Category: Daily Life

Japanese archery

Recently I have become interested in kyudo, 弓道, literally translating as “the way of the bow.” Up front it certainly seems like archery, I mean, few other disciplines involve a bow, arrows, and a target to be hit, but there is a all-pervasive Japanese spirit to the discipline.

I had the opportunity to attend a competition on the invitation of one of my acquaintances, and there happened to meet a member having graduated not only from the same university as I am studying at, but the same laboratory (indeed, I have read his graduation paper.) He offered to teach me during training hours, and I took him up on the offer this Saturday.

So, what makes it so different from normal archery? Well, anyone having ever been to Japan will know they have an obsession with form. There is a correct way to do everything, even if any other way would do just as well. This ranges from the simplest things, like how to pull your disposable chopsticks apart (and hold them, and use them, and God save you if you don’t sit down first!) to the elaborate rules laid out for the art of tea ceremony.

Probably every foreigner goes through at least three of the following four stages relating to these (sometimes very arbitrary) rules:

  1. Fascination – Oh, it is so interesting how they do things here!
  2. Disgust – So what if I poured my own beer!?
  3. Acceptance – Why do you… Screw it, I give up.
  4. Re-fascination – You know, there is a certain beauty to kendo/sado/kyudo.

I was at no. 2 around Christmas, when a close friend pointed out that although she could understand my frustration with the strange ways, I really ought to grow some balls and stop whining. Bam! Hit no. 3 right then and there. Considering my recent interest in tea ceremony and kyudo, it seems I might just be slowly moving towards no. 4.

It just looks so damn cool!

Okay, back to the actual topic! Kyudo is an art perfected over almost two thousand years. Now mind you, “perfected” does not mean in the sense of “being able to kill a soldier hiding in a bush a hundred meters away while riding a horse. The perfection of kyudo lies in the grace that is achieved in the actions immediately prior to and following the shooting of a longbow. Seeing it in movies I always thought it looked beautiful. Seeing it in real life made me go “kakkoii! (trans: cool!)”

Indeed, the goal of kyudo is not so much to hit the target, but to achieve this grace in the manner of firing the bow. This is witnessed by university clubs on average taking one year before club members get to try their luck on the archery range. In the club I joined, it was closer to one month. It was said that if one trained hard every day for a week, they might be good enough for a first try at a real target.

Today, I spent six hours with a personal trainer, and to my surprise was allowed to shoot three arrows at half-distance by the end! And no, I did not hit anything, but was complimented on my form (which basically means that I sucked, but slightly less than they imagined…) I have the chance to see a video of me shooting though, and to my untrained eye it actually looked decent!

Who is that handsome guy in hakama? Ohhhh, I recognise him now! 😀


Cherry Blossom Viewing

Oh your God that sounds so gay! Fortunately, nothing is gay in Japan*, even frolicking in the breezy Spring weather looking and taking pictures of pink flowers. Even so, I had doubts, but a friend, Hosoi, kindly accompanied me, and in the end it wasn’t too fruity after all.

White cherry blossoms at the Silver Pavilion

Philosopher's Path with Daimoji (大文字: lit. "large character") in the background.

We went to the famous Philosopher’s Path (哲学の道) in Kyoto and walked to the Silver Pavilion, which incidentically has an absolutely gorgeous Japanese garden attached to it, well worth a visit. But don’t take my word for it; peruse the pictures at your leisure.

Cherry Blossoms at Heian Shrine Park

Hanging Cherry Blossom at Heian Shrine Park

Since I had never been to the nearby Heian shrine either, we went there also. I pulled a ”small blessing” fortune, the third best!

Now, I don’t believe in this crap, but actually did have a cute girl chasing me down for my e-mail later that evening, so judge for yourself. Anyway, we took a stroll in the huge garden famous for its cherry blossoms, then headed to international party in Osaka.

