Posted by: gneidisch | August 27, 2012

Exploring the underground…

I often say that music is the best invention of humankind and with that idea, I land somehow with music. Last year I could attend to two gigs plus some performances at the festival Bossanova in Aoyama. This time I also witnessed some performances at the Sumida Street Jazz Festival.

And some days later I hit Shibuya and landed at a tiny place in a sort of basement, called the NOB. A band from Taiwan, “1976”, plus another band, “Icon Girl Pistols” where going to perform. 1976 had performed some days before at the Summer Sonic. The entrance was 1500 yen with a drink included, or 2500 yen with all-you-can-drink. The ambient was cool, and the audience responded very well, the bands, not to say were excellent performers.

That was a good dosis of music for me, in a kind of underground spot with a certain kind of underground music.

But that was not all. Some days later I hit Asagaya. While travelling the Chuo/Sobu Line and stopping at Koenji Station, I saw from the window a lot of things going on, a Matsuri I supposed. So, in Asagaya I went to a place called “Gamuso“, with three floors, also very little spaces: the first being a bar, the second holding an exhibition and a stage for concerts, and at the last floor the exhibition continued and there was a live performance, where the artist was impressive tattooist Carlos from Shimokitazawa, who live-tattooed a couple of persons. Cool place, with lots of expats.

After the live tattoing I turned to the gigs. I didn’t really pay attention to the first band, and I guess I don’t really feel bad for this. The second was a solo performance by singer songwriter Mana Hardcore.

That is cool in Tokyo, I guess that if one follows the Chuo-Sobu Line, westwards from Shinjuku, there is a restless music scene, in stations like Koenji, Okubo, Asagaya…

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Posted by: gneidisch | August 26, 2012

Japanese efficiency: at the metro stations

Navigating the stations in Tokyo is hard very often, the distances are long, there are many stairs, underground levels and many signs which display information in Kanjis, Hiraganas and English. Although helpful, can be overwhelming and confusing. If one pays attention, they’re really helpful.

There is a particular kind of signs which I found useful when one wants to save time, it is the board next to the platforms, indicating the direction of the train, the next stations and sometimes also the approximate travelling time.

If we look closer, it also displays more interesting things, like he amount of cars in the train… but if we look closer, each car may have some more symbols.

How can these be useful? Let us see for example, in this pic: if one is travelling in the 5th car, and is planning to descend at the Ginza station, we know that when descending, we’ll be next to the path to change to the Marunochi and Hanzomon Lines, and also to the lift and the escalator; or, if travelling in the 4th car, then we’ll be next to the toiletes, the wheelchair access, the information point and the police station.

A french friend was telling me that he wishes to have those symbols in the Metro stations at Paris. It is just efficiency, I suppose, when time management just happens to be more than important.

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Posted by: gneidisch | August 22, 2012

Tokyo sounds: jingles at the stations

Last year I was waiting for a train at Ochanomizu station and I heard a funny jingle when the train was approaching; it was so funny that another Gaijin nearby danced a couple of seconds.

I thought then that the jingle was randomly played, since I heard several jingles in the stations. Until recently, when someone asked me about the different jingles in each station, I recognized that they weren’t randomly played. It happens to be that each station has its own jingle, sometimes related to something in the area (at least that was a coworker told me).

However, after I started paying attention, I noticed that some jingles may correspond to a line or even to the direction of the train approaching. Either way, I started to notice that I feel very related to the main jingle of the Yamanote line as well as to the one of the Shinanomachi station; the Yamanote line is perhaps the line I ride at most, and the Shinanomachi station is the closest to my place. Some jingles are very distinctive and popular, like the one for the Ebisu Station from the The Third Man.

I found this site, apparently made just for fun. When the mouse clicks over a station in the Yamanote line, the announcing voice can be heard, unfortunately not the jingles.

In this clip it is possible to hear a lot of the jingles of the JR stations in Tokyo. Same jingles can be downloaded here, and can be used as ringtones or whatever.

