Wednesday, 31 October 2007

A Little Halloween Story

I have already been to a Halloween party, but of course the real Halloween is today. And believe it or not, this morning I had a experience fitting this day as no other.

You have to know, that yesterday after someone told Hung Lun, that we saw his face on a Yamanote Halloween picture on YouTube, I also searched YouTube and Google for maybe finding myself there somewhere, but without success. So I went to bed. Especially concerning pictures, there is next to nothing on Google.

On the next day I stood up and turned my computer on. As always (Daily Routine) I checked my mail and afterwards the friend network pages, I got a profile at. Stopping at StudiVZ (a friend network page for people studying in Germany) I also checked a group for new messages. Every group on StudiVZ has one group picture. Now when I accessed the page, I foudn that the usual picture was replaced. Then I noticed that the new image displays a cut off from a Yamanote Halloween Train picture. And then I noticed the cut-off exactly contains me.


Ok maybe some glitch or something.
Reloaded the page. It was still there.
Checked where the picture was stored -> StudiVZ ImageServer.

Then I noticed what the group was about: It is a group to protest against surveillance and that the German government currently tries to mend law and constitution to be allowed secret internet access to every computer of German citizens. Apart from that the usual picture of the group looks like this.

It displays Schaeuble, German minister of security who is thinking of the things mentioned above. The caption reads I SEE YOU.
And exactly this image was replaced by an image only displaying me.


I became really scared and frightened and woke up my neighbour Hung Lun, to see if he would see the same picture.
He was very considerate and not very angry to have been woken up and we found out, that on his Laptop the groups image would show up normally.

Ok time to reconsider.

First I run Linux. That makes it currently really hard to get internet access to my HDD. Second The computer and even the internet was turned off during the night. So I don't think it was an outside attack.
On the other hand did I not access any pictures of the Halloween party on my Laptop (as I said Google didn't come up with pictures) and the pictures you see in my blog were uploaded from the Laptop at my workplace, where the pictures were also uploaded from the camera and are currently stored. So there is just no way, this picture would be in the cache of this Laptop (I didn't load my Blog on my home Laptop, after uploading ) the pictures.
After some research I found that the cut-off indeed originates from one of Hung Lun's pictures, which I did not notice until now would display me in the background, but of course after everything else had been cut-off it sprang to my eyes.

Still I did never look at or load this picture on my home laptop, how was it able to come into my cache, why was it exactly the only picture displaying me, why was exactly the part cut off not displaying me, and how could it have been locally replace exactly the group picture of a group dealing with surveillance and secret computer access through the internet having an image with a caption I SEE YOU.
That is just too much of a coincidence.

But finally I figured it out (even if it still remains a kind of mystery).
Since I wanted to find a picture of my that badly, the day before, and since I in fact was displayed on one picture I already uploaded on my blog, I somehow must have triggered these events subconsciously. I think that a friendly spirit or dragon put it there for me to find, and cut off the rest of the picture to make it easy for me to find myself on it.
Still many spirits are very playful and that's why it consciously took exactly this location to show it to me, so that I would worry all morning long and get paranoia. Apart from that you must not forget that today is Halloween, a day where spirits are exceptionally strong and on which the gate to the spirit world is thinner than on other days, this gave the spirit/dragon the possibility to modify my computer in this large scale.
Reconsidering, because of that the morning was really exciting and I had a lot of intense feelings and experience. So it was really cool, to first get all hyped up about it. I am really grateful to this nice spirit :) He really gave me an awesome day and after all a really cool story to tell.

Finally apart from showing the phenomenon to Hung Lun, I took a screenshot and saved the webpage on my harddisk, when it was displaying me, instead of Security Minister Schaeuble. Here's the screenshot:

Weakening the foundations of our unromantic, cold, static image of our beautiful world


Saturday, 27 October 2007

Mystic Moon

A small addition to the Yamanote Train Party.

As I mentioned, the other interns stayed at home. They made their own little Halloween Party in the Common Room of our Youth Heim. When Hong Lun and I came back from Tokyo, we decided to pay the a short visit.

However only some hundred meters before our goal, I noticed something strange going on in the sky, and told Hong Lun to have a look. What we saw, was a really rapidly fast moving moon. It looked really beautiful and awesome and mysterious.
Yes, it was cloudy, but even considering moving clouds, it just looked so real. The moon didn't even stop when he left a field of cloud, it just kept on moving.

Naturally I stopped the next best Japanese walking on the street and asked them how they would explain this. They also first tried the clouds as an excuse, but soon just starred in awe for at least 10 minutes and then said: No it was not the clouds. Thank you for showing us this miracle. And then they went on.

Approaching the Youth Heim, we were already spotted by our friends who told us to come up. I said, you have to come out and watch this, the moon is moving in an abnormal speed. They also claimed it to be an optical illusion by the clouds, but still watched with us in awe.

