tirsdag den 29. november 2011

Itabashi-ku, Tokyo-to, Japan 2011/11/29

This was written in three parts: First as I rode the Shinkansen to Kyoto with Laila, then with Juste, and finally in my new apartment.

Once again, it's been quite a while since my last blog. However, now that I am trapped in a small carbon-fiber tube hurling along at 300 km/h towards Kyoto, with no interesting company, I thought I might as well update you guys on the past 3 months.

Starting from where we left off, I headed north to the northernmost main island of Japan, Hokkaido, a few days after writing my last post. I was going there to see something that wasn't Tokyo, and I certainly got my wish! First I took the Shinkansen super-express from Tokyo station to Aomori, the northernmost city on the main island of Honshu. A ~600 km trip which took two hours and forty minutes, despite the Shinkansen line there having recently been wrecked by the earthquake.

At Aomori, I transferred to the local line, but even though it was the express, the remaining 150 km took me ~3 hours. It was incredibly slow compared to the Shinkansen. And, to make matters worse, I'd forgotten to buy tickets for the express, which meant that I missed the train leaving just after my arrival, and had to wait for an hour to get on the next one. After finally arriving at my hotel in Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, at around 21, I was so exhausted that all I could manage was a walk around the station plaza to find a 7/11 to get some cash and a toothbrush before I collapsed on my bed.

The next day, my only full day in Sapporo, I spent walking around the city. I decided early on that I wanted to see the big temple located nearby, Hokkaido Jingu, so I headed off southwest through the city, making sure to walk through the local park.

Sapporo was a bit of a disappointment in that it was very much a modern city, like Tokyo, but even more influenced by the west. It was designed by a European architect in the mid-20th century, and reminded me a lot of modern European cities, which I've seen plenty of. As opposed to Tokyo, the roads are very wide, and it's generally a very airy city. It is also encircled by a beautiful mountain range which, thanks to the streets all being perpendicular to each other, can be seen from any place in the city.

In the temple garden, I met an old lady who explained how to do a proper temple visit, cleansing, and prayer. She even bought me a small souvenir to give my family when I return home. All in all, it was a fun experience.

I then rode a very old streetcar back to the hotel, and went to see Hokkaido University. It was my first time on a University campus, and it was quite impressive. I was a bit surprised by how small the department dedicated to the culture of the original population of Hokkaido, the Ainu, was. It seems like it's still not a very acceptable subject in Japan, which prides itself on its homogeneity.

I then went out to eat sashimi for dinner at a small traditional restaurant I'd found while walking around, before heading up the th Onsen(Open-air bath) on the 37th floor of my hotel. The view would have been great if only there'd been a little less steam, but unfortunately, the windows were almost completely opague.

I then went up to my room on the 42nd floor, where I enjoyed the view, browsed the Internet, and packed the few belongings I had unpacked, before heading to bed.

After checking out of the hotel the following morning, I headed to the station to take the train back to the southernmost part of Hokkaido, to a city called Hakodate. This city is known as a historically very important port town, as it was the first to be opened for trade with the west. Thankfully, it was much more interesting than Sapporo, which was very modern. Hakodate has many temples, as well as a number of old western-style buildings, most of which used to be embassies.

As opposed to Sapporo, where I'd stayed at a western-style hotel, I stayed in ar Ryokan – a Japanese inn. It had its own onsen, and both breakfast and dinner were served by a young maid in my room. It was a great experience, very Japanese, and I can definitely recommend It to anyone traveling to Japan.

The city itself was, as I've already said, very interesting. There were several museums ranging over a braod spectrum of the city's history, including a museum of western architecture, photography, and the time when the American ships forced Japan to open (some of) its ports. There were many embassies as well, and with the entire city unscathed by war, they looked exactly like they would have had you seen them when they were still in use. The former British embassy even allowed you to walk around inside.

I also went by cable-car to the top of the city's namesake, Mt. Hakodate. There was a wonderful view over the city, but otherwise there isn't much to report on that front.

After staying one last night at the ryokan, I went by train back to Aomori, where I once again switched to the Shinkansen and headed home to Tokyo.

---Disclaimer: I took a break from writing, and now resume while once again being inside a small carbon-fiber tube hurling along at 300 km/h towards Kyoto, this time accompanied by another friend from Denmark, I though I should try to get this thing finished.---

After returning from Hokkaido, I spent my weekdays going to school, and my weekends having fun with my friends. I am really grateful to them for showing me a lot of interesting places around Tokyo, for making me even more of a geek, and for generally being great fun to hang out with. And thus, July passed without major incident, and we reach the middle of the second semester at school, when a big event happened: Comiket 80.

