J-adventures bla bla
praising, ranting, raving all about me being here. To read any further you must hereby understand, the following is an expression of my opinions and feelings at the moment of posting. It does not necessarily reflect my veritable mindset.

Refreshing change...

By -MJL-
I was going to write about all my recent experiences and the changes happening in my life.
However recently I have found myself enjoying something I haven't in a while. An intellectually stimulating conversation/exchange about a profound topic.

Skipping past many details and events that have transpired.

I have come to know someone who is very delightfully clever and have appreciated the opportunity to fire up the grey matter. You see in Japan, I feel starved for information. I don't just mean starved for international news, but anything to keep the mind active.
I believe that being cut off from readily and easily absorbable information is causing my mind to rot. Perhaps this is some form of extended culture shock and would happen to anyone out of their environment.

If it wasn't for the Internet I think I would be out more and trying to get my hands on just about anything to stimulate my mind. (of course used in the wrong manner the net can cause rot to set in as well)

The issue at hand would be the Neo-Darwinist theory of evolution. Though I believe and understand the basic principles of the theory. The discussion I am currently having is what causes the "evolution" to occur. What is the trigger that sets off the whole chain of events.

It's been back and forth for days on this and I'm enjoying every minute of it!

Now to search for more food for thought o(^_^)o Thanks!

Registering with Big Brother

By -MJL-

Big brother is all around us. So why help it out? The reason is simply because of all the new social networking systems that are out there now.
Social networking systems like friendster, bebo, WAYN, Mixi, Yahoo 360, MSN (live) spaces, My Space, Hi5 etc. CLICK HERE FOR LIST There are just so many now that one has to register with many systems.

Personally, I'm now with Flickr, Mixi, Blogger, Hi5, My Space, Friendster and a few more which I don't use anymore or don't remember.

It's funny that with all this the Bank (see previous post) still can't contact me properly. So to update the bank mess. Well they "closed" my credit card account! Does it mean the interest will stop too? Next I'm not sure how this works in terms on confidentiality, but I received word via EMAIL about my account statement and closure of my account. Strange banks.. all I have to say is good riddance BMO!

fun BMO related sites.. Sutori.com BMO sucks eggs

Retardation of the banking industry

By -MJL-
Very stupid robber..

I'm sure this dumb dumb just wanted his stolen money back

Blunt and to the point.

In Canada I had searched for a long time for a bank that suited me. At first I had an account with the Royal Bank. The slow, bad service and unfriendly staff at my branch I went to made me change to the TD. TD was friendly but so incredibly dense. After 2 years and many requests they still couldn't get my name right. So I jumped ship again. To the national bank. Which was ok but not as common as the previous two. So off I was again, I decided to takes things more locally, Bank of Montreal - Westmount branch. Good service, smart people, good place. Finally I was happy! This was over 7 years ago. I even got myself a BMO credit card and life was good.

Next step I move to where I have no bank of Montreal. Which is ok because I can still use the online banking system from anywhere with internet and check CC statements.

Now forward to recently. I'm still using the Bank of Montreal CC. And wished to pay it off. When I asked about transferring money from my incompetent bank here to my formerly loved bank (BMO) in Montreal I was told they didn't know how long it would take nor how much it would cost. Furthermore I got a weird look when I mentioned I would be transferring money to myself.

Having said that, my father meanwhile is getting harassed by my CC for late payments. So I decide to check the status of my card and account with the BMO. Login to online banking.... What's this I can't log in. Triple check password and user ID everything is ok but I can't login. I then log in to my CC account with the CC login. And write about my issues with online banking. i.e. "I can't log in there's a problem is there another way to pay you guys without the need to go to a branch as that would be impossible. Could I please have a genuine answer and not an automated response"

What do I get? Something along the lines of "Thank you for your interest in BMO services we are pleased ... BLA BLA BLA ... You cannot pay the CC directly and need to use you bank account or present yourself to a branch"

Naturally, I wasn't really expecting the bank to listen to my small request. After all, it's not like they're making record profits or anything?!

So I tried again, making it clear that I was not in the country and could absolutely not come to a branch and that my online banking was now seemingly DEAD (bank closed my account?). My response this time was a little better I got a two liner typed by an actual employee who read my message. After the two lines of course I got the generic automated message bla bla about having to come to the branch in person.

Of course the later I pay the more charges I accumulate on my CC. So my point is this, why are banks so stupid? I thought you were different BMO, I though you were smarter than the rest, but you let me down like all the others! I would like to pay the CC but with no online banking, how do you want me to pay you? I would like to send you my money directly but you won't accept it. Instead you feel the need to call my former home and ask for me as if I lived there.

Here's an idea, take that 0.0001% of the billions dollars you're raping the population of, and use it to revise your idiotic policies!

C.C. Bank of Montreal.

The last frontier -

By -MJL-
Hokkaido Japan.

