Thursday, July 19, 2007

July 19, 2007 Uneventful days at work

Gooooooooood mooooooooorning, Vietnaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam!
I just woke up after 10 hours of intense sleeping! How wonderful! "Bed" is definitely one of my favorite spots in the world *smirk*

But although I woke up at 6 am, it was about 28 degrees outside! By now, the clouds are all gone and we are having blazing sunshine - so I am trying hard not to burn. It's still a little bit humid, but for the most part just nice to be outside. Can't wait until the hanabi-season starts, then every little village will have their own firework party at the local river! (hanabi = fire flower)

Speaking of language - today I learned a new word! Well, that in itself isn't all that big news, I constantly pick up new words and generally impress everyone when I write one kanji... but I still CANNOT speak! Not even teeny tiny phrases... well, ok, teeny tiny phrases I can say. So nevermind.

But today I learned that there is a Japanese word (yappari!) that literally means "I thought about it for a while and came to the conclusion that..." - how cool is that?!

July 18, 2007 Chef talk

This morning I came to the office early again to do some private stuff and was promptly summoned by Amling-san to come to his office. It turned out that today would be the last day of seeing him, tomorrow he will fly to Leverkusen, Germany, to do some projects for about 4 weeks and won't be back until I'm gone.

He asked me for a general feedback on what I've been doing so far, impressions, criticism - we had quite an interesting conversation. He gave me the advice to focus on my communicational skills (well, I guess I didn't make too much of an impression on him with not knowing where I will want to work in the future).

And he also offered that, should I ever consider to work for Bayer, I should contact him and he would see what he can do for me!! Brilliant :o)
I'm very impressed by all the Bayer managers I have met so far - almost all of them were very easy-going, easy to talk to, humorous people - a bunch that I wouldn't mind working together with, I guess ;o)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

July 16, 2007 Strange days come unexpected

Funny how days can turn out when they start somewhat awkward!

I threw overboard my plans to go to Kyoto when my train stopped in Amagasaki and just wouldn't move any further. Neither did any of the other trains. Only later did I find out that there had been a heavy earthquake in the North of Japan. and looking back, I think I even noticed it, only that I thought that people were stepping onto the train rather violently...

So here I am, for two hours stuck in Amagasaki, where I spend every day of the week anyways... But at least I found out that there is a movie theatre in the area! Although it's probably a lot easier to just go to Osaka or Kobe. Which I then did :o)

There'd be loads of things to tell that happened in between, from crowded malls, more and more shopping horrors (it seems that shopping in Osaka really isn't my thing...), from losing the orientation yet again, from toilets that have a loudspeaker system installed that will play the sound of flowing water (I guess to keep people from flushing just to be able to pee.........), from All-in-One wash basins that have one sensor for shooting out foam, one for water, and another one for blow-drying your hands! I could tell from in-door shopping arcades in Shinsaibashi and Namba (both parts of Osaka) that, in spite of having a roof, seem to let the rain inside because of the high ventilation they have there (da hat so ein Durchzug geherrscht, dass man auch gute 20 Meter vom Eingang entfernt noch gut Regen mitbekommen hat!). Or I could tell from eating in a small shop where you pay an automat to give you a ticket, where everything seems automated, but where, with a single word and a smile, you can make the lady there very happy :o)

But I won't tell you any of that because there are way more important things to tell - for example how to go to the movies in Japan!
First, you take the highspeed elevator that takes you non-stop to the 8th floor. You enter the newly-built complex, smell the air of something familiar that is not popcorn - and find out that it's churros!! (For those who haven't been to Spain, churros are longish dough-sausages that are usually dipped into chocolate or sprinkled with sugar - as can be seen here:)

After passing the theatre's souvenir shop, you focus on the wild mix of people, mostly small tiny women in high heels with very pearly clothes, the rest of the younger generation usually made up of guys with hats or wildly styled hair, and cowboy boots. A nice example for being different crossed my way, a young woman in sneakers, rocky clothes, wild hair, and churros and a beer. She was making a point of being cool. I had to smile a tiny bit when she was entering the same cinema as I was, showing Harry Potter IV :o)

Before starting the movie, a comic came on to teach the visitors how to use the movie theatre - emergency exits to your left and your right, toilets outside and straight ahead, movie night on Tuesdays (hilariously, movie nights (= cheaper tickets) are only cheaper for women! Men only have one night a month where they can see a cheaper movie - that's what I call modern discrimination ;o)). So far, the whole thing seemed to be like boarding a flight, I was actually waiting for flight attendants to come on stage... Then it got even more bizarre when a comic character appeared on screen that looked a lot like Bruno Ganz in "Der Untergang" (portraying Hitler), and telling another visitor the usual stuff like "no filming, no shouting, no phones", but curiously they made a strong point of "no kicking" as well... Would be interesting to see what regular Japanese people behave like in a movie theatre...

