Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pagoda Facts

Actually I was wondering about the many Japanese cultural activities which are looked similar to me with those of Indians. In a way that is truth too, because of the Buddhism which spread to the world from the origin India. Other examples which proves my theory of understanding are the Sanskrit word usage in Buddhism even in Japan, The pagodas of various countries and the portable shrines etc. While I visited the Asakusa of Tokyo and Ueno park in the recent past, I have decided to learn more about the Pagodas hence this blog got its shape.

A pagoda is one part of a temple's structure, and we can trace the origin of pagodas back to Great United India. A pagoda has its origin in old Indian culture. The Indians made pagodas as tombs called stupa, before Buddhism began, but the shape of it was completely different from a Japanese or Chinese one. "Stupa" is from a word which means "to accumulate" in Sanskrit, which is the ancient language in India. Its shape was like a dome, and most of them were made from soil or stone. Pagoda was a modification of the stupa

The wooden pagodas are the building with scientific ideas, each story [floor] of pagoda helps to prevent the rainwater falls away from the base of the tower, In addition the cascading of pagoda conical roofs helps preventing the rain water force from top to bottom which may cause earth slides.

A pagoda structure is running down the centre is a giant pillar of tree wood. Around this wooden pillar, the conical roofs are loosely packed, resulting in a highly flexible structure able to withstand earth tremors. This could be a main reason for the countries like Japan, Thailand, China are built many pagoda structure for the religious temples, where the earth quake are common.

The Pagodas also considered as the examples for ancient day’s carpentry techniques

The oldest and tallest wooden pagoda in the world is located in China and it is celebrating its 950th anniversary. This pagoda is called as Sakyamuni Pagoda in Yingxian in north China's Shanxi Province built in 1056.

Pagoda style buildings are not only by Buddhist also Hindus and Shinto religions were build for the temple structures.

It is pertinent to explain the terms “pagoda” “Zedi or Ceti” and “Stupa” all of which refer generally to a Buddhist monument of a solid type. Pagoda is a transportation of the original Pali word “dagaba” (dhatu-gabha) meaning a sacred mound containing the mortal remains of the Buddha or saints.

The oldest pagoda which still retains its original size, shape and design is one of the three at Sre Kestra, an old Pyu City State (1st to 9th century A.D) near the modern town of Pyay about 180 miles to the north of Yangon, Myanmer(Burma). The three Pagodas are the Baw Baw Gyi, the Phayamar and the Phayagyi, all in cylindrical shape, simple, plain and entirely undecorated. The last named, Phayagyi is believed to be the oldest of the three. Oral history and old chronicles claim that they are the surviving ones of nine stupas which king Duttabaung the founder of Pyay dynasty built in his kingdom.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Auspicious Asakusa

As usual the weekend excited me to roam around the near by places to discover some new things about the Japan. I like to visit some long distance in the Shinkansen unfortunately the train fare is really high stopping me to think about it. Hence finally declared my visit to Asakusa a old Tokyo entertainment and auspicious location hosting a Kannon [Goddess of Mercy] which is also the oldest temple in Tokyo. It said to be build around year 628 and also known as Sensoji Temple.

I have reached the Asakusa through Asakusa line subway, As soon as reached the A4 exit I could easily identify the difference of Asakusa from rest of Tokyo. The first attraction came in to my sight was the rickshaw. Man powered hire vehicle which is a common thing some times back in India. These rickshaws are replaced with the three wheeled auto rickshaws in India. However today there are no such rickshaws found in my country, very long time back those man powered rickshaws were replaced with cycle rickshaw to reduce the human efforts with gears and chains in the rickshaws of India. There are plenty of these man powered rickshaws [Let me call as man cart] were in Asakusa, these rickshaws could accommodate 2 adult with a child on board while a person pulls them to show around the Asakusa area. These rickshaw had huge two wheels in the back and a bulling road in the front where the person who pulls the rickshaw to roam around. The word "rickshaw" originates from the Japanese word jinrikisha (jin = human, riki = force, sha = vehicle), which literally means "human-powered vehicle." They looked slavery to my eyes pulling the vehicle, however I hate people allowing or encouraging such vehicles even in the modern world, because for no reason we need to making a man acts like a buffalo in a cart.

I headed towards the direction which stated the Sensoji Temple and found the main entrance gate called Kaminarimon Gate, The gate they actually hang a red paper lantern. Actually the Kaminarimon Gate was build during 1651 and got damaged in the B29 air raids of United States of America during the World War II; later the Japanese re-constructed the gate with the same Edo style in 1958 post World War II. Before the entrance I have seen the Information center which provides lots of English information flyers. Both the sides of this gate have God of thunder and God of wind crafted in netted rooms. Once entered into the main gate looking at the other side of this gate was pushed me back to very old days, and seems to be I was in an ancient time of Japan. The shops selling souvenirs, sweets and other arms are all about the old days. There were one or two modern toys shops otherwise all of the hundred of shops selling those of old days. However as I read from the internet the souvenirs and other articles are not cheap in Asakusa, Hence visitors please don’t expect a lower price in the Asakusa rather look around the small shops in Akihabara selling much cheaper of the same souvenirs. A small key chain sized paper lantern may cost you 500yens in Asakusa where in a slightly larger sized one could be purchased in 100yen gift shop near Akihabara electronic exit for just 100yens.

After crossing the shopping street I found some Buddha statues in the right side along with some other statues of human kind a woman with a kid etc. Along side of the street there were several Japanese style temples, some were closed for public visit. The straight shopping street landed exactly in front of the actual Kannon Temple, just opposite to the temple there was a large sized incense burner were many people lit incense stick as part of their devotional activity. I was surprised by the Japanese cultural attraction almost it looked to me like an Indian Hindu way of devotional activities with minimal changes. In the left hand side there was a five storied pagoda gives a greater look to the tourist.

Slowly I moved towards to step into the temple; there was a prayer happening inside the temple, some people were sitting and one priest heading them all. The ceiling of Sensoji temple was having some colorful drawing and had three directional outlets to the temple. After spending couple of minutes looking at their devotional activities I have moved in the left side gate, there are lots smaller and bigger sized temple everywhere near the Sensoji temple. Lots of good landscaping was done for each temple in a different way. Some of the Japanese were come to the temple wearing their traditional Kimono costume; I couldn’t control myself not taking photos of those people. Some of them greatly accepted my wish to take their picture and pose to my camera with a smile. Almost the whole day I was in Asakusa enjoying the old Japan life in the modern days. There was also a river runs along side of the the Asakusa temple area called Sumida River, the other side of the river had the Asahi Building, which is the beer company corporate office and has also considered as a landmark in the area due to the golden flame design of the building top. In some places I really felt the change as if I was in a time craft visiting back to the age.

Asakusa is best place for a tourist the see the old age Japan but strictly not good for shopping as it extracts money.

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Heavenly Roppongi

This is the title suggested by an American whom I met with in the Roppongi. There is a greater attraction for the foreigners in Roppongi out in Tokyo. Roppongi is a place falls near the Tokyo Tower; this place starts its activities in the Night rather in a day.

