last updated June 30, 2005

domestic violence and ergonomics

the doors in our apartment (the japanese call it a mansion, but I'm not succumbing) are 1.8 metres tall. you don't have to be a genius to imagine that my height, combined with early morning trips to the bathroom (well actually, anywhere) can lead to warner bros style bumps.

it's not a good way to start the day and the other morning (combined with lack of sleep) I cracked my head a stoater on the kitchen door frame, and I shook the building with both the impact and the swearing. my repertoire of domestic short comings extends to run-ins with the extractor fan and getting my hand caught in the concertina room divider (that was really sore).

in january I also fell down the inlaws' stairs which was a belter: this time the house really did shake. I fell down three quarters of the stairs and actually did some bad damage to my wrist. once it was clear that my legs were not broken though, my father-in-law started a hearty laugh which spread to seiko and yuka. I looked across the floor at the dog for sympathy, but he was just happy for some payback.

the other big practical issue for big people (there are tall japanese too don't forget) with japanese housing is work heights. I'm actually getting back trouble from bending over the sink, work top and hob (though yuka would question just how much time I actually spend there). and this is combined with some other pains from driving recently. think I ought to splash out on a visit to a chiropractor.


Posted by stupot at 12:49 PM Thursday 30 Jun | Post comment (1) comments

todays accomplishment

I remember when I stayed in finland that I had to go and buy some sprung steel rod from an industrial estate in the north outskirts of helsinki. don't ask why. it wasn't that difficult a task but given language barriers it could seem daunting if you think about it.

anyway - today I had a similar experience and the satisfaction of being understood by a local timber merchants. -can I buy tree? -of course! and so the conversation flowed. -demo, ichi-mai wa daijobu? -of course 1 piece is okay (the welcoming smile diminishing). -and you'll deliver? the merchants had a brief conversation at this point and said something about me really taking the biscuit, before agreeing. the old woman was a real sweet-heart and the guys although trying to look busy and manly, eventually became interested and warmed to my presence, ridiculous use of their language and perhaps, interest in timber. I got called about 15 minutes later to say they were ready to deliver! now thats service.

so I didn't quite get a quality, finished piece of beech ply but malaysian will do fine for my 'table'. now i need to get out at night and steal some asahi crates for legs. ah. it's like being a student all over again.


Posted by stupot at 01:30 PM Wednesday 29 Jun

taco.jpg


Posted by stupot at 06:19 PM Tuesday 28 Jun

takoyaki

people don't visit Osaka for the culture. even the castle is a reconstruction. but the best thing about living here is the food. it's great, it's everywhere, it's what people talk about.

whilst japan has many delicate foodstuffs, osakan cuisine tends to be a reflection of its down-to-earth residents. perhaps most famous and the reason many people visit, is okonomiyaki: a kind of a cabbage pancake with your favourite topping, finished with brown sauce and fine seaweed. ehhhh. it tastes better than it sounds. infact it's superb.

a more visible sight and perhaps just as famous is takoyaki - literally fried octopus balls. yes, octopus have balls too. these are great fun to make at home - see a recent meal above (most people have a cheap, specific griddle) - but you can pick them up beside the train station on the way home.

they consist of; a simple flour, egg and water batter; finely chopped pickled ginger; tempura 'bits' (like those magic waste bits of batter from the chippie); spring onions and of course, octopus. the reason they burn your mouth is because you can never wait 'til they cool down. they're irresistable. mmmmm.


Posted by stupot at 06:19 PM Tuesday 28 Jun

pl.jpg


Posted by stupot at 04:37 PM Tuesday 28 Jun

modern religions

this odd, gaudi-esque tower belongs to PL. Public Liberty: the religous 'order'. in south osaka it is some-what of an institution amoungst locals - believers or not. sitting on a plateau - it is part of the aspect from almost everywhere. some joke that PL is a cult - but it's apparently a very legitimate religion which started here about 100 years ago. 'life is art' seems to be a central theme and high on their agenda whatever that means. I believe you can join if you already have another religion which is just as well seeing as 100 years ago everyone here was either shinto and buddhist.

