Sunday, November 19, 2006

...and then God farted, and it was good...

So this weekend I went to Hakone. First thing's first -- it's pronounced like Ha-Koe-Nay, not Hah-Cone. It's not an icecream holder. Or something Brando calls a halloween costume. It's a lovely place near Mt Fuji, and, as per SOP, the ever fickle Mt Fuji was hidiing behind clouds. Aaah, Mizz Fuji, why must you toy with me so? I was able to get this little picture while she was peeking out to see if I was looking.

Gotcha suckah!!!

Me and the she-partner hopped in my ride and drove down there first thing in the morning on Saturday. The weather was clear at first but, as always, it got progressively shittier as the day went on. It's also getting pretty cold here, but we managed. We started off by driving to this gondola-deal, or as they call it, a "rope way", which took us to the top of a fancy hill.

It was about a 7 minute ride to the top, which was way colder than it was at the bottom. Still, it yielded a bounty of snazzy pics, which you will be able to enjoy now.

Here's the lake.

As you can see, the Japanese have out done themselves maintaining the majesty of the area, by placing a golf course in between the top of the mountain and the lake.

Here it is, a tad closer.

What are those? Boats? What sort of boats? Probably some sort of traditional boat. Well, kinda traditional I guess...

Yaar, matey, that be Mt Fuji over thaarrrrrr...

They actually have a huge union-jack paint scheme on the other side. I was pretty amazed that it was able to sail around with its sails furled. I wonder what sort of demon magic they used to keep it moving? Probably something like in that Juan Depp movie.

After looking around the rope-way area for a bit, we went over to check out some volcanic plumes. I love geology, and initially chose it as my major in college until I realized that it involved math, which made it a big fat no-go. But I'm still pretty interested in it, and always have been, as shown by the silver medal I won at the Science Olympiad in Geology in high school.

Yes, I was even cooler back then.

Anyway, one thing that I haven't done since I've been driving in Japan, including my time spent in Okinawa, is ram another car. I'd always wanted to see what would happen if I did -- you know, to better understand the traffic laws and such -- so on the way to the volcanic plumes I took the opportunity to rear-end the car in front of me.

Here's what happens when a 93 Carina (my car) plows into a mini-SUV with 4 unsuspecting Japanese people in it:

His car:

And my car:

I'm sure you probably asking yourself, "Hey what gives? His plate has a Japanese letter next to the blacked out number, and yours has a Y next to yours." That's why we call em Yankee plates, folks. I'm glad the cops know that a roundeye is driving whenever I cruise by.

Anyway, it was no small thing. I was hoping to give him all my cash, high-5 and pat asses, and drive on, but no, you have to involve the police. The cop came out to confirm that I did indeed rear end him, and insurance companies were contacted, and an hour-and-a-half dance ensued. Luckily we made it to the plumes before it got dark, which was at about 4:45pm up there. The cop was cooler than I expected -- in the past, I've found them to be prickish -- and we all had a chuckle when I announced that "our cars did battle, and mine clearly lost." har har har, yuck it up, I'm a fucking idiot.

Anyway, on to the plumes. Any one who's ever been by one of these geologic wonders knows that it smells like absolute shit. Or rather, like a fart. Like a really bad fart from someone who ate an inappropriate amount of hard boiled eggs. In a word (or 3), like my office. You start off at the bottom, and walk up to where the big vents are, by this little hut on the mountain:

Next to the hut, the fumes are almost overwhelming. When a breeze hits it right and it hits you in the face, it's like god is holding you down and farting in your mouth. A big, wet, palpable fart. Another tradition they have up there is that they boil eggs in the volcanic water which turns the shells black, so everyone is standing around eating hard boiled eggs and throwing the egg detritus on the ground and on these tables. I wonder who had that bright idea? "Hey, Satoshi, it doesn't smell bad enough up here. Let's boil eggs so everyone can eat em and throw pieces of egg everywhere, which will rot. Maybe we can cover up the smell of rotten eggs that volcanic sulfer brings with, well, real rotten eggs." Anyway, I took a little video on my camera of the plumes for you all to enjoy.

Here's a picture of me next to the cool sign.

And let's not forget my faithful navigator, who refused to let me drive after bulldozing some unsuspecting folks on a narrow road:

So that was my weekend adventure. I hope I don't lose my liscence, because you might remembed that the last time I was in Kyoto I thought it would give everyone a good laugh if I hit a pole with a rental van. These are the only two times I've struck something with a vehicle. Except in Afghanistan, but that's ok, because everyone hits stuff there. It doesn't count. Plus I wrote a fancy blog about it back then, so I've made sure to let everyone know when I smack something with a vehicle.

