Monday, November 30, 2009

Cat among the Pigeons

青空の下だろうが何だろうがなぁ、どこ行っても授業なんかできんだろう。 教師と生徒さえいれば。そういうのをな、教育っつーんじゃねーのか? [鬼塚英吉]. GTO ドラマ版

"Whether it's beneath the blue sky or somewhere else, you can have class anywhere. As long there are teachers and students. That's what we call education, right!?", Onizuka Eikichi, GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka)

Monday I rushed back after class back to the kaikan, as I, together with 5 other JLCC students, had a presentation at the Fukuoka Municipal Kashii First Junior High School ("Fukuoka Shiritsu Kashii Daiichi Chuugakkou") about our own countries. Because the school is so close to the kaikan (Kyushu University International Students House), they occasionally have foreign kids there, so the school tries to invite international students every year to give presentations about their own country to let their students learn more about the world.

People who have had the pleasure of seeing me struggling through do a presentation, might laugh if they realize that a Japanese junior high school class consists of 40 people. Which, disregarding certain accidents, means 80 Japanese eyes looking at me. While I talk in Japanese. Suffice to say, I was quite insufferable that morning.

But in the end it was quite fun, especially seeing the faces on every student, who had all been to Huis ten Bosch, when I started the presentation saying we really don't wear traditional clothing and wooden shoes all day, nor is the Netherlands full of windmills. After my presentation, I was treated(?) to a moonwalk by one student, and a monomane of a crab and Kojima Yoshio. Yes, it was strange. Then we finished with a game called Fruits Basket, which was err... interesting. After our classes had ended (being addresses as sensei constantly was very strange and discomforting though), the students apparently had a class where they write their thoughts about the presentations, which we'll receive later.

Then we got a tour through the school, which was quite nice. Music class looked interesting, with koto classes being offered (while looking impressive though, the teacher mentioned repeatedly they're just leased). Lots of interesting stuff was hanging around the school and classes like cooking were quite surprising. The funny thing was that my image of a Japanese junior high school was solely derived from popular media like manga and anime, and it really all turned out to be true. The school chime tune? Check. Strange class rooms with retractable windows looking out at the corridor? Check. All the teachers working in one room with chaotic desks? Check. The nursery room where there always is a person with a fever or something? Check. It was sorta surreal, seeing all those images confirmed.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

『幻影城』

『疾如風、徐如林、侵掠如火、不動如山』、孫子、『孫子兵法』

"Swift as the wind, silent as a forest, aggressive as fire, unmovable like a mountain", Sun Tzu, "Sun Tzu's Art of War"

The last few weeks, the first thing I see in the weekends when I open my curtains, has been a bus at the kaikan court, to bring the students in the JTW program to events like soccer and sumou matches, while the students in the JLCC program stay behind. Which was getting kind of annoying after the nth time.

So I'd been looking forward to Friday for some time now, as we'd have the first JLCC fieldtrip. OK, I had also been looking forward to Friday because it was finally payday, so it was an extra joyful day. When we actually got onto the bus, I was kinda cursing it though, as it was early. First we visited Kumamoto Castle in Kumamoto-shi, about one hour away from Fukuoka.

Kumamoto Castle is one of the three grand castles in Japan, very big and very awesome. Too bad we were on a strict time schedule, so we flew through most of the castle to get to the tower, which provided a great view on the castle court and Kumamoto-shi.

Afterwards, we got back in the bus (which by now had turned into a place where lectures were given on French, Korean, Chinese and Cantonese) to go to Asosan, the largest active vulcano in Japan. And active, it was. So no hidden SPECTRE bases.

We actually weren't allowed to go to the caldera observation deck at first, because the vulcano was producing too much gasses at that time. So we watched the caldera from a distance and just as we prepared to get back, the alarm was cancelled, so everyone rushed back to see the caldera. Which from afar looked like an onsen.

But just in case you were contemplating to try it, a sign explictly says it's forbidden to enter the caldera. Just in case.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

『不動高校学園祭殺人事件』

「人間は、自分と周囲との環境にズレが生じると、つまり、不協和状態になると不安になるんだ。で、周囲と同調することで、その不安を解消しようとする。」、秋山深一、『Liar Game』

"If a gap occurs between themselves and their environment, in other words, if they experience cognitive dissonance, they'll feel anxious.", Akiyama Shinichi, "Liar Game"

While I have started with reading books for my book report in December, I can't say it's really progressing. Semi-academic literature is of course totally different from literature and when something like 員数別普通世帯度数分布表中最大値 appears, I lament silently for the fact that I didn't study Chinese as a child.

