Page Collection for ^2007-09

2007-09-02 Campaign Start

We started ShackledCity today! :D :) :vee:

I think the campaign got off to a good start. Here’s what I had the players do in addition to character creation:

  1. I prepared a player’s guide (PDF) with some background for the local players. These days, all adventure paths seem to come with a player’s guide, but Shackled City was one of the first, and it didn’t come with a player’s guide. If you look around at RPGenius and google around, you’ll find tons of material that you can remix into a personalized guide for your players.
  2. In addition to preparing a character, players had to name a friend or relative that they had a strong relationship with. This other person would be their backup, their contact, and their ally in times of emergency.
  3. The players also had to explain why they were about to adventure with at least two other characters in the group. This was to prevent the group from being pulled appart at the very beginning, and to hopefully provide for some interesting in-group roleplay elements.

It made for an interesting constellations.

  • The elven sorceror is making fun of the dwarf, but at the same time the elf is insterested in the volcano and the possible dangers of an erruption. So he is looking for somebody with the right expertise to take him down below and tell him more. Somebody like the dwarf in the party.
  • We have two sorcerors in the group. One is the elven sorceror mentioned above, the other is a fourteen year old human child that just discovered its talent. That’s why the child is interested in learning new things about sorcery.
  • The cleric of Pelor is our only female character in the group. Seeing the human child trying to join an adventuring party, she decides that the kid needs to be protected.

I love it.


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2007-09-02 Ghelve

“Alex Tercival, a paladin who serves St. Cuthbert, has been out of town for several days; I hear he traveled to the village of Redgorge to take care of a woman who was possessed by a demon!” – just a rumor

Today is September 1, 680 years after the foundation of Cauldron.

We started the new campaign!! :)

For a DM’s perspective on character generation, see 2007-09-02 Campaign Start.

Borg’s butchery is right behind Maavu’s Imports
The Gorunn butchery

A note on copyright: The map sections on this page are © 2005 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., created by Christopher West. They are not covered by the license notice below.

Suffice it to say that we started with four characters: Borg Gorunn, a dwarven butcher turned monster hunter; Fenyael, an elven explorer interested in the volcano; Aria, a half-elven daughter of a noble house interested in all things elven; and Zacharias, a human child age fourteen from the Cauldron undertaker who runs the crematorium.

Borg lives on Magma Avenue. The butchery is to the right of Maavu’s main warehouse.

Fenyael has rented a room at the Drunken Morkoth.

Aria still lives at home when she’s not at the Pelor temple.

Zacharias still lives with his family in the house near the crematorium. Here’s how to get to the crematorium: Start at Skie’s Treasury, walk down to Lava Avenue, turn right until you reach the back of the Treasury, walk down to Ash Avenue, and when you’re half way there, you’ll see the crematorium on your right.

The crematorium run by Zacharias’ father is very close to Ash Avenue
The crematorium
Basically the party gets involved in the abduction of four children from the Lantern Street Orphanage. What follows is a list of people know, talked to, and information discovered.

; Ruphus Laro: A monk of St. Cuthbert charged with investigating the abductions at the orphanage. He was attacked by Last Laugh ruffians on the way back and saved by the party.

; Jenya Urikas: The priestess of St. Cuthbert in charge of the temple while the high priest Sarcem Delasharn is on an extended visit to the port city of Sasserine. She gave every party member a potion of Cure Moderate Wounds and promised 2’500 gp for bringing back the children and punishing the kidnappers.

; Gretchyn Tashykk: The headmistress of the Lantern Street Orphanage; an elderly halfling.

; Patch: Half-orc janitor at the Lantern Street Orphanage. He confessed having received 50 gp in order to watch over Terrem about a year ago. He is still contacted by the mysterious Revo Twindagger every now and then.

; Keygan Ghelve: The gnomish locksmith who supplies 80% of all the locks in this Cauldron. The skulks and dark creepers of Jzadirune forced him to produce three master keys for his locks by abducting his familiar, a rat called Starbrow. He gave the party a map of the old gnomish magic user enclave of Jzadirune, warned them of trapped doors, and mentioned the mysterious Vanishing curse that struck 75 years ago and cursed all magic items produced down there.

; Kristof Jurgensen: Current head of the church of Pelor; the church is relatively minor, specially since his three superiors recently died under mysterious circumstances.

; Oriodea: An acolyte at the Pelor temple, and friend of Aria’s.

; Sergeant Justinian: Working for the town guard; he told the party about the Last Laugh thieves guild (which is what “organized crime” is called around here…). He also mentioned that there are about five levels of subterranean prisons below the town barracks. Seeing that Aria was an acolyte of Pelor, he said he’d give her a tour of the prison complex if she produced a letter of recommendation from her head priest, Kristof Jurgensen.

; Bolar Westkey: Gnomish cartographer that had a map of Jzadirune similar to the one that Keygan Ghelve gave to the party. Maps seem to cost 2-20 gp.


  1. Fenyael has a remote relative working at the Bluewater Academy. Fenyael is trying to get him to help him research the volcano issue, but this first requires adequate introductions as required by elvish codes of conduct. A present must be sent, an invitation to an appropriate event must be delivered, and so on. What’s this professor’s name?
  2. What is Aria’s noble house? The father must be over seventy years old by now. Where does the elvish mother live, and is there a possibility of her coming back?

The party met Ruphus on September 1, talked to the headmistress of the orphanage on September 2, and started investigating Jzadirune on September 3.

The party spent quite a long time down in Jzadirune and discovered several Skulks, about half of them asleep. One of them seems to have contracted the Vanishing curse. The party traveled quite a bit through mysteriously dug tunnels without ever having to open any of the gnomish doors. They did find a few secret doors, however. Below the old gnomish theater stage, they fought a choker and nearly died because it grappled Borg and nearly killed him, and then started grappling Aria. Only when Zacharias’ Ray of Enfeeblement weakened it such that it could no longer do any real damage did the Choker flee. The party had prevailed and brought some loot back up to the surface.


Challenges overcome:

  • Skulks, 7 × CR 1
  • Patch, 1 × CR 1
  • Choker, 1 × CR 2
  • Keygan Ghelve, 1 × CR 3

; Level 1: 8*300+600+900 ⇒ 3900 / 4 = 975 per person

Current XP:

; Borg: 975 (Ftr-1) ; Aria: 975 + 50 (initiative) = 1025 (Clr-1 + new level) ; Fenyael: 975 (Sor-1) ; Zacharias: 975 (Sor-1)


Comments on 2007-09-02 Ghelve

Good write-up :) Shackled City brings back fond memories for me; I played through the first few adventures with my friends when it first came out, and had a blast with it. The adventures raised the already great quality of Dungeon mag by another level. Shackled City deserves it’s classic status.

GreyWulf 2007-09-03 10:36 UTC

Hehe. Indeed, I like what I see. Why did your campaign fizzle? (Or would that contain spoilers?)

AlexSchroeder 2007-09-03 11:33 UTC

Several reasons, really:

  1. Two of my players have a pathological hatred of D&D above 8th level as it becomes too unwieldy to play. That’s their perception at least, and I can see why they think that. Too many choices, too much book-keeping, etc. We’re trying to fix that in the new campaign by limiting magical items and slowing down level advancement
  2. We are getting rather bored of D&D :) We’d played nothing but D&D for almost 2 year, and were desperate for a change. Along came GURPS 4th Edition, HARP then Mutants & Masterminds and we didn’t look back.
  3. Lack of time. Oh what busy lives we lead……..

That said, we’re looking forward to going back to D&D now, after the rest.

GreyWulf 2007-09-03 11:50 UTC

Yikes! My MondayGroup will be reaching 8th level soon… I don’t think my players will tire of D&D any time soon. They are a pretty conservative bunch. We tried a session of Rolemaster maybe fifteen years ago that did not go anywhere, we tried GURPS Lite for two sessions and abandoned it, I tried to push my diceless system… And now I’ve given up, turned my coat, and embraced the opposition. D&D all the way to epic levels in three campaigns!! Haaaargh! :goggle: :sardonic: :fishbone:

AlexSchroeder 2007-09-03 12:50 UTC

Heh :)

I’m sure you’ll be fine. I think it’s just down to my gamers - they’re the kind of players who like to evolve their characters, so by the time they have reached 8th level or so they’ve got them excactly as they want them - so get bored with them and want to start again at 1st or 2nd level.

