Archives for category: Japan

While en route to Yudanaka, a wonderful thing happened.

A while before we flew out, the sage Chris Butcher posted about a delicacy he found in the vending machines of Japan. A thing of wonder and loveliness. A prize in canned form. He made me aware of the Morinaga Pancake Milkshake. A hot drink which also bore the flavours of butter and maple syrup. And lo, an obsession was born. Read the rest of this entry »

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Man, I can’t believe it’s been a year since I was in Japan.

Man, I can’t believe how long I’ve left it since I last blogged about anything, never mind my travel ramblings.

Still, it’s kind of nice to have the two sync up like this. I had been distracted by the hard decision of looking at either New Year celebrations or cakes (for down suh paths goes my rationalising mind), but time and opportunity make silly buggers of us all. That and I have held A Terrible New Years Secret for which I still feel mildly, irrationally guilty about. Read the rest of this entry »

Ikebukuro was our effective headquarters for the trip – even though we left the confines of Tokyo for the best part of two weeks, it bookended our stay there. We had previously made our temporary home in Shinjuku. We didn’t realise it at the time, but this was one of the most sensible decisions a first-timer who wasn’t fluent in the native tongue could make as, being the business district, the English language was unusually prominent, even by Japan’s standards. As we had gone then as now during the build-up to New Year, it was much quieter than normal, allowing us to acclimatise quickly to our surroundings.

Ikebukuro is very much the opposite of Shinjuku, being one of the de facto R&R Happy Super Fun Time Zones of Tokyo. This district is where the locals come to have fun.

Flying first class had meant that jet lag didn’t take nearly so much of a toll on me as I had expected – on the first trip, I did not sleep at all and as a result got sicker from 11+ hours in an air-recycled cabin and 24+ hours without sleep than I had in many years previous (Fun Fact: Planes seem to be the only place I cannot sleep!) As a result of being mercilessly pampered for the flight , I was bouncing and ready to go nuts. Unfortunately, Olivia as still recovering from the ill health she suffered in London and had a slight relapse en route. Nothing so horrible as to not recover, but it slowed down her ability to get over the lag.

This is the main reason why we don’t actually have many photos of Tokyo this time around. That, and a mild case of been-there-done-that. We were too busy taking in new environs to pause for pictures, particularly since our  time in Tokyo had been so heavily reduced. As a compromise, I’ve scoured the internet for images from te anime Durarara!!, which goes to painful detail to recreate Ikebukuro as is for the series. You could probably watch Durarara!! and figure out how to get around Ikebukuro, truth be told.

But I disgress!

Read the rest of this entry »

If you ever get the chance, fly first class. You think you know it’s amazing, but you don’t know. You are only thinking it, after all.

None of this sitting with the chattel and hoi polloi! Nay, you get to further chill out in comfortable surroundings, offered food on platters, the opportunity to avail of massages (Olivia did), a shave and a haircut (I did not), ye olde arcade games (yes I did very much) and as many sweets as you can smuggle out in your multiplicity of pockets… In preparation for a 12 hour flight to Japan, this is not simply a good thing but outright bliss.

And then you get on your flight, which will be more comfortable than any other flight you will ever take. The space of three people is yours! A bed is made for you! Attractive stewards and stewardesses, clearly kept up front for the Better People! It’s the free whiskey what does for it in the end, though. Olivia claims silver spoon service, but when a flight crew apologises that they don’t have the swill you normally drink and in apology and embarrassment offer you as much of their otherwise expensive 30+ year old single malt as a body can hold down in its place, you know you’ve made it.

Okay, so making it would be a bit strong: in order to fly first class we had to get stranded at the beginning of our trip in London for 8 or 9 days, toiling through ill health and an uncertain situation of shelter amid seeming endless phonecalls to right what wrongs fate dealt, thus missing out on a significant portion of our time in Tokyo, but at least we went in style.

But who cares about this? Me? With that much whiskey, coffee and gid? Ample. Reward.
Man, I should have gotten that haircut – I had the beginnings of a Final Fantasy character with that unbrushed mop. Wait, I was going to Japan – intentional? I don’t know any more! The important thing is that we got to Japan and it was the beginning of The Awesome.
Next up: Ikebukuro.
Bonus!
Photo by Olivia, obviously not in Japan.

I love my workload, I really do. Wait, today is Opposite Day, right?

I kid – as heavy as the last few months have been, I don’t have much to complain about. Well, until the semester ends and I have to find another means of gainful employment for a few months, at least. But in the meantime, I have work aplenty to do, we’re cheerfully busy in the Academic Skills Centre and the change in my working week, while shorter thanks to the joy that is recent education cuts, allows me to spend more time at my desk in the research area working on My Future.

