February 25, 2010

Impressions of working in Japan: Lunch

12:00 - 13:00 Lunch break
Time stand up and go to the lunch room, take out the lunchbox and get nourished. At lunch people socialize and have friendly conversations with other employees because during work people hardly talk, and if they do it is plainly work related. This is an important hour. It breaks the almost silent office atmosphere and gives an opportunity to refresh oneself.

Almost all the men in the office do not join the common room for lunch. They prefer to eat on their desk and use computer simultaneously. I was curious to ask is the reason for this. It turned out that while eating they browse news sites. This they do because they need topics to have a lively conversation with their customers when they meet in future.

That could be efficient use of time but leads me to think of an absurd question: in their shoes, which one you would prefer to browse: A flock of office ladies at the cafeteria or news sites in the Internet?

The internship began last week. Now, after having digested the initial information flood I'll start to write about how it is like to work in Japan. This post marks the first entry in the series of working in Japan.

Finnish language in Japan

Every once in a while these things pop out to my eyes and I can't but take a photo. So here, a collection of Finnish language encountered in Japan:

ihana = wonderful
Ihan, the name of a clothing store in Nagoya. According to the shopkeeper, who yet hasn't been to Finland but wants to go, "Ihan" is Finnish and means wonderful, as in "ihana". The store, however, sells products like flip-flops from Morocco.

keittiö = kitchen
Keittiö, the name of a women's clothing store in Oita Park Place. Before taking a closer look, I though it would naturally sell kitchen ware.

sama, sama = same, same
Sama Sama, is an onsen in Oita city center.

How did that crate end up to be a base for flower pots in Japan, I wonder...

Kiitos hei hei! = Thank you bye bye!
KIITOS HEIHEI! print on an eco-bag in Parco shopping mall. "Kiitos, hei hei!" is a phrase oftentimes said by Finnish cashier at a shop counter, close equivalent to ありがとうぎざました!

sateenkaari = rainbow
SATEENKAARI, another eco-bag print. Hmm... does it look cool in the eyes of Japanese consumer?

February 23, 2010

涌蓋山 - Waita-zan

涌蓋山 (わいたざん), 1499m. A cool Sunday morning. Not a cloud in the sky. Yesterday night's sudden decision to head to highlands seemed very promising. And off we drove, via the scenic Yamanami highway, past Mt. Kuju, until the small village of Sujiyu (筋湯) where we footed and treaded on the trail.

Short story tells following: In the past Haneyama and another mountain contended which one was higher. Haneyama lost and started to rage and in its ager stomped the groud with tremendous power. The shock created Waitasan.

According to our guide, the trail can be completed within 3,5 hours. However, as we made a turn to a smaller mountain on the way back it prolonged to 5 hours.

After mountaineering your joints sore and muscles tired a great way to relax is to take an onsen. Sujiyu village offers an ample variety of hot-baths. One that we took at random was an open-air onsen with a view towards Waitasan. Natural stone, dark wood, slowly rising steam for 400 yen per person. A shamefully inexpensive meridian for our trip.

Yamanami highway. Except for this part in the photo, full of ups, downs and needle curves, and therefore a great fun to drive.

February 16, 2010

万年山 - Hane-yama

万年山 (はねやま), 1140m, in a word, not that exciting during the mid February mist. Too early wake up, 2 hour train ride, almost an hour wait, and finally 45 minute bus trip - all this before reaching the track's vague base. Doesn't sound fun but like every time, again mountain proved worth climbing.

An empty chestnut shell in frost. Having now climbed three mountains in conditions ideal for ducks and other water animals, I came to realize that, no matter what, a mountain is always beautiful. Whether outside is icy, rainy, foggy, sunny, cold or warm, a mountain is comely and pleases the climber's mind. Wow, getting somewhat philosophical here.

Back to Hane-yama. From the base 2 two hours is needed to reach the flattish, bamboo-grass covered peak. A paved road leads almost all the way up to the very end, from where the path becomes only slightly steeper. In the summer its a nice 3 to 4 hour day walk, I reckon.

Finding one's way to Bungomori(豊後森、ぶんごもり)train station isn't a challenge, but from there on the bus connections may be somewhat annoying. When inquired about the bus stop at track base the bus driver got confused not knowing where to drop me off. Nevertheless, accessing this land mass by public transportation is not a problem.

Here, impressions along the way:

Spooky things deep in the forest. Can you guess what they're for? Thousands of shiitake mushrooms, which are the pride of Oita prefecture, grow on the the crossed tree trunks.

The flattest peak I've so far encountered.

Haneyama's photo-front.

...And it's very peak. Yep, I missed the view.

February 10, 2010

田原山 - Tawara-yama

田原山 (たわらやま), a mountain similar to Tsuwado-san with a height of 542m, can be completed quite effortlessly in 2,5 hours. However, only if the following preconditions are fulfilled: First, it should not rain, and second, the track base should be reached by car.

Neither of these applied yesterday. Water was pouring down from the murky sky as I started to walk off from the Nakayamaga station to the car park from where the actual hike began. This quite dull passage already took about 60 minutes to wend.

Slippery mud slopes, more rain, and several chains were the things encountered after 45 minutes in the bush. This hike was to be disastrous - I thought.

No good photo opportunities, just turn back and... Suddenly the sky cleared out from clouds and revealed blue, and steam heated by sun started to rise from the valleys. The beauty of nature made an astonishing appearance. Having to bare 2,5 hours of misery, I took this fantastic event as a reward.

From here on the weather was fine enough to dry clothes at the peak.

The cheerful train conductor at Nakayamaga station gave me an umbrella in the morning for the rain and sweets when returned in the evening.

