Archive for January, 2008


Sunday, January 27th, 2008

Seeing as we’re posting Titles in funny languages I reckoned I might do some in the language which holds some relevance to the (sub)title of this blog.

Like I mentioned I’d go out today if it didn’t rain

It didn’t rain

It snowed

Short term: This doesn’t get you as wet

Long term: You’re still wet and cold
Crap, are you ever still wet and cold. Damn

So, the geographical layout of where I live with regards to transport is: We have a trainline. There’s also local busses and those black flat things that cars use. Not directly relevant to me, ergo: We have trainline.
Every morning I take it south. Osaka 行き.

But north it holds mountains . . or at least I hope it does. Today I went to the hills, well other hills. I took the train north until I saw something I liked. I ended up in Sasayamaguchi (篠山口).

Off the train it took me 5 minutes to find a walking trail.


Now, I mentioned the snow. Did I mention the wind?
So, euhm yeah: cold.

Anyway, I managed to get off the train next to this little park. Perfect for hiking. Except for the fact that it’s closed outside of the main season (summer). But, not caring about silly little rules like that I set out. Many pretty pictures followed. I wish I had some direct sunlight though. That’d help in some of these. I had little 3 second-bursts of it, never enough to get the camera all the way out of the bag though. Anyway, pictures are here

It being cold and all I took the 3 hour trip and decided to call it a day.

Have I mentioned it was really, really cold.

Enjoying a hot tofu-naba meal in a local restaurant I sat there urging blood to return to my nose. In the background there was the Ishigaki Marathon on TV. Marathon, commercial, marathon, commercial, some nice music.
No wait, still marathon. Huh, is that lyrics coming by on screen?
Dutch sport-reporting comes down to endless yacking by the commenters. Here they turn it into a Karaoke. Gotta love the Japanese.


My karma ran over your dogma

– Ancient Buddhist saying.
(well, pretty old at least)

Im Osten nichts neues

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

So, life is still moving along. And nothing specific has happened. Yet, I am posting anyway.

Well, fist of all, after the first day of explosions I was promised a second (:D)
These were rather disappointing. They didn’t even need a bombshelter for these, just a cleared space. And while I can’t post pictures. I can still make pictures.

And as it happened it had snowed that night so while I can’t post explosion pictures i can post these.

This meant, however, that instead of taking the heated bus from my dorm to the station, I took my swanky 26 inch-frame bicycle.
Busses don’t stop for pictures . . .hmpf. And while going up a 15% incline every everning is rather annoying. Going down one covered in snow is absolutely wicked. ちょっと あぶない

At the end of that day there was also a New Years Party. Coz, you know . . . a new year started (like 4 weeks ago).
But first you have to get back on schedule. Obviously the 2 week break caused immense setbacks and everything has to be back up and running before we can throw a party or anything.

Free sushi, sashimi, yakimono and assorted other stuff. And because I was new I had to taste some of everything. ‘sgoooooooood.
Some of the colleagues I’ve been working with over the last 2.5 weeks turned out to be far more talkative than at the office. And I could do nothing to stop the 10 minute speech-flood about the correct way of making sake. Halfway through another colleage leaned closer to whisper in my ear that he used terms that they didn’t know. All in all it was a pretty good day.

So then today my quiet weekend started. The last two weekends all involved some running and busyisms. So today I slept in and when I had washed, dressed and fed I decided to go out and see some of the places in this town I hadn’t seen.

Sanda was rural for ages, so unless you’re surrounded by young concrete you’re still in the country and it has a lot of places I haven’t seen yet. On the bike once again, the snow long gone :(. That stuff hasn’t survived a day yet. But we get new snow every 3 nights or so, so I keep hoping.
Anyway, there’s a “university” close to here. So I headed there first.
I didn’t find a university. I found the recording place of the 1970’s Zorry instead.
It wasn’t even a real university :(. Just a high school that called itself that. I suppose I should have been suspicious when it was called “university” instead of 大学 but there you go. Which brings me back to the Americanisation of this town. Shin Sanda has some different “villages”. I live in Woodytown, there’s a Culturetown and a Techpark. And I’m similarly not refering to the Japanese equivalent, but to places really called “Woodytown”, they have the good graces to use Katakana though.

