onsdag 2 december 2009

It's that time again!

It is, really!
As I've yelled about before, I like the idea of starting Christmas in full swing on December 1st. This year, I started two days early, but it's totally cool. In Sweden we absolutely give a shit about the first day of Advent, the fourth Sunday before Christmas (see how that makes perfect sense?) and this year me and Melody decided to go all-out with Christmas decorating and cookie-baking in one sweaty, festive day. I also bought a couch.

Yes, a couch. I've been wanting to replace my old one, which had many shortcomings and few uses beyond turning it into a guest bed. As if I take in guests! Bah, humbug.
In it's stead, I have a monstrous, black mountain of cozyness and comfort. It also includes a chaise longue (which I'm quite certain has a different name in common English.)

Thus, The Holiday Season begins. Onwards, to gifts, snow and an obscene amount of chocolate!

Fuck you, Architects!

This is Architects.

If you've heard them, you most likely have your own opinions about their music. Mine is, they are amazingly talented. Their songs are well-written, simple enough but not bland or really unoriginal, and I'm mostly refering to Ruin and Hollow Crown here. They're incredible musicians. For a bunch of fucking teenagers (hah!) they absolutely dominate their genre in terms of technical finesse and skill.
I could go on and on, but I'm mentioning them for an entirely different reason.

I can not get Architects out of my head.

Seriously. To say that their songs are catchy isn't quite to the point, it's rather a case of brilliant composing and a wonderfully natural flow in every song. But I could name a hundred bands (almost) that share that talent. Amazing groups of musicians whose songs make me want to never play an instrument again (Oceansize come to mind.)
Yet, it is Architects who refuse to leave my sphere of humming, my internal background noise.
Hell, it's been months since I last listened to Early Grave or We're All Alone, but whenever I'm not listening to something else, some god damn choppy riff keeps popping up in my head.
It's driving me crazy – I don't even like them that much. I mean, not that much.

Anyway. My own ridiculous hardcore band was supposed to do a tour with Architects this February. Might have been fun, but they cancelled the whole thing to go to Australia (I think.)
And now we're stuck here trying to write new songs.
That sound exactly like Architects.

onsdag 14 oktober 2009


I went to the optician yesterday, a long overdue appointment.
I've felt for years now that there might be an issue with my visual system worth reprimanding. I can, for instance, barely read subtitles.
I am nearsighted. No big surprise there, it can and will be fixed with glasses or contact lenses.
But why settle for simple? My left eye also suffers from astigmatism, which means the eye doesn't focus equally along the horizontal and vertical axis. It's hard to understand or explain, and apparently difficult to correct as well. So that sucks, and I'll need a pair of goggles.

While I'm not overly excited about wearing corrective spectacles, I look forward to improved vision and actually enjoying things like HD and Blu-ray without having to press my nose against the screen and squint.

And on that subject, I've recycled my Wii, so to speak. Due to a lack of money and new, really good games (well, there's some of both, but not enough) I've gone back to Twilight Princess again – still an absolutely fan-fucking-tas-fucking-tic game – and occasionally continuing my struggle to collect all 120 stars in Super Mario Galaxy.
On top of that, I finally connected the console to a wireless network, enabling all kinds of online funtime downloadyness. Like World of Goo. Or Tales of Monkey Island. Or Mario Kart online, which is really addictive and fun.

In a month, the band will go on tour with American Jesus-core sextet The Devil Wears Prada. I'm pretty excited, if only to see the workings of such an ambitious machine.
Last weekend we played three shows in Sweden, which were, on the whole, a lot of fun (and about as much time as I want to spend with those people in one go.) We sounded pretty good, we got paid, and we broke something in our hotel room, as per our rock star obligation.

A quite flattering example of the kind of wit and wisdom (and musical brilliance) we can look forward to:

fredag 11 september 2009

fredag 14 augusti 2009


Oh! Continuing my list of things that keep me going – TV is fun again!

Okay, the subject of television shows in respect to quality and quantity, and the seemingly sudden increase of both… should be it's own, long-as-fuck-post, but I won't write it now.
Suffice to say, in the last year I've seen many really good tv shows, and two more are now looming on my 32" horizon.
Both of these cater to the modern pop culture nerd (I'm struggling to find a good word or description here, but basically everyone who thinks 300 is both "fucking awesome!" and a "dignified version of Frank Miller's graphic novel".)

