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Why is climbing Mount Fuji a ‘horrendously’ bad idea?

Hey guys!

To the few of you who still read this after letting my blog pretty much slowly “die” over the last year: Thanks for still reading it. It has been a year with lots of development and changes for me! Let’s see if I can cover all of that in my next few blog posts!
I just acquired this fancy new keyboard and it is just a joy typing stuff on it! So much fun actually, that I decided that I would take an hour or two (turned out to be almost 3 in the end) to write down one of my rather… older experiences of last year (and yes, there will be pictures)!

In my current project I am surrounded by foreigners and they all loooove to do Japanese stuff and to “live/experience” the Japanese culture. And an old saying in Japanese says;

“The Japanese who does not climb Mount Fuji once in his/her life is an idiot”
by Matsumoto O.

(Matsumoto-san by the way is one of my co-workers and maybe it is not a Japanese saying but a drunken ‘Matsumoto-saying’ that he made up between a few beer or so)

So … my dear project manager – a proud and amiable French guy – decided that it would be an awesome idea to do some team building exercise and to climb this devious mountain together!
He told us that he had done it once and to be honest; he is the worst marketeer to walk the surface of the earth! His story involved him taking only a tiny bag and t-shirt to climb the highest mountain of Japan (3,776 meters)!!
He almost froze to death on the way, because it started to rain and a t-shirt didn’t seem to provide the best protection (oh, what surprise!). He also did not have a light and got separated from his group; he had to wait for the next group walking up to pick him up … ANYWAY… I could probably write a whole blog post just about HIS adventures, but since I am an egomaniac, I will continue with my story!

After all his horror stories and the second line of the ‘Matsumoto-saying’;

“The Japanese who climbs Mount Fuji a second time in his/her life is also an idiot”
by Matsumoto O.

… I should have smelled that something was wrong. But I guess I was (probably still am) just too naive to let these things deviate me from my set course! I made invitations, fliers, update mails etc. etc. a whole little marketing campaign to convince as many people of my project as possible to climb the mountain together.
Looking back, I cannot believe how horrible I was to these people (granted; about 3 or 4 of them ACTUALLY enjoyed it – crazy people) by fooling them, that it would be the best experience of their lives!!!

We decided to climb Mount Fuji (or 富士山 fujisan as is it called in Japanese) overnight to see the sunrise … watch the sun rise from the highest point in Japan – the land of the rising sun! Sounds dreamy, right? Well, IT ISN’T!
If you are like me working in Japan, you can probably do this trip only on a weekend or a holiday, meaning that it will probably be pretty crowded; buses and trains will be booked so you have to plan/buy tickets in advance. Also, if you do not have your own professional climbing gear you need to rent it, which will cost you about 10,000円 (currently 80€ or 85$) – and believe me, you gonna need it!
So what implications does this have? You will be bound to a date (probably) and the weather can destroy most of the best thought-through plans the human mind can come up with! The day we left with the bus from Shinjuku to the 5th station of Mount Fuji (2300 meters) it was not very sure yet if it would rain or not. As it would turn out later; It would rain. A lot.

We were all motivated at the very start! Walking up Mt Fuji, yay!! Awesome!! We were a group of French, Taiwanese, British, Japanese, Swedish and … well me. Here is a picture of how we started from the 5th Station:
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All geared up, smiling, happy, ready for the experience of our lives. And because were are such a lucky bunch; the moment we started walking, it started to rain.

Another problem in the year we went was: The toilets along Mt Fuji did not work! When you start from the 5th Station you will come by a little stand where you pay 1000 Yen (at least back then) for climbing the mountain. It does not seem mandatory, but as the good Japanese we all are, we obviously paid to keep the mountain clean … and as an extra, because that year the toilets did not work, we got complementary portable poop boxes made out of carton.
➡ Unfortunately I did not make a picture (because I said no; I do not need/want that), but it was basically a box with a whole in it that you would press to your butt and then start squeezing! For the extra touch of privacy (always a must in Japan) the box had some kind of plastic tent attached that covered you from bottom to neck … after you were done with your business, you would have to carry your proud and smelly results up and down the mountain. Needless to say; No one in our group made use of this luxurious portable toilet system and held it until being back down, using a functioning toilet… And so our walk started after a meal…

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I bet some of you want me to explain all in documentary style how it goes up the mountain step by step. That is how many other bloggers do that, when they talk about walking up Mt Fuji, but to be honest; most of my memories are just a blur, and I felt like zombie walking up big stretches of the mountain … so I will just focus on the part of why it is a horrendously bad idea climbing up the mountain!

1) You have not the slightest of clues of how much you actually need to carry
If you have no experience of walking/hiking up mountains, especially over a period of time that is more than just 2 or 3 hours, then how can you evaluate how much water and food you will need? Have you ever put your body to the test and figured out what your body needs for this kind of exercise? Well I did not! I ended up not needing half of the stuff I took with me! Meaning that I was killing myself carrying all these liters of water and rice balls, energy bars etc. We started walking at 8 PM, the sun was scheduled to come out at around 4.30 AM … You watch the sunrise and walk back down … you are walking around 8 to 14 hours depending on your condition and motivation… and in my case, carrying stuff with you that you don’t need was not help at all…
We also met a Brazilian guy on the way who thought this was going to be a stroll in the park. He had a raincoat, a bag from FamilyMart (convenience store) with food, an umbrella and short pants … no lamp, hat, nothing. He was walking behind our group because he did not have any light. We picked him up and took him with us until almost the last station where we lost track of him … but we are sure he survived

2) Weather and temperatures are always against you
At the 5th station it is already cool and you put on all your warm gear and walk to the 6th. Even though it was raining, we realized that the 3 to 4 kg you are carrying unnecessarily around with you, plus the warm clothes are just too much for your body to handle. At the first opportunity pretty much, EVERYONE in our group had to strip down because we were sweating like pigs.

But while you are walking up the mountain you need to be like a flexible onion putting on one layer after the other while you walk up! The mountain is open only from early July to mid of September, and even though we went in the “hottest” season, there was still snow lying around! Rain comes and goes depending on the altitude making everything you are carrying and wearing heavier than it already is. Look at us how we looked at around Station 7 1/2 (more about that ‘1/2’ later) – no smiles whatsoever!

Fuji043) It is dangerous as hell!!!
Proud Japanese and passionate hikers will tell you it is a very easy mountain to climb. Maybe. If you are already used to this kind of stuff!!!! But for someone like me our my British friend Iain, it is just a one meter difference of surviving and crashing down a mountainside to our more than certain deaths. There will be parts where there is no real trail or way; You use your hands and legs to climb up small rock walls of the mountain. Everything is pitch dark! And I do mean PITCH DARK! The only light you have is your little toy light that you strap around your head, which gives you a light cone of maybe 30 cm in diameter. You see a wall in front of you, then you look a meter to the right and there is NOTHING. It just goes DOWN. You slip, you make a wrong step and you plummet to your death. Climbing this mountain at night is just stupidly dangerous. No wonder there are signs everywhere for this!

