Tappavaa rakkautta

Tänään jätin lounaan väliin. Olen vuoden aikana syönyt raamenia arviolta viisi kertaa viikossa; sen lisäksi omassa kaapissa on suurempia herkkuja. ‘Yllätysvieras’ Lontoosta kävi vaihtamassa lentokonetta Helsinki-Vantaalla ja raahasi meille paitsi ruisleipää ja salmiakkia myös juustoja, suklaata, pari lohikukkoa ja 2 tölkkiä JALOSTAJAN HERNEKEITTOA! Noloa myöntää, mutta viime aikoina sitä on kaihoten muistellut, mutta ei tietenkään kehdannut ketään moista tuomaan… kyllä oli niin luksusta istuskella kahvihuonessa mutustaen talouspaperiin käärittyjä Ruispuikuloita voilla ja edam-juustolla 😀
DVC00017.JPGVieras, eli Dr. L. Lontoosta pyörittää porukoita täällä seuraavat kaksi viikkoa aika rankasti, jos eilisillasta on mitään pääteltävissä. Testattavana oli tällä kertaa Ikebukuron Mo-Mo Paradise – niminen shabushabu / sukiyaki – tabehodai-paikka, eli suomeksi siis ihanaa lihaa ohuenohuina viipaleina ja kasviksia ja sieniä itse kokattavana niin paljon kuin jaksa syödä 1.5 tunnissa – hintaan noin 1700 yen. Lähestulkoon ilmaista siis. Paitsi ei itse asiassa ollut kun kuvittelimme että paikassa ois ollu myös nomihodai, eli all-you-can-drink, mutta ei ollutkaan, vaikka porukka tilasi oluita kyllä sellaiseen maailmanlopun tahtiin…
Huomatkaa, pallokalaravintolan ikkunassa kun on nuo pallokalaparat näytillä, niin tuolla yksilöllä on sydänkuvio kyljessä. Tappavaa rakkautta saattaa olla se. Ylipäätään mun käy aina kauheasti sääliksi noita fuguja, ne näyttää siltä että ne on vain hyvin kapean määritelmän mukaan elossa, monilla ei ole mitään eviä tai pyrstöä jäljellä ja kelluvat vain surkeasti suutaan aukoen…
Olis taas maanantai. Mulla on tällä viikolla käytössäni yksi (1) hiiri, joka on oikean värinen ja oikeaa geenityyppiä. Seuraavan saan — aikaisintaan viiden viikon kuluttua? Olis syytä saada siitä yhdestä yksilöstä ulos kaikki mitä vaan pystyy. Edellisestä kokeesta on yli kuukausi, siinä välissä laitteistoon on asennettu uusi laseri ja kammio on vaihdettu, ei ole mitään toivoa että asiat sujuisi ILMAN hämminkejä.
Pomo kehotti mua meditoimaan ennen kuin aloitan koevalmistelut.
Ehkä pitäis jättää tämän illan syömingit väliin ja mennä kylpyyn vaik mielummi.

