Friday, 30 November 2007

Interview With The Japanese

As you might know from previous posts I am again entertaining language (aka language tandem) exchange with a Japanese boy, Nakamura. Unlike in Germany where I did language tandem with my now good friend Akiko, this time I am teaching English.

Lately I asked myself what to do in the English part of the meeting, since Nakamura is already pretty good in English, has a large vocabulary and some growing feeling for the language. I ended up with the idea of interviewing him about his country and culture. Like this I only need to ask short questions, and he can train himself in speaking English for the most time. Furthermore he needs to concentrate to be able to utter in English what he would answer in Japanese. Since I deem the answers as quite interesting, I asked him for his OK to publish them here and without further ranting around here we go:

1. Gender Equality
2. Homosexuality
3. Politics
4. Yakuza
5. Religion
6. World War 2
7. Priorities In Life
8. Individualism
9. Suicide
10. Environment Protection
11. Surveillance
12. Free Will
13. Islam
14. Death Sentence
15. Likes/Dislikes

\1\ Gender Equality

|mika| What do you think about the gender equality in Japan?

|nakamura| In short, it's not yet good for everyone. About gender discrimination I can tell you a tale from my school time. While all boys were allowed to come to school in short pants, short garments were forbidden for girls.
Furthermore we have special short term girls' universities in Japan, which are a remainder of past times, where men thought women would need no higher education. However girls are allowed on normal universities, yet depending on the profession, professor might favor boys.
And as it happens to be most professors are men. As I see it the reason for that is however, that girls rarely want to become professors, especially in natural science areas.
Concerning Jobs it doesn't look any better. Women tend to get less salary, they have a though time, if they want to get promoted and men are favored over female applicants.

|mika| Is that related to women getting pregnant, while men don't?

|nakamura| Yes I think so. Women in Japan tend or tended to get children early. Therefore it was never profitable to promote women in jobs, give them much salary or put much effort into them, from a company point of view.
However the situation improves and Japanese women actually still strive for more equality.

/2/ Homosexuality

|mika| I have heard that in Japanese history gay love was very far spread, though silently, accepted among the people. What is the current situation?

|nakamura| (surprised that I knew about that) The situation changed when Japan tried to become a modern country like Europe and the USA in the second half of the 19th century (明治時代 Meiji Age). Because they did not only adapt technology and political, and social systems, but also many European ideas. One of these "modern" ideas was that gay love can not be tolerated. Leading up to the presence there has been no major change in this attitude, although among the public the most frequent attitude is now: Is it really disgusting, but if they really think let them do.

|mika| What about gay marriage?

|nakamura| It is unthinkable in Japan.

/3/ Politics (inner and outer)

|mika| Next will be about politics. Let's start with outer politics, like warfare directing to or originating from Japan, the article 9 (Japan's obligation to peace), the Iraq war and the political happenings, like elections, in other countries.

|nakamura| That one is easy. Japanese people do not care about politics.
They might care a little bit about this article 9, but when a foreign country would challenge Japan, they would accept it's abolishment.
If our government would declare war on another country, the people might be against it.

|mika| Would they protest? Go to the street? Protest letters? What about TV, news papers, companies?

|nakamura| No. Political protest is unheard of in Japan. They would certainly not go to the street, I can't even imagine protest letters, even protest letters are too much protest for Japan.
TV Shows, news papers, magazines and the internet however might protest against it, yes.
Companies probably not.

|mika| Do you think article 9 will be abolished? What is your own opinion about that?

|nakamura| Yes I think it is a possibility that the article is abolished. I would welcome an abolishment, since we have dangerous neighbours.

|mika| So what about wars like the one in Iraq, and political elections?

|nakamura| As I said before the Japanese people are not interested in things like that. They are maybe a little bit interested in what happens in China, Korea and the USA.
Oh but they surely are interested a lot in pop culture news from abroad.

|mika| Like in every other country I fear. But what about internal politics, the election for example.

|nakamura| They are also not interested in that. Japanese people want to see unbelievable things, like an unbelievable change in politics. Actually when Shinzo Abe ran for candidacy, he made use of this and made his campaign look like aiming for unbelievable change. He also tried to make politics more fun and less serious, since that is what most Japanese people said, when asked what they want about/from politics. They answered: They should be more fun, more entertaining and more unbelievable.
Summing up I have to say, that Japanese people care less about the actual content of politics and what's important, rather then wanting to be entertained by politics seeing funny or unbelievable stuff.

/4/ Yakuza

|mika| What do Japanese people think about Yakuza?

|nakamura| They are afraid of them. They have guns and are not afraid to use them, they do raids and kill people. They are string, because they always act in groups.

|mika| Can't you go to the police, if you have trouble with them?

|nakamura| Well yes, but uhm... it's difficult.

|mika| I heard the Yakuza's image isn't that bad, and that they even help during catastrophes.

|nakamura| This is just a tale/legend from old times. I think today's Yakuza is just like the Mafia in the USA.

|mika| I heard they have certain dress codes?

|nakamura| Yes. Tattoos, black cars with darkened windows, but they work wearing black suits, so they look like ordinary office workers.

|mika| How about how Takeshi Kitano displays them?

|nakamura| depending on the movie he displays the old and the modern Yakuza. I think his display of the modern Yakuza is close to reality.

|mika| What should I do, when I see one?

|nakamura| Do not approach him. Do not look him into the eyes. Running away depends on the situation.

