Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Hibernation termination.

I somehow managed to turn the biggest night of the year into a dud. The three nights leading up to it were of epic proportions though. Clubbing, check, karaoke, check, drunken nakedness, check. But last night Long Island Iced Tea prevented me from ushering in the new year in a proper manner. According to the eyewitness reports of my friends, I came down the stairs at one point of the club we were roasting it at, made the universal gesture used in broadcasting that means "kill the signal", sat down and then the lights went out. This was reportedly at 1am. Previously I had been delighted by the anticipation of dancing with my friends till the early light of dawn. Nada. Maybe sticking to just beer might be the answer. I woke up this morning with no recollection of how I got home or anything. Luckily Kendall put me in a taxi home at 2pm. What are friends for.

For the moment my friend Kendall has three people visiting. James from England, his Scottish friend Michael and Andrew from the states, one of the most eccentric but coolest people I've met. Ever. Tomorrow the five of us we'll be going to Tokyo to roast it over there. It will be only the third time I will be visiting this wonderful metropolis so I am pretty excited, since my lasts two post lauded this curiosum of a city. This will put the study I need to do in jeopardy, but Andrew is very persuasive. Or should I say that I am easily influenced? But like Kendall has a tendency of saying "It will all work out in the end." Moreover, my recent "getting tired of Japan"-phase necessitates a change of routine. Some irresponsible behaviour with these guys in Tokyo might prove to be the cure. My study-zeal will hopefully reach new heights after returning to the acient capital of Japan.

I will expand on this "fatigue of Japan"-syndrome in subsequent posts. Right now I have to go to dreamland.

Sweet dreams everybody.

P.S. Happy New Year.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Tokyo part 2

I woke up. Hm... didn't seem to have too bad of a hangover despite drinking of astronomical amount the night before. Let's see how I will fair in 10 years from now though. Like my friend Ty once said to me: "Dries, you'll get your first (real) hangover once you're 27." My roommate of the night Erez also awoke. We decided to get some of the black gold and headed for the nearby Doutor-coffee shop. It must have been around 8:30. What followed was an hour-long discourse in which Erez told me about his fascinating career in the Israeli army. Even my favorite sensei at university doesn't get that much attention and concentration from me. I was really captivated by every word that came out of Erez's mouth. It sounded like a movie to me: bribes, snitches, prison revolt, interrogation, insubordination, you name it. I started wondering whether or not I missed an enriching experience in my life, because of the abolished army service in Belgium. Erez quickly reassured me of the less glamorous side of the army.
Subsequently we called the girls to get them out of bed; it was time to fruitfully spend our last day in Japan's metropolis. Of course everybody who has experienced a good night of drinking knows of the usual, gluttonous hunger the next day. As such we opted to have lunch at this tiny Indian curry restaurant. We were lead up the stairs to the eating area. It actually looked more like a normal kitchen with four small tables. When I stood up right, my head brushed the ceiling. The lovely, Indian woman serving us was probably half my size. Even more so than I normally do here in Japan, I felt like Gulliver in the Land of Lilliput. The curry was excellent though and the delicious nan-bread abundant. During the reposing and digesting we discussed our plan of action for the day. Outcome: Odaiba. This large artificial island in the Tokyo Bay is one of Tokyo's main attractions with its over-the-top architecture and futuristic look. I had never seen it and team Israel recommended it with great enthusiasm.

