mandag, desember 31, 2007

Dancing painter kid

Ginza shopping mall; this amazing multitasking dancer/painter/dj kid drew some crowds. Here painting a portrait of lady in the audience before progressing to landscaping. Yes, I am too lazy to search for a "rotate video" program so just tilt your heads!

søndag, desember 30, 2007

More moments of cuteness

Road works is no exception from the cute overload, in this example also pretty practical in the many narrow streets.

And how about this Hello Kitty laptop?

tirsdag, desember 18, 2007

These aren't the terrorists you are looking for

The black-vanned nationalists at it again slap bang in the middle of Shibuya, as always garnering less attention than the most mediocre of J-pop singers.

Since November Japan has adopted US-style immigration procedures including fingerprinting and photographing. Takes a bit of time and also includes a short interview as to the purposes of the visit. The fact that I flew into Nagoya but my hotel and destination was Tokyo caused some problems, having to explain that the reason was a air miles bonus ticket which only applied for Nagoya.

Of course, all officials were ever-so polite, but I cannot help think that the procedure cannot increase the tourism to Japan and most of all felt quite ridiculous. Particularly considering that the only terrorist act perfomed in ultra-safe Japan was done not by foreigners, but by Japanese citizens!

tirsdag, oktober 16, 2007

Forgotten movie magic

As the film festival is hitting town, I came across the relatively unknown Abel Ferrara effort The Funeral which turned out to be quite the gem. And with stellar performances from an amazing cast of Christopher Walken, Benicio del Toro, Vincent Gallo, Isabella Rossellini and not least, the late Chris Penn in loose cannon modus, how can you go wrong? A decidely unglamorous mobster drama, this is truly a movie for Men. Goodfellas too light-hearted for you? Watch this one.

søndag, oktober 14, 2007

Bergen Victor!

The unexpected wins are always the sweetest. This time the occasion was the return leg of the UEFA cup, Brann Bergen facing Club Brugge as clear outsiders. After wandering the medieval streets and canals of quaint, if touristy Brugge (not unlike Bergen in fact), the stage was set for some serious football.

Plainsclothes coppers insisted on us taking one specific bus to arrive on the designated part of the stadium. After hearing about the wrong-part-of-stadium Turks who got beaten within an inch of their lives a couple of years ago we were inclined to agree. Having encountered elements of "Flanders' finest" before I'd hazard there was some racist element to that event as well. In fact that's one anecdote that demands a write-up.

With Brann playing the best match I have ever seen, the 2-0 at half time atmosphere was one of intense euphoria among the less than 100 away supporters. Red card, a fully deserved 2-1 win and progression to the group stage crowned the night as police motorcycles prepared the escort into town. A tasty bit of frisson for the ultimately boringly safe life of this Scandinavian.

Note to self: Belgian beer sporting an average alcohol percentage of ca 7% can force less glamorous consequences.

fredag, september 21, 2007

Lost in translation?

Several people have asked me, Tokyo/Japan, is it like in the movie? The answer is yes and no.

First off, as a film LoT is definitely solid work, nice visuals and the charms of Miss Johansson do not hurt either. Recently watched it for the second time, this time after having visited Japan. Which naturally made for a quite different reading.

As a representation of Japan? Not good. But, as a representation of Japan seen from the viewpoint of a fresh-off-the-boat Westerner, it is quite accurate. The crazy J-TV channel switching, the karaoke-scences and the club Air are all right on the money. Bewildering alienation and the situation of being adrift in a very strange country, it is all there.

In my opinion however, you can be allowed this feeling for max 2-3 days, and then you will start understand how things work (using the subway, taxis with automatic doors, the no-tip system etc). Japan is different yes, but not *that* different. Being totally lost after more than one week means only having your own close-minded ineptitude to blame. Harsh but true!

