We woke up to find that the weather hadn’t improved at all it actually got worse. It was still pouring rain and the winds were still high. As usual it took forever to get off the ship and the line for the train going into town was out the door. So Blake and I decided to walk. In full rain gear we walked 30 min into town and got soaked. We got a chance to check out Kobe (pronounced coe-bay) under a downpour.
Back in the Fall Jim Klug the owner of Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures hooked me up with a number of contacts around the world. Most being fly-fishing guides and some were just guys that worked in the fly-fishing business and simply lovefly-fishing, like Takashi Nakajima. I had scheduled to meet Takashi at 6PM in the train station near the ship. He was right on time, wearing the same Yellow Dog hat as me but in Red, carrying G-Loomis rods, rolling a G-Loomis bag he greeted Blake and I with a big smile on his face. Takashi had a long day; he came all the way from Tokyo stopping in Kyoto and Osaka to do business. He works for a Japanese company that makes quality fly-fishing accessories C & F Design. Fly-Fishing is big in Japan! We hoped on a train and headed into downtown Kobe then down south to Asaki where we went to his colleague, Mitsuru Masaki’s fly shop, Loop Knot.
It was a small fly shop but had everything.
(left to right) Masaki Me and Takashi
We were like little kids in a candy store in this awesome little shop. He had so much stuff in the little room it was unbelievable. Takashi, explained how he works for C & F Design and showed us some of their products, he also does with design for a company that does work for companies like G-Loomis. After they showed us around the shop, Takashi said “I have presents for you.” Blake and I weren’t expecting anything because the fact that they were showing us around and taking us fishing was outstanding. He brought out two bags and handed them to Blake and I. We opened them. We were both very surprised to find two brand new fly boxes made by his company. We thanked him so much because this was such an awesome gift!
We continued to walk around the shop when we saw…
Masaki’s World Record! A 15 pound Japanese Sea bass; they call them Suzuki, caught on a 12 lb tippet.
It was obvious that Masaki was an experienced fly fisherman
He had endless pictures of him and fish.
This is a Japanese Trout, native to Japan. These exotic looking fish have distinct grey oval shaped markings with red dots on their sides.
Because of the bad weather we got stuffed on our original plan to go sea bass fishing. So Takashi and Masaki took us to eat, we were starving so this was a great idea. We went to a traditional Japanese restaurant. We took off our shoes and sat down at a table constructed a couple feet off a raised flat seating area. We had to sit on the ground Indian style which for Blake and I got real uncomfortable real fast.
We were constantly switching our legs around when they’d fall asleep. After a while I just sat sideways so my legs could rest of the ground off the raised seating area, it was tough eating sideways but my legs weren’t falling asleep anymore. This was no big deal because the food was so good. Masaki ordered a number of different things. I couldn’t even imagine trying to order our selves. The menu was all in Japanese characters and there weren’t any pictures.
The first thing they placed on the big hot flat skillet built into our table was this patty with all sorts of goodies in it. It was noodles cooked together with big chunks of squid in it. God, it was SOOO GOOD.
Masaki kept ordering while the waiter kept bringing out these amazing conglomerations of noodles, meats, and vegetables. This one he smothered in a sweet teriyaki type sauce that was awesome.
Then we had some great chicken, it was almost the same as teriyaki chicken but different, same same but different.
After dinner we ordered some sake. Takashi had beers with us during dinner and he explained that he liked sake but Masaki didn’t. So we figured we’d show them how we drink sake in the States…
Sake Bombs! (For those of you that don’t know, which is real lame if you don’t, sake bombs are where you place your chopsticks on top of the beer then a shot of sake on top of that, then you bang on the table on either side of the beer which makes the shot fall into the beer, then you chug it) Blake went first then I went while Blake filmed. Takashi and Masaki thought we were insane. I didn’t think they really understood why we’d mix the sake and the beer together and why we drank it so fast. While the camera was rolling I asked Takashi what he thought of the sake bomb. He was hesitant at first but then I told him to give me an honest answer. He said “I think it Stupid.” It was hilarious. Masaki thought the same.
“Sake bombs are stupid don’t you think Masaki?” “Yes, they very stupid.” “
It was pretty funny joking around with our new Japanese fishing buddies, even though we hadn’t been fishing together yet we were already having a blast.
Masaki was nice enough to drive us back to the ship that night. We had planned on meeting at 8AM the next morning to go fishing
DAY 2 (easily the sweetest day of the trip)
The weather was still a little crummy and the river we were supposed to fish in was high so after Masaki and Takashi picked us we headed to a trout lake. The blossoming cherry trees made it a beautiful drive.
It was about a 2-hour drive up into the mountains to the lake. When we got there we had to pay a couple bucks for 3 hours of fishing. It wasn’t exactly the type of fishing we hoped for but due to the circumstances we were fortunate just to be fishing. It was a small stocked lake with a large casting dock.
Masaki Casting from the dock. Both Masaki and Takashi had impressive casts.
