Archive for the Japan News Category

July 12th Update

Posted in Japan News on July 12, 2008 by joeki2000

It seems there are still 3 or 4 people reading this, so I will amuse you all with one more update.

First off : I’m leaving Japan on Saturday, August 30th. If all goes well I will be arriving in Brussels Saturday 30th in the early evening. Not something I’m really looking forward to. I’m really beginning to get settled here 🙂 .
Anyway what have I been up to the last month or so?

Nothing much. It’s nice to finally have some people you can call friends. I practically have something to do everyday now. The first semester (you can read all about it in the archives) was pretty boring sometimes because we ( or I…) didn’t know that many people with sort of the same interest , or maturity level. So it’s nice to be able to do at least something everyday and get out and stuff.
We had a lot of friends/people over from Belgium here in Matsumoto so it’s been busy with BB Q’s , Nomihodai’s , Nomikais or just hanging out or making food together. In between I was treated to Kaitenzushi for the first time and had yakiniku tabehodai for the first time. Karaoke was also attended.  We made a class trip to Matsushiro (the most boring place in Japan) and Nagano. The best trip was to Niigata, were I had a great time in the winter. This time we went to a beach about 30 kilometres West of Joëtsu. The weather was great, the Sea was warm and the BBQ delicious. Definitely one of the better omoidashi’s of my year in Japan.

What’s up for the last one and a half month?

A lot of party’s :
So far :
26/07 , 29/07 , 30/07 and 08/08 there will be nomihodai’s and party’s and such.
On the 02/08 or 04/08 (not sure) there’s the infamous Matsumoto Bonbon festival. The climax of the year here apparently so I don’t want to miss that. On 05/08 we have our final school trip to Utsukushigahara.
The final presentation will be 01/08 and I’m sure we will go drinking after that as well. 2 of the Belgian guys are leaving 10/08 so I guess there will be a goodbye party for them as well.
I’m going to Tokyo from around 12/08 to 20/08 , and am planning on doing my birthday party a week after  before I leave. I’ll also be visiting Kamikochi before I leave. Hokkaido will be for the next time :p .

Tomorrow we will attempt a football match  between Belgium and Korea of course we will annihilate them :).



June 6th Update

Posted in Japan News on June 6, 2008 by joeki2000

Soon only 2 months left in Japan , can’t believe how time flies by.

I’m deaf in my right ear at the moment and almost blind in my left eye (lol , not really) but it’s quite bothersome. I have a plug in my ear that needs some attention but I haven’t been able to go to a docter yet. Just when I was about to go this afternoon I sprayed half a can of detergent in my left eye (yeah, the good one) so now that eye’s pretty much fucked for a few days as well.
Weekly soccer and running is also taking it’s toll on my ankles (try finding shoepads for a size 31 in a country full of midgets).
How about the benkyou then? Well, absolutely nothing to report on that : I still haven’t decided wether my final presentation will be about the Japanese fishing industry and it’s toll on the enviroment , or homelessness in Urban Japan. Both subjects were OK’ed by the teachers… The other lessons are o.k. I guess. My first Korean test is monday : What’s at stake? : The student with the best marks can go lunch with the sensei : This my friends is Japanese University life.
A rigorous month of sleepless nights is coming up ; you guessed it : EURO 2008 starts tomorow, and with all matches being played either at 1 am or 3 am local time … .  Who will take it?  After those fucking Greeks took it last time  your guess is as good as mine : therefore I say : TURKEY!  And I’ll be rooting for the Swedes.

I’m making lots of new friends !


March Japan trip

Posted in Japan News on April 6, 2008 by joeki2000

So I’ve returned to Matsumoto after a 2 week trip of the Honshu Island of Japan together with my cousin from Belgium. I decided to break down the report into the places we visited. The order I broke it down into is from Most boring to Most fun. See below for the full report !

6 : Takayama / Gifu :
I knew what Takayama was like (I was there in November) but I was kinda curious about the rest of the Gifu-Ken. There was still a lot of snow in this Ken, but that was about the only plus. Takayama was boring as I had already seen everything in the city. Plus all Izakaya’s and restaurant close at 6 there for some weird reason. Shirakawago is the most overrated sightseeing spot in Japan. Stay away from it. All in all we should have probably gone to Kobe or Himeji or stayed an extra day in Tokyo to visit Nikko. I’ll save that for the next time I’m in Japan I guess. There will not be a next time in Gifu ken though.

