July, 23 rd Tottori
Bicycle on a train. Even though I already travelled a lot withing Japan, which is extremely easy and convinient, it was the first time that I took my bicycle with me on a train. Unlike other european countries it is forbidden to take a bicycle on the train and many overland buses. Only exemption: if it is packed in a special bicycle bag. I was keen to have one of those for a very long time to discover further regions on the weekends or extended weekends. It also would be the first time I travelled in a fast speed train (unfortunately not in the Shinkansen, the Japanese equivalent of ICE). The “Super Hakuto” train would take me directly to Tottori Station. I stored my bike quickly into it’s bag and heavy loaded with it’s two bike bags I entered Osaka’s biggest Station. It was a long walk with all the luggage and only moments later sweat run down my face and soaked my mask. Great. It was a rather long way to the platform and when I arrived I was already done. Humidity and heat is killing you in these time of the year in Japan, even without a 28 kg luggage. I stored my bike in the hallway of the train. It fitted better than expected and anybody complained. In my stress I didn’t checked the non-reserved car and the conductor removed me three times. I’m very sure there was more than one misunderstanding and it would have been easier if he hadn’t try to speak english. In the end I sat in the very front of the train, while my bike travelled in the very last one. Quickly the train followed its way through the beautiful countryside. Surrounded by mountains the green of nature and blue of fresh rivers was incredible. It slighlty started raining and I felt cozy and happy in my seat. I arrived at lunch time and unfortunately even Tottori city seems rather countryside like, so all restaurants were closed and I had to eat what the Konbini offered. I went straight to the campsite located at the top of the sand dune and pitched my tent in the little pine tree forest. The campsite was typical japanese: free, even though it was run by a manager and offered all neccessary facilities beside showers. Afterwards I went to explore the area, especially the sand dune I wanted to visit for a long time. It was a cloudy, warm day and luckily the rain stopped. The golden sand felt warm and soft under my bare feet. I enjoyed the warm ocean’s breeze and the view of the deep blue sea. And a calmness raised into myself. It was still early and after a long walk I decided
July, 22 nd Osaka
Summer. Rainy season is finally over and summer started officially. Japanese summer is hot and humid. One could feel the it from one to the other day. Now the time has arrived when my body is constantly sweating and my skin sticky. Nevertheless I am really looking forward the upcoming time, since my mind is craving to spend some time outdoors. Unfortunately my main holiday on Golden Week, a one week streak of national holidays during May, was cancelled due to lockdown and my annual holiday is reserved for Christmas. Luckily Japan has quite a few extended weekends and one of them is starting tomorrow. I just got a bicycle bag, which allows me to take my bike on the train. I will leave Osaka for the first time this year and I can’t wait for it. One of my Japan dreams was to go to Tottori. With my brand new bicycle bag I will hop on the train and hopefully have an enjoyful time at rural places and lonely beaches at Tottori Prefecture. On the weekend I grabbed my bike out of the shabby corner it spend the last year and after a three hour clean up and fixing it, it felt like being reunited with an old friend.
June, 26 th Osaka
Rainy season. It’s been a month since I am back at work and beside some restrictions and meetings held on zoom it’s mainly as before. To my great happiness the climbing gyms also reopened as well. Luckily I only lost slightly of my power and still be able to work on my old project and keep on progressing. Also, to my astonishment I continued running on a regular base and also increased my route to 10 km. I never considered myself as a runner and running was always like an effective, but hated snack of fitness. Meanwhile my body got used to it that I started enjoying it. Seriously. One of my dreams is to run a marathon one day and at the moment I feels doable if I just continue. Unfortunately, Osaka marathon is cancelled this year, but I made an important step closer to it. It is rainy season and almost everyday it is pouring rain and most of the time my feet are soaked. Rainy season last around 4-6 weeks in Japan. Luckily the temperature is quite nice. For a long time I wanted to try swimming and the season easily led me to try it out. Public pools are rather rare in Japan and full of rules I don’t understand. People are extremely strict. It is not allowed to wear a sport watches, you have to wear a bath cap and every hour the pool must be left to do a 10 minutes gymnastics workout. No way for cheating, I tried. Anyway I kinda liked swimming and will try to continue it once a week.