But it isn’t built like america, or at least not the places I headed for today. First of all, it started raining. That was clue #1. Then I got into the countryside. This is Japan so countryside consists of ricepaddies. Or at least . . .they should. Instead there were dairy farms. And after the Dairy farms there were Shrubbery Nursery. As I sat pondering this and looking on the map where to go to get out of the rain fastest I was passed by a whole bunch of guys on racingbikes with matching jerseys.

I move across the entire frigging world en ik woon in neukend Boskoop man


Tomorrow I’ll head out north. Assuming it rains less than this today.


Honey, yourmom is stalking me again

– Wally

Things are comming along

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

just fine.

Work is nice, interresting at times, not so interresting at others. Can’t talk about it though. That’d be wrong. And breech of contract. Another breech of contract would be to provide photo’s with today’s activities.

Today’s activities were announced by this email:

As described bellow, a special test will be carried out at #1 HPL
on 24&25 Jan, which will make explosions.
Please don’t be startled.

#1 HPL: High power labo. in front of this office

In front of the office, he wasn’t kidding. You know I might chance sharing some of the pictures if they weren’t so crappy. Never during ANY of the explosions was I able to keep my phone steady. 20 metres away. Little wooden houses saying poof(GROSS understatement)

I spend my time reading up on the basics of the project I’m assigned to. And I’ve begun dabbling a bit in the excel sheets with data. And now I’m proofreading the new software we bought. This kinda looks like:


Yes, I do believe I’ll take that option. Certainly it’s the one I want


No, wait. That’s the one. Silly me.


Eh? Euhm, I don’t think I wanted to go somewhere that requires selecting stuff


Now, if I can just figure out what option packs it in a little zip file so I can give you guys something to laugh at.

OK, I also zipped the photo of me giving my presentation . . . but I reckon you can see it clearly enough from here.

The days pass by, as I stumble through researchpapers sniggering when I see yet another Japanese Phd student refer to “accerarate” or something similar.

I’ve taken some 弓道 lessons but that’s not working out too well. I’ll look for different sports around sanda. Gives me a good excuse to socialise. Other than that I’ve found this restaurant for if I get peckish. Found being a rather big word. Everyone agrees based on the map on thehomepage that it should be in the street I was on. Actually laying eyes on it has not yet occured.


Klik hier voor de nederlandse versie van “De Trip”. Vertaling is niet het goede woord gezien ik geen internet had toen ik het schreef en het dus gewoon hetzelfde verhaal is beschreven in een andere taal en uit een andere emotionele status.


 Being able to look over crowds like this at festivals was the least they could do for me hitting my head every friggn’ day.

 – Wally

1st Impressions

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

While I don’t have internet yet, I’ll write this down while they still are first impressions.Your first impressions are of what you’ve lost. Well, what’s changed really, but what I’ve lost in luxury was slightly more visible.

  • As mentioned before, the dorm is pink.
  • It’s far from work
  • My room does not have a toilet
  • My room does not have a kitchen
  • My floor does not have a kitchen
  • My room has no running water
  • My dorm has no women

I’ll keep from making comments about work, as first impressions are hard to get on that point. People are nice, they have lots of equipment and most of all: I have but the vaguest clue what I’ll be doing here. So I won’t go into the “work” thing. Oh, and when I get a more defined idea of what I’ll be doing . . . . I won’t tell you ‘coz I’m not allowed :P.Now, the pink thing I can handle. Don’t judge a book by its cover and all that . . . besides, it’s only pink on the outside.The long commute I can handle. Gives me time to read/study/whatever. (because I don’t have enough of that already)The resulting getting up at 6 . . . . . Not so happy with that.The toilet thing . . . . I’ll get used to. It’s only 50 metres, I’m not that big of a ninny. Besides, I lived with communal toilets for a very long time, I’m sure it’ll come back to me.The kitchen thing . . . I’ll get back to that. But seriously . . . no running water? Not even a little bit?

The floor-kitchen thing is not true btw. There’s a sink 40 metres down the hall, just before the toilets and it has 1 burner. And a microwave. See, when it comes down to it, that’s more of a kitchen than I had in my last dorm. ‘Course, that kitchen was for me . . . . and this one has to be shared by 35 people.

