Friday, December 31, 2010

Show Me Japan Vol.1 Issue 7

Happy New Year!!! 新年明けましておめでとう!!!

Welcome to the 7th edition of Show Me Japan. 第七回 Show Me Japan へようこそ。

You can see previous editions here. 前回の”Show Me Japan” エントリーはここです。

FAQ page in English and Japanese is here. 英語と日本語のFAQはここにありますので、初めて参加される方は目を通して頂けると幸いです。

Below is a random selection of photos from last week’s participants. 前回の参加者中からランダムに選んだ写真を以下に紹介します。

The widget to enter your links is at the end of this post – below the photos. ”Show Me Japan”にエントリーする際のリンクを貼るウィジェットはこの記事の一番下にあります。

To visit Jay Dee's in Japan blog, click on the photo above.


To check out Kristi's fabulous blog, click on the sea of flags above.


To see Yousuke's blog, click on the image above.


To say "hello" to Lina and her Japan mad family, click on the image above. 


Muza-chan is a legend in the J-blogging community. Click on the photo to visit her excellent blog.


If you participate in Show Me Japan, please be so kind and include a link back to this blog in your post. エントリーしたポスト中で “Show Me Japan”のリンクを貼り忘れてないか確かめて頂けると幸いです。バッジに “Show Me Japan”のリンクを加えて頂ければ至極幸いここ極まれりです。


Thank you for participating and have a wonderful weekend.
それでは参加者の皆さん、よい週末を。




And now it's your turn!!!


Show Me Japan Participants

1. YOUSUKE
2. Oko
3. David
4. DekoBoko
5. David LaSpina/JapanDave
6. Laura (tokyololas)
7. Yuri
8. Rubine
9. Mullenkedheim
10. Muza-chan
11. snowwhite
12. lina
13. Bad Communication
14. Yoshi, Japan
15. Tochigi Daily Photo
16. Jay Dee in Japan
17. Ichigoichielove
18. Andrew in Osaka

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fountains of Kuala Lumpur

I like fountains. Not that I would ever stick my feet in one, or anything (there goes my fear of standing and recycled water again), but it's fun to watch other people do it. And when a kid slips while walking on the edge and falls into the water head first, heck that's even more fun. Free entertainment at its finest.

But where were we? Ah yes, fountains... I've always liked them, but until recently they were nothing more than artistic or ornamental architectural details to me. Pretty to look at but otherwise as useless as two tits on a bull.

Yesterday, however, when I was strolling around the Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur, I finally had my very own private fountain epiphany. Hey, better late than never, right?

Even though it wasn't sunny, it was still quite hot.

While I sat there wiping the sweat off my brow (walking around is hard work after all) and listening to the gurgling water, I began to feel noticeably cooler. Just the crisp, clear sound of it was enough to bring the temperature down a couple degrees, at least in my mind.

No wonder there are so many fountains all over Kuala Lumpur. Just having them around makes the place feel fresher and cooler. And I guess subconsciously I've known it all along for a long time.



The fact that I've been walking around KL taking photos of random fountains only seems to confirm it.

Yes, it does look like I have a new obsession. Oh well, better fountains than pantless people or goat sex, or something...


And they are indeed everywhere... I mean fountains, not pantless people.


And so what that some of them (like the one below) didn't spit any water? A fountain is a fountain is a fountain... as a very wise man said a long time ago.


See? It feels cooler already!

This is my Watery Wednesday entry.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mosque on xmas day

So, you're in Malaysia, it's Christmas, and you have absolutely no clue how to celebrate it. You think and think, and you decide you'd really like to go to the beach. But you're in Kuala Lumpur. So you do the second best thing after going to the beach. You visit a mosque.

I mean, why not? Malaysia is a predominantly muslim country after all. It's easier to find a mosque than a church here.

But since you're in Kuala Lumpur, you might as well go to one of the grandest mosques out there - Masjid Negara - the national mosque of Malaysia.

