Archive for July, 2003

Lying on my bed typing, putting off a decent sleep yet again….

It’s a mystery to myself why I choose to do this. I even have a report tomorrow. *sigh* Well, I don’t think this entry will be too long.

The weekend. Mainly I want to catch up on the weekend. Let’s start with Friday. One of Ben’s co-workers (Yamada-san) is scheduled to move to Osaka and work at a different Sanyo location. Ben had this great idea of taking him out for dinner. All together, there was about 12 of us, I think. About half interns, and half Yamada-san and company (other regular employees). We went to a Yakitoriya. Yakitori is VERY GOOD, but VERY EXPENSIVE! It’s like 120yen for one tiny shishkabob of meat or whatever you get… but it was so good. It’s meant to be a snack. There was so many of us, that we had to split up into two tables. We ate, we drank, we talked… we had a good time. But, when I got up to check out what was going on at the other table, some of the guys were missing! I asked where they went. “The girls’ table.” The GIRLS’ table?! Ikkimasho! =) Upon stepping foot into the room where the “girls'” table was, I was greeted boistrously by the whole room. Cool. I could tell this was going to be fun. These girls knew how to drink! They were all 4th nurses, taking a break from tests. Some of us (the smart ones, and ones without girlfriends… even one with a girlfriend) stayed in that room talking with all the girls until we left. Some numbers and emails were exchanged, and we may see some of them again. Good fun.

When we got back, a smaller group of us decided to play a card game Ben had taught us, called “Oh Shit.” I should mention this alcohol I’ve purchased. I bought it because it was cheap and it looked extremely effective. Alcohol in Japan is generally much cheaper than in Canada, because they don’t slap on such massive taxes. It’s also very difficult for me to buy “sake” if I want “sake” because I don’t know what the Chinese characters are. So I ended up getting this “Kumashochu.” It turns out for about 10$ CDN I bought a large bottle of 25% alcohol. This stuff is killer. It even tastes like paint thinner! Score! It is the perfect punishment drink when playing cards or some other game. Well, I happened to bring this bottle and was “sipping” it when we were playing cards, just to keep my buzz semi-present… and Ben didn’t want to be drinking alone. One of the Japanese guys (he must have had 5 litres of beer at the yakitoriya earlier) saw me drinking that and asked if he could try it. “Sure.” I handed hime the cup. He took a swig. “Oishii!” He proceeded to pour himself a full glass of this poison and downed it like a shot. He didn’t even go blind temporarily! Me and Ben looked at each in amazement. Prior to this incident, this individual was in a relaxed state, coming down from his 5-litre-beer buzz. Back at the restaurant, he was very lively, trying to pick me up and sit me near(on) ususpecting Japanese girls. *sigh* About 5-seconds after downing that glass, he was back to slurring his speech and falling over himself. He must’ve felt that night the next day… maybe two. =)

Okay, it’s 3:20am, and I’m REALLY tired. I’ll add more to this later.

Tuesday 9:00pm – I did a lot of work today! O.O

I worked the most overtime I’ve worked yet! I arrived at work at 8:40am, and left 7:00pm. I hate getting stuck in the middle of something… and I also hate saying I would probably finish something when I did not. ^_^ eheh. But I did a lot of work. Actually, it’s kind of nice that way, because the time goes by quickly… as long as I’m not falling asleep at the keyboard (I’m known for doing this) or reading endless technical drivel. Bleh. I had egg plant in both my lunch and dinner meals, today. I don’t really like eggplant, but I could eat this. I also had a small block of tofu for my dinner, and I’m positive I don’t like that. Plain tofu. Eeew. It’s really good in miso soup, however.

