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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Tokyo Day 2 (APR-30)

Got up for breakfast with Danny's family, and then Danny went to his lab
for the day, Silahis and Dalan (his wife and little boy) went out for
shopping for Dalan's day-care-center stuff, and I went to Ueno station to
meet with a friend.

I met with Elaine at around 1130am already. We were supposed to meet at
9am, but, as usual, I was lost. (Tanga na ba masyado? =)

Actually, my friend Rad who has helped me so much to prepare for my trip
here introduced me "electronically" to Elaine. Elaine and I communicated
lang by e-mail and actually it was the first time we actually met in person.

Anyway, I really thank her very much because she was patient enough to wait
almost three hours! Finally, she found me wondering around in front of the
public payphones and vending machines.

Well our first stop was the Ueno Ameyoko Market where basically window
shopping lang ang ginawa namin. Meron doon na parang "1000 Yen Chocolates"
na basically, the sales people will sell a bag of chocolates for 1000 Yen,
and if you are not satisfied, you can try to ask them to add more
chocolates in the bag! Anyway, they were selling western (mostly American)
chocolates so I did not get nor do I plan to get in the future. Shempre,
andito lang din ako, Japanese chocolates na lang ang kukunin ko! =)

Then we ate at this place which sells a 10-piece-Gyoza meal (with rice and
soup and some side dish) for only 700 Yen. Quite cheap! But don't try to
convert that to PhP, mahal pa din ang dating. =)

After the Gyoza meal, we went to Ueno zoo. First time I think I saw a
Panda! Lots of fascinating animals... Check out the pictures na lang. :-)

Then we commuted again to Asakusa. First we passed by a bridge overlooking
I think the Asahi Breweries Building and the Azumabashi Building. Check
out the picture. The weird gold shape - which I thought was a flame - is
supposed to be a cloud (on the Azumabashi bldg). The other building is
supposed to be like a mug full of beer (the Asahi bldg).

Then we went to the Sensoji Temple. Just before the temple, there are lots
of shops, where, as usual, I went window shopping. Then, the Sensoji
Temple. Check out the pictures!

Oh, at Asakusa, I had a taste of a Japanese soda (similar to Sprite or
Mountain Dew) inside a traditional softdrink bottle. There's a ball inside
the bottle that supposedly if you turn the bottle incorrectly, the ball
will block the flow of the drink. Well, it didn't work, but the soda, at
200 Yen if I remember correctly was quite refreshing nonetheless.

Last stop for the night was Akihabara, the "Electronic City." Lots of
shops selling all kinds of electronics, new and second-hand. Well, I
didn't really have budget yet for electronics so... Anyway, I saw this
second-hand Canon digital camera (2 MegaPixel) for just below Y9000...

We had dinner at Yoshinoya in Akihabara. It's just unfortunate that I
haven't tried Yoshinoya in the Philippines before! But Elaine said that
it's better in Japan! hehe.

I went back to Danny's apartment na din. But... I forgot Danny's
apartment number! I was trying to call him on his cellphone but I didn't
understand a word the operator was saying in the payphone! Luckily, my
visual memory brought me to his unit without committing the mistake of
knocking on someone else's door.

So, until next day again!

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Friday, April 29, 2005

Tokyo Day 1 (APR-29)

Hay... It is actually May 2 now already, it was a loooooong 3-day weekend
starting Friday. Friday afternoon I went to Tokyo to meet with my former
officemate, Danieru-san. (Danny)

Danny is a very good man, and actually, because of interesting discussions
on a lot of things during the times we were officemates, I have started to
want to know more about histories and cultures, primarily of the
Philippines (my country) and then of Asian nations, and then of the world,
of course. History, if I remember correctly, is one of Danny's primary
interests (as a hobby, as he is, like myself, into engineering and research.)

Well, it was the first time I rode the Tokyo Metro, the local subway in
Tokyo. Of course, I rode the usual 50+ minute trip from (Hon-)Atsugi to
Shinjuku, then a-subway I went. At Shinjuku, it was my first time to go
out of Shinjuku station, and what a busy, downtown/urban place! Anyway,
the only store that caught my attention was this GAP store. GAP is my
favorite (American) brand of clothing, although I usually purchase their
sale items lang, otherwise, the best na para sa akin ang SM Surplus Shop. :-)

I went down at the Todaimae station (Todai = short for "Tokyo Daigaku" or
the University of Tokyo; mae = before when refering to time, or "in front
of" when refering to a place). Danieru-san is a PhD student at Todai. He
toured me around their lab... And around Todai in general. I didn't yet
take pictures because I know I will visit the place again soon. ;-)

He then took me to the Nezu Shrine (and garden). Check out the
pictures! Go to www.ronjie.com and find the link to the photo site, or go
to http://ronjie.tripod.com/nihon2005tokyo

We then took a walk through Ueno park, to get to the Ueno station (because
the next day, I was to meet another friend at Ueno) and met with
Danieru-san-no kazuku (Danny's family; wife and 4-year old boy). He
brought me to this authentic Chinese ramen place.... It was 1100 Yen for
one big bowl of ramen, and it was oishii!

Then, I stayed at Danieru-san-no apaato (Danny's apartment) for the
night. Of course, madaming exchange of stories (and opinions on certain
issues) over 500mL cans of Asahi... (Actually, I've forgotten which drink...)

On to the next day!

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

HOT! (APR-28)

Today it is mega-warm! Probably 25 degrees or higher. The forecast high
for tomorrow here in Atsugi may reach 27 degrees! We had to turn on the
air conditioning inside the laboratory. Well i won't complain. Better
than cold. =)

I'm quite glad pala about the workstation I'm using here. It's got a
Pentium 4 3.8 GHz processor, 2Gb of RAM, a 250Gb hard disk, and a DVD-RW
super drive. The DVD-RW super drive has been very useful for me because I
am able to free up space on my laptop's hard drive. Yesterday I bought a
spindle of 10 DVD-Rs worth Y880, Imation ang brand - ayos na din!

