On Friday I have been to Tokyo for a quick stop at the German Exchange Students Division or DAAD, in order to discuss an upcoming exhibition I will be doing some illustrations for in early November 2013. I spent Saturday with good people I have been volunteering with in Tohoku in 2011. This weekends Saturday was filled with good memories, good friends, good conversations, lots of wine, coffee and food. Luckily I am able to slowly communicate solely in Japanese, but it is a very long way ahead, still. Also, I am surprised, that bonds formed within a volunteering environment can continue to have such a strong but lasting social impact on you, that even after more than a year of not meeting you feel right at home with old friends. An amazing experience I am very grateful for! Embrace friendship, communication and unconditional help! Now, back to work, back in Kyoto!
I finally uploaded some photos from another trip to Singapore, where I visited the Asian Civilizations Museum. Great museum, and I really enjoyed the numerous exhibits, everything has detailed descriptions, great for studying purposes. I visited a few other spots, such as a pretty sci-fi café on the 33rd floor of a skyscraper and an array of tasty food-courts. All in all I had a good and culinary time in Singapore, and I could enjoy the city a lot more than during my first stay.
After 2 years in Japan, I am finally back in Germany on a month-long friends and family marathon. I managed to ride 120km on my Dad’s road-bike before a cold-front turned most of the country into winter wonderland again.
Even though I am glad to be back in the hospitality of loved ones, I am already looking forward to being back in Japan, soon. I am hoping to catch the last bit of the cherry blossom blooming, before they will vanish with the wind. Also really, really looking forward to this year’s cycling season!!
It’s been 2 years since the utmost terrifying disaster of March 11th, 2011. I do not have any wise words to add to this day, but my thoughts and condolences are with the people of Tohoku and their loved ones.
Movie director Lucy Walker has shared a free link to her documentary TSUNAMI & THE CHERRY BLOSSOM. It’s utterly sad, amazingly beautiful and very thought provoking. You can follow this link here, enter an e-mail address and watch the 40 minutes long documentary.
When I was volunteering in northern Japan’s earthquake affected regions, I was based out of a town called Ishinomaki. The weeks I spent in Ishinomaki will forever remain as something special in my memory!
I have met enormously dedicated individuals, from Japan and throughout the world, I learned a lot about carpentry and even more so about humanity. However, out of all the Japanese people we have helped or met along our path, one woman and her busy helpers stood out of the crowd like a shining diamond! Hashimoto-san, who’s house had been hit and flooded by the tsunami in March was working hard, in order to provide freshly cooked food on a daily basis for the very volunteers who were refurbishing homes in her neighborhood. Those volunteers continued their work on houses all around Ishinomaki, and Hashimoto-san’s home became a daily meeting spot for a group of about 30 people.
I remember joining the group Whiskey55 and adjoined INJM out of opportunity, as my volunteer group had come down to a single person for a short period, and so I quickly heard the most respectful mentions of Hashimoto-san’s cooking! The amazing thing has been, from this first day with INJM I was sat down at her table, got treated like a good friend and served endless amounts of food. Her and her helpers care for our well-being, and well-nutrition was beyond measure. If you wouldn’t watch out carefully, your little rice bowl’d be filled up again within mere seconds! Every day there was a several feet long table full of food, and afterwards she’d always give a lunch pack for our way home. Not to mention the little treats, such as an never-ending supply of canned coffee and GariGariKun popsicles. The most and utterly moving part of all of this, Hashimoto-san has paid for all of those daily dishes with her own live savings. This fact has left me speechless, and deeply moved for a long moment, as I didn’t know about it until very recently. Mind you, Hashimoto-san never asked for anything in return.
It is great news, that Hashimoto-san’s cooking has caught greater attention, and with the help of a publisher and never-tiring volunteers of It’s not just mud a book has been made, which is bearing the recipes for the volunteers’ favourite dishes! The book is entitled 「石巻ボランティアハウスの橋本ごはん」or roughly translated Hashimoto’s Ishinomaki Volunteer House Cooking, 176 pages, as far as I know bilingual (English/Japanese) and contains recipes, stories and first-hand accounts by various volunteers. There might even be a few of my photographs featured in the book, as I have taken a photo of every single meal I have been served by Hashimoto-san, last year! Yes, it’s been that tasty! I am currently waiting for my copies to be delivered from Amazon Japan, but you can order your on copy here, too. If you live outside of Japan, you may contact INJM directly, as they’ll be able to take care of shipping at a better price, with payment possible via Paypal.
