Archive for July, 2008

Ils sont fous ces Japonais !

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

After the last post concerning all odd things Japanese, a follow-up had to be made. There are, after all, many many more weird things happening here everyday. Right in front of my eyes. I just have to open them and see, like I have never lived here.

We will start, with an every-day item. Because in everyday items we can often find the goofiest stuff. I give you: The toilet.

Japanese toilet #1

OK, it’s a hole in the ground lined with some poercelain. The Japanese were not content to hover above these. (As sitting is not really an option)

So being Japanese they invented a better one.

Toilet #2

If you think this is largely similar to what you have at home, you’re right. Largely is the key-word here.

It comes with a control box
toilet control box

Sometimes evern remote controlled
toilet control box 2

And yes, there is a button on there for the flush sound. Honestly, you think toilets make those naturally? One has to provide these things. A good engineer thinks of this when designing something. Good Job Japanese Engineer. A bidet is built in. So is a read end shower (no, these are different things). And then there are 1,2,3,4,5,6 . . . euhm . . A lot of other buttons which will give you something to do while you do your business on the toilet. Reading all that should take 5 minutes at least. And during that time you will be most comfortable on your heated toilet seat, perfectly heated to your specifications.

Ohright and euhm . . .

Vending Machines, yes we have them. Some Coke, a bag of crisps, of course we have them. What are we, living in the dark ages?
Yes, we have Vending machines, but not like the Japanese have vending machines. Do we sell beer and Cigarettes in Vending machines? I don’t think so! (I have one in my dorm, VERY usefull)

Beer vending machineCigarrete vending machine

Ok, we actually do have those. But they’re not in public.
How about something a bit more odd.

Vegetable Vending MachinePorn vendormachine

Yes, the first one has vegetables and the other one has Books and Videos.
Right, sorry. My bad. Porn Books and Videos. Again: On the street.

How about a Live Lobster vending machine

Lobster vending machine

Or the ever pupular Used schoolgirl underwear vending machine

used panty vending machine

We may have vending machines, but we don’t have vending machines like the Japanese do. The original entrepeneurs that started stocking the machine shown immediately above have been arrested and tried btw because they did not receive written statements from the original owners. Used means someone had them before, ergo it is antique. Antiques are serious business in Japan.

http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/index.htm

But, “everyday items” includes food. Let’s take a look a famous chocolate bar

Back home we have gone to staggering heights of originality by adding the Kit Kat Chunky AND the white chocolate version of this.

How about Kit Kat Apple, Kit Kat melon, Kit Kat green tea, Kit Kat . . . well, I’m not sure what that last one is, chestnuts? Edit: Thanks to my lovely assistance Sharon (For that is a fitting name for an assistant) It has been shown to be a Azuki Kit kat

kit kats 1

Kit Kat strawberry

kit kat strawberry

Kit Kat Macha

kit kat macha
Kit Kat Fruit Parfait. (You know what else everybody likes? Parfaits. Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Hell no, I don’t like no parfait”? Parfaits are delicious.)

Kit Kat Fruit Parfait

Cherry blossom Kit Kat
sakura kit kat

And the watermelon flavoured Kit Kat which is one of those chocolate bars that has actually survived 1 week on my desk

sakura kit kat

Any given saturday

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Last weekend I finally had the chance to check out a small spot of natural beauty which I have been passing twice a day, everyday.

3 trainstations before mine there is a small local-only stop. This goes to about 15 houses, an onsen and an abandoned trainline.

This being 3 mere stations from mine it was certainly in biking distance. Though my map stopped at station #2 this did not stop me from taking my steel stallion and heading out. Of course, after station 2 there were mountains and while I am sure it had roads . . . these were not easily found. Luckily for me the station I was going to . . . was a trainstation. The place I could not progress from ALSO was a trainstation. Mighty brain presented a solution. RAWR.

I won’t describe this tour in great detail. I will merely link you to the pictures. I will resist the urge to make fun of Japanese quake-proof building expertise. Or make funnies about how the Japanese hike. And I certainly won’t show you the onsen as it only had “private baths” with rates beginning at ¥16.000 (that’s 90 euros).