/5/ Religion

|mika| What so you think about Japan's religion?

|nakamura| Japan is an atheistic country. We do not believe that any gods will help us. I think Japanese people see the world quite realistic.

|mika| What about Buddhism and Shinto in Japan?

|nakamura| Both are OK and accepted by the people. Hmm you must understand that before 1850 Japan had no concept of religion. What you might see as a Buddhist or Shinto religion, I would call customs and tradition.
Still people who go to shrines and temples, do it, because it is tradition, and even they pray, they don't really think the gods will hear or help them. I think you could see it more like a social event.
Sometimes when people get very sick or people are very lucky they might pray for help or thank gods for it.

Ah I know, here is a good metaphor how Japan sees religion.
Religion is like playing lottery without paying.

/6/ World War 2

|mika| Our countries share the same dark history in the 20th century. Therefore I am pretty curious about finding difference and similarities in how country and people work these events up. Speaking for Japan, how did the Japanese people work up what happened? What do they think about it now?

|nakamura| Japan invaded Southeast Asia, and the Japanese people felt and still feel sorry for that. I don't think this could happen again.
During this time the people, from the student to the politician, didn't really understand what was happening. There was too much power in the military and it was very independent. So nobody really knew what was happening. And the few who might have known something or suspected something kept quiet. Actually I think if I would have been there and I would have known, I probablly would have kept quiet too.

After Japan gained its independence back Japanese politicians frequently announced how sorry they are for what happened and expressed their regret.

|mika| Did the Japanese people have a sense of superiority at this time? What about today?

|nakamura| Yes, they felt superior to the rest of south East Asia. I think today, because of Japan's pole position in economy and technology, they subconsciously still do a bit.

|mika| Have you heard about the hate campaigns against Japan in China and Korea?

|nakamura| Yes, especially from China: Japanese people = evil. I think it is wrong and not fair. My generations was not even born at the time the second world war happened, so how can we blamed responsible. How can you be angry at someone, who didn't do anything wrong? I don't think guilt is hereditary, passed on from the parents to their children.

/7/ Priotities In Life
|mika| Please order the following ten terms in order of importance for Japanese people: work, family, religion (or tradition and customs), hobbies, fame, adventure/exciting life, having/following dreams, wealth, society, politics.

1. wealth
2. hobbies
3. family
4. work
5. following dreams
6. adventure/exciting life
7. fame
8. customs and tradition
10. politics

/8/ Individualism

|mika| A stereotype about Japan is, that everybody is the same, there is no individualism. What does Japan think about individualism?

|nakamura| Very young people think the individuality is cool and try to be the coolest guy in class. But as people grow more mature, they realize that it is important to become common and that it is already difficult enough to life in a common way.
Before I started at my company, I though I could easily do any job. But I was wrong. It is not as easy, I am not special.

Also I think individuality is not something people feel by themselves, but it is given to them from other people around them. But by that the whole concept is vain and empty. We can't really decide on our own.

Japanese people probably think the general concept of individuality is bad, and if they encounter someone who is different, they want these abnormal people to go away.

|mika| What if they do good things for all the people?

|nakamura| We cannot imagine a individualist can be a good thing/person. It is different on TV, there abnormal persons are funny and it is okay.
Concerning school I think abnormal people, for example someone interested in trains as a hobby and not into soccer and baseball is easily bullied by the class and the class will unite against him. If they don't unite against him, the class leader will also bully them, so they bully.

After school abnormal hobbies like trains are ok, as long as it doesn't make the person crazy.

/9/ Suicide

|mika| Japan has the highest suicide rate in the world. Why do think, many people see death as their only escape?

|nakamura| having no money, having no people to help you, having no work, in some rare cases because of family suicide.

|mika| But in other countries people have less money and work. What makes Japan special?

|nakamura| A different kind of people and a different society, an atmosphere
of isolation. Also maybe because thre is no religion in Japan.

|mika| What counter measures would you propose to fight suicide. Do you really think building walls on the rails helps?

|nakamura| Maybe a bit, because at the end of the day, when they have to wait for the train, it is less tempting to throw oneself unto the rails. I think to actually prevent the suicide, you need to get familiar/friends with the person and stay in contact. For example if you promise to meet him next week, he won't kill himself until next week, because of the promised meeting.

|mika| To my mind comes a picture of school club like clubs for unemployed people, where they can meet and be creative, entertain conversation and activities. Do you think it could help?

|nakamura| Definitely. But I am not sure if unemployed people would accept such a opportunity, because of shame and fear.