There are variety of Bars, Clubs, Shops and Cousins to choose from, unlike other Japanese establishment the Roppongi hosts every thing for a foreigner. Here the Japanese accept the culture of western region intact without any change, there is a pickup point where the mix of Japanese and Westerner happens. My visit to Roppongi was to investigate and experience some of the attractions, as described by many of those who have visited. I have landed to Roppongi from Daimon after office on a Thursday. There was a reason for choosing that day for visiting Roppongi. As I have told, there are many bars and clubs in Roppongi providing variety of entertainment activities from bars to strip bars. However I restricted myself only to visit a reputable dance club. My search ended in results saying “Gas Panic” a club with a decent dance floor in Roppongi. Many of those visited have given a positive ranking about that club. The Gas panic club celebrated gas panic day every week Thursday, hence on that particular day of week all the drinks served will be costing 400yen per consumption. Now you know why I have decided to go on this day, otherwise the club serves the drinks in the range of 500-1200yens.

Roppongi has a skyscraper building called Roppongi Hills; it’s a landmark for this area hosting many entertainment and office facilities. Since I visited this area after my office and in the evening I couldn’t carry my camera so have taken few tiny snaps using the camera in my mobile. While I landed in Roppongi and started walking on the pedestrian path towards left from the station searching for the Gas panic club, however it was too early to visit a dance club. I had reached about 7:20pm in the evening hence decided to walk around to see what Roppongi is. Immediately after few meters I have seen the Roppongi hills building and on the entrance a small building with information states that there is a Tokyo International Film Festival. I didn’t try getting on to the Roppongi hills because my priority was different on that day, however added it to my must see locations for future visits.

Then I almost crossed the entire area in a direction so, decided to walk back after reaching back to near the station, I asked a cop how to go to Gas panic he humbly showed me the path takes me to club. I have to “walk straight and take a right” that’s the instruction given to me. After noting the same into my cells of brain I have reached a corner that splits in all the directions with a traffic signal. That’s where the pickup point of Roppongi under the almond coffee shop in pink color. Near to the intersection you can see many people waiting with cigarettes, cell phones or some other stuff in their hands. I earlier was under an impression that this is where the foreigner come and wait for some Japanese to select them for company to get into the bar, but that was wrong as I have experienced to see that this is the place where friends meet before getting in to a Roppongi establishment. Unless other places in Tokyo Roppongi also a bit dangerous area to visit, due to the drunken fights on the road often. Also some of the bars in the area try to fool the customer by giving a overpriced bill, additionally to get customers they use some pretty girls to speak to them and make them like a friend then take them into the hunting net of these bars. However being read so many stories online I was bit careful in Roppongi.

I moved on to the right direction after carefully watching some of the happening in the pickup point, in a short walk I have reached the club where I was intend to visit, normally all of the clubs in the area works all night long. There are many of them are here in the roads, lanes and all the buildings. Some of the clubs are charging some money for entrance and some are not. While walking I found many of these bars post a staff on the road to bring the customer in, some times they follow talking to you even if you don’t like to. However the Gas panic doesn’t have an entrance fee but a condition is that, as soon as you enter in you need to buy at least a bottle of beer. The club had an electronic sign board on the road side with some gas reaction in the liquid sort decorated colorfully. And the club was in the 2nd floor but there was a broad step directly from the pedestrian path takes it to the club main door. While I try to open to the door for a second I got just scared because a person dressed in a black dress and with a skull mask on his face screamed to welcome me that was due to their Halloween celebrations. All the staffs inside the club dressed like a Ghost or Evil. I found the entire club had the theme Halloween.

I order the bar tender to offer me some of the available brands of rum, he said only Bacardi. In addition he said today all the drinks are only 400yens. I smiled and said ok let me start with a large. Initially he didn’t understand what is large, then I manage to explain him the measurement what is large quantity in the bars in India.

The club had not packed with people; in fact I was one of the 3-4 customers inside. Actually I have entered very early about 8:30pm. The DJ was playing some rock song and nothing seems to be boosting the 4 customers and we were just drinking our glass of liquor. The bar tender was so kind to volunteer to speak with me in English, also I found him very helpful on the discussions of Roppongi and other clubs in the area. At the end of our discussion he offered me a white paper and a pen to write my wish list of songs to play, I greatly accepted it and Wrote “It’s my life”, ”Who lets the dog out”, ” Rythm Divine”, ”Hotel California”, ”Shaggy” in the paper. The time moved except the Enrique and Eagles the DJ played my requests. The bar had some crowd to dance now, couple of glass of liquor already found its way to my stomach, however for each glass you need to pay immediately along with the order. The world was started rotating in the opposite direction, everything went like a hell and I enjoyed the show for some times, since the last subway train to my place is 00:00 hrs I decided to pack off by 11:30pm.

After I said bye to the staffs there, and stepped down on the roads of Roppongi with a non-steady movements. There was a black American interrupted my walk and said, “sir we are from Gentleman’s club lots of people are there waiting for you, it’s with full of fun I’m sure you gonna enjoy”. I replied him saying oh, my quota over sorry buddy and take care. My walk reached to the subway Toei Oedo line and got the train back to the apartment. I was now walking on the roads of Shin-Egota where my apartment is located, it was half clear sight to me my ears heard the sound of mobile ring, hands went inside the pocket to pickup the mobile, nothing were under control of my own brain everything was happening on its own and suddenly I returned to the normal life after hearing “Hey Siva, This is me, where are you?” [It was my wife from India]

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Japanese a closer view – Work & Culture

Run run run catch the train start the work. This is how Japanese are programmed. They are real hard workers [Mainly physical work] but have lots of dedication and by nature they adhere all the rules and regulations. No hurry and no messy work culture, very professional in their approach to work. The work hours normally starts around 9am in the morning most of the Japanese will be present sharp at the opening hours. Then their scheduled work starts. During the lunch break about an hour time they spent time on eating and sleeping. You can spot many of them sleep in the office during lunch break and resume operations exactly after the break hour.

However, their secret of success with Quality is that they just programmed to do what they suppose to do. Each person in the organization has a particular work programmed and he will know and do only that part of work. The Japanese work men never try doing some thing new. They will just follow those lined by somebody. I also doubt after their inventions during 1945-1967, things are slowed down and not much of improvements or inventions with Japanese products. But they still enjoy those created post World War II like Trains, Electronics and Infrastructure. Their foundations to the work in the initial days are clean and planned with long term view, which helps the new generation of Japanese people shine in their work. However their skills in Information Technology are really not upto the mark.

Though many of the cultural habits have come from China to Japan, the Japanese behavior towards culture is distinctive. Let it be a culture of past or the today’s modern society, The Japanese follow things in a unique way. As I have discussed in the previous blogs the Family and Love the Japanese have already bound themselves in a controlled circle. But they have a passion to look western style. I said passion to outlook of Japanese. If Armani introduce a fashion dress I think Japanese are the first people to dare to wear whatever pattern that is designed. The shy natured Japanese girls towards communication have always seems to be ignoring their shy while it comes for dress, you can see any kind of dress code in Japan from lingerie to a denim jean. Japan hosts people with a wide choice of interest in their dressing, from western style to Kimonos. They both could be spotted simultaneously in the roads, trains and work places.
The Japanese culture have always had a greater feeling of respectfulness, they give more respect to an elderly person everywhere. Surprisingly the younger crowds in the jam packed trains have started forgetting those respectful images. Even in the seat allotted for Patient/Elderly/Pregnant Women/People with infant find it hard to secure their seats from people of other age and category.

