2010/06/19

Garbage Education

Today I would like to write about the topic that has been on mind for a very long time.  The problem of garbage recycling is somehow neglected by Westerners.  The truth is that most of us know about the responsibility for our natural environment but few of us really are concerned about this topic. Some people actually recycle plastic bottles, but their devotion is considered eccentric.
But not in Japan where you recycle everything and everywhere. I spent my first days in Japan on studying the garbage separation and disposal. It was a request from the reception office of my building to comprehend this strange garbage philosophy.  On the other hand the Japanese love cartoons so every flayer has somehow childish (for us) design. So Ms. Panda shows how to segregate PET bottles and Mr. Piggy helps her with exceptions. Mr. Bunny teaches us how take care of breakable things and lovely gay couple of Mr. Kitty and Mr. Doggie instruct us about dead bodies of our sweet pets.  
Generally one should be aware of 6 categories among which burnable, non-burnable and PET bottles are the only ones I understand.  It's not better on the street where normal trashcans are as unique as geishas, so often if I don't  a bin I need  I have to bring everything  home, where I can segregate it properly. Sometimes when you are lucky you might find one called 'OTHERS' where you can throw almost everything...  But these are rare examples in the Country of impeccable cleanliness
Ps. Because some of my relatives demanded translations of my blog, from now on I my blog will be bilingual 

POLISH
Szanuj śmieci Swoje


Dziś poruszę temat, który od jakiegoś czasu chodzi mi po głowie i myślę, że warto się nim podzielić.
Większość z nas, ludzi Zachodu, sprawę śmieci traktuje marginalnie. Fakt, każdy z nas słyszał o odpowiedzialności za środowisko naturalne. Ba,  co niektórzy nawet segregują plastikowe butelki i inne odpadki, ale ta swego rodzaju ofiarność, wciąż uchodzi za mniejsze/ większe ekologiczne curiosum.
Nie w Japonii. Tu segreguje się wszystko i wszędzie. Moje pierwsze dni w kraju Wschodzącego Słońca spędziłem na studiowaniu powyższej instrukcji.  Zostałem poproszony dość imperatywnym tonem przez recepcję mojego budynku o dokładne zapoznanie się zasadami japońskiej śmieciowej filozofii (jak nie religii). Z drugiej strony miłość do kolorowych rysuneczków sprawia, że każda tutejsza instrukcja  jest nacechowana bajkowym klimatem. Panda pokazuje co zrobić z plastikami, Świnka jej wtóruje.  Króliczek przestrzega przed przedmiotami, które mogą się zbić. Kotek i piesek zaś z ochotą mówią o recyklingu zwłok domowych pupili.  Ogólnie śmieci należy podzielić na te do spalenia, niepalne, plastiki... I jeszcze 3 inne kategorie, któych mój rozum nie pojmuje.  Na ulicy nie jest lepiej. Normalny pojemnik na śmieci to marzenie i jak nie znajdę  odpowiedniego kontenera to jestem zmuszony targać wszystko ze sobą do domu. Czasem z radością można znaleźć śmietnik znapisem 'INNE' gdzie można wrzucić praktycznie wszystko...   Ale to tylko nieliczne wyjątki w tym kraju nienaganej czystości. 

Art for Art's Sake



It was The Golden Week in Japan - a week of national holidays, when every Japanese finally has some vacation (Most of them probably got terrified that they wouldn’t work for a couple of days – LIFE!) I had to go back to Europe what was a nice change from rice diet and sake. In Japan I’ve lost 6 kilos (!!!) and because I’m perfectly skinny every kilogram is precious to me. Before I left Japan my French friend visited me for couple of days. We had lots of fun exploring Kyoto. One of events we attended was Rakugo (Japanese storytelling). More or less it is a one actor show in which certain objects are used to help to describe a plot. It was really amusing especially that a performance was done in English. After the show one person from the audience was asked to perform a story with a guidance of the actor. Needless to say that the person was me! I feel an inner talent for things like that, and totally relaxed I went on stage. What happened next? Just watch and enjoy:(movie below)




