Tuesday, December 28, 2004

(N.b. sorry these are not in order, I went here before christmas)
This is Kobe luminarie: a very impressive display of lights, set up ten years ago to commemorate the devastating earthquake in 1994. Best visited with ten thousand other people at once and well worth the half an hour queue! Posted by Hello

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Deep fried fugu! Fish with a surprise kick to it if you are not careful! Posted by Hello

Who needs turkey when you've got raw fish? Posted by Hello

My christmas dinner! Posted by Hello

Japanese Christmas

Some people have been asking me what is Christmas like over here, or if it gets celebrated at all. There in fact are probably more christmas decorations here than in your average town centre in the UK, and I have lost count of the number of times I have heard Leroy Anderson's hi-quality musak classic "Sleigh Ride".

On the other hand xmas day is not a holiday, and the only tradition associated with it is for couples to do couply things, like on valentines day, but with added santa keeping an eye on you to check whether your being naughty or nice...

Anyway, not having couplish things to do I went to a party in Kyoto arranged by Atsushi's former schoolteacher who is a very nice and funny guy, where he got several of his old students together and we ate lots and lots and got very drunk, not so different to the British style I think, though with more raw fish and less turkey. We even had cake, champagne, and sang "We wish you a merry Chrismas". The fact that I couldn't understand a word of what anyone said most of the time was really not very important!

We also had blowfish (fugu), and I am still alive, you'll be glad to know, though fans of the simpsons will know that we need to wait another few hours to be absolutely sure!

Anway best wishes and a happy new year to you all!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Pocari Sweat. Nice name. Its apparently very refreshing. Posted by Hello

Its annual clean up day at KYOKUGEN! Even the professors lend a hand to trim the bushes, clean dead leaves out of the gutter and weed the embankments around the building! Posted by Hello

Sunday, December 19, 2004

OK, how about we test the interactivity of this internet thingy. I have a moral dilemma of a slightly delicate nature for my faithful reader(s?) to help me with.

Now on several occasions so far I have been asked "So what do you think of Japanese girls then?". Sadly the questioner was not flicking back her jet black hair and fixing me with an impish yet inviting grin. No, the question was usually posed by someone with more Y chromosomes, a conspiratorial smile and a metaphorical dig in the ribs, and sometimes by translation.

Can you suggest an appropriate, witty yet easily understandible for the linguistically challenged, response? Not that there aren't many fine young (and not so young) ladies around, but I don't wish to associate myself with those who have fled to the far east in search of an escape from the evils of feminism and a wifelet who won't answer back. Nor do I wish to encourage the chauvinistic (in several senses) idea that Japan has a monopoly on feminine charms.

I could of course reply by looking the questioner deeply in the eyes and saying "well actually I prefer boys", but not only would that not be true (sorry chaps!), but I think it would risk causing some unfortunate misunderstandings.

So whoever suggests the most pithy response which succeeds in preserving both my principles and masculinity gets the satisfaction of knowing that it will undoubtedly be put to good use.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Oops, lost an O-ring seal at the bottom of the dewar. This is what science is really about. Posted by Hello

Monorails!! Posted by Hello

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

This is my "office". Those are my snowblades on top of the filing cabinet by the way, you never know when you might need them! Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 02, 2004


I felt my first (very small) japanese earthquake about 11.30pm last night (sorry, no news link, I think it was not important enough). Apparently it was centred on Kyoto, but there was very little damage.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Just testing the blog by email facilities...

This is a very bizarre building in Kobe. It looks a bit like a church that someone left the the builders going on while they had a cup of tea and then then forgot about them and suddenly had to rush back to get them started on the roof, but it was too late and it turned out all wierd.

In fact it is a church, of sorts. We went into the amazing entrance hall with curved staircases and frescoed roof, and couldn't resist taking the lift (complete with new york-style arrow showing the current floor) up to the 12th floor, where there was a wedding going on! And a tiny chapel and outdoor bit in the roof. It must cost an absolute fortune to get married there.

The lower floors were mostly function rooms I think, but we didn't dare be even more nosy.
Posted by Hello

I am a rich man!

I should finally get paid for the first time tomorrow! (or at least my boss will on my behalf)

Riches! Fridges! Washing machines! Chairs, tables, sofas! Kobe beef suppers! Paying back the enormous amounts I owe him for my apartment deposit.... hmmm.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Pig's trotters! Posted by Hello

Friday, November 26, 2004

An update!

Firstly, apologies for not updating this much until now. As you can imagine I have been rather busy.

I’ll start with today (25th of November), if I have time maybe I’ll try to fill in some stuff about the first few days when I can.

So, I have found a nice flat not far from the university, but I have absolutely no furniture or crockery or anything. Like Switzerland Japan is not so cheap for that sort of thing, but fortunately there is a thriving second-hand scene, especially since people have to pay to throw out large items.

Anyway, one of the first things I got is a second hand traditional Japanese kotatsu, or small table with a built-in heater underneath. This is draped with a sort of quilt between the frame and the tabletop, so you can sit on a cushion with your legs underneath in the warm and eat good home-made food off the top. Great stuff!

The chap who has been helping me greatly all this time is Atsushi, one of the PhD students from our group who speaks pretty good English (a hell of a lot better than my Japanese at least). He is also a keen drinker, and since I was staying it his flat for a few days last week, we managed to consume rather too much alcohol for a sustainable lifestyle, I think.

So today, one of his friends (“you can call me Michael”) was kind enough to drive us out into the mountains to the Minoh city recycling facility, a sort of mixture between a dump and jumble sale. This guy was rather amusing, though he didn’t speak english so I was denied the full benefit. He was in is mid-thirties, and drove a big flashy car, sort of souped up landrover thing, and had several different sets of sunglasses (at least four) strategically clipped to the sun visors of his car (driver and passenger side). As we drove there and back, he smoked lots of cigarettes, bantered with Atsushi, and asked me very crude questions. He has invited us round for dinner some time to meet his wife.

I haven’t been able to do much physics yet, though I had an interesting discussion this afternoon with Miyake-sensei about valence fluctuations.

Monday, November 22, 2004

My new flat! In picture are Atsushi and girl from estate agent. Posted by Hello

Arrival at KYOKUGEN, Sunday 14th november after 14-hour journey and very little sleep in the days leading up to it. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Denial - its not just a river in Egypt.

Should I be more nervous about leaving the place I've lived for five years and moving to a strange culture the other side of the world? Probably.

Should I be more worried about the fact that I've done very little packing indeed? Probably.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The heart of gold

The title of this blog is not meant to be a description of my generous, wise, loving and humble character, but it is rather the name of the spaceship stolen by Zaphod Beeblebrox (an early hero of mine) in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, notably equipped with an infinite improbability drive.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Setting the scene

I'm not in Japan yet, it just says that in the title.

First Post

Well hello there...
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