For those who do not know(That would probably be all of you)Comiket is the biggest comic convention in the world, and is mostly centered around amateurs selling their self-published manga, anime, music, games, novels, maps, food guides, plushies, and whatever else they can think of. During the 3 days it runs, more than 600.000 people pass through tens of thousands of booths spread over 4 gigantic halls, each of which could probably contain Copenhagen's Bella Center with no major issues. I can't think of a better way to describe it than just listing what I did during the first day of my first Comiket, so here I go:

Day 1

Me and a friend meet up at 8 am in front of the nearest station, then start walking to find the end of one of the lines, which at this point stretches ~1 km out from the convention center, which opens its doors at 10am. It's ~37C. We wait and talk while the line grows longer, the air hotter and more humid. (Darold: If you read this and find inaccuracies, remember that I'm writing this several months after the fact, and that it's merely intended to give an impression of what Comiket is like)

9:30: The line begins to move as they start moving the people in the very front of the line, which can't be seen from where we are, up the stairs to the convention center. After approx. 20 minutes, it stops again, as the front of the line has now been moved into position.

10:00: All of a sudden, people start applauding. You can hear it slowly spreading from the beginning of the line, with the sound growing louder and louder as people around us begin to applaud as well. This way, even though we were too far away to hear the announcement over the speaker, we know that Summer Comiket 80 has officially opened.

10:05: The line finally begins to move, after a five minute lag, probably because we're still so far way. As it does, I realise that the queue is far from the straight line I imagined it to be, and more like a snake, twisting and turning to make the best of the available space; it's disconcertingly long.

10:30: We can finally see the convention center! It's an amazing building, all glass and steel, and huge. When I say “We can see the convention center,” that's actually not entirely true, as it's way too spread out to see from the ground. What we can actually see is the entrance hall and iconic elevted conference center, which is only a small part of the complex.

11:30: We're finally inside! My friend and I head off to fulfill our various objectives, me staying in the pro booth area, and him heading to the doujin(fan-made goods) area. But as this is my first time, I completely misunderstand the queuing system, and end up getting none of the limited edition items before they sell out for the day. I later realize that there was no way for me to get them anyway, since the lines for the popular booths are generally closed around ~10:30, since they estimate that people lining up after that won't make it to the counter before the show closes at 17:00!! After having spent around an hour wasting my time not being able to figure out the queuing system, and finally realizing that there are no longer any lines open for the things I wanted to buy, I check my phone to see that my friend almost had a heatstroke. I head towards the doujin area to meet up with him and find out whether there is anything I want to buy.

13:30: Short, but necessary explanation: The pro booths are in the west halls, and most of the doujin booths are in the east hall. This I knew. What I did not know is that moving between them takes approximately an hour, due to the distance, and the huge crowd. After finally arriving in the East halls and texting my friend, he says that he is now in west: Great. Maybe I should have informed him of my intentions in advance... I decide to look around the East halls for a while, now that I'm finally here. Thankfully, Friday is mostly oriented towards girl's doujin(BL), so I don't end up buying very much. There are still a few sections which are aimed at a male or more general audience, and I spend quite a lot of time looking around there. I'm surprised to find that the lines inside are very, very short. I was aware that today(Friday) was the least crowded and all that, and this isn't the pro booth area, but I did expect longer lines. After trying to get in line and being kindly pointed outside, I realize I've made a huge mistakes: The lines are all outside, and they are, if it is at all possible, even longer than the ones in the pro booth area. Some of these amateurs have so many fans, it's incredible.

15:30: After looking through One and a half halls, and with my head spinning from dehydration and way too many impressions, I agree with my friend to meet in the Central Hall, which is pretty much a hub area for people moving between East and West. There, we meet up with some of our other friends, who joined later because they didn't want to stand in line. We hang out for a while, then split up again to do some final shopping, agreeing to meet at around 17:00. I head to the lower West Halls to see the doujin things there, but soon realize that it's all aimed at women, and head outside to take pictures of the cosplayers(People who dress up as characters from anime) instead.

17:00: With sore feet, I head over to leave the convention with my friends. Because I'm going to be staying with one of them during Comiket, and he's got plans to go to karaoke this evening, we all split up early today. Me and the friend I'm going to stay with head to the karaoke place, which is in Akihabara, and though I am exhausted and only sing one or two songs, I had fun anyway.