Today, I visited the library - they have, in my eyes, quite a good
collection of books (and journals) in English. I'll visit it again.

I also dropped by one of the wind tunnels today, and found some of the
researchers and students preparing for an experiment on May 9.

Tomorrow night will mark my first 14 days here in Japan.

Time flies so fast sometimes, I do not know why. =)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"busy" (APR-27)

Today was a "busy" day. In the morning, I got up quite late. Sunny
day! But because the cold air got trapped inside the apartment, it was
hard to get up. I noticed that it's harder for me to get up when it's
cool. Last night, I forgot to put on a sweater before going to sleep. I
woke up at 830 am na.

Dito pala, I think the sun rises before 5am! And sets at around
630pm. They do not have daylight savings time.

Anyway, in the morning, one of the researchers brought me to one of the big
wind tunnels at the university, and explained to me some concepts in wind
tunnel testing.

Generally for the whole day, I was busy with preparing for my country
report. I went home from the university at a little past 9pm na, and
passed by 7-Eleven for dinner. I was so hungry, I bought one meal (which
had very little meat), and bought extra rice (worth 230 yen!) and something
like coleslaw. I also opened a sardine can (which was probably worth
around 100 yen), and had Coke as drink. The meal cost me close to 1000
yen, but it was fulfilling for me, nonetheless. The coleslaw tastes
different from the coleslaw I know.

For lunch pala, the meal I bought came with mustard... which tasted like
the usual western kind of mustard and wasabi in one! From what I know,
wasabi is mustard, although my dictionary says it's Japanese horse radish.

Well, those are the highlights of today. Starting this Friday until next
Thursday is the "Golden Week". Basically, Friday April 29 is a holiday, as
well as May 3 and May 5, and usually May 4 is also declared a holiday. So
basically, people will tend to take Monday off also and effectively taking
one whole week off! I plan to meet with friends in Tokyo this week to help
me go around Tokyo. =)

'Til next!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

a little more interesting day (APR-26)

What about today?

Well today, the usual routine. Cheese on white bread microwaved, coffee, banana, and orange juice for breakfast. The usual bike ride to the university. Usual bike to the grocery for dinner, and then home.

Had something like barbecue (tasted great!) and a special kind of rice for dinner, and tuna sushi rolls... Actually, I did not find any good looking ready-to-eat dinner that was 30% off already. I got the barbecue at regular price, and the rice and sushi at 30% off. I forgot what tuna is in Japanese... Maguro? Oh, I semi-boiled some petchay-looking vegetables to go with the dinner, and I used this sauce (which, when I bought, I thought was soy sauce) for flavor. It tastes more like a cross between soy sauce and oyster sauce, it doesn't taste salty enough for me though. The sushi I bought came with wasabi pala! It's the first time I saw wasabi here in Japan!

At the laboratory, I wrapped up the re-installation of software on my workstation (it had problems yesterday, it became very slow). Started to get on track with my country report. Had a short discussion with one of the researchers here, Dr. Quan Yong. Had a little chat also with Pillai-san about finite element analysis software we use, and about Matlab (a math/programming software).

I called my mom using Skype, a free software for making voice calls over the internet. It went well like we were on the phone talaga! Beats long distance. Of course, the Microsoft IM and Yahoo IM could do that too but anyway... Ayos!

Kahapon pala, si Mr. Restaurant-in-Megamall-where-my-mother-once-brought-me, nagkuwento ng pagkatagal-tagal, bumangka kumbaga! Dalawa kaming kasama niya and I dunno pero parang medyo naiinip na din yung isa. La lang. Mej mahirap din kasi yung situwasyon niya, hindi niya talaga linya itong pinasok niya so... Well, nagkuwento siya about different things from his homeland.

Another thing I like about Japan: the packages here like the package for the soup flavor mix and the little bag of oil that you put in boiling water to make soup or noodle soup, the package for the soy sauce or mayonnaise that comes with the food you bought, and the bags of chips - they're all easy to open! No spills, no oily hands, no problem! Yay!

ho-hum (APR-25)

Ho-hum day. Got to the laboratory late most probably because of the
"bonding" session last night, but maybe also because I had a heavier than
usual breakfast this morning.

Then the computer assigned to me was acting really
slooooooooooooooooooow. Late in the afternoon, I reformatted it na.

I went home around at around 7:30, and dropped by the grocery for my
dinner. The cashier was asking me if I wanted chopsticks, or so I thought,
as she was motioning her fingers in a scissor-cutting like fashion after I
told her that "Sumimasen. Nihongo ga sukushi wakarimas." Anyway, I said,
"Hai, dozo." "Yes, please."

That's about my story for today.

By the way, one thing I like about Japan so far -- no where has it ever
occurred here that the store, or the bus, or wherever, does not have
change. Palaging may "otsuri" or panukli sila. Walang, "Sir, okay lang po
kung kulang ng piso?" 'lul! Okay lang ba sayo? :-)

Monday, April 25, 2005

Laundry, Osake, & A Japanese Restaurant (APR-24)

Today, I woke up quite late, after the tiring but very fulfilling day yesterday. Upon waking up, I did two batches of my laundry, the whites and the colored ones. Quite easy to use the washing machine (although I had to ask help from Koizumi-san), put in all the clothes with the detergent, and press the red button for power-on, and then press the green button ("Go!"). The washing machine will determine how much water it will use, do all the draining and spinning (including spin-drying), and voila, nice smelling and clean(-looking clothes). It was another nice sunny Sunday (so far it was not so cold in the evening; air-con kind of weather lang), and I hanged up the whites to dry. The colored ones though, I had to leave hanging inside the apartment because I was scheduled to meet with Giang-san and Pillai-san at 5pm, and it was already 5pm. Besides, there was no more sun, and there's a forecast of rain for tomorrow, so... Well, since they've been spin-dried, they're not causing any flash flooding inside the apartment so, as Pillai-san would say, "no problem."