Too bad we lost one of our travel companions on the way down there; Natalie was fatigued from the night before and felt rather feeble. Furthermore she still hadn't fully recovered from her previous, recent illness, so she decided to return early by Shinkansen and we said goodbye at Tokyo-station. The rest of our now weakened fellowship continued with its mission.
To get to Odaiba you can take the "Yurikamome", a fully-automated train that runs about 10 meters above the ground, which provides spectacular views. During this elevated train ride my jaw almost dropped to the ground. I was mesmerized by the sensational sights unfolding outside the window as the train glided between numerous buildings like a snake. Big, eccentric buildings of the likes I don't see in Kyoto, or even Osaka for that matter. Smilingly I kept on looking outside and taking pictures with my mobile phone. To the other travelers I must have looked like a little kid who grew up on the countryside between oaks and cows and then visits the big city for the first time, being in awe at the sight of these giant buildings and the cozy, urban busyness. This train to Odaiba itself was already an attraction worth taking. We got off at the sixth station: Daiba. There you walk to the waterside where you have marvelous views of main land Tokyo's skyline, the funky Fuji-television building behind you, Odaiba's own, miniature Statue of Liberty (!), the Rainbow Bridge that connects Odaiba with the Tokyo Bay etc. Simply unbelievable.
And the whole time I kept on asking myself why I hadn't taken my brother there in 2003 when he visited me. It would have been perfect for sightseeing and he would have loved it. There is a simple reason for that though: I had never heard of Odaiba at the time. That will teach me not reading the travel guide properly. I had made the mistake in Tokyo of trying to go and see traditional sites with my brother: temples and gardens. But that's of course not what you should see in Tokyo. Tokyo is skyscrapers, crazy architecture, crowded places, buildings with so much neon at night you'd think it was daytime. Well, next time then. Sorry bro.
After some walking around we continued the train ride until Aomi-station. Efrat wanted to do some shopping in the huge mall located there, so Erez and I went to the gaming center on the ground floor. Boys will be boys. And girls will shop.
It started getting late and we were tired; time to go home. So we decided and so it was done. Exit Tokyo.

I'm still a type 1, I still prefer Kansai to Kanto. But wow, how beautiful is Tokyo...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Tokyo part 1

There are two types of people here in Japan: the ones who prefer Kansai (type 1) and the ones who prefer Kanto (type 2). Kansai is the area I live in and it holds famous cities like Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Nara. It is the center of west-Japan and the Heimat of Japanese, traditional culture with Nara and Kyoto being the former capital respectively. An older, Kansai-dialect is something the people here pride themselves on. As the center of east-Japan (and of course of Japan in general) we have the Kanto-area with its main unit, the metropolitan city of Tokyo. The concentration of industry in Japan is the densest here and as such many Japanese flock to Tokyo in search for a job.
I used to be a type 1. This stems mainly from the fact that I have always lived in the Kansai-region. I had been to Tokyo once in May 2003, but I wasn't thoroughly impressed. "Yeah, Tokyo is alright", I used to say.

In my last post I talked about the trip to Tokyo my friends and I would embark on. We left my beloved Kansai with the 13:00 o'clock-Shinkansen on Thursday the 5th. We -that is Erez, Efrat, Natalie and I- were very excited to say the least.
After the usual business, like check-in at the hotel, we headed for Roppongi which is famous for its vibrant nightlife among other things to satisfy our primary need: hunger. We settled for a nice Indian restaurant located inside Roppongi Hills (in a complex adjacent to Mori Tower). I had already picked up a beer at the convenient store before even getting into the cab which brought us to Roppongi (to satisfy my personal primary need: alcohol), but nonetheless I was happy to discover it was happy hour at the restaurant. Then, I think it must have been around 19:00, we went up a couple of floors to enjoy the exquisite, nocturnal panorama. I started gazing out over Mori-park, the lit up TV Asahi-building that offered a beacon of light in the clear, nightly sky,... our German friend from Doshisha, Lalita, joined us up on the balcony. The cars twinkled with their white and red lights on the distant roads. "Wow, it's so beautiful here", I said to myself.

And that's when it hit me, Tokyo's superiority over a city like Osaka. I saw a glimpse of the allurement of Tokyo. Goosebumps covered my body.
Osaka is an enormous city with tons of restaurants, bars, places to go out etc. Just like Tokyo. But in se Osaka is quite unattractive. Ugly buildings connected to each other with endless wires and cables (in Belgium they've put that all underground). Osaka's amalgam of architecture is so vast it's certainly impressive, but it rarely is candy for the eye.
But here in Tokyo on my first night I had already found a view on par with the prettiest sites I've seen in Osaka. And the next couple of days this insight was reinforced. In Tokyo you have countless places that are aesthetically pleasing, buildings and skyscrapers that are so artfully constructed and attest of world-class ingenuity, that you stare at them in an awe of astonishment.

