March, 1 st Osaka
Half Marathon. Today I went out for running, which I lost kind of the focus on during this year. I felt very strong and energetically loaded tonight. My dream was alsways to run a marathon one day, but so far the maximum distance I ever run was around 18 km. I could feel it once I was on the road, today I will be able to set a new milestone and so I just kept running. With a quick run in mind I kinda run fast and even though I managed to run 25 km in the end and achieved half marathin distance for the first time in my life. I even managed to hold my pace during the entire run and was surprised about the reasonable time in the end (even though I wasn’t hunting for). Though, I have to admire that it was a little bit much in the end and I better should have cut 2 km. I was totally eexhausted and felt sick in the end. My body hurted and I had trouble eating and sleeping afterwards. I even suffered the full next day. Anyway it was a unique experience and I’m looking forward to set new goals (gradually) for the upcoming running season.
February, 20 th Osaka
Changes. Traditionally a new year starts in Japan with the cherry blossom in spring. It seems like with the flowering the whole country awakes. On 1 st of April the new term, job or whatsoever will start. This April will also bring significant changes to my life. Two of my coworkers and friends will leave our laboratory and I will finally move into an own apartment! For the very first time I will live on my own und I’m curious how I will adapt. A very big new advantage of my new place will be that I finally will be able to host (male) guests. I’m very looking forward to host visitors, especially my family after the pandemic situation hopefully released. Let’s see what the new year will bring.
February, 13 th Osaka
New home. Today I officially signed my rental contract for the new apartment and my friends helped me to already bring my new washing machine and fridge inside. For Japanese conditions my apartment is very spacious and kitchen and bedroom are separated. It is bright with big windows and the greatest advantage is the gorgeous wardrobe, where I will be able to store all my outdoor and climbing equipment. I mostly stayed in my old neighbourhood, which I really admire. And again the next train station is only a three minutes walk away. Just my beloved river will be a bit more away. Well, seems like I have to increase my usual running curse about 2 km.
February, 6 th Osaka
Apartment hunting. Recently I’m often thinking about moving into an own apartment. Even though I love my room in my current share house, its location close to the river and my flatmates, which are very loevely and uncomplicated, I more often craving for the experience of living on my own. Mostly I would like to welcome (male) visitors and invite family and friends to visit me in Japan. Within the shared house it is strictly forbidden to invite male guest and also I couldn’t host female relatives from overseas for more than two nights. Rentig an own apartment with all its buerocracy is quite challenging in Japan, but luckily my coworker and my climbing partner helped me a lot. My disappointment was pretty high, when I got declined for some nice properties, because the landlord openly told not to rent it to a foreigner, no matter if he ever met me or not. I met Kazu in Awaji this morning and he kindly accompanied me to several agency meetings. In Japan apartment hunting is only done by agencies and soon we were visiting the first properties, which were very nice, but way too small. Awaji area is full of agencies and we ended up by chance in a warm hearted family like office. The guy was super sympathic and showed me around 6 apartments in three different properties. In the end I decided for a different apartment in my already favourite property I found online the night before. Usually there a lot of hidden fees which are extremely creative: key exchange fee, contract renewal fee, cleaning fee, initial fee, fee for a guarantator (for foreigners) and even virus removal fee. It’s crazy and common to pay around 1500-2000 € of fee for basically nothing. In the end I am very happy with my deal, only containing two monthly rents as fee for the agency/landlord. For sure, anybody spoke a single word english, but the guy was warm hearted and promised me to help at any time. We spent almost the full day preparing documents and in the end I was mentally exhausted. It went smooth though and having Kazu with me was a huge gift. I can say I absolutely understand any detail of the Japanese contract I just signed.
December, 31 th Dortmund
Happy New Year. In Germany Christmas is for the family and New Year’s eve for friends (it’s excatly the opposite in Japan). I’m not a fan of Silvester (New Year’s Eve), but I was very happy to spend the evening with my best friend Dominic and his wife. Usually people join parties on these day, but this year everything is different for sure. We had nice dinner and afterards we watched REEL ROCK, my very favourite outdoor/climbing film tour which was held online this year. I was looking for it for a long time and for me it was even more special to watch it with my best (climbing) friend. The evening was very relaxed and while waiting for New Year, we played some board games. Funnily the game was called King of Tokyo and I even managed to win. At 0:00 h usually cheered and go outside to do some firewoks. This year it was forbidden by the government to reduce firework induced injuries and to release the already full hospitals. Anyway, we went out to fire some little fireworks (legal) to have at least the feeling of sticking to the tradition. The streets around us were empty, but there were some rockets
exploding in the night sky. It was cold and wet, like every winter’s day in Germany, so we went back inside quickly and continued chatting and gaming. It was a calm, but very nice New Year’s eve.
