Archive for November, 2007

A short message in between

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

OK, so I went into the Japanese Alps this weekend. I used matsumoto as an accesspoint, as stated in the previous post. You’l find pictures here. These pictures include something I would have given a lot for to have seen with sunlight hitting it.

Other than that, no relevant information, not the urge to write anything, so I’ll leave you with this short message and the pictures.

If you want to write something though there’s places here for just that . . . . at the bottom of this post for example. If you are from say . . .Myanmar and you read this blog (a lot), leave me a note(and tell me why, coz I don’t know anyone in myanmar, s’far as I know)

==============================================================

Quote of the day:

No quote of the day due to JPLT

OK, that has nothing to do with it, I’m just to lazy to find a good one

The completion of the first trilogy

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

It has taken a lot of work, but over the last 11 weeks I have managed to complete my first trilogy of Japan-Fu.

One might wonder what such a thing is, seeing as Kung-Fu is a deeply ingrained concept. Japan-Fu is made up up various practices associated with Japan and martial arts. Join me, for the tribute to my first trilogy

  1. I go to Hanzomon everyday
  2. I’ve visited Miyagi-Ken
  3. Saturday I will leave for Matsumoto

Truely a most powerfull conbination within Japan-Fu. One would do well not to mess with me upon return (or violate my guitar in some manner)

But, enough of that. I will not have completed my trilogy untill after this weekend. And maintaining proper order, celebrations will not ensui untill afterwards.

Today we took a wide tour of Tokyo, visiting some very nice places. Amongst these were:

  • A fish market
  • A Garden with sea-pond
  • Asakusa

The more perseptive amongst you may already have noted that I have indeed visited the latter before. And, while you have no way of knowing this, I have seen many of the former.

Still, the Japanese are very particular about their fish, so it was nice to go there. I would like to give shocking reports of what transpired there but . . . . . really. It’s a fishmarket. It stinks and people sell fish there. So euhm . . . yeah, there were nice exotic’ish fish . . . mostly dead of course.
There were further points of note though. As one might guess fish were also processed there. For this one needs knives. Big knives.
One would almost have to go as far as to say they used . . . . swords.

Oh dear

No, mustn’t think like that

No, No, No, No

Bad imagination

========================================================================

The shopkeeper gave a cry as the blade made its lazy arch to his opponent.
“We finish this now” he said as the blade was caught in nimble and skilled hands which took it to ready position in one fluid motion.
The words, spoken in a language that meant nothing to the shopkeeper, did nothing to slow him down. But the stare between the two contestants had him milling about and running for cover.
He raised his sword, slowly and surely, into ready position. It was this that sent ripples of realisation through the crowd of customers.
A loud scream by a young women in the process of buying tonight’s dinner’s groceries was the signal for both the panicked exodus of customers. And the charge.
The blades rang as the charge was met, and after a brief contest of strength he was pushed back. The riposte barely dodged, he brought his blade forward in a fast series of blows ending in a sharp hook to his opponents jaw with his free hand. This had his opponent stumbling among the merchandise. Seeing this apperant break in his opponents defences he made to end the contest swiftly as he used a crate to propel him into killing-blow manouvre.
As he barreled down however he saw his opponent was not quite as helpless as he had hoped. A last minute swipe of his sword was all that kept him from being impaled. The feeling as if his arm had caught fire told him he hadn’t gotten the blade entirely clear. His surprise at this and his momentum carried him beyond his target and before he could recover in the slightest a kick in his back sent him crashing through crates of fresh fish.
He slipped on a flounder deperately trying to regain his footing aware that he might be run through at any moment. Surely his opponent seemed to be fast enough. Back on his feet he turned swiftly, ready to deflect whatever was comming for him. Nothing did.
His opponent was standing some distance away
Sword raised
Smiling
This was going to be a lot tougher than he’d thought.

========================================================================

I think the stupid grin on my face gave away my thoughts at that moment as the shopkeeper quickly put the sword away.

Euhm, so anyway . . . fish then.

Followed by a garden. This garden is special due to the salt-water pond. Which does indeed rise and fall with the tide. Having but 40 minute to spend there, at high tide, this was not as exciting as it could have been. But it certainly made for some nice pictures.