In an hand I’m carefully looking at them celebrating and following their ancient way of cultural activities like Obon festival, Family crest, Sumo wrestling, Kimonos, temples and funerals the Japanese also have taken their cultural mix with western society heavily like dance club, ultra modern dresses, divorce, festivals and other sorts. Except in the case of Westerners of Japanese ancestry, Japanese names appear in their proper order, with the surname preceding the given name

Though Shinto religion [followers of Sun Goddess] is their original religious in the early days of Japan history, about 600AD onwards Buddhism created a strong impact on the soil of Japan. Shinto is a tolerant religion which accepts the validity of other religions. It is common for a believer to pay respects to other religions, their practices and objects of worship. However the Japanese emperor is believed to be a descendant of Sun goddess [a God in Shinto religion]. The Japanese Imperial family is the oldest hereditary monarchy in the world. The family's lineage dates back to the sixth century BC, though the title of Tenno (emperor) or Sumera-Mikoto (heavenly sovereign) was assumed by rulers in the sixth or seventh century and has been used since. And the imperial family used to be controlling the entire nation and its invaded areas. The complete separation of Japanese religion from politics did not occur until just after World War II. The Emperor was forced by the American army to renounce his divinity at that time. Shinto and Buddhism are followed by about 84% of Japanese today and Christianity is been accepted by a minority 1% of the total Japanese.

Though all the above information is a share from some of my elderly Japanese friends and Internet, I have also assumed a grater important that Japanese have given from very old days those are Entertainment, Arts and Sports. The Geishas [traditional Japanese artist-entertainers] those who does a wide variety of arts, including Japanese musical instruments (particularly the samisen) and traditional forms of singing, traditional dance, tea ceremony, flower arranging (ikebana), poetry and literature. These people are the examples for the Japanese entertainment nature from very long time. Of course the today’s modern Entertainments like Theme park, Cinemas and club activities are also very much popular in Japan. In other hand I also seen peggers in Japan Railway station, they are neatly dressed unless other peggers of Asian countries. The picutre here in the right side has been taken in Shinjuku Railway station, He is a pegger. Japan culture today stands a mixed mode giving room to the ancient and western force together.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Japanese a closer view – Food & Leisure

Rice, Sea food, meat and noodles are their primary food. However Japanese are highly attracted by western culture and their habitants. The whole of Tokyo is spread with Mc. Donalds, Subway, Lottortila and burger shops. This will give an Idea how much of the Japanese are interested in the western type food items. Not only are the burgers also the Italian foods like pasta and pizza famous too.

But the majority people are still eats the traditional Japanese foods like raw fish puffed in boiled rice [Sushi], Noodles mixed with some Japanese masala [Soba] and number of grilled meat items are also consumed. For an Indian most of the Japanese food tastes sweet. Their food items are not so spicy and hot. Not like Indian/Pakistan or Thai rice the Japanese rice is kind of sticky one. Fish broth is mixed in all sort of Japanese foods, as mentioned Fish is their major intake. The Japanese physical look is slim and no obesity this could be due to their high-protein and low fat food preparations. Their meat intake also most of the time grilled ones and not the fried ones. Except the foreign restaurants all the Japanese hotels also provide less fat food items but all of them will have enough Soya sauce content.

The Japanese drink a lot of Tea not those of Indian Nair shop type Japanese tea are the Green tea and without sugar or cream [milk]. Also the fruit juices are available everywhere and those of fruit juice and plain water are in the same price range. He he he I only choose fruit juice for that matter.

One can eat sea foods like Crab, Fish, octopus and prawns along with Chicken, Mutton, Pork and Beef in almost all the food courts. It’s a difficult place for non vegetarians as they will be finding it really hard to get other foods except salads.

This is where Japanese stands apart; their spending on Leisure is really high. Most of the Japanese enjoy their holidays spending on various leisure activities like travel, sports and hobbies.

For me in the initial days at my office looked every other day people say that they take leave, not even a single day with 100% attendance, however later I assumed it is due to their habit of traveling and leisure experiments. To my surprise my mentor in the company where I work here in Japan used to ask me “Siva, don’t you feel bored of not traveling to India for 2 consecutive months, if you want take leave for 10-15 days and go home enjoy then come back”. These words are really unexpected one for me. As I never seen any employer suggesting the employee to go for holiday. This also gives me an Idea of how they keep them self stress free in most of the time. Actually sleeping after lunch in the afternoon, planning for holidays, celebrating all the festivals and the daily visit to the bar or club makes their mind bit free from over stress. Once they are free from stress I think they make quality output in their work. However in the IT scenario due to their awareness issue and Mathematical knowledge they fail in their quality for sure.

Most of their leisure activities are covered in theme parks, Traveling, Barbeque, Trekking and swimming activities. Once can see the most number of Ferris wheel installed in Japan, also the most number of people travel also from Japan. The life in night club also kind of common here in Japan, the Japanese girls are easy going type in the night/dance clubs. In fact Roppongi [a place in Tokyo] is a well know club area for foreigner to have start with a Japanese person.

As stated barbeque is their common attraction too, most of the Japanese show lots of interest on BBQ and they love cooking. Many Japanese leisure activities are family oriented and they interest will be taking the leisure activity with family to an extent. These are could be a reason for Japan to attract more visitors. As the local crowd requirements for leisure activities are boosting the Japanese to create more infrastructures for their needs which also attracts the foreigners. Relatively Japan is a place for culture and modern lovers to enjoy variety of thing during stay in Japan.

to be continued[Work & Culture]...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Japanese a closer view – Family & Love

Today I was thinking what to write and how to make it useful for the readers. Many ideas flew in my mind but nothing impressed me of writing about. Finally I have decided to write a series of articles like Family and Love, Food and Leisure finally Wealth and Culture. Starting with my series this blog will talk on the first aspect Family and Love.

What I heard from my Japanese friends that the Japanese family structure is somewhat same as our Indian joint family. I can see the Grand parents, parents and children and grand children are staying together in some places here. However this is not common in all the places in the modern Japan. In the recent past Japanese women fought for freedom from the men dominated family structure. Earlier it used to be the man who leads the family and earn the income to run the family and women to take care of the children, house and other related things. I have also read in the history articles, in the ancient day’s Japanese male use to get marry and settle with his wife’s family, but it does not exist now. The Japanese families are identified with their family crest, a symbol for each family. This is called in Japanese language as Ka-mon. One can identify this ka-mon in the family member’s kimonos like a badge. The ladies in the family can wear both husband’s family crest and her father’s family crest. In this case the father’s family crust size will be smaller than the husband family’s crest.

In the modern worlds, even now the Japanese marriages are happening with the approval of the Girls parents. To initiate a marriage the Girl takes her boyfriend to her house and introduce to her parents, during this meeting the Girl’s father is the key person taking the decision. Normally it will happen in a very formal way, unlike the western family culture during this meeting the Guy should act not to touch or Kiss the Girl in front of her parents. Also during this meeting the Boy will be interviewed by the father of Girl for his future plans etc. In a normal case they will be expecting a boy to plan for at least 10 years of his future.

