A Travellerspoint blog

Kind of settled down.

Or Maybe Not...

36 °C

Yes, I know it’s been a loooong time since my last blog entry. But at least I now have a lot to talk about. And on the other hand... I didn’t get that many mails from your side neither, thus I guess you were busy out there too.

It seems that life is just going on, kids are still pointing at foreigners, I have eaten a lot of rice so far and my Japanese is getting a little bit better but still not quiet there yet…
So I’ll just drop some lines about a following topics:

Business: things are a little smoother now. I’m “only” working 10 hours a day instead of 14 like until a couple of weeks ago. I passed from executing simple and boring tasks to “project leader” for one of the major project that the company has been doing. It is a project in 3 phases, soon the third and last phase should be starting. Leading an interesting and important project means as well a lot a responsibility and obviously a lot of overtime. But the good thing is that I could go to Seattle to present the project to the client. Went well. And of course I went down to San Francisco for the weekend… Was fun.
But of course next to that main project, about 6 other are running at the same time.
So you might now understand why after sitting so many hours at my desk I didn’t feel like playing around on my blog.

Summer: when people told me “you’ll see the Japanese summer is dam’ hot” …
I was like yeah, yeah, can’t be that bad. I’ve been to Costa Rica and it was fine.
But I was wrong. The big difference is that here you can’t walk around wearing flip-flops shorts and sleeveless T-shirt and head to the beach to catch a wave.
No, no, here you wear shoes, jeans and (T-)shirt and your not supposed to have a sweaty forehead and sweat stains on your shirt.
I don’t know how Japanese people can look so fresh wearing long sleeve shirt and even a jacket???
I get u in the morning have a shower, have breakfast, get dressed and buy the time on putting my shoes on I already need to shower again.
From 35 to 38 °C and 40 to 90% of humidity… niiiiice. Sticky, stinky, thirsty, sweaty, lazy, …

Karate: I practice twice a week but with the heat it is quite a challenge. You can imagine how much I sweat during a 3.5 hours practice if I get sweaty doing nothing… I feel like dying about 3 times an hour. But some how I’m still more or less standing at the end of the practice.
In the meantime I passed two exams and I am supposed to attend the test to become black belt in December. Well, it seems that my master is pushing hard. And yes, he is not afraid to use one of his many sticks to make karate students work harder… old school but seems to work well.
The Saturday practice is waaaaay south of Osaka, it takes about 1.5 hours by bicycle, train and walk to get there. In other words my Saturday is kind of busy.

Sundays: I really cherish this day hanging out with some French and Japanese friends. We usually meet at 11am and go for a one-day trip and visit a castle or a park in a nearby city or so.
It is good the get out of this concrete-grave called Osaka…

Vacation:
finally had some vacation. It started with a 3-day-karate-summer-camp. The location was beautiful, somewhere in the mountains south of Osaka. The practice was intense, starting with a walk at 6am and finishing at 9pm with karate practice. And after the shower… beer with my master… I was smashed.

Then I went for two days with some friends to Kanazawa, a green city 3 hours N-E of Osaka. A little bit smaller than Kyoto but as well filled with temples and other historically interesting sites.

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Kanazawa: In the famous park of Kenrokuen with my Japanese and French friends

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Kanazawa: damn... we forgot to put on our kimonos...

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Kanazawa: Old geisha district. That guy really looks like a tourist...

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Kanazawa: Old geisha district. Hold on!

And finally I made this 12hours bus ride south to visit my coworker down in Kagoshima, his hometown. From there, with his family we drove two days thru Kyushu, took the ferry and hopped from one little island to another one. One word: beautiful.

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Kyushu: Sakurashima in the back, the Minami family in the front.

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Kyushu: Big buddies!

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Kyushu: A bit cheesy but nice.

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Kyushu: Islands on a very hot and misty summer day

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Kyushu: Kagoshima city and view of still active volcano of Sakurashima

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Kyushu: Sakurashima from another place more South...

Osaka, Yodobashi Camera. In case you need a mobile phone... you can go to Yodobashi Camera, the biggest electronic consumer goods seller in Osaka. This is just the one floor for mobile phone. The ultimate example of overconsumption...

…and now I’m back to work.