Tokyo :
The things I did in Tokyo were fun. I finally went up the Tokyo Tower (which offers a great view if you go at dusk). Ueno and Asakusa (shitamachi) were pretty cool. I had some beers with some of the Tokyo crew in a cheap Izakaya in Ikebukuro. I had already been to Akihabara, Shibuya and Harajuku so nothing much new there. Yasukuni was pretty dissapointing : all that fuss over a one in a dozen shinto shrine. We were scolded by the guard for trying to take pictures hehe. But Tokyo always gets me depressed for some reason. It’s good to be there for a day or two, but that’s it for me. I’m glad I don’t have to live/study there. I’ll take Matsumoto over Tokyo any day.

Kyoto :
The sightseeing spots in Kyoto are amazing. The Kyomizudera, Kinkakuji, Ryoanji and Sanjusangendo did not fail to impress me (especially the Kinkakuji was cool). We were a bit unlucky as the castle of Kyoto was already closed, but we were treated to a Japanese drum presentation in the garden instead, which was cool. Still the atmosphere in Kyoto was not that good. Too many tourists for one thing. Of course it’s a bit hypocrit to say that when you are one yourself. But the city in general did not give me a pleasant feeling. We also saw the monkey’s on the monkey mountain (forgot the name) and the bamboo forest in the West of town, which was a lot nicer than the center in my opinion. I had to skip on the Ginkakuji so maybe that’s for next time.

Koyasan :
Koyasan was cool, but not essential in my opinion. But I was glad we made the trip. Especially the forest was cool. Unfortunatly the Tokugawa Mausoleum was already closed…

Nara :
Just like in Kyoto there is so much to see. But I felt a lot more comfortable in Nara. The Toudaiji was one of the most impressive things I saw in the entire trip. There are some great hiking paths a lot of the tourist don’t take/ know about North of Nara Kouen. We climbed the 550 meter mountain which offers a great arial view of Nara , and went to the Waterfalls after that. No one else was there so it was very cool. My cousin played Yamabito and sat under the ice cold waterfall. I passed… Anyway the waterfall is my “Osusume” for Nara. Go visit it in the evening :  virtually no one will disturb you during your nature walk. It’s about 5 kilometers north of Todaiji.

Osaka :
We were only in Osaka for about 1 full day but I found the city very pleasant to be in. People were talking to eachother in the subway, everybody was more relaxed. There are some very nice neighbourhoods there (Like Namba, Tsutenkaku, Tenma) filled to the brim with cheap Izakaya’s and traditional restaurants. It’s the opposite from Tokyo for me. I agree with everyone who says Osaka is better than Tokyo. I also saw the whaleshark in the aquarium and of course the Osaka castle  ( but Matsumoto’s is better :p ). And I had Okonomiyaki.

Hiroshima/Miyajima :

This was probably the most amusing part of the journey. Hiroshima City is small compared to the other city’s mentioned above, so you can get round on foot easily and see everything the city has to offer (some beautifull gardens and of course the A-bomb dome etc.) . The second day was spent at Miyajima : deffo something you have to do if you’re in that area. The Torii is cool but the best part is climbing Mount Misen.  Forget the cable car and just climb it via the east route, there were very few other tourists on the route and we encountered no one at the alternative top (the tourist top is at the observatory but that sux) so it was a  great experience with an even greater view of Hiroshima bay and the Seto sea. We also went to the beach but the water was too cold.  Our ryokan was of very high quality (Serrabekan) and offered great loding and food. I also had Hiroshima Okonomiyaki 2 times hehe 🙂 .

My goal is still the same for August : 2 weeks in the North and East of Hokkaido and a daytrip to Sapporo.
I’m not sure yet wether I’ll take the cheaper Sea route from Niigata or the land route through Aomori (a place I also want to see acutally). But untill then my traveling days in Japan are over for now. I will go to the Raidworld Festival in Tokyo on April 26th so I’ll make a report about that. Tomorow it’s back to school for me.


