It has now been six days since Norman flew his tiny aircraft into the coastal airport of Shonai on the Japanese main island of Honshu. It was hoped that after a day’s rest he would be off again for the major sea crossing to Vladivostok in Russia, but as those of us who have followed the flight since it started last year will know through experience, plans like these can suddenly be scuppered, sometimes because of weather but more often than not because of bureaucracy and the dreaded red-tape.
This is what has happened this week. Although this part of the flight had been in the planning for 2 years and regularly updated as needs be, when it came to the actual departure it seems that international bureaucratic negotiations work at a different pace to the mile-crunching speed of the little gyro and its intrepid pilot.
Many people will have been in awe of the distances covered since Norman left the Philippines just over a week ago, but once again, that epic part of the journey falls foul of another wall made of paper.
|The approach to Shonai airport with the volcano, Mt Chokai to the left.|
|Norman disembarks from the tiny cockpit after arriving at Shonai. (Photo courtesy of Andy Edney)|
|Norman is greeted at Shonai by the Military Attache to the British Embassy in Tokyo, Andy Edney (Photo courtesy of Andy Edney)|
Rest assured that the paper wall that is holding Norman up is not going to stop him; it is really just a slow moving exercise in patience amidst many negotiations with authorities in a number of countries around the world. As you can imagine, time zones and the language barrier are not conducive to speedy results.
|Norman talks with airport staff and Aki the translator (grey suit) whilst Andy looks on following the moving of 'Roxy' into the Airport Fire Station 'hangar' (photo courtesy of Andy Edney)|
So, whilst this has been going on and each day is spent waiting for the go ahead to continue the journey, what has Norman been doing to pass the time?
|Norman's welcoming comitee at Shonai. The marketing manager for Shonai airport, Mr. Muraoka with Military Attache, Andy Edney and Norman's translator Alegria Takano(Aki). (Photo courtesy of Andy Edney)|
It was fortuitous that Norman’s arrival at Shonai had been eagerly awaited and as he touched down there was already a welcome committee to meet him, including a translator, Aki Takano, who would accompany Norman during his stay.
|With Aki translating, Norman faces his first press conference at Shonai on arrival day. (Photo courtesy of Andy Edney)|
|Norman prepares to leave the airport with Aki and Andy (Photo courtesy of Andy Edney)|
The first thing though on Norman’s agenda was to check out the ‘Spot’ tracker. Anyone who was watching the flight from Oki to Shonai via the online tracker will remember the world wide panic when the tracker failed to refresh for 4 hours and had Norman stuck in the middle of the sea. But it did reappear just before he reached the mainland.
|Norman with friends Aki and Mr. Muraoka at Mt Haguro (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)|
After a night’s sleep and a check of the battery and connections, Norman, accompanied by Aki, went for a drive into the mountains. Wearing ‘Spot’ on his belt, he was later able to check the track and confirm that it was now working OK, although what he didn’t know was that a lot of followers had been watching too and thought he was flying south east and had landed in the woods!
|The famous steps through the forest of 600 year old Cedar trees. (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)|
During this drive into the countryside, Norman was able to visit Mt Haguro, a famous area with many shrines and a walk that takes you through a forest of 600 year old trees!
|Norman on 'The God's Bridge' on Mt Haguro (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)|
The shrines and temples on the mountain are classed as a national treasure and although we are not sure how many Norman visited we do have some nice photos from this trip.
|At the Sanjin-Gosaiden Shrine on Mt Haguro (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)|
|Something amuses Norman at the Haniyamahime shrine (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)|
|Surrounded by 600 year old forest, the 5 story Pagoda is a Japanese treasure (photo courtesy of Aki Takano)|
|Norman is dwarfed by a giant bell at one of the temples (Photo courtesy of Aki Tanako)|
There are 2,466 steps to the Sanzan Gosaiden Temple at the summit, but we haven’t heard if Norman made the full ascent.
|Norman brings up the rear on the ascent up Mt Haguro (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)|
|Norman looks a lot livelier on the way down! (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)|
The journey up the mountain included a stop at a traditional tea-house where Norman enjoyed the world famous Japanese tea ceremony.
|Norman enjoys a refreshing cup of tea at the traditional 'Tea-House' on Mt Haguro with Sachi Sato, another interpreter friend (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)|
The day after, following the usual sending of emails and numerous phone calls to officials in Russia and the UK as well as in Japan, Norman was met by Mr. Muraoka, his 14 year old son, Yui Sasaki (the official interpreter) and her friend Mari Ikeda (also an interpreter) and they were able to take him to the Kamo Aquarium. A bit different from your usual aquarium, Kamo specializes in Jellyfish! Using Neon lights the jellyfish tanks are a sight to see. Another favourite at Kamo are the seals, sea lions and their pups, one of which Norman got very close to.
|Norman with Mari Ikeda (left) and Mr. Muraoka's son arrive at the Kamo Jellyfish Aquarium!|
|Inside the colourful aquarium. From the left...Mari Ikeda, Norman, Mr Muraoka's son and Yui Sasaki.|
|So that's what a tank full of jellyfish looks like!|
|Norman makes friends with a Spotted Seal pup.|
Luckily the Aquarium does have a restaurant…unluckily for the jellyfish; the main ingredients on the menu are jellyfish! Norman was persuaded to try the jellyfish ice cream but we have no idea if he liked it or not. You will have to guess by his expression.
|Jellyfish Ice Cream! Mari, Yui and Norman seem to like the taste!|
The next few days consisted of meeting with airport officials, members of the press and even watching a soccer match with local English teacher, Mr Noguchi, where one of his pupil's happened to be playing.
|Multi-tasking! Phoning Andy inTokyo whilst eating sushi with chopsticks. A man of many talents!|
Aki has been very hospitable to Norman and has shown him as much of Japanese culture as she can. This has meant sampling the delights of Sushi restaurants, sitting cross legged at very low tables, trying out many different types of sea food served in some amazing settings amongst charming company.
|A traditional Japanese setting for a traditional meal of sushi. From the left...Yui Sasaki, Mari Ikeda, Mr Muraoka and Norman|
|A close up of the 'Sushi Bridge' complete with sea urchin, the yellow paste on the far right!|
|Norman with many of his new friends enjoying a cold beer at the Suzune restaurant.|
|Dish of the day at Suzune Restaurant: Sea Bass and Turban Shell!|
|Norman enjoys a family meal at the Kanazawaya Noodle Restaurant.|
|A happy gathering at the Happo-Zushi restaurant. It's a good job Norman likes sea food! From the left...Mari Ikeda, Mr Muraoka, Norman and Nagasawa Toshihiro|
A visit to a ‘Tea-House’ museum was interesting as a pseudo ‘Geisha Girl’ performed the Tea Ceremony, white face and kimono included.
Norman has been very gracious in his respect for the Japanese people and how they have gone out of their way to show him some amazing hospitality but in the long run, his main aim is to continue with his journey and he, like all of us, wait patiently for that good news to arrive from Russia and then the journey can resume once again.
|"Come and join us Norman, you are always welcome" From the left...Yui Sasaki, Mari Ikeda, Mr Muraoka and Nagasawa Toshihiro|
Of course, as soon as we hear anything then we will let all the followers know through the various social media channels.
The Gyrox Team
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