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Wild cityscape

view2.jpgThe recent trip to Shinjuku’s Kinokuniya Bookstore offered me again one of my favourite views of Tokyo – the skyscraper district by night. I had to stop for a while at the Shinjuku Southern Terrace and relax my eyes on the vast spaces of concrete and glass and steel and towering lights – and, just like that, I realized something that is *really* disgraceful (for a Finn) to admit:
I do not miss the forest. (even though yes, I do miss the weather.)
One of my greatest worries about moving to Tokyo was that I would not be able to stay sane without trees and untouched greenery; even though I’ve been a city-dweller (well, at least Helsinki-dweller) for all of my life, I’ve always had at least one tree outside a window (even an apple tree planted on the balcony in Kallio). Nowhere else have I been able to relax so well, nowhere have I cried so freely or sang so loudly (yeah, I can’t really sing) than in forest; it never needed to be a True Ancient Forest that Finland still has, the Central Park was usually enough and the pristine peace of our (*sniff*) summer villa was more than enough to calm down from whatever it was rocking me that time.
So, now I live in Tokyo (or just outside the border of thereof, to be exact), in a house that has windows on some trees and a duck pond with carp fish on the other side. We’ve got all these gorgeous cherry trees all over that make the scenery unbelievably pink and pretty in the spring and the noisiest things to bother me are the crickets and the frog (one frog and a thousand of crickets) that make one think of grabbing earplugs while walking home (seriously). The air is clean, at least as clean as in Helsinki suburbs and I can open up the windows to let the fresh air blow through the apartment (if it happens to be warm or cool enough to do so).
And I feel … cheated. This is supposed to be the largest city in the world (according to the UN standards and based on calculating the area of Tokyo as the area in which the population density never drops below certain value)! And I feel like living in Korso. Suburbs of thereof.
‘Luckily’, it happens to be so that the International House -thing lets people inhabit its apartments for a year only, or at maximun for two years, so there’s a need to move elsewhere in any case; and, contrary to what I would have thought, I’m mainly looking at apartments that sit in high-rise brand-new buildings, preferably over 20th floor, with a view on the CITY from the bath tub (the concept is called ‘view-bath’), heated floors, 100M net connection, a garbage-processing system at each floor and preferably a private gym and a swimming pool at the top floor. I want to be able to walk home from Shibuya or at least take a taxi without spending my whole monthly salary on the luxury, and have cakes in Ginza without it being a trip comparable to school outings. (The ultimate choice would have a view both on the CITY and the FUJI/Tokyo bay but maybe I can live without that).
(Also, I really would like to move away from Wako, no matter the shining harmony of it – this village and its hundereds of foreign RIKEN-workers make it so un-japanese that I feel like living in an unreal bubble, that if I want to experience Japan I need to travel for one hour from the home… )
I don’t understand what has happened to make this change of mind. Maybe it is the knowledge that if I really needed the forest, I only need to take the Tobu line a bit further and I am in forested mountains. Maybe it is the knowledge that I got long time ago when lamenting the need of moving away from ‘my home forest’ – that no matter where I move, the forest remains, and lives its own life, not caring about me. The forest is, and does not need me.
On the other hand, for the City, I am a blood cell flowing in its veins, keeping it alive. For at least some time, I feel I want to live in the City, to breath with it, to wake up with the sunrise over skyscrapers and the wind between the buildings, get sung to sleep by the slow swaying of the tower in wind, confident in the knowledge that if there’s any building that will remain standing after the Big One hits, it is the one that I am sleeping in since I am protected by the blessings of Engineering and Technology.
Too bad, the City is very jealous of it’s insides, and picky, and living in the City will be expensive. Still I think I’m willing to try.
Not too soon, but not very much later either; it would not make any sense to go through all the trouble for just staying a few months….

Tequila should be banned.

Finally, after all the others had long gone and had fun while I was tuning the figures at the lab, I got out and had a most exquisite tartar steak at wakoen yakiniku restaurant and some very good sake; continued to A-one where the local gaijin converge on fridays, and even did not chicken out when a third party at a tiny bar on second floor was called out for. Which was a mistake; Even though I managed to evade the round of tequila that was ordered, I could not help but help the poor slovak in front of me who seemed unable to finish his glass in one go.
Sorry for that. Still am. Gh.
I am not sure if I’ve ever explained the funny phenomenon that I constantly meet people here that look *exactly* like some friends or aquaintances from Finland; for instance, one girl at the campus looks and talks and behaves precicely like Irrette, even though Irrette does not look japanese and the other gal definetly does. I can not explain this; but spending time with those people whose Finnish copies I know is really enjoyable.
Last night there was this guy in his twenties who looked, talked and behaved exactly like a guy I had a crush on in high school. He was even telling me the same stories the other one did some 15 years ago.
Would’ve been pleasant also, except that he is the son of a friend from around here (who also looks like an other friend of mine, just some 15 years older…)
Boy, haven’t felt this old for ages.