This is Bruno Ganz, by the way:

And finally, the MOVIE!! That was exactly what I needed, a great movie, at the perfect distance from the screen, with just the right level of volume and all the emotional range a good movie needs :o) Wonderful! Even better that during one of the action scenes with dramatic wand-whirling and bass-thundering the whole cinema (remember, we are on 8th floor!) started shaking - because of a second earthquake :o) I think, today I was more than compensated for the rather flaky typhoon *grin*

To end another wonderful day, Simon called and invited me to go to sing karaoke!!! REAL karaoke!! Just the two of us, in a small room (2x2meters at best), with two microphones, a giant song book and unlimited volume to crank it up :o) The two of us had a very hard time speaking on leaving the bar - after screaming at the top of our lungs to "Un-break my heart", "The heart will go on", "Rock me Amadeus", "I need a Hero" :o) Loads and loads and LOADS of fun, I tell ya!

If I can get this video to work, take a look :o)
VIDEO (coming soon, I hope...)
So absolutely no reason to complain about having missed the festival in Kyoto - I doubt that it could have been more fun than this!

July 15, 2007 After the Typhoon

Hm, this whole big news coverage about the typhoon got me all excited that we would actually get a real storm! Watching the images on television gave me an impression of Armageddon - and all we got was a little rain and a slight breeze... Ok, I shouldn't be wishing for a real typhoon experience, but some of the "regular" storms around here have been more dramatic than this...

This is what I woke up to the day after!

Other than that, I went shopping and found the third 100-Yen shop in three days! 100-Yen (about 60 cent) shops are like dollar-stores or euro-shops, only WAY more sophisticated - you can buy ANYTHING in there, from swiss army knives to flower deco to foot spray to nose-hair-removers! And I thought things would just be cheap, but they actually only cost 100 Yen! I was quite amazed!

Oh, and I did find this goodie - Jeans in Boyfriend-style!

Then I also found out more about ways to contact me - which of course is an invitation to all of you to call or text me :o)
Thanks to my mom, I have everything tested now and ready for use:

To actually reach me on my mobile from outside of Japan, call: 0081-80-344-28719 (remember that I am 7-8 hours (Europe) and 12 hours (Michigan) ahead of you!
This is just for calls - in Japan, cell phones work differently - every phone has a number and an email address. The number is for calling, the email for receiving messages. So in order to send me an SMS, you'll have to send me an email to "erikku_1976(at)", and when I respond, it will be an email.
To call me on the phone in my room, call 0081-5075348769 - but don't expect too hard to reach me, I'm not at home all that often.

Ok, that's all :o)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

July 14, 2007 I'm back!!

Hey there, folks!

Sorry for my extended absence from the web, but the past week has been filled with new departments, new people to meet who wanted to share their lunch breaks, with projects that needed finishing, and two days of "business tripping" to the production plant of SBU in Ehime, on Shikoku Island (about 3 hours away from Amagasaki). So enjoy the reading from the past days, and I hope you didn't worry too much about my sudden entire disappearance from the internet :o)

July 13, 2007 Not even close to Friday 13th ^_^

*wahahahahaha* Matsuki-san is soooooooo funny!
This morning I had my second day at BPI, Business Process Improvement, and today I met Matsuki-san - he's a small guy with very little chin and a funny way of talking, which in itself is hilarious - but then he also has an incredible way of speaking English, looking up many words in the dictionary and then picking one with a slightly different meaning than what he intends to say! You can understand what he's saying, but if you have ever tried to read a page translated by Google Translator, you will know what I am talking about (*^_^*)

We had a lot of fun, and it was mutual - he had put many gimmicks into his presentation, e.g. a walking envelope that he was very proud of :o)