Sakura Tree in front of Heian Shrine

Just wanted to share the pictures really, so probably best not to sully their beauty and purity with stories of excessive drinking and soliciting girls!**

Until next time,


*This reminds me of being asked what my father does for a living, and me answering that my mom is married to a woman. Predictably, this resulted in a mix of panic, embarrassment, and pity. “That’s okay, I can tell that you have a very nice family.” The Japanese cannot really be said to be bigots, but insensitive to minorities? You sure bet! :p

** Please tell me that you didn’t buy that one? I only had like five drinks and a tequila shot, like a gentleman (lol) should. You can’t really blame a guy for girls asking for HIS e-mail. Geez!


After a giving a presentation about my research today, my professor asked a vicious question indeed. Now, having read pretty much everything there is to read in the field of indentation of glass I can squirm my way out of most things, nor am I particularly afraid of declaring ignorance for exactly the same reason – if I don’t have a plausible answer odds are that no one else does either. Yet, this one was totally unexpected… Ready? Here it comes!

Prof. Matsuoka: “Christian, what are your plans after graduation?”

If I were a Super Mutant, it would have looked something like this...

Of course I kept my calm and fought back with humour.

Christian: “Well, that is three months from now. I’ll consider it when it becomes a more pressing issue.”

I know, I know, but was flustered dammit! Besides, the joke is much better in Japan where university students start looking for jobs well over a year before graduation.

Anyway, what will I do after graduation? Here is a breakdown of the possibilities and my thoughts about them.

Find a job you damn hippie!

But I don’t waaaaant to Mommy! It’s not that I have become (too) acclimatised to the carefree student life, nor scared of the real world. No, it is just that the kind of jobs I can get don’t interest me whatsoever. Surely an engineering position pays well, and is probably comfy too, with decent hours and freedom to decide over your own time – but incredibly boring, no? Doing more or less the same thing day in and day out, being forced to focus on tiny aspect of whatever the company does… I have a friend part of a team working exclusively on the problem of bubbles in glass. Yes, bubbles in glass! That’s like:

My friend: “Hey, did you know there are bubbles in glass?”

Christian: “Yeah, that’s why we use fining agents.”

My friend: “Well, yeah, but I still have to analyse bubbles all day!”

He may have a nice house, but is it really worth it?

Life after graduation?

Then stay in school you bum…

Yeah, about that… Staying in school means a Ph.D., which usually entails three years of serious study. I got sick of my Master after a month, although my interest has been flared at times. People studying toward a doctorate degree usually have one of these aims:

  1. Work in academia
  2. Research position in a famous company
  3. Higher wages in non-research position

Honestly, I couldn’t care less about any of them. People in academia don’t actually get to research unless they sacrifice their free time, instead it is all paperwork and teaching (which I might actually enjoy.)

The second option certainly allows you to do research, but I find research frustrating. There are so many unknowns. You make a theory, test it, find out it is wrong, repeat a thousand times, and (if lucky) somehow manage to graduate. There are just so few successes and so many failures.

It's sad because it's true... Also hilarious! 😀

As for the third options, wages just don’t arouse my interest. Being born in Denmark, and soon being a full-fledged engineer (on paper anyway) there is just no way I’ll be lacking anything even close to essential in life. If Karma is reading this – I will totally pay it all back, cross the heart hope to die serious!

That being said, there are good arguments for studying for a Ph.D. You do have freedom to decide over your own time, something very important to people with problems with authority figures… Also, it is very much your own business how hard you work. Having no particular ambitions with the degree, probably I could get by with less than 35 hours a week. I could use the spare time to, say, work on writing – the one thing (needless to say; apart from a part-time job as Jessica Alba’s bra) I actually can imagine enjoy doing for a living.

It seems the obvious choice, especially considering the following conversation with the French Prof. Rouxel a few months back:

Prof. Rouxel: “Christian, you should study for a Ph.D. – how about Rennes?”

Christian: “But I’m a horrible researcher – I despise doing labwork.”

Prof. Rouxel: “Then do literature study?”

This guy is awesome. If a guy is married to a Japanese girl – you know you can relate! Uhm, well, if he isn’t Japanese that is, who knows what the hell goes on in their minds…

Christian: “… but I dislike studying too.”

Prof. Rouxel: “You’ll change your mind. Give me a call when you do.”