Back on track: Saturday. Around 11:20am, Ben and I biked to Gifu City. (Yes, on our super sexy basket bikes… there are days I’d kill for a decent mountain bike). This was quite a nice ride, and it took us about 1 hour and 30 minutes riding casually. When we got there, we were really hungry – BUT, we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on lunch. So, we went to a convenient store… a “konbini.” Japanese convenient stores are … well… much more convenient than convenient stores anywhere else. Kind of like a 7-11 (which is Japanese-owned, by the way), but with liquor. And the meals are much better than North American convenient stores. I got a hot dog, a half of an egg sandwich, and a half of a potato croquette sandwich, and a melon cream soda. All for about 500 yen. Not bad.

After eating our konbini-lunch, we hiked up to Gifu Castle. Gifu Castle is at the top of a big hill. It looks really cool. All around Gifu City, actually, hills poke out from urban area, with almost nothing on them. It looks quite strange. Where there is not a hill, it is flat; and where it is flat, it is very crowded with buildings and houses. We bought ice cream and admired the vending machines (at the top of a friggin mountain)! The view was awesome up there. King-of-the-world type thing. You could look all around and see forever. It’s like some giant kid walked around gifu pouring out buckets of sand in random places. I got lots of pictures!

We used our cell phones to keep in contact with Shirley, who decided she was going to come and watch the hanabi (“flower-fire” = fireworks) with us. Later John also decided to come. Eventually, it was us four interns and thousands of Japanese sitting on the riverbank awaiting the fireworks. The fireworks kicked ass! They were much better than what usually happens in Vancouver (especially the lame Canada Day fireworks! – what a shameful display…). And they last for over an hour and a half! It was crazy! It was almost… too much fireworks. ^_^ The coolest part was seeing all the girls (and some guys too, but girls are more interesting) in their yukatas. (A yukata is like a summer kimono, to my knowledge). Plus all the vendors out trying to cash in on the crowd! There was SO much good looking food! Let’s see if I can remember the names… karage, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, yakitori, ika, and lots others. So many stands selling food! I couldn’t believe it. After the fireworks, we squeezed out of the crowds and biked back home. I actually got a decent amount of exercise that day!

Sunday. Not much happened sunday. I was pretty tired from the previous day’s expedition, so I really just wanted to relax for one day before going back to work. Beware: I’m now gonna play the nerd card and talk about video games! I checked out Alex’s new PS2. He’s got two games for it: Final Fantasy X – International Version, and Soul Calibur II. I may have had a little bit of influence on his decision to get Soul Calibur II, so I’ll probably buy a second controller or something so as we can have some real fun. I was considering getting a Gamecube, but I’m not sure. If I got one, I’d probably want to get the Japan-only version that also plays DVDs… but something like that I’d want to bring back to Canada, and I’d have to get it modified to play North American games and DVDs. Also, all games I get will be in Japanese! That’s actually a good motivation to learn the language, but I don’t know if it’s really worth it.

Cool games that are out here that AREN’T out in Canada: Soul Calibur II, Viewtiful Joe, Final Fantasy Chrystal Chronicles (comes out very soon – just over a week). I was also able to get John to help me with all the kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese language) on the Japanese webpages and get a couple sweet java games for my Java-enabled cell phone! Now I don’t need a portable game system! Some of these games are really good. I got Tetris (I had to get Tetris!), a game that I thought was Go, but just uses the same board, a couple shooting game demos (actual games cost more than I wanted to pay, at the time), and a sweet game where u shoot people out of a cannon! Yeah, it’s a little difficult to explain, so I’ll just show those that are interested when I return. =)

That was a very enjoyable weekend. ^_^ I suppose I haven’t yet had an unenjoyable weekend…. which is good.

I need an iron and ironing board! :(

Yesterday was cool. Very cool. But I’ll get back to that. Gotta maintain the chronological-ness of everything, you see.