I love Hokkaido. Then again I love just about anything not Tokyo nowadays. Sapporo was a great place to visit! Lovely city, nice wide streets, modern but not uber crowded, a central park like area, nice weather, there's actually snow in winter, delicious food and of course the beautiful women! ;)

Apparently it snows more in Sapporo than it does in Montreal!!! I can't be sure of this as the info comes from the Hokkaido government, then again why would you want to boast having more snow? See here

I tried many firsts in Hokkaido, Uni-Ikura don (Sea urchin-fish egg rice bowl) delicious! I also tried a Spa like place, you rest on hot stones and the point is to sweat your brains out! Very interesting... And lastly my biggest new thing, I tried an Onsen (hot spring). I had never really wanted to take a communal bath before, but the opportunity came up so I took it. It is relaxing I must admit.. and I do see myself going again.

Magic rabbit

By -MJL-
As the National competition drew closer and closer the pressure built up exponentially. That is, not for me and oddly enough I would dare to say not for my stylist either, but from his teacher. The pressure was on 1 week prior to the event training became like boot camp and the teacher like a drill sergeant. Brutal but effective.

Pre-competition day. We were all flown to Sapporo on the Island of Hokkaido. Apparently they get a lot of snow there. See here. But immediately there was something very familiar about this place. Not only were the streets laid out in grid fashion like NA (North America) but there was something else. It didn't take me long to figure out that asides the snow and streets, it was the girls that were the most intriguing aspect of this place, just like Montreal (snow, grid, beautiful women!). There must be something in the water or some genetic manipulation but 9 of 10 of the women were model like. I'm sure of it! I haven't worn my beer goggles in a month!

So back to my story, arriving at the airport, straight to a training facility for more abuse. Then supper and off to yet another training center to be subjected to the final abuse. Sleep 2am - wakeup 4am, or in my case 4:30-5ish.. I just couldn't do it.
Then it was one more round of training and then on the buses and whisked off to the main event.

After the styling. I managed to take a few shots of other models and things. All the meanwhile being recognized as last year's champion and the International model (International and World events) It was nice to be recognized!

On to the ranking ceremony. I don't know how my new stylist pulled it off but he must have been hiding a magic rabbit up his arse. 2nd place! I was disappointed it wasn't first but 2nd place is VERY good for the limited time we had to practice! I'm very impressed. Congrats to him!

Catch-up Catsup ;)

By -MJL-

Another lull in the entries.. seems to be a re-occurring thing. So lots to catch-up on you'd suspect... sadly no. Not because nothing has been happening but rather I don't know where to start.

Let's see, been a little busy with re-editing a text book. It's so much easier to just talk about making suggestions and such, editing is painstakingly LONG. Speaking of pain...

I've restarted this whole modeling in Japan business again. I couldn't say no, though I wish I had at times. To tarnish my image as the model with the perfect hairdo is rough. (the 12 judges gave the do 100%, the first in the event's history)
I couldn't say no as all the ground work had been laid out for me to temporarily switch organization, stylist and head coach before being asked. If you will it was more of a polite order. Never-the-less I should have declined, as it would be impossible for anyone to best my previous stylist's 100%, and certainly near impossible to equal it in only two months of training.
But now that I'm in way past my head, which hurts incredibly much from the intense heat of pro blow dryers, I figure I'd try to enjoy the perks. Meeting people, networking a bit, and traveling.

This year the competition will be held in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Somewhere I haven't yet been. I've arranged to extend my stay and explore. I'll no doubt take way too many pictures again.

I'll try to post the up on Flickr if anyone cares about pics. The top pic is one I took fairly recently. I think it's pretty normal but, people seem to like it. Which is good I guess, but NOWHERE near the flickr crowd's mind-blowing pics. Some of the sights captured are simply mind boglin'. But today I experienced a very mind altering event.

Enter, "Dialog in the dark". To be continued in the next entry :P

Dialog in the Dark

By -MJL-
Dialog in the Dark.

I was invited by a friend who wanted to go. I agreed to go not quite sure what to expect. Arriving there, we are stripped .... of our gear ... electronic gear. No cameras, no phones, nothing essentially (not even Japanese-English dictionaries! eeek). Then we are introduced into a completely DARK environment complete with streams, trees, bridges, steps, and various things to discover.

We were, prior to entering, handed a cane to help us along our way. It was truly a mind opening experience. Having to rediscover things without the aid of sight was a challenge at first, but with our excellent guide we soon got the hang of things. Navigating towards the guides voice was the first challenge as the soil beneath our feet changed from hard concrete to earthly to grassy. Negotiating steps, and log bridges was definitely an interesting experience. As we followed the sound of our guides voice, time seemed to stand still. With nothing to look at our minds were racing to compensate by focusing on touch, taste, smell and hearing. As we moved through the course, our minds started to give us visual images of our surroundings; steps, fences, chairs even people.

The environment surrounding us became almost visual, though different for everyone. For example a bamboo like hand rail we touched at one point was in my mind green, yet my friend interpreted it as brown.

Every one of our remaining senses were stimulated. The trees, leaves and ambient air gave us different smells in various areas. The texture of the ground was ever changing. We used the sounds from the environment to determine height and distance. And in the end we ordered and were served drinks without the ability to visually ID them. Coordination was also affected, try this, pour yourself a glass of water. Set it down on the table, close your eyes, pick up the glass and bring it up to your lips as you would normally to drink. Even with the smallest and simplest of motions we do many times a day we use sight.

