A walk in the woods

A walk in the woods

Before embarking on my cycling-tour-stroke-endurance-test to Sado Island last summer, I decided to build up my stamina with a spot of hiking. On a typically sweltering August afternoon, I parked the car at a michi-no-eki (道の駅 / roadside services), took a precautionary photo of the route – as displayed on a nearby information board – and headed west along a narrow valley road. The footpath I wanted was so well hidden that I walked straight past it the first time,…

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My Encounters With Alaska by Michio Hoshino

My Encounters With Alaska by Michio Hoshino

Back in 2004 when I was working for a conversation school in Tokyo, a student of mine had an important business meeting coming up with some foreign clients, and signed up for extra lessons so that he might better understand what was going on without having to be completely reliant on an interpreter. The meeting went well, and by way of thanks, he presented myself and another teacher at the school with gifts. Mine was a book called My Encounters…

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The deep-fried diaries

The deep-fried diaries

Before you go on holiday in – or rather, from – Japan, your friends and relatives will typically ask you these two questions: 1) What do you want to eat in England / North Korea / Swaziland?2) What Japanese food will do you think you’ll miss when you’re in England / North Korea / Swaziland? And when you get back from your holiday, they will ask you these two questions: 1) What did you eat in England / North Korea…

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The ALT Insider guest post!

The ALT Insider guest post!

In the space of little more than a year, ALT Insider has become the one-stop-shop for those of us who ply our trade as token gaiji…er, I mean English teaching assistants in Japanese schools, and seeing as James – the man who rules over the ALT Insider kingdom – was kind enough to let me write a guest post for his site, in the spirit of reciprocity, here’s his contribution to the United Kingdom of Muzuhashi. Read, enjoy, and if…

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Wrong Way Round – Day 1

Wrong Way Round – Day 1

In the summer of 2005 I went on a six-week cycle tour around the west of Japan, and it was so inspiring that in the summer of 2008, when Mrs M and I were planning the Japanese leg of our wedding festivities (the UK leg had already taken place in February), I decided to extend our stay and go on another tour, this time around the north island of Hokkaido. As regular readers of this blog will remember, I went…

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Wrong Way Round – Day 2

Wrong Way Round – Day 2

Tomakomai West Port Ferry Terminal to Tomakomai Cycling Terminal (苫小牧西港フェリーターミナル – 苫小牧市サイクリングターミナル) – 7km While my room-mates may have been quiet, the Sunflower ferry’s PA system was most definitely not. An alarm sounded at both 6 and 6.30am, before an automated announcement at 7.30 to tell us that the coast of Aomori Prefecture was now visible to our left – not much use as a) there were no windows in Room 358, and b) even if there had been, it…

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Wrong Way Round – Day 3

Wrong Way Round – Day 3

Tomakomai Cycling Terminal to Niikappu Town (苫小牧サイクリングターミナル – 新冠町) – 103km Mr That Swamp was already hard at work when I turned up at his restaurant first thing in the morning. ‘I opened this place last year,’ he said. ‘But I’ve got another restaurant that I ran for thirty years before that – it’s been featured in newspapers and magazines, and I was on TV a couple of times. In actual fact, I first learned how to make soba from…

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Wrong Way Round – Day 4

Wrong Way Round – Day 4

Niikappu Town to Erimo Town (新冠町 – えりも町) – 117km The Airstream parked outside Mitsu-ishi roadside services was hard to ignore, not least because it was being towed by a Hummer. ‘It’s so big we couldn’t get through the gate to the campsite,’ explained the owners, who had driven all the way from Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture, ‘so we had to stay in the car park instead.’ The couple were taking a two-month trip around Hokkaido for the second summer…

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Wrong Way Round – Day 5

Wrong Way Round – Day 5

Day 5 – Erimo Town to Churui Village えりも町 – 忠類村 – 91km There were so many futons in Mr Village Middle’s spare room that I wondered if he wasn’t running a guest house on the side. Having said that, there were also no sheets, no pillows and no curtains, so that I had to drape an old piece of material across the window when the first rays of the sun hit me directly in the face. By that point…

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Wrong Way Round – Day 6

Wrong Way Round – Day 6

Churui to Chokubetsu (忠類町 – 直別) – 76km Come the morning the campsite was positively buzzing: I met a pensioner who had come from Tokyo to escape the heat and play what is known as ‘park golf’ (‘You only need one club,’ he said. ‘What, you mean you don’t even use a putter?’ ‘Nope!’), a cyclist from Western Hokkaido who was practicing for a three-month tour of France the following year, and Mr Bell Tree, who like me had travelled…

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