Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year Ninjyas

As 2011 comes to an end, all of us at the Gyrox Goes Global team can look back on a year of highs and lows for the Gyrox adventure. The feeling of Deja Vu is also prominent in our feelings with an urge to express the words 'if only'. But since the quest began in March 2010 the words 'if only' have been replaced with the phrase...'Oh well, there's always next year' and we are now looking forward to 2012 with a renewed optimism  that Norman and Roxy will finally alight again on to the playing fields in Larne after completing the circumnavigation, hopefully sometime next summer.
In the meantime, Norman has decided to write a number of interesting and entertaining articles about the quirkier side of Japanese life as a New Year present to his supporters whilst they wait for the big day when flying starts again. So how best to start off a series on Japan (very much Norman's second home at the moment) and the unusual side of life there than an article on the famous but secretive Ninjyas.

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How to Spot a Ninjya Living in Your Town

Japanese Ninjyas, (spelt Ninjas in some parts) are those masked superhero figures who are expert at all aspects of Martial Arts. They are often portrayed in films and comic books as mystical (almost mythical) in their superhuman powers and secretive ways. Yet, with their cunning masked disguise (and the highly overactive imagination of your GGG investigative observer) they could easily, almost certainly, be living next door to you in your temporarily adopted Japanese home town. You would simply never know - unless, that is, you are armed with the following 'official GGG essential guide' - How to Spot a Ninjya Living in Your Quirky Town...

The Ninjya Boot - Ninjya typically wear baggy coverall outfits, robed from head to foot. However, to remain nimble on their feet and to perform all their rooftop leaps and overly dramatic high kicks (into thin air) they much prefer to wear boots that have very flexible soles and that prove very sticky for clambering around the rooftops on secret missions.
Rather surprisingly you can buy your very own set of Ninjya boots in regular shops without showing any ID proof of your real (or imaginary) special superhero status. 
This boot was spotted in a large hardware store and rather helpfully was on offer in the shop as a 'buy one get one free' deal (which is very useful for fitting out your other foot!).

In Tsuruoka I was fortunate to witness several Ninjya going about their every day 'cover' jobs. Typically it appears that they disguise themselves as Roofing Contractors - as seen here. 
However, the baggy trousers and tell-tale Ninjya boots give away the fact that they are obviously on a top secret spying mission rather than simply photographing a broken roofing tile...

The Ninjya Nest - Again, on my travels on foot around the backstreets of Tsuruoka during the late summer I kept my camera handy and kept a keen and watchful eye on the rooftops. My ongoing vigilance paid off on one of my regular trips back from the shopping centre when I spied a very clever construction that could only be described as a 'Ninjya Nest'. This wooden igloo structure would make a fine operational base for a Ninjya hiding out in town; it looks innocent enough until you spot the satellite communications dish sticking out of the top...used for innocently watching the Sumo Wrestling World Championships??? I don't think so!! Interpol, CIA, MI6, NASA...all take note! The nest proved temporary however as it disappeared overnight shortly before a period of heavy rain was forecast...very clever these Ninjyas...

More 'Official GGG Essential Guides', on various subject designed to help your ongoing survival in everyday Japan, coming soon...


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Please note...No Ninjya was harmed during the writing of this article.
We at the GGG Team look forward to the next installment from Norman's Essential Guides as we are sure they will brighten up the winter months until the spring arrives and the serious business of circumnavigating globe continues.

The Gyrox Team

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Friday, December 23, 2011

December Round-up 2011

December 2011

Winter arrives - Norman poses with snow capped Mount Chokai in the background
Note too, the now harvested rice fields in the foreground
Here we are again! For the second year running I have found myself in an unavoidable position of preparing Roxy for another long winter 'rest' period. I have recently returned (during November) to Tsuruoka and Shonai Airport to perform some ongoing (and annual) maintenance tasks on Roxy - background jobs that need to be done to every aircraft in order to keep it fit and healthy. Performing these works, on a UK registered aircraft whilst sitting in rural Japan however has given their own complexities, especially when you are also obliged to work to the exacting UK CAA standards throughout the process.