My personal observation is that, the male female personal relationship after marriage is gradually getting reduced while comparing their before marriage scenario. People here claim that this is due to the busy work schedule and the dedication towards work of a Japanese male.

I have no idea how it would have been in the history, but the current scenario, Japanese females evaluate a person based on his lifestyle and wealthiest nature. It was said to be big no for having physical interactions like touching, kissing, holding hands etc in the public places. However it’s not fully true, as I myself have spotted several interactions during my stay here. In fact if they find a little private area, they make all such physical interactions in the public places. Holding hands and kiss are not so restricted in the trains. Especially in the crowded trains during peak office hours on can see many such actions by the young Japanese couple.
Basically even the meetings of Japanese young couple happen once in a week or so, for many reason it is widely accepted. Those simple reasons are that the boys are fully involved in the work, due to traveling distances and the higher cost of train fares and burden of shopping with the girl etc. In Japan the females are seems to be more active than male in terms of love and affection.

Love with a foreigner is something which is a rare sight here, as only in exceptional cases Japanese and non Japanese couples are found. Many of the love relationship are getting initiated from the high school level with the classmates. Those who were crossed high school without a partner then they find them in the work places. It is believed to be like a handicap if a person couldn’t find his/her partner by them. Such cases the parents will be finding the appropriate partner for their children.

to be continued[Food & Leisure]...

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

India-Japan Relationship Milestones

Today I was reading some history and political relationship between India and Japan, from which I have compiled some information for my blog reader’s review. There were lots of them, including the World War II and other cultural issues and relationships. Same could be found on the internet search if you are more interested.

600AD - Exchange between Japan and India is said to have begun in the sixth century A.D., when Buddhism was introduced to Japan

1868-1912 - Direct exchange in the modern era, however, began only in the Meiji era (1868-1912), when Japan embarked on the process of modernization.

1949 - Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru donated two Indian elephants to the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. This presentation was considered by Japanese people as a ray of light after World War II.

1952 - Japan and India signed a peace treaty and established diplomatic relations on 28th April, 1952

1958 - Japan started providing yen loans to India in 1958, as the first yen loan aid extended by Japanese government. ["There is a belief among Indians that the first person who does trade in a business house should be lucky and clean from sins. That makes business to do more profit on rest of days" -I remembered this belief when read Japanese first yen loan to India, as they are the most largest country providing loan to the world today]

1982 - License and Joint Venture agreement signed between Maruti Udyog Ltd. and Suzuki Motor Corporation of Japan. India's strong admiration for Japan's post-war economic reconstruction and subsequent rapid growth made Maruti-Suzuki in revolutionizing industrial technology and management concepts in the pre-economic reform India.

1986 - Japan has become India's largest aid donor, and remains the same till today.

1994 - The Japan Foundation opened an office in New Delhi that is actively engaged in cultural exchange since 1978

1998 - Indo-Japan relations plummeted after India's 1998 nuclear tests

2000 - The foundation for Japan and India for enhanced engagement for mutual benefit has been laid when Mr. Yoshiro Mori, the then Prime Minister of Japan and Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister of India agreed during the Japanese Prime Minister's landmark visit to India in August 2000 to establish the "Global Partnership in the 21st Century".

2005 - It was agreed during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in April 2005 that the two countries would further strengthen their cooperation and pursue an all round and comprehensive development of bilateral relations, with a particular and urgent focus on strengthening economic ties, through full utilization of the existing and potential complementarities in their economies.

Today - India is the Information Technology Giant where Japan stands on the peak of Hardware, both the countries relationship may turn a new era of economic development in the Asian region. Around 70 Indian IT companies have already established their offices in Japan; many IT professionals are still employed by Japanese companies’ everyday. I’m one among those who work in Japan from India.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Shake shake shake

Do you think I’m going to write about hip-hops here today? Nope let me not encourage that at this time. However I will write about it in the future after visiting Roppongi. But what is that convinced me of writing today’s blog is that Earth Quake.

Except one incident in my whole 29years of life in India, earthquake is not so easy to accept thing for me. But today’s scenario of earthquake in Tokyo has changed my mind to ignore to an extent about the scary feeling that we always had, It's still not out of danger but I’m getting used of it.
It was second week after I started working in my office in Tennoz at 14th floor; I was in a discussion with my co-worker on some technical study. I felt like somebody hitting the chair from back bottom portion. Turned real quick to see who is that, but before my head took the turn to see behind my chair I felt like the entire building was in a shake and continued to shake, a panic handshake me and a very strange experience. There was a dark line of scare just attached in my face; I got the dews of sweat on my face in a second. My muscle started loosing its tension, so many things in my mind popped up. Will I stay alive? I can’t use lift but running on the steps is also ruled out since I’m in 14th floor, how will I secure my family? The thoughts in my mind started moving on its peak speed, the blood pressure increased and I could feel the heat my body cells generated in a short duration of time. But my co-worker [Japanese] who was sitting with me in the discussion did not even bother about the shake, he continued to speak what he wanted to convey. It was a surprise to me, but couldn’t digest to hear that these shakes would happen in a regular interval. The Japanese co-worker was amused by looking at my fear, and said “no problem”.

My hands fired the phrase google.com in the browser and started searching the earth quake related information of Japan. There were many articles with much more information on the regular earthquake details. A history of Kanto Earth Quake which shook the Tokyo by year 1923 and made the death toll to 1,20,000 innocent people and a great loss of property and infrastructure. All of my reading caused my mind to rethink on the decision of my stay in Japan for long time. My colleague was given me a lecture “even if you sleep at home you are not safe, then why you should worry about earthquake? Don’t you see many people stay in Tokyo and used of the earthquakes. You will also be like that after a while spending time in here. Take it easy my friend”. But I couldn’t accept it that easily, as reducing risks on life is important to me on these days.

The Time started taking its swing, seen few minor earthquakes within couple of weeks after the first one. My continued search of earthquake information updated me with the knowledge that the Japanese constructions are normally planned to withstand 6-7 points of Richter scale of earthquake. The older buildings are at least 5-6 points of Richter scale level. But what if there is a higher scale of earthquake? God knows the future. I won’t be able to guess whether I will be in the 14th floor of office or 2nd floor of my apartment or on the 300ft underground subway train or in the roads. But there is a danger alert always hanging on my face. In the very recent day of October, an early morning about 6:30am my steel cot had a shake I was in deep morning sleep and felt like swinging. All of sudden I got the conscious and made myself into alert mode. It was again a bit major shake after the first one I had faced in my office about 2months ago. But this time my expressions are not that bad as the initial one. In between the first and the recent earthquake there were quite a few experience of smaller scale tremors. Inside my mind actually I’m feeling uneasy in my daily life, I’m still really terrified of the tremors of Tokyo.

