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This page lists the latest pages tagged “Japan”. There’s a subset of these pages available for the two weeks Claudia and I spent in Japan 2007.


2007-10-06 More pictures

I uploaded another batch of 21 pictures to my Japan 2007 Flickr Set.


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2007-10-03 Wikipedia For The Win

I ❤ Wikipedia!

I’m reading up on Japanese sculptures in my biggest bookOstasiatische Kunst by Gabriele Fahr-Becker. And when it mentions a certain sculptor named Jōchō and his Amida statue in the Byōdō-in without providing a picture, I can just Google for all these names and sure enough, the appropriate Wikipedia pages come up and there are in fact images of the very statue I’m looking available on the Jōchō page.

Perhaps I should donate some money to Wikipedia. I’ve started using it more and more over the last year or two.

And perhaps I should rethink my thoughts on search engine support for Oddmuse. Right now my main priority has been minimizing load by search engines. Perhaps a new trade-off needs to me found.


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2007-10-02 Afterthoughts

Some things and differences that I remembered in recent days, thinking back on our holidays in Japan…

  1. An overabundance of policemen or security people. It seemed that every construction site had at least one policeman. If there was a makeshift wall around the site, there would be at least one policeman per gate. And that one time we were walking arond Tokyo station looking for some Open WLAN we saw a worker carrying something big and heavy, accompanied by a policeman who asked people to step aside while the worker kept on carrying his thing. That seems pretty inefficient to me.
  2. Late in the evening, between eight and ten, “salarymen” and moving like a constant trickle of people from their offices to bars and home. Some of these people are drunk. And I don’t mean tipsy. In a society where face means so much, the drunk people seem to enjoy some kind of immunity. Being barely able to talk, being helped by friends left and right, being pulled along by a sober female – all these situations would cause terrible loss of face here in Switzerland. To be drunk in public is a major faux pas in Switzerland and apparently no problem at all in Japan.
  3. I knew it from the mangas, but I was still surprised by the volume of it: When the Japanese eat cold soba or udon noodles, they first use their chopsticks to move the noodles into a little bowl with a soy-sauce based, cold liquid, and then they stick some noodles in their mouth, start slurping, and keep on shoving more noodles at an impressive speed. Slurp… slurp… slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp! slurp! SLURP! slurp-slurp. slurp… Whoa! Here in Switzerland slurping is considered to be a sign for a lacking education.
  4. Similarly, we heard it was considered to be a sign of lacking control if you blow your nose. You’re supposed to snuffle (and swallow, I guess). And that’s considered to be very gross here ins Switzerland.
  5. There was a constant ding-dong electric bell near public toilets. I don’t know what purpose it served; I suppose it might help blind people find their way. I didn’t see many blind people on the streets, however.
  6. Umbrella lockers! Some public buildings had a rack at the entrance where you could place your umbrella, lock it, and take a key with you. A sure sign of too much rain! I guess we were lucky with our weather.


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Und: Japaner parken rückwärts. Sieht man auf einem grossen Parkplatz einen Vorwärtsparker, weiss man, dass es kein Japaner ist ;)

– Chris 2007-10-05 20:29 UTC

Die Geschichte mit den Betrunkenen erinnert mich sehr an Island. Dort haben sie ebenfalls die Unterstützung der ganzen Bevölkerung und es ist überhaupt keine Schande so richtig besoffen zu sein. Das gilt auch für Personen im öffentlichen Leben, bis hinauf in die höchsten Stellen.

– der Vater 2007-10-12 02:53 UTC

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2007-09-30 Flickr

I’ll be uploading small batches of images to my Japan set on Flickr over the next few days. To each page for our Japan 2007 holidays I’ll be adding one of these pictures.


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2007-09-29 End Of A Trip

We’re back! So, what did we think of it?

