Archive for December, 2007


Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Well . . . from writing posts anyway.

I’ll be taking several slow trains across Japan. Going to see some insignificant peninsula barely worth more than a page in the Lonely planet eventhough it’s about the 1/3 the size of Holland. The trip there should take 2 days. 2 days for the peninsula. Another 2 days for something or other without any real meaning or goal. . . . . Yup, sounds like a plan.

Enjoy the pictures of our daytrip to Hakone in the meanwhile. A post stating what exactly happened will follow . . . . Can’t have Hello Kitty wielding an axe go by without a snide remark now can I.



Quote of the day:

HAPPY NEW YEAR everybody!

– Wally

Finaru Purezenteshion

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

So, the day was finally there. The Final Presentation.

I’ll do a bit of background info first: I’m currently doing the “vulcanus” program (for those of you that haven’t bee

n paying attention), and part of this is a 4 month intensive Japanese language course (The same as the previous braceted comment). This course ends in . . . . a final presentation. We had to team up and then research something that would force us to go out and speak to japanese people (in japanese) and well . . . . present it. This would serve as a good guide to show our company representatives what level we now posess and it would keep us out of (too much) trouble. The latter was mostly high hopes as it would turn out later, it merely challenged us to do mischief in new ways we wouldn’t have thought of earlier.

The subject of our final presentation would have to be relevant to our specialities. I’m the only aerospace engineer. My teammates include the only general mechanics, superconductor and biotechnology. I was in the . . . . whatever’s left group. This made choosing a topic agreeable to our teachers tricky. But due to the fact that the Japanese will decide everything on consensus . . . and we were not giving way (Gee, really? Japanese Culture works that way? Ah man, if only we’d known . . . .) . . . we got to do something on Japanese culture. Since we all have plenty of experience at being students . . . . we did our research/interviews/final presentation on “time spent in school and how it affects the final product (eg. Japanese)”. As you may, or may not, know: The Japanese view the world rather differently than we do. . . even if it were only from a perspective angle. And we were wondering how much of this different view of life is acquired during school.

I’ll transform the Powerpoint we have to a pdf pretty soon, and there’s a video which I will put on Youtube . . . but I think we’re only getting that in March. I’d post what we said . . . buteuhm . . . The only one that would get it is Maya if Marnix needs something translated. So in stead you’ll get a video in a couple of months, I’ll try and add Japanese and English subtitles then.

In an attempt at . . . something one of our teammembers decided to just not show up ’till 2. I suppose I could’ve worried about it . . . but I didn’t. Would’ve added a nice footnote to our presentation if we had to hackle through his piece.

We were the first presentation after the coffee break, and my illness (I’ve been sick for 3 weeks now and I’ve moved from suffering to ignoring it . . . with the exceptions of when I REALLY need to go to the bathroom as ignoring that would be ちょっと . . .) held up remarkably well. Some whoozyness, but most importantly: No diarrhea during the presentation (YES!) I steamrolled through my bit with little hesitation . . . and my joke wasn’t as poorly received as many people thought it would be . . . which wouldn’t have been bad either as I had a joke ready for that aswell. A slight confidence issue had me glancing at my sheet more than was strickly necessary, but at least I was able to look at the crowd some and point at the screen occasionally while others would not look up from their sheets of compressed tree. The people following me did well aswell, including the fellow who showed up late, especially because what he was saying wasn’t what we’d been practacing ’till that day and he was doing it without any paper backup at all . . . and still managing to do it faster than when he used the script. The reason he was late was: He just decided to re-write . . . everything. And our presentation was closed by our member suffering from a severe throat-illness-thingy without croaking too much . . . but being so caught up in her presentation the clicking-to-the-next-slide was left out and we went from her second slide to . . . . “Thank you very much for listening” in a speed I hope was high enough for people not to notice the other slide we flicked through.

All in all . . . . we did well. Didn’t win any prizes, but we did manage to provide answers that were vaguely relevant to the questions asked as our Japanese is now developed enough for that.

Now, that takes care of business as well as I can without actually showing the video or posting the script to draw you more into the story . . . I guess it’s more of an “insider-thing”

Anyway, it being the end it was followed by a “this is the end”-party. A buffet which was combined by a secret-santa, some performances and a farewell to one of the staff 🙁

I can not begin to describe some of the things that happened there, so I’ll leave that ’till the people who filmed it put it on the internet and the pictures have been released. But it was good.

