Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Falling on my back and breaking my nose

I went on one week trip to Toyosato(where the elementary school used for K-on!'s school is located), Kyoto, Nara, Osaka and Kobe(where some of the Fate/ Stay Night scenes were based on). It would have been a perfect trip only if I didn't have so many accidents.

On the first day, I left my book that I brought to keep me from getting bored. I also bought a plug converter and an extra battery for my camera since I ran out of battery and I didn't want to miss any more pictures.

On the fourth day, I forgot my camera on a train to Osaka from Nara since I was half asleep then. I tried visiting the Lost and Found in Osaka 3 times for the next 3 days but they didn't find my camera. So I lost all my photos on the 3rd day(Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kinkakuji, Kitano Tenmangu, Arashiyama Manto Nagashi, Daimonji, and a good photo of a geisha along Gion. I also lost all the photos in Nara

On the fifth day, I lost the new battery that I just bought on the first day.

On the sixth day, I submerged my itouch that I have used to take photos and videos after I lost my camera. It still hasn't worked until now. I also discovered that I lost my plug converter.

Everything that happened to me just made me all so depressed. I wish I could just go back home at that moment and feel all the familiar stuff again and I couldn't really enjoy the trip anymore... Although at least on the last day I spent the day with the girl I like in Kyoto again. But then again, I felt really sad as we parted ways and I had to go back to Tokyo, but at least this sadness is more like when I had to leave Shirakawa-go, more of a withdrawal syndrome rather than depression.

What I can learn from all this is I guess, you need to lose things to appreciate the beauty of normal life. And by losing things, you start looking for an alternative to recover what is lost. It got me searching for programmes to replace my ipod capabilities and found really great ones too. For example I found this dictionary to replace my Jap dictionary on my itouch. Nevertheless I'm still quite down from all of these...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

When They Cry

After coming back from Shirakawa-go, I ended up watching Higurashi again, up to 24 episodes in one day when I had a free day. All the time I spent in Shirakawa-go enabled me to enjoy Higurashi more. And the more I watched Higurashi, the closer I felt towards Shirakawa-go. Anyway, now I was able to understand more of the anime and realised many things that was confusing at first. The ending, Shion seeing Satoshi and Rika finally succeeding, was very touching – I am really weak against people’s struggle and their will to continue trying despite the obstacles. It was such a masterpiece, if only the OVAs were as good as the main story.

I think what I would miss the most about Japan when I come back is the cries of higurashi.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Shirakawa-go, real life Hinamizawa, and possibly the most beautiful village in Japan

Disclaimer: this is gonna be a long post and I will put quite a few pictures to show off my experience in Shirakawago and to make it less boring.

When I first decided to go to Shirakawa-go, I only wanted to visit the higurashi bits. Rather, I didnt even know that it has anything else in it. Anyway, I reserved my ticket from Shinjuku to Takayama by calling the phone number in Nohi Bus website. It was my first reservation in Japanese and it was quite rewarding.

The bus journey should only take 5.5 hours to Takayama but it took 7.5 hours due to the traffic out of Tokyo on a Saturday. Takayama itself is very beautiful city and it is worth spending the whole day there, but that is not my main destination this time round, maybe next time. The return ticket to Shirakawa-go can be purchased at Takayama bus station and it only took 50 minutes to get there.

Shirakawa-go welcomes the tourists with its numerous souvenir shops in the shape of gassho-zukuri houses. Proceeding to the main village, I couldn't help but notice the similarity of the bridge with Hinamizawa bridge.

The top picture was mirrored since the stairs were in the opposite side in Shirakawa-go
If I have the anime screenshot, I would have been able to produce the same shot, but alas.

So I crossed the bridge to get to the central of  Ogimachi (the most famous village Shirakawa-go). The village was very beautiful. I felt that it's an insult just to call this real life Hinamizawa. I would definitely still like Shirakawa-go very much even though I have never watched Higurashi before. After looking around for a bit, I checked in to Hisamatsu, the minshuku that I reserved. The host was extremely kind and hospitable. I was served mugi-cha (barley tea) and a gassho-zukuri-shaped wafery cake with goma inside. I got a post card for free as well. I know that I have paid for all of that, but it's still a nice gesture nevertheless.

As a Higurashi fan, the first thing that I did after depositing my bag was to look for Furude Shrine, which was only 3 minutes away from my room.

Hachiman Shrine covered by scaffoldings
I was utterly disappointed when I saw that the Furude Shrine was under repair and that I couldn't see its shape. It was very unlucky since I discovered later that the shrine was only repaired once every 50 years!

inside Hachiman shrine
Oh well, at least I can still see where Rika was killed and the ema(wooden plaque for wishes). Below are some of the memorable ones that I saw

Quite a lot of the ema were dated 19 June, which was probably because that's the date of Watanagashi in 1983.