SZTUKA DLA SZTUKI

Właśnie się zaczął tzw. Złoty Tydzień czyli tygodniowy okres świąt w Japonii.  Większość mieszkańców kraju kwitnącej wiśni w końcu może udać się na zasłużóny odpoczynek (znając życie, większość patrzy ze strachem na kalendarz.. 7 dni  bez pracy musi naprawdę napawać niepokojem  ten pracowity naród)
Mój Złoty Tydzień musiałem spędzić w Szwajcarii, co w gruncie rzeczy okazało się miłą odmianną,  szczególnie kulinarną. Koniec ryżu i sushi.  W Japonii straciłem bezcenne 6 kilo. "Bezcenne" bo moja idealna waga niedopuszcza strat.  Przed wylotem kolega z Tokio wpadł z wizytą zażyć trochę kultury w kulturowej stolicy kraju, Kioto.  Jedną z atrakcji na jaką postanowiłem go zabrać był teatr jednego aktora RAKUGO. W Rakugo siedząc na poduszce, używając jedynie wachlarza i chusty należy odegrać cały skecz.  Mój japoński wymaga jeszcze szlifów, więc całe przedstawienie wybraliśmy w języku angielskim (może kiedyś doczekamy czasu, że ktoś wystawi RAKUGO po polsku). Po 3 zabwnych scenkach, widownia została zaproszona do udziału z pomocą aktora i nie byłbym sobą, gdybym nie rzucił się na pierwszy ogień.  Chyba mam naturalne zdolności do tego typu wygłupów, bo nie czułem ani  odrobiny tremy,  jak wszystko się zakończyło?   Oglądajcie:


video

2010/05/19

Lost and Found

I lose things easily. However in Japan nothing is lost forever. Last weekend I went to Hiroshima and despite lots of fun I missed my return bus. Nothing is impossible and we caught it with a cab. The driver asked to drive faster, kept saying GIRI-GIRI, which an example of Japanese onomatopoeia expressions which often replace normal verbs. Saying giri-giri aloud, you can feel the haste. This onomatopoeia imitates a sound of tightening and means something like ‘barely’, ‘at the last moment’. Obviously as always when you feel relieved, something bad must happen. I left my lovely shades in the bus. BUT this is Japan – the country where people almost never steal. With a great help of my house advisor the glasses were found and moreover delivered to my room the following day. I’m so happy not only that they really suit me but also because for the first time I found something that was lost. In my life I’ve lost two cameras, 7 pairs of glasses, and one heart. I guess that they are all lost forever. 


Ps. Japanese frogs say GERO GERO and Japanese dogs say WAN WAN…

POLISH

ZNALEZIONE NIE KRADZIONE
Moi rodzice często wypominają mi moje liczne zguby. Jednak w przyrodzie i Japonii nic nie ginie na zawsze. W zeszły weekend pojechałem do Hiroshimy i pomimo wielu bezcennych wrażeń na końcówce przegapiłem autobus powrotny do Kioto. Nic nie jest niemożliwe i taksóweczką złapaliśmy uciekniera. Nie było łatwo, zwłaszcza denerwujący się za kierownicą Japończyk wykrzykiwał GIRI GIRI, słysząc nasze prośby dodania gazu. GIRI GIRI to przykład japońskiej onomatopeii - czyli słowa dzwiękonaśladowczego. GIRI GIRI naśladuje dzwięk zaciskania (np węzła) a znaczy tyle co "na styk' czy 'na ostatnią chwilę'. Tak Japończycy lubią sobie upraszczać składnię językową. To tak jakbyśmy mówili zamiast 'szybciej' 'hop hop'. Z ulgą w żołądku myślałem, że to koniec niefortunnych sytuacji. Po powrocie do domu okazało się jednak, że moje ukochane okulary zostały w pojeździe. Jak pisałem na początku - to jest Japonia - kraj ludzi uczciwych. Jeden telefon pani z recepcji i okulary zostały dostarczone następnego dnia do rąk własnych. Ku mojej uciesze po raz pierwszy pokonałem zły los i znalazłem zgubę. W życiu zgubiłem już aparaty fotograficzne, garść okolarów i co chwię tracę głowę, na szczęście ta ostatnia zawsze się odnajduje gdzieś w okolicach karku.

PS. Japońskie 're-re- re- kum-kum' to GERO GERO a pieskie 'hau-hau' to "ŁAN ŁAN". 

