Prequel – Fear Busting and Bungee Jumping in Minakami Japan

This will be the prequel to my social skydiving/rejection therapy in Japan experiment.

So with in the last year, I’ve been on this crazy journey of busting out of my comfort zone and putting myself in challenging situations. Mostly in social situations such as my “Talk to 100 People” challenge talked about here.

But also in a more primal sense. Such as bungee jumping.

This is why I’m calling this the “prequel” to my rejection therapy experiment. Bungee jumping may not be facing “rejection” in the strict sense of the word. However, when I look back, doing my social challenges back in the day contributed majorly to building up the confidence in myself to be able to face my fears and bungee jump. And now that I’ve faced the fear of bungee jumping, I feel like I am more ready to overcome my social fears as well.

So yeah, I went bungee jumping…

here in Japan in a little town called Minakami. It was one of the best days I’ve had in Japan: beautiful clear skies and sunny weather, lush mountain scenery, and a fantastic time with my buddies. It was also a major turning point in my life, as I finally challenged myself to do something that was so scary to me, I had previously told myself I would never EVER do it in my life.

 

Bungee jumping at Bungee Japan in Minakami Japan.

The actual bungee jump itself was intense. Aside from jumping off bridges into lakes, I have never really felt what a long free-fall – the feeling of the ground rushing up at me and the feeling of my body plummeting at high speeds through the sky.

It was a sensation that I will never forget, and I recommend everyone who is capable at least try one time in their life.

Bungee jumping and skydiving: two things I never thought I’d do. Well, on this day I finally challenged myself to bungee and succeeded. I was also rewarded by a rejuvenating soak in an onsen (hot spring) with my close friends.

Fear must be overcame if we are to live an inspiring life full of rich opportunities

I am finding that with every challenging, scary situation we are able to say “yes” to, there is an inner confidence that is built. A core confidence. And with that, a subtle confidence in yourself that grows. A confidence that you can handle whatever situation comes up in your life.

And with that confidence, new doors open up. Doors of opportunity that the fear had previously blinded you from seeing.

It’s almost like when you lack core confidence and constantly run from your fears, you hang your head low and stare at the ground as you walk through life. Because your head is looking down at the ground, you don’t see the doors of opportunity all around you and therefore, you can’t enter them.

Well every time you challenge yourself to something risky, maybe talking to a stranger, maybe applying for a new job, or maybe even bungee jumping, the confidence you built from doing that challenging situation causes your head to raise just a little higher. And as you raise your head you can now start to see a few doors of opportunity that can be entered.

The more you challenge your fears, the higher you lift your head as you walk through life, allowing more and more of those doors of opportunity to come into your life. And of course, the scarier the challenge, the more the confidence is built from it.

This is the premise for my whole rejection therapy project.

Anyways, more about bungee jumping in Minakami Japan!

The actual company itself is called Bungee Japan. And the whole team there really did an awesome job. They were friendly and had a thorough system for jumper safety. All my gear was checked many times by multiple staff members before jumping, and I really felt safe about the whole experience (obviously a big concern!).

AND, they also had a camera team that did an awesome job taking pictures of my jump. It cost an extra 2500¥ (25 US dollars) but was well, well worth the money as I got a bunch of high-quality bungee pics.

The really cool thing was that after the jump, they print you off a “Certificate of Courage”, which is a neat little paper that reminds you of how awesome you are for beating your fears and having the courage to jump.

I’ve actually got mine hanging up on my goal/inspiration board to help remind me that I have the courage to accomplish whatever I dream of.

Bungy Japan Minakami Certificate of Courage

Next fear busting challenge: Skydiving

Yup. Especially because I never thought I’d be bungee jumping, but I beat it anyway, I’m committed to trying skydiving here in Japan. Maybe in the next few months so stay tuned for the next report on that!

I’m super, super scared to go skydiving, and I’m not quite sure how I will get myself to commit to this. But maybe after doing some of these rejection therapy challenges new doors will open up and I will be able to jump through them!

If your interesting in seeing more of my fear busting/social skydiving experiment in Japan, check out my other challenges here.