No women . . . . 🙁. OK, so my last dorm’s inhabitants were solely male as well, but at least women visitors were allowed. Here they can’t even enter. The only exceptions made are: The cleaning ladies (euhm . . . no) and the barmaid (High grade paper bag required)

So: There being no kitchens, there’s a cafeteria. You can have breakfast and dinner here for the price of 155 / 355 yen resp. A bargain by anyone’s standard. Unfortunately it’s quality is represented by the price. It’s not bad food; it’s just not good either. Or imaginative. I’ve had breakfast there 3 times and dinner twice and the menu included hamburger 3 times. (Yes, that’s right; I’ve been server hamburger for breakfast . . . twice)

For breakfast, they at least have the Japanese option as well. (Guess whether I picked the hamburger)

But, in truth, it’s not all that bad (he said filled with positive energy). Sanda (the town I live in) is situated quite a bit north of

Kobe and Osaka. It’s in the hills before the start of the real mountains further down my train line. And as soon as the weather turns (to either snow or warmth) I’ll be visiting those mountains quite frequently. I sure as hell ain’t going there now: BLOODY HELL, it is COLD!

  1. All of this took quite a while to compute however and during that time I was able to get a number of other first impressionsWithout Kondo/Nakamura/Sato or any other nice people to help me I am completely lost in getting anything official done. Hell, I couldn’t even properly buy a 3 month ticket for the bicycle storage next to the station. And I still have to notify the bank of my new address . . .*gulp*
  2. I have no social life here . . . . Whatsoever. I know 1 guy that lives here, and he’s got a fiancée so he is gone on the weekends. I met another guy, but the first thing he did after meeting me was move away (though to be honest, I probably had nothing to do with that as all he could say was: “Next week I can wake up at 7”, followed by a primeval roar)
  3. I hadn’t much noticed this in Tokyo. But out here in the countryside there’s the “white-man-nod”. As far as I can tell, among the 50.000 people that make up this town, there are 4 white guys. 4. We nod to each other when we pass on the street
    “Who the white guy???”
    “You the white guy!!!”
    *insert high five here*
    I’ll be setting up a newsletter pretty soon
  4. My Japanese sucks big hairy donkey balls. This isn’t Tokyo and people don’t have a little practice. I forgot to bring my Dictionary once and I will not be doing that again any time soon. I can understand most of the constructions people make now, but with too little understanding of the words they put in those constructions I’m still screwed. To give you a clue: “Bicycle Police registration, crime prevention” takes a Loooooooooong time to explain. Especially if the context is euhm . . . doing something other than buying a bike.
  5. Getting your hair cut in Japan is a hair-raising (pardon the pun) experience. Seriously, do NOT get your hair cut in a country where you can only make yourself understood about 40% of the time. Even if it turns out fine, it’s not worth sitting in that chair watching them work wondering if you got your message across.

On point 2 though: people my age live here. In comparison to my old dorm (where I did have my own toilet, shower, kitchen and was close to where I needed to be) I may make friends here. How this will work is not exactly clear to me as people don’t even nod back when passing in the hallways.

Luckily there’s a growing city out here where I can meet new people and interact with them. There’s even a university here for easy people-meeting-thingies (They’ll have student bars surely).

Sanda is made up of 2 parts. Sanda (三田) and New Sanda(新三田). I live in the latter. New Sanda is a growing town . . . or it should be growing. 1 of the 2. I can’t work out which, but I live next to this huge mall. And of the line of 40-something cash registers at the supermarket department there’s often as many as 8 in use. It’s either growing or not growing, but it certainly hasn’t grown yet. If you look up a map of this place there’s big slabs of land market for residential areas . . . .devoid of numberings => still empty. As the cafeteria thing was clear early enough I’ve looked around for some nice restaurants (This is

Japan and you can eat out here every day for < €6) but Shin Sanda being modelled on American cities: The mall is all there is. No small cosy restaurants, not even a yoshinoya. Only the Seizeria, McDonalds, KFC and a sushi place. Not even a ramen place, what’s up with that. Well, I now own a bicycle and I can make it to Sanda itself easily enough. And if that is as dead as people tell me,
Osaka (Apparently even better than Tokyo for night-life) is a mere train ride away. I haven’t seen
Osaka after midnight yet, but people here have hobbies that fall in line with my sense of humor at least. Having little kids dress in loin cloths in January and then march them in front of a huge crowd. I can’t help but see a trend in Japanese peoples’ hobbies (Child abuse, shhhht). And if the January cold isn’t bad enough: we’ll chuck water on them. I think I’ll like the Osakians.All in all, my transfer from Tokyo didn’t go as smoothly as for some people, but it could have been worse as well. At least there was a room waiting for me here. There you have it. Have friends and you’ll know there’s always someone worse off than you, eh Pavel/David?