4) There are stairs …
Some of you will say: “But Jonathan, having stairs is a good thing right? You wont slip and crash down a mountainside to your more than certain death!” But to you I say: “If at the end of the trip I had seen one more single step, I would have thrown myself down the mountain voluntarily. At the beginning it is all okay, but having to lift your feet 20 to 30 or more centimeters after walking for hours and hours is just torture. I would have preferred a slope where I might lose my grip from time to time, but I could have done baby steps one at a time. But no … if you want to go forward you need to get your feet up these stairs and it never never never stops … Just remembering this makes me wanna cry …

5) They play demotivating mind games with you
After the 6th station you kind of lose the overview of where you are. There a lot of tiny huts (sounds romantic; mountain hut, but there is nothing romantic about these…) along the way up the mountain. Between these huts you have quite a distance until you reach the next group of huts and you think each time it is the next station and that you are almost at the top. But no… I passed about 4 times the “7th Station” … they call them sometimes Station 7.5 or 7 1/2 etc. … You will be disappointed every time single time you pass a hut!

6) The mountain itself is a huge ugly black rock
For the ones of you who did not know: Mt Fuji is a volcano. It is not like the mountains in Switzerland with trees and greenery. It is a rock. A barren black-brown rock. There is nothing beautiful, friendly or romantic about it. Mt Fuji does look stunning from far far far away and should be enjoyed exclusively like that: Looking at it from far away.
Another thing is: if you go up the mountain overnight, you wont see ANYTHING anyway.

7) You might not even see the sunrise when you reach the top
For the record: I did not make it to the top where the summit is. Two friends and I fell short about 30 to 60 meters (altitude wise) … which was perfect as it turned out: We were the only ones who saw the sunrise out of our group! The rest who made it up on time was greeted by a big gray cloud. Just because of my desire of self-preservation, we stopped (by coincidence) just under the roof of clouds that were surrounding the summit!!! The only thing the rest of the group saw was some orange colored clouds! That’s something I would call HIGHLY disappointing.
I did the only humane thing you could expect from me after 8 hours of climbing a mountain … Vomit behind a rock (right into Mt Fuji’s face) to show the mountain who the boss is, find a hole to die in and collapse (I did not throw up on purpose… I was feeling very sick).
The only pictures of the moment when the sun rose are the following (taken by a friend of mine with her iPhone …)

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And in the meantime …

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My British friend here by the way is not pregnant… he had his expensive camera with him and protected it under his jacket. To bad he passed out with me when the sun was rising :p I think we just saw it lying down threw our eye slits. Laziness prevails!

8) You have to walk the damn thing back down
Japanese people say that after suffering so long, having this feeling of “やった~~~” (Loosely translatable into; Yattaaaa!!! or Yippie!) is more than just rewarding! But my question is; How can you say that when you are finally up that stupid mountain? You just walked through the night for around 8 hours and NOW, you need to walk the damn thing down again!!! And the only thing you see is something like that:
Fuji07We did not do the last few meters after the sun came up: there were too many people coming down and we wanted to go home. And believe me… it hurts your knees to walk down such a huge mountain. Luckily, the way down is an ugly zigzag path made out of little stones which I used to basically just “surf” down the mountain as fast as possible.
It took us about 3 and half hours to get back to the station and have a warm bowl of ramen (noodles). The picture above shows the only moment we had good weather when starting our descent, because about an hour later it started pouring again until we arrived in the restaurant – effectively reducing our vision from 30 meters to a maximum of 5 meters.
We saw people walking past us in t-shirts, sandals, hot pants … we wanted to tell them to turn around because it was almost impossible to survive with that kind of equipment, but we could barely talk and just wanted to have an end to this. I have a picture of how my feet looked like after this trip … but I avoided uploading it because I don’t want you guys to throw up over your keyboards while reading this…

So that was my trip to Mt Fuji … were there some beautiful moments? Yes, I had never seen so many stars in my life! Since it is so pitch dark without any kind of illumination that could pollute the view, you can see thousands of tiny little twinkling stars (for you to compare: I can see 6 stars at night from my apartment in Tokyo). The sunrise was nice, but was it worth all the effort? In my opinion, clearly not. I love Mt. Fuji from far away, with its little white top and symmetry … I enjoy it every time when I can see it from my office in Tokyo or from the Shinkansen (bullet train). But if you are not a passionate climber … why would you do this to yourself?
When I finally got home (after waiting 2 hours for a bus back home, a 2 hour bus drive  and then 1 hour in the train to my place) I basically just passed out again in my bathtub for 3 hours because of all the exhaustion. And I could not walk any stairs for 3 days …

So let this be a warning to all of you who think that climbing Mt Fuji is only fun and beauty … because it is NOT!
My recommendation: Pay some money, get a plane ticket that flies by at the right time over Mt Fuji and have the most stunning sunrise ever without putting yourself through that.

I hope you enjoyed this little blog post! Leave me any comments or questions you like =) I hope that I can bring these out again in a more frequent manner than before!

Cheerio,
Jonathan

P.S.: It was still nice to have shared this horrible experience with my friends here in Japan (^_^)b Thanks to Yuko and Iain for staying with me when I was about to die!
And at last; here is a little YouTube video my project manager made about our climb to Mt Fuji.
Update (May 10th 2015 – 12:37 AM JST): For my German/European friends who had trouble watching the video, I uploaded a new version here. I hope this works for you guys!

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Random pic from the top of Mt. Fuji after the sunrise

The Art of Riding an Elevator in Japan

Hey guys,

Like I said; I will try to write some more posts even though they are not as in-depth or as culturally deep as other posts I have (at least that is my impression) posted here on my blog (I like telling myself that I write some pretty deep and intense stuff . . . ). Today I want to talk about riding an elevator in Japan. It is an Art. It is hard and uncomfortable. But maybe I can prepare you guys for the things to come should you ever be stuck with 25 Japanese サラリーマン (sarariiman – Which literally means “salary man” and is just the general term for some employee who has to wear a suit and a necktie to work -> white collar) in a room barely 2 by 2 meters for the next 40 floors.

Before I start I want to remind you guys that their are ALWAYS exceptions! Not all Japanese are the same. But there is stuff they teach you and you better do it. But like always it depends very much on the situation you are in at the current moment.

 

First of all: Don’t talk!
At the beginning here in the training, I was painfully reminded (EVERYDAY) that it is a “No-Go” (Or like Japanese say: “NGです” – It is NG) to talk in the elevator. While I personally think the reason is not to disturb someone else who doesn’t want to hear your verbal vomit, the company’s reason was: “You will talk about internal information and our clients and you cannot do that!” They also told our Chinese co-workers not to talk in Chinese because some people might understand it. Spies are everywhere!
– When you are with your direct friends ONLY in the elevator, you can talk (at least that is what I do).
– When you are with your direct friends and a stranger in the elevator, you can whisper occasionally to one another.
– When you are with your direct friends and strangers in the elevator that outnumber you, you can grin occasionally to one another (just because it is so boring).

