Cruise Control

Mari & Alex


Monday, October 8

Oktoberfest returned to Japan! I visited the Red Brick Warehouse (赤レンガ) just like last year.

I went with Mari, Moto, and Amina. The four of us met early to enjoy the weather. We sat outside all afternoon drinking, eating, and chatting. The beers were expensive, ¥ 1,000 a glass. So we drank slowly and enjoyed the atmosphere.

All too soon the sun began to set behind the skyscrapers of Yokohama (横浜). We packed up and ventured back to the station. We all felt a little silly on the walk back. The last 100 meters turned into a dash as we ran to the bathroom. All told it was a successful day!

At Oktoberfest


Sunday, October 14

I spent Sunday with my girlfriend in the mountains. We took the usual route to the mountain via train and bus. We entered the mountains just before 9 and set up.

Mari has really improved as a hiker. She doesn’t get fatigued as often as she used to. She’s also learning how to read trails and lead. I’m proud of her!

Three hours later we made summit and set up shop. Our collection of hiking gear had grown since our last adventure. I pulled a small stove out of my pack and Mari brought cooking water out of hers. We rested on a bench with the mountains and ocean in front of us. We ate ramen noodles (ラーメン) and drank hot coffee. Most excellent.

We made the hike down in good time. We stopped at a natural spring and filled up with a liter of mountain water. While there we spoke with a retired couple doing the same. They drove two hours every month to collect 50 liters (13 gallons) of water. Wow. To be retired. Mari and I set back down the road to the bus stop.

A while later the old couple pulled up behind us. They offered us a ride to the station. I’m normally skeptical about taking rides from strangers. But this is Japan and I had a good vibe from these people. We accepted. They drove us to the station saving us an hour and ¥ 500.

Back home Mari cooked up a hot-pot of veggies and soba noodles. We used the mountain water for a cup of tea. I realized why the couple had driven so far to collect. It was great. The taste and consistency were different from tap water. It was better.

Fresh mountain spring water.


Monday, October 15

I met the girls, Lauren & Elisha, for lunch.

We caught up for some Mexican, a donut, some window shopping and chit-chatting.

I don’t see the girls as often as I used to, or would like to, but they’re still very important to me. Like sisters.



This week a Japanese scientist won a Nobel Prize, the 19th Japanese to do so. Shinya Yamanaka (山中 伸弥) won the prize for “physiology or medicine” for his work on stem cells. Overnight this man became a national hero. The Japanese tend to do that, idolize.

The Japanese tend to admire their own people a lot. Call it vanity. Japanese celebrities are admired and worshipped. Intellectuals are important too, but they’re not as celebrated. The biggest celebrities are singers and actors. The Japanese have actually imported the English world “idol” to describe these people, “aidoru” (アイドル). Idols are a big deal here.

The only thing that can make a Japanese celebrity bigger is international success. In this case, a Nobel Prize winner. International recognition is a vindication to the Japanese. A not-so-subtle reminder that “we’re still awesome and you know it.” They’re humble alright, the Japanese.

The week following the announcement I was told about the award by no less than 50 students. Every day. They were like proud parents. That’s cool. I guess I’ll be the modest parent. Whose kid has won 316 more medals. Because no one likes a bragger.

Go Japan!


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About japanesealex

Alexander lived in Japan from 2010 to 2013. He is now pursuing a career in public service in Honolulu, Hawaii.

6 responses to “Cruise Control”

  1. Mikala says :

    You and Mari are such a CUTE COUPLE! 🙂

  2. alokeefe says :

    I am jealous of your fresh mountain water. Tuscaloosa water might as well be brown. It tastes this way.

    • japanesealex says :

      I’ve never tasted “brown” before. Yuck.
      I always expected Tuscaloosa’s water to taste red if not crimson!

  3. Japanesemiscellany says :

    Do they meantion at all that he’s splitting the Nobel prize with John Gurdon of GB? Just curious.

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