/10/ Protection Of The Environment

|mika| What can you tell me about Japan's attitude towards the protection of the environment? What about recycling, hybrid cars, environment tax for people, for companies?

|nakamura| Currently we practice waste separation. We have burnable waste and not burnable waste. If real recycling would be offered free of charge by the city I think roughly 1/3 of the people might accept it. The problem would be the big part living alone in solitude living only from Konbini instant food.
Hybrid Cars currently manufactured by Japanese companies are too expensive. If they become cheaper, yes maybe.
An environmental tax would strongly upset people. For example half of the gas price in Japan is already tax.
An environmental tax for companies would make more sense, and be accepted by the people. However the lobby of companies would never allow such a thing. I think it should start by reducing the incredible amount of waste, companies produce by merchandising products.

My opinion is the responsibility should be equally distributed between people, companies and the government.

/11/ Surveillance

|mika| Germany currently undergoes a transformation from a constitutional state to a surveillance/police state. But Japan shows similar tendencies. For example the recent creation of a central register for fingerprints of foreigners residing or coming to Japan. What do Japanese people think about that and surveillance in general?

|nakamura| They don't care about what happens to foreigners in Japan, since it does not concern the Japanese people. Apart from that the number of crimes committed by foreigners in Japan is rising.
This is different if the Japanese people are directly concerned. During and before WW2 the Japanese military rule was totalitarian and monitored each citizen. The fear form this time has been passed on to the current generation. So people are very afraid of surveillance.

|mika| I noticed a lot of surveillance cameras everywhere. What do people think about them?

|nakamura| The number of crimes in Shinjuku dropped since the introduction of cameras, so I guess it's a good thing, but it decreases privacy.

/12/ Free Will

|mika| Let's get philosophical. Concerning Japanese beliefs, is there a free will or are our life predetermined?

|nakamura| I think we have a free will, since we make decisions based on what's best for us. I think whether free will is good or bad depends on the situation. For example if I have a free will and I have achieved something, I can say Yatta! (I did it!) and feel fulfilled and happy. I think free will leads to a more active life.
On the other hand free will might make us overconfident in ourselves and allow us to make mistakes.

|mika| If our life would be predestined, don't you think we would have problems to convict criminals? After all they had no other choice from the beginning?

|nakamura| What is right and wrong is determined by the society. That would not change because of free will or predetermination. We see that more practical, if someone acts against the rules of his society he will be punished. After he committed a crime he will be locked away and can commit no more crimes, even if it is his fate.

/13/ Islam

|mika| Western media currently tried very hard to defame the Islamic religion in western countries. How many of these has reached Japan, and what do Japanese people currently think about the Islam.

|nakamura| I guess I have answered this before. Most people don't think about it. However seeing the frightening, unimaginable actions of Islamic fundamentalists on TV, people start to get frightened.
When asked I would consciously reply, that these Islamic fundamentalists oppose no reasonable threat to our country. However I think people start to fear such a thing unconsciously.
I think the confusion of Islam originates in British colonial times. So most Islamic people might think of colonial powers, like Britain and the USA as evil, but not of Japan.

|mika| What about compared to other religions.

|nakamura| Only because of the recent events people might currently answer, that they are more afraid of Islam, because seeing only Islam in TV they forget about other religions. The TV makes the Islamic Religion suddenly look like a big problem for us.
However I remember from earlier, that there are also Christian and Jewish fundamentalists. I guess it is just a question, of what you have lately seen on TV.

|mika| What about Moslems in Japan?

|nakamura| I think there are really really few of them in this country. Too less to even get noticed.

/14/ Death Sentence

|mika| The death sentence is quite controversial in many countries, whether they perform it or not. In Japan it appears to be widely accepted. How come?

|nakamura| Japanese people think the death sentence is needed, because people killing other peoples cannot change their personality.
And if we would let them live in a prison, it would be a waste of tax payers' money. Furthermore it is important that people who suffered from his crimes will meet satisfaction by having the criminal killed. Also if he is not killed, relatives might have to fear him escaping prison for their whole life.

But it is very important to only execute people who are really guilty, we cannot kill innocent people. Imprisonment is only an option, if the person is expected to become a good person again.

|mika| What if a person killed a person who killed his child/wife/husband. In this case he is not expected to kill again, right?

|nakamura| Revenge is a difficult thing, it can easily lead to families killing each other. That is why we have judges.

|mika| What about self-financing work prisons? They would cost no money and the criminals would be given the chance to be productive for society?

|nakamura| Yes that would be a good thing, but even than the killer might be able to escape. Also it is very important that the prison must not be a comfortable place. If the criminals do not suffer in prison, the people who suffered under their deeds will have not satisfaction.