For me this was rather weird from time to time. In Bosch or other companies I worked at, riding the elevator was rather fun because you got to know people and no one cares what the other person in the elevator is talking about with his/her co-worker (obviously we do not talk about crucial client information etc.). If you knew/saw that only the floor number (for example) 6 was pressed, it meant that all people in the elevator had to do SOMETHING with your company … so why not talk and get to know the team a little better?
Here in Japan we have 3 floors for our company and sometimes just one floor of these is pressed. This means: We all are getting off in the same floor, which makes us all floor buddies (provided is NOT the reception floor, because then some of them could be clients). Just  talking and saying “hi” and asking “in which department do you work?” might strengthen our team spirit and feeling like a big team/family or something. I think this would be a rather good opportunity to say “hello” and start some new relationships. While in Germany people say: “Guten Morgen/Tag/Abend” (Good morning/afternoon/evening) in Japan you won’t hear that if it is not a person you know (rather well). People will say instead: すみません (sumimasen) which means “sorry”. They say sorry for everything.

Long story short: No talking in the elevator.

Second: Keep your eyes forward.
While this will come more naturally to everyone since we copy the group’s behavior in elevators, it is still important to look forward. People don’t even look to the sides when they talk to each other (should it EVER happen). People look forward and nowhere else. If you stand on the right wall of an elevator you might be tempted to lean with you back against the wall, but this is a luxury only the guys in the back row can enjoy. Just suck it up and stare at the floor numbers until you reach your floor.

Third: Remember what your job in the elevator is!
This might strike you weird but there are unspoken but very clearly defined roles within an elevator which you learn after spending some time in an elevator. I drew some little sketches for you how this all goes down in Japan. The following classifications are about the group you belong to in an elevator. Remember that this is just the case when you ride an elevator with people you do not really know and without a client. In case you are with a client or very important director or manager of your company, you can buy a Japanese Business Manner book. It will explain exactly where you have to stand and what you have to do.
In my scenario the roles depend more on “when do you get into the elevator?” and “where do you happen to be standing after the elevator is maxed out?”.

The Gatekeepers
These little fellas are the ones that will be pushing the buttons. They hold the door open for you and close it after everyone left. Usually you pick this position when you are the first one to enter the elevator since you want to be nice and cooperative. If you were to run to the back of the elevator, some people might not get on before the doors close (oh ma’ dear laaawd! . . . it is not like there are sensor that react when something or someone is between the two doors).
In my building’s case we have these buttons on the right AND the left side of the doors (in the sketch below they are shown as the blue little squares next to the door). The Gatekeepers are the ones in light purple. They will be smacking these buttons all way up until they have to leave the elevator and the person behind them has to take over their sacred duty.
It would be more than enough if just ONE of them would press the buttons. But no. It is always two people pressing these buttons (provided there are enough people in the elevator obviously). It happened to me today. I usually try to run right straight to the back (I will tell you soon why this is my favorite place) but today it was my turn to keep pressing the open and close buttons. And I felt soooo incredibly stupid because the guy to my left on the other side of the elevator was doing the exact same thing with his button-panel. But peer pressure guys. You better smack those buttons, even if it is more than redundant.

Elevator1I will come back to the Gatekeepers in just a second when we get to what happens at the end of the elevator ride and there are still two Gatekeepers left.

The-Guys-With-The-Most-Annoying-Place-Ever & The Annoyer
Usually these two roles interact all the time with each other in an elevator. For the sake of this post and your eyes we will call The-Guys-With-The-Most-Annoying-Place-Ever simply TG-APEs (because it sounds so nice and is so short). The TG-APEs are the ones who came in last and have the honor of standing EXACTLY in front of the doors running the risk of getting their noses being cut off by the doors. While in Germany or Mexico people will usually just try to squeeze their way out when they are NOT standing exactly in front of the doors, Japanese have quite the different approach to this.
Maybe a few of you noticed or know; but Japanese don’t like physical contact, it is avoided as much as possible in public and reserved for family and close friends only (if at all) (And again: THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS! I have some very touchy friends here). In the case of elevators in Japan (and the same procedure applies to trains in Japan as well) the first row of people who isn’t getting off – but was blessed with being the chosen ones in front of the doors – has to step out and in, out and in, out and in until they have to get off themselves or they run out of people behind them. You don’t wait for people to say “すみません” (sumimasen – sorry). If you are the first row and it is not your floor: you step out and wait for people to leave the elevator, and step in again (and hope the Gatekeepers are doing their job well and don’t close the doors before you can get back in).

Elevator2The Annoyer who I mentioned before is depicted in my sketch as the light blue circle. This person knew that he/she would probably get off in the first few floors but still decided to crawl all the way to the back of the elevator, enjoying the luxury of leaning his/her back against the elevator wall. The elevator stops and you hear this tiny little voice from way back saying: “すみません!” (sumimasen – sorry) and the Annoyer will part the people in the elevator like Moses parted the sea to rescue the Israelis from the Egyptians. Imagine 20 people stuck in this small elevator, almost impossible to move. Most of them don’t like being touched! But you have to move together in order to let this ONE person through.
I won’t lie to you. I try to get always to the back of the elevator, this spares me from the responsibility of the Gatekeeper and the TG-APEs. But in my building there are 26 floors and mine is the 25th so usually it is pretty empty when I get there and I won’t be the Annoyer for anyone😉

Four: Is it your turn to get out?
While in a client and important manager situation there are certain rules (as mentioned above – go and buy a book!), in normal situations you will leave the elevator depending on your own location within this little metal box. This happens often when going down to the ground floor and all people in the elevator leave the elevator at the same time. When going up this is usually less a problem and we have the TG-APEs and Annoyer situation.
The first step is pretty easy because people directly in front of the doors (draw a mental line, parallel to the walls), who are not part of the last row of people, will leave first. See my sketch below.

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When this is accomplished a rather weird and embarrassing situation can happen. The elevator will look like the following sketch:

Elevator5Only people standing at the elevator walls are left. Who is the first one to walk out without bumping into someone else? I have witnessed this situation many times. Everyone is staring at each other but no one is moving. In one of these cases I actually laughed very hard and earned many weird looks by my Japanese co-elevator-riders. It was just too stupid in my eyes. Everyone tried to be the nicest person and going out last which resulted in no one moving for what seemed like an eternity until I left the elevator first – giggling (obviously. Damn gaijin).
In countries like Mexico and (sometimes) Germany, we have the rule “Ladies first” and this reduces the possible outcomes of weird situation by a certain amount, but still… it can end up awkward sometimes. Usually it should be like this:

Elevator4From back to front you leave the elevator, Gatekeepers being the last ones to leave. The only weird moment appears, when people who are at the same vicinity to the exit on opposite sides. They will (again) stare at each other even though they could leave at the same time because it is a two-man-door. But they prefer leaving one after another. Just do us all a favor and leave first. You save a lot of time by just being the one who doesn’t wait.

The last weird moment is when the Gatekeepers are left to fend for themselves:

Elevator6They are pushing the buttons to keep the doors open! I do NOT think that Japanese do NOT know this but: Elevator doors will be open long enough after stopping to push the “open” button, so that both could comfortably leave without getting their legs cut off by closing doors.
I assume that they just want to be nice again and not raise the probability of this bloody event to actually happen (not even if the probability would be increased by just 0.0001%). You will keep nodding to the other guy so he gets off first, but he will start nodding too and you will be nodding at each other for a few seconds until you can final leave the elevator. But you press the open button as long as your arm is while getting out of this metal deathtrap. Weirdest pose ever.

