Archive for August, 2008

This is the end

Monday, August 25th, 2008

My only friend, the end!

Hmmmmm, the doors. Infinitely better than “T is weer voorbij, die mooie zomer” don’t you think.

I am at the office, where I have been working my butt off eversince that eventfull holiday in Hokkaido. I won’t say that I wasn’t busy before then, and I won’t deny a certain slacking at times but the last week has been hectic. I stayed after my nominal leaving time on every single day.
Granted, twice was for a party.

But as of 14:14 I have finished the last of what I had to do.

All projects have been closed or handed over
Continuation manuals have been written (In english AND Japanese)
Regrouped all data into a more understandable structure for those that come after me (I have 103 subdirectories and over 4 gigs of raw data)
Wrote a manual for the data structure
Wrote and delivered 1 presentation
Wrote another presentation which I will deliver on wednesday
Re-wrote said presentation twice on the whims of my boss and the Confidentiality agreement
Said goodbye to people in 3 labs
Wrote and delivered my goodbye speech and the safety announcement of the day (日本にいる背が高い人、ご注意下さい)
Dragged the replacement 白人 to the volleyball game
Copied my Presentation to the USB stick
Cleaned up my desk (also a remarkably big job)
Found out I had one more souvenir and handed my (used for 1 year) Dutch Football (very orange) Mug over to a happy Japanese coworker (who knew the names of the entire team of Holland vs my . . . 3)

Now I just have to worry about getting those things outside of work done. Like finding out what my damn flight number is from London-Amsterdam

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Procrastination isn’t the problem, it’s the solution. So procrastinate now, don’t put it off.

– Ellen DeGeneres

帰り時です

Monday, August 25th, 2008

It is almost time to go home.
My year in Japan is almost over. I will miss many things.

BUT! I also look forward to a great many things.

I will miss seeing every woman around me on heels
I look forward to seeing only women that can actually walk on heels wear them

I will miss the good mannered Japanese conscious of what they impose on others
I look forward to being able to properly tell off people that aren’s so conscious of these things

I will miss my travels here
I look forward to travelling a little bit every 2 weeks. Since I now sorta have to 😛

I will miss eating out 4 times a week
I look forward to a real kitchen and being able to properly cook again.

I will miss the mountains
I look forward to getting home by bike without having to climb 130 metres. EVERY DAY!

I will miss everyone wearing skirts short enough for free upskirt-action every staircase
I look forward to women having legs worth showing again. Damn stickfigures here.

I will miss seeing nice old wooden buildings everywhere.
I look forward to not hitting my head every forking day. And having legroom.

I will miss the attention I get for being 1 of maybe 15 白人(white people) in town
I look forward to people sitting down next to me in a train without thinking I might be dangerous.

I will miss being surrounded by newness
I look forward to rediscovering some of the old I have always enjoyed, friends not the least among these

I will miss the travels
I look forward to completing my studies, [step 2]*, MORE travels.

I will miss the linguistical challenges aswell as the ability to just ignore everything around me because I don’t understand
I look forward to being able to carry a conversation with a lot less effort

I will miss the effciency and coverage of the Tokyo railway/metro system
I look forward to relying on the takarazuka line during wintertime for transport

I will miss someone giving me 15.000 euros to freely spend exploring a country
I look forward to . . . . Yeah, can’t really counter that one.

I will miss all the time I have now to read
I look forward to applying those 2.5-3 hours everyday to other stuff

I will miss the excellent noodles
I look forward to proper bread again

I will miss the fully capable (and then some) airconditioning in every room
I look forward to being in a country that doesn’t keep temperatures above 35 for consecutive months

I will miss playing volleyball every lunch
I look forward to living next to a fully stocked sports centre

I will miss living in the same country as my girlfriend
I look forward to living 700 km closer to her

I will miss my internship and the challenges that came with it
I look forward to being able to be pro-active in projects again

I will miss my working environment where for 8 months noone ever raised their voice in anger or frustration
I look forward to working in a place where I can express my anger and frustration without looking like quite that much of a freak

I will miss having a bath the size of a living room
I look forward to not having to share my bathroom with up to 400 naked Japanese men

I will miss Japan

.