I took the 10-minute walk to the bus stop, only to wait for around 20 minutes for the next bus for the university. Then upon hopping on the bus, it turned out that Pillai-san and Giang-san were there! I also bought my first bus card today, so that I don't have to put in coins everytime.

Pillai-san and Giang-san and I were supposed to go out for a drink, but Giang-san was not feeling well, so he went straight home. Pillai-san and I then went to a nearby Thai restaurant, but, as is for many Japanese small restaurants, it is closed on Sundays. We then hopped over to a nearby open restaurant, which turned out to be a Japanese restaurant. It was my first time to eat at a real Japanese restaurant in Japan. It was a small restaurant with only one table which is about 10 inches high only (the traditional Japanese table where you sit squat around it). There is a bar with four stools where you could also eat. Pillai-san and I were the only customers there, I believe the owner was more than happy to have us. Hehe.

Anyway, it was my first time to try Sake! (or Osake, the Japanese rice wine; the O makes it more polite. Like Otsuri (tsuri: change/sukli), Otomodachi (friend), Otenki (weather)) We had three small flasks of Osake... It was quite pleasant to drink! Then, not knowing what to order, we settled with the easiest to order: Tori (chicken). Actually we were trying to ask for chicken curry, but we were given fried chicken. It was good nonetheless. We had some ocha (tea) afterwards. All that oishii food and drink for two cost us 3900 Yen! Mother, I will settle for 7-Eleven food na lang! =)

Actually the 7-Eleven food is fresh naman, in fact the ones that are available there are good only for about 12 hours at most. Anyway, I do not plan to get ready-to-microwave fresh food at 7-Eleven all the time, dahil mas mahal don. I plan to get my lunch at the university co-op, and my dinner, at the grocery just before closing time, which becomes 30 to 50 percent off, dahil nga masisira na. My breakfast, I buy cheese and bread at the grocery, and I have, today, bought some fruits (strawberries and bananas). I also bought some fishes in can (tuna, and I-dunno-what-but-it-looks-nice fish) which I could make a sandwich with my cheese and bread. I also actually bought some fruit in a can (I think it's peach, but I do not know yet... I'll find out soon).

Well that's it for today! I hope I wake up early tomorrow (Monday)!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Bullet! (APR-23)

Today, I reminisced about my first day (first night actually) here in
Japan. I'll tell you why later.

It was a little unfortunate that I was not able to book the morning flight
from Manila then, which means I would have arrived here before 3pm, and I
would have gotten on the direct bus from Narita airport upto the Hon-Atsugi
train station by 6pm. But it was unfortunate that, I got the afternoon
flight, it got delayed, and there was no direct bus anymore, except to
Shinjuku which was in Tokyo, and from there my adventure began! And in
Shinjuku, I was just trying to follow the signs while pulling and dragging
around my big maleta, my heavy backpack, and my laptop bag. I had to
immediately board the train, and so on.

Anyway, I remember that on that evening a very nice Japanese man
voluntarily helped me out and gave me instructions, in English pa. Oh how
very helpful the Japanese are, and I thought that incident was
one-in-a-thousand, but after 7 full days here, I have realized it is quite
a fact. Of course, if they can't help, they can't, but so far, it has not
been a problem. Today, I was at the same station, and boarding almost the
very same train!

At the Hon-Atsugi station, I remembered just going out into the downtown
area at a little past midnight, not knowing where I was really, which
direction was north, and not knowing yet by face who was picking me up. A
friend of mine, Rad, gave me a Japanese phone card for this trip, but I had
trouble using it as the instructions were in Japanese (fast
Japanese!) Fortunately, I had some coins so I was able to call
Koizumi-san, and so she found me with the big maleta at a telephone
booth. Oh how memorable that telephone booth is! I think I took a picture
of it, and it's posted at http://ronjie.tripod.com/nihon2005misc . Today,
I again saw that telephone booth for the second time in broad daylight,
shimmering in the warm sun. Haha, reminiscing daw ba talaga!

On that night I immediately recalled that it was right-hand drive here
(compared to left-hand drive in the Philippines and in the United States),
because as I was about to board Koizumi-san's car I noticed it was the
driver's side!

On that night, I asked Koizumi-san that we drop by somewhere to get dinner,
and she suggested 7-Eleven, and 7-Eleven it was. And I noticed that there
is another 7-Eleven closer to the apartment where I'm staying right
now! And now, I notice that there are much more 7-Elevens around, as well
as AM/PM, Lawson, etc. All convenience stores. Immediately I wondered why
there aren't as much 7-Eleven type stores in Manila--ah, but we have lots
of sari-sari stores. One store near our Manila home, the Dela Rosa Bakery,
most probably because a nearby convenience store has opened the market for
late night consumers, has since operated a 24-hour store of its own to get
a share of the market. By the way, I saw a MINI-STOP convenience store
here today! I thought that was just the Gokongwei's convenience store
chain in the Philippines. Apparently, Mini-Stop is global!

And now to today...

Today, I took a train to Shinjuku, and then after realizing that it was a
local train (meaning it will stop at every station), I transferred trains
for an express train. Upon arriving at Shinjuku station, I went out, saw a
tiny little glimpse of metropolitan Tokyo, and then I got a ticket again
using the automated ticket machine (which has a button to convert the
Japanese instructions into English) and went to the Tokyo station. From
the Tokyo station...

I took a bullet train to Utsunomiya! I was headed for Nikko!