gammakorjaus

lumi1.jpg Kun katson ulos officen ikkunasta, säpsähdän. Talon vieressä aukeava jenkkiarmeijan pelto on lumivalkoinen. Eilen illalla ennen nukkumaan menoa huomasi että perhana, ulkonahan sataa tiskirättejä; niin epäuskottavan näköinen maisema että oli pakko lähteä ulos siinä puoli yhden aikaan yöllä ikuistamaan tilannetta kameralla.
Hyvin nopeasti kuitenkin muistin että lumi on kivaa vain lämpimästä huoneesta ikkunan läpi katsottuna, erityisesti jos pakkasasteita on -0.5; näpit jäätyivät ja kengät kastuivat.
Täysin käsittämätöntä. On ollut Virallinen Ensimmäinen Kevätpäivä ja Virallinen Kevättuuli ja meillä sataa lunta! Näkymä käytävän puolelta tuo mun mielestä mieleen Kannelmäen tai Hakunilan eikä erityisesti Tokiota. Kohta varmasti kohtaan kauppareissulla tuulipukuisia pareja sauvakävelyllä.
Ehkä mun pitäisi vaan uskoa että ei parane tässä blogissa puhua säästä mitään, ainakaan millään tavoin positiivisessa sävyssä. Tulee vaan paha mieli kaikille 40 miljoonalle tokiolaiselle.lumi2.jpg
Lumi on siis maassa vieläkin; miten käy Miton luumutarhojen kukinnalle (tällä sivulla voi reaaliajassa tarkkailla kukkimisen edistymistä) jota haaveilen pääseväni katsomaan ja kuvaamaan ensi viikolla, jos kehtaan ottaa vapaapäivän (koska oletettavasti Kaikki Muut ™ menevät katsomaan niitä viikonloppuna)?
Perjantai taas, harvinaisen vetämätön olo. PhD-sarjakuvaa viikon aikana lukiessa on saanut välillä lyhyitä energiasysäyksiä ja tehnyt kolme kuvaa tulevaan artikkeliin JA kirjoittanut kuvatekstit; tänään sitten pitäisi esitelmöidä tutkimuksesta eikä nyt yhtään nappaisi nykertää powerpointtia. Raah.
-lisäys: kysyin Ainoalta Totuudelta eikö sitä nyrpi tällainen takatalvi. Täysin vilpittömästi mies vakuuttaa että ei, ja itse asiassa hän pyrkii nauttimaan koleudesta jättämällä tarkoituksellisesti takin kaappiin kun lähdetään yhdessä lounaalle. Kesällä kun ei tällaista luksusta ole että saisi ilmaiseksi viileyttä.
Ryhmämme eurooppalaiset yrittivät parhaansa mukaan nauttia kylmästä seisoessaan lounasjonossa, suuremmin onnistumatta. Vaikka muutakin on tarjolla, mä en halua syödä muuta kuin ramenia; mikään muu ei tunnu lämmittävän tarpeeksi.

Ilmoja pidelly

Hohhoijakkaa – tarvis varmaan jotain kirjoittaa, eihän sitä muuten kukaan tietäisi että olen olemassa. Mistään kovasti rankasta ei jaksa; kerron siis juustosta.
Kevyt rahapula on iskenyt ja mielessä on ollut että jospa yrittäisi elää vähän säästeliäämmin – toukokuu lähestyy kauheaa tahtia ja sitä mukaa myös seuraava asuntolainanmaksuerä. Tänään Ito Yokadossa mieleen juolahti että jospa yrittäisi syödä vähemmän eksklusiivisesti, eli, niiden 900 yenin emmentaalijuustopalasten (koonsa puolesta lähes tulkoon viipaleita) sijasta söisi jotain tavallisempaa.
Ito Yokadon juustotiski tarjosi leivälle laitettavista juustoista ainoastaan niitä yksittäispakattuja sulatejuustoviipaleita. Aikani niitä tuijoteltuani päädyin tulokseen että ei niistä mikään ole toista kummoisempi joten ihan sama minkä ottaa.
Kotona todellisuus iski vasten kasvoja kuin turpea turska. Juustoviipale joka paljastui muovikuoresta oli edelleenkin muovisen oloinen, eikä edelleenkään maistunut yhtään miltään. Ja, niinkuin aina ennenkin – siitä tulee niin paha mieli että muistaa minkä takia on jaksanut vaeltaa Ikebukuron Tobuun asti sitä hakemaan. Meinasin heittää loput menemään mutta eihän se nyt käy, ei ‘hyvää’ ruokaa saa heittää roskikseen ennenkuin se on nahistunut jääkaapissa piloille.
Valitettavasti noilla juustoilla on näissä jääkaapeissa tapana säilyä käytännössä ikuisesti.
Tänään Tokiossa puhalsi Virallinen Kevättuuli. Valtion ilmatieteen laitos näin nimesi tuulen joka eittämättä oli poikkeuksellisen puuskittainen ja – lämmin! Ainoa Totuus vihjasi että Virallisen Kevättuulen on tapana tuoda kevät mukanaan. Ois jo aikakin.
Käytiin notkumassa M&J:n luona; tölkkiolutta, mokkatryffeleitä, tyhjänpäiväistä jaarittelua ja pölynimurin ihastelua (iih! se o ihana!) – ei siis mitään varsinaisesti mainitsemisen arvoista mutta ah niin rentouttavaa. Joitain asioita ei vaan pysty jakamaan muuten kuin suomeksi 🙂