December, 22 nd Recklinghausen
Christmas preparations. Finally the jetlag has been gone and I felt much better. Since all the consumable shops were closed, we got some last christmas gifts online. After two years in Japan I was very keen to go to the supermarket and load everything I like to eat and cannot get in Japan. My parents had a good laugh about how happy I was about usual and random stuff. I love breakfast and that’s the only thing I cannot get satisfied with in Japan. The bread is just a catastrophy. So, in Germany we had a georgeos breakfast with fresh baked bread rolls from my favourite bakery almost every
day. Christmas is also the time for baking cookies. So this evening the kitchen became a cookie bakery with a good smell which entered all rooms in the house. The christmas tree was already deecorated and we were ready for Christmas.
December, 19 th Recklinghausen
Fir christmas tree cut. Being at home felt strange at the very beginning. My cat happily rubbed its head on my legs and started purring. I suffered from a bad jetlag the first days and woke up in the middle of the night. These nights where I could do random things at home remembered me of my childhood’s early weekend mornings. Like last year the jetlag hit me hard. It was just a few days until Christmas and time get a Christmas tree. This year we decided to fir one by ourself. Therefore we travelled to Hattingen, a rather countryside area not far from Bochum. In the christmas tree nursery it took some time, but in the end we found our perfect christmas tree for this year. My dad brought a sew and soon we were carrying it out of the field. With the tree on the car’s roof we headed home. For the cat, the christmas tree in the house is the best time of the year. It was a lot of fun to watch the excited cat sniffing and strolling under the tree.
December, 15 th Dubai
Coming home for Christmas. The decision to fly to Germany wasn’t made easy. Like for many other people, this year was the worst. Additionally to all the COVID-19 issue it became a personal nightmare and in the end of December all my energy was fully worn out. It was a very last minute decision without any great announcement. I had to fight with a lot of difficulties from ranging to get an early visa extension up to the steadily getting worse situation in Germany. Just before departure another negative news arrived me and everything went quick. I received the notification for my visa extention, the buerocracy for re entry was organized and I even could buy at least some little gifts for my family. Once I booked the flight, Germany announced to get into a hard lockdown the day I would arrive. For me it made no difference, since my aim was to stay with my family and at home anyway. Since the flight was in the night, I spend my free day to pack my luggage, go for a run and took a last bath in the sento. While dipping in the hot water I couldn’t imagine that soon I would be finally in Germany with my family. Aware, that I might not be able to come back to Japan for a longer time, I left my house. The airport was completely abondoned. It felt like a ghost place. All shops were closed. I checked in my lagguge and went to the gate. Mostly foreigners were waiting with me. I started an audiobook and got sleepy. The heat from the sento was gone and I was awaiting to sit in the warm plane. At least my plan worked and I felt tired. I was surprised that they served a warm meal in the middle of the night, but with a full tummy sleep would be even better. I wondered, the plane was almost fully bookeed. There was one free seat in between every passenger, but beside this, every available seat was booked. In the morning I arrived in Dubai and compared to Kansai airport it was a different world. All shops were open and the airport truly alive. Time was flying and soon I was boarded to the flight for Germany. This flight was nearly empty and I had the full row of seats for myself. After breakfast I deeply fell asleep and woke up during lading. I could see the Rhine River and remembered the great summer I had two years ago with Karina, Albert and Mami. Somewhere down there we used to hang out at the shore and spent a great time. Soon I passed the boarders and looked into the smiling faces of my parents.