Quote of the day:If they do this voluntarily when they’re kids, what do they do for student fraternities hazings – Random American Tourist

On the road again

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

And I’m off again.I’m leaving the big city behind to go to . . . euhm . . . well . . . another one

Actually, I won’t be living there, but I’ll be working there.

Thanks to the Japanese cultural exchange program I will now spend 3 hours every day commuting from and to work . . . . . {yeeh}
because you know, that’s what every other japanese person does. Well, 1/2 of the 6k people working in the greater factory area where I’ll be stationed anyway.

I’m moving to a nice little dorm on the edge of the mountains, with any luck I’ll have a mountain view.
With any luck I’ll have internet within 2 weeks (as this is standard time)
With somewhat worse luck I’ll have a nice view of the building next to us. and the internet will take 6 weeks (like it did in tokyo)
Oh and I suppose it would be kinda nice if my job didn’t suck (but we’re not here for that are we :P)

So: cya
I’ll catch you from starbuck wireless sometime soon and I have no clue when I’ll be back online for more permanent blogging

Quote of the day:

Parting is such sweet sorrow. . . .
Does that mean we`re secretly glad to be rid of you?

The Trip

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

Dun Dun Daaaaaaaaaaan
Well, I thought a title like that desrved it’s own ominous music.

So I came back two days ago from my winter break trip.
I had originally planned to go to Hokkaido, this province holds a serious attraction to me. And it’s it’s very things that attract me that caused me not to go. You see, Hokkaido has the most rugged landscape in Japan. Due to it’s climate and location a lot of things you won’t find anymore in the rest of Japan can still be found here. Due to both . . . I’d have an extremely hard time getting to these places. I’d end up spending a fortune and seeing surprisingly little while all the time relaxing in Hokkaido’s most hospitable climate . . . .

So instead: Noto Hanto

You may be confused.
Of all the places one goes to see, Noto Hanto is probably . . . . just above the places with residual fall-out in Hiroshima/Nagasaki. But it offered some peace, quiet and rugged nature.
And one can reach it . . . . by taking local trains all the way across the country 🙂

On that one, I should probably explain again. There’s a special ticket which affords unlimited travel using locals and rapids throughout ALL of Japan for 5 days at the price of ï¿¥ 11.500 which is roughly . . . . €65,-

So, me and the Fair Maiden set out last saturday from Shinjuku station . . . West!
It took some time to leave Tokyo, not because Tokyo is so big. Well, it is. But beyond Tokyo is more City. I’m pretty sure we left Tokyo soon enough but it took 2.5 hours to leave the endless suburbs.

The weather was suitably wintery, but with a clear sky and we soon reached our first transfer point, just around lunch time. Perfect.

The target for the first day was Nagano. Site of the 1998 Olympics. This place was reported to have gone back to its “friendly small-town self” And from what we saw of it, it certainly has. We saw a total of 2 references to the games, and other than that it’s the city built around a big temple with two really impressive guards (damn me for leaving my camera). We found a charming little ryokan to spend the night in with a complex layout made mostly of stairs and doorways that are obviously suited for euhm . . . Japanese people.

The next day brought us to the northern Japanese coast, the weather cooperated perfectly in producing awesome displays of dark winter weather while maintaining still giving off enough light to photograph. Unfortunately the train was not as cooperative, it didn’t want to stop for 5 minutes to give me some time for pictures . . .pffffff
This brought us to Kanazawa. This place is famous for its gardens and therefor: perfect to visit in Winter. Well, no: seriously. Japanese gardens aren’t nearly as flower dependant as ours. The Sakura happens like 2 weeks a year and other than that snow adds really great effects. To be Honest I hadn’t expected this, but it game me some really nice pictures. Including some showing the length of Japanese dedication to their gardens.
Kanazawa also has surviving Geisha and Samurai districts. But with our bus leaving to Wajima at 12:45 we could only pick one, and we chose the one that wasn’t so idioticly far away. Seriously, the samurai must’ve been the only ones that could afford geishas, right? Anyway, there’s no nice pictures of this because . . . well, people live there. You don’t just go inside and take pictures of peoples houses. But they were nice. If we hadn’t been so damn COLD, we’d’ve stuck around and explore the rest.