I'd say the most difficult thing for me was to remember where I had been. I guess I rely on visual references more than I thought.

In the end it makes us appreciate the sense we so HEAVILY rely on and yet take for granted. Think about it, what could you still do the same if you were blind? It is a humbling experience to understand what a sight deprived person has to do to navigate in our world.

Dialog in the Dark is an opportunity to see just how rich, a non-seeing persons world really is. It's not like what you see on the streets where people are blindfolded and walk the streets. You are immersed in a dark environment, where even when open widest, is still pitch black. A "peak" into the world of the non-seeing people! Highly recommended if it comes to a city near you! :P

Second Marker

By -MJL-
I'm now in my third year in Japan. The date of Aug 8th past without a notice. Oh well.

So what did I do to celebrate?

Nothing really.

Unless you count going to the most American type place in Japan yesterday. Not a military base, but close, I spent my typhoon drenched day in "the happiest place on earth"! That's right folks, Mickey's. My second adventure at a Disney Land and the first time at Tokyo Disney Land. It's pretty much the same. Morning was pretty awful, due to torrential rains but the indoor rides were ok. When the weather cleared it was actually quite nice out and the park was not overly crowded which was unusual.

In Cali I remember waiting insanely long for even the most uninspiring rides! But this time wait times of 0-10 mins were the norm! All in all a decent day.

Getting there was a little on the scary side. I rode a double Decker bus, and sat top middle, above the driver. A strange sensation being so high up and just barely squeezing under overpasses, hanging off elevated expressways all the while the ceiling is as low as in a car.

See some pics here

P.S. During the writing of the previous post I was listening to the sound track of Disney/Pixar's CARS movie. "Route 66" by John Mayer and Chuck Berry and Life is a Highway by Rascal Flatts/Tom Cochrane. Perhaps it may explain more of my frame of mind during the post! :P

America is great!

By -MJL-
No it's not a typo. I finally understand it. Americans do have a lot to be proud of. Their country is a the top of the world in many respects. The US has kahones, balls, attitude! It's not weak nor complacent, it wont be told what to do and doesn't go with the flow. It's a source of constant change, know how and technological development.

Though some of us choose to ignore it, there are many reasons people STILL flock to the US. It is still the land of opportunity, where people can shed their old life and start anew for a better way. The "American Dream" as they would say it, start with nothing and end up Governor of California. Sure it can be crazy, but what would the world be without spice? Yes the US caused many bad things to happen but if not the US then it would have been another country.

In the US' short history it developed greatly and also gave itself a distinct culture of the gun-ho capitalist. It also gave the world many things still today the US still holds the title of best in the world in many fields. We have the US to thank for many upon many things! For example in no particular order, the car, the airplane, Jazz, Blues and the list goes on.

The US tends, to the dismay of the world, not to listen. Why? Because it can! It doesn't need to take it from anyone. Kyoto protocol? Don't need it. Freeing Guantanamo bay prisonners? Nah won't bother. Electric cars? Not a chance! Who will stop the US? Nobody.....Not just yet.

I finally not only understand it, but I feel it. Icons of the US Alcatraz, Route 66, NYC, the statue of liberty. It's what makes America great. It's a free culture, you are free not chained in social rankings. Anyone has a chance.

The US has many pros and equally many cons. But all in all it had to do something right at some point to get where it is now.

As a way out, perhaps I say this because of my recent viewing and listening of American movies, TV shows and music. Or perhaps I say this because someone I care about dearly is in NYC at the moment. Perhaps.... Just perhaps ;)

Lobe an fifu abenu

By -MJL-

If you don't understand the title, it's ok. Neither do I. Or should I say neither did I.

Though I just made it up, it sounds like the singers at the jazz bar I went to the other day. Engrish as it's commonly referred to now. It should read "Love and Fifth Avenue".
The Jazz bar got me thinking if the Japanese singers even know what they are singing about? Not only were the songs about New York City but about Route 66 and other typically United-States of Americanian (american) things.
Furthermore, if they do understand it, do they or can they even feel what it means? I got the impression they were reading from a book of famous songs, with cues to put more emphasis on certain parts to mimic true feeling.

Don't get me wrong, they were talented singers. And I'm sure that in Japanese they would be very good.

I'm not an artsy type person, I'm not into the music scene and this was my first Jazz bar (live house) in Japan. But there was definitely a lack of something in the singing. Then again it could be me, perhaps I just didn't feel the "LOBE".

横浜国際花火大会 / Yokohama International Fireworks Competition

By -MJL-

The Yokohama fireworks display is arguably one of the largest displays of pyrotechnics in Japan, after Tokyo of course. I heard many good things about this event and since I had never been, well the timing was ripe.

As usual the trains were packed, the streets were packed, the stores were packed. In fact I cannot think of anywhere that was not packed with people. Police presence was in force. Arrival 4pm, start of the show 7:30... 3 hours and change to go. Meeting up with other firework goers was somewhat of a challenge in the chaotic Yamashita park.