.

.

* This step is still under development

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Sunburns are clearly our body’s way of telling us we need to hurry up and evolve some fucking armor plating or something.

Tim Buckley

Hokkaido

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

So, last week I went to Hokkaido.

Small introduction. Hokkaido is the Northernmost island in the Japanese Archippeligo. It is famous for many different things, among anthropologist for its recent recognition of its native species, the 1972 Winter Olympics, and its rice production (very famous . . . trust me).

Oh yes, and its beer. Any Japanese beer that has made it big is made in Hokkaido. Though there are still microbreweries all over the place but all the big ones are all in Hokkaido. Well, except Orion, but noone drinks that stuff anyway.

My method of transport was: Train. But not just any train, the Twilight express. Which zooms from Osaka to Sapporo by ways of a most scenic route. And it makes sure to pass some nice coastline around sunset to optimally use those big windows.

Once in Sapporo I visited all the usuals.

(The former) City Hall

The Clock Tower

The other Tower

You know . . . stuff.

I also visited the “Old Hokkaido Village” which features reconstructed, repositioned (and faked) buildings from all over hokkaido (and sendai . . . for some reason). This place featured some nice buildings and enthusiastic volunteers.
I actually learned a lot. This is where they put children btw. Throughout my blog posts I have mentioned how children are treated here. And yet they all turn out so well. Interresting. And there were some people showing how some of the older crafts were done. And how some of the older games were played.

After the Historically significant visits I made a culturally significant outing.

The Sapporo Beer Gardens

While enjoying some nice beers we were entertained by some Men. Men * Soul to be exact. I mention they were men because you may need confirmation.

Sapporo also has its own conveniently located mountain for nice views. I watched sunset from here and was able to take some nice pictures of the city.

After my city stay it was finally time to meet up with the Fair Maiden and head up into the mountains. Things started great with the bus leaving later than planned and with 5 minutes to change to the last bus into the mountains we were suitably anxious about this. When quizzing the busdriver about this she kicked us off the bus and sent us to another bus that would intercept the bus we would miss somewhere else. The tourist office in neither asahikawa nor at the airport knew of this option.

We made it to the mountains and the views and the weather promised great times.

The first day we would practice. I had parked us next to the highest mountain on the island but going up there straight off the bat might not be the smartest coarse of action. So we went for a nice hike across some saddles and on to a neighbouring onsen village. It was gorgeous and the weather kept great for hiking, sun obsscured yet not raining. The trail did hold its own dangers but it was nothing too taxing and we made it to the other side just fine and within the expected timeframe. And we got the mandatory Raphaëlle-not-making-it-over-the-river-dry photo.

The second day would see our ascent to the highest point in Hokkaido.

It was stunning

It was gorgeous

This was the view from the top

or this one

I’m not sure. All those mountain vistas kinda start to look the same after a while, don’t they.

It was euhm . . . wet and cold. And Raph came without appropriate wet-weather gear.

It really is a gorgeous area, unfortunately it took untill the next day to behold it with some sun. We saw it from the bus leaving for Furano.

Furano is an area famous for its well . . . French-ness. It is famous for flowers (Lavender especially) and its cheese and wine. It also has rolling hills and gentle mountains in the background.
Now, I am allergic to cheese and Raph doesn’t eat it due to her vegan-beliefs (Crazy hipp lady) and we had missed the last of the Lavender season, this left wine. But with the fresh memories of Hokkaido beer we made an effort to find the last of the remaining flowers instead. And we found them. One special slope filled with different flowers from all across the seasons. And no mention of beer at all, which was a first for Hokkaido.

The next day saw me trying to return to Osaka in time for work.

EUGH

Due to me thinking the bold time in the middle of my ticket being the flight time I missed my flight by a good 2 hours (the bold text in the middle of the ticket was the time I bought the ticket, the departure time was normal script lower left) which meant I was stranded in Hokkaido (and not even in Sapporo but Asahikawa airport) some 14 hours away from having to report to work in Osaka.

