Category: Japan

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!

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

Tokyo trip and Kyoto tour – Oh my!

Thought I would post a random update on what has being going on in my life lately. Well, “lately” is a relative term; I actually wrote this over a week ago, but internet and free time has been scarce. Yeah, whatever, enjoy! :p

Last weekend I visited the ever adorable Mana-chan in Tokyo. We went shopping, to a bar, and then to a museum – the Maruyama Okyo exhibit we saw almost made me cry out of sheer delight – but generally just hung out. Ahhh, it was so great to see my adoptive sister again! It really made me miss my friends and family back home.

Happy Hour @ HUB

Then this Thursday Prof. Yue arrived in Japan, entailing a great deal of more or less formal meetings, lectures, and dinners. Generally little of interest can be said in this regard; but the food was awesome! I have come to be a big fan of free expensive dinner – but then again, who isn’t?

Okami-san, don't be shy with the matsutake now, me be hungry!

Saturday was by the least formal by the way of Kyoto excursion. The route went by Nijo castle (built by Tokugawa Ieyasu in early Edo-period,) then what would have been a very short stop at the Golden Pavillion if not for the crowds of people invading there. I passed the time discussing short skirts and whatnot with Kawaguchi-san. The general consensus was enthusiastic approval, and heartfelt thanks for suffering the autumn cold in the name of fashion. Thank you Japanese high school girls!

High school students on a graduation trip at Nijo castle - if you were wondering. After this picture was taken, I overheard them calling me "ikemen," they realised a few seconds later that I actually speak Japanese... Oh, fun times! ^_^

Real gold; about 20kg of it if you would believe the guide.

Last we went to Toei Studio Park – a reconstructed Edo-period village used for period TV drama and movies. There were like maiko, and samurai, and ninja, and a haunted house, and… Hey! This is a theme park for kids! There was a ninja stage act that was absolutely hilarious, and coupled with over the top acrobatics, who could not ❤ it!? Well, for one, Prof. Yue I’m afraid; it turned out to be a very short visit per his request. But I wanted to go to the haunted house and bumber cars… 😥

Freakin' ninjas yo'! I have movies; will probs throw them up on facebook at some point.

Oh, by the way; long time no posting. The reason is not such much that I have been busy, more that I decided to spend more time on Japanese study, in case you were wondering.

Then later reevaluated that decision, and am now spending more time doing random fun stuff. Yay laziness! :p

Hope you enjoyed the picturegasm. I know I did… 😉

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…

The University

Don’t be fooled by the peaceful surroundings, the lab is a dark and gloomy place. Indeed I saw a hobgoblin yesterday. I swear!

Ah, The University of Shiga Prefecture, the lovely place where I pretend to be working some nine hours every weekday. On average I probably spend more time writing blog, e-mail, and studying Japanese than actual university related study. Oh well, nobody seem to be complaining.

It really is quite picturesque though. There is a forest covered mountain close by, and more on the horizon. The road to the university runs alongside a small river valley. At the moment there are quite a few dragon flies around here – which just happens to be the bug I hate the least, since it doesn’t bite, sting, rend, or fly into your face at every opportunity.

The pond near the dining hall, full of ducks, fish and probably dangerous concentrations of bacteria.

It isn’t a big university by any standard, but there are only a few departments, so in the glass science group we are actually more master students than in the entire chemistry group back home. They are nice people, we have a lot of fun together.

Takoyaki party!

Takoyaki party! Ota-san in the back drank one peach cider and his skin colour changed from light brown to that of a Native American caricature. I couldn’t help myself, and nicknamed him Momotaro (’momo’ is peach, and ’Momotaro’ is a boy born from a peach in a Japanese folklore.)

You may have notice the distinct lack of oppai in the picture. Well, there are only guys in the glass science group. From what I can gather, less than half of whom have girlfriends! Could it really be that the natural sciences are solely populated by geeks!? The shock and dread of this realisation was alleviated somewhat by the presence of the human nursing department close by. I seriously have to find some excuse to hang out over there…


Hikone Castle

Welcome everybody. Today we are going to learn a little something about Japanese history. Won’t it be exciting!? Haha, I kid, I kid – I don’t know jack squat! Generally I bluff my way through any conversation touching on the subject: ”Heian period? Is that a province in China?”

I did however join the mindless drones for a day and visited Hikone castle. I may not know anything about the place, but I did take an awful lot of pictures, and that entitles me to act like I know stuff – yay tourism!

This is Hikone castle. Just look at the picture and skip the post – I promise you that there is no additional information…

Pretty thing, isn’t it? Completed in 1622, and it looks brand new. I wonder if the walls are chalked white, and if so, how often they have to freshen it up. Actually, don’t you think the castle somewhat resembles a face? Now, I could make some joke about make up and Japanese women, but I won’t, I’m a gentleman – besides the point has already been delivered, just make up your own punchline.

Uh uh, there was a garden too!


And a moat, with black and white swans!

A politically correct picture of swans. Less than a minute later there was a drive-by*** shooting and the SWAT team called. What a mess! Apparently the white swan mooning the others was having an affair with the top most swan’s hispanic girlfriend (not shown,) who spilled the beans during a heated argument and… but I digress.

Seriously though, it was really beautiful. Somehow who built it slipped my mind, but this guy, Ii Naosuke did a lot for the place. He was a powerful player in the opening of Japan during the Meiji restoration, and was actually assassinated by some xenophobic group.  I thought that was pretty cool. Not the assassination of course, there are always close-minded people that will go to extremes in order to resist change. But this fellow willingly put his life a substantial risk to do what he thought was best (and wouldn’t hurt or kill anybody.) I really would like to have met him. Oh, and if anybody wants to put forward a case against the opening of Japan; my first argument would be what happened to China when they tried that route.

Last picture; the castle seen from the adjoining garden. It really is quite something, isn’t it?

The last caption really got out of hand, so I’ll refrain to comment on this one. Enjoy!

More pictures on facebook!


The Apartment

When I wake up late, I can see like a 25x25 grid of elementary school children dressed in white t-shirts and red shorts doing their morning exercise from the window. I wanted to take a picture, but would probably get arrested...

Certain people have expressed interest in my humble accomodations, and since a picture speaks more than a thousand words, here you go!

What you see is pretty much what you get. No table, bed, chair, or other modern contrivances – no no, I prefer an ascetic existence. Well, excluding the air conditioner, but even the most hardened abstainer could hardly swallow his uncooked brown rice in this heat! There is a pillow for sitting on and a futon for sleeping. Obviously I flee to the local Mos Burger and it’s familiar smell of cooking grease, comfortable chairs and pimpled employees whenever opportunity arises. It feels warm and comfy, much like a mother’s womb – nourishing too!
But really, the room is fine. I have been informed that it is 9 square meters, but it looks bigger in real life. It really does! Probably they didn’t calculate the plentiful closet space into that. The common facilities don’t bother me either, everything is clean, and the Japanese style shower is kinda fun actually. The dormitory dining hall is quite okay too. Japanese cooking is a bit too much on the bland side for my taste, but they do well under the circumstances – besides, it’s free!

I bet you could store at least twenty hacs in that closet...

Oh, and Moriyama City is located in the heart of absolutely nothing of oh-so-exciting Shiga Prefecture. End of post.