20:00 We finally arrive at his apartment. I've decided that I am going to aim for the limited edition goods tomorrow, and thus plan to take the first train bound for Tokyo Big Sight(The convention center). To make that connection, I need to leave the apartment around 04:45am, so after a quick bath, dinner and a bit of talking, I finally fall asleep at around 23:00. Tomorrow is going to be a long day.

I hope that gave you a good impression of the experience. The last two days of the convention I managed to make the second train every morning. Not because I was late for the first, but because people had been waiting in line for the station to open, and it filled up! On the third day, I came even earlier, but still wasn't able to make it! I did manage to get some of the things I wanted though, and after only standing in line for... 7 hours... From ~5am 'till 10am to get into the convention, and then from 10am to ~12am to get to one of the booths. It was hellish, but so, so satisfying. There's also a great feeling of unity in the crowd, and even tough I was a foreigner, I had a great time talking to like-minded people. I'm definitely going in winter as well, can't wait for Comiket 81!

I think I'm going to cut it off here and just post this. It's been way too long. I'll continue this in the near future. Who knows, maybe I'll even be able to catch up to the present!

onsdag den 22. juni 2011

Midori-ku, Saitama-shi, 2011/06/23

So... It's been a while.

You may, rightly, ask what the bloody hell has taken me so long, but although I had prepared an excellent list of excuses, containing some of my finest work if I may say so myself, I have decided not to use any of them and just go with: I was born lazy.

Another question that may spring to mind when regular readers read this blog, though I'd argue that a blog with an average of one post every 20 days can hardly claim to have any truly regular readers, is why this is written in English? The answer is quite simply that I have way too many friends who do not speak Danish. I also feel that the Danish language is counterintuitive to how I wish to convey myself here, so English it is(At least for now. If people really want a Danish version, I'll get one up ;))

Anyway, on to the meat of this blog: What I've been wasting my precious time with for the past two months. I've gone to school every day, slept way too little, and had way too much fun during the weekends. I've found a lovely group of like-minded foreigners down here, and I very much enjoy our weekly events during Saturday or Sunday. As anyone who has viewed my(Over 1000!) photos will know, we've been to quite an assortment of places, including an anime-themed café, two of the biggest geek shopping areas in the world(With a tour to the third, final, and original area coming up this Sunday), a huge amusement park located inside of what was once the tallest building in the world, and a maid café.

Before you run off looking for pictures of the last one, I'd better tell you that there are none, since taking pictures in there isn't a very nice thing to do. I do have one though, but I will need to scan it before it can be uploaded. Suffice to say that it is a café, and there are maids. You can fill in the blanks yourself ;)

Out Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator For Life has been back home in the US for the past two weeks, so it will be nice seeing him again this Sunday. In the meantime, it has been up to us commoners to figure out what to do. With my incredibly industriousness, I decided to come up with a plan: Sit back and wait for someone else to do it. It worked pretty well, and a guy from the group did step up to my unspoken challenge, allowing me to enjoy myself thoroughly without much effort. We went shopping, and visited his home to watch anime and eat cake.

The cake was delicious :)

Apart from when I am with the group, I haven't ventured into Tokyo on my own all that much. What with the group activities taking up Saturday, and school taking up Monday through Friday, I am very content to just stay at home and do cleaning, watch anime, and do the laundry on Sundays, and rarely feel like taking the train into Tokyo when I finally have some time to myself.

I met an interesting guy in Tokyo after school a few weeks ago. I decided to go to a Sushi restaurant for the first time since coming her(It was delicious, and comparatively cheap), so I called home to tell them I wouldn't need dinner, and headed to a sushi place I'd noticed on my way to school. Once there, I sat down in a random free seat at the conveyor belt, and began to wonder how you went about this in Japan, when the Japanese man next to me began to address me in perfect English. I was quite surprised.

It turns out that he had just returned from the United States, where he works and lives, in order to enjoy a few weeks in his hometown Tokyo. He taught me pretty much everything about how you conduct yourself at these sushi places, and was generally just very interesting to talk to. It was also the first time I'd met a person who could speak proper English in months, which was quite a relief compared to the strenuous business of communicating in a language you've only just started to study. I'm afraid that I no longer recall exactly what we talked about, other than him heading to Spain in a few weeks, but I did have a lot of fun just talking to him.

