Thursday, 26 April 2007

Terrific power!

Storage-case!, originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

When I saw this stuff bag at the 100 Yen store I couldn't help buying it, of course. The sentence "You are freer than whether to use with what kind of use" is obviously a result of machine translation. As far as I know the English sentence is grammatical, if not syntactical. The question is: what was the original Japanese sentence that produced this seemingly unintelligible drivel?

My office mate suggested:

[Donna tsukaikata tuskau no ka, anata no jiyuu desu.]

which google language tools translates to "Whether how what kind of to use you use, you it is free", but a sligthly better translator may interpretate as "You are free to use it in any way". Clearly google's software cannot parse the sentence well enough to figure out which question word the particle "ka" after nominalizing "no" modifies.

That only leaves the question how to modify the Japanese sentence above to include the comparative form of free in a natural way.

Beats me.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Grades and steps

[kyū/dan system]
Fontainebleau Toyota-豊田
—7級 [7-kyuu] —4a — a
6級 4b b
5級 5a
4級 5c c
3級 6a+
2級 6b+ d
1級 6c+
初段 [1-dan] 7a+ e
二段[2-dan] 7b+ f
三段[3-dan] 7c+ g
四段[4-dan] 8a+  
五段[5-dan] 8b+  
六段[Wheel of life]    

The Japanese system for grading boulder problems originated in Ogawayama. It's based on the same principle as the kyū/dan system first applied to martial arts by Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo; so if you have flailed about with arms, legs, or sticks, all dressed up in a pyjamas you know how it goes: 10-kyū or jūkyū, the tenth grade, demands the least amount of skill. As your skill progresses you pass 9-kyū, 8-kyū, and down to 1-kyū. After that you reach shodan, the first dan, or literally the “first step”. This is where you get a black belt – and serious training is supposed to commence. In bouldering shodan starts around the 7a+/V7 mark, and it may be possible to reach the dizzying heights of the sixth step, rokudan, by climbing “Wheel of Life”, 8c+ on the Fontainebleau scale.

Or so I've been told.

Included is my best guess on a conversion table, based on personal experience and input from my betters. Unfortunately, I've never been to Hueco, so for a comparision with the Hueco-scale you have to find information elsewhere.

Apart from the kyū/dan system there is an other system in place in Japan for grading boulder-problems: the Toyota a-b-c grades. I hesitate to call it a major grading system since it only seems to be in use in the Toyota area. Toyota is a massive bouldering area though, with a history that predates a lot of the bouldering areas worldwide, so it would be silly not to include it in my table.

ダイヤモンドスラブ, originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

Diamond slab, Toyota grade d.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Smoking manners

More exceptionally clever posters advertising “smoking manners” can be found on Japan Tobacco Inc. web-site


Mizugakiyama-9, originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

Since I've enthused about the bouldering in Ogawayama, both on my regular blog and on, I may have to describe the bouldering in the neighbouring valley, Mizugaki (瑞牆), as well.

The boulders in Mizugaki are akin to the boulders in Ogawayama. Huge high-friction granite boulders with lots of natural pockets! In fact I would say that Mizugaki has even more heavily pocketed rock than Ogawayama. The day I went there I pulled on maybe one crimper, other than that it was just pockets and slopers, so you might want to train that open-hand strength before you go.

The boulders rest in a beautiful pine-forest. Because of the elevation, it should be possible to climb in Mizugaki during the summer as well.

The Mizugaki bouldering area is 40 min from Ogawayama by car, and is a very good complement to the bouldering in Ogawayama.

As far as I can see there are two main drawbacks. Firstly, the boulders are spread out on a wide area and are quite far apart, so you have to walk a bit between the problems. Secondly, most problems are either quite hard, from 1-dan and up, or very high.

Photos & Videos
I have a slideshow from our visit last Saturday on my flickr-account. There are some more pics here. Apparently there is a segment from Mizugaki in the video “Frequent Flyers”. A good video clip from Mizugaki can be found here, and another one here.

Check the local weather-forecast before you go on

Sutamacho-obi (須玉町小尾), Hokuto-city (北杜市), in the northern part of Yamanashi-prefecture (山梨県). Here's a map from

Getting there
From Sutama-intersection (須玉IC) on the Chuou-expressway, drive in the direction of Masutomi Onsen (増富温泉). From the Shiokawa dam (塩川ダム) drive towards Shinkyu Touge(信州峠). Follow roadsigns pointing right to みずがき自然公園 (Mizugaki natural park, only signposted in Japanese). Close to Kuromori (黒森) turn up on 本谷釜瀬 forest road and go to Mizugaki forest (瑞牆の森). Park your car on the big parking lot that serves Mizugaki forest.

From Ogawayama, drive back to Kawakamimura and take left at Nanas Supermarket. After a kilometer or so turn left towards 信州峠 (Shinkyu toge, only signposted in Japanese as of now), then follow signs for 瑞牆の森 (again, only in Japanese as of now).

There isn't any topo for the bouldering in Mizugaki. Get there and ask around, there should be other climbers there during the entire season. For those of you who possess a modicum of Japanese there is a brief area guide with some essential information on the climbing hermit's website .


Blossom, originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

A sakura tree in bloom, Ise-shrine, sometime during the first days of April, 2007.

Of course it hurts when buds burst.
Otherwise why would spring hesitate?
Why would all our fervent longing
be bound in the frozen bitter haze?

Karin Boye. Translation by Jenny Nunn.