Great things about Japan:

  • They like taking a bath, and so do we.
  • They are civilized and we can take along a laptop and a big camera without fearing thives around every corner.
  • Friendly and polite. The Swiss also feel like they are very polite and they often think that people from neighbouring countries are not. Part of this is based on the appropriate use of polite phrases. Too bad I don’t know enough such phrases in Japanese: Sumimasen, gomen nasai, ohaiyou gozaimasu, konichiwa, konbanwa, sayonara, itadaimasu. There must be many more.
  • Salespeople are even friendlier and politer than everybody else. This is truly astounding. There’s a chorus of greetings when you enter a shop, when you get up to pay at the cashier, when you leave the shop.
  • Lots of free public toilets.
  • Excellent signalization in English for public transport systems wherever we went. Then again, we didn’t go far: Tokyo, Osaka, Nara, Kyoto.
  • They like seafood and so do I! Unfortunately Claudia is not quite as enthusiastic about it…
  • Cheap vending machines for bottles and cans every 50m.
  • Great variety of bento food available everywhere. Quite unlike the tiny selection of sandwiches we have in Europe.
  • They love mochis and yatsuhashi and so do we!
  • Train tracks often tell you wagon number and door positions where you queue up.

Weird things about Japan:

  • Toilet slippers.
  • Lack of trash cans in public places, and clean streets none the less.
  • The number of sleeping commuters in the subway. It felt like we were on a transporter for the zombie army.
  • Some younger women have a fashion taste that is very different from what we are used to.
  • Terrible inward pointing feet for many young women. (I’m not sure what to call it: “Knock-knees”?)
  • The queues for immigration and emmigration at Narita airport are terrible. We waited about an hour in order to get in and about three quarters of an hour in order to get out of the country. The officer at the counter was working as fast as possible, but there just not enough open counters for non-Japanese.
  • Strong emphasis on the “route” while visiting things. There’s signalization for everything, including signs saying “Please continue.” There’s also signalization on the train track floor telling you how to queue.
  • Apparently there is very little public display of affection between couples. We had to restrain ourselves.


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2007-09-28 Last Day

An English report is due today. So, what did we do? Yesterday we went to bed around two and got up again at a quarter to five. Why, you ask? We wanted to go to the world’s largest fish market. The first subway goes at 5:15, and tuna auctions start at 5:50. I got up with considerable difficulty. Thanks to a full bladder I was able to reach a vertical position, and once all the extra blood drained from my brain, I was able to move about and get dressed.

I felt a little ill at easy at the market, because it is clearly not meant for tourists. There are workers carrying Styrophoam boxes full of fish, shrimps, eel, mussels, blood, ice, strange scooters carrying huge, frozen tuna bombs, and the tourists gawking are always in the way.

We bought some bento – rice balls wrapped in nori with some tuna, inari sushi, iced milk tea, and headed back home. We had to change rooms for our last night in Tokyo and moved from a “Japanese Style” to a “Western Style” room. The difference as far as I can tell from a short survey:

  1. The cushions, armrests, and the Japanese coffee table are missing.
  2. The paper screens for the windows have been replaced by a curtain.
  3. The bathtub is no longer made of wood but tiles. It still has more or less the same size.
  4. The fridge is bigger.
  5. The room is smaller.

Everything else is the same: Tatamis for half the room, futons to sleep in, toilet slippers.

And we have half a day left in Tokyo.

The sun is back and the weather is hot. We decide to go underground. We’ll take some time and look at some department stores. Watching people, seeing the things they buy, walking through the artificial landscapes of modern capitalism – we often enjoy this on our holidays, because it gives us a glimpse of the differences and similarities between our cultures.

We got out at Ōtemachi, walked to the Wadakura Fountain Park, looked at the moat around Kōkyō Higashi-Gyoen, the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, walked east and crossed Tokiwabashi, and went to see the Mitsukoshi Department Store. They had fabulous lackerware. Some of the pieces we liked cost around CHF 7000. Even chopsticks were between CHF 25 and CHF 60. A three piece bento box set I had seen at Matsuzakaya near Ueno for about CHF 85 cost CHF 105 at Mitsukoshi.

We like the contrast between british conservative clothing for businessmen and their wives and lavish kimonos where you could spend thousands of Swiss Francs. On the one hand, globalized capitalism and its pseudo-individuality, and on the other hand, old traditions turned into luxury items for the same class of people.

