Archive for October, 2007


Sunday, October 14th, 2007

Time to clue you in on some of the things I’ve been spending my money on

There’s food of course, man’s gotta eat you know.

And the subway expenses are quite impressive

But . . . Japan is a country of electronics and I bet you’re all a lot more interrested in those sort of things.
On one of the first days I had to get a mobile phone . . . Japanese people do not believe in thin phones. The majority of phones here are regular bricks. And I was close to buying one of the few thin ones when I found out that for a mere 500 yen a month more I could get this. True, if my wallet was as thick as that I’d be having a party ’till the end of this year. But it features a 5 megapixel camera with flash perfect for party pictures.

Now, I can hear you thinking . . . if you’ve had this thing for a month, and the blog mentions some parties . . . where’s the pictures.

The handbook’s in Japanese . . . I can’t make heads or tails of it. And the pictures are secure on my phone. Together with the “man dances with dead frog around his neck” picture I took today.

Then I bought this a week ago. So far I’ve been using it to write stuff on . . . . Money well spent eh. But as soon as I get my own internet and some decent games I’ll use it for some higher gains.

And then with the money generously donated by my family I got: An English-Japanese electronic dictionary.

A truely marvelous machine . . . Now if they’d just make these things for English speakers learning Japanese instead of the other way around I reckon I could actually read the manual and use it properly. I’d’ve posted an english description . . .  but there isn’t any.

Hutspot, dark mountains and Onsen

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Sooooooooo, another weekend approached and action had to be taken. To start with I was shanghaied to a Dutch embassy party on Thursday to Celebrate “Leids ontzet”. I’m in F-ing Japan you know, what do I want to do with other Dutchies . . . Well, it would be the last Hutspot I’d see in a while and I am sucker when it concerns my stomach. It was pretty enjoyable. I’d always had this “zonnedael” idea with embassy personnel. They’d speak like there’s something foul stuck to the tops of their mouths and dress like . . . well, like the people from flodder. It’s nice to know that some things are EXACTLY like you’ve always imagined them. Oh sure, there were the normal interns and stuff. But embassy wives are . . . embassy wives. A small side benefit was that I got to group with an assortment of people in which I was the second youngest. Whereas in the Vulcanus crew I’m the second oldest. It was an enjoyable evening with many different dialects of Dutch, English and Japanese spoken. There were even 3 other students from the TU Delft, even one from my own faculty(though I’d never lain eyes on him before).It’s true that most Europeans that get transferred here don’t get a high intensity language course, but it was kind of funny finding out that my Japanese was superiour to some people that had been here for 4 years. And not a little bit flattering.Friday, I took the night bus to Sendai. Remind me to post a map somewhere and prick virtual flags in it to show you where I’ve been. Sendai is quite a bit to the north of Tokyo though. In the meanwhile . . . google it. Now, for those of you that have traveled by busses for extended periods can guess what’s coming. Now, take into account the Average Japanese persons height. Sooooooo, lotsa sleep for me then.

At 5 O Clock me and the fair maiden arrive at the biggest city north of Tokyo, 1 million+ inhabitants, a fully developed integrated suica subway system. And at 5 O clock the only thing open is the McDonalds. Plenty of coffeshops/breakfastplaces around but none of em open. So, we just walk around some waiting for the bus to leave.