The first is The Pacific, HBO's follow-up to Band of Brothers (pretty much the best thing ever). It seems to be more of the same, if only more epic. Epic is important to the modern geek. Hollywood has understood now, that the epic-money ratio is almost equal (the exception being some of Roland Emmerich's films, which are just silly.)
The Pacific also stars Joseph Mazzello, the kid from Jurassic Park. How 'bout that!

The second is Spartacus: Blood and Sand (you know it), which fuses Gladiator, 300 and Rome. It has more testosterone than watching The Expendables while driving a hummer through a strip club. Just look at the trailer and production video, and you'll agree it has the potential to be profusely epic indeed.

Both will be out sometime next year.

torsdag 13 augusti 2009

Small doses

That's it.
The last time I submitted anything to this blaaawrgh, summertime was in full swing (the sun was chirping, the birds were shining) and I was gearing up for six weeks of hard work.
That was precicely six weeks ago today, and next week I don't really have a job to go to. I should be alright, I actually don't mind a few days off.

And that's the thing.

I've realized I don't really like doing anything for very long, or even very seriously. It quite silly, and I think very representative of my generation. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. No real job, no one hobby that takes up all your spare time every day for the rest of your life. Even relationships in many cases just wear out and we're always adamant in our belief that a bit of change is A OK.
Anyway. I'm not a big fan of this, my own, attitude. Stability and genuine dedication to any one cause is, I think, desirable.

As grey as my days may feel, there are things that excite me. Here are some:
Going to London (at some point, hopefully within the next three months.)
Movies. Big Fan, Sherlock Holmes, The Lovely Bones, and looking further ahead – Alice In Wonderland, Avatar, Prince of Persia, and many others.
Music. Things tend to pop up (no pun intended) here and there, so there's not that much anticipation. However, some highlights include new music by Yo La Tengo, Beastie Boys and Oceansize, and the ever-impending new album by Glassjaw.
Touring with Jesaiah. Possibly.
Redecorating. Basically I've finally gotten fed up with the shortcomings of my residence. The bed. The couch. The big, empty wall behind the TV. It's a beautiful place to live, by all means, but now I want to, once and for all, sort things out.

fredag 3 juli 2009

Is it hawt enough for you yet?

Shit! I haven't been writing enough, as usual.
Note, non-existent reader, that I don't find these pages to be of any real importance or literary gravity. My eagerness to scribble merely comes from an ambition and determination to write. Anything. 'Cause, you know, words are cool and stuff.

Two weeks ago I celebrated midsummer's, a very Swedish thing to do. Me and Melody got our blue and yellow groove on in expert fashion by cooking a lot of food. Like, a lot of food. I think the total amount would have sustained a small village for two weeks, but alas we settled on eating it ourselves. What? At least it took us two days.
The menu included a Västerbotten cheese pie, a strawberry- and mint salad, a french-ish potato salad, smoked salmon, home-baked parmesan bread and, oh why the hell not, a cheesecake.
I like food.

Today I saw Ponyo, the latest film by animation-God Hayao Miyazaki. Having deliberately limited my impressions of the movie to merchandise (which was hard to avoid in Tokyo) and the trailer for the english version, I didn't know much about the actual story.
To say the least, I was impressed but not surprised or really blown away. It's not his best work, but his worst is still miles ahead of damn near any other animation. Yes, Pixar included.
Ponyo on the cliff by the sea gets four hamsters out of five.

On Monday I start work for real, but I still have three days in which to get funky. So, tomorrow me and Fredrik are watching all six Star Wars movies back-to-back.
We'll try to get started by 3 PM, which means we should finish Return of the Jedi around four in the morning. Not a bad day, indeed!
Although watching trilogies in one sitting have almost become a standard for me and Melody (we did Terminator 1, 2 and 3 a week ago and finished by going to see Salvation. It was fun.) I have yet to watch all six installments of the Star Wars saga without so much as a nap in between. We'll see how it pans out. I might need some sugar.

Also, summer is the biz.

Blackberry cheesecake. And you can't have any.

Nathalie doesn't actually need my hand, she can walk on her own.
It's awesome.

Boatness in the city.

A very slow afternoon.

tisdag 2 juni 2009

Like a real musicplayerperson

It occurred to me just now that I haven't written anything in a while, despite "ideas" for posts (which will never be written.)