I really enjoyed the little terrariums they had on display. All it contained was moss and plants. A little jungle fantasy in a very small space. And tools to go along with it: Long scissors with which to reach into the aquarium to prune the plants, special hydroculture pebbles, and more esoteric tools of non-obvious use. It felt like watching the birth of a new short-lived trend; something that feeds on the fascination for bonsais and aquariums. While we stood and wondered, little moisturizers switched on and filled the terrariums with a cool mist. That’s how they keep the moss alive indoors! Slowly my mind started drifting… Images of bacteria spreading, fungal kingdoms waging war against the upper class moss, owners desperately clinging to their septic visions of purity, and the tiny machines keep moisturizing this bio nightmare like mechanical lungs. Fascinating!

After a lot of walking, we needed some rest and something to eat. Claudia and I decided to try the shopping arcades around Tokyo station, for surely there must be a lot of them. We took the subway, and started looking for them. But we didn’t find any! And as we started to venture outside into the open air, we saw the same buildings we had just left, except that we were now on the other side. Looking at the wonderful maps of Tokyo City Atlas: A Bilingual Guide (you remember I recommended it before!) shows that we wasted time and money taking the subway. All these stations are so close together that reaching the subway platforms within the stations involves more walking than just walking there on the surface! We just keep on learning.

We ended up in a restaurant behind a bakery that wasn’t involved with the bakery after all, and ate expensive Pizza instead of delicious Japanese food. That’s how tired and desperate we were.

Back at the hotel, the first thing we do is take a bath. Aaaah! This is great. Then Claudia takes a nap, and I start writing this post. Oh well.

Our plane tomorrow is at 10:25. Be there 2h early, taking the train takes at least ¾h, add ¼h waiting for the train, add at least ½h getting to the train station, ½h packing, ¼h getting up, and we end up setting the alarm clock for six o’clock.



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2007-09-27 Schon wieder Salsa

Heute sind wir wirklich spät aufgestanden. Die Rezeption hat schon angerufen und gefragt, ob wir das Zimmer überhaupt gemacht haben wollten. Ich war schon recht aktiv und habe versprochen, dass wir bis um viertel vor eins draussen seien. Claudia hat die Hetzerei nicht so recht gepasst.

Da leichter Nieselregen fiel, sind wir zuerst einmal ins Matsukaya Department Store in der Nähe von Ueno gegangen. Unser Buch behauptete, dass man dort einige traditionell japanische Dinge würde kaufen können. Das war nur bedingt richtig. Die meisten Stockwerke sahen eher nach Globus aus. Globalisierte Mode…

Ich bin ein grosser Fan von Teetassen und Teekannen, aber wir haben schon so viele und ich kann mich dann sowieso nicht entscheiden, und ausserdem besteht ja immer die Gefahr, dass diese kaputt gehen… Ich verschloss Augen und Herz und lief weiter. Bei den Lackwaren wurde ich dann aber schon weicher und beschloss, mir vor Ende des Tages noch etwas zu genehmigen. Ausserdem habe ich ja noch einen Gutschein für den Sato in Zürich. Da werde ich mir vielleicht noch ein paar schöne Tassen kaufen. :)

Gestern habe ich in der Gegend von Nippori zwei Paar billige Zōri für unser Aikido Dōjo gekauft. Zurück im Hotel habe ich festgestellt, dass zwar die Länge der Schuhe stimmt, die Dinger aber so eng sind, dass meine Füsse nicht hineinpassen. Das hat man davon, wenn man die Schuhe nicht anprobieren darf! (Aus hygienischen Gründen und damit das Material der Strohsohlen nicht kaputt geht.) So etwas deprimiert mich immer wieder. Vielleicht hätte ich mir doch die hölzernen Geta kaufen sollen. Die sehen wenigstens Klasse aus.

Zur Belohnung habe ich mir dann heute Abend bei den Lackwaren eine Art Bento Box geleistet.

Wir waren auch eine halbe Stunde in einem kleinen Park namens Koishikawa-Korakuen. Es war schon spät, so dass wir einerseits fantastisches Licht zum fotografieren hatten, andereseits aber die Mücken in grosser Zahl schon präsent waren und besonders Claudia darunter leiden musste. Früher hatten wir bei solchen Gelegenheiten auch immer sehr grosse Schmetterlinge sehen können; diesmal war dem nicht so. Dafür konnten wir eine Wespe oder Hornisse beobachten die etwa so gross wie mein Daumen war. Sehr beeindruckend.

