My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

INOU Atlas.

   Back in early March I made my first attempt at a book review ("A Ride In The Neon Sun" by Josie Dew.). This post is my first attempt at a product review.
   A few weeks ago I was gifted a cycling device (or a new toy for my bike) to test by a friend who is a representative for "CATEYE" . Many of us have seen their products at cycle-shops and some of us use their products - my lights and cycle-computer are both from CATEYE. 
   The "INOU", which is CATEYE's newest gadget on the market, was named after a famous Japanese Surveyor & CartographerIno Tadataka, who is credited with completing the first map of Japan using modern technology.
   For some years now I have been pondering with the idea of adding a Hand-held G.P.S. device to my "toy-collection" then, to add to my woes, my video-camera went on the blink and I couldn't upload video images of my outings. But, as fate would have it, I met this guy when out cycling one day ( this is the story behind the meeting) who introduced me to the CATEYE Rep. 
   I am very impressed with this gadget and, before I begin to sing-it's praises, I'm  going to explain what it does and it's specifications. This is a G.P.S./Video/Still-Camera all in one and is ideal for use in the "Great Outdoors". The package runs on two AAA-size batteries (I recommend the use of rechargeable batteries) and comes with two "Micro SD cards (each holding 1GB) plus SD Card adapter. Also included are two straps/mounts - one for your cycle-handlebar and one for your cycle-helmet & back-pack (I will include trips with the device mounted in different locations later in this post). Also included is a detailed instruction & specification document. The G.P.S. records your speed, distance, time and elevation and, whenever you take a video/photo, the image is logged at your current location. The camera has a resolution of 640x480-Pixels and captures between 30 - 15 frames per second.If you don't want to take photos manually, then the  device can be set to capture & log a photo every 1-minute, 2-minutes, 5-minutes and 10-minutes (this is done via the "INOU Sync download).

   To download all this information, you need to create your page on the "INOU Atlas website"

Then you have to download the "INOU Sync" software (the device is Windows XP SP3/Vista/7 and Mak OS 2.4 or later compatible) and your'e all ready to go.
   Okay, enough of the specifications. Time to show-off what this wee beauty does. When you click-onto the links to view my trips a map will appear with the course highlighted and photo and video locations marked with an icon. If you click on the "Display Graph" icon, details of the trip will appear - speed, altitude, distance and time.
Handlebar Mounted.
With my INOU, Cycle-Computer and Lights strapped onto the handlebar, I often wonder if I'm not becoming a "gadget-junkie" (warning; if your handlebar looks like this, you also need to be paying attention to your environment - traffic, walkers & other cyclists).
   "Off-Roading in the Sakai-cho Area" - this is my inaugural outing and I was keen to test the device and, where better, than the hills of Sakai Town. I was very impressed with how this trip came out.
Helmet Mounted.
Today, Monday 23rd April, I tested the Helmet Mount on another of my favorite courses - "Yawata-ohashi to Heian-jingu" in Kyoto City. As you will see it hasn't turned-out perfect, especially the still photos (although I am impressed with the video segments). My thoughts regarding this position is that it can be a distraction to the rider and, as a consequence, dangerous. So rider be warned.
Backpack Mounted.
Now for the big test - hiking. And this was the icing-on-the-cake of what was a great day - great course, great scenery and great company. The area between Kamikoma Station and Kamo Station is full of history, secluded villages, with a Temple & Shrine thrown-in for good measure (and not to forget some castle ruins). To hike with my INOU strapped-onto my backpack freed-up my hands for other uses - carrying a hiking-pole, removing branches off the track, taking a drink to name a few.
   The INOU doesn't have a viewfinder or monitor to view your location and video/photos, nor does it have sound. I wouldn't rate this as a big minus, but I daresay the folks down at CATEYE will be taking that into consideration when designing their new model. The microSD cards only hold 1GB information and, as I found out during my Kyoto trip, it is easy to run-out of space. No problem, a 4GB, 8GB, 16GB & 36GB card is available on the market. With fully charged batteries you will get about 6.5-hours of G.P.S. recording but, as you use the camera(s), that will lesson somewhat (if while out on a ride/hike, and your batteries run flat and you replace them, a new trip will be recorded). To compensate for this, I don't commence recording until I begin my course. 
   I will enclose a couple of videos, courtesy of "CATEYE" and "Youtube" to check-out - Cateye INOU Quick Start (video instruction) and CatEye and INOU Social Network.
   Since commencing this post I have made good use of my "INOU" and, if you have the time, I invite you to view them - Nagaokakyo-shi to Takatsuki-shi - and - Kizu-eki to Kamo-eki.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hanami 2012.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   I love Spring. For me, the beginning of the season means new life. After months, where most lifeforms have laid dormant ( that's excluding the one-or-two outdoorsy people), and members of the animal community have been in hibernation, everything seems to come to life. And here in Japan, the sight of the Sakura in full bloom heralds-in my favorite Japanese custom - Hanami. During the small window available to celebrate Hanami (7-to-10 days) the alcohol and Bento sales skyrocket as devotees head for their favorite spot and celebrate (one such group I saw back in 2007, had 5-kegs of beer, a fridge, generator, enough food to feed an army).
Hanami 2005.
I remember my first Hanami, back in 2005, when we went to an area in Yawata City. It was perfect - cool blue skies, vivid-white blossoms, copious amounts of food and alcohol, great company - and I came away with a sense of anticipation for future years and, with the eight Hanami I have celebrated in Japan, I am yet to be disappointed. Over those 8-years I have celebrated the occasion in five different locations with this year being slightly different from the past - I celebrated three Hanami. 
Celebrating Hanami
Motokazu-san and Hugo-san
   On Thursday 12th April I joined my friends Motokazu-san and Hugo for a picnic on the grounds of Fushimi-Momoyama Castle. Hugo and I visited the complex a few months ago and were very impressed and decided to return for the occasion. Well stocked with food and beverage, we spent several hours chatting and taking-in the view. And what a view it was - 
Fushimi-Momoyama Castle.
   Could you imagine a better view to relax with, than a castle? I don't think so. The castle grounds were awash with color and, as the day wore-on (and before the alcohol took it's toll) we took a walk with cameras in hand, and the following are some of the images captured.
Fushimi-Momoyama Castle
Main Tower.
   The main tower was difficult to photo due to it's size, plus we weren't able to get far-enough away to capture it. 
Pond and Bridge.
   As we strolled about the grounds, we took a path that eventually brought us to a pond with a quaint wee bridge, with the castle in the background.
My Wife and I
in Kyoto.
    On the third Hanami,on Sunday 15th,I found myself sharing the occasion with my wife and mother-in-law as we strolled-along Kadono Nakadori, an avenue of Sakura that line a stream in Kyoto City.
Kadono Nakadori.
As is always the case, when the Sakura are in bloom, it rains and the blossoms don't stay on the tree for long (as can be seen in the image) but it doesn't stop families/groups from coming out.
Hanami in Kyoto.
   The next anniversary on the Japanese Holiday calendar is Tango no Sekku (Children's Day) where respect for Children and their happiness is celebrated. What makes this event spectacular is all through the community Koinobori (Carp Streamers) are hung - outside homes, across rivers, as in the image below.
Koinobori (Carp Streamers).
Tango no Sekku is one of several anniversaries  that make up the holiday period known as "Golden Week"  and, let me tell you, it is a very busy time. It is a time many holiday-makers travel (my first trip to Japan, in 2000, was during "Golden Week"), but for me, I will be spending the time chilling-out at the "Takatsuki Jazz Street Festival".