Once the core got together, we were VERY fortunate to get a spot to sit down. Normally people camp out to reserve their spot from early in the morning. Our group eventually leveled off at about 15ish people.

Having seen the show, I must say that Montrealers are VERY lucky. Not because of the insane number of people nor the humidity here. But rather because the Montreal International Fireworks Competition is truly Spectacular. Yokohama's was good no doubt, but in fairness it's once a year and I fail to see where the "International" and "Competition" words of the title come into play. If there were syncronised music or better yet a bridge in close proximity to watch from! Montrealers should never complain about the city! ('cept maybe in winter, and the roads) Montreal, is in my opinion, THE Summer festival capital of the world!

Link to more pictures. HERE

The bystander effect squared

By -MJL-

Today was an odd day. The weather went from Sauna to Shower to Sunny Sauna and now night Sauna. I don't know how people lived without air conditioning in the past, it's so disgustingly wet one might as well never leave the bath or shower.

My story comes after a few business meetings. At Nakano station I prepare to board the train after changing platforms twice already due to train service slow downs. Not pleased knowing I'd be late for work, I had my music blaring and my shades on.
Finally after a seemingly interminably long way in the wet sun the train pulled into the station. Slowly edging my way to the door, I hear a hysterical shriek over my music.

Suddenly all eyes are looking behind me. I turn and see a mother on her knees, pleading for help. Her child fell through the opening between the platform and the train. (about 20-25cm at that point)

Enter the Bystander effect. While Genovese's murder in NY in 1964 had 40 witnesses this incident had a easily a hundred or more. (see explanation here Bystander effect) With so many witnesses there was no hope anything would be done.

As everyone stood around crowding in to see what happened no one actually did anything. With the number of people cramming in the area to catch a glimpse, even if one wanted to, one could not get to the emergency train stop button on the platform.

The door close chime sounded. Pshhh... The doors started to close. Mother was now panicking. The doors were stopped from closing by some miracle and the emergency stop button was pushed. The fallen kid was safely pulled out from under the train.

Japan has it bad enough with the social stigma that you're not supposed to stand out and be different. In this case sticking out and helping. To add to this the bystander effect and a recipe for disaster lurks close by.

Was I bound by the social stigma of sticking out or caught up in the bystander effect? No and no. I don't think I'll make a very good accident event photographer if I get involved. One toddler yanked out today. What does tomorrow have in store...

Pics from the top - Inokashira line Station (next from Shibuya) - Shibuya Toyoko Line Station curved platform - Tokyo Station Chuo liner curved platform.

Another break in the posts.

By -MJL-

It's been a busy month of work work work and work. My head hurts on the inside and out. It's been rehearsal for hair modeling and regular work and then off to Moscow for the world hair/fashion etc competition. www.omchairworld.com I just got back yesterday and am catching up on things I neglected in the past month.

Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting my German friends once again, this time in Tokyo. The Japanese National team wanted to rehearse with the real models for the competition in Moscow so they flew 5 people over. :) Lucky guys. They weren't very thrilled about it. Germany was hosting the world cup, has beautiful sunny skies, delicious beer, and daylight till 9-10pm. But we had fun nonetheless. During their stay the one day of rest was spent in Nikko via bus tour! :( . Naturally I was forced to go. At least I made good use of my new toy there.. (D70s)

After their stay, they were packaged and shipped to Moscow via a 2 day stay in Frankfurt. Moscow was something else so I'll write about it when I get my pictures back from one of the hairstylists computer!

Nope bigger is still better

By -MJL-

Witness the small can of beer I bought. (to the right, my yodobashi point card, a standard sized plastic card. And a 1 yen coin which is a little smaller than a nickel) I didn't think it was feasible to produce such a small can. I guess it's for children! But seriously, what is the point? It costs almost the same as a regular sized can and contains only 135ml.

Last Sunday I went to the Kirin brewery in Kanagawa prefecture (close to Yokohama). The tour did not mention such small cans were even produced. Fake can? Perhaps but more likely bad tour info or different brewery. The tour itself was, to put it mildly very disappointing (no photography allowed either). I was expecting to go into the brewery and see liquids and steam then bottles and cans flying everywhere. Instead I was dragged along this sanitized hallway with hologram exhibits telling me the History of beer and the origins of the Kirin company. Apparently the Kirin co. bought out a foreign beer brewery when it started. An american brewery, thus finally explaining the watery "subtle" taste of the Japanese beers.

Once out of the history segment I was then expected to gaze my eyes on metallic storing holds. Wow exciiiiiting, like staring at ones sink, or toilet for 5 mins. Overhead were a few monitors showing Germans enjoying real beer in a beer garden. How odd. As Kirin is, with exception of american beer, the furthest thing from delicious German beer.

As we moved along next was the filling stations, bottles, cans and kegs. All of which were not moving. No production on Sunday, you know when people can actually go and see it. Wonderful, instead with a touch of a button our perma-smile hostess turned on the video that showed us what the machines in front of us normally do. It was just like on TV! I was so happy I trekked all that way.