My two options for getting back consisted of the fabulous Shinkansen network and the 4 other flights going to Tokyo that were all booked solid.

The shinkansen option was a bust as it would take me 2 hours to get to sapporo and the last shinkansen of the day would have left 10 minutes before (typical). However I could report for the 22:00 nighttrain to Aomori and then continue from 06:30 at shinkansen speed to Osaka, arriving at 12:30 in Shin-Osaka (and therefor a good 4 hours late for work).
To take this option I would have to take the 19:30 bus away from the airport.

It being a small airport the last flights left at 19:30 and I could easily cover both possibilities and of the 4 booked flights 1!! person did a no show and I was able to board the cheapest of the remaining flights.

Instead of arriving at Tokyo at a reasonable time I arrived at 20:50. Due to my late boarding (plane’s planned departure time 19:30. Wallys boarding time 19:31) things got slightly buggered up with my luggage (This was already NOT a good day) and when I reached Tokyo proper it was 22:30. 30 minutes after the last shinkansen to Osaka left. Fortunately there are still nightbusses. Mine left 30 minutes before I arrived in Shinagawa, let alone make it to shinjuku.

I got there in time for 1 bus to Osaka, Full
1 bus to Kyoto, Full
and 1 bus to Kobe, Full

Grand!

At 00:31 I checked into a cheap hotel a seedy part of tokyo (gotanda, because you can always find cheap hotels in seedy areas) 2 stations away from shinagawa (shinkansen leaving platform)

at 05:30 my alarm sounded
at 05:50 I woke up again to conclude today was not going to be any better than the previous day

I missed the first train but was in time for the second.
Queueing to buy the ticket for the 2nd train took long enough to make me miss that one aswell (Seriously, the amount of people up, awake and happy at 06:15 is sickening) so I bought a seat on train #3 leaving 45 minutes after #1 but arriving 60 minutes later (I guess the tracks get busier with traffic?)

Arriving at the company I concluded that while I had thought to bring my Japanese – English Electronic dictionary, my notebooks, socks (vacation = TEVA, work = safety boots) and my uniform I had neglected to bring my security badge.
09:50 a colleague arrives to vouch that I, one of 4 white people working among the 6000 souls and standing a good 30 cm taller than the average worker here, am indeed the same person that has been passing the gates for the last 7.5 months and plays volleyball in front of their security station every lunchtime and I am allowed to enter the grounds
10:04 I sit down at my screen, a mere 1.5 hours late (But also 27000 yen poorer).

YEEH!

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Quote of the day:

Molesting,,, hm,, yeah, that’s quite big issue in Japan for guys in a crowded area. Loads of guys are arrested for molesting and loads of ladies say they were harassed. Some can prove he didn’t do it, but mostly cannot. Keep your hands up away from girl’s body. Convince the girl before she tells that to the police that you are innocent. This crime will be proven just by girl’s saying, no matter what guys complain for. Only place to prove is court, until then you will stay in a jail. Horrible, but some girls do really suffer from it and some are just enjoying to make someone get arrested.

– Koizumi, after misinterpreting my comment
regarding molesting airline personell.

This country does my head in

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

While the true meaning of this saying does not apply here. A more literal interpretation of the saying does, most certainly, apply.

I have hit my head on doorframes. Au

Advertisements. Au

Overhead luggage rack. AU

More doorframes

Food vendor cart umbrellas. Damn. Painfull AND you could put someone’s eye out with that

A smoke alarm. AU. Small fucker, didn’t see that one coming

Traditional houses. AU!

A cherry tree. Pretty. But painfull

A Mother-forking door. AU!

Not only doors, the accesories that come with them aswell. Fuck

One of them things to suck away the fumes from cooking. Made of shiny metal and PAIN!

Another mother-forking-AU-tree!

Train gates. OK, this isn’t my head but this thing is made to hit your thigh. I’ll give you 1 guess what I have at Japanese thigh level. And don’t let anyone tell you kneecaps aren’t important. AU!

Know what this is? it is attached to the door of your toilet to hang your coat/bag from. These little mother-forkers will forking blindside you like no tommorow. DAMN these hurt.

