So, January is almost over. That’s kind of a weird fact to be faced with, huh. It means that I will, in less than a month, have completed my first semester here, and that I will begin counting the days until I return to Sweden. That is the weird, sad fact that I have to face. Of course, I will have a long – over two moths long – holiday to enjoy, yet I can’t help realizing that the middle checkpoint of my exchange period is coming ever closer. As I write this, I keep thinking back on what I’ve done during these months. I can recall virtually every moment of every thing I’ve done so far, and that’s actually a tiny bit spooky. It certainly shows that I’ve had to have been on my toes almost the entire time since my arrival in September.
While I have my reservations about the grating routines of life, I might just have to admit that I’ve underestimated its strengthening effect on the mind. And, I’m also glad to say that it would seem my life is not so completely enclosed by routines. It seems that every now and then, I still happen to be the subject of life’s little peculiarities.

I did not expect to suddenly find myself in the role of ‘teacher’, but now that it has happened, I will certainly welcome the experience. Through a series of introductions, informing and imploring, I will on a regular basis from this day on teach the wonderful intricacies of the language known as Swedish. Keeping to my oath of not sharing personal information in a public forum, I won’t be naming the recipient of this education, but can tell you that we had our first meeting, and lesson, today. It went very well, and I’m looking forward to the next meeting, for which I will do my best to prepare to a greater degree than I did today. Yes, a true challenge now lies before me – my native tongue is not an easy one to grasp, if rumors are to be believed – and as a brand new initiate into the art of teaching, I shall have to do my very best at each meeting, in order to give my apprentice a meaningful education. If you believe in luck, and hope for me to gain favor from its Lady, please send her your good wishes.

I will leave you with that for the time being. I have a handful of final tests and reports to do and write, and so I will surely be quite busy this last week of the first month.
Be good.

Annonser

Life is Interactive Fiction

You lie in your bed, safely tucked in under covers and blankets. You are dressed in a shirt, hooded sweater and thin, khaki–colored cotton trousers. Your laptop is resting on your thighs in front of you, and your smart phone is to your left. It is connected to your soul by means of ear–phones. Your room is small, but homely, furnished with a desk, and office chair, a refrigerator, a cabinet and the bed in in which you lie. To the south–east is a sliding glass door, leading to the balcony, and to the north is the front door. The bathrooms lies to the north–west.

> examine laptop
> It’s a MacBook Ai, 11–inch, mid 2011, slightly weathered, but fully functional. The Safari web browser is open, displaying a WordPress.com blog post still in progress.
> write blog
> You write on your blog: ”The statement ”The amount of truth contained in any cliche stands in direct proportion to is past application on daily life in developed parts of civilized human society” is in itself a cliche, and as such subject to Alf’s rule, as originally proposed by the fictional character of the eponymous television series is his frequent late night conversations with the id of not only himself, but also that of the series creator. It is my suggestion that these dialogues, as implied by the unseen presence of a teleplay, more widely known as a script, represent a) BIRDS AS THE DESCENDANTS OF ANCESTORS, b) THE TRIPWIRES OF THE MIND, and c) ANYONE THAT MIGHT SEE THESE AS SYMBOLIC OF ANYTHING ELSE. In otherworlds, do NOT take meaning the shape of your television set as literal, and do NOT expect anything to come thereof. Wake up sheeple!”
> post to blog
> Would you like to post this to your blog? y
>You post your findings to your blog, to the amusement of the left, the confusion of the right, and the extreme fury of the center.
>write blog
>You write on your blog: ”I beg the forgiveness of my readers. I have been busy, as well as lazy and indifferent when it came to updating my blog. I would like to inform everybody that I’m all right, and that I miss and think about you al the time. Okay, that was a slight exaggeration. But I really am OK. My first semester as a Swedish exchange student in Japan is coming to an end. It is my estimation that, in three weeks, my classes will be over, and I will be let go of the shackles of things-that-I must-do-because-someone-somewhere-told-me-I-had-better-do-it, and set free to roam about as I wish. I am looking forward to the freedom of exploring a foreign country on my own, at a pace that I see fit, yet at the same time, I mourn the passing of the last four months. I fear the next semester shall pass by as swiftly, and that I shall be left wishing that I had more time to devote to further explorata japonica. Truly, with the end of this semester, an era of sorts shall come to and end, and a new one shall begin. Yet, on a personal level, I don’t feel the passing of time expressed in the coming and going of blocks of social interactions – to the individual, surely the passing time is felt only in the maturing of one’s person. Nothing will end for me, with the coming of spring, and the beginning of my final semester here. And, nothing will end for me with the termination of my association with Miyagi Kyoiku Daigaku. As I return to my native country, I will feel saddened, sure, but I will no doubt also find myself facing a troupe of new challenges, which I couldn’t have been readied for by means other than separation, resettlement, and inevitable uprooting and returning. I’m glad to have experienced this, as it has beaten me bloody at times, but in the end surely will have made me nothing but stronger and more devoted to will and need. I will be honest here, and hope to be at all times to come, and say that I very much long for my return. Not at all because I miss my country, but partly because I miss the familiarity of it. The main reason however, is that I feel eager to test my new strengths, and to use them to build my future.
> post to blog
> Would you like to post this to your blog? y