The last part was probably the best. We got to use our free beer tickets 2 per person. Which is not bad considering entrance was free. But being 11am after our 1 hour tour I was not in the mood. Nor could I drink, for I'm abstaining from alcohol prior to my next competition. Most peoples tickets were given to the next token foreigner in line. A strange guy from Montreal, what a bunch of freaks! ;)

Well that about sums it up. Other than that apparently there's this football thingy going on in Germany. All I know is that, unlike the media says here, Japan's soccer team is..... needs more practice. (like 20 more years worth)

Kamakura & Enoshima (Cat Island)

By -MJL-

Kamakura, I've been here before, November 2004. A nice touristy place. Old meets new in a nice and tranquil kind of way. Last time I settled on the beach for the most part and took some decent sunset pictures. Upon my return to Tokyo I was asked repeatedly if I went to see the Daibutsu (big Buddha), Of course I hadn't and in turn got the strange looks.

This time I decided to go there first thing! Lets see what all this hoopla was about. Once I got there, naturally you have to pay to get in the garden in order to fully see the Daibutsu. Ok so.... I still don't get it. Ok wait, apparently you can go in it. But wait this is Japan, no Yen no pass. I forked out my 20Y on the honour system (see flickr space URL at bottom) and went in through the small door a few steps down. 20 seconds later I was back out. 1 second per yen I guess. Now I really don't understand what the whole fuss is about.

Besides which the DaiButsu doesn't look happy. Was it Buddha that said something like desire causes suffering, and not to worship material things? hmmm? (I could be wrong) Anyways I don't blame him for being pouty faced. I would too if people paid to quickly go in and out of my bottom. This was simply a case of been-there-done-that. Now that it's done I can safely move on to more interesting things. Off to see a revolving bookshelf and billions of flowers. Then the inevitable happened. Rain....

Seeking refuge I went to the beach and walked into a German food restaurant. How appropriate for this time of year! The sausage in bread was nothing like the real deal! :( How disappointing. I hope my German buddies will bring some delicious treats when they visit. Once the rain was done doing it's thing. It was more beach, flowers and cliffs.

To change the scenery Enoshima was next. The Cat Island, nicknamed so because of the incredible cat populace! Interesting place Enoshima, it reminded me of Kyoto with it's hills and shops lining the streets. There I ate a sort of semi cooked sea snail. It refused to die peacefully and exploded on the grill. Nevertheless I ate it, up until the light and dark green bits. (Though I did try those parts, I didn't have much confidence in the colours)

Well I was now at the ocean side. So if I had any vomiting to do it would at least be in the ocean, fish food a-la me. At the sea side I watched the fisherman try to fish, the waves crashing in with the tide and the effects of smoking on wildlife. qO_Op

Nice day trip that was. I've covered Kamakura and Enoshima... I hope no one asks about the caves in Enoshima which I missed....

Click here for the Kamakura-Enoshima Flickr Space


By -MJL-
Today's Date

Yes today's date was 06.06.06 If you hadn't noticed! Had it not been for the date it would have been an otherwise regular day. Guess the fallen angel is on vacation...

Today I met up with a friend who recently returned from her one year working holiday experience in Vancouver Canada. It's amazing to see the change in culture and language level. Her English had vastly improved and now she seems to view Japan with a slightly altered view. Turns out she doesn't want to live here anymore. Though I hear this from many returnees of the Working Holiday Visa I always wonder if reverse culture shock has anything to do with it. As they say the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence, right?

Now back to the date or rather the picture of it at the top of this entry. Click here and play for yourself --> Spell with flickr

Tokyo Hair Festival

By -MJL-

Monday was the day I went to the Tokyo Hair Festival. Again. But this time as a spectator and not as a model. I had the chance to see many of the shows I had missed last year.

With my new camera in hand I didn't hesitate to take many pictures of the models and their crazy hairdos. And really, they were much crazier than what I can remember from last year! It was interesting to see other staff members from the same store where I go, participate in the competition. Of the three staff members only 1 is proceeding to the next level.

The left hand picture is of the no. 1 model in the Student Cup category. To the right is a model whom I remember from last years event. It was a rather interesting day!

As a spectator/camera man I was also taken picture of as in some places my picture was displayed as the National Champion model. I couldn't escape the cameras, nor did I want to ;)

More pictures are up on Flickr. Click here
Here is the official home page of the Tokyo Hair Festival 2006 Page 1 Page 2
And of course Tokyo Hair Festival 2005 Here

Too many options is sometimes a bad thing

By -MJL-

Note I did say sometimes there are times when too many options or choices is absolutely fantastic! For example, a candy store.... ;)

When it comes to a relatively complex piece of equipment it's a little different. I've been trying to use my new camera successfully. Though in the Auto mode I can get decent shots off. Trying to do anything else is proving a little difficult, especially since the instruction book is all in Japanese. I think I'll try to order an English version of the manual today. O_O For the mean time it'll be a trial and error learning experience I suppose.