It also reminds me of another anecdote: Two weeks ago, after leaving a Karaoke place with my geek group, I suddenly noticed that the area we were walking through, which is just on the other side of the station where my school is, transformed quite a lot in the evening, and that were quite a lot of pink lights, men in suits, and posters with women in sexy outfits. I asked someone from my group about this, and it turns out that the area is known as the second red light district of Tokyo,(The main being Kabuki-cho in Roppongi) also known as the second Kabuki-cho!

I will end the anecdotes here, but expect future blog post to be more like short anecdotes than long stories, since I really want to put out at least one per week, in order to not forget too much.

As some of you may have noticed, today is my birthday. We're celebrating it by going to the restaurant in nearby Omiya, where the guest who stayed here alongside me for two months now works. Oh, and we're going to be dining alongside the CEO of Air France, who will be moving in to the room next to me for a month. Yeah... That's weird.

I actually look forward to meeting the guy, I'm not exactly inexperienced when it comes to meeting people who are well-off, especially after our trip to South Africa, so I look forward to finding out what kind of crazy this particular rich guy subscribes to. More on that when I return home.

This weekend, I'll be taking the Hayabusa Shinkansen to Aomori on the northern tip of Honshu island, some 675 kilometers away, which will take exactly three hours and ten minutes.

I will then take a slightly less luxurious trip with two other trains to reach the capital of Hokkaido prefecture, Sapporo, where I will enjoy a western-style hotel for two days, while exploring the city and surrounding area, before heading halfway back to Aomori, where I need to get on the Shinkansen to take me home. At this halfway point lies a famous hot spring resort, where I'll be staying for two days at a traditional Japanese inn, which specializes in serving the local cuisine, and has excellent hot springs open 18 hours a day.

I will then head back home on the Shinkansen, and spend the rest of my vacation looking around Tokyo. There is still so much to see, and so little time.

Thanks for reading,


tirsdag den 26. april 2011

Jeg har travlt!!

Jeg undskylder mit lange fravær fra denne blog med, at jeg simpelthen har haft for travlt med rent faktisk at opleve ting, til at sætte mig ned og skrive om dem. Nu sidder jeg så i bussen på vej til stationen, så jeg tænkte at det nok var et megeet godt tidspunkt til lige at få skrevet lidt til jer derhjemme.

Der er gået lidt over to uger siden min sidste blog, og i det tidsrum har langt det meste af min ti været optaget af skole og lektier, som jeg ikke har tænkt mig at skrive meget om her. Ikke fordi det ikke er interessant, men fordi jeg ærligt talt bruger alt for meget tid på at tænke på det i forvejen.

Den tid som hverken er blevet brugt på rengøring af værelset, tøjvask, eller skolegang, er for det meste blevet tilbragt i fantastiske Akiba. Jeg tror jeg må have tilbragt ca. 3 fulde døgn derinde nu alt i alt, og jeg har måske set en tredjedel af hvad der er at se, hvis ikke mindre. Der er anime/manga butikker, kulturcentre, maid cafe'er, cosplay cafe'er, maid massageklinikker, events, computerforhandlere, mobiltelefonforhandlere, forhandlere der sælger dele til computere og andet elektronik, og forhandlere der sælger dele til dele til elektronik, samt forhandlere af mere lyssky anime/manga/mange andre spændende og unikke ting, som sandsynligvis aldrig vil kunne slippe over grænsen til Danmark.

In other words: Det er 4chan/7chan/12chan gjort til virkelighed. Jeg er utroligt lykkelig over at jeg har fået chancen for at opleve det. Hver søndag bliver hele den kæmpemæssige Chuo-dori som er centrum for Akiba lukket af, og gjort til gågade. Det er absolut nødvendigt, for der er proppet med mennesker. De har dog holdt en pause med det i nogle år, efter en sindsforvirret mand brød igennem afspærringerne i en lastbil, som han også brugte til at forsøge at køre folk ned, hvorefter han sprang ud af vognen og stak folk ned med en køkkenkniv. Derfor var der også en massiv politi-tilstedeværelse.

Jeg skal måske også nævne at man føler sig utroligt sikker på gaden, endnu mere end i København. Der er en Koban(Lille politistation) på nærmest hvert tredje gadehjørne, hver med en 3-4 betjente i, som holder øje, og er klar til at hjælpe. Det kunne vi godt bruge herhjemme.

Udover at spilde usandsynligt meget tid i Akiba's butikker og cafe'er har jeg også været i Ueno koen og se de meget smukke gamle kirsebærtræer der blomstrede for en uges tid siden. Det er en tradition at hele familien tager ud og spiser under de faldende kirsebærblomster, og selv på en tirsdag formiddag var der da også masser af mennesker, men ikke kvælende.