Me and Pikachu agreed that yellow moons are awesome

After watching for another while we joined them inside and watched Evil Dead 3 (Army Of Darkness) together.

your luna-tic

Yamanote Halloween Train

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen,

this is your loyal reporter mika reporting live from urban myths in 東京 (Tokyo).
I am talking about the Yamanote Halloween Train, I got an Email with information about this years party and knew about it beforehand from the book "Darum Nerven Japaner", a funny book about Japanese culture.
However according to Wikipedia the Yamanote Halloween is but a mere myth, claimed to not really exist, why some people refuse to let an article about it be created.

Yamanote line is the (in)famous green circle train line, the veins and arteries through the heart of Tokyo. You might know it from images, were people are pushed inside the train being so overcrowded, that the doors could not close otherwise. To clear another myth, of course the train only is like this during the rush hours in the morning and after work. Still I experienced it and had to take the next train once, since I couldn't fit in anymore.

台風 猛雨 Taifun and Heavy Rain

For a myth it looked pretty real, when my dear friend Hong Lun, which whom I have been to 京都 (Kyoto) and I decided to go there in spite of because of the 台風 (Taifun) and the heavy rain. At first quite some of the other interns planned to go and even bought costumes, but because of taifun warnings and heavy rain, they backed off. However Hong Lun and I decided this to be a reason more to go and not to retreat, since it would turn even the journey there into a real adventure. The reason is that the station is a bit away from our Youth Heim and unable to use bikes (the wind would have blown us over) we had to fight all the way against heavy rain and wind on foot. ^=^
"Ho Ho brave wind fighters", I screamed and pushed forwards, when around half of our trip we noticed that the rain and wind already became lighter. Once we left the train in Tokyo they subsided altogether. People might say you have been lucky, but Hong Lun and I know better, the reason is we bravely stood against rain and wind, and 風神 (Fuujin) and 雷神 (Raijin), the Japanese gods of Wind and Thunder, which we met in 京都 were impressed by the bravery of these two mere mortals and made wind and rain go away to ease our journey.

池袋 Ikebukuro

The meeting point of this years party was 池袋, one of the major stations of the Yamanote Line. When Hong Lun and I arrived we already saw a lot of people in costumes and met Lukas from my Japanese class in Germany and Pedro one of my coworkers. Also on one of the pictures you can see Wilem, a dutch guy working for the same company I do, but on a different floor, in his self planned and sewed (with the help of his mother) costume. Since he couldn't find face paint anywhere in Japan, he used a gas mask instead.

My good friend Hong Lun

And my good friend Lukas (with beer)

Pedro and a German Beer

Wilem with his Harley kin costume (I had a similar idea once, but I am not as talented as Wilem's mother.)

train officials usually were curious about the costumes

We asked the girl if she was a LARP or Roleplaying Game player, but she wasn't :(

quite colorful

with a lot of orange, do you recognize the costume/symbol in the back?

Lukas, Hong Lun and I spotting many VIP from TV and Legend among the people, decided to go on a Paparazzi VIP hunt and interviewed them. We acknowledged that V's deeds in V for Vendetta were amazing, greeted the Phantom of the local Opera, and found our childhood images shattered, when Hello Kitty admitted that she was a bitch.

The Phantom of the Opera gave us an interview

and so did V

and these monsters

and Hello Kitty is a bitch

Round And Round And Round It Goes, And When It Stops And When It Stops, Nobody Knows...

And thus we entered, already very excited. The atmosphere was really cool, all the people were laughing and making funny jokes and pranks all the time. For the train population while I'd estimate a 40% 60% gender representation, a clear 4/5th majority was 外人 (foreigner). Last year, according to stories, it was half half. What's even worse another 1/5th were German... the embarrassing type. You could easily discern them, since they all had the stupid flag painted on their cheeks like at soccer games. And when I say embarrassing I mean WordCup and Oktoberfest people. Well it was time to go undercover, so I became Claudrik a guy from Liechtenstein (pronounced in an English way) and started to badmouth this stupid Germans, and that there is no place, where you are save from them; that they can be next to you right know, lurking in shadow or disguise and you'd never know.
Other people agreed with me about stupid Germans and Germany and we had funny conversations ^=^

really embarrassing Oktoberfest Germans

There was a lot of funny things going on on the trains. For once at every station the train held, people would run out of the wagons screaming and enter again in a different wagon. When Hong Lun and I joined them, we already lurked at the window door, when the train became slower and looked at the innocent Japanese people outside like vultures their prey. When the doors opened and we screamingly ran out, they backed away and some hid behind pillars. Some of them were so scared, that they did not dare to enter this train anymore and waited for the next one. Although the Ghosts & Goblins population being less than last year, there were a lot of "normal" wagons, which you can see on the pictures.