Kaipaan helsinkiläistä marraskuusäätä!

Asia tuli selväksi.
Heti jos erehdyn väittämään blogissani että ‘en kaipaa suomen säätä’, se samainen sää hyökkää Tokioon. Perjantai-iltana tuli taas räntää ja eilen satoi vain sellaista jäätävää tihkua. Viime vuonna tähän aikaan lämpötilat lähenteli päivisin kahtakymmentä.
Toistettakoon siis: oi loska ja vaakasuora räntäsade! Voi kaukainen suomalainen viima ja jäinen vastatuuli! Kaipaan virkistävää kosketustanne ja sitä viileää suloa jonka märät kengät tuovat pikkupakkasessa bussia odotellessania!

Me, myself and the fish.

Luckily, made it to the training session today; it was good even though after the long break I naturally was very much lost most of the time. Did not receive any negative remarks, though, actually, no remarks regarding budo at all (which was fine) but instead a “you live here in Japan? I thougt so, your japanese is excellent…” 😀 left me speechless for several heartbeats; I had indeed spoken some japanese at the beginning, explaining the reason for not training so long and some other things, but most of my sentenced still were half in english.
This reminded of someone who was speaking very reverently of an other gaijin who gave a speech in “fluent japanese” – witness reports say that the speech was not very fluent and probably read from a paper. Not that I would not appreciate the effort and skill to perform even this, but just that it seems that any japanese whatsoever coming out of a gaijin vocal system is immediately fluent and extraordinary, even as evaluated by fellow gaijin and not only japanese (who are often convinced that it is practically impossible for a gaijin to learn that language at all.)
So, my japanese is very, very far from fluent and I seem to base my understanding of spoken japanese largerly on guesswork. That is, I seem to keep a list in my head of possible things that the conversation partner might say in the particular situation, and only listen for some key words that might give away what the speaker is trying to make me undrstand. I think that this actually is the basic mechanism upon which my world-famous babelfish is operating regardless of the language: it is not necessary to be able to translate the sentences, just guessing what the person wants to say is enough. I seem to be able to be unconcerned by all the connecting words and structures that I don’t understand; this is well and OK if I am expecting information on whether the flowershop is to the left or to the right but gets me utterly confused if suddenly asked about the weather.
This is probably nothing special, but I only today figured out the thing I’m doing subconsciously whenever someone is speaking to me – at least in difficult languages, hopefully not in Finnish…
Another realisation: I passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test level 4 (the easiest). I did not quite grasp it before since I did not take the official test – which is held only once a year, in December -but did it during my normal japanese class hours so no official diplomas or such. Nevertheless, I did not receive any help from anybody, did not cheat, finished all the parts way ahead of time and with scores high enough to grant the passing even if some nervousness-related mistakes would be taken into account. Somehow I feel good about this, even though passing the test and communicative skills in Japanese are similarly related as passing the high-school matriculation exams and being a wise person.