That’s one of the reasons I’ve kept wanting to bring in Classic D&D’s shift of emphasis at 9th level where the characters get Strongholds, land to govern and politics to be involved in. Maybe this time, I’ll actually manage it………..

GreyWulf 2007-09-03 12:57 UTC

Yeah!! That’s what I’ve always wanted to do as a player. I still remember my very first campaign (actually, a sequence of random bought adventures) for Das Schwarze Auge. The last adventure had us finding a gate to another plane, and the other side had a civilization, different technology, and so on. We wanted to set up an intraplanar trade organization, do politics, get involved… But the game fizzled. At the time I was too young to understand, but thinking back I think one player’s wife had decided that the two were no longer going to play. Bah! (At the time I must have been around ten, playing with my mom and some friends of hers.)

My current players hate danger and risk, and thus they abhor starting at first level. The spirit of Kicki Butti – which is Hawaiian for “kill quickly” – is strong in them. When they cleared a ruined castle, local warlord granted them the land on the condition that they rebuild the castle. I sent them copies of the stronghold rules in the Rules Cyclopedia. But they were not interested…

AlexSchroeder 2007-09-03 23:09 UTC

Hey Alex! I didn´t know you started playing with your mom! Cool parents I must say! As for the kick butt - well I guess a young adult black dragon is not enough any more. :-)

Just to let you know: starting again with 1st level was not at all disapointing! The contrary: I had a lot of fun in Shackled City, which is sure also because the group is not so ambitious of their characters

– Belarond 2007-09-05 15:20 UTC

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2007-09-07 Web Comics are a Waste of Time

Indeed, they are a waste of time. About as wastefull as InternetRelayChat. One of them stood out: DM of the Rings. The guy, Shamus Young, also has a pretty interesting blog. He writes about games that everybody played a few years ago; he writes about DRM. It’s fun. I like it.

DM of the Rings was a web comic that worked with still images from The Lord of the Rings (2001). It was awesome. But there is only so much material in the movies. And he has run out of material. This is a comic with an actual beginning and an end. Interesting. :)

The comic is dead, long live the comic. Shamus has started a new comic! Chainmail Bikini – and hosted by Fear the Boot, a roleplaying podcast I listen to. Yay!


Comments on 2007-09-07 Web Comics are a Waste of Time

yeah, but what a wonderful waste of time. OOTS kicks ass.

– Marco 2007-09-08 20:06 UTC

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2007-09-09 Vordek

21. Juni

Lanthana erreicht Pembrose, und die Gruppe beschliesst, noch einmal zu Vordek’s Höhle vorzustossen. Fünf Meilen, fünf Stunden unter der Erde, ein Kampf gegen Schattenwesen… Die Gruppe versucht, mit Vordek’s Geist zu reden, doch dieser meint nur, niemand solle “auf seine Knochen” stehen und benutzt seine Fähigkeit, allen hier Angst einzuflössen. Einige fliehen, der Rest zieht sich ebenfalls zurück. Die Gruppe wird nicht verfolgt, und die Gruppe formiert sich erneut. Beim zweiten Versuch hat die Gruppe erfolg. Der Geist versucht Besitz von Belflin zu ergreifen, doch Auroleva ruft Freya an, und mit ihrer göttlichen Macht vertreibt sie den Geist. Nur ein paar grausige Folterknecht Erinnerungen bleiben zurück…

Geister scheinen interessante Monster zu sein…

Hinter einer Türe öffnet sich eine Kerker: Folterkammer, Gefängniszellen, Gänge, jemand gräbt in der Ferne… In einer der Zellen findet die Gruppe drei grosse Wiesel. Eines der Tiere wird von Belflin angelockt und gezähmt, doch als Auroleva dasselbe versucht, wird sie angegriffen. Schlachtgetümmel, Lanthana und Goskan erschlagen auch den gezähmten Wiesel, was Belflin schockiert. Auroleva heilt den Wiesel wieder, doch so leicht lässt sich der Streit nicht schlichten. Lanthana und Goskan trennen sich von der Gruppe.


Überwundene Gefahren:

  • Vordek, Male Human Ghost Rog-4, CR 6
  • Cloaker, verwundet, CR 4 statt CR 5
  • Shadows, 3 × CR 3

Stufe 4: 3 × 750 + 1000 + 2250 = 5500 ⇒ 1100 pro Person

10613 + 1100 = 11713 (Sor-5)
10454 + 1100 + 50 (Initiative) = 11604 (Drd-2/Clr-3)
10268 + 1100 = 11368 (Rng-5)


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2007-09-10 It’s called “Entertainment”

Today we had an encounter with three dire weasels cuddling up in an empty dungeon cell. The ranger says he’ll try his Wild Empathy ability to befriend one of them and makes it. The druid tries to do the same thing but fails. The two remaining weasels attack and attach themselves, draining blood. The barbarian starts raging, the monk joins the fight, the two weasels are killed, and then the barbarian and the monk want to attack the weasel the ranger had befriended. The ranger says: “No! Don’t do it! I befriendet it!” But the barbarian says: “I don’t care. I’m raging!” and the monk’s player says: “If you had told us what you were planning to do, the monk might have reacted differently, but we didn’t see what you did in the cell; all my monk knows is that two weasels attacked our druid and with all the shouting and confusing of combat, there’s no way for the monk to know what is going on.”

There’s some shouting at the table (!) and the ranger draws his bow and readies an attack. The monk attacks. The ranger shoots and hits. The barbarian attacks. The ranger tries to grapple him. Within seconds we’ve managed to turn this into a party fight, and some players don’t know whether insults are hurled in-character or out-of-character. This kind of confusion has happened before, where the barbarian’s player and the monk’s player – on two different occasions – managed to baffle the rest of the group (including the DM).

To further confuse the issue, the monk’s player declares angrily “I’m out!” and it turns out that not only is the monk leaving the party, but the player is leaving the group as well. “Nothing personal, it’s just that our gaming styles don’t match.”

Fine with me. But what a lousy way to end a session. I’ve seen a much better way to end your involvement with a group: Play along for the rest of the session, go home, write a friendly good-bye email, and be done with it.

Before introducing conflicted characters into a group, players need to ask themselves whether this makes the game more fun for other players. I don’t find that party conflict makes the game more fun. I also don’t believe that realism is more fun than metagaming. And I don’t think that role-playing is more fun than roll-playing. We just want to have fun at the table, all factors need to be considered. The end of today’s session was decidedly not fun. I’m sure there’s a way to enjoy party conflict at the gaming table. But this was not it.

I wonder whether this has anything to do with player types. My current guess is that we’re having a very hard time fitting method actors into our groups. I’ll have to mull this over, and perhaps I’ll add a line or two to my Roleplaying Social Contract. Or I should create a page called Know Your DM.


Comments on 2007-09-10 It’s called “Entertainment”

Make that two resignations - the second was just announced. And to be honest, I feel rather crap about it. Actuall crap is a little to general so I’ll elaborate. I feel guilty because I feel I’ve caused group members to leave, inaquedate because my playing style conflicts with the others, confused because I don’t have a freakin’ clue why people are leaving, and finally victimised because it feels like it’s my fault but I don’t know what I’ve done wrong!

And now, I feel a little better.

I had a coffe with Alex Z today and tried to figure out what the hell went down last night. Apparently I really didn’t offend Kirsten. She just realised that her playing style conflicts with the group and announced her departure. She explained that last night in german, but I didn’t understand any of it at the time. I’m glad that now I know it’s not personal. At least I really hope not. I’m not sure why Alex Z has decided to leave and I won’t speculate on it, though I also find it a shame.