According to the guidebook Akiu Onsen is handy for accessing the places we were actually trying to see. What it didn’t mention was that this highly touristy area (one of the three most famous onsens in Japan) is completely deserted out of main season and does not offer any place for breakfast. Also, the handy access consisted of a bus that left 2 hours after our arrival. While we had come across some Japanese in the meantime that advised us that we probably didn’t still want to climb that mountain we hesitated for only a brief stop at the toilet before venturing forth. The guide mentioned a 3 hour climb and a fine view. What could go wrong?It’s here that I’ll make a short speech about Karma and Force of Habit. When traveling around the world with everything you own on your back you tend to take things easy. No matter what happens, with everything on your back things will have to get pretty hairy before they reach a point beyond your control. Taking this on matter-of-fact-force-of-habit is a dangerous thing when going to what you think is a civilized piece of the world.The 3 hour climb took 6 hours. Admittedly we wouldn’t be registered as the fastest climbers ever, but double the climb time is a pretty steep difference. Combining this climb time with the no breakfast and slow connecting busses it was now almost time for the sun to disappear behind the mountains. Another hour and it would be getting dark. 6 hours up . . . . You do the math. Being woefully unprepared we didn’t have enough warm clothing to spend the night on the mountain, nor the wetweather gear to deal with rain or dew. A mountain hut was located in the wrong direction. Having no extra food this was not something I was aiming for anyway. So we decided to try our luck. We made excellent time and reached past the “2 km left” marker before things got too bad to operate by normal sight. Anyone that will care to look up the state of the moon of last Saturday will see it was a completely new moon . . . and it didn’t rise ‘till late anyway. Also, this was pretty dense woodlands and half-a-moon wouldn’t have lit this forest floor anyway. Being woefully unprepared didn’t prevent me from bringing a torch though. Unfortunately, it had my companion. Taking point I had the fair maiden shine at my feet some so I wouldn’t stumble over any small rocks and break a leg or smthg. This went rather well, didn’t stumble too badly all along the way. We misplaced the path twice though. That is to say: It’s nice for hikers to cross some riverbeds on their hike . . . in the daytime. Fun, exciting and ussually quite pretty. At night these crossings just make it extremely hard to find where the path continues. The second time of losing our way though we were confronted with a wire fence barring our way only to later discover we weren’t supposed to be on that side of it. We were supposed to be on the other side of it though, and seeing that was where we were going anyway that was just fine with us.Now, as I mentioned earlier the guidebook mentioned “Handy access”. I also mentioned that this included a 2 hour layover in another town. The bus timetable back therefore consisted of, not surprisingly, 2 busses. And the last had left 3 hours after the first one did (that would be the one we came with). At least we know where the Lonely planet gets it’s climbing times from. You have to do it in 3 hours or you’re fucked. It’s an hour past sundown, we’re back in a tiny village in the Japanese countryside, no busses, end of the road and the only vending machine is one of Coca Cola. Still going strong on the “no food” theme. The tourist centre (yes, the town consisted of 5 houses and a tourist centre) had been left partially open for late night campers to use the toilet but with no food, no tent and no warm clothes, a bitumen road ahead of us: We pressed on. My prediction that the 4th car would pick us up if we hitch-hiked came true. YEAH. Unfortunately, between the 3rd and 4th car this involved taking a bus back to “civilization”. The bus stopped at the next town . . . 1,5 hours walk away. And it wasn’t so much that we were hitch-hiking anymore. We had sat down in a tiny railway station where the next (and last) train would leave in 2 hours when a remarkably tall Japanese gentleman decided to come have a chat.Being our Karmarific selves it was only to be expected that after all the adventure of the day we get offered a lift to a hotel in the city we were going. He negotiated the price and everything. And when we told him we had plans to go to an Onsen the next day he asked if it wasn’t a nice idea to all go together. The karma kept flowing when we still got a meal after the restaurant we’d chosen still wanted to serve us after kitchen closing time(one look at our faces was all it took). The hotel must’ve been nice, but as it took all of 30 seconds (It was 11 O clock at this time) to fall asleep after reaching the room . . . . I couldn’t tell you.Just after waking up Takahashi (as the remarkably tall Japanese gentleman was called) and Yuki (his fair maiden) arrived. It was at this point we found out that we’d missed the hotel’s free breakfast. . . . I’m sensing a pattern here. While we were stationed at one of Japan’s three most famous Onsens we of course went to another state to Zao Onsen (equally famous though). Once again, I’ll post a map sometime, but google it for now. Or look for Yamagata instead and then picture us 40 km from there.It’s important to understand the working of Onsen, but I’ll leave you in the capable hands of wikipedia for that. Important part is that you’re naked and segregated. Though in this case, only the women were segregated as the men were bathing right off the road. I didn’t take any pictures out of . . . [insert word for courtesy] but given that it is a tourist trap, some foreign women must’ve had quite a blast there. Shriveled old naked men a mere stone throw away.After a nice soak in Brimstone/sulfur infected waters we took a small stop at a soba shop where I got laughed at for not slurping my noodles (They’re trying to break my mothers conditioning here) and after that we went straight to one of the main tourist attractions in the area. A very picturesque lake.Upon returning in Sendai we visited the local おまつり, which meant a lot of people dressed in costumes and dancing. It was quite spectacular to see some of them。And our patron’s friends had one of the better shows we saw. A bit pressed for time we left for oku-Matsashumi. But it had been a really enjoyable day, and not nearly as . . .”adventurous” as the one before, but I’ll take that as a good thing;). Leaving us to say once again: ども ありがとう ございました to our new friends.Matsushima is rated Nihon Sankei (One of the three best views in Japan) which was greatly aided by the complete lack of blue sky as it . . . made the . . . views . . . stand out better?It may not have created as nice a pictures but it made for very comfortable temperatures. We saw some of Japans nicest views and were surrounded by Japanese while doing it. In this popular tourist town we saw a total of 9 white people accenting that we were indeed deep in Japan. And it’s when being completely surrounded with them that you notice the similarities: Did you know that when Japanese women are attacked by seagulls they will squeel just as loud as European women. And there will always be a Japanese man crazy enough to offer a french frie to a passing gull from his mouth. Ah, Japanese women are just like normal women and Japanese men are just like . . . well, sjors.The night bus back had less legroom then the one that brought us there, nevertheless we slept more. Arriving in Tokyo 5 hours before lessons started with only the dirty clothes on our backs and in our packs and in desperate need of a shower.It was a good weekend