Also, the film overly exoticises Japanese society but understandably so. I am certainly guilty of the same. After all, not very interesting telling people stuff like "you know traffic lights back home? In Japan they are exactly the same". So it follows that one focuses on the odd bits. And indeed there are plenty to go around, particularly on the margins of day-to-day life.

lørdag, juli 28, 2007

Kamikaze cookies

The gift culture is huge in Japan, sometimes with absurd results like these boxes of cookies commemorating the kamikaze museum at Chiran. When the salaryman takes his vaction or even a business trip, it is expected to bring gifts for his colleagues and most importantly, the boss. So every small place of touristic interest will have a gift shop attached. Or like this one, at the Kagoshima train station for the discerning business traveller who didn't have time to actually see the sights themselves.

tirsdag, juli 24, 2007

I fought the law

Wanted posters are fairly common in Japan, even this one found in the ferry terminal on the remote island of Yakushima. There is no escaping the law, though coming to a small island where everyone knows eachother would be fairly stupid in any case. I like the iconic style of the photos on the top poster, almost Warholian. Doesn't hurt that the female criminal is hot in a sort of a dangerous way either.

And this is the typical Tokyo lawman. No, in reality more of an imperial guardsman in parade uniform on the one day of the year that the emperor addresses the people.

fredag, juli 13, 2007

PR Robot

One of the most prevalent cliches about Japan is the robotmania. In fact robots are fairly rare, though there are some fanatics out there. This roboty contraption patrolled around outside a Shibuya shopping mall, sirens blaring and shouting something in Japanese.

torsdag, juli 05, 2007

In touch with the elements

Onsen, the refreshing Japanese hot spring baths. This is from the remote overgrown island of Yakushima, one third of the way to Okinawa. The island is mostly known for the gnarled 5000+ years old trees, but these onsen right close to sea are just fantastic. Note the divider between male and female sections.

This one is special in that it can only be used at low tide, at this moment it was about the be flooded by the sea, naturally salinising and dropping temperature drastically. There was no one around, lucky for me since my knowledge of the all-important onsen etiquette is somewhat lacking. Like the struggling English-speaker at the hotel said: "Please to relax yourself sir!"

onsdag, juli 04, 2007

Scandinavian invasion

Plenty of Scandinavian influence in Tokyo. Sweden brings culture and design to the party.

While Norway, as befits an economy based on natural resources, brings fish, as seen on this truck in the world's largest fish market at Tsukiji.

tirsdag, juli 03, 2007

Big city, small world

Last December I went to see the very British garage punk outfit The Horrors, which were extremely fascinating live, though maybe too much playing at poseurs for some, but hey!

Funnily enough, at a bar last weekend a guy comes up asking if he "didn't see me at the Horrors concert". After a few seconds I remembered him as the same person who in December asked if I was a in a band... all of which goes to show two things; it is easy to affect a rock star image in Japan, and that you run into people again in this vast metropolis!

mandag, juli 02, 2007

Accident at the crossing

Today I witnessed an unsual sight at the audio-visual excess that is Shibuya Crossing. Some manner of accident had caused a VW van (must have been one of very few units in the country) to start burning, police cars lined up to block the crossing with fire trucks on hand as the firemen worked to put out the fire.

But more interesting were the hundreds of people milling around, in an orderly fasion of course. Absolutely everbody were taking photos/movies of the happening, never have I seen so many mobile phones and cameras held aloft. I would have taken a picture of the people taking pictures, but sadly I was all out of battery juice... sucks.

torsdag, juni 28, 2007

Vulcanos rule

Sakurajima seen from the southern city of Kagoshima. Norway may be full of stunning mountains but suffer from an acute lack of vulcanos, whereas Japan due to tectonic placement is "lucky" enough to possess a number of the lovely lava buddies.