Inside the trains, people would climb the luggage tray and lie down to sleep there, walk around "normal" wagons with mask and cape and and using an umbrella complaining about the bad weather inside those trains.
There were some really cool costumes. For example a group of people came as Japanese Construction Site Safety Guards. In real life, I am afraid, this is the bottom line for jobs in the Japanese society, since all they have to do, is stand in front of construction sites and apologize to people for the inconvenience the
construction is causing, as well as helping traffic lights to regulate the traffic :/. Ah thank you, I wouldn't have noticed the light turned green, if you wouldn't have told me I am allowed to cross now. I always feel sorry for them and thus thank them for helping me across the green traffic lights and greet them every time I see one.
とにかく (anyways) back to the train. There were a bunch of people dressed up at such workers with neon cloths and bright orange light sticks. According to their costumes they gave a great performance by helping the station security guards to check, whether the doors can be closed and advised the people once the door opened that they can leave the train now and once they closed that they can't cross the closed door now. =D

the guy left is the one walking with the umbrella

construction site workers helped the train officials

party wagons

and the "normal ones for comparison"

As it is tradition, the people within one wagon would chant the next station name, once revealed by the wagon's monitors. There was a lot of chanting going on, and despite lacking music and space, the party was really cool.

The reaction of not involved Japanese was twofold. Many laughed and some even joined in the party. So were some of the Yamanote personnel sightly happy about the costumed and fun people and some train users enjoyed the welcome change from their grey daily routine. While yet another type of people just enjoyed to watch everything from a secure distance and finally other people grudged the party and some man even pushed his way to a crowded wagon screaming in Japanese: "Stupid Foreigners, Get of of my damn way! Arghhh!"

Afterwards I heard, although Hong Lun and I didn't see anything, that some people might have overdone it a bit and that Yamanote-sen next year might advise people in the newspaper to not go to this party, as they apparently already did once. If indeed something should have happened, I am sure it was those damn Germans! Haven't they still learned anything? tsss.

revealing urban myths for you
Klaudrik from Liechtenstein

there were angels

a couple of Santa Clauses (and the female form)


Freddy Krueger and a Beer Hat

and a horse

Super Mario with fan girls

Disco Stu

Cool Japanese Girls dressed as being in the bathroom?

And the warnings were true, there were Zombies in the train, but Okage de, they were quite friendly and didn't eat the brains of their fellow monsters

and finally the usual facial expression of Japanese people seeing us,
caught for you by Klaudrik from Liechtenstein

Sunday, 14 October 2007

厚木農業大学 フェアトレード Atsugi University of Agriculture and Fair Trade

晴れ屋 The sunshine store

Today I went shopping at Atsugi's Fair Trade store, a really nice store with great people and a great atmosphere. Despite the cultural difference it is so much like German Fair Trade stores I know.

For example there are some lists for signatures about local and global problems, a lot of free information material, cool books from all over the world.
And of course food, clothing, art and other things out of Fair Trade from all over the world.
Apart from that the interior is warmly decorated and floor, walls and ceiling of a nice bright wood. As are the shop keepers :)

some pictures of the shop, I found on the net

and here is some self introduction of the store (Japanese only)

農業大学 University of Agriculture

After shopping I went out and heard some loud Japanese drum (太鼓) coming from the direction of Saty, a big shopping mall in Atsugi. Curiosity aroused, I went there and found a group of students performing. There was a banner where 農業大学 was written on. And a police officer explained me that these are students from the Atsugi university of agriculture and they are holding their annual performance in the city center.

Being a university of agriculture 8 male students came in a black uniform armed with two radishes each. With these they performed an opening performance moving them maybe like a sword or something else.
Afterwards two 先生 "sensei" (Japanese for master, teacher) exchanged each other in leading a performance. Apart from that there was the guy on the 太鼓, Cheer Leaders having "Radish" written in green letters on their dresses and a strong guy holding on of those huuuuge Japanese kind of flags. A green flag of their university. Since they are too heavy to life, he had wore leather equipment around his human reproducer. Starting from this, the rest of him fit the Japanese TV-Show character Hard Gay. A Japanese guy in a typical black leather outfit, with the stereotypical hat and sun glasses. So Hard Gay held the flag, 太鼓boy drummed the drum and the boys made some cool performances with the Cheer Leaders in between.
Apart from that they sang songs and using military / martial arts like language, all in a very loud voice. It was also a performance of Japanese discipline, since they only moved and sang on command and since a lot of other students span a rope around the performance place by holding the rope in a kneeling position without moving, having their head down, for the at least one hour long performance.