Returned and Resumed

I greet you, loyal followers and fresh faces alike! I trust you have enjoyed a fulfilling couple of holidays, speaking in terms of experiences both gastronomic and social, as well as any spiritual endeavors you may have undertaken.
As for me, my winter vacation was spent in Japan’s Kansai area, as I’m sure many, if not most, of you already know. I shan’t be making a lengthy review of the two weeks I spent there, as I have already, in previous entries, shared a handful of select experiences with you already. I will say though, that I suffered no shortage in delicious food, despite being far away from my dear Nordic hearth. You will perhaps be completely unsurprised by the fact – we are all (well, most of us…!) modern human beings – that any meal enjoyed on New Year’s Eve in Japan, is subject to change – sudden, maybe, and perhaps even radical! (or reactionary) – according to the will of the, most often, family which will consume it. I believe that soba, however, carries the greatest legacy as the traditional New Year’s grub. And this is precisely what I enjoyed, along with my darling Ayaka and her family. I managed to grow very fond of it, as it is served on the last day of the year, despite having eaten in only a handful of times (yes, let us all lean in closer and behold this marvelous similarity between Far Eastern and Far Northern eating habits; what We do with Our Christmas Food, They do with Their New Year’s Eve Food!). I have expressed my gratitude in private already, of course, but allow me to take this opportunity to do it in public. Thank you for your hospitality! I’m looking forward to our next meeting!

I returned to Sendai on the 4th, i.e. two days ago. The 5th was spent sleeping in, resting, relaxing, then suddenly being forced out of bed due to remembering that bills must in fact be payed, and finally returning with food, eating said food, and then returning to, and spending the rest of the day, relaxing. Time well spent, says I.
Classes resumed today, with my return to school signaled by the mysterious yet clear, heavenly ringing yet earthly simple tones of the koto. By the way, I will be tested on my ability to produce those very tones. All to soon, I’m sure it will feel like. I will also be tested on my ability to produce the heavenly tones of the German language. Just how did die become der all of a sudden? Dem is a Swedish word, no? And just what the heck does diesem mean? I had better hit the books!

Yes, the Last Curve has been came out of, and the Last Straight now lies ahead. I can already make out the finish line. Then, I will join hands with my fellow students, learners of Ways and Words, Darers of Skies and Mountains, Bravers of Roads to Wisdom, and exclaim with glee and glory: ”Well done! Let us rest here and now, and ease our spirits with food and drink and song. For soon our roads shall part, and one fellowship shall become two.” And then, those of us left, shall turn our faces and our minds, to the Part That Is To Come.IMG_2105.jpg

The awesome power of Monkey Stats

Yearly report, blah–blah, San Fransisco trolley, blah–blah, statistics–monkeys, blah–blah…This blog’s yearly stats have been collected and compressed into a neat report which can be viewed below. Swedish–speaking people, enjoy!

 

WordPress.coms trupp av statistikapor skapade en 2015 årlig sammanfattning för denna blogg.

Här är ett utdrag:

En spårvagn i San Francisco rymmer 60 personer. Den här bloggen besöktes cirka 670 gånger under 2015. Om den hade varit en spårvagn, skulle det behövas cirka 11 resor för att lika många personer skulle komma med.

Klicka här för att se hela sammanfattingen.