But I will leave you with some advice. If you ever live in Japan and you spend 90% of your days indoor working spending a full day out in the sun on a bike. SPF 30 ain’t gonna cut it.

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Quote of the day:

“Hey, uh, hi, can you help me, what’s your name? “My name’s Roosevelt E. Roosevelt.” Roosevelt, what town are you stationed in? “I’m stationed in Poontang.” Well, thank you, Roosevelt. What’s the weather like out there? “It’s hot. Damn hot! Real hat! Hottest things is my shorts. I could cook things in it. A little crotch pot cooking.” Well, can you tell me what it feels like? “Fool, it’s hot! I told you again! Were you born on the sun? It’s damn hot! I saw… It’s so damn hot, I saw little guys, their orange robes burst into flames. It’s that hot! Do you know what I’m talking about?” What do you think it’s going to be like tonight? “It’s gonna be hot and wet! That’s nice if you’re with a lady, but it ain’t no good if you’re in the jungle.” Thank you, Roosevelt.

Robin Williams/Adrian Cronauer.

Yeah, that quote is totally not relevant to my situation here. This graph represents a real experiment I am doing regarding real temperatures outside. Let’s just say that I don’t play Volleyball at lunch-time anymore. Last time the temp dropped below 28 (at night) was half-june.

Kii Peninsula, or The Weekend That Almost Wasn’t.

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Hi! This is Raphaëlle. For once you can read me blog with intelligible sentences relating actual facts instead of a collection of playlists, pseudo-artsy pics and anecdotes in French. Also this is the second time Wally takes the trip I’m going to tell you about so he’d rather not blog about it again (don’t remind him that his mother did the job last time.)

July is a cool month in Japan. Well it’s actually very very hot, but for this reason companies scatter a bunch of unofficial holidays, with the purpose of saving money by not turning on the air conditioning for a few days at a time, and that is pretty cool. So last weekend included Friday and Monday for me, allowing me to travel to far and remote places, close to where Wally lives, like Koya-san. The place has it all: culturally relevant activities, gorgeous sceneries, vegan food, relatively easy access, lodgings that can be booked through technologically advanced means. Ah yes. That means they can’t be booked from work. Obviously we both have much less free time outside office hours than when sitting at our desks all day, so the booking took some time – a bit too long. While I was sitting in my office, my bus ticket in my pocket and my bag packed in my locker, I was informed that we were very ill-organized foreigners and that there was no way we’d sleep on Koya-San on Saturday night. Sooo… what next? Making a day trip out of a 4-day weekend sounds a little silly. The bus tickets were already hard enough to get my hands on (that’s another story altogether – I never had a problem buying shinkansen tickets but boy is it hard to be cheap!) I haven’t seen the boy in 2 weeks, there’s no way we’re canceling now. So we decided to wing it, take trains along the coastline and see what interesting spots we could find on our way. JR trains schedules, the Lonely Planet and Wally’s previous stay with his parents helped organize things a little bit.

Once my bag repacked to include sunscreen and a swimsuit, on my way to the bus stop, I saw an angry mob – more of an annoyed and bored mod, really – gathered in front of the station. For some reason the PA certainly explained, JR East train lines were paralyzed for hours that night, and some more that weekend. Had I opted for expensive train tickets, I would never have reached Tokyo that day, let alone Osaka. Was I right to be cheap!

Okay! With all these obstacles out of the way the weekend can start. I spent a short and nice day in Kyoto, enjoying the freshness that the overcast sky allowed in the morning, climbing up woody hills in temple complexes, drinking iced green tea, eating awesome Tofu-Lettuce-Tomato sandwiches and falafels (how else could it be in Kyoto!?), and generally wandering around in quiet parts of the city, only hearing cars in the distance and fuurin (traditional wind chimes) catching the slightest breeze.

Can I make a cultural side-note? Before AC make its way to Japan, the people developed a bunch of traditions and imagery to deal with the terrible heat and humidity that they have to bear with for 4 months a year. On top of carrying fans and mini-towels to wipe the sweat off your face, an emphasis is made on water and air symbols to remind you of what coolness feels like. The fuurin is often made of transparent or blue glass and painted with carps or lilies, and so are stationary, traditional clothes, fans, tableware, etc. You can hear small water fountains in many places and restaurants will serve clear broth and translucent jelly desserts. I like these very season-specific, very Japanese details that are so engrained in everyday life they’re hard to see.