If you’d like to stay updated on my rejection therapy experiment in Japan, please subscribe to the mailing list in the right side bar of this page. Also please follow me on my YouTube channel, my Twitter feed, and Instagram!

Let’s make this experiment fun and crazy!

 

 

 

Waking Up Early is Da Bomb for Productivity

Beautiful sunrise on Mt. Fuji

For the last two months now, I’ve been waking up at 6:20 am.

It takes some getting used to, but once adjusted, I found that it really helps productivity and focus.

Why did I start waking up at 6:30 when I don’t really need to be awake until 7:45? Well I’ve had a busy schedule working on many goals at once, as well as other important tasks: writing this blog, music gig this month, new side project with my Japanese studies, and other daily tasks such as reading, journaling, and gym. I found myself faced with so many tasks that it was a nightmare to get everything done throughout the day. I was feeling hurried trying to get all this stuff done every day with no time for myself to unwind and relax.

Waking up one hour early to study Japanese, rather than trying to fit it in after work, proved to have some benefits.

Doing your highest priority task first in the early morning ensures that it gets done with your freshest attention and energy

After the initial moments of morning drowsiness fade away, the warm morning sunlight shines in through the window and hits your skin (and that good ol’ coffee kicks in). You find myself more alert and focused than any part of the day.

For me, rolling out of bed, pouring that big cup of Joe, and immediately getting started on my largest and most important task of the day soon leaves me with a sense of accomplishment knowing that I got a critical task for the day finished.

I mean, you could just save that important task for after work but I imagine work would leave you tired and with less mental resources to work with. Especially when you just want to relax, right?

It is natural for humans to wake up with the sun

I’m actually talking out of my ass on this one. But I imagine that it would be most natural for humans to wake up with the sun. I’m assuming that having not evolved with digital alarm clocks to wake us up in the caveman days, we relied on our biological alarm clocks to sense the sunshine and wake us up when appropriate.

If it is true that waking up with the sunlight is natural for us, then it follows that repeating this behaviour would cause us to feel our most alert, focused and engergetic (as well as optimize other biological process in our body). Doing this along with making sure you meet your nutritional needs could be gold for optimizing brain performance.

All about experimentation and finding what works for you

I dunno. This is probably super obvious for some people. But for me it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and even after I finish this current project with Japanese I will continue to wake up at 6:20 on the daily and get my most important tasks finished.

I know everyone’s different and that’s why some people choose to get their most important tasks done at night (I remember hearing one of Tim Ferriss’s podcasts about his most creative period of the day being late night).

Let me know if you guys have had any experience with this. And if not morning, what’s your most productive time of the day?

An Encounter with the Japanese Yakuza

Let me start out by saying, this isn’t an every day occurrence. Japan is pretty damn safe when it comes to crime and violence and having a run-in with gangsters isn’t something that a lot of people experience. That’s why I was excited to have this experience (although a bit terrifying). It’s one of the more interesting stories I have acquired in the three years I’ve lived here.

Japan has done so much for me in the way of unique experiences.

So here it is, my encounter with the yakuza.

yakuza covered in tattoos

Courtesy of Jeff Laitila over at Flickr https://flic.kr/p/4nSqDA

It all started on a fine summer day at the beach. I was quenching my thirst with a Chuhai 9 percenter, and getting a nice third-degree-sunburn-of-a-tan on – taking in the beautiful, peaceful summer of Japan with a couple friends who were off somewhere chatting up girls.

Although everyone decided they were going to stay for the fireworks festival at night, an entire day of drinking and relaxing in the sun had really taken its toll on me 😉 So another friend an I decided to duck out a bit early. It was now evening.

Homeward bound…

After deciding that we were DEFINITELY going to take highway home and not the expensive tolled expressway, …

we took the expressway. On accident – not paying attention and neglecting to un-check the “tolled expressway” option on our GPS.

So here we are, cruising down the dark freeway at night, lost in conversation about how lucky we were to get to pay this surprise 5,000¥ ($50) bill for the expressway toll. There are almost zero other cars on the road.

