June 11, 2005

Ah... food! A lovely lunch of tempura and zaru-soba (cold buckwheat noodles). Courtesy of our landlord, I think I want him to own my next place to live as well!

A day at Nikko, but unfortunately not a very clear picture of the entrance to the Tosho-gu. The shrine itself is quite impressive. Rather than just being beautiful it is almost pure kitsch; with gold, dragons and red all over the place!

Finally! Out of the city, into the mountains. At least, that's the way it looks. In reality the picture (of the Kegon Waterfall - 華厳滝) is taken from a fully concrete outlook platform from which there is no way to get any closer to the waterfall and the surrounding woods.... *rolls eyes*.... Japanese and nature...

June 10, 2005


The countdown has started. Re-booked my flight today.
Not sure if that's good or bad. A bit of both?


Well, okay, I know I'm being overly dramatic. Still, it's a bit weird. I should start a list on the stuff still to do, maybe.
In the meantime I'm starting to stress [yes, the stress is back] about my research, as I spent the whole day working on a job application. Details on that later; if all goes (very) well this blog will be taking a very different direction in the near future. Then again, that would probably be too good to be true...

June 09, 2005

Chinese energy demand growth - consequences for global energy markets

The Financial Times publishes a Asia Insight series, which is consistently filled with news, interesting perspectives and everything else you would expect from the FT.
The latest (I think) has as its theme China goes global. The articles themselves don't seem to be digitalized, but this links to the actual magazine. See especially the following articles:

- China and America's common energy interests (p.12)
- Increasing trade reveals Beijing's growing profile in resource-rich Latin America (p.8)
- Energy drives Beijing's trade with Tehran (p.6)
- reports on CNOOC, Unocal and more oil sector news (p.20-21)

Am off to read and write!

[edit: another Asia Insight: Asia's emerging giants: China and India; interesting stuff!]

June 08, 2005

HTML query

Ok, a question for those who are reading occasionally and know a bit about html/blog-templates/whatever.

This thing is turning a bit too random, so I'd like to start categorizing. You know research/tokyo/politics/etc, that kind of thing. Can I do that in blogspot.com? How? What are the codes to use for that? I can't quite figure it out from all the explanations that I've read so far... Thanks!

A couple of things

# Phones - they're always breaking down at the wrong moment! I had hoped to celebrate Japan's win over North Korea tonight with a lovely pic of my taiko club's chairman's dog - wearing Japan's national soccer shirt. Yep, a dog.
It seems to be a trend (not the soccer shirt, just shirts on dogs in general), as Jo points out today as well...
Alas, my camera refused to work.... :(

# Scary stuff - in case you hadn't realized, I'd love a career which involves living in a lot of different places: in different countries, that is. Possibly a dream job, but it exists. And I want it... But I'll get back to that later. What frightens me about that is the following scenario:
Living in that foreign, far-off country, not speaking the language and as a consequence being stuck in a very, very small world and not knowing the simplest things about the city that you live in.
I suppose that living in Tokyo doesn't quite prepare me for the life that would await me. A friend came along to my taiko practice tonight. Loads of fun (glitter, when are you coming?), but it struck me that even after she's lived here for 7/8 years I couldn't explain to her how to get back to her station as she hardly ever uses the trainsystem. She has no need to, she lives around the corner from everything she might ever need in a very non-Japanese area. I only carry Japanese language maps and so on, but do think it normal to have something like that on you in this city (but then, obviously in English).
It was a bit of a wake-up call. Not the first time actually. Even while working in an expat environment, I suppose it doesn't give me the full picture of the kind of life it entails: I speak the language and know the country so can go all over the place. I don't want to critize my work mates at all for this (even if it might sound like it), they're great and I'll miss them back in the Netherlands. I guess it's a different kind of life. It just makes me wonder how I would be living if I'd be working in say, Malawi all of a sudden ;)

# Immigration - why do they put the local immigration office all the way out of the city in an industrial area, with only trucks and seacontainers and no sign of normal life?! [hope my visa-extension comes through though!]

# Woohoo! Four more days of work until I can start my (hopefully well earned) holiday! Hilde, it's starting to sound like a packed two weeks with lots of fun stuff. Hope you're looking forward to it, I know I am (*^-^*)

# Stress-free - a new experience... because of the above holiday, I want to have my research project written, lay-out-ed (sp?), handed in and sent to all the relevant people before then. Still have a fair bit of work ahead of me, but surprisingly it is not freaking me out. I was expecting a repeat of my final thesis-writing weeks.
What's more: I'm actually quite happy with how it's turning out! This is a totally new sensation. I'm usually completely dissatisfied with anything I write, but the energy security research is turning out to be not bad at all... If I may say so myself ;)
I'll get back to it once I'm finished and can give a proper conclusion and all of that.