I went around and took some more pictures before going back to Hisamatsu for dinner.

Everyone was already eating by the time I came back since I was half an hour late. The portion served was huge and I couldn't finish it. I met with American-Japanese couple who told me that I have a British accent, although I don't think I do since I don't speak quite like my friends yet.

By the time I went out of the dining room, it was already dark. I needed to charge my camera battery too. So I just played around with my laptop and charged my camera battery alternatively - I only brought one plug converter - before going to the onsen. Unfortunately, the onsen was indoor and not outdoor, so there was less traditional atmosphere. The sounds that the higurashi made was exactly the same as it was in the anime. And it continued on for 24 hours. It was hard to sleep at first because of the constant noise.
I woke up at 6.30 to capture the shots that I missed the day before and went around the village again before heading for breakfast at 7.30.

the shot that i missed due to my lousy camera battery
The real anime pilgrimage started after breakfast. I went around the whole village to capture the shots of scenery or buildings that are used in the anime. The more I walked around the village, the more I liked it. No matter which way I look, the scenery was always worth taking. You can visit my facebook album to view the pictures that I took in Shirakawa-go. But even they are not all since I took far too many pictures there.

Sonozaki's main house

Kimiyoshi's house

Rena's house A

Rena's house B

Hojo's house
Next was Rika's house, which was on the way to the observatory to see the whole of Ogimachi. I was afraid that I already missed Rika's house, but was glad to recognise it once I saw it.

Rika-chama's house

A tombstone next to Rika's house. While the symbol on the tombstone has 3 'apostrophes' like Sharingan, Furude's symbol has 2. Intentional?

The path to Hinamizawa viewpoint was the path that Keiichi took to go to school. Although the path doesn't have steep slope by the side in the anime. I also took a short video just before seeing part of the view. You can hear the higurashi's cries in the background.

I continued walking and what awaited me was the view of the whole Ogimachi village. At this moment the song Dear You was playing in my head. And indeed there were two girls who were playing the same song from their phone while looking at the same view. This is definitely one of the most joyous moments in my life. The view was just so magnificent, awe-inspiring. If hertford bridge can be called the bridge of sigh, this is the view of sigh, times a hundred.

"This is a perfect place for a souvenir shop", I thought since people would feel accomplished and grow fond of the place after climbing up and seeing the view of Shirakawa-go. And there it was, a bit upper from where I was standing, a souvenir shop, together with a platform with even better view.

This is the exact view that Rika saw when she shouted "kaeru!" to Akasaka. Although the angle in anime was lower, probably to accommodate for Rika's height(?). The view was absolutely amazing and I would never get tired of this. This is the moment when I wished that I have better camera so that I can take in as much details as possible.

They also have cameramen ready to take your pictures and print it in a nice booklet for 1300 yen. However,  I must pass on that since my wallet is already crying. Though I did buy a postcard collection of Hinamizawa, I mean Shirakawa-go and its people in different seasons for 500 yen.

After enjoying the scene for about 10 minutes or so, I decided to climb down, as I have more shots to capture. I glimpsed Irie's clinic from above and so that was my next destination.

Irie's clinic, I forgot to include the signs in the picture D:
 Next on the list was Maebara's house and Saiguden (the ritual tools storage which Takano and Tomitake broke into) I took a detour along the way and saw quite a good view on the stoney river bank.

Then I resumed my journey towards Keiichi's house. It was quite a long walk, and I started doubting whether I was going in the correct direction. So I stopped and asked a woman where I was on the map and it turned out that I was still on track. And more than 2km away from Irie's Clinic, I saw the two buildings I was searching for. Right opposite each other.

On the way back, my battery ran out, again, and I had to start taking photos with my ipod. Luckily the minshuku host allowed me to charge my battery camera there while I went for lunch. She was so incredibly kind.

I went to the place that she recommended. I ordered tempura udon, which I think was a bad idea since it was already very hot. So I ordered shaved ice with syrup as a dessert just to reduce the heat. The view from the restaurant was also very picturesque.

After lunch, I came back to Hisamatsu to take my charger and my backpack. I asked to take a picture of the host and to my surprise, her name is Satoko. If we are to consider that Satoko was 10 in 1983, she is now 39, which is reasonable age for her!(see the pic below)

grown up Satoko-san
My trip in Shirakawa-go was not finished yet, I still haven't taken the shot for Mion's water wheel yet. It is located inside Gassho-Zukuri Minka-en which costs 500 yen to go in. Most exhibitions in the outdoor museum was ironically inside the houses with thatched roof and you need to remove your shoes to enter any of the houses. It was such a hassle so I only entered one of the houses. It was a two-stories house with living room and other normal rooms on the first floor. On the second floor was photo gallery, silkworm cultivation, and some other equipments(I'm not sure what they are for since I can't read kanji).