May, 25 th Osaka
Back to lab. For me the time in quarantine was mainly living routine. It wasn’t that bad at all, but after almost six weeks there wasn’t much to do at home office anymore, my lab book was cleaned up and I got sick of reading paper. I have to admit I desperately started missing going to work. One good thing I took out of the quarantine was the fact that I started running on a serious and regular basis. I started with 7.5 km out of the blue and I was literally dead after the first couple of runs. But I kept going on and in addition to a very strict diet I was soon able to discover how my body slightly started to change. My biggest worry was too lose muscle power I just recently gained at climbing. State of emergency is released and from now I will go back to lab. The first time it will be on reduced hours, but I’m very looking forward to go a step back to normal.
April, 15 th Osaka
State of emergency. Japan declared the state of emergency nationwide and from now on the governor of Osaka Prefecture has the power to request to lockdown the city and public life. Due to Japanese law this is only a request and can’t be forced by government. While many shops and facilities are following the request, the situation here is far more different than in Europe. Public life still takes place and the streets are full of people. Most of my friends going to work, some with reduced working hours, some without any changes. No question, the streets are way more empty than usual, but still there is life outside and people seemed not too worried.
April, 8 th Osaka
Quarantine. At 5 pm my boss asked me into his office and requested me to stay at home from now on. University will be closed soon. Even though observations of the situation suggested a lockdown like in Europe and other countries coming soon, it was still surprising. I prepared my little green friends I am working with for hibernation, grabbed all my stuff and left the lab with a weird feeling in my stomach, not knowing when I will be back again.
March, 26 th Osaka
Corona Virus. I’m safe. I’m very shocked about the situation in Europe, America and the world in general. In Japan the situation is very different right now. Everyday life is basically the same. We have a lot of basic hygienic recommendations and my boss asked us to avoid the crowded city centres. This is not a government recommendation, just his personal care for us. I don’t know what is the reason for the difference of the situation. It might be that Schools and Kindergarten closed immediately weeks ago, wearing masks outside while having only slightly cough is common, higher social distance due to cultural reasons and being used to crisis situations (such as earthquakes, floods etc.). I feel save in Japan and it seems like a nightmare when I look towards Europe. I heard some criticism about Japanese Government might hide the number of infections, but I personally can say there is not even rumour about over crowded hospitals or other any signs of an uncontrolled outbreak like in Europe.
March, 25 th Osaka
Projects. I like doing sports, because it is pure fun and make me happy. I always have been focused, but never been ambitious. In climbing, having fun was my motivation and for sure progress made me happy, but I wasn’t hunting for it. Since I started climbing in Japan I always wondered if I ever could become as strong as I was on my personal highest peak in 2015. During that time I was also sure I arrived at my limit. I knew I wouldn’t pass without changing my aims. I grew strong due to the push of motivation from Christmas holidays. Recently I realized I’m on the edge. I might reached my best condition. It is hard to compare, since route setting is different in a different gym and especially in a different country (where I hit the average size haha), I only do lead climbing and even translation of the grades is just a vague hint. I’m empowered and highly motivation. I can’t find words to described the conditions I am in right now. I’m highly energized and the time has come to break through my own personal limits. Today I went to the gym with the aim to finish my project, a super nice 5.11c/d (UIAA 8) and then touch and start my new project: A pink line in the so far untouched grade of 5.12a (UIAA 8+/9-). For sure grades are absolutely non objective and I’m definetly not a stubborn grade hunter. But for me it is a way of keep tracking progress, stay motivated and especially forcing me to leave my comfy zone. And the proof that everything is possible and I can break through my personal limits. I felt weak yesterday (somedays it happens, no reason), but decided to touch the line last minute to run into the problems and mentally work on it during physically regeneration. Surprisingly there was no problem, every single move was hard -for sure-, but totally doable. I needed several breaks and I also fell at the end many times, but the take home massage is technically I can absolutely do it and just need to get a little bit more power and endurance. Most of the people reading this won’t understand, but I entered grade 5.12 and therefore I broke down all my personal limits in climbing!