After cruising for about another hour (we are still in a neighboring prefecture and have about an hour to go), my friend who was driving noticed somebody was following rather closely. After looking back through the rear view mirror and seeing a van following so closely I could practically see the driver’s nose hairs, I was able to confirm that they were indeed tailing us. A big black van. And not only were they tailing us, but they were flashing their head lights as well, much like a strobe light in a techno club.

I checked the speedometer, and we were going about 120km/h on the expressway. Not race car fast, but being 20km/h over the speed limit, not turtle slow either.

Now, had I been driving (and in America rather than Japan), like any sensible driver would, I would have done the right thing: slowed down to a walking pace, flashed my brake lights, saluted him with a nice middle finger as a gesture of gratitude for the opportunity to share the road with him.

But I thought, no, this is Japan. People are usually better mannered here so whatever reason they are tailing us for, it must be for a good reason as opposed to ill will. Maybe our tire is flat and they wanted to alert us so that we don’t have a blowout on the expressway. Maybe our taillights were out? You know, my friend once left his wallet sitting on top of the car after filling his tank at a gas station, and some guy followed us six blocks in order to tell us.

Yeah, I thought it must be something like that.

We decided to acquiesce to the friendly little black van and let him (them?) pass and we got into the slow lane. Rather than them zooming past us, which is what you’d normally expect to happen, they immediately swerved into the lane behind us, and continued to tail very closely. I could have sworn the van’s bumper was pushing us along along the expressway, they were following so close. They continued flashing their lights rapidly behind us and started swerving left to right. They then swerved back into the fast lane, pulled up parallel to us and cruised at the same speed for a bit. I wondered if the driver or one of the passengers was trying to communicate something to us but I could not see inside the van, as the windows had a nice dark tint.

They were definitely trying to communicate something to us.

They zoomed ahead, swerved into the slow lane again (this time cutting us off), and immediately hammered on the breaks. We started cruising slower,

slower….

slower………..

and all the sudden, both vehicles were both stopped. Two cars, 9 o’clock at night, completely stopped on the expressway.

We started the car again and tried to pass the van, but they swerved in front of us, blocking us from passing, then performed some fast and the furious shit, pulling the e-brake and sending the van sliding sideways to a stop in front of us, completely blocking off the slow lane.

We are all stopped again. One big friendly party on the freeway.

At this point I am actually astonished by whats happening. I’m still holding space in my mind for the possibility that they may actually just want to notify us about something that we hadn’t noticed. I began checking my pockets for a missing wallet.

I actually even said something to my friend like “Maybe we have a flat tire or broken taillight or something?”

Then, the four doors of the van open with uniformity that would put a team of synchronized swimmers to shame. Four crusty middle aged men wearing business suits and sunglasses (at night) hop out of the van and immediately surround our car. One walks straight up to my friend’s window, which was already open, bless our hearts.

Next thing I knew, one of the gangsters were leaning in through the driver’s window, yelling at us in Japanese in the most stock, cliché yakuza speak that you would ever hear. Seriously straight out of a Beat Takeshi movie. Rollin all the r’s and ending every sentence in このやろう and こら. He basically was saying “Why the eff are you driving so slow in the fast lane you idiot… you know you can’t do that right!?” Being as intimidating as possible while the three other middle aged gangsters stood around the car, staring into the car at us.

Us in the car, both shocked at what was going on but also not wanting to back down to anything gave the standard はい、はい、はい. The equivalent to “yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever.” Like an insolent child would talk to his mother after being scorned.

After this continued for a brutal 15 seconds that felt like forever, Sir Crusty, who was leaning in our window giving us a stern talking to, finally stopped yammering away and took a good look at the driver (who although is told often that they don’t look Japanese, is indeed Japanese) then took a brief look at me. It dawned on him that we may just be two foreigners in the car that didn’t understand a word he said. Then, in the best English accent he could muster, “OK? OK.” And with that, they walked back toward the van, the driver spun around and took a good look at the license plate before getting back in the van and driving off.

Although I had just spent a full day of drinking at the beach, I was fully sober by this point.