Sakurajima is one of the active ones, as seen up close with smoke billowing forth. Used to be an island but a violent eruption connected it to the mainland. Covered in volcanic rock and strangely enough, the place where you can find the world's smallest mandarins and the biggest radishes, reaching a diameter of 60+ cm!

søndag, juni 24, 2007

Tiniest beer in the world

Must be. It is common knowledge that many things are miniatuarised in Japan, but 135 ml beer cans? One sip and finished. Then again, the market has spoken so there must be some demand.

fredag, juni 22, 2007

Return of the kamikazes

Maybe the one Japanese word most foreigners would know, divine wind and all. Down in Chiran in Kyushu, the southernmost of the Japanese main isles, they even have a "Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots". A somber memorial affair, with portraits and stories of the 1036 pilots who took off on one-way missions bound for the Allied fleets at Okinawa. Especially poignant were the many farewell letters, ranging from "I'm going to die in the Okinawan Sea. Even after my death I protect my country, Japan" to "How many people will cry for me when I die?"

The kamikazes return from time to time in Japanese debate on how to represent the war and those who fought it. This May saw the release of another kamikaze film, "I go to die for you", which received some criticism for glorifying war and the pilots. Maybe due to the fact that known nationalist and Tokyo governor, Ishihara Shintaro, was instrumental in producing the film. Trailer here, but like most movies in Japanese cinemas no English subtitles are available, so obviously it will be somewhat difficult to grasp any political subtext!

mandag, juni 18, 2007

Sacred gateways

I never was unduly fascinated by zen gardens, kimonos, tea ceremonies and the other vestiges of "mystical Japan", but I must admit one weakness, the torii.

Something about the form of these Shinto gateways, who mark the passage from the profane to the sacred in the same way as portals in other religions, is just damn aesthetically pleasing. Pure beauty. You can walk the streets of Tokyo past shops and offices and bam, suddenly a small Shinto shrine appears. Gets me every time.

This torii is supposedly the most photographed in Japan, standing in the shallows of a small island off the coast of Hiroshima. When the tide is low it is actually possible to walk up to it.

The island is also populated by wild deer, enabling this bonus shot for Bambi lovers:

søndag, juni 17, 2007

Don't cry for me Fukuoka

Hilarious this wannabe-Argentinianism of the supporters of Avispa Fukuoka, a football team languishing in the division of J2. Not only the homage to Maradona and Evita, but also the extensive use of Spanish slogans! The season ticket holders pass even boldly stated yo soy el verdadero 12, ie "I am the real number 12", the most dedicated supporter faction, the twelfth member of the team.

Quite interesting that in a country very much influenced by English, they in this case chose to turn to Spanish. Must be some interesting cultural influences at work here, maybe the effect of latin immigrants, though I did not spot a single one. Or maybe somebody realised that the most fanatic supporters in the world are Argentinian, let's just copy their set-up.

Researching using the almighty internet provides some answers, turns out that Avispa Fukuoka has had a string of Argentinian managers, and also some players, including one Hugo Maradona, indeed brother of el Diego!

Also, only in Japanese football can you see players politely bowing to the referee and asking for forgiveness when yellow-carded, even the many Brazilian players!

søndag, juni 10, 2007

Women only

Yesterday I came across one of the the famed "women only" metro cars. Love the sugary design choice. Says a lot about Japanese culture that there even is a need for metro cars reserved for women, but I guess it is one way of trying to deal with the problem of gropers at rush hour.

tirsdag, mars 20, 2007

Ice ice baby

It is not all about the juicy meat. Thanks to the influx of Italian immigrants early last century Buenos Aires boasts the world's second best ice cream. The motherland naturally keeps the top spot in internacional competitions.

On a typical hot, humid day nothing beats strolling into one of the many upscale artisanal vendors and choosing from 70+ different flavours. After years of testing I pronounce Persicco and Volta as the premium places to visit, though quality can vary a bit between different outlets.

So what is so fantastic about Argentinian ice cream compared to the industrialised versions? Taste and texture. All natural ingredients are used and the result is divine. Go for a cuarto, 1/4 kilos of lovlieness, most commonly divided between three flavours. Try the different chocholate flavours that tastes better than real chocholate, but my advice is to steer well clear of the sambayón, which is ice cream with wine flavour! My Malbec works just fine in a glass, thank you.

mandag, mars 05, 2007

Football is violence

"A rock just passed centimetres from my head" my Argentinian mate told me in a strangely calm voice. I was getting a bit too close to the infamous football violence of the Argentinian league.