Mostly, last week at work was reading. Lots of reading. So, it wasn’t exactly very fun, but there wasn’t any pressure, either, so that was nice. I got many things over the last week. Tuesday, we went to the bank and the Anpachi town office, where I got my “Alien registration card” and a bank account! Sweet! While we were at the bank, I asked my advisor where a good place to buy a tv was. You see, by this time, I was the only one at the dormitory without a tv, it seemed. And two of the other interns got tvs leant to them from co-workers. My advisor told me I could use a tv he had in his office that he didn’t use. Cool! But, I don’t get it… do Japanese keep all this extra stuff around just to give it to people? I hope he really didn’t use it. Anyways, I got a nice, small SANYO tv in my room now. My advisor even bought a cable after he left work that same day, and delivered it himself to my dormitory room! I was, to say the least, shocked. And my room was a mess…. =/

My supervisor was kind enough to help me out with getting a cell phone and wireless internet. The phone people don’t speak a drop of English, it seems… and the plans and everything are extremely complicated. I spent SO MUCH TIME asking about phones and plans, and waiting for a translation, etc. The phone I wanted was apparently popular and I would have to wait at least a week before they would get it at that location, and I hadn’t actually ordered it yet. (We have a cell phone shop, among other things, in one of the company cafeterias). There was a long time spent talking about the wireless internet, as well. Would it work from the dormitory? o_O After testing it with cell phones, the signal seemed OK, so I had decided I would go for that particular card. (It is a wireless card, and the service area is very good as long as you stay within civilization – so I could use it on the trains, and pretty much anywhere in Japan that I may go… just no the “country”). It is also endless access at 64kbits/sec. Not bad.

Yesterday, Friday, eventually came rolling around. It seemed to take a while. I was suppose to accompany my supervisor and another coworker to Nagoya for a demonstration by a professor (who is a research partner of Sanyo) at Nagoya Institute of Technology. Sanyo gives the school money (a LOT) and the professor does research for Sanyo and provides results exclusively to Sanyo. Typical stuff, I suppose. We were suppose to leave at 10am – my supervisor would be driving. Cool. I was looking forward to it. However, I wanted to order my phone before the long weekend came. I asked my supervisor if he could help me do it before we left. “Sure, no problem.” Awesome. We went to the shop at 9:15am; no good, they’re closed. We ask a person at the travel shop next to it when they open. 10:00am. Okay, the plan was slowly changing. My supervisor said it would be good to request the phone today so as I wouldn’t have to wait so long for it. I, of course, agreed (very passively). So, he said we could postpone leaving a bit and work out the cell phone documents. We returned to the cell phone shop at 10:15am. There was a woman employee there, but she was also waiting for someone else to come with the keys. She appologized many times, took my supervisor’s office phone number, and said she would call when the other person arrives and opens shop (late). *sigh*

At this point, I felt bad; because I wanted a cell phone my supervisor was changing his plans for the day. Initially, he asked me if I had been to Nagoya castle. He was very surprised when I said I had. Then after talking with my advisor (the boss of our department) he asked me if I had been to Nagoya tv tower. Nope. Okay, he said he would take me to Nagoya tv tower before going for the demonstration. Cool. But, I got the impression that wasn’t going to happen now.

A while later, we returned to the shop after receiving a call from the woman. As it turns out, they had the exact phone I wanted, for some reason! Even the same colour! She said she would put it aside for me. COOL! We explained our situation and when we may be back from Nagoya, and we could come back after to finish business. Off to Nagoya! We were no longer driving, now we were taking the Shinkansen! Sweet! I always wanted to ride the bullet train, but couldn’t justify the cost. Well, if the company’s paying for it, it’s all good, as far as I’m concerned. The Shinkansen is the fastest train in the world. I think someone told me it travels at upwards of 300km/hr. Holy crap! And yes, it certainly is fast, but it doesn’t seem THAT fast. All times previous that I have been to Nagoya, we took the regular train. This train has lots of stops, and travels anything but straight. It takes about 50 minutes, if I remember, correctly. The Shinkansen, however, travels in a straight line, and from Hashima to Nagoya is only one stop – 10 minutes. About 13 for boarding and stuff. Jesus! Only twice the price! Heh

At Nagoya station, we took the “sky-shuttle” (a fancy named elevator) up to Nagoya towers to eat lunch. Supervisor: “Is Italian okay?” Um… sure! Anything is okay! The restaurant we ate at seemed really fancy. We had an awesome view of Nagoya (we were, in a “tower,” after all). It was a little odd being served Italian food by Japanese, but the food was good. We got two types of bread, one of which was black, apparently dyed with squid ink. Interesting. Tasted good, though. The cheapest dish was 1500yen. Mine was 1700.