Mr Kanda getting to grips with a
big torque-wrench during maintenance
Ever up for a collective challenge however, between the airport Management Staff, ANA maintenance Department Manager (Mr Kanda) and the collective muscle of the airport fire station personnel we were able to source all the requisite tools and equipment needed to complete the tasks in hand.
Happily I can now report that Roxy is well prepared to weather the bitter winter conditions that can see 6ft (2 meters) of lying snow as 'normal'

Green is the colour! And not
 just the work overalls,
temporarily replacing the famous
'Red Suit', coolant is made
 highly visible so leaks can
be detected more easily.
 One of the important jobs has been to replace the summer coolant in the engine.
This had been introduced in Thailand and of course was still perfectly suitable last winter in the tropical 30 degrees 'winter' of the Philippines.
But now with the harsh Japanese winter conditions approaching and with the next stop being Russia and the Arctic Circle, it was an essential task to change the coolant for a version containing much more anti-freeze properties.

Test running the engine up to operational temperature on the apron at Shonai Airport after coolant exchange -
November 2011

You can see from the picture here - of a recent overnight snowfall in Tsuruoka - good anti-freeze is obviously quite important!

No wonder with this amount of snow that some other precautions are taken for the onset of winter. One of the more interesting activities that takes place every year (and highlights the ingenuity of the Japanese in protecting their treasured natural environment) involves protecting all the ornamental trees from these very heavy and sudden falls of snow. The method involves erecting a strong pole up through the branches of the tree, off which an intricate array of rope supports are attached to hold up each of the boughs. In this way when the tree is heavily laden with snow the support pole and ropes take most of the additional weight and the tree doesn't suffer from any broken branches.

And Finally...

With Christmas time fast approaching, it has been fascinating to watch the ongoing preparations in Japan for this festive season. Iconic features that are known the world over, such as the traditional Christmas Tree, is of course very much in evidence. However, this being Japan, things don't always turn out quite as first expected...and the splendid tree seen in a Tsuruoka shopping mall is a case in point. On first glimpse you are impressed by the fine array of decorations on this classic tree, however, on further and closer inspection the wording of the Christmas message at the base of the tree can't help but leave you feeling slightly bemused...

For me, this slightly wayward Christmas message sums up something of the character of such a fantastic, quirky, dynamic, optomistic, unique society that Japan exhibits in abundance.
Circumstances beyond my control have dictated that I have spent a lot more time here than expected - I am very please to report however that this extra time has turned out to be a fascinating experience.

Hopefully the Russian Red Tape will be cleared away to allow a late Spring continuation of the Circumnavigation. In the mean time, during the winter months, I will be kept busy writing up the full account of the numerous adventures that have happened so far in this unpredictable global expedition; situations that you couldn't have even imagined prior to the take off day back in March 2010. Who would have thought then that the flight would still be ongoing right into 2012!!

It only remains for me to wish on behalf of everyone at Gyrox Goes Global, all the best for a happy festive season and hope that we all have a peaceful (and non-bureaucratic) New Year.


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Monday, December 19, 2011

New World Records

It has been a while since we have been able to post any news to this blog page but rest assured, Norman has not let the grass grow beneath his feet and has been very busy with preparations for the resumption of the flight next spring.

Norman has also been busy compiling some blog posts that will be run over the Christmas and holiday period, but first we are excited to announce that the F.A.I. (Federation Aeronautique Internationale) has awarded Norman with four new World Records for Autogyro flying.

The records awarded are…

Claim number: 16277 Course/location: Laoag (Philippines) - Okinawa (Japan)
Performance : 127.9 km/h
Date :20.07.2011

Claim number: 16278 Course/location: Okinawa (Japan) - Goto (Japan)
Performance : 111.2 km/h
Date :21.07.2011

Claim number: 16281 Course/location: Goto (Japan) - Oki (Japan)
Performance : 116.1 km/h
Date :22.07.2011

Claim number: 16280 Course/location: Larne, NI (UK) - Oki (Japan)
Performance : 0.79 km/h
Date :22.07.2011
'FAI congratulates the Pilot on these splendid achievements.'

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Obviously some of the speeds may appear to be very slow but this is because the record includes time spent on the ground. Even so, Norman has been breaking and creating records for autogyro flying for nearly two years now and we are sure there are many more to follow, including the main one…First Flight Around the World by an Autogyro.
The F.A.I. World Record Attempt logo on the nose of Roxy.
Everyone at the GyroxGoesGlobal team congratulates Norman on his record breaking achievements and look forward to writing about the next awards. Until then we can look forward to some entertaining and descriptive blog posts from Norman himself coming very soon.
The Gyrox Team
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