December, 6 th Osaka
Nikolaus day. In Germany kids will clean their shoes and place them outside the door in the night. The next morning, they will be filled with chocolate, nuts and mandarines. I didn’t clean my shoes, but found some chocolate on my desk in the morning. Eating a huge chocolate Nikolaus in the morning provides a good basis for a day of climbing. Today we headed out to our very home spot at Dōjō station in the Takarazuka mountain area. The area is my very favorite one, since it has the best hiking trails and a huge rock climbing area with several sectors within a typical charming japanese coutryside. I met Kazu in the train and soon we were climbing up the steep approach to Fudoiwa. It was a sunny day with bright blue sky and the smell of spring. The mild breeze felt unreal and both of us couldn’t stop enjoying this beautiful “winter’s day”. At the spot we met some other members of the club and started climbing immediately. Even though I don’t like placing gear and going first, Kazu motivated me to onsight. There was no sight and I had no idea where the anchor was. The route I started with was the very oldest one with rusty bolts everywhere and their only purpose was to comfy the climber. The route was easy and very enjoyable, but maybe not the best choice for a scaredy cat who forgets that is a rock climber while being in the wall. Soon I arrived the shiny silvery anchor and could enjoy the incrdible view of the valley from one of the highest points in the area. I also finished the route next to it and it was a nice sporty line in an excellently bolted condition I was used in that area. The nice day made me a bit lazy and so I started into the next one in toperope. I know I was able to solve it physically, but I felt mentally weak. When people seeing me climbing in the gym versus the rock they cannot believe the gap in between and I also have no explanaination. I’m not motivated to take a risk of injury and when I climbed the crux I was happy to be in toprope. We changed the sector after lunch and went to “theatre”. Usually Kazu and me are synced and today was the best example. Today was a beautiful day for climbing nices line and enjoying. We spent the afternoon climbing lines which were just enjoyable providing us withamazing views at their top. Even though I have been to this sector before, I could climb some new lines and I’m keen to finish the full sector. I was the very last one in the wall and finished my last climb during sunset. We quickly packed our stuff and climbed down to station where we met the other group members in front of the local kiosk. It was almost dark when we entered the train back to Osaka and a very nice day of climbing ended.
November, 29 th Osaka
Hoshi no Buranko. Today’s hike was very short announced since I was suffering from a cold and not being sure if it could take place. I posted it on Friday and against all expectations I was very happy some people were free to join. Sunday’s morning was clear and blue. My flatmate Chris and me headed out into the fresh cold air. At Awaji Station we met my coworker Ulrike and I was super happy to see her. The way from the Station to the park was kinda long, but also very beautiful. It guided us through the sleepy Japanese countryside through rice fields and along old traditional houses and temple. On the way we picked up Yoshi who was already awaiting us. Hiking with my closest ones is nice and I was deeply relaxed lacking the need of organisation and tight schedules. The way into the park guided us along a cute river while I realised autumn is almost over, the leaves were already fallen and winter will come quickly. In the entrance of Hoshida park were some local stalls and a big artificial outdoor climbing wall. We stopped there, walked around and enjoyed the atmosphere while I was slightly envying the climbers. Chatting and giggling we made our way into the park climbing up towards today’s attraction: Japan’s biggest wooden suspension bridge “Hoshi no Buranko” (star swing). We have already been here due to a hiking trip (Mt. Katano) und unfortunately missed the opening hour by ten minutes. It was cold, rainy and dark. But on this wonderful autumn day it looked amazing and it was a very unique experience crossing it. On the other side we met Liang with his two kids. Together we had lunch over there with a very nice view of the valley connected by the impressive bridge. Afterwards we hiked through the park towards an observation point where we could enjoy the beautiful autumn view of the large area and Kyoto in the background. Our hike was interrupted by a game of frisbee altogether and luckily everyone did well and preventing the frisbee flying into the valley. At the observation deck Liang left us and we also headed back to the station while crossing the bridge again. It was a very light and relaxing sunday and I deeply enjoyed it.
November, 21 st
Cycling Awaji. The last long weekend before winter was approaching. Due to my ankle injury I had to skip all hiking activities and postponed a winter trip to Japanese alps to next year. Since I arrived in Osaka I was keen to cycle around Awaji island, a rather small island located in Osaka bay connecting the main islands of Honshu and Shikoku. There are several benefits, it’s an easy access and with its 150 km loop perfectly made for a three day trip. Also Yoshi, Sayaka and me were keen to for another cycling adventure this year. In the last minute Sayaka needed to work, but decided to join us from Sunday morning arriving via bus. While the entire week was extraordinary warm and sunny, the Saturday morning started cold and grey. I left my house in the morning with the cold air blowing into my face wondering how the next night would feel. It’s my third bicycle on the train tour this year and the level of stress dropped a lot. Within minutes my bike disappeared in its bag and I found myself on the train. I met Yoshi at Akashi Station and helped her to build up her bike. The time schedule was a bit tight, but we arrived the Ferry terminal in time. It’s a very quick ride to substitute the impressive Akashi bridge and soon we arrived on Awaji Island. I have already cycled one third, and this time we decided to cycle anticlockwise. The air was cold and fresh and my body felt stiff, but after a few kilometres and first views of the ocean next to us I got warm und happy. I was unmotivated after a busy week of work, but right now I felt pure happiness to be outside and have the Ocean next to me. Soon the sky cleared and sun beams were touching our skin. After 20 km