If I stop moaning, I could be studying here at the University of Rennes. Doesn't look too bad I guess. I mean, if you are going to get all the life force sucked out of you, might as well do so in beautiful surroundings, right?

Yet, I waver. Having read the second autobiography of Isaac Asimov recently. Surprisingly, the guy ended up studying chemistry for exactly the same reasons as I. Not only that, he disliked it too, again on the exact same grounds. Not being able to get a job on account of being of Jewish decent, he started post-graduate studies, and hated it intensely. The guy with one of the best natural memories in the world remembered next to nothing of his time as a Ph.D. student – it simply did not interest him in the least. Seeing the similarities of our characters, interests, and situations – seriously, I am not imagining things – I can’t help but feel that only pain and regret lies on this route…

Can’t decide? Then go travelling!

Something like a working holiday might not be a bad idea, it is a great experience and a plus on the résumé anyway. It would put perspective on matters and time to consider matters in depth.

There are quite a few places I would love to visit in China, might even learn me some Chinesez! There is always a need of English teachers, both in China and Japan, and although the pay is less than awesome, but you can get by. Not to mention that I would in all likelihood adore teaching English.

What do you guys think?

As for the university people; any thoughts about graduation? I sure hope most of you have more positive feelings about the life as a working adult! :p

24th Birthday(s)

I’m back in Japan baby! First, allow me to complain a bit about the plane trip. So, we start out with some two hours delay in Copenhagen due to the snow, yay! Could be worse though, two hours delay in Aalborg would have meant missing the plane in Copenhagen (unless it was, well, two hours delayed) the consequences of which immediately seem way too expensive to consider in depth, so let’s move on! The entertainment system was out of order for about half the flight, but that’s okay, because the screen was broken in my seat anyway, and the plane was fully booked. So, 12 hours in a tiny seat and I couldn’t even play tetris… But hey, whatever, I got some reading done, and when too tired to read anymore (being when I usually watch movies) I took Mr. Carlsberg and Mr. Pear Cognac (eh?) to aid and tried to get some sleep in. It worked like a charm, fell asleep some five times! The only problem being that my labia-shaped neck pillow had punctured, so every time I fell asleep my head would fall down, and voila; back to the land of the living! /end rant

From the left: Mana, Johan, the almighty me, and Felice.

After futilely deciding never to board an aircraft again, I met up with the ever lovely Mana-chan, her fiancé Johan, and an American named Felice in Shinjuku. We went to a gothic themed restaurant and ordered all-you-can-drink. Weird bar, good friends, cheap booze, and cute Japanese girls – Denmark was really great guys, but Japan can be fucking awesome too! :p

I was taking it easy on the drinks on account of not feeling too good (more on this on later!) but Johan was hammering back straight whisky like there was no tomorrow (note: the day after we we’re going to Disneyland) and Mana had no scruples ordering him doubles and telling him to drink up… Yeah, I tried to warn her (maybe, I forgot :p) but she wouldn’t listen, so before long Johan was leaning on my shoulder and telling me to “stay away from Mana you… or…” never did catch the rest, if there was anything – I mean, the guy probably weighs less than me. ME!!!

Disregarding the drunken Swede, we went to karaoke! I was drunk enough to sing, but not so much as to have any illusions of grandeur in regards to my abilities. Still, it was a lot of fun! I have this video you just have to see, if my crappy connection allows for the upload… Which it did! Watch it here! :p

We made the check-in time at the hotel in Chiba only a little late, and they did allow Johan in too (I told him to act sober, and he started incessantly apologising in shaky Japanese,) so that wasn’t much of a problem. Getting there however was. On the train the only available seat was between a school girl and a business man. We kinda had no choice but to put Johan there, him obviously not being able to stand, even though it was kinda mean to the others. I mean, somehow he had ended up with a bloody nose, and really did look like he could puke at any given moment, and he kept trying to sleep on the shoulder of either one or the other of his neighbours. They were really cool about though; the business man asked me if we couldn’t get him out to rest, but when I told him he were really pressed to make the check-in, it was okay. And the school girl said that it was okay to let him sleep on her shoulder, even though she was doing her freaking homework at the same time! I seriously considered asking for her number. Who wouldn’t want a girlfriend that takes care of you when drunk beyond measure!? xD

