In keeping with my intention of visiting EVERY Japan-related thing on O’ahu, Hide and I drove a bit out of our way and visited the scale replica of the Byodo-in, located in the Valley of Temples on the windward side of the island. The temple is on the Kahekili highway in the center of a cemetery. As I said before, the temple is a replica of the original Byodoin (the Pheonix Hall to be specific) located in Kyoto prefecture of Japan. The orignal was built in 1053, though large parts have been reconstructed…Japanese building have a pesky habit of being burned down, destroyed by earthquakes or a combination of the two. The orignal was built of wood, the replica of concrete. The replica also have a 900 year old wood Buddha and a 3-ton brass bell cast in Osaka, Japan which you can ring for peace, luck, or just for the joy of making loud noises. The temple is devoted to Pure Land Buddhism…which is the wussy version where you only have to say ‘Namu Amida Butsu’ (I belong to Amida Butsu) once in pure faith to be saved. I really liked visiting here and loved how many huge, overfed koi they had. It was a brief trip though, the Valley of the Temples didn’t have many other hugely interesting things. Below is a picture of the original Byodoin (left) and the replica in Hawaii.

Some other cool Japanese places we visited were:The Izumo Taishakyo Mission in Chinatown (on S. Kukui St.) which is a Shinto shrine. Hide and I recieved our New Year ‘evil-demon-banishment’ from a Shinto preist wielding a wooden stick with sacred Shinto paper (silly description I KNOW) and some sake from miko (the girls who help out a Shinto temples whereing red hakama pants…they are traditionally supposed to be virgins).

We also stopped by the Shirokiya Department Store (in the Ala Moana Mall) numerous times for Japanese manga (Hide was soothing his addiction for MDP Psycho and North Star Ken) and bobba smoothies. This is a great place to get lots of fun Japanese things, from cheap used Japanese books to baked goods. The upper floor has a Japanese food court with pretty authentic tako-yaki (octopus balls…Hide, the whiny Osakan gives it his seal of approval), mochi balls, mochi ice cream, gyoza, bento, etc etc. It is a little expensive though. If you want to get some inexpensive Japanese dishes and other household goods (even geta), then I recommend you go down to the Ward shopping center (it’s very close by) and check out the Wa-Raku import store located within the dollar store. It’s full of fun stuff.

If you need to itch your nerdy side, go to Toys N Joys (3632 Waialae Ave.), a cool local anime and collectible shop. This place has everything for premade cosplay outfits, to plushies, to moe girl figures. I had fun looking at all their cool stuff.

Finally, if you find yourself by the North Shore, Frommer’s and Lonely Planet will tell you to stop by Matsumoto’s in Haleiwa for some shave ice. This little store is very popular among Japanese tourists for shave ice (which is a slightly less crappy version of a snow cone). Those silly Japanese will stand in lines 20 people deep for the stuff. I’d recommend walking ten steps to the left and getting shave ice (exactly the same I SWEAR) from Aoki’s Shave Ice Stand. It also has a Japanese name, so it’s ok to substitute.

Hide and I went a little crazy for lychee bobba smoothies while we were in O’ahu. We had it in Chinatown, in Shirokiya, at a Korean BBQ place, and in Zagu’s (a local bobba stand in the Ala Moana shopping mall). There is a slight chance we had a little too much sugar. I am also eating Japanese mochi balls (a Japanese sweet made of pounded rice).

One of the more popular places to visit on O’ahu is the Dole Plantation located in the middle of the island. The former pineapple plantation has been transformed into a tourist trap and is a good place to take kids (any little boy would freak over the train they have) but it seems to be a popular place for Japanese, Korean, and Tawainese tourists as well. Pinnapples be damned, I wanted to there for the giant hedge maze they have, which was listed as the 2001 World’s Largest Maze by Guiness. In truth, I just wanted to run around a maze saying ‘Redrum’ and pretending to be a freaky child-ghost…but the maze wasn’t SO big that you’d could get lost in it (or escape from your murderous and possibly demonically possessed father). Instead of fleeing for our lives, Hide and I had to content ourselves with traveling to various checkpoints and stamping a piece of paper. This was made easier and less frustrating by a little map they give you of the maze when you enter. It was definitely hot and we celebrated our completion of the maze by having some pineapple treats – pineapple soft serve ice cream and a pineapple float. All-in-all, I think the Dole Plantation is a fun place to stop by and is right on the way to the North Shore. The maze costs $6.00 per adult and $4.00 per child, but you can find a ‘buy one ticket, get one free’ in some of the many attraction magazines found all over the island…so look for one! The plantation is right on the Kamehameha highway and impossible to miss. There are also some educational tours about the plantation, if you’re the sort of person who likes to have the imperialist history of the United States and Dole’s exertion of power over the Hawaiian royal family sugar-coated and shoved down your throat. If not, just check out the maze and HUGE giftshop.

I’m a pretty big WWII history buff, so Hide and I definitely needed to stop by the USS Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor on our trip. Well, Hide had already been there, so I was the one that needed to go.