Am Abend sind wir dann nach Roppongi gefahren. Mir hat das Quartier bei Nacht nicht so gefallen. Zuviel Rotlicht, zuviele Zuhältertypen. Die Frauen stören mich nicht – schliesslich wohne ich ja selber auch in einem Rotlichtquartier. Es sind diese grossen, bulligen Türsteher, die jungen Typen im Anzug mit der wilden Frisur, die Männer ohne Begleitung ansprechen…

Nach langem Suchen haben wir endlich den gesuchten Salsa Schuppen gefunden. Es war sehr laut und sehr eng; es gab jede Menge guter Tänzer und ausgelassene Stimmung.

Der Grund warum wir hier oft Mühe mit der Orientierung haben, liegt übrigens nicht nur im seltsamen Adressiersystem in Japan, sondern auch an der lausigen Angewohnheit der Kartographen, welche die kleinen Umgebungskarten bei den Metrostationen und den Parks zeichnen, die Ausrichtung nach ästhetischen Gründen zu wählen, statt Norden immer nach oben zeigen zu lassen.

Das Adressiersystem in Japan funktioniert übrigens so, dass man den Namen des Viertels angibt, und dann drei Zahlen. Diese bezeichnen dann die Gegend, den Häuserblock, und die Hausnummer. Somit stehen wir dann an der Metro von Roppongi und suchen zuerst die 7, und sobald wird dort stehen die Häusergruppe 13, und darin dann die Nummer 8. Irgendwie funktioniert das dann nie so effizient wie es sich liest.


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2007-09-26 Sleepyheads

As the end of our trip approaches, we’re reverting to sleepyheads again. We got up just in time for breakfast. What a disappointment compared to the Nishiyama breakfast in Kyoto! I guess that’s what you get for staying at a Ryokan that costs about 40k¥ for four nights instead of 60k¥ for three nights…

It’s hard to say what exactly disappointed us. There was nobody there to greet us. Strange how one gets used to it. If everybody greets you with a cheerful “Irasshaimase!” whenever you enter a place, you’ll feel ill at easy the first time you’re not. Plates and bowls were made of Styrofoam. You serve yourself in a small room with no windows before you seat yourself.

The restaurant itself looks very nice, and I probably would not be complaining if we had come here at the very beginning of our trip. Next time we go on a trip, I’ll try to sort our hotels by price with the most expensive one coming last. :)

We got out and went for a walk. First we went to the Shinobazu pond, looked at the Benten-dô schrine, continued on to Ueno station, where I bought a new 1GB SD card for my camera, took the train to Nippori, walked north to Nishi-Nippori, walked back to Nippori via a another little street, and ate a little something at the Swiss Chalet. Yes we did. When Claudia saw the Swiss flags and read the signs, she absolutely wanted to see it. And it looked rather authentic, too! And the guests seemed to be locals from the area. One pair of ladies was eating Fondue. And the menu showed that you could have Fondue based on Emmenthaler or Appenzeller cheese. We saw a portrait of a Caucasian man with lots of Japanese text, and therefore assumed that the owner was Swiss. I wonder how he managed to build an authentic Chalet. Perhaps there’s a company selling them here in Japan? We walked on to the Sendagi station and returned to Yushima.

One thing we really like about Japan is the abundancy of public toilets. They are easy to find and almost always quite clean. Very unlike the public toilets you can find in other countries… And they are free! Unlike more and more public toilets in Switzerland. First, you need to know where to find them, and if they’re in a central location they probably belong to a company such as !McClean and cost CHF 1.– to use. What a shame. In hotels, on the other hand, I’ve noticed that they use pretty cheap toilet paper. In Switzerland, we use two- or three-layered toilet paper. Often it is faintly perfumed, embossed. Here in Japan I’ve only seen single-layered, drab toilet paper.

I guess all these observations say as much about Switzerland as they say about Japan. :)

Another thing we noticed while walking through the streets: Young people often wear little rucksacks for their belongings. And they wear them as low hanging as possible. Sometimes I feel like they must be must be reaching down to the wearer’s knees. What a weird trend.