2010/04/28

Dolls For Boys

Last weekend I decided to go to Osaka, which is one of the biggest cities in Japan, to extend my travelling horizons. Generally I think that every educated person should at least be aware that such thing like culture exists! Moreover I spend all my days in the lab and maybe it’s cool to synthesize a new compound from time to time (no it isn’t) but once the job is over I want to experience all the best what this crazy country can offer. Traditional Japanese theater is one of such things.  Nowhere else you can see this specific kind of performance with all its variations.  I read an ad in the newspaper that it was the last month to see BUNRAKU (a traditional puppet theater), so I hoped on the train to Osaka and one hour later I was in the marvelous, bustling capital of the prefecture.  Many of you probably think that a puppet theater is something like Muppets or Pinocchio (before he became a real boy), but not Bunraku. It’s the highest art, mastered in every detail.  For example one puppet can be moved by even three puppeteers. In Bunraku, the manipulators appear openly, in full view of the audience. This characteristics, which make it completely different from the other puppet theatre traditions around the world, can be said to be the reason that Bunraku is called the most highly developed puppet theatre art in the world. It is said that puppeteers begin their training by operating the feet, then move onto the left hand, before being able to train as the main puppeteer. This process can take 30 years to progress. Moreover a storyteller and a accompanist are inspirable through life so they can learn how to breathe simultaneously and even think as one person!!!! (no questions about their sex life). Harmony between these two musicians is an essential criteria that determines the quality of their contribution to the performance. It’s said that in the future a real Bunraku might disspear so I’m happy that I had the opportunity to watch it (even though one part lasts 4 hours )  During the intermission  my friend and I had chimakiwhich reminded me of Greek dolmades or Polish gołąbki. We were about to consume the green thing when a Japanese lady stopped us, saving our palates. Green leaves give a nice aroma but are not edible! After a great performance  I visisted NHK ( national public broadcasting organization).  

I was shocked when I was asked to participate in the kids show. So here I am in my own puppet theater. 


video



POLISH
LALKI DLA DUŻYCH CHŁOPCÓW
Podróże kształcą dlatego w zeszłym  tygodniu udałem się do Osaki - jednego z największych miast Japonii.  Każdy z nas kto zażył w życiu trochę edukacji powinien być świadomy ze kultura jest elementem naszego życia.  Ja sam spędzam cale dnie na otrzymywaniu nowych związków chemicznych - co może dla niektórym wydać się ciekawa sztuka (dla mnie niestety częściej nudna koniecznością), jednak po pracy rzucam w kat wszystkie naukowe przyziemności i wybieram sie na eksploracje kultury tego ciekawego kraju, której jednym z ważnych elementów jest tradycyjny teatr japoński.  Tylko tutaj można zobaczyć tą specyficzną sztukę, wraz z wszystkimi jej gatunkami.  Przeglądając prasę, natknąłem się na ogłoszenie mówiące o tym ze to ostatni miesiąc wystawiania BUNRAKU (tradycyjnego teatru lalkowego, kliknij TUTAJ by zobaczyć).  
Wskoczyłem do pociągu i godzinę później wałęsałem się ulicami wielkiej, tętniącej życiem Osaki, stolicy prefektury o tej samej nazwie. 
Wielu z was pewnie myśli ze lalki w teatrze to takie kukiełki czy broadwayowskie mupety. BUNRAKU to sztuka o wiele wyższa niż zwykle pacynki.  To artyzm dopracowany w każdym calu. 
Dla przykładu jedną lalkę obsługuje aż trzech lalkarzy.  Dodatkowo nie są oni schowani tylko widoczni przez cały czas przedstawienia.  Wszystko to czyni ten rodzaj teatru inny (wręcz unikatowym)  od wspominanych powyżej, tym samym BUNRAKU uchodzi za najbardziej wyrafinowany teatr lalkowy na świecie.  
Nauka obsługi lalki trwa aż 30 lat (!!!) . Zaczyna się od obsługi nóg, następnie po 10 latach zaczyna się trening lewej ręki , a kończy głową.  Dodatkowo istnieje narrator, który jest jedynym głosem w całej opowieści, a towarzyszy mu akompaniator. Mówi się, że dla zyskania pełnej scenicznej swobody wspólnego oddechu,  narrator i akompaniator przez całe życie pozostają nierozdzielni (nie pytam o ich sprawy prywatne ;) bo wierze, ze może być ciężko).  Harmonia pomiędzy dwójką jest ważnym czynnikiem  determinującym jakość przedstawienia. 
Niestety teatr ten zaczyna powoli zanikać (słaba płaca i trudny pełen wyrzeczeń trening), tym bardziej cieszę się, że miałem okazję doświadczyć tego przedstawienia ( pomimo czterogodzinnego czasu trwania całej sztuki). W czasie przerwy z kolegą skusiliśmy się na CHIMAKI (takie ryżowe gołąbki).  Już miałem ugryźć  przekąskę, gdy grupka Japonek w ostatniej chwili powstrzymała mój ruch. Otóż zielone listki nadają potrawie aromat, ale same w sobie jadalne nie są. Japończycy zawsze pomogą dzikusom z zachodu.  Na końcu mała wizyta w NHK, znanej telewizji publicznej - gdzie pozwoliłem sobie na udział w dość niecodziennym nagraniu do dziecięcego programu porannego.  (FILM WIDEO powyżej)