cycling directly next to the Ocean our stomachs were craving for lunch. We decided to go for Okonomiaki (kind of hearty pancakes), the most famous dish of Osaka. Indeed, the Okonomiaki tasted different and it was impressive how exactly Yoshi could point out the differences. It was a cozy and warm place, back on the bicycle I felt cold and tired. But only for a short time. In the afternoon we suddenly got a message from Sayaka saying she finished earlier and would join us already this night. This were amazing news! After a well deserved coffee break in the sun we were motivated to head to today’s final destination. We headed to a beach around Minamiawaji which was also pointed out as a local campsite. Sayaka warned us that it would be closed, but we had no other choice anyway and had to check it out. The beach was gorgeous. One of the biggest I have ever seen in Japan. A huge area of tightly planted pine trees would provide a perfect cover in the night. Unfortunately and very unlikely for Japan the facilities were closed and locked! We checked out one by one and already seated ourselves towards a hidden night without a bathroom until we suddenly saw tents at the very end of the beach. It were large, fully equipped ones. For sure here must be an open facility somewhere. Around the parking space were facilities and some other tents. We were extremely happy, the place was just perfect. We danced around of happiness and soon started pitching our tents under the pine trees next to the beach. The sun started setting and Sayaka was about to arrive by bus. We watched the sunset over the Ocean and enjoyed the last minutes before the big red ball seemed to fall into the Ocean before heading out to meet Sayaka at the local Onsen. I realised I really meeesed up while packing and forgot any kind of underwear. In a 100 Yen shop I got some spare ones, but the disappointed was big, when I held the tiny pants in my hands which might would have fit me as a 9 year old. Also the men’s version was too tight and I just gave up! To the amusement of my fellows. With a feeling of a new born baby and a bag full of delicious food we headed back to the campsite. It was way warmer than expected and so we could enjoy our dinner. Since it was my birthday last week we also had a cheesecake and I got a very lovely present from my dear friends: an ultralight solar camping light in a cubic form, which I can Han literally everywhere. That’s exactly what we needed in this dark night. We had a pleasures time of chatting and laughing, but also were super sleepy way before midnight. I was happy to slip into my sleeping, freshly bathed, full with good food and just enjoying to be able to sleep outside with my friends around me. I heard the ocean and before I could focus listening I already fell asleep.
November, 22 nd
As usually I woke up by the sounds of fellows strolling around. Coffee smell came to my nose and motivated me to slip out of my sleeping bag into the sunny morning. The night wasn’t cold I had the pleasure of a good deep sleep. I like camping with Sayaka and Yoshi, without any speaking we are naturally a good team and our body rhythms just fit. We had a nice breakfast together while the sunbeams broke the shadow of the pine trees. The Ocean was as blue as the sky and in this environment one could only feel happy. Soon we had packed all our stuff, loaded the bikes and headed out into a promising day. Within minutes we left the city behind and entered Japan’s rural countryside. Sometimes life in Osaka is stressing me and those are the moments I remember why I love Japan so much and all the emotions are coming back. We cycled along the Ocean on this perfect day. Here and there we made brief stops to enjoy the view. We decided to have lunch at a Michi no Eki (roadstation) at the very southern point of the island. The way up there was challenging with many climbs, but also tickling slopes as well. The few kilometres were the worst and our bodies were craving for fuel. Finally we arrived at the Michi no Eki and we were shocked. It was packed with tourist. For sure the reason was the amazing view of the Ocean and the gorgeous bridge connecting Awaji Island with the city of Naruto on Shikoku. Unfortunately this wasn’t a common road station, where they offer simple food like Udon noodle. There was only a fancy Sushi restaurant and a burger shop. And for sure loads of Omiyage. The line for burgers was the longest I have ever seen, but since I was starving and not motivated fo cold raw fish, I acted very Japanese and just lined up and not even caring. It took an hour until we finally arrived at the cashier and 14 out of 16 different burger were sold out. It was ok since my choice was still available, but I bet the line would have been way shorter if people knew that in advance… We enjoyed our burger lunch with a great view of the bridge. Every region in Japan is famous for something and this place is famous for Tamanegi (egg onion or just onion). So we took a funny picture at an onion monument and hoped back on our bikes. It was a wild ride down a long slope into the next village. We stoped there for a coffee while the became cloudy and the temperature dropped. It was late already and we wouldn’t have been able to cycle the coastal road to our final destination, Sumoto. So, we followed the national road cutting some major kilometres. The road was busy and exhausting, but it was the right decision. The weather was unstable and the sky just broke minutes before we arrived. The last kilometres we substitute following a countryside road through rice fields which was a really nice ending of today’s etap. At Sumoto beach we looked for a place to pitch our tents later and as last year, there wasn’t any chance for hiding. It started raining, so we quickly headed to the next Onsen. It was a very old traditional one, with a charming feeling like in your grandma’s home. There were only two baths, a super hot one and a super cold one. Since they were next to each other, we found ourselves sitting in the cold one and dipping our arms in the hot one. I never felt as relaxed as at this moment. Rain had stopped when we left the place. We all felt sleepy and lazy, so thee decision to grab a pizza at a shop we passed was very easy made. Back at the beach we decided to build our camp in front of the beach house. It would cover us from the park and street, while on the other side was the Ocean. It was the only place providing some privacy and it felt so nice to sleep directly next to the Ocean in the sand. Actually it was the very same place I stayed a year ago. Surprisingly this night was also warmer than expected. After Pizza and cheesecake it started slightly to rain. It was perfectly timed and welcome excuse to bring our tired bodies to sleep. Within minutes I fell into a deep sleep…