Keeping on the difficult theme. I've recently had the privilege of seeing first hand how to make a resume Japanese style. Yes it's much more than just printing out a ready-made resume from a word file. The whole process can take up a whole day to write your first copy! Its all based a around a semi-standardised form which has to be filled in with the best penmanship possible and free of mistakes. Any mistakes will cause you to restart. Once you've finished writing down your life's history and any pertinent and non-pertinent information (depending on the form). Affixing a good picture of yourself is also mandatory. The last step of course is to post your resume. (yes mail requiring a stamp!)

All this for a job that might completely disregard your credentials and rely solely on your picture, gender, age or hobbies as a key point to hiring. Furthermore, most companies in Japan do provide an in-depth training prior to starting. Archaic? Discriminatory? Not your image of an advanced country? Perhaps from a western point of view, either way it comes down to how much you want a career change I guess. (Perhaps just thinking about the whole process used to dissuade people from changing careers and helped fuel the "Job for life" stability of 1980's Japan.)

Alrighty on to more pleasant things. :P A friend of mine showed me his blog, I think it's a must see for everyone. [Click Here] Nice and simple about different beings living together without discrimination in Japan!

Bigger is better ;)

By -MJL-

Bigger is better, though some would say that just isn't so (you know who you are! ;). In this case definitely it's better. Introducing the new addition to my digital world. The Nikon D70s. It's not a 20 billion Megapixel cam, it's nowhere near professional level but at this point its just right for me.

Today was the day I went shopping for it. I've been researching and losing sleep over which to buy for a while now. The "Canon Kiss N" (AKA "Canon Rebel XT" in the usa, and "Canon 350D" elsewhere) was marginally less expensive and had some features I liked. The Nikon was a little pricier and had some little issues I didn't like. So why the Nikon? It was a matter of feeling, I liked the feel of the Nikon better, a purely personal and subjective judgment call.

Picked it up for 30000Yen (300$CDN) less than the big super electronics stores were pumping them out and I got myself a sweet 4GB 120x "kompakuto hurash ka-do" (compact flash card).

It always seems that when you don't have your camera handy or ready a picture opportunity arises. As I was shopping the streets of Akihabara (aka Electric town, aka nerdville, aka girls dressed as maids in short skirts everywhere) I happen to spot a man merrily out shopping wearing sandals, a purse, sweater and pink speedos. Perhaps he just came from a pool party.. who knows. Akihabara is the Mecca for weird people... that's why I fit right in :P

Well anyways long story short I shopped around, and did my thing and now I have an extra camera and extra memory card format. And they said technology was supposed to make things easier. Rubbish!

Off to sleep hoping that I won't have a dream in the wrong format....

Blog Lull

By -MJL-

Yes so I've been a little absent online. I do have an excuse, I always have excuses (as some would say), but this time I'm not sharing! haha

Things have changed and things have stayed the same.

Something that hasn't changed. My finger is still swollen, 25 days post Kyoto. Saw a doc today, and was prescribed anti-inflammatory cream for the swelling. For some reason I just can't get to trust doctors here. I don't get the same feeling that I'm being taken care of. Could be the language and cultural barriers. On the other hand the nurses all seem to be 25 or younger and decent eye candy while waiting. ;)

More that hasn't changed. Yet another story about ridding the train...
Going to a hair salon a bit out of the way, I was a little tired and not thinking well, if at all. ;) I got on the second car of the 20:53 train. Packed as usual.... Smelly sweaty business men everywhere. It was a sea of black vests and bald spots as far as the eye could see. Given there were no seats, I chose to stand in my ever shrinking tiny bubble of personal space. To find something to do I looked around for fun ads to read and then...

Low and behold... the holy land. The first car had available seats everywhere. I made my way to the doors between the cars, while getting strange looks from everyone, and proceeded to open it. As I opened the door to the first car, I felt the more relaxed atmosphere, it felt pink and fluffy, there was a scent in the air, the floors were made of marble, the lights were chandeliers and the seats were all cushy sofas. O_O I sat down and started to relax. At the next station, again crowds of people rushed in the other cars, but not mine?! Only women came in... then it hit me.. "Oh no, I'm in the women only car, again." (yes it's happened to me before)
Quickly I got out and proceeded back to the black and bald car to stand the next 30 mins. I've written about this previously how unfair it is women get dedicated cars, especially since they are severely under used. (yes there is a reason I know some perverted men do perverted things to women in crowded trains, but this solution in my opinion is inadequate) Couldn't they make it a women AND gaijin car. I'm not a salary man, why should I be shoved like cattle in with them?

ok so it was about things that haven't changed. The changes another time maybe.

Nightmare Kyoto

By -MJL-

The above picture contains my souvenirs from my recent trip to Kyoto. The trip I dub, Nightmare Kyoto. Two butter knives and a hospital card!

The knives were bought at a 100Y (dollar store) in Kyoto after realizing that I had lost my key to get in my apartment. Yes a butter knife will do to break in. I wouldn't be the first time I needed to break into my own place. (And no I've never tried a place that was not my own!)

The hospital card was to check out my finger that had turned black overnight (same night I lost my key).

The reason for my trip was yet another hair show and video shoot. Once done I was supposed to head back to Tokyo but I decided to stay an extra day and visit around. I was offered a hotel room by the show promoters, I thought it was free as did everyone else. So I accepted, but in exchange I had to go drinking.