Well I brooded on it and come up with a couple of resolutions. I’m going to be honest. First, I’ve identified a couple of in-game pet hates which are burning little holes in my keyboard. Racial-based (or any unresolvable) hatreds create unnecessary tension. Unnecessary character quirks interrupt the game flow and slow down the game. Not being listened to irritates me just as much as others get irritated when I don’t listen to them. (Did I ever claim to be perfect?) And the biggest, baddest one of these is not knowing whether characters are in-character or not. When someones character shoots an insult or provocation at my chracter, my feathers can be ruffled in and out of character if I don’t know whether it’s OOC or not.

The quirky player thing is a going to be an ongoing issue for me I think, because I’m signed up for a game where player quirks are definately going to be part of the game. The only consellations are that character flaws are involuntary (ie. they’re in the rules), and that there will be a common goal to keep the party together (I’ve been assurred). I really hope it works out.

I’ve also tried to figure out what I could have done better. So far I’ve come up with communication. Maybe if I’d explained to the party I was looking for animals to domesticate, and explained that I was going to try and befriend the weasel, maybe everybody would have understood what was happening and been more supportive. And maybe I would have spent a lot of breath. I don’t know. At any rate, if it makes a difference that’s what I’ll work on.

– Marco 2007-09-10 15:27 UTC

Again, Marco I was not offended out-time. Frustrated probably because the night had not been going too well. And I get the feeling that there was a ton of misunderstandings involved. The way that I have treated roleplaying so far was that one would separate player knowledge from character knowledge. In retrospect, I should have been a little less pushy about it and taken more time to explain my approach to the rest of the group, see what yours is and so on. From what I see now there was some degree of unspoken frustration on many sides. With additional knowledge on the other factors to be taken into account (e.g. what the rest of you enjoy about roleplaying), things would have taken a different turn. But what it boils down to (and what I apparently failed to get across) was that I LIKE the group a lot out-time. I am not at ease with two player’s gameing style but again, question of taste. So I am sure that - even in AD&D - but definitely in a new system, we’ll do better, right? Apologies if I crossed people. I’m honest to the point of being blunt most of the time but never intended to put anyone down nor am I found guilty of holding grudges. I wish you all well from the bottom of my heart and would be pleased to see you again, maybe in a different gameing constellation. And this time, we make sure that we know each other and the DM.

– Unbekannt 2007-09-10 16:16 UTC

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2007-09-13 US Politics Matter

Hehe. As I said a while ago, I’ve stopped posting much about politics… I’m having too much fun at the moment, and I can’t stand the feeling of helplessly watching the world go down. So I’ve closed my eyes, decided not to have any kids, and go down singing. Or something like that.

By chance I found a website by somebody interested in roleplaying games and he had an interesting page on US politics on the same site. I liked it.

“One of the pervasive myths of politics, promulgated by a mainstream media obsessed with process instead of policy, is that there’s no difference between Republicans and Democrats; no difference between liberals and conservatives. This myth is corrosive, reducing elections to beauty pageants and posturing. It disengages the common citizen from the political process, which only makes it easier for those with a vested interest in promoting public apathy to push their personal agendas while staying out of the public’s eye.

“But leadership matters. So as we perch precariously on the razor’s edge between responsible government and opportunistic payback, I’d like to take a moment to look at the most recent and most vivid example of why we should care about politics: The maddening margin of victory which made George W. Bush and not Al Gore our 43rd president. And four key events over the past six years in which the world could have gone a different way.” – Why We Care About Politics by Justin Alexander

Tags: RSS

Comments on 2007-09-13 US Politics Matter

Alex, this is precisely why you need to either have kids, or to adopt.

For myself, someone who never wanted to have kids, who was literally tricked by his girlfriend into having a daughter– For myself, I’ll just say: It’s been a wonderful ride, and I think having my daughter improves the world, and contributes positively to the evolution of humanity.

And that I voted for Al Gore.

LionKimbro 2007-09-14 03:51 UTC

Non-progenitors are just as political and contributive to society.

The stunning irony about supporting Democrats just because they’re last names aren’t spelled “Bush” is that the entire argument is entirely apolitical. Sounds like a contradiction? True, Bush does enrage and politicize people. Electorally, it produces anybody but Bush (ABB) phenomenon. In 2004, it re-elected Bush (failed to unseat him). ABB-ism lacks any real criticism of issues or any stance on where to go next and therefore offers no leadership. “Bush is incompetent”, but he’s unfortunately he’s not a solitary element. Last I heard, Bush isn’t running in 2008. Also, the foreign wars, corruption and human rights violations championed by Bush are operated by an entire political system. The system includes members of the Democratic Party. There needs to be an opposition movement, not settling for supporting an opposition party.

Politics do matter. Unfortunately electoral politics in the United States is a board game (game show!) played between two players where the general public always loses.

AaronHawley 2007-09-14 15:19 UTC


Right now in an alternate Universe, an alternate-universe version of myself is looking forward to having Barak Obama as the next President of the Alternate Universe United States of America.

Unfortunately, back here in this Universe, I beleive we are going to end up with another Republican, who’ll win after we experience one or more terrorist attacks in the US, which will launch the wars against Syria and Iran, whcih are already basically starting now as proxy wars (Isreal attacking Syria, proxies fighting the US on the Iran/Iraq border on behalf of Iran).

I hope my prediction is wrong, and that we “merge” conditions with the better Alternate Universe…

SamRose 2007-09-14 19:38 UTC

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2007-09-14 Excluding Tags

I added a feature to the Oddmuse:Indexed Search code. Now you can exclude pages with a certain tag from searches. And the first use I made of it was to exclude the RPG tag from my Diary page. Unfortunately the journal RSS feed is produced by the Oddmuse:Journal RSS Extension instead of the main code. Thus, it has no support for searching, and thus the exclusion has no effect. Damn.

I think the correct solution would be to add a match parameter to the code that produces the default RSS feed. Except that the Journal RSS Extension also changes the sort order (alphabetically instead of by last modification date).

Time passes…

I added a search parameter to Journal RSS Extension. :)

Thus, new RSS feeds!


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2007-09-14 Sabifoo is Gone

The service no longer exists. Oh well. I never used it anyway. I really liked the user interface. It was awesome. Instant blog! No sign up. Instant RSS! No setup required. Ever. Unless you wanted to unify the blogs it created for your various IM accounts. And even that was easy. Oh, the elegance… :)

“The recent success of Twitter combined with the difficulty of scaling my implementation along with the unfortunate fact that some third-party libraries I was using seem to have changed and introduced some bugs I don’t feel motivated to track down means I have decided to shut down Sabifoo.” [1]

If I want to, I can still use the LJ bot to post to my Live Journal that I'm not using

Tags: RSS

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2007-09-15 Flug nach Japan

Der Flug war lange. Etwa zwölf Stunden. Claudia schaut Kinofilme mit dem video-on-demand System. Wie sich die Zeiten ändern. Früher gab es genau einen oder zwei Filme auf der zentralen Leinwand. Ich habe je eine Abwandlung von Sokoban und Space Invaders gespielt.

Wir machen Ferien in der ersten Welt! Zum ersten Mal nehme ich meine grosse Kamera und meinen Laptop mit in die Ferien!


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2007-09-15 to 2007-09-29 Japan

We’ll be away and possibly offline for the second half of September. We’ll be visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and possibly Nara.


Comments on 2007-09-15 to 2007-09-29 Japan

Have a nice trip. :)

Noufal Ibrahim 2007-09-18 07:48 UTC

Oh yes. And I think your Captcha should mention that it expect the name of the number rather than the digit.

Noufal Ibrahim 2007-09-18 07:49 UTC

Hm, I think I allow either. What did you type? This is what is says in my config file:

@QuestionaskerQuestions =
  (['Tell me any number between 1 and 10' => sub {
      shift =~ /^\s*([1-9]|10|one|two|three|four|five|six|seven|eight|nine|ten)\s*$/ }],

So it seems to me that the digits should work as well.

AlexSchroeder 2007-09-18 10:00 UTC

I don’t remember but I think I typed ‘5’ and it redirected me back to your homepage.