 

I hope I could explain you why it is sometimes rather hard to ride an elevator in Japan and not very relaxing if many people are with you in the elevator. But maybe you are prepared now for your first elevator ride in Japan.
Did it help you? Do you like these kind of posts? Wanna see something else? More questions? Are your countries different? And did you have a very different experience here in Japan? Let me know in the comments below!

I hope you enjoyed this post,

Jonathan

 

 

 

 

 

What is Christmas to you?

Hey guys, 

 

it has been quite a while since I wrote something in my blog. But the work/life in Japan is pretty time consuming. And after getting home late I usually prefer lying in my bed reading a book (in English) or watching a movie (in English) or doing nothing (in English). 

I went to a few nice places in the last two weeks but work has been very stressful everyday; I apologize for slacking off. I will try to become more active again and write as much as possible (and so far only three people have complained so … the motivation was not that high). 

 

Christmas is coming nearer and nearer and the big question for me is: What am I going to do for Christmas? 

As some of you might know, Christmas (some of you won’t believe it) is/was actually a religious holiday (supposedly Jesus was born and stuff) hold by the Christian church – until Coca Cola popularized Santa Claus in their marketing campaign and the fat hairy white man started to bring the presents on Christmas Eve (making Christmas – at least in the States – into a huge promotion season for products). But, who doesn’t want an elderly white man in a red costume break into your house every year on Christmas Eve? Please . . . 

To get back to my point, the origins of “Christmas” are religious, which explains why the silly people in Asia (hihihi I still love them) usually don’t celebrate Christmas. This is also where my problem shows up: What can I do for Christmas? While (depending on the country) the days from 24th until the 26th are holidays, the only day remotely near to Christmas that is free is the 23rd of December. And it has NOTHING to do with Christmas: It is the Emperor’s birthday and that is the reason we don’t work here on the 23rd of December.

If I were (and I would like) to take the 24th and/or 25th off, I would get a lot of non-understanding glances in my direction (I already got them: Be Japanese!). For them it is just some ordinary day (this year it is JUST a Tuesday) while for me it is something very important and dear. If I would take the day(s) off, I would probably be pretty alone since no one is there to party with me. Also my girlfriend doesn’t show a lot of enthusiasm when it comes to taking day(s) off for Christmas. Another thing you have to know: the days we have as “paid leaves” (they don’t call it holidays or vacations like many other countries do) are pretty rare and are mostly used when you get sick or something. I have worked in a few companies in Germany and if you had a good reason why you had to leave two hours earlier (maybe you have to pick up your kid or a family member is coming to visit) most of the time your boss would understand if the company was not flooded with work. No one (but one boss) ever forced me to take my days for something like that when they knew I would make up for it working one day longer or did my job faster than expected. But here in Japan they count every hour you are not sitting at your desk. So I can understand why Japanese do not want to take one or two days off for a festival that is not even popular in this country… would be a waste of “paid leaves” which you don’t really need. 

But talking about holidays etc. I will do another blog post about that topic. Now, back to my initial question: What is Christmas to you?

While many people in Venezuela and also Germany still have a strong relationship to the religious origins, I kind of lost most of that over the past decade or so. When we were younger (my brothers and I) we had to go to church with our parents before we got our presents. It was very very very boring. Our parents never forced us to believe in anything but they still tried to give us as much interaction with the Christian religion as possible (this was probably due to my late grandmother). But as a kid it is really hard to actually understand it,,, At least that is my opinion. I said yes to being baptized but it was 1996. I was 7 years old and my brothers 6 and 4 at that point. How do you even understand what you are doing? 

I don’t know how it happened but usually we had a crib with baby Jesus and we would reveal it every year at Christmas Eve (obviously through magic or well the holy spirit…, but actually my mom just did it while no one was watching . . . man children are slow) when Jesus was born. But from year to year our Christmas transformed more and more from a religious holiday to a family reunion. We didn’t pray or anything, we would sit together and have food and afterwards presents. We would listen to Christmas songs and so on … And one year we stopped going to church on Christmas Eve. 

The last few years I spent living with my family in Germany, we would always make (well my parents would) heaps of food! Our New Year and Christmas menu always has: Fondue and Raclette – boiling meat in grease & fat and molten Swiss cheese over anything you would like to see covered in cheese (MOOOO the memory of epic deliciousness is killing me!!!) (If you don’t know what that is I will add some pictures soon). While New Years Eve was always something more of an event which we spent with friends and neighbors, our Christmas Eve was always exclusively family or people we felt like part of our family (namely our girlfriends if my parents had somehow approved them).

Waiting until the next morning of the 25th for the presents is a tradition we maybe tried out for 5 years? I can only remember one Christmas when we actually handled it like this and that was …. 20 years ago maybe? Usually we would open the presents on the 24th in the night or wait until midnight to open our presents. We started to eat at 9 pm and would keep eating until midnight when then someone would read the names on the presents and my mother’s huge “picture-taking-evening” started.

 

So what is Christmas for me? It has nothing to do with Religion. It might have started as a religious holiday for me and my family but it transformed into something I treasure way more. It is a special time I can spend together with my loved ones (eating very good food). We would see my father guess what presents he got us (because my mother buys presents for us and writes his name on the presents… but he has no idea what is actually inside it) and then we would all be enjoying our presents together. Last year my father got a dartboard and we kept playing and playing (and losing and losing …. ).

Christmas is to me, a family reunion with presents and songs and good food.

So when I ask Japanese people: Why don’t you celebrate Christmas? The answer: “Because we are not Christians” seems to be rather weak. It does not have to be a Christian holiday. It is just a very good and comfortable excuse to see your family on a very fancy and beautiful occasion (Snow! Which is cool unless you have to clean the damn driveway and sidewalk). 

I still hope I can have at least a similar experience here in Japan this year. Because my Christmas 2011 in Japan … was probably the worst Christmas I ever had in my life hahahaha🙂 So tell me guys, what makes Christmas special to you? Or do you not care at all? Let me know your opinion and your thoughts!

Leave me a comment! 

 

Cheers guys!

Jonathan

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Do you believe everything people tell you?

Hey guys,

I wanted to wait a little bit longer with this post but I just as well publish it now. I want to talk a little bit about how different cultures approach new things or in generally “learn stuff”. This is my own opinion and to 90% based on my own experience. I will focus especially on Japan and Germany in this post (for obvious reasons… duh!) even though there will be many more nice examples about this topic. I will start with a little story, that basically repeats itself almost every time I talk to my girlfriend or one of my Japanese friends.

I am doing “something” and my Japanese counterpart will tell me; “It is better to do it THIS way.” Which automatically results in me asking: “Why?” … most of the times this is answered by a very perplexed look with for a short silence with the eventual answer being: “Because that’s how you do it…”

Many Japanese I asked and encountered take it as almost an insult or at least an annoyance that I ask them “why?” after they tell me to do something a certain way. I don’t want to be disrespectful in anyway when I ask this question, I am just really interested in the answer to know why something is like it is! The first time I was confronted in a situation like this was back in Mexico almost two years ago. I was having a lunch with a few Japanese friends and one of my friends wanted to give me a bit of his food. It was a very big piece and he was struggling with it. My plate was far away so I decided to meet him halfway with my chopsticks, grab the piece of food (I think it was chicken?) and put it – we both holding it together with our chopsticks – on my plate.
For the ones of you who don’t know; It is considered very rude to do this! … if you don’t know the answer to this you might ask yourself right now: Why? If you don’t ask yourself this right now, even though you have no idea what the answer might be, you should seriously keep reading this post by all means!
When this incident happened my father had already told me why this was considered rude in Japan since he had done it himself a few years back but I somehow could not remember correctly what the reason for this particular faux pas was.