We finished off our night in The Hub, an English-styled pub. I used my usual joke to crack the ice with the bartender and get him to make my drink stronger than normal. "Look, I have a massive body, so I'm a pretty strong drinker. Therefore could you please make my drink a little bit stronger?" It's of course all in the way you deliver these lines, trying not to sound like a demanding asshole, but just like a jolly fella who is always smiling and will order a lot of drinks at the bar that night, IF you just provide him this little favor. Furthermore, I really can drink a little bit more than most people which always makes my wallet significantly lighter by the end of the night. The drink in question: Long Island Iced Tea, the king of all cocktails. The guy at The Hub was well-trained: 85% liquor, 15% coke. I approvingly laughed when he handed me over my Long Island and I told him it was perfect. Another satisfied customer. From the rest of the night I remember much laughter, amusing chatter et bien sûr, des boissons alcooliques.

The following day was broken in with coffee and sandwiches, followed by a soothing stroll in Yoyogi Park and some frisbeeing by Erez and I. What a wonderful atmosphere. People were having picnicks in the sun with the beautifully blooming sakura-trees offering comfort and shadow. The park was an oasis of peacefulness and greenery. But above the tree line you could see skyscrapers rising out to remind you that you're still in the middle of this juggernaut-city, never too far away from the next Starbucks or izakaya.
Harajuku with its outrageous fashion scene was interesting and I guess it motivated the girls to do some shopping, so we started walking to Shibuya, visiting stores along the way.
Around 16:30 I realized I still had to visit Yasukuni-shrine, more specifically the museum attached to the shrine, because the shrine itself I had already seen on my previous visit four years back. The shrine is famous around the world for its controversy due to the 12 convicted Class A war criminals who are enshrined there among ca. 2.5 million others who have given their life for Imperial Japan, especially in a time of war. In the museum WWII and Japan's motives are distorted, beautified and even glorified. In other words, it is worth a visit. I thought it was open until 18:00, so I was ecstatic to arrive there at 17:30, because I had hurried like my life depended on it. At the ticket counter of the museum I waited for someone to come and serve me, but nobody appeared from behind the counter. Cold sweat broke out. Had I... I asked one of the persons still roaming around on the ground floor entrance hall of the museum. The museum closes at 17:30 this time of year. Oh, the bitter taste of defeat.
No need to waste any more time, so I headed back to Shibuya to meet up with the girls if possible. Coming out of that station I got another taste of Tokyo's uniqueness: thousands of people crisscrossing each other on the spacious area in front of the station, while countless neon lights and video screens lit up the tall buildings in stark contrast with the nightly sky. For a minute I just stood in the middle of this hasty sea of people with a smile on my face at this incredible sight. It was just like Tokyo is said to be, like I wanted it to be. I called up Natalie and we were able to find a clear meeting point in this vast chaos of human beings: the Shibuya109-building.
Around 20:00-ish all of us met up at Yoyogi Koen-station after which we went to a FABULOUS restaurant, where an Israeli friend of Erez and Efrat called Shlomit who works in fashion was waiting for us with a couple of friends of her. Too bad haute cuisine equals muchos dolares. Subsequently the big event of the night followed: party. Shlomit had been able to use her connections in the fashion industry to put us all on the list of this exclusive club. Queue at the entrance, check. Two bouncers in black suits closing off the entrance by means of a velvet rope, check. Guest list, check. Influential-looking snobs, check. In one word: awesome ;)
The bartender seemed like a cool cat and I asked him to give me the strongest drink they had, which turned out to be whiskey-soda. In my merry state I tried out a new approach ordering my second drink. "If I'm still standing by the end of the night, that means you haven't done your job properly." He grinned and then started making the strongest Long Island Iced Tea I had drunk in a while. The club was excellent with many couches, a decent-sized dance area and dimmed lighting. I divided my time chatting, drinking and of course, shaking my behind. Arriving back from the dance floor to "our" comfy couches a shot of Jägermeister was forced into my hands accompanied by the simple order: "Drink!" Immediately after the girls handed me another one. And another one. At one point I was even drinking Champagne. In other words, it was a good night.