2010/04/21

Tête-à-Tête with Geishas

I had a really crazy Sunday last weekend. At first I missed my hiking tour (those who know me well are probably not surprised ^.^ as I’m ALWAYS late. On the other hand that trait runs in the family and I won’t fight my gens) I thought it would be another lousy Sunday… when the thought came to my mind. How about turning this day into really exciting one. So I followed my rule – try things that you didn’t try before, so first I went to the Nishimi market in Kyoto which is quite big market in the centre of Kyoto and bought this little octopus on the stick – isn’t it kawai (cute)? It tasted good as well. Then I went for a walk to Gion area where all geiko (geisha in Kyoto dialect) live. I hope all my readers know Gion and if not  you just watch or read Memoirs of the Geisha to see where I stroll around from time to time. I tried to find Gion Kaburenjo (the most famous geisha theater) when suddenly she appeared…

 a young apprentice geisha called maiko. I was so stunned that I didn’t know what to say. You can rarely meet them in the streets. They are somehow endangered species which are also quite timid.  I moved towards her and bowed. She smiled delicately. I asked in Japanese if one picture was ok. She didn’t answered but made a pose then smiled again and waited till I finished. After that she moved away with grace. She looked back couple of times at me. I don’t know but I felt a sort of connection between me and her. It’s difficult to describe… but definitely I would pay for her company. Astonished by the young maiko I went to the Kyoto information center where I told the staff what I saw. They were amazed and said that’s really unexpected even for the Japanese. But that’s not the end of Geisha experience that day. The guy from the information center also told me that in half an hour there would be a short geisha performance in the local museum (free of charge) so I should hurry up. This time I saw two real geishas dancing for me (and other 10 people as not many people came) I was kneeling half meter from them. I no better view could I have.


 Also other unexpected things happened that day…I met a couple of really great people and went to the public bath… but I would tell you later the details… all in all I didn’t miss my hiking tour at all and I must say that the last Sunday changed a lot my view on Japan.

2010/04/14

Arigato

I wanted to post another note about my happy times in the Country of Raising Sun, when tragic news came from my country. The president of Poland, the First Lady as well as many political, military and religious leaders were killed in the plane crash in Smolensk (Russia). At first I thought that my country was at war. Then I realized that it was an accident and no one is to blame. It’s difficult to express your grief in the country where not many Poles live. However, many among these who know me, immediately sent their condolences to my mailbox. Some of them only knew that I was Polish and it was enough for them to express their sympathy. I remember I went to Nara the following day and in the one of historical parks I had to fill out a form about myself. When a curator read that I’m from Poland she showed me a Japanese daily newspaper with the shocking news. I don’t know why but somehow she felt I wanted this newspaper as I needed any piece of information about the tragedy that happened in my country.  She didn’t say much but put the newspaper into a big envelope and gave it to me saying that she was very sorry and she hoped that at least the time that I would spend in the park among the nature would help me to focus on something else. It’s funny how much it meant to me. It was like a message “In Japan we know what happened and we are also sorry for you”.  I read some of the Japanese newspapers.  The Japan Times focuses on Poland’s mourning and showed some profiles of those who died in the crush but weren’t as much popular as the president.  It was a very nice thing to do that they decided to introduce readers to the real meaning of the tragedy. Arigato Japan. 