So. I've spent the past two days in a studio in Gävle, about two hours on a slow train to the north of Stockholm. The first six or so hours of that time were spent recording bass for the new Jesaiah record, which may actually turn out pretty good. 
I thought two days would be enough. Enough to get everything nice and tight, fix any mistakes, and take my sweet time fine-tuning a massive sound that would melt people's brains. Turns out, I underestimated my own awesome bass playing skills, and was able to finish all my parts in less than a day. Well, all but one song, but we did that this morning with Joel finishing the last guitar parts.
The sound is gritty, dirty and mean, which I like. But it's still simple and punchy enough to actually break through all the other crap (namely, guitars and drums) and make a difference. In short, I'm stoked.
Having completed our task, me and our producer Björn (whose apartment is covered in sawdust, by the way) spent the rest of the day at his friend Bosse. This came to be by Bosse's invitation to partake of some DIY vegan sausage that he'd just made.
If my friends called me because they had just made vegan sausage and wanted me to eat it, I would be a happy rabbit. This never happens.

Does this not look like the most delicious thing ever? 
Okay, don't answer that.

Today Melody moved back from Malmö, for real. She now lives in the same city as me, and that makes me more excited than everything Nintendo revealed at E3 combined. 
Yeah, I said that shit.
New Super Mario Bros. for Wii? Mario Galaxy 2? Some new ultra mega burn-my-eyes-out Metroid game? Oh, and Monkey Island on WiiWare. Fuck it. I get to see my girlfriend.
Yes, I am quite aware that one does not negate the other. I'm trying to make a point.


lördag 16 maj 2009


I'm really quite bored.

tisdag 12 maj 2009

Sappy go lucky

This weekend I visited Melody in Malmö, Sweden's link to the cursed lands of Denmark. She's been studying photography there since August, and is moving back to Stockholm in just three short weeks. This makes me happier than a pig in crap.
Melody is my Favorite Person In The World™, a title previously and occasionally held by Kim Gordon, Aragorn and this dude I met once.
She's funny, smart, unbelievably kind, pretty, cute, sweet, more cool than anyone. She smells good. She loves good food, music, books and film, and she cares about it. She knows everything and doesn't mind teaching me. She actually and continuously makes me happy. She is the best.

I arrived on Thursday morning, after a four-hour train ride that began around sunrise and which allowed me to unintentionally eavesdrop on a married couple's awkward conversation about breasts.
There was obviously none of that in Malmö, as me and Melody paraded the sunny streets in search of adventure. Or, as it were, cheap candy and Star Wars action figures.
In four days we made obnoxiously good food, watched Gilmore Girls, sat on a blanket under a warm sun, visited a library and a Vegan convention (sort of), rented a boat, fed ducks, made plans, took pictures of everything and otherwise enjoyed the hell out of ourselves. It was fantastic, and now Malmö seems like the most fun place on earth.

And I've almost started working. I had two days of introduction and initiation this week, whereby I was told and shown how business is conducted at my new workplace (which also happens to be my old workplace, but that's not very important.)
Work isn't my favorite thing in the world, and could largely be held accountable for some of the times I've wanted to kill myself. But that's a different story.
I try not to think too much about work when I'm not there. I guess I'm not very good at playing grown up.
I am however a serious tourist, as evidenced by the image below.

tisdag 28 april 2009

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

I'm back in Sweden now, and have been for a few days. During that time I've met Melody (to everyone's explosive delight) had dinner with my parents, listened to an early cut of Jesaiah's new album, and begun to organize my grown-up life. 
It's surprisingly hard to understand that I have just spent three months in Tokyo. Really.
Nothing here has changed, obviously, but it's funny how quickly you pick up old routines and habits. In many ways, it's as if I never left.

My last night in Tokyo took place in Shin-matsudo, hometown of Philippe and Robin. The former was kind enough to let me stay at his place for the night, and together with Robin's friend Andreas we set out to find something fun to do in Shin-matsudo on a Friday night. It started well enough with sushi, which I've eaten less of than I had hoped in Tokyo.
The plan was then to find a karaoke place and/or bowling alley, which proved difficult. I was initially determined to find something really colourful, like a paintball/casino/dog race establishment, but there's not that much available in Shin-matsudo. At last we settled for an hour of free drinks and karaoke, servicing both the thirst of my comrades and my eagerness to sing Whitney Houston songs.
It was a nice hour. I sang pretty much non-stop, plowing through both One Moment In Time and The Greatest Love of All, as well as some old favorites by Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Feist. Me and Philippe also tried to conquer Hysteria by Muse, which nearly killed us.