And as it happens, that was exactly what I did.

I put on my culturally sensitive clothing (long skirt, long sleeved shirt, black socks), my friend Lina provided a headscarf and off to the mosque we went.

Here it is as seen through a bazooka lens from the Menara KL Tower.


The structure was designed by two Malaysian architects and one Brit in 1965. And yes, the roof looks like a blue umbrella. It wasn't always blue, though. Once upon a time it used to be pink.

The structure is quite big. it can fit 15 thousand people, though the guy inside claimed more like 22 thousand. Either way, that's a lot of people. And I just hope people with clean feet. 

I didn't mind taking off my shoes, after living in Japan, I'm used to it. The tiled floor was pleasantly cool. If it was me, I'd go there to pray just to escape the heat. 



Tourists are welcome to visit outside of prayer times. But yes, you do have to dress appropriately: cover your arms, legs and head for women, and long pants for men. If you're wearing what most tourists are, still, no worries, there are rental coverings at the entrance. 

Once inside I could take photos freely and nobody bothered me. The only place I couldn't enter was the prayer room.


That was fine by me. I didn't go there to pray. But I do have to admit that this place had its own kind of hypnotic magic. And almost immediately after leaving, I found myself pondering going there again.


So yes, I can officially say I went to a mosque on Christmas day. How's that for speshul, huh?


Adding to the collection box


And the views from the windows were spectacular too:

The "space needle" tower is of course the famous Menara KL.




And that was on Christmas day. On the following day (Boxing Day, December 26th, whatever you want to call it) I went to a Hindu temple.

Ahhh... Malaysia.... There's something there for everyone.



This is also my entry to the absolutely fantastic Show Your World meme.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Show Me Japan Vol.1 Issue 6

Welcome to the sixth edition of Show Me Japan. 第六回 Show Me Japan へようこそ。

You can see previous editions here. 前回の”Show Me Japan” エントリーはここです。

FAQ page in English and Japanese is here. 英語と日本語のFAQはここにありますので、初めて参加される方は目を通して頂けると幸いです。

Below is a random selection of photos from last week’s participants. 前回の参加者中からランダムに選んだ写真を以下に紹介します。

The widget to enter your links is at the end of this post – below the photos. ”Show Me Japan”にエントリーする際のリンクを貼るウィジェットはこの記事の一番下にあります。

 Andrew from Osaka - to visit his blog, click on the photo.


Sakurajima erupting on Ichigoichielove's blog - to visit click on the volcano.


Probably the awesomestest English school in all of Japan - to say hello to the guy who runs it - Chris, sit in the Santa's chair.


Nobu from Tokyo Snaps, to see more of his photos, click on the image above.


And that's from the next town over, so practically from our next door neighbor. To say "hi" to Mullenkedheim, click on the photo.



If you participate in Show Me Japan, please be so kind and include a link back to this blog in your post. エントリーしたポスト中で “Show Me Japan”のリンクを貼り忘れてないか確かめて頂けると幸いです。バッジに “Show Me Japan”のリンクを加えて頂ければ至極幸いここ極まれりです。


Thank you for participating and have a wonderful weekend.
それでは参加者の皆さん、よい週末を。



And because I'm lounging in Malaysia this weekend (yay me!), this issue of Show Me Japan is managed by Dr Trouble, who's left behind in Japan. He's terrified and doesn't know what to do. So please cheer him up and leave a comment. He needs all the help he can get.