Here’s some further updated information on the INJM shipping, as seen on facebook!
Here is the deal : you pay for the book, the shipping costs, the Paypal fee and the packaging cost. You can choose Airmail (around one week delivery) or SAL (around two weeks delivery). INJM doesn’t make any profit out of this service.
International buyers only ! If you are in Japan you can get the book from Amazon with free shipping !
こんにちは、昨日は「RAPHA CYCLE CLUB OSAKA」のグルプライドがありました。僕もRCCOと走って残念ながら僕のカメラのアウトフォーカスが壊れましたから乗ること中の写真がありません。京都駅前から宇治市と滋賀県と南の琵琶湖や山科区までのルートは８５キロぐらいでした。三十人と乗るはとても楽しかった、みんなさんありがとうございます！RAPHAよろしくお願いします！こちらはもっとたくさん写真があります〜
I have a new, yet very classical, addition to my average everyday carry, a Higonokami pocket knife. A true classic from Japan, which has been around for more than a hundred years, foldable blade, triple layered blue paper-steel, no locking mechanism, brass handle, small price, nowadays produced by a single aging blacksmith. Every knife has it’s imperfections, which are, alongside other valuable historical Higonokami trivia, documented in this forum posting.
If you want to carry a pocket-knife around Japan, be aware of fairly strict regulations on a blade lengths, which should not exceed 6cm. I didn’t measure my medium size Higonokami, but it is around 6cm and should be within regulations.
The word weird, or any other adjective with a similar connotation is often used by people, often foreign to Japan, to describe Japanese culture as a whole in a rather prejudiced and shallow approach. I’d beg to disagree on jumping on such assumption with any culture, and Japan in particular has much more on offer than its rarer pop-cultural experiments. However, AKB48 certainly takes the cake this month in trying to foster prejudices against Japan by bluntly issuing a rather mind-boggling video on Youtube.
On a side note, AKB48 is a very big japanese girl-group franchise, focused on tailoring to middle-aged men as well as teenage girls by seamlessly merging cutsie-candid pop-music with peeping-tom music-videos. MVs actually, which barely seem to pass Japan’s very strict child-pornography allowances. Mind you, the girls within AKB48 have ages ranging from 14 to about 20. Something to keep in mind, before getting your nerd on about videos such as this one. In the franchise’s top tier AKB48 are no less than about ~90 active members, performing on stage, on a day to day basis in Akihabara (AKB), Tokyo. There’s numerous spin-off groups in Namba (NMB), Osaka; Hawks Town (HKT), Fukuoka; as well as foreign countries like Jakarta (JKT), Indonesia.
So, AKB48 on its own might already get a weird-stamp by people outside of Japan, but there’s even deeper, maybe darker side to this business. Apart from the occasional graduation of too old members, what would happen if a girl is actually caught with a, oh snap, male individual? Not only a demotion to a less popular lower tier of the franchise, but also a public apology to the fans for such misbehaviour. – All in all I guess total humiliation is a much better suited word for it. In the most recent case of Minami Minegishi, the girl even went as far as shaving her hair (a symbol of becoming a monk, and a sign of remorse in Japan), and making a very tearful, heart-wrenching public announcement via Youtube. Even though Minegishi-san claims to have done the head-shaving on her own behalf, it’s an obvious marketing decoy behind the whole apology. Simply, who actually beliefs a several hundred people big girl-group will grant random member-access to the worldwide public Youtube account?
Discomfortingly, this marketing decoy which seems to specifically tailor towards the middle-aged men peer-group, which had me envision an enraged Otaku, who sees his favorite virginal masturbation material be soiled with another man’s semen. Sickening, not the sexual intercourse, but this marketing feat. – Numerous fans luckily do not rejoice the most recent humiliating ongoings at AKB48! According to this article on NEWS.com.au and Make Believe on tumblr, fans vouch for Minegishi-san being free to lead a perfectly normal woman’s life, of course supporting the included physical contact with other men. Here’s a glimpse of the outspoken disagreement with AKB48 management’s decisions.
