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

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Strange Things... Lobster Invasion

Probably Chinese people develop a special sense for strange things, when living in Japan :-P. On our way back from chinatown I stumbled over something, which I belive to be an advertisement for a restaurant. Actually it looked like a christmas tree beeing invaded by a army of lobsters. The big guy on top appearently is the general and the mini swans give air support... :-P

Chinese Newyear

New year is one of the most important festivals for Chinese people, but it is not on January 1st, but on January 29th. We went to Chinatown of Yokohama to see that event. In Chinese culture red is the color of luck and happyness and the dragon is the symbol of luck, so the streets were decorated with red lanterns and very pretty paper dragons danced through the huge crowd.
As everybody was hungry we went into a chinese restaurant and ate some kind of newyear special menu with 9 different chinese dishes. In china food often is served for the complete group, so we sat on a round table with a turnable wheel where all the food was placed on it. If you wanted some food other than the one in front of you, you just turn the wheel. Very useful. Some of the dishes had a rather scary consistency, but all of them tasted really good :-).
I was very fascinated by the "picture" at the wall of the restaurant. It was actually carved out of wood, played with perspective and the parts of the image actually were solid and sticking out of the image! Very impressive.
When we finished eating (which quite took some time) it has become night. While chinatown looked a little bit shabby during daylight, with wires hanging all over the place and the buildings a little bit grayish and clouded weather, the picture ate night looked completely different.
Especially the gates standing around all over chinatown loocked way better when beeing illuminated at night.

Friday, January 27, 2006

はちこ(hochiko) - Japans most famous dog

This evening we went to 渋谷(Shibuya) with Alvaro and his Spanish class/friends.Shibuya
We met at the statue of Hachiko, Japans most famous dog. It is said that the dog came to Shibuya station at 3 o'clock every day to meet his master, a University professor, after work and go home together. After his master died at work the dog continued to come to the station every day, waiting faithfully but unlucky for his owner. That way the dog became a symbol for loyality (which made people visit him for good luck and bring him food). After his death this statue was put at the place where he waited for years. Nowadays the statue is a famous meeting point for Tokyo's young people and in fact it was imposible to get a picture without random people waiting at the statue for their appointments. Of couse there are more detailed versions of Hachiko's story available on the internet.Hachiko
After that we went to a "highlevel" :-P 居酒屋(isakaya), a place where you eat and drink with friends. The dishes are shared by all people and many foods are served in a pot or pan and you cook them together on a gas stove right on the table. As the food was very good (note: they served some kind of steamed squid filled with rice and it was probably the best squid I will ever eat) I was very busy eating all kinds of different stuff and only managed to make a picture of my plates while waiting for the first dish. Somehow they appear to resemble MickeyMouse ... :-P

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

ギター (gitaa) my new guitar

As I could not bring my trombone to Japan due to size and weight restrictions, I live without custom made music for way too long. Recently I was playing guitar freaks V2 in the arcade with Jose. Basically there are combinations of three colored blobs falling down the screen and you try press buttons in the matching combinations and strike some switch to "shoot" them at the right moment. As everything is synchronized to rock music the whole affair is exremely funny, especially if you do it with two people playing at time. You can even connect with the "Drum Mania" drum simulator to do a happy threesome...

While leaving the arcade we joked about starting to play real guitars. Well at least it might sound like a joke to the uninformed. Very similar to the bleach beard Santa Claus thing...
So we looked around in various music shops under the guidance of our professional French guitar player, Guillaume. After we finished comparing different prices (and realizing that there are really freaking expensive guitars, costing more than a years salary), listening to Guillaume playing various models, I was ready to by a electro accoustic guitar (i.e. accoustic guitar with some kind of microphone inside) for about 17.000 Yen (about 120 EUR). It had a friendly blue color and although having a plastic back it didn't sound too bad, at least in combination with an amplifier. As it was appearently reduced from 36.000 Yen (about 250 EUR) it looked like quite a value for the price.

On my way to have a last look at the blue guitar, before buying it, I saw a really nice, black guitar standing around, trying to look innocent, which didn't quite work, as it was completely black, surrounded by lots of ordinary brown-yellowish guitars. Just standing there, beaming at me. After verifying that the pricetag was no illusion, I asked the sales person to tune it and Guillaume to play it :-)

I was quite a bit louder than the blue one without amplifier and liked the sound at the very first moment. As it was a little bit larger (as I am) and all solid wood, I could not resist. Did I mention that it is completely black and looks extremely cool :-P? I paid about 20.000 Yen (140 EUR) including a hard case and have the feeling that I made a very good buy.
After "playing" (i.e. pressing strings on the board, trying to make it sound like a G-chord) for about 20 minutes, my fingers are completely cut and hurting, so I will take a break make some pictures of the guitar. Anyway I still have to give it a name, that matches the coolness it radiates all around the place ... :-)

