use a harvester that looks like a riding lawnmower. You can smell the rice grains as you are riding by the fields.

 

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Owen rides through the sugi forest

We drove 30 minutes up to the village of Ooiwa and parked at a temple parking lot. We rode 10 kilometers north and turned around. There was a good mix of forests, fields, deep valleys and rolling hills. I want to ride all the way to Kameoka, a city just outside of Kyoto, which is about 40 kilometers away.

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Ripe persimmons (kaki) 

 

Sports Day is a National Holiday in Japan

(Oliver runs a leg in the relay race at our school.)

I love sports and being active so thoroughly enjoy the unique Japanese national holiday, Sports Day (undoo kai – field day). The government started field day in 1966 being inspired by hosting the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. They wanted to promote an active lifestyle and chose mid-October when the weather is mostly sunny and cool. It is traditional on this day for schools to host relay races, tug-of-war, and other sports. Students and parents eagerly await the day and it is the biggest crowd of parents we get at any school event, except for perhaps the International Fair.

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Oliver uses his mass to excel in the tug-of-war

The Japanese students take this very seriously and have extensive practices for the day. Our school does a range of events including ultimate frisbee, dodgeball and even a dance performance. The different grade levels for teams and winning the overall competition is big deal.

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Owen’s team came second in ultimate frisbee! (Owen is with his friend Josh)

The elementary school students also participate but in non-competitive games. Ocean liked the swimming portion of the day but was not so excited about the field events.

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It was an absolutely gorgeous day with bright blue sunny skies, although it got a little hot in the afternoon. It was our last Sports Day in Japan and I tried to get the most of the day.

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Sunset over Minoh – view from the top of Oasis parking garage

 

Hiking with Ocean

Ocean and I had a delightful afternoon hike around the Minogawa Reservoir yesterday. With the boys out of the house with friends and Nadia still not feeling well, it gave me the perfect conditions for an afternoon with my daughter.

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Ocean is not happy about hiking with Dad, but the sandwich was good! 

I had to drag her out, but by the end of the walk, I think she was enjoying it. The hike took about 90 minutes and it was not too strenuous. The weather in October in Osaka is ideal for being outside. It is so nice to have such a large wilderness area on our doorstep. Walking and talking while being surrounded by tall trees and lovely ferns is so very peaceful and recharges my batteries and clears my mind.

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A nice trail goes around the Minogawa Reservoir

I now know where to consistently find Japanese macaques in the park. Once again, they were near the reservoir.

 

Impressions of Dubai

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The ski hill inside the Dubai Mall

I am catching up on blog posts. I visited Dubai last spring.

It was my first time to the global city of Dubai. The largest city of the United Arab Emirates marked country number 64 on my life list. I was here on business so only had 23 and 1/2 hours on the ground. The trip was special because I got the opportunity to fly business class on Emirates, rated by many, the best business class airline experience in the world. Being in education and having a large family, I usually fly economy so it was a nice change. Probably the best thing about it besides the obvious fully-reclining seat/bed and space is the lack of waiting in lines. Before my flight, I went to the business class lounge with the extra time I save with skipping the lines through immigration and at the gate. Who cares what section A-B-C-D is boarding when one can leisurely stroll through the first and business class entry and board the plane without worrying about people coming behind you. It is a bit of a different world. Of course in my opinion, not worth the amount extra one pays, but it is nice.

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A typical daytime view in Dubai

Although I wasn’t in the country long, I did have most of the afternoon and evening to go to the famous Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall. People in the Gulf region love to shop and the malls were absolutely massive. It felt like the economy is booming here, with thousands of shoppers with lots of bags, tens of booths advertising investing in apartments, including one offer that gave free access to the Trump International Golf Course. I can’t get away from hearing that man’s name. Lots of ostentatious wealth displayed with Ferraris, BMW, etc. Walking around the hotel in the morning just after my arrival, I saw several very drunk or stoned people laughing and shouting coming out of the nightclub. This was at around 5:00 AM.

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Civic life centers around the many shopping malls in the city

It truly is a global city with so many nationalities represented in the tourists and workers. I talked to Russians, Filipinos, Pakistanis, Moroccans, South Africans, Jordanians, etc. who were working retail in the stores, serving as tour guides or working at the hotels as chefs, porters, etc. The captain announced the pilots and flight attendants were from 9 different countries. The language of the city is English, which is a refreshing change from Japan. I was able to talk to people.

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world and so I decided to take the tour. I went to the 148th floor, over 800 meters high. It was a spectacular view, similar to experiences I’ve had at the Tokyo Tower, CN Tower Toronto and the Umeda Sky Building here in Osaka. Huge skyscrapers next to it looked tiny. It was quite crowded and I paid extra to avoid a 3-hour wait. I bought my ticket online in the morning and was disappointed to see the long wait times.

