December 31, 2009

2010, a a sad beginnig for Finland's international image

It's not that long from the previous incidents, the school shootings, that painted some dark irremovable stains to Finland's international image as a country loaded with guns. Now, only a day before year 2010, we had to witness it once again! Here in Japan Yumiko, her family and I got to know about it in a shocking way. Let me just quickly explain how it happened.

After seeing the end-of-year musical, eating long soba, and wishing a very happy new year for everyone the year changed. It was all terrific. We were still watching TV just like most Japanese at their homes. There was the first news of 2010, starting at 0:00. And well, you may guess what was the first news of year 2010 in Japan about?! In Finland, 5 killed in a shooting in Helsinki area. It is absurd, in fact unbelievable to hear about it here in Japan at the 1st day the year on the very first minute!

Probably about 90% of the Japanese people probably saw the news. One can imagine what kind of picture of Finland will be burned deeper in to peoples minds, and not only those of Japanese. It probably doesn't have much notion or help but let me just say that the suspected shooter was a male from Kosovo and apparently he possessed an unregistered gun.

Despite this incident, may this year be enjoyable for everyone. There's always place for improvement, only a faint hope for better times might not do.

This is very saddening.
More at CNN:

December 26, 2009

Oita today

Today, 26th of December, +11 degrees, sunny. Doing a bunch reading at the river side.

This is a good learning environment. Chilly weather keeps the sleepiness away.

Emperor's birthday

A warm and sunny Wednesday. Cant it really be December? Yes, it is 23rd of December and a national holiday right before the actual Christmas vacation. On this day, the current emperor, presumably an important figurehead of Japan Mr. Akihito (76) was born. So it is Emperor's birthday! Happy birthday Akihito!♪

The holiday is a well earned present for every Japanese hard-working citizen. But in fact, the image I perceived was that most did not acknowledge the reason why they had a day off. Instead of celebrating Akihito's b-day, masses of people gathered to Bay of Beppu to enjoy Christmas Fireworks Fantasia (which I think was a lot of fun).

Akihito's heir will have his (or her!) birthday definitely on another day, not on the 23rd, right before Christmas. It will be interesting to see what kind of celebration the new birthday will be connected with. Imagine, for example, if the new emperor's birthday is somewhere between March and February, would it change the event in Beppu to "Beppu Easter Fireworks Fantasia".

What else happened on Emperor's birthday? These military-look-alike cars appeared in every major city of Japan. Who they are, and why they drive around the city center making a terrible noise with their megaphones all day along? They are the extreme right wing party, the political group that respects old system and values, and wishes to get back the times where Emperor is head of state and holds the ultimate power. They shouted many messages, one for instance was like this:

This day is close to Christmas. Maybe everyone's happy because of that. But don't forget that it is Emperor's birthday!!...

What they really would love to see in Japan is: All the power to Emperor and no dependence on America, (kick out the American military bases in Japan). Foreigners, particulary Chinese, and Koreans aren't their dearest friends. Finns maybe ok.

Now, what I baldly wonder about the extreme right group is how can they admire a lifestyle and a society in which they have never lived? For them the old system is a dream. But like all dreams, once they come true they're no more dreams. This metaphor might not be the best fit, but if the extreme right got their ideal system as a present from Santa they would be happy only for a while. Receiving same present next year would be boring.

Judging by the reaction of the people in the street (or no reaction), no one really cares what they say. Moreover, the political blabber is so unclear that it's difficult to understand even one tried hard. Hmm... Does the Emperor care about these?

December 22, 2009

One lecture away from christmas holiday

Close to three months in University. Feels longer than it is. Not that it would have been boring-absolutely not, but because we've done such a heap of things and attended several events, alongside with ordinary studying.