Yuletide in Yapan

 Today is December 25th, and I’m celebrating Christmas in a place far far away. Or did, at least. Mainly yesterday. You see, I’m currently staying with Ayaka and her immediate family in Takarazuka, Hyougo prefecture, Japan. I arrived on the 21st, and will be staying until January 4th, when I will fly back to Sendai around noon. It’s a very long time – 15 days – and so I’m very grateful to the Ozaki family for letting me stay, and taking such good care of me! I sure hope I will be able to repay the favor sometime.
 Yesterday, and the day before, was spent shopping for Christmas presents in Osaka, as well as eating delicious food of course! Ayaka and I visited the Nordic Fair in Osaka, where a number of Scandinavian items can be purchased, and food can be enjoyed. Now, obviously, since Moomin is not only Scandinavian, but very popular in Japan in general, there was a small Moomin exhibition, and a large number of Moomin–themed items of all kinds available for purchase. I decide to give a Christmas present or four to myself, and decided upon the literary–themed selection shown below.
IMG_2071.jpg
The first item from the left is the odd one out, as it was purchased the day before yesterday, and not at the Moomin exhibition. Consequently, it’s not a Moomin item at all, but rather a simple calendar/almanack/diary/planner, with the 1–day–1–page format for which I’ve been searching for so long.
 The remaining three items were all purchased on Dec 24th, and are all from the Moomin exhibition. The item farthest to the right is a Snufkin (Snusmumriken, that is…) note book. The two in the middle are both books, with the upper green book being a collection of Snufkin’s (Snusmumriken, that is…) wise sayings, and the lower pink–and–white book being nothing less than the fourth installment in the Moomin series: Muminpappans bravader skrivna av honom själv, or as it’s otherwise known: Muminpappans memoarer. They are both in Japanese, of course, and goes by the titles: Sunafukin no meigenshou (Snusmumrikens samlade kloka ord) and Muuminpapa no omoide (Muminpappans hågkomster). The former is fairly easily read, and while the latter may be more difficult to get through, I believe the heartwarming and philosophical Moomin story will motivate me to do my best reading it. There were other Moomin books for sale, but I chose this one, the main reason being the background information it provides, and the insights into the origins and past of several otherwise well known characters one gains from reading it. I would like to acquire the rest of the series in Japanese, but the fair ends only two days from now. I don’t doubt, however, that Amazon has what I’m looking for.
 But Christmas isn’t Christmas without gifts from loved ones, isn’t that so? Ayaka and I did of course exchange presents, and her gifts for me were a nice pair of shoes, which will go with virtually all of my outfits, and what’s more, actually are of a size that fits me, as well as a
wrist watch. I’ve never been one to sport such an IMG_2072.jpgaccessory, but have recently begun to slowly thaw my frozen feelings for them. At least as long as they are minimalistic enough. And that’s the reason I felt an attraction to the very one you are looking at now.
 I will make that it for now.

Third time ‘round!

