Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Tragedy of Errors


"A bookstore... most comic artists have their vacation here... whether on Earth or in space, you can travel anywhere... you can go freely anywhere.", Honoo Moyuru, "Burning Pen"

The final week of school has finally ended, so the return to the Netherlands is coming near. It has also been a busy week, but what follows now is a well-earned week of vacation.

Monday we went to see Rookies - Graduation, the no. 1 hit live action based on a baseball manga. Am not very interested in sports, but I love manga with a sport theme, which always tend to end up unbelievably epic and dramatic. Rookies was no exception. It ended up to be a very epic and dramatic sportsmovie, which I enjoyed a lot. 'Twas more leader Diana's idea to see the movie though, as she really loves Rookies and had to see the movie.

We had another excursion on Tuesday, this time to the Canon factory in Toride. It was a very interesting trip. The Toride plant mainly produces printers, but in a very surprising twist, Canon does not use a conveyer belt system, but a system with 'production cells' that consist from 1 to 5 persons working on one product. Essentially, while this system has a slow startup, it allows workers to hone their skills in all parts of the production line, resulting in super-efficient workers. The best of the best are actually given special badges to show their rank of Super Multi Meisters. Yes, that's their actual rank. Super Multi Meisters. Heck, just like an Elite Four, there is even the very special rank of All Canon Super Multi Meisters, of which there are only 8 at the moment. It's almost Pokémon-ish. We also had our lunch in the Toride plant canteen, which was pretty awesome, amongst the workers. And it was cheap too.

Friday was the last day of school and we all had a presentation in Japanese. Most of us used their Material Culture paper as the base of their presentation, I in the end opted for a short presentation about Edogawa Rampo. Which was pretty fun, as I could talk about both detective literature and the often misunderstood ero-guro-nonsense in front of several teachers of the Naganuma school (and of course the rest of the group). After the presentations, we performed our play which we made in two days and had rehearsed only once. It ended up to be a quite fun version of the story of Kaguya-hime, which everyone who followed the Classical Japanese course should know.

And then the parting with our teachers followed with of course presenting of presents. After 3 months of almost daily seeing our teachers, it was pretty strange to walk away this time without a "'till next week".

With this week, preparations for departure also begin. Which meant packing up my library here. This (actually more, as it has already grown) has to leave Japan this week. I'm wondering how I'm gonna get this to the post office.

Today's Song: Garnet Crow - 夢みたあとで (Yume mita ato de ("After seeing my dream")) (Ending theme of "Detective Conan")

Sunday, June 21, 2009


「いや、人は疑うべきだよ。多くの人は誤解しているけれど人を疑うとはつまりその人間を知ろうとする行為なんだ。『信じる』。その行為は紛れもなく高尚な事だ。。。しかしね、多くの人間が『信じる』の名の下にやってる行為は実は他人を知ることの放棄。」、秋山深一、『Liar Game』
"No, you should doubt people. Many people don't get it, but to doubt someone is actually to try to know that person. "Believing". That is certainly something admirable... But you know, what most people do under the cover of the word "believing", is giving up on getting to know other people.", Akiyama Shin'ichi, "Liar Game"

Most of the exams have already passed, with only a kanji test remaining for Monday. As our teacher don't know Dutch, we didn't have a translation text as an exam this time, which is a bit regrettable, as I enjoy translating a lot more than comprehensive reading, but the exams went quite well for everyone.

What remains now is a lingering week of feedback on the exams and preparations for a presentation in Japanese and a short drama we're supposed to perform with all of us. And it seems people from Waseda will come to see our play. Joy. I hope for a murder mystery. After that it's a week vacation before most of us leave for the Netherlands again.

Yesterday, I visited the Tokyo Tower with Els. I wanted to go after seeing Detective Conan: The Raven Chaser, of which the climax is set at the Tokyo Tower at night. Yes, I am succeptable for these kind of things. I was in Tokyo 2 years ago, but I never visited the Tower for some reason then and some time ago, the Tower closed just as we approached it, but this time everything went smooth. Except for the waiting lines of course, because we both sorta forgot it was a Saturday night. It was kinda crowded.

The night view of the Tower itself is a lot prettier than in daylight. The orange/blue lights (depending on what time it is, I guess) is a lot prettier than the red/white of the Tower. Inside the Tower we found strange mascottes, elevators with elevator music (which is something the elevators in our Mansion really need) and a nice view on Tokyo. Traveling through Tokyo mostly by train and subway, I never actually realized how big Tokyo is, but seeing it from such a viewpoint really impressed me.