PL seems to have a large community throughout the world now and it also has, every August the 1st, the largest fireworks display in the world. yes, it sounds implausable and I thought Kim Jong Il or the chinese would have bettered this but there are 120,000 fireworks and global web-sites seem to agree. and it lasts for almost 2 hours. impressive.

the main tower is another fine example of the 'anything-goes' attitude to modern construction. this view is also a typical one of japan. written word aside, you wouldn't wager this as being japan would you? it's little america at its best. the little colony in the pacific.....


Posted by stupot at 04:11 PM Tuesday 28 Jun

air-con-on

last night at 2am it was apparently 25 degrees. sleep is hard to come by. the humidity today, at 75%, was just incredible. like walking through the botanic gardens. or a sauna. whilst wearing a suit. so despite my reservations, the air-con is officially on: and there is no discussion.

our nice flat on the roof seemed like a good idea in chilly february - now it appears that it absorbs all the heat from the surrounding atmosphere and stores it in our bedroom. even yuka is struggling. which worries me. but she has gotten 7 scottish 'summers' under her belt. the lassie can handle her alcohol but aparently not her heat. we discussed a new AC unit for the bedroom but decided that we'll get used to it. or we can't afford it. something like that. for the sake of our sanity, a glimpse of sleep and keeping at least some of the moisture in our bodies, I hope we get used to it.

the heat is arresting though. it devours your energy and leaves you gasping and sweating - I just have to bide my time regards exercise: I think I could do some serious harm if I attempted a mountain or even stretched for the remote-control.

waking, more than sleeping, in a puddle of sweat, you eventually get up to rinse of the stale stickiness. when you get out from the shower, you can't dry yourself because of the new round of sweating. so walking to the train station works up a little more as you cry to yourself and anyone else in earshot: "God this is hot". it's so obvious but so alien that such a comment seems necessary. every 200 metres.

and this years rainy season, or tsuyu, really has failed to deliver so far. not that it really cools, but it's better than a parafin heater on your forehead. even, like windchimes, the noise can calm you. and the water can extinguish the burning concrete. but no. the rain has not come.


Posted by stupot at 11:38 PM Monday 27 Jun

cashful society

whilst many first world countries are slowly turning cashless, Japan still believes in the power of the real thing. below is an article from yesterdays Yomiuri newspaper which describes the extent cash still plays in scoiety here: you can take 10 grand (sterling) out the bank in any one day. if you have it.

debit cards are still rare, though of course credit cards are common. the upshot is there is a lot of money floating around at anyone time. a peek into the average punters wallet will reveal a wad. I used to take out 20 or 30 quid tops in the UK - using debit for anything over 5.

here I take out 20,000 yen (100 quid) at any one time. you also pay for using your own banks ATM's after 5 or at weekends, and if you use another bank at any time. it's pretty petty in my own, humble opinion. especially as they often close on holidays. close on holidays? they're bloody machines! they don't need a holiday! It's just like you're always reminded that the banks own you, they have you on strings.

ATM's here are properly used though - people not only withdraw money but also insert their bank books (in typically old school japan style) and get a print of the last transactions. actually that makes sense. but I far rather banking by internet. I noticed last week that my local bank which has a row of around 20 machines inside its branch also has discreet, waist height, A6 size shredders beside each machine. very cute - but watch those fingers.

"Banks have been urged to lower the daily limit on withdrawals from automated teller machines to curb illegal withdrawals using forged and stolen cards. The recommendation was contained in a final report by a Financial Services Agency study group on the safety of bank cash cards.

While the report said the limit should be determined by each financial institution, it recommended an upper limit of 500,000 yen per day (2,500 pounds). Of 135 banks that issue ATM cards, 89 have a 2 million yen daily limit (10,000 pounds)

Financial institutions will be forced to make the tough decision of balancing customer service and security.

