Monthly Archives: September 2013

If A Marshmallow Could Go Back In Time…

Earlier this month I was surfing the internet and stumbled across a highly unusual trailer that I found intriguing, a trailer for Veronica Mars: The Movie. If there were only two things I took away from this trailer it was firstly, that the fans were hardcore and secondly, that somehow, someway they were so desperate after their favourite t.v. show was canceled they had banded together to fund with their own pocket money a Veronica Mars movie!!! At first I thought it was insane, and then after some thinking-time I grew curious. What was it about this show that had captured the hearts of its fans so completely, even years after it had been cancelled?

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The fans raised $5,702,153 (according to my research on September 24, 2013)…consider my mind blown!

I had definitely heard of Veronica Mars, but only in passing. So, I did a little digging and the more reviews I read the more interested I became. A modern day Nancy Drew? A sassy, smart, strong female protagonist? A Feminist Frequency web video entitled Why We Need You Veronica Mars stated “It’s a pretty rare representation to have young women shown as super knowledgeable about all different technologies, so you see her often using computers and having a really good understanding of how they work.” Consider my interest piqued… Veronica Mars where have you been all my life!

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It was at this point I was determined to give it a try. Why? I definitely think more modern day t.v. shows need to portray better female role models.  If you don’t agree I really recommend you watch the documentary Miss Representation. So, one night when I had nothing to do, which is far too often since the day I broke my beloved Kindle, I watched a few episodes. That’s all it took, they had me hook line and sinker baby. I don’t mind admitting that I’m a complete sucker for a well-written murder mystery.

Fast forward to 3 weeks later, and all 3 seasons finished (you aren’t going to hear any plot spoilers from this fan!). I am officially a marshmallow, get the cute joke, it’s what the fans of Veronica Mars are called! Sooooo, what prompted this blog post you ask? Jessie normally only uses this website to post about her adventures in the kitchen and in Japan, right? So what’s made her veer more than just a little off her regular course? I’ll tell you what…

WHERE THE BLOODY H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS IS THE 4TH SEASON!!!! I’m sorry?!? What do you mean there isn’t one. NO! Seriously, this has to be a joke. You simply do not cancel something like this! Not with that many unanswered questions lingering to torment your fans for years! OH! And to make matters worse, if that’s possible. Let me get this straight, you cancelled one of the only few t.v. programs that portrays a strong, intelligent female character to air “The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll”.

Screen shot 2013-09-24 at 9.37.19 PMA moment of stunned silent horror please on behalf of all feminists in the world. I actually upon reading that on Wikipedia (not the most reliable of source I know, but the first place I read this) I put my palm to my forehead and shook it in frustrated disbelief. Please, pleeeeease tell me that’s just a horrible trick of fate as I feel the need to repeatedly bang my head against a wall, or my desk seeing as that’s much closer…and more painful. You canceled a show with a main character who is talented, driven and brilliant enough to work for the FBI (talk about an excellent role model for young woman) to instead make time on t.v. for women whose greatest ambition in life appears to be prancing around scantily clad in miniskirts, tube tops and stilettos while worrying about the state of their hair, makeup and provocative talent abilities. If this little marshmallow could go back in time and smack whoever made that idiotic decision upside the head…well…I just might.

As I sit here typing this post while the passion is still red hot and burning through my veins my anger has begun to subside and morph into something that more resembles sulking, or at the very least mourning for the loss of a seriously wonderful strong female protagonist. The t.v. programs of North America need a few more characters like Veronica Mars The Marshmallow.  I, along with all other passionate Veronica Mars fans, will have to content ourselves with eagerly anticipating the new movie. All I can think is thank heavens I haven’t had to wait nearly as long as they have.

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Climbing Mt. Rausu

The next day was a rough wake up. My lovely and oh-so-NOT-considerate hostel roommates kept me up until 2am with their partying (UGH!) and I had to get up at 4am in order to meet my friend in Shiretoko for a hike. With only two hours of sleep under my belt I headed out.  I was a bit worried about the weather, but while it looked overcast it didn’t look terrible. I was more worried about the exhaustion that I felt deep in my bones. I don’t do well tired, I’m a complete bear, just ask my friends. If it hadn’t been for my eager friend waiting for me on his one day off that week, I know I would have cancelled the hike. I won’t say I didn’t enjoy the hike, but I will say that I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more had I been well-rested.

