成程 (Naru Hodo) - IC in Japan^H^H Cote d'Azur^H^H USA

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

夕焼け (Yuujake) - Sunset

Today at around 16:15 local time I witnessed one of most impressive sunsets in my life. The japanese 夕焼け is composed from the kanji 夕 (yuu, evening) and 焼く(yaku, bake/roast). The later one is also used for an other very important japanese word: 焼き鳥 (yaki tori, "burned bird") is grilled chicken on a stick. Very delicious.

After seeing this sunset the kanji made a lot of sense. In the beginning it looked like the sky was burning a little bit, just enough to roast that deep hanging cloud.
Grilling a cloud.
Still grilling a cloud
As the cloud was quite dark already - not to burn anything - the sky only burned with little heat for about five minutes. But as the cloud wasn't well done after 10 minutes, the sky rather quickly switched to a bigger flame.
Cloud on high flame.
Sun hiding behing mountain.
Sometimes reality is really impressive!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Strange Things... the tissue box

Japanese people have a talent to make ordinary things extraordinary. Even a simple tissue box is treated as some bizzare object of art. I was told that there is a similar box (but different part of the human body) dispensing toilet paper ... :-P Japanese tissue box

Starcraft with the Koreans

As Korea is probably the only country of the world where Starcraft matches are displayed on regular TV and people die due to excessive play of starcraft, we had a LAN-Game with our Korean starcraft overlords. It was great fun, but even playing 4 vs. 3 we were crushed most of the time.
It wasn't a complete desaster though. Master HanJoong praised our evolving skills by mentioning that our forces "were pretty annoying - some times" :-).
Preparations for the match with the Koreans

Saturday, November 26, 2005

温泉 (Onsen) - Hot Springs

Today I went to a japanese Onsen. These are the japanese equivalent to a Finnish sauna. But instead of sweating inside a dry wooden box you sit in hot water, often outdoors.
According to the Atsugi Help Site for Foreigners, 七沢温泉 (Nanasawa Onsen) is one of the hottest springs arround. Perfect for a hazy saturday afternoon :-). Also it is said to be one of the most alkaline springs arround, which is supposed to be good for your skin...

Entrance of 七沢荘
As the dresscode inside an onsen is identical to the dresscode in a Finnish Sauna, I only took a picture from the entrance of the onsen, but the Website of 七沢荘 (Nanasawa Shou, the name of the inn, Japanese only) has some unpopulated (and blurry) pictures of the inside.

From Atsugi it is only 25 Minutes by bus to get to Nanasawa. It is surprising how quickly the surroundings change. Atsugi is a medium sized city with around 300.000 people, lots of buildings and lots of concrete. Nanasawa onsen is located deep in the countryside. That means it is very quiet and there is a lot of nature. As it is autumn right now, I saw a lot beautifully deeply red colored trees, mixed with trees that are still green:

House with red trees in front

Sitting in a hot spring is very relaxing, but also very straining. I like it a lot :-).

Friday, November 25, 2005

Curry house of horrors

This evening a bunch of fearless foreigners teamed up to visit the "curry house of horrors" in Atsugi. Actually it is just an ordinary curry restaurant, but apart from various "things" sitting in your curry or on top of your rice, you can order the spice of you curry in 10 differnet spice levels.
From 0 ("No spice at all, suitable for elderly and small childern") to 10. The explanations and comparisons stop at level 5 and the staff refuses to serve anything higher than level 5 until you ate level 5 - and survived...
Real men like our spanish compadre and the evil italian went for level 8 and managed it with ease...

...while we ordinary mortals desperately fought our level 5 curry. It was a long, hard fight, but eventually we managed to eat it completely :-).

After sucking on a lot of icecubes we went to a local arcade place and tried the wonders of modern japanese entertainment industry.
The most fun things were 太鼓(taiko) drums. You stare at an interactive TV that is playing a soundtrack you previously selected. With the aid of colored circles of various sizes it instructs you when and where to beat the touch sensitive drums synchronized to the music. It is a little bit difficult to explain the principle without seeing it yourself, but it is a surprising easy concept and it is amazingly funny. Especially if you play as a team. The main goal is to have fun and gain an acceptable drumming accuracy. Depending on the selected difficulty level you have faster and more difficult to manage combos and there is even a hidden "devil" mode. But it will be a pretty tough way to get there... ;-)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

東京外国語大学 university festival

Today we went to the university festival of 東京外国語大学, the tokyo university of foreign languages. A japanese friend of mine, Ruri, studies German there and told us about the festival.