We also noticed that we had to wait a long time for the pedestrians’ green light whenever we wanted to cross roads. At one time I was really confused: Once the light switches to green for the pedestrians, all four car lanes had to stop while pedestrians got to walk where ever they wanted. I don’t think such crossings exist in Switzerland.

At a Swiss crossing, there’s always at least one green light for pedestrians. In the simplest case, cars drive on the right of the road and cannot turn left at the crossing. Thus one of the two roads is open for cars, and the other two crossings are open for pedestrians. Since cars can turn right, there’s usually an orange light flashing at the right, warning the cars of the pedestrians who have priority.

I guess this is a traffic safety issue: Pedestrians have a green light, and the cars have both a green light to turn right and an orange flashing light warning them of the pedestrians around the corner. There are probably studies on traffic throughput, pedestrian fatalities, and so on. I should find a blog on city planning and development or something like that. A blog where they talk about the exact, numerical benefits of using roundabouts, the drawbacks when it comes to pedestrians and bicycles, and so on. I think I’d love to read that. Then again, life is short.

I must confess that I never really thought about traffic light patterns and traffic control at crossings until I saw this strange example here in Japan.

I think I already wrote about the large number of bicyclists visible and their apparent reluctance to ride on the street. Instead, they often drive quite slowly on the boardwalk.

Yesterday I wrote how we didn’t really like the Onsen in our current Ryokan. I wonder if people use the Translate link at the bottom of German pages. Do you? If this is the first time you’ve noticed it and would have liked to use it, I’d also be interested in knowing. Having a hard to find translation link defeates its purpose, I think.

Since we didn’t like the public bath, and the Edoya Ryokan has a much bigger suite with a traditional looking, wooden, square bathtub, we decided to give it a try when we came back from our long walk. We loved it! First, start filling the tub with hot water. In the mean time, squat outside the tub and use the shower and a bowl to rinse yourself, lather yourself, rinse again, until every single pore is clean, then step into the tub and soak for a while, get out again and rinse yourself some more, get back into the tub and soak, get out again and rinse…

We slept for a while, and in the evening we went out again, strolled through the area around Ueno, looked at the shops, ate cold Soba noodles and Kitsune Soba (Soba noodels with soup and fried Tofu) for dinner, ended up in a red light district where the women we assumed to be prostitutes looked more like conservative housewives, quite unlike the high heels, knee socks and hot pants you see so much out on the streets – and which we immediately associate with the horizontal business if overdone.

Later that night, Claudia kept reading a book by John le Carré and I moved the Permanent Anchors code from the Oddmuse core script into a module. We got to bed at around three thirty.


Comments on 2007-09-26 Sleepyheads

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Summary: About the translate link: I remember seeing it at some point, but I often read your blog at work, and this link leads to "Access to services . . .


> ----
> About the translate link:
> I remember seeing it at some point, but I often read your blog at work, and this link leads to "Access to services categorized as Anonymizer/Translator is restricted due to company policy" here...so I forgot about it.
> I can use translation copy-pasting the text ...but it's a bit too much work for a result that is not very pleasant to read as it is generally
> quite bad and just allows you to barely grasp the general meaning.
> -- PierreGaston 2007-10-01 08:18 UTC

Vielleicht wirst du noch ein Verkehrsexperte! Die beschriebene Verkehrsregelung- alle Autos warten und die Fussgänger können kreuz und quer über die Strasse gehen- kenne ich, nur weiss ich nicht mehr wo ich das gesehen habe. Könnte das in England gewesen sein?

Jetzt kommt der Endspurt, alles in Laufschritt, was es noch zu sehen gibt. Ihr müsst euch dann in der Schweiz von den Ferien erholen!!! Das habt ihr doch sicher eingeplant? Noch viel Spass in Japan. Öffentliche Toiletten hat es hier in Rio kaum. Und wenn, dann Benützung nur gegen Bezahlung. Das muss so sein, denn es braucht Leute zur Reinigung. Die Brasilianer sind es von früher gewöhnt, dass die Sklaven nachher putzen. Die Sklaverei ist ja schon abgeschafft, aber die Mentalität der Leute hat sich kaum geändert.