And of course, at such times it's pretty easy to just give up and do something else. So we went to visit the Kyushu University Festival held this weekend. Such festivals are kinda like the Dutch Queen's Day with lots of food stands and small activities ,but without countless of semi-drunk people trying to get in the restaurant to use the toilet. But even though it's called the Kyushu University Festival, there is next to nothing to do at the Hakozaki campus, and most of the circles are based at the Itou campus, so it was also an excuse to visit the Itou campus.

Which is really far. It didn't even look like Fukuoka anymore, changing from subway to train to bus, which brought us alongst paddy fields. But then we arrived at Itou campus, and it was so... clean, to borrow the words of the Greek teacher. Built on the foot of a mountain, Itou campus like the good twin brother of the Hakozaki campus. Everything new, clean, no abandoned old buildings. The oldest thing there was the Kyushu University rock, which probably has some historic significance. The Itou campus is what a normal campus should look like. But then again, Itou campus is really, really far away from the normal world, so Hakozaki has its good points too. Traveling to the Itou campus has cost me two days of food. And I eat a lot.

Food, by the way, was well represented at the festival. The festival is set up by students and I think all the circles and clubs had either a stand or a lecture room in use. Clubs like the Movie Research Club showed self-made movies (which made me remember how much I love Yamazaki Masayoshi's One More Time, One More Chance), while the rakugo club and band clubs performed on small stages. And in between lots of people dressed in kigurumi trying to lure you to their stand. Sport clubs however mostly sold food at their stands. Which is always the best of Japanese festivals. Takoyaki, ham-katsu, okonomiyaki, yakisoba, hot dogs, gyouza, crepes...

Today's song: ->Pia-no-jaC<- - 「台風」 ("Taifuu" ("Typhoon"))

Monday, November 16, 2009

『ジェットコースター殺人事件』

"It is not my policy to terrify people - instead, I invite their gentle ridicule. Also I boast! An Englishman he says often, 'A fellow who thinks as much of himself as that cannot be worth much.' That is the English point of view. It is not at all true. And so, you see, I put people off their guard. Besides, it has become a habit.", Hercule Poirot, "Three Act Tragedy"

We went to the Space World amusement park Sunday in Kitakyushu, which indeed lies in the northern tip of Kyushu. Being in a group of only Chinese by the way always results in me being asked or told something in Chinese at one time or another. So I am steadily perfecting my "Was that some Japanese word I don't know or did you just talk in Chinese to me?"-face. Which also goes along quite fine with the development of my "Don't look at me, I don't understand it either. I am not Japanese, I'm a exchange student too, you know"-face.

But anyway, even though the temperature has dropped quite a bit the last few days, it was endurable, so we enjoyed our day. While the roller coasters were fun (one of which you did backwards-facing), the two most impressive looking were sadly out of order. Well, one of them has been out of order for two years due to a fatal accident, so I might not have tried that, but the Zaturn (yes, a 'z') looked like one of those roller coasters where you really regret getting on to the moment you hit the peak. But with no rain, an all you can eat lunch and the important lesson learned that you should always buy the 100 yen parka when you enter a water-attraction if the temperature is around 13 degrees Celcius, it was a fine day.

And afterwards, me and one of the Li's (yes, we have multiple Chinese Lis. As well as multiple Korean Parks) sped back to the Tenjin Central Park, where we managed to see the last 20 minutes of the Asian Beat Festa, a cosplay/doujinshi convention thingamajig, which included people in skimpy clothing who must have been freezing and karaoke performances. Arriving at the place right when a Canadian goes all out on Gatchaman no Uta was quite entertaining.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

『時の過ぎゆくままに。。。』

「あんたが自分を信じなくても俺はあんたを信じるよ」
『金田一少年の事件簿:剣持警部の殺人』

"Even if you don't believe yourself, I believe in you."