Unlimited quality drinks and people chanting me on just isn't a good combination. Party number one was a seriously crazy party. Then came party number two. With a smaller group of people it was more interesting, yet more drinks came my way... drinks, karaoke then I remember going for a walk. A long walk.... of which I don't remember much including losing my sunglasses :(. Took a cab to the hotel and woke up the next day with a black finger.

Checked out and paid for the room! damnit! Then checked-in to the Takeda Hospital where I was told the waiting time was 2 hours... I registered and snuck out, for 2 hours I ate, went to the tourist info center, bought my return train ticket and visited Kyoto tower. Returning to the hospital I got checked out and X-rayed. Nothing serious, just swelling. Whew. With that out of the way, off I went to explore the city, forgoing the doctors pain killer and cream prescriptions. Temple, temple, temple it's all very nice but I'd seen most before so I decided to roam the places I hadn't.

Or try to, this period being Golden Week the roads where crowded and the city's bus system ground to a crawl.... a slow and agonizing crawl. So I didn't get much sight seeing done as I would have liked. In retrospect it's a pretty awful system to have tourists, Japanese and other, shoved into small uncomfortable buses to get around.

I left Kyoto with a sigh of relief knowing that my trip was finally over. Minus a cool pair of shades, apartment key, temporary use of a finger and cash spent on I don't know what.

And after all that I still didn't get to see any Geishas...! click here for pictures of Kyoto

I'm slowly publishing my blog of my trip to the South of Japan and South Korea.
Entry of March 29th
Entry of March 30th
Entry of March 31st

Platapus speed!

By -MJL-

Platapus speed!

Kyoto or bust! This is my ride, designed not to be the prettiest thing, the long nose is designed with air resistance and noise reduction in mind.

On my way to have my hair done in Kyoto! yay! Actually thats not all. I'm going for a hair show.To sit before a crowd and have my hair done! o(^-^)o

If I can I'll stay an extra day to visit and do my touristy thing.

Hopefully this works as my first real moblog post! (mobile blog)

me @ 270kph

By -MJL-

Yokoso to my new home. This is now my second attempt at using blogger. They have apparently fixed the spam problem that plagued my earlier attempts. My flickr space is also now set up. Though definitely a learning curve compared to MSN spaces I'm happy not to be using MSN spaces. The extra trouble in learning two new systems is worth it! My blog is now free from the clutches of the software giant. (and if you read the MSN spaces disclaimer, it says that all content you publish becomes the property of microsoft!)

Moving on, I'm here now. MSN spaces will slowly be transferred over and the world will be a happier place. Just to be on the safe side I've set the comments, should anyone want to post any, to be moderated by me at first to avoid weird spam seeping in too soon.

To post comments here and Flickr I believe you have to become member. Oh no. Maybe I'll change that for the blog but for the pictures definitely you'd have to become a member for now. Family and friends should in any case become members as they will get to see more pictures that are not available to the general public. As you can probably tell this will be a work in progress for a while...

Anyways... So just a little bit of blog material.

Japan now is in it's full Hanami frenzy (Hanami being the word use to describe going to view flowers). The Sakura (Cherry blossom) trees were in full bloom not long ago in Tokyo. And now other nice trees are in full bloom. The Hanami season in short means that people on their free time flock to parks, and basically have territory wars with their blue tarps covering the floor. I have not been to any parks for that purpose this year as it's been pretty cold and miserable.

And that's my first post!

Flickr address http://www.flickr.com/photos/gurobuturotta/

Bye bye MSN Spaces

By -MJL-
April 19

http://gurobuturotta.blogspot.com/ <-- My my new blog space
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gurobuturotta/ <-- My new picture hosting system

AHHHHHHHH what a relief. There are still some kinks to iron out but the major chunks are done! Nothing feels quite like saying goodbye to things you can't wait to leave! MSN Spaces, previous jobs! ahaha

Both are still works in progress! So rapid changes may follow. Still no blog about my trip to South Korea and the south of Japan but the pictures are up. :)

I'll still be using this spaces to inform of an update for a little while if I don't get too lazy!

P.S. And as if to confirm my decision for leaving, MSN decided to flake out on me!

By -MJL-
Still no pictures

I still have not uploaded pictures from my recent trip to South Korea and the south of Japan. I'm currently still uploading and setting up blogger and flickr services to host my new blog. And slowly I will port this over. I will still use MSN spaces, in the most limited of fashion.

Yes I have previously said that blogger was spam riddled, but they have solved that problem :) As for picture hosting Flickr was my choice, I can upload unlimited amounts and full size pictures that may be available to download. (for those interested)

It's still a major work in progress, the learning curve is slightly steeper than MSN spaces, but I have more freedom to do things. Naturally once I switch over, MSN will then decide to lax their grip on all the present restrictions and offer the same freedoms completely free.