Now how did that happen? My original plan really was to go to Yokohama and
Kamakura this Saturday, which are both in the same prefecture/province as
Atsugi. But one of my bosses (who lived here in Japan for around 12 years)
suggested that I should visit try to visit Nikko because there might still
be some cherry blossoms there, because they seem to blossom late than is
forecasted for this year. I wanted to see the cherry blossoms! Actually,
I decided I should go to Nikko just this morning. Why?

Last night, I went home at around 9pm, but I forgot to get a guide from the
internet on how to go to, and where to go to in Nikko. So I went pa to the
university this morning (got there before 9am) to download and print, and
to study the route. Anyway, I finished up at the university quite late
already -- around 925am, and I went na to the Hon-Atsugi station. I
thought that, wait a minute, Yokohama and Kamakura are just nearby, I could
easily visit those places anytime, so why not Nikko? ...Because it's too
far, it's too expensive and... But for the chance to see cherry
blossoms? I changed my mind!

I got to Nikko at around 320pm na, though...

Well how did that happen? Well first of all, upon arriving at Shinjuku I
still had to find out how to get to Tokyo. Yeah, I know I should take the
JR Chuo line but again there's the Rapid Express, Express, Local
train... What the!? The JR (Japan Rail) train system seems to have
different fares for Rapid Express, etc, compared with the Odakyu system
(which I take from Shinjuku to Hon-Atsugi). So, as Giang-san (and future
Giang-sensei) said, you try and try until you get it right! So I took a
chance, boarded a train, and didn't have any problem at all. (As
Pillai-san would always say, "No problem... No problem.")

Now I'm thinking, while it might be confusing for first timers, it's
actually a convenient thing to have these Express kind of trains. Then I
thought, isn't that not beneficial to the train company because.. I dunno,
some people could get lost and they could be just going in and out of
trains? Then again, I thought actually it's better for them also, because
the faster you can transport the passengers, the better. Plus, you could
separate those who are going to farther distances from those who are going
to just a few stations ahead. Thus, hindi ganon kasik-sik sa mga stations,
sa mga trains, etc. Well, mga naiisip ko lang yan, I don't really know.

Ok, so I took some time at Shinjuku station. I also took sometime at Tokyo
station trying to find out how to get on a Shinkansen, their "Super
Express" train, their "bullet train." If I remember correctly, I got on
the Shinkansen past 1230pm na yata! Actually, I ate a sandwich muna kasi
because I was so hungry na! So far, here's how it went:

815 leave apartment. 840-925 university. 925 to ~950 university to
Hon-Atsugi. ~1000 to ~1050 to Shinjuku. ~1200 at Tokyo. 1200-1230
sandwich and cold green tea for lunch. 1230 to 130 bullet train to
Utsunomiya. 130-140 I tried to figure out how to get to Nikko. It turns
out that the train just left at around 135pm, and the next train was at 230
pa! Because it was a Saturday I think, there's no 200 train. Oh
well... 40 minutes to wait... I got milk and another sandwich for my
lunch part 2. Finally, I got to Nikko at 320pm na nga. Shocks!

Oh well, all is good.

I saw the Mini-Stop actually during my train ride from Utsunomiya to Nikko.

The bullet train wasn't what I expected but... Fortunately, I got on a
double-decker bullet train. Unfortunately, I was seated at the lower deck,
for which the view was obstructed by walls on both sides of the rail of the
train!

On my way home, it was a single-level bullet train. Unfortunately, it was
night time already! Mega- =( !!!

I expected that the bullet train would be much faster. It is quite fast
compared with, say the MRT or LRT in Manila, or the other trains here
(which are similar in nature to our MRT and LRT trains.) But I thought
wala ka na talaga makikita. This was what I felt from the inside. But at
the Shinkansen station, a bullet train passed by, and boy was it fast
nga! I mean, for something so big and long, and staying on the ground, to
move that fast -- that's very fast! A 1.6L car could go faster than the
bullet train, but, look Ma! No hands! Between Tokyo and Utsunomiya, we
only made three stops for a ~45 minute ride. =)

The trip from Utsunomiya to Nikko was kinda slow, it took around 40+
minutes being a local train. But, after seeing very urbanized Tokyo and
even Atsugi, ah, here was a welcome break. Lots of trees (looking like
forests actually), lots of mountain views (there are views of mountains
from here in Atsugi but I think they're inhabited already), and then no
buildings taller than 3 stories... mostly 2 level residential homes,
mostly Japanese in architecture... Actually, downtown Utsunomiya looked
very much like a prosperous city, looking from the train station. But upon
leaving the station, the view drastically change from urban to
country! It's like changing channels on the radio!

Oh and I saw some cherry blossoms, but only in pockets (maybe one blooming
out of how many lined up, some have bloomed much earlier). But I saw them
nonetheless.

From the JR station pa lang in Nikko, old school na kagad ang dating, yung
station pa lang. Except for the quite significant amount of tourists
walking the main road of Nikko, this could have well been a "wild, wild
west" kind of town that has survived through to the 21st century. But ah,
there are old Japanese buildings and houses here which are very interesting.

I learned from the guide I downloaded that there are very important shrines
in Nikko, like the Toshogu Shrine, etc. Also, a 40 to 50 minute bus ride
from Nikko is Lake Chuzenji, and the nearby Kegon Falls. I wanted to visit
all of those places.

The guide said that the walk from the JR Nikko station to the bus stop
closest to the Toshogu Shrine would take about 20 minutes, and that the bus
would take about 10 minutes. It took me 25 minutes--it was kind of uphill,
plus my shoelaces kept untying itself. (On my way back, it took me 23
minutes, this was downhill, and I got stopped by a pedestrian traffic light
and I tied my shoelaces once.)