Friday, January 20, 2006

雪が降ってる (yuki ga futteru) it is snowing :-)

Finally there is snow in Atsugi :-). It is very funny because Atsugi is about the same latitude as the north of Africa :-P. It is very cold at the moment but according to the weather forecast it will change into rain soon, so I took some quick pictures. Somebody even tried to build a 雪だるま (yuki daruma - snowman) :-P. Unfortunately it was already in a pretty bad shape when I took the picture (it is the small pile of snow left of the white car). I cannot wait to go snowboarding :-], but it is still two weeks until we go to Nagano... Meanwhile some Pictures / Video clips.


Note: The large tower is the place I work at. Click to see the Movie

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Strange Things... 木の子バーガー (kinoko baaga) - Mushroom Hamburger

Every once in a while Mac Donalds makes some special burgers. In Japan this means putting (a lot of small) mushrooms onto a double hamburger. It is a little bit unexpected but tastes very good.Japanese Mushroom Burger (Note: The mushrooms are the small things between the cheese and the upper bread :-P)

Monday, January 02, 2006

天皇 (tennou) - The emperor

When the 天皇 finally appeared (I did not completely understand the Japanese announcement, but I think he was delayed due to a phonecall(?!) and he was very sorry for having us wait for him in the rain) everybody was very happy and waved the Japanese flags we got earlier around. It was a little bit like a Rock concert, albeit I had the impression that they were a little bit "wilder" than on a rock concert ;-).
As the crowd got quiet again after some minutes, the emperor held his traditional new years greeting speech. The only things I understood were something like: Happy new year, be happy and continue building a peaceful world ... :-).
After the speech ended, all visitors left the palace gardens as calm and ordered as they entered them. Maybe a little bit happier and quite a bit soaked from the rain... ;-)

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

As it was the last chance to visit the palace during my stay, I managed to get out of my bed pretty early and made the trip to Tokio station (about 90 minutes from Atsugi). The area was cramped with police and secret service people with wires hanging out of their ears, but security was expected to be high when large numbers of people are piped through the palace. I guess it was not only meant to protect the emperor but also protect the large crowds. There were even guards on horses, although the horse didn't feel too comfortable with all those people around...
Of course it started to rain when I reached the palace but unfortunately I had no umbrella. In contrast to my planings, the organisation of the 宮内庁 (kunaichou - imperial household agency) was typically Japanese - all details perfecty planned. Roads around the palace were closed so nobody had to worry about traffic. People offered japanese paper flags (for free) before you entered and offered to collect them again after leaving the palace so that no flags are littered around. Of course you could keep the flag if you wanted to ;-).
After a security check we were finally allowed to enter the palace, walking over the famous めがね橋 (Meganebashi - Eyeglass Bridge).(Quicktime movie)
A large stream of people was piped through the palace garden and up the hill towards the main building. Everything, i.e. the style of buildings, trees, etc. made a very tidy and planned impression. It would have been a very nice view, if the weather would have been better.
Finally we reached the huge square in front of the main building. Guards were standing on poles to fill it with people in a ordered manner, which, of course workes flawlessly. Fun thing to note: Even standing on their pole the were not much larger than me ;-)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

鎌倉 (Kamakura) - visiting Hachimangu shrine

Although it was really hard after the night in Ageha, I managed to get up around 2 o'clock, meet with HanJoong and JinKyuu and go to Kamakura. There we were supposed to meet Mayu and a friend of her and visit Hachimangu shrine together. We asked a friendly Japanese officer at the station, how to get to Kamakura, and he happyly provided us with all necessary information and even with a English tourist pamphlet describing the way. As we learned on our journey, it was the most beautiful route and not the fastest. In summer we would have been able to watch the see from the train but now it was winter and dark and just slow, so that it was half past five until we finally arrived at Kamakura, 2 hours late...
We found the two girls in the shopping road that lead to the shrine :-P and entered the queue in front of the temple together. As Hachimangu shrine is one of the most famous shrines in Kamakura, many people visit it on the first days of the new year. For security reasons only a few people are allowed to enter the shrine at a time while the remaining people wait behind a string.Please wait...
In the building on the top of the hill you throw some coins into a box, clap your hands and say your prayers / wishes. After that you can ask for your fortune by pulling a bamboo stick with a number out of a box and recieving a piece of paper with some advices according to the number on that stick. If it is bad fortune, you also can attach the piece of paper to a special tree to leave the misfortune behind and in the case of a really bad misfortune (or just to be save) buy several different of lucky charms.