November, 23 rd
The morning exactly started as the previous one. The sky was bright and blue. We had our breakfast in the sand while watching the very first active walker and jogger. It was a pity to imagine to be back in Osaka already this night. We took our time to enjoy the last relaxed moments of the morning until we packed and loaded our bicycles, ready to head back home. The road to the ferry terminal was quite ok, but not that amazing and homogenic. The wind was blowing strong and I constantly felt cold while cycling. We had lunch in the town of Ura in a very local restaurant and enjoying a set of Udon. I didn’t want to leave that cozy place go back into the cold again, but there wasn’t any choice. Luckily it was just around 15 km to the ferry terminal. The ferry departed every full hour and we just missed it. We strolled around the terminal in the spare time and were happy to board. Tired and sleepy we left the ferry, went to Akashi station and packed our bicycles. Carrying the bikes into the train was smoother than expected and soon I found myself back at Shin Osaka cycling towards my house. Even though the trip was short and next door, it allowed my mind to take a rest from the recent busy everyday life and I am grateful and happy for the opportunity Japan offers to me.
November, 17 th Osaka
Birthday. Every morning I need to walk around twenty minutes from the Station to work. Recently the scenery along the road changes every day. Usually I take my skateboard to work and riding through the alley is for sure the highlight of day and a perfect start into the day. Even though Japan is famous for its cherry blossoms, I love autumn. Today was my birthday and it was a wonderful sunny day. My family called me in the morning and somehow I took them with me per video chat to enjoy this amazing scenery together. After work I went down to Namba to spent the day at my second favourite place: the climbing gym. Afterwards we went together to a chinese restaurant I wanted to go for a very long time. Japanese chinese food is far different from german one, there is literally nothing in common. Kazu was pretty amused about my excitement about the rather simple chinese food. The only thing in common was the condition afterwrds. My belly was so full, that gravity seems to work different. It was a long day, but I really enjoyed it.
November, 14 th Nabari
Momiji climbing. This week we were heading out to a climbing spot in Mie prefecture. We started early in the morning and together with the first sunbeams we arrived at the spot. It was a sharped formed valley with a clear blue river running through. The steep mountains were brightly colored in contrast to the blue sky. It was an amazing view and predicting a beautiful autumn day. Now and then high blank rock rocks protruded from the mountains like tin towers. I couldn’t wait to climb them. Our trip started adventurous. I knew we had to cross a river, but expected knee level of water. I was wrong. The fresh clear water touched my bare feet and immediately I was awake from my sleepiness. My feet started tickling while carefully passing the river. I was glad I removed my pants, the water was as high as my hips. There were some rocks on the grounds to shallow the water, but there were extremely slippery. To my astonishment I stayed dry and soon we were climbing up the colorful mountain towards the climbing spot. It was a beautiful place with amazing vertical cracked walls. The view into the valley was breathtaking. It was six of us and soon we were starting into the first two routes. Since the full area is only crack climbing, there were no bolts and trad climbing, where you have to place your own gear to build mobile protection is requiered. I’m unexperienced in placing gear and since my ankle is still injured I decided to stay in toprope today. In contrary to my climbing partner Bryan, who crazy likes crack climbing, I’m rather weak in this dicipline since it isn’t something you can train in the gym. The first route started with a fist sized crack and I really enjoyed. After half of the route the crack became very large and I completely fitted in. In this situation I desperately helpless and having no idea how to climb it. I moved into the crack and got stuck into. I didn’t fall down, but there was also no way up. I could have stayed there all day. I released my breath and slipped out of the crack. After a few trials to climb up in the crack I started searching for any tiny ledge the smooth face offered. And there was a tiny ledge on the hight of my chin. It was enough to place my food high and stem my body up using the crack’s wall. And I was lucky, I could also pass the second crux almost the same way. I’m sure the route wasn’t meant like this, but I reached the top. The second route was easier for me to solve since it was a finger crack. I back leaned all the way up using the crack like a sharp ledge. It was a lot of fun. It took us a long time for everone to finish and clean up. Afterwards we enjoyed our lunch while the sun was meanwhile in zenith and warming us nicely up. It was such a beautiful and peaceful place. The calmness and peaceful atmosphere entered my body and all recent stress and problems were far away and unreal in this moment. Kazu and me got tired after lunch and enjoyed watching Bryan solving a difficult route. Time was flying in a weird way today, but we were deeply relaxed and didn’t care about anything at all. I enjoyed taking pictures and just be there. My third and last route of the day was short one with a body sized crack. I avoided it again and rather climbed the slab next to it. I solved the crux while just jumping to a hold hoping it would be a good one. It was. It was the coolest move and pure fun though. I love this kind of moves. I enjoyed the view from the top into the valley for a moment. The sun disappeared already behind the mountain rigde, it would be dark soon. Crossing the river again was less smooth and to prevent another injury due to slipping I rather choose to get soaked. The icy water touched my belly button and some high pitched noises came out of me. Kazu was lauging a lot while watching me, but no further accident happened. Mission completed. It got dark as soon as we sat in the car. The end of very nice autumn day, even though there wasn’t that much climbing as usual.
