Posted by stupot at 06:14 PM Saturday 31 Mar
So finally I got to see Keirin. The Japanese cycle racing that replaces the dogs and horses with weightlifters. We went to the relatively local Kishiwada track in south Osaka (Haruki station - Nankai airport / Wakayama line from Namba) and enjoyed the rusting structures and old men's chat in what certainly feels like a bygone era. Keirin's a lucrative sport though - over 20 million watch every year and betting is just as popular as in any other country. Because so much is at stake, there are tight standards for bikes so that no-one is at an advantage. Being Japan, you can believe rules and regulations are adhered to. After working out the betting form with some help from the vets (it's diffficult enough in english) we started putting small bets on. Nothing came of them until the final race when Matt, Lukes mate, on holiday - and a keen Keirin fan - chanced a top two finish (each way) and cashed in 14,000 yen from a 100 yen bet. that's pretty good odds by anyone's standards! All the fun of the fair.
Posted by stupot at 12:18 PM Friday 30 Mar
smoking is still everywhere
It's no wonder that half of the male population in Japan smoke - cigarettes cost nothing - 300 yen - two and a half dollars or one pound thirty. You can also smoke wherever you like and the famous vending machines litter the streets as much as used butts do. Smoking is still seen as a right here, like it's a right in most other developed countries to not contract cancer when you're having your dinner. Japan Tobacco have lots of TV time here, showing how concerned they are that people should not smoke near children or throw away trash when they're really missing the bigger picture. Being out of sight and therefor out of mind is perhaps a better way to rid a person or a country of such a habit. The fact that the industry here is seen as caring and family orientated (there are always kids in the adverts) simply makes it more accepted. I have to say though, that recent packaging design has been really nice. Generally the retro stuff like Caster and the very new Camel nutty menthol. There's something so wrong about that name but I can't define it. I keep thinking of jobbies.
Posted by stupot at 12:34 PM Wednesday 28 Mar
The Japan Ad Council may be comprised of voluntary media organisations and ad agencies using donated advertising space, but it enjoys much influence in day-to-day life due to the quality of its public service announcements. A recent favourite TV campaign highlights Kotoushu, the Bulgarian sumo wrestler, doing his bit for the environment. The piece includes recycling bath water into the washing machine which is not uncommon in Japan and is a great money-saving tip. Another short looks at social etiquette in the woodblock style of the Edo era. A lovely short animation. listen out for the tongue twisters that come at the end.
Posted by stupot at 06:03 PM Tuesday 27 Mar
udon, undo and ushi unko
On Wednesday's bank holiday we headed over the bridge to Awajishima - the island connecting Honshu with Shikoku. I stayed at Dan's the night before and the good bottle of wine we'd polished off didn't feel like such a good idea at 5am as we rose in darkness. We met at the bike shop in north Osaka at 6 as the sun poked it's head out into an incresingly blue sky, suggesting the weather forecast had been correct. We packed the 22 bikes onto the truck and headed off, coffee's and pastry in hand.
the big men
There was a 'get together' in my honour later in the evening so on the way to the tournament, dressed traditionally, I sneaked glances of the yukata-clad sumo wrestlers, furoshiki's in hand, as they stared at my skirt and smiled. Traffic was moving slowly and hundreds stood outside waiting for the arrival of their heroes as we were perched across the street in the sun, munching on kebabs and trying to shake off our respective hang-overs.
Met Dan and Miko last night to discuss their impending wedding which will no doubt be upon us faster than you can say 'holy matrimony'. I had half an hour to kill so I got the sketch-book out across the road from Daimaru department store on the Midosuji - one of the few, fairly nice-looking buildings in Osaka. I had to give up due to blue fingers - my whole body was chilled in the wind that was blowing from north and east. We went for mexican at El Pancho which was great, as ever. I filled the drawing with colour very quickly in photoshop this morning.
Posted by stupot at 01:52 PM Monday 12 Mar
My new neighbours moved in this weekend and gave me some obligatory presents related to domestic chores. I got some washing detergent which was a kind thought - the note on the top bearing their name - Ouchi. I'm moving out at the end of the month so I'll be looking to off-load some of my stuff on them. For those who don't know, I'll be moving to south Osaka until May before heading back to Sukotorando. Mixed emotions. Anyone need a fridge?
kang - kang - kang
level crossings are an integral part of most neighbourhoods. I can't imagine living right beside one but the bar I was in the other night was by the tram line and after a while I had gotten quite used to the noise. You get accustomed to being very up-close-and-personal with trains here. I like how colourful level crossing's are - the one near my house has a shrine behind it which is the only place you can find old trees in the city. Usually they have their sacred straw and paper bow wrapped around which now-a-days feels more like a good luck charm to ward off the real estate people from knocking them down.
Posted by stupot at 06:46 PM Wednesday 7 Mar
it isn't the winning, but actually, that might be a start
There's a huge studying culture in Japan - one that is a national obsession. Bookshops are brimming with self-study aids, adults swat-up on the train, kids are at cram school until all hours in the evening. The Japanese enjoy inputing data, absorbing information, understanding techniques through words (Does the more practical and creative side of learning bring with it more possibility of confrontation and failure?).
Sunday must have been the earliest hanami for a few years. Even if it was just plum blossom we still wore t-shirts. Is it still winter?
Been drinking far too much recently. The past few sundays have been very tough to get up for - lying in bed, reaching the point (6.40) where you must make a decision in order to catch the 'train' (certainly with no time for the comfort coffee). Actually I missed them by about a minute this morning and had to chase them down - I wasn't late - 3 more followed on my heels. The weather was positively spring-like; gloves, over-shoes, ear warmers and top layer were unnecessary and those who had not watched the forecast were baking after the first 5 kms. I stopped in at Taishi for breakfast and came back by the river paths - there was a massive clean-up operation happening as the Ishi and Yamato rivers are having lots of time and money put into them. It was great to see thousands of people descend on the banks and clean up together.
The 'chari-bar' I was at last night was Tacurino's bike bar in Tezukayama, Sumiyoshi, run by an ex pro, Uesakasan. In the background a Graeme Obree documentary played and I pointed out the Ayrshire countryside and Irvine cycles, my old local shop. Later Belleville rendezvous was put on and a messenger brought in last years Japan cup race. A quality evenings drinking and viewing. Wish I'd found it earlier.
A drawing done last week of the garage across from the flat I was going to move into 2 years ago. Do you ever pass an old house or somewhere you almost bought and wonder what tales go on inside? I'm glad I didn't move there - not much of a view and I don't like the smell of cars.
Posted by stupot at 07:32 PM Friday 2 Mar
bicycles, bears and bad knees
Posted by stupot at 07:03 PM Thursday 1 Mar
more mister donut
Man, I know I lead a sad life when I go into mister d's and get excited when I spot the new 'double black sesame-seed donut' and a 'golden sesame-seed donut', but on the way back from my mid-week ride they were absolute bliss.......