So I got to the bus stop closest to the Toshogu Shrine---actually it was a
bust stop closer to a famous Japanese landmark as well: the Shinkyo
Bridge. It is an sacred old Japanese bridge, which was recently restored
(or recreated?). It's quite nice. 100 Yen to cross it. No thanks, a view
from the adjacent modern steel-girder bridge is enough!

I then went to the big complex that enclosed the Shrines - the "Nikko World
Heritage Park." Oh just check out the pictures. Nag-donate na naman ako
sa mga Hapon--1300 Yen to go around the Toshogu Shrine. Check out the
pictures na lang. I could have almost gone without it, but... Nah, it's
worth it na din. Check out the pictures na lang! =)

There, I went up quite a number of stair steps! Because probably it was
cold, I got quite winded at the top, and my hips hurt on the way back
down! May nakasalubong akong matandang Kano, gusto ko sanang sabihin,
"Good luck sa'yo, Tatang!" Truly, going there, you wouldn't expect it was
that difficult. That walk up the steep stairs was going to the tomb of one
of the more prominent emperors/shoguns, Ieyasu.

Check out the pictures! I also took some videos. If this link is not
working yet, try again tomorrow! http://ronjie.tripod.com/nihon2005nikko

Ang campaign slogan pala ng city of Nikko is: "Nikko is Nippon." Nippon =
Nihon = Japan.

Maybe around 5pm, I decided not to go na to Lake Chuzenji, dahil 40 minutes
at least pa yon by bus! So 40 minutes to get back! If I spent just 40
minutes there, that'd be another 2 hours and I could have been home by
midnight na! So I went on my way back na. I got home almost 10pm na. I
got my dinner at 7-Eleven na lang, and microwaved it at home. Also bought
some sushi kasi hindi nakakabusog ang isang "meal" dito from
outside... Which is the same in the Philippines.

Hay... If a picture says a thousand words, a visit or an actual experience
or basically being there and seeing it all for yourself - you'll be
speechless. So for now, check out the pictures na lang. =)

Friday, April 22, 2005

Fly! (APR-22)

I've seen a mosquito here maybe three times already, and boy, for a place
like Japan to find mosquitoes, it's quite scary. I also saw a fly today.

Here, if a person ain't doing anything, he could be actually Counting
Crows. Quite a lot of black crows you see flying around. The garbage area
here were we put our trash bags has to be covered all the time because the
crows might swoop down for a bite or two.

Last night, I went home by bicycle and what a great convenience it was. 10
minutes, and I could be home. Less effort, but it's some exercise
nonetheless. Thanks again to Mr. Pellai (future Dr. Pellai) from India.

Talking about last night, it was my first time to eat noodles here in
Japan. Well, it's your usual cup-noodles kind of thing. Got it for 100
Yen at the grocery. I also had Miso Soup, and some sushi. Yeah baby!

I received an e-mail alert yesterday from the VDC about an earthquake in
Japan early morning. I did not quite feel it. Maybe I was fast asleep...

Tonight, Pellai-san, and Giang-san might be going out for a drink or
two. I do not know if Kawana-san would be coming, he's like a nice guy.

I took pictures of the view of the mountains from our laboratory, and
pictures of the university's entrance and at least one other shot at the
laboratory. Find it at http://ronjie.tripod.com/nihon2005tpu

There are also new pictures at nihon2005misc and nihon2005food (just
replace nihon2005tpu at the address above).

If you haven't checked it out yet, visit the nihon2005apato picture
page. nothing new there though except that I have changed the photo size
to 320x240 to accomodate more photos at the site. Hope you enjoy them!

Pahabol: Yesterday, I learned that Kawana-san will be presenting an
introduction about his PhD research to FIRST GRADE STUDENTS. Imagine
that! Of course, it is kind of difficult to teach 1st grade students the
habitability of buildings due to aeroelastic phenomena and stuff like
that... But imagine, first grade students here already have an idea about
PhD research!

Oh, and one opinion about Japan so far. I think that Japan is as
progressive and as culturally rich as other European countries, and it's as
good as visiting Europe almost. So, thinking of going to Europe? Try
first to go where it is nearer (and maybe the cost is slightly cheaper
also) and where it is a little more familiar - Japan! =)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Great Day! (APR-21)

Yesterday, as I said, it was COLD! And raining the whole day.

But there was a positive thing that happened yesterday. I left the
laboratory at a little past 7pm, I was standing on the bus na when I
boarded. Anyway, when I got to the grocery, the food I got which was at
Y500 was 50% off na! So I got it for Y250 na lang! I also bought this
different kind of... I thought it was a soup. I think I uploaded na the
picture to http://ronjie.tripod.com/nihon2005food .

But it wasn't soup at all. It had this jelly feel to it, or tokwa feel
(not fried). Tasted great nonetheless. My meal was also quite
good. There was gyoza, sweet & sour & spicy ___ (I think it was pork; I
loved it nonetheless), and sweet and sour shrimp.

I also went to the 100-Yen store to buy more hangers because I've run out
of hangers (they provided only 3), and I need to hang wet clothes (like the
other night when I went home near-soaking wet...) I'll be able to use it
also for drying newly laundry-ed clothes. I also bought a rain coat,
thinking it would be nice to have one most specially when I will ride the
bike on a rainy day... Have I told you I went to the school today via
bicycle? I took this route which was much shorter than going the bus'
route, Koizumi-san showed me the way the other day.

Oh, the rain coat I bought had too short sleeves. They're supposed to be
long sleeves I think, but for me they're just below my elbows. So if I
was riding a bicycle, my watch could get wet. I was also actually looking
for a rain coat that reached the knees. Well, what could I get for 100
yen. Plus, I didn't understand the label. It said "80cm",
"170-180cm". So I thought since I am about 180cm plus in height, this
might be good for me. Well, I guess it should be, and that rain coats were
not meant to be very long-sleeved.