The journey back to Stockholm was smooth, thankfully. My overweight suitcase and bus-sized backpack made it through check-in and customs at Narita without any fuss, and the 10-hour flight to Copenhagen wasn't too bad at all. I watched some of The Incredibles and about 9 episodes of The Simpsons. The food was great, and I got some sleep.
At Copenhagen I again bought some internet-time, and the flight to Stockholm was barely noticeable.
Before I knew it, I was back in my apartment.

I've already been asked the question "How was Tokyo?" to which I have no good reply. It was amazing. It was difficult, at times, and confusing. It's the greatest city in the world, and probably the most expensive one I've visited. 
I'm sure the significance of this trip will become apparent over time. Right now, it's a collection of photographs and new acquaintances, fond memories and some vague understanding of the Japanese language.
But three months is a long time. Maybe not spent going to work as always, but learning new things every day and discovering a city like Tokyo, it's a lot of time.

I've seen snow and summer, listened to noise and the shamisen, eaten every type of Japanese food I could ever want, seen the sakura blossom. I've been to temples in Kamakura and seen robots on Odaiba, I've watched a Japanese game show being made, and seen silent movies accompanied by a benshi voice-actor. I've been to retro videogame shops and ten-floor department stores, the Imperial Garden and Electric Town in Akihabara.
Despite all that I have done and seen, I can't wait to go back. 

As far as "How was Tokyo?" goes, I advise anyone who asks to find out for themselves. It's the best city in the world.

Packing all the essentials.

Philippe's glorious home.

Hitting the notes.

My ten-hour flight: Simpsons, onigiri and Soyjoy, and sleep (not pictured.)

Oh harrow.

Everyone's favorite niece, making friends with Totoro.

Back home, as it were.

fredag 24 april 2009

Packin' heat.

I'm leaving.
Tomorrow, that is. Due to Sakura House's lovely adherence to bureaucracy, I had to move out today, and will be spending the night in Philippe's room (or possibly on the subway or in an alley, we'll see what happens.)
I barely managed to squeeze my belongings into a suitcase and a very serious backpack, which will no doubt leave my spine mangled and shattered by the time I get home.
Home! It's exciting, and scary, and a bit sad. With so little time left, I just want to get moving and bring everything back safely. Well, at least my records are already in my apartment.

This, the last week of my stay in Tokyo, has been a good one. I had my doubts, but then I met a really nice girl from school who didn't oppose to spending three afternoons in a row walking aimlessly around some of my favorite parts of Tokyo. It's a bit of a kicker that I met her now, four days before leaving. Anyway, we walked and talked and bought cool stuff and ate crêpes, and I'm really glad we did.
Monday was my birthday, so Robin and Philippe bought me sushi for lunch. Then me and Robin went to the Yushukan war museum at Yasukuni shrine, to see broken helmets and the Japanese' thoughts on Pearl Harbor (amongst many other, really interesting things.) 
I've been there before, and I still like it.

So that's about it. One night and one morning to go.
Now I'm literally sitting outside my vacated room in Shimura-sanchome, ready to depart and eventually return home.

Philippe and Robin, happy about sushi.

My stand-in birthday cake, with cotton candy-flavoured ice cream.
Not bad at all.

Lunch at Yasukuni with Sanna. Yes, that is nattō.

Bright lights in Ginza, one last time.


söndag 19 april 2009


Yokohama is, apparently, the second largest city in Japan. Huh. I wouldn't have guessed it.

With it's seaside location at the entrance to Tokyo bay, Yokohama has ever been a vital commercial hub of Japan. It's also been torn apart more than once.
In 1923, a staggering 95% of the city's entire population died in the Great Kantō earthquake. Some 22 years later, American bombs repeated the effect and erased most of Yokohama along with the rest of Tokyo.
As I said in my previous post, I keep this in mind when looking at the infrastructure, architecture and everyday life of Tokyo. Most of what I see around me has only been here for about 60 years.

Anyway, I went to Yokohama today! Perhaps that was obvious. I've been wanting to go there for some time, if only to get away from Tokyo for a day (not that I don't like Tokyo, it's just nice to check out the surroundings.)
Although Yokohama is officially it's own city it's still within the Tokyo subway system. Me, Philippe and Robin were able to get from Jimbocho to Yokohama in less than 30 minutes for 510 yen, which was nice. 
Once there, we eventually managed to find our way towards Chinatown, following the water.