After lunch, take the subway to the Nagoya Institute of Technology. After a bit of walking, we arrived in professor Tasaka’s “waiting room.” We have to wait about half an hour. Then we are led into another room. We sit down in really nice chairs. His secretary serves us Japanese tea. Earlier, my supervisor had told me that he gets nervous talking with professor Tasaka – I now knew why. This was an extremely formal procedure. I was nervous. The professor comes in and sits down, also with a cup of tea. No one touched their tea until the professor did. A little talking and a lot of silence later, we were shown a series of demonstrations (which the professor was kind enough to give us an overview of earlier). Some were quite interesting (to me). I particularly liked playing with the haptic device. =) Back into the office to talk to the professor again (more tea). That being all wrapped up, we took the subway back to Nagoya station and hopped on the Shinkansen again.

Back at the Solar Ark, nobody was at the office. It was 5:30 or something, but it was “fureai” day, so everyone leaves (mostly) on time. I felt bad. It ended up taking FOREVER to fill out the appropriate documents and such for the cell phone and the wireless card. It was funny, all I had to do was say “arigatoo,” and the cell-phone woman was amazed. Yes, my Japanese really is that impressive. (Not). =) I wouldn’t be able to get the wireless until next week, and I wanted the year-long plan because it worked out to be cheaper. However, with the wireless year-long plan, you had to pay it ALL at ONCE. O_O That’s a lot of cash at one time. The only way I’ll be able to do it is because Sanyo’s reimbursed half of my flight costs… and it’s almost all of that. =( Me and my supervisor ended up leaving the shop at about 7pm, so we were there for a long time. But the girl was really attractive, so that helped. ^_^

After I ate dinner at the dormitory, I performed the ritual of openning a new electronic device. This is a very sacred ritual, for me. I spent the rest of the night playing with my new cell phone, half of it trying to change the language from Japanese to English.

Yesterday marked so many firsts for me, in Japan. First time I got a cell phone. First time I ate Italian in Japan. First time I ate with a fork in Japan! First time I rode the Shinkansen. First time I got to try this really cool haptic device. Yesterday was cool. ^_^

For the curious….

My new cell phone: (nothing in Canada even comes close)

  • Model: J-SH53 (J-phone is the carrier, and the phone is made by Sharp)
  • Various features:
    • 1.0 Megapixel digital camera (this is big for a phone)
    • SD Flash Memory Card slot (up to 128MB)
    • QVGA screen (320×240 high colour)
    • Tons of things (many I don’t know how to use yet): scheduler, mp3 player, java enabled, web access, I can even get the weather report whenever I want.
  • Cost: ~11000yen (I got the most expensive J-Phone model… but for what you get, that’s nothing! This thing is practically a PDA!)

My cell phone plan: ~ 3800yen / month for 50 minutes (prime) talk-time + email services, etc. Must sign for a full year for this plan.

My wireless Internet access:PCMCIA card for laptop: 0yen when signing for year Plan is for a year, and includes unlimited access at 64kbits/second. Unfortunately, I have to pay the full year’s cost right away. That’s about 53000yen. =(

If you want to do any conversions between yen and dollar, look up “currency convertor” on the net. I got tired of doing rough calculations. =)

Listening to Sublime, sitting naked on the floor, waiting for laundry

Yes, I’m sitting naked on the floor right now. I don’t mean to paint such a graphic picture, but it is SO HOT HERE!! Today… er.. okay, yesterday, was “fureaidei.” Apparently, it means “contact” in Japanese. Every Friday, (or payday – but not both in one week) is called fureaidei, and this is the only day where all employees must leave work at 5:15pm. Regular time. If this were a Canadian office, every day would be fureaidei!

