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Posts Tagged ‘Japan Tour’

Hotaru (Fireflies)

24 June 2008 2 comments

The night we went to see the fireflies near the stream, I thought to myself, ‘There aren’t many places like this.’ That might not be even remotely true, but then I suppose the dark and the quiet are felt more than seen, or heard. To be sure, the dark and quiet are things I’ve not often felt in their profundity; I suppose living in the city means living with the opposite: light and noise.

The water and the trees and the cricket-sounds were almost familiar, except that we weren’t in the tropics. 16°C was bliss, and I didn’t have to worry about any flying insects other than the ones I wanted to see. And what a sight they were.

I heard someone consider (out loud) composing a poem. Another someone actually obliged, out loud. I remember hearing something about stars, but I also remember thinking they were more like heartbeats. The lights would go on for a bit, fade off, and turn on again, at intervals as regular as heartbeats are regular. (Which in my mind isn’t all that regular.) But now I think it’s more like breathing. Which, I realize, is necessarily momentarily irregular when you start to think about it. So, I won’t think about it.

(Excuse me while I turn off the light and noise.)

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Categories: Writing Tags: , , ,

The Air I’ve Breathed In

23 June 2008 2 comments

The first half or so of the Japan tour was spent in Fukui, while the latter portion was spent in Osaka. Fukui is definitely countryside, while Osaka is strictly city. (In Fukui, we slept in futon (futons?) on tatami floor, while in Osaka we had regular hotel rooms.) As for myself, I’ve lived in the city of Singapore all my life. But strangely enough, I didn’t feel like I had to ‘adjust’ to life in Fukui at all. The main, and obvious, reason for this is that Fukui is in no way backward, the resort was comfortable, and our hosts went out of their way to make it comfortable. The food was good (the fresh vegetables are awesome), there was onsen (hot spring), and futons are definitely one of the most comfortable ways to sleep. On the other hand, on reaching Osaka, things felt fundamentally different. I could literally smell it in the air and taste it in the water. Did I mention that the air and water in Fukui are (no other word for it) pristine? (It’s also probably one reason the vegetables taste so good.) Certain things about the city were familiar, like streetlights and shopping streets and cafes and restaurants (I was struck by how much our hotel was like a hotel, right down to the breakfast coupons), but after Fukui, being in Osaka felt a little like being out of tune.

Arriving in Singapore still felt like coming home, though. Even though it was something like 1 in the morning after we were done wrapping things up at school, I opted for supper at the old train station with my dad and Ismail rather than home and sleep. I had mee goreng and teh halia.

But, ah, for some Fukui air!

Categories: Writing Tags: , , ,

Vending Machines in Japan

20 June 2008 3 comments

It is very difficult to find a building without at least a few vending machines in it in Japan. They are everywhere. Prices seemed to be standardized everywhere we went, except in Universal Studios Japan, but then I hate that place anyway.

I don’t think anyone on the tour encountered a single faulty vending machine. They all seem to operate perfectly. Pushing coins in rapidly immediately after you get one drink doesn’t seem to work either. The coins just get rejected. I don’t think you can not use the machines in a proper manner, even if you’re rushing.

Almost all the vending machines I considered were reassuringly clean. The only exception was the one I found at a park, but then again sand in the drink drop is almost inevitable when the machine is in a park in summer and there are children at play.

I got almost all my tea and coffee from vending machines while in Japan. Unlike canned or bottled tea and coffee in Singapore, in Japan they don’t see the need to over-sweeten everything. You can quite clearly taste the tea or coffee, which was a welcome change from always tasting just milk, chocolate and sugar. Kirin Royal English Milk Tea made quite an impression on me. (Also on the percussion section, as I later found. They liked their teh ping bo ping too. I didn’t come up with the name.) The tea actually seemed to have flavour. The same goes for the coffee. I don’t remember any particular brand, but they all seemed good. Not overly sweet or milky. And there were none of those short, thin cans we get in school either. There was even decent canned black coffee.

Canned Coke in Japan also tastes better. Supposedly. But then I wouldn’t bet against the people who claim it; they’ve been Coke fans all of their long lives. Perhaps it has something to do with the water, or the fact that the people who service the machines are very particular about having the drinks in the machines for no more than three months.

Almost all bins in Japan are for a specific variety of trash, and there is always a bin specifically for emptied drink containers next to a vending machine. The openings for the containers are circular, which only allows you to put the container in head- or bottom-first. Often, there are separate bins for PET bottles, cans and a general-purpose one, although ‘general’ here still means ‘empty drink container’. Sometimes, the caps from plastic bottles have to be removed first and disposed separately. This all seems quite bothersome at first, especially when you don’t know Japanese and have to interpret the symbols, which isn’t as easy as it sounds since a PET bottle is not exactly easily differentiable from a regular one. But then there’s a sort of satisfaction from identifying the type of trash you have and matching it to the exact opening it’s supposed to go into. There’s actually a right answer! But now that I think about it, I remember my young cousins playing with toys that involve matching shapes to openings or indentations. I suppose the feeling is similar.

The prospect of buying a drink from a vending machine in Japan is a worry-free one. The machine is clean, and it will work perfectly. There’s nothing to think about from the time your money goes in and the time the drink is in your hand, with the exception of your choice of drink. And after you finish your drink, the procedure for disposing the emptied container presents itself. Perhaps you could call this the vending machine experience. Even as I say it I am somewhat incredulous at the impression Japanese vending machines seemed to have made on me. Vending machines the world over are pretty much the same, but maybe the little things really do make the difference. Or maybe everything about the concept and the way the machines are operated and maintained just seems Japanese in my mind.

I have been referring only to vending machines for bottled or canned drinks, but naturally in Japan there are vending machines for loads of other things. The ice cream vending machine at our accommodation in Fukui was quite popular. There’s usually a wall of a few vending machines in a row at a typical convenience store, selling drinks or noodles or hot meals or other things I don’t remember.

Categories: Writing Tags: , , ,

Ready For It

11 June 2008 Leave a comment

It is five long, long days of practicing, packing, planning and panicking. I slept from 5:30 to 8:30 yesterday, meaning I’ve been up sixteen hours on three hours of sleep. Maybe that’s why I am only registering one memorable event at camp. But the scene was hilarious. It was the second day, the rain was coming in veritable torrents, and the classrooms we were sleeping in were flooding. Our dorms were on the fourth and fifth floors in the old building. I rounded the corner on level three and the classroom block came into view. People were bailing water over the corridor railings like the ship was sinking. It was terrible, and terribly funny. From the weather over my house, I think the school may have been flooding again tonight.

I’m finally packed and ready to be off, and as for the performances, ready or not, we’re off in a few hours. It’ll be eight more days away from home and I hope they’ll be worth it. Thanks for the love and well-wishes. Goodnight.

Categories: Vagaries Tags: ,