The boat we were taking left form said park and carried us to our lunch destination. Asakusa. But, the Language school bought us lunch, so who am I to complain. The weather was great, for seeing things from the warm exteriour of a boat. So all in all it was a nice day.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I need to book my hotel for the weekend and get ready for a party on a boat not completely unlike this one.

========================================================================

If you are Australian:

You think most problems could be solved if everyone else put aside their prejudices and came to see it from your point of view.

It’s the little things

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

The thing about realizing your in Japan is that it’s in the small things.

Being a seasoned traveller you make sure you’re prepared for a lot of stuff.

  • Bring your own toilet paper (It may be some time untill you have time to buy some yourself)
  • Japanese people are short: If you’re as tall as me bring your own pants and shoes to last you a while
  • Bring clean underwear

You know, things like that.

You are aware of the fact that you’re going to be living among people that look at life differently to what you have been doing up ’till now and most of the people around you certainly don’t look at life that way. Karaoke is a way of life here. People will willingly live away from their families for their entire married life . . . without marital difficulties. The company comes before the individual and the state comes before all. All these things I knew before I came here.
Once here you can easily forget you’re in another country because barring these things Japan is really a lot like home. People work to provide for their family. They want to live well, long and raise their kids in a safe environment. Really not so different from you and I.

OK, so there’s a fair few more people here that don’t share my skincolour

All that having been said it’s the little things that really get you.

Like I said: I’d prepared for the height thing, brought pants and shoes to last me a while (lost 1 of each now :S) What I hadn’t taken into account is that when it rains here you need to wear glasses. Due to the height differences these umbrellas are all on eye-level and they will take out an eye if you’re not carefull

The Japanese will wear masks to protect themselves from pollen and to protect others from their germs if they’re sick. On the same note they will Onsen extensively when sick (which doesn’t spread germs better then sneezing?).

The pre-heat their toilet seats (Oh thank you)

It is considered rude to tell people bad news and they will deny the presence of cheese in products untill you describe that it will spark a considerable allergic reaction. After which they will tell you it may have some cheese. They do the same with meat btw, so vegetarians: Beware

It is considered rude to stand as far away from the urinal as I do . . . . Standing as close to it as they do and peeing on top of it is considered even worse.

They make sidewalks for bookreaders. YEEH

They make a special dark alcohol free beer here . . . which they’ll only serve with shochu.

If it’s dark outside it doesn’t mean it’s close to dinnertime. The sun will set here incredibly early and the Japanese ddon’t do “Daylights-saving-time”

If the sun is rising, that probably means you shouldn’t be. Invest in good curtains

The first time I thought I saw a geisha . . . was someone wearing normal traditional clothes. This is still quite common

The second time I thought I saw a geisha . . . it was a transvestite prostitute (well, they call it companion boy/lady here)

You will take a 10 minute break from swimming at the appointed time.

And you can tell the gender of a dog’s owner not by if it’s wearing clothes but by the kind of clothes

Japan is a hoot-and-a-half. If you know to look past the big differences and see the smaller ones
There’s more funny little things, but I’ll post more of these later. I’ve started writing them down now

P.S. Refresh the page will you. Not for my statcounter but there’s a new random image thing installed. Code thanks to the FairMaiden and photoshopping of the pictures thanks to myself.

========================================================================

“What’s the purpose of life, if you don’t have a dick?”

Donnie Darko

Japanese Language 102

Friday, November 9th, 2007

As you may have read earlier. The Japanese Language consist of continuous sentences. One can dissect these sentences by recognizing the particles. These particles are letters and therefor indistinguishable from a letter in a word in plain Hiragana sentences.

Lucky for us . . . .Japanese doesn’t use plain hiragana sentences outside of children’s books.

There’s Kanji.

This takes care of the whole “is this thing a particle or part of a word” and “where does this word end anyway” thing. Well, mostly anyway.

OK, so a Kanji represents a concept in pictograph form. Well, read the wikipedia link I put up, coz I ain’t gonna explain all of it to you.

There’s a few problems with writing with concepts.

今 means now.

But because it’s a concept, you can combine it with 日(day) to form today.
Obviously this example is pretty logical.

But, now I have to learn the hiragana or phonetical form (have to know how to pronounce the damn thing don’t I), the pictogram and the meaning.