Hmmm, I forgot if I've already mentioned my other Japan picture sites:
http://ronjie.tripod.com/nihon2005apato (it should be apaato,
apartment) http://ronjie.tripod.com/nihon2005tpu and
http://ronjie.tripod.com/nihon2005misc . The last three sites have not
been updated since I last told everyone about it.

Today... I went to the bank first thing in the morning to deposit money
into Mrs. Nakayama's account (I "borrowed" from her before leaving the
Philippines). The bank is in downtown Atsugi. I also made a phone call to
an aunt who has lived here for the longest time after marrying a Japanese.

It is a great day... Sunny day... I went out, figured some things out
myself, asked some people for directions...

Oh, at the bank, the teller was like matigas-ulo, ayaw niya mag-Ingles. So
I tried to explain as best as I could with the little Nihongo that I know
and with some hand gestures. And then in the end, ang tagal na namin
nagu-usap, in-Ingles na niya ako. Sheesh!

Anyway, wrong decision pala on my part. The remittance charge is close to
5000 yen! I should have just asked my dear mother or dear brother to pay
muna in my behalf for my "utang" to Mrs. Nakayama. Well, what's done is
done. Donation ko na lang yon sa mga Hapon.

It's great here... Photocopy all you want for free... Use all the
resources you need (for your work)... Very fast internet access... All
the books and reference materials I needed which were not available at the
university library back in the Philippines, they're here... All the guys,
the professors, the PhD students I'm with are all so nice persons. One guy
looks a lot like this guy everyone hates in the Philippines so medyo
naiilang ako sa kanya, pero ayos naman siya. Hehe. Kamukha lang talaga.

Oh well. Thank God na lang for all of that. Tomorrow again!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

COLD! (20-APR)

It is very COLD today! Under 20 degrees even inside the building, possibly
colder outside. It was raining this morning... Did I say that it was
quite warm yesterday? We had our windows open. I heard that in winter, it
goes down to MINUS 6 degrees here!

I had quite a long dip in the tub last night; I finished the book Farenheit
451. A very interesting book.

Well that's it for now! Have to do a lot of things! (Planning
actually. I am starting to get quite busy!)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Yesterday (19-APR)

Dear Mother, Dear Brother,

Actually okay na din yung price sa 7-eleven dito, slightly higher lang than
at the grocery, which is slightly higher lang than at the co-op here at the
daigaku (university). I think at other small restaurants, the price
wouldn't be attractive, but yes i'm sure it is better food.

I am by myself in the apartment. There's TV, yes, but no cable. Did you
see the pictures of the apartment? http://ronjie.tripod.com/japan2005apato

Also visit http://ronjie.tripod.com/japan2005food and
http://ronjie.tripod.com/japan2005tpu and
http://ronjie.tripod.com/japan2005misc . I will update these also
(hopefully I will have the time.)

It is basically not a studio-type apartment, nor is it a one-bedroom
apartment, because the bedroom is... Well check out the pictures na lang. =)

Yes, I do the cleaning, dishwashing, and microwaving (perhaps I'll do
cooking later), and the laundry, i plan to do this sunday.

Yes this is school and not an "office," "studying" but not really, more
like "researching," and not "working." I say it is an "office" because in
this big room (larger than our house) where i "work", there are desks and
computers and appliances, but there are just four of us: me and three PhD
students. I think they call the whole building, with our office, and the
other professors' and researchers' office, and the library as a
"laboratory." It is actually an APEC Center... APEC Wind Engineering
Research Center, I think. Well, studying is working also, but of course,
not in the usual sense. My "working" time is 09:30-17:30 but they are not
strict. I could come in early or late, and leave early or late. Well, I
do not have much to do at the apartment, and there's no internet there also
so...

Okay let's talk about yesterday!

Yesterday, starting at lunch, naka-usap ko yung isang Vietnamese na PhD
student. He's 31 with wife and a 7-year old girl and a 3-year old
boy. His name is Giang. Okay naman, nagkakasundo naman. Mabait din, he
guided me how to get lunch at the co-op's "fastfood" (microwaveable food,
shorter line).

Right after lunch, naka-usap ko naman din yung Indian na PhD student. He's
"24.5" years old, and his (family) name is Pillai, and he lives just around
15 km north of the part of India hit by the tsunamis last December. Mabait
din, linibre niya ako ng kape and pinahiram ng payong at bisikleta nung pauwi.

So nung afternoon, the silence was kind of broken na at the
"office"... Although my long durations of silence pa rin... Busy nga rin
naman sila. Si Giang is busy with preparing a country report for Vietnam,
and also looking for a topic for his PhD research. Pillai meanwhile is
busy refining his research topic, and also doing some research.

Medyo ginabi ako kagabi... At a little past 6pm, Giang and Pillai invited
me for dinner at the canteen because it closes at 7pm, and it's a good time
to eat because hindi crowded doon at that time. I had my first
not-so-Japanese meal... It was "chizu" hamburger with fries, but I ate it
nonetheless with rice and hot tea! Hehehe. Actually medyo nagtitipid ako
because paubos na ang Yen ko, e i was not able to exchange my dollars or
pesos, and today lang (tuesday) ibibigay ang allowance.

Then we went back to the "office" or "laboratory", medyo uma-ambon na. I
thought I'd stay na din muna, para maka-internet na din ng kaunti. Then
lumakas ang ulan! The two guys said they'd go home at 9:30pm but 10:30pm
na hindi pa sila umuuwi so nauna na ako! Actually I should have gone home
earlier kasi...

Ang lakas na ng ulan! But I had to go home (than stay at the "laboratory")
to rest, because the next day (kanina), Koizumi-san was going to teach me
how to use the stove, the washing machine, and where to put the garbage for
the garbage collectors. Also, there's this bottle and I didn't know what
it was... Koizumi-san told me it was "body shampoo"... I do not know
if she meant body lotion...