Comfort shopping

microleaves.jpg Not so good for several days; too many nasty and sad and terrible things in the world, and the relief of the fungus in Haaga being a benign one only helped a little. Instead of having comfort food (that would in my case most consist of Bread, Cheese, fresh fruits and strawberries and some musli with plain yoghurt) I took on the heavy measures and went Comfort Shopping.
Naturally, to the Kinokuniya Bookstore. Shopping for clothes or makeup or other un-needed things only makes me feel worse (since here I usually do not fit into anything cool, as ranted about many times earlier), but books, oh – and the pay day close enough so no immediate despair over an empty bank account.
I did have an excuse for visiting Kinokuniya – the afore-mentioned “minna no nihongo” – series for studying Japanese will have an other chance to prove themselves as my teachers give me no chances of changing direction. This time, though, I decided to buy the whole set – not only the japanese-only textbook but additional english translation of the texts as well as grammatical explanations, AND the “Minna no Nihongo Kanji II” for working on the writing skills on my own.
Ahem… my very brave and glorious advances on the kanji road last year ground to halt around September and have not resumed ever since; the excuse has been that ‘I concentrate on the grammar and spoken language’ but honestly, I’ve been very reluctant to take up the kanji cards and books and find out how many I’ve forgotten already and how much time I’d need to spend to get to where I was. Several times I’ve encountered characters in the trains or elsewhere that I know I had already studied but could not remember them anymore… frrustrrating…
Fortunately, I have this childish affectuation towards school books (yeah, I know, I AM twisted). Best part of each school year (or right after the last day before summer holidays) was the beginning, the first lessons of each subject when teachers gave out new school books. Leafing through the untouched pages, I felt like looking into the future – “when we will be doing these excercises I’ve already learned about Alexander the Great / geometry / whatever!” – and, again, I leafed through the rather boring pages of MnN and wondered how long it will take me until I am at the end of it and be able to converse in even more diverse ways… So, the book claims that by the end of part II the student should know more than half of the kanjis required for level 2 exam and already the same evening I was going through the lists of radicals and associations I’d made last autumn. Maybe, maybe…
Related to this, yesterday I was in the coffee room when this one guy enters and pours some water from the electric kettle. I noticed he presses a button on the machine that I don’t know the meaning of, and ask him what the button is.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know”, he says. “I can not read.”
Having spent time reading the latest book from N. Stephenson, set in the time when it was natural for the majority of people be illiterate, I was struck by the realisation that indeed, here we live, gaijin scientists in a society not our own like the blackamoors brought to London in 1700’s as curiosities, and most of us are illiterate even though many have at least some fluency in speech.
What is more surprising than the fact that an average westerner does not read the 2000 + kanji characters if not put any effort to is that so many are well content with the illiterate life they lead. Of course, this being the Era of Internet and information and Kinokuniya International Bookstore, you can read all the time you can ever spare journals and news and books in English or other languages that utilize a simpler script. (I just ordered the bi-monthly Finnish magazine Image so I’ll have something to bargain with M&J for their supplies of Suomen Kuvalehti:)
But in your everyday life – in trains, restaurants, museums, public toilets, newsstands, advertisements, road signs, everything around you – you are as illiterate as the peasant who did not know how to sign his name on a document and instead pressed his inks-stained thumb ion tha paper (it is not given that you’d be able to *sign* your name into a document here; many instances absolutely require a hanko, the official carved stamp as a proof of authenticity. You can imitate some person’s handwriting, but the stamp is *always* in the possession of the correct person, you see… ).
I really did not realise before coming here how large part of my visual surroundings are verbal. Just try to go around one day in Helsinki and each time you are about to extract some information in written form, close your eyes and try to forget it, and see how you depressing it gets.
On the other hand, there are people who do not own enough books to call for a bookshelf and never plan to.
— some time later
So, there’s comfort food, and then there’s panic food. To calm down, ate all the remaining 4 pieces of Fazer’s Violet chocolate. Not quite enough to feel comfortable with, but there just is no more. Hope I’ll make it to the training today or the next week’ll be ruined as well…

