Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Zen and the art of not having any

One of the less pleasant aspects of Japan for those who enjoys at least a degree of peace and quiet is the abuse your sensory systems must endure on a regular basis. This mainly extends to the visual and audible realms, but as any who have caught the subway in rush hour can attest to, one must also be prepared to sacrifice any notion of private space.

From Noise

Every day when I go to and back from work, I pass a lot where workers are stacking pipes. The overseer is equipped with a high frequency whistle used to direct the workers so as to avoid improper pipe-stacking. Not a man to step down from responsibility he naturally performs his whistle-blowing task with great fervor and devotion. Exposed to this only twice a day, I wouldn't hesitate a second to drop a huge pipe on him if given the chance, but for the workers this is apparently business as usual.

From Noise

Noise of course is not limited to people, anything in Japan that can conceivable make a noise, does so, and with great enthusiasm. This extends to (but is in no way limited to) talking elevators, escalators, cars and musical garbage trucks. The latter plays what I can only assume is meant to be a pleasant melody, presumably to mask the fact that garbage is on the whole unpleasant.

The Japanese' penchant for sensory overload is never so apparent as in electronic stores where cramming as much colors, fonts and text into your visual field as possible is elevated to an art form. Usually accompanied by four different soundtracks from five different commercials on repeat. As if this was not enough, while P and I were discussing hard drives a clerk placed himself about a meter from us, took out his megaphone and started yelling sales pitches.

From Noise

Monday, October 27, 2008


I'm a bit behind on my postings as this is actually from two weeks ago. Me and some colleagues went to Kamakura, a city southwest of Tokyo riddled with temples. As always, you can click on the slideshow to visit my picasa page to get a larger images.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

While I'm slowly starting to get a accustomed to the culture, some things still surprise me. The other day it was raining and having left my umbrella at the hotel I ran to the bus stop shed. When I got there, there was already a woman standing there and I placed myself at what I would describe as an appropriate distance by my culture's standard. That is, a bit towards the other side of the shed.

I stood there in my own work-related thoughts for probably about five minutes before realizing that we weren't alone anymore. Behind me in a perfect line about ten more people had arrived at the shed. Not only were they in a perfect line, but the line actually extended far outside the shed into the rain. This despite the fact that there was a huge gap in the queue between me and the first lady who appeared and despite the fact that there probably was more than enough room for everyone under the shed. Upon realizing this I of course took a huge step towards the first lady saving probably five more people from the rain. But the rest were doomed, by culture, to the get wet.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

On Thursday my boss took me out to eat. We went to a conveyor belt sushi place were the food circulates on a track in front of you. Typically the chefs are in the same room and prepare and place the small courses on plates which are pattern coded by price on the belt. While not really a "fish person" I've found sushi to be quite enjoyable, though I usually avoid stuff like unagi (eel) and unidentifiable squishy stuff. My boss, however, suggested we try something he eats "all the time" though I suspect he was trying to freak me out:

From BackPropagation

The soup is a very common dish here and is called mizo soup. I actually enjoy it almost every day in the cantina at work. There however, it is there usually served without the fish heads. Despite the somewhat intimidating appearance it was actually quite good.

BTW: I'm somewhat drunk at the moment, for reasons I will recount on another occasion. So please excuse the occasional typo.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


  • The hotel complimentary movie doesn't feel so complimentary when it has run 4 days in a loop.

  • Should I be worried that I can't read half the warning signs in my hotel room?

  • Just because the bottle has a picture of an apple, doesn't mean it's apple.

  • Will the washer, which lacked temperature settings or anything else for that matter, destroy my clothes?

  • I'm finally above average height.

  • Japanese in general speak English as about as well as I speak French.

First earthquake.

Very small one though, but my chair moved.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Mostly from when P was here. Click for larger ones.

Monday, October 06, 2008

First day at work.

Not a full 12 hours this time, got in at 9 and left around 20, but I'm confident that I can improve upon this tomorrow. Or not. The place seems nice, but most of the day was spent waiting for and setting up my box rather than actually working. Tomorrow, however, everything will be ready so I can probably get some real work done.

I didn't snap many pictures today as I forgot the memory card and it was raining outside. However I did get this immensely exciting one from the bathroom illustrating a phenomenon I've encountered at several restrooms in Japan:

From BackPropagation

Actually, many places don't have any machine or paper towels at all. So while you are apparently expected to wash your hands, drying them is a luxury.

I'm extremely tired at the moment, woke up at 6 today, and have not quite shaken of the jetlag haze yet. Hence this fascinating post. So why don't I go to bed? Due to the extremely inconvenient time differences I have to stay up for one more hour to catch P on skype after work.

Stay tuned for more exciting adventures of the henna gaijin...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

I have finally arrived in Yokohama, though P and I went here for a small one day trip Thursday. My first impression is of a relatively calm city, but of course this is colored by recent exposure to the busier parts of Tokyo.

Below is a small slideshow of what I will be calling home for the next 2 weeks, after that I will be moving to Yokohama International Student House.

The hotel is called Toyoko-inn, its name apparently a portmanteau of Tokyo and Yokohama according to Wikipedia. It also seems to have featured in an illegal building alteration scandal.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hey! Look at me! I have a blog!

From this very page my impassioned rhetoric, philosophical musings and general demagoguery will reverberate throughout the interwebz. A first step in my cunning plan for world domination. Soon, my genetically engineered army of mutant monkeys will scour the earth leaving chaos and destruction in their wake.

With that out of the way and without much further ado I welcome thee to my official channel of communication while in the land of the rising sun.