2010/04/01

Japanese Detox


So it has been more than one month since I came to the Land of Rising Sun and so far I'm good. My commitment to study Japanese goes well and I must say that I progress a lot. However after such a long time of reading Japanese, you might feel that you really need a break. So, I decided to buy myself a book in English (I don't expect that I could find one in my native language) to allow my mind rest a bit from  kanji characters. My mom got so worry about my paper entertainment, that she decided to send me some contemporary prose (My mom is a true Bree van de Kamp). The problem is that the post in my country is not fully reliable and sometimes you might wait ages till the parcel reaches your mailbox. I decided to look around a bit to find something here, and again things are not as easy as you might expect. Although book stores are enormous here, rarely foreign books are available (apart from English handbooks for the Japanese). I felt so depressed. For the first time I had such a need for a book in that Sahara dessert of English prose. I asked the holy oracle (google) for help and I found a very nice place called Green E books. It's a second hand shop where you can sell or buy a used book. I received a flayer about the rules of selling used books and the first rule was "no Japanese books".
 Cool. The store itself also has a very friendly atmosphere and you feel really relaxed while browsing the contents of  the bookshelves. I bought my first choice 'Wicked' by Gregory Maguire for a very reasonable price. It was the first time I'm so happy to buy a book and I know it would be special.

2010/03/28

Taste of Big City

Yesterday night I had to go to the center of Kyoto to buy some used stuff, real bargains, which must be collected at owner's place.  Normally, you would send the address which you can easily google.  You check the closest metro station and the diraction   
in which you should go. Eventuallly you will find the right house/appartament number.  NOT in Japan.  Why? Because most streets have no names (lucky me, Kyoto is a one of very few places where some big avenues are named).  One might ask how it is possible.  I read that in the past people just numbered houses as they were registered in the city hall, so there is no order at all.  How the post is delivered, one might wonder.  I decided to solve this mystery. Even though it's a really complicated thing and often the Japanese themselves are confused, nothing is impossible and I will try to explain it as simply as possible. So think of a baking tin of brownie (mmm...). First divide brownie into pieces. Every piece is called KU (ward). No take one piece (don't eat it - no yet) and divide it into smaller pieces. Now you can say hello to CHO (or MACHI - town). Try to divide it a little more to have a city district CHOME. We are almost there.  Take a tea spoon and chop off a BANCHI (a land number). Now the last division. See that little crumb. That’s GO a house number.  That's a lot of information for such a tiny bite.  Moreover an addressing order  is diverted.  You start with a postal code and you finish with GO.  So how do the Japanese find each other in this street nameless country? That's surprisingly easy. They simply send or fax each other a map of the area.  Crazy? Not for  the Japanese. Even taxi drivers often study maps given by passangers before they start the engine (GPS is useless). You might think that with google maps it shouldn’t be that difficult.  Well, maybe if you know Japanese, because you cannot type the address in roman letters nor in the western order!  Japanese illiterates can only count on their host's good will to send them a proper link.  So I printed 4 maps with different zoom and still I’ve got lost. The Japanese themeselves tried to help me but even they had some difficulties to understand the map.  The good thing is that they will never leave you alone and they will go with you anywhere to help you find the place (thank you my dear Samurai descendants). Ufff we did it so now you can eat the whole brownie till the last KU.




2010/03/25

A little Tushie Spa

This place is a sort of taboo. Every one visits it but rarely any one talks about it. But it exists and we cannot deny it.  Toilet - a holy place where one sees a man about a dog.  Usually public washrooms seem to be rather repulsive places and I try not to go there if I don't need to. However when I saw this thing in my lab I couldn't believe my eyes.



It's not a space shuttle seat but an ordinary toilet in the campus. Shocked? So here are some examples what it offers. First of all, no cold toilet seats, but gentle warm surface where you can place your fragile tush. Too much Indian food last night... How about a using powerful deodorant? Cozy: D. But the best part is just ahead. Not clean enough? How about little rear shower?  See that lovely button with a pic of a butt.  