"The Case Files of Young Kindaichi: Chief Inspector Kenmochi's Murder"

Writing on detectivey-stuff is not going really well lately, mostly because I hardly read here. It at least is not a problem of not having enough material, because shelving problems are slowly appearing. I had started writing about how Japanese detectives are often like mini travel guides, as if they are not set in Tokyo or Osaka, they are often set at touristic spots all across Japan. Which was mainly inspired by a Wednesday TV drama I am watching, Meitantei Asami Mitsuhiko: Saishuushou ("Great Detective Asami Mitsuhiko: The Final Chapter") , which is about a journalist traveling all across Japan writing about touristic attractions, solving crimes and basically is an excuse to have every story set in another part of Japan. But then I realized this traveling aspect is also to be found very easily in Western (English) detectives, with the Orient Express and the Nile or just all across England, so it was not that interesting (though apparently the Asami Mitsuhiko series is quite popular here because it's so much like a travel guide with stuff on local legends).

But I digress. I don't do much reading except for homework now. Of course, I am actually required to read Edogawa Rampo stuff, as I have to hand in a book report next month for my research paper here, but even books with titles as The Era of Rampo: Ero Guro Nonsense can't help this reading-slump. Heck, even reading manga is not going as fast as it should.

Games are progressing quite good though. But while I enjoy detectives and games, they seldom work really good together. Case in point: the recently released Nintendo DS game Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo: Akuma no Satsujin Koukai ("The Case Files of Young Kindaichi: The Devil's Killer Voyage"). As releases in the Kindaichi Shounen series are not frequent anyway, I was kinda looking forward to this game, but as soon as I started up this game, I knew it would disappoint me, having played another game by the same developer. Please, developers at Tomcat, senseless clicking on every part of the map in the hopes the story progresses is not fun. Nor is diffusing bombs. Especially your bombs. Didn't you learn with Galileo DS?!

It's a problem I see often in detective games, where developers don't seem to be able to streamline the story. Either the story goes too fast, not allowing the player a chance to think or do anything at all, or the developers don't streamline the story at all and you are left clicking on everything, hoping you find the trigger for the next story event. A detective novel usually flows from one event to another, whether it being new information or the analyzing of information, but somehow, developers never seem able to really translate this to a working game system. And then you have the problem of developers wanting to make a detective game more like a game, so they insert bomb diffusing segments in the game. Which. Suck. Just because I am playing on a DS doesn't mean that you have to insert bad touchscreen gameplay.

Luckily, I had two new Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo volumes to wash away the memories of that game. They may only release two volumes of the manga a year, but it's always something to look forward too. And Pokémon HeartGold has found a great home in my Nintendo DS. After so many years enslaving poor critters is still addicting. And Butterfree, after so many years, you still are my favorite. Till I find a fishing rod to get me a Staryu. To get me a Starmie. 

Original Japanese title(s): 『金田一少年の事件簿 悪魔の殺人航海』

The Adventure of the Blunt Instrument

『信じる者の幸福』、『スパイラル~推理の絆』

"The happiness of those whose believe", "Spiral~ The Bonds of Reasoning"

A long, long time ago, at high school, I had to write a paper for Economics. Maybe it was a sign of things to come, but it was about the burst of the Japanese bubble economy. One sentence in that paper that I can't forget was the description of the Japanese as hardworking folks. Which is true, but we forgot to mention that the Japanese have a crazy amount of national holidays. Heck, there is even a law that converts normal workdays into holidays if the day before and after are also holidays.

Tuesday was Culture Day (文化の日), which meant a free day. We went to the Kyushu National Museum in Daizaifu, as there were some (free) events for international students to get in touch with Japanese culture. Or something like that. It was free at any rate. The first thing we did was the tea ceremony. Despite knowing what would happen, I once again I decided to give up the use of my feet in order to sit in proper seiza. Making it to the exit was once again troublesome. Cue the laughing tea ceremony students.

Afterwards we attended a taiko workshop. Being asked whether anyone had experience in the taiko, I resisted answering with "I am a Taiko Master-don" and the workshop started. Which was fun! Of course, the day after my arms hurt like hell, but it was worth it. To pierce the sky with your bachi (stick) and to let the earth tremble with the sound of the drums, the taiko is an awesome instrument. Afterwards we went through the museum and walked through Daizaifu a bit, which really looked like Kamakura (also because Daizaifu is home to Daizaifu Tenmanguu, a big Shinto shrine).

But the best part of the day was that I actually found a restaurant that served normal sized gyouza.