By now, I feel quite at home here in the company... I spent the afternoon on 3rd Floor, where Customer Service, Import/Export, Logistics, Procurement, BPI and some more people are all sitting in one big room - and there are very little people left that I haven't met yet. Many of the ladies have gone either to dinner with me or went dancing, and with almost everyone I have a story to share which makes us smile a lot! Toki-san and Naoko-san have put up pictures of our dance night in their cubicles, and today I wrote the kanji for candy (お菓子, okashi) on a small piece of paper and gave it to Kageyama-san who had taught me that kanji the day before - his face lit up, he smiled at me very broadly - and put the piece of paper into a folder where he had already put in my CV! I think people actually like me around here...

Naoko-san (the crazy dancer) later asked me whether I wanted to join the next dinner with everyone from Customer Service. "Sure, when will it be?" "We are doing it on July 27th." "Oh, I don't know if I will be in Osaka, that's my birthday and I was thinking about going to Tokyo to see a big firework festival." "WHAAAAT??? That's your birthday?!! Then you have to come!!! I will ask Ueda-san (the CS manager) if he will pay for you!" :o)

So now, I am officially invited to a dinner with everyone to celebrate my birthday :o) With loads of people I know and like. I am happy *^_^*

July 12, 2007 Change of Weather

My life at work gets busier and busier, yet the world outside seems to calm down a lot. The weather has changed quite a bit - instead of cloud-muffled sunshine and incredible humidity, things have calmed down to constant rain, but of the nice sort - it's still warm rain, the air feels a lot clearer, it's not as hard to be outside anymore and there's a constant breeze going - and yesterday I learned why that is the case:

We have a typhoon approaching! I'm not quite sure yet what that means for me. I don't think I have to worry that the house is going to fly off to Kansas (yeah, you heard right, typhoons can sometimes do that as well!), but it probably means lots of rain and wind, and I was told that I shouldn't leave the house if it's not necessary - oh, and the trains might stop, which is probably what could affect me the most.

Although I would very much like to see what a typhoon is like, the timing is not exactly perfect - for Saturday, there's a 24-hour marathon planned in Osaka, and a team from SBU will take part in it. Some of my friends are joining as well (I'm of course too lazy, or well, don't have sport shoes *g*), so it would be a shame if they had to cancel it...

P.S.: I miss dark bread...

July 10/11, 2007 Excursion to Ehime

Have I mentioned that I really really have fun with Eric?! We just got back from a two day trip to Ehime and its production plant, which is about 2.5 hours by train from Amagasaki. Yesterday morning, I was in a terrible mood, but more or less from the second Eric and I left work to get on the train to Ehime, things started to light up! He's so funny and I wouldn't be surprised to wake up tomorrow with sore stomach muscles from laughing so much! He says he's not planning to be funny which only makes it all the better - I definitely have some new permanent good-mood memories! (do you have some of those? The ones that make you think of a situation and you just have to burst out laughing?!)

Besides that, the trip was very interesting and we saw a lot of the plant, its way to function, we saw production lines, filling stations, miles and miles of piping, heard stories about highly toxic phosgene that kills you within two breaths (I don't want any breath-mint jokes here... ;o)). We walked loads, even visited a museum about Copper mining which was actually very interesting, and which had a temple right next to it - my first authentic Japanese temple! I felt like being in a Mila Superstar- or Sailor Moon- comic :o)

What probably impressed me most (apart from the logistics section - I could watch machines all day long...) was the way a morning of work starts in Japan! People come to the meeting room, start smoking and drinking coffee as they would probably do in Germany as well. But then, the loudspeakers start giving gymnastics orders, everybody jumps up, starts circling their pelvisses, stretching arms, legs, swaying like elephants... And then, after gymnastics, they start pointing at blackboards and signs full of safety measures and security procedures and reading them out loud - like a mantra to imprint it into their brains!

These two days were so full with new impressions and information that I was totally hecha polvo when I arrived in Ashiya, but REALLY enjoyed the past 30 hours!!!

July 10, 2007 ...

... I have some thinking to do. I started reading a new book called "Tuesdays with Morrie". It's about an old man, a young man and a fatal disease. The book, combined with what I talked about with Simon the other night, plus the grades that I received this morning, make me think. I don't want to bore you with my "What do I want to do in Life" kind of thoughts at the moment, but once again, I should refocus on what I am actually doing. Here, in Cologne, in private - the whole deal.