For reasons of length I'll finish up here and tell about my last day in my next post.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

"Falling with your ass in the butter."

This expression has invoked laughs and mocking by my international friends here. Sure it sounds kind of stupid in English and reminds some people of "Last Tango In Paris" among those who have seen this erotic Marlon Brandon-vehicle. But I assure you that we use this Dutch expression in Belgium ("met uw gat in de boter vallen") quite often, even though it might be rather colloquial ;) A better English equivalent than the aforementioned sexually suggestive one is "to catch a lucky break (unexpectedly)."
I'm boring enrichening you with this useless fascinating piece of trivia, because recently I have fallen with my ass in the butter: I'm going to Tokyo tomorrow for three days. Moreover, my Shinkansen-ticket and accommodation in the third most expensive capital of 2006 will be largely paid for!

On Sunday I was recovering from a drinking streak that lasted close to a week. This involved wandering the streets of Kyoto in the middle of the night stupifyingly drunk having absolutely no idea where the hell I was going, and falling in the bushes with my bike while intoxicated cutting my chin in the process. The reason, if there was any, for this embarrassing behavior is the fact that school started again this week. I guess I wanted to celebrate the last days of worriless splendor. Anyway, Kendall and I were taking it easy on Sunday, playing our newly favorite PS2-game "Winning Eleven 9" and watching multiple episodes on DVD of the politically educating series "The West Wing", which Kendall has gotten me hooked on.
Around 20:23 I got a phone call from my dear Australian friend Natalie. I was tired, but in the minute that would follow my heart rate reached new heights. "I have good news.", Natalie said excitedly after which she teasingly paused for a while, forcing me to inquire after what that good news might be then. As it turned out our mutual friends from the most disputed country on earth called Israel had two spare Shinkansen-tickets for Tokyo and back, and hotel largely paid for. Natalie and I could go with them! Heart rate: 120. Needless to say I immediately told her I'd be going with. Amazing! ;D Talk of parties and bars was being thrown around. The four of us would have the BEST time. But wait!... Next week I would have numerous procedures in order to fully complete my registration as a Master's student at Doshisha University. Did I have something important to do at uni which would prohibit me from taking this extraordinary opportunity?... I didn't think so... But then again, my memory on significant things, usually regarding administrative paperwork, is inexplicably short, not to say strongly deficient at times...
Afterwards I called up my tutor (a Korean Ph.D-student) to ask if I'd be able to go. I'm sure I would get locked up for murder, if someone at uni told me I couldn't go, because of some redundant, administrative formality. Luckily, I was and still am in the clear ;) Bring on the butter!

Thank you Efrat and Erez!

Some contemporary trivia:

I had my entrance ceremony for Graduate School yesterday. I've entered the Master's course of "Media Studies" and got inundated with books, papers and information. The speeches of the various sensei, some quite ominous, seemed endless and my hungry stomach got tested to its limits.

I think it must be some election soon. The Kyoto-streets are flooded with announcement cars polluting the spring-air with their noisy, political propaganda. Some of them have cute women inside with white gloves waving from the window and eager to make eye contact; do a man's sexual urges dominate his rational decision? Maybe for some of us...

The sakura (= Japanese cherry blossoms) are in full bloom at the moment leaving no Japanese unmoved. Parks are filled with picnicking crowds doing "hanami" (literally "flower-watching"), which is one of the much beloved past-time activities here and part of the core of Japanese culture. Only one question occupies me at the sight of this: Why do they always use a blue sail to sit on?