Happy Holidays!
1. Ichigoichielove
2. yousuke
3. sixmats
4. Kristi
5. DekoBoko
6. David LaSpina/JapanDave
7. Yoshi, Japan
8. kirsten
9. Vincent Dabosville
10. Anzu, Japan
11. Hawaiibadboy
12. Tochigi Daily Photo
13. Bad Communication
14. bartman
15. Fernando Ramos
16. Mullenkedheim
17. Jay Dee in Japan
18. Oko
19. Muza-chan
20. lina
21. Laura

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Otariya festival where Utsunomiyans express gratitude for their well-being

Because Ms Trouble is not here, I'm hijacking this blog. So get ready for yet another incomprehensible religious post.
Bwahahahaha!
Hugs and Kisses,
Dr Trouble



Otariya festival in December

On December 15, our local shrine, Futaarayama in Utsunomiya, performs a ritual ceremony. It is called “Otariya (おたりや/オタリヤ) and takes place twice a year. I, as a certified matsuri and Shinto otaku, (of course) had to go there. On January 15, 2010, we were there (of course) and you can take a look at our old post here.

Before going into detail about this festival, I just want to describe my thoughts and give a few insights into our love of matsuri, since I believe it’s indispensable.

Size does matter

In the past, shrines and temples, in other words, priests and monks, used to have a great influence on the society of Japan, with political decisions included. So, pretty much like in other place in the world during ancient times. These two religious (= political) powers had an almost unlimited budget, which was explained by the facts that the biggest and the tallest buildings starting in ancient times all through the Middle Ages were all shrines and temples, for instance, To-daiji temple Daibutsuden Hall (東大寺大仏殿), where Daibutu is sitting, is 49.1m tall. The original To-daiji temple complex had two pagodas that were 100m tall!!!

 To-daiji Daibutsuden Hall (57.5m x 50.5m x 49.1m/Width x Depth x Height).


OK, To-daiji is Buddhist. What about a Shinto example? According to the textbook called Kuchizusami/kuyuu (口遊), filed during the Heian Period (平安時代) by Tamenori Minamoto (源為憲) in A.D. 970, Izumo Taisya Main Hall (出雲大社本殿) was 48m tall in Ancient Ages. In the Early phase of Ancient Ages, it was even taller, 96m!!!

 Schematic representing the Izumo Taisha shrine complex. The Main Hall is located in the center.

The Main Hall of Izumo was even bigger than the Taigokuden Hall of Kyoto Court in Heian Period (平安京大極殿), according to Kuchizusami (口遊). This was where the ritual ceremonies organized by the government in power were held.

 Cartoon representing the Kyoto Court complex in Heian Period. image wiki


In ancient Japan, the religious powers had surpassed the Kyoto Court!

Gott ist tot

Let’s bring the topic back to what is happening in our times. Now the Government is prohibited to have a flavor of particular religion. All the tallest buildings are either owned by the Government or wealthy enterprises. Or a tall Radio Tower that is currently under construction. The great majority of current Japanese has lost their faith in religion. The government charges them numerous taxes so the amount of tax is a lot greater than that of donations to the religious organizations, whereas opportunities for present-day citizens to practice a religion and donate money to a shrine or temple are a lot less plentiful than they were in the past. The glorious day of Religion has gone…

Shinto is said to have 8 million of deities. Although I haven’t counted the exact number of Shinto deities (though I’m trying, trust me), I understand that the number “8 million” signifies “plenty or numerous” – Polytheism (多神教), so to say. Most of Shinto gods are ancient Emperors, relatives of the Royal family, and their counterforce. Many of them are real historical figures. Yes, Shinto Gods are all dead, of course.

Then what is left in religion? Redeeming the prestige of Ichinomiya Shrine in Utsunomiya

I think most of you guys agree with Nietzsche's view that; recent developments in modern science and the increasing secularization of European society had effectively 'killed' the Christian God, who had served as the basis for meaning and value in the West for more than a thousand years.

He also adds;
Nietzsche claimed the death of God would eventually lead to the loss of any universal perspective on things, and along with it any coherent sense of objective truth[Lampert, Nietzsche's Teaching, 17–18; Heidegger, "The Word of Nietzsche."]. Instead we would retain only our own multiple, diverse, and fluid perspectives. This view has acquired the name “perspectivism” Alternatively, the death of God may lead beyond bare perspectivism to outright nihilism, the belief that nothing has any inherent importance and that life lacks purpose. (From Wikipedia- Friedrich Nietzsche).
And that applies to Japanese society that two religious powers are struggling to maintain or not to lose their prestige and influence on the society. Matsuri is the opportunity to reproduce the meaning and value that used to be valid eons ago. However, currently matsuri are also under a strong influence of secularization and becoming like the Olympic Games. The significance of matsuri, the meaning of norito (祝詞) and manners of ceremony are now described as a “bugs” and therefore lost in translation in many cases.

