A Gym Virgin no more

The other day Tom mentioned that he’d found his local municipal gym. Run by the local authorities, it’s a bit run down, but dirt cheap – 100 yen (42p) per session. Thus, a few days ago I popped down to where he lives, and off we set to pump some iron.

I’d never been to a gym before. Gyms are scary. They’re full of fit people. And all those machines to prove what a weakling you are. The instructors are the scariest of all, with their muscles the size of giant marrows. You have to spend so much time concentrating of holding your fat tummy in that you can’t concentrate on actually getting fit.

Thus, it was a pretty big deal for me , although with Tom to hold my hand, I felt OK as we jogged along the river to the sports centre.

…which was closed!

Nevermind. We continued our jog, ending up in the park located right next to the hospital – a safety precaution you understand. Bear in mind that I have basically never done any serious exercise at any point in my entire life. In fact, since 2002 I have actually made a conscious effort to not strain myself, as one day, when jogging around the back-streets of Tokyo, I started to get severe chest pains. This then became a regular occurrence (whenever I jogged), and resulted in my going to the fabulous hospital in Asagaya (I still remember those nurses who took my blood…), and being leant a heart monitor for 24 hours (at a price, that being about 65,000 yen / £300!). However, my heart appeared to be functioning completely normally, thus nothing could be diagnosed, and nothing could be done. I then thought it best to just not do anything that caused me this pain.

So, until last week, I had the perfect excuse to not exercise – it would give me a heart attack! However, with all the excitement of May’s Trailwalker event, I kind of forgot about my history, and just started exercising with Tom. It was only afterwards that I realised that the only muscle that wasn’t hurting, was my heart! I was cured! Perhaps it was all just a state of mind.

A few months ago I commented on seeing these mad grandpa’s jogging backwards around the local athletics track. If only I could have seen into the future, I would have seen myself doing exactly the same thing around Tom’s local athletics track! It really does work different muscles to forwards-jogging. It’s initially quite easy, but after a lap, well, I was shattered!

Our training sessions in the park end with pull-ups on the kiddies climbing frame. I was only too happy to provide amusement for all the locals walking by, as they observed the spectacle of this foreigner who was so weak that in order to raise himself to the point where his chin was level with the bar, he had to ask his friend to hold his legs and help push him up!

My fitness instructor has informed me that I need to do a good workout every other day, then after three weeks I can have one day off! What a treat! Today is a rest day, or rather, one of the days when I think, “Crikey, I don’t think I can walk.” And I’m not surprised, yesterday’s workout was pretty intense. Inspired by Tom’s discovery of his local subsidised gym, I went in search of mine, and found it in the form of a rather groovy sports centre with a huge domed roof that slides open in the summer. It’s over four times the price of Tom’s local, yet at 420 yen (£2/US$4) per session is about one hundredth the cost of those rip-off outfits they have in the UK.

Upon arrival, Tom and I were greeted by a small Japanese girl who appeared to have calf muscle implants. I wouldn’t fancy my chances in a kick-boxing match with her. Still, she turned out to be very very friendly, and patiently explained to the virgin Joseph how to use the various machines. The first one was this thing where you lie on your back, place your feet on this vertical platform thing and push. Good for your leggy muscles.

I was absolutely delighted by how easy I found it, I really did have strong legs! …until she pointed out that the weight was set to zero!! oh. right. We laughed.

Cycling machines, jogging machines, things that you pull and push until you collapse on the floor, we did the lot. The jogging machine was a bit unnerving at first, you know, that moving floor whilst surroundings stay the same sensation, and I just couldn’t stop thinking of myself flying off the belt backwards when it suddenly accelerated to 30mph.

We also had a go on those belt-massager things. I always assumed they were some kind of sex-toy. They’re pretty incredible though, really shake you to bits. Whilst not sexually arousing they do feel very nice, and I’d quite like to have one at home.

They also have free classes throughout the day, in things like yoga, bodybuilding, and Hawaiian dance! I wonder if a grass skirt is mandatory for that last one. I’d get to wear my coconuts in public again.