After the cool show, they distributed a bag of free vegetables from their university. Of course I got one. Inside was a carrot a huuuge sweet potato and two somethings covered with earth, which I can not make out yet. :)

Really cool and I run into it by chance :)

wondering how there can be a whole university dedicated to agriculture


Saturday, 6 October 2007

新宿 Shinjuku

This Saturday was the last complete day with Manu in Japan. Since we had all Sunday for packing
and getting ready for his departure, we decided to do something on our last day in Japan and went to 新宿. There we met up with Monika, who we had met in 京都 (Kyoto) and a friend of her from Australia. Also Lukas and Monika(2), two of my fellow students from Erlangen, which have meanwhiles also arrived in Japan.

Tokyo Metropolitan Office

After some trouble finding each other, we eventually met in front of the shinjuku metropolitan office, the highest building in Japan. This building serving as the government seat of the people being in charge of all cities in Tokyo, was built as a megalomania project in 1991. Since it consumed more than 157 billion yen (close to one billion euro) tax payers in Tokyo began grumbling about it. Thus the persons in charge decided to devote the top floors of both towers freely to public as observation platforms (展望台). In Japan that was enough to calm people down.

And it is still free today, so of course we went up all the 220 meters to the top floor (the towers having a total height of 243 meters) and watched in awe over the scenery of 新宿. It is like a never ending see of concrete with giants walking ashen meadows of buildings. Indeed since there is close to no nature left in Tokyo, the Travel Guide describes the view from here, as well as from other nice spots with:
From here you will have a magnificent view on incoming trains and the newly constructed mega x shopping mall.
Though feeling a bit like being in a cyberpunk novel, it gives me some creepy feelings.

ICC Open Space Museum

Afterwards we went to a museum, which was recommended to me by my parents, who went there on one of their trips to Tokyo. The goal of the museum is to "encourage the dialogue between technology and the arts", quoting their English guide. And indeed there is a lot to see, hear, feel and touch there. The coolest thing being the level of interactivity. Almost every "art project" is designed to be interacted with in one way or another.
For example there was a filed of little pins, which changed their environment according to where being touched. There was a room, which played with lights housing a couple of lamps on springs which changed their lights color according to their current angle. The walls were also painted in specific colors, that changed depending on the light being emitted from the lamps. So it was also a nice project in showing people how biased our perception of colors is. In another room there was a panel, which led you connect things in the room to a lever, which could then be used to turn them on and off. A vision of future interactive housing. Even the stairs connecting the two floors of the exhibition make sounds when you walk on them. They confuse you in thinking someone is walking behind you and other gimmicks. Above you were filmed climbing the stairs and can then watch yourself in a distorted time frame video somehow not quite matching reality. In yet another room there is a web-browser which surfs the net according to body limb movements you perform. However it displays the contents as raw data stream, making them unable to decode but giving you a feeling of actually surfing. Right at the beginning there was a sophisticated device allowing to communicate over the net through touch. Two bars which could be changed were presented as an illustration. The second object would mime the movements of the first one, offering strong force feedback when having your hands on it. Through it, e.g. blind depth people could be enabled to use the net to communicate with each other. But it holds a lot of other interesting options. Next to it was a big screen, which could read the data stored on your Suica or Passmo card. A card used for conveniently taking trains or shopping in konbinis (Japanese convenience stores) and some super markets. The screen would show your exact routes you have taken with your card and thicken lines you frequently take. For me for example the line from Shinjuku to Atsugi was really thick. Apparently Japanese people don't even think about what that means for their privacy and how much of it they are giving up for a little convenience. For me I plan to exchange my Suica card with other from now on or simply buying real tickets, when I am in no hurry.
Finally we went into a cinema like room, where movies where shown. However there were no seats and several "screens" instead of one. In fact you had to lie on the ground floor to be able to watch them. As soon as you did, you realized that the "screens" where actually a kind of glass container containing one level of water and one of smoke. So the images displayed were actually distorted twice, once by the smoke and second by the water. We watched three movies one being sequences of comforting patterns which made you feel relaxed and sleepy. The second the exact opposite using disturbing pictures (e.g. of war) and patterns with a disturbing sound background. In fact this part made you feel very uneasy. Third was a kind of grid on a map moving around and a lot of play with numbers. This part arose your interest and made you feel curious and excited. Actually I think this was the most interesting part of the museum, without lowering the value of the other projects.

So after all a really cool place, totally worth seeing and spending an afternoon. It is located in the Tokyo Opera tower in Shinjuku. You can walk there from Shinjuku station in approximately 20-30 minutes.

Tokyo Metropolitan Office (revisited)

On our way back the night crept in over Tokyo. So one of us had the idea of climbing the metropolitan office again to enjoy the now completely different night scenery of Tokyo. Since it was almost on the way back to the station everyone agreed and we went up again.
And indeed the sea of concrete has made way for a sea of lights, which give an even more impressive sight than the day view.

Adjusting his Zeiss eyes to compensate the light