What the two religious giants are doing now is to organize traditional and ritual ceremonies as often as possible and remind us of the incidents described in Japanese myths, or at least - in local accounts. Unless they provide us with a new and attractive paradigm, which I don’t think they can, they got to keep organizing routine ritual ceremonies. But still, it’s a lot better than quitting and creating a gap between Japanese myths and our future. That’s why we go to matsuri and eyewitness everlasting traditional ceremonies.

Continues to part 2

Monday, December 20, 2010

Non-traditional Christmas dinner

Last Saturday the family decided to have an early Christmas dinner. Since I won't be around for xmas proper, and since they don't celebrate this particular occasion anyway, it didn't really matter whether we'd have it on December 18th or 25th, or perhaps on the fourth of July. It's all the same to them. And frankly, to me, too.

So, why do they even bother with it at all? Partly, because it's one of those rare times when the whole clan gets together and behaves in a more or less civilized manner while enjoying yummy food, and partly because, I strongly suspect, they want to please me. That's the reason why this year the xmas dinner was held early - just for me, so I could be present. Sometimes I suspect it comes from their misguided belief that all foreigners celebrate xmas. I mean, they do in the movies, so it must be true, right?

So while the family does get this dinner bit right, the struggle as to what should be consumed during this momentous occasion is ongoing.

Last year it was pizza and the traditional (well, traditional in Japan) KFC and xmas cake.

This year it was sushi and the traditional (well, traditional in Tochigi) shimotsukare. And instead of my beloved xmas cake (which I greatly missed, btw) we had baked custard apples and some vile sweet bean and chestnut baked thingie.

 Our xmas spread this year. Doesn't look half bad, does it?

Sadly, I wasn't in the mood for sushi. I was in the mood for KFC. The inlaws were forced to make a pit stop at the local KFC so both Troubles (yes, Dr joined me in my pleas) could be supplied with their fried chicken of choice.

And while I did partake of raw fish and rice, I passed on the cat's vomit. Mother in law said it was delicious, but honestly, when was the last time you trusted what you mother in law said?

Tochigi cuisine at its finest - shimotsukare, aka neko no gero (猫のゲロ).


I wrote about this culinary wonder here.

In addition to cat's puke, we also had shrimp head soup (and no, I don't eat shrimp either) and something that resembled more puke, albeit a bit more refined - stewed chrysanthemum.

 Eye contact!

And the royal family flower for your dining pleasure.

So that was xmas dinner 2010 in Japan.

And because I demanded a cake, this is what we got us on Sunday. It was delicious.



I've been told that the Christmas Eve supper awaiting me in Malaysia will be a lot more traditional.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Show Me Japan Vol.1 Issue 5

Welcome to the fifth edition of Show Me Japan. 第五回 Show Me Japan へようこそ。

You can see previous editions here. 前回の”Show Me Japan” エントリーはここです。

FAQ page in English and Japanese is here. 英語と日本語のFAQはここにありますので、初めて参加される方は目を通して頂けると幸いです。

Below is a random selection of photos from last week’s participants. 前回の参加者中からランダムに選んだ写真を以下に紹介します。

The widget to enter your links is at the end of this post – below the photos. ”Show Me Japan”にエントリーする際のリンクを貼るウィジェットはこの記事の一番下にあります。

 To visit French David's blog, please click on the photo.


Floating Camera Tokyo is a fabulous photo blog, click on the image above to be magically transported there.


 If you're curious about what else can be found in Kirsten's fridge, click on the photo and visit her blog.


