"Get your little ass back to the penitentiary, motherfucker. You know what you did last time you was here."

Prologue to Nara

Rough day. I ended up spending around 15 hours straight on the road on the 27th. Here’s how it happened. Without telling me, the guys had decided they were going to Nara today. Well I didn’t invite them to Japan just so they could do their thing and go around touring without me, so I had to join them. This meant waking up at 7 once again in order to get on the same train as the others. We arrived at the JR Nara station around 10 and decided to go eat some breakfast because we were all starving. After a few minutes of walking we found a nice old place owned by a lone old woman and she made some fairly simple meals for us. What explains that even if I order anything in Japanese and they originally accept the order and nod, the waiters and shop-owners everywhere always have to get my confirmation on the amount of meals by asking “wan?” in a broken English and pointing their index finger up as if I was some kind of fucking retard. Yes, ONE! I just told you that in Japanese, don’t switch to the only English word you know because if I retort you will run out of vocabulary pool.

Our new best friend

Everyone’s grudge

Nara is a city known for having deer all around the city. Don’t ask me why, I didn’t invite them. I think they built Nara or something. According to my sources, the deer are the second biggest group of foreigners in the city (little less than 1200), right after the Koreans who are around 1200. I’ll dedicate this paragraph to the deer so I can leave the topic in peace in the future. Although I won’t mention them again, believe me, they were present wherever we went. So back to the story: After the late breakfast we started walking the streets towards Nara park and quickly encountered the first of innumerable herds of deer we saw that day. We never bought the sembei they were supposed to be fed with, and instead just made them believe we had food by standing around taking pictures. The deer very much enjoyed sneaking up on people and pushing them to subtly inform them they were hungry. Most of them also started behaving more aggressively when other deer around them got sembeis and they didn’t.

Predators double-teaming on the unsuspecting shika-san

In all honesty, seeing other tourists get assaulted by deer made for much more entertainment than trying to feed one. At some point of the day, Tiina decided to buy one sweet potato from a street potato wagon thingamajig in what has since been declared a bad move. First of all, the potato cost 1000yen and nobody really enjoyed the taste. “Nobody” refers to us humans, because the deer were delighted to know we had something worth eating and after a few minutes Joona was mob training several deer around the park with the paper bag containing the sweet potato. A bit later, a crow, to which some of us referred to as a “not yet fully trained deer” tried to follow us by jumping to get his share of the food. Later on we even encountered one deer who was able to perform synchronized bowing with a Japanese kid to show him his gratitude. It was all very picturesque.

"My doctor's retarded. I don't have a brain tumor."

The Deer Whisperer performing an I.Q. test. Left hand is paper, right hand is potato peel.

The Turismus

Pretty much the whole of ancient Nara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so there were lots to see. Too bad I was concentrating on not getting run over by overzealous deer most of the time, so the only things I can actually remember visiting were the Kasuga-taisha and the To-daiji. We never paid to go inside the Kasuga shrine, but even outside we were able to offer a few yen in donations, make wishes and take photographs of mildly humorous engrish signs scattered around the entrance. The actual highlight of the day was the To-daiji, which I would claim to be the single most important reason for anyone to go to Nara, ever, although I do not have any data to back up the claim. First of all, the temple itself is the biggest wooden building on the planet. Second, it houses a gargantuan statue of Vairocana Buddha, and third, sometimes the Buddha breaks free from his chains and goes on to terrorize the city like in the movies. Trust me on this one. So the temple was massive, it had beautiful old statues inside and all the rest of it. There is also a hole reported to be the same size as the Buddha’s nostril in one of the wooden pillars inside the temple. According to the legend, people who pass through it become enlightened. All of us did, and I’m not sure whether anyone achieved Nirvana but personally I felt a slight pain in my left shoulder after the squeeze-through.

Colossal buddha. Picture not to scale.

Maten är färdig

Next part was eating again. We went downtown back to the modern part of Nara to try one of the renowned pork cutlet restaurants there, and it was delicious indeed. By that point we were also getting really tired of the walking outdoors and were considering returning home to rest, but it was one of the best opportunities to go eat sushi together in Osaka so we opted for that instead. The sushi restaurant Visa had recommended to us was fully booked, so we had to wait until around 8 before beginning the fishfest. By that time, those blasphemers who had told me they “only wanted to eat a bit” or “didn’t really like sushi” did turncoat and realized that good sushi is actually good. Well everyone except Tommi, who still needs some more work.

Dinner on conveyer belt

A collection of photos from that fateful day. Taken by Lauri, Joona and me with absolutely no permission from them to upload the pics here. Order not chronological and everything is messed up. Enjoy.


