09. November 29.November
Wednesday 09 November - Santa Claus is coming to town….
After our karateclass, me and Geir Rune went to have something to eat, and we stumbled across this Ramen place. I don't think it specifically state Kyokushin anywhere, but the painting sure resembles the founder of Kyokushin Karate, Masutatsu Oyama. Despite the fact that they used an open prophane burner to fry the one piece of porkmeat (!) in the ramenportion, it tasted quite good and was very spicy.
Here's some evidence that Christmas (you know - this pure and non-commercial tradition where the fathers put on a strange red Coca-Cola suit, the mothers acts all surprised when the "red suit" enters and the little kid, maybe 35 years of age, would be all excited) is about to enter Tokyo.
Thursday 10 November - The immigration office
We had a mid term “exam” yesterday, meaning that I had to do some study lately and since Geir Rune was still around I decided to skip class today to do something else. We went down to the immigrations office at Shinagawa, as I wanted to extend my tourist visa. For some countries Japan grants visa extension.
Norway is unfortunately not one of these, so the result in brief: Nei-no-non-njet-iee-nein etc. I still have to leave Japan around Christmas time and re-enter in order to (hopefully) get another 3 months stay. On the way back, we saw this mechanised parking lot. An interesting and clever way of saving space.
Sunday 13 November - Freakshow
Went to Yoyogi park with Gerald today. There is a big shrine in the park – the Meji Jingu shrine.
The shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. It was built in 1920, but most of it including the main building had to be rebuilt and restored (in 1958) as it was destroyed by the firebombings during the World War II (http://web-japan.org/atlas/architecture/arc09.html)
Obviously the park is the recreation/attraction for lot of Japanese on the Sundays. This particular Sunday there was lot of things happening. Seem to be more than one wedding ceremony going on at the same time. And at on lot of people dressed up rather formal, also some of the kids in traditional costumes.
There was also a stand offering free taste-samples of Sake. This was actually the first time I tasted Sake, and I liked it. We left the park and went to the bridge next to the Harajuku station. This is another “attraction”, as some of Tokyo’s teenagers hangs out here at Sundays dressed up in various garments, and posing willingly for tourists (us) coming by. If I ever get bored, I’ll put my blue wig on and pay them a visit. It became apparent where they got their gear from, as we walked through the Takeshita Street, with its numerous shops containing all kind of (weird) stuff.
It is interesting to observe the contrast between the women on the pictures. I'd say it gives a good reflection of the Japanese society as such, with its softer values represented by for instance Kabuki - traditional Japanese theater or the tea ceremony, requiring patience and taking a lifetime to master. While on the other hand you have the modern, technocratic Japan demanding efficiency, productivity and long hours from its inhabitants.
Monday 14 November - Earthquake II
I woke up this morning around quarter to 7 by a Jishin (earthquake). It was the sensation of waking up in a boat while it is docking (I deliberately used “a” boat, leaving out the “Danskebåten” analogy this time). It was not scary, rather an amusing experience. The entire room shook for around 2 minutes, with me lying in the bed thinking what’ll be my next move, and wondering if it would turn worse. I did not see my entire life pass by in slow motion, and the table did not seem big enough for more than parts of my body (which one should it be; the head has proven useful at least…..uh....more than once, but then again – a couple of legs would be nice if I had to get out) so I remained in bed. This earthquake was rated 4.1 on the Richter’s scale and with the epi-center off the east coast of Honshu 530 km NE of Tokyo.
The Japanese have their own scale – the “shindo” scale, which refers to the intensity of an earthquake at a given location (I.e. what you would experience at a particular location) rather than the Richter’s scale which measures the amount of energy released by the earthquake at the epi-center.
Here are some web pages providing more information about earthquakes.
Saturday 19 November – I am obliged to take a vacation from my vacation
I went to Ikebukuro to a travel-agency that I saw the other day in order to arrange my compulsory “vacation” out of the country (in order to get another tourist visa). It seemed quite big, so I was hoping to find some English speaking people in there. I decided to travel to South Korea, go back to my roots so to speak. The first consultant did not speak English at all… so I started out fresh in Japanese, but eventually got stuck. A second appeared, and at a point they became three. There you go - three ladies serving me! I eventually managed to arrange my ticket to Korea – 4 days with hotel and Airplane. At first they presented me one price, around 35000 Yen. Then they ran a bit around with my passport (for instance, too and from the photocopy machine) and when they became exhausted from this rather tiresome exercise, they eventually came back to me. New price: They had discovered that the price they gave me initially was per person in a double room. So I had to pay 50000 instead. And with some Japanese and Korean taxes added on top of it, it totalled around 60000 instead. It was still one of the cheapest offers they had, so I accepted it. After I had left the shop, one of them even came running after me with some kind of receipt (I had already received the one for the VISA card).
