Archive for October, 2007

Monthly report

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

OK, so to gauge our progress in the Japanese language they make us write small essays. This month’s essay was about Japanese culture and customs. I’ll admit to copy-pasting that complete sentence just befoe the end from an online translator. Not quite at that level yet. Also note that I use spaces . . . whereas you’re not really supposed to. Enjoy.

日本の文化は ちょっと むずがしいです。でも もっと 奇妙 文化 生きて そして その文化は 奇妙すぎませんでした。

私はカルチャーショックがあらいないで それは ちょっと ばかだと おもいます。でも たぶん レヴァルスカルチャーショックは オランダで 9月に あります、でも それじゃない と おもいます

まい日 私は 日本に 来たから しあわせです。たくさんことは とてもおもしろいこと があります、でも 日本人は 最もおもしろい。私はたくさん日に バーでや が 電車でや が 山の上で 日本人と話ます。

日本のことは とてもちがいです が だいたいは おもしろいです。

私はいつも侍がおもしろい思いました

ぶしどはおもしろくていい概念です。 いま ぶしどは ちょっとへんですが それは ながくて誇りなれきしでした。たぶん ぶしどは 日本で しょうらいに あります。

ていねいなかたはおもしろいです。でも 日本人ていねいことをつかって、それから距離つくります。私はそれが名案であることを確信していません。

じゅうどうとからてはちょっといたすぎます

でも きゅうどうがすきです。

私はおちゃがすきですがさどうはちょっとへんです。

完全性の検索は日本文化に名誉を与えます。でも あることが完成するのしてはちょっとばかです

私の日本のすきなことは日本人です

ワリー

A Weekday post???

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

That’s right. Like I said, I don’t want to just post about all the marvelous adventures I have during the weekends. I will also write and inform you of stuf that happens during the drudgery of weekdays.

I have been taking my Japanese lessons at the EU-Japan centre of industrial cooperation, the Japanese office of the program that sent me here. But these people have more projects running then just us, so we have a chance to attend some nice conferences every now and again. Mura’s post in response to World according to Wally Part I was inspired by something he’d read in preparation for the small lecture they had on Carbon Trading Policies. Well, it came to pass that during these two weeks a major event will take place. One so big that we’ve had to move classes to the Yoyogi Olympic Park. Yet another chance to see a new part of Tokyo:D. As the name would imply it is located next to Yoyogi park, which I believe I have mentioned before. It has a somewhat less personal feel to it, but it does reunite the two groups of Vulcanus students we have as the students who take their classes at KAI school also congregate at the Olympic centre. So, we have all the students together, we study next to a BIG park . . . . . the next logical step would be . . . .

That’s right. Yesterday we had a BIG BBQ . . . . next to Disneyland (That’s on the other side of Tokyo . . . out of a convenience point of view you know). But I believe there will be enough lazing in the midday-sun during the comming weeks lunches as long as the Tokyo sun keeps shining (it’s sorta wavering now).

I put the Kyoto weekend pictures up yesterday, you can find them in the . . . .folder marked Kyoto”. I’ll put the BBQ pics up aswell . . . sometime, not now coz I have to go to school. Also be sure to see the Random section every now and again as pictures tend to end up there. Including pictures of nice packages send to me. Thanks a lot.

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Quote of the day:

っ is meant to shorten a sound, but to have the listener realise this one has to pauze afterwards to emphasize the absence of sound.
Therefor the っ-shortener does in effect lengthen the pronunciation of a word.

ワリー

Yet another weekend

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

It’s not like I don’t have anything to write about that’s happened over the week. It’s just that you don’t read this blog to hear that sashimi is delicious . . . again. I’ve told you that. Things have sort of gotten into a rut. But that’s good. I wouldn’t want to come home only to be brutally slaughtered out of feelings of pent up jalousy.

So other than living in Tokyo. Yes, yes, I know. Thank you, too kind. Well if you insist, maybe I do deserve this honour.