Immediately after few seconds of earth quake here in Japan, you can see the earthquake technical data in the TV, on your mobile browser and other channels. The Japanese way of measuring earth quake is mostly not the Richter scale model, they use a Japanese scale called “Shindo”, and unlike Richter Magnitude scale the shindo scale refers the intensity of earthquake at a given location. If you are a person interested in knowing more on the Shindo scale I suggest please search on Google to get more information. The scientific facts are stating that Tokyo may have a larger scale earthquake in the near future considering the past cycle history of earthquakes in Japan. The reason for Japan having many smaller and larger earthquakes every day in some places are because of the several continental and oceanic plates of earth meets at this geographical area. These plates said to be moving everyday slowly due to the circular rotation of the earth. This nature of earth plate movement resulted in crashing one on other that explods as Earthquake. When an Earthquake happens near or on the ocean it can trigger Tsunami[Word tsunami is orginated from Japanese language for big wave] the Tidal wave. I still remember the recent Tsunami hit in India due to the earthquake of Indonesia caused loosing of hundred thousand people life. Not only Tsunami and Earthquake also the Volcano, though there were several huge sized volcano present in Japan at present not many are active. The largest one called Mt. Fuji is hybernating and Japanese are also considering the Mt. Fuji as their goddess and even have temple for Fujiyama. The volcano results not only a threat also a number of beatiful Hot springs to Japan.

Now a days after learning many information on Earthquake, started myself adhering the safety precaution during the earthquake. Those are like not to run over the streets, hiding our self under a table and caution to any sharp or heavy objects fall on us etc.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Tennoz Parkside Window

Cluster of taller buildings, sideway water canals, neatly dressed office goers, mono rail station are the attraction of Tennoz Isle. A location in Shinakawa ku, a place I work :-), As usual we have landed in then Tennoz Parkside building in the opposite side of the mono rail station. All these buildings are interconnected with overhead bridges from the station, so never see the black roads while walking down to my office from the station. In general tennoz is a busiest place in Tokyo, has a good landscaping of lots of Bay of Tokyo.

Today we reached little late due to some official schedule for the night work. But I was the only person to go late, everybody was involved in their work, I know its time for them to take a break. Siva san [The word san will be attached to all the conversation while mentioning a person's name, San means a respectful or a title word like Mr. Mrs. Ms. in English], come for a smoke… A colleague of mine called me affectionately. Do I accept the offer to go along with or should I say that for the past couple of days I stopped smoking. Hey that’s a news I have stopped smoking for the past 1 week. No, nothing enlightened me to stop smoking, but I’m taking a trail of my own mind control. But I feel quitting the smoke habit is not that tough now, but is it possible for me to forget the window where we [me and my colleagues] used watch the most matured modern attractions of Japan in a single sight.

Yes, I’m talking about a window not made of Microsoft one made by civil workers, this is the window which shows all the most modern infrastructures of Japan just in a single sight. For the past 2 months, I have spent enough time in this window looking at the outside world during the business hour; there is no breeze that passes through the window. It’s a glass filled an elevated fixture in the 14th floor of my office. In Japan most of the offices provides Vending machines that provides the Japanese famous Green Tea, Coffee, Chocolate drink and soft drinks with yen tags attached and some without tags. Adjacent to this vending machine, one can always find a Smoking area to call for the smokers. I think the most number of smokers are found in Japan, Many Japanese of both gender smoke regularly and I have seen several chain smokers too. The Window which I was talking about is one in that sort hosting the smoker’s area for my company. Through this I have discovered the technical information how the Tokyo Monorail floating on its concrete rails, I admired the Shinkansen with its most faster speeds, Wondered the organization of Local flights landings to Haneda Airport, seen the ships touching the decks in the Harbor some times the giant ships taking U turn at the bay of Tokyo, Distance view of Fuji TV building, and the Odaiba island, the Rainbow bridge, Tunnel road exhaust of Bay of Tokyo, Modern Roads with ultra modern automobile passing on, Crystal Lady cruiser boat, Asahi Neon site, Tennoz station and the three buildings of CitiGroup, Seafort and JTB, the worlds second largest Ferris Wheel in Odaiba with its colorful lighting in the evening and the Tokyo garbage house and finally the night sky of Tokyo south. Opps, this is enough there are many more I have seen over the window, this is the window provide all this in one sight. This is not a paid observatory not a tourist attraction but in my own office where we used to smoke.

All of the attractions of the window came in a fraction of a second before I decline the proposal from my colleague to go for a smoke. However my mind is still stable hence politely told him, “oh not now have some work to do, I’m sorry buddy”. But later he left the place; I recalled my own wish to take a picture of this window and the world outside the window and carried the tiny mobile phone camera to have a try with the window. Oh boy here comes the no so clear picture of what I was telling you all about. however due to the smaller wide angle capacity of the mobile phone I couldn't show all the attraction at single picture. I have just taken a picture which can be shown here with a minimal area of outside world that I see and enjoy daily. Look at this picture a monorail passing on while my favorite Crystal Yatch Club's boat floating on the water. Also in the distance spot the Harbor, the Odaiba island's buildings and shinkansen track but when I clicked the shot there was no train passing on . Thanks once again to the technology for make my desired wishes always on its path to reality.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Visit to Tokyo Tower

Yesterday, after I decided to go out to Tokyo Tower in the evening , I packed the Kenko binocular in my bag along with the Canon Powershot S3 IS. I took the subway train to Akabanebashi a Station, which falls within 500meter distance from the Tokyo tower. Though I had seen the Tokyo tower from distant places like Rainbow Bridge and Daimon etc. the first sight of the tower from Akabanebashi station exit was a great experience. It is really tall and looks gigantic.

I wanted to do some night photography with the Tokyo tower’s illumination. The Akabanebashi station has the guide map showing the directions of reaching Tokyo Tower. But the exit information was not so clear surprisingly; hence I requested the help from the station staff, who showed me the exit path for reaching Tokyo tower. I reached the station exit by 5:00pm and the tower was already illuminated. But with the skylight it was not so clear, however as I wanted to roam around near the tower for some more time , I hoped to to take some snaps while returning.

After 5 minutes walk I reached the Tokyo Tower, but this time my experience was not so great. I was expecting it to be installed on a huge vacant land and having a good view, but my expectation was wrong. The Tokyo tower was actually in between residential and commercial apartment complexes hiding its full view in a congested area. So to take a full view photograph I would have to go to the foot of the tower, which may not be real good. In my mind before reaching the Tokyo Tower, I was comparing the Tokyo tower with the Eiffel tower as I have seen some movies and picture of the Eiffel tower with the good landscaping. I think that could be a major reason for the Tokyo tower not being categorized under the major tourist attraction in the international community.

After moving front, back, down, up and various angles to get some view of the Tokyo tower with our tiny little camera, I failed in getting the wide portrait angle of the tower. Oh forget to tell I had some of my friends along with me to just have some Deepavali spice on that day.

In the bottom of the Tokyo tower, the tower maintenance people have built a single storied shopping complex covering the entire foot space between all the four legs of the tower. But I felt they should have not done it, as it spoiled the tower’s look . Before our entry to the tower complex, the sky light lost its color and turned dark. We then moved into the shopping complex to browse through the items inside.

In the entrance of the complex right side, you can see a small reception, and with a girl sitting for helping visitors with information. Good thing is that you will be able to get Engilsh guide about the tower. I requested the receptionist to pose for my camera real quick, she accepted my request instantly. And most of the shops in the complex are selling the souvenirs. One can see items ranging from Ninja swords to pens. The ceramic pots used for sake drink with Tokyo tower printed also attracted the local crowd. I liked those small dolls of Ninjas and Japanese girls wearing kimonos but the prices are like Tokyo tower only, reaching the sky. The same dolls is priced less in the Akihabara area. Anyway being a tourist spot I was expecting the price tags in that range. Then there are lots of snacks shops and restaurants in the complex. There was a Mc. Donalds, an Italian pizza and some ice cream shops and some more Japanese food courts were in operational in the complex. Those food court's costs of food is same as outside. There were also cartoonist and caricaturist doing their artistic contribution for few yens of creating portfolio of the visitors.

