Not fog. The city is shrouded in steam on this cold spring day.
It's like the entire place is sitting upon a lid covering a cauldron of boiling water. Steam escapes through vents and short chimney stacks set right on the sidewalk. It even seems like it billows out through open windows in the buildings around us. All of it hangs heavy in the air around us, indistinguishable from fog.
It all feels so... volatile...
All the businesses here make good use of this geothermal activity. Here we walk by restaurants using it to steam cook their food.
We find a nice seafood restaurant. Kind of ironic with all this geothermally cooked food everywhere, we're opting for sushi. So goooood!!!
At Obama Marine Park, we stumble upon a long roofed structure...
It's a 105 meter long foot bath called... Hot Foot 105 - of course! There's a little stand where you can rent a bucket and a towel
The geothermally-heated water is piped in from the ground and it feels super hot when you first dip your feet in. But on this cold spring day, it takes no time at all before you get acclimatized to the heat, which then radiates up through your entire body making you feel warm and cozy all over!
Haha! What a way to spend a cold rainy day outside! We didn't want to leave!
Back in our hotel room, Neda chows down on a cup of noodle soup while reading her Kindle. This is our go-to quick-prep meal here in Japan. My personal favorite is the Big Curry Noodle Cup - I'm addicted to it! Everytime we stop for the evening, we make a pit-stop at the konbini and pick up a couple of noodle soups for dinner. Cheap and delicious!
The theme for this blog post is "Steam", like on Neda's glasses!
"The point of the journey is not to arrive.
Anything can happen."
from "Prime Mover" written by Neil Peart
Neil Peart came into my life at many different times.
In the fall of 1984, my dad got two promotional tickets to a Rush concert. He asked who I wanted to go with. There was a kid who I went to elementary school with a couple of years before. Ed and I used to hang out at his house after school to play video games while listening to his older brother's albums - Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Rush. There was always this element of excitement and danger because his brother had threatened to beat the crap out of Ed if he touched any of his records.
My parents made me take piano lessons, so the only music I really knew was Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, etc.
Ed made me a mix-tape with the whole 2112 album on one side. So Rush was the pretty much the first real rock band that I listened to.
I hadn't seen Ed since elementary school, but I called him up anyway cause he was such a huge Rush fan and I asked if he wanted to go. Of course he said yes.
My dad dropped the both of us in front of Maple Leaf Gardens and told us he'd pick us up at the same spot after the concert ended. We Rushed inside, two 13-year-old kids in a crowd of really old people. They must have all been like 20-years old or something.
Everyone booed the opening act, so we did as well. Some band nobody heard of. Red Ryder.
Nobody in that arena had any idea that in a few years, the guy singing on stage would write "Life is a Highway" and become one of Canada's most well-known musicians.
Rush comes on stage and Alex Lifeson plays the opening notes of "Spirit of Radio". The audience goes nuts! Power chords and drums kick in and then a sea of a thousand arms go up, all playing air-drums in perfect unison with Neil Peart's rapid-fire rounds on the toms and snare.
I'd never seen anything so perfectly synchronized and orchestrated on such a large scale like that in my life. Ed and I looked at each other wide-eyed. AWESOME!
Forty years later, Ed and I are still best friends. A bond forged by Rush and air-drumming to Neil Peart's rhythms.
Force a show of hands"
A few years ago, our group of friends got into a video game called Rock Band. You know, with the plastic guitars with buttons instead of strings, and the round plastic pads that you beat on with real drumsticks.
I got addicted to beating on those round plastic pads.
I play music so I know that Rock Band guitars are nothing like playing a real guitar. But I was very impressed with how the Rock Band drumkit so closely mimicked a real drumset; how it teaches you the kind of four-limb independence (ok three-limbs in the video game) that you need to play the drums in real life.
I went to a music store and sat behind a set of drums to see how my video game skills measured up in the real world.
It didn't sound too bad. Not good either. But not terrible.
So I bought the drum kit and took it home.
I didn't want to take lessons, so I just watched a ton of YouTube videos and who better to give you tips on how to play drums and inspire you than Neil Peart?
I must have watched every single drum video he made. All that Rush music that I listened to as a kid suddenly took on a new dimension because I now understood, really UNDERSTOOD, just how complex the stuff he was doing was behind those two other guys.
Stuff like polyrhythms, each limb playing in a different time signature, incorporating tribal rhythms into his playing, mixing electronic drums and MIDI triggers with an acoustic kit.