Within minutes we were catching fish. Masaki caught the most. He kept changing his flies, trying new things and they were all working. Every time he’d change he would tell me to change as well after he caught a fish. But I was catching fish as well so it was fun.
We were using techniques I’ve never used before. The most unorthodox technique was dropping a salty bugger about 6 feet below and letting it sit with an indicator. I’d never seen a fish hit a fly that’s meant to have action on it, while its just sitting still. It was a very interesting yet effective technique.
After about 3 solid hours of fishing we headed to Kyoto, which was described to us as the perfect place to get a feel for “Old Japan.”
Our tour guide/fishing buddies took us to the “place where all the tourists go” as Takashi described it. He was right it was a very touristy area. A small street that led up to the temples was packed with foreign and Japanese tourists coming and going.
But when we got up to the temples it was a great view. The cherry blossoms covered the hills.
We walked through the gorgeous area surrounding these beautiful Buddhist temples. Masaki, Takashi, and Blake were constantly waiting for me because everything was so pretty I couldn’t stop filming.
We came up to one of the temples where Takashi explained that if you made an offering, or donation to the Temple you could make a wish receive as he described “good fortune.”
So we threw a couple coins in a wooden bin, and made a little wish. I’d tell you what I wished for but then it wouldn’t come true.
We followed the scattered crowds down through a path covered with cherry trees. We were so lucky to come to Japan in the springtime.
We came across a natural spring that was directed through 3 drains coming off the top of a building. Takashi explained to us that it was good luck to drink the water. We were a little skeptical at first but then said what the hell. So we purchased these cups for a buck or so and waited in line to make another wish.
The water tasted great, it was cool and refreshing. I made another wish in hopes to receive good fortune.
We hurried to leave Kyoto because a big night planned: fishing in the ocean for Japanese Sea Bass, “Suzuki.” We drove 2 hours back to “Loop Knot.” We got ready, had a quick bit to eat, and then headed to the harbor to load up Masaki’s boat. We got lucky with the weather, the seas were calm and the wind had died down, completely opposite of the night before. After about a 30-minute boat ride we arrived at their “special spot.” It was right in the middle of the big industrial area; big cargo liners and industrial machinery surrounded us. As soon as the boat stopped we heard sea bass rising all over! We couldn’t see them very well, but the light from the nearby industrial area reflected a faint glow on the water, which made it possible to locate some of the rises. It was awesome. With immense excitement we made our firsts casts. Takashi and Masaki showed us how to keep a constant moving strip. Using both hands, I used a technique Misty taught me in India pinching the line between your thumb and index finger and switching to your pinky. This is used to keep a constant movement on the fly, so it doesn’t stop and go like a conventional strip would do. After about 10 minutes of casting and no action we moved to another spot. About 100 yards away there was a huge ship with a bright light shining directly on the water below. Takashi explained to us that baitfish are attracted to the light and the sea bass come up and feed on the baitfish. Masaki pointed at the light directing us to cast and strip though the light, or just on the edge. So we did, after a couple casts I was watching Blake’s fly as he was stripping it slowly through the light when a seabass came out of nowhere and demolished it! It was awesome to see the take. Blake set the hook and we had our fist fish in the boat!
Within minutes, a sea bass annihilated my fly and I had one hooked!
These were both average size, no more than 18-20 inches.
The highlight of the night was when Takashi was fishing while I was filming. He hooked a nice one when seconds later Blake hooked one while the camera was rolling. Double Trouble!
Takashi’s fish was way huger. I think it made Blake feel like a total wuss.
Over the next couple hours, we were landing fish left and right. It was awesome fishing at night. There’s something mysterious about it. You can’t really see exactly where you’re casting but when a fish hits you’re fly it’s the best feeling in the world.
After about 3 hours of fishing it was almost 1AM. Takashi explained that we should head in. He told me to take one more cast about 5 times. I was glad he kept telling me to cast again because just one more fish was all I was asking for. On about the 5th time he told me to take one more cast, I was stripping my line slowly when BOOM! Another Suzuki!
It was one of the biggest ones of the night.
What a great end to an awesome the night of fishing. Remember the wishes or prayers we made in Kyoto? Well I prayed for fish. My prayers was answered!
Masaki and Takashi drove us home while I conducted an interview in the car. Takashi translated while I asked Masaki questions. I got some interesting stuff.
They dropped us off at the ship when we said our good byes. It was sad saying bye to our new fishing buddies. They went so much out of their way to show us a good time we couldn’t thank them enough.
After a full day and night of fishing we were exhausted so we slept like all day long. Well not all day but compared to how much we usually sleep in port (which is very little) we slept a lot. After waking up for lunch we checked out the town of Kobe a little. Went to an Internet café then got ready to go out that night.
That night wasn’t anything great either. I’d tell you all about it but it wouldn’t be worth it. Anything I talk about isn’t going to be nearly as sweet as catching all those Suzuki.