I sometimes get those phases. And these are usually the times when I get a bit homesick or at least friends-and-family-sick...


July 9, 2007 Walking to work

Although I sometimes am annoyed by the 15 minute walk from Amagasaki station to SBU, I am quite fond of the little back roads that get me there. Of course you could always take the main road and be run over by cars, but you do well with opting for the slightly longer trail of joined paths that lead along tiny houses, little garden areas, laundry lines, green spots... Sometimes, a dog will have his breakfast outside, almost every morning I am greeted by butterflies. Little purple and pinkish flowers dance along in the breeze, and sometimes I get the feeling that people start getting used to me passing there in the morning. I am polite and greet the older women that come my way and am greeted back with a smile. All types of people pass me, walking their dogs, riding their bikes with the mounted umbrellas protecting them from whatever type of weather we're having, or just generally getting towards their place of destination. If I get to work around the time that kindergarden starts, usually the kids stop for a second or two to look at that strange creature with the blond hair and the light skin (well, to them it's blond anyways, and my skin isn't exactly white either with that slight sun burn from Sunday).
Between the small houses, the towering building of SBU Bayer appears and, taking the last two turns to pass the miniture cars, I reach the bushel trees of Sumika.

Ready for another day of work :o)

July 8, 2007 Football, Fog and Foooooooood!

For the slow weekend I thought this would be, I am quite exhausted after today! Simon had invited me to join a football game between SBU and NEC (a technology company), and it turned out to be more than a friendly kick - they were actually quite competitive about the whole thing! So I didn't get to play myself, but that was probably a good thing, as it was blazingly hot outside and they were playing at high noon!

So I took on the job as fotographer:

Quite impressive at what velocities Japanese women can run over any kind of substance - e.g. grass - on high heels!

The kids were really cute, standing by the side of the field and screaming "otoosan, ganbatte!!" - Daddy, good luck, you can do it!!

Only downside of the match was that, as we didn't have very many players, almost all of SBU had to play the entire game - and NEC exchanged more than half of their players during half time. The result wasn't all that surprising: 4:1 for NEC...

In the afternoon, I finally got to know Carsten. Axel, our neighbor in Germany, had prepared people in Japan for my imminent arrival on his trip to Osaka a week before I went to Japan - and he had introduced me to Carsten, who is working for Bayer Business Services in Osaka.

So today, we finally managed to meet for the first time - on the phone, he had sounded a lot like Wolfgang from Thailand, which already made him very symphathetic! He had the brilliant idea of driving up Rokko Mountain (a trip that I had wanted to do as well), and although the sight was pretty crappy, it was nice to be outside and to hear - nothing! (ok, I'll have to be realistic here - the noise of the occasional car going by didn't exactly fit perfectly into the mountain atmosphere) Up there, I noticed for the first time, how noisy it is down in the cities! And you could hear real birds up here! (In Japan you get deafened by fake bird noises - in the subway, at intersections (to indicate that the traffic lights are green), in commercials - Japanese seem to love fake birds...

Hankyuu Railway, one of the various train companies that coexist in Japan

And the aforementioned fog...

Carsten has been in Japan for about 9 weeks now and has to endure 3 or 4 more weeks, until his family will finally come to Japan. So, to be prepared for that, he had proposed to try out some restaurants to know where to take his family wehn they finally arrive! You can probably guess that I didn't have to think too hard about whether to take him up on the offer or not ;o)

We went to a wonderful Italien place in an Asian garden (mixed styles of Japanese, Chinese, a bit of Thai), very fancy, with amazing food and a great atmosphere. We could even watch a Japanese wedding take place in the garden, which was interesting all by itself. Carsten is very easy-going which made it absolutely effortless to talk to him! So our conversation jumped from Japan in general to wine to travelling, to family to food, to wanting to work in Barcelona.