Around that time, the Best Drummer In The World was stretching himself and learning how to drum using Traditional Grip, with the left hand holding the stick with an underhand grip to play the snare. Mainly jazz and big band drummers use this grip.
The culmination of all of this was that he was hosting a Buddy Rich tribute concert in New York City. This was back in 2008.
A friend from work who is also a drummer and The-Biggest-Neil-Peart-Fan I know, managed to also get Neda and I tickets to see the show, so we flew there especially for that.
Neil had invited a whole bunch of drummers to play at the tribute. Mainly jazz and big band players, of course, since it was a Buddy Rich tribute. I was so new to drumming I didn't recognize any of them except for Chad Smith who played a couple of Red Hot Chili Peppers tunes.
When Neil took the stage, he played a few Big Band songs, then he started talking about his journey of learning a new style of playing drums. That really connected with me because I had just started playing drums and here was The Master himself also on that same path. Just light years ahead of me...
And then he went into this monster drum solo that made everyone's jaw drop in amazement.
I didn't know Neil Peart rode motorcycles until after Neda and I got our licenses.
We had just started getting into extended motorcycle traveling and we were devouring anything in the media that was related. We watched Long Way Round and bought the book. Knowing that I was a big Rush fan, Neda also told me that Neil Peart wrote about his long motorcycle ride after his daughter and wife died.
While reading Ghost Rider, I was surprised to find out that he too rode a BMW GS.
Around that time, I got Neda into Rush and she also became a huge fan. Mainly because Neil also rode motorcycles. So she's actually more of a Neil fan than a Rush fan. We went to see a few concerts over the years, she was quite excited to see the Buddy Rich tribute in NYC.
And then a few years later, Neda and I would also embark on this long motorcycle trip, our first steps following almost the same route that Neil documented in his book: Eastern Canada up to Alaska, and then down to Mexico and Belize.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that Neil Peart directly influenced our decision to Quit our Jobs, Sell our Home and Go Riding, but his tunes were definitely playing in the background.
Neil's lyrics at the beginning of this post are pretty well-known. You see it quoted in prefaces to books, inspirational memes, blog posts, etc.
These days, whenever I listen to "Prime Mover" and I hear the words, "The point of the journey is not to arrive", it does remind me a little bit of our grand motorcycle trip. But not nearly as much as the next line that follows. The next line that almost nobody ever includes in their inspirational quotes and meme gifs:
"Anything can happen."
Oh, that sense of wonder and anticipation! The adventure and excitement of the unknown. Perhaps even a touch of nervous trepidation.
*THAT* sums up our trip for me. Totally.
When I hear that part, it feels like Neil wrote it for us. Those two lines together.
I've been on a Rush kick the last couple of days.
I'm saddened to hear about Neil's passing.
But I look around at the people that I love, the drum set sitting in the corner of the room, the motorcycle in the garage, and I'm joyous and thankful that he had the time to leave us with such a large legacy of music and words. It's permeated my life in such a personal way as to make me think that he was speaking directly to me.
And I know I'm not alone in feeling this way.
Thank you for providing me with the soundtrack for my life.
The fog has turned to rain as we pack our stuff onto the bikes to leave Oabama-cho. We could stay another day, but the clock is ticking on our motorcycle rentals and we're only half-way through our travels across Japan.
Neda surveys the light drizzle from the shelter of our warm and dry hotel
Our route today will take us out of Nagasaki Prefecture, north to the neighbouring Saga Prefecture. Due to the rain and fog, there aren't many pictures of our wet ride up.
Japan has been our favorite country so far in our travels.
There are a lot of other places we'd like to go to: Central Asia, Australia, finish off the southern tip of South America.
Maybe after all this virus stuff has passed, China might be an interesting place to visit. When we were in SE Asia, we were researching how to continue our travels north to the Middle Kingdom, but there's a lot of government red-tape surrounding bringing your own vehicle in. You basically need to hire a tour guide and bring them along with you on your travels. Okay in a car or truck, but how would you do that on a motorcycle?
I think what we might end up doing is either fly in, rent or buy a couple of local bikes there (which would probably be a whole other adventure unto itself!), tour around and then sell them at the end of the trip, similar to what we did in Thailand. Then again, these regulations tend to change over time, so we just may be able to wait out the bureaucracy...