Is he smiling? xD

The hotel was really nice, you could even see mount Fuji from the restaurant! Having spent half the night greeting that guy Ulrik in the bathroom, I didn’t enjoy it much though. Seems I caught some kind of flu in Denmark, still feeling like crap when writing this. You might imagine that our trip to Disneyland wasn’t great, me being sick, Johan being seriously hungover (he was drinking whisky, remember) and Mana being rather pissed about last nights episode, especially since Johan had lost his bag containing his passport and other stuff. Alas, you would be wrong, it was sooo much fun! The place seems really similar to the one in Paris that I visited as a kid, and several attractions were closed (including the haunted house and Space Mountain) but we had a great time – well, at the very least I did. :p

Yeah, I don't know what the hell is going on either to be honest... :p

A few days after arriving in Shiga my friends at the university threw me a party too! I was kinda surprised actually, was expecting that we would just go bowling and maybe have a few beers at dinner. Come to think of it, we did go bowling… Well, I had my favourite Japanese food, okonomiyaki! Then we drank at the university, and there was cake, birthday song, and even a present; a big sake jug with tab! How the hell will I get that home? xD

It says "Happy Birthday Christian" in Japanese. And I must say, the Japanese sure know how to make french cakes! 😀

Well, that’s all my birthday parties so far. I also have tentatively plans to go to karaoke with some friends from my Japanese class when I stop coughing all the time though.


PS: Johan, sorry man. Don’t shoot the messenger! :p

Merry Christmas 2010!!!


























Teramachi Street in Kyoto: What is it? Why does it move? What is it doing here? I don’t know dammit! Let’s start with the second statement, shall we? Last Wednesday all the master students in the glass group went to Kyoto. Both professors in the group were attending a conference in Brazil, so naturally work stops and play begins. Enter All-Night Bowling and Game Center!

First bowling; being the hobby of every single one of them.  Yes, hobby, not pastime. Yea, I don’t get it either. I sprained my right index finger in the first game. This enabled me to explore the very limits of my masochistic tendencies – truth be told; without the kinkiness, it really isn’t to be recommended. By the end my bowling ball was 50% lighter than the first game, and my finger twice the size. Do you know how difficult it is to find a 10kg bowling ball that will fit the fingers of a sumo wrestler? Actually, not very, as a 10kg ball is standard over here and there are a few fatties around. Moving on!

I won this sassy bunny in an UFO catcher (first try, 200yen, yay me!) Sadly, I didn’t have an equally sassy date to purezento it to, instead it is acting as a makeshift bookstand. I am proud to write that everything to the right of The Talisman is in Japanese, and that I have given away all my English books since taking this picture.

The first part of the game center was dedicated to coin machines, meaning that most of it was gambling related, i.e. slot machines and the like. Not really my kind of thing. I just don’t see the allure of betting on pixelated horsies. The slot machines made generous use of anime schoolgirls, but unlike Japanese men, I still seem to prefer the company of 3D girls. Anyway, afterwards we paid some set amount of money and were allowed in a separate part of the game center. Here almost every wacky gaming machine imaginable could be found, also darts, billiards, manga, secluded “couples” sofas, massage chairs, and various sports on the roof.

First part of the game center

Flashing-neon-light-induced-orgasm anyone? I can divulge that the cacophony of gaming machines was equally oppressive.

Conclusion; it was okay, but I prefer fun involving alcohol. We went home dead beat around six a clock in the morning. Naturally I fell asleep on the train, but magically woke up at my stop!  I’ve always made fun of Japanese people for having that uncanny ability, it’s freakin’ weird yo! Also, I managed to ride my bicycle half-asleep with a sprained finger on my right hand and an umbrella in the left. Also, I may have had a rash on my left butt cheek if that makes me sound any cooler!