The report issued by the group, chaired by Tokyo University Prof. Shinsaku Iwahara, concluded that bank cards should have integrated circuit chips embedded in them. The security measure would allow for a large amount of cash to be withdrawn safely. It also proposed setting an expiry date for the cards if the industry continues to issue the current magnetic plastic cards."
Daily Yomiuri, June 25th 2005


Posted by stupot at 11:16 PM Monday 27 Jun

beervendi.jpg


Posted by stupot at 12:27 AM Monday 27 Jun

another classic

yeh. speaks for itself really doesn't it! these do switch off at 11pm though, to quash any fantasy you (I) may have had. but great if you want to be a discreet alcoholic. check the size of that bottle! check the kid-size can too! what a laugh.


Posted by stupot at 12:26 AM Monday 27 Jun

onigiri.jpg


Posted by stupot at 10:20 PM Sunday 26 Jun

pass the parcel

packaging is just something you can't escape from in japan. it's still a big part of the culture, it's a beautiful tradition: an artform. but the translation to modern society often leaves a bad taste in the mouth: you certainly get a grasp of why the japanese (have to) recycle.

you get a plastic bag in almost every shop you visit, even if you don't buy anything. I'm pretty sure this stems from the gift culture that is still a wonderful and integral/evident part of living here. you visit someone - you buy a present. you come back your holibags - you bring a present. (this is the reason postcards are often difficult to find - even in tokyo). so anyway - you go to a shop - you get a bag. as many as you want. it makes them happier if you request more. they're making them out the back.

a nice example of plastic engineering, however, can be seen in modern rice-ball wraps. they enclose the seaweed outer sheet and the rice while keeping them seperate and when you pull the packaging apart in sequence (it feels like rubik designed it the first time you try) the two are married.

but japanese packaging is traditionally so natural; bamboo, leaves, paper.
I'm not disputing the fact that opening most packages in this country is special, intriguing, a real experience. it's just that now it's usually plastic and as many layers as possible. I remember that when I shopped in Sainsburys in the UK they gave a penny back because I always used my panniers on the bike (well, they did it twice anyway) - a pretty pathetic gesture given that in Ireland you pay 20 cents for a plazzy bag in a 7-11. apart from anything else - that's good business! but it certainly shows you the difference in mentality. and japan certainly sits on the fence with the UK when it comes to the issue, even if for different reasons. I'd say the british reason is just pacifism. that could be said for recycling in general. it could be said for a lot of things. oh - my dad was reminding me that plastic bags caught in trees are known as witches knickers. tonights call was definitely worth it!

anyway - I'm investing in the polythene bag industry - and soon you're gonna be paying me for the privilege! hoo-hoo-ha-ha!


Posted by stupot at 10:18 PM Sunday 26 Jun

futon.jpg


Posted by stupot at 07:49 PM Saturday 25 Jun

the first ceremony

a simple fact of life in japan is that when you wake up you put your bed away. and then you look around the house for furniture and what have you got? a coffee table. it's a little odd. if roomy.

I got a 'futon' when I was a student and it was what I thought was a futon. it was the same as all the futons I had seen previously: a rather heavy mattress which didn't appear to want to fold, which you eventually creased onto a timber frame and never sat on. if you did you or the mattress eventually slipped off. or more commonly both. I don't know where this invention came from, but I guess it is because we don't traditionally have space to 'put a bed into'. and so, you just have a low, hard bed. which is absolutely fine.

the japanese futon is usually simpler though. it's just a very light weight mattress which can be folded twice. often now-a-days you get a foam under-mattress which provides a bit more comfort. usually this has 2 or 3 creases built in so that you can stow away in the cupboard easily. the duvet usually is alternated 5 times a year; from a heavy quilted number in winter, to a thin blanket in spring and then on to a purely-function-driven-sweat-absorbing-towel in the summer, and back to the previous two again.

an interesting, extra note (arguably) should be made about the duvet covers. they have ties at the corners and edges so your duvet keeps a good shape. usually duvets come with loops in the same position as snooker pockets so as you can locate. I couldn't believe I've never seen this in the UK. it seems the type of revelation IKEA might have brought to our shores, but I don't think they have (and of course the swedes haven't conquered japan yet. they haven't even opened a store).


