Archive for July, 2006

A photographic technique

July 31, 2006

I’m back from summer holiday.

I went kayaking near Nagoya and will write up a report just as soon as the company who I went with send me a copy of their pictures.

In the mean time I want to tell you about High Dynamic Range Images (HDRI).

In Japan shadows are everything (*) and capturing them with a camera is difficult. HDRI is a technique that I read about that I tried out for the first time on holiday over the last week. Here is my first ever effort at a HDRI:

HDRI image

Its a house in the famous Shirakawa-go (white river village). I took 3 pictures at different exposures wthout a tripod (pretty good considering) and meshed them together using photomatix.

Here are the originals:


While my effort here is pretty garish I still like it and definately want to experiment with this more. I have been thinking about recording some of the (less famous) rural architecture of Japan…


A practice for success

July 18, 2006

As I was saying I keep failing at rolling. Well with a bit of research I found this at Mariner Kayaks

(NB ‘RESCUE FLOAT PLUS’ is their brand of paddle float)


The RESCUE FLOAT PLUS can be used by hand to lever yourself upright. If you can’t yet Eskimo roll try practicing this: Place the mostly inflated RESCUE FLOAT PLUS on the back deck under bungees or lines in such a way that you can easily pull it free with one hand when you are upside down in the cockpit after a capsize. Read the rest of this entry »

A long weekend

July 18, 2006

Sunday 16th July 2006


This is my kayak in front of a sign which says Yame-yo and then some kanji I can’t read (could be fishing?). Yame means DON’T DO IT and Yo means REALLY. So what is a foreigner to think? These kind of signs always scare me.
Monday 17th July was 海の日 = sea day. A national holiday in Japan and the biggest holiday in Shiogama (the next town to me) where they celebrate by carrying the ‘portable shrine’ from the town shrine to the port, load it on a boat and parade it around Matsushima bay, praying for a safe and boutiful year ahead. Finally there are fireworks in the evening.

I spent the day dozing – this weather makes me totally listless. However I did go kayaking on Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »

A greenland event

July 13, 2006

A quick post. July 2006 sees the Greenland kayak games. Here is an excellent blog about them.

I’ve also copied a few images of interest to me. First the architecture / built environment of Sarfannguaq population 200.

town architecture

Second; stabilisers!


Thirdly, here is some real weather, this time from here:

Frreya hoffmeister finishing 6th

Sea defences in Japan

July 13, 2006


My neighbours, friends and ‘Matsushima Grandparents’ to my children, Mr and Mrs Miura told us the other night about two flooding events in my town which I thought I would relate here. (The Miuras are in their 60’s).

The first was in 1960 when the tsunami caused by the magnitude-9.5 Great Chilean Earthquake (the strongest earthquake ever recorded) hit Japan. It spread across the entire Pacific Ocean, with waves measuring up to 25 metres high.

When the tsunami hit Onagawa (link), Japan, almost 22 hours after the quake, the wave height was 3 m above high tide. In Matsushima the tsunami washed up the Takagi River and totally inundated the area where I live – near Matsushima Station on the Tohoku train line. This area is very low lying, perhaps less than 1m above sea level and at the time was mostly covered in rice fields. It sounded from Miura-san’s description to be more like a huge swell than a very powerful and destructive tsunami although this may be the result of the islands that afford Matsushima town some protection. You can see the map of the bay here.

The second flooding event was in 1978 when very heavy rains washed down the river and flooded the whole area of ‘Takagi’: the main residential area of Matsushima town. The water was about 1m deep throughout town and many buildings were heavy damaged. The floods also destroyed the river bed, washing tones of mud over what used to be a stoney river bed. Miura-san explained that he and all the towns children used to jump off the bridges and swim in the crystal clear river. The stony river bed and clear water also used to supply the town with shellfish but the shellfish beds were destroyed.

I was surprised that such a river flood would happen so close to the sea, but perhaps the flooded river combined with a high tide to cause the problems.

My town now has concrete walls surrounding much of its sea front. The river bank is also concreted and they are busy raising the river walls by about a meter. The walls have steel gates at intervals which appear to be on a timer mechanism that allows them to be remotely closed. I assumed that these were tsunami defences and this was confirmed by Miura-san.

I find the walls ugly and the get in the way of my enjoyment of the river and the sea. I also felt instinctively that they seemed to be a waste of resources and wanted to do more research on their effectiveness. The following is an extract from Wikipedia’s entry on Tsunamis. Read the rest of this entry »

Are tetrapods ugly?

July 12, 2006

Tetrapods, no not the prehistoric ones described here, but the ones made by the Tetra Co. Ltd. in Japan.

tetrapods up close

Love them or hate them you really cannot escape them in Japan. They cover a large proportion of Japan’s coastline (If you think this is an exaggeration check out some of the images in this 1.4MB pdf file).

They are a legacy perhaps of the fear of tsunamis or maybe of the ‘construction state’ as Alex Kerr describes it (read his well researched book Dogs and Demons, tales from the dark side of modern Japan).

Personally I find there to be something quite beautiful about their form. Particularly the chamfer on the ‘legs’ which probably exists to make it easier to remove from the moulds – an example of function being beautiful.


Some architect enjoyed drawing this.

Here are the moulds.

However their debateable beauty is very tectonic and is best viewed up close and personal. From a distance there is no doubt in my mind; they are ugly.

Lastly I was going to talk about the bird shit which covers them when I discovered the polite term – guano!


A rising sun

July 11, 2006

I like Japan very much. But the thing I don’t like is how time works here. Strange huh?

Well the short part of the story is the sun rises too early – which isn’t bad initself but the consequence is that the sun then sets too early! In the middle of summer it gets dark at 7.30pm. This sucks if you do sports cos this limits your options. In my humble opinion Japan would be better at some sports if they changed their time keeping.

