Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I'm an Alien in Japan

Today successfully I became an alien in Japan by receiving the Alien registration card ;-)

The process was simple, When I came to Japan the immigration officer taken my Certificate of Eligibility and gave me a yellow slip directing me to register myself to the near by Local government administration office. The slip was carrying instructions stating the mandatory registration of Alien with in