In this article there are a couple of jingles to be heard online from the JR Yamanote and Keihin-Tohoku lines.

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Posted by: gneidisch | August 14, 2012

Comiket: Cosplay at Ariake

Last weekend I went to the Big Sight in Ariake, to a Cosplay event, the Comic Market 82. Although the place is huge, the amount of attendants and the heat made it feel narrow for moments.

Interesting, fascinating, admirable, colorful, artistic are just a few words in my head trying to describe what I could witness: lots of people, mostly young and teenagers, gather to dress up as their favorite manga, anime, video game or visual-kei character; sometimes solo, sometimes in a small group.

I noticed that they usually have a suitcase, which makes me think that they dress up in the place. Most of them are very glad when they’re asked for a picture and they even strike a pose for the moment. That could cause a big chaos in the event, so, some staff members must watch out and make a countdown for the improvised yet staged photo session to finish, and the cosplayers to move to another spot.

Most of the cosplayers were outside of the building, whereas inside was taking place the actual exhibition of the Comiket, with many stands and some more cosplayers which were part of the stands, just some consumism added to the free event.

I cannot really show off how much I know about characters, I only recogniced Porco Rosso, and some minutes later a friend showed me the Final Fantasy characters.

Click here for the little gallery!!!

I am not a cosplayer…

Most of the people taking pics are… dudes :-)

Click here for the little gallery!!!

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Posted by: gneidisch | August 13, 2012

Jingu Gaien Hanabi

Since the day I arrived to Tokyo and I picked up my keys, the girl from the agency told me that on August 10th there would be Hanabi (fireworks) in Aoyama, near the appartment, and if desired, I could even go up to the rooftop to watch them.

I asked what would be the reason for the Hanabi, she and her coworker told me that is is just common in Summer.

So, last Friday, after a coworker and I had a drink we stepped on the street to find it out full, well organized and full, with lots of people wearing Yukatas. The fireworks were taking place at the Jingu Stadium, which happens to be just behind the Oracle building. There was a fee to enter to the stadium, but it wasn’t full. I went back to the 16th floor in the Oracle Building to watch the fireworks, some coworkers were also watching while having a beer or a snack. I was not the only one taking pictures.

After the show was over, in the street again, I noticed how the police was trying to keep the order, showing the people which way to “exit”.

Fireworks over the Jingu Stadium

More fireworks

More Hanabi

The crowded street and the stadium seen from the top

The ordered chaos after the fireworks at Aoyama Street

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Posted by: gneidisch | August 12, 2012

Tokyo Sounds: cicadas

There are this summer some interesting sounds which I noticed since the day I arrived. They’re not the recordings in the shops, nor the J-Pop songs at Shibuya, nor the people in the street giving away napkins…

One of them is the wood sandals of the people as they walk; lots of people wear Yukatas and complement the attire with a pair of Geta which makes that noticeable sound when they walk.

But the one which called my attention at most were the cicadas (Semi in Japanese) which can be heard almost everywhere near a bush. I cross a little park everyday to go to the Oracle building and since the fist day I noticed. I made a little clip, it may be a bit too long though…

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Posted by: gneidisch | August 9, 2012

Matsuri at Tsukiji

Summer in Tokyo means high temperatures and humidity, and also, lots of festivals.

There are lots of Matsuri, colorful festivals with food stands, big figures and lots of people. For last weekend I learnt that there would be one in Asagaya with big figures, but also a bit more traditional one at the Tsukiji Temple, near the fish market, I decided to go to this one.

I saw a lot of people wearing Yukatas, which are a good choice for these hot and humid days. Later I notice that Yukatas aren’t limited to Matsuris.
By the way, there in the crowd, a fellow Mexican whom I met last year, ran into me, not wearing a Yukata though, a good occassion to shared a beer.

The festival didn’t last for too long, from 6 PM to 8:30 PM or something. The food that I tried was delicious, and the performances were cool. Here a clip.

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Posted by: gneidisch | August 6, 2012

Gaijin searching an ATM

First world problems.