Posted by stupot at 07:48 PM Saturday 25 Jun

ipodprob.jpg


Posted by stupot at 11:12 PM Wednesday 22 Jun

ipod design flaw shocker

so am I just paranoid or when I adjust the volume on my ipod in my top pocket it looks like I'm caressing my nipple. really - especially if you're wearing a white shirt and folk on the train can't see the wire coming out of your pocket. it's just some crazy foreigner with a chest fetish. people don't have time to worry about details. and god - at 9 in the morning as well. I think it doesn't help that I now wet my finger prior to changing the volume. perhaps subconciously I don't up or down volume when the things in my troosers. jee-whiz. you could get the jail for that.

someone ought to tell 'california'. no doubt there's a law suit going on right now in the states regards someone reeling with mental trauma from an altercation with a mp3 user in a mall. no-one's mentioned to me yet though, so perhaps I shouldn't worry too much.


Posted by stupot at 11:12 PM Wednesday 22 Jun

pimped.jpg


Posted by stupot at 10:20 PM Wednesday 22 Jun

huge balls

saw this today in nippon-bashi. who says the japanese have no sense of humour?


Posted by stupot at 10:19 PM Wednesday 22 Jun

busypavements.com

it's taken me a while but I've gotten around to writing a piece about one of the most common sights in japan: the bike park. they take all shapes, from highly ordered multi-storeyed affairs to bikes being strewn everywhere in a random and usually dangerous mess (my mum had a bad trip over one during her last visit).

there is always one beside a train station. there's good money to be made as well - when we lived in taishi I used to pay 200 yen for the pleasure of parking my bike (if I was going out on the lash I missed the last bus) in the underground bike park. yes, a custom made underground park only for bikes with travelator and two staff. all this, of course, is bliss for a cycling enthusiast, but it's just normal here. people use it, it's a thriving business, it works. but then people cycle here and the weather permits it.
neatness

the business of collecting illegally parked bikes is also a profitable one for the local governments and infact in quieter suburbs you have more chance of being nabbed than if you do it downtown. downtown though is a completely different matter. it is just teeming with bikes (there are approximately 1 bike per person of working age in japan) and on a typical day the main thoroughfare in osaka, the midosuji (or argyle street to you and me), is lined with parked bikes taking up half the pavement space, just waiting to be tripped over.

ah! note to self - register bike. spot checks are random and often due to the theft problems and I've a number of colleagues who have been stopped at night. you have to show identification and your police registration documents or a reciept for the bike. and knowing my luck.....


Posted by stupot at 09:43 PM Tuesday 21 Jun

bestuseofawhale.jpg


Posted by stupot at 01:47 PM Tuesday 21 Jun

whats for dinner?

so most brits have a hard time comprehending japanese cuisine. it's all fancy and arty and that. and if you eat it in britain it's at a rip off house with medium to poor quality ingredients, whipped up by some teenager just out of catering school who's only taste of asia has been spare ribs and bbq sauce with chicken balls and MG sweet and sour sauce from the local 'dragon wok'. so I guess it's a fair misconception. if that makes sense.

I have to say - I even winced a little recently when I was confronted with (raw) chicken sashimi (see also tramps mucus -06.05). this was something I hadn't been told about. and jesus - I'm in asia! I'll get SARS or some mad flu strain that's incurable and I'll sweat away my final hours in a country hospital before breathing my final breath (thank god I got repatriation in my insurance).

but no - it was nice. aided perhaps by the soy sauce. but certainly a beautiful texture and being japan the chicken was probably killed in the kitchen and bought from a neighbour (I had it in a very rural area in shikoku). anyway - I trust.

