Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Better Know a City

First I started up the “book review” project. Then I started doing “Retrospections”. Now I’d like to announce a new blog project I’m going to be starting up.

My goal is to visit every city in Oita prefecture, and write up a short description of my visit on this blog. My reasons for doing this are as follows:

Obviously during the 3 plus years I’ve been in Oita prefecture, I’ve probably been to about half of the cities at one time or another, especially the ones around the Usa/Ajimu area. But I was thinking recently that I never really explored this prefecture as well as I should have during my 3 years. I very seldom made it down to the south end of the prefecture, and I left the Kunisaki peninsula mostly unexplored.

Given how scenic Kyushu is, it’s really criminal that I never fully explored my own prefecture. Now that I'm back in Oita again, I figure I should take this possibly last opportunity to try and nail all the cities once and for all.

This will also have the added benefit of (hopefully) keeping me from getting bored during my 6th year in Japan. You do get to a certain point (and I think I passed it a long time ago) where unless you actively undertake new challenges, Japan can become a pretty boring place.

In fact I’m kicking myself a bit for not thinking of this idea earlier. During those months of vacation when I was just living in Shoko’s apartment, doing nothing, watching videos, and complaining about how bored I was, that would have been the perfect time to do something like this.

Although to be fair to myself (and I always try and be fair to myself) the thought did occur to me back then. And I did make a couple tentative forays into local sight seeing. But, as anyone who has spent time in Japan can identify with, you do quickly reach a point where there is only so much sight seeing you can do by yourself. Especially in the Japanese countryside where all the temples, parks and tourist traps start to look alike after a while. After a couple days of aimless wandering in the country, staying in and renting videos did seem like the more intellectually stimulating of the two choices.

Which is why this time around I’m going to do it as a blog project. Not only will that help to give some structure to my wanderings, but it will (again hopefully) help to keep things more interesting by giving me a place to reflect on my findings.

And so, dear reader, I do freely acknowledge that this project is all for my benefit and not much for yours. I don’t delude myself that you will be sitting fascinated as you read descriptions of small rice towns that you never heard of. Especially since I still don’t have a digital camera to include pictures (or for that matter, a computer to load it on. I’m still in the Internet Cafes) these blog entries are fated to be all boring text with no pictures to jazz it up. (My apologies to Dr. Doodle).

Occasionally during my wanderings I happen to stumble into interesting situations. Like I’ll get attacked by a kitten. Or walk into a photo shoot and get my picture taken with a model. (Or get treated to ice cream by a model).
But more often than not, absolutely nothing happens, and I return with only having seen a few temples and some rice fields.

Back during the Calvin days, when all of my friends were coming back from study abroad programs with all sorts of stories and experiences they couldn't shut up about, I began to notice how much I hated other people’s travel stories. I didn't know why I hated travel stories at first, because I was perfectly willing to listen for hours to all the dorm gossip or all the stupid things so-and-so said, but my study abroad friends, who had genuinely adventures to tell, bored me to tears. And it was at that time that I developed my theory that travel stories, no matter how fantastic they are, become boring because there is no point for the listener to relate. And now I run a blog which is almost all travel stories. So how is that for irony.

But, just as I know most of my book reviews are of minimal interest, but enjoy writing them for my own benefit, so with this project. You’ll have to forgive me another self-indulgence.

Anyway, enough apologizing. (People always tell me I’m too apologetic on this blog, and I should just write what I want to and to hell with it. And they’re probably right).

Here are the rules I’m going to set myself:
1. No express way driving. Not only is it too expensive, but getting there on the back roads is have the fun.

2. I’m going to try and keep to the town borders pre-2005 Gappei. For economic reasons, Japan merged many of its smaller towns together in 2005, but I think most of the old signs and maps are still around, so hopefully I can stick to the old borders without getting too confused.

3. In the interest of completeness, I’m going to visit every town, including the towns I've already been to or lived in before. Towns like Ajimu, Usa or Hita I don’t imagine there are many stones I've left unturned, but if I don’t find anything new, at least I can maybe write about something new. This is either the really thorough, or the really anal part of my personality, depending on how you look at it.

And I think that’s about it. Watch for more entries in this project over the next year.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
The Blogger service often has problems of various kinds. These problems can last a couple of minutes and/or hours and possibly even days. The new term, 'bloggered', is now applied in situations where Blogger suddenly and inexplicably goes down, causing readers to be unable to read the affected blog and preventing the blog author(s) from posting/updating posts, or a myriad other potential difficulties.For instance, when a blog that goes down due to technical problems or upgrades, the author of that blog may state "I have been [B]loggered." But soon enough, Blogger is working properly and bloggers can resume their blogging activities.

Link of the Day
Media Mouse has a new youtube video of a recent anti-war protest in Grand Rapids outside the military recruiting center.

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