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

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Newyear in Ageha

For New Years Eve we asembled in Tokyo Docks to have dinner at a Hawaian Burger place with a nice view across the bay. Things to see include the Rainbow brigde (which looks similar to the golden gate bridge), Tokyo Tower (which is similar to the Eifel tower in Paris, behind the Rainbow bridge) and Lady Liberty...
Tokyo Docks

After eating a way too large Burger we went to Ageha, the biggest club in Tokyo for the NewYear Countdown. Agha had room for about 6000 people that night. When we arrived there around eleven, 2000 people were already inside and another 2000 were waiting outside.
We managed to jump half of the queue by joining some friendly Spanish guys and paying their entrance fees in return (as we were 10 people jumping that was bearable tradeoff) but even that way we were just putting our stuff into coin lockers when the final 10 second countdown started. So we just celebrated where we were, drank the Champaigne provided by our French friends there and entered the bigest party in Tokio slightly late.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Southern Lights 05/06

While walking around Shinyuku station, I learned that there was the "Southern Lights 2005/06" exibition :-). So lots of trees were covered with lots of colored lights. This looked quite nice with the incredible black night and made up for some of the disapointment over missing the emperors palace :-).


皇居 (koukyo) - Imperial Palace. First Try...

Twice a year, the imperial palace is opened for public. It is opened on the 2nd of January for the traditional new year greeting of the emperor and on the emperors birthday. The current emperor happens to have birthday on the 23rd of December. As the emperors birthday is also a national holiday, I didn't have to go to work and decided to use that day to visit the palace. I left Atsugi around 3pm, as the previous night in Shibuya was quite tiring and I needed some time to get going. After getting lost in Shinyuku station when switching trains (Shinyuku serves around 3-5 million customers a day, so it is a little bit larger than your ordinary train station...) I managed to arrive at the palace at arround 17:45. Meanwhile it became completely dark. After arriving at the closed gates the friendly and slightly tried to explain me that everything was already over at 3pm... great :-}. But I will give it a new try on the 2nd of January! And I will be there right in the moring when it opens at 9am!
While beeing in Tokio and having nothing better to do, I used the time to make some pictures of Tokio by night.
The first picture shows the outer lake around the imperial palace and is taken from one of the bridges. The second one shows one of towers that guard that bridge.
Lake around palace.
Bride guard
Japan is a very busy country. Even on a national holiday, skyscrapers are built during the night:
SkyScraping by night.
Also the "ordinary" Skyline is really impressive at night. Unfortunately it is tricky to get that on a picture. This picture was taken near Shinyuku station.Tokio Skyline
While walking through the shops near Shinyuku station, I suddenly realized a very familar smell and found a shop selling "Plätzchen" and a real "Christ Stollen" for around 10 EUR :-). Woot! Like a real Christmas!
Christstollen in Japan.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Invasion of Santas - Xmas in the Office

As noted in the previous post Jose and me planned to bleach our beards. So we bought a "Smoky Silver" hair bleach color product. At least the image on the packaging showed a drawing of some guy with shiny silver hairs... Unfortunately having a really terrible smelling cream on our faces only resulted in a black beard! Black bead instead of white beard...
This was quite the opposite color we intended and as it was quite late we rushed towards the nearest convenience store, trying to find some product to solve our dark problem. But much to our disappointment the 7eleven sold pretty much everything you might need for haircare including the "Smoky Silver" - except for some serious bleaching stuff... :-(
Not willing to give up we raced towards "downtown". As we left our room in a hurry (read: without propper clothing) the ride through the Japanese winter night was a quite cold experience, but luckily the drug store near the station was still opened. We bought two packages of the strongest hair bleach available and got some food on our way back. While the bleaching cream was working we watched "Shaolin Soccer", ate our Bentos and after two iterations all color (including the black color of the previous experiment) was removed from our beards :-).
Success!
Next day, shortly before lunchbreak we dressed in red robes and walked through the office, ringing some bells, wishing merry christmas to all our frightend japanese coworkers and giving them some sweets... :-)
After the japanese people recovered from the shock of beeing invaded by two Santas, everybody smiled and made pictures with their mobile phones ... ;-).
Distributing Sweets in the Office

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Outback - Australian Steak House in Japan

After eating rice for a long time, it was time for a change. There is nothing wrong with rice. I like rice. But once in a while I dream of a real Steak ... :-)
So when the Italian suggested visiting a Steak House in 海老名 (Ebina), this was exactly what I needed :-). On the picture you can observe my Spanish compadre and me, drinking happily after having ordered a giant (i.e. 280g) steak. As you probably noticed, apart from having a really good time, we both have a lot of fur in our faces. The plan is to grow the beards until next sunday, bleach them and scare the Office Ladies on monday... ;-)
Beardy People rock.
While waiting for our steaks we had a "deep fried flower onion" and french fries with bacon and cheese. Terrific.Deep fried flower onion
After a very tasty salad with "blue cheese" dressing, the star of the evening finally arrived: A medium grilled streak with a baked potato:Steak
To finish this great food orgy, we ordered a "chocolate tower" with vanilla icecream. For a cake in Japan this cake was gigantic! Note the size comparison with a 1000Yen note and the watch ;-)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

