Khaos

Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Winter Trip

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

We spent three days at Niseko Village. I love Hokkaido in the winter. It doesn’t remind me of home, though lots of people in Japan think that Northern Ireland should be a snowy wonderland in winter. It looks like the sort of winter you see on old Christmas cards – more like Narnian winter than reality. If it wasn’t so cold it would be perfect.

We had wanted to try using a snowmobile for a while and this time we managed to hire one.  I didn’t have to drive, M did that, I just had to hold on.  That mostly worked but towards the end of the drive we managed to get stuck in a snowdrift and we both fell off the machine.  We were out with an instructor who was able to come to our rescue.  It’s certainly safer to fall off than a motorbike as the snow was very soft and deep. We also weren’t going very fast at the time as we were driving up the mountain.  It took a lot of effort to get back up as snow is surprisingly heavy when you end up buried in it.  It would also have been easier if we hadn’t been laughing so much.  It was a lot of fun and I would certainly try it again.  Maybe next time I’ll be braver and will try driving.

Niseko Village

Christmas Preparations

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Christmas always feels strange to me in Japan.  It’s a time for couples.  It’s a time for eating chicken and white sponge cake with strawberries.

Just like in the U.K. the shops are playing Christmas music but they are doing it in their own crazy Japanese way.  My local grocery store was playing four things at once today.   “Sleigh Ride” at a really fast speed, “All I want for Christmas”, some squeaky J-pop song, and someone was giving store announcements.  And then at the checkout area the “calorie mate” adverts were playing on little T.Vs.  I should really take earplugs when I go shopping to prevent the feeling that my head is going to explode.

I saw one nativity scene that made me laugh as it had polar bears and penguins. Odd looking Christmas trees are appearing across the city but I haven’t seen any yet that are actually made of tree.

Christmas Tree Eating Spider

Christmas Tree Eating Spider

 

Eating Out

Friday, December 4th, 2015

I still get amused by the concept of food courses in Tokyo.  Last night I had a nine course meal.  We started eating at around 7pm but by the time I got home shortly after midnight I was feeling hungry again.  The food was lovely, but the courses were incredibly small.  I’m not sure that in Northern Ireland you would get away with describing one small mushroom as a course.  Or one grilled scallion, or two tablespoons of shredded radish, or six ginkgo nuts.  Thankfully the eel, which was the main part of the dinner, was a decent size.

I wonder if the “no photographs” policy was to ensure that pictures of the tiny courses didn’t appear on the Internet?

 

 

Parcel Season

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Coming up to Christmas we get a lot of post.  The Japanese postal service and the various couriers that are used are impressive.  I have received many parcels addressed incorrectly in English.  Sometimes these find their way here because the couriers ring the apartment in advance to check the address.  Lately we have received quite a few parcels with the wrong apartment number, and they usually work that out without asking.  My favourite though was a parcel addressed to:

MINAMIZE JUST

Which is the strangest spelling I’ve seen yet of Minami-senju.

 

I <3 Garbage Room

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

When I first moved to Japan I found it hard to understand how to sort out garbage.  (I used to call it rubbish, but no-one knew what I was talking about.) There were so many things that need separated.  Burnable waste, non-burnable waste, PET bottles, glass bottles, cans, cartons, cardboard, paper, and white food trays.  There is also a separate garbage collection for items that are bigger than the 45L bags that we are expected to use.

We’ve been renting in Tokyo for a while and lately have been thinking of buying.  When we went to look at new houses I saw a yellow basket sitting outside one of them.  I haven’t had to deal with communal recycling baskets since we moved to this apartment.  I stared at it trying to remember if it was for cans or bottles… and then all the horrors of garbage came back to me.  I have learnt how to separate garbage but I no longer have to worry about when it needs put outside.  In our current apartment we have a garbage room.   It’s an amazing place full of bins for all the different types of garbage.  I no longer have to wait for the two days in a week when I can get rid of smelly food stuff from my apartment, and I don’t need to know which days are the right ones for different types of recycling, and I don’t need to store garbage in my apartment unless I’m too lazy to move it.

If I had a house I would have to learn the garbage cycle again.  Every day I would be putting out a different type of garbage.  I could end up responsible for washing out the baskets in the street, there would be crow nets, wild cats, and cleaning garbage off the street when a mess was made.  I would end up cleaning other people’s garbage off the street as I’m sure just like the last place we lived that they would blame the foreigners every time a crow attacked or some other person put their garbage out too soon.  I don’t actually mind helping out if there is garbage lying in the street as I love living in a clean city, but I disliked being blamed for this.

I did like the giant crows.  They seemed to know the schedule better than me and would sit on the electric cables outside our home just waiting for something tasty to be taken out.

Free Crow Nets

Free Crow Nets

Maybe houses are a better buy, because of the associated land, but I would miss my garbage room.