whale-on-the-menu is another well known fact about japan. I saw this poster on the door of a restaurant in kyoto - choose your cut. infact choose your bloody whale. sperm or blue? it's not cheap though and it's becoming less popular as people become more understanding and sympathetic with the cause (there actually aren't that many left to eat). apparently whale spotting is becoming a more popular leisure activity for more modern types in japan. I'm not sure if this is on whaling boats and you can 'harpoon-your-own' for dinner, or if it's more of a WWF/greenpeace venture. probably the latter.

but it's out there - you can get it if you pay. man, you can get pigs ears, raw horse (okay - raw anything), varying degrees of deadly blowfish, fermented soy beans. at the end of the day - whale's just another tradition and some traditions die hard. that doesn't mean I agree or not. I've never even tasted the stuff. but it's far from being an underground business. although whaling is banned (except for research purposes - and japan seems to do a lot of research...) it is still very publicly sold at reputable businesses. and this being japan - you know it's not frozen.


Posted by stupot at 01:46 PM Tuesday 21 Jun

kyoto_holes1.jpg


Posted by stupot at 01:17 PM Tuesday 21 Jun

holey walls batman.

this is a facade we saw recently in kyoto. it's so thin it's almost paper like: the pattern is made up from machined holes of varying sizes. and it's just rivetted to a basic metal frame behind. I'm pretty sure it's stainless. as I remember anyway. so anyway - it's stepped away from the building and during the summer I think it shields the building from the sun/absorbs the heat. it's a bit like the traditional and cheaper option of using bamboo screens which are a usual sight around japan at this time of year. all pretty low tech stuff though. rivets and that.


Posted by stupot at 01:16 PM Tuesday 21 Jun

yelowater.jpg


Posted by stupot at 11:38 PM Saturday 18 Jun

just not right

with today being the first day to start using the fan in our bedroom (I've not slept properly for a week), it's no surprise to see all things summery around; parasols, ice cream promotions, bamboo shades outside windows and people generally sweating. It was a bit of a shock though, to see what I witnessed today in the supermarket. since the Simpsons immortilised japan by visiting many years ago, some things have become synonymous with the country - futuristic toilets, unusual games shows and expensive living - which was highlighted of course with homer buying that square watermelon.

my consumer choice today was not shape but rather what colour of watermelon I wanted. to be honest blue might have been a more appealing choice - a kind of a friendly reference to all that sci-fi food we were brought up on back then, in the world of arthur dent and in other low budget bbc sci-fis. a time when people actually had an imagination when it came to dangerously tampering with nature.

people really do have too much time on their hands or is it just me? am I just a cynic? is our choice of food really so limited that we have to invent new stuff? jees. japan moves another step further away from the real world - but it certainly makes doing the shopping a hell of a lot less of a chore!


Posted by stupot at 11:38 PM Saturday 18 Jun

koyapiledsm.jpg


Posted by stupot at 12:49 AM Thursday 16 Jun

koya san

Koyasan is the sacred mountain about an hour or so on the train south of Osaka. it's been holy for about 12 centuries, but then since it's a mountain I guess it's always had a fair bit of respect.

Koya is probably the ideal escape from Osaka - it's a dramatic train and funicular ride through the mountains to 800m, just over the border into Wakayama ken. Koya cho has more than 100 monasteries packed into an incredibly small space, and the weather is far, far cooler at this altitude. this is what also makes it a great cycle.

being a wednesday it was dead. so I visited the massive cemetery of Okunoin which seemed apt. it's a really special place - I remember stepping into it when I came in december on the bike and being in awe, but the light was fading and I had to head off. today all I did was wander its meandering paths in virtual solitude. the air was damp and cool with an almost west of scotland drizzle which was masked by the enormous trees. the light is really unusual as a result of being under the shade of these giants and the lanterns came on very early.

It's generally a very very natural place with ancient gravestones, but the more modern part of the graveyard has huge monoliths marking major corporations (dead workers? or just directors?). they're all there - Nissan, Yakult. quite bizzare looking. it looks like sponsorship in a way, which makes it feel quite natural. in a scary kind of a way.

anyway - a very relaxing way to spend a wednesday afternoon. some green tea, a few rice balls and a good sleep on the train home were just what the doctor ordered.