Noufal Ibrahim 2007-09-19 06:40 UTC

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2007-09-16 Shinjuku

Ankunft in Narita, Rail Pass eingelöst, Tickets nach Shinjuku gekauft, zusammen mit einer SUICA Karte – einem städtischen Verkehrsverbund Ticket mit Kontostand, soweit ich das verstehe. Auf dem Weg zeigt sich, wie gut das Spiel Shen Mue war. Japan ist oft gammelig und gar nicht reich und modern. Die Wäsche auf den Balkonen, die überirdisch gelegten elektrischen Leitungen und dem dazugehörigen Kabelsalat, die schmalen Abstände zwischen den Häusern. Es wirkt beengend.

Wir finden das Hotel in der tropischen Hitze, doch check-in ist erst um 14:00. Wir wandern zum Shinjuku Central Park und entdecken Penner und eine kleine Zeltstadt, einen kleinen Tempel, kleine, grässliche Hunde in einer Mischung aus Einkaufstasche und Kinderwagen, kitschige Kindermasken, und Essstände.

Wir gehen im Metropolitcan Government Building hoch auf den 45. Stock. Die Hälfte des Stockwerkes wird von einem Kaffeehaus eingenommen, die anderen Teile durch Spielzeugläden vereinnahmt. Unsere Füsse fallen fast ab. Jet Lag! Wir gehen ins Hotel uns schlafen fast drei Stunden bis um fünf.

Am Abend waren wir traditionell Tempura essen. Auf dem Weg nach Shinjuku (wir sind in Nishi Shinjuku, was meiner Meinung nach soviel wie West Shinjuku bedeuted) haben wir eine Menge Menschen in schwarz-weiss gestreifter Kleidung mit Stirnbändern und Zehensocken gesehen, die einen Tempel auf ihren Schultern trugen, und alle im Chor “Jinza! Jinza!” gerufen haben. Im Buch lasen wir dann, dass dies ein typisches Schreinfest war, an dem der Kami des lokalen Tempels durch das Quartier geführt wird, um ihm zu zeigen, wie die Welt ausserhalb des Tempels aussieht.

Im Restaurant haben wir uns für die Bar statt für Tatami entschieden. Wir waren im Tsunahachi in 3-31-8 Shinjuku. Am Schluss haben wir den Reis nicht mehr ganz essen können, und dabei scheint das ein wichtiger Teil der Essgewohnheiten zu sein. Aber es kam wirklich schon fast aus den Ohren.

Sie haben den lebenden Aal vor unseren Augen mit einem Stilettomesser ans Schneidbrett genagelt und aufgeschlitzt. En guete! Aber es war wirklich gut. Dann überlegt man sich es zweimal, ob man mehr bestellt oder das Essen einfach wegwirft. Das Tier ist nämlich genau dafür gestorben. Oje. :(

Nun genug des fettigen Fritierens, das können wir nämlich die nächsten paar Tage nicht mehr essen. Unser Klo hat eine beheizte Brille und wäscht mir den Po. Nur den Musikknopf, der das Klo jodeln lässt, haben wir noch nicht gefunden. Aber wir suchen weiterhin fleissig.

Uns fällt auf, wie viele Obdachlose hier leben.

Im Hotel gibt es gratis Internet aber kein Wireless. Ich musste an der Rezeption um ein Ethernet Kabel bitten.

Das Verbindungskabel zur Kamera fehlt, so dass ich mit den Fotos noch warten muss.


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2007-09-17 Meiji

We went to the Yoyogi park, looked at the Meji shrine, imperial treasures, ate our lunch at the park restaurant and liked it (Udon noodles, Inari-Sushi, and a bento box with some smoked fish, grilled egg plant, and rice), we looked at the weird rebel kids in their strange clothes, walked along Omote-Sandō, saw crowds and crowds and crowds, went home, slept for two hours, tried to get up for another hour, got up, and looked for Salsa in Tokyo!! Yeah, it was not my idea. We went to Leon’s Salsa Club in Shinjuku 5-17-6, B1.

The absolutely best book to find your way here is the Tokyo City Atlas: A Bilingual Guide published by Kodansha.

They liked our dancing. We got an invitation to a Salsa competition on 2007-09-30. But we won’t be staying that long. I also got to dance with the instructor. Something I never get to do in Switzerland. ;)

Years ago I tried to learn Japanese by myself. I knew about 200 kanji and had made quite some progress in my little book. I took it along, but I hardly find the time to study. I guess that makes sense. Anyway. 肉を食べません。大丈夫です。Or something like that.


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2007-09-18 Geschlossen

Wir sind wie immer um acht aufgestanden. Der erste Wecker klingelt um sieben, der zweite um halb acht, und der dritte um acht… Claudia will das so! Frühstück wie immer mit geräuchertem Fisch, Rührei, Miso Suppe, Reisschale, Kohlsalat, Orangensaft, Grüntee, und Grapefruit. Sehr lecker. Claudia hat schon angekündigt, dass wir in der Schweiz mindestens ein halbes Jahr keine Miso Suppe und keinen Fisch mehr essen werden. Ok. Nur einen Monat. Und mit Ausnahme von Egli Filet mit Tartare Sauce. Denn das hat sie gern. Ist auch sehr schweizerisch: Eine Kalorienbombe. Dazu später mehr. Zitat Claudia: “Bin huresiech nöd i de Diätferie!!”

Wir sind nach Studium der Unterlagen nach Asakusa浅草)auf der anderen Seite der Stadt gefahren und sind via Kaminarimon (雷門)zum Senjōji Temple (浅草寺) gelaufen. Der Weg führt durch die Nakamise, wo wir klebrige kleine Bällchen am Spiess mit süssem Soja Mehl und eisgekühltem, süssen Grüntee, einen Fächer, und Reiscracker in Algen gekauft haben. Das Buch behauptet, Krimskrams und Kitsch habe es dort schon seit Jahrhunderten gegeben. Mir kam die Gegend vague bekannt vor, weil ein Autorennen dort durchführt: Metropolis Street Racer auf der Dreamcast! Zuletzt haben wir die Pagode, den Tempel, das Klo, und drei weitere Tempel in der Nähe gesehen. Leider war der Dembō-in Garten geschlossen. :(

Wir sind durch die Strassen des Viertels langsam wieder zurück gelaufen und haben die Ginza Linie in Tawaramachi nach Ueno genommen. Wir sind sogar an einem kleinen Laden mit Walfischbüchsenfleisch vorbeigekommen. Und es schien als serviere jedes zweite Restaurant Unagi (Aal). Wir kamen auch einem der Läden vorbei, in dem die Menü Wachsmodelle der Restaurants angefertigt werden. Abgefahrene Sache, und irgendwie seltsam, denn davon würden doch vor allem Analphabeten profitieren. Aber wir Ausländer finden das natürlich klasse. Einen Kurzausflug in eine Pachinko Halle haben wir auch gemacht. Der Lärm war ohrenbetäubend. Claudia ist fast taub geworden. Dabei spielt sie doch so gerne.

In Ueno sind wir durch den Park zum Nationalmuseum gelaufen. Es gab viele Tauben, die typischen, grossen Krähen, Obdachlose, und eine grosse Gruppe von singenden Christen zu sehen. Aber das Museum war aus unerklärlichen Gründen “Closed for today”. Mist. Stattdessen gab es weitere Schreine, und das Denkmal für die Schlacht von Ueno (und den Beginn der Meiji-Zeit), und eine Statue von Saigō Takamori. Zumindest behauptet das unser Buch. Die Statue sieht aber eher aus wie eine Statue vom holländischen Arzt Antonius F. Bauduin, auf dessen Rat hin der Park gegründet wurde. Ein dicker Holländer ohne Hals mit Schwertern, Sandalen, und einem Hund. Ziemlich seltsam, der Kerl.

Am 25. September werden wir wieder in Tokyo sein, so dass wir die Verbrennung der Puppen im Kiyomizu-Kannon-Tempel von Ueno sehen werden können. Soll ein ziemliches Fest sein. Die Puppen werden von den Müttern gestiftet, die durch Kannon zu einem Kind gekommen sind. Als Ersatz, sozusagen. (Update: Haben wir dann schlussendlich verpasst.)