After an absolutely uninteresting commute, I met Wally in Osaka after his workday. We got some of the last seats on a train that took us to Shirahama (白浜: literally, white beach city) where we spent the night in a ryokan with the kindest owner ever, who insisted on recommending us the best restaurants in town and on driving us around even after we had checked out. With this kind of help it was easy to see all of the interesting spots of the town. We started with the 3 Step Cliff, a beautiful viewing point on the ocean off the old coast road. We climbed down the cliffs, enjoying the various shades of red and ochre of the rock clashing with the bright blue background and trying to hide from direct sunlight. Apparently we weren’t very good at it, because my shoulders started burning before lunch, in spite of my wearing a shirt AND sunscreen AND a large hat. You know what they say about true blondes, right? (No, the other thing, silly.)

We snacked on our way to 千畳敷, a large rock formation that has been eroded to weird shapes and is apparently friable enough for all the Japanese teenage couples passing by to carve their names in it.

Next stop… What do you do when you’re in a place called white beach? Spend some time on the white beach! Note the magnificent beach resort architecture in the background. Also note the very authentic tropical paradise look – Japan being volcanic, most of its sand is black. This one is imported from Australia.
All the beach straw huts were taken but thankfully the shore was lined with pine trees to protect (badly) our delicate northern European complexions. Like everywhere else in the world, going to the beach in Japan implies bouncing in the waves, looking pretty in a bikini, witnessing boys throwing seaweed at girls (the seaweed is dinner only in Japan, though) and getting even more sunburnt. Yeah I learned the hard way that SPF 50+ sunscreen isn’t waterproof here. What, I was supposed to read the bottle? I don’t carry my dictionary everywhere with me you know.
Once we had played enough in salty water we went to sit in not-so-salty water at Shirahama Sakinoyu Onsen (one of Japan’s Top 3 onsens!) I had been to onsens under red maple leaves, onsens in the middle of Tokyo, onsens under the rain, onsens in the mountain in the middle of nowhere but it was the first time I went to one on the seafront, and the sunset and the soothing sound of the waves definitely add to the already relaxing onsen experience. At least until you notice that everyone in the high concrete buildings around can see you nekked.

We finished the day quietly in another train ride, sharing beer, crackers and books all the way to Shingu (新宮, or new shrine city), where things like baths and tables seem to be even shorter than elsewhere.

Sunday started with a nice boat ride on the Kumano river, between the cliffs that separate Nara, Mie and Wakayama prefectures, that could have come with an annoying soundtrack. The day was terribly hot but staying near the water (or dipping our feet in it) kept us pleasantly cool. We sucked at behaving like Japanese people, though, with Wally being tall enough to stick his head through the boat roof, my missing the group picture and neither of us buying souvenirs at the dedicated souvenir spot. And taking pics of the weird stuff on the way.
Finally we went to Nachi no Taki (another of those things that made it to the top of a list), a beautiful, tall waterfall in the mountains around which a temple complex has been built. We made up for being bad Japanese earlier that day by taking lots of pictures at the dedicated pictures spots. A bowl of cold udon and mountain vegetables later, we caught the last bus back to the station, then the last train back to Osaka (and had enough remaining daylight to see some gorgeous spots on the coastline, too!) We found a nice hotel close to Wally’s train line, minimizing his commute time and maximizing our cuddle time, pondered whether we wanted to eat pizza in bed, decided against it, were damn hungry when we woke up and were (well, mostly I) incredibly happy to find out that the local Starbucks carries eggless, dairyless, whole wheat bagels to dip in my (soy) latte.

All in all, the last minute change of plan gave a nice summer holiday feeling to these 2 and some days, something that I’m not sure gloomy mountains and zen sessions would have achieved. And now I know why I never write long posts like these – by the 8th paragraph it’s freaking annoying.

The land of Endless Cliches

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

For those of you that keep a close eye on this blog will notice that the “currently reading” section changes. A lot.
This is due to the fact that I have 2.5-3 hours everyday to read.