Filed Under Newspost

Unorthodox 25th of December

Different kind of day, I slept until 3:30 before people called me enough times to wake me up. It wasn’t a bad way to waste a Christmas day, actually. At least I was well prepared for what was going to happen later in the evening. We started off with a huge yakiniku party followed by two hours of drunken karaoke and a trip to Taka’s place in downtown Osaka. Personally, I would never have thought to be spending a Christmas night in Japan watching Eurotrip but nothing can really surprise me anymore.

Let's enjoy us!

Sayumi had reserved a table for 11 people at a Yakiniku tabe- / nomihodai near the Hirakata station so we all gathered there around 6:30. That’s when the party started. The setup was 5 Finns (Tiina, Lauri, Joona, Tommi and me), 3 Japanese (Taka, Yuzuru and Sayumi), 2 Germans (Knuth and Tim) and 1 American (Ryan-chan). We had two hours to eat as much barbecued meat as we could and drink ourselves into oblivion. In a way it was more of a race against time than a civilized dinner. Once the game was over Sayumi and Ryan left and the rest of us moved upstairs to the Ring to sing Karaoke for a few hours, although none of the songs were really Christmas related, the pièce de resistance of the show being Dschingis Khan’s Moskau. From the Ring we made a train trip to Taka’s place, bought some more booze as well as ramen and snacks on the way and had a late dinner in a nice room in his attic. That’s what most likely happened anyway. I have to rely solely on witness reports and photos on my camera as I had developed a bad case of blackout by the time we left the Ring. According to the legend I was very talkative on the train to Osaka. I came back to my senses around the time we started watching Eurotrip, though. Once the movie was over people were beginning to fall asleep and morning trains had begun running so we collectively decided to head back home.

Ze Germans giving it all they got

The fun stopped soon thereafter. After a double McDonalds breakfast and strenuous train switching I got back to the Seminar House only to realize my worst nightmare had come true. As stated in the last entry, I was supposed to have my room inspected at 9:30. That is only half the story, however. I also had to move all the stuff from our current room (including Henrik’s belongings) one set of stairs up to a perfectly identical room on the second floor because of a vague reason I tried asking for in Japanese but couldn’t understand the answer. Thus, after emptying the room and having it inspected I had to wait patiently on the lounge sofa for a few hours as my status slowly shifted from drunk to hung over. When they finally gave us the green light to move to the new rooms, around noon, I lugged all the miscellanea upstairs and went to sleep on a half-futon, the only sleeping material available at the time. Exquisite. I think some people came in to change a few of the tatami mats while I was sleeping but it could not have bothered me any less. While the partying was very enjoyable as a whole, I might opt for a traditional family Christmas next year.

Getting sleepy at Taka's mansion. Or well, except Joona.


Åland är för säljan

I was supposed to go get my friends at the airport at around 10 in the morning, which meant I needed to wake up at around 7. Due to karaoke-related issues I overslept and had to hop on my bike and haul ass to the station in order to be at the airport on time. I made it to KIX at 10:02, only to realize that the plane was half an hour late, and the boys were getting a cavity search or whatnot to further delay their entry into the country. I have to admit though, that getting my best friends up here to Japan was the best Christmas present ever. Besides the incessant sarcasm and jokes in very bad taste, there wasn’t much interesting stuff going on before we got to their hotel in Osaka and they could finally get the sleep they hadn’t been able to get in the airplane.

In the evening we went to Umeda to see all of the romantic glory that is December 24th in Japan. Visa came with us, which was a good thing considering I had no idea where to go once we got to Umeda station. Now this might not seem so weird to any Westerner because it’s not that uncommon overseas, but on the 24th, Japanese couples might actually walk hand in hand publicly. They won’t kiss though. Oh no, that would be blasphemous. Even in the station the density of couples walking hand in hand had multiplied compared to the norm, but we still decided to walk to the Floating Gardens Observatory and to a worryingly expensive Weihnachtsmarkt in order to take it to the next level. The entrance to the observatory cost 700 yen per person, but they did give us a paper star on which we could write our wishes so it was all worthwhile. The highest level of the tower was indeed a lover paradise. Sets of double chairs were set up so couples could look at the scenery and cuddle without worrying about anything, and by anything I mean Lauri sneaking behind them like a paparazzo and taking photos with his huge ass camera.

We had to go home in quite a hurry because the last train left relatively early and we weren’t really sure at what exact time that relatively early was. In the end, it wasn’t such a close call. Once home I spent a few hours providing IT support to a panicky girl on facebook before succumbing to the fatigue and sleeping for twelve hours straight.

