Archive for the 'Japanese (Culture)' Category

Reading aids in Japan

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

If you are like me you spend quite a bit of time with your nose in a book.
Or perhaps an e-reader of some sort.
Maybe you read articles on the internet instead.

I don’t care too much about what I’m reading. It used to have to contain either elves, dragons or space-ships or I wouldn’t be interested. But over the years I’ve developed a taste in a wide range in what I read.

I just finished Waiting by Ha Jin which has no elves, dragons or space-ships in it and I appreciated it nevertheless.
I’ve opened up Merchants of doubt, which was recommended by Elon Musk (not personally) and is non-fiction, a genre that generally has a pretty major lack of elves and dragons (although space ships do feature occasionally).
I’m reading Vermillion with my wife, but while it has talking bears, leopard seals an undead there has not been any elves, dragons and spaceships so far and that has been a huge disappointment in an otherwise fine novel.
I’m waiting for my lovely wife to finish Raising steam already so I can GET MY FUCKING FIX OF DRAGONS AND WIZARDS ALREADY.

At the same time I have some of the best of 2014 on my phone just in case I find myself too far away from a book. Although there’s generally one or two in my bag at any one time.

I have a problem these days though. My commute just got shorter.
Well great, you say. Less time to get to- and from work is excellent, right?
But I do part of my reading on my commute and the 3 minute ferry ride I have now just doesn’t afford the time to get into a passage the way my 7 minute ferry had. And now I only walk 2 minutes to the office after the ferry instead of the 5 previously.
Obviously, I have some first world problems.

But do you ever get like that where you don’t want to put down a book?
I took a morning off a couple of months ago because I came to the conclusion of a series and I needed to read those last 100 pages RIGHT NOW! (I was re-reading Harry Potter, I think :P)

What I’ve done all this ranting for, I guess, is merely to say:

I miss these

In Japan you had these lovely textured yellow lines run down the street.
I don’t have a lot of problems navigating streets while reading a book, but crowds do take a fair bit of concentration.
These things though, these things made it so much nicer.
I could walk from the Yoyogi station to my language school in 15 minutes and never take my eyes away from my book.
It was awesome.
Just stay aware of the bright yellow road stretching out in front of you, the texture under your feet and the flow of your narrative.

They’re for blind people btw.
So if you do find yourself enjoying a book down the streets of Tokyo and someone comes the other way, get off the damn track.

Japan (again)

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Yes, I know. Japan AGAIN.

Eugh. So Passé.

Anyway. We went back to Japan. 1 weeks worth of holiday. The top of my head did not approve. The rest of me was happy.

First of all, I’d like to dedicate this post to the heroes of the holiday

Two 200 yen umbrellas from the daiso.

Yes, the weather sucked and these things saved us from pneumonia. For 5 days straight.

First stop was Fukuoka. There’s a hydrofoil boat that takes us from Busan there in 3 hours and it’s quite a bit cheaper than flying. With the yen at the exchange rate what it currently is, that was a welcome money saver.
Not that much cheaper though, as it turned out. The tickets are cheap, but then they tax another 40% out of you for fuel and terminal use. Very classy.

Fukuoka is known for many things. Canal city is one, but I’d seen that in 2008 already. The street food ramen is another.

Little carts like these are all along the canals and on street corners.

And the food is not bad either. With this kind of cooking

Getting quite a varied clientèle.

We’d planned to spend some time on the beach. Found a pretty one btw.

Sadly, the places with roofs on them didn’t have this view.
But they were dry, so we forgive them.

Because Fukuoka wasn’t going to offer us anything with this weather we headed inland.

To Takachiho. The first thing we learned there was that our creation theories have been operating under a slight spelling error.

Cods . . . Not Gods. Silly us

The reason we came here was the gorge.

Good Visuals

And with added excitement built in.

That came down in front of our eyes.

After excitement comes zen

Back in Fukuoka we found this gem

A Belgian beer bar. That’s a Kwak, a Karmeliet, 3 different Chimays, Cuvee des Trolls, Delirium, St. Louis, Scotch Silly and a few more that probably deserve mention.
1 year of living in the country of Cass, Hite and Max will bring a man to pay the ridiculous prices they charge. But it was goooooood.

The next day was the first day of sunshine and the last day of our holiday.