During the entry of this post, I mentioned how a lot of people like to point out the weirdness in Japanese culture, and I hinted at the fact by how little this may actually hold true. Sadly, with an occurrence such as this one, I am bound to wonder how much thought AKB48′s upper echelon has put into considering, that information is not bound by a country’s border, and such a denouncing, humiliating act against a young woman, which is just overflowing with sexism will cause bad press and substitute a furthering of prejudices against Japan as a whole. As Japanese tend to take high pride in their ancestry and genetics, some should also consider taking high pride in their reputation throughout the world. After all this economy is absolutely depended on other non-japanese countries. So, let me just say this: well done AKB48, well done.
This is Minami Minegishi’s official apology, and here’s some further explanation of the Japanese use of language within, by gimmeaflakeman, who interestingly greets people with “Hello morons”. Anyway, his explanation is better than his initial greeting.
Yes granted, there’s nothing new about the visual impressiveness, which a very well applied make up can give to a woman’s face. Nonetheless, there’s an almost common sense among, most probably foreign/male individuals in Japan that Japanese women seem to have a particular knack at enhancing their facial attributes. Personally I do not see anything wrong with asian eyes, but if you add an undeniable obsession about thick eyelashes and big eyes into the mix you’ll be left with fairly overwhelming result. So overwhelming, you are easily caught up questioning the true looks of many pretty females, which on sunny days seem to be littering the sidewalks of bigger Japanese cities. – Now, please keep in mind I am not saying asian women are ugly without make-up, as I’d personally prefer very little make-up over a complete skin-, eye- even hair-treatment.
Interestingly, Japanese media doesn’t make a secret out of such results, as they will just help to fuel the make up selling industry. Here’s a very nice example, which has been flickering across Japanese Youtube for about a month. For the sake of completion, it is an advertising for the Toyota Vitz Ciel in collaboration with SPUR make-up.
Hatsuhinode 「初日の出」is the first sunrise of the New Year, here seen from the mountain range between Kyoto and Shiga prefecture looking across Lake Biwa and Otsu City. Initially I had planned to cycle up Mt. Hiei in order to witness the first sunrise of this year. However, the toll road on the southern side of the mountain turned out to be closed for cyclists!
I rolled down into Otsu thinking about tackling Mt. Hiei from another angle, but it has been far beyond my reach, when I had only 90 minutes left till sunrise. I eventually turned around near the Rainbow Bridge, and went back up the mountain range, where I found a small shop, serving tea, coffee and tasty udon/soba. Luckily, they had a veranda with a great view across southern Lake Biwa. Happy New Year!
By the way, with -5 degrees Celsius it has been quite cold for prolonged cycling in the mountiains, and my right foot received some frostnip. I guess winter cycling shoes be needed.
Saturday has been a good day! It started off with a visit to the Shūgakuin Imperial Villa in Kyoto, which limits its visitor access to appointments only. It has an amazing and spacious landscape garden, plotted with old rice-fields and hand-kept gardens, as well as an array of beautiful old tea houses. After a lunch in an ancient bathhouse, remodeled into a restaurant-café, we headed off to Kobe. Rain was pouring down in Kobe, but Luminarie 2012 was just as impressive, mainly in number of visitors on logistics. We left Kobe right again, heading for Osaka, where we camped down in various eating and drinking joints, mingling around the train-station of Juso. It’s an impressively deep 「ディープ」spot of the city of Osaka. If you want local, go Juso. The night ended with a pudding-run (senseless consumption of sweets) in front of a Family Mart in downtown Kyoto. Great day, great company. Thanks!
This country doesn’t cease to surprise me! This time it’s been a Mercedes Benz commercial, which just popped up in front of me on YouTube. This is not just a car commercial, it is 6 minute anime-short. What, what!?
I remember I wanted to make periodical updates of nice bicycle rides I’d have done while living in Japan, but the business of a life in Japan has so far taught me otherwise. More so, in the near future I will be clamping down to finish my current research project! I am apologizing in advance for the upcoming lack of updates.
Anyway, I have been on a nice short ride this Sunday, in order to appreciate the wonderful colors in the autumn foliage around Kyoto. The change of colors is called Momiji 「紅葉」in Japanese. The first part of the ride went to Takao 「高雄」in the north of Kyoto, visiting a small group of temples. Apart from watching Momiji, we also got a taste of Momiji when buying a small package of Momiji Tempura, which was a small maple-leaf deep-fried in a sesame-based batter. Interesting, here’s some photos taken with my phone.