Since my first trip, a hard thing to find out in Japan was an ATM where I could withdraw money using my German debit card. I narrowed my choices to Citibank, the Japan Postal bank and the ATMs in the convenient stores 7/11. The latter was always a good choice, since they are scattered all around and they’re always open (for the record, some ATMs in Japan have opening times).

I used to believe that the limit of 10000 Yen which I always had when withdrawing money, was due to a limit for foreign cards. However, the first time I tried to pick up money since I arrived last week, 7/11 wouldn’t let me. I panicked. My head started to play with the idea that, due to the Yen’s strength, 10000 Yen is now slightly more than 100 Euro (whereas the last year it was slightly less than 100 Euro, in my first trip in 2007, it was way less than 100 Euro).
The problem with 7/11 is that it only delivers banknotes of 10000 Yen. So, to test my hypothesis, I headed to a Postal bank’s ATM, which delivers 1000 Yen banknotes, so I could manually set to 9000 Yen the desired amount to retrieve, and it worked.

While I can continue this way, I’d eventually have to visit the ATM more often, which means more comissions to pay, which doesn’t make me happy. And I’d like to complain, but I don’t know where. or I do know but I’d rather not do it :-)

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Posted by: gneidisch | August 3, 2012

Time is a resource

This time the decision and request to work in Japan were almost spontaneous. My manager approved and since the Work Visa was still valid and I still hold a Reentry Permit, the paperwork went smooth.

Next, I needed to find an affordable plane ticket. Now in summer and with slightly more than a month in advance, I couldn’t expect too many choices. Emirates offered something and for 10 Euros more, a combo Austrian-Airlines/Lufthansa would offer me a big advantage: time saving. With Emirates I would’ve probably flown with the A380, I should’ve had three meals, I could’ve seen the Burj-Khalifa, I would’ve had power supply during the flight, and I could’ve taken up to 30 kg luggage, but I would’ve landed past 5pm in Narita, which means I couldn’t have reached the agency to pick up my keys for my room, and I would’ve needed more than one working day; for both depart and return flights. So I took Star-Alliance. First world problems.

The plane landed in Narita more than punctually, around 7:15am, and I crossed the migration check point very quickly thanks to the Re-entry Permit. It kind of feels special to hold an almost empty queue. there were other white foreigners, then I recalled that my looks can be confusing for some people: some guess I am from Southeast Asia, others think I’m Latinamerican. Everything went smooth. My backpack (yeah, I travel with a huge backpack, I need my hands free) took a bit long to appear. Customs went also smoothly.

I still had some time, since the Agency opens at 10am. So I took the commuter Kensei line which takes 90 minutes to reach downtown. I had the time, and the price was “only” 1100 Yen, in comparison to the 2400 Yen which costs the Kensei Skyliner. Not to talk about the JR Narita Express. The train look almost empty.

Non-crowded commuter train / Kensei Main Line

After some stops it was more crowded, and I understand that such trains may not be that convenient when carrying too much luggage.

The people from the Agency recognized me, so the process was fast. I headed immediately to my room, which is slightly (really slightly) bigger than the one of last year. I have only met one roommate, a friendly guy from USA. I also greeted a girl but we didn’t change any word.

After a shower I headed to the Oracle Offices, less surprising than the first time. My coworkers even prepared a place for me to work.

Now, Tokyo is hot and humid now, and sunny. And I am glad to be here.

Shinjuku from the 16th Floor’s Northern side at the Aoyama Center

Aoyama seen from the West side, next to my desk

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Posted by: gneidisch | August 2, 2012

The Yamanote Rider is back!

This time for a month.

The Austrian airlines plane landed at Narita shortly after 7am. The immigration queue was shorter for me, since I have a Reentry Permit. Then picking up the luggage, passing customs and heading with the commuter train to pick up the keys of my room.

A shower, a coffee, and direct to the Oracle Aoyama Center. More updates soon. Now I need some sleep.

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