As soon as I touched the piece of food he had already between his chopsticks with mine, he opened his eyes very wide (which wasn’t that much *racist joke* … I am a horrible person… but it was actually funny back then) and said: “Very very very bad education!!!” and as you can imagine I asked: “Why?” and he answered: “Because it is bad mannered!” He did not actually know why! He just knew it was considered bad mannered but never bothered knowing why or hadn’t listened to the explanation when he got it in his infancy.

If Japanese are reading this right now, I guess (hope) that at least 80% of you know the reason why this is rude. But there are actually a few among you who do not know about this and I have met at least 10 Japanese who had not the slightest idea why they behaved in this particular way – one of them being my girlfriend!
The real reason for why it is considered a bad manner is the following: The only time Japanese people touch the same item with their chopsticks at the same time is at funerals when the remains of a relative and/or loved one are passed between the family (we are not talking about a leg or head … Japanese are cremated 99% of the time and you take the ashes… So stop trying to imagine some weird and gory stuff!).
Most Japanese kids learn this from their parents, some forget it, some never listened, but they all know that it is a bad thing to do. The reason why it is bad is not particularly important in most cases.

I could go on with examples all day long. I have annoyed my girlfriend and other Japanese by constantly asking “why? why? why? why?” Most answers are just not satisfying or straight out stupid. I want to look more at the question of WHY are Japanese like this?

First we have to compare the German (or generally the European) culture to the Asian (especially Japanese) culture. In the late 17th century and beginning of the 18th an age started known as the Age of Enlightenment. Or in German; Die Zeit der Aufklärung. It is a time which basically started this whole concept of: Mr. A makes a statement and Mr. B answers with “Why?“. People stopped believing everything their governments or especially the Church told them. They wanted to know the reason why things were like they were! Why do I have to pay so much taxes? Why will I go to hell for this? Why do we help this guy? Why do these people get to live over there? Why is the earth round? Why Why Why Why … You get the point? The society changed to a degree that it was unsatisfied with the explanation they got and started a whole movement which would take me days to explain! Many has been achieved and has influenced the European culture. One of the well-known thinkers of these times was the philosopher Immanuel Kant who described the Enlightenment (in a very famous essay named ‘What is Enlightenment‘ back in 1784) as

The freedom to use one’s own intelligence

Since this movement took place in Europe you can imagine that most of these innovative sparks didn’t travel all the way to Asia. The Asian culture – especially the Japanese one – is based on a traditional system. Or as I call it; The Copy and Paste culture. And I think I mentioned it before (did I? I won’t bother checking), every system has its pros and cons but I will come to that part later. What does it mean to grow up in this culture? They call parts of it lovingly the Kouhai (後輩) and Senpai (先輩) system which cannot be translated directly but the word Kouhai means Junior and Senpai means Senior. The Junior learns from the Senior and better keeps his mouth shut about his opinion. This term is not just limited to age (even though it usually is until you start working) but also seniority within the company. Even though it is not common you could be older than one of your Senpai (which is mostly the case for foreigners like me) but you will still be a Kouhai because this other person entered the company before you and therefore is your Senpai.

A Senpai showing his Kouhai how to button his jacket (or something related to that...)

A Senpai showing his Kouhai how to button his jacket (or something related to that…)

What this system basically implies is that you copy everything from your Senior. You are encouraged to copy his behavior, style and even clothes. And this is a culture that starts when you are still a little kid. The education goes usually from watching how older people (Senpais) do something and then try to do it in the exact same way. Parents tell their kids that they have to respect people that are older than them because they are wise and have more experience and therefor are right in what they tell you. And this is probably right, someone who is older has done something longer than you and should therefore know it better than you, so you better copy his/her behavior as good as you can!
Imagine a kid that tried to pick for fun at the same food the grandfather just tried to pick up and they touch it at the same time with their chopsticks. The first time this might be a joke for the kid but the grandfather will tell the kid (and most of the old generation grandparents in Japan are pretty scary and not funny at all) not to this EVER again! This is rude and disrespectful! But if he doesn’t feel like it, he won’t explain why but the kid will take it for granted since he follows what the elderly person said and this is how a lot if things in Japan go down… unfortunately! … not?

I tell me girlfriend very often “If you can tell me WHY. And if it is a good reason I won’t have a problem with it.” But most of the times she is just annoyed by me saying that and I am asking out of pure curiosity! But for her it is like I am criticizing her for everything she does.

At my work most teachers (or well Senpais) won’t accept more than one solution. THEIR solution. Right now I am having training for a few weeks (6 or more I guess) which is being taught by many seniors of the company. I will probably write a post about universities in Japan and the training of companies but in Japan, what you learned from your professors is probably being overwritten completely by the company for which you decide to work. Practical things like presentations, flow charts etc. seem not be taught in universities. Many of my Douki (同期 – same age or entered the company at the same date) went to very good Japanese universities and have already worked for a few years but things I consider basic for many jobs seem to be complete novelties for them! And why? I will tell you that in another post about universities and the company training! What I want to get to is, that many people have no knowledge about what they might need in their new job and the teachers are there to show it to us.
They will not accept any other solution as the one they know or use themselves. And it has to be an identical copy. At some schools if you answer a question in your own words, it is considered wrong. You have to copy the exact words and paragraphs of the original text in order to get all the points in your exam/essay (I heard from a few Japanese students that in their universities this was not the case but from many more that obviously this is the right thing to do).

One of the reasons why asking "why" is not a bad idea!

One of the reasons why asking “why” is not a bad idea!

Even though I know for a fact that the teacher’s lesson is outdated or not optimal (because I have done the same thing for one of my employers back in Germany) it is in her eyes (it was a woman last time we talked) wrong because only her solution can be the right one. And here is were the danger of this culture starts; If you copy something without thinking for yourself, you might overlook an error and keep teaching it until the end of time. It makes you very narrow-minded and almost 100% resistant against change!

So what are the pros and cons of the copy and paste culture?

If your elderly or the guy in charge says something has to be done in a certain way, it will be done almost instantly. A whole organization can change in just a few moments (theoretically). Also the danger of revolts is reduced to a minimum, which is one of the reasons why Japan as a country is still working so good. One of the things they learn is to help each other which is why banks in Japan keep buying debt from companies to keep them from bankruptcy but has given the country a debt level percentage which is right now the highest worldwide. But in the country itself everything seems to run smoothly without any problems and people don’t bother that much (at least openly).