I seriously had a great evening with loads of new info that I am sure will help me in the future ;o)

July 7, 2007 Triple 777

Actually I had been planning to go to Kyoto this weekend - today is the triple 777, so that was bound to be a very lucky day! Instead, I decided against doing that - Sascha, a friend I know from highschool, who is now studying in Kyoto, wasn't available this weekend and I was pretty tired from the week. Ever since Eric gave his ok for me using the laptop for private purposes outside of office hours, I have spent around 10 or 11 hours at work each day, starting earlier and leaving late - so at the moment I am not doing much more than being at work, eating and sleeping.

Which is what I spent this Saturday on as well (apart from going to work, of course :oP). When I woke up, I could still remember a very odd dream about Japanese school kids who had a German class and were practicing to say "kaaaaa, kAAaaaaa, kAAAAAAAaaaa". Even while dreaming that I thought that it was very odd - then I woke up and realized that there was a crow sitting in front of my window :o)

The rest of the day I spent with more thinking and with reading - yesterday, before meeting Simon, I had stopped at a big bookstore to buy some English books for the train ride to and from work. Books have a very cool format here, small, handy, fit into every bag - and they sell them with neutral paper wrapped around them so that people won't know what you're reading :o)

July 6, 2007 Night out in Osaka

I thought my day had reached its climax when, around lunch time, a big ugly box that sits on top of one of the cupboards, suddenly started making very funny noises :o) First it went "krhcchkerkchkchchr", followed by a nervous "pling plong plang plong", and then the voice of Okada-san, our Human Resource person, announced that there would be a security check in the afternoon.
Umezawa-san had noticed my looks watching the box and she smiled: "Yes, they do make the sound by hand", which was immediately followed by another "pling plong plang plong" - I just had to burst out in laughter imagining Okada-san standing in front of a microphon, creating funny melodies on an ancient xylophon *g*

I really can't imagine why they just wouldn't tell me where the room with that thing is located *mischievous grin*

But near the end of work, Simon sent me an email asking what I'd be up to in the evening, so I decided to stop by in Osaka to meet him. Simon is an intern at Bayer Yakuhin (Health Care), and he was also at my welcome dinner during the second week.

An impressive amount of people crossing a minor road...

HEP Five, an entertainment complex / Shopping Mall

We had quite a fun evening, meeting up in Yodobashi Kamera to do some Tech shopping and laptop looking, spent a while walking around Osaka and then Simon took me to the apartment of a manager friend of his, who is currently on a business trip and left him his keys!

The apartment was amazing, really big for Japanese sizes, very fancy wood furniture, a giant flat screen, designer couches and lamps - and all of that in the center of Umeda, one of the busiest areas of Osaka. Bayer managers from overseas seem to be quite well taken care of over here :o)

Simon and I talked a lot and it made me think very hard on my way home... Simon is 22, has started his own business with 18, is studying event management and came to Japan for a 3-months internship. He has quite a bit of practical experience, plus speaks Japanese fluently because his dad is Japanese. That's probably why his internship is taking a very different course from mine. He is preparing three meetings for around 100 doctors and media people from all over Japan to coach them on new products that Bayer has developed (if I understood correctly). He's organizing those meetings, writing the budgets, traveling to look at the places, taking part in all kinds of sales meetings, designing new incentive systems... Don't get me wrong, I am definitely not complaining about my internship - I am very happy with the intense training I'm receiving and am not entirely sure whether I could handle a task like Simon's, even if it was in English.

But it made me think what I got out of my studies so far. I have been studying my current major for 2 years (well, or 8 months, depending on what you take as major), but I don't really feel like I am using any of the stuff I learned in university. What I am using are presentation skills, IT-skills (which I had before), and more or less common sense - and right now I can't think of anything out of the management majors that I am actively using...

People keep telling me that you rarely use stuff you learned in university, so I am hoping that I picked up a number of skills during studying that I am not entirely aware of...

It's just a little shocking that Simon, who in theory has studied as much as I have, is just so much further than me! Even more reason to add another internship around Xmas! And what I get out off all this thinking is that I want to use my time at SBU more actively, and I want to do a good job - I would like to have Mr. Amling and Eric think by the end of the internship - hey, that investment wasn't wasted on her...

Thursday, July 5, 2007

July 5, 2007 Hardcore Training

I must say, I am very impressed with this internship. The only internship I have done so far was in 10th grade when I still wanted to become a biologist, so I worked for 3 weeks in a nature reserve-type of area - and when I write work, I mean actual physical labor: After these three weeks, I was a master at digging holes, cleaning out ponds, constructing children's playgrounds, improving walk ways and running with wheel barrows (Schubkarren). I had loads of fun, but it was hard work.