/15/ Likes/Dislikes

|mika| Finally I want to give you the opportunity to tell the people, what you personally like and dislike about your home country.

|nakamura| I like that it is a very safe country.
I don't like the atmosphere that you have to do the same like everyone else. I see that it is important, but I don't like being forced to comply.
I like it, that we have a very good public transportation system. The trains/buses are always in time, you never have to wait long for the next train, and you can get everywhere you want quite quickly.
I like Konbinis, they are so convenient.
But I also dislike Konbinis, because they are everywhere in the country the same, and If I make a drive into the countryside, instead of a nice countryside I see the same Konbinis like at home.
I don't like that prices for land are so incredibly high, especially close to cities. I cannot afford a house for me and my wife.
I am very glad about Japanese food, it seems to have quite a large variation compared to other countries and it is less "gritty". Also apart from Mc Donalds we practically have no junk food, Japanese cuisine is quite healthy.
I hate traffic jams and the high amount you have to pay for using highways.
Recently I can only find the Japanese TV disgusting. It is almost only about people eating more and more. The more someone can eat, the more popular she/he will be. I also don't like that only VIPs can take part in Quiz Shows.
Finally because of the sea Japan's climate is very mild, but because its spread you can encounter different climates without leaving the country. This is very convenient.

|mika| Thank You really much Nakamura-san, your answers have been really interesting.

leading this interview: mika
star guest in this post: nakamura

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Philosophy, Kabbalah and a Sagitarus/Scorpio Party

Actually I am currently running in "insane learning mode", because I intend to pass the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) upcoming on the 2nd December, but because I the last weekend was 3 day long weekend, and because today (28.11.) I woke up before 5 o'clock, you are granted with this story.

A little interlude to my dating ^_^
For the post date, I actually choose the date the story happened, so for this one everything happened on the 24. November. That is because this date is much more interesting than the actual post date, in my opinion.

天狼会 Tenroukai

So 24th was a Saturday and in the middle of a three day weekend due to Labour Thanksgiving Day on Friday 23rd. Since even in insane learning mode I cannot learn for 3 days through, I decided to grant myself some break on this Saturday and went to a group conversing about philosophy and the magic immanent to life. A Japanese friend of mine happened to lead this group, which she named 天狼会 (tenrou-kai), 天狼星 (tenrou-sei) means Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky and 会 (kai) means meeting. So she invited me to come along, since she knew I am interested in philosophy.

However she told me in advance that I would most probably be the only 外人 (foreigner) attending and that the language would be solely in Japanese. In boundless self overestimation I thought I might be able to follow the discussion, a discussion about the very foundations of existence, of human nature and far more complex aspects. Well I couldn't ^_^. I guess even if it had been in German or English I would have had a tough time to follow, but being in Japanese it was simply 無理だよ (not possible).

On the positive side I learned a lot Japanese, by trying to follow a complex Japanese conversation 一生懸命 (isshoukenmei, literally with one's life at stake, as hard as one can) for 4 and a half hours, since that is how long the group disputed. And luckily every now and then, people would make a break and someone took the chance in explaining to me the basics of some concepts they were just talking about, so that in the end I also learned some very interesting things as well!

But first things first, let's see which characters attended such an uncommon group. First we have 先生 (sensei, teacher, master) my friend Kazue, who lived 16 years in Japan, 8 years in the USA, 8 years in Norway and then came back to Japan being fluent/native in those three languages as well as familiar and close to there culture. Apart from that she is also a great fantasy artist and might in the near future publish her own deck of Tarot cards. She said her intention in leading this group is helping each on of its members as individuals to grow at her/his own pace and with her/his own ladder to become a more fulfilled, harmonic being, being able to influence one's surrounding in a positive helping way. Making us able to easily help people, for what you first have to understand more about yourself.
Then we have Masa, like me a friend of Kazue, who is half Japanese and half Australian, which means I was able to dispute with him a bit in English from time to time. He is openly gay and told me some interesting things about gay culture in Tokyo. Next is 暁さん (Akatsuki, Morning Dawn), who's real life name is Akihiro. He is a musician and very deep into reading books about philosophy. Last is the most interesting character, I forgot his real name, but it easy to find him a new one: 仙人 (sennin = hermit) or maybe Erosennin, for those who read/watch Naruto. He also joined the group for the first time and told us he had secluded himself from society and lived like a hermit for 8 years. I don't know if that is true, but his behavior supported his argument. The second name I gave him is not really fair, since I know he had no sexual interest in any of us, he just forgot how to deal/speak with other humans. So sitting next to him, every time he talked to me he touched me, which was a bit discomforting. He also would make compliments to each of the others all the time and tell not only the female how beautiful we all are. Apart from his strange but nice compliments (also about character or teaching/explanation skills) he would ask questions all the time 連発 (shooting questions like from a machine gun). But, I can assure you, not easy questions. Most of them I couldn't understand, but the others had a tough time answering them, which made them interesting. The guy also appeared to know a lot himself and was apparently curious about what others would think about certain things after thinking about them alone for 8 years? He lived and lived as professional calligrapher.