In Germany, having a similar situation of high debt you cannot turn around without meeting someone complaining about anything and everything. Just a few weeks ago the government admitted that since the Fukushima incident tons and tons of radioactive water keep flowing into the ocean everyday! Did you hear about any revolts in Japan? Any big uproar? The Germans, half the world away a madder about this than the Japanese themselves! Imagine this would have happened in Germany, Angela Merkel keeping secret that some reactor is floating some ocean or lake in Germany with radioactive water. The streets would be filled with raging people.
There is a project called Stuttgart 21 which is basically the construction of a new train station, destroying many old trees and costing a lot of money. You cannot imagine how many people went on the street for this. There was not a lot about it to be done in the first place … and the only thing that is being achieved is that it gets more expensive everyday. But that is the German culture! I call it the Culture of Complaining. It has also its pros and cons. First the pros: People will always try to find a way to complain, undeniably trying to find a “better way”. Living this way allows to find errors of the government, your employer and anyone else because you are never happy with what you have been told. And that is not actually a bad thing since people try to analyze and to be curious detecting possible areas of improvement. But what is the problem of such a culture? It is very very slow when it comes to turning. Opinions and ideas are created almost any instant but to get all the “members” of the organization convinced that this is the best way can take for ever. In Japan this would happen overnight but the birth of a new idea and/or push for change might also take forever.

So you have a culture where change could happen fast but no one has the intention to come up with a new idea … Or  you have a culture were changes takes for ever because there are too many ideas and opinions. The first one comes from never asking why but saying yes! The second one comes from always asking why and always saying no! (I am obviously exaggerating but it is for the sake of classification).

I am not saying one is better than the other one but you should at least be able to decide when to apply which one since both are not always the best way to handle things! I will end this post with one of the examples our company gives us everyday which leave me with my mouth wide open and the rest of my colleagues with a satisfied smile.

I work as a consultant and will get a project assigned which maybe takes 20 days, working 8 hours daily. And you also need two people to do it which means that the total work load will be 8 hours times 20 times 2 resulting in 320 hours for this project. This is the whole budget and if I work inefficient (they never say that maybe the sales department made a mistake when doing the budgeting and planning for the workload, it is always you not working hard enough!) resulting in working a total of 350 hours for a project, they will do a “write down”. The client has been promised a 320 hour project. If it now becomes a 350 hour project it is our (the consultants) fault. It means that we don’t get the hours paid we worked over the budget!
If I work very good (and they said; this almost never happens! But maybe somehow you manage to pull it off faster than expected) and the project finished in 280 hours and not 320, the client still gets billed for a 320 hour project but the company does a “write up” for the hours, they actually got more money for the work they (we, the consultants) did. Do you think they explained us where this money goes? No. Do you think someone complained? No. Do you think anyone asked anything about this whole process? No! One friend of mine and me were the only ones with our mouths wide open. He then asked what happened? Could we “save” Write up-hours and use them for a write down project? To somehow get even and never have unpaid hours? Or we would get an extra for doing a project faster than expected?

The answer was: “Ah, you think you get the money for the part that has been done faster than expected? No, we don’t do this.” He did NOT answer where the money goes laughed a bit and just explained that we don’t get paid overtime if we work to slow and that we get nothing if we work faster than expected. There is no incentive for working faster but to use the budget exact to the minute. I personally think this is unbelievable and I have to wait until I work. Maybe it is possible to finish all projects before time? I don’t know yet. But no one in the whole room seemed to be bothered by this whole explanation. No one asked why.

Do you think this is the most efficient way to do things? What do you think about this? Similar experiences?I hope you enjoyed this blog and if you have more specific questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or to text on some other messenger! Thanks for reading guys!

Jonathan

Update: It seems not to be clear to everyone how the part with the chopsticks works so here is a picture for you guys. They take the remains from the cremation our of the urn and pass it between the family members. And that is the only occasion when chopsticks can touch the same item at the same time with another person!

Passing the remains between the family members out of the urn

Passing the remains between the family members out of the urn

Let’s lose our way together – 迷子になろうよ、いっしょに

Or just ‘Let’s become lost children together‘ – Hayao Miyazaki’s Ghibli Museum in Tokyo.

Hey Guys!

How are you doing? It took me almost 7 days to get this post finally up, but here it is! I visited with my girlfriend and my Mexican visitor the Forest Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo (三鷹の森ジブリ美術館).

The view from the roof of the Ghibli Museum

The view from the roof of the Ghibli Museum

I won’t lie, it is probably one of the most lovingly and cutely designed museums I have ever visited in my life (which haven’t been many … but still a handful). It looks like a building that could be found in one of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies and would not seem to be out of place at all.

If you want to visit the museum you have to buy a ticket one month beforehand at a Convenience Store (or in Japanese; konbini コンビニ) like Lawson. If I am mistaken correct me but usually you buy the tickets for the following month on the 11th of the previous month. If the 11th is a weekend or holiday you wait until the following Monday or workday to get it. The ticket costs 1000 Yen for an adult and will allow you (if bought in Japan) to visit the museum in a certain time window (10am to 12pm, 12pm to 2pm, 2pm to 4 pm or 4pm to 6pm). This will keep the museum from becoming to crowded and allows you to have a comfortable trip while being there.

You have to be fast! These tickets are sold out very quickly and should therefor be purchased on the same day when the sales are starting. If you buy your tickets from outside of Japan (which also has to be in advance by the way) you are not limited to exact entrance times. You will be able to visit the museum whenever you want on the booked day!

Most of the staff will be able to talk to you in very basic English but don’t expect anyone to explain you anything in detail if you are not able to speak Japanese. You get a little leaflet in many languages which … doesn’t give you any information but a vaguely drawn plan of the museum and some inspiring words by Hayao Miyazaki (I wrote the words down for you in the title of this blog – What he means is that the museum has no route and you have to explore it however you want and get lost in its ‘magic‘ … uuuh). The whole museum will be in Japanese which makes it hard for foreigners who don’t speak Japanese to enjoy it as much as other Japanese-speaking people. But here are the good news for you not Japanese-speaking-fellas; 80% of the content in the museum itself has not to be read or understood. I would have loved to show you what I mean, but unfortunately it is not allowed to take pictures INSIDE of the museum. But believe me – it has a very unique architecture.

The exhibits change every year and this year it was about ‘The Lens at Work in The Ghibli Forest‘ and was pretty awesome. They had a whole room lined up with art that moves very fast in circles so that it appears like it is a movie or actually animated. Our eyes can’t catch so many images which makes static figures or pictures seem like they are moving. My Mexican friend still took a video of a few of the exhibitions and I will see if I can get it for you guys.

There will also be a room full of hand drawn papers and concept arts of many Ghibli movies which will make real fans yell out in delight. Also the huge souvenir shop will leave no wish unanswered since you can buy almost anything remotely related with Ghibli (notebooks, pens, posters, shirts, figures, buttons etc. etc.) for an almost reasonable price (the Disney souvenir shop is like 1000000 times more expensive in comparison). For the fellas of you who love Totoro (トトロ) you can have a pretty big version of the Cat Bus (猫バス). But if you are able to find this blog and read it without major difficulties you are probably already too old to get inside of it :p But you can still listen to the story of the Cat Bus if you understand Japanese (the poor woman probably has to tell the story 100 times a day – at least!).

The museum has a garden on its roof with replicas from the movie Laputa: Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ) which is the first movie to be published and released by Ghibli Studios! On the roof they have one of the robots which appear in the movie as well as the hieroglyphic cube!