Christmas, the Presents and Everything

As mentioned earlier, the best present this Christmas was to get my friends here. The second best was to get the Leivo Care Package from back home, a big bag full of goodies that I will put to good use sooner than I want to admit. Another positive thing was to get nominated for the JASSO scholarship for the spring semester, but it’s only a nomination so I don’t want to get my hopes up too much.

The worst fucking present is that on the 26th, at 9:30 in the morning, my whole room will have to be empty, clean and ready for inspection by the local Stasi that wants to check whether my drawers are empty and clean before I refill them 15 minutes later. Everything I leave in the fridge without a tag with my name will be compromised, as will be everything I leave in the kitchen cupboards. So ultimately I have to clean my room, throw all the stuff out in the lounge, hang in there in a paranoid hangover while hoping that I can even stay in the same room afterwards. These blatantly moronic rules are still beyond my grasp. I don’t know who devises them, but considering I’m staying here with the same roommate for the spring semester, maybe they could let us stay in the same room with the same stuff and check for all the broken things when we actually leave, INSTEAD OF DOING IT AT CHRISTMAS! I can gather some mild comfort by making myself believe I’m in the army again and I have to do stupid shit just for the sake of doing stupid shit. We will have a yakiniku party on the 25th with tabe- and nomihodai, and the situation will eventually escalate into a long night of drinking and having fun. However, I’ll be damned if I let some usefuckingless inspection ruin my Christmas day dinner.

Also, I have resigned from the duty of taking photos now that the fresh gaijins arrived, so until I get their pictures this blog will be dull and colorless. It’s a Christmas Miracle!


I’ve collected some random rants here about things that I either dislike or that just confuse the hell out of me. This does not mean I would not have a good time here. I actually don’t have a strong opinion about this stuff at all. However, writing interesting entries about sunshine and happiness would require a writer of much higher caliber than I am, and thus I’ve harnessed the power of all the fleeting moments of frustration I’ve encountered in order to come up with this rant.


I think I commented on a few of my early posts on how quiet the Japanese society is in general. Until now I have found very few exceptions to the rule, but the most peculiar one is the amount of yelling on the Tennis court. Yep, Tennis. Court. Now tennis, along with golf, is supposed to be one of those “noble” sports during which people are not supposed to scream like they are in a rock concert. I happen to know this because I break this rule myself quite often when in a bad position during a match and people on the adjacent courts don’t quite enjoy hearing my frustrated cussing. Here, though, it seems the Tennis court is the place to yell. I am still looking for signs saying “When overcome with an urge to yell, get in here and let all hell break loose.” What people do not seem to realize is that the tennis court is neither in a dimension of its own, nor is it soundproof. We can fucking hear you! Like the Seminar House 1 Otoo-san would politely tell us every time we’re drinking in the park: “Urusai! Bee quietto!”

And it’s not like only the players are yelling. We have tennis courts on the school campus, so on many a morning Japanese students get together prior to a tennis match or club training to yell undecipherable encouragements. They gather in a circle and cry at the top of their lungs. I have spent many sleepless nights trying to translate the cryptic messages that consist of crying out YEAH! as loud as one can for 15 minutes in a row. After that part, presumably the warm-up, is over, the games commence. During matches, naturally, the players are yelling “YEAH!” each time they hit the ball. But also each time they don’t hit it. And each time the ball is flying. In addition, they usually have up to four (4) friends on the sidelines yelling “YEAH!” every few seconds in a random pattern. There are some hidden layers of meaning there that I cannot begin to fathom. My theory is that in order to be fully functional the Japanese need to let it all out once in a while, and the government has chosen tennis courts as the designated area.


There are supposedly rules on which side of the pavement or road people should be riding their bicycles on: the left-hand side. Those rules were explained to us in theory during the orientation week and to me they seem very clear. However, trying to follow them in practice is very difficult because they don’t apply to a large percentage of the Japanese cyclists. When you see from far away that another person on a bike is approaching towards you, the first thing to notice is that he / she / it is usually driving right in the fucking middle of the sidewalk (Here, bikes are supposed to be driven on the sidewalk, which is narrow, contains small posts here and there and has no specific area for cyclists. This makes it very exciting because it increases your chances to fall over and die). Great, so much for the rule to drive on the left.