So, what does any of this have to do with the non-existence of God? Absolutely nothing of course, but I present you with the following argument: If God sprained my finger as punishment (in addition to eternal damnation) for being an atheist (more like anti-theist actually,) why oh why did he not make me lose the bowling game, huh!? Yeah, utterly bulletproof I do believe. Want additional proof? Recently my computer stopped working after prolonged exposure to torrential rain. Damn you Kamisama! Miraculously it randomly started working again a day later. How can this be!? Surely if God hates me, he would smite my computers into oblivion faster than my bank account can deliver funding; and if he loves me anyway, he ought to stop breaking them in the first place.

Please don’t quote me on any of this.


Japanese BBQ

What, two blog posts in one day? Well, I haven’t had internet access for almost a week you see. The two professors at the university have been at a conference in Brazil, and the prospects of going to the university seemed bleak to say the least. Of course my ever nagging conscience induced me to do a lot of work at home anyway – but enough about serious business; let’s barbeque!

First class Japanese restaurant. This is just a representative picture - the actual restaurant was a lot nicer!

Soon after my arrival in Japan I visited the research facility of NEG (Nippon Electric Glass) whom so kindly sponsors my apartment, transportation, tuition and current posh lifestyle. After this short visit where I made not a few blunders in Japanese etiquette, I had dinner at a first class Japanese restaurant with Prof. Yoshida, Mr. Yamamoto (senior vice president), Mr. Yamazaki and Mr. Shindo (both general managers) and a few lab rats forced to take care of me. Dinner, and especially the sake, was very delicious; after a few cups I was bashing soccer as the second most uneventful sport that I know of (topped by cycling, of course.) They gently informed that Mr. Yamamoto is an avid fan. Oh well, that doesn’t make soccer less boring.

In the end, probably I gave a decent enough impression. I’ve actually spent some of my spare time with the younger employees, and Mr. Yamazaki invited me to a barbeque party at his house, in order to meet his daughter. Yeah, I bet that part got your attention alright! I’ll delay no further, flash forward to barbeque!

Mr. Yamazaki attended to the grill for maybe five hours. You have to respect that kind of determination. However, I expected nothing else of someone who trained Japanese tea ceremony during his university days.

The barbeque was like a neighbourhood gathering of sorts. Seeing tab beer immediately made me feel at home. Apparently it is Japanese custom for the daughter of the household to pour alcohol for the guests. That makes it kinda difficult to be discreet about your consumption, so I decided to hold back a bit. Probably there was no need, everybody seemed drunk by the end of the party. So, what about the daughter you ask? Well, she was nineteen, studying agricultural science in Hokkaido, and not fond of talking English – she seemed quite capable of conversing though, so probably just shy. Now, relating to nineteen year old girls is hardly a specialty of mine (note to self: Ask Lasse to teach me), and my Japanese isn’t exactly fluent yet, so it was a rather fleeting encounter. This is despite*** Prof. Yoshida (!) telling me in advance that “Mr. Yamazaki’s daughter is very beautiful.” I am very sorry not to provide a picture for your evaluation, but I do not necessarily disagree with Yoshida-sensei.

Instead I spent most of the evening chatting with the neighbour’s daughter, Noriko. She lived in the States until age 12 and has the accent to prove it. She persistently flattered me throughout the evening, so naturally we became the best of friends. Probably we will go to Iga (ninjas!) together at some point. Oh, and a note for my uncle; Noriko is thirty and has a boyfriend, no need to worry!

I believe that there might actually be a moral to today’s ramblings: No talkie, no makie friends! This obviously entails that the movie Lost in Translation – which I of course have never seen – is pure bull.

This is known as “hamburger” in Japan. It looked utterly repulsive at every step of the process, yet tasted quite okay. Way to go Itakura-san!

Seto-san and Taro-chan making Takoyaki. Served with lots of mayo. Yummy!

Okay then, on to the next barbeque party in this way too long post! You may recall a picture labelled “Takoyaki party” in a previous post. Well, this is it! Takoyaki is a round cake resembling the Danish æbleskive, but with the nice surprise of a semi-raw piece of octopus in the center. Needless to say, I freakin’ love it!

We listened to Morning Musume, drank beer, sake, gin, and Irish coffee, and finally I ended up sleeping on four chairs next to my desk. Somebody woke me up at noon because he needed a seat…