This time that is very different. It's not that I am not working or that I am staring out of the window all day, but this is way more like a training for me than working. I get insight into almost every department, the people are taken out of their regular responsibilities for 1-4 days to teach me what they do in their everyday work, I can ask millions of questions and the whole event seems to serve the sole purpose of teaching me! I start feeling really bad - I thought I would have to give something back to the company, instead they are paying me pretty well, giving me allocation, frequently inviting me to lunch, taking me on excursions, and all I have to do is to attend the meetings and ask loads of questions! This is great!

I do get assignments from Eric, mostly to prepare presentations about companies, or to do internet research on a specific topic. But I really don't feel like I am working hard.

I developed a new strategy for the end of my teaching sessions. Almost always, they ask me whether I have more questions, and as I already nail them with loads of questions during the presentations, I usually run out of any more to ask in the end - so I started asking people if they had any questions about me! And it turns out that almost everyone is interested in something (I'm not sure whether I have mentioned that yet, but apparently, everyone here has seen and read my CV...!!!), and once they find out that I am more than willing to answer their questions, they open up even more, tell about themselves, offer me their help, and even try very hard to speak English even though they usually never speak it :o) Yesterday, Umezawasan (my colleague) said that she was very surprised at how open people were talking with me, and that Japanese people usually are a lot shyer in talking with foreign people - I guess I must be doing something right then! *beam*

On my way to and from work, I took some pics of Ashiya (where I live) to give you a tiny impression:

So this scenery I get to see every morning :o)
Good night, then!

July 4, 2007 My new favorite Japanese Food!!

It's called Okonomiyaki! Hard word, great meaning, even better taste! It means "whatever you want, fried" (maybe a bit free the translation, but it hits the spots!) Okonomiyaki are a mixture between pancakes and pizza! You can order almost anything you want to go inside/on top of them, then it gets mixed with what looks and tastes like pancake dough (though not sweet), and it is served on a small cooking grill that is installed into each table - as I didn't bring my camera, I found you some pictures on the web - if you ever get the change, TRY THEM!!

This is the cooking plate that goes with it:


And these are Yakisoba that usually go along with the Okonomiyaki - this must be food heaven!!

Me, chopsticking.

That's all for today, I am so full that I can't think of anything else to write ;o)

July 3, 2007 Bug Paradise

I'm exhausted. The more it rains, the warmer it gets. It seems that I can drink the air around me by now. And still there are people telling me, that the "bad" part hasn't even started yet... At least most of the Japanese people around me seem to be affected by the weather as well, so it's not just the whimsical foreigner who's fighting with it.

The river that crosses my way to the train station has grown quite a bit since I first got here, although it's almost entirely covered in plants. With the humid weather, the bugs seem to come to live, and they are quite impressive - I have heard people report about the giant insects of Japan, but now I can see it with my own eyes and I haven't decided yet whether I am fascinated or a bit taken aback - the bats that circle the river at night are more or less normal size, but basically everything else, from butterflies and moths over centipedes (Tausendfuessler), spiders, ticks (Zecken), to bigger animals like crows are huge!

This (see picture), for example, is a mukade, a giant centipede - they bite like hell (I was told) and Amlingsan (SBU's President) has told us stories about how hard they are to kill! You can't step on them, because the shell's too thick. You can't drown them because they know how to swim. If you cut them in half, both parts will crawl their way - they seem to be relatives of cockroaches... His method is to slice them in as many pieces as he can, that seems to stop them... Thank god that this is not my hand!

The past two days, I have been in Procurement, the department that organizes necessary things for other departments. Most of all, I learned a lot of Japanese, as 3/5 of the procurement team didn't really speak English at all - so lots of body language and cross-translation was used. My pile of vocab cards is getting bigger every day.

