Japanese History , how little I know

I was talking to some friends last night about my first Unagi(grilled eel) meal here in Japan. I was invited by a fellow bike racer to come to his restaurant,”It has been in my family for years” he told us. The taste of his Unagi is something I will never forget, I was lucky and didn’t know it. I mentioned to my friends that the first male born to each generation has been taking over the restaurant and that the first born’s name would always have the word “kuni” included . Kuniyoshi is the name of the restaurant , Kunihiko is my friends name , the shop is in a famous Ukiyo-e, japanese wood block paintingTokaido08_Oiso That is a few Kuni,,,sans along the way . For myself coming from the young country of Canada for me to look at this and realize that Japan considers this as recent history when compared to the Jomon Era of 8000 years ago.DSC_9946 Somewhere in between all this , a lot has been going on ! Recently my 11 year old son has been filling me in , he loves Japanese history and I love his stories. Time for me to listen! Everywhere I go here there is something bonding each generation with its predecessors,I live in the middle of a great example of this, The Onbashira Festival.Held once every 7 years, Onbashira takes over this area , 1200 years old it is one of 3 Japanese festivals protected as a treasure by Japans Emperor. It is on this year starting in April, if you are in Japan , make sure to check it out, the men on the logs are doing it just like their ancestors.

Kamisha (Upper Shrine) kiotoshi, or log drop,  during the Onbashira festival, where 16 sacred pillars are brought by hand to rejuvenate each the upper and lower Suwa Shrines in Nagano Prefecture.
Kamisha (Upper Shrine) kiotoshi, or log drop, during the Onbashira festival, where 16 sacred pillars are brought by hand to rejuvenate each the upper and lower Suwa Shrines in Nagano Prefecture.

Taiwan Christmas Enduro !

069 We have all heard the term “Made in Taiwan” many times , most of us ride a bike made there, but for 30 years I had never really thought about “Ride in Taiwan”. I had the opportunity to go and finish the year of in style with not only my first trip to Taiwan but also my first Enduro Event!
I met some wonderful mountainbikers from Taiwan last fall here in Japan and when they invited me to come and spend a few days with them I didn’t hesitate. I arrived in Taipei in the late afternoon was met by Nicole and within 30 minutes was sat down ready to eat some excellent food. After dinner I was taken to my Lodgings for the 3 nights , right in downtown and 2 minutes from the subway station and Starbucks, Bass took care of me right from the start. Check it out here; https://www.airbnb.com.tw/rooms/10236218052

We had an early start to get us out to the Enduro Event , I was surprised to see riders already racing when we arrived, I was told “they are the serious riders ” I was introduced to Iron, he works for Giant bikes and was told to follow him, Iron told me that we should relax and have fun, if we catch slow riders , stop let them get ahead and then get going again. This is not the way to win an Enduro but it was super fun to follow a better rider than me down trails he knew! The race was won by some 20 year old Local boy, later I was told he was the 2015 Asian Downhill Champion, quite a talent when you realize what he has to train on compared to the boys here in Japan. Costumes , free beer and lots of food made for a very enjoyable day on the trails. Many thanks to those involved in making a smooth event.039
Day 2 was going to be a ride in the mountains that surround Taipei, but the weather was not cooperating so we went for a hike instead. The trails we hiked would have been very technical riding even in the dry, but in the rain I could tell the risk factor became much higher but not impossible to ride. Later Cedric Gracia released a video “Lost in Taiwan” with him riding this same area and he has no problems at all in the rain. I must go back! We did dinner at the Night Market, I tried everything I was given, not sure if I would eat all of them again but some were very tasty!099
Day 3 and we were greeted with some nice weather and some excellent xc style trails , short climbs and sweet descents with some small jumps and berms made for a great 3 hour ride!130 I was told there was more to be ridden but we were out of time.159 Back to Taipei and I was on my own for the last night. I had no plan , no idea where to go so I jumped on the Subway and decided to go to the end of the line and check that area out. The train stopped at Taipower Building Station, I was a bit worried as I exited the station but once up on the street I found myself in a vibrant part of the city, lots of nice looking restaurants and many people out and about. I had wandered into the Shida Night Market, very popular with the young crowds, it reminded me a little of the Harajuku area in Tokyo, Japan. Some food from the stalls, 20 minutes in a beautiful used book store and then to my great pleasure a craft beer pub right beside the subway station to finish off my evening properly.
Sitting in the lounge waiting for my flight home I realized how little I knew and still don’t know about Taiwan and it’s people. I went there with no expectations and came back to Japan with an appetite for more.105
If you are in Taiwan and feel the need for some MTB riding talk to Tokai at Simple Gravity MTB, Mandrin, English and Japanese are spoken.