Chinatown was cool. I mean, nothing mind-blowing, but it was different. We had some proper chinese food for lunch, which was really good. Also, there were about 80 shops selling panda-related items of every kind. Panda candy, panda t-shirts, panda umbrellas. Panda meat? Maybe.
Chinatown being the first, we did have a second motive for being in Yokohama today. As Philippe informed us early on, a giant robotic spider was scheduled to make an appearance in Yokohama today. Sounds good, I thought. But where? And when?
These two pieces of information were gathered quickly and easily enough, and after our colorful adventure in Chinatown, we decided to try and locate said constructs.
When looking for a gigantic robotic spider, you'll never do wrong to follow the crowd. We did, and even though "the crowd" covered most of downtown Yokohama, we eventually found the spiders. They were, in fact, gigantic. And robotic. Sort of. It was actually a set of limbs on a Matrix-inspired body, that moved as though the spider was walking. Except, it was hauled around on a truck. 
A touch lame, I have to say. See, when someone says "giant robotic spider", I envision a scuttling cyberbug of lethal, inhumane power climbing up the side of the Landmark Tower. This did not happen today.
Anyway. I enjoyed Yokohama. The sun and the heat helped, I suppose.

Three days ago, I returned to Kugahara for dinner with the family. It was great to see Akiko, Kobayashi-san, Eric and José again, and eat good, real Japanese food. I guess that's the last time I'll see them for a very long time. A bit sad, really.

And tomorrow it's my birthday. Hip hop hooray!

Sea Bass. We saw this error on least six different signs.

We also saw lots and lots of dogs in silly clothes. 
As one does in Tokyo.

Giant robotic spider.


torsdag 16 april 2009

Going solo

I'm a nerd. Alot of people make that claim about themselves, often in an attempt at self-criticism or humour, but I don't think that's necessary. Saying that I'm a nerd is like saying that my shirt is red; it's stating a simple matter of fact.
Anyway, my nerdism manifests itself in many ways, not least in my complete fascination with the second World War. 
I think one of the most interesting things about coming to a new country is understanding it through it's history, to some degree. Things like colonialism, war and religion have all helped change and shape the world, not least in the last hundred years.
This is especially true in Japan, who suffered perhaps the most humiliating and utter defeat in World War II, and still managed to become one of the leading economic and industrial powers in the world. Like, omg, wtf?
I've had all this in mind when I've met alot of Japanese people, especially the elderly. Those who were born in Tokyo in the late 40's have literally grown up with the city, seeing it emerge from a smoking ruin to a futuristic metropolis (in some places, at least.) 
But aside from the Yushukan war museum, I haven't found too many traces of the war here. Until now.
Two days ago I decided to check out a photographic exhibition in a building very close to our school. I've walked past it dozens of times, only occasionally looking up at it's unique facade, but I never knew what it was.
Turns out, this building is the Showa-kan – a library and memorial to Japan during and after World War II. Since opening in 1999, they've collected and exhibited pictures, texts and films from that time for all to see. I only glimpsed at some of the books and photography archives, but there was alot of it.
My inspiration for going there now was an exhibition with photos taken by Werner Bischof in 1951 and 1952, in Tokyo and Kyoto. It shows an occupied Japan, shaped by American influences but still shaken by the tragedies of the war. Funny, educational, fascinating, I really enjoyed it. And it was free, so that made it extra super awesome.

Yesterday, my roommate Nathalie went back to Sweden. She came here when I did, but I have nine more days of rice, sun and crowded subway trains to go.
I've never lived together with anyone before, and all things considered it's been great. 
So long, my friend, I will miss you.

First day of school, Januray 13th.

Sweet's Paradise, February 6th.

Denny's, February 21st.

Ice skating, March 28th.

söndag 12 april 2009

Holiday road!

A week ago it was spring. Now it's summer.
The blossoming is all but over, but the warmth seems to be staying put. The last few days I've been doing an absurd amount of walking.
I have one of those machines that count your every step, and since coming to Tokyo I've walked 134 040 393 steps, which is the equivalent of six laps around the earth. 
Okay, so none of the facts stated above are true. But fuck me, have I been walking! 

