Monday, January 21, 2013

Biking around the Imperial Palace

My beloved bike has finally arrived in Japan!  I have spent so many good moments with "her"  that Noemi calls her  my lover. She makes many noises while riding it, she is not new or fancy - but I was really missing it.

For my first trip, I decided to ride around the Imperial Palace. I have understood that you can at least visit the gardens, but all the gates were closed today - need to check this later.

Today is a beautiful day - sunny, 5° C and not windy - perfect for a ride. The route was only 10 km, but it was a wonderful beginning.

You can track my route clicking here in this link, You will be able to follow the route and see the pictures at their precise place they were taken.

South of the Imperial Palace Park, you can find some of Tokyo's  landmarks:

The National Diet of Japan  ( Parliament )

Prime Minister Official Residence ( reminds me the Israeli  Knesset )

National Theatre ( photo from Wikipedia)

Supreme Court ( photo by Caspar Borkowsky)

View of the Marunouchi building complex close to Tokyo Railway Station

View of the Marunouchi building complex close to Tokyo Railway Station

Stone  walls and ditch around the Imperial Palace

You can access  the complete album by clicking on the photo below:
Biking around the Imperial Palace

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Japanese Sanitary Vases

The subject of today's post is the Sanitary Vase, or in Portuguese "privada".

In  our apart-hotel room the sanitary vase is separated from the shower or the hand basin and  toilet cabinets.This dedicated space is very common in Europe, North America and also in Japan - but not at all  in Brazil. Having "some" spare time and decided to enlighten my readers, I searched the Internet for an answer with no success. Only found some hotel reviews in Brazil where some people complained about this segregation. Can someone solve this mystery by adding answers in the "Comments" link  at the bottom of this post page?

Waiting for some answers,let's return in the meantime to my Japanese sanitary vase -take a look at it! Do you notice any difference from the one you have at your place?

There are two electronic boxes close to it for commanding this sophisticated equipment.

You find this box hanging on the wall allowing you to:

- Turn On this "functionality". If you are a true Latin macho you can refrain yourself from using this Japanese piece of technology.
- Water Jet:  The big blue painted buttons allow you to program the water jet operation. You can select between  a concentrated or soft ( funny word....)  water jet directed to your buttocks (well, not exactly the buttocks, but.... )
- Bidet: Women can enable this additional feature
- Arrow buttons:  You can adjust the water pressure,and the position of the water jet 
using these buttons.
- Jet Move: You can make the jet move back and forth automatically around your rear.
- Massage: This is the strangest function - you can make the shower spray alternatively stronger and weaker water jets!  Usually the biggest   "shock" or  "surprise" (depends in your past experience with colonoscopy  or other similar recurrent acts ) is at the beginning of the jet stream. By selecting this option you can multiply this pleasure multiple times.
- Air: After completing the water phase, you can have a hot air stream flowing pleasantly at your bottom. Unfortunately, this model does not come with an oscillating air jet. However, using this functionality reminded me of the air jet equipments that are now installed in public toilets for replacing paper towels - at the end you need to dry your hands in your trousers ( just kidding....).

The other control box allows you to:  
- Set the temperature of the water
- Set the temperature of the seat 
- Set the temperature of the air
- Enable the deodorant - I did not find any difference in the room smell after a good dump (sorry about it.....)

Hope that you will enjoy reading this text as much as I had while testing it. :-)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Coming of Age holiday in Tokyo

Last Monday was a national holiday in Japan celebrating the Coming of Age when all those who have reached  20 years old are congratulated for getting to the age of majority ( i.e.   late "bar-mitzva"). The  young women use long sleeves kimonos and men prefer a western suit gathering  in groups commemorating this special event.

This event happens every year on the second Monday in January since 714 A.D., but this time it happened under a strong snow storm that disrupted completely the traffic and most of the parties in Tokyo and the rest of Japan.

(by Yuya Shino / Reuters)

Hoping to see these specially dressed young people we went to Sensoji, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple, that is one of the most popular Buddhist temples in Tokyo.

After getting soaked taking these pictures and completely frozen, we ran to the first restaurant to get a hot tea. At the doorstep, some Filipino tourists urged us to taste the "melon bread" that was indeed  fluffy, sweet and delicious.