The match was Racing-Newell's Old Boys, normally not one of the most heated battles to be seen in Buenos Aires, the away team hailing from the in-land city of Rosario. Newell's with zero points should be a passable opponent for big club Racing, who this season had invested the most in new players of all the clubs. Results had eluded them once again though, only two paltry points gained from the first four rounds. A familiar story of failing to live up to big expectations for the Racing hinchas, much like last year.

Pleasantly located on VIP-seats on the pitch itself, my friend who is a die-hard supporter of Newell's unwisely failed to contain himself when outsiders Newell's quickly scored the first goal. Racing were playing crap, again. Then the ref wrongly disallowed the 0-2 when the ball had crossed the line, and my friend crying out that it was a goal quickly became enganged in a heated discussion with the neighbours. Then more than extremely harsh language started flying from the Racing plebs in the stands behind, who had enjoyed a prime view of the Newell's clown cheering in the VIP section. An immense sensation of HATE.

Security soon appeared to intervene and move us to a different part of the section, and at this point a rock almost hit my friend. Guards wearing t-shirts stating No más violencia - un mensaje de dios failed to grant much comfort. Luckily no more incidents at halftime as we sought refuge at the fastfood stands. Racing played the 2nd half against 10 opponents after an early red card, but created extremely little. Wonderful to see the 50-year old woman in the neighbourging seat screaming concha tu madre, at their own players! True passion, which evidently the players lacked as Newell's gained a deserved win.

After the match it was time to get the hell out of Dodge and make a run for the safe haven of the taxis. First time I have actually felt unsecure in an Argentinian stadium, but then again it was as a result of being associated with unwise, if passionate, cheering for an away team!

tirsdag, februar 20, 2007

Rockabilly revisited

Currently enjoying summertime in Buenos Aires and finally got time to sort through my pile of Tokyo photos. Need less to say January saw me going back to check out the rockabillys in winter action, and sure enough, one windy Sunday they were at it again. Classic pose.

This time they brought girls, enabling them to try out some 50s chat-up lines.

I always imagined the guy with the long hair sitting on the right as being the head honcho of the group. Probably with some nefarious connections in the Tokyo underworld. At least he always seems to be organising stuff and never, EVER, dances.

Video grab with my fresh camera off Akihabara. This guy dances!

lørdag, januar 27, 2007

Tokyo fashion

There are plenty of highly eccentric clothing to be found in Japan. To perhaps the largest degree in the world, form is separated from content. Thus, you can get away with wearing articles which could potentially get you into serious trouble in an European setting.

Witness this gentleman in a Harajuku shopping street:

On a wholly different level, wearing something like this could get you into a wholly different kind of trouble!

søndag, januar 07, 2007

Gizmos and gadgets

Lots of small useful stuff around that at least I haven't seen elsewhere, if anyone knows of existing instances in Europe, let me know! Like this little charger for mobile phones. Very cheap and available at all 24-hour convenience stores, prevents awkward "didnt-have-power-in-mobile"-situations, like in Osaka when I forgot the regular mains-charger in Tokyo.

This is a DIY-machine for printing digital photos. Accepts input through compact flash, SD-ram, memory sticks and several other formats. Touch screen for easy selection of photos, numbers and size. Prints within a minute. Handy when you can't/won't be bothered going to a regular shop.

fredag, januar 05, 2007

Kawaii Police

A glaring example of the culture of cute (kawaii) that predominates in Japan. Affecting even the symbol of the police force organising the crowds for the 2nd of January appearance of the Emperor at the Imperial Palace.

Cute is good, anything cute is positive. From the enormous Hello Kitty-phenomenon (even with gothic lolita edition as seen below), drawings in instruction manuals, women affecting child-like tonality of speech to road signs - cute rules. And of course the culture of cute has huge commercial power in the crowd mentality of Japan Inc. Cute sells. A lot.

I am stil not sure whether to regard this as good or bad, but very Japan it is!