Nokonoshima Island it right off the coast of Fukuoka. And it looks like this:

Aaaaaaaand that’s all we saw of this gorgeous island.
On that little slip of land at the end there we found a corpse.
That kind of took the rest of the day. Not the finding, the police things afterwards.

As mentioned, our last day. So yeah, we ended with a corpse.

I have pictures of that btw. Our Japanese is pretty good. 死んだ人を見つけました. But, we figured pictures might help relaying what’s happening.
Won’t post them though.
Probably . . . . wrong, or something.


Quote of the Day:

And if you are French – well, if the rest of the world persists in thinking you are amazing lovers, can you blame them for going along with the lie?

BBC News

Japanese holiday

Monday, July 19th, 2010

So, the Koreans won’t tolerate me for more than 3 months. We therefor headed to our old flame: Japan. We would land at Kansai airport, and Koya-san, an old destination of ours, is just a couple 10s of km east of there.
Unfortunately, there’s also some mountain stuff in between there, so we had to go to Osaka before we could go down to there. Which made our very efficient flight/travel plan somewhat less efficient.

We flew from Inchon airport with an overbooked plane. This cause many many problems and resulted in us getting businessclass seats.
Karmarific. Lotsa legroom, good service. I can get used to that.
Then there was the trainride. Nice view, good on time and it was just past nightfall when we were dropped off by our accommodation by the free bus. The free bus was free because we only had big bills and the bus didn’t accept those.
Youth Hostels are the same the world over . . . . or are they

Real rice paper walls though, which meant that we could hear the neighbour snore as well as in any dormroom the world over 😛

Last time I went to Koya san it was packed with tourists, but last time had been a weekend. Turns out that even in summer Koya san is all but deserted by tourists during weekdays. If you ever visit this place, go on a weekday. Serene mountain monasteries come off better without crowds of tourists.

The first day we went for a hike in the peaks surrounding the temples. As women weren’t allowed in this very sacred site this was as close as female pilgrims could come to this place fro centuries. The hike started pleasantly

But it’s important to remember karma can be a bitch.
First there was a bit of this:

And then there was going down the mountain as fast as we could hoping lightning wouldn’t strike us or too near us (It didn’t oblige on the last bit) and definitely not getting the camera out for it would drown. While initially pausing for the storm to pass on the very top of the mountain, I said it would likely stop the moment we got down.

This . . . is my sock

We took off the sock, the moment we got back to civilization.
As you can tell, the rain had stopped.
2 minutes before
This is a book we borrowed for the trip

One which we will certainly replace for the owner btw.
There were 3 books in the bag at the top of the mountain.

Next time we go hiking, we’re checking weather reports.
And so, the next day, with reports indicating mostly clear skies, we set of on Saturday to hike from Koya-san to kudoyama.

A very pleasant hiking experience at times

with many bits of wildlife on the way down

And at least 3 snakes and many many spiders which didn’t make it to film.

The trail we walked has been hiked for many many many years. Centuries even, which makes the path somewhat . . . .well trodden and slightly eroded at times

It was usually well cared for

Though not always kept to its original purpose

Usually dangerous to get off the path

and many many other things. I’ll leave you with a link to the album.

We arrived after 9 hours of hiking at the bottom of the hill with just enough cash left to buy tickets to Osaka.
Last time we were in Japan we had bank cards and mobile phones which all worked there.

This time we spent 1 hour walking around after bank closing times looking for an ATM to accept our damn foreign cards already. Citibank Japan didn’t accept citibank Korea, and from there on it was an uphill struggle getting anything to accept our Dutch/French cards.

We eventually got cash, a place to sleep and the first restaurant we walked into was a damn Korean restaurant. 3rd one did the trick though and we fell in to an exhausted slumber.

The next day was spent in Osaka, lounging and getting back to the airport. Where we were told there were no seating arrangements, but there were problems with me entering Korea. Eventually they did let us on the plane, but we were removed from our bulkhead seats because we had seat 20. Karma was back with a vengeance.

We arrived just fine and I’ll leave you with a picture of one of the things that makes Japan great:

A wasabi kitkat.

And just in case Sarah reads this blog:


Quote of the day:

What in the world was running through that warped, evil scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements.

