Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween parties

This Wednesday is the Halloween day. Well, the concept of Halloween as a party culture has arrived at Japan in recent years, and it was not hard to find the ads targeting the Halloween day since few weeks ago. I am not sure whether or not there will be kids asking around "trick or treat" at Wednesday night, but at least on the last weekend there were quite some parties and I went to the Gugenheim mafia Halloween party with Asahi-Kasei people. Gugenheim mafia is just the name of the bar. Most people there were all dressed up with costumes, except us from Asahi-Kasei. :P Well, at least I brought a mask.

I am the guy with a mask :) The party was really fun. I met some new people, had a chance to talk to other asahi-kasei people as well. We stayed there until 3:30AM, and went back home and blacked out.

Question: Who are non-Japanese people in this picture? Hint: There are 5 non-Japanese. It is not hard to find three white guys there. If you can find me there, then the real question is to find one more non-Japanese person unless you know Bert. :)

Next day I was supposed to go to Yamanote Halloween party with other people. Yamanote Halloween party was in Ikebukuro station in Tokyo. So, I had to take a train to go to the party. But because of the typhoon, we had to cancel the plan and decided to have a common room party instead with some horror movies, which were Evil Dead 1 and 3. For the sake of Halloween, those who had Halloween costumes were encouraged to wear them in our party. So the atmosphere looked somewhat like below:

It would not be hard to find me in this picture. :)

Anyways, so this weekend was quite fun because of Halloween.

Oct 20, 2007, Kawagoe festival (川越祭り)

I went to Kawagoe festival in Saitama ken with Kinya-san and Hunglun. Saitama ken is Kinya-san's hometown, so he took us around and showed us interesting things that I might not have been able to see had I gone by myself.

In this festival, just like other traditional festivals in Japan, I ate many different kinds of food, including ttuk-bok-gi (떡볶이), spicy rice cakes. It is the second picture above. ttuk-bok-gi is the popular Korean snack you can find anywhere in Korea. In Japan I did not expect it as spicy and hot as in Korea because of Japanese preference of less-spicy taste here. Well, at least the ttuk-bok-gi I had there was almost as spicy as in Korea. Kinya-san found it really spicy. The last picture was called kobe beef. The food is made of beef from Kobe region. I heard that Kobe beef steak is famous for its taste. I should try it when I go there. :)
According to Kinya-san, this festival could be seen as a large festival in terms of the number of visitors. About 500,000 people came to see this festival. No wonder it was so crowded.

How I liked this festival can be summarized with this one photo below. :) 美味しい〜〜

Oct 14, 2007, Miyagase Dam (宮ヶ瀬ダム)

The next morning after coming back from Tsukiji market, I was again on another trip with Randy, Hunglun, and Junko to Miyagase Dam. Miyagase dam is located nearby Atsugi city, and we decided to go there by bike. So, the point of this trip is about biking, and enjoying the nature and scenery along the way. It sounds fun, so even though I was a bit tired from tsukiji market trip, I decided to go with them to Miyagase dam.

But I should have realized earlier that I completely underestimated this trip; first of all, Randy said the road would get steeper and we would have to bike about 15 ~ 20km. Here I was mistaken that I thought he meant a little bump on the way, which in fact, was totally wrong. Second, I did not take into consideration the condition of my bicycle. My bicycle is only tolerable enough to go back and forth between the company and home, and between the convenience store and home. Honestly I wouldn't be surprised if my bike collapses had I gone with this condition. Last, I did not eat at all.
Anyways, I did not know all these at first, so we took off and started heading towards the dam.

Sooner or later our way became steeper and I discovered myself struggling to climb up the hill; I felt something was wrong with my bike and was getting behind and behind the group while I was also getting exhausted as I put more efforts to catch up my friends in front.

When we discovered that my bike went flat, we had gone 5km and we still had to go 10km more. I needed to pump up tires in my bike. We knocked some random Japanese house and fortunately were able to borrow a air pump from a kind Japanese man and pumped up the tires.

The bike was fixed, fortunately there was no hole in tires. We returned the pump to the Japanese man, and started pedaling again. At least I thought I was able to pedal like a superman;; But I was too exhausted by biking all the way up to that point with flat tire. And since I hadn't eaten at all, I was completely wiped out. So, yeah, I was still behind people. But this time Hunglun was also left behind. So it was not so boring at all, and we just gave up cycling and walked like two losers.