There was a lift corridor which takes the people to the top of Tokyo tower, but I decided to not enter in, due to the foggy atmosphere outside the tower. There was no hope to see anything outside attractive and also it was in the evening, so I couldn’t use my binocular. May be at a later date, I will come back to go to the top of the tower to see the Fujiyama Mountain [Mt. Fuji] However the current trip turned like a shopping visit, as the entire base of tower was filled with various shops and we spend more time in the mall just looking at the items :- )

I had a chance to taste some Japanese dishes in the complex, I have no idea on the name of it, and it was made with rice and egg omlet with it. After while we were walked out of the complex and started getting more snaps of the tower. The tower light was bright orange and was beautiful on the night. In fact the nearby apartment complex side wall’s glass windows were partially reflecting the towers lighting, a good show. I didn’t have my Tripod with me, because the one I have here is the heavy used for professional works, carrying that for a small digital camera may look awkward. But without tripod taking night photography is nearly impossible. But I managed to take some no so good pictures of the Tokyo tower by laying the camera in the floor etc. After a few hours we moved toward the Akabanebashi station to return to the apartment.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

My Japan Deepavali [Diwali]

In spite of the entire Indian community celebrating Deepavali in various locations of India, Deepavali turns out be a dream for me today. I see no deepavali lights, no sound of crackers , no kids wearing new dresses, and no oil bath in the morning . As my family is about 8000 kms away, this day turns out to be a very stressful day to me in Japan.

As usual I see the arrays of tube lights on the ceiling here but I dont see any symptoms of Deepavali anywhere nearby. I searched my friend Google for any possible celebration of Deepavali with Indian friends,but no luck awaited me there. Those links which came as result of my Google search showed me some sites claiming that Deepavali is widely celebrated by Indian community in Japan. But the truth is directly opposite, and have found no one doing it here. These companies publish it for getting hits on search engine results and for getting more monetory benefits ,but it’s not the real message. They anyway need people to pass through their website to do some commercial transaction or at least to read those unfair truths.

With Deepavali falling on a Saturday, I decided to at least do some basics of Deepavali celebrations here myself. I took oil bath in the early morning and this made me a bit happy because I was the one who seen the deepavali first in the world this time, as I stay in the land of sunrise. Though I could have purchased some new dress to wear today, my mind was not in sync as I’m suffering this day without my kids .So didn’t buy new cloths. My soul urged me to go along with some “thavam” [A kind of prayer, keeping your eyes closed in a sitting position in the east direction and think of a god you like, probably you can say “OM” continuously inside your mind], so to get rid of my mental depression I was doing it for some time. Actually the word OM has real power [No religious tags, but the word scientifically], it gives an unwarranted peace to your mind while you were stressed. Most of the Hindu religious activities are proven with some kind of advantages with the human and his health. [Hey, Don't mistake me, I'm not a missionary. It's just what I felt can share here with you]

Later in this afternoon, I will cook some food in a traditional way but as I dont have any guest to honor I have decided to treat my roommate as my guest today. Just thinking of further activity, probably I will go out to look at the Tokyo tower and its illumination in this evening. That may compensate my mind's expectations of the luminous night sky of Deepavali day in India.
As many of us lived in a heavenly place called India, celebrating series of festival almost every month, we definitely miss those activities outside our country.
  • Our festivals bring us together closer making relationships more valuable
  • Our festivals make our day happy sharing those sweets and snacks
  • Our festivals make the kids learn another generation of our culture
  • Our festivals bring new ideas
  • Our festivals make poor people happy
  • Our festivals make human to know the Mother Nature

I think these are the things you won’t get outside our country and for any amount of money. These are the things which put a rhythm of life in your mind which no other country can give you or feel themselves. I hope to be enjoy next year's deepavali , for which the countdown has been already started in my internals and looking forward to a happy Deepavali with my family.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Japanese – A Dog lover’s community

Gizmos are the most known things about Japan, but in the series of my articles I’m trying to bring some of the other not so popular stories of Japan in my blog here. One of the things which attracted me is the pet loving nature of Japan. Because from the day one,one of the activities of Japanese people which really attracted me are their pet walks. I have been noticing the high importance that they give to their pets .

The Japanese make their pets wear shirts, skirts, pants and other suites. Though it is fun watching ,the truth behind this fun shows their affection with the pets. For me it is real fun watching the dogs dressed up. Sometimes the dogs hair are decorated with different styles, I think there might be a hair stylist also for these dogs. I have not seen the elderly or the middle aged people playing with them, but seen lots of Japanese of various age group play, dance, walk and do all other activities with their pets. Here pet means mostly the dogs. The Japanese have really integrated their life with their dog friends. The sizes of the dogs vary from giant size to pocket sized dogs. Mostly the people like to have smaller sized cute dogs. I used to see an elderly person in my area daily walking twice or even thrice with his pet for the pet to get relaxed. He carefully watches for all the reactions of his pet and identifies its need.

If you walk in to any Electronic shop or even a smaller sized provision store you will definitely find a separate section for dogs and other pets. The giant shops are even one step ahead and are selling readymade clothes for the dogs. You can see clothes of different sizes and designer dresses for the dogs. I assume the Japanese may even be ready to pay for getting designer dresses from Italian fashion designers for pets. Not only the dresses, I have also found from the BBC website stating a news about the Japanese product that helps the dog lovers to understand the barking sound with some human understandable sentences. This helps the dog lovers to understand the needs of the dog; it stated that this device can intimate the emotions of the dog to the dog owner like Fun, Self-expression, Demand, Sorrow, Menace, Frustration etc. This device will be attached to the collar of the pet and it receives the communication from the dogs bark sound. Man, :-) you guys (Japanese) are far ahead.
My internet search has also found some useful information about the dogs of Japan (the traditional Japanese dogs). Japanese seems to believe that the dogs of Japan have descended from the wolf. There was interesting story also found on the internet however the courtesy of this story goes to the respective people (The original information is found here) and it’s not my story anyway. Here it goes; this is the old tale about the ancestor of Kisyu Inu, passed down by word of mouth around Wakayama Pref.

Once upon a time, there lived a good gun man in Sakamoto village in Kinokuni (Wakayama Prefecture now). His name was Yakurou. One day Yakurou found a wolf ,troubled with a piece of bone sticking in its throat, on his way home back from Singu. He helped the wolf. When he let him go off, he said to the wolf,"I want to have one of your children, if you don't mind." After a while, one little wolf baby was left at the door of Yakurou's house. He named the baby Man, and brought him up with tender care. Man became a good hunting dog. He was called "Dog of Yakurou”, and was loved by all villagers.

When the Lord of Singu came to go for hunting in the mountains,calling gun men together from the villages around here, Yakurou joined it with Man. Hunting started. The lord was watching the hunting from the top of the mountain. A huge wild boar jumped on the Lord. At that time, one dog attacked that huge wild boar, so the Lord was rescued from danger. The Lord asked to the village people,"Whose dog is he?" They answered, "This is Yakurou's dog in Sakamoto Village." The Lord admired his dog and gave him lot of presents. Yakurou went back to his village with Man.