– Yossarian

How Korea impacts our lives #2

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

After our first installment the impact didn’t just stop.

#1, Sitting.

Sitting is hard. Most of us have been spoiled with chairs growing up and even those of us that have know of the uncomfortable chair and all the different forms and guises it comes in.

In Korea, luckily, we’ve not had any run-ins with these uncomfortable chairs. One comes to our place and will notice we have no chairs. No furniture of any kind actually*.
This is what makes sitting hard. We have no chairs, so we sit on the ground. But we work/play/lounge/watch with laptops. which we precariously balance on different parts of our anatomy.
There’s the knee-hop, which is comfortable, but not very stable
There’s the doggy style, which is very stable but results in significantly less screen time for the “dog”
There’s one leg out stretch, which isn’t stable but can easily be held in place with one hand and has a low maintenance threshold.
There’s . . . well, you get the pictures, a hundred different ways in which laptop operating can be accomplished.

When sitting in unusual positions it has happened to all of us that blood flow gets cut off. We’ve all stood up to the feeling of millions of little pins and needles shooting through our veins. If we were lucky we’ve never had to get up to a completely non-responsive leg followed swiftly by an amusing (hopefully) and not too painful (again, hopefully) crash to the ground.

So why do I mention this . . .  well, it seems knee-hop is very comfortable . . .
But only until you try to get up.
You’ve had sleeping legs from sitting incorrectly?
You’ve had sleeping arms from your partner lying on your arm while hugging them?
Execute the knee-hop incorrectly and have a sleeping penis!**

Also, turns out that the knee-hop puts my belly in contact with the audio plug opening bits, putting me under constant low-voltage

#2, Jaded

We’re it.
I see people’s reaction to stuff here and it’s 7 kinds of awesome.

Look, look, look. They make plastic versions of their food so you can see what you get!!!!!!
Japan had that.

DAYUM, would you look at the way that girl is dressed??????
tbh, it’s just short. It’s not even any kind of crazy.

OHmahgad, the subway is so clean and it runs on TIME!!!!!
OK, admittedly, that is kinda nice. But they don’t run as often as the Tokyo network. And not as on time as the Swiss.

Fashion victim hikers
I’d be shocked, but only mild amusement fills me as Europe/America has its share of couples with matching bikes and *shiver* anoraks.

The food, it is so exotic
Really? I mean, we’ve lived in other places in SE asia, it’s just rice, little vegetables, meat/fish and hotsauce. Lotsa hotsauce.

None of the women here EVER go out in public without make-up
Yeah, but at least some of em don’t wear heels. You’d never see a Japanese woman without foundation either. In Korean faces it’s just easier to see as the heads don’t wobble so much.

Men here wear shiny suits
A friend of mine got married in one of those.

#3, The bread.

Korea, Korea. You’ve come from pretty basically a 3rd world country, earning less than €1,- per capita on average, to what you are now in only half a century. On your road here you’ve had help, you’ve had examples, you’ve had role-models.
You’ve learned so much from the Americans . . .
Including those thing you really should have asked to the French or the Dutch.
I have it on some good authority your cheeses are bad duplicates of American cheese . . .  BAD duplicates of what are already considered bad cheeses.
And the bread . . . your staple for that is based on wonderbread . . . really?

What we won’t suffer for our lifestyle. Wonderbread . . . .

#4, We’re getting fit.

Well . . . fitter. I haven’t gotten all my sport moments planned in yet, but I went from living in Holland, with a verticle gradiant of some  0.004, to living some 100 metres vertical above our metro/bus station. We travel back and forth to this bus/subway station once a day, sometimes twice.
Raphaëlle also experiences this, but she refuses to write funny blogposts about it. Though she uses a few choice words with me to describe it.

#5, Our English, it is improving.

Which might be considered odd. In Japan we were surrounded by the Japanese and the Japanese fiercely adhere to Engrish.
The Koreans aren’t any better or worse than the Japanese in this, or at least, not that we can tell. Slightly different accent, maybe a bit better/worse at the language itself.  The T-shirts are about as funny/comprehensible. Yet, here . . . our English improves.

You see, most of our friends are waeguks.
And it seems 80% of waeguks here are either GI or English teacher. For some reason we have yet to fraternize with any American General Infantry types (Though we met an Army wife) which makes ALL our friends English teachers.
They use big words too.
And can explain their proper usage.
Leery, wary with a negative connotation. New word learned.

