One week since quake

It’s been a week since the Great Hokkaido Earthquake. We are still experiencing aftershocks on a daily basis, but at a way lower frequency and way less intensity, which should hopefully mean it’s all calming down. We are okay here, and would like to express our sincere sympathy to those who are suffering and pray for fast recovery of affected regions.

I guess my area had 5 or 6 on the seismic scale, which in other words was utter craziness. The lateral shake left all unlocked windows half open and the fridge about 20 centimeters off the original position.

Fallen materials shattered the glass window of the shower room door. Interior and exterior walls got cracked. But luckily, there was no soil liquefaction as in some other houses and roads in the same Kiyota Ward.

I’ve passed by a few areas where liquefaction occurred, including ones close by, reconfirming the effect of topographical features. Sapporo’s flat grounds are originally swampy terrains, and it’s only natural that reclaimed lands where creeks used to flow into swamps are subject to high risks. Put another way, disaster insusceptibility is apparently the intrinsic reason that Sapporo’s rich residential areas are located in places like Miyanomori and Yamanote on the western hillside.

Anyhow, timing played a grave role this time. Just 24 hours before the quake was the peak of the Typhoon 21. It was more of a “wind typhoon” than rain, but nevertheless dropped major amounts of water right before the quake.

This is what the wind did to a tree just behind my house. There also were streets that lost most of the trees planted in the median.

Things are more or less under control now, but there still are talks about planned power outage and inconveniences in daily grocery shopping. This is what a convenience store looked like when I dropped by early in the evening two days ago, five days after the earthquake:

And this is a store located just several blocks away from the TV Tower, downtown Sapporo, a 2 million city. Supermarkets are alike, especially in the dairy section. The next trend will be to keep a dairy cattle at home as a measure against natural disasters. No milk until then.

BTW, last but not least, and on an irrelevant note, congratulations, Naomi Osaka. We’re proud of you.

Red Bull Pump Track World Championship in Akaigawa

Last weekend saw a pretty big bike race happening in Hokkaido, which I participated in. It’s a new discipline called the pump track, where you pump and propel yourself through the bumpy track. And it’s actually the Japan round of a world series event run by Red Bull, under which about 20 races are being held worldwide before the world finals happening in October.

The event took place in Akaigawa Village, Hokkaido. Located about halfway between Otaru and Niseko and peculiarly situated inside an ex-volcanic crater, Akaigawa is home to a little over 1,000 people. The Pump Track series is run by close cooperation between Red Bull and Velosolutions, a Switzerland-based trail builder, and this time the first Velosolutions-made track has been built as a new addition to Tomo Playpark, a recreational facility in Akaigawa.

The new addition of a world-class track within an hour and a half drive range from Sapporo where I live may sound like a huge inequality to Mainlanders, but rest assured, we don’t deserve much jealousy on this as there really isn’t any decent BMX track or public skate park here in Hokkaido. Also we didn’t get any chance to practice on this track before the race, so it was all fair and square. Nevertheless, we were lucky that this event happened within a day-trip distance.

Riding pump tracks is like riding swings, where you use bodily maneuvers to turn potential energy into forward momentum. I was a bit confident about my ability to pump, but at the same time knew the serious BMX racers from the Mainland would be the most likely candidates to dominate this event. Also the length of the course was obviously going to force you to “endure or die.”

Riders are singularly timed for qualification, and 32 men and 8 women move on to the final tournaments. The final format said “dual,” but since the track was basically a single loop, it was in reality a “pursuit” setup. Comparing the loop to a clock, the two riders start from 3 and 9, take one lap and come back to respective finish lines at 3 and 9.

End result. I qualified at 20th, then was defeated in the first round of finals, officially making it only to the best 32. Too bad. Very roughly put, the upper half of both men’s and women’s finals was mostly occupied by the serious ones from the Mainland. It was great that quite several Hokkaido locals made it to the lower half, unfortunately to be massacred in the first round of the tournament.

An article about this event has been posted on Cycle Sports Online, and they picked a photo of me for the first one. Woo hoo. If you look closely at the far corner you’ll also see the back of Yu Takenouchi, a great talent who has achieved so much in road racing, MTB and cyclocross. In this photo I’m trying the switch stance tactic I came up with the night before, where I’m riding left foot forward (opposite to usual) through this section to save some energy, but no such small gimmicks would switch the overall turn of events.

Despite the unremarkable placing, it was a fun event that diverse riders joined aboard a variety of bikes to compete in a pretty relaxed atmosphere. It also really helped me in reconditioning myself physically, as it kept me focused throughout the four months leading up to this weekend. My sincerest gratitude to everyone who I rode and had fun with, and everyone who cheered us up.

Clicker hubs re-anodized

Sorry, this article is only available in 日本語.

Early solo Halloween over now

Last month was a quite turbulent one, as I started celebrating Halloween exactly half a year earlier than everybody else.

Though it happened while I was riding my bike, there was no serious stunt riding involved but just getting from point A to point B. How shameful. I’m really glad I came out rather fine, thanks to the kind passer-by, benevolent policemen, and truly professional ambulance peeps and hospital staff, despite the scratches, cuts, and a fractured skull that I suffered.

So that’s how my birth month started, to be followed by my driver’s license renewal this year. As they say Japanese driver’s licenses make you look two steps scarier under normal circumstances, all I figured I should do was wait till last minute.

And I finally got it taken care of last week, two days prior to the renewal deadline.

Pretty much back to this world. Good.

To those who have worried for me and those that helped me out, I just can’t thank you enough. I’m doing great now and back in the creation of weird stuff as usual, and I couldn’t have made it without you.

R.I.P. Kuriki

There’s been lots of access to an episode about “alpinist” Nobukazu Kuriki I wrote in the past following his recent death.

The impression I have about him hasn’t changed much since that day five years ago, remaining something like “Japan’s first serious alpine fraudster.” On the global scale there are others like Tomo Cesen who are subject to controversy and skepticism partly owing to the nature of solo climbing where proof of success is hard to establish. Although, Cesen is said to have remarkable abilities nonetheless, separating his case from this one.

It’s been a mystery why Kuriki had constantly been raising the bar to make his attempts more and more suicidal, but someone on the net compared it to “taking university entrance exams every year, with the goal set too high from the start and yet going up year after year,” which made total sense to me. One big difference I see is that there are about 100 people that pass the exam even for the hardest department of Tokyo University. If put along the same line of comparison, Kuriki’s challenges were like “entering Harvard right after elementary school.” It’s one of those things that’s been attempted throughout human history countless times by people boasting physical strength, smartness, equipment, money, and any combinations thereof, with few, if any, actually making it.

It’s pointless to beat on the dead, or shout out about Kuriki’s lies from an outsider’s viewpoint now. But on the other hand, I really would like his supporters and media to reflect on this whole shebang based on facts and truths. It would be a crying shame if a minor sport was stirred up using a false icon and the resulting confusion was left unattended.

My remark five years ago that “Money you give him will be dead money” was quite arrogant, I know. At the end of the day, though, that sort of “support” for him only ended up paying his Styx toll. Truly regrettable.

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