Once you decide to pull so far to the left you fall in the goddamn gutter just to show them that you have made your decision, the Japanese duelist starts to zigzag in the middle of the road as if he was trying to reach a consensus on how we should handle the passing-each-other-process. Culturally, I guess it could be explained as a sad attempt to do some silent in-traffic nemawashi. Unfortunately, we don’t have six months to ask everyone’s opinion because in about three seconds we’re toast. “Ok, so you see my position? Just fucking choose the opposite side! Y a pas mille et une solutions!” I’ve come to believe that if something is to claim my life in Japan, it’s the sidewalk.

The Garden of Everything

McDonald’s in Japan is weird. It’s not McDonald’s’ fault though. The Japanese society as a whole has somehow succeeded at creating the illusion that a fast food restaurant is not only a superior place to hang out, but also an intense experience. Upon entering, and this gets me every time, you are made to believe that the place is relatively empty, because there is no queue and the first floor usually does not have many seats, out of which all are vacant. However, once you go upstairs you realize that the truth is out there. All floors above the first, no matter how big the place may be, are filled with people. Here’s the catch, tough: Nobody is eating. People are either sitting doing nothing, sleeping on their chairs, playing with their keitai or portable consoles, working on their computers or smoking. Basically anything but eating. Personally I’d like to spend my free time anywhere else than a McDo’ but apparently to be hip in Japan you have to spend a specific amount of time there every day. The whole custom is beyond me.

In related news, the Japanese are notorious for using public locations for something completely different that we are used to seeing in the western world. McDonalds being used for anything but eating is only the tip of the iceberg. At school, one can quietly roam through the three floors of the library to see that half of the people there are not studying or doing anything productive, but rather feel no shame in sleeping on any surface in any possible position while looking like fucking tools. In a way, the library is just a huge dormitory with highly innovative sleeping devices. Oh, and the tennis courts I already mentioned…

Hofstede should be proud

The amount of uncertainty avoidance that is innately present in every Japanese person is incredible. Apparently, it is close to impossible to end a sentence with an absolute piece of information. Each and every statement ends with a small expression that mystifies the whole act of opening the mouth: “Maybe”, or “I think”. They are both frequently used in situations where they don’t belong. The Japanese are the best thing that has happened to uncertainty since Kyousuke of Kimagure Orange Road fame, and he was on the verge of falling apart because of his inability to do any decision-making. Here are a few examples on how to render a perfectly understandable sentence superfluous:

“I woke up this morning, I think” NO YOU FUCKING DIDN’T THINK, and you’re still not thinking. No, adding unnecessary uncertainty in a sentence where it can’t possibly fit doesn’t make you culturally enlightened, polite, or cute, it’s just plain WRONG. Try again.

“I have to go now, maybe” Ok, listen pal, you don’t have to go “maybe”, you have to fucking go. The story of this specific situation is that the person in question did leave around five seconds after saying that. The “maybe” did not make that action smoother or more acceptable, as it was already formidably so. Nobody will hold a grudge against someone who leaves a voluntary ultimate game if he has some other errands to run.

One last example on how to formulate a compelling answer when the professor asks you a question on whether your bike is similar to other normal bikes: “same, maybe. maybe, same, same.”


Right now my life is going through a very hard phase of exasperation, sometimes called “final goddamn exam week”. This ultimately leads to me starting to reap what I’ve sown in terms of procrastination. Therefore, I will now concentrate 100% on pretending to study the whole weekend, actually starting as late Sunday night around 2 and cramming for a few all-nighters afterwards in order not avoid getting my ass handed back to me at the exams. Updating of this blog will resume the 18th of December, and from that point onward I’ll address issues critical to world peace such as “Am I dead?”, “What happened to November?” and “Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?”


Ghosts & Goblins

This weekend was long and tiring. First of all, it was Halloween. I’ve never really celebrated that holiday, but at KGU (not in Japan as a whole) it seemed like a big thing, so a few of us actually skipped classes on Wednesday in order to go to Osaka and get costumes. I didn’t have money to waste on anything too special so in the end I just bought a funny pac-man balaclava, and so did my long lost German brother, Tim. There was some discussion on how we could get the most out of our cheapskate excuses for costumes and in the end the obvious choice was to put our black suits on and the hat on top.

Starting Thursday morning, the Center for International Education was filled with anime cosplayers, traditional monsters, crossdressers, animals and everything imaginable as there was an ongoing Halloween costume contest for KGU students. We weren’t prepared for that, Halloween was supposed to be Friday, but after morning Japanese classes both Tim and me went back home to get into character and came back to school an hour later to annoy people. The genious that made our costumes so popular was the late decision not to speak a word to anyone while wearing the masks, after all we didn’t seem to have mouths. This gave an eerie feel to everything we did, and when added to the fact that we tried perform every action simultaneously and were of pretty much the exact same height, it allowed for some great moments during the elongated Halloween.