Now here’s the sticky bit:

今 is pronounced ima
日 is pronounced nichi
今日 is pronounced kyoo

That’s right. The meaning is clear to me, but I can’t just mindlessly slap the pronunciation of “now” and “day” together and call it today.

Every Kanji has at least 2 pronunciations. The Japanese and “Chinese”(meaning Chinese pronounced by Japanese people . . . think people talking in a language of a country they visited in their youth: very convincing to their peers, but not even close to the original). And there are Kanjis which have 5 pronunciations. The concept is still the same though . . . . Yes, that’s right. With a little practice grasping the meaning of Japanese is far easier than reading aloud what the damn things say.

So there’s plenty of stuff to learn. Obviously with so many different concepts contained within 1 pictogram learning to draw them properly is quite important. 年 and 午being some of the simpler examples but 輸,魚,鳥,馬 and 地震 showing some of the busier Kanji. And with some things requiring 4 or more Kanji to express their meaning . . . well, things have to be done fairly precise.

So we have multiple pronunciations per Kanji. Good for us. Learning to do things properly will keep us off the street. But, even though the Japanese Language consists of more sounds than our alphabet (43 vs 26) one could imagine that with multiple ways of pronouncing the same thing one would run out of space.

The Japanese have a solution for this though. They’ve made things that sounds the same . . . . . have different meanings. Of course! Brilliant!

たかい is expensive
たかい is tall

Oh, they have different Kanji (高値)(高価). But it’s not like people draw those out for you while having a conversation. No . . . . you’ll just have to draw your conclusions from the rest of the conversation. Though I suppose in this case that only conflicts when you’re planning to buy a building.

But in cases of say: “かい”, which has 27 different meanings one can see things start getting a little bit trickier

=======================================================================

Lesson Quote of the day:

Wally: Wouldn’t it be smarter to conjugate from the Dictionary form to this form
As we’ve already done it from the polite form and we should be basing our Verbs and Conjugations on Dictionary form anyway?

Sensei: Yes

Sensei: [verb]-masu?

Wally: . . . .

Sensei: Wally?

Wally: I was just thinking . . . .
Wally: I thought I just asked if it wouldn’t be more usefull to conjugate from the Dictionary form

Sensei: Yes

Wally: And you agreed

Sensei: Yes

Wally: I see, thank you. Nice to see we can communicate properly. The correct conjugation of this Polite form to plain-Negative form is [conjugated verb]-nai

Shimane

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

OK, so like I mentioned last night I went to Shimane this weekend. There I undertook a homestay.

Though; let’s not get ahead of ourselves now. First we had to fly there. You see, shimane is the “achterhoek” of Japan. That is to say: they have the most agriculture of all of Japan. It’s Prefectural Capital only has 200.000 people living there(Tokyo has 12.5 million). And if they speak local dialect . . . well: 2 month of Learning to speak AB-Japanese really won’t help you. And it really is quite some way from Tokyo.

The Japanese like things neat: One of those observations you make being here is that they segregate Smokers quite severely. hehe

Anyway: on to shimane. First on the schedule is a visit to Izumo Oyashiro/Izumo Taisha. The current structure is impressive in itself. Being the oldest standing shrine in Japan. But what got me was the one that stood there before the current incarnation. We participated in a cleansing ritual of which we were not allowed to take pictures. The building was slightly more impressive than the ritual, but it was fun to do anyway. Though I’m sure many peoples legs were glad to see the end of it as we had to sit in Japanese reverent position.

After a short visit to the accompanying museum we went to meet our host families.
The Japanese are very big on ceremony, so there were a lot of “arigatos” passing around, and as a bonus we got to prepare small things to prepare the people of our europeanness of us. It started with a little speach from the Fair Maiden and a little performance led by me followed. Luckily for you there’s no videos of the “Frere Jacques”-thing. As it was thought up and excecuted by me my camera was blissfully unattended. In essence it came down to singing “Frere Jacques” in 8 different languages. Of which the most amuzing were Finnish and Japanese. It intended to show to the Japanese that while we are very different. In some ways we’re really similar. Music for one.
See: http://demonsaumonde.free.fr/frere.jacques/index.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Translations_of_Fr%C3%A8re_Jacques

And of course someone gave the Italians a microphone . . . . well, nuff said really

After that small interlure we got to see real performances. The pictures should give you a clear idea of what we saw. We got a pamhplet with accompanying storyline. Of another play. But visually it was great. Though some people thought that it could use some work.