Japan, year one

haveaniceday.jpgYesterday, February 15th. It’s been exactly one year.
So, how has it been? I guess it’d be a time for a summary, but the first and foremost thought I have concerning this anniversary is weird. I know some people come to live in Japan for a year or even less, but if I was to go back ‘home’ in two weeks or something, I’d feel fooled. What? This was it? Living in the mythical country of geishas, samurais, anime girls and zen? This was the year that was supposed to transform me, the year after which I would talk about ‘when I was living in Japan…’ until the end of my days…
I guess, had there been less time, I’d concentrated more on experiencing the country – but then again, finishing a post-doc project in just one year.. uh, chotto…
Well, fortunately, I’m not moving back to Finland anytime soon – I’d really like to have at least a significant portion of my mortage paid before I dare to approach the uncertain positions in Finnish Academia. So, more time to observe and learn useless trivia about japanese chocolate.
Some things:
– I hate when a ticket-vending machine or ATM starts exclaiming “ALL FARE INFORMATION WILL BE GIVEN IN ENGLISH” or similar degradatory remarks; so much that I always try to use all machines in nihongo even though there was the gaijin option. The overly-polite announcements the machines utter seem to invoke a red arrow in the air, blinking, pointing at me and saying “here’s a moron!” (I am more or less confident that I will recognise a dangerous situation, eg. such that would result in my ATM card disappearing forever, and at least think that will be able to back up from such …)
– whenever I see some western ‘high’ culture on TV, no matter what I was doing, I need to stop, sit down, and soak it for a while – whether it was ballet, Russian modern opera or a piano concert, does not matter. This does not happen often, and in 10 minutes I seem to have acquired enough ‘culture’ to continue whatever I was doing. Weird. I do miss familiarity almost every day, even though most of the things I meet daily are very much familiar. And, oh, hitting upon an episode of ‘Friends’ or ‘Ally’ entertains much more than it ever did back home.
– I really dislike minna no nihongo – the book series used by governmentally approved language teachers (or something) to teach japanese, is awful. I just have finished the first book, and it is now useless; being completly in japanese and with no grammatical explanations whatever, it won’t work as a reference for anything learned earlier even though the system might cover the essential parts of basic japanese (which I am not sure about).
– I am not sure which is happening faster: my progress in japanese or my regress in english. Living in an environment where practically nobody speaks Really Good English gets on my nerves some times, especially when a certain someone in the office makes such mistakes as ‘many mouse’ and ‘I putted it into the fridge’ and such so often that I’ve noticed using such expressions myself…
– I don’t miss meat, even though I eat nowadays a fraction of what I used to of ‘whole meat’. My body might be missing it; I’ve started taking iron pills. Dunno if it helps. I don’t miss the weather in Finland most of the time, but indeed do miss the central heating and triple windows.
– I most definetly miss the good futons they sell at the Helsinki Futon Shop. I still can not believe it but I’ve not seen one single decent futon bedding being sold anywhere – I guess it’s just way too old-fashioned for anyone to want such a hard thing! The locals seem to greatly prefer tremendously thick ‘american beds’ or whatever the spring things are called. I hate them, just impossible to air such monsters, but the alternative at its best is usually just a foam mattress.
– back home, cooking rice instead of potatoes was considered the ‘easy option’; no need for washing or peeling and rice can be stored indefinetly (compared to potatoes that IMMEDIATELY turn black and slimy when stored in the fridge). Not any more. The trouble of washing potatoes is nothing compared to the pain of washing the rice and drying it up before proceeding to the (addmittedly very easy) task of cooking it in the rice cooker.
In all, it is not so weird here at all. I feel sorry for folks who have dreamed of the great Rising Sun and of the possibility to see it for their own eyes – so much of disappointment upon seeing it in the end. Not differently from any other country, you got to work, you shop for food and clothes, you spend time in front of TV or the Firefox. The salaries are wider, girls leaner and beef contains more fat; technotoys are plentiful as well as temples but in the end, unless you’re a serious enthusiast of either of them, they won’t keep you happily occupied for very long. At the end of the day, you’re as empty inside as you would be anywhere in the world.
I like this country. I develop these warm feelings to these islands particularly while travelling by train, looking at the desolate landscape of railroad tracks and backyards of small houses. They do not look pretty in any way I could define; still like it. Even though this country can never be a home for me or more or less anyone with a face as un-japanese as mine.
But hey, I can not imagine a place to live that would be any more COOL than this.:D

Upkeep

koraku_koen_red_sm.jpgUpdated – finally – the photos on the server; most importantly, out of the 1500 or so that I’ve haphazardly shot since summer 2003, selected those that are at either somewhat interesting in content or I consider them not too awful to be shown in public. Included are some ‘new’ photos from trips to Kyoto, Poland and Shanghai; I tried to add some info about at least where and when they were taken but just can not remember the names of every temple, castle and shrine I’ve visited…
Out of those over 100 that still made it to the ‘gallery’ as I pompously call it, I guess maybe five are such that I’d call nice and only one – the red bridge – such that I really like.
– What, am I surprised? I’ve not done any shooting for god knows how long, no wonder there are none…
(Anyway, the link to the ‘gallery’ is up in the left panel.)