Quote of the day:

With your impoliteness you can show your closeness/liking to a person.


Pictures up

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Just a quick notice to let you know that there’s pictures up.

click here

Some links don’t work properly and some pictures seem to be missing. There’s also a story going to connect them. But I’ll work on all of that.

Right now I’ve got to get some studying done. I need to be able to give directions to drivers tomorrow . . . . “The centre strongly discourages you to use automobiles” I can see this being usefull

The World viewed by Wally. Part I

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

One looks at the world and sees different things.

In articles such as this I will make you look at things in a different way. Though if you’ve already thought about things in this way you: Have a sick mind / Have an open mind / Have too much time on your hands.

It has been in the news a lot lately. Global problems. There’s a fair few of em. Global warming, I don’t like this, but I don’t object to it as much as you’d think as this is earth’s way to solve its problems.

No, the problem I’ll discuss in this post is one closer to us. It’s a two fold problem. Supply and Demand. Simple.

But this isn’t about a simple resource, it’s about all resources.

This article will be about supply and demand. And I’ll throw in some human characteristics along the way.

According to NATO over 800 million people are living below poverty standards. With a total of 6.6 billion people now inhabiting this world that’s 1 in 8. Ergo: 800 million people go hungry every day. And that’s just the poor ; every year a fair amount of land is stricken by some sort of natural disaster creating a local shortage in food. Looking at this in terms stated above, the demand outstrips the supply. The demand for food. The demand for other resources generating wealth for the individual.

This is due to 2 facts.

  1. The earth has a carrying capacity, this is a finite amount. Though factoring in technology this is not a fixed number.
  2. People don’t generate a homogeneous distribution of resources gotten from said carrying capacity

The demand, in fact, does not outstrip the supply. It’s in the field of distribution and logistics that we come up short.

Now, I’d like to believe that we can strive to rectify this situation. And some of us are. Without the World Food program and other programs of similar nature we’d have a whole lot less hungry people simply based on the fact that there’d be a whole lot less people.