Then there was the leaving with host families, knowing that we would not see each other again for . . . well, a day-and-a-half . Or so we thought anyway.

My host family consisted of a Host-mother, Host-father and Host-sister. As I believe that is the correct way to refer to them. Trying my best to converse in Japanese I feared I would soon run out of things to say however. My Japanese is still rather limited to text book examples. But my confidence was bolstered when the friend of my host-mother started the conversation with: “I think the Dutch approach to Cocaine is too lax”. Funnily enough she went from dissaproving to admiring our way of handling it. I had to check with someone else, but it was related to me that what I said regarding Holland’s drug policy was pretty close to what I’d meant to say. I was impressed and it managed to grant me enough confidence to really go for some Japanese conversation during the weekend.

Sunday would be spent with our host-families seeing the local culture. My family was double booked however so I was deposited with some colleages of my host mother: Some kindergarden teachers. While this may seem a bit funny, talking with children is one of the better ways to learn and children are very honest in their appreasal of you. So I ended up having a really good time. After I convinced them I wasn’t there to eat them anyway. A simple rub on their part of my head had that covered soon enough.

This being a backwater’ish provence there was really only one thing to see, and consequently all the programs members met up at Matsui Castle. It gave the host families something to talk about in any case :P. And of course making fun of your friends to their host families in what must have been horrible Japanese was funny. With the castle came the boatride in the moat and some of the canals in the town. We had a geniuine Gondolier on our boat as he sang throughout the boatride. The top had to come down a couple of times to fit underneath bridges. It was great fun

Then there was the picnick in the park. This consisted of me running after/being chased by/carrying the different kids of the kindergarden.
oh, and there was food. And raptors. It’s just great to see these beautifull birds fly freely in such great numbers.

Close to the Castle is an old samurai district. And close to that was the house of a famous Japanese writer. Well, he wrote in japanese, but with a name like “Lafcadio Hearn” I doubt that is his true ethnicity. As a writer he had nothing at all to do with beer . . . sooooo they named a beer after him. And comming to the memorial house, the first thing we did was buy a beer. This in itself is no strange thing. Except this was a store. For the next 15 minutes I roamed the store with a stout in my hand. Good times, but euhm . . . ちょっとへん. And of course my Host sister wasn’t allowed alcohol yet (ah yes, we’d met up halfway the afternoon) we had to make due. That evening we had dinner as a sushi-ya. A popular kind of sushi shop where they put the food on a conveyer belt and have it pass in front of your eyes

All was good with the world. I’d seen stuff, pretended to walk kids on my back into Japanese-sized doorways. Eated my fill. Talked Japanese (all day, my god that’s hard work). Got chased by small children. And the bed actually fit me. I’ll leave out the bit where I was murdered in Go.

The next day I had to say goodbye to my host family. But in April they’ll be moving to Hiroshima (probably) and I have instructions to come and visit them there. I just might do that. They were a great host family, and by that time I may actually be able to remember the proper way of pronouncing words, thereby bypassing a bunch of certainly (on retrospect) humerous moments.

The next day we visited a company which makes Industrial ice makers/fridges/freezers and dishwashers. Next to that they spend quite a bit of effort on a bird sanctuary and a marine conservation research park. Not exactly a direct link there, but nice to see companies take ecological responsibility.

After the flight back the Fair Maiden and myself took one of the tourist must-sees. Where I met the third lady liberty I’ve seen so far. Is there a breeding program somewhere I should be aware of?

And then there was sleep. Weekends like that surely wear you out.

Edit: I’ve also decided to let my hair grow again. I decided upon this for 3 reasons. 1: It’s getting pretty chilly here, 2: It just takes too bloody long to shave, 3: I need more protection for my precious brain.

========================================================================

Quote of the day:

Maturity is knowing you were an idiot in the past

 

If that’s true, then wisdom is knowing you will be an idiot in the future

 

And common sense is knowing you’re an idiot now

Questionable Content

This is a short message from your sponsor

Monday, November 5th, 2007

I just got back from a homestay in Shimane . . . . . .

and I won’t be writing about it

yet

Kinda late: Want bed.

But I’ll leave you with this

high usage

Thank you for your patronage, see you again