– der Vater 2007-09-28 20:31 UTC

About the translate link:

I remember seeing it at some point, but I often read your blog at work, and this link leads to “Access to services categorized as Anonymizer/Translator is restricted due to company policy” here…so I forgot about it.

I can use translation copy-pasting the text …but it’s a bit too much work for a result that is not very pleasant to read as it is generally quite bad and just allows you to barely grasp the general meaning.

– PierreGaston 2007-10-01 08:18 UTC

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2007-09-25 Abseits der Touristenpfade

Das letzte ausgezeichnete japanische Frühstück im Nishiyama-Ryokan: jeden Morgen wurde uns etwas Neues serviert! Auch wenn das Hotel nicht supergut aussah, war das Frühstück und Onsen super. Schade haben wir uns nie die Zeit genommen, das Abendessen ebenfalls im Ryokan zu essen.

Beim ATM der Post konnte man mit der Maestrokarte problemlos Geld abheben. Was mich sehr verwirrt hat – es gab keinen quadratischen Zahlenblock, sondern die Zahlen waren einfach von 0 bis 9 aufgereiht. Da merkt man erst, wie dass man sich ein Bewegungsmuster und keine Zahlenfolge gemerkt hat.

Es folgt sponti Plan 17a von Claudia: Gekkeikan Okura Memorial Hall, ein kleines Museum einer Sake-Brauerei in Fushimi. Dorthin zu kommen war nicht leicht. Mit Bus 206 bis Kyoto Bahnhof, Gepäck deponieren, dann mit der Kintetsu-Railway bis Tanbabashi, dann umsteigen auf die Keihan-Railway und weiter bis Chushojima. Dort sieht es sehr nett und dörflich aus. Das Museum selber besteht eigentlich nur aus zwei Räumen, wo Brauprozess, -werkzeuge, Vermarktung und Firmengeschichte dargestellt wurde. Dann gab es noch einen Shop, wo man diverse Getränke und Spezialitäten aus der Brauerei kaufen konnte. Ein Besuch der angeschlossenen Mini-Brauerei benötigt eine Reservation. Wir dürfen verschiedene Sake kosten (dry, sweet) und Claudia kauft sich Pflaumenwein. Wir fragen die Dame an der Kasse nochmals wegen der Führung. Diese ruft den Chef, der nochmals festhält, dass man dazu eine Reservartion braucht und danach nachfragt, woher wir kommen, sich freut als er Switzerland hört – und er dann spontan beschliesst, und eine persönliche Privat-Führung gleich selber zu machen. Wir reden über Reispolieren, verschiedene Reis- und Hefesorten, Fermentation bei 5 bis 10 Grad für bis zu 30 Tagen, Schimmelpilze die Stärke in Zucker umwandeln, die Sake-Wanderarbeiter im Winter, die früher von 05:00 bis 24:00 Uhr für ihr Geld haben schuften müssen und darüber, dass die Japaner gerne ständig neue Getränke ausprobieren (statt beim Sake zu bleiben).

Weiter zu sponti Plan 17b: Wir schauen auf dem Rückweg beim Fushimi Inari-Taisha vorbei. Wir geniessen ein paar tausend Torii, wandern aber aus Zeitmangel nicht bis ganz auf den Berg (10’000 Torii auf 4km Wegstrecke verteilt, sehr schön). Überall sind Kitsune-Figuren mit roten Tüchern zu sehen (Fuchs-Kami).

Den Plan von gestern, mit dem Besuch des Filmstudios von Kyoto, lassen wir fallen – haben einfach nicht genügend Zeit!

