Sunday, May 31, 2009

My gadgets in Japan

Recently I realized that I have more gadgets than clothes here in Japan, I'm such a geek hehe.

In the picture above you can see the following devices:
  • Batteries with a recharger device.
  • Headphones with a special gadget to plug another set of headphones to share your music with someone.
  • PSP Playstation
  • Some memory sticks
  • Small tripod with flexible legs
  • Torch without batteries (you charge it with a handle)
  • My watch (present from my lab mates) with altimeter and compass
  • Spanish phone (Nokia - Movistar)
  • A whistel-thermometer-compass-magnifying glass key ring.
  • A mountain GPS
  • A graphic tablet to draw on the computer
  • My Dell laptop
  • A CASIO electronic dictionary (spanish-english-japanese-encyclopedic)
  • My Japanese cell phone (Samsung - Softbank)
  • A 320GB external USB drive
  • A 3G e-mobile communications USB device. I have Internet anywhere anytime thanks to this device for 6500 yen/month.
  • An Asus eepc netbook that costed me 100yens (less than 1 euro) :D because it was an offer for the mobile internet.

Another interesting device is the rice cooker (炊飯器 suihanki) which is very popular in Asian countries to prepare the rice. Virtually every Asian person I know has a rice cooker. It is very simple to use, just put water and rice (you use the measuring glass to use the right proportions), close it, press a button and wait for 40 minutes.

Last but not least, my super foldable bike! It is really useful to have a bike here and I use it everyday. I chose to have a foldable bike because normal bikes are not allowed in trains or subway. But I can fold my bike, put it into a bag I have, and carry it as luggage in any means of transport! So I can go to Kyoto for example, take my bike in the train, and then unfold it there again! The brand of the bike is Hummer and it costed me around 22000 yen.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mt Ontake - 御嶽山

During the last days of the Golden Week, some friends and I went to climb the Mt Ontake, the second highest volcano in Japan at 3,067 m.

Here is a video that I have made about our legendary adventure hehe. Climbing Mt Ontake was not an easy job.

From Nagoya we took a train (JR Chuuou line) to Kiso-Fukushima (木曽ー福島), at the east of the mountain. From Kiso-Fukushima there is a bus to Tanohara (田ノ原), which is the starting of the route, but only during the climbing season (Jul 16 to Aug 20). So instead we took another available bus from Kiso-Fukushima that left us close enough to start hitch-hiking with a sign saying Nakanoyu (中の湯) which is another way to start the route (although it ended up being not so clear as there are several places with that name, so maybe its better to put Tanohara). We were lucky and some nice Japanese people took us to the parking where the route is supposed to start.

We reached the peak around 6 when it was close to start getting dark. Although we carried tents, we found the toilets of a mountain hut open and we decided to spend the night in them! (no jokes!). There was more snow than what we expected and the hike was quite slippery at times.

The next day we went on the route until Nigorigo Onsen (濁河温泉) where we enjoyed a very relaxing time after the hike. Then we had to do hitch-hiking once again because although there is supposed to be a bus, it was not working on that day as well. Although it took us more time to get picked up finally we got lucky and a Japanese guy, actually the owner of the Onsen, was nice to us and took us to the train station in Hida-Osaka (飛騨小坂) where we took the JR Takayama line to go to Nagoya.

There is information about the hike in the book Hiking in Japan, Lonely Planet. Also I suggest to get a hiking map (Shonbunsha Yama-to-Kougen map 1:40000, no40, which on the back has the route to Ontake on a 1:20000 close-up).

Update: Check out Tyler&Alyssa's blog describing a similar hike but with much more details! :)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Kamezaki Shiohi Matsuri - 亀崎潮干祭

During the Golden Week I went with some friends to a village called Kamezaki (亀崎) where they have a famous festival called Shiohi (潮干 low tide) Matsuri (祭 festival). We took the JR Tokaido line from Nagoya and changed in Obu to the JR Taketoyo line (武豊線) until we arrived to Kamezaki station (亀崎駅).

I fell in love with the sound of Japanese flutes so I decided to take a video. Also the sounds of the people pulling from the carriages is interesting in my opinion. So this is my first video in the blog hehe I hope you like it.

The village was full of people, some of them dressing traditional clothes, and there were lots of stands selling food.

There was a small beach there and children were enjoying it.

The festival's carriages were carried out from there by the some strong Japanese guys. It reminded me of the "costaleros" in Sevilla's main festivities.

In the picture above one of the drawings on the carriages. I love Japanese drawings on clothes.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Nagoya Castle - 名古屋城

One of the main attractions of Nagoya city is its castle.

Although the original one was destroyed during the second World War it is still a stunning building (donjon) and a must-see if you come to Nagoya. At the moment they are also rebuilding the Palace that used to be next to it.

There are volunteer guides in English during the first and third Saturday of each month. Mine was an interesting old man called Nobuyoshi Izumichi(泉地信良), who spoke English surprisingly well.

For more than an hour, he talked about several emperors, battles, how well protected was the castle and several historic facts that for some reason I always forget about.

Maybe because I get distracted by the small and not-so-famous details of life :).

Apart from the castle there were exhibitions of paper figures, paintings on rolls of paper (called kakejiku 掛け軸), armours, etc. One of the most famous parts of the castle is a golden mythological (kinshachi 金鯱) figure on the roof.

The views from the castle's top floor were nice. From such a traditional place you can see the elevated highways of the modern city.

Because in spite of being calm and conservative, Nagoya is still a big city with its avenues, people and shops.

And when the night comes, it dresses up with lights and neons, like in Blade Runner. :)

Kimchi Chigae (김치찌개)

One of the good things of my scholarship in Japan is that I'm making friends from a lot of countries that I never had the chance before.

The other day, my Korean friend Daeheon Choi (aka Kevin), invited me to his room to eat a typical dish from Korea called Kimchi Chigae (in Korean 김치찌개).

It was very tasty (oishii in Japanese) and I told him he is a good cooker (not like me... yet!). We also enjoyed a good conversation after the dinner.

He used to live in Cambridge (England) during a scholarship and he met there a Japanese girl that is nowadays his girlfriend. That was the main reason he decided to study Japanese (he speaks very well and actually, Korean and Japanese are quite similar in grammar) and move here (she lives in Kyoto). He also told me that it was a bit difficult for him to make friends from occident while he was in Cambridge. Then I realized that it was the same for me with Asian people. I have Asian friends but they are not as close as occidental ones. I would like to find out the reasons!

Now it is my turn, what Spanish dish should I cook?