I had asked Eric to find out whether I could borrow a laptop for private purposes, e.g. checking mail and writing my report. Unfortunately, SBU doesn't loan or rent out notebooks, but we made a deal - I can work on the laptop before or after office hours, if I don't use the internet too obviously for private purposes (most of the "entertainment sites" are blocked anyways). I can live very well with this agreement, so the past couple of days I have spent around 10 hours in the office. So don't get too upset with me if it takes a while to respond to emails as I won't be stopping by the internet cafe every day anymore.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

July 1, 2007 Shopping Horrors in Osaka

"Intense" is the only word I can think of right now to describe today afternoon's shopping experience in Osaka, which coincidently coincided with the first day of summer sales...

I like to think of myself as having a fairly good general sense of orientation, but today I was lost within 2 minutes! I had had two options when seeing the giant crowd entering EST, one of the main shopping complexes around Osaka Station - fleeing or diving in.

Obviously I took the dive, and I'm still not entirely sure whether that was the right choice. Hundreds or thousands of Japanese tiny girls crammed into a giant labyrinth of shops, interconnected by crooked alleys that have never even heard of the word "rectangular". From each shop, an army of other Japanese working girls scream the latest offers into the ears of everyone who doesn't want to hear them. They're using little plastic trumpets to create the right ringing sound to be left with your maltreated hearing.

The ones that don't shout offers instead scream "sumimaseeeeeeeeeeeeen" in 10-second intervals to make sure that people know they are actually working there and are not part of the deco. When I - being twice as wide as the average Japanese - tried to enter a shop, there was no way of getting inside without rubbing against everyone around you. Once you finally entered the shop, got used to the rubbing and ignored the screaming, I found myself totally flabberghasted by all the shiny, pearly, plasticky, glittering mini-skirt fashion that seems so very Japanese...

I could continue for a fair amount of time with descriptions like these, but I guess you get the point.
Nevertheless, I took some pictures, although they are not very exciting:

Yodobashi Kamera, where I bought my camera:

Quite a normal thing here - ferris wheels on top of houses...

I'll have to repeat tours to Osaka to get over the shock. Maybe I'll hire a guide to direct me in the general walkable direction...?

July 1, 2007 Nachtrag

Thinking about yesterdays entries, I wanted to add some things:

First of all, I can't believe that I didn't say a word about my ingenious MacGyverism! Before buying chopsticks (I have nice own ones now, see pic), I ate my Sunday ramen with - Qtips :o) (Ohrenstaebchen) Strip off the cotton on one side, and they make perfect cutlery *g* I'll also allow you a look into my "fridge" :o)

I wanted to add some more info on the Japanese disco as well - I was so excited that I didn't say anything about it!

Imagine it like that - you enter an underground disco (well, or take the elevator up to the 10th floor, depending on the establishment :oP), pay an incredibly high entrance fee (somewhere between 2000 and 4000 Yen, about 12-24 Euro. But the drinks are fairly cheap, so if you're a fair drinker...) and enter the dance floor - to take part in the mass-aerobics class that seems to be going on! Everybody is facing one wall that is entirely covered with mirrors and dances kind of for themselves, checking their looks in the mirror... I couldn't resist, I had to jump and jiggle across the room, blocking people's sight and highly irritating the more "serious" dancers :o) I definitely had fun!

The price more or less explains why Japanese people aren't the biggest of clubbers - I already met a couple of people who have never in their life been to a disco... Don't you people ever DANCE?! I was fortunate enough that the girls invited me, as a kind of welcome to Japan :o)

Arakisan had gone to a beauty treatment for the occasion - 44.000Yen to enlargen her eye lashes! 44.000Yen!! That's more than I have paid for my camera including all the equipment!!! More than 250 Euro for a treatment that will last her about 3 weeks... Women are strange creatures in any culture, it seems.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

June 30, 2007 An all but lazy Saturday night!!!

Yeeeeaaaahaaah! I didn't think I could have THAT MUCH fun when the girls from customer service invited me to go to a HipHop place :o)

To get to know Osaka and the way Japanese people go out, I decided to try it anyways - and it was AMAZING! We went to the On-and-On, and they didn't play any HipHop at all - a great mix of 80's funk, boogie and all kinds of happy music! I had so much fun, 100 Japanese and me :o) I was the only gaijin in the whole bar, and I made quite a scene, I guess *g* Naoko had warned me before that she was a crazy dancer, so I thought "all the better, let's dance then!" When we started rocking the "stage", everybody was in such a good mood that I decided to go get my camera - and it was so worth it!

Toteeeeeeeeemo tanoshikatta!!!