There are two observatories, the standard at 150 meter, the special observatory at 250 meter and we also went up to the special one. It smelled funny there. And because there is only one elevator that goes up there, you have to wait in (a long) line to get up there and to get down. You could see so much more of Tokyo up at the special observatory, but everything had become so small by then, so maybe the view at 150 meter is better than the 250 meter one. Like in the Conan movie we stayed till closing time, but we didn't leave turbo powered skateboards in the lobby, nor did we get shot at by a helicopter. Luckily.

Today's song: 大野克夫バンド (Oono Katsuo Band) - 名探偵コナン メイン・テーマ(漆黒フルヴァージョン) (Meitantei Conan Main Theme (Shikkoku Full Version) ("Detective Conan Main Theme (Jet Black Full Version))") (Main theme of Detective Conan: The Raven Chaser)

P.S.: Dr. Koto's Clinic is an awesome series. Almost makes me want to be a doctor on a faraway Okinawan island.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Um. There is nothing left I would wish for. Because I have given up on this world. It was not a world I could live with to begin with.", Masaki, "Rampo Noir"

Friday, we (as in a group of 5) went to Waseda University, one of the most prestigious universities in Japan, to attend the Nihon Kyoushitsu ("Japan Classroom"), an meeting organized to get international students and Japanese students (as in students of the Japanese nationality. Not students of the Japanese language) together. After a Hawaiian lunch, we arrived a bit late at the Takadanobaba station, the non-fictional place where the fictional robot Astro Boy was "born", which explains why the station tune for Takadanobaba is the theme song of the Astro Boy series.

Anyway, as we were late and we had to wait for 15 minutes before the next bus would arrive, we thought it would be a good idea to walk to Waseda. Big mistake. It's quite far from Takadanobaba. After a while, Els called the contactperson for the meeting, who sent people to pick us up at a certain bus stop. Which in theory is the best idea ever, if not for the fact that we waited at the wrong bus stop. A lot of calling back and forth ensued. In the end, we did find our saviors though and we were led to the meeting. An hour late.

The meeting was kinda difficult at first, as people were talking about the different dialects in Japan (so gonna learn Kyuushuu-ben when I am there!), which are incomprehensible for Japanese too, but the second part was fun with international students from Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea talking about their countries. Arne was on a roll by giving correct answers to the numerous quizzes, like correctly naming the Indonesian rice dish with egg, meat and vegetables. Little did the Japanese know that nasi is quite popular in the Netherlands. Noteworthy was the Korean girl who actually gave us a great pansori performance, which people in Leiden who took the course 'Japanese and Korean Movies' might remember from the movie Sopyonje.

Afterwards, we walked a bit through the Waseda campus, which is awesome. That is all on Waseda. It's awesome.

On Saturday, we went out to celebrate another birthday and visited the Shinagawa Aquarium. It has been a long time since the last time I went to an aquarium and I really enjoyed it.

A collection of the wonders of the world beneath the waters, ranging from fearsome sharks to the ugliest fishes, shows with breakdancing sea lions and dolphins, it was almost a collection of freaks like in Edogawa Rampo's 'The Strange Tale of Panorama Isle'.

And in other news, horse sashimi doesn't taste that bad actually. At least it doesn't taste like chicken like all 'strange' meats.

Today's song: KOH+ - 最愛 (Saiai ("My Beloved")) (Ending theme of Suspect X)

(PS: Obscure blogpost titles made somewhat less obscure: translations and sources)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


「私はオペラ座の怪人---思いのほかに醜いだろう?この禍しき怪物は地獄の業火に焼かれながらそれでも天国に憧れる!」, 月島冬子、『金田一少年の事件簿:オペラ座館殺人事件』"I am the Phantom of the Opera. Am I not unbelievably hideous? But even while this ill-omened monster is being consumed by the inferno of hell, I still long for heaven!", Tsukishima Fuyuko, "The Case Files of Young Kindaichi: The Opera House Murder Case"

Our excursion to the Kikkoman factory in Noda in the Chiba prefecture was partly awesome, partly a slight disappointment. In contrary to the Nissan factory visit, we weren't actually allowed to walk in the factory, only through a set of hallways which looked down upon the factory. But fair is fair, there actually weren't any people in the factory anyway, most of the work was done by machines. And Oompa Loompas. Anyway, our guide and lots of videos informed us how soy sauce is made, which actually takes a lot more time than I would have thought. About a year. And we were of course brainwashed into Kikkoman soy sauce zombies.