The Christmas holiday started already for quite many students. Officially it begins on the 25. of December, and last until the 7th of January, so close to two weeks in total. Many of the exchange students use this time to travel around Japan, some even fly overseas or return home to rejoin with their family. A common direction to take from Oita seems to be north to Honsu, and therein Osaka-Kyoto-Nagoya-Tokyo. For the holiday, Yumiko and I have modest plans:

  • 23th, view the Beppu Christmas Fireworks Fantasia,
  • 24th, go for a restaurant date in Oita,
  • 27th, see and listen TAO, a group of taiko-drum performers in Taketa-city near Oita,
  • 28th, visit Yumiko's family in Nagoya for the New Year. Hopefully we can help them in the grand-cleaning, 大掃除.
Even though I've had it many times, it is slightly wistful to think of end of year celebrations in Finland. Being with family, enjoying calmness and traditional dishes, seeing everything covered by bright newly rained snow. Now it's time for end-of-year in Japan. It said to be one the largest festival, if not the largest in the whole of Japanese calendar. Let's enjoy it with open mind!

December 14, 2009

Internship in Japan starting Feb. 15

Today, Finland is enjoying some real -15 °C winter. Brr... I can be happy for confirming a practical training placement at Research and Consulting of Regional Science Co., Ltd. for the following 5 months after the exchange.

Finding an internship from Japan was seemingly easier than I thought it to be. Company web-sites, job advertisements or fairs did not play a role in the seeking process. It was much more straightforward thanks to the active professors in University.

Our economics teacher was kind enough to pull some strings with his companion, and arrange an introduction to the company. Having a proxy to introduce you gives great momentum for a range of issues in Japan. The question now is, will I will be ever beholden to them?

December 13, 2009

Quinni in Japan

Quinni in Japan is a blog written by one fellow exchange student from Germany. Lots of interesting posts about our exchange life in Oita. In the most recent post, she tells about our tea-ceremony experience at the Japanese Culture class. Please go and have a look at:

December 10, 2009

大崩山, Okue-yama and Wakuzuka trail

In to the wild. Three exchange students half awake half a sleep in a mountain cottage. Temperature both outside and inside +2 degrees. No one has a sleeping bag or a sleeping mat. That is how it was when a Dutch, a German and a Finn decided to make a two day off season hike at the Wakuzuka trail.

Let me explain more. On Sunday morning we drove south to Miyazaki prefecture and through Nobeoka continued to Sobo Katamuki Quasi-National Park, an area of rare untouched nature and true wilderness.

The first day was pick-nick like. The walk to cottage was effortless-barely a half an hour of length. Real hike awaited on the sunrise of the following day.

The reserve area is mother nature's art room. Not only this twisty tree branch but all the surroundings from riverbed rocks to streams have been formed free of human touch and are very beautiful to an eye.

When the rainy season is not on the enormous river rocks reveal. Quite tempting (and dangerous) sport is to jump from one to another. The trail, more or less, goes along river and streams, this being the main stream.

One can only imagine the strength of the mountain river when rainy season hits in. These huge tree trunks were conveyed by seasonally strong current over time.

Sausages and potatoes wrapped in a foil. Cup of aromatic pine tree tea. Chattering around a fire until dark. All fun. During the teeth rattling night everyone had slept few hours in some miraculous way, a surprise for each of us.

So rested we awoke. It was around 7:00 am as we left and already at the very beginning the trail offered a terrific view to mountains we'd later on climb.

First high peak and a fantastic lookout point down to the valley.

The nine hour hike was still young. When sun was half up we headed higher.

I can never get enough of the depths of these wide scale views.

The freezing level was not really high, therefore from time to time we encountered frosty rocks and icy waterfalls.

Best part. It doesn't show from the photo but the most beautiful section of the hike was this riverbed at the end of the day. The trail can be hardly said to exist there, so difficult it is at times to see the marked path.

This Wakuzuka loop is said to have the highest rate of lost hikers of all Japan's trails. In many situations the wandering hikers have been found by a rescue helicopter but there are cases were hikers have been found dead, or have never been found and remain lost till today. Quite worrying, huh?
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