Isn't it tempting to push it?
UUUU  . It's bizarre but nice... Very nice!
You can choose a few modes of pressure and more over it only works when you seat.

Ok it's enough... For now :).

2010/03/24

Chenpyon for Champions

Food is my great passion, and everyone who knows well knows also who I love to try new things.  I decided to read something about attractions I can find in my area at Wiki Travel.  I really recommend this portal. Up-to-date info about places for a reasonable price. I found out that one of the places 'need-to-go' is noodle bar next to the main train station. If you have never eaten noodles, think of spaghetti in broth. I went there with Suzuki to check the place.

  The resto itself looks very nice. Red and black colors really go with noodles. Because I came alone I was guided to the bar where all singles sit. I wouldn't find a better place to admire what I saw.  The real cuisine amateur knows what important thing is a process of preparation, when you mix all ingredients and see how miraculously they permeate each other and make a new form of taste and smell. Chefs in the bar are really skilful and sometimes I really jumped down off my chair when the fire came out of the oven.  My eyes were like child's eye in the toy store.  Being a chef is like being an artist, a restaurant performer and I guess I was the only guest who enjoyed the show to the fullest.  I ordered a dish called Chenpyon (as recommended at Wiki).  After a quite long time of waiting (which is good, longer the dish is prepared better it tastes) I got my big noodle bowl. 


It was huge!!!  But that's not a big problem for me as I can eat all the time and I have never enough! The thing about noodles is that you should slurp while eating and it isn't considered boorish. Isn't that cool - you eat something delicious and you show your joy with a penetrating melody of slurping. Couldn't ask for more.  I got so hungry while writing this note that I guess me and Suzuki have to take another ride. Bon appétit.

2010/03/22

Following the Road Ahead

I had to take a break from blogging and find a new inspiration. Besides, I didn't want to write only about rain. So, the weather got nicer and I got a bicycle !!!!!!!!!!!!. Yeah I found it on so-called 'sayonara sale’. It was quite cheap and not in its best shape....
There's rust on the pedals, brakes squeak, but it has a basket and the best part is…. that it's MINE. In almost every country I live a have a bike and a bike has it's name. Ladies and Gents meet Suzuki! No more walking. Freedom on the streets!!! But (there is always but when something goes too smoothly) riding a bike is a bit difficult in Japan. First of all in Japan there's left side road system so all day long I had that voice in my head 'to the left .. To the left ... To the left... Fuck almost died again... To the left you morron' Ok I don't call myself a morron in my head but sometimes it was really scary as the Japanese really drive fast. Another thing is that the rear brake is on the left side of the handlebars and even though I'm a lefty I got used to braking with a right brake. So once I almost catapulted myself trough the handlebars. Last thing is that in the suburbs you cannot find a proper bike lane nor a sidewalk so everyone uses the same road as they want (including cars). 


I saw people riding on the wrong side of the road or pedestrians jump away to avoid a collison... My favorite part is however the street signs ... NO ENGLISH, no international signs! This for example STOP .... 



If you don't know Japanese I wish you good luck on the road.I survived my first day on the Japanese road... (I've lost a lock key once but now I attached this maneki cat (more about cats later) so now it's protected by a Shinto deity). Japan be scared I ride to conquer you!

PS. The word 'bike' is an example of words borrowed from English, which changed a meaning. So it was really confusing when I asked in English 'How long does it take to go there by bike’ and the answer was that it's faster than by car. I was shocked but then when I said that my 'jitensha' is not that fast because it's old. Then the speaker said that I mentioned 'bike'. So finally aftershort pun game I found out that Japanese 'bike' is a motorcycle. And another Japenese mystery was solved, my dear Watson!