Click on the picture at the bottom to access all the photos from this album. Select the first picture and then click on the "Full Screen" button  to better enjoy these "amazing" pictures.

Monday, January 14, 2013

How Japanese kids learn to multiply in primary school

This is why the Japanese are better at math. Once you figure this out it'll blow your mind...

The lines and numbers above may not make any sense at first, but according to William C. at "The lines over the circles are color coded. notice the single red line and 3 blue lines representing "13" group together while the single green and 2 black lines take their own group. [Simply] draw your first group of lines in one direction then your second group of lines going over the first, count the groups of intersections and there's your answer."   ( by Mad Ryan @ Facebook )

Sunday, January 13, 2013

How to locate an address in Japan?

One of my first problems that I have encountered in Japan is how to locate an address. In most western countries, if not in all of them, this is not a big challenge. However, in Japan this is a serious issue due to the fact that many, or most, of the streets don't have a name. Yes, this is crazy, but true.

So how does it work?  Let's take this sign that I have found  in a house around here:

The first  2 Kanji ideograms from the first line represent the word "Akasaka".  
In the second line, from left to right, the first character is a number in Kanji  ( ) that equals to "2". These 3 Kanji characteres together (赤坂    二)  identify  a city district
( "丁目") -  in this case "Akasaka 2 that is part  of the Minato ward or municipality of Tokyo.

The numeral "17" represents an area that may encompass several street blocks, as can be barely seen in the picture at the right.

And finally "15" is the number of the house that is unique inside the area "17". 
As you can see, in this simple example, we find numerals in both Kanji and Arabic. Simple, isn't it ?

If you have an address in Latin characters you can copy it in Google Maps, and most probably it can find the location (sometimes you need to add or subtract a dash from the name to make it work). However, as happened to me in my first attempt to locate a small store in a small street with no name, I failed miserably to locate it physically. 

I succeeded to get to the right  place due to a common Japanese behaviour. A man have seen me wandering around  and approached me asking ,using universal hand signs, where do I need to go. I have shown him the address, and after consulting with somebody inside his working place, he returned to me, and insisted in taking me to the right place that was located two streets away.  Not only that, he took me to the elevator, and made sure that I arrived to the correct place. I was astonished from this guy politeness. By the way, I have  already experienced  similar behaviour in other occasions - this seems to be the rule and not the exception!

I am sure that even for Japanese  people, it is confusing to find a specific address in a small street. Just take a look in one of the maps that you can find in a store website.

This is a map of  Akihabara - the geek's paradise. But, this deserves an additional post, or rather several ones.

See you !

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Moving to Japan

My apologies to my Portuguese , French and Dutch  speaking friends - I will write my posts in English. But you can translate its content by selecting your language from the scroll box at the right side of the screen.

Meus amigos podem traduzir este blog clicando na  barra de rolagem a direita da tela!!!

After an interval of more than 4 years, I am resuming my blogger activity as requested by  many friends.  When we first moved to Montreal, I sent through a mail list several impressions of my experience of living in Canada, but after a few months I did not find additional material to write about. When  we later moved to Brussels, I started this blog that had a very short life - only 4 posts. I feel this time that I can entertain my friends for a longer period  on  how we are coping with this new life in Japan.

So let's start!  My wife Noemi after working in Brussels for 4 years was offered a temporary position in Danone Japan.The plan is stay here for one year.

We feel very lucky about this opportunity of knowing a completely different culture. Fortunately, the company is taking care of the financial issues,so we are now living in an apart hotel in a nice neighborhood, Akasaka, in Tokyo.

Noemi is very excited about her new position and is enjoying this new challenge in her career. I liked very much our stay in Brussels, and could continue living there despite its nasty weather ( don't worry, this is one of the few subjects that all Belgians agree upon ). Nevertheless, I am already enjoying discovering this new place and hoping to share my experiences with you.

Tokyo is a huge modern metropolis and in a clear day you can see Mount Fuji from a high building. I did not have this chance yet, but I have seen it above the clouds when our plane was landing - unfortunately, I did not get this picture.

Anyway, I am writing again ! You are invited to comment and/or disagree of my positions - in any language.

See you soon,