On Wednesday, I went to Ueno. This was actually my first time there, and I'm impressed. Aside from the famous park and it's many pretty trees, there's a market between Okachimachi and Ueno where gullable tourists can buy cheap backpacks and skewered fruit. I'll be going back there before long. Me and Robin walked there from school, which wasn't too bad. Even though Geos is quite a bit away from Shinjuku and Shibuya, I think it's at a good location. 

Thursday, I went south towards the Imperial Gardens to eat my lunch under a tree. Aside from an abundance of ants, it was nice. The sun is really intense here, and sunscreen didn't seem all that necessary when I packed my bags in early January.
I continued down towards Ginza, hung out at the Apple store for a while to borrow their smokin' hot wi-fi, and walked back to Jimbōchō. I plan on bringing a book the next time.

On Friday, me and Robin took the advice of our teacher to go and see sumo wrestling at Yasukuni shrine, near Kudanshita. Supposedly it was free, but we couldn't really find an entrance and there were too many people there already anyway (where do all these people come from, don't they have jobs to go to?) so we went off to find a better spot.
We did, actually, find a school just behind the shrine. Trying to look like we belonged, we went inside and up to the roof, which gave us a great view of the entire arena. Not that sumo wrestling is very exciting to watch, but it was cool none the less.
From there we followed the Kandagawa river to Ochanomizu, bought some records, and went home.

And yesterday, I finished off this week's leg-abuse with a trip to Odaiba, with Phillippe. I've been there once before, with my parents. This time our main destination was the Miraikan science museum, and their current Terminator-exhibition. 
Featuring mostly scale models and some brief facts about the creation of the movies, it wasn't quite what it could have been. But I was satisfied, not least by the few items they had on display from the upcoming Terminator Salvation. I hope that one doesn't suck, by the way.
The rest of the museum was much more engaging. We saw an animated short film called The Space Elevator (oh yes) on one of those gigantic screens, as well as several robots. The biggest crowd-pleaser was Asimo, a humanoid robot whose balance is better than most organic people after they've had two drinks. 
A second robot seemed at first to be designed for cleaning, like a really advanced vaccum cleaner. But that's because me and Phillippe confused the words sōji (cleaning) and sōjū (controlling). Stupid foreigners. 
There was also a "hands-on model of the internet" (oh yes!) and a robotic seal with a pascifier.

When we finally decided that the future is awesome, and the museum had given us it's all, we headed towards the beach to find some food. In keeping with the theme, we settled for a "hawaiian" burger place called Kua'Aina. My mahi mahi burger with fries and ginger ale might be the best lunch I've had in weeks.
And then we took a walk. 
It's weird, but Odaiba really is a great change of scenery. Walking alongside palm trees with the ocean in front of you, it's hard to believe you're still in Tokyo. And it's funny how a sea breeze can render me completely sappy, and content. Like I said, it's a great change of scenery.
We saw the sun set behind the Rainbow bridge, and walked back towards the city. 
Even though my legs were hurting, I was too awake to go home. So I strolled through Ginza, watching all the stores close (at nine on a Saturday. I like Tokyo.)

This week I've felt like I'm on vacation. It's the weather, and perhaps an increase of tourists. I want to do something fun every day, but I can't really afford to go traveling around the country now. And as Melody pointed out, I'm not really here on vacation. I live here. 
The city looks different in bright sunlight, I think. I'm very prone to moodswings depending on the weather, so it's a bit easier to smile now.

I have places to visit and revisit, people and things I want to see. But in less than two weeks, I'm going home.

This made my day. Diet Dr Pepper for 84 yen.

Shrine in Ueno.

Sumo at Yasukuni shrine.

Phillippe-san and meself, enjoying English dubs at Miraikan.

A different side of Tokyo.

Sunset on Odaiba.

tisdag 7 april 2009

Almost there, but still here

Last week we finished our 12-week conversation course. This means little to me, since I have three more weeks of conversing to go. But it did set a good mark – the beginning of the end of my stay in Japan.
Today I have 18 days left before I set foot in Sweden. As I've said and thought, I really hope to make the best of every one of those days. But at the same time I'm starting to warm up to the thought of returning home.

The past week have seen the sakura blossom in earnest, and damn it if the Japanese will miss a second of it. The pink and white flowers are absolutely everywhere, and under each tree is at least one Tokyoite with a camera. By the looks of it, this is the first year that the sakura has blossomed. Ever.
Aside from saturday's outing, the creative people working at Geos decided to organize a hana-mi and/or long walk for the entire school yesterday. The hana-mi part was less prominent, the walking very tedious and confusing. It mostly consisted of random teachers (I think) telling random groups of students (I think) to go somewhere, or wait, or hurry up, or all of the above. 
Me and some friends ended up near Yasukuni shrine, having lunch under some cherry blossoms after all.

