Saturday, 29 March 2014

Seishun 18: the ban'etsu line

Seishun 18 season- one of three periods when JR companies nationwide join in
cooperation to offer a ticket that gives unlimited local train travel on JR trains. It's an exceptional deal when it's used to the full, but you need to have time on your side. 11500 yen for 5 non consecutive days travel. A Shinkansen ticket to Odate takes a mostly non descript route of ugly suburbia at a round trip price of about 34,000¥ ($360). The fastest route takes 5 hours. In contrast the seishun 18 yesterday took 18 hours but had some lovely scenery and a lunch break in Niigata City with the Yamashitas. I was particularly excited to be taking the Ban'etsu line - from Koriyama through Aizu to Niigata -for the first time. Even though this is not the prettiest time of the year in the mountains, it didn't disappoint.

In order to get the lunch break in Niigata, I needed to take an express to Sakata to catch up with the local train do I could make it to Odate in a single day. The route is as follows :

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Who needs hanami ...

when you can go to McDonald's this Fri-Sat-Sun and have a Sakura burger

or head into the Hachiko exit of Shibuya station adorned with blossoms?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Random signs and decorations in Tokyo

Wine bottles in furoshiki in Ikebukuro
Eyes are everywhere, mind your behaviour

Outside a dentist nearby.

Since the earthquake, there are are lot more elevation signs going up.
A key lesson of the tsunami was that elevation, not distance from the coast was more important for determining survival.

A sign outside a Chinese restaurant where Hiro always when when he was "kaze gimi" (getting a cold)  the couple had been running it for more than 50 years and due to illness were unable to continue.  There aren't many young people wanting to run this kind of shop; Tokyo is losing its character as a place of niche food and becoming a mecca for chain restaurants.

Nagara-aluki  (doing this as you walk, specifically mobile phone) warning signs.

A restaurant promising that you'll be full from eating there...
It might work in South America...
Found keys 
Crows to scare the crows from a swallows nest inside the garage.
Cow and calf

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Forms & bureaucracy...

It's that time of the three year renewal. Renewing a visa to live in Japan requires filling out 3 pages of forms that have a way of asking for the same information several times. So long as one concentrates & doesn't mix things up like the date of visa expiring and the date of passport expiring, it's pretty straightforward. The second step is gathering documents, which shouldn't be particularly bothersome, but always seems to be. I can walk into the tax office or the post office and almost always things go smoothly; the local govt. however have secretly microchipped me and I set off an alarm that alerts the office staff that they are required to be as difficult as possible. Yesterday... Arrive at local govt. office a little after nine with a permission note from Hiro that I could pick up his tax records (required for my visa). Permission notes are quite pointless if you're logical about life because Japan doesn't work on signatures it works on hanko (personal seals) which can be bought by anyone in most Japanese family names at most 100 yen shop. So I don't need his signature, just the 100 yen shop stamp. But anyway... I handed over the permission slip... I was summoned by a narky guy, who would have been well suited to the officer class of the Imperial Japanese army. Yes I had the permission slip... but no it didn't say it was ME authorised to pick it up. (Like Hiro could find anyone else to take time out of their morning to pick up his tax slip for him........) I said, no worries I would write my name at the top that it was me who was picking it up... DAME DAME DAME (NO NO NO) FAAAAAAAAAAIIIL That was breaking the rules... So I emailed Hiro and asked him to make a second copy with my name on it, which he dutifully did. TODAY I went back to the local govt. with Hiro's new sheet + yesterday's. I presented yesterday's, with my hand written addition that it was me collecting it & stamped it with the 100Yen shop seal... (The newly printed one ready to pull out the moment they objected.) And yesterday's sheet was accepted no problem. NOTE TO SELF. It doesn't matter what you change on an official document. Anything can be verified by a 100 shops stamp, so long as you don't make the change in front of a bureaucrat who enjoys asserting petty power. Sigh....