健康診断 (kenkoushindan) - medical checkup

Japanese companies feel a different responsibility towards their employees. Probably because it is common to work so long and hard that you neglect your personal health, there is a medical checkup (on company time/costs) required by Japanese labor laws. We Interns are no exception to that regulation. So our Internsitter ;-) led us to a nearby hospital.
Way to hospital
The thing that distinguishes a Japanese hospital from the remaining world is, that there are carpets in the corridors and that patients are required to change their shoes for the provided slippers at the entry. Needless to say that my feet are a little to large for those ;-)...
Please leave your shoes here...
Then we waited a short time to be piped very efficiently through 5 test levels covering: Measurement of size, weight and eyesight, EKG, a listening test, xray of the chest and finally a blood sample. After two hours without major loss of life everything was over and we went right into すきや (sukiya) to have our lunch :-).
Waiting to be examined

Monday, December 05, 2005

Re-entry permit

I am planing to visit Hongkong in January of the next year. For foreigners in Japan there is a little thing you should not forget: The re-entry permit. Without it you are not allowed to enter Japan again, even if you still have time left on your valid visa.
Thankfully the process is anoying but rather unproblematic. So four interns went up early to be the first in the line at the immigration office (we were number 3 to 6 :-P) and went to 新百合ヶ丘(shinyurigaoka) which is about 30 minutes by train from Atsugi.
Filling a japanese questionaire is a little bit frightening, but appearently we did everything right. After about 10 minutes I was 6000 Yen poorer but had my re-entry inside our passports.
We made it back to Atsugi and to the company almost in time. The sun was shining brightly and as reward for beeing only 5 minutes late, we saw the unloading of a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (infos) right in front of our office building :-D.
Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

Friday, December 02, 2005

Gamma Ray - Heavy Metal in Japan

I would't believe it, if somebody tells me, that there is a Heavy Metal scene in Japan. But it is there and alive and won't die anytime soon :-).
There is Jose, the Spanish Intern, who is a big fan of the Heavy Metal Band "Gamma Ray", which just happened to have their last concert in Japan right yesterday evening.

So we just had to ask our boss to leave one hour early (which he approved, as long as we make up the missing time) and rushed towards Shibuya.
We managed to miss our carefully scheduled trains, but eventually got there just in time: Buy ticket, buy drink ticked (which meant a whopping total of 7500 Yen!), stuff jacket into a coin locker (note: coin lockers in Japan eat the coins. 300 Yen in this case) and just manage to be inside the crowd then the warmup band (Stormwarrior) completed testing their equipment. :-) Phew.

It is a bit strange to see people in expensive suits together with long haired diehard headbangers wearing black shirts with some grinning deamon, at first, but eventually the loud music makes everybody equal :-)... For those who know "Rock im Park", imagine the alternate stage and equally sized equipment (i.e. several Marshall amplifiers and two of these huge speaker chains hanging from the ceiling) inside a room barely 2 times the size of the stage itself :-). For those who don't know Rock im Park, imagine quite a bit of noise inside a room the size of an average disco.

As the crowd didn't stop screaming after the gig was over, they threw in a total of 3 additional songs and finally the Stormwarriors, dressed in Yukata and their hair pinned up with chop sticks entered the stage again and both bands joined in happyly into an improvised gig.

(Sorry for the low picture quality, but I only had my mobile phone available).

"Unfortunately" :-P it was very late after the concert and we were way to tired to figure out how to get home, so we had some quick dinner at MacDonalds and entered the "atom", some techno club nearby, as a very thrustworthy japanese raver with white beard and white hear suggested.
The only drawback was a rather scary and rather huge girl (foreigner, of course ... :-P) that appearently had decided that we are somewhat attractive and she needs to have us both for dinner. Right now. So we tried to hide at first. Unfortunately this tactic proved to be unsuccessful, but we managed to explain her that we are not at all interested. And hastily added, that we are not remotely gay, as her (equally strange) male companion became watery eyes...
After that encounter she kind of managed to get hold of a huge black guy (one of the security guards, probably) and we could enjoy our night :-). The music was topnotch, the girls very beautiful and we had a really great time.

At five in the morning Jose wanted to go to Akihabara and have a nap in a manga cafe to continue his diehard weekend, but eventually agreed to return to Atsugi and die another weekend instead.
Propably this "conversation" describes the fun we had rather precise :-).

We witnessed the sunrise on a huge video screen (as the real one is hard to see with all the skyscrapers around ;-) ) and finally went home in a crowded train.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Japanese Size... A cucumber

Compared to Germany, fruits and vegetables are rather expensive in Japan. After not having eaten a cucumber salad for nearly 3 months, I purchased a "value pack", containing 4 cucumbers for 199 Yen (aproximately 1,50 EUR). Compared to the "european" cucumbers in Germany, in winter mainly originated from Spain and the Netherlands, Japanese cucumbers are rather small. For size comparisons I made a picture with an ordinary swiss army knife :-P.
Cucumber, Japanese size
Apart from the size, they were very tasty :-)