Hmm, so all in all, it was jolly good fun, and I’m really looking forward to smashing another of those self-generated beliefs, that being that I am not fit, that fitness if something that other people enjoy. Along with the name remembering thing, which is still working.

Anyway, I have a tonne of stuff to do. Website creation, kanji study, water-consumption (to combat the after effects of yet another drink-as-much-as-you-like deals at a restaurant last night, I’m so glad we don’t have them in the UK!).

WEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee like a firework.


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The first of February 2007: Participate in the biggest mobilization of
Citizens Against Global Warming!

The Alliance for the Planet [a group of environmental associations, apparently based in France] is calling out to all citizens (which is blatantly rather silly of them, calling out to ALL citizens is going to create some problems, see notes below); 5 minutes of electrical rest for the planet. People all over the world should turn off their lights and electrical appliances on the 1st of February 2007 between,

  • for UK/London 18.55 and 19.00,
  • for New York 1.55 pm and 2.00 pm,
  • for Paris, Bruxelles, Italy etc between 19.55 and 20.00 (all local time).

This is not about saving 5 minutes worth of electricity for that one day, this is about calling on the attention of the media, politicians, and social figures, telling them of the importance of immediate action! 5 minutes of electrical down time for the planet: this does not take long, and costs nothing, although you may miss the last 5 minutes of Hollyoaks on Channel 4.

Why February 1st? This is the day before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) launches a summary for policy makers of “Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis” at UNESCO Headquarters.


  • Airline pilot, currently at 55,000 feet
  • Doctor on duty in Intensive Care unit
  • Helicopter enthusiast inspecting the storm-damaged roof of your mansion from above, the repair bill will probably go up
  • Living in a battery-powered submarine that is currently running away from a giant sub-eating squid
  • In charge of the cooling plant at a nuclear power station
  • Someone who has just walked into a room full of scorpions that have been specially trained to only sting when you turn the lights off
  • Skydiving from 3 miles up using an electric parachute

A Year in Japan – Episode 04 out now!

The slightly delayed Episode 4 of the podcast, A Year in Japan is out now!

Learn all about New Year in Japan, and hear a fantastic recording of an impromptu performance on a Kyoto bus…

Visit www.ayearinjapan.com for more info on how you can subscribe for free.

The advanced version, with its superior sound quality, chapter markers and photos is recommended!

There’s been over 2400 downloads of the the series now, who are all these people?!!

and CAW BLIMEY! Search for “Japan” in iTunes and I come out at number 56! Not bad not bad… (Joseph + Japan sees me coming in at No.3)

(As for Google searches: Joseph + Japan sees me coming in at No.6, whilst Japan + Joseph sees me coming in at No.5. It’s a shame that these figures mean absolutely bugger all…!)

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It’s Saturday

…and I have a hangover!

I went out with my old mate Stu, his wife and friends last night. Karaoke – It was great, I really really enjoyed myself!! It was “all you can drink” though, so the beers just kept on coming! Then on to an Irish bar, and eventually back home.

Plumbed in our bathroom water filter this morning (invlved the use of a great big wrench – astonishing what you can get in 100 yen (42p) shops, …then had my first chlorine-free shower in months. Wow, what a treat that was, no more asthma for us! Finally got round to getting some organic miso the other day too, so that’s back on the menu.

Mum – thanks for my hiking boots, they arrived today in their rather funny boot-shaped package, along with the other post. Shame I can’t use them for snowboarding – the hotel I’m staying at next month says they don’t have boots to fit my great big planks! I don’t think boots will be all that important anyway as I can’t snowboard – tried once in 1997, gave up after 30 mins, and suffered with a very bruised arse for a couple of weeks!

What I meant to say was “I can’t snowboard YET!”

Oh Oh oh Remembering the Kanji Volume II has finally turned up, and it’s in perfect condition! Am delighted. Perfect timing, so I don’t lose the desire to learn the swines. RAAAAAAAAAAAA

Spose I’d better have brekkie.