Here is a map of the world showing times.


Read the rest of this entry »

An early start

July 11, 2006

So as I was saying here (Ajishima or Kinksan) I went to bed on Saturday night at 8:15pm! As you can imagine I woke early. I actually woke at 3am considered getting up to watch the 3rd place playoff in the world cup (Germany v Portugal) but wasn’t sure it was on terrestrial TV – the final isn’t. So I dozed till 5am then decided to go Kayaking. I had until at least 11am.

Rather than a long trip report I’ll keep it short and post pictures.


Read the rest of this entry »

About how long could you stay underwater?

July 10, 2006

In a previous post I wondered how long you could stay underwater breathing the air left in your capsized kayak. Now the reasons for wanting to do this could include: scaring your mum; performing tricks like swapping kayaks underwater with a friend and then rolling up; and avoiding surface problems – like giant pterodactyls or maybe some extreme weather? Read the rest of this entry »

About the Oshika Peninsula

July 10, 2006

I know Jon Rose. He is a brilliant centre half and plays in my football team, we even went wakeboarding together, he is a friend. Hence I hope he doesn’t feel bad that I have infringed his copyright on the text below. He was once ALT in Arukawa at the bottom of the Oshika Peninsula, hence his insight, posted on this website (and reposted here because I don’t trust the tripod site to keep going) is to be trusted. Read the rest of this entry »

Ajishima or Kinkasan

July 10, 2006

Saturday 8 July 2006

The 8th July in many places would be hot and sunny. Maybe even in Scotland… But in Japan it is the rainy season and it is cool and cloudy. Not that I am complaining I know that in two weeks this season will be over and the weather will be very hot and muggy with temperatures in the mid 30’s. I may have to start getting up at 5am to avoid the heat.

Today I had the whole day to myself. My mother-in-law is visiting and I want to give her some time alone with her grandchildren. This isn’t just a sellfish, ‘there is someone else to look after the kids’ deal, although it is partly.

I decide that I should go somewhere different from usual as I have the whole day and therefore time to drive somewhere.The marine forecast is light winds, 12kmph (6-7knots) from the southeast and a small swell (less than 1.2m). It is to be cloudy all day with the chance of light rain temperature 22 degrees C, the water temperature a balmy 21 degrees C. Perfect really.

I decide to go to the Oshika peninsula and then paddle the 3.2km crossing to Ajishima to the southwest. I consider paddling to Kinkasan the famous island on the pacific east side of Oshika but decide against it as that would be an exposed crossing.


Read the rest of this entry »

A tidal wave

July 7, 2006

falls of lora


Back in the old days a tsunami – a Japanese word meaning ‘habour wave’ – was called a tidal wave. Here is a real tidal wave, The falls of Lora, one of the largest tidal races in the northern hemisphere, in Scotland. There is a lot of detail and some more photos about the falls here. I posted this one because the water looks beautiful.

The biggest in the Northern Hemisphere in case you were wondering is in Pembrokeshire, Wales where my friend Simon lives. But its not as beautiful as the Scottish one – much like Simon and me (and its called ‘Bitches’ which just isn’t right – compare that to the poetic Scottish name).



The biggest in the world is at the mouth of the amazon I believe.

EDIT: link to Justine’s blog entry about the falls of lora

An amazing surfing kayaking picture

July 5, 2006


I don’t violate copywrite for fun and try to quote my sources but images like these tend to disappear on the internet or the link gets broken.

This was taken by Paul Jonason of John Petersen in Californian surf in his homebuilt baidarka.

From here

You can tell its a Baidarka by its ‘bifuricated’ (split) bow.

The reason for this type of kayak having this bow shape is still unknown (amazing I think). However one very interesting idea was that the lower bow acts very much like the hull shape of modern supertankers in reducing the size of the hull wave thus increasing the speed / efficiency of the boat.


there is a vey long but interesting article about hull design here



A big red bus

July 5, 2006

I’ve got the feeling I’m driving a bus.

bigred racingcar

Look at these two images. On the left is me in my big red plastic boat. 606mm wide. On the right is Patrick Teasdale who built his own Greenland style ‘qajaq’. 458mm wide. Its a racing car to my bus, it just looks oh so much sleeker, faster, more beautiful; just all round better.

(Keep it quiet though I don’t want ‘big red’ feeling bad)

from here

A visitor to Japan? Want to sea kayak?

July 4, 2006

Are you coming to Japan as a tourist and want to sea kayak? Here are the limited resources I know about at the moment (I will update this post as I find out more ).

Next to Tokyo is Kanagawa prefecture which includes Yokohama city (in fact you’d be hard pressed to know where Tokyo ends and Yokohama begins). In Kanagawa is a tour school where they speak perfect English (I am told). I guess it will be easy to get there from Tokyo. Their website is only in Japanese but I suggest e-mailing them for an English response.

website is here e-mail: boomer at algaforest dot com

Nagoya is in Aichi on the border of Mie prefecture, near Nagoya is a small town called Ise (where the famous Ise Shrine is) which is also not a million miles from Osaka and Kyoto. Based in Ise and nearby Toba is a well known sea kayaker (Yoshikazo-san) and his company Paddlecoast. (They also build under license North Shore Kayaks). They speak English and I am going paddling with them at the end of July (I am excited and will post more of course). The website is only in Japanese.

website is here e-mail: paddleco at topaz dot ocn dot ne dot jp

I stumbled across this, a North American based adventure company which does a tour of Japan’s Inland Sea, at 6,500 dollars it’s pretty pricey…

There is an Outdoor Special Interest Group (OSIG) started and run by JETs which writes about outdoor activities in Japan. In my experience its not that great – tends to focus on mountain sports – but you can find some background information and places to stay.