But, we live in a capitalist world filled with people who have a deeply ingrained instinct of taking care of #1 first. Up to a point you can’t really blame a lot of people. Because while we may not want for anything now, I’d personally like it very much to have some insurance that I’ll not want for anything in the near future aswell. Building up a buffer is natural. But while we build this buffer we neglect to help these 800 million people who suffer every day.

Based on Carrying Capacity, Population, Western inability to give up comfort and its ability to concentrate on its own fairings (read: ignore others). We are faced with a problem.

Because while we may only have 800 million people living under the poverty line now . . . . The current population growth will double the Earth’s population in 40’ish years. And most of these people won’t be born in the plush west. Now, there’s many different prognosis on what the wealth distribution of these people will be . . . .  but let’s just say most of ’em aren’t rosy predictions.

Here’s the Question:

What do we do about this.

This post is meant to make you think and I want to hear your reactions


Disclaimer: Facts and figures have been researched but they will vary with different sources. Due to wanting to write a short concise post I didn’t go into idiotic amount of detail and so: some things are generalized. In these posts gaps have been left intentionally, some of these are there for you to point out, others to ignore. Some of them are there for you to hook an opinion on, some of them are just there because I didn’t see myself putting them there and others because I’m woefully unaware of them.


Quote of the day:

This isn’t one of those things involving ethics, is it?

I don’t do Ethics. It upsets my stumoch


The First Rainy weekend

Monday, October 1st, 2007

As any expert on the laws of humour will tell you. The person you’re talking about is standing behind you when you are making your most outragious claim about this person. There’s a bananapeel at the bottom of the stairs you take when that girl you’ve been ogling first returns your smile and . . . .  the first weekend it really REALLY rains . . . . is the one of your birthday.

Weeks ago I’d made up my mind to organise a Karaoke Party. 10 – 15 people sitting around trying to make notes come out semi-clearly afteyr too much beer and laughing about people who think they’re actually managing it. It wasn’t till last week that it occured to me I was actually organising my own Birthdayparty.

The party took place last friday and I hadn’t expected such a big turnout so I asked everyone. Damn near everyone showed too. 32 people in total. Well, 33 including me but I had a bill for 32 so it was a nice little b-day present. We were mostly made up of program-members (vulcanus people) but we had 3 girls from the EU-centre aswell and Cosmo brought some random Japanese friends. First of all: It was a blast. Second of all: I’m not doing that again. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, but some people just don’t belong behind a microphone and these places should have complimentary cotton wool. Damn, that bulgarian can really rape a good song (sorry Maksim).

But, it was a really nice party which was only the start of the evening as we went to Atom after. A nice club with better music then the one I visited last time. With a load of people there we had a real blast, with special thanks to my wife and the fair maiden.

 Now, there was a hike planned for saturday-sunday . . . . . . but

It was raining quite heavily on saturday. The fact that I didn’t wake up ’till 15:30 had NO impact whatsoever.

Sunday however I’d do the short 5 hour walk to some shrine or other, but again the weather wasn’t having any of it.

Having one emergency wet weather plan in place we made a mad dash for the Onsen. It was there that I spent my actual birthday floundering around funky smelling water with the fair maiden and my wife. And as an added bonus my wife brought along a guy without explaining to him where were headed. Explaining to him he’d have to get naked in front of some random Japanese guys was fun. His facial expressions while I was explaining this even better. Of course, that was only for the men’s part. For the shared part he was forced to wear a bathing suit, something he didn’t have with him for some reason :D. Ah, good fun

We ended the day with Cake, as one should on ones birthday. And that would’ve been the happy ending of my birthday.

Of course I thought finally calling my parents on this day would be a nice thing to do. Took me an hour to get a call through. Bleh. Apperantly the universal 00 [country code] doesn’t apply to Japanese telephones. They’re colour coded for your convenience. And the ones with the colour you want are too scarce to find in suburban areas. Thank Bog for Operator services.


Quote of the day:

Life is a lot like jazz… it’s best when you improvise.

George Gershwin