November, 8 th Ōsaka
Roof climbing. For some reason I love roof climbing. While hanging under the ceiling I feel free, focused and it feels that gravity wouldn’t matter at all. The actual routes (5.11a) are part of my standard warm up and make me happy whenever I hang out at my local gym. This week there was a contest and I totally missed it. I was very keen to climb one of the final routes, a 5.11b, which was harder than the usual at this level. I couldn’t onsight nor even redpoint, but after a couple of trials I was able to solve it and next time I’m gonna send it for sure. It was pure fun though.
November, 3 rd Nara
Sacred Deers and autumn colors. Autumn season is heading to its peak while creating breathtaking sceneries all over the country. It is my very favourite season. Since I am still not recovered from my ankle injury in summer I decided to organize a light hike at one of my favourite cities: Nara. To keep the event small, I refrained from creating a public event and only invited regular participants. I was also very happy that my flatmate next door was also joining. We arrived at Nara station, where some people already happily awaited us and on the way to Nara park we picked up two other ones. With a group of six we entered the park, which was welcoming us with its beautiful colored autumn trees in a sharp contrast with the bright sky. It was a sunny day and I could feel the warmth sunlight touching my skin. Some lazy deers enjoyed our pats until we started climbing the Mt. Wakakusa, a beautiful hill behind the park. On the way I finally had the chance to chat with my friends I haven’t seen for a long time. We were a quiet group and I deeply enjoyed the friendly atmosphere. It is so nice to see a bunch of different people became friends over the time. At the top of Mt. Wakakusa, an breathtaking view of Nara park with all the beauty of autumn foliage was awaiting us. Happily we walked around, together with the deers, took some pictures and found a nice place to have lunch. Even we were at the top of the hill, it was still warm and a perfect day. We enjoyed our lunch time quite a while and strolled around. Hiking down the hillside is a rather short one, but just amazing. We took several breaks to fully enjoy the incredible beautiful environment. Back in Nara park we paid attention to the sacred deer, petted, cuddled and rubbed their fluffy flur. Deers of Nara are not only sacred, they’re also tamed, super cute and sometimes very cheeky especially when they are hungry for your snacks. With the setting sun a very lovely was going to end.
October, 18 th Ōsaka
Cliff climbing at Himeji. This rock climbing spot is one of our local spots and one of my favourite ones. Located directly to the sea, the walls are rough and sticky with a fantastic view of the ocean. It’s just an one hour ride from Osaka and I’m always excited to go there. Finally the temperature in Japan is just perfect and after a week of rain it was finally supposed to be a sunny sunday. It was an amazing day of climbing, beside some already known routes, I did a redpoint climb on a knew one and kept working on one of my projects there. Finally I exactly know how to solve “Kamikochi” and wrote it down very carefully. Next time I plan to redpoint it! It were five of us today and I really like climbing within a group. All of us are almost at the same level of skills with some specific preferences and it was a lot of fun and a pleasures time. During lunchtime the sun started shining bright and offered us a last feeling of summer with an incredible sunset in the evening. In the end of the day, my arms were sore, my finger’s skin removed and my legs still sore from running, but I couldn’t have been more happy.