交通事故 Part II

Posted in Japan News on March 16, 2008 by joeki2000

So I mentioned in a post in February how bad Japanese drivers really are.
Call it a stereotype, or even racism for my part , I don’t care after today. I didn’t need confirmation of this ( I already had enough of that in October) but I nevertheless got it today.
So I was riding my bike on a priority street (all streets from the left and right had stop signs and white stripes : meaning the street I was on had priority). So I come to a taxi company , and see a car approaching from a street to the left of me. Of course since my street has priority he stops and lets the cars in my street go ahead. I figure : this guy is letting me pass  as well.
I should have known  better. As I was crossing his path, the guy put the pedal to the metal , hitting me in the side and sending me and my bike flying. Fortunately I was spared from any serious injury other than some bruises and a nasty flesh wound. The guy hadn’t even bothered looking to his left side : I was in a one way street : one way for cars  not for bicycles , so he didn’t find it necessary to check his left side. He got out of the car and apologised and helped me get back on my bike, but none of the bystanders even gave a shit. They acted like nothing happened.  So I said fuck it and left the scene.

Something is seriously fucked in Japan. Is it like the educational system perhaps, where practical knowledge of something isn’t required? Is driving in a protective enviroment enough to get a license ? (that’s right, all Japanese driving schools have this miniature car park, simulating everything in a closed enviroment). Of course they have driving lessons on the street as well, but judging by the way 99% drive of them… they must be shit.

Seriously, I’m just angry right now, but that isn’t clouding my vision. I’ve seen it happen, experienced it first hand , and heared other people tell about it :


March 1 Update

Posted in Japan News on March 1, 2008 by joeki2000

Actually, I feel kind of guilty. Everyone is probably doing stuff right now, be it going to University or working in Belgium, or doing バイト or studying for entrance exams in Japan. Me on the other hand…
I checked out バイト at the nearby supermarket. The wage there was 800円 per hour and you had to work 3 days a week.  The hours sucked plus I will not work for 5 euros per hour, so I’ll look into tutoring again later. A lot of my new older friends are teachers, so maybe I can pressure them a little bit 😀 .

So what’s been going on. After the graduation ceremony and the ensuing party, I spent a week in Niigata (read the review below). Quite a refreshing trip. Since then though, things have slowed down a lot. There was a Good Bye party organised by a few of  our Japanese tutors for the returning students. The party was…well Japanese I guess. There was no sake, no music and no other forms of entertainment. But atleast preparing the Takoyaki was fun and granted : they were delicious.
Anyway : we figured we could return the favor, so we plan a party next week Sunday and make some croque-monsieur or something. I will make sure there will be sake though.

My trip to 長野 has been delayed by a week, as my fellow Belgians here will be in Nagasaki then, so I figured I could better go when I’m alone here in Matsumoto. My cousin will arrive the 23th of March, so I will be leaving for Tokyo on the 21st, staying at Sam’s again (many thanks!!).    The travelling scheduel will look something like this : Tokyo – Osaka – Kyoto – Hiroshima – Miyajima – Gifu – Matsumoto and back to Tokyo. A lot of things to see in just 2 weeks : 頑張ります :D .

I also recently started translating some manga’s. I’m reading バガボンド and ベルゼルク. It is a slow and tedious process but it’s fun and a good excercise  for my Japanese. We also started playing soccer again a few times a week. I really missed it actually.

Anyway thats all for now.


Posted in Japan News on February 16, 2008 by joeki2000

This is a report from my trip to the 新潟県 (Niigata-Ken) and 新潟市 (Niigata City).

I left 松本together with Yang by local train. The lady at the tourist information center had told us it would take only 3 to 4 hours to Niigata City. Apparently she didn’t do her homework ; it took us about  6 hours.  First we travelled to 長野、then to 長岡 and finally to 新潟. Though the journey took a considerable amount of time, it was well worth it. 新潟県 is famous for its snow in the winter, and there was a lot of it. Several meters had fallen in the Southern part of the 県. Which of course made for some beautiful scenery. Part of the journey also took us a long the 日本海側 (Japanese Sea coast). The sight of the Sea was more than welcome after being in the mountains for so long.