There was also a food research library at Kikkoman HQ, which for some sinister reason included a book on demons and witchcraft. Let me repeat that. A Book On Demons And Witchcraft. It does make you wonder about that black sauce you use every day. The city of Noda is a dead, dead, dead place by the way. And it smells. Like soy sauce. Might be connected to the demons and witchcraft and the success of Kikkoman.

We did get a nice bentou there though. The right-down corner? That's no Peking Duck, unfortunately. Looks deceive. I really wanted it to be duck. But like so many things, it was not meant to.

Talking about food, which is an activity I seem to do a lot, especially here, today we went to eat the legendary Jumbo Gyouza Yanigazawa-san mentioned once. I have to say, there were a lot bigger than regular gyouza.

One portion consisted of eight of these gyouza and a bowl of rice, which made a satisfying lunch. Heck, it made a very satisfying first filling of the day of the stomach, as I don't actually eat breakfast. Anyway, even with jumbo gyouza out of the way, Benjamin 2号 and me still have a long list of things we still need to eat before we leave Japan. Shabushabu, crab, Korean barbeque, shark, yakiniku, frog, sukiyaki, soumen....

Today's song: 福山雅治 (Fukuyama Masaharu) - VS. ~知覚と快楽の螺旋~ (Guitar × Piano Ver.)
(VS. ~Chikaku to kairaku no rasen~ (Guitar × Piano Ver.) ("VS. ~Helix of Perception and Pleasure~ (Guitar × Piano Ver.)") (insert song in Galileo)

Monday, June 8, 2009

"The only time a lawyer can cry is when it's all over."

"The 'miracle' never happened. Maybe it was never meant to. Because a 'miracle' is something that doesn't exist.", Phoenix Wright, "Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney - Justice for All"

On Sunday we visited a furoshiki shop, as our Naganuma teachers had arranged for us to attend a workshop. The furoshiki ("bath spreader") is a piece of cloth that is used to wrap stuff. And with stuff I mean pretty much everything. It used to be quite popular in Japan as people used the furoshiki as shopping bags in older times, but with the advent of plastic shopping bags, it got into dis-use. Lately, furoshiki are getting more popular again as a eco-friendly shopping bag.

At the workshop, we were taught techniques to wrap rectangular things, bottles, how to make a tissue box holder with the furoshiki, how to make shopping bags etcetera. It was pretty fun, but I am quite bad with knots (exhibit a: my shoelaces always keep getting untangled), so my wrappings were not exactly looking the way they should've, I think. Did get me one though, so I'll have plenty of opportunity to wrap things. Like my books. Gathering way to much dust lately.

Material Culture's final exam is this Thursday. As I appearently walked into a sidetrack pretty much at the beginning of my research, I failed my paper, but I had spare credits to begin with as I followed too much courses last semester, so I'll still end up with the required 60 credits for this year, as long as I pass Thursdays exam. Really wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff, but it almost seems planned. I guess I do have some Light-ish characteristics going on with the superplanning.

Tomorrow, we'll be visiting Kikkoman (of the soy sauce). The trip was actually canceled at first due to the H1N1 influenza, but because of reasons incomprehensible to me (as the flu is still active here), it was now deemed safe for the big bunch of foreigners to come now. I expect a kinda smelly factory. And I hope, nay, pray for food tastings with Kikkoman soy sauce.

Today's song: 中島みゆき (Nakashima Miyuki) - 銀の龍の背に乗って (Gin no ryuu no se ni notte ("Ride on the back of a silver dragon")) (theme song of Dr. Koto's Clinic)

Saturday, June 6, 2009


「えー、缶ジュースの自動販売機、どうしても欲しいものが2つ有ったとします。ホットコーヒーと烏 龍茶。どっちを飲もうかって迷ってしまう時って有りますよね。そういう時はですねこうやって2つの ボタンを同時に押す。するとですね、無意識のうちに本当に欲しい方のボタンを先に押してしまうって 言うんですが、あー、まあ御試しください。えー、二者択一と言えば・・・。」
『古畑任三郎: 赤か、青か』

"Uuhm, pretend you are near a vending machine and there are two things you want. Hot coffee or Oolong tea. There are times when you are in doubt about what to drink, right? At such a time, press the two buttons like this simultaneously
. They say that by doing this you'll push the button of what you want the most unconciously first, but uhm, please try it out. Talking about choosing between two alternatives..."
"Furuhata Ninzaburou: Red or blue?"