When the van full of our new friends drove off, I happened to catch a glance at the license plate. Turns out, they happen to be from the neighboring city of mine. Good ol’ Gunma, I thought. Even when I’m not present in Gunma, it never seizes to keep serving me those lifetime experiences.

And thus, an excellent day at the beach ends with an excellent story to tell.

Life in Japan has been really great. It has brought me the pleasureful experiences, the educational, the eyeopening, the comical, and the intense experiences (such as this one). All of these experiences I am so grateful for, as they compound on each other and make me the person I am today: a much more bold and daring person – more light hearted, more adventurous, more calm and collected.

It is for the rich experiences that I live in this country and still continue to enjoy it even after three years. I highly recommend anyone that comes to Japan to make it a point to do the same. Never stop seeking the new interesting experiences and keep an open mind about what comes your way as it will make you a better and more interesting person.

Mosquitoes in Japan Ruining my Gains!

Asian Tiger Mosquito
Courtesy of Sean Mcann: https://flic.kr/p/g62PA

“God damn bugs.” An iconic moment in cinematic history when an insect splatters its guts against the windshield of a moving van in the beginning of “Men in Black.” This very same phrase is the one I catch myself repeating over and over again lately. It is getting warmer in Japan, which means the mosquito population is on the rise.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I HATE those bugs. The idea of them feeding off my blood is disgusting, their bites are itchy, and the fact that they are like little syringes flying around not giving a shit about if you care to share needles or not is unsettling. Put another way, the thought of catching some nasty disease like West Nile doesn’t exactly put my mind to rest.

Mosquitoes up in my bed-space!

Now, I put a lot of effort in the gym. And I want to make all the necessary adjustments to getting the maximum amount of gains, such as getting a full night’s worth of sleep. The importance of sleep on muscle growth and recovery is well known in the fitness world. “You don’t build muscle in the gym, you build muscle while you sleep” is common knowledge passed down from bro to bro which highlights the importance of getting a full 8 hours or more sleep at night in order to allow maximum recovery and protein synthesis.

Well, how am I supposed to get good sleep when I have mosquitoes buzzing around my head while I’m trying to sleep at night? I’m serious folks. The other night I awoke to high-pitched mosquitoesque buzzing sounds at around one o’clock in the morning. Though I couldn’t find the bugger at first, I spent a good 45 minutes hunting around my apartment like a paranoid crack junky before I was finally able to relieve him of his worldly suffering. If you’ve ever seen that awful movie called “Bugs” which is about the couple in their motel room going delusional over imaginary bugs, it was kinda like a scene from that movie.

The even more frustrating part was waking up again a couple hours later to more buzzing sounds, turning on the light, and discovering three mosquitoes camping out on the wall about 2 feet from my head. Killing each of them ended in a bloody mess which was a sign that it was already too late.

If you want to preserve your gains, please take precautions.

Lately I’ve been much more conservative about opening my window during the day time (even though I have a screen, it apparently doesn’t matter). It is getting hot and I don’t want to run my electric bill up too much by using the air conditioner all the time, so I’m gonna try out that “katori-jet”(蚊取りジェット) business. Katori-jet is a pump-style canister that emits a mist that supposedly keeps the skeeters at bay. I’ll definitely post an update on this with some words on its effectiveness.

In closing I’d like to summarize by saying number one, get proper sleep in order to maximize your gains and number two, mosquitoes are unrelenting in Japan during the warm seasons so do what you need to to keep them from disturbing your sleep and compromising dem gainz!

Working Out in Japan

I’ve actually only been lifting for 1 year and 2 months and about half of that was spent lifting in America at my University gym. The other half was spent lifting in Japan in various community gyms. I’ve actually moved around quite a lot in the 18 months I’ve been in Japan so I’ve had the chance to experience quite a few community gyms.