 The other David in today's random lineup is an HDR fanatic, to check out his blog, click on the girl.


This is from sixmats Here is Japan - coming to you from Sendai. Click on the photo to learn more.



If you participate in Show Me Japan, please be so kind and include a link back to this blog in your post. エントリーしたポスト中で “Show Me Japan”のリンクを貼り忘れてないか確かめて頂けると幸いです。バッジに “Show Me Japan”のリンクを加えて頂ければ至極幸いここ極まれりです。


Thank you for participating and have a wonderful weekend.
それでは参加者の皆さん、よい週末を。




Show Me Japan Participants

1. Jay Dee in Japan
2. Ichigoichielove
3. YOUSUKE
4. Loco
5. LifeyouTV
6. DekoBoko
7. David LaSpina/JapanDave
8. Andrew
9. sixmats
10. Oko
11. Yoshi, Japan
12. Tochigi Daily Photo
13. Bad Communication
14. Muza-chan
15. kirsten
16. Mullenkedheim
17. David
18. Hawaiibadboy
19. Nobu (Tokyo snap)
20. lina
21. Haikugirl
22. bartman
23. kirsten
24. Surviving in Japan

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I have a cold

I have a vicious cold, and that fact makes me totally and utterly miserable. Well, I'm totally and utterly miserable most of the time, so that's no news. But now, if that's at all possible, I am worse than ever.

Why? Next Wednesday I am going to Malaysia for a week, and it's so not fun to be sick on vacation.
But in the meantime, my cold and I are still at home in Japan, still fighting each other.

I've been taking this wonderful cold and flu medicine, possibly made in Latvia. Or maybe Lithuania. Whatever. Not sure what this stuff is, the only ingredient that I could readily identify was paracetamol (aka acetominophen, aka Tylenol), which I suppose is legal in Japan, right? I'm not even going to attempt a wild guess as to what the other ingredients might be, but whatever they are, they work. And boy, do they ever!

20 minutes after taking a single dose, I feel no pain. In fact, I feel nothing at all. In fact, I am knocked out cold. I wake up 9 hours later feeling vaguely odd and disconnected, but otherwise pain free.

I am not entirely sure how this wonder drug fell into my hands. As far as I remember, and after taking this medicine you don't really remember all that much, it was one of those bizarre penpal exchanges. The kind where you send someone a stick of lip gloss, a fridge magnet and some manga postcards and in return ask very vaguely for "cold medicine that works", or "pierogi seasoning" or a "flex grip potato peeler". And then you sit back and wait to see what comes in the mail.

And what came was the cold medicine, a quasi-pornographic ad for nude Baltic dancing girls along with a baby Jesus postcard. (Uhu, I wonder what kind of google searches this post will bring, this shall be interesting).

So now, if you excuse me, I will administer myself another dose (of the medicine, not of baby Jesus or  nude Baltic girls), while you can look at some Otariya photos. Mister was kind enough to schlep downtown today to take some pictures.

Sake, mochi and vegetables - a balanced meal for the gods.


Lanterns ready for the procession.


And you can't have a festival, no matter how small, without a mikoshi procession.


The next thud you hear is me falling down. See you in about 9 hours.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tokyo rant

Last Sunday the Troubles had to make a short trip to Tokyo and as always were found procrastinating to the very last minute.

First, there was this house business to take care of, with bamboo stalks, offerings of salt, dried fish flakes, fruit and veggies, a whole frozen fish, and of course - sake.

Then yours truly thought it would be a grand idea to go to Toys R Us to buy some xmas cards. Ha! Toys R Us! At 10AM on a Sunday morning! 2 weeks before xmas! Yes, clearly an emergency brain scan is in order here.

After that ordeal, a total decontamination was necessary, and by the time we were all set and ready to leave for Tokyo it was already around 2PM.