Speaking of this pink flower; Kendall was recently able to display some of his fine writing skills in "The Japan Times". Here's the online version of the article. But, wasn't I supposed to be the one studying journalism? Congratulations Kendall! ;)

And to finish off, I'll leave you with this video about the "candirú" which I happened to watch this morning. I'd rather have butter in my ass than a problem with this tiny fish.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Drinking with Japanese

"A-Bar" is located near Kiyamachi-dori between Sanjo and Shijo in downtown Kyoto. It's one of the few more spacious bars and has this wooden cabin/reggae quality about it. Colorful pictures, various posters and scribbles from customers decorate the walls and tables. When you get bored, those writings provide a nice distraction: "Good times, Ryan. Feb 20/04". I guess Ryan must have had fun there three years ago. The thing with this bar though is the atmosphere: above all it's the jovial nature that draws us to this 2nd floor-bar (that and the not-too-expensive beer). The tables are really big so you are usually seated with strangers whom you can always strike up a conversation with, if they already hadn't initiated it themselves at that point. Now and then I am approached on the street by a foreigner asking directions to the bar, because they explain: "I heard this bar is good." In short, A-Bar is one of the hottest joints in town. A little story is perhaps the best way to explain.

Yesterday night I strolled into the place at around 20:30. My dear friend and companion, Kendall (U.S.), was with me. Damn! At first glance the bar looked full. Where else could Kendall and I await our friends Erez, Efrat and la belle française, Pascale for a drink together? Luckily the bartender escorted us to one of the four big tables present in the bar. The Japanese crowd of around ten people who occupied the benches immediately made room at the sight of this Belgian skinhead and his wavy-haired friend. One of the Japanese guys, wearing glasses and clearly intoxicated, stood up, introduced himself right away and eagerly told us to sit down with them. The other Japanese at the table were laughing and cheering when Kendall and I were about to take our seats. Actually all of them, including the four girls, had obviously been drinking for a while. They even applauded. I laughingly looked at Kendall and he glanced at me with that delightful smile of his. Before I could even get the attention of one of the bar staff to place our usual order of two bin-biiru (bottles of beer), our glasses-wearing, new friend already bellowed at the bartender to bring us beer. That's when I said to Kendall: "Awesome! We're drinking for free tonight." And last night was not a rare occasion at all. Ten seconds later we were holding out our glasses as they were being poured by the cheerful fellow with the glasses. He seemed like the leader of the gang. Well, he was by no means the loudest (and most drunk) of them all. I took a sip and my body filled with a tantalizing sensation. I was thirsty and the warmth of the bar and welcome at the table were exhilarating after that numbing bike ride in the surprisingly cold night of March.

Contrary to the image that most people have of Japanese, is that they LOVE alcohol and partying. Of course Japanese are usually distant and act rather stiff. But that's the exact reason for their fondness of the fermented sugar-drink. When they are intoxicated, it is the only time they can dispense of their stiffness and escape the pressure of society to walk in line. They are some of the merriest, craziest drinkers I've seen. For example, Japanese glasses don't stay empty for long. Generally a fellow drinker will refill your glass as soon as the last drop has disappeared down your throat.

As such Kendall and I had barely finished our first consumption of the night or the Japanese guy next to me already bestowed us with more of the golden liquid called beer. He started talking to me and I learned him to be of half-Japanese, half-American descent. I asked if they were all part of the same group. Apparently not. Our big welcome committee actually consisted of four different groups who had all met that night at the table in the bar. But in A-Bar such things don't matter. Everybody drinks together, talks with each other. Questions were being fired from all directions at Kendall and me and we were having trouble answering them all at once, let alone hear them in the noisy bar. Nonetheless we were enjoying every second of it; and of the free beer of course. It was a very pleasant chaos.
It wouldn't have been a complete night Japanese style, if there hadn't been any collective downing of beer as if it concerned liquor shots. The guys at our table stoop up, shouted our names and told us to down our beers together with them which Kendall and I did under loud cheering. I maybe had five or six of those beer-shots one after the other, when I decided to sit down again and take it easy for a while. A minute later the half-American fella sitting next to me looked at my empty beer glass, shook his head in disapproval, refilled it and told me to down it. Which I did. Drinking with Japanese is definitely a shortcut to rehab. I wonder where the AA holds meetings here...