Look, flowers!

söndag 5 april 2009

Big Christmas!

Yesterday I went to hana-mi ("watching flowers and getting shitfaced") in Sumida park with some friends. 
It was really nice. I've never actually been to an official hana-mi as a dedicated activity, but I enjoyed it. Lots of food, good enough weather, and an amazingly drunken japanese girl with a trumpet. I even made a video. 

onsdag 1 april 2009

Don't be a fool!

Hello, April!
I like April, I always have. It's my birthday in 19 days, and this is usually the month where spring decides to appear in earnest in Sweden.
In Tokyo, it's much the same. Shigatsu is the month of hana-mi, the national obsession with sakura blossoms, and although I've already seen my fair share of sunshine and warmth, it feels more and more like winter is done for the year.

Since my parents took off on Friday, I've spent a lot of time indoors. I caught a cold around Thursday and by Friday I was feeling pretty messed up, so I thought I'd surrender my weekend to rest. A true enough paradigm, granted, but one that proved a bit difficult to stick to.

On Saturday, Nathalie and I had agreed to meet Kyouhei and his friend in Shibuya.
With no specific activity planned, it wasn't long before we ended up in a batting cage in Shinjuku-gyoemmae (I think, I'm still unsure where we went). I understand that this was mostly Nathalie's initiative. 
It was great. I used to play baseball – some fifteen years ago – so naturally I had no difficulty securing at least nine or ten simulated homeruns against my ball-chucking robot opponent. I kind of wish we had batting cages in Sweden, even if we don't have baseball.
When everyone was finished with the bat-swinging, we were again left with nothing to do on a less than sunny day. Brief consultation of a map revealed a skating rink nearby, and why wouldn't we want to do a bit of skating, right there and then?
So, a pair of rented size 44 skates later, I found myself on the ice for the first time in about twelve years, doing surprisingly well. I didn't fall, I didn't die, I didn't even freeze that bad.
After a good few laps around the rink, we decided to call it quits. 

I spent all of Sunday indoors. Like, literally, I did not leave the house once. I watched some Firefly, made some soup, got some sleep. It was awesome. I said I'd make the best of my last days here in Tokyo, I wasn't kidding.

Disney's Swedes On Ice.

With extra smile, please.

This is what we've been doing in school this week. Hard times.

fredag 27 mars 2009

School's out forever!

Not really. 
But two days ago, I took the final (and only) exam of my 13-week Japanese conversation course. I passed, and that means I pretty much don't have to worry too much about school. I still have to go, though.
This week was also the second half of my parents' visit to Tokyo (including our trip to Seoul.)
Due to my impending examination, I spent most of Monday and Tuesday studying, with the exception of a brief venture to Shinjuku and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. Aside from housing the headquarters of The Government, it has an observation deck that granted us yet another spectacular view of Tokyo. 
We had dinner at a place called The Lion Beer Hall, which is a German-inspired restaurant in Ginza. They serve sausages, fish & chips and pizza, and occasionally a group of lederhosen-wearing Japanese will fill the spacious room with Bavarian folk music. It ranks among the top five on my list of WTF? But in a good way.

On Wednesday, I took the test. I did quite well, 102 points out of 120 (which, in reality, means nothing if I can't actually speak to Japanese people on the street, but it's nice anyway.)
After it's completion, I set my brain for celebration and relaxation, and we headed for Shimo-kitazawa – everyone's favorite Tokyo hippie hideout. Even in grey and cold weather, the area is a great walk-around, with tons of small shops selling arts and crafts, used clothing and records (you know, hippie stuff.)
After some tea, cake and three magnificent records bought, we decided to move on. 

A travel guide to Tokyo had given us the idea to visit a restaurant called Jidaiya, in Akasaka. There are hundreds of restaurants in Tokyo that claim to have more or less "genuine" Japanese cuisine. Some merely serve very good sushi, like in Tsukiji. 
This particular establishment is the most honestly Japanese place I've been to, with some of the best food I've ever had. This included sashimi, tempura, miso, yakimono (a simple piece of fried fish) and plain, white rice. All of it absolutely superb, and the staff was extremely friendly.