Am späten Nachmittag sind wir wieder drei Stunden schlafen gegangen. Vorher haben wir uns beim Bento Laden um die Ecke noch fünf Inari Sushi geholt, und am Abend haben dann ein Restaurant gesucht. Claudia wollte partout ins schweizer Restaurant. Unglaublich aber wahr. Zum Glück haben wir es nicht gefunden. Das Rosélean hätte im 11. Stock des Shinjuku Center Building sein sollen, doch dort waren nur Büros zu finden. Da kamen wir uns schon komisch vor. Wir sind dann mit den ströhmenden Massen der Büroarbeiter zurück Richtung Bahnhof gelaufen. Das Restaurant scheint es also nicht zu geben. Claudia war den Tränen nahe.

Im 9. Stock des Mylord Kaufhauses sind wir dann in ein französisches Restaurant gegangen. Die Wachsmodelle sahen ziemlich japanisiert aus. Das Menü war auch nur in Japanisch vorhanden. An den Wänden gab es jede Menge russischer Babuschka Puppen. Claudia hat ein Fondue bestellt. Wir dachten, wir hätten für zwei bestellt, bekamen aber nur eine Portion. Mir war es recht, denn ich hatte keinen Hunger, aber Claudia hat nur ungläubig gemurmelt: “Das langet ja nöd emal für d’Vorspies.” Der Rechaud bestand aus einem Teelicht statt dem gewohnten Brennsprit Teil, und der Käse war auch nicht so toll: Eher eine Mischung aus Emmentaler und Weichkäse statt Appenzeller und Vacherin! Weisswein und Knoblauch war auch nicht drinnen. So wird das Angebot dem lokalen Geschmack angepasst.

Claudia ist erst mit ihrem Aloe-Litschi Saft, dem mit Marronicrême gefüllten Guetzli und dem Rotebohnenteigtasche wieder glücklich geworden. Wohl eine Sort von Mochi. Die haben wir nämlich beide gerne. :)

Ich freue mich schon auf das morgige japanische Frühstück.


Comments on 2007-09-18 Geschlossen

where is english post?

v 2007-10-17 17:10 UTC

Yeah, I decided to make half my holiday postings in German instead of English. Enjoy. :)

You’ll a Translate link at the bottom of the German pages. The Google translation is rather… poetic.

AlexSchroeder 2007-10-17 22:31 UTC

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2007-09-19 Osaka

Die Fahrt im Shinkansen verlief ereignislos. Wir fuhren an einem endlosen Häusermeer entlang. Die Häuser hatten meistens leicht verschachtelte Ziegeldächer – nicht ganz gleich wie wir in Mitteleuropa. Auffallend wie immer der Mindestabstand zwischen allen Häusern. Irgendwo habe ich gelesen, dass dies eine Massnahme für die Erdbebensicherheit sei.

Irgendwie wirkt die Landschaft trostlos. Woran dies wohl liegen mag? Überirdische Verkabelung, durcheinander der Häuserfassen – mal braune Kacheln, selten einmal traditionelles Holz, beiger Beton, graue Platten, kaum Gärten, extern Klimaanlagen.

Der Zug ist wirklich sehr schnell.

Das erinnert mich an etwas, was uns in Tokyo beim Zug fahren aufgefallen ist: Es scheint keine Graffiti hier zu geben.

Kleines Detail am Rande: Es hat bedeutend weniger Abfallkübel als in der Schweiz. Im Zug gab es beispielsweise auf dem kleinen Klapptisch eine Karte wo die Klos, der Speisewagen, die Telefone, die Getränkeautomaten und die Abfalleimer eingetragen waren. Statt wie bei uns einen kleinen Abfalleimer pro Sitzgruppe hat es hier einen grossen Abfalleimer pro zwei Wagen.

Das Hotelzimmer in Osaka wirkt bedeutend grosszügiger als in Tokyo. Wir wohnen im Arietta Hotel, 3-2-6 Azuchi-machi, Chuo-ku, Osaka – ziemlich zentral! (Map:Arietta+Osaka.) Und auch hier hat es gratis Internet. Und das Netzwerkkabel steckt schon in der Schreibtischschublade. Nice. :)

Wir wohnen in der Nähe der Hommachi Station; um vier sind wir dann nochmal aus dem Hotel gegangen und zu Fuss Richtung Namba gelaufen. Zuerst östlich der Mido-suji durch die Shinsaibashi-suji, dann westlich der Mido-suji durch das America Mura, mit kleiner Pause am Mitsu Koen Park, den obligatorischen Takoyaki Tintenfischbällchen mit dem süssen Soja und den Fischflocken, mit denen Claudia so viel Mühe hat. Aber sie muss von allem probieren.

Nach diversen Reggae & Dancehall Läden sind wir dann wieder zurück zur Shinsaibashi-suji gewechselt. Was für ein Unterschied. Im America Mura scheint die Parallelgesellschaft mit ihren pinken Rastas und den Gothic Lolita Punks alles zu durchdringen, in der überdachten Shopping Passage, die sich von Hommachi bis weit über Namba hinaus erstreckt, regieren diejenigen, welche sich besser in die Konsumgesellschaft haben integrieren können. Immer wieder fallen uns die extrem hohen Schuhe, die Kniestrümpfe, die sehr kurzen Röcke, die Henna getönten Haare, das grandiose Make-up und die speziellen Frisuren auf. Vieles davon sind sicherlich auch künstliche Haare.

Langsam hat sich mein Auge angepasst, und die jungen Frauen gefallen mir immer mehr. Was wir aber immer noch nicht fassen können, sind die krassen X-Füsse, die man immer wieder sieht. Es ist so schlimm, dass wir schon mit dem Gedanken gespielt haben, dass es sich hierbei um einen weit verbreiteten Geburtsfehler handeln muss. Dass dieser besonders auch mit hohen Schuhen optisch auffällige Gang eine antrainierte Sache ist, können wir uns nicht vorstellen. Es wäre unglaublich.

Claudia hat nach einem Kaffeehaus europäischer Art gesucht, und am Tombori River Walk entlang vom Dōtonbori haben wir ein wienerisch angehauchtes Kaffeehaus gefunden. Preis der Mélange: 680 ¥, dh. fast 7.– Fr pro Tasse. Die Gäste sind entsprechend entweder romantische Pärchen, ein Paar wo der Typ wie ein Zuhälter aussieht, Männer in Anzügen, oder aufgedonnerte Frauen. Wir lieben es, Leute zu beobachten.

Beim weiteren Spaziergang sind wir wieder einmal in einem Kaufhaus gelandet, weil dort die Klos so problemlos sind. Beim nachfolgenden Gang durch die Lebensmittelabteilung sind wir auf ein typisch Japanisches Phänomen gestossen. Die Japaner sind noch fünfzig Mal schlimmer als die Schweizer, was schön aussehende Früchte anbelangt. In den Delikatessabteilungen der Kaufhäuser sieht man immer wieder einmal einzeln verpackte Früchte: Melonen, Pfirsiche, Grapefruits. Und weil sie so unglaublich schön sind, und so vergänglich, und so perfekt, kosten sie entsprechend: Wir haben schon Preise zwischen vierzig und hundert Franken pro Frucht gesehen!


Comments on 2007-09-19 Osaka

Die Abfalleimer sind erst seit kurzem weg, Angst vor Terroisten und ihren Bomben…

– Chris 2007-09-19 14:23 UTC

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2007-09-20 History

We got up and ate a European breakfast. I guess the hotel we’re staying at considers this a question of style. Claudia doesn’t mind.

We spent the day at Osaka Castle. I was a bit disappointed to learn that the main tower has been completely rebuilt and houses a modern museum. A hollow shell, in a way. It still looks impressive from the outside, and the fortifications and the moat are splendid.