 If you thought my adventures around Miyagi prefecture had come to and end, you were – quite fortunately, no? – wrong. While they haven’t become fewer, they have farther between; however, as you shall come to see this is made up for by the sheer quality of the experience. It is not only my duty, but also my pleasure, to share it as best I can with you all today. Not in this post, mind you. For photos, you’ll just have to be a good doggie and look to my Facebook page. I’ll make it easy for you.
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1198709800157302.1073741841.100000548796714&type=1&l=a7aad39f41
 Due to our early departure from Sendai City – the heart of the Tohoku area – and my unfortunate lack of sleep the preceding night, I spent the first hour or so of bus riding trying to make up for what I had involuntarily sacrificed the night before.I tried to sleep. But I couldn’t. I can’t say whether it is due to the slightly cramped seat, the constant noise and chatter, or simply the feeling of not being still, but I am now of those unlucky individuals who cannot manage to fall asleep in a moving vehicle. So along with the sun’s movement across the sky, I myself moved deeper and deeper into that strange and slightly unsettling state of existence which is the result of a sudden, negative change in one’s otherwise so finely tuned sleep schedule.You know how it feels, don’t you? As if you’re slightly detached, isolated even, from the rest of the world, its people, and its climate. It’s almost as if being placed within some container, with thin, transparent walls which somehow do not exclude sound from entering, but manages to keep its victim completely isolated from the heat of the sun. It’s not a feeling of freezing cold that is experienced, but rather a stagnant, mist–like coolness surrounding you. And, there is also the sensation of some similar invisible barrier existing within you – containing your blood, keeping it’s warmth from spreading from your core to the rest of your body. But the inside of the bus was warm, and the hot bath later that first evening seemingly did wonders for my cold spirit.
 Our first destination was Ishinomaki. This town was the one most directly affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. A large part of it was completely destroyed, but it’s being rebuilt, and it was great to see the recovery that has been accomplished – and even more uplifting was to hear about the future projects for this town. We had it all explained to us by Director of Ishinomaki Community & Info Center (sorry…I don’t know if that’s anywhere near his official title, but it’s the best I can do!), mr. Richard. He is a British man, judging by his accent, who has lived in Ishinomaki for the last 20 years, meaning that he was on location when the tsunami struck four, almost five, years ago. Obviously he is fluent in both English and Japanese, so you’ll have no problem communicating with him, regardless of your origins! I very much recommend that you visit Ishinomaki to find out what happened and what is being done to improve the situation. It was all very interesting and I learned much!
 After a delicious lunch consisting of hamburger patties (pannbiff, någon?) and kamameshi (sort of a rice–and–other–ingredients–for–example–vegetables–mixture) we went to the excellent Ishinomori Mangattan Museum. And, before you so kindly point out to me what you think is a typo, I’ll preempt your somewhat thoughtless attack on my typing abilities, and explain that I did in fact not mean to write Manhattan. Mangattan. It survived the tsunami, and still stands as a monument to the great manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori. He was a prolific artist, and created many hit manga and anime, among others an extensive chronicling of the history of Japan, and the motorcycle–riding superhero Kamen Rider. There is a large amount of artwork on display, and again I strongly recommend a visit!
 I believe I have mentioned a historic link between Japan and Europe – between Miyagi prefecture and Spain, in particular. The founder of Sendai was a samurai by the name of Date Masamune. He was an open–minded and curious man, and particularly interested in international trade and intercultural exchange. In the very early 1600s, Date Masamune launched a diplomatic journey to Spain, with the purpose of establishing relations with the pope. The envoy was led by one of Date Masamunes retainers, the nobleman and samurai Hasekura Tsunenaga, and many others participated.
 Today, the location of a replica of the ship they used can be visited in Miyagi prefecture, in Ishinomaki to be more precise (yup, we’re still in the same town, people!). The original was built with European ship–building techniques, so it sure does stand out in Japan!
 Our last activity in Ishinomaki was to attend a presentation held by the local Ishinomaki 2.0 movement. They are a group dedicated not only to the restoration of their town, but also to its growth and future development – in short, they want to create Ishinomaki 2.0. They are a very hard–working and open–minded bunch of people, and welcome a great many different activities and educational programs to improve their city. Emphasis was placed on education in computer programming, and they did mention that if one want’s to start a business, there is no easier place to do it in than Ishinomaki (hint, hint)!
 Then, we left Ishinomaki for Oiwake Onsen, a local onsen. If you do only one thing in Japan, I would certainly not judge you for choosing to visit an onsen. In fact, I’d kind of judge you for choosing not to go to an onsen! The atmosphere is great, and the hot bath is incredibly relaxing and revitalizing, and you are provided with a yukata to wear afterwards, or before too, if you want. As for the bath itself, it was a public one, and I’m sure not the biggest even in this region. But surely it was for that very reason the atmosphere was of a special character. Since it’s public, though, it comes with a  quid pro quo. First of all, any kind of bathing suit or trunks are prohibited. That means you take the bath i bara mässingen. Naked, that is. Second, you thoroughly clean yourself before entering the bath itself. This is done by means of showers in the bath area, or nearby. Make sure to clean your whole body as well as wash your hair (oh, and as a short bonus I’ll tell you that one of the other participants in this trip advised not to dunk the small towel in the bath – place it to the side or on your head). Thirdly – and this is really the first thing you should worry about – you are usually not allowed into the public bath area if you have any tattoos. Period. Otherwise, I’d say just use your common sense and don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in a public bath in your own native country.
 Naturally, I do not have any pictures to show you of the inner sanctum of the Oiwake Onsen. But google it, and you’ll get the idea!
 The next day began just as early as the day before, meaning I was still slightly out of tune with my sleeping needs. Still, after a full seven hour sleep session, I was in a better shape than yesterday!
 On this, the second day of our tour, we visited Tomoyama, the Meiji–village of Miyagi prefecture, i.e. a town with many standing buildings from the Meiji era of Japanese history. Our first stop was the school building, and then we continued to a samurai museum, which, sadly, did not allow for photographies to be taken.
 We had a lunch similar to the one we had the previous day, but with hamburger patties made from pork. It was at least equally delicious, if not more so.
 The first activity of the afternoon consisted of visiting Kanaka Museum. It’s a museum. Yep. Of sound. And smell. And touch. And sight. The only sense not getting it’s stimuli in this museum was taste, but I’m willing to consider the lunch we had just had as a part of it! So, what is actually in this unusual place? Well, several different exhibitions, contraptions and objects relating to the phenomenon known as senses. No, not sensei. SENSES! Anyway, every room in the museum connects to one of the five sensei in some way, such as the room where you can smell different kinds of natural scents, and the room where you have to – in total darkness, by the way –  stick your hand into holes to feel what’s inside. In the reception area there are a collection of musical instruments, shall we call them? Strange contraptions made of wood, plastic and metal which all produce sweet music when interacted with. Oh, and there is also a big wheel which allows for people to lie down on their backs and push pedals with their feet in order to have a mechanical arm draw with chalk on a wall. Don’t know which sense that is.
 Finally, we began our last activity: kokeshi painting in he Japan Kokeshi Museum. Kokeshi is a traditional Japanese wooden doll, and the art of painting the is just that. An art. As in incredibly difficult! As you can see, I painted kind of tribal design on mine (even tribal facial tattoos). After the paint has dried, the kokeshi are waxed and wiped with a tool in order to provide a nice shiny surface! Whohoo! I’m not overly proud of what I managed to achieve in this field, but I’m very happy I was able to partake in it. And, to see the large collection (5000 dolls!) of kokeshi on display in the museum.
 I’m very happy I got to try out and see all these different things and places. I had a great time, even though I was tired and sleepy. Great food (lots of sashimi in the onsen!), great activities and great people! I’m looking forward to the next trip!
 I’m in Takarazuka now, staying with my love and her family until next month, and year! So, don’t expect a whole lot of updates.
 Until next time.