Sunday 20 November - Resfest 2005
Today I was going along with Mami, one of Helenas Japanese friends to a closing party for a filmfestival (Resfest 2005) in Roppongi. She had brought along another friend of hers, Yokoo. I was going to meet them at 8, and since I was a bit late, they were already waiting for me outside the Roppongi metro. We went to the party and it seemed to be a bit early, as there were still free tables. The amount of people picked up fast, and soon it was all crowded.
They had some live entertainment as well. For instance, a girl maybe around 14 that was nicknamed "Micro Machine" as she could do robot imitations incredible well. Later a true copy of Michael Jackson entered, giving an amazing imitation. From time to time you could even see some Michael Jackson-ish grins on his face.
The Japanese way of partying is a bit unusual for me as they might go out at 6-or 7 in the afternoon, and then leave around 11 to catch the last train, although there are places that stay open until early morning.
Thursday 24 November - Thanksgiving dinner
Today is one of the numerous holidays they have in the Japanese calendar, meaning for one that schools were closed.
Got an invitation to a Thanksgiving dinner from Zed at one of his Japanese friend’s house. So we went there, Helena, me and an Italian girl, Lucia, that moved in the beginning of the week. We took the train to Shinjuku and were picked up at the station by Zed and his friend Shino, the hostess for the evening. Everything was almost ready by the time we entered. A “boneless” turkey (yes, as a matter of fact, it is sold like that, portioned turkey where the bones has been removed) was on the menu. Anyway, Zed had been the cook, the meal was delicious, with turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and gravy. For some reason, he believed it to be Helenas birthday, being nearly a month too early. She didn’t seem to mind having to celebrate her birthday twice though. As a dessert, Shino had prepared a pumpkinpie, my first pumpkin pie ever. It went really well along with icecream.
Afterwards, going back to Ikebukuro, we met Dave accompagnied by a couple of Japanese friends. So we ended up in a Isakaya before heading home.
Saturday 26 November – Nikko I
This weekend Gerald and I agreed to go to Nikko. It is known for its temples (Buddhistic), shrines (Shinto), waterfalls, a scenic Lake, a botanical garden and supposedly one of the best onsen (hotspring) in Japan. We found out it was worth spending the weekend, as we would visit the temples the first day and maybe visit one of the onsen, and go up to the lake the seconde day.
We met at Asakusa station in the morning, and bought a minipass that included a two-way ticket to Nikko along with unlimited bustravel around the Nikko area (almost 5000 yen). Two hours on rather uncomfortable seats brought us to Nikko. At first we went to the local tourist office, and already here we got the feeling that we were a bit off season as the consultant was more than talkative. But he came up with some valuable information.
On our way to the temples and shrines, we passed the "Shinkyo" ('Sacred bridge), which spans the Daiya River in Nikko. The bridge is lacquered red with gilt metal ornaments and serves as the informal entrance to the site. The bridge marks the legendary spot where a famous Buddhist priest of the eighth century (Shodo) crosses the river on the backs of two giant serpents on a pilgrimage.
The first thing we went to see was the Rinnoji Temple, known for its "sanbutsu", or three Buddahs. These are located in the main hall, represented by three giant figures - The thousand armed Kannon, Amida and The horse-capped Kannon. It was an impressive sight with all the goldplated details in the temple. It was a pity that photographing was not allowed.
The next quite fameous attraction was the Toshogu Shrine, constructed in 1617 and dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616). He was a Shogun and founded the present capital Tokyo (Edo). Here you can find for instance the "Nemurineko" (sleeping cat), or perhaps the more famous "Sansaru" (three monkeys; see no evil, say no evil, hear no evil). Then we visited in succession three smaller shrines. It became dark around 16:30, so we went back to locate our hotel, the "Turtle Inn". We were both hungry and tired, so we went out for something to eat, had a look at the nonexisting nightlife (maybe a bit unjust as it was a bit offseason) that the place offered and the hotel bath served as a substitute for the Onsen.
Sunday 27 November – Nikko II
The Turtle hotel turned out to be quite okay, despite looking a bit worn out from the outside. 1000 Yen extra gave us a breakfast that was quite nice. Checked out, and then we took the 50mins bustrip up to the Lake Chuzenji.