The door. NO, OF COURSE NOT THE FRIGGIN DOOR. I do LEARN you know. Damn sign after the door. Sharp forking corners too.

The Pastry shop. Damn. At least it made up for it by free fig cake

Another doo . . . Fork that. That ain’t even big enough to call itself a door. Get the Fork outta here

Fairly forking Obvious, isn’t it! Fuck That hurt

Yeah, the FORKING MRI scanner. You think I do all that hitting and not get checked up. DAMN, I keep telling ya. This shit hurts

Another MOTHER FORKING TREE. Doesn’t ANYTHING grow to normal sizes in this short-ass forking country

The MOTHER FORKING CEILING? YOU GOT TO BE FORKING KIDDING ME. THIS ENTIRE FORKING COUNTRY IS OUT TO GET ME. AUUUUU!

ANOTHER CEILING? WTF? Huh, OK, maybe not. I’m sorry but I may have gotten a tad paranoid.

Another Mother-Forking-SHIT-JEZUS that hurts. DOOR!

The very roof. AGAIN! AU

Fucking METAL DOOR!

And of course the grand prize winner. The metal bar in the bus. The one that knocked me out and sent me home for 5 weeks with a cerebral concussion. Just ‘&%!$ing GREAT. FORK YOU HURT

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Quote of the day:

The fridaynight drunk post

Friday, August 8th, 2008

FACT: My Japanese improbes with the amount fo alcohol I imbue. Probably to a logeithmic or maybe exponentiol scale

FACT: The average Japanese will undertand my Japanese better the more inebriated they are

FACT: I am gods gift to women, wether they speak engilsh or Japanese

FACT: I shoiuld probably get some sleep

Koya san

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

There were two destinations with my parents that I visited that I really wanted to share with Raphaëlle. This was the first. Koya san was the other.

As has been mentioned in the blog entry regarding the parental visit, Koya san is a Holy mountain and centre of Shingon Buddhism for Japan.

For being 2.5 hours away from Osaka Koya san manages to be quite in the middle of nowhere. The access method requires a long trainride through the country followed by a long trainride through the mountains, with stunning scenery I may add, topped off by a cable car ride up the mountainside. This sees you to a charming . . . station. After that you still need a 10 minute bus-ride to get you to town. Koyasan is a town built entirely around the buddhist temples there. And, unfortunately, the tourist that flock there.

That means that this little spot on earth has a really REALLY high concentration of really nice and beatiful temples. These temples are sprawled all over town and most of the viewable ones are positioned on the west side of town. These temples have some excellent paintwork done on the inside, though it is forbidden to photograph or sketch these so you’ll have to go without pictures of it and some of them come with their own stone garden. While I visited them with my parents last time in twilight, I got to see some of the structures in full glory this weekend. The gardens (not the stone ones) were in full regalia and even the ponds muscled in on the colour extravaganza. A most inspiring surrounding for some Zen action.

Having seen some of the structures at night fully illuminated I of course took aelle out for a quick tour of this (had to be back before 9. Those temples keep strict curviews) and because I’d seen them I did not take my camera. Of course on that night there would happen to be a festival in town, so we got to see some traditional dancing and music (eventhough everything but the drumbeat came from a DJ booth). I have a video on my mobile but . . . I’ll see what it looks like before posting.

On the east this leaves room for the graveyard. This graveyard is where any Japanese buddhist worth a damn is burried. You know, real important buddhist. That do spiritual stuff. And other important things like . . . euhm.
It is important to be properly respectfull in a place such as this. You should purify yourself with water. And then purify the resident buddhas.

No demeaning or disrespectful manners should be displayed while in this sanctuary. Damn, buddha is FUCKING METAL man.

One should always try to be like buddha. Which, I suppose explains a few things in Thailand.

While Raph still had a 3rd day to spend I would be reporting to work at 08:30 the next day so we had to leave this blessed place behind and return to Osaka for one last night together. And the chance of some vegan icecream.

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They say travel broadens the mind, I reckon I could pull mine out of my ears and knot it under my chin

Nanny Ogg