Archive for the ‘iya valley’ Tag

Water Rafting: Good thing my legs are in tact

you wanna play? where's my bucket?

you wanna play? where

Random Observation/Comment #64: I like my legs. I’m glad I still have them after this journey.

“Who wants to go white water rafting?”

“Ooo me me me!”

“Okay, good. It’s going to be $75 and you have to take a local bus that only comes every 2 hours and you have to wait at the station for 30 minutes for the instructor to pick you up. He’s a nice guy, except he won’t apologize for being late and looks like he’s stoned all the time. Oh yeah, I’m not coming with you and the bus is mad expensive.”

These were some details I would have liked to have heard before splitting from the group and beginning the expedition. No one there spoke English and the only way of getting back to the hotel was the address and phone number on a towel. Once we arrived at the station, I already thought to myself “Ah, fudgesicles. This is a bad idea.” We’re stranded in the middle of nowhere with basically no means of communication. We’ll probably need to pay a $40 cab back to the hotel and not have a chance to go hiking with the original group. Eventually, the guy arrived to pick us up 30 minutes late – not cool.

First impressions are very important, and this dude made me question Japan’s customs department for letting the biggest pothead, surfer Californian through the borders with his kilos of pot that he smokes on the job every second of every day. These are, of course, all lies and stereotypes going through my mind when he greeted us with “Oh, hey. Sorry, dudes, but we got out of the water a little late.”

The trip did not start off well, but the experiences to follow made me completely forget the level of pissed-off-ness (I think it was an amber alert). We were offered some wet suits, but I decided to be stupid and just go in my short little swimming trunks that left nothing to the imagination. Why did they have to spray me with cold water from the hose? My balls jumped straight up my ass (pardon my French).

The rafting business is quite simple. Step 1: Collect cold hard cash. Step 2: Drive the large group and the rafts for 20 minutes to the beginning of the course. Step 3: Teach all the newbies some safety lessons and how to respond to commands. Step 4: Practice the commands. Step 5: Go through some rapids. Step 6: Let them swim in the freezing water. Step 7: Let them dive off a rock and belly-flop from a painful front-flip mistake. Step 8: Play some rafting games where both competitors always wind up in the water anyway. Step 9: Save the Chinaman from drowning and dying in the rapids. Step 10: Take lots of pictures. Step 11: Sell those pictures for additional profit.

The instructors of these rafts are extremely skilled. One guy can control the entire raft filled with 8 passengers. They bend all the way back such that their legs hold on to the boat and their bodies are parallel to the water’s surface, and then they dig their paddle into the water and control the motion better than any RC remote could. When a group was passing a rapid, the instructor paddled the boat upstream all by himself to repeat a certain section of running water.

The rafting atmosphere is playfully competitive. Instructors try to gather the most team spirit by splashing the other teams and developing special chants. I began the tour with my usual picture-taking of the scenery around us; completely captivated by the gorgeous surroundings. However, the energy of the group brought me into each activity. I no longer thought about the useless things my mind thinks about. This was the vacation I wanted. It’s actually more similar to an adrenaline shot, but it was exhilarating and new.

The rapids along the particular river in Iya Valley were only class two and class three rapids. I don’t think anyone in their right state of mind will go through a class six rapid – it would probably tear them to pieces. When sitting in the huge red and yellow raft, everything was easy. It was not even close to a roller coaster ride, but more like when you don’t give enough gas when shifting gears driving stick shift. It was no big deal just sitting there and rocking back and forth while getting completely soaked with freezing water. In fact, I was completely surprised when I saw a video of us going through the rapid and looking completely badass.

Because the boat was a little lighter with just 4 people, the instructor tried to give us a bumpier ride by steering the raft to hit the rocks or angling the raft so that we land sideways and almost tip over. This was the reason I fell into the water and almost broke my legs. I’m sitting on the edge holding on to dear life and the guy turns the head of the raft facing the shore so the larger surface area catches and I get ejected out of my seat and into the water. There was definitely some catapult-action going on there. I floated because of the life vest, but the shallow water put me in a little bit of an uncomfortable situation. The adrenaline ran through my body; stiff due to the shock from back-flipping into the cold water. It took me about 5 seconds to grab hold and jump back in. So much hidden strength comes through when you think you’re going to die. After surviving the ordeal, I was almost embarrassed to have fallen in, but the instructor seemed as calm as a Hindu cow. “Are you okay?” “Yes.” “Rock on. Let’s catch up to the other boats.” You jackass.

The side games during the boat ride were a lot of fun. There was the balance game where you stand on the front and back edges of the raft while they paddle the boat in circles. Loser falls into the water and winner gets pushed in after them. Then, there was the pushing game where you stand on the side edge of the raft and push the opponent off. Loser falls into the water and winner usually loses balance and falls too. Then, there was the titanic game, where they hold onto your vest with a cord and let you lead forward into the water. The trend of the games was becoming more and more apparent.

The less common, but just as fun, game was scuba diving with a life vest on. The instructor basically steps on your shoulders and pushes you underwater without warning. Good times. Since the paddles float, people would often throw the paddle straight down into the water and try to catch it on the buoyancy bounce back up. All these games were very simple, but immensely enjoyable. When I got tired of falling into the water, I could just sit back and enjoy the view.

It started to rain half way through the trip. The water droplets were warm – no, wait – I was freezing. I felt like how superman would feel when he’s shot with a machine gun. The rain didn’t stick and roll down my arm. Instead, it splashed into smaller sprinkles of water. My body was a puddle with an undisturbed water tension. I felt the ripples of each drop through my goose-bumps. I welcomed the rain to hold me as the sun holds me in a cold autumn morning. My arms spread eagle with my palms up and my back arched. Thank you for the unforgettable massage and warm embrace.