We took the tourist bus north. We’d gotten to a place with no trainline. Sorry, scratch that: No trains. The line was still there, but no train has traversed it for some years now. This bus provided us with some nice places to visit and there was even a museum on the schedule, though this was closed for the holiday (YES). It gave us some mighty views and while the weather was nice and rugged I was relieved to find things not nearly as windy as back home. The time in the bus is spent going over what the past year brought us:

Most interresting: Comming off a mountain at night having someone else light the road for me
Most sad: My dog dying, Realizing you don’t love someone and knowing you’ll have to go forth solo again
Most proud: Building my ownwebsite, being better than some 800 other european students 😛
Most silly: Not reading bus tables at deserted ends of buslines
Most happy: 1st Kiss, 日本に行くこと
Most relieved: Rolling into a bed after Fuji-san/most interresting point
Things I didn’t get around at doing: Getting my Bsc, reaching a level of Japanese I’d be happy with
For her contributions you’ll have to ask her.

Though the museum was closed the former main temple of a section of Japanese Religion (it has a name, but nothing you’d recognise) was open. It had fallen into some disrepair apperantly and renovations were going on. This place was fairly close to our destination for the night and would also host tonights festivities. Look at the weather and then consider the festivities would consist of banging on drums in loincloths . . . .

Wajima, a small rustic fishing village at the top (ass) end of the Noto-Hanto Peninsula. Most fondly remembered by me for it’s water spouting roads (seriously, can you turn that shizzle off with a green pedestrian light or smthg) and the complete absence of ANYWHERE to get food or watch the fireworks from
Restaurants: Closed
Cafes: Closed
Supermarket: What supermarket
Conbinis: Closed
Ice cream vending machines: Dinner
This put a serious damper on my new years festivities, though activities were found to do and I got a retry at the new-year-food-thing yesterday when I speny 7 hours eating at a japanese family (yeah, breakfast wasn’t so welcome this morning). AB FAB, post when pictures come through.

The first of Januari started with getting woken by roomservice . . . . The service that tells you breakfast is ready downstairs 🙁 Then on to Wakura Onsen. A nice little town halfway the peninsula famous for its . . . .Onsens. Though it was a good one I think both myself and the Fair Maiden agreed afterwards that it’s a Japanese morning/evening thing, and not the european Spa-go-day-thing. After Wakura it was on to Toyama. The most exciting place yet according to the description in the Lonely Planet: ” . . .has few tourists attractions, but you may pass through here going to . . . . . at least they have hotels”. It actually had some nice sites to see, and a decent layer of snow to throw at stuff.

The snow had been rather dissapointing up to that point. I have to admit it. Our return trip would take us through different vallees in the Japanese Alps, we’d just have to hope for more snow. That’s a car btw, if you were wondering. Enjoy the rest of the pictures of this winter wonderland called: “salted ass” (liberally translated). Due to being in the bustling heart of this country we were given a liberal 100 minutes to explore this town before moving on. A wonderful oppertunity, but at least the worst of it. The next town, Takayama, was named the administrative and transportation hub of the region. Certainly we could get out of there with a mere . . . . . 120 minute layover.

The day finally saw us to Tajima, a town on the chuo line. From there on it would be a straight run back to Tokyo. First we’d have to find a restaurant that would let us in though. It being the 3rd of Januari people started eating out again and only 4 restaurants had opened up. 1 town vs 4 restaurants. No great math genious am I that I still understand this provides problems.

Ah . . . the last day of travelling. Through quiet countryside. Books open we both contently head for home. The Jingles start becomming familiar. Then the station-names. At last even Joanna returns (long story with no youtube links). A last dinner together in Nakano and the trip is through. 6 days of quiet natural beauty and each other.


Quote of the day:

Remind me to put the picture up of the street-water-spray thing.

And to come up with a wittyer quote of the day

Also: Visit Raph’s pics here

– Wally