Hide felt a little uncomfortable there…under the ‘angry’ stares of American tourists. This is definitely one of the few places in Hawaii where there are more white Americans than Asians. The memorial itself was extremely crowded and we were shuttled around from a theater to a ferry and then to the memorial. Ultimately, the memorial was a little disappointing and boring. I find reading about Pearl Harbor and WWII more interesting than visiting the submerged remnants, but I also understand the need to commemorate the significance of the event. Interestingly enough, the USS Arizona still leaks about a quart (or was it 9 quarts…) or oil per day.

Another stop we made was to the Punchbowl Cemetery.

Hide and I went to get tattooed at Chameleon Tattoo in Harvard Square. This is not a tattoo parlor I would recommend for people who want original artwork or big pieces (all of my friends with either go elsewhere). But their artists are very good with a tattoo gun and because Hide and I had images from old Japanese stuff, we just wanted a steady hand.

I got Namu Myoho Renge Kyo tattooed on my back. It’s the Daimoku from Nichiren Buddhism (Wikipedia it). Hide got the crest from his ancestor Honda Tadakatsu on his left shoulder.

Bill and I went up to Rumney this weekend for an ‘outdoor sport climbing tutorial’ to prepare him for our trip up to Acadia next weekend. I took him over to the Meadows, No Money Down Wall at first…but the routes were easy and it was SOO crowded (basically like a dirty indoor gym with trees).

False Modesty 5.7
Way easy and a good first lead (there are no ‘panic’ sections). I’d rate it a 5.6 though. 4 bolts to a quick clip anchor.

Mr. Popular 5.9
Seriously, the first two moves are the crux. Stick clip the first bolt or you’ll be driving home with dirt all over your pants. After you find a way to get on the wall, the route is fun. 6 bolts to a quick clip anchor (slightly overhanging).

Bored with the beginners’ area, we decided to up the ante over at the Orange Crush wall. I scared the shit out of myself leading Purple Microdot 5.10b (10 bolts to quick clip anchors) and then scared the shit out of Bill by making him climb through the crux and actually touch the anchors. The daylight faded fast so we didn’t get to stay as long as I wanted. Orange Crush has some serious, overhanging routes and I can’t wait to go back.

Everything about Rumney rocked with the exception of being eaten alive by mosquitoes… AGAIN. Even when I put 100% deet all over my body they still feast on my flesh. And I think I’m developing some weird allergy to them…all of the bites I’ve been getting recently have swelled up really big and stuff. I thought about taking a picture of one and posting it on here, but I figure that no one really wants to see that. So consider yourselves lucky. If I get West Nile I’ll be sure to turn this blog into a record of my death.

Also, Bill and I forgot to take any pictures of our trip. I’ll post some Montezuma’s Tower pictures and a route description later this week and will be sure to take lot of pictures/video of Acadia next weekend. Stay tuned!

I’m chilling in my room right now listening to reggae and completely ignoring the reading that I need to do for classes tomorrow. I’m really finding it hard to get back into the swing of college… especially when the weather is so nice outside and I just know that there is awesome climbing less than two hours north. Scott was over on the East Coast this weekend to attend a conference in Philly. Rather than flying straight there, he flew into Boston to do a bit of climbing with me before he had to go ‘work’ down in Philly. We decided to head up to Maine to check out the rock there and visit a few of his old college friends (and their three kids…woah!).

Scott and I left on Friday morning and headed up to New Hampshire. Unsure of how the weather would unfold over the weekend (with the shockwave of Hurricane Hanna echoing up the coastline), we decided to do a bit of climbing in Pawtuckaway State Park off Highway 101 and take advantage of the fleeting sunshine. A brief note about finding this place – Don’t Follow the Signs to the Park!! They won’t lead you to the right place. Instead, take the 101 to the 07 and then turn onto Reservation Road. The road to the crag is dirt, but it’s well maintained. However, it doesn’t connect through to Deerfield Road, so you can’t access it from there. This cute crag was right by the water of a small pond (Round Pond) and the rock was easily top-roped. But, it’s also by some ‘marshes’ (AKA swamps) and the mosquitoes got pretty vicious as the day cooled off. Essentially, the routes were nothing more than long boulder problems, but there were some tricky finger and hand cracks…and an annoying off-width crack that I grumpily lie-backed to the top.

Up in Maine we were a bit too far south to hit Acadia, so we decided to check out North Camden (across the bay from Acadia). We ended up at the Verticals (parking is located at the Maidenhead trailhead) for sport climbing and top roping. I love the rock in Maine (it’s crimpy like cwazy!) and I was in no way prepared for how beautiful it is up there. We also lucked out on the weather and it didn’t rain us out.

Bolt Ladder 5.9+

I’d recommend leading this route and then setting top ropes for the others (trad protection is tricky, there are spots that run-out). This route runs up the face of theVerticals and it fairly crimpy. To start step out past the belay ledge (fairly exposed) and climb up to the first bolt. There are four good bolts and a few bombed-out pitons towards the top (but trad protection is better near the end).