October, 16 th Ōsaka
Skate. Run. Climb. Since almost two weeks I started riding my skateboard again and even though I felt shaky and insecure at the beginning, it is working pretty well again. I enjoy riding it so much. It’s been exactly two month since I injured my ankle and I’m still not fully recovered. My initial plan was to start running after Halloween, but with every day it was harder to keep waiting. Today I gave it a try and went out down to the river. This year, I found my love for running and for the first time in 10 years I really enjoyed it. I was a bit afraid to lose this happiness again after a long break, but when I my feet hit the ground and the cool wind blew into my face I felt energised again and pure happiness flooded my body. I was wearing the ankle supporter and run very carefully and slowly. Initially I planned to do a short round, but I couldn’t resist and run my usual 10 km river tour. Some parts of my body hurt, for sure, but my ankle was doing well. I’m so happy to be able to run again. Additions: My ankle swell a bit due to the stress afterwards, but in the end of the next day it was back to normal. My upper leg’s muscles were desperately sore for 4 full days and climbing stairs was a nightmare. What a happy nightmare.
October, 8 th Ōsaka
Khaki season. Finally the temperature dropped and autumn has arrived. The leaves will start changing colors and will turn Japanese mountains and streets into a wonderful scenery soon. It is my very favourite season of the year and I personally even more enjoy than famous cherry blossom. With autumn comes another season: khaki fruits. I usually not a fruit eater, but since I found them everywhere in the countryside on my bicycle trip through Japan I’m crazy about them. They are back and I am ready to eat tons.
September, 3 rd Shiraiki
Rough cliffs and rock climbing. Mountains or ocean? As a rock climber, for sure, I love the mountains, but my heart belongs to the ocean. Deeply. When both comes together I’m freaking out for happiness. Climbing cliffs is my favorite and I’m always happy to go to our local spot at Himeji. I was looking forward this weekend’s trip for a long time and finally time had come. Together with Kazu, Bryan, Sachiko san and Sonoyama san we went to Fukui to climb at a spot at the Japanese sea. We met early on Saturday morning and arrived at Shiraiki at breakfast time. The approach was rather easy, we climbed up an old hiking path and soon climbed down the cliffs directly next to the sea. We had to pass bulky rocks to find the hidden spot. We had to squeeze through a narrow corridor where our heavy loaded backpacks got stuck. Suddenly we were standing in colloseum like stadium made by rough tall cliffs. The scenery was amazing and dramatic. I didn’t know where to fix my eyes first. It was a sunny, warm day. Perfect conditons. Soon I stuck in the first and longest route. The rock was rough, sharp and due to the salty sea water sharp, but robust. My favorite type of rock! The walls were almost vertical and I couldn’t believe my luck. The area offered plenty of oppurtunities and rather less rock was bolted. We hopped over some rocks to a floating chunk of rock. The routes were easy, but incredible enjoyable. The view from the top was breathtaking. After lunch I took a nap in this wonderful scenery and freshly recharged I climbed to towers, when suddenly a fisherman entered the bay by boat. I couldn’t understand properly, but he was very upset about our car and threatened us to call the police (our car was parked at super countryside beach next to other cars of sports fishers). Anyway, we had to head out quickly. I had to clean up the last route and soon we followed the others. Our car was still there, without any police. The timing wasn’t too bad, since it was already late afternoon and we had a lot of nice climbs done already. Our Accomodation was just five minutes away. It was the very first time for me to stay at a Ryokan (traditional Japanese guest house) and I was keen to experience. I was sharing a big traditional tatami room with Bryan and Kazu and after some tea and a bath it was already time for dinner and our stomachs were ready for a while. The greatest thing about Ryokan’s is to wear a Yukata (kimono like robe) at all time during the stay. Downstairs the stuff prepared for us a georgeous dinner with super fresh local sea food. It was amazing. A big plate of Zashimi (different kind of raw fish), fresh fish we had to grill on the little table BBQ and plenty of other delicacies. I’m not a big fan of fish, but this dinner was amazing. I also tried sea snail and St. James shell for the first time (I didn’t like the sea snail, which made Kazu very happy to get mine). Afterwards they served a small soup with tiny shells, which was the most delicious soup I ever had. After the dessert our bellys were round and our faced warm and red. Heavy and satisfied we climbed upstairs to our rooms, where a the futons were already prepared. I was so lucky that even sleeping is performed in Yukatan and I didn’t need to change. I fell asleep within seconds and woke up by Kazu’s voice. It was one minute before 7 am and we had to go for breakfast. I literally jumped from the futon into my slippers following the others. I was still half asleep. A nicely prepared traditional Japanese breakfast was awaiting us. For sure including some fish, rice miso soup and green tea. I was still rather asleep, so I asked for coffee and had it in combination with my breakfast, to the amusement of the stuff. I really enjoyed staying still wearing the Yukata. We decided to go toa spot in Kyoto for climbing today, since some locals told us the climbing spot we were yesterday might be officially closed due to corona. Yesterday we were the only ones there. Soon we were on the way to Kyoto. It was the first time at this spot for me and even though it was very small the routes and area was prepared with a lots of love and the atmosphere was super nice. Also route setting was very fine and I got the challenges I was looking for. We arrived back in Osaka in the evening and it was one of the best weekends of the year.