So much for the 自己紹介 (jikoshoukai self introductions) let's hear what little I was explained or have understood from their conversation:

言霊 Kotodama

The dictionaries I use translates this to:
GE: der Sprache innewohnende mysteriöse Kraft; Wortseele; Seele der Sprache.
EN: soul or power of language
They explained the concept to me like this: Every thing you say to another person will have some effect on them, even if it is only out of habit and unintentional. An example is the Japanese partition greeting 気を付けて (ki wo tsukete = tale care). You say it for friends without really thinking about it, and still it will influence them subconsciously trying to remain healthy. A more direct example is screaming "Go to Hell and die!" to someone. The someone will get angry and be in a bad mood for quite a while, changing her/his image about you seeing the world with different eyes for a while (everything will be annoying and such).
仙人 explained to us further, that this concept can be broken into syllables. For example the Japanese あ (A) usually has good connotations, building bridges and connections to the 相手 (partner, the person you are speaking to). It appears in many positive words like ありがとう (arigatou, thank you), 愛 (Ai, love), 相手 (Aite Partner) and so on. While the vowel え (E) will make some distance between you and your 相手. E.g. ええ (an expression of surprise, stepping one step back in your head).

The idea is that knowing about this influence we could positively influence the people around us, giving them hope and courage in though time, cheering them up when they are sad, and so on. But also being more careful about saying negative things, since it could have bad influences on people.

京都 (Kyoto) / Jerusalem
神道 (Shinto), 仏教 (Buddhism) / Judaism

Another chapter of the conversation were about similarities between Japanese customs and beliefs (they never used the world religion) and Judaism, as well as a comparison between Kyoto and Jerusalem. Especially regarding earlier time and history.
They claimed to have found quite astounding similarities, alas I was not really able to follow their astoundingly fast recitation of these :(


仙人 would at one point ask me to write this Kanji 永 (ei, eternal, long time). Alas I am a total noob in Calligraphy / Writing with brush. So till he was able to explain to me some interesting concepts about Kanji. Human usually use their right brain part for logic / language and the such and the left for artistic things like images (Don't kill me if it was the other way round). The interesting thing about Kanji is, they can be both symbols of language and as images, especially concerning but not limited to calligraphy. So writing a Kanji can tell interesting aspects about one's connection between left and right brain half. And practicing calligraphy can strengthen this connection.
He also told me than in China and Japan (both countries actively use Kanji) there are some "fortune tellers" which will try to analyze your personality, based on how you write certain Kanji. So these "fortune telling" is actually based on some psychological interactions.

万葉仮名 Manyougana

People having interest in Japan usually know about the four common "writing symbols" used 平仮名 (Hiragana, syllable writing for everyday words), 片仮名 (Katakana, syllable writing for foreign words and special terms), 漢字 (Kanji, from China adapted writing symbols having one or several meaning and pronunciations) and ローマ字 (Latin characters). But there is a fifth one called 万葉仮名 (Manyougana), which precedes 平仮名 and 片仮名. It consists out of Kanji used for pronunciation only without there meaning. Later such 万葉仮名 Kanji were simplified to 平仮名 and 片仮名.
The 仙人 was not only able to write them, but knew the steps the went through in becoming the simplified version and knew the reasons about it. 書道大家さすが。As expected from a master calligrapher. I had already learned about these in school, but he showed the steps to me brush by brush and explained me certainly fascinating new aspects about them, which however because of lack in understanding I could not follow :(

男色ひ言 Gay Slang

Faster than I could have noticed the conversation drifted to gay slang words and gay culture in Tokyo. No wonder I couldn't follow this one, I have enough problems with the normal language, how should I be able to follow the florid slang of gay people.
Well I guess you can't stay for 4 and a half hours on serious topics without at least once speaking about something funny and cheering up a bit. I couldn't really follow as I said, but there appears to be a quite famous gay district in Tokyo called 二条目 (Nijoume) and separated culture to have grown.


They intended to discuss to discuss the Jewish Kabbalah at the meeting, but didn't find that much time for it, because of all the question coming from the 仙人. I didn't really understand much, but one goal seems to be to find your own roots. It also contains lots of mystic symbols and a lot of numerology which (currently ^_^) leads to an ultimate "ascension" in the year 2012. Whichever that means, if it did, I couldn't follow. Maybe the end of the world? No that were Jehovah's witnesses. Maybe we can delve deeper into it next time.

OO-Parts (Out Of Place Artifcats)

At the end the discussion went to OO-parts ( I didn't know about this term. It refers to object that seem to be out of place where they appeared. This term is for example used for rune tablets or gold coins found in America, which came from Vikings in the 14th century.
But for the open minded dreamer / Sci-Fi fan :) , there are also a lot of OO-Parts which date back to before humanity or before written/orally handed down history. E.g. the ICA rocks found in Peru which display humans and dinosaurs or a rusty nail dating back some million years before Christ. Or very regular shaped spheres dating back 3 billion years, which seem artificially created.
There are also a couple of interestingly enough validated cases, like a complex instrumentarium found in ancient Greek, that exceeded the technology of the rest of the world in decades!

There were a lot of other discussions going on, but these were the ones I could at least grasp a tiny bit from. ^_^
Apart from being interesting, I guess it is a really good training in the Japanese language and I will probably attend it again :).

