Monday, August 15, 2011

Triangular Travel Tales

As the world waits patiently for the Gyrox adventure to continue, Norman himself has been very busy over the last week, racing around the Island of Honshu, chasing up the elusive permits that will enable him to leave Japan and enter Russia.
His 700 mile triangular journey from Tsuruoka, the city near Shonai where Norman is staying, would take in Kyoto,Niigata and Tokyo. But before departing from Tsuruoka last week, Norman partook of a meal at the cozy Izakaya restaurant with his hosts, Aki Takano and Mr. Muraoka. Here he was able to try a traditional Japanese dish called ‘Natto’, a bowl of fermented soy beans, renowned for its pungent smell.

Norman looking a bit tentative as he tries Natto for the first time

But Norman proved he wasn't just a brave pilot but also a brave epicure too! In fact he does seem to be enjoying the dish and probably asked for seconds! At least there was a good supply of Saki available to wash it down with.
Mmmm, delicious?
A pleasant evening was enjoyed by everyone and during the following days Norman would be off on his grand tour of Honshu Island, chasing the all important pieces of paper needed to start flying again.
Over dinner conversation with Norman and Mr. Muraoka.
Norman and Aki (left) thank the owner and staff at the Izakaya restaurant
Click here to see a video on the right way to eat Natto!

But first, Norman and local English teacher, Mr Noguchi  visited a spectacular Firework display in Sakata City about 12 miles north of Tsuruoka. It turned out to be an outstanding display, choreographed in the unsurpassable Japanese way, which amazed Norman.
Norman has managed to capture the spectacle of a Japanese Firework display with this amazing photograph!

Norman’s first destination was Kyoto, approximately 300 miles south of Tsuruoka. He had planned this stop to get some sightseeing in as Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, has an abundance of World Heritage Sights within the city limits.

But first he needed a hotel to stay in and seeing he was in Japan it was only fitting that he try out one of the famous 'Pod Hotels'. Luckily, within 10 minutes walking distance from Kyoto train station was the 'Capsule Ryokan Kyoto Pod Hotel', a modern take on the crowded Tokyo pod hotels.
Traditional 'Pods' at the Ryokan Hotel
Although the hotel has a number of traditional ‘Pods’, Norman chose to stay in the larger (but not by much) Ryokan En-suite Pods, complete with ‘automatic’ toilet!
A Ryokan 'Suite', complete with automatic toilet?
Norman was able to hire a bicycle and was soon off on his travels around the beautiful parks with their amazing, ancient shrines and temples.
The immaculate 7th century Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto
But with sightseeing over (all too soon) it was time to get back on the trail of the all-important permits.
This meant another train ride, this time to the modern capital of Tokyo 250 miles east of Kyoto. A lengthy journey shortened by the speed at which Norman travelled.

Riding on the world famous Shinkansen Bullet train, Norman passed through the Japanese countryside at speeds up to 270 kmh (168 mph), twice the speed he has been travelling at in Roxy!