As it is the university for foreign languages, there were a lot of foreign students and a booth for their home countrys, where you could try lots of different foods and drinks :-). Of course there also was a german booth with Bratkartoffeln, sausages and beer.
German Menu

In Japan there are a lot of different, not at all bad tasting, beers available. Unfortunately they are different variations of 生ビール (nama biiru, Pils) only. So we were very happy, that the german booth had imported "Bockbier" and even "Hefeweizen"! Although they didn't have a propper "Weizenglass", but who am I to complain, finally holding a Weizen in my hands... :-P.

So we said Prost! to the Maus and the Elefant, and looked what the other countries had to offer...
Maus und Elefant

After eating codfish and green wine from Portugal, spicy African meat on a stick and Korean food, we looked for other performances. Unfortunately we missed the performance of the university cheerleaders by half an hour, but witnessed a Hiphop dance contest, discovered japanese/spanish flamenco dancers and even a bellydancer show later on ... :-P.
Belly Dancers

After a very enjoyable day at the university we made a stop at Shinyuku, the central train station of Tokyo and visited the nearby "Korea town" as our Korean friends wanted to show us traditional Korean food.
Shinjuku at night
Sitting on the floor was a little bit uncomfortable, but the food made it all up for me. As an appetizer we grilled meat on a small barbeque right on our table. The main dish was some kind of spicey soup with potatoes, fresh vegetables and some bones that was also cooked with a small stove right on our table. In case you wonder, what the bones in the picture might be, they are parts of a spinal cord :-}.
Korean Soup

On our way back to the station, we stumbled into some sort of Jazz / Streetmusic event. There was smooth music like that bass-trumpet-drums combo:
Smooth Jazz Combo
And people like this solo drummer going berserk. I am sure, he had a lot of fun :-)....
Solo Drummer going Berserk
(Hint: Click on the images to view a short Quicktime movie clip)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Zoidberg - Overlord and gardian of my harddrive

Sometime during yesterdays visit in Ginza this nasty little octopus (蛸 - tako) started following me... Finally I gave up and decided to keep that guy.Beeing attacked by Octopus
As recently many harddrives die without reason, I employed him as Overlord and guardian of my harddrive... :-)Zoidberg

銀座 (Ginza) - The most expensive part of Tokyo

On Saturday we went to visit Ginza. After visiting the Sony building and watching the latest gadgets Sony produced, we went to 博品館 (Hakuhinkan) a big toy store in Ginza.

Among rather familar creatures like (quite fat) owls (quicktime clip),
Jason and the birds.
There also were stranger creatures like a small walrus, a real life sized Pyton or a stuffed bat.
A stuffed bat.

We saw a lot of must have toys like remote controlled bugs, which are the latest and greatest for Japans younger generation. The goal is to throw the opponents bug onto its back, which is harder than it looks.
A remote controlled bug.
The older generation has its bugs fight interactively on a computer terminal. Your personal bug as well as its strength and size is stored on a electronic card. So you can happyly trade different bugs, train your favourite bug champion and have battles against the bugs of your classmates. I saw a rather unfair battle where one bug that nearly covered the complete screen simply ate his way smaller opponent... :-P.

We were also fascinated by the new input methods japanese videogames have. One particular device consists of a small camera and reflective rings that are attached to your hands. The camera detects your movements and translates them in to attacks of your virtual self. Not overwhelming precise but very funny and actually a little bit straining. Way better than just hitting some buttons on a keyboard... :-D (quicktime clip)
Interesting new input controller.

As chrismas is really close (only 40 days left!), the first chrismas trees were standing around in Ginza. Lots of candles and chrismas music included (quicktime clip).
Christmas tree in Ginza.

Also the Ginza version of an angel was hanging around. It was kind of cool, but I always assumed that the wings of angels are located on their back ...