We were signed up to join a Semester at Sea sponsored trip to Hiroshima. After a 5-hour drive on a very comfortable tour bus we arrived at memorial park, the exact location where the atomic bomb was dropped at 8:15 am on August 6th, 1945.
This is the one building that is still standing from the A-bomb. I guess you never really realize the reality of things until you see them for your own eyes. This building was completely obliterated except for its foundation. This was nothing compared to what we were about to witness.
After a tour of memorial park we went to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. They gave us each a one-ear head set and a key pad that plays an narration that coincides with the exhibits through out the museum. It was a very intense experience. The exhibits started out just explaining the history of the A-Bomb, and the war. Then towards the end they had numerous personal accounts and random artifacts that survived the bombing. For example they had a number of little children’s lunch pails that were burnt and clothes that were ripped to shreds.
A mobilized students uniform
Honestly the museum made me sick to my stomach. At the same time I felt I was shouldn’t be filming some of these exhibits. They were just to horrifying to look at I couldn’t even think about pointing a camera at some of them.
On a lighter note, Hiroshima has flourished into a beautiful city today. We got to visit a beautiful garden.
It was a nice peaceful way to end an intense day.
After another 5 hours in the bus we got back to the just in time to go out. It was our last chance to party in a port so we decided to go big. We went to a bar called Sally’s, but didn’t actually go inside the bar for a long while. Everything in Japan is real expensive, probably a little more expensive than home. No one liked this because the majority of the countries we have visited drinks are dirt-cheap. Japan they were at least 5 USD a drink. So we would buy beers at these tiny liquor stores for cheap and drink them on the street. It was actually tons of fun; we met all sorts of random people by doing this.
This dude’s name was Jose. He was a law student from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was cool as hell and loved meeting all the American women we were with.
We finally actually went into Sally’s and had a great time. After there were these Japanese kids skating. I told them I love skateboarding so I tried a couple old school tricks.
Then they did some sweet rail slides and grinds while I took pictures of them. They were loving it.
As we were walking home Ian, Chris and I ran into two Japanese girls with a black lab puppy. It was so damn cute we had to pet it.
A couple pets, turned into a couple hugs, before I knew it we were on the ground fighting over who got to play with it. It reminded me of Hawkins. Our family’s dog we had growing up.
After we were completely covered in dog hair we went to a street side Japanese café. I never knew food tasted so good at 5 in the morning, ahh wait a minute, yea I did. Once again we walked outside to find out that the sun had already risen. Oops.
When you go to bed at 7am you tend to wake up late in the day. Not me, I woke up in time for lunch and ready to rock for my last day in Japan. The goal of the day was to eat the famous Kobe Beef that we’ve heard nothing but amazing things about.
We went to the mall first, I had to get prints and mounts made for photography class. Which REMINDS ME-we had our photography show the other night and I presented about 30 mounted prints from my voyage. I had a lot of interest and positive feedback about my photos and sold about 10 of them. So if anyone reading this is interested in purchasing an 8X10 mounted print, signed with a title, I’m selling them for $25 each, (which is half of what our professor sells his prints for) This includes any photos on my blog and many more. Let me know in you are interested firstname.lastname@example.org (719) 499-6918
It was our last day and we still hadn’t had Sushi nor Kobe Beef! So why not have both? We stopped at a Sushi place in the hotel near the “best Kobe beef place in town.” We had a couple rolls and sashimi that we ordered al la carte. My favorite was…
Sea Bass! The sushi chef was pretty impressed when we said we wanted some “Suzuki.” I don’t think he expected us to know what a Suzuki was. We tried to explain to him that we caught some 2 nights before but he didn’t have a clue.
After a great appetizer it was time for the famous KOBE BEEF! We went to Wakkoou, which was recommended to us by our Hiroshima tour guide. There were a bunch of other SAS kids there because I guess this place was in lonely planet guidebook.
We sat around a flat grill like you’d see at a Japanese steakhouse in the States. We decided to go all out and get the whole 4-course meal. Appetizer, salad, main course, and dessert, including coffee and wine, for only 130 USD.
As you can see the beef was very fatty. Supposedly they massage the cows daily as well as feed them beer. When I first tasted the beef the meat literally melted in my mouth. It separated it self as I chewed its luscious moistness. I was amazed how good it really did taste. They must massage those cows good. It must be nice to be a Kobe cow. Nothing better than being massaged everyday and fed beer. Except for traveling the world and fly-fishing. Right?
It was the last night we were in port so it was a little sad getting on the ship but who can be sad when you are having the time of your life.
Today is April 27th 2006 and we arrive in San Diego in the morning. I graduated today, and tomorrow I’ll be back in the states. Within a week I’ll be back in Colorado just in time for the caddis hatch to complete the worldwide voyage. It’s unbelievable to think about how much I’ve seen, learned and experienced over the last 3 months. One thing I know is that I will never be the same. After seeing so many different cultures and experiencing so many different things, I will never look at anything the same.