First I guess I should explain what a community gym is as I have never seen one (or at least don’t know about any) in America. Community gyms are in city centers of various towns and cities of Japan and usually offer various athletic services to the people. Basket ball courts, martial arts dojos, archery ranges, table tennis courts and many other services that aren’t coming to mind right now. And of course there is usually a weightlifting/fitness gym amongst them. The cool thing about community gyms is that they are funded through a portion of the city residents’ tax money and are offered at a cheap admission fee from 130 yen to 400 yen (1.30 to 4 american dollars) per use. Also no membership is required (or if it is required, its usually just filling out your name and address once so that they have you on file). However there is no monthly fee, which is dope.

My current gym costs 300 yen per use and there is no time limit. Considering I workout three times a week, thats 900 yen a week, which comes out to a whopping 3600 yen per month (36 american dollars). Pretty awesome deal considering 300 yen is on the more expensive side compared to the other community gyms I’ve seen and its still super cheap. And you could easily spend 75-100 dollars on monthly gym membership at a “real” gym.

Community Gym Quality

Now whether or not a community gym is worth going to or not can be hit and miss. I’ve actually been lucky enough to only have seen two crappy gyms that weren’t worth going to. Those gyms were filled to the brim with cardio machines and light dumbbells. No barbells, no squat racks, nothing worth using. For me, having no squat rack and no bench is a no go. A power rack is even better.

The gym I use now actually doesn’t have a power rack but it has a squat rack with safety pins, which is also useable for overhead pressing. Some people even prop a random unadjustable bench on the wall and do inclined pressing in that squat rack in order to use the safety pins. However, I haven’t been able to set it up in a way that is stable enough to do incline benches as I need a really shallow incline (around 30 degrees or so) in order to focus on my upper chest.

Other than that, there are a few things lacking in my gym such as a pull up bar and a good cable machine. There is unilateral pull down machine, which can be modified by attaching a rope to it and doing exercises like cable tricep extensions. I actually use it for weighted cable crunches, but its ghetto to say the least. The fact that I’m doing barbell rows as my main back exercise means that a pullup bar or lat pull down machine is not absolutely necessary, though it would be nice. Actually, there is a pullup bar in the play ground outside that I use occasionally. I think thats one thing you come to accept in Japan, at least when it comes to community gyms: there is no perfect gym that has exactly everything you want and/need for your workouts, so you get used to swapping exercises out. For example, maybe there’s no cable machine for doing cable crossovers so you do dumbbell pec flyes instead. Maybe you can’t do cable facepulls either, so you do dumbbell facepulls instead. Anyway, I’m always just happy that at least I can squat heavy and just make do with what I have to. I’ve been making strength and muscle gains regardless.

The Gym-goers

Let me just start by saying “big” is not “in” in Japan. If you take a look at any fashion magazine or any of the popular icons in Japan, they’re usually very slim with a modest amount of muscle. Slim and chiseled is the look for men, with a nice set of six pack abs being the paramount of a nice fit body.

That being said, many of the male gym goers you’ll see will be lining up for the incline situp bench and the treadmills. Now I really have nothing against this whatsoever. Everyone’s fitness goals are personal and I respect that people are there working for what they want. Its just a little comical coming from my perspective of everyone wanting to get big and pack on muscle in America and other western countries. I’d say its even a blessing that the squat rack is left alone in its lonely corner most of the time. All the more for me 😉

Then there is the few but regular, more serious people who actually have a decent amount of muscle (much, much bigger than me) who you’ll see benching big boy weight. These people, I assume, are apart of underground powerlifting communities. I like these people. They’re really motivating to have around. Funnily enough, I’ve only met a few people in Japan that actually know what powerlifting is –  that’s probably just me and my limited social circle though.

If you see women in the gym, they rarely lift any weights. Usually you’ll only see them doing cardio workouts. According to the Japanese ideal the women need to be even slimmer than the men! Though I have seen women lifting weights before, to be fair. My current gym contains zero cardio equipment so there is virtually no women in my current gym =( (potentially a reason to upgrade to a better gym in the future =P).

Then there’s your classic middle-aged and older people. They usually come in and spend two hours doing random stretches, air squats and lunges, and maybe even tinker around with light weights doing strange movements with the dumbbells that I’ve never seen before lol. But anyways, I think its good that they’re keeping an eye on their health and staying supple. It would be nice if people were a little more like that in America!