The village people talked each other,"Yakurou and Man are great!" One day Aunt of Yakurou told as follows; I hear this dog was presented from the wolf. It is said that the wolf attacks his master at last, after he killed one thousand animals. Only one grasshopper is included in the number. He has already killed about one thousand animals, I think. If we don't kill Man now, he may make a terrible problem." Man heard her talking, he left Yakurou's house late at that night, howling three times.

As stated Japanese people's affection for pets is just not new, but with the electronics era, their love towards pet has been grown very high. I’m still not sure about their human friendliness as studying Japanese emotions are really difficult and I always doubt their transparency, however their love towards pets are truthful and they are animal friendly.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

For Indians Visiting Japan

I wish to give some tips to the Indians who visit Japan for Work or Tour. This blog may give some information which may or may not be useful to many users. However thought I can blog what information I missed when landed in Japan.

Before starting from India Consider:

Before you start from India check whether your home computer with Internet is properly working condition and connected with a Head phone microphone kits along. Also I suggest you to install the webcam setup in home. These will be helpful while you visit here in Japan or any other country outside India. Because it will reduce your communication cost and give you greater comfort with the family connected to you.

Keep it in mind that you may need to transact money from Japan to India after your arrival here, hence before starting itself make some arrangements with your bank for NRI account etc. If not get your bank’s swift code and information for the money remittance from Japan to India. As far as my knowledge lot of Indian banks operates in US and UK for Indian money transfer,but in Japan finding an Indian bank is real big problem. But State Bank of India and Bank of India are there in Tokyo. So, if you can please start an account in the core banking enabled SBI. It makes the life much easier when you are outside. I suggest while opening the account open with join account facility so your spouse or a family member can operate.

Food is going to be a major issue for those who visit from India. Prepared to carry some ITC food packs if you are traveling to Japan on short tours. But for working community I suggest don’t think Japan’s rice and Indian rice going to be same, so carry as much as items like rice, Wheat flour, Chilly powder, Sambar mix, Turmeric powder, Tomato paste [as the vegetable cost going to be sky rocking for you, Single tomato will cost 160Yen in Japan ], Rice powder for Dosa and other essential food items. You can buy Ginger, Garlic, Onion, Coffee powder, Milk, Curd and some vegetables in the nearby chain stores in Japan in a reasonable price. But make sure to carry the above items as they are very important. Also, for Indian there are few Malayalee Indian shops here and there which provide some grocery supply. But traveling to those places regularly may not be a option, hence try carrying stuffs in your first trip. Secondly there is no need to carry Soap, Brush, Paste and other cosmetics as I find those are priced with same price tag of India. I hope that you know cooking. If you don’t then you are going to be in deep trouble, because the next option would be eating burgers and Japanese food.

Many of the Japanese foods are made with Fish, Noodles and Soya sauce. Hence I leave the decision to your own intelligence. Many of their meat look uncooked, but for sure I know sushi is raw fish puffed with rice. The cheapest western food burger will be available from Mc.Donald, however eating the fatty food everyday going to be a disaster to your body. The burgers starts from 80Yens and you will have to pay more for other stuffs.
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Next in this section, let me tell you about water, especially if your water requirement is very high . Inside the office we have free coffee and tea not water. Which means you will be spending lots of money for water. A 500ml pet bottle of water may cost you 130yens. Remember Indians drink more water than other country people which means in Japan drinking the bottled water is another expensive treat. Kid’s food items are again not so easy with Indian food, so be cautious and bring them enough food. The cooking vessels, stove and electric rice cooker are available in the apartment hence no need to bring some of them from India.

It is recommended to carry sufficient winter cloths like Sweater, Jerkin, Jackets, Woolen Gloves, Woollen innerwear, and cap etc. But no need to bring blazer and suites from India as the price in both the countries seems to be the same. Unless you have already some stuff at home, I suggest not buying anything there. May be your employer would have suggested to bring some suites as I have seen from cleaning labor to IT professional everybody wears suites. It’s not like our country where wearing a suite is a mark of marketing or higher position in the company; here it is a common wear so, plenty of them are available for discount sale.

Shirts and pants are also reasonably priced; you can visit lots of shops around to buy those things. Carry only minimal thing required don’t hurry buying things while your departure in India. For Indian Girls anyway no problem in wearing the Jean and top but for those who have not comfortable in this dress may be a problem. If you wear a salwar people may look at you in a different way. You will be odd among the crowd.

Another thing is that kids dresses are equally priced with adult dresses, hence if you are bringing your kids then bring their dresses too.

Life style items [Statutory Warning: Some items here in this subject are injurious to health]
If your lifestyle requires cigarettes and if you are a smoker I suggest carry enough from India. A single pack of 20 cigarettes will cost your 320yens and not that strong. Though you will find enough alcohols in Japan for really cheap cost , if you are a Rum lover then you are getting into trouble. Finding Rum in Japan is a very difficult task, so carry “Old Cask” if you want. Otherwise you are a free bird tasting Sake, Soochow, Vodka, Scotch whisky, Brandy and Beer ofcourse.

Lots of perfume shops you will find when you visit the shopping malls, As per my opinion those are equally priced in India. In India, we do import these items from western countries only. For women the makeup items are plenty available in Japan, many Japanese females depend their life with the makeup kits.

Nappies and diapers are not so costly and you can buy them here. The handbag, ladies purse and belts are very expensive here, so Please carry them as much you want to use here.

An important thing that everybody ask me, "hey will you get me this gizmo while returning from Japan as they produce it so it will be cheaper.?" Actually it’s a misconception as I have been the victim here. Because I didn’t carry my camera thinking that I will get a price advantage so I will buy it over here after reaching. But the situation is totally different; in Japan the electronic goods are much costlier than India. Let it be a Watch or a Camera or MP3 player or a Car DVD player or whatever. Hence if you have something there, and wanted to upgrade do it in India and bring it here for your use. Sometimes I have seen prices of the used items here are as close as our new products. Even if you buy those electronics here, you may end up having problems paying more money on our customs duty, also to be noted you will not get International warranty for many goods in Japan. If you want you need to pay even more Yens to get it international warranty endorsed.

Don’t bring film cameras as the developing and printing cost in Japan is higher than buying a camera compare to India.

Your money for the expenses may be used in the priority as stated below

1. Apartment or Accommodation cost – The single largest spending in Japan is going to be Accommodation. A fully furnished studio apartment may be rented from 1,70,000 yens. However this is the lowest, which means you may be spending an hour train travel to your work or the city.
2. Travel and Transport – Comes next to the accommodation, however there are options like monthly, daily, holiday and weekly passes for work and tour purposes. Even in that case the monthly pass usually consumes about 20,000 yens minimum. Then add other travel expenses for trips etc, so monthly the travel expense may jump over 30,000 yens.
3. Food – Reserve your cash for food about 30,000 if you combine with your bringing from India and self cook. If you don’t do that this will take the second place and each session of food may cost your 1000 yens approximately. This means 3000 yens per day per person.
4. If you work here and stay in your own accommodation, then Water, Electricity, Telephone, Gas and Cable TV will cost you a fortune some times the sum of these things will cross 30,000 yens per month.
5. Insurance – Stay insured while in work permit, but it will cost your about 40,000 yens. So I recommend you bargain with your employer even before accepting the offer. Demand them to take care of your insurance.