~See Lemons Love the Excitement

Diving off the rock

Diving off the rock

Chiiori farmhouse: Peaceful, but would drive me mad

peace and quiet

peace and quiet

Random Observation/Comment #63: Some people can just give up all technology and spend 6 months living in a place where there are more names for the native trees than there are for the living people. What are you? Nuts? At least live with a hot girl and spend the long winter nights keeping warm the old fashion way.

There’s a lot of nature in Iya Valley (period). I make this comment, not to point out that nature is indeed one of the beauties of Iya Valley, but that nature is the only thing in Iya Valley. Yes, there are some neighbors who are jakt and tan from farming/cutting wood all day. And yes, you’ll see a lot of flowers and little furry animals. But I suspect that places, like Chiiori, are just a little bit boring at times. How many times can you read that book “Lost Japan”? I didn’t even see a soccer ball to train some juggling skills.

I guess I’ll always be that dreamer chasing for something more than peace and quiet. While I was standing in that empty open space in the middle of that hut, I let my mind wander and wonder what I would do with all this time. As with most of my “free time,” I’d try to do something. Doing nothing would drive me to insanity. There are only so many times you can defragment your brain before you start questioning and regretting every action in your past.

In my world, I’ve always wanted a level of control. I wanted to know the vague plan and then fool myself into believing I’m a free-spirited, spontaneous being capable of letting my life completely left up to chance. All of my life I’ve taken actions that show my devotion in finding a sense of security and stability, but subconsciously I’ve been pushing myself to do the opposite. Let’s put a little chaos into this equation and see how I can fix it. If I really believed in growing up and stepping up to the responsibilities before me, I would have stopped the traveling façade and worked that well-paying job.

In many people’s perspective, living in this old house would be an escape of the hectic world and one step closer to peace. To me, living in this house would drill me to the ground. Granted, I wouldn’t mind a week of just being one with my surroundings to unwind and escape those stresses every 21-year-old boy has, but for the long term, I would wind up losing touch with reality. Unfortunately, the realist and cynic in me do not accept this dream of completely leaving. Your life is part of a web. You fit in this community and play your role (whatever that may be). What’s important is that, to a few people, you are irreplaceable. It just seems selfish to escape without them.

I must admit that the view from the main room was astonishing. Looking outside at a sea of mountains through half-open sliding doors made of paper reminded me of a scene only possible with Hollywood. That CG is so good. I couldn’t even notice the pixels.

~See Lemons Lean towards Chaos

A place of Zen - read Lost Japan

A place of Zen - read Lost Japan

Iya Valley scenery and overall beauty – the vine bridge of dooooom

scary, yet beautiful

scary, yet beautiful

Random Observation/Comment #61: You never think a vine bridge is scary until you walk on one and shit a brick.

The early morning train and ferry ride from Tokyo to Iya Valley was not particularly invigorating. I was tired, and carrying around this 50 lb suitcase was not exactly my favorite pastime. I shuffled my feet and dreaded every next staircase – completely ignoring the world around me.

The ferry boat was large enough to contain its own arcade and pachinko area. Sleeping arrangements consisted of a strip of carpet with a row of pillows lined like an overcrowded prison. It probably would have had a larger impact on me if I were conscious enough to care. Minutes or hours could have passed; I lose track of time in my dream world and nothing can disturb my peace.

When we got off the ferry, we still had to take a 30-minute JR train ride and another 40-minute bus ride from the train station to get to the ryokan (Japanese living arrangements). The public transportation buses ran every 2 hours and there was absolutely nothing but winding roads circling the large mountains. These roads were so narrow that some of the paths only allowed a one-way flow and required the bus driver to reverse in the middle of turns because someone else went further on the other side. It was quite scary when a wrong adjustment of gas could leave us at the bottom of a mountain and drowning in the creek below.

Unfortunately, this place is beginning to become much more of a tourist attraction. A large concrete parking lot structure devours the side of the mountain and interrupts the flowing river. Despite the smashing force of colonization, the audience of trees around the mountains made me feel like the center of attention and yet the speck of dust in the universe at the same time. Did you even have to ask me that question? The answer is, “Yes, I took pictures.”

The ryokan was my first real ryokan-experience and I came to love that smell of tatami mats. The strong straw odor really gives the room a natural ambiance. The doors were a little short (only 6 ft tall and 2 ft wide), but there was plenty of space to stay comfortable. RJ must have smashed his head 10 times because of the low pass. Because we had already spent most of the day traveling from Tokyo to Iya Valley, we only had a few hours to explore the area before having the first prepaid dinner. Most of the tour walked to the waterfall and vine bridge down the road from the hotel.

A quick glance at the vine bridge from the concrete bridge showed an absolutely breath-taking sight. The armies of green clashed but did not dare to cross the vantage point and instigate war. The water slowly eroded the conflict, but struggles everyday to keep the peace.

I paid the 500 yen to cross the vine bridge, but I didn’t expect the task ahead of me. The gaps between each wooden plank is about 7 inches so you could technically fall down and really injure your thighs and knees. Unless you’re a baby, you won’t fall to your death, but the idea of severe pain already made my legs jello. I confidently held onto the railing, but quickly noticed the large number of spiders inhabiting the gaps between the woods in the entire bridge. It was an attack of all my phobias. I didn’t freeze, but I wasn’t exactly skipping across neither. Every step was perfectly calculated and my mind reassured itself that I was invincible (if you don’t believe in physics, it doesn’t exist – FACT). I was scared to the point where my skeleton metaphorically jumped out of my body and left my skin and muscles limp, but still I enjoyed every moment of it.

~See Lemons Shyt a Bryck