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Shopping is King! This was in the luxury section of the Dubai Mall with a higher % of locals

General Observations

  • Dubai was much more modern and larger than Bahrain, the only other time I’ve been in the Gulf region. I saw more Western influence in Dubai, with lots of tourists and expatriates.
  • The contrast between women covered completely in black, Arab clothing to women walking around in tight shorts and tank tops is always striking. Japanese women generally carry themselves meekly and it was nice to see confident women strutting brashly around the mall.
  • The high during the day was 39 Celsius which is normal for spring here. Between the extremely high temperatures and lack of sidewalks or bike paths, you rarely see people walking.
  • A haze covered the blue skies and I was reading about Saudi Arabia having high levels of air pollution.
  • I think most Arab men have beards because they can. I noticed both Arab men and women are hirsute. If I tried growing a beard, it would be patchy for a long time, but Arab men have full, uniform facial hair.
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The view from the top of the Burj Khalif

I always ask myself, could I live in the place that I visited? I really didn’t spend enough time here to give a definitive answer. Wilderness and nature are important to me and I would have to see if the  Arabian/Persian Gulf and the Red Sea and flat desert landscapes could satisfy me.

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More people are active at night due to the daily heat. 

The amount of wealth that has come to the Arabian peninsula with the discovery of oil is astounding. You can see much of the consequences of this in a small area like Dubai. I wonder what the long-term consequences will be on the people of the Emirates.

Azuba & Roppongi: Upscale Tokyo

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Grand Hyatt Tokyo 

Every time I visit Tokyo I see something new. Of course, it is the largest metropolitan area in the world so it would make sense that there is a lot to explore. The Japan Council of International Schools meets in different schools every year in Tokyo and it gives me a chance to see different areas.

This week I spent the night in one of the richest and most exclusive residential and shopping districts in the city, Azuba and Roppongi. I was really curious to see the area because the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) is always holding events there. There are many embassies and foreign residences in these suburbs. I arrived late on Monday evening after taking the shinkansen after school. It was an absolutely perfect night for a walk, with a fresh early autumn air and a clear night.

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Japanese Garden juxtaposed with the Roppongi Hills Shopping Complex

I was staying in a small business hotel in Azabu and walked over to the Grand Hyatt Tokyo Roppongi Hills. There are hundreds of designer boutiques, high-end shopping stores, restaurants, etc. The mall is beautifully designed with gardens, nice views to the city, etc.

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Asahi TV studios are also in the complex

I have been to Tokyo many times and the city still fascinates me. I didn’t have a lot of time to see the area because of work, but I did get to feel the swanky luxury of one of the most exclusive areas in the city.

Ocean’s Elementary Soccer Team

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Alona, Coach Kralovec, Ocean

It was my final Falcon Cup as a father yesterday! Ocean is in grade 5 and she will be in middle school next year. The Falcon Cup is the annual elementary soccer tournament held at Canadian Academy on Rokko Island. I love coaching young people and it was such a delightful day in the autumn sun. Coaching the elementary soccer teams also gives me an excuse to spend more time with Ocean. Her team lost a tough game, 0-1 but then came back to win 4-0 in the second game. In the elimination round, they lost 2-3 to the top OIS team.

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Ocean is ready for defense! 

Ocean is a pretty good athlete. She is tall, slender and coordinated with pretty good strength and speed. She does lack a bit of aggressiveness, I think because she has such an empathetic and level-headed nature to her. You can see from the video highlights that she is active and contributes to her team.

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Even though we did not win any trophies yesterday, all 5 of our teams won at least one game and most importantly, the kids enjoyed a day of exercise, teamwork and experiencing the ups and downs of winning and losing.

I would like to thank CA athletic director Sim Cook for hosting the tournament and my coaching partner, Trevor Jones, for his work with the students and being such a good guy.

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Family Journal: September 16, 2018

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Most municipalities in Japan have distinctive manhole covers, usually featuring characteristics of the area. We live in Minoh and the famous waterfall and maple leaves are portrayed. Often they are also colored and it shows the attention to detail that public spaces receive from city officials. I know several expats that collected photos of the covers from the different towns they visited.

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I continue to cycle often in the morning. This is at the top of the suburb of Saito Nishi. A new highway can be seen in the distance just under the cloud-shrouded hills of the Minoh Quasi-National Park.

Yesterday I devoted to Oliver and we had a good time together. We went on a bike ride around Expo Park, did some errands in town and went for a short hike in the hills. With three children, I find myself spending more time with Owen because our interests are similar but I am trying to make time for Oliver and Ocean, too.

 

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