September, 17 th Ōsaka
Rest’n climb. My ankle’s healing is very slow. The first 3-4 weeks there wasn’t any progress at all. On Monday I decided to finally see a doctor. It was a very short visit and with only a single view and some touching he told me there wasn’t any serious damage and I should take more rest the next 2-3 months while wearing an ankle supporter from amazon. I was very suspicious, but laziness and finally reduction of the swollen outer ligament led me to just continue waiting. Anyway I couldn’t stop climbing, exchanged my right climbing shoe to a thick hiking sock and started climbing with only one leg while the injured one wasn’t even touching the wall. It works better than expected, and even though I had plenty of injuries (usually the knee) und kept doing this, it has never been as effective and fun before. Right now I even think it could have stronger impact on my strenght than normal workout, which does motivate me a lot. I miss my skateboard though.
August, 22 th Ōsaka
Forced break. My initially plan for this weekend was to go the Japanese Sea for surfing, a trip I was looking forward to for a very long time. Due to my accident in the end of our trio to Mt. Gozaisho last week, I was forced to stay at home and literally do nothing. During the week I couldn’t walk at all and spend most of the time resting and cooling the ankle. Meanwhile I walk around in the house, but only for short distances. I wasn’t able to find a strong bandage, so I had to use Kinesio tape, which works better than expected. With the World Championship taking place in Briançon this weekend I feel more motivation than ever and can’t wait to go out and play. By the way my very favourite athlete won!
August, 15 th Komono
Rock climbing at Mt. Gozaisho. It’s supposed to be the hottest weekend of the year and while people literally melting in Osaka, Kazu, Kusakabe san and me went to Mt. Gozaisho for rock climbing. Located at the border of Shiga and Mie, Mt. Gozaisho is just a one and a half ride by car and a paradise for all sorts of outdoor folks, especially rock climbers. It was the my best weekend this year and we headed into a mountain adventure. Click here to see more of the amazing area of Gozaisho and read more about our adventures.
August, 11 th Osaka
Hanabi. In Japan, summer is the time of festivals and fireworks “hanabi”. Due to COVID-19 situation all events are cancelled. For my japanese friends a summer without fireworks is alike a New Year’s eve without it for me: something is missing. My friend Yoshi got some fireworks and so we decided to have a small picnic at Kanzaki river nearby my house and enjoy some food, fireworks and each other’s company. It has been a while that the three of came together and it was a very nice night with a lot of laughs and new ideas for the next adventures. Finally, we also managed to hand over Sayaka’s birthday present (her birthday was in April).
August, 5 th Kamikochi
Kita Alps. Summer holidays. Finally. In Japan the second longest streak of holidays called has begun. During this time, people traditionally go back to their hometowns in honor to the ancestors. For me it is the time to go live some of my Japan dreams. Last year I climbed Mt. Fuji and a dream came true. This year, I finally went to the Northern Japanese Alps (北アルプス) and decided to climb Mt. Yari (槍ヶ岳, Yarigatake), a 3,180 m high peak and one of the 100 most famous Japanese mountains. It was my very first time on an alpine tour for several days and a part of the trail contained the most thrilling and dangerous so called “Daikiretto gap”, a gap in the mountain ridge with is considered as the most difficult hiking trail in Japan. See more breathtaking pictures and read the full story here.
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, 17 th Osaka
ROTPUNKT. I have some ongoing climbing projects in the local climbing gym and I’m still practicing very hard several times a week to become stronger. My very favourite route is a violet, very technically 5.11d, which I am eagerly working on, but couldn’t solve so far. Today, after exactly three months since I touched it for the very first time (lockdown included) I finally managed a Rotpunkt/Redpoint climb (climbing without falling into the rope or resting in the rope). In the first trial I managed to solve the crux (hardest move) first hand. I was so surprised and amazed about finishing it, that I fell in the following moves I usually sucessfully manage. I was so angry and disappointed. After some rest I decided to try it again, even though the possibility of success was drastically decreased. But I managed the crux again, kept calm and finally finished it. It might be just a random climb in a gym, but for me this was the sweet fruit of hard work.
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!