We ate some Unagi at the restaurant that belongs to the Osaka Museum of History. The chocolate and vanilla ice cream we ordered at the end had pieces of some transparent pudding and pieces of fruit that tasted like canned fruit salad in Switzerland. Those were quite popular in the seventies. And it also had some sweet red beans below the ice cream! I was surprised to learn about the use the Japanese make of sweet red beans. Actually, Claudia reminded me of the one Japanese restaurant in Zürich that served green tea ice cream with optional sweet red beans topping. Ok, so I had repressed it. ;)

We like Mochi – I thought they were filled with red bean paste. But Wikipedia says they are made with rice. Oh well, it works for me either way.

Well, we spent time at the museum and were impressed with they way it presented things. Actual exhibits were rare. Instead, it had tons of info on what the digging sites looked like, the material archeologists work with, and many interesting dioramas.

At the end we tried to rush to the Shitenōji, but we arrived a few minutes after five. We walked around the temple grounds as they were closing up, took a few pictures, and left. I think tomorrow we won’t be coming back here; instead we’ll do a day trip to Nara. But we haven’t really decided, yet.

After the failed temple visit, our spirits were down, and our feet hurt. We went back to the hotel and slept for an hour or two. Not sure how well our jet lag is doing. I don’t feel too bad. When I’m on holidays I usually like to make a little siesta. Claudia preselected three restaurants for dinner, and I picked the Kaiten-sushi Ganko at Float Court, Umeda station. I was surprised to see a Japanese business man gobble down his sushi with his bare fingers. Nobody seemed surprised.

Today we had to use the subway ticket vending machines for the first time. In Tokyo we had our Suica card, when we arrived in Osaka, we bought a 1000¥ prepaid card, and when it ran out, we used the “fare adjustment” machines to pay the missing amount. But back to the ticket vending machine. I knew what station we wanted to go to, and that it cost 200¥ each. I switched the machine to English, and was immediately overwhelmed by many strange options. We retreated from the machine and started looking for help. Just like yesterday, a friendly local stepped up to us and asked whether we needed any help. Yes we did! And he quickly showed us how to ignore the many options and buy the right ticket with just three buttons.

I wonder whether we looked more competent in Tokyo, or whether people here in Osaka are just friendlier. I resolved to step up to tourists in Zürich more often to ask them whether they needed any help. Usually we just walk past and say to each other that we’d certainly help if they’d ask, thinking to ourselves that tourists enjoy discovering things by themselves. I usually do. But here in Osaka I discovered that helpful locals are one of the few occasions where you actually get to talk to people. I expect that this is true in Switzerland as well. We don’t walk up to people and talk to them, thinking that we don’t want to impose ourselves.

Our hotel toilet has a button to make that notorious “flushing sound” to cover the presumed nasty splashing and farting. The only problem is that the artificial flushing sound is loud enough to alert everybody on the same floor to the fact that you’re trying to do your thing…

The hotel we’re staying at, the Arietta (→ Map:Arietta+Osaka) has laundry machines. And we used them today! Awesome. We had no detergent on us, so we went to the reception. “Bla bla bla bla laundry bla bla?” – “One moment please, so sorry…” and confused looks, and then one of the three ladies handed me a piece of paper and a pen. I wrote down: “LAUNDRY” and immediately their faces lit up. “Ah! Laundury!” I smiled. I wrote: “SOAP?” and again, they nodded happily, disappeared for a second, and came back with little bags of detergent for us to use at 50¥ each. Problem solved.

I really like writing down all this stuff at the end of the day using the cheapo iBook G4 laptop I brought with me instead of taking notes and typing the stuff up when I come home. Look how it fizzled half way through India 2005. I still have the notes lying around… Maybe I should just scan them, haha.


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2007-09-21 Nara

Heute haben wir einen Ausflug nach Nara unternommen. Gestartet sind wir in der JR Namba Station. Zuerst hatten wir etwas Mühe, den richtigen Zug zu finden. Und wieder hat uns ein netter Ortsansässiger weitergeholfen. Unsere erste Zugfahrt ohne Bento! Nach etwa einer Dreiviertelstunde frage ich Claudia, was würden wir jetzt machen, wenn wir an der Horyuji-Station wären? würden wir dann aussteigen! Ja, das würden wir – also Taschen packen und raus!

Mittlerweilen ist es etwa 11:00 und ziemlich warm. Es folgt ein 20-minütiger Spaziergang durch den Vorort von Nara hin zu unserem ersten Tempel. Uns fällt auf, dass die Häuser hier einiges schöner aussehen als in Tokyo oder Osaka. Die Gärten sind immer noch klein und das Gras immer noch ausgetrocknet, der Boden gleich zubetoniert – aber die Topfpflanzen sind liebevoll arrangiert und die Bäume schön zugeschnitten. Es wird viel dunkles Holz verwendet.

Der Hōryū-ji ist schön – das älteste Bauwerk aus Holz! Das Laufen, die Hitze, die Buddha-Statuen… langsam werden wir müde. Den Chuguji-Tempel überspringen wir und gehen zurück zum Information-Center, wo uns der nette ältere Herr schon auf die Bus-Station hingewiesen hat. Kaum kommen wir an, steht auch schon eihn Bus dort, wo wir hastig einsteigen – wo man wohl ein Ticket kauft? Wir fragen den Fahrer, aber dieser spricht kein Englisch. Nach einem gewissen hin und her zeige ich ihm eine 1000-¥-Note. Diese versucht er ein paar mal in einen Automaten reinzuschieben, sie wird aber nicht angenommen. Ich biete ihm eine zweite Note an. Der Maschine gefällts und jede Menge Münzen purzeln raus – diese drückt uns der Fahrer lächelnd in die Hand. Wir nehmen wieder Platz uind zählen das Geld. Wie seltsam – wir haben einfach 1000 ¥ in Münzen erhalten?! Kurz entschlossen verlassen wir den Bus und fragen den Typen in der Station. Dieser zeigt wieder auf den Bus und meint: Nara! ok, wir setzen uns wieder. Wir fragen den Sitznachbarn. Dieser versteht auch nicht viel mehr, aber den Toshodaijin-Tempel erkennt er. Ich glaube, dort will er auch hin – sehr gut. Dann kommt der Busfahrer wieder und drückt uns eine Access-Map in die Hand. Darauf hat er mit Leuchtstift die Busroute eingezeichnet – sehr freundlich! und ein kleines Stück Papier mit der Nummer 1 gab es auch – wie seltsam. Erst mit der Zeit ist uns klar geworden, was der Zusammenhang vom kleinen Zettel, fehlendem Ticket und einer bingoartigen Anzeige beim Fahrer war. Hier gilt das System U-Bahn: der kleine Zettel zeigt an, wo wir eingestiegen sind, die Tafel zeigt an, wieviel es kostet, je nach Einstiegspunkt – und das Wechselgeld brauchen wir zum Zahlen beim Aussteigen.

Als wir zum Yakushi-ji angekommen sind, bedeutet uns der Sitznachbar, auszusteigen. Wir sind verwirrt, aber ich überzeuge Claudia, dass es zu peinlich wäre, unserem freundlichen Nachbarn nicht zu folgen. Offensichtlich ist mir die Idee des Gesicht wahrens schon völlig in Mark und Blut übergegangen (Zitat Claudia: es hätt alles sini Grenze!). Kleiner Einschub: Ich diktiere, Claudia tippt – und gerade eben hat Claudia mich auf den bisher unerreichten Detallierungsgrad des Berichtes aufmerksam gemacht! Deswegen nun in geraffter Form der Rest :)

Den Yakushi-ji haben wir übersprungen, im Tōshōdai-ji (10 Minuten zu Fuss) waren wir zwar drin, aber die Kondo-Halle wird bis 2009 renoviert. Mit dem Bus gings weiter zum Nara National Museum, wo wir uns die permanente Ausstellung angeschaut haben. Ich hatte mir diese grösser vorgestellt, da ich schon oft vom Nara National Museum im Zusammenhang mit dem Museum Rietberg gehört hatte – offensichtlich ist ein grosser Teil der Sammlung der Öffentlichkeit nicht zugänglich. Ein Museumswärter hat uns nach unserer Herkunft gefragt. Als er Switzerland hörte, strahlten sein Augen und ehrfurchtsvoll raunte er “Jungfraujoch”! Er gab noch ein paar Erklärungen zum ersten Exponat ab und versicherte uns, dass die Schweiz ein wunderschönes Land sei. Sehr herzig ;)

Zu Fuss an den Hirschen vorbei zum Tōdai-ji: das grösste Holz-Gebäude der Welt! In Bangkok waren die Besucher ehrfürchtiger, die Läden kleiner, die Buddhas grösser und goldiger – aber das Bauwerk selber bei weitem nicht so imposant wie in Nara!