Jeg skulle måske lige nævne at vi har ca. 2 større jordskælv om dagen, på mellem 4 og 6 richter. Det er ikke noget man tænker meget over efter de første 10-20 stykker, og en hel del af dem sover jeg fra. Jeg er endnu ikke blevet vækket af et jordskælv.

Næste søndag har jeg tænkt mig at tage ind til Harajuku, et andet stort nørdekvarter. Her er det dog mest piger, og tondvis af cosplayers, som flokkes. De har det samme system med at lukke en stor vej af om søndagen, så der kommer nok til at være mange mennesker, og mange gode muligheder for at tage billeder!

Jeg håber at I kom uskadte igennem den massive tekstmur, og jeg skal nok prøve at få en ny blog op lidt hurtigere denne gang :)

fredag den 8. april 2011

Midori-ku, Saitama-shi, 2011/04/09

Jeg har været alene i Tokyo for første gang i dag, og benyttede naturligvis lejligheden til at spilde seks timer i Akibe. Men mere om det lidt senere.

Jeg ville egentlig bare skrive at jeg ikke rigtig mærkede noget til det jordskælv, som i Danmark åbenbart er blevet blæst op til at være tegn på verdens ende.

Vel var det 7.1 på Richtrer-skalaen, men Japan har altså sådan nogen en gang imellem, og der er jo øget seismisk aktivitet efter det store M9.0 jordskælv, så hvordan nogen kan være overrasket er over min fatteevne.

For at få alle mlidt ned på jorden: Der var flere aflyste tog i Tokyo i dag på grund af den kraftige blæst vi har i øjeblikket end på grund af jordskælvet(Henholdsvis 5 og 1). Det tog der var aflyst på grund af jordskælvet var Shinkansen, og det fordi en af stationerne oppe nordpå var blevet beskadiget, ikke pga. skader i Tokyo.

IOW: Fald ned. Medierne elsker at køre det her op til noget det ikke er. Jeg er her, og jeg føler mig tryg. Ganske vist var det kraftigt, men ikke mere end at jeg ikke orkede flytte mig fra min seng.

onsdag den 6. april 2011

Midori-ku, Saitama-shi, Japan, 2011/04/06

Nu har jeg været i Japan i ialt 5 dage, og der har været 3 jordskælv, to af dem i dag. Man vænner sig faktisk overraskende hurtigt tíl jordskælv, ihvertfald de små af slagsen, og jeg finder dem ikke den mindste smule skræmmende.

Maden her er meget anderledes, men god. Jeg ser altid frem til at smage hvad det nu er der bliver sat på bordet, og det er fedt hele tiden at opleve noget nyt på den kulinariske front.

For et par dage siden tog jeg til Akihabara for første gang. Hideo-san fulgte mig derind, og der er jeg meget taknemmelig for, da jeg sandsynligvis var foret vild, havde jeg været alene. Akihabara, og Tokyo i al almindelighed, er enorm. Man fatter slet ikke hvor stor den by er. Da jeg kørte i lufthavnsbussen så jeg også Tokyo's nye vartegn, Sky Tower, som er under opførsel. Det er den højeste bygning i verden, og den lever virkelig op til sit navn.

I dag var jeg inde på kommunekontoret og bliver registreret som bosiddende udlænding. Endnu engang må jeg være taknemmelig for Hideo-san's hjælp, uden ham havde jeg næppe fundet dig ind, og jeg ville nok stadigvæk sidde fast i berokratiet derinde.

De sidste to dage har jeg arbejdet intensivt på at kunne et ud af japanernes tre alfabeter udenad, og det er for kort tid siden lykkedes mig at lære de sidste.

Jeg vil ikke påstå at jeg ikke stadigvæk fumler lidt med nogen af dem, men jeg er meget tæt på at kunne dem 100%.

I morgen vil jeg gå lidt igang med nogle kanji og katakana, men jeg har ingen illusioner om at kunne katakana fuldt ud inden placeringstesten på fredag, og jeg vil næppe kunne mere end 25-50 kanji, hvis det.

Men jeg er her jo for at lære, så det er jo egentlig lige meget hvilken klasse jeg havner i, bare den passer til mit niveau.

Jo mere jeg taler med Hideo-san, jo mere indser jeg hvor mange ord jeg kender, og hvor lidt struktur der er i min viden. Det håber jeg at skolen vil kunne give mig.

søndag den 27. december 2009