# Libraries - don't you just love 'em? As I haven't got the latest Murakami Ryu book yet, I got some of his stuff from the local library and it's turning out quite interesting. As the title says, a bit strange... Strange Days - Murakami Ryu

Hmm, much longer than expected and a bit random. Oh well, that's what blogs are for, aye?

June 04, 2005


I'm not incredibly good with computers.

Well, I suppose I'm not doing that badly considering that I'm working on a Japanese OS (why oh why did I think it was smart to use that!?) and can still handle most things.
But anyway, new digital stuff tends to freak me out. A case in point is the SD/miniSD Card Reader that I bought for my phone some time ago. Actually, almost 3 months ago! The idea was that this would enable me to upload my pictures from my phone onto my computer (and onto here) without buying a digital camera which I would love to have but still can't quite afford! :'( So, that was 3 months ago. Obviously I'm good at putting stuff off, like actually figuring this Card Reader-thingy out .
Tonight, while still recovering from a very fun Friday night, I finally pulled out the (Japanese) manual and tried to discover how to go about using it .... 10 minutes later I was done.

To celebrate, a couple of pics from the last few months! Enjoy :)

One of the major matsuri (festivals) in Tokyo is the Sanja Matsuri at the Asakusa-jinja in Asakusa. From Friday to Sunday there are all kinds of activities, and the main event is the carrying around of the mikoshi ('portable shrines') through the neighbourhood. There are three different routes, with more than 40 mikoshi and at the end of the Sunday they all come back to the shrine again. This is a picture of one of these, with the Senso-ji in the background. As you can see there are huge crowds to watch the festivities.

One of the best parts of these matsuri is the food. This time there were tons of stalls ('yatai') on the temple grounds surrounding the Senso-ji. My favourite is probably takoyaki (small dough balls with octopus inside) but there is loads of other stuff. It was fun to see that these matsuri are also opening up - it was the first time I saw yatai with kebab and taco's. Not bad!
In any case, what you see on the (not very clear) picture is some kind of fish-on-a-stick, being grilled. There are definitely some funny-looking things at these places....
Oh, I'm actually trying to find some interesting matsuri for the end of June (Tokyo-area and Kansai) so would love to hear about it if anyone has any tips!

A bit late, but here's a picture of the sakura-madness in Yoyogi park in early April

Japan vs North Korea --> in fiction

It is interesting to see how some things that happen in East Asia (economic, political, military whatever) get their own place in Japanese domestic society outside of politics. The research that I did on Japan and North Korea was mostly to show that the problems which exist between these countries seem to have grown past international politics and diplomacy and have taken up a firm place in domestic politics. In the case of the North Korean issue it is especially odd because domestic opinion focuses on very different issues than international consensus or what Japanese government policy would like to aim at.
[Oh, hang on... isn't this what happened with last week's EU referendum in the Netherlands also?]

Back to the North Korea story though. I'm the proud owner of several manga detailing the issues at stake; that is, manga showing a crazed Kim Jong Il heading for the red button as he sees US troops taking down Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad, while being entertained by his personal yorokobi-gumi [The yorokobi-gumi or 喜び組 is the name for Kim's personal entertainment squad, made up of pretty Korean girls]. It's a pretty funny read!
Recently a new novel was published which uses the North Korean threat as its main story line. I can't wait to get my hands on it, and actually have time to read it ;)
The book is called "Get Out of the Peninsula" or 半島を出よ(上&下) and is written by well-known author Ryu Murakami. Most of the reviews on Amazon are raving about the book but I hope to get back to you about that when I've actually read it myself!

A recent LA Times article starts off with a description of the book:
One of the hottest-selling books here this spring is Ryu Murakami's "Get Out of the Peninsula," a novel set in 2010 that portrays a Japan in ruins, ravaged by economic and social collapse. Armies of homeless and unemployed have been cast adrift. Japan's alliance with America lies in tatters. Chinese and Indian criminal gangs run amok.
But Murakami's main villains are a group of North Korean commandos. On the opening day of the baseball season, they storm the Fukuoka Dome stadium on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. As incompetent Japanese politicians fail to act, more North Korean troops arrive, sealing Kyushu off from the rest of Japan.

In Japan these days, bad guys just don't come any more sinister than North Koreans.