That meant all our plans to go to Roppongi and see the views from that building went nowhere. Instead we found ourselves in Matsuya in Asakusa eating vile, but cheap food. The rice was awful, but then again what can you expect from a 540 yen meal set? Though in my defense, Matsuya in Utsunomiya is not THAT awful. Cheap, and perfectly edible. Mister grumbled something about rice being much better in the countryside, and I annoyed the workers by drinking my own beverages purchased elsewhere.

By the way, this Starbucks Chocolate Eclair coffee is delicious. Doesn't taste anything like an eclair, but then again, it all depends on what kind of eclairs you like, I suppose.


Then came Shibuya, where at Tokyu department store I had a nervous breakdown and demanded to leave this horrid city ASAP.

It's no secret that I don't like Tokyo. And every time I visit this city, I only dislike it more and more. Why? The people. Sorry, if any of you native Tokyoites are reading this, but 99% of you are mindless sheeple, who when faced with an obstacle on the sidewalk, just stop and with that "deer in the headlights" look on your face just stand there. Yes, I know, if the situation is not covered in your officially approved handbook, you're just going to stand there until kingdom come or someone else makes the decision to walk around you. Or, if I'm the obstacle - punch you in the face.

And yes, I do realize I just insulted about 12 million people, give or take a few hundred thousand. Feel free to return the favor, I can take it.

Yet in many ways, I am always amazed when I visit Tokyo. The city is so diverse, international and cosmopolitan it makes my provincial head spin. There are foreigners on every corner and in every subway car (and I'm not talking about Asakusa here). A multitude of foreign languages can be heard on the streets (and not only in Asakusa). And even the native sheeple seem to be able to express themselves in English (though maybe only in Asakusa).

Ah, Tokyo... I hope I won't have to visit there again until at least May.

And because I was so busy hating the place, I didn't have time to take any pictures. So this is the only thing you get today:

Taken from the train (Tobu line approaching Asakusa, I think).




Friday, December 10, 2010

Show Me Japan Vol.1 Issue 4

Welcome to the fourth edition of Show Me Japan. 第四回 Show Me Japan へようこそ。

You can see previous editions here. 前回の”Show Me Japan” エントリーはここです。

FAQ page in English and Japanese is here. 英語と日本語のFAQはここにありますので、初めて参加される方は目を通して頂けると幸いです。

Below is a random selection of photos from last week’s participants. 前回の参加者中からランダムに選んだ写真を以下に紹介します。

The widget to enter your links is at the end of this post – below the photos. ”Show Me Japan”にエントリーする際のリンクを貼るウィジェットはこの記事の一番下にあります。

If you participate in Show Me Japan, please be so kind and include a link back to this blog in your post. エントリーしたポスト中で “Show Me Japan”のリンクを貼り忘れてないか確かめて頂けると幸いです。バッジに “Show Me Japan”のリンクを加えて頂ければ至極幸いここ極まれりです。


To visit Anzu's blog, click on the photo.


To admire more of Vincent's magnificent photos, poke the sumo guys in the image above.


To visit Exotic Japan, click on Hello Kitty.


Click on the photo to visit this and other beautiful castles over at Japan Castle Explorer.


To check out LifeYouTV videoblog, punch the dragon in the nose.



Thank you for participating and have a wonderful weekend. それでは参加者の皆さん、よい週末を。



Show Me Japan Participants

1. Yoshi, Japan
2. Ichigoichielove
3. sixmats
4. David
5. DekoBoko
6. David LaSpina / JapanDave
7. Edyta
8. YOUSUKE
9. Nobu (Tokyo snap)
10. Oko
11. Nobu (Funabashi Daily)
12. Hawaiibadboy
13. Bad Communication
14. LifeyouTV
15. Tochigi Daily Photo
16. Muza-chan
17. bartman
18. kyushudan
19. kirsten
20. Floating Camera
21. Mullenkedheim
22. Jay Dee in Japan
23. Exotic Japan
24. goodandbadjapan
25. Laura (tokyololas)
26. Loco
27. Haikugirl
28. Tina.Ivano