Yesterday was my parents' last day in Tokyo, and the sun was shining. They wanted to check out my accomodations, past and present, so we visited Shimura sanchome and Kugahara. It was nice to see the neighborhood again, greener than before.
We then set course for Ebisu, and the Tokyo museum of photography. An exhibition about photography's evolution in Japan, and one by Japanese photographer Yanagi Miwa were interesting enough. Especially the former, which included large daguerreotype images of daimyo and their samurai from the mid 1800's. 
Given the quality of Thursday's dinner, it seemed impossible to find Japanese food that could match it for our final dinner in Tokyo. So, we instead opted for some righteous indian food. Curry, naan, pilau rice and mango lassie. A perfect finish.

These two weeks have been amazing. I've seen areas of Tokyo previously unknown to me, and revisited past favorites. 
Now, the countdown begins. Today I have 29 days left here, and I hope to make the best of them.

The view from Tokyo Metropolitan Government building.

A man walking his monkey, Shimokitazawa.

Dinner at Jidaiya.

Back in Kugahara.

onsdag 25 mars 2009

Gangnam it!

I've been to Korea!
I meant to write more and sooner about that, but I've been a busy sumbitch, what with the end-of-term test and all.
I dealt with said examination yesterday, so now I'm officially set to giveth-not-a-fuck mode.
But first things first.

On Friday morning, me and the 'rents boarded an early flight for Seoul's Incheon airport, arriving in a slightly warmer climate than Tokyo's.
One thing that struck me immediately about Seoul was how spacious it is, considering the size of the city. Whereas Tokyo is a dense carpet of houses and skyskrapers, Seoul offers more in way of… you know, plants and stuff. It reminded me of Los Angeles, but without all the crap.
Anyway, the bus ride from the airport to the hotel was very smooth, an introduction of sorts to an exceptionally comfortable weekend in South Korea.
We stayed at the Imperial Palace hotel. They're not kidding with that name. The place reeks with british imperial splendour, with every surface in gold and dark wood, and every member of staff dressed in sterile suits calling you "sir" if you pass them by.
Our room on the 16th floor had a western view of the sprawling mass of concrete and neon that is Seoul, and carried on the style of the hotel. Fancy, but in a charming way.
After settling in, we decided to scout the nearby area for food and sights. This turned out to be quite the task. What seemed like a walk around the block was in fact a few subway stops away. Alas, we walked on, impervious to fatigue.
After a really Korean lunch of juk – vegetable gruel, similar to risotto – and kimchi (naturally) we found the Coex mall and adjacent Kimchi Museum. Now, the Kimchi Museum might very well be the single best museum on earth. 
Kimchi is pickled vegetables, usually cabbage. And there's a museum about it. Fantastic.
We actually had dinner at the hotel, which I would normally think to be a bit simplistic and uninspiring. Except, the hotel had a buffet of some of the best food I've had. It was ridiculous. Dozens of hot and cold dishes, raw vegetables, soup, desserts. Very nice indeed. 
We went there for breakfast twice, and it was much the same. Any tasty, hearty breakfast ingredient one can think of, and more.

Day number two began on the subway, as we had now accepted the distance between the various sights we wanted to see. These included several fine temples, the Seoul Museum of History and Seoul Tower. All of these were nice to see, and the bus that traveled conveniently between most of them allowed us further viewing. 
Dinner was had at a place called Mad for Garlic which, as the name insinuates, is not a sushi restaurant. We had garlic bread, garlic fondue (!) and more garlic bread, followed by three different garlic-heavy pizzas. Pretty strange, but none the less good food.

My final day of Korean adventures took me to the electronics market of Yongsan where everything was suspiciously cheap and there were hardly any people. And to more temples, in the beautiful Changgyeonggung palace. I also made use of the hotel's swimming facilities, which were unsurprisingly fancy.

After three days in Seoul, I could make certain observations:
  • Koreans eat Kimchi in, on, and with everything. It's not a way to prepare food, it's a religion. I also suspect that it's a ritual form of embalming corpses, to cover them in Kimchi.
  • Korea is cheap! Compared to Tokyo it's vastly different, but even by proper standards, Seoul is a great place to shop.
  • Korea is slightly more American than Japan (I feel the need to compare the two countries) with Wal-Mart, Dunkin' Donuts and the like. But it's actually not that big a difference.