Mit dem Shinkansen gehts weiter nach Tokyo und stellen fest, dass wir die Adresse des Hotels nicht haben und auch keinen Internet-Zugang, um diese zu finden. Eine gute Stunde verplemperln wir mit der Suche nach einer Tourist Information, einem Hot Spot oder einem Internet Cafe… Schlussendlich finden wir gegen 21:00 Uhr endlich den Weg zum Hotel. wir ruhen uns etwas aus und kaufen uns in der Nähe Royal Milk Tea (diesmal nicht in einer der vielen vending machines), Fruchtsäfte, Inari-Sushi, komische Sushi-Rollen mit gehackten Bohnen die uns nicht schmecken, und ein paar der genialen Pflüder (Mochi). Danach geht es ins Onsen – was für eine Enttäuschung! kaum Druck in den Wasserleitungen, lauwarmes, abgestandenes, dreckiges Wasser und lärmende Ausländer im Warteraum! Dafür sind die Zimmer etwas grosszügiger als im Ryokan in Kyoto.


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2007-09-24 Before the Rain

When we left the Ryokan, we went straight to the Imperial Palace. But all the gates were closed. The information office was closed. It took us quite a while to realize that today must have been the first day of autumn and therefore a national holiday. I like the idea of having national holidays based on seasonal changes. This is a joy I can partake in, unlike holidays based on the founding of a state, the rebellion against an oppressor, or the coronation of a monarch. None of these fill me with joy and happiness. If I feel joy on these days because I have a day off, it sometimes feel cheapened by the unsavory reasons it was granted for.

Anyway. We were locked out of the palace once again and feeling down. What next? Yesterday we had read about two streets that still had their old houses intact. We decided to go for a walk.

We took bus no. 202 to Higashiyama-Sanjo and walked south towards Chion-in and Maruyama park, took a look at Kodaji, walked through Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka, both of them bustling with tourists and shops selling Yatsuhasi, and finally we ended up at Kiyomizudera. By then we were tired, it had started to drizzle, and we had seen enough temples. We decided to not pay the 300¥ and head home again.

Trying to find a way down, we passed the entrance to the cemetery and decided to have a look. Excellent move. I had never been to an Asian cemetary. We ended up at the Nishi Otani Mausoleum and took the bus 206 from Gojozaka back to Higashiyama Nijo and walked back to our hotel.

After the bath, and after eating our bento at the hotel – we had bought two pieces from a bakery, inari sushi, some rolls, three soft rice balls filled with sweet bean paste, a rice ball with some tuna, and a rice thing with red beans – we spent some time in our room. Claudia slept, and I did some more Oddmuse coding. Yeah, that’s what I get for taking my laptop along, hehe.

At six we went for our (separate) baths. This seems to be a good time to sit there by yourself, scrubbing away the day’s worries and soaking in the hot water all alone. I wonder what I’d do if I met a talkative Japanese man in the bath. Should we ever stay longer in Japan, I think I’d pick Kyoto. The city is big, but not metropolitan. Kind of like Zürich. The people are friendly, the girls are good looking – my eyes have adapted to the knee socks, the high heeled boots, the exagerated Brigitte Bardot coiffure, the make-up. No Zürich girl in her right mind would wear this, but right now it all feels pleasantly exotic.

I guess I’d miss some European food, and Claudia even more so. Kyoto is full of French and Italian restaurants. Perhaps we’d find a few favorites. Right now we had a fondue and a shrimp and maccaroni gratin in simple restaurants, and they all seem to use the same kind of weird cream cheese. It’s good enough for Claudia because she craves cheese so much on some days that any kind of cheese will do. It doesn’t work for me because I like Japanese food better. Thus, if we do end up in a European restaurant, it better be really good!

Globalization is a strange thing. On the one hand, it’s nice to be able to sit in a Starbucks far away from home and drink a Caramel Macchiato. We did that in Bangkok, too. On the other hand there’s always the fear of !McDonaldization. I don’t think it’s a realistic fear, but it’s there none the less. It’s why I cringe when I see a Kentucky Fried Chicken or a Donut shop. All of this is heavily biased, of course. But at least it’s my bias.

We came home at around eleven o’clock. Tomorrow will be our last Japanese breakfast here at the Nishiyama hotel in Kyoto. Check-out is at ten, and we’ll return to Tokyo in the evening. Claudia is planning on visiting the Gekkeikan Okura Memorial Hall – one of the oldest sake breweries situated in Fushimi, and maybe the Toei Movie Land where they make Samurai era soap operas, as far as I understand it.

And I’ll have to find an ATM machine. The CHF 1000 we changed into Yen before coming to Japan will be running out tomorrow.


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