The longest entry that I had in that list was Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot, which managed to stay in that list as long as it did because I read it in Japanese.

Recently, the list has been filled with “Soon, I will be Invincable“, “Les Misérables” and I am currently working through “The children of Húrin“.

The first book is a tale told from the two perspectives of 1. The Ultimate SuperVillain and 2. A rooky in a Superteam. This is, purposely, written with a sense of humour and tours along quite a few of the cliches of the Hero vs Villain realm. It was a fun and enjoyable read.

I interrupted Les Miserables for that book as I had the unabridged version spanning some 1500 pages and a book of that size begs for interruption after a while(I did bridge quite a few pages myself though). So returning to this universe of 18xx france after this cliche side-track I come across Marius throwing his life away on the Barricades because Cosette was taken away from him (So badly taken away from him in fact that she sent him her new address). Jean Valjean breaking into the barricades and face certain death to drag this boy out and see him restored to his daughter. Jean Valjean sacrificing himself for things long dead and buried and removing himself from his daughter’s life. A daughter so pretty but so witless she does not notice her own father distancing himself and thinks nothing of him leaving her at the day of her wedding. The story which comes to an end when Marius finds out Jean was indeed not the bad guy, something he could have told him easily had Jean wanted/Marius asked but nooooooo. The revalation is just in time to watch Jean die of a broken heart.

I am now going through the last pages of a story roughly written by J.R.R. Tolkien but edited and published under the name of his son. The main character has so far managed to get 3 big groups of people (humans, elves and assorted) killed due to his good intentions, noble heart but foolhardy stubbornness.
Having a safe haven to return to he does however not do this due to . . . something or other. Really, you would expect the character who remonstrates himself 6 times that he should have listened to the wise elves to return to the wise elves and take his place at the side of the wise elf-king but no. He heads to the last band of humans living in freedom and tries to hang up his sword and live in obsqurity. His mother and sister seek out to find him, his sister falls prey to a dragon who wipes her memory and she ends up falling in love with her brother, marrying him and getting pregnant of his child. When the great dragon comes to finish of this last band of humans in Morgoth’s domain he comes again upon the main character, whom he had let live after the last time he burned/ate his group of friends to go forth and despair. In the epic struggle that consisted of main character lying in wait on the dragon’s path and thrusting a sword upwards (he learns, at least) and then catching an eyefull of hate from a dying brainwashing dragon while he gloats (OK, maybe not). Sisterdear ofcourse cannot contain herself and sets out to find her man. The dragon, on his last breath, tells her who she is and the combination of her seemingly dead lover/husband/brother and the obomination in her womb she throws herself in a raging river and dies.
In what one might expect from how I described things above the main character is not actually dead and I expect that when I read on on the way home I will find him killing himself off out of some sense of honour.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I liked all 3 books. It’s just that . . . . MAN, can we do with a few less horribly simplified characters and some less cliches?

I am not an unread man, and I oversimplify the events taken place in the books somewhat in order to write it in this post (Les mis is 1500 pages, how long do you think an accurate interpretation would be). I am aware of the roles filled by both Cosette and Nienor and why they were painted that way but . . . Damn.

I will shorty return to a work of Neil Gayman. An author I only recently discovered though I read his Manga series “Sandman” 9 years ago and loved it.

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Quote of the day:

10 Spanish and 10 Italians in Vulcanus in Japan 2008. I pity Nakamura-san should she stick around at the centre.

– Wally

The Tokyo Party

Friday, July 11th, 2008

I had intended to write something about this myself

I truely had.

I required some pictures. But I didn’t take any so I had to wait for the other guys to put them online.

Now I found some pictures. And I concluded . . . there is no reason for me to write anything except link this.

Yes, it is in Italian. No, you can’t understand it.

But just look at those pictures will ya. Could we write anything that would even approach explaning this?