Anyway, so I went home by bicycle, with an umbrella in one hand. It was
raining real hard. And then I got lost... So I approached this car parked
in the street. And meron pala don na mag-nobyo't-nobya na... alam niyo
na... Anyway, I had no choice but to disturb them... I asked for
directions, fortunately marunong mag-ingles yung babae. And then I went on
my way, malayo pa, and then they drove right next to me offering to bring
me home in their car, but that I had to leave the bicycle there (which was
not mine). I had to refuse because I said I had to bring the bicycle
home. So home I went, all wet, took me maybe around 30 minutes total from
the university to the apartment. Still, bait pa rin talaga nitong mga hapon.

Tsk tsk. Anyway, I did not become sick naman or anything. I got good rest
naman. So we go to... Today!

Today, Koizumi-san went to the apartment nga, and then I asked her for
directions to banks in Atsugi. So we went to the downtown, walked around,
saw a McDo, KFC, Starbucks, and Denny's... We got back to the university
in time for my meeting with my advisor(s), Prof Tamura, the Program
Director, and Dr Cao, a Researcher.

Now... I'm just typing e-mails! Actually I'm feeling only 99% well. I'll
go home early tonight... =)

Until next! ;-)

Monday, April 18, 2005

First Day (18-APR)

It is my first day at the university. Walang nagsasalita dito...

Anyway, parang berkeley na berkeley nga ang dating dito. Suburban siya,
mga 50 minutes away from Tokyo by train (familiar ba--BART?)... Malinis,
Malamig, Presko ang hangin, hindi nga lang namamansin ang mga tao pag
nakakasalubong ko... Pero generally ang mga cashiers and sales people,
okay sila. Basta magtanong ka sa kahit sinong lapitan mo, mabait naman
sila generally.

Malayo lang ang school from the apartment, I take a 10 minute walk and then
around 10 minutes by bus. Medyo maliit lang yung campus pero parang
deserted... Bakasyon yata? I don't know.

I have things to do naman pero to all honesty, nakaka-ilang ang katahimikan dito
sa "office."

Til next time!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Sunny Day Sunday! (17-APR)

Ah, what a nice day it is today. It is sunny outside, the sun feels like
28 degrees, and the wind is not so cold. It was cooler there in Manila
back in January than here today.

Today, I wanted to wake up early to "practice" for tomorrow, but alas, I
woke up at 930. I bought breakfast yesterday, but I ate it at past 11am
already so it was like my brunch. I'm still trying to get used to taking a
shower at the quite cramped bathtub/tower. That plus preparing the
breakfast (heating with the microwave, boiling water) took quite some time
so... I can't figure out how to make the stove work, too. I bought this
different looking daing/tinapa like fish at 7-Eleven... After a minute in
the microwave oven, it was exploding already! I found out it was about 70%
fish egg, and 30% fish meat inside... I didn't finish eating all of the
fish egg because "CHOLESTEROL!" blinked in my mind.

At around 2pm, I set out to go back to the Atsugi Trellis. I went grocery
shopping for my dinner, for some snacks, and for breakfast. I bought
tinapay and cheese, some chocolates, Coke, orange juice, and milk, and some
household items like bathroom sandals (I am so not used to not wearing any
sandals or shoes inside the house!), walis and dustpan, and some
basahan. I finally found the 100-yen store. I was there already yesterday
and I did not know! I asked a nice old man and he said... "San gai"... by
hand gestures, he told me it meant the third floor.

It's just before 5pm, and I plan to do some paper work... Like edit my
thesis proposal to email to my thesis advisers (Doc Pacheco, and one other
UP professor, Prof Germar), and prepare a document (research/report kind of
thing) that I will submit to TPU tomorrow.

That's it for today. Hope I can email tomorrow!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

doyoubi-ni (16-APR)

doyoubi-ni = on saturday.

nagising ako mga past 10 na, at nag-unpack na ako, naligo, at lumabas ulit
para bumili ng lunch, dinner, and breakfast sa... 7-ELEVEN! hehe. pero
puro japanese food naman kinakain ko. ayan, parang nagugutom nga kaagad
ako, dahil kaunti, i mean hindi yung usual na dami ng pinapakain sa akin ni
grace. pero okay naman.

mas malamig ngayon kesa kagabi, dahil siguro overcast clouds the whole
day! parang berkeley lang dito, siguro nga mas maganda pa, yung nga lang
EIGO KUDASAI! (ENGLISH PLEASE!) mga ganun din ang layo nito from tokyo, as
berkeley is from san francisco.

nag-lakad din ako hanggang sa nearest "big" shopping mall, ang Atsugi
Trellis, mga 10-15 minutes walk. sabi ni sachi may hyaku-en (100 yen) shop
doon pero hindi ko naman nakita, hindi na din muna ako nagtanong. bukas
babalik ako. balak kong bumili ng walis at dustpan, bathrobe, tsaka
pambahay na sandals. kasi, makikita niyo sa pictures, bawal ipasok ang
sapatos (and thus, also the pinapan-labas na tsinelas) sa loob ng apato
(apartment).

o mother, please research for me 8 must-see places in japan. i plan to use
my next 8 weekends for sightseeing...

okay, yun lang muna for now!

