May 29, 2005

Tokyo discoveries

The frustration of being in a new city for a relatively short time is exactly that: it's short!.
Not that I mind going back to the Netherlands in two months. Not at all, I can't wait. But, there are loads of cool people here as well, and I just keep discovering these really cool places here in Tokyo. It just feels as if I'm running out of time...
A few recent discoveries:
- Pecha Kucha Night, Nr. 23 -- A night of short presentations of artists in the Tokyo area of their work, at SuperDeLuxe Apparently this was not one of their best nights, but I still thought it was a lot of fun to see the very different presentations - from architecture, to, to flowers! Interesting concepts, interesting audience and overall a pretty good night.
- Livehouses! Well, I knew those before but last week I was at a gig of Pierced, the band of flatmate Jeff. Very cool, well done guys!
- Beergardens! Again, a phenomenon I knew about before, but the season has started again. Last night we had a night of all-you-can-eat-and-drink on top of the Parco department store in Ikebukuro. Not bad, not bad at all. Obviously followed by the indispensable karaoke-session :)

And, this week I'll be going to see some Tokyo stand-up comedy in Shibuya. Very curious what that will be like.

One of the best things about being abroad is to be pulled out of the very comfortable life, circle of friends and so on of life as it is back home. Throughout the years (ouch... this makes me sound soooo old!) I've met so many people who are so different from the people that I would normally get a chance to meet.
In 'normal' life it can sometimes be so difficult to get out of the daily routine and go to places that you wouldn't normally think of going to. Here, in Tokyo - or anywhere outside of the safety of 'home', for that matter - you are forced to go to all those places that you don't know because so many things are new. Which makes life here interesting. Absolutely. And, it always reminds me that I really should make an effort to go out and discover new places again when I'm home again.
And, I guess that is also partly what people mean when they say that life abroad can be more interesting, more fascinating, more exciting than life at home.... Just to reassure the Dutch readers though, I'll be back before you even know it!

If someone out there could get me a job and a house, that is ;)

May 16, 2005

Sumo and more

I always seem to start writing here after a good weekend. Which is the occasion again this time. I vaguely remember saying I wouldn’t let this become a touristy blog, but actually discuss ‘serious’ issues. Hahaha. I can’t really find inspiration for intelligent attempts at a useful discussion. The more so because just about everything that I would want to write about is discussed elsewhere (see the blogroll for good sources to start with!)

In any case, the weekend! Aahh.. so nice (*^-^*)
A 3-day-one even, which made it better of course. To quickly recap, Friday was spent on farewell drinks for a colleague and birthday drinks for myself. (Thanks to all for the cards/presents/emails! You've spoiled me to bits!) Obviously followed by a visit to the pub, then to karaoke (懐かしい!A few novices but also a few karaoke-veterans with loads of forgotten Japanese songs!), and then clubbing to Muse. Good club, too bad about the lame music.
On Saturday a good friend from Osaka was in town. Very last minute chaotic planning but we got about 10 people together for food and drinks. Very cool, as always.
The plan for Sunday was for more food. Unfortunately, that plan fell, quite literally, in the water. The Thai Food Festival was on at Yoyogi Park which sounded great. Except for the fact that as soon as I got off the train at Harajuku the rain had slowly started, and by the time I had caught up with my friends it was thundering and pouring down with rain. Just about everyone got soaking wet, although the rush to get to a dry spot amongst tens/hundreds of other visitors was quite hilarious!

(And now for something slightly different, and the reason for writing)
To make up for the lack of cultural and traditional activities lately I figured I would put my Dutch free day to use and spend the afternoon at the Sumo! Had a great afternoon! The May tournament started last week, so the wrestlers are half way now. As always, the Mongolian wrestler Asashoryu is in the lead: undefeated so far (what is more, he is undefeated for the championship 4 times in a row now and going for the 12th championship overall!). Chiyotaikai is closely following though. Today’s bout was pretty spectacular.
Some quick comments:
* security at the Ryogoku Sumo Arena is stricter than at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry! Kind of odd. At the least. At METI I always get the impression that the guards remain too polite and only look into my bag without actually properly opening it. Basically, I could carry in anything and blow up part of Kasumigaseki... At Ryogoku they did actually look through my bag slightly more thoroughly. Apparently the nation’s sumo stars are more important than its economic policymakers?
* I had never realised quite how trendy sumo wrestlers dress! The kesho-mawashi (a kind of apron which the wrestlers wear for the opening ceremony) of Hakuho had blinking lights in it! So cool (*^-^*)
* while wandering about the arena, shopping for omiyage, and having my picture taken with some of the big guys, I noticed a wrestler with his wife: a tiny tiny Japanese girl. Some of these guys have superidol status in Japan (or well, among certain circles that is) and with that comes popularity among (certain circles of) women. I guess. I really don’t see the attraction. They have kids also...
* I absolutely love the whole theater and drama that goes on during these matches! You can’t quite imagine it when just watching this on tv in Europe but the crowd starts cheering and screaming when the new wrestlers come on to the doyo (the ring), the guys start stamping about, throwing salt, slapping legs etc. The last time they go back for the salt (just the preparations take double the time of the match itself!), it becomes clear why certain wrestlers are popular. Toki and Takamisakari got a pretty huge welcome. The reason partly/mostly being the show they put on before the fight itself. Incredibly funny to watch!
In any case, next time I go I’ll be sure to upgrade my seat! I had gotten the cheapest tickets available (at the very very top of the second floor), but the arena was pretty empty. So, after half an hour of wandering about I positioned myself comfortably at some tatami-mats on the first floor, awaiting to be kicked out. Which never happened. Yay. Next time I want the big bag of goodies that goes with the event.

{edit@17/5: A full review of the day's proceedings can be read here! I forgot about it, but like the article says, the bout between Kotonowaka and Aminishiki was pretty amazing: both wrestlers landed on their heads, looked pretty painful! Here's the picture. Good for Kotonowaka to win though.}

Oh, and, just so you guys don't get the wrong impression: I do actually also work! A quick rundown of the stuff I've been busy with:
- marketreports on IT (security/digital content), healthcare, bio-industry, biomass
- continuing research on East Asian energy security (it's time for some interviews and proper writing!)
- seminars on Japanese ODA, government procurement, WTO etc
- trade fairs on IT, fashion
etc etc.
See, I still do other stuff then just eating and drinking...

Sumo is in town! I couldn't resist, had to have this...! Stories will follow soon :)

May 12, 2005

About blogging...

Every day at work I start the day off with my fav newspaper cartoon: Fokke&Sukke.
To keep to the theme of blogging, here are some recent ones (in Dutch though...) - didn't catch 'em earlier as I spent most of last week out of the office and in Osaka, but the paper version just arrived at my desk :)

F&S zijn verwoede bloggers
F&S voelen zich weer helemaal 'toppie'
F&S bekijken de weblog van Carolien
F&S lossen sommige dingen liever F2F op
F&S reageren vol passie en expressie


May 11, 2005

I've said it before probably, but ah... wouldn't life be bliss if I just would have been born to be a supermarket cassiere?


Oh, and I love having birthdays abroad! Instead of just one day, it takes at least a week with the mail bringing in pressies and cards irregularly... Yay! ;)