2010/03/14

The way of the Samurai

Two days ago I read in one of Japanese for foreigners (means in English) magazines about a movie for bloggers. Because I can say I am a blogger too (still a rookie though) I decided to watch it. Julie and Julia is a wonderful, inspiring comedy which pictures my two great loves: cuisine (it's the first thing on my pleasures list) and France, which whatever people say will be always deep in my heart. I'm also a big fan of Meryl Streep performance and I admire her in every role she stars. So, the plot is that Julie blogs about her cooking journey through Julia Child's cook book and the movie shows two authentic stories of both Julie and Julia, so don't worry about Disney's fake drama and a very happy ending. I must say that after watching the film I missed French food so much that I went the nearest bakery called (!!!) ‘Patisserie Sakura’ 

and I bought a croissants and tartine. While eating those mouth melting delicacies  I decided to make my Japanese commitment, similar to the one that Julie Powell made. I will master Japanese in next 5 months so in the end of my stay i will be fluent in Japanese enough to read one chosen book!

My tools: 4 text books, 2 work books, 1 dictionary.... and the Japanese at every corner

Deadline: 30 July

Goal: Master in Japanese

You: wish me good luck!


2010/03/13

Japan is Another Planet

It's been almost one month since I came to Japan (wow time really passes so quickly, I feel new wrinkles under my skin) and today I can officially leave my passport at home! Why? First of all if you don't have a passport with you and police would stop you (e.g. as might happen sometimes in night clubs) then you can go to jail and wait till somebody brings your ID (you can comment it on your own) but if you want to stay longer you can obtain a special ID card which is actually more reliable document than a passport (the Japanese strongly trust only their own brands). This special card is called... (fanphare sound please)   an ALIEN regestration card... yeah!!!

nothing like foreigner, newcomer or non-Japanese card... but an alien!!!

In Japanese it is called 'gaijin something' where gaijin normally is translated as foreigner but it might also mean a stranger and generally it's not a very polite term! So you might be no matter who in Japan, still you are an alien! An outside creature who came to Japan to eat all available sushi and drink as much sake as possible. On the other hand, if you come to Japan - the first cultural shock brings a question to one's head: Am I on a different planet... Somehow with all those differences that I met so far (and I had known quite a lot curiosities about the raising sun state before I came here) I can honestly say it: I am legal alien in Japan!

2010/03/11

Bad Weather Etiquette

One of the things that you can notice in Japan is that among all Buddhism, Zen, and Shinto cults there is another one. I would call it an umbrella cult. In the land of raising sun umbrellas are literally everywhere. Before you enter any place (or inside) you can always find an umbrella stand, where you can easily park your anti-rain shield.I’ve got one even in my room!  Moreover you might thing that when it’s sunny or if the shop or restaurant is closed, all umbrellas disappear. No way! Every time, every where there is an umbrella in your eye range.  I don’t know if you can borrow one in case you didn’t take yours, but on the other hand they are possible to buy almost everywhere. My favorite model is a transparent 'umbee', which you can use while riding a bike and still you can see the sky above. Generally in Japan people don’t steal so once you leave  your rainy belonging for sure it will wait for you. There are even some machines which you can you can use tolaminate your rainy friends – like the one in the front of my cafeteria. Cool, heh?! The bad thing is that even though it’s funny it indicates that it rains a lot here, what has been sadly true for the last couple weeks. 

2010/03/09

When it rains....

In Japan it never rains it pours!  Another cold, depressing day... You should always look on the bright side and find yourself an inspiration. I looked through the window and I found it. Isn't it great to put your rubber shoes on and jump from puddle to puddle. I really enjoyed myself today!


and btw. I saw today pics form the karaoke party. Check the update

2010/03/08

In search of off switch...


Unluckily for me, the weekend was really rainy - no sightseeing, no mood to get out! I like my small studio. It's cozy, most of the time clean, and I have all electrical appliances which ease my life. I decided to stay indoors and do some chores as well as relax a bit in front of TV (actually everything is in Japanese, so sometimes commercials are the best part, because at least they are understandable). One might think that, cooking, doing laundry or vacuuming is as simple as in the west? No way.
Pics below can give you some hints way.

Yes everything is in Japanese. For me it's very funny. Just think - even at  home I fill like little discoverer, who is happy to at least turn on the device!!!
I remember my first lunch from the microwave - it was a disaster - cold and I used fuckin' machine for about half an hour, or the air conditioner - It switched off every ten minutes???
Every young discoverer has it's bible to follow. So have I:

This great book of kanji (Japanese characters) in everyday life - really helps in everyday life. No bullshit about how is flower or bee, but where is switch off or how to use a remote control. Just check this pic
of a remote controller:













In Japan an ordinary day might be a new adventure!