500 Pound Flake Out 5.7 R

This is a fun, but eay flake climb to the left of the Bolt Ladder. Classic flake climbing.

Diagonal Crack 5.9 R

Right angle crack to another thin seam. This route rocks and I give it three stars!! SOO fun and sustained with classic lie-backs.

Brown Eye 5.10c

Climb up the flake ramp and continue up the face. There are four bolts and a 2 bolt fixed anchor. This route is crimpy as hell.

Scott and I also stopped by the Breakwater Lighthouse in Rockport and the Pemaquid Lighthouse in Ft. William Henry. Goddamn Maine is pretty!

Apparently, as Bill informed me this weekend, Labor Day is the last day of summer. So to bid Summer 2008 farewell, Hidefumi and I set off on Saturday morning to do some swimming down at Cape Cod. Unfortunately we were thwarted by some rain and cold wind and instead of swimming at the beach we ate gelato and had some southern BBQ. However, the sun cleared up to welcome a living god to Massachusetts. David Beckham came to Gillette Stadium on Saturday. Oh yeah, the rest of the LA Galaxy came too. Despite the best efforts of super-fast #10 Donovan and Beckham, our New England Revolutions held their own and the game ended as a 2-2 tie.

Thankfully the sun came back out on Sunday. Bill, Aaron and I headed indoors to get a serious climbing workout at MetroRock in Everett, MA. Even though I’ve become somewhat of an outdoor purist, MetroRock is a big indoor gym with some fun, uber-technical routes that definitely challenge you as a climber. I was quickly owned by Aaron (who only started climbing three months ago) as he threw down several 5.10a’s and then jumped on some even harder stuff that I’ve since repressed to protect my fragile ego. Even Bill climbed well, despite the fact that he had spent the previous two days binge drinking at the beach with his friends.

Constantine the beer thief, hard at work

Later Bill and I dropped off Aaron and headed to Hull, MA to continue Bill’s binge drinking weekend. After pulling two thirty packs of beer and the supplies for Irish Car Bombs to the beach, it was time to make a serious bonfire and burn some shit down with the members of On Broken Wings and Bill’s other friends. The rest of the evening will remain censored. I will say that I can never drink Irish Car Bombs ever again…they are eviiiiiiil.

Monday we got up bright and early, refueled at Stars Diner (while I silently nursed a hangover) and then went straight to the harbor to kayak. We went from Hull over to George’s Island and looked at the old Revolutionary War forts on the island and angered tourists with our half-naked, beach bum behavior. Kayaking was awesome, but very tiring and now my arms are LIKE NOODLES. I rue tomorrow morning when I wake up and feel how sore I am. Goodbye Summer!

My physical ascendancy now equals my intellectual superiority

By far the most impressive climbing photos I have are from my ascent of Montezuma’s Tower in the Garden of the Gods, a 140 ft. spire just past South Gateway rock. Ironically enough, this is one of the easiest climbs I have ever done. Guidebooks rate this climb as a 5.7 but I’d say it’s actually about a 5.5. It just goes to show that those gnarley photos you see in climbing magazines aren’t always the hardest climbs.

In the case of Montezuma’s Tower, the foot holds look like they were cut into the rock. The inflated rating is probably due to the Tower’s height and exposure – it’s not a climb that inexperienced people should just hop onto. There are 8 bolts. About 100 ft up there is a nice belay ledge (pictures to the left). You need two ropes to rappel down from a three bolt anchor on top.

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Typically when people come to Colorado they want to climb something high. And it was no different for Sebastian when he came to visit me in June. Sebastian is from Munich, Germany and already has some hiking experience under his belt, but we were both still uncertain of how he would handle the transition from Boston to Colorado. Scott and I didn’t want to take him up a boring trail full of tourists, so we headed over to Idaho Springs to find something more interesting. Scott owns land up in the mountains outside of the town and has built himself a small cabin, which we stayed at for some glorified camping during the weekend. He even entertained us with some party tricks.

We trekked up St. Mary’s Glacier (located off of Fall River Road) which was still pretty snowy in June and then continued up past the Continental Divide and to Mt. Evans. There were some great views of Fall River Reservoir and Grey’s and Torries across the way.

St. Mary's Glacier

We followed that hike with a summit of Grizzly Peak (the trailhead is located off of Loveland Pass). The good thing about both of these hikes is that they start relatively high so the elevation gain isn’t very extreme and people from lower altitudes don’t struggle with them too much. Additionally, these hikes aren’t very long and are very beautiful, so you won’t be spending an entire day hiking through monotonous terrain. Most importantly, they aren’t extremely crowded, so they are pretty good places to bring visitors.

Grizzly Peak

The town of Idaho Springs (located right outside of Golden) is a great little mining town. A lot of people pass by this place every year but not a lot of people spend any time here. I’d recommend stopping by Tommyknocker Brewery. Colorado is famous for its microbrews and Tommyknocker is really good. If you are there during the summer ask them about their Green Chile beer. Its seasonal and they only make one batch every summer, so its hard to get…but definitely worth it!