Sagiratus / Scorpio Party

After that Me and Kazue parted and met with Yoko, another friend of her. Together we had dinner and then went to Abiko a city near Toride and Chiba in the Chiba-ken. It was a birthday party for Kazue and Shawn, who hosted the party, but much more than that.
For once Kazue opened up an art gallery in the basement of the building at this party and Shawn shared poems, he had written to the concept the paintings were about. So you could wander around the gallery, cherish on the pictures and delve into the attached piece of poetry and afterwards exchange your impressions with the two artists and listen their ideas about their works.

See two of her pictures here:

The Hanged Man


Apart from that the party included some poetry reciting, where every guest was give the chance in reciting her/his own poems, a lot of great conversations, interesting guests, dirty talks, flirting, singing and all the other essential parts for a good party.
What made it also interesting was the mixture of people attending. They basically consisted of people being English teachers in Japan, training Taijitsu Budo Bujinkan (remember? that is were I know Shawn from), being in the computer profession and/or interested in philosophy and magic. What a combination! The conversations I had were really interesting! For quite some time I talked to yet another Shawn from South Africa, which lives as a writer in Japan and dearly loves the concept of metaphor. This makes talking to him to a real enjoyment, since he indeed is talking in metaphors all the time ^_^. We share a lot of basic morale / ideals about life and I am very glad I have met him!

Alas there was one problem. Because of the excellent and amazing public traffic system in Japan I didn't even realize just how far away from home I was. I asked someone to check, when the last train for me would leave, to still get home. Only then I realized, what I already wrote above, that I am near Toride where I have already been once. This means I was about 3 hours away from Atsugi. Wow! The only weak point of the traffic system are that the trains stop at some point after midnight and only resume in the morning. So I had the choice of leaving this amazing party early at 10:30 pm or accepting Shawn's offer to stay over night.
I know what you think and I wish I had, but I had not. I planned to learn Japanese on Sunday, being the last weekend before the JLPT and stupidly left the coolest party ever after only arriving. :/ Please kill me, Uargh, thx.

At least I was not alone. Yoko, Kazue's friend who joined us earlier, also wanted to catch the last train so we shared a 2/3 of the path together joking around in Japanese or English.

Tape Listening Learning Technique

Yoko told me some interesting technique a friend of her used to become fluently in Japan starting from zero in no time. He was in school and simply had to adapt as quickly as possible to be able to follow the lessons. So what he would do was to tape/record every lesson and listen to it at home until he was able to understand it, by looking up unknown words grammes and the like. By that he also got the pronunciation so strong into his head that when he is speaking now, no Japanese person could distinguish him from natives.
This technique sounds really interesting and much better than educational tapes, since the conversation is real and can be interesting. So I intend to try it next time I attend the 天狼会. :)

I also hope to have another chance to meet the persons I only started to get to know at the party. I could bite my arse for leaving early!

exploring the last secrets and entering unknown territory

Pictures From The Party

Shawn the host

Kazue-sensei drunk ^^

Eliza, who I accompanied to Budo classes another time

the guy left to me is Shawn from South Africa, to which I enjoyed conversing

Music and dancing (after I left)

Going out (after I left)

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Life, The Universe And Everything

Dwelling In Dreams

This night I dreamed two dreams and mysteriously am able to remember both.
Both of them were a kind of Horror Movie/Adventure.

The Rocky Island / All Alone

In the first one I let myself hire for some mysterious experiment. There was a U-shaped big rock in middle of a great sea, which was steep and unclimbable, but in the center of the U, there was a smaller rock island of maybe 5x5 feet, where you could easily stand. The person who hired me said that he thinks, because of the special position, some strange forces might be experienced on this smaller rock. He told me to stay there one day and one night. After agreeing he brought me to said place with a little ship and promised to be back the next day.

I soon noticed that something wasn't right, it was an eerie feeling creeping up my limbs, but I could not yet tell, what was causing it. Sometime I would imagine seeing a hideous face in the waters, but it would vanish once I tried to fixate it with my eyes. At some point I started hearing voices, although I was not able to make out what they said, I did remember dreaming in earlier days about a voice asking for my help. And every time I heard the voice, I had to think about these dreams.

The problem was, even if I would be one of the best swimmers in the world, I doubt that I could have made it back by myself. I remember the U being in a very special position afar. So as a precaution of not getting mad, I did not bring a watch. However the stand of the sun was enough to adequately estimate the time. But it changed, depending on the angle I watched at it, or from what point of the island I would watch the sun would be at a different height. That is when I realized in horror that time might pass different on this little rock.

The voices became more intense and I started to see more and more of this strange creature, which's face I saw earlier. At this point my memory becomes blurry, all I remember is ever rising fear and terror creeping in my very bone. I would crouch in the center of the island wrapping myself in the blanket I brought for the night, not daring to see what's outside. It became worse and worse, this was the kind of horror you can only experience in dreams, when reality crumbles and the synapses in your brain start to intervene and let you experience things, you could not under ordinary circumstances.