2010/03/06

Let's sing together!

So finally almost a month of "hard" work (readily no party) I went out with my lab colleagues. It was farewell party, because again there is something different about Japan that they finish in March and start a new academic year in April. So I can say that somehow I have a "summer break" now, but work is work and there's no holiday for me. The party started with dinner in Japanese style restaurant. No shoes allowed. Food as always was delish, but the seats were horrible. I understand that kneeing position is dignified, but having a party in that way is not really a pleasure. I didn't know exactly what to do with my legs. All in all, after some gymnastic moves I found one stable yoga position. Later we went to next party to another Japanese style bar. Again I was reprimanded to leave my shoes (Yeah better wear clean socks). I tried hot and cold sake, and I was asked by the Japanese to say which one was better. So here is a Japanese hint: If you warm sake you cannot tell if it's good or bad sake. If it's cold you can easily find a cheapie! When finally we were drunk enough, we went to karaoke! The lobby (yeah there is a lobby there) looked like a big pharmacy.
The guy at counter wore even an apron. After short time we were directed into one of many karaoke rooms. The interesting thing is that soft drinks are for free! So if you are thirsty you can drink as much as you want. For booze you need to pay extra and believe me you need lots of it to feel certain enough to sing in front of your pals. Once I started I couldn't finish (I mean singing). Really now I understand the phenomena of karaoke, but the Japanese style one. No the one with a cheap display where you sing in front of the whole bar. In the end I even tried some J-pop - reading Japanese fast is a really difficult task - but with you alcoh friend it's always easier! So if you are not familiar with J-pop check this thing!


7AM we caught a train back home.... Japanization initiated!

2010/03/04

When in Rome....

My travel to Japan went smoothly. No lost luggage, no smelly co-traveler. There were no happy smiles of flight attendants either, but for that price you cannot have everything. My first cultural shock occurred at the airport in Osaka. I heard that bird flu is spreading around the world but I didn’t know that its center is in Japan. Generally speaking, everybody apart from the travelers almost looked like surgeons! Did we have a deadly virus on board? Now we will go through quarantine? But after a while I realized that no one really bothers about us and a few minutes later I waited for my taxi... in the city I saw more masked people. 'What is going on here?' I remember that in the first part of Harry Potter there were people in the streets that looked different smiling to everyone. Those were wizards. But who I deal with? First of all - masks don't look friendly. I would say even scary. Second of all people wearing them might smile but I can't notice it anyways. These are no friendly wizards for sure. I found the answer in one of VERY rare English magazines available in my neighborhood. Masks are against spreading germs - simple! Running nose or cough is a good reason to follow that medical fashion. It helps to prevent others from catching what you already have. Moreover it helps to moisture your throat and nose! I would like to see westerners do that! No way! Maybe Japanese exaggerate a bit with prevention. But, isn't it the best policy? Anyway, I can't wait to wear it myself! When in Rome do as the Romans do!

2010/03/03

Zen of Milk

Do you believe in Karma... I do! I wanted to start writing a blog for a very long time, but as always - laziness, lack of time, or the next episode of cougar town effectively discouraged me from starting. Today the big day came. I was a bit hungry and insanely bored sitting at my lab desk, no better reason to leave the post than a need of hunger! I went to '7 eleven' shop, which in Japan is something like wonderful oasis of 'everything you need, anytime you want" - but more about in later posts!
It was a very tough decision - what to eat? An instant noodle soup, something 'I don't know what's its name' burger on the stick or a Japanese cookie, which is green even though it's still fresh. All in all trying to postpone this moment of not working I found a box of milk, banana milk. It was cheap. 115 Yen, cold and too sweat - the worst choice - too much thinking I guess. I wanted to get rid of the box but in Japan you recycle everything and I didn't find a proper container for this kind of waste. I decided to follow my verrry long recycling instruction poster at home to recycle it properly. And here I go! I saw this old video of Blur and I found it very Japanese - why - the answer will come soon. Anyways, I looked at my floor and here it was. A said lonely milk box. Then I realized - it would be my new inspiration... Nothing heppends without reason. Hello my new friend!