After two days of walking around the campus looking stupid, we had been in hundreds of photos, scared dozens of people to the point of having a seizure and made innumerable people curious about who were the freaks hiding under the masks:


From a sociological point of view, it was very enjoyable to be able to see people’s initial reactions upon meeting someone when there was no gaijin prejudice involved. It somewhat surprised me, but people really couldn’t tell who we were or even where we came from. The most frequent comments we heard but never answered to were:

Bikkurishita! = That startled / surprised me, sometimes accompanied by a quick leap backwards or running away.

Ryuugakusei desu ka / Gaijin desu ka / Nihon-jin desu ka? = Foreign student? / Foreigner? / Japanese?

Shashin wo totte mo ii desu ka? / Can wee take-u photoo wizu you? = Self-explanatory

Setakai / Takai / Dekai / Dekee = Tall, tall, huge, HUGE

Dare desu ka? Who are you? = I wonder

*embarrassed laughter and giggling*

There were also a lot of ignorant fools who called Tim Spiderman because his mask was red. We didn’t really have any names so people usually just referred to us as the Red one and the Blue one. Revealing our faces before going clubbing on Friday night also incited many drunken compliments from random students, and nothing is more honest and heart-warming than drunken comments from people that will probably never talk to you again once they sober up.

Matsuri Danshaku

The other aspect of the weekend was that the 43rd Gaidaisai (a.k.a. Kansai Gaidai Festival) was held from Friday to Sunday (with preparations starting as early as Thursday). It was something comparable to school festivals in high school romance animes: The sports field was filled with food and snack booths while class rooms underwent different transformations into karaoke bars, live music clubs, tea ceremony rooms and whatnot. Several clubs and circles (Flamenco, Cheerleading, Aikido…) held presentations and shows around the campus, and the main stage next to the cafeteria was in good use by new bands on their way to stardom. There is so much to the festival that there is no way for me to remember and write about everything but I’ll try my best. In order to counter the ensuing Wall of Text I’ll throw some random photos in between topics.


The Gaidaisai officially started Friday morning, which was great, because it cancelled all classes, except for foreign fucking students. One might think it somewhat lowers the studying motivation when everybody else is outside having fun and we have to sit in class and look out of the window pining for freedom. Well it did! Luckily I had enough time between some classes to try some of the festival food though. I think I’ll be able to put up a foodlog page sooner or later about everything I’ve eaten here so I won’t include a list here. In some way, festival food is similar to fair food, although it isn’t made by people, or folk, but normal students. And during a weekend they’re putting their everything into making it. People are working around the clock to make decorations for booths that will only be up for three days. I couldn’t expect anything similar to happen back home. After classes were over, the festival was closing so Friday was soko made. I had had just enough time during breaks to go around the booths in order to know what to do on Saturday with all the free time.

John Wilkes Booth(s)

Friday evening was the time to go clubbing. Business as usual, entrance to the Halloween party cost 3000 goddamn yen and included no re-entry. Clubbing here has been an increasingly rare occurrence and that fact alone made the night very enjoyable. Most of the partygoers were in costumes and the club had a lot of different bands playing live or dancers performing on the stage. Due to my intoxicated state at the end of the evening, I took part in a soccer game in front of the Kuzuha mall at around 3 am while still wearing my suit. Some twist of fate allowed the suit to stay intact, however.

Party people

The weather on Saturday was excellent so the day would have best been spent wandering aimlessly around the school. However, it was also the third time we had agreed to holding a booth about Finland in order to spread the miracle that is cultural (mis)understanding. This time it was part of the Gaidaisai International Festival and wasn’t for high school students, or even for gaidai students interested in going abroad, but for anyone who happened to come see the festival. I got there late, accompanied by a Phil Collins hangover, but somehow managed to make it through the day in one piece. In the evening all those involved in organizing the International Festival were invited to eat some sukiyaki at the Asian Days restaurant at Hirakata station. All you can eat, naturally.

Ian with Japanese girls on the left, kakkoii gaijins on the right

Sunday was more calm, as the somewhat tiresome cosplay fun as well as the InFes were over and I could concentrate 100% on experiencing the school festival. As I already explained what it was all about a few paragraphs earlier, I’ll cut corners here. The last day was, in fact, more of the same: Walking around school, seeing shows, eating all kinds of interesting food I had not tried before and meeting friends.

Omusoba with my name written on it. Down't touch that! (I demand)


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