We arrived in Niigata City ( a city of 812.000 residents, the largest on the 日本海側) a little bit later as expected, so we settled for finding our 旅館 (ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn) and dinner for the day.
The next days where filled with sightseeing. Among others, I visited the 日本海タワー (which offers a view over Niigata city and the coastline);  白山神社 and  公園 which was just across from our ryokan ;  the House of Northern Culture (I snuk in for free heheh) ; the famous exposition/music hall called Ryuutopia ; Next 21, the tallest building in the city and a hyper modern shopping center etc. From a distance we also saw the Big Swan stadium where J-League team Albirex Niigata plays its games (it also hosted a few World cup 2002 games) . Bandai bridge, the symbol of the city, was not impressive at all.  In May this city is hosting the G8 by the way.

The most interesting thing we saw was by far the 弥彦神社 (Yahiko Jinja ), rumored to be the most beautiful in the prefecture. It was snowing very hard that day so there were almost no people there. This provided a real relaxing atmosphere.  We also tasted some Niigata delicatessens ; sushi, sashimi and of course Sake.
The road home was long and exhausting but I got to enjoy the beautiful scenery again, so I didn’t really mind.

It was a good and relatively cheap trip. The ryokan by the way was very comfortable.  On the other hand, Niigata city, Japans 16th largest overall, was relatively dead. Parts of the city seemed in decay and not economically viable. On the other hand , some districts were blooming with business. All in all, I wouldn’t like to live there though. But having the Sea close by and loads of snow is nice I think.

On other news, my cousin is planning a Japan trip the end of March, so I will be accompanying him. This means Ill take it easy until he comes and relax and study a bit here in 松本. I will be visiting 長野 in the coming days though so ill make a report about that later.


February 3rd Update

Posted in Japan News on February 3, 2008 by joeki2000

It’s been a while again, but I decided to do another Japan related update.

Classes have now officially ended. On Friday we attended the final presentation of the students returning home after one semester (all Koreans). It was interesting, but getting up at 9 a.m. after slacking for more than a week was painful.
I stuck to a steady diet of watching Sopranos with a beer and a bag of chips ’till about 4 a.m. everyday. Then slept ’till late in the afternoon, got up do some work and repeat. If you haven’t watched “The Sopranos” yet : I strongly advise you do : it’s the best series ever.
Since I didn’t really do anything these last 2 weeks, there’s not that much interesting to tell.  But last week Jonathan and his girlfriend Mayuko came to Matsumoto. We did a hike up in the mountains but unfortunately didn’t get all the way to the top. It’s also been snowing pretty hard. 2 weeks ago about 20cm fell. And today and last night, about the same amount has fallen and since I like snow, I’m pretty happy about it. Though it’s not very easy to get around in 20cm of snow.
So 2 weeks ago I also took some neat pictures of the Castle covered in snow. I should really get round to uploading those.

I also received my grades for the Japanese language classes. All results were between around 85% and 95% so I was pretty happy about that. But I had the impression they didn’t want to fail anyone because the oral exam was….well pretty damn easy. Next week I’ll get my certificate with the final overall score on it (A+,A-,B+ etc…) but I’m happy with a B anyway.

This last weekend I hung out at Kuwara. It’s a record shop during the day and at night it’s like a club. It’s pretty cosy and reminds of youth clubs in Belgium.

Thursday there’s a “Sayonara” party for the students returning to their country (a pretty lame party since you have to bring your own food and drinks…) so my plans of leaving for Niigata have been delayed by a few days. But I’m considering departing during the coming weekend (maybe Saturday…). Be in Niigata for about a small week. Come back here and keep everyone updated and then hopefully we can set up a free sleeping place in Osaka and visit Kansai for the first time later this month. In the beginning of march I well go down to Tokyo once more to hang out with Tim and if there’s still some time (or shall we say money left) I’ll do something aswell in the second half of March.

I also received a bit of homework and should really get started on my bachelor paper, so I guess I’ll be able to fill up the two months. That was it for now.