Norman describes in his own words the journey and this fantastic train…
The Ultra-modern Kyoto train station!
"The Shinkansen “Bullet” trains have been a fabulous way to travel (at 270kmph!-168mph) between Kyoto and Tokyo (and I also travelled from Tokyo - Niigata). The route went past Mount Fuji but alas the summer haze reduced visibility such that it slid past unnoticed on the train…."
Two Japanese icons: The Shinkansen Bullet Train passes Mount Fuji.
"With the train noticeably leaning around the corners you get a real sense for the speed and at times the undulating ground also gave a slight negative G (hump back bridge) sensation as you dropped down slightly over a “hill” - such was the speed that the slightest changes in gradient were amplified into a sensation akin to being on a motorbike winding through the undulating countryside (or riding atop the flying mosquito…) . We careered towards the sides of densely wooded steep hillsides, seemingly certain to smash into the side of the hill, but only to be swallowed whole, in an instant, into yet another blacked out tunnel, a relatively quiet underground world with less sense of speed until you exploded once more into the bright sunshine of the daylight again."
The ultra-sleek and futuristic Shinkansen Bullet Train
"Meeting another train going the other way is the real proof of speed. With the combined closing speed of say 540kmh (336mph) two Shinkansen take only about 6 seconds to flash by each other and these trains remember are very long, perhaps 18 carriages…So fast that you cannot see the windows on the opposite train. Each row of seats, 2 on one side of the aisle and 3 on the other are arranged with one smallish window each side (like on an aircraft) and the very clever part is that when the Shinkansen pulls into the final station on its route all the train seats are designed to swivel around to face the other way for the return journey!!"
The airliner style 'cabin' of a Shinkansen
"No need for loop lines or old fashioned train turntables here! The cleaning staff immediately gets to work turning all the seats while the passengers form orderly queues at each doorway ready to embark. A process that perhaps takes all of 10 minutes and then as a grand finale the 15 or so staff promptly line up on the platform with backs to the train and give a perfectly choreographed collective bow to the waiting passengers! The respect for the passengers and train doesn’t end there as each time the conductor or the stewardesses enter and leave each train carriage during the journey they also turn to the passengers and bow… all very civilised indeed!"

"Cheers, Norman."

The decision to visit Tokyo was made because of the help being received from the British Embassy staff and also because the Russian Embassy is sited there too. Both of them important in the struggle to get the permits arranged in time for Norman to continue his flight before the winter sets in across the Bering Sea.

Some time ago, Norman was invited to stay with a lovely, quintessentially British, family in Tokyo and who have really turned out to be firm “Friends of Gyrox”. They have been helping him navigate around Tokyo to the various Embassies and not only have they been great hosts and of great assistance with the dreaded red tape but they have also accompanied Norman on various social outings in this remarkable capital city.

Norman with a 'Pink Girl'
One of the first outings, last Sunday afternoon, was to Yoyogi Park, the site of the first ever powered flight in Japan back in 1910 by Captain Tokugawa. Here Norman met a 'Pink Girl'. This is a fashion statement in Japan, based around the Manga phenomenon and even goes to the extreme of the girls wearing coloured contact lenses that give their eyes a cartoon/doll like appearance.
Manga eyes on a 'Pink Girl'
On another night-time outing Norman saw something that could have been a sign. In fact it was a sign, but coincidence? Maybe this night club sign was saying ‘Roxy is waiting and you will be flying with her soon’. We all hope so.
It's an omen!
So yesterday, Monday 15th August, Norman returned by Bullet train to Niigata where he changed to the more relaxed and scenic views of the coastal railway that took him back to his temporary home in Tsuruoka, where he, like all of us, will be waiting for that all important news from Russia.
A busy triangular week!
A week of long distance travel, interspersed with hectic negotiations and pleasant distractions has come to an end and a new week begins with some sense that the trip to Tokyo might well have been worth it.
Norman sending the updates back to us from a very nice Japanese internet cafe!
Our hopes are high for a resumption of the flight sometime this week and Norman is back in place, preparing for that eventuality.

The Gyrox Team

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(Unless otherwise credited, all images on this blog are the property of GyroxGoesGlobal and may be used with prior permissionfrom
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  1. Could you give us some information about the journey of Norman, because since August 15 we do not know anything. I know the Russians are not quick to give permission to cross their country, but I think it's getting too long.

  2. As you can imagine, Norman and we at the Gyrox team are also getting impatient with the endless waiting around. But there is nothing any of us can do. The Russian's are in the process of sorting out the required permits and Norman has to just sit tight until they arrive. There isn't even any definite time period being given for the issue of the permits so all we can do is hope that they arrive sooner than later. Norman is raring to go and as soon as we know when that will be we will let everyone know.

  3. Only today that I came upon your gyro blog after I noticed a photo on the internet appears to be of my birthplace. I hope you were able to continue through Russia per your planned route.
    I would like to know if you have any additional pictures taken of Batanes (Islands Province), which you indicated as Butanes Island, Philippines. Thank you. Nestor (FB: Ivatan Native)