Euhm, where was I
Oh yeah, last weekend I made my way through Japan in a manner more fitting my station than how I have been getting around lately. I left the nightbus for what it was and shinkansenned to Osaka. I was there to meet with some people of the company I will be working for (Note to self: You are not here JUST for your own pleasure, try to keep that in mind). There’s a short version and a long version of what transpired that day. I will start with the short version.

My dorm SUCKS
Big Hairy Donkey-balls.
CRAP

It’s not that the walls are pink . . . . of the ENTIRE building.
It’s not that I’ll be living in a structure closely resembling the hotel from “The Shining”.
I’m sure I’ll have lovely neighbours
It’s not even the hour-and-a-half I’ll be spending getting from my dorm to my work
Nor the hour-and-a-half I’ll be spending getting back

It’s that I’ll end up spending €3000 on the fucking public transport getting me there every day.
Add on top of that that I’ll be eating during this time (A luxury, I know) And that’s all my money.

The euhm . . . company people are really nice though. The town I’m living in seems equally nice. But the money I’ll have to spend . . . oh bog.

‘Course, it’s not as bad as all that. I can cut out the bus costs of about 7 months by buying a bike (They’re quite cheap here) and I can get a monthly pass, which cuts down on the costs some (I’ll have to see how much exactly). And in the pink building I’ll have my own fridge.

OK, I see how one could read that and frown slightly, but the Gajin have their own fridges in their room whereas the Japanese (and there’s a lot of Japanese living there) will have to share . . . . 1 fridge. One. Singular. Hundreds of Japanese . . . One fridge. I’d like to see that in action.

About what my internship is going to be about. Well, this is as good a place as any to tell you that I won’t tell you. I signed a secrecy clause and that means you’re not allowed to know. niener niener niener.
No, but seriously: We’ll discuss my project come Januari. I will have 6 weeks or so to set stuff up while they acquaint me with their technology and methods. I work for a small R&D company within Mitsubishi Electric called Switchgear Insulation Technologies (or something to that extent). I’ll leave you in google’s capable hands for you to find out what switchgears are. There’s 22 people running around and we get to use our lab and stuff from around the rest of the company grounds (and there’s a couple of thousand people working in the rest of the compound so that’s a lot of toys to play with) if we need to test in that environment/on that piece of equipment. They do R&D and some accreditation, so they do some KEMA stuff.

Anyway, who am I to waste a free ride on just a company visit.

Oh, haven’t I mentioned that yet? The shinkansen was covered by the EU Centre.
So anyway, I took a train to Kyoto. Met up with the Fair Maiden and cristopher, who as of yet has not received an affectionate nickname. And we ventured forward into Kyoto.

Well, that is to say, the Fair Maiden had taken the nightbus to Kyoto and walked all day, I’d had a rather exhausting day and Christopher was in equally high spirits. So we slept . . . . and the next day we ventured bravely into Kyoto.
A point of interrest is that we stayed at a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese Inn’ish thing. I haven’t done the picture upload thing yet but I’m pretty sure I completely forgot to take any pictures of the room.

Kyoto is known for many things:
It’s history as nations capital
It’s Temples
The other Temples
The colour of the turning leaves
A specific bunch of temples
The old imperial Palace
The old Geisha district
And some temples scattered through the city.

There’s some nice walks through and around Kyoto, but as the weather was kind of shitty on saturday we didn’t do any of that and we went to see . . . . hmmmmm, let’s see. Oh yeah: temples. The highlight of the day was the Nijo-jo though. A former palace of someone or other. ( really, you’re not in Japan, if I called him Shogun Keessie would you really mind?) The gardens were nice, the structure itself was quite impressive, and especially the nightingale floors had us discussing how that would work exactly.