Because of some switching places, people visiting the toilet, a red-faced girl was sitting next to me at one point. (Most Asians' face turns red soon after they start drinking alcohol. It's genetic.) Even though she was 24, she was already married and proudly showed her wedding ring to me. I told her it was a shame she was off the market as she was a pretty girl. Doesn't drinking make us all a little more audacious and flirtatious. However, she pointed over to her friend at the other end of the table and asked me straight up what I thought of her. "She's pretty."
, I said as a white lie upon which the married girl required if I wouldn't take her friend as my wife then. White lie number two.
It must have been about an hour later when Erez and Efrat arrived and took a seat at our table. I introduced them to our Japanese amigos and vice versa. While drinks were immediately being ordered for them, I explained the situation. Erez and Efrat both laughed and joined in on the ongoing fun and conversations. Pascale arrived another 45 minutes later. The Latin power-combo, Sakura (Brazil) and Melinda (Colombia), eventually adhered to our company as well, heatening up the feast even more with their erogenous appearances. Sporadically people from other tables would join us for a bit and then leave again. And I remember there to be a long-haired wig and fake glasses at one point which most people of course tried on, accompanied by the ensuing laughter and giggles of the others. The drinking and amusing turmoil continued all night. I'm sure Bacchus was proud of us!
I think Kendall and I only ordered one beer ourselves. The rest was provided by our benevolent Asian friends at the table. Towards the end though we were a little worried of having this huge bill, since all of the Japanese had left before us and we weren't sure whether or not they had paid for everything. But no, worrying proved to be redundant. Like it fits the giving and honest nature of the Japanese, a tiny bill awaited us when we left the bar around 1:15. Amazing; drinking and snacking all night and still end up paying for just one beer.

Good times indeed Ryan!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

"The Japanese clerk"

Being in Belgium the last two weeks of the year's shortest month made me realize something: no matter how "friendly" and "good" the service one enjoys in Japanese banks or stores is, I would rather like to deal with the Belgian (/western) type of customer care, despite the latter's rudeness at times. Allow me to argue my point.

It is a reputable fact about Japan: the service to a customer, whether it'd be in a store, hotel or at a bank, is friendly, fast and one is usually treated with great respect. Rudeness is a scarcity. And what is even more astonishing: it's ubiquitous. No matter where high-speed shinkansen and bicycles have taken me, I enjoyed the same service all over Japan. All the tourists love it and many of my ryugakusei-friends as well think it's one of Japan's finest traits (ryugakusei = exchange student). I used to love it too and I still genuinely enjoy it now and then.

On the other hand you have the "western" type of customer treatment: very variable and dependent from place and individual. Sometimes one is welcomed with a warm smile and efficient handling of business. But numerous are experiences when the person serving you seems to be struck down by the unbearable lightness of monotony and seems unaware of the existence of "customer care". "Fuck you!", a phrase I have sometimes shouted in my head as I was leaving the village post office or nearby bar after being treated bluntly.

I hear you thinking: "What the hell is the problem then?"
-> Japanese service to a customer is devoid of personality.