First we went down to have a look at det Kegon Falls, which is one of the three big waterfalls in Japan with its 97m. Some yens poorer (530 to be exact) and an elevator later, we could also observe the fall from its bottom.
We walked to the lake, passing an enourmous "Mon", or gate. It was quite cold and windy, and as we walked along parts of the lake, we realised that we were at least one week to late to see the spectacular colors of the autumn. There is also a boat that takes you around the lake, but since the threes had already dropped their leaves, and the area sorrounding the lake was all brownish, we decided to skip it. We ate some food, and as there were not much else to do, we returned back to Tokyo.
Monday 28 November - Rat-O-van
After returning from training today Zed and Lucia was sitting around the table as I entered the flat, so I sat down with them. Then, for the first time on these 2 months in the flat, I heard our “pet” running across the ceiling. Helena had mention this earlier, but now I could hear it for my self. I was quite amazed by the sound. From the layer between the ceiling and the floor upstairs you could hear the creature – we haven’t seen it, but assumes that it is a rat. Imagine a small dog with long nails spinning across a wooden floor – and there you go! Ever seen this ingenious Black Adder episode where Baldrick suggests Rat-O-van (rat flattened by a van) as a main dish? I guess we can just sit down and wait, as our creature seems to lack only a couple of hundred grams before it bashes trough the ceiling and straight down to our dining table….
Tuesday 29 November – OSLO
Me and Gerald decided to go to Shinjuku after the class to try to find a pool place. As we went along, I was a bit surprised to find a gaming place with Oslo written on the outside.
Gerald took me to a huge sportshop he had been into earlier. They had a quite impressive selection of sportsgear, ranging from mountaineering stuff to diving equipment and clothes. They even had Fjellreven(!), this Swedish brand. Most of the equipment, for instance shoes, sleeping bags and rug sacks appeared cheap compared to Norwegian prices. Multi tool knives and for instance North Face jackets appeared to be the same as in Norway.
We finally found a place with pool tables. It was quite huge, maybe 25 tables all together. Noticed a slight difference from the Norwegian places. For instance – at every table, the balls were already aligned for 9-ball. Whenever someone left a table, the waiter/-tress would go and wipe off every ball and clean the table. The cues would then be thoroughly inspected. Then they would align the balls for a new game. The customer does not need to do anything else but play. Very convenient. I guess it reflects the Japanese mentality of keeping everything in order.
Wednesday 30 November – Let’s fight!
Today I went to practice after class, quite eager since it was the first time I was allowed to enter their “special” fighting classes. These are dedicated for uh, guess what - fighting, and from the screams and shouts I’ve heard when I passed by the second floor earlier, it does not seem too pleasant though. Arthur, the Armenian guy who participated in the 37. All Japan Open, and also instructs at Honbu, asked me last Tuesday if I wanted to join the fighting class on Wednesday, and I was quite pleased, but could not as I was going to Zed’s Halloween dinner. So today I appeared with a shorts and a T-shirt, being the normal outfit for these classes. As I entered the room, I was abruptly told by Higuchi, the only remaining Uchi-Deshi (i.e person that has agreed to join a 3 year - or a 1000daysprogram dedicated for training and serving the dojo) that I had to ask Shihan Fuduka. To make a long history short, I did not want to ask earlier, because I thought it was more appropriate that they invited me to these classes, thus with Arthurs invitation I thought everything was OK, but obviously not. I was however allowed to stay this practice, but still have to clarify with Shihan Fuduka (he is responsible for and running the Honbu Dojo). We were around 10 persons all together, Arthur included. The instructor and at least two of the others participated in the 37 All Japan Open, and several of them in K-1. There where a couple of other quite “massive” Japanese dudes too. The practice was quite hard, only one of the black belt classes and maybe a couple of the general classes have come close to be equally hard. There was no fighting today, as two of the fighters (a young Russian – Nikolai, and a young Japanese fighter) are going to fight in a competition on Sunday. The training started with around 10 minutes of “shadow” fighting (i.e. without a opponent) as warm up, then we paired up and did quite a lot of physical exercises. Then we did combinations on pads starting with punches, then kicks and finally combinations of kicks and punches. It was a good two hours of practice, and my white T-shirt had turned transparent already on the halfway.
The pictures: It is from 17. Nov, Fabrice’s last instruction before he headed back to France. So I got an opportunity to take some pictures. A really nice, warm-hearted person with true Kyokushin attitude.