Anyways, I left as soon as I heard the chimes – I wasn’t going to do overtime if I wasn’t suppose to! (Not this time, anyways…. ^_^) I had plans. I needed some stuff, which meant I had to go for a bikeride. Mainly, I needed snacks and sake, and a pillow-case. I ended up getting lots of snacks (I’m currently addicted to a few things, one of them being Oreos), mandarin oranges, some stationery, a 6metre cord, and a pillow (with a pillow case!). I went there with John, and we ended up going to McDonald’s.. or… “makudonaludo.” McDonald’s is much better in Japan. You order your stuff, (in my case, I *try* to order my stuff, and sometimes end up with the wrong things), and then you sit down. They’ll give you your drink, and bring you your food when it’s ready. When it’s ready! There’s not a huge reservoir of fries sitting in the pan, or a massive line of burgers waiting for their turn – they make them when you order them. My fries and burger were actually quite hot when they brought them to me. Boy, did I feel special. Of course, it’s also more expensive in Japan. My big-mac meal (big-sized) ended up being over 600 yen with tax. That’s like, $7 CDN? KFC is apparently even more expensive.

So I had most of what I went for, and managed my way back with my goods in the basket and my backpack, sweating profusely. Yes, I’m trying to get back to it being so friggin hot here. Patience. I finally got back to my room (a 15minute bike-ride and 5 flights of stairs later), and tried to organize some of what I bought. The cord was to make a clothes-line-type thing in my room, to dry clothes and hang stuff. I set that up as best I could, and I’m pretty happy with the results. Now I can… hang… stuff. =) There’s just not enough room in the wardrobe. I figured, since I was already sweating so bad, and I wasn’t stopping, even in the presence of my air conditioner, I would go for a run. However, like it had earlier in the day, it had begun raining quite hard. I didn’t care. Did some stretches, especially on my delicate still-healing ankle, and left. I went for quite a long jog. It was enjoyable. Actually, I wished it had rained all the time, but it stopped on my way back. I was completely soaked when I got back, and had a shower/bath. I tried showering with as cold water as I could get. That helped. But as soon as I got back up to my room, and had gone up an extra floor to put my laundry in, I was sweating like a dog again. And so, my nakedness is explained – I had to cool down!! I’m actually ok now, but I’ll have to go get my laundry soon. =/ It is so humid and muggy here, even when it’s raining, it’s usually hot. And man does it rain! It rains much harder than it does in Vancouver, but only for short bursts. Yesterday, I think, there was a thunder storm that lasted about 10 minutes, but that was the heaviest 10 minutes of rain I have ever seen. COOL. =)

Last weekend, Amy came from (near) Nagano to visit us Gifu folk (Ben, John, Shirley, and I). That was really nice of her. We went to Nagoya (again) and went around all the sites. Nagoya is the fourth largest city in Japan, so it’s a fair size. I still can’t get over all the craziness in Japan. We must stay there overnight and go clubbing or something. That is something I *must* do sometime soon – cash permitting. The next day, we biked to Ogaki, the opposite direction of Nagoya – a much smaller town, but still not “small” by Canadian standards. We ate some Mr Donut (Thanks for the coupons, Kahori!), and DAMN was that good! WAY better than Tim Horton’s. Japanese bakeries also looks SO good. So much interesting things I must try! After that, we went to Ogaki Castle, and then Ben, Amy, and I had SUSHI (for a mere 800yen!) And it was good, too! We’re taking note of that place. After that, we said bye to Amy at Ogaki station (I hope she had a good time), and then Ben and I decided to take the train as far into the country as it went. After a 30 minute train ride, we were in Ibi. This was a small town. We walked around for three hours. I WISH I HAD BROUGHT MY CAMERA!! Ben shared his pictures with me, so it’s not so bad. We walked straight to the mountains which were covered with dense bamboo and many other kinds of trees (which I’m not sure of). Very green. Very lush. Awesome scenery.