February 9, 2010

津波戸山 - Tsuwado-san

津波戸山 (つわどさん), is probably not the most exciting mountain in Kyushu if measured by elevation, that is 529m. Nevertheless it is well worth checking out if you're anywhere near Oita prefecture. What makes this minor mount worth climbing are the straight wall-like cliffs, numerous ropes, chains, and other challenging parts, which often demand 4x4 advancement.

Tsuwado-san is can be easily accessed by train. From Oita-city station, take Nakatsu bound train until the unmanned Nishiyashiki-station (西屋敷、にしやしき). Be sure to memorize the return timetables, it may be a long wait otherwise.

The walk between Nishiyashiki station and the beginning of track takes about 25 minutes. This route, discovered and explained to me by our German friend, can be somewhat confusing at first. Here's, this may help: the path in Google Maps.

Photos around Tsuwado-san:

February 7, 2010

Courses in Oita Uni.: Economics of Globalization

This happened frequently on our Economics of Globalization class: The projector screen got stuck in the sealing at the beginning of each lecture. It took quite some time to get it back in fuction, which of course wasn't a big issue since we could chat about common matters before the serious lecture began. But the comment often made by our teacher in a sarcastic British accent of the jammed screen is hard to forget.

After you've left Oita University and you've become rich and famous, please send some money to the Oita Daigaku...

About this course:

  • Over all the Economics of Globalization is a course of choice for anyone interested in causes of globalization, different views within, its both negative and positive influences to our society, and the form globalization may take in the future.
  • The class is, as far as I know the only class where Japanese students and exchange students are mixed, which makes it an ideal place to meet up with ever so shy Japanese.
  • Needless to say, the teacher, a native Briton himself is an excellent teacher and knows his topic in-side-out. In addition he lectures in an extra clear and pleasing voice - giving an opportunity for non-natives to upgrade their english skills.

February 5, 2010

Football: Japan vs. Venezuela

Why there's an international match in Oita? Nobody really knew, but it seemed unimportant question. As we were devoted fans of Japans football team it was utterly important to get the necessary equipment before the game started.

At the back the yellow seats are for the fans of Venezuelan team. Not too crowded, huh?

On the contrary, the Japanese end of stadium was packed. Funny thing about Japanese fans were that it didn't matter what happened in the field, everybody cheered in a hypnotic manner almost endlessly: Nippon! Nippon!... At the end, though Japan dominated the game quite overwhelmingly it resulted in a tie 0-0.

February 4, 2010

Winter hike to Yufudake

UPDATE: for more photos plus a story check Michael's blog.

One of our best hikes in Kyushu was the hike to Yufudake late last summer. Today we went up once again to see how does it look in white frost of winter.

Temperature down at Yufuin-town was between +6 - +4 C and wind speed at 24km/h suggesting a cold day up at the mount. However, against our expectations all the way up we had no wind, and as the morning sun shined over us neither were we cold. At the very peak thermometer pointed -11 C, but as there was barely any wind we were in no trouble.

Now I can say, Yufudake is beautiful and climbable both in summer and winter. These cellphone photos may not be enough to grasp the full beauty but at least they're enough to give a picture of how it may be.

Gardening people

Anyone who has visited Japan knows how fine-tuned Japanese gardens may be. Look at this tree. Its two branches stretch incredibly far along the concrete fence. It must be a result of years of tedious care and control.

Metaphorically, it seems that a Japanese garden resembles Japanese people and vice versa.

In a Japanese garden tree and its branches are not allowed to grow wildly. Ever since the early times of planting they are tied, bound and constrained in a meticulous manner according to gardener's desires. Ultimately, after years of bending and twisting the plant fits to its surroundings and grows in a controlled manner.

In a Japanese society, a person and his or her characteristic are not allowed to develop freely. From the early childhood one's identity forms precisely according to the surrounding society where irregularity is not permitted and hardy any space for individualism is spared. Ultimately the person is ought to be in harmony with society.

February 3, 2010

How does Oita University look like?

Those who've never been to Oita Uni. may wonder how does it look like. Let's take a quick tour.

Student restaurant - the heart of campus area is so crowded. Hardly any free seats are left. On a sunny day we could enjoy our lunch at the outdoor terrace, which usually wasn't so noisy or crowded.

Here are the food lines. Dishes come in such a variety that I never had time to taste every sort. Prices are very affordable starting from something like 250 yen.

As you can see, the campus area is covered with vicinity. Trees etc. make it quite pleasing for eye and a refreshing place to stay.

Studying under open air is a thing would like to have in our home university, TAMK. Compared to Oita Uni., where students are often enjoying fresh air, student's at TAMK hardly go outside, except to smoke, and enter and exit school premises.

February 2, 2010

Icing over Oita

Rare thing happened in mid-January. For every children's enjoyment Oita got covered in white. Along the day snow melted.

February 1, 2010

Small money

What can you buy with 1, 5, or 10 yen coins? Yep, not much. One of our students had emptied his wallet from all the small coins every time he had some, and at the end of the exchange this was the result: a heavy bag of coins!

Japan could consider denominating the yen. In other words it means, to move the decimal so that 100 yen would equal to 1. It would bring several benefits for Japan:
  • The calculation of money would be easier as it is easier for human brains to comprehend and process smaller figures.
  • The weight of your wallet would drop notably, and thus with lighter overall weight one could e.g. walk faster.
  • All the vending machines, train ticket machines and bus ticket machines etc. that accept coins and bills should be changed, which would have a huge impact on economy in terms of job creation.

Great idea, huh? I will tell about it right away to my old buddy Hatoyama-san.
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