Nach abgehackter Liste spazierten wir am Kofukiji-Tempel mit seiner 5-stöckigen Pagode vorbei, entspannt am Sarusawa-No-Ike-Teich entlang weiter zum JR Nara Bahnhof. Unterwegs kauften wir uns noch feinen japanischen Dessert (diverse gefüllte Teigbällchen), Inari-Sushi, zwei Reisbällchen in Nori, eine Scheibe Reis + rote Bohnen mit schwarzem Sesam, und zwei Flaschen aus einem der unzähligen Getränkeautomaten in diesem Land – unser Bento für die Zugreise zurück! Schliesslich haben wir den ganzen Tag nichts gegessen.

Nach etwa einer Stunde waren wir dann im Hotel, Claudia hat geschlafen, ich habe Zeit im Internet “verblöterlet” und am Abend sind wir noch einmal in der Region von Dotonburi Essen gegangen. Also eigentlich wollte Claudia essen, und ich nicht, und mir passten ihre Restaurants nicht, selber konnte ich aber auch keine auswählen – es war ziemlich mühsam. Nach zehn Uhr gehen auch viele Geschäfte schon zu, so dass die Stimmung auf einem Tiefpunkt war. Aber zum Glück fanden wir noch ein lokal, wo wir Kitune Udon, noch mehr Inari-Sushi, und noch mehr Reisbällchen essen konnten. Der Tag war gerettet.

Es blieb uns nur noch die lästige Aufgabe, alles einzutippen. Nun sind wir fix und fertig, die Füsse fallen uns fast ab, und die Augen fast zu. Gute Nacht!


Comments on 2007-09-21 Nara

Ich liebe Izakayas, also Restaurants/Bars, eben Izakayas, mit grossen, farbigen Speisekarten mit Bildern, gutes Bier und vielen kleinen Snacks, Fastfood. Hierhin gehen Japaner nach der Arbeit. Die meisten sind bei Bahnhöfen, oft im ersten oder zweiten Stock oder im Keller. Es gibt viele Ketten mit grossen roten und gelben Logos, und viele unabhängige. Ob Izakayas auch ohne Bier Spass machen, weiss ich allerdings nicht…

– Chris 2007-09-21 16:02 UTC

ich verfolge mit Interesse, was ihr so alles erlebt und macht. Jetzt muss ich die Orte noch auf einer Landkarte suchen. Noch viel Spass in Japan.

– der Vater 2007-09-22 00:11 UTC

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2007-09-22 Kyoto

We packed our stuff and went to Hommachi station, took the subway to Shin-Osaka, reserved seats for the next HIKARI Shinkansen to Kyoto, found our platform, queued up, got in, got out, and found ourselves in Kyoto. It was hot.

Very hot, actually.

We went to the tourist information, got a map, went to the bus ticket office and got two prepaid cards worth 1100¥. It turns out that we probably won’t need that much, since every bus trip costs 220¥, and the day pass costs 500¥.

As soon as we arrived on platform A2, bus no. 205 arrived and we boarded. At the time we didn’t know how pricing worked, since we had missed that section in our book (again) and were nervous. Where was the little piece of paper? It took us a minute to understand what was going on.

We got off at the Kyoto City Hall station, didn’t see a city hall, and started looking for our hotel. Hm. Walk, walk, walk… Circling around… We’re at the city hall! There was some sort of speech by a politician in front of a small group of people, a little band played, cheerleaders started marching, and we got bored. Where was our hotel? We were not in a hurry because our earliest check-in was 16:00 and it was still before noon. That’s how early we were! Knowing where we were made the rest easy. We stayed at the Nishiyama Ryokan. When we came in, the guy behind the counter pointed at the floor and said something friendly. I was confused. Take off my shoes? I started taking off my shoes. No – please come to the counter. Ah. Claudia says: “It’s called over-adaptation. Japanese-looking people point at your feet and you start taking off your shoes. They must be having fun.”

We deposited our bags, and left for the Imperial Palace. It’s closed on week-ends, but the park is nice. Our book says that Japanese people are only allowed inside on one week every year. Tourists can go in all through the year. That seems hardly fair.

At the park restaurant, Claudia ate Kitsune-Don, and I ate cold Udon noodles. I forget what they were called. The book says they are called Kamage Udon. But I faintly remember a four-letter word starting with a Z. Oh well. I liked them. Other people ate them as well. Eating them requires lots of slurping. And everybody slurped like their lives depended on it. As slurping is considered very bad manners in Switzerland, I tried slurping very quietly. I feel like the Japanese who don’t know how to properly eat Fondue. They drink inappropriate drinks, or throw all the bread into the cheese, or do other strange things. And here I am trying to quietly slurp noodles that requires lots of slurping.

At a quarter past two, we decided to walk over to Nijō Castle. I was very impressed by the expansive rooms and the nice pond in the garden.

We returned to the Ryokan at around four. I like the small streets, the dark wooden houses, and the contrast between them and the artifacts of modern civilization such as the omnipresent vending machines and power cables.

One thing that we noticed was that there are lots of bicycles, but they don’t seem to like driving on the roads. They share space with pedestrians. And boardwalks are rare, too. This is very unlike Switzerland where practically every little road has boardwalks, and bicycles drive on the roads or on special bicycle lanes. And green minded people want even more rights and extra lanes for bicycles because they feel that bicycles encroaching on pedestrians weakens the case against cars.

The moment of truth had arrived: Would there be an attendant helping us undress? Would she move through the room on her knees after having served us some green tea? Would there be a fantastic garden to see from the public bath? Would the locals leave the bath as we stepped into the water? All these things were mentioned in our book, and we didn’t know what to expect.

It turns out that the experience wasn’t all that weird. We walk around in our street shoes. Only when we get into our room do we take them off.

Some things remain strange. There are toilet slippers for use in the toilet only. Coming from Switzerland, one wonders: Is the floor not clean enough? Do they wash the slippers more often than the floor? Visiting far away countries is an excellent exercise – it dislodges the mind, throws you out of your set ways.

Little things, like the bicycles. We also noted that many had brakes that were in a bad need of maintenance. When the rider used the brakes, the screeching noise reminded us of dentists and ultrasonic hammers. We also noted that pedestrians have to wait far longer for a green light than we’re used to in Switzerland. And there’s constant acoustic pollution. We were sitting on a bench in a park near the toilet and heard a constant electronic bing bong sound. No apparent source, nor any apparent reason. There is a constant stream of messages from the loudspeakers in buses, trains, and the subway. The next station is … this is the … use the exit on the left … please alert a crew member if you notice anything suspicious or any unattended luggage … in Japanese, and in English. And a constant stream of ads on a public square, in the shopping arcades, even the pickup truck that seems to be collecting old computer monitors, old cardboard, and a few lamps has a loudspeaker announcing that it is coming, what it is for, and what you should be doing, as it slowly cruises up and down the roads. And at night, rock bands and singer songwriters set up amplifiers, loudspeakers, unpack their instruments, assemble the drum kit, and start playing. As we don’t understand, it adds to the exotic background, just as it did in Bladerunner (1991). But if I understood Japanese, if I worked here, perhaps I’d go nuts. Or numb. Or I’d do like so many people we’ve seen: Buy a portable audio player and forget about the rest of the world.

Anyway… public bath! No problem. The first time we went, both Claudia and I were alone. Time enough to experiment. Squat on that little stool, wash carefully, use lots of soap, rinse thoroughly, sink into the hot water, enjoy the view of wet moss, water dripping from black stones, a stone lantern in the mellow paper light… Wash again, rinse again, soak again… And again… How wonderful life is.