Though we managed to lose Christopher halfway through the afternoon he was not that easily gotten rid of. Doomed to spend the weekend as a group of 3. During his absence we did manage a relaxing Onsen (you all remember what an onsen is right? I’ve mentioned it twice already. It’s a natural hotspring/spa thingy). I got to talk with the old naked wrinkly Americans about gardening and the Fair Maiden got to speak with their wives. Also I tried speaking Japanese with someone, but my vocabulary limits my choice of subject severely and I always seem to end up speaking about windmills, tulips and Andy Sawa. That gets kind of old after a while. We spent the evening strolling about the geisha district but saw nothing but (very nice)old buildings and a lot of tourists. No Geishas 🙁

Sunday was spent walking the philosophers walk. A good chance to reflect on your life while enjoying a nice walk. An excellent place for breakthroughs. I had one . . . or several, but as soon as you leave the walk the breakthroughs leave you. It’s a zen thing I suppose.
We saw some truely excellent Temples Sunday, and the weather made that I got some really nice pictures. (They’ll be up soon). The turning of the leaves has only just started, so we saw only a little bit of red but one can see why Kyoto is famous for it. If oyu find yourself in the neighbourhood in a week or 2 a visit is well worth it.
Nishiki market was next on the list. A place where you can buy most of everything you will ever find on a Japanese menu. The smells and tastes were intoxicating and some of the food was so fresh it still moved. No, seriously: they kill the some of the things in front of your eyes.

The time to leave was already upon us unfortunataly. A mere shinkansen ride away Tokyo awaited us, and if I’d read my schedule a little bit more thoroughly (or at all) I’d known I was racing towards a test. Goody. But as I didn’t know that, I got to end the weekend on a high note 😛

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Quote of the day:

But I don’t know anything about doing that!

Ah, but this morning you had no experience at all of being dead, and yet, but for my intervention you would nevertheless have turned out to be very good at it

すみません

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

I got into an MSN argument yesterday about something that happened a while ago and I gave them a hard time for not reading my blog properly.

“but it’s not there”

“It was about a month-and-a-half ago, use your eyes for #$%^s sake”

“seriously dude, it’s not there”

And . . . well, it wasn’t.

I could’ve sworn I posted it, but i can’t find a trace of it.

.

.

Sooooooooo, without any further ado, I give you: Arwen

Kawagoe and Mitake

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

But first . . .

Friday night was spent with the traditional “all you can eat” activity. Important difference between our way of doing this and the Japanese way of doing this is that they also offer an “All you can drink” to accompany this food. So for 2000 yen we got all the meat you can eat(and in Japan this is usually quite expensive, having no cows of its own). But for a mere 475 yen we had all the beer/sake we could muster for 2 hours.

!!!!!! FOOOOOOOLS!!!!!!!

Let’s just put it this way, our little Italian female friend we took along made her way through twice that in raw material costs alone. And that’s not counting the Irish-guy we had along or the huge Hungarian. By the end of the two hours we were getting significantly dirty looks by the waiting staff. That may have been due to the food/drink we were knocking back, or it may have been due to the loud drinking game . . . probably a bit of both.

Aaaaaaanyway. Kawagoe is known for 2 things (as far as I know anyway): Little Edo, which is the preserved old city from feudal times, and the Kawagoe Festival.

The first is always there . . . the second was last weekend. Perfect chance to see both then. The festival would start at 10, and Kawagoe is 90 minutes away . . . . so I had to get up early even though it was weekend :(. The things I suffer for a nice place to see.

I arrived when the festival consisted of getting the floats in place. The floats look a lot like this. And some of you may know that the average Japanese street looks like this.

I’ll give you a minute to work that out.

The combination of these two will get you a lot of this, this, this and this. Amusing for me though that was. Almost made me forget that they use forced child labour to fuel this festival.

The finished products can be seen at some of the other pictures in that folder.

Different aspects of Japanese Culture became apperant to me during this Festival though. First of all. they take drama very seriously. You can be a fair lady if you truely believe you are a fair lady. Also, next to child labour they’ll allow animals on stage. And most disturbingly, they feed these animals live on stage. Perhaps Japan isn’t as developed as I took it to be.

Apposed to that though there’s beautifull buildings, great temples and gardens. And most appealing to me: a cure for premature hairloss.

The festival lasted till well past sundown and after that there was the 1.5 hour return trip. All in all, it was a grand day. Accented by the fact that some of the people from my program showed up at 4 seeing a couple of floats and some dark temples/snigger. Though I imagine they weren’t driven as nuts as I was by the highly repetitive music.