Posted by stupot at 12:48 AM Thursday 16 Jun

monkey.jpg


Posted by stupot at 05:38 PM Tuesday 14 Jun

monkey magic!

remember this face from your childhood? I didn't even notice until Yuka pointed it out to me. 'monkey' is still a major star in Japan - hosting chat/game shows, like takeshi kitano, almost every night. his teeth are huge and very bright but I don't hold it against him.

actually 'piggy' is a frequent guest on many game shows too. the television community seems to be even more inbred than in the UK (which I thought would be difficult). 'piggy' tends to cry alot these days - he's very sensitive. (come to think of it did he not used to cry in the old TV show too?)

I'm not sure what became of the other guy and that girl who wore white and rode a horse. maybe they're still travelling around. more probably they're on another channel.


Posted by stupot at 05:38 PM Tuesday 14 Jun

traintypical.jpg


Posted by stupot at 09:22 PM Saturday 11 Jun

it takes all sorts

so here we have a very normal train scene in japan - albeit without the sleeping business men and soft porn.

you have the school girl with attitude, the shamed business woman who is embarassed to take a call in public and so covers her mouth as an apology(but takes it anyway), then the oba-chan who's protected from the sun so much she looks like she works in a nuclear reactor whilst pampering two little elementary boys with their safari hats and insulated water carriers. we could be in Dubai, but no - it's down town osaka. to be fair the heat is starting - and it's pretty serious stuff.

I think on average two thirds of a carriage can be asleep at one time. today I certainly counted two thirds and I think that is typical. perhaps more so on the early commuter trains.

other anomolies in Japan include those who sleep standing, the female only carriages, the extreme make up artists (discussed seperately), school children travelling en-masse (& occupying several carriages) as well as the stereotyped, but very real sardine tin phenomenon. being unable to move your hands on a train is certainly a novel experience.


Posted by stupot at 08:19 PM Saturday 11 Jun

natto.jpg


Posted by stupot at 03:19 AM Thursday 9 Jun

tramps mucus

it's funny - when I arrived in Japan last august I still couldn't bear the smell of natto, never mind eat the stuff. now i can't get enough of it.

it looks about as appealing as tramp mucus poured over out-of-date baked beans. but actually there's more truth in that statement than you might think - natto is essentially fermented soy beans and despite everything - it's damn healthy. I guess it would have to be for you to try it, but once aquired, the taste is very good. I don't know if I could go back to baked beans now - just that sugary sauce which puts me off a bit (mind you I just had a vision of a doorstep slavered in melting marg and heinz beans poured on top on a cold winters morn).

anyway - natto is meant to contribute to a healthy heart, help keep camcer cells away and generally make you a demon in the sack. I'm not sure about the last bit there, but essentially it's kryptonite. again - why do you think the japanese live so long? it's just they have no sense of smell.


Posted by stupot at 03:18 AM Thursday 9 Jun

kawachinagano-koyasan-wakayama

koya.jpg

this weeks ride involved a train journey down to kawachinagano on the nankai koya line. its then a climb up to takihata (see below) and over to hashimoto which sits at the base of a fairly nice climb of 20km's up to the very religious and holy koya san. actually today I veered off just before the town itself but continued on the 370 which in fact goes all the way from hashimoto to wakayama via the mountains (the easier route would be to take the valley floor and follow the river, but lots of traffic lights mean you can fail to get up a momentum/rythmn). looking at the geography of the area, I was ready for another set of perhaps short but tough little ascents after the main initial run up into the mountains.