The goal of the day was to summit Mt. Rausu. It would be the first big hike I had done since injuring my knee and so I stuffed my bag with water, snacks, plenty of Advil, cold herb compresses and tiger balm in case it flared up.

Mt Rausu is the highest point of the Shiretoko peninsula. It’s a World Heritage Site and one of the top 100 mountains in Japan. I read reviews that claimed it is “renowned for its striking beauty, abundant wildlife and pristine nature. It also however, is quite famous for its brown bear encounters. Therefore, I strongly recommend wearing a bell and bringing bear spray. Good tip: I later discovered that it’s possible to buy bear spray from one of the information centres, the best part is that it’s returnable if you don’t use it. Brilliant idea!

The height of this mountain is 5,448 feet and the Rausudake trail is 12km return.  The people working at the information desks, and all the locals in the area will strongly recommend you start as early as possible, they were quite insistent telling me I should be at the trailhead by 4am or early. SORRY!?! WHAT!?!?! For a 12km hike, you have got to be kidding me! There was absolutely no way I was going to need 14 hours to hike 12km….

People in Japan take hiking very seriously. In my opinion you do not “absolutely need” to start this hike at 4am, so take their advice with a small grain of salt. I talked to other people on the hike who started as “late” as 10:30am and were still able to complete this hike well before the sun set. My hiking buddy wanted to start at 4am…but, seeing as that would have involved me getting up at 2am, that was not an option. We compromised and I agreed to meet him at 6am, though if I had had my way we wouldn’t have started till 8am (we still would have been fine, for the record!).

How to get to the trail head:

From the parking lot at Iwaobetsu Hot Spring, walk on the paved road that goes next to the large hotel until you come to a mountain hut and toilet. The trailhead starts here.  Be sure to sign the log book!

While I wouldn’t call this hike difficult, it was challenging, so it’s not for the faint of heart.  I didn’t take many photos that day, but my friend was kind enough to send some of his my way for this post. Enjoy!

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Jum was a great hiking partner, he had so much energy! We had a good time chatting about movies, hobbies and Shiretoko National Park, he’s got some great stories from working in the park for the past 3 years.IMGP1966-1

I totally forgot about taking this photo before Jum emailed it to me. I actually just about died laughing, I look ridiculous! Check out my non-existant “guns” why don’t you!

Everyone teased me that I wouldn’t see snow if I went to Hokkaido in summer. My friends know all to well it’s killing me that I haven’t made it to Hokkaido for crazy-awesome snowboarding, yet. He he he, suckers! Somehow here I am in my element, score! Muwhahahahah, yes that’s right, only the truest Canadians frolic in snow in the middle of August.

IMGP1959-1This was my favourite part of the hike, walking up this snow gully! From where I’m sitting, we had to hike up. Seriously fun stuff! My mood changed a lot after this point, it was the highlight of my day. Jum was very entertained by how much I loved the snow. Don’t worry though, I promised him not all Canadians are this snow-crazy.IMG_1489

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I did whip out my camera at this point because the sun had finally emerged and the mist was clearing up. Loved all the little wildflowers in this area, especially these little pink snowdrops. IMG_1407

Once you climb up around the corner everything flattens out a bit and you get to see the summit. We stopped here for a snack, a few pictures because you could finally see the peak and a short rest. I was really on the fence about climbing the last hour and a half up to the summit, but Jum encouraged me and next thing I knew we were off. Just as a warning the way up from here is challenging and involved a bit of scrambling over rocks. My knee was very bothered by this part, it’s very steep with lots of steps, unstable footing and rocky areas so take your time. IMGP1993-1

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What the hike up to the summit is like.

What the hike up to the summit is like.

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My glorious moment on the top of Mt. Rausu! Everything is downhill from here!

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View down from the summit!