Parties are a lot like . . . . bad news. It seldoms comes alone. The japanese school also threw a christmas party. Seeing as I’ve always followed lessons on a different location: I knew absolutely no-one there. Which had no ill-effect on the party whatsoever. (Speaking Japanese with Dutch people and see how long it takes them to figure it out :P)

After this party . . . . (getting tired here, busy day ‘ya know. And still sick to boot) Carl Cox was the featured DJ in a club in Shibuya. Now, I’ve been to a party with him once before and I wasn’t totally blown away, but the qualityof music to the places I’ve been to so far has be so dismal that I knew this to be a vast improvement. In our absence (Going to the Japanese school party) the meeting time had been changed from 11 to 11:30, so we ended up just going in with the 2 of us. This caused us to end up on a dancefloor which facilitated actual dancing. Some drinks and incidents later (I swear; Do I have “I am Dutch, we do drugs. Ask me how” tattooed somewhere?) Mr Cox took the stage. By this time this picture describes the dancefloor pretty well. OK, the lighting was a bit different, the people were dressed a little differently and on the whole maybe a little more enthusiastic . . . but the available dance moves were, by this time, somewhat more limited. The rest of the program’s students showed up at (lemme see: meet at 11:30, they’re italians so that’s 0:00, walk to the club . . . .) 2:15, including the departing staff member and 2 of our teachers (well, I was told 3, but apparantly she was so smashed she didn’t present a verticle target for me to identify). The mood was excellent. Dancing followed. Free wine was provided by people I met while they were offering wine. Strange blond women hugged me and other women taking off shirts because . . . “hey, I don’t need those here . . . right”.

By 3:30 however, myself and my equally sick girlfriend (The price you pay for kissing me) could no longer keep to our feet for reasons ranging from splitting headaches, too frequent required use of toilets, explosion-threatening bowels and just general I’ve-been-sick-for-3-weeks-now-please-let-me-sleep’ishness. Taxi and “brufen” (Japanese and their pronunciation eh) provided us with a well earned rest far into today.
Well worth it though.

On a small side note: I’ve added pictures of the sushi workshop. It comprised of making sushi . . . and getting people stupid enough to eat pure wasabi hehe. Also, note my time card of last month.


No Quote of the day today. I’ll use this space to link other people’s pictures of today when they post em


Final Group photo

Closing skit


OK, there’s a Quote of the day anyway:

I’m not sure I want to see an “Alien” movie with what’s coming out of my throat now

– Raphaelle

Japanese Productivity

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

A little while ago I was talking to a friend of mine (Congrats on your P4 btw) and he refered to the fabled Japanese efficiency. Now, there’s a funny and long story attached to this, which I promised to tell him . . . . at some future date when I wasn’t quite as busy as I was at that point.

Well, I have to hold my final presentation tomorrow, I don’t remember my lines, the powerpoint isn’t done.
Yup, now will do.

First of all: The Fabled Japanese efficiency is true.

When we take a certain slice of Japanese business you will get the highest productivity numbers outside of Taiwanese sweatshops.
It is amazing to see that a company in which noone will make a decision on his/her own will run as smoothly. This is a part of Japanese Culture btw. Responsibility is shared. Always. There is rule by consensus. Which is a lot easier to reach seeing as people here will show a lot more respect for their superiors (deserved or not) and will agree with their visions.(This is done to some extend back west aswell, I know. But not as much as this).

But, there is another face to Japanese employment. The Japanese will put their country before themselves, in situations where any “nuchtere Hollander” (sober dutchman) will say: “bugger this, time to take care of #1, the Japanese will willingly sacrifice themselves for the good of the country.
This, in turn, is repaid (to some extent) by that same country. EVERYONE works.

This is where the efficiency runs into some problems. There is only so much work. But we will spread this work out over a number of people far surpassing the number we need. This is not done in the commercial sector of course, but more in the public works. Cross-roads with traffic lights will also have people regulating traffic. Roadworks will have 6-8 people allerting passersby to the hazards. There is people with bright glowing sticks waving you away from offloading trucks. On both sides. With someone to regulate these two people.

Then there’s office jobs . . . . This is not about getting the job done. This is about being at the office for the longest hours. THIS shows commitment.

So, yes. There are very efficient Japanese people. And then there’s not so efficient Japanese people.

There is something to be said for the approach of the Japanese government on “everyone works” as it involves well . . . . everyone working. The people who would be unemployed in europe/america work for their welfare (as such a salary might be called).

There is a problem though. Seriously, would this story be any interesting if there wasn’t

Japan is among the countries with the lowest fertility rate. This adds a heavy burden of a “greying” population (people want to retire . . . not work) on this system. The Japanese government is struggling to cope with this situation, and not all of it’s efforts are succesfull (sorry for the dutch only link).