The little forest on top of the Ghibli Museum roof

The little forest on top of the Ghibli Museum roof

Hieroglyphic cube from 'Laputa: The Castle in the Sky' and my girlfriend deciphering

Hieroglyphic cube from ‘Laputa: The Castle in the Sky’ and my girlfriend deciphering

The robot from 'Laputa: Castle in the Sky'

The robot from ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’

The roof of the Ghibli Forest Museum from the entrance

The roof of the Ghibli Forest Museum from the entrance

There is also a restaurant/cafe in the museum where you can buy expensive ice cream and food (the ice cream is awesome). There was a 15 men line to enter the restaurant part of the cafe and if everyone of them would have eaten in about 45 minutes … I would have probably starved before getting something into my stomach. I decided to eat a Hotdog for 500 Yen from a little food-stand next to the cafe which wasn’t that bad but I wouldn’t recommend it. Bring your own lunch (Obentou お弁当) and enjoy it outside!

The Strawhat Cafe at the Ghibli museum

The Strawhat Cafe at the Ghibli museum

The whole visit of the the museum will take you maybe 2 hours or less. It took us about 90 minutes and we had seen everything (Without counting the time we used to get ice cream and a hotdog). But outside of the museum there is a big and beautiful park (which we did not visit – my back was killing me and we had another appointment… we arrived already late at the museum) in which you can take a walk or have your lunch.

Inside of the museum there is also a movie theater which shows a 12 minute original short movie! I don’t know how often they have a new one and if they all follow the same concept, but the movie I saw only used sounds produced by (one?) person and used only one Japanese word which was arigatou (thanks ありがとう). The short movie was probably one of the best things for me in the museum. When you enter the museum you get a little filmstrip which allows you to enter the theater one time (when you enter they will stamp it). You should go and see it!

And before I forget; If you arrive at the Mitaka Station (三鷹駅) there is a bus ticket you can purchase for 300 Yen which will be your transportation from the station to the museum and back! It leaves every 10 minutes but is pretty small. On your way back you should watch out of how many people want to return because the line gets pretty long on the way back at around 4pm or 5pm!

 

So, did I like it? Yes! Should you all go? Yes, why not! But only if you really like Ghibli or if you want to see a very special museum with awesome architecture (gave me many ideas for my own house I want to have someday). Obviously it is much more fun if you can understand Japanese but most of the things you can do there do not require it. And if you love the Ghibli movies … who cares?🙂 It gets my approval!

 

I hope you liked my little blog about the Ghibli Museum! One more point crossed of The List! Thanks for reading guys! And don’t forget to lose your way when you visit the museum!

Jonathan

Let's lose our way together

Let’s lose our way together

When you don’t belong anywhere

Hey guys!

I said I was going to about write the Ghibli Museum I visited past weekend but I decided to write about something else. It felt wrong writing about something like this due to some developments in my family which left me with one less cousin in my life.

Japan is one of the countries which is known for its high suicide rate (but it is actually ranked #10 world wide, with Greenland leading the list by far) and many unhappy and unfulfilled people. I never like to generalize but when you walk through the metro stations in Tokyo you see many people with empty faces who could just as well jump from the next bridge … or just be tired? But Japanese are also very friendly and most would say overly happy (or crazy?). But I don’t want to get too deep into this topic since I have been living here for just one month and I have to conduct some more empirical studies before I can make an adequate evaluation of the situation. Give me a few more months and I will probably write a post about it.

But to get to the point; hearing the message about my deceased cousin and seeing everyday many Japanese who could not look unhappier somehow moves your thoughts towards more negatives topics in your life. One of these topics is the question of where I belong to. This topic also came up over the past few days when I talked with my co-workers (all Chinese) of why they wanted to work in Japan and how they see their future.

Most of them wanted to get more money or had initially an interest in Japanese anime. But eventually all of them seem to plan on going back to the ‘Mainland‘ as they so lovingly call it. Also other of my German friends talk about going overseas but eventually returning to Germany and people are shocked when they hear me say that I am not interested in returning to Germany. Why should I not return home?

My blood and culture are mixed, having Venezuelan, Peruvian and Chinese ancestors and a German passport. Wherever I go people call me foreigner or outsider (here in Japan: Gaikokujin 外国人 or just Gaijin 外人). For my Peruvian and Venezuelan family I am the German or (even though they do it only jokingly) the little Chinese (in Spanish; chinito). My German friends call me the Black Guy or just Foreigner. Friends in Mexico enjoyed calling me the Angry German for quite some time. And if you don’t look like a Japanese, get used to being called Gaijin here in Japan.

I won’t complain about this because you get kinda used to it over the years and I never actually suffered under these ‘descriptions’ (there are worse things like; fatty, bacon face and Greasy McButterfingers [yes I made the last one up. . . no one has every called me that]). I remember the time I was proud of being Venezuelan (I got my German citizenship merely 2 and a half years ago) until the former president Chavez started going on a rampage through the country and its politics. I guess these events changed me (or my way of thinking at least) and my Venezuelan family calling me foreigner didn’t help much building up some kind of attachment for my birth-country. Taking the German citizenship was the logical thing to do since I was leaving the country and traveling as a Venezuelan is not the easiest thing to do. You need a visa for almost every country in the world . . . it’s a pain.

But traveling through many parts of the world and studying abroad allowed me to get a bigger picture of what the world really is. And I can tell you; there is more then just your ‘homeland’. There is more variety in language, culture, food and people than one can see and/or understand in her/his lifetime. Missing the chance of at least seeing a few of these is just something I do not want to regret later in life. And don’t tell me you can make some holidays in a foreign country and understand the culture and how it works. It takes months or even years to really get to know a foreign culture. A two or three weeks trip with your travel agency won’t do the trick. Believe me.

And even if we live for years in a country, the country will be different from south to north and east to west. People are different, the food is different and the culture is different. One of these examples is Mexico which has so much to offer and most people only know Cancun.

I lived 20 years in Germany and that is more than enough for me. I want to see other parts of the world and since no one calls me their “blood brother” or tells me that I belong HERE in this specific country … I don’t have any problem with changing my home address a few times. In Mexico one of my friends called my citizen of the world which I thought was pretty fitting to be honest.

I don’t know yet if I can call Japan my new home. If it weren’t for the Japanese work culture (maybe more about this in another blog) I might feel very very very comfortable over here. But the Japanese love to make you feel at home but they try not to make you feel as you belong to them. These two feelings are very very different! You can feel at home because they treat you very nice and friendly (they are probably one of the best hosts worldwide) but they also draw a very strict line between you and them. They are proud of being Japanese and let you know (in a [often] very polite manner) that you are not one of them.

And Japanese have even Gaijins within themselves! I will talk more about the Senpai and Kohai system in Japan in one of my future blogs, but just for the sake of this blog’s topic: At my company the ‘new guys‘ have to wear (this is compulsory) a white shirt and a suit while the ‘old guys‘ can wear whatever they want if they are working in the office in Tokyo (obviously when you leave to meet a client you wear a suit). But with this little gesture they show us that we (the new guys) are different from them and on another level. There is no need whatsoever for us to wear a suit. We will never be in contact with a client at the beginning of our training and while we haven’t received our salary yet (I get my first salary at the end of October) we are the poorest people in the company. But we HAVE to use our saved up money in order to buy the compulsory suit so that we can feel different than the rest. Awesome.