Continue reading "kawachinagano-koyasan-wakayama"
Posted by stupot at 04:49 PM Tuesday 7 Jun

Takihata Dam

takehata1.jpg

osaka is really not much to look at as a city, despite, like glasgow having a great social life. unusually for such a metropolis the mountains are very close by and an hours cycle south of Abiko takes you to Kawachi Nagano via the Yamato and Ishi rivers - all with generous bike routes (just beware of squads of jogging junior high school students 6-a-breast). it's a quick navigation south again through the town centre and soon you are on the quiet route 218 which eventually turns to a traffic free zone. this climbs steadily with even a few down slopes until you reach route 61 and takihata dam. it's quite a size, an amazing sight and god knows how many mouths its feeding - but you need to watch the road. I got complacent with the lack of traffic and hit - no, not a car - but the largest 'cats eye' I've seen. probably belonged to a tiger. they really make them big as a deterent to driving in the wrong lane, but as a cyclist they can dismount you, or certainly try.

anyway, with concentration restored it's a slightly more steep climb to the summit of approximately 900 metres. the road in places has seriously homemade cobbles' (actually thats too kind - more like stones jutting out of concrete) - I guess to grip your tyres in winter - which are on inclines of, well, the steepest inclines I have ridden on public roads. all this said 95 per cent of the road is in very good condition and I only passed 3 cars and 2 cyclists during the hours climb. deep breathing through the cool shade of the cedars brings you out on top of the world - or certainly kinki. the views to Wakayama are really really worth it.

you can continue down the hairpins toward Hashimoto or Gose or just turn around and enjoy the longer descent back the way you came. bish bash bosh. back in time for tea.


Posted by stupot at 03:16 AM Tuesday 7 Jun

karaoke.jpg


Posted by stupot at 12:40 AM Monday 6 Jun

without orchestra

karaoke is surely one of the best stress relief concepts invented by modern man. along with multi-storey golf driving ranges and hotsprings. and it's still massive business in japan. the whole booth situation means it usually starts relatively civilised - no-one having the pressure to perform in front of a whole pub. cocktails are, by and large, a scandal though (include the equivalent amount of alcohol found in a can of top-deck), but a good price can usually be found for 2 hours and unlimited beer. and oh - the 2 hours are never enough - it's usually more like 4.

Continue reading "without orchestra"
Posted by stupot at 12:39 AM Monday 6 Jun

bikes

bikes in osaka are mental. even though most conform to the ultra-functional 'mama-chari' book of design (basket, 2 kids seats, visor, umbrella holder and rear pegs), you don't pass a day without seeing some real belters.


Posted by stupot at 10:29 PM Saturday 4 Jun

cupramen.jpg


Posted by stupot at 10:22 PM Saturday 4 Jun

cup ramen

I never really 'got' pot noodles. okay - so the advertising was 'off the wall' and as a student with lack of funds, uneducated taste buds and a need for a quick fix - sometimes I turned to them for ease, but really (and snobbery apart), they are a disgrace to the word food.

Continue reading "cup ramen"
Posted by stupot at 10:21 PM Saturday 4 Jun

warmup.jpg


Posted by stupot at 02:12 PM Wednesday 1 Jun

life expectancy

so how do the japanese live 'til 85? well it surely isn't by eating a roll and sausage (red sauce optional) washed down with a can of Irn-bru for breakfast, steakbake and doughnut from greggs finished of by a harry ramsdens for dinner.
here's a picture from our local building site. so these are what you could say are typical japanese blokes in typical construction jobs. would you see a 20 minute warm up routine before site work in the UK? I wonder if there'd be industrial action if they tried to implement it. whats the use anyway, why should I have to? well I'm not privvy to governement figures but I'm pretty sure there would be less aches, pains and strains in the Japanese business. less days off and probably less accidents. and these guys hardly make a noise together never mind wolf-whistling. they don't even wear steel toe caps, but actually I'm not sure thats such a good item to lose. It certainly makes you more agile when you're crawling around scaffolding 20 storeys up though? anyway - maybe its samll things like this that makes the life expectancy in japan just that bit higher.