Gyakuten Kenji
was awesome. Should have spread the playtime a little bit perhaps. But in other news, little to report. I remember cakes that were no lie, more karaoke, delicious chirashi zushi (but for the real fish-y deal, nigirizushi is still the best), and safely leaving the barber without other hair colors, perms, extensions and that kind of stuff. I was content.

But as I kinda lost the motivation to learn for my exam next week at the moment, I'll randomly talk about Japanese detective literature. Well, to be precise, the more interesting stuff I've read till now. Most of this is just a self-note, as I'll be using this literature somehow when I'll study in Fukuoka later this year and have to write about Japanese detectives. Once again, caveat lector.

1) Miyanaga Akihiko (editor). 2008. Bokutachi no suki na Kindaichi Kousuke ("The Kindaichi Kousuke we love"). Tokyo: Takarajimasha.

Neither magazine nor book, it is the wonderful mook. I didn't invent that word. Anyway, this mook is a guide on the famous fictional detective Kindaichi Kousuke. Dressed in a shabby kimono, a little hat on his head, a scratching hand beneath that hat, Kindaichi is the symbol for Japanese detectives. Japanese detectives are abroad known for the horror influences (fountains of blood, a myriad of mutilations of the body), strange motives/themes in the stories and the Kindaichi stories are the origin of all this (together with Edogawa Rampo's works). Got similar mooks on works of Edogawa Rampo and Higashino Keigo too.

I recommend the 1976 hit movie Inugamike no Ichizoku ("The Inugami Family"), probably the most famous of all Kindaichi Kousuke stories which set the standard for all following Japanese detectives. Great movie (I love the ending song, "Ballad of Love") and it made an excellent subject for the final paper for the Japanese movies course at Leiden.

2) Arisugawa, Alice;
Yasui, Toshio. 2008. Misshitsu Nyuumon! - A Guide to Sealed-Room Cases!. Tokyo: Media Factory.

A very geeky and interesting book by famous detective writer Arisugawa Arisu and an architect. The book is written like a dialogue between the two, in which they discuss the variaties of locked room mysteries, which reminds me very much of Carr's fantastic chapter on locked room mysteries ("The Locked Room Lecture") in the evenly fantastic The Hollow Man. Afterwards, the two actually discuss how to construct locked rooms from an architects view. You'd almost think they're really planning a murder.

I actually once tried to construct my own locked room in my room here in Japan. Being in such a small room just begs for it. But it's difficult. Being on the ninth floor kinda eliminates a clean escape through the window (unless I climb into the room of my neighbour). I'll probably need more strings. And rubber bands.

3) Setagaya Trick Kenkyuukai. 1995. Kindaichi Shounen no Suiri Miss ("The Deductions Misses of Young Kindaichi"). Tokyo: Data House.

This is even geekier, as this is a book that a) looks for mistakes made in the stories of the detective comic book series Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo ("The Case Files of Young Kindaichi") and b) actually tries to find solutions / explanations for those mistakes. I like my detectives, but not to that extent. There are also similarly named books for the Detective Conan series. Detectives, even comics, are very serious business here.

It also kinda reminds me of Nikaidou Reito's "'Honjin Satsujin Jiken' no Satsujin" ("The Murder of 'The Murder in the Mansion'), where someone discovers a flaw in the first story of Kindaichi Kousuke and uses it to commit another murder. Yes, modern writers of classic detectives are often amongst the biggest fans of classic detectives.

I still have a lot (a lot!) of books here with real criticism on detectives, lots of the Japanese detective classics (c.f. with "our" The Murder on Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express etc.) and semi interesting books. Still too much to read here. Kinda worrying about what to send back home, as I'll probably need a lot of these books in Fukuoka again, so to send back books from Japan to the Netherlands to take back in Japan is kinda inefficient. I could leave them here, but then I'll not be able to read them during the summer....

"Talking about choosing between two alternatives..."