We go out to eat Sushi again. Kaiten-sushi – with the little assembly line carrying the plates through the entire room. This time it wasn’t as great as back in Osaka. But compared with Switzerland, it was incredibly cheap. Maybe we should try one of the high-end places next. Or have dinner at the Ryokan. We have not yet decided. It would cost 7000¥ per person here at the Ryokan.

We walked through the little streets not far from our hotel: South of Sanjo-dori, east of Teramachi-dori… The area around Pontocho-dori, Yamato oji (Nawate) dori, along Kawaramachi-dori. The shopping arcades were closing, restaurants were winding down, and by ten o’clock, it was either growing lonely, or full of drunk teens, or clearly “Pinku” territory (what we would call a red light district). I don’t like the little pimp-wannabes in Japan. They are practically invisible in Switzerland, although Claudia tells me they do exist and are certainly not friendlier than the kids we see here.

Anyway, we walked back to our Ryokan, and I went for another bath. There was a Japanese guy around my age taking a bath at the same time, and he didn’t leave as I stepped into the water to soak, so I guess he must have been happy with my lathering and rinsing…

I’ve never been so clean. My skin will probably fall off in a day or two.


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2007-09-23 Tempel Überdosis

Heute gesehen nach einer Fahrt um die halbe Stadt mit dem Bus 205:

  1. Kinkaku-ji, der goldene Tempel. Ziemlich überlaufen, aber schön. Weiter mit Bus 12.
  2. Ryōan-ji mit dem Steingarten und Wäldern im Moos. Sehr schön.
  3. Ninna-ji mit dem alten Tor und dem Kirschenhain. Wir waren schon etwas müde. Ein Gebäude wirkte wie eine zweistöckige, orange Pagoda und hätte eine lustige Mondlandefähre sein können. Zurück mit Bus 10. Eine ewige Fahrt duch die gestaute Innenstadt.
  4. Kyoto World Peace Museum: sehr aufschlussreiche Ausstellung und überraschend selbstkritische Darstellung von Japans Rolle im so genannten 15-jährigen Krieg, im zweiten Weltkrieg etc.

Dann endlich ein Bad. Man gewöhnt sich schnell daran. Es wird nach Geschlechtern getrennt gebadet. Wieder teilte ich das Bad über längere Zeit mit einem Asiaten. Es wurde kein Wort gewechselt und kein Blick ausgetauscht.

Es gibt hier sehr viele asiatische Touristen; zum Teil hört man auch viel Chinesisch. Deswegen fällt mir schwer zu entscheiden, ob eine schweigende Person einheimisch ist oder nicht.

Am Abend dann mit U-Bahn und Bus und gestresstem Herumirren in Gion ins Gion Corner für eine ¾ Stunde Tee-Zeremonie, Koto-Musik, Blumenstecken, Gagaku-Hofmusik, Kyogen, Kyomai, Bunraku. Es geht mir etwas zu schnell und ich fühle mich wie ein dummer Tourist.

Danach wandern wir durch Hanamikoji, Yamato oji dori und Shijo-dori, und schliesslich der Kawaramachi-dori entlang heim. Eigentlich wollte ich noch die U-Bahn nehmen, konnte aber auf die schnelle unsere Station nicht finden. Und weil es noch so viele Leute auf der Strasse gab, sind wir schliesslich gelaufen. Wir waren etwa um elf zuhause.


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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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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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2007-09-26 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

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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2007-09-27 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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2007-09-28 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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2007-09-29 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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2007-09-30 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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2007-09-30 Radiation

People are complaining about antennas for mobile phones. I wonder what the health hazards for WiFi is? Check out how many wireless networks I can reach from my home:

Networks reachable from my livingro

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Comments on 2007-09-30 Radiation

My understanding is that Wireless networks emit something similar to a cordless home phone (something like 5.6 Ghz and 2.6 Ghz). Interestingly, I’ve heard that cordless phones have been banned in schools because of perceived health risks. It reminds me of the old controversies about giant powerlines going over playgrounds.

I haven’t heard about the anti-radiation activists catching on to Wireless Internet being installed in schools.

AaronHawley 2007-10-06 01:41 UTC

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2007-09-30 Shrinking Oddmuse

I’ve moved permanent anchors from the core script into a module, and I’m trying to do the same to near links. I wonder: Does this go against my principle networking design goal? For some time now I felt that Near Links were an important part of Oddmuse because it drastically improved interlinking between sites. Now I’m no longer sure. If nobody uses it because it is difficult to set up (ie. not usable out of the box), then it should be moved into a module.

Update: The move is done. I find it strange to find that the source code has shrunk by less than 200 lines of code. We’re down to 3813 for the core script at the mooment. I guess it just goes to show how much you can achieve by using an expressive language like Perl.


Comments on 2007-09-30 Shrinking Oddmuse

I’ve noticed that the cross-pollination via NearLinks between MeatballWiki, CommunityWiki and EmacsWiki has decreased over the years. Mine is an unfair survey, of course, but it seems like there’s less symbiosis between the individuals and the overlap in ideas has also decreased. I’m not arguing we shut this off, because there are a handful of links on EmacsWiki that are well serviced by these other Wiki sites.

It will be interesting to see how “Near Wiki” stuff evolves in the long term as Wikis become more (or less) popular, the number of Wiki software packages likely increase, and what types of communities latch on to Wikis. For an example of the latter, software packages only need one Wiki, but there are other types of communiteis that need their own Wiki but overlap with other Wikis. I think EmacsWiki would have more overlap with material at Wikis listed on EmacsWiki:WikiNode, ones on Lisp and Scheme topics for example or even Vi (shudder!). I imagine the hurdle to getting “Near Wiki” stuff adopted is not in installing a module, but in doing the “leg work” of organizing and “networking” with other Wikis to provide their page index and enable NearLinks.

AaronHawley 2007-10-08 20:31 UTC

Well, that’s what I hoped when I implemented Near Links in 2003. But it didn’t take off. Isn’t four years “long term” in Internet terms? I think the key to understanding this lack of interlinking is the small set of potential actors: Only if you’re reasonable familiar with the pages of one community and invested enough in another community will you start interlinking between the two.

The only site everybody wants to link to is Wikipedia. And Wikipedia’s pagelist is too long to be useful for Near Links, I think.

AlexSchroeder 2007-10-10 13:47 UTC

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2007-09-30 The Biggest Book

What’s the biggest book you own? Have you read it? Have you at least read parts of it?

Today I bought Ostasiatische Kunst by Gabriele Fahr-Becker. Amazon tells me it’s 32 × 28.2 × 6.6 cm.


Comments on 2007-09-30 The Biggest Book

I do own The Complete Calvin and Hobbes which is 12.6x11.3x5.2 inches and weighs about 22 lbs. Someone told me that it was the heaviest and most expensive item to be on the NYT best-seller list.

Of course, I’ve read all of it. Many times.

AlokSingh 2007-10-01 10:14 UTC

Ohhh! I wants it… I actually thought it was a three volume thing? 22 lbs is incredible.

AlexSchroeder 2007-10-01 13:05 UTC

Yeah, it is a three-volume boxed set. So, this is not in the same category as Ostasiatische Kunst.

While the quality of printing and binding is excellent, I found The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book a much more personal book.

AlokSingh 2007-10-01 13:39 UTC

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2007-09-30 rot180

Many years ago, I saw antifuchs use (: instead of :) on IRC. At the time, this inspired me to create an upsidedown smiley: :) → (:. When I forked Oddmuse from UseMod, I needed a logo, and started using an upsidedown smiley.

Some time ago TheSheep introduced me to the rot180 encoding of “Oddmuse”: ǝsnɯppO. What a great idea. :)


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2007-09 Book Club

When: September 12, a Wednesday, as usual: 19:00, Starbucks, Central

What: Shogun by James Clavell – very old stuff, but when it was on TV, I was too young to watch it. Better late than never! Shōgun (novel).

Why: Supporters: Alex.

Alex: I’ll be leaving for Japan on September 16, so the meeting would have to be in the first half of September.


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