March, 23 th Osaka
Lucky labmates. My working place has become the focal point of my life. While in Germany people are separating strictly between working life and private life, in Japan it could be very different. Some of my coworkers became my best friends and everyday I’m happy to go to work. So far, I prefer spending my time at work rather than at home. I never experienced it before, but this atmosphere is very nice and I enjoy it a lot. In this environment I’m more productive than everywhere else.
March, 20 th Mizunami
Climbing weekend. Due to a national holiday this Friday we had an extended weekend with a promising weather forecast after a longer period of rain and (japanese) coldness. My energy level was pretty low and I needed to leave the city and spend some time in nature. Luckily Bryan and some other members of our climbing club planned a trip to Mizunami to go for rock climbing. This was exactly what I was looking for. Friday morning, 5 am, I left my bed and soon I was sitting in the car towards the Japanese Alps. Mizunami is a great climbing spot in a fairy tale like wood with huge roundish chunks of rocks which are looking like fallen from the sky. The routes are all crack or slab and the rock is sharp and rough. The spot is even more special since it is possible to hike up and hang a toprope. I managed to lead some routes and was happy that my mind was still as strong as last week. We stayed in a small cottage, a 30 min drive away in the mountains at a beautiful lake. We were the only customers and the calmness and silence of this beautiful place was incredible. We prepared dinner ourselves and had a nice dinner altogether. After a bath, I was so tired and exhausted that I already fell asleep at 8 pm while laying on the futon in a small very japanese tatami room. Saturday and Sunday we spent at the climbing spot again, which is a very huge area and we did not even had a full sneak on it. Sun was shining and it was perfect for climbing. I enjoyed climbing, eating and napping all day. This weekend completely recharged my battery. I had a busy time and it seemed like I cannot keep up with the speeding up of my every day life. Here in the mountains, everything stand still and calmed down. I was fully there. Fully at myself. I was only with Japanese people, who cannot speak any english. Bryan can, but for sure he isn’t a translator and rather a quite person. I have to admit my Japanese is still very bad. It works too good with english. But here in the mountains with this people there was no backup. In the end it was also a very Japanese intense weekend and I even started speaking in the end. And it felt all natural. My skills to understand conversations about climbing and climb in Japanese were really surprising me. Sometimes language creates isolation, which I experienced with native english speakers a lot. My climbing team wasn’t setting me as the foreigner into the focus and paying a lot of attention to make me feel comfortable (it happens a lot), they just treated me normal. But I never felt isolated. It was a very nice feeling, I had a lot of space for myself, while never been locked out or treated as the special foreigner. Japanese people have a very special warm and welcoming attitude, I wonder if this situation would have happened in other countries. In Germany rather not. I was just accepted and welcomed without making a big deal of it.
March, 15 th Himeji
Climbing cliffs. It was the first time this season I went out for rock climbing outdoors. To be honest I’m an indoor kid and love the gym. While climbing outdoors I usually enjoy lunch and naps most of these days. Recently I watched a lot of Reel Rock movies (short movies about the climbing elite), which gave me an unexpected kick of motivation for climbing outside. The spot we went is around one hour by car and directly next to the see. It was an amazing spot. The cliffs are perfect for sports climbing. Vertical, rough rock with no loose stones and sticky holds. Conditions are close to the gym and I was very curious to test my physical and mentally skills. I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to climbing outdoor and my fear blocks me that much, that I cannot move anymore. This even happens in the toprope. After climbing at Mt. Gozaisho last year, I was totally blocked and experienced that much fear that I secretly decided never climb outside again. Well, since I came back from Germany with a lot of new climbing motivation I improved physically and mentally. In Japan toprope climbing basically doesn’t exist, so I got used to lead at my limit. As mentioned this spot is not only beautiful it also provided gym like conditions regarding safety. I lead climbed five lines, some with challenging moves. I felt confidence. This feeling made me very happy. At the end I toproped a hard 5.11a. The crux is amazing and I found a very different way to solve it using my unique flexibility. I got my project. I can’t wait to come to this spot to enjoy the sea, the cliffs and lead this line!