But than at some point, quite surprising myself even now, I said: "There is no use in fear. I cannot run away. I must face what awaits me, if I want to survive". And the fear vanished, not at once but in great steps. And suddenly I was able to see clearly what the rock-island, the U, the voices and the things I saw was all about and how they would suddenly make sense.

And then I woke up.
However it was still the middle of the night.
I suddenly realized that the hot water cooker was still on and running.
I stood up turned it off and went back to sleep and had another dream.

The Cube Of Riddles

In this second encounter I was inside some ancient temple in some big hall hosting a great cube/altar shaped structure. The structure had countless possibilities of interactions, but the biggest part was made of key holes. However keys were missing altogether. After spending hours after hours studying the object and trying to understand its purpose and significance, I found two open able dashes with figures inside. The figure where the shape, we know from the depiction of gods in some cultures. After some more intense thinking I found the right two spots for these figures, I somehow knew they have to be placed there. And I was rewarded the first key. Having the key it was easy to find the correct key hole, and I unlocked it. But nothing happened.

I did not give up yet, but I soon realized that I won't be able to solve this all by myself. So I actually left the room for a while and traveled around the world asking friends to come with me to this ancient place and dare the riddle together with me. In the dream they all had a special kind of power, which I had not. My power was to influence things around me, without directly causing or changing anything. In other words, I could do everything a little and had little understanding of everything, but no particular strength. This was my power. My friends I found around the globe all had particular powers and skills, however almost no knowledge in all other areas.

So since I understood all of them a little, it was easy to coordinate them in solving the mystery of the cube. And indeed we were quickly able to recover a big host of keys and unlock countless locks of the structure. An important thing we realized, was that the structure was not stiff or fixed, but it changed, the more locks we opened. This gave us quite some trouble, since before such a change, we thought we finally figured out the rules the mechanism would work with. But after a change we had to give up on part of the carefully assembled rules and re think big parts of our theory. Some of my friends could not agree to that and hold on to the old rules and eventually gave up or stayed at the level of locks we were able to unlock with these rules.

Towards the end of my dream the structure changed more and more, but the keyholes would not become significantly fewer. However I remember that some of the keys were still in their holes and some of the locks remained unlocked permanently. At the very end I was all by myself again, everyone left more important matters (family, work, money) or passed away. The dream ended with my throwing all the rules we carefully assembled our whole life over board and found myself able to procure two more keys.

But the keys did not fit any key holes.
The I realized and woke up.

This time it was the morning and I could not continue sleeping or this dream.


Apart from being wonderful experiences and maybe the most entertaining dreams I had for quite a while, they also are fascinating and very interesting, if you try to analyze them.

The whole first stage/first dream is apparently all about facing one's fears and finding self-confidence. This path has to be walked all alone, there is no one to help you and no escape, only then, being all by yourself, you can truly overcome them. In all other cases sooner or later, you will run to friends, family or experts to comfort you. You will run back into the safety of so called civilization.
Also it tells you to not give in to prejudices and programmed objects of fear (strange voices, shapes, time passing differently) but to keep and open mind and let such things happen and see them for what they are, fascinating; and not for what people fear them, being in-understandable and new.

This first step seems inevitable for the second dream.
The second dream seems to be about unlocking some huge riddle/mystery.
The mystery of life and existence?
The mystery of our universe?
The mystery of ourselves?

It started with facing the mystery alone. Being only ourself, we seem to be able to unlock the first parts of the riddle. It even seems necessary, since those two elements were the only not consisting of keys, but figures. They might be personal or a necessary personal opening up to the riddles of life. This might mean for example to go through the world with open eyes and ears, being ready to perceive all the wonders that await us.

However apparently being only oneself at a fixed spot doesn't bring you ant further than that. For that in the dream I had to leave this spot, travel around the world and make new experiences, broadening my horizon. Also I made a lot of friends, apparently also interested in solving this riddle. Traveling the world could mean learning about what parts of the riddle have already been understood, or only how other people understood them.
So after (years?) of travel we would come back together to challenge it a new. With the knowledge we obtained and our combined force we are able to unlock many many riddles. However at some point we had to give up on parts of our rules and theories. This reminded me on history, when for example the image of a flat earth or the earth being the fixed center of the universe were given up; but also in physics when Albert Einstein dared to give up on until then eternally valid physical rules, writing them anew.

Some of my friends were not ready for this step and remained at what we have build up, not being able to proceed further into the cube. The others however were able to dig deeper and deeper, until finally they found other more important values and I was by myself again. Curiously enough being reduced to myself again, I again was able to dig further and procure two more keys (answers to riddles), but I did not find the key holes (questions).

I am not sure about this last part. If I had to assume something, I'd say there simply are things we did not even dare to ask question for, or aspects about everything that were never thought of. I am not sure.

solving the mysteries of life even when being asleep


P.S. I often had nightmares, which made me wake up screaming, and I often sense a fear deep inside me. This dream was the first tie, I was able to overcome it, even if it was only in dreams. This surprises me even now...