Silver Week

Monday, September 21st, 2015

It’s Silver Week.  A wonderful week that occurs every six or so years when 2 national holidays turn into 3.  Japanese law stipulates that if there is only one non-holiday in between two public holidays, that day should become an additional holiday, known as a Kokumin no kyūjitsu (Citizens’ Holiday).  Today is “Respect for the Aged Day” and  “Autumnal Equinox Day” is on Wednesday.

Major holidays are not a good time to travel in Japan so we have opted for staying at home.  We had friends over for a lazy weekend of playing games, eating junk food, and watching movies.  (I wasn’t expecting to like Zoolander, but it was O.K.)  We may venture out tomorrow to see a new apartment building but I won’t be surprised if we sleep late and forget all about that.  Marty is crazy about Splatoon, so much so that I’ve started to see squid creatures in my sleep, and if he plays to 4am again we may not get much done at all.  That’s not a problem though as I’m happy to be still for a few days.

It’s just a pity that the next one doesn’t take place until 2020!

New Vegetables

Friday, September 11th, 2015

I had a house guest recently, who was trying to find cilantro, and they asked me to identify some of the leafy green things in the store.  There were quite a few that I couldn’t identify so I took pictures of their names to translate them at home.  A translation hasn’t helped me much as I didn’t recognize their English names either.  I can buy  Malabar Spinach (つるむらさき), Jew’s Mallow (モロヘイヤ),  Angelica Keiskei (明日葉), and Japanese Honeywort (三つ葉).  My next task it to work out how to cook them.

Local Travel

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

One of the lovely things about YAPC::Asia being held in Tokyo is that it brings international speakers to the city.  And then I get to play tourist in my home country.

I remember the first time I went to Nikko in 1998.  We were looking forward to seeing the famous bridge but we couldn’t find it.  It was being restored at the time, so was completely covered up.  Thankfully this time it was on display.

Shinkyo Bridge, Nikko

Shinkyo Bridge, Nikko

YAPC::Asia 2015

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

Last week I attended YAPC::Asia in Tokyo.  I’m always impressed by how much work the organisers put in to make sure that the conference runs smoothly.  I have been to 10 YAPCs in Tokyo and every year they get bigger.  Back in 2006 there were around 320 people attending and this year there was 2130!  That’s amazing growth and a headache for conference organisers unless you successfully scale every aspect of the conference.  Just thinking about the wifi requirements alone makes me shudder.  There is no doubt that Maki-san and his team should be proud of everything they have achieved.  It was a great conference.

The venue is so important to holding a good conference.  Last year I felt that the venue for YAPC::Asia was too small but this year it was perfect.  It was large enough to be comfortable, but not so large that you felt disconnected from the other attendees.  The main room was beautiful.  It held around 1000 people, but since it seems that only about half the conference at most will attend a plenary session it was a good size. Given how many attendees there were I didn’t get to see everyone I know.  This is always a problem when a conference is large and if I had not been jet lagged I probably would have been more proactive at trying to meet up with people.

I have attended many conference and I dislike how organisers who are intimately involved with the conference forget that the rest of us have not spent months contemplating the venue and the rooms.  I have joked that for some conferences it’s a quest to find the clues to work out where the entrance to the venue will be and how to find the talks.  Thankfully at YAPC::Asia this is never a problem.  There are always beautiful signs, printed material, and even a video showing how to get to the venue from the train station.  It was wonderful that I could feel confident about getting to the venue.  I really don’t want to keep the keynote speaker who is staying with me late for the opening because I can’t find out where to go.

YAPC::Asia is the only conference I attend that it not in English.  There were a number of foreigners speakers who spoke in  English.  At earlier conferences I did notice that the English talks were not overly well attended but now they are simultaneously translated into Japanese, which really helps.  It would be amazing if the Japanese talks could be translated into English but it’s not cost effective to do that given the number of non-native Japanese speakers in attendance.  My Japanese is not good enough for me to easily enjoy a technical talk given in Japanese so I mostly went to hear people speak in English.

I enjoyed Rik’s talk and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the current release of Perl 5.

While the conference has its roots in Perl – YAPC stands for Yet Another Perl Conference – there is no doubt that the content of this conference has been expanding for years now making the “P” more polyglot than Perl.  I did hear a number of Perl talks but I heard an equal number of container talks.  I enjoy hearing talks from speakers I don’t know and on new subjects, but I do like more Perl in my YAPC.

I could write more but Maki-san has already written a great post on the conference.  I’m sad that this will be the last one, but I’m hopeful that something new will spring up in its place.

 

End of Spring

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

Spring is over, but I did manage to get out and see the Cherry Blossoms.  It is the most beautiful time of the year in Tokyo.

Spring Sakura