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The clouds cleared for just a few minutes, it was nice to see a bit of blue sky!

As we headed down the mountain Jum pointed out a place I could fill up my water bottles which were running a bit low. The water comes from an underground spring and is safe to drink.

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Beautiful view as we descended the mountain.

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Snow! Snow! Snow!

IMG_1480 By the time I finished I was exhausted but happy. All in all it was a great hike that I’d recommend!

Categories: Life in Japan, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Walking Up Warm Waterfalls: Shiretoko National Park

There are breakfasts, and then there are the breakfast of champions. My second day in Shiretoko started off great with this gorgeous plate of fruit accompanied by fresh banana, yogurt and granola. OM NOM NOM!IMG_1292

One of the most difficult things about long road trips is finding time to be healthy. Too many combini-store meals make me sluggish, so I have learned to buy lots of fruit and at least eat a healthy breakfast! After all, my mother always said “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” I lounged around the hostel for a bit having a bit of “me-time” simply relaxing, reading my book, skyping my family and savouring my yummy breakfast. That’s what holidays are about!

After, I headed out to explore some more in paradise. I decided to drive to the Shiretoko Pass and check out the mountain I was planning on summiting the next day.
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There’s me looking ridiculously optimistic about what the very next day would prove to be my Mt. Doom. I’ll save that story for the next post however, so stay tuned.

After this I drove to the Shiretoko Nature Center where I chatted for a bit with a Shiretoko local who really knew their way around. He was pretty good looking and I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when he ran off for a date with another lovely lady instead of hanging around with me.

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The Kamuiwakka Waterfall (カムイワッカ湯の滝 Kamuiwakka-yunotaki) is a famous waterfall and is one of Hokkaido’s coolest natural wonders. Its name in the Ainu language means “River of the Gods” and this is no ordinary waterfall everyone, it’s very very special. It’s an onsen waterfall meaning the water is hot! What’s even cooler? You are actually allowed to walk up the gentlest slope of this warm waterfall in sturdy sandals, bare feet (my recommendation) or, if you’re looking for an awesome souvenir, the stores sell special toe-socks with rubber grips on the soles of the socks! I would also recommend wearing a bathing suit, as you can go swimming in the deeper pools if you’re so inclined!

With regards to logistics, the road to this waterfall is closed and the only way to get there is by taking a 40min bus from the Shiretoko Shizen Center, a round-trip ticket is 1180yen. Keep your eyes peeled for interesting wildlife on the way!IMG_1317_convertedIMG_1315_converted (1)

Yeah, you can actually walk up that in case you’re curious, “amazing” doesn’t do this place justice!IMG_1316_converted IMG_1323_converted

This photo was taken by my new at-the-time friend Jum who works for the Shiretoko National Park. He was stationed that day as a “tourist-supervisor-lifeguard” at the waterfalls, keeping all us tourists out of trouble and within the safety bounderies (despite whatever adventures we might want to pursue).

Jum introduced himself politely and asked if it was ok if he practiced his English with me because he didn’t get many opportunities. Surprised, I looked around at all the other tourists, it was easy to see why, I was definitely the only foreigner. As we talked, I discovered that this November he’s is planning to go on a 4-month home stay program in Alberta, Canada! What are the chances?! He couldn’t believe his luck either, when I excitedly told him I was from Alberta! It was definitely his lucky day! When he asked what my plans were the next day, I told him I was hiking Mt. Rausu, and he asked if it would be ok if we went together since it was his day off. He’s a much better English student than I am a Japanese student eh?

I was a little tentative to go with him I won’t pretend otherwise, mostly because I’m not one for doing long 8-hr hikes with strangers…. I thought about it for a bit and then eventually agreed to meet him at 6am the next morning. In the end, my fear of hiking alone in bear country far outweighed my apprehension of hiking alone with a stranger. The fact that Jum was actually a Shiretoko National Park Nature Guide made the decision a whole lot easier, he’s hiked Mt. Rausu about 10 times in the past 2 years!

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This final photo is of the beautiful view as I drove back to the hostel from the Nature Center! Gorgeous view, ne?

Categories: Life in Japan, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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