Another Monthly report

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

日本の学校たち

まず、日本はよい学士を生み出す
けれども、日本の学校組織はすごい強烈です。大体の学生は本当な学校時の後ほかの学校に行かなければなりません。日本の両親は「塾はすごい大事」と思うから 大体な学生は一週に60+時間に学校にいる。
日本の学校に学生は制服を着らなければなりません。
大体な時間に学生は制服を着るから 制服を着ている時以外に個性を見せたい
子供の個性を見せるために、見かけは大事です。けれども、制服を着ている間にそれは難しい。制服を着てじゃない時は少ないから日本の子供は個性を特徴付けたい。服は初めて処置ですから全部の子供はファッションの凝り性がある。
やっぱり、大体な日本の子どもはグループの間に個性がほしい。徹底的な個性は怖いです。
日本人ために、ファッションの凝り性は消費者運動を始める。消費者運は悪くないけど日本の子どもはたくさん色方から消費者運動を貰う。テリビゲーム、カードゲーム、ファッション、など。学校の間、始めて2(んども)が出来る。けれどもファッションの様相を学校以外に見せなければなりません。低い時間から大きい重きになったらファッションは大事になった。全てその影響は世界の他の所にもあるけど、日本のほうが大切ですように見える。
私ために、日本人とファッションは楽しみ。すごい大きいな髪、すごい大きいな眼鏡、低いスカート/パンツ、長いカウボーイブーツスリーパ、ブランド名、ブランド名、ブランド名、言語エラ、など、んど。
日本のはやりファッションは色々な国から服です。英語を使うファッションは日本にちょっと問題です、大体な日本人は英語が分からないから。「I’m like a taxidermist. I’ll mount anything」と言う服を着る日本の女の子ははやりですけど。。。。。
ファッションは大事とファッションを着る時間あまりがないから たくさんの別なファッションスタイルを進化しなられた。なので、日本にだけ桃色でフリルな服は主流のスタイルです。日本の男の子だけは大規模にすごい長い化粧することと女の子が好きができます。

日本の学校組織によるこの全てから

The subject we were supposed to write about is in the title. Ofcourse, we had already held our final presentation of the schoolterm on this subject so I decided to roll with it.

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Below you will find what an online translator makes of it

Schools in Japan

First of all, Japan invents a good bachelor.
However, the school system for Japan is terrible and strong. A rough student should go to the school of the and others after the school of the truth. The rough ..becoming it.. student because of the desire of parents in Japan, “The cram school is terrible and important” is in the school at 60+ time in one week.
Students in the school in Japan are arrival as for the uniform.
The rough student between ..becoming it.. Toki puts on a uniform and I want to show individuality, except when uniformed.
Because child’s individuality is shown, the appearance is important. However, it is difficult while it is uniformed. It puts on a uniform, Toki is few, and the child in Japan wants to characterize individuality. Because clothes are treatment for the first time, all children have concentrative of the fashion.
After all, I want individuality between groups rough of the child in ..becoming it.. Japan. Thorough individuality is scared.
Concentrative of the fashion starts the consumerism a Japanese straightening. The child in Japan gets a lot of consumerisms from Irocata though the consumer fate is not bad. Teribigam, card game, and fashion, etc.It starts and can 2() during the school. However, it is necessary to show the aspect of the fashion besides the school. The fashion became important when becoming a large emphasis at low time. Japan seems all to be more important though the influence is also in other places in the world.
It enjoys the Japanese and the fashion to my straightening. Glasses, low skirt/pants, long Cauboributssrepa, brand name, brand name, brand name, language the gills, etc. and . terrible and ..largeness it is terrible.. ..Cami.. largeness
Japan’s is from a country to clothes where the doing fashion is various. The fashion that uses English is a problem in Japan for a moment, and because the person in question of ..becoming it.. Ca doesn’t understand English roughly. The girl in Japan where it puts on clothes called “I’m like a taxidermist. I’ll mount anything” : becoming popular. 。。。。
It came to evolve a lot of another fashion styles because the fashion did not have the remainder during time that put on importance and the fashion. ..ruffle.. Fc is a style of the main current in pink only in and Japan. Only the boy in Japan can be done large-scale terrible, long make-up and the girl and the favor be done.

All of this with the school system for Japan

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On a different note, 小林さん came across my first Japanese Monthly report and among many red lines of mistakes I have long learned to recognise he explained to me that I used ばか in my report which is likely to get my teeth knocked out if I used it here. In kansai one should use おほう. Of course, should one find themselves using this in Kinki dentists will be equally joyfull to see you.