Posted by oliver_f 20:12 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

When you really feel different

Everybody knows the story of a blond girl making a safari in Africa in the middle of nowhere and when native people see her they want to touch her hair, etc... right?
Well I can understand that this happens in some faraway country where they don't know about TV and internet.
But can you believe that this kind of situation happens to me so often in second biggest city of a economical leading country like Japan. Ok, Toyonaka is in the outskirt of Osaka but still has 400'000 habitants.
I just gonna tel you the best story that happened this week.
I went to the park with my coworker for lunch as we do almost every day.
But this time there is some kind of elementary school excursion and there are about hundred kinds, all wearing the same red hat, crawling around further away from us. Suddenly three or four of them are running around us and at the very moment the girls see me they slow down, their facial expression radically changes. The one girl completely froze and is staring at me. She really can't get her eyes away, her mouth open. I could just read in their eyes what was going on in her intrigued head:
"Ooh, that's on of those "foreigners".... I've seen a couple of the on TV but I didn't know they really do exist...!"
As she could breath again she said, as she learned during English classes: -"HELLO... "
-"konnichiwa..." did I reply in Japanese.
-"Bla bla bla..." ( I didn't understand that one...sorry)
-"O namae wa nan desu ka?" I asked for her name.
-She answers hiding her name tag on her T-shirt: "I don't talk to strangers!!" and ran away as fast as her feet could carry her.
- Well, honey it seems to me that you started the conversation, didn't you...?

As we were still laughing and trying to understand this funny situation, she comes back towing her teacher by the hand. She's pointing at me and says to her teacher something like: "see, I told you there was one..."

Can you believe that?
I think it is really difficult to interpret those kind of situations. Ok, Japan is an island but still...

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Was not that girl but I thought you might like a picture...

Posted by oliver_f 04:40 Comments (0)

Be?ing a Iliterate...

Quite, Easy Aktually

It is quite amazing how highly adaptable the human body is. He always finds an alternative when there is a lack of something. For example a blind person will have the four other senses very developed, especially the hearing.
Being illiterate is actually the same and quite easy. I heard of this French guy who lives in Japan since over six years and doesn't speak Japanese.
The eyes are very foxy and lazy at the same time. If there is something written in Japanese and in English it is a hard work obliging the eye to read the more difficult signs. They can find so many information that you would not see or in "normal" circumstances. They can make relations between colors, shapes and former experiences. Scanning pictures and labels on products and food. It becomes so proficient that I catch myself not reading things that I actually could.
It somehow reminds me of being an kid and just watching the images and never reading the texts in comics. hee hee...
Even though this whole story is not lethal I just feel like missing/losing an incredible amount of knowledge that is close and very far at the same time.
I don't need to show you a picture to let you imagine how delightful (design-wise and taste-wise) a Japanese cookbook can be.
Of course I bought one. But I cannot read it...
Just think of me, the cookbook in one hand and the basket in the other ambulating through the food store compeering what's on the image and what' on the shelves.
"...could that be that sauce... no tha'one looks a little darker... Oh, and this looks like ground meat... yeah, must be it: the kanjis look the same..."
There are a bunch of situations in which if feel quite dumb.

Well I guess this sounds not that exiting for you but, but maybe someday you'll experience it... or maybe just try tomorrow not to read when you got to the ATM or grocery shopping :)

Posted by oliver_f 05:53 Comments (1)

Cherry Blossom

A Flooding Of Gorgeous Flowers

During about 2-3 weeks there is the very famous cherry blossom in Japan. A blooming wave starting in the south and slowly heading north.

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Flowers, flowers, flowers - Nara

Parks, alleyways river shores just about where ever you look the landscape is painted of pastel rose. I the morning I can see the people of all ages admiring the blossom. Families and Business people are having picnics under the "sakura" or "Japanese cherry tree" on blue plastic sheets during these days. I was told that the start of a calender year is on January first but in Japanese minds and hearts the start of a new year is in the spring. During the spring kids start school and nature is sprouting.

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Bird on blooming plumb tree

Of course we had to see this famous blossom in some special place like Kyoto and Nara. I went to those places with my French and a Korean friends. Unfortunately the sky was not that blue. But I guess you might still get a good impression looking the pictures.

There are a couple more pictures if yo check my photographies...

Posted by oliver_f 22:05 Comments (0)

Meishi's

Or The Business Card Exchange Ritual...

I guess you all heard about name card exchanging in Japan being something very important. It is in fact something quite tricky and challenging, I can tell!

Ok, here's the situation: I had to go to this meeting in Tokyo with the president of the company and another coworker. (Don't ask me why I had to go with them since I would understand about 3.74% of the topic...) However the shinkansen was paid thus it was fun.
Nobody told me but as I enter the conference room there are as many as 13 high ranking guys attending the meeting. Then we start exchanging the name cards. 13 times introducing myself, bowing high and low like a cattail in the wind... I hardly understand their names, don't have a clue what their positions are and obviously for a non Asian guy like me they all look the same. When the name-card-harvesting is finished it is common to lay then out in front of you. Make sure to remember the order for the hierarchy.

Then you think "yepp" made it... but "nope":
One week later as I enter the office half awake in the morning about 8 guys from that company are starting a further meeting. Now here's the challenge: who did I already meet and who not yet...

Posted by oliver_f 21:34 Comments (0)

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