The stars over Sendai

The spirit of the free is a thing not easily tamed. Indeed. It is not understandable. Not graspable. There is no handler of the free persons spirit, no one to plot its course or predict its whims. I implore you not to let yourself be deceived by what you see in the free persons being. Even he or she can do nothing more than follow in its wake. It is not the possession of the spirit that makes his or hers mind so easily carried. It is being possessed by it that smoothens and softens their lineaments. It is because the free persons are trailing their spirit, that they are pleasant to look at.
Today I brush the cobwebs from knapsack, and take its contents out for the sun to shine, wind to blow and rain to fall upon. Many have the hills been, and much has my knapsack been shaken. If something is missing, I cannot say. Some things may have fallen out, and trail me now, as I now trail my spirit. They are things that must be left for now, for if a spirit exists, which can go back the way it came, I surely haven’t heard of it. Should I happen upon something in the future, that I then remember was mine, the reunion will be happy. Then, it too can take its place among memories made. But, until such a meeting occurs, there are others of which I can tell.

A few weeks have passed since I began to make my acquaintance with the city of Sendai. What initialized it, I cannot say. Many are the highways, and more still are the side tracks. I can now recline contently, with expanded views and greatened knowledge. What’s better, the price it came at, was hardly a price at all.
My pockets are lighter to be sure, but I am warmer, and both my knapsack and stomach is fuller. One isn’t emptied without the other being filled. Whoever first realized that, I take my (new) hat off to you, and happily join the company of any others who proved it to be true.
I have bought many nice clothing items, and laid eyes on plenty more. As for now, though, I have my gaze fixed on future bargains.

I will be making two travels in the next three days. One will take me around Miyagi a third time, and the other, second, will take me to Osaka, also for the third time. I suspect I will not be getting an amount of sleep appropriate for the passing of three days, but this time it will be worth it.