Miscellaneous Information
I know many of us are used to travel in some or other form of personal automobile vehicles in India like bike, scooter, car and auto etc. But in Japan getting a house with car parking means you may be a millionaire or staying in outside the city. Also you will get parking priced at 1000yens per hour. Then comes the toll road cost, most of your trip may cross so many toll road where in to travel 100kms you need to spend 10,000 yens, true but cannot leave it without stating. This makes no one from our country can even think of personal transport. Additionally the local Japanese themselves use bicycle and public transport for their travel needs.

In the office, you cannot expect the transparent behavior like what used to in our country. People act different inside and outside the office. The in-time to office is really a mandatory stuff but leaving early say exactly the closing hour may not be possible at all. The work culture is one which really sucks me here. Otherwise in the train, tourist spots, grocery stores, hotels and train stations the people are not so differently behave, some times there are very friendly outside.

The Japanese like dogs a lot. You will be amused to see Dogs wearing dress like a man. There are special shops for dog dresses like pants, shirts and ties etc. Its real fun seeing these people attached with their dogs.

I forget to tell an important information, which we are lacking and Japanese are always considered to be on the higher side. That is the time management; yes Japanese consider the time very much. If you travel in a Shinkansen the bullet train some times for change of another triain you may get 3 minutes or 5 minutes internal on your ticket. But it is a sufficient time here to change from one train to another. I read one of the blogger stating the station masters change time is logged with seconds not minutes. No bus, train, flight or a person is normally delayed, so if you are used of finding reasons with these things for your late attendance it will not be possible in Japan.
Hope this piece of information is useful to your Japan trip. Keep visiting back to this blogger for more information on my Japan experience. I have also posted some blogs on visits to some tourist attractions in Japan. Keep crawling my archive.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Portable Shrine

Being a person from India, It is not so much of fun or new thing for me to see people carrying portable shrines. But I was surprised to see the Japanese carrying shrines. My imagination about Japanese is proven again, as their cultural and modern mix ratio is really high. On one side of the road I see the people try doing something with the Robots and Automobile and at the same time in the opposite side a group of Japanese carrying portable shrines, and cute modern girls give away their denims and wear kimonos walk coolly on the path.

Normally Japanese families are very much attracted to some kind of devotional or the traditional works. My recent and most often seen activity in Tokyo is Japanese carrying portable shrines. These shrines are called Mikoshi, along with it they also put some drum in a cart that can be taken around in the streets. I have also seen several other stuffs in smaller carts pulled by the local kids. As per my knowledge, the Shinto temples are basically referred as shrines here, however in general it is Temple. But the portable shrines are to carry the local god or some spiritual stuff outside the temple for a relaxed rounding. Goddess need to relax, bored of sitting in a place for long time. Portable shrines are taken out by the group of concerned people in the area on a festival day.

I have accidentally have spotted the shrine carrying festival here in Japan few times, however never been inside the temple while the festival was happening. So I cannot make any write up on what exactly they do when they start the shrine carrying function etc. However I had noticed several things along side the shrine carrying event. There was an elderly person wearing minimal underwear and all the people who are participating were in a uniform suit. There was something in Japanese but I couldn’t read it out as I have no knowledge in Japanese. There was a group of females who walked in front of the shrine wearing the kimonos and with a Japanese villager or farmer wearing cap. It was colorful, in fact the shrine was also carried by both male and female mix.

While carrying the shrine the people were following some sequence in their steps as each side of the shrine where carried by couple of people, it becomes mandatory. Hence the sequences are ups and down along with forward leg movements. So, while the shrine looks to have dance and walk pattern while it goes on the road. Probably it is a way of showing their happiness over the festival. I forgot to mention you can hear “sumimasen” [excuse me] very often while walk along with the shrine, as the step involved makes the people stepping on their precedors while moving on the road.
In many occasions with the portable and actual shrines of Japan, I have noticed that on top of the shrine they have a Cock sculpture in a standing position. In the portable shrine this cock will be on golden color, I don’t know whether it is good plated but it looks good. Other than this, the shrine is made of wood and well polished it also got decorated by some clothes and flowers.

As an added information here, I noticed a Shinto shrine during festival time next to the Ekota station. I found there are smaller sized food stalls put inside the shrine compound serving Sea foods and Hot dogs etc. The same kind of stalls were also found near the Ueno are a shrines.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Halloween Fever

A commonly celebrated western annual event is Halloween, an All Saints day celebrated on October 31st day of every year. Many of us have heard stories are read information from Wikipedia or Googled for history etc., of Halloween. This annual celebration is in Western countries like Canada, the United States, Puerto Rico, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and also it’s becoming popular in Australia and New Zealand. This is also known story, but country like Japan which is traditionally following many festivals and cultural activities of Asian countries like China, India etc. is also started celebrating the Halloween festival. I was surprised to see the Halloween pumpkins which are put on sale in every other chain store and specially designated stores near many of the train stations in Tokyo.

The Tokyo is caught with the Halloween Fever I guess, as its become very common scene in the public places; people carrying the Halloween printed bags, key chains with Halloween figures and some times the yellow pumpkins itself. Two days back I was visiting my regular grocery store and found the Halloween pumpkins on the display with discounts etc. Larger number of shops provides discount sale for the Halloween season. Though majority Japanese have following Shinto and Buddhism as their religious the Christianity also very popular here. But getting the statistics on the inter Christian branches are unclear.

Japanese really attracted by the western culture and activities, you can see it by looking at the people here. I was discussing with one of my Japanese friend who is aged about late fifties, and he was telling me that about twenty years back the working women in Japan was really lesser than today’s numbers. Those days it was the man headed family. Used to be women taking care of children and man make the income for the family to survival. He remembered it used to be a wonderful time with lots of happiness in the family [I guess he was a victim]. I feel to compensate the issues like my friend stated; Japanese also started introducing the western festivals like New Year, Christmas, and Halloween etc. But still it’s not clear whether the Japanese shy nature is really being able to accept the westernized cultural activities. It will be way far to reach the kids going to neighbor’s door step asking for Halloween treat.

But what would have really attracted this particular festival being carried by Japanese? It could be an outcome of similar natured festival in Japan called O-bon, which is celebrated to bring the spirits of their ancestors back home. In this festival Japanese wear their traditional Kimono dress and dance with relatives. O-Bon is actually a Sanskrit word [Earlier I mentioned many customs of Japanese referred with Indians and Chinese, see Sanskrit is used in Japanese celebrated festival] and used in Buddhism religion. This is a three day festival celebrated here, however I feel this is what influenced Japanese to adopt Halloween festival. But for the other dressing habitats of westernize are actually due to the fascinated young crowd. You can still see in Japan physical contacts in the public places are not as much as in a western country. In a maximum limit they hold their partners hand in trains and other public areas.

I have also noted few event notifications on the Internet for the Halloween yellow party here inviting the youth to participate in totally western style. Whatever the Japanese have convinced for western change and it’s happening now.

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