Sunday I had to rise equally early to do my first solo-hike in this country. Otake-san was the object of meander, but that would start me off from Mitake. So, to get to Mitake I had asked some people of the railroads I had to go to Shinjuku, take the chuo line till it ran out and then take the line that moved on from that. This would take two hours. An hour and a half into this trip I passed the station which served as end station to the line I live on. So whereas I had spent 30 minutes getting to Shinjuku and then going north-west . . . I could’ve taken a train straight down my line due west and pay less and travel less. Unsurprising to me, as I already know the Japanese have no concept of maps, the information person at my station was not aware of this however and sent my by way of shinjuku anyway. Suffice to say I now own a map of the complete Kanto train system.

Arriving in Mitake I set out right away, a bus up to the cable-car and then the cable-car up to a small extention of the village below. Having seen what Japanese maps (note the complete lack of usefull details such as, other trails and height indicators) look like beforehand I can prepared with an actual map. Now maps here are a lot purer than back home, meaning that while they look completely similar to ones back home they often come accompanied with roadsigns. Usefull ones that is. Upon arrival to the top of the mountain, into an environment where tourists outnumber residents on any given day with 5-to-1 the roadsigns indicated . . . . the postoffice. So . . . map and compas it is. Half an hour into the hike, and 25 minutes past the last building I did find a bit of wood with the Kanji for the next mountaintop on it though. Not at an intersection . . . just on the trail, but it was nice to know I was going the right way. With the book saying a round-trip-time of 5 hours (this is the same book I quoted at the sendai weekend btw) I was surprised to find myself at my destination after little under 2 hours of hiking. I was greeted by the sight of an old friend.

While the way up was a solitary journey I chatted away happily to other people on the way down as I stuck with them. It is nice to see my Japanese has improved to the point that I can have a regular conversation . . . though it’s still not enough to read that kid’s book.

So, I made a new friend, had a nice climb and found a faster way back then the way I’d come.

All in all it was a nice weekend

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Quote of the day:

Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by places and moments that take your breath away

-Anon

Every Day Life

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

OK, so you’re in Japan right. Pretty special and all . . . Yet, while I am off here living La Vida Loca, I still have to get up, shower, clean my room, go to work etc etc etc.

So here’s a little picture archive of my average day:

I get up and this is what I wake up to:

Room I

Room II

Note the bed and the remarkably bedshaped thing next to it. That’s where I sleep. The bed provided by me was rather uncomfortable so I enquired and the company said they needed someone that had gotten some sleep over the last 4 months without doing his back in so they arranged for a Futon to be installed into my room . . . While they hadn’t made any mention of removing the bed I sort of expected something like that to happen.

I was wrong. . . seriously, what was I thinking

Bathroom IBathroom II

My bathroom, with standing room shower. A luxury I can tell you

Kitchen

Breakfast is served in the company dining hall. The breakfast looks a bit like:

BreakfasthallGohan+MizoCabinet I
Tray
Nato

The view while I walk from my room to the breakfast hall is:View I

I’ve lived in far worse places.

Anyway, off to school I go. This is NOT a busy subway

Not busy

The EU-centre I take my Japanese language lessons at looks like:

Centre ICentre IICentre IIICenter V
Centre VICentre VI

This is where the people work who make this program possible

Centre IV

There’s lots of pictures of me studying obviously and they’re absolutely riviting. Still, I thought better of posting them here. There’s Lunch somewhere, and then sometimes we have to dress up for a lecture/meeting/conference/soire. But there’s some pictures of me in suit somewhere else already so I’ll forgo that.

During our time at school we’ll look at:

Schoolbook ISchoolbook II

Which, considering my mail looks like:

Mail

is not quite sufficient for me to be a self-sufficient here. But studying goes well. I had thought I had gained some basic grasp of Japanese. I’ve conversed with people, this went well. So I got some books. It seems that 6 weeks of Japanese training is enough to read 5 pages of:

kiddies I kidies II

in 2 hours. Yes, my knowledge of Japanese is truely, frighteningly, horribly . . . overrated.

At the end of the day (after another spacious subway journey) I should arrive back to:

Homecoming

And that is the contents of a normal day for me