Now, if we could only get around to doing that with Korean.




* Written on the day we’re having a closet and a bookcase delivered
** Being of male gender helps with this fascinating new experience.


Quote of the Day:

I am like a taxidermist, I’ll mount anything.

– T-shirt of woman on my commuter train in Japan

The right side of the street

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

What side of the street do you walk on?

For most of us, that’s answered by a full mouthed ‘Right’. For the right is the only right side of the street.
Or is it? The side of the street on which you walk is a matter of place and time.

When I was a kid I learned basic road safety in the Netherlands. Meaning, you walk on the right side of the road, cars move on the right side of the road and bicycles move on the right side of the road. From the outside in: Pedestrians, Bicyclists, Motorists.
It was on a bike I first broke this rule. I was fast and sleek, neigh unstoppable was I, on my bike, and the traffic rules certainly didn’t apply to I.
I don’t specifically recall whether I got an earful for that behaviour, but I suppose I should have. And it’s strange therefor that the likely culprit of that earful was the man who introduced me to walking on the left side of the road.

You see, when everyone transports themselves on the same side of the road, the slowest transporter (the walker) will have everything coming from behind him at, in some cases, frightening speeds quite close to oneself. At that time (6-9 years old) I wasn’t well known for walking in a straight line, or keeping my attention focused on relevant things (like speeding cars) and would often, unexpectedly, move sideways into the path of an oncoming bike/car. I have never been like this, but there’s a few instances of word-use not fit for my virginal ears done by heavily swerving bicyclists that stand out in my memory.
If, on the other hand, as a pedestrian you walk on the left side of the street you are still in a spot reserved for pedestrians (the side of the road) and you can see things hurtling towards you prompting you to pay attention, where, had they come from behind, they might’ve caused me a nasty little surprise.

In England and Japan (India, South Africa, Indonesia etc), walking on the left hand side of the street, or, as we call it, the wrong side of the street, is normal. The rule even. Well, mostly. I think I’ve mentioned once or twice in conversation (looking back through my posts I see I haven’t really blogged about it.) You see, in Japan you walk on the left side of the street. Cars go on the left side of the street. Bicyclists go . . .  well, there’s not really a set place for them.
Osaka is the big exception. In Osaka they walk on the right side of the street, cars still go on the left hand side of the street though. Can you imagine what that would be like, changing sides halfway through a country? I think there’s a half-British Island which does this somewhere. This causes a bit of a problem, because Osaka isn’t a really clearly defined concept. It just sorta edges out, like so many other metropoli/metropolae/metropoliseses? I lived about an hour outside of what can regularly be considered Osaka, but most of the people I lived with did work in Osaka. Meaning that half the people would walk on the right (those that visited Osaka regularly) and half would walk on the left (regular Japanese). It also meant that when I was hurtling down the hill I would never be sure what instinct would be most prominent in my dodgee. Would it move to the right or left. All in all, people just sorta walked . . . wherever.

Korea now, Korea is an interesting case. Korea drives on the right hand side of the road. But trains drive on the left, as this system was built when the Japanese ruled here. The metro system though, was built with French help, so that’s on the right hand side. Except on those stations where they connect to the railway where it’s left again. So . . . . that’s kinda confusing. The walking though. Walking is done wherever and that struck me as kind of strange. The only place you’ll see indicators which side to walk on is in the subway and it’s on the right. There’s actually a campaign about it now

You see, the Koreans used to walk on the left in the subway and on the street. But then a few years ago the government said that right was the way they’d now walk. So right is the side people now walk on. Except the ajoshi and ajoma (Old man, Old woman) who will damn well walk where they’ve always walked, even if that way was initially beat into them by the Japanese oppressors.
This means though, that as a weiguk (foreigner) you will now, no matter what side of the street you walk on, be walking on the wrong side of the street for someone.


Quote of the Day:

Work is the refuge of those that don’t have anything better to do

– Oscar Wilde

Japan Nostalgia #1

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

I miss a lot of things about Japan. In an online game I play at my LARP forum I reconnected with Shibuya Crossing.

In case you forgot just how populous Tokyo could be. This one is for you