In other news.. nothing of real interest.
Shopping for a computer desk yesterday brought up an interesting situation. I was shopping in a Japanese store (of course) and spoke to the store clerk in Japanese. When I finally selected my desk after a little talk with the clerk, again in Japanese. I asked where do I pay for it (always in Japanese)

At that point with much hesitation, he asked me in English if I spoke English and then proceeded to tell me I had to pay on the first floor (in English). Perhaps he just wanted to practice, perhaps he didn't realize we were speaking in Japanese all the time. I don't know, but it was somewhat amusing.

I've also been wondering why I get so many stares. No the full out kid stare but a sneaky corner of the eye stare. Though this has been happening since the beginning of my stay in Japan. I can't explain it. Nor can I explain the completely obvious attempts to avoid me in public spaces. Do I have something hanging out my nose? Do I smell bad form a mile away?

I didn't have any of this weirdness during my short stay in Korea. (Nor did I see any many foreigners there) hmmm. Yes it was a short stay and yes it's not fair to compare both... But it's my opinion.

My co-worker was surprised to hear that I loved Korea. He was expecting to hear me complain that it wasn't as good as Japan. Wasn't as convenient, clean, polite etc etc. To that I told him that was exactly it, I loved it in part because it was just that, it wasn't Japan. It wasn't overly too polite to a ridiculous extent, it wasn't a sterile hospital feeling when walking the streets, it wasn't a place that had reached it's peak and was coasting along. It was interesting.

That's it for now, I have to go entertain some people in an overly polite way now.

Originally posted on MSN spaces

By -MJL-
Back from my train ride across the world

Yes I'm back in Tokyo, Japan. I just came back from South Korea and the South of Japan. More on that another time...

Yesterday, I met up with a friend to catch-up a little on what's been happening. I was to meet him in Shinjuku.
As I was a little worried of being late I was trying to rush. Zipping in and out of people like a Salary man late for his evening mistress appointment, I finally got stuck behind this slow moving young guy up the stairs. It struck me as odd, but this being Japan I let it slide.

Slide yes... until I noticed his arm extended a little oddly out of place. In his hand was his mobile phone. Ok still a little odd but nothing worthy of much attention. But I was baffled at why his arm was outstretched downwards with mobile in hand. Then it hit me, I noticed an equally slow moving person up in front of him. A school girl with a ridiculously short mini-skirt. This pervert was taking an upskirt video, as the stair ended I saw him watch the video he just took.

Looking back I should have knocked the phone out of his hands. Instead I thought I was doing the best thing by going to the police. The police box was just at the top of the stairs. Literally 2 seconds away. I start to explain what I had just seen. And describe the man in question.

The officer doesn't see him. So again I describe him and describe his actions. Still he cannot see him. Frustrated I pointed to the man in question who was now obviously stalking his next victim around a corner. STILL NOTHING the police officer said. Then by surprise he stopped looking for the man.


He reached in his pocket, and proceeded to put on his glasses. IDIOT....
Next time I'll just grab the phone, turn it in to the police myself and hopefully I won't be charge with theft...

Originally posted on MSN spaces

Zoom zoom zoom...

By -MJL-
Day 3 Fukuoka(Hakata) - Pusan - Seoul

Day 3 was all about speed; fast boat (hydrofoil) and fast train (KTX) from Fukuoka (Hakata) to Seoul via Pusan.
About 6hours, about 630km. (3hrs boat/215km) (3hrs train 415km)

When I awoke on day 3 I felt a little nauseous. The couple ramens and beers the night before were not mixing well. No time to worry, off to the boat! Getting there with plenty of time to spare I browsed the duty free shops hoping my stomach would settle. If anything though, it got worse as tiredness, nausea, excitement pulsed through me. On the boat excitement took over and it was smooth sailing. Actually it was so smooth I didn't even notice the hydrofoil take off. See here for more info

cruising along at 83km/h felt much like being in an airplane with constant turbulence, hence the fasten seatbelts sign was on most of the time. Looking out the window however was much different. The waves though only 2-3 meters as the captain said, were in fact endless small mountains of water coming for us.

With nothing better to do I ordered a meal and promptly fell asleep looking at the seemingly endless Sea of Japan. Oops I mean, "East Sea" for my Korean and Chinese readers! :P

I a woke in Pusan, Korea. Laugher was my first expression in Korea as the kid in back of me asked his Korean mom if there were baths in Korea. :) Off the boat, through customs and immigration and I was free to roam the city in which I really couldn't read, write or speak! But first time to make my money grow. Changing money was an event in itself. My bill count went up by a factor of ten! my 3 bills (~300CDN) became about 30 bills in Korean money. So I guess I should say, off I went to spend some money!

To the subway and to Pusan's KTX station. No problems so far. At the KTX station everything was easily understandable and I bought a one way fare to Seoul (about 50$CDN) The KTX is essentially a French TGV remodeled for Korea so it was pretty decent though narrower than the bullet train. Yes indeed the Japanese do have one bigger thing over the west, the size of their.... trains. haha!

3 hours and much nice scenery later, Seoul. My friend was nice enough to meet me at the station and show me around the Seoul area before heading to Suwon (like suburbia) to have a family dinner.

After a delicious yet extremely spicy many course meal it was time for drinks at a local drinking spot.

Pictures of Day 3 in again a strange reverse order click here