This weekend may be quite busy. I should probably go to sleep soon. A lot of interns are coming to Nagoya, and we’re hosting. I would like to go to the Sumo that is in Nagoya, currently, but the tickets are quite expensive. Maybe I will go to another city to watch it. Let everyone else test the waters, tell me how it is. =) I’m hearing it’s a wait-10 minutes-to-watch-30-seconds cycle. =/ I have to save what money I can for the traveling I may have to do soon (long weekend).

My laundry must be done now.

Just got back from my 3rd day of work

I’m sitting on my bed eating “ebisen,” this super tasty, super artificial shrimp cracker/chip thing. Yum.

Let me see… work. I’ve never actually worked in a “western office” environment, but I know this: the Japanese office environment is WAY different. I get there at 8:40am, 5 minutes before I’m suppose to be there. Other people are either already there, and look like they’ve been there for a while; or dwindle in – it depends ENTIRELY on the department. However, even if it seems that some employees come a bit later, they all do overtime. I’ve even done overtime every day so far… anywhere from 45 minutes to 75 minutes.

My coworkers are nice, they can manage to say nothing except good-morning and good-bye. Except, good-bye is more like “Please excuse me for leaving” if there’s someone (anyone) in the office when they leave. Osakani shitsurei shimasu. Yes, the office is quiet. Then there’s the chimes. At certain times of the day, begin-work, lunch-start, lunch-end, end-work, etc, a chime will play. This chime is different depending on the department, I believe. The best is the company song. The Sanyo-song. It’s a small melody with a gentle blend of instruments of the classical theme. It plays at lunch time, when the lights are dimmed. Or is that the exercise song? The factory workers have an exercise song, telling them to do there daily exercises – apparently this is taken very seriously, and is entertaining to watch. Of course, that’s the thing about Japan: everything is very serious.

Mmmm.. these ebisen sure are delicious. They’re like cheetos or something equally artificial; they dissolve in your mouth.

The food here is good. I like Japanese food. The food at the company cafeteria is better than the food at the dormitory cafeteria, because there’s lots more choice. The prices are very cheap compared to an average meal at a restaurant in Japan. Japan’s very expensive. Japan wa totemo takai desu ne. On the weekend, we went to Nagoya (I’m so glad some of the other interns here have already done this stuff, I’d be lost without them – literally). Going to Nagoya wasn’t too bad. We got to ride these sexy bikes (single gear, drooping handle bars, bell, and basket included) to the train station. That was a nice ride, actually. I really enjoyed that, and it wasn’t long at all – 10 minutes? At the train station, we pay 720 yen to go to Nagoya, and the ride lasts somewhere around 35 minutes, if I remember. Then we get on a subway for 3 stops (just a few minutes), and that costs another 200 yen. So, a round trip to Nagoya on the (slow) train is about $20 CDN, to put it in perspective. That’s not including lunch or anything like that. The typical (cheap) lunch is about 800yen, almost $10 CDN again.

The bike I used that day when going to Nagoya was one I borrowed from Sanyo. We can sign out bikes, but they have to be back the same day… not good if you want to go out overnight. So, after everyone else had bought a bike, and scoped out the best deal, I got myself my very own Japanese style bike. I call it Japanese style, because you just don’t see people riding bikes like this in Canada… or, if you do, you just feel sorry for them. Here, however, it’s totally different. These are actually perfect for where we are. The area is very flat, so the single gear is not a problem at all. The chain is fully guarded so you won’t get grease on your clothes (many people use these bikes to ride to work or school or even “out for a night in town”). The basket at the front is extremely useful! There’s the bell, which also has it’s purpose. They each have a battery-less light, that when engaged make it a little more difficult to pedal due to the fact that you’re now pedaling to power the light, as well. They are all self-locking and include a form of kickstand. These bikes are PERFECT for this lifestyle. The bike I got was the cheapest we found: 5700 yen. That’s maybe $80 CDN. Not bad, not bad.