But even without entering all the houses, I definitely still enjoy the museum because of the gorgeous scenery outside. I would say that it's not as pretty as the village itself, but it is definitely worth the money.
Mion's wheel

Sonozaki's garden

Random nice waterfall
Shirakawa-go is one of the few places that I really don't want to leave. When I finally couldn't see any of the view that I saw, I feel like crying. I swear I will come back to this place again, maybe to propose, maybe for a honeymoon or just a holiday. But I will definitely come back. And next time, I will stay for longer. I will rent a bike and visit the school and the dam construction place, which are 30 km and 16km from the village respectively. I will also visit Wada house - the house Sonozaki residence was based on. Although that is still for the future me to take care of.

my senior for translating the anime pilgrimage map (you can get the official Shirakawa-go map from the bus stop in Takayama) and for inspiring me to go to shirakawa-go in the first place
Oh and please ask for permission in case you want to download the picture that I posted here to post it somewhere else.

Monday, July 16, 2012

meanwhile, in Japan...

It's been a week since I first arrived in Japan. It's like my dream came true. Yes, my dream came true. I grew up watching anime and reading manga and coming to Japan has been my dream forever. To finally be able to come here gives quite a magical feeling. The past week of exploring Tokyo has been great as I got to see through my own eyes the city that I already know so much through the countless hours of reading manga.

Although now that I'm here, I feel the need to do so many stuff but I don't know where to begin. I want to be able to gain the contacts of merchandise suppliers in Japan since I am really interested in business and anime at the same time. There's this errand that I'm running for a game shop in Oxford as well. Although I have sent them the images of the merchandises and they have yet to reply me. I'm also trying to run errands for other people just to get some extra money. But then again, even without spending my yen on buying souvenirs and goods for people, my budget is already quite tight. I need to cut my impulsive spending. Especially on snacks...

The internship itself is quite boring, as I am writing this post during my working hours and all I do is menial jobs so far. That's part of the reason why I have the urge to do more productive stuff so that I'm not wasting my time, even during the holiday. The urge to always do something productive is actually quite annoying, especially since I am on holiday now. I should be able to know how to relax more and forget about being productive with my life for a month or something.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


How can I like and hate the same person at the same time. This is ridiculous. And annoying. I know that her values are all against mine. And yet why do I feel jealous when she's talking to someone else. Why do I feel the need to impress her and to be around her all the time. And I know for a fact that she doesn't consider me a boyfriend material. My mind is becoming illogical. Hope this is just temporary and that summer away from her will return my state of mind back to normal.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Another sleepless night

Uninstalling Skyrim is one of the best decisions that I have made in a while. I was playing it until 4 am in the morning so as to 'refresh' me from the exams that I have gone through in the past week. And I realised that it's ruining my life. There are so many things that I can do with those hours spent on Skyrim, like socializing with friends, studying web, japanese, reading books, or even scouring facebook is more useful than playing a video game. At least you learn information about other people through stalking facebook.

This decision was also influenced by my desire to be more productive in life, especially after I heard a certain someone has made £500,000 through startups and working. That's insane. He said that he's sleeping only 3-4 hours a day to settle all his work. Considering his personality and my past experiences, I would say that's an exaggeration, but even to make £50,000 in your second year in uni is already incredible. Especially compared to me, who is just wasting my parents' money without earning my own.

On another note, I haven't slept at all since 20 hours ago, even after taking 2 and a 1/2 hour exam, 2 hour session with the speaker that I invited, followed by 2 and a 1/2 hour strategy meeting, all without break. Yet somehow I still feel quite energized, slightly tired, but not even as tired as the moment right after I took my first exam. It really shows that it's all in the mind, and not so much about my physical condition.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bordering Hypocrisy

I didn't know that she would defame her friends just like that. She's such a dangerous person. Blurting out people's secrets/problems/anxieties that they divulged when they(i will quote them as the 'drunks' to make things less confusing) were drunk was not cool at all. Especially when she told other people who weren't there during the embarrassing/hilarious drunken moments. These people did not know the context of the conversation and would just take the secrets as some disgusting traits of the drunks. The way she told the stories weren't any better either. She interpreted one of the drunks as desperate instead of just telling exactly what happened that night. It is true what Okonogi said to Ange in Umineko that truth depends on the existence of love. It never crossed my minds that the drunks were desperate, I only thought that she was just being too honest and worried too much about how the society view her.

And she was supposedly close friends with the drunks too. And yes, she still acted nice and lovely to the drunks whose secrets she exposed when she met them. I can't believe how she managed to do that.

I know the fact that I am writing this about her is too, an act of defamation. I was tempted to talk about this with the rest of the people in our group, but then it would just make me the same as her. At least here I didn't use any specifics that would change people's perspectives about anyone.