Quote of the day:

If you were in prison, and you were accosted by a large fellow
A large fellow who plans on violating you by dropping the soap and encouraging you to pick up that very soap
During said violation, would you look back at the guy to make eye contact
or keep your face forward.

What’s the etiquette there?

– Least I could do



Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

“Soon”, in my book, was sunday.

I was better sunday. . . .mostly

It seems an infection saw fit to latch on to my trailing immune system and keep it in reduced state for some more days.
I’m now on anti-biotics. Wheeeeeeee.

Quickly running out of book 🙁

The relativity of “soon” prevails again. Last few days of Japanese lessons are comming and going. Hope to be able to get to class tomorrow as the confines of my room are starting to seem oppressive.

On a Japanese cultural thingy: They have sick-notes here. They have notes for more stuff actually, you get handed notes form the subway company when the train is late so you can prove it wasn’t your fault that you’re late. This note is needed to prove I took these last few days (If I stay sick any longer I can change this in weeks) off out of sickness and not . . . well, something else. ‘Course, I went to school friday in a sense of “My illness has to be over by now” and promptly left halfway during the grammar test convinced that i had been utterly wrong in my optimism. People saw me, people knew I was sick. But I need the note anyway. It’s a funny-old culture. Years of working the Makro have hardened me against bureaucracy though, do it was all good. Gave me an excuse to visit a Japanese Hospital (I always seem to end up at either a Hospital or Police station sooner or later) and gave the doktor (by way of an american kathlic nun/nurse) a chance to alter my own diagnosis of “flu” into something sounding more latin.
I am now a proud sufferer of Acute Gastroenteritis. A childrens-disease . . . .how embarrasing.

I’ll get back to writing fun stories soon. I’ll go to a party again and post pictures or smthg. Oh, still have to put the pictures up from the harbor cruise party.
A happy birthday to Letizia, who turned {older} today. I’ll give you a big sloppy kiss when I can’t infect you anymore 😛


Quote of the day:

Being sick sucks

– A crapload of people

“Travel to exotic places

Friday, December 7th, 2007

Get exotic diseases” . . . .  as the old saying goes

So why am I floored by a mere flu?

Meh, such is life. Be back up and running again soon

Happy Birthday Sinterklaas

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

‘t is that time of the year
for all to gather in good cheer

And other silly bits of rhyme.

Today marks a day of celebration for my people (the Dutch). The birthday of Saint Nicholas, a day marked by celebrations, family togetherness and gift-giving. T’was this night that ol’ Saint Nic visited every family with children and left a little something in the shoes laid out for him. ‘Course his real birthday is tomorrow . . . I like presents, but I wouldn’t have put a man out on his birthday to do all of that. Not that I held the same belief as a child.

Being in Japan however puts me somewhat off Saint Nic’s delivery route. As ours rides around on a horse instead of Christmas’ Saint Nic who gets to fly through the air in a sleigh drawn by flying reindeer. But while Japan may not have the *real* Sinterklaar, he did see fit to send a helper to the embassy, and we certainly appreciate the gesture by the old man who I dare say is busy enough these days. I was forced to miss the boat comming into Yokohama harbor as I was knee deep (or face first, depending on the precise time of mooring) in snow somewhere high in the Japanese alps at the time.

This did not, however, however mean that I was going to do nothing with the occasion. This being a special occasion, and me being in Japan. Today, I took part in a tea ceremony.

Now, a tea ceremony is not just about the tea, and while the wiki article also includes the flower arrangement and caligraphy. Usually even the garden outside of the tea house is included in the proceedings, as these set the scene. One should come into the tea house with a “clean” head (leave your cares and sorrows outside). To help accomplish this they made the door too small for both your body and your sorrows.
Ok, the door is there so that everyone will have to crawl through, eliminating social rank. But, condisering there are such things as first, second etc guest with different roles and responsibilities . . . . one wonders if this is not an empty gesture.

All in all it was a nice ceremony though, I don’t have any pictures of the ceremony itself. But I may get some from the other rude bastards that make up my program, who did take some. ‘Course I’ll have to ask nice and hope they don’t read this blog.

I’ll leave you with these though. Which are decent sort of performances.

And yes, green tea is made from powder, what are you? heathens? You put herbs in a bag and hang it in boiling water? ? ? Geez. Actuall, from the wiki text you can see there’s different kind of ceremonies, and different kinds of tea. Outside of these “まちゃ” there is  also “こちゃ”, which is the kind we know.

I will now spend the rest of Sinterklaas in bed, as I’m sick and I want to get some more sleep


Quote of the day:

Aerodynamically speaking; Bumblebees can’t fly.

Noone having told the bumblebees about this though, they fly heedless of it’s impossibility.