P.P.S. I'd be glad to hear your thoughts about the two dreams :)

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Medgadeth Live In Concert


When I was only here for about one month, my Japanese teacher from Wednesday's class asked me if I like the band Megadeth.
I said: "Well sure, they make some pretty nice music".
"So wanna come to their concert in Tokyo in November?"
"Yeah sure, why not; I'd like to know what a big concert is like in Japan."

Metal In Japan

And thus it was decided. The concert was yesterday, first of November in Shibuya AX Concert Hall. I had to leave work a bit early, so we would make it in time, since the concert already started at 7 pm. The reason probably is one the one hand that the next day is a work day and that trains in Tokyo stop moving around midnight. But we made it with plety of time left to Shibuya and didn't even need to check where to go, we just had to follow the cool looking peoples. It's the first time I have seen "alternative" Japanese people on a large scale. There were some cool punks and of course many many metaler. Even though in comparison there are less of them having long hair, quite some do and the others also look just like the metaler in Germany. That means they don't give much on how they look are genuinely friendly and very open minded. Also as in my birth country, Metal as a really open and old musical scene, has a lot of people above 40 or even 50. :)

For a first difference however the merchandising stand had his own mountebank (German: Marktschreier), as you can find them everywhere in Japan. What I would not have expected, I think the ratio between girls and boys was roughly the same as in Germany (4/5 boys).
Oh and for your information, the Gaijin (foreigner) / Japanese ratio was at best 1 out of 100 or even less. :)

After waiting a bit just looking at the people and talking about who we find handsome ;p we entered the concert hall.


The Opening was a band from Gibraltar (a small peninsula below Spain). For an opening band, they were pretty awesome. I loved both the melody of the songs (some using Gibraltar instruments and rhythms) as well as their lyrics. I am sure I want to hear them again :)
Also it was very cute, when the singer admitted that they never believed that they could make it as far as Tokyo!

However another point disappointed me a bit. The Japanese people where a bit silent and didn't move or dance very much, although I think the band really was great. On the other hand I stayed on Rumi-sensei's side for this and we were about in the middle, not in the front rows. So I couldn't really make a objective impression yet.


After a short break outside, we went back in. After a while of waiting, a speaker voice suddenly announced:

大変お待たせしました。まもなくまもなく メガデス メガデス です。
(taihen omataseshimashita. mamonaku mamonaku megadesu megadesu desu)
(~ Sorry for making you wait. Now next is Megadeth).

Everyone who has been in Japan, remembers these lines from trains in Japan, because that is the way they announce the next station. I found it hilarious, though Rumi-sensei couldn't tell me whether it was on purpose or not ^=^

Then sensei made me go to the first row, while she stayed a bit behind, where we watched Breed before. I didn't argue and went straight ahead.
Right after the band started or even before I was able to make some Japanese friends, as it is in such situations, by just screaming, making excited faces, starting "MEGADETH" or "HEY!" chants, dancing and jumping ;p
For the first time in a long time I felt at home again. I could just go crazy and nobody would mind or remind me of rules of society, because just everyone else was also getting crazy. So that's what we did. We jumped, danced, screamed, played air guitar, sang, made the metal hand sign |_| and clapped. I really missed being in the midst of a excited dancing crowd of people not caring about sweating, not caring about getting pushed around, not caring about getting the wet hair of others into your face, just not worrying about anything. It just shows so much, how stupid all these society behave rules are and how wonderful life is without them (everybody being friends and having a great time together).
It was really awesome, I had a really wonderful time amongst friends, which I have never met before.
Oh and Megadeth of course kicked ass! They didn't loose any passion. And they sightly enjoyed being here just as much as we did. They gave a lot of extra songs, and in the end throw tons of guitar plectra into the crowds, they even got some more from backstage, because people were so happy about getting them ^_^. And they spoke quite some words Japanese, way more than just Good Evening, and Hello. In the end they bowed before us and promised to yet come again, as long as passion allows them to go on making incredible cool music.

Differences And Similarities Between Concerts In Germany And Japan

So here's what I found out. The sign for crowd surfing (stage diving) is international, I just had to try it and it worked immediately. Crowd surfing in Japan is just as cool as anywhere else and I sure wasn't the only one.

Curiously enough Japanese people don't stink when they are sweaty all over. As you can guess from my description above, all of us sweated until we were soaked wet all over and even our hair was wet like after a shower. However I was quite surprised that the people around me didn't stink, in contrast they smelled very good ^=^. So finally I found out, why it is very hard to find deodorant in Japan or in other words, why it sells so bad ;)

Pogo in Japan is really cool. Unlike in Germany, at least as far as I can judge from a single concert, there are less crazy brutal dancers, so that pogo is totally exciting while still being totally enjoyable and friendly. :)

In the end I am really glad to have out that there are many many cool Japanese people breaking the clichés about Japan. And as I said before, I really felt at home.

After the concert I hugged the friends I had found and they hugged me. We shook hands, and being in Japan after all, bowed before each other ^=^. I really thank those guys and girls, whose names I never will know, for giving me such a great time.

screaming and dancing at home