I'm not sure of the political orientation of Murakami. However, considering this story and the way in which it makes use of negative popular opinion it wouldn't surprise me if he is of similar orientation of people such as Abe Shinzo and Ishihara Shintaro. Then again, he might just be using the emotional content of the issue to ensure himself a bestseller. [Speaking of which, can any Japanese readers point me to listings of bestsellers and so on? I have no clue where to find such information!]
I suppose that in a way it is good that literature is used to discuss issues that not only focus on purely Japanese things. Then again, this doesn't seem to be the best use of this topic either. The North Korean issue is far from resolved and by keeping up domestic opposition to finalize the abductions issue (through these kind of stories), resolution will only remain a far-off hope.

Maybe I'm reading too much into the book. I do think that Japanese domestic politics and the mass media which is fuelling the hysteria need to re-think what they should be devoting their attention to: abductions or nuclear weapons? Although I don't agree with many of the articles and opinions that say that North Korea could strike any time etc etc, I do think there is an explosive situation at hand which needs resolving...

June 02, 2005

Sino-Nippon conflict continues...

From Gen Kanai's weblog I tracked down the following article on cyberwar between Japan and China.

As some of you might know, I find the East Asian region incredibly interesting because of all these states trying to claim their place in the system. For an idea of what I've done, check the thesis in the link listings.
In any case, the above link is pretty interesting as it goes into a new kind of trouble between China and Japan. It seems that quite a few Japanese sites have been hacked by Chinese groups lately. Interesting to read how this animosity is expressed in different ways.

My current research on the region is on its way smoothly. I'm still discovering new things daily though about what China and Japan are up to to get their oil and gas.
An example: there seems to be a vague - pretty unrealistic, if you ask me - plan out there to construct a canal through Thailand to take pressure off the Strait of Malacca. Apparently this was a Chinese project from some time back, and I've now heard rumours about Japanese plans for this... This seems quite absurd though. If it will happen, it is another sign of almost despair on the part of these countries to get their hands on natural resources.
Other issues that come up a lot recently are the East China Sea exploration/development battle and the pipeline from Angarsk to Daqing, no to Nakhodka, no maybe back again to Daqing issue. There should be a bit of progress on the latter issue soon it seems, so I'm very curious what will happen. Russia doesn't seem to be too reliable lately...

Okay, a quick note on other stuff than my weekends. Bye!

As expected....

So, what now? The end of the EU? Will they make us vote indefinitely until there's an 'aye'?

Volkskrant artikel (in Dutch)
and the BBC story


June 01, 2005

Ja of nee?

Goed, ik was niet van plan om hier blog-ruimte aan te spenderen, maar ik kan het niet laten.
Het is in elk geval jammer dat ik in de aanloop naar 1 juni in het buitenland ben. Waarom mis ik dit soort, toch redelijk belangrijke, politieke ontwikkelingen in Nederland toch altijd? Het verbaast me enorm dat er zoveel mensen tegen zullen stemmen bij het referendum over de EU grondwet vandaag - overigens een slechte naam, dit impliceert veel meer dan dat het eigenlijk is! Ik krijg de indruk dat velen tegen zullen stemmen om de verkeerde redenen, om zaken die helemaal niets met het verdrag te maken hebben. Ja, het is niet fijn dat het Nederland economisch gezien even niet voor de wind gaat, maar daar verandert een tegenstem echt niets aan. Ja, misschien wil je Turkije niet bij de EU hebben, maar ook daarover gaat het helemaal niet!
In mijn interpretatie betreft het hier veel bestuurlijke verbeteringen. En, voordat de EU verder wil uitbreiden denk ik dat het noodzakelijk is om eerst binnen de EU orde op zaken te stellen. Het verdrag waar Europa nu over stemt is een belangrijke stap in dat proces.
Ik zal niet alle argumenten voor (of tegen) afgaan, maar in elk geval een paar links:
# De Volkskrant geeft een duidelijke stemwijzer. Stellingen met uitleg wat de zgn. 'grondwet' daarover zegt.
# Een weergave van de mening van een mede-Tokyo-blogger Duidelijk, en ik kan niet anders zeggen dan dat ik het er helemaal mee eens ben.
# Voor een officiele kijk is er natuurlijk ook deze site met weerlegging van mythes, goede argumenten etc

Ik ben benieuwd wat het nieuws zal zijn als ik morgenochtend weer op kantoor kom! Ik hoop maar dat de zwevers op het laatste moment nog wat invloed kunnen hebben.