Friday, April 15, 2005

atsugi-ni imasu (15-APR)

atsugi-ni imasu = i am in atsugi.

just wanted to let you know that now, atsugi-ni imasu.

at the airport ayun, around 1120 or 1130 na siguro ako dumating sa airport,
ang haba na ng pila papuntang check-in! pagdating sa timbangan, 35 kilos
ang maleta ko! tapos yun, may dalawang hand carry pa ako pero mukhang
maliit lang kasi back-pack and laptop bag lang. so pinapila ako sa
check-in counter for excess baggage... walang pila! tapos sabi sa akin,
"sir, 35 kilos ho ang baggage niyo." sabi ko "oo nga e." tapos tinanong
ako kung ano hand carry ko e di ipinakita ko din... tapos yung check-in
counter attendant, may tinanungan siguro superior niya tapos... ok
na! binigyan na ako ng boarding pass! shempre hindi ko na tinanong kung
bakit. ang bilis, naunahan ko pa ang mga hindi excess
baggage. hehehe. ...siguro tumalab ang porma ko? (ang init init, pero
suot ko ang coat).

ang init the whole time sa eroplano! (PAL pa rin ako!) the food was just
okay. tsaka, ewan ko kung sobrang babaho lang ng mga gumagamit ng
lavatories, pero ang lakas kumalat! i was thinking pangit yung circulation
ng air... and then i dunno kung ganon lang talaga pero ang baho ng hininga
ng katabi ko, naaamoy ko bad breath niya basta nakaharap siya sa akin at
kahit hindi ako nakaharap sa kanya! (window seat ako) again, parang hindi
tama yung circulation ng hangin doon sa loob ng eroplano.

the JAL flight got delayed nga by 50 minutes pero the arrival was delayed
by around 20 minutes lang. delayed daw due to "mechanical
problems." parang hindi maganda pakinggan. anyway, baka mabigat ang load
ng eroplano (e.g., dahil sa maleta ko) and then kelangan nilang magmadali
dahil delayed na ang flight (nauna pang nag-land yung PAL), kaya siguro
mahina ang aircon.

napansin ko pala, ang daming young filipinas (mga nasa 20's) traveling by
themselves to japan! sa customs naman, e di tinanong-tanong ako ng customs
officer. sabi ko i am doing this and that blah blah blah at tokyo
polytechnic university, or tokyo kougei daigaku. sabi sakin ng customs
officer: "ok professor, you may go." haha. sa kanya siguro tumalab ang
porma ko.

ang bilis lang ng procedure sa narita. ang natagalan lang talaga ay yung
baggage claim.

then i took a bus to shinjuku from narita, and then an express train to
hon-atsugi.

unfortunately dahil delayed yung flight, i was not able to reach the direct
bus from narita to sagami-ono (which is a few stations away from
atsugi). an airport limousine bus "assistant" met with me, and she called
the university secretary (with whom i was exchanging correspondence prior
to my departure) to let me know i was there already. the secretary,
sachiko koizumi, talked to me and welcomed me to japan. the assistant
instructed me to take the next bus (leaving in 5 minutes) to shinjuku
instead as the next train for shinjuku was leaving after 30 minutes
pa. sachiko meanwhile instructed me to call her when i am at shinjuku to
tell her which train i will take so that she will know what time my arrival
will be at the hon-atsugi eki (station).

walang escalator from the street down to the shinjuku station so i dragged
the big maleta down! got a little lost at shinjuku, asked around na
lang. dahil medyo naligaw ako, hindi ko na natawagan si sachiko (or sachi
for short) dahil paalis na ang train. (so medyo nag-alala siya)

i got on an express train that is actually "express" only until
sagami-ono. and then a nihonjin (japanese) voluntarily helped me by
telling me (in english) that i don't have to go down at sagami-ono, that
the train we were on would just become a "local" train, meaning it will
stop at every station from then on.

upon arriving at hon-atsugi, patay na, naligaw na naman ng konti pero
fortunately, nakahanap ako ng phone. naghulog ako ng 10 yen, at natawagan
ko naman si sachi, pero naputol din kaagad. i was trying to call her again
pero ayun, buti na lang at nahanap niya ako. ako lang naman ang hindi
mukhang hapon doon na may dalang malaking maleta kaya niya siguro nahulaan
na ako na yon.

so nagpadaan muna ako sa 7-eleven dahil gutom ako sobra, 5pm japan time pa
ang last meal ko (sa airplane, kaunti pa), e it was around 12mn local time na!

ganda ng apartment pala, maliit siya pero malaki na for one
person. ...hmmmm, parang bachelor's pad ang dating. kukunan ko ng
pictures and hopefully ma-upload ko. my apartment address is: 1-1-18, Oji,
Atsugi, Kanagawa, Japan 243-0817. the address at the university is: 1583
Iiyama, Atsugi, Kanagawa, Japan 243-0297, c/o The 21st COE Program, Tokyo
Polytechnic University.

hindi pala masyadong malamig nung pagdating ko, parang aircon lang. okay!

i went to sleep at 2:20am local time na. medyo nag-try to unpack ako but i
was too tired to unpack everything... hindi na din muna ako naligo...

jaa mata! (see you again!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

E!

E, watashi-wa Ronjie tomo shimasu. Soshte, kon konyobi Piripin-kara Nihon-e ikimasu. Piripin-jin desu, soshte Nihongo-ga sukushi wakarimasu, Nihongo-o sukushi hanashimasu, soshte mada jozu ja arimasen! Wakarimashita ka?

Hehe. I hope my Japanese was okay. "E" is the short form of "Hai" which means "Yes." The above paragraph translates to:

Yes, I am called Ronjie. And, this Friday, I'm going to Japan from the Philippines. I'm a Filipino and I understand only a little Japanese, speak a little Japanese, and I'm not skilled yet! Did you understand?

Basically, on April 15 I will be going to Japan, specifically to the satellite city of Atsugi in Kanagawa prefecture... Alright, Atsugi is to Tokyo, what Los Banos, Laguna is to Manila. A prefecture is much like a province, except that... Well politically it's a little different, I guess. Just as a Barangay is different from a Subdivision or Village, even though some Barangay dwellers call their Barangay as Village. For example... Barangay Pagasa could become Pagasa Village!

I plan to post a thousand words per post in this blog... In short, I plan to post PICTURES! In short, I am only PLANNING... So don't be EXPECTING. ;-)

Jaa mata!