I’d add “… as a scientist…” but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Once I qualify?Then I can toot my own trumpet. Right now, I happy to enjoy the hustle and bustle of developing something that can make a difference to the world that doesn’t directly orbit the hulking gravitational mass that is my own ego. You know: the real one, as opposed to the fancy one with elves, robots and nostalgia ghosts that exists inside my head.

Right now, I’m throwing myself into Chapter 0 in order to prepare for the PG1 form and ethics review. The former is an enrollment document outlining my intentions and aims, while the latter is to make sure I 1) know what I am in very clear terms doing, and 2) am not a raving lunatic. Most people would be intent on just getting the first chapter done and out of the way, but not me, I have notions.

Insouciance aside, they’re important milestones that I want to get right the first time around so that I can focus on the research without distraction. Chapter 0 is based on the notion that I will have heavily rewritten it to Be Not Terrible by the time it comes to the final submission. I’m fully aware of how bad first drafts can be and end up editing to the point of a lily more gild than chlorophyll. Right now I have five A4 pages of notes scribbled in that scrawling joy that is my hand-writing to my side detailing the ethical considerations I need to address, with more yet to follow.

In anticipation of same, I presented a poster based on the few months of work to date, which was simultaneously stressful and essential. For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth in trying to fit what I needed into the beast, it did help me to lay down what needs doing over the next few months in a way that sitting at your desk while spinning on your comfy chair can often preclude. So many gaps and flaws and weaknesses to be addressed, so little time by comparison.

It’s fun. Remind me I said this is six months time, won’t you?

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I promised talk of Japan last blog post, which is part of why there was a slightly larger delay in my babblery than is normal. It felt a little bit odd to talk about how amazing the trip was when the country was smack dab in the middle of a natural disaster. That I had started rereading Akira when it happened was practically zen. The passing of time may not heal wounds as well as can be claimed (and certainly not this quickly), but thinking positively of the place and encouraging people to visit is important for the process. It’s an amazing place and that needs to be focused on, rather than holding the world’s best pity party, however well-meant.

Also: Akira has possibly the finest closing pages to any story ever, and you would do well to consume said tome if you have not already.

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Fun fact: In spite of being an obnoxious godless type who takes too much pleasure from arguments regarding deistic existence than is healthy, I am once again Off Stuff for Lent. I get asked by a lot of people why I do this, given my alien ways and all, to which the most common response is “Did you enjoy the Christmas present I got you?” It’s mostly an excuse to cut out a bad habit for a time, spurred on my the reassurance that other people are similarly going without as well. It’s not quite peer pressure – I’m an adult who realised the horrible truth about Pancake Tuesday long before now – but for some reason I manage to go the distance during Lent that I somehow don’t manage at other times of the year, to the extent that any similar such foregoings tend to get called Lent as well in a desperate attempt to stay the course.

As usual, this means forswearing sweets and chocolate with my traditional caveats:

  • Desserts are acceptable so long as they are not chocolate/candy-based.
  • Chocolate sprinkled on top of a frothy coffee is acceptable, should the barista do so. The chocolate/sweet on the side is to be given to someone else.
  • The above also applies to sauces and incidental ingredients applied by a third party.
  • Caramel macchiatos don’t count, but mochas do.
  • I take this stuff far too seriously for someone who isn’t catholic.
  • Upbringings, man/lady. You can only do so much to get away from them.
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Man, it’s a pretty good time to be a nerd, isn’t it? New Doctor Who in a few days, while in the time that’s mean Game of Thrones is a damn fine adaptation of the books (presumably getting a blog post of its own when I’ve watched a few more episodes). The Pale King is finally out and so far is as lovely and melancholic as I hoped, albeit a tome I’ve barely started. I’ve discovered a new author to follow in Ben Aaronovitch, whose Rivers of London and Moon Over Soho are excellent and will similarly get a blog post down the line. Dragon Age 2 is wonderful, having not only made a genuine effort to address the notion of Games as Art, but also experimenting with tropes taken for granted by other narrative forms, such as the unreliable narrator, all the while playing hard and fast with the idea of what choices a game should present to the player. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate it, bugs and glitches be danged.
Okay, let’s just assume I’ll be talking about all of these things over the coming weeks, shall we?
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My nimble and clever friend Emer has a new blog wherein she’ll be talking about theater, soc-pol, PhDery and more. Emer is one of a group of people whose surname I forget and or confuse with someone else’s every two and a half years for reasons I’m not sure of. Help me assuage my White Man’s Guilt by popping over and saying hello, won’t you?