 

You see how life can treat you in a certain way that eventually makes you lose the feeling for where you actually belong? I will probably never be able to say I am a – insert citizen of a certain country here – and proud of it! Some of you ask me if I don’t want to see my parents and go back to Germany. Obviously I love my parents and I am happy every time I see them. But it doesn’t matter WHERE they are. I would go wherever they may be to visit them and still not have this feeling of belonging to the country they right now live in.

Problems like pride about a nationality (or religion) do not bother me the slightest to be honest. While I love the Japanese culture I despise their nationalism sometimes when it comes to dealing with the Chinese or Koreans. Many of them believe they are better than the rest and this is just something that causes conflict. The same kind of conflict that appears between people of different beliefs (Christians, Muslims, Jews, Mormons … Ehh, forget the Mormons… they don’t fight) which in other words is; completely pointless. I don’t say I am good person … but I would probably not start any fight about national pride as another person might do. But on the other hand if there is a problem in a country … I get the f*ck out as fast as I can (since there is no attachment to the country holding me back).

 

Not belonging anywhere is sad sometimes. But if everyone would think the same we would all just be happy … erhm… Earthians (???) with way less reasons to fight about stupid things.

 

I am sorry for this (rather depressing) post but I guess I just wanted to talk a little bit about the stuff that has been bothering me over the last few days since I got the message about my cousin. I will get back to the real Japanese blog with my next post. Probably tomorrow or the day after that!

Thanks for reading everyone!

 

In Memory of my cousin

Ricardo "Richi" Gonzalez Ruiz (22, died of cancer), *April 18th, 1991 - 25th September, 2013

Ricardo “Richi” Gonzalez Ruiz, April 18th, 1991 – 25th September, 2013 (22, died of cancer)

A cockroach? Where is the palace? And why so mad about Yasukuni?

Hey guys!

My last two posts got a lot of positive responses and even some feedback which makes me very happy and motivates me to keep writing! It is kinda frustrating if you write and write and write and ask for people’s opinion and no one ever writes anything. In my last blog I asked if you wanted to know more about the cockroach I had in my room. I had 53 visitors since my last blog and one of them said messaged me telling me to write more about the cockroach, two asked me what a cockroach is and the rest of didn’t have any opinion. No one said: No! Don’t tell us more. Which made the one person saying yes the majority because only yes and no were an option😛 I even made a little statistic to make it easier to understand. Please see below!

CockroachStats

So what can I tell you more about the cockroach? First of all it was so big that you could here it crawl through the room. It was dis-gus-ting. I screamed a few times when it headed right at me. I had no spray to kill it and not the balls to step on it. So I first tried to catch it in some tupperware (which later on I would have melted down and thrown away after touching a cockroach… obviously!) but I couldn’t go nearer than 3 feet to the cockroach.

I used my broom-like-dust-eliminator to shove it first out of the corner, out into the hallway, down the stairs and then out into the night. It took my like 30 minutes. And when it disappeared for a few minutes under my coach I couldn’t help but wonder: How long was this cockroach already inside my room? I guess I almost cried a little. (The cockroach by the way died outside in the rain… it is still lying there).

So here is my theory: Could the cockroach could have come in my Mexican friend’s suitcase? Maybe you are asking yourself why I am even considering it… the thing is that I sent the picture to a few Japanese and they all said that they had never seen a cockroach that big and that it actually was something different… Which makes me hope that they are right. So can anyone tell me if a cockroach could survive the trip in a suitcase from Mexico to Japan and stay undetected for roughly 4 days in my apartment (or my friend’s suitcase)? We all know these disgusting things I pretty hard to kill but this one died as soon as it got outside of my apartment. Maybe it was already starving? Hated Japanese air? I don’t know. Help me out and give me some hope that this was the first and last huge cockroach in my apartment! Here are some pictures by the way😛

2013-09-25 00.10.31 2013-09-25 00.10.21

Where is the Imperial Palace?

Well, enough about the cockroach! My past weekend story continues! After my very long birthday I visited with my Mexican friend and my girlfriend the Imperial Palace in Tokyo! It is located on a very green Island in the middle of Tokyo. And in summer and spring there are many beautiful flowers all over that little island which can be visited for free I might add! Here are a few pictures which I took on the same day and from my office!

Imperial Palace from my Office

Imperial Palace from my Office

Bridge in direction to Yasukuni

Bridge in direction to Yasukuni

My girlfriend fooling around

My girlfriend fooling around

What's left of The Imperial Palace

What’s left of The Imperial Palace

As you can see in the last picture, the few stones left on this place is what is left of the original Imperial Palace. Unfortunately it has been destroyed in World War II and has never been rebuilt thereafter. If you want to see a very impressive Japanese castle you will have to make a detour to Osaka. But there are many many castles all over Japan and I will make sure to visit a few more for you guys if you want me to! Just let me know!

We unfortunately could only spent less than an hour (I think) in the Imperial Garden because it closes very early and we got there kinda late. If you enter on the east side you can walk through it and leave on the west side and continue your tour to the famous Yasukuni Shrine!

Why are Prime Minister Abe and Yasukuni not best friends?

Fun fact before we start: The Yasukuni Shrine has the tallest bronze torii (鳥居) in all of Japan which is pretty impressive when you stand in front of it. If you don’t know what a torii is; here are some pictures for you!

2013-09-22 16.43.09 2013-09-22 16.46.09 2013-09-22 16.43.47It is about 25 meters tall and 34 meters wide and is the first gate you pass through when entering the Yasukuni Shrine from the north-east side (which is the main entrance if I am not mistaken).

So why is this temple such a big problem when it comes to relations with Korea and China? Japanese people if I understood something wrong please correct me anytime you want and I will update my blog. As far as I understood the temple holds all the souls of men and women who died in the service for the Japanese Empire (prior to 1951). Not only Japanese are enshrined here also Taiwanese and Koreans who fought for the Emperor (even though not always willingly). As for today there are 2,466,532 souls enshrined in Yasukuni. The problem is that also people who are seen as war criminals are enshrined there.

Even though many Japanese don’t want to see this, they did very cruel things back in World War II. If the Prime Minister were to go there and pray he would also thank/pray to the people the Chinese and Koreans consider to be some of the worst people ever to have walked on the face of the earth. It is a rather sad place but no one can deny the beauty and architecture of this place. If you should ever have the chance to visit the Shrine you should definitely go there, most of the writings are translated into English but taking a Japanese-speaking person with you who can translate some of the letters that are shown there might be a good experience. A very famous (and very very sad) letter of a soldier writing to his mother before he died is also there to be seen. It is a big chunk of Japanese culture and history which anyone who wants to know more about this country should visit and enjoy!

A monument for the children who died

A monument for the children who died

I hope you enjoyed this post! There is one more coming about last weekend! I went to see the infamous Ghibli Museum! So keep posted if you want to know more about it and don’t forget to ask anything you would like to know about Japan. If you want some more details about what has been posted, just leave me a comment too.

Thanks for reading you guys! Two more points crossed off The List!

Jonathan