Also along the way we passed by a huge lake. I took a picture of a fisherman on the lake shore.

We also passed by a park. Since not only I but also everyone was hungry, we all agreed to have lunch at a restaurant in the park. There I was too hungry that I ordered a 파르페(do not know how to spell in English nor in Japanese) in addition to yakiniku.

After stuffing our stomach, we started pedaling again towards the dam. This time biking was a lot easier because of nutrition-refill. :)

Finally we arrived at the dam. We looked around it, but soon after it was already getting dark, we had to leave there soon. Returning road was mostly a downhill road, so it was not as hard as going uphill. But, returning was much more dangerous because it was already dark, raining, I did not have a headlight in my bike, and we had to bike on the mountain driveway. This trip was quite an adventure, but it was a good thing that everyone safely returned home. :) And the scenary along the way was awesome.
Below is a photo taken at the dam. Randy, Hunglun, Junko, and me.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mount Fuji from Youth Heim

This Sunday, a night before that was a terrific typhoon that bombarded the entire area of where I am living. The weather was so bad that we had to cancel our plan to join Yamanote Halloween party in Ikebukuro, and went for an alternate plan of having a common room party with horror movies (which were Evil Dead 1, 3). Ironically, the typhoon also wiped off all the dusts in air out of the city, so this Sunday was one of the most beautiful weather I experienced in Japan. The weather was very clear that I was even able to see Mount Fuji from the roof of our building..! Here are some photos.

Oct 13, 2007, Tsukiji Fish Market (築地市場)

This is probably the day I woke up the earliest in this year...to go to Tsukiji fish market. The tsukiji fish market is known as one of the world's largest fish market. This means that it is definitely the Japan's largest. I woke up at 4:30am, and headed to the station with Loic. It took us approximately an hour and half to tsukiji shijoo (築地市場) station. We met Junko there, and started our journey through the early morning market with fishy smell and half-closed eyes.

The morning is the busiest time for merchants and fish traders in the market. I was able to see a lot of those scooter-like trucks with fish boxes piled at the back. Despite the fact that the fish market is one of the famous attractions for tourists, at least it seemed to me that those merchants have no interests in tourists nor were they willing to accomodate tourists while doing their business. We basically had to find our own best to avoid those trucks and interfering their business. Below are the couple of more shots.

If we just looked around the tsukiji fish market for an hour and "yeah, so waking this early like 4am to come all the way to tsukiji market and having a look around for an hour was totally worth it and pays off". Hell no. I heard that there is a sushi place where they make sushi right out of the fish freshly caught in the morning same day, and I heard it's damn good..! So why not trying it. My friend (Thanks to Siwan) recommended a place called Sushi-dai (寿司大) and we found it after searching through the side street next to the market. Here the problem arose. The lineup for that restaurant was just so long that we had to wait for several hours to enter the restaurant. I was really surprised to see that a lot of people are willing to wait for hours for good food. Well, the long lineup looks it gotta be a really awesome place, so Junko and I were totally up for joining this line, except Loic looked somewhat reluctant to join us to be a long-time-waiting-for-sushi warrior. He lined up with us eventually, but I had to bear with him whining and complaining that this sushi gotta be really good. :P
Well, sushi were indeed REALLY good. we ended up waiting two hours and half, and finally entered the restaurant. I ordered more than 3000 yen-worth sushi set by myself. Bearing the eyes from starving people waiting outside, the sushi were really fresh and almost melted in my mouth. I took some shots at sushi before they all went into my stomach.

This sushi meal was supposed to be our breakfast. But, because we spent almost 3 hours on waiting, this turned out to be our lunch when we entered the restaurant. Having our stomach filled up with freshly made sushi, I was happy to leave the tsukiji market and move to our next destination. Junko led us to different temples nearby the tsukiji market. We looked them around, walked, finally reached Roppongi(六本木). Not that we did anything crazy there, but had hamburgers with maguro wasabi taste with tofu nuggets and soybean latte. Sounds pretty much Japanalized hamburger set, doesn't it. :)
I am including some pictures I took after Tsukiji market.