The individual serving you hardly ever inserts something from his/her own personality. No matter who you deal with behind that counter, it's always the same person who is being played in front of you. There is something like "the ideal Japanese bureaucrat/store clerk" and the guidelines to impersonate this character are closely followed.
In Belgium for example you never know what to expect as each person is different. Sometimes fortune abandons you with a genuine asshole. BUT, the next day you might have a truly friendly person there opposite you and then you can feel it, that unfeigned friendliness. And THAT's what I don't feel in Japan: there is nothing behind that smile of the store clerk or the white-collar worker. It is empty as such. It feels rather like you're dealing with a robot well-trained to recite "phrases" straight out of the national manual of "How to be the ideal clerk? (for dummies)".
Usually I just want to make my purchase and exit the store. But occasionally, when an excellent mood has struck me, I like to make a little joke at the counter; or a funny remark. In Belgium those are usually greeted with a smile or a follow-up humorous comment. Or even better, the store clerk himself takes the initiative and a pleasant exchange of words ensues. In Japan however, my servant of that moment almost always ignores the comment and acts like nothing was said. I don't like that. Breaking out of the "clerk-character" is something I hardly witness here.
Furthermore, that cyborg opposite you in the bank follows the rules strictly, and I mean STRICTLY! And everyone with some experience with Japan knows that bureaucratic rules (/bullshit) are plentiful. Whenever you need something done for which maybe a tiny, little bit of rule-bending or circumventing is necessary; or something which is not described in the rule-book, you can be certain the clerk smilingly acts like you're asking them to walk on water. How uncompromising that person is. How greatly my experiences with Belgian banks and other bureaucratic divisions contrast! At the very least they don't act by the EXACT letter of the rule-book and sporadically you're even granted with a favor (Japan?!). My German ryugakusei-friend Moe summed it up neatly (yet a little harshly): "In Japan there is no REAL service."

This is why I prefer the Belgian (/"western") customer treatment. At least friendliness exhibited to you is genuine. And that warms the heart. Quod erat demonstrandum.

(Remark: Of course there are times I witness non-typical behavior in Japan. But then it's always AFTER my initiative/initial joke, the clerk breaks character and reacts like a real human being would.)

Yesterday was a good day. I ran with my Israeli friend Erez along the Kamogawa-river and afterwards we biked to his place where he cooked for his wife Efrat and me a delicious, traditional Israeli dish, Shakshouka, for lunch. Meeting people from all over the world, learning from them, trying exotic food; I really love it! If I can experience that here, I'll face those occasional irritations with Japanese society with a smile on my face.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The one-year mark approaches

One time Caleb (an American friend of mine) and I were having this long conversation in the cafeteria of Kyoto University together with our Israeli friend. To be honest, the three of us were there for over 3 hours, debating love, war and other topics of lesser gravitas. At one point we entered the realm of hobbies and more particularly, creative output. Caleb plays the guitar, writes song lyrics and I don't know how many other things he mentioned. Undercover mossad spy Estie was no stranger to things alike either, writing poetry occasionally or updating her blog.

Then my number was up. "... Uhm... well uhm...". I tried to remember what that particular, creative thing was that I did... How could it slip my mind?... My brain cells were going in over-drive only to discover there was nothing there to discover.
"Don't you have any creative output whatsoever?" Caleb's remark came as a revelation to myself, although it embarrassed me slightly at the time. He was right; I had no real, creative output. Even though I am an avid consumer and fan of the brain power and creative efforts of others, I myself contributed nothing to the noble field of the arts. Ouch!
Caleb assured me that you don't neccesarily HAVE to have a creative outlet and that appreciating the artistic creations of others is a laudable thing on itself.

However, ever since this small epiphany sporadically re-entered my mind, up until today when I finally put my aspiration for a blog into practice. Many friends of mine here in Japan atrust their experiences and feelings to the internet and I admire them for it. So why not give it a shot myself. At the very least it will be a good exercise exploring my limitations concerning the English language. And maybe someday I will even get satisfaction out of it up to the point where I can't live anymore without regularly writing down something. Who knows. One thing though I will try to cautiously avoid: merely summing up activities. In the past I have noticed I'm prone to do so. Surely with this blogging-experience I must try to do more.

This short introduction being said, pretty soon I will have been here in Japan for one entire year. I arrived April 5th, 2006. Another two years are in store for me. Luckily I've had the fortune of surrounding myself with awesome friends and partying/having fun certainly tops my agenda here. What an incredibly fun year I have had so far...
I promise to work on the studying a bit more starting from April, when I enter my master's program (a thought undoubtedly shared by most of my fellow Monbusho-students). But until then it's technically vacation here so I shouldn't feel quite so bad for not touching the books. After all, I have to charge up my study-battery for the start of classes again (an excuse, I know). Right now it is carpe diem!