I hope you enjoy my stupid antics as much as I enjoy doing them.


Blogger brando said...

I'm sorry about your smasheroo, but it still looks like you had a good time.

Those vents looks pretty darn cool. Maybe you should jump in one.

2:08 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

maybe i should force feed you hardboiled eggs like a fwah graw goose and throw u in there!!

8:59 AM  
Anonymous cory said...

If I remember my Japanese history correctly, that is the volcano that King Ghidora popped out of to battle Godzilla. But he totally got his middle head ripped off.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

did king ghidora have really bad gas?

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Cory said...

Naw, he just had three heads and was really floppy.

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Uncle Mike said...

your very weird Paul, but you do it with gusto!

1:56 AM  
Anonymous Tony said...

No Paul, you've got it all wrong. You were supposed to crash your car into a volcano, not crash your car on a volcano.

7:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm... I think that this may be some elaborate ploy on your end to prove to your lady friend that you are indeed NOT the smelliest thing on this earth.
I took a gander at the link you posted and there was a pic of the volcano area circa 1900. Are the Japanese allergic to trees? Seriously, WTF?


1:26 PM  
Anonymous Tony said...

I've determined one thing for certain from your blog, Paul. Your girlfriend is far too attractive to be hanging around with your ugly ass. Although I doubt this is new information to you.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

im not sure what you mean, so i'm going to answer in all seriousness:

Yes, they are allergic to trees.

In response to an enormous demand for housing and timber after World War II, the Japanese government launched an expansive afforestaion (Kakudai-zourin) plan in 1956. The plan focused on planting a single species, the Japanese cedar, in order for Japan to become self-sufficient in wood products. The Japanese cedar, formally known as Cryptomeria japonica, was especially attractive because of its rapid maturation and usefulness in addition to its decent scent. Since then, it has been widely planted so that it comprised 20 per cent of Japan's forest (more than 10 million acres), contributing to the country's mountainous land area that covers two-thirds of the entire country (Sterngold, op.cit.).

So the Japanese over-forested with trees, so now what?

in spite of the domestic cedar trees available, Japan does not utilize its own resources. There are two reasons for this. First, Japanese private forest owners tend to "look on their timberlands as a treasure box to be tapped at a time of special need, rather than as a resource to be managed for maximum long-run return" (Kitabatake, op.cit., p. 863). Therefore, they are reluctant to cut down the trees. Second, since the price of tropical hard woods is much lower than that of domestic cedars, Japan's hard woods have lost their competitiveness in terms of the cost of labor and of management. Consequently, Japan would rather import tropical hard woods from Southeast Asia. Though these reasons are logical for the Japanese, the worldwide consensus is that, as Kitabatake pointed out, "Japan would seem to be holding back its own reserves of timber, shifting timber cutting (and its environmental consequences) to where wood can be supplied more cheaply" (Ibid., p.873). Now that domestic cedar trees are mature, Japan should be seriously aware of the imbalances of the utilization of hard woods, and make more use of its own resources.

And the result?

Such trees have caused the number of animals to decrease, reduced the water table, created the potential for landslides, heavy soil erosion, and hay fever for human beings. When mature, cedar trees grow up to 40 m high, they "prevent sunlight from reaching the forest floor and offer little food or protection for animals" (Sterngold, op.cit.). Moreover, since cedar trees "have shallow roots, they hold less water in the earth and can be felled easily by storms" (Ibid).

In addition, these rapidly maturing trees discharge huge amounts of pollen every spring, causing allergic reactions in humans. It is said that maturing cedar trees emit 1,800 to 2,000 pollen per square centimeter every spring. Humans suffer runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezes due to cedar pollen. The number of Japanese showing these symptoms has been increasing recently, amounting to 10 million persons or 10 per cent of the population.

basically the japanese government went bananas planting trees that are uneconomical to utilize, and they have a nice side effect of causing hayfever. the book Dogs and Demons talks about it quite a bit too, as part of the "can you believe this shit?" section on the government's wastefulness and destruction of nature.

I got that info here.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

tony-- tell me about it.

2:51 PM  
Blogger brando said...

So they literally are alegeric to trees.


That'd be like me filling my house up with cats.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Jinxy said...

I haven't heard "big fat no-go" since I fucked up Call For Fire on the Expert Infantrymans Badge test.

I like it so much, I think I'll add it to my little phrasebook.

"Can I help you, sir?"

"That's a big fat NO GO, FUCKER!!!!"

12:20 AM  

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