Posted by stupot at 02:11 PM Wednesday 1 Jun

pimpmyride.jpg


Posted by stupot at 02:01 PM Wednesday 1 Jun

pimp my ride

the liberal attitude toward the necessity of fire escapes and modification of vehicles means that often anything goes in Japan. its interesting reading a design mag in the UK and staring in awe at some crazy-ass building that seems to avoid any building standards. well, its because japan's are far removed from anything in the UK. lack of space certainly would seem to contribute to lack of fire escapes. so just so they look nice, don't find yourself on the 3rd floor (2nd) smelling smoke!

this truck is a classic, and I might say quite minimal, example of Japans version of the white van. yes, this belongs to builder. so where the Germans would also have their van spotless, the japanese, as in many other areas of society have a need to personalise, differentiate and try to be unique. when there are this many people so tightly packed, it becomes a need. the usual punter will usually make this difference through cellphone mascots.


Posted by stupot at 02:00 PM Wednesday 1 Jun

expoespana.jpg


Posted by stupot at 12:51 AM Wednesday 1 Jun

aichi expo

I can't remember the bumf but this years world expo uses a theme of sustainability or ecological issues. perhaps thats why it was a tame affair.
not saying tame is bad - oh no. there were beautiful details and it was a good atmosphere. money hadn't been unnecessarily strewn around and people were having fun. thats what everything should be about nowadays - we're just used to having it all bigger, better, higher, faster, newer......

hopefully our generation can rise above all that shite though.

plants and solar panels were constantly in full view but then they should be. some more facts about them all may have helped. or how I could get them for my hoose and sell some of this damn hot sun back to osaka electricity! many Osakans I talked to about expo really weren't all that fussed, and many thought I was refering to osaka '70. but then thats maybe just osakans! I guess it could be likening it to the millenium dome in london except they didn't cut a deep scar in the country side.

the festival site itself is still a good 30 or 40 minutes from Nagoya (it always seems longer on the way back, eh?) and when you think you've arrived (on a typical local commuter line), you are transferred to linmo - a monorail type affair - for the final leg. it seemed a bit convoluted but we got there soon enough. the next port of call was the much discussed in the press, Toyota pavilion. booked all day. okay - the cable car. the queue went relatively quickly and we soon had an unrivalled view of the site. get your bearings.

north europe was probably the most nicely designed area, with the nordic pavilion having a typically minimal but relevant cause. Britain was simple, interactive and had a lovely meadow area to queue in. Austria was chic and included leiderhosen. france and spain were my favourites with colossal projection room and generally captivating exhibition design respectively.

sadly the likes of cambodia, the pacific islands etc were full of plastic trees and tat. even singapore with its fantastic interactive monsoon (they gave you a brolly!) had far too much bling side-by-side plastic herons. quality.

the other let down was the epic queue at the Japan pavilion. grannies ready to duel with parasols for their territory. we weren't hanging around. 2 hours could be better spent. although it didn't work here, the going in the out door trick, much favoured by my father, did work a treat on most occaisions. the gaurd on the japanese pavilion was havin none of it though!


Posted by stupot at 12:49 AM Wednesday 1 Jun

shinkansen.jpg


Posted by stupot at 12:21 AM Wednesday 1 Jun | Post comment (1) comments

faster trains

so the shinkansen is a bit of a cliche when people talk about the whole phenomenon and japan in general. and true, you can still find a cheaper route to tokyo by plane. but then why would you want the hasstle of flying when you could turn up in ShinOsaka station and be in Tokyo two and a half hours later. guaranteed. and the cliche is the people talking about it. the actual experience of riding the nozomi or hikari is one of the most civilised journeys one can take. sod the cornering on fancy cars, when this thing tilts it feels like you're flying. the name itself, 'new, specific line' is as japanese as the regularity of its departures. still thirty years on, the system is flawless and trains will leave a station near you about every 10 minutes. incredible. that's alot of trains. the shame of the Niigata earthquake which derailed a shinkansen for the first time in late 2004 was a national tragedy - despite it being completely unpredictable and causing no serious injuries. it was still the first time.

talking of injuries, check the 'track-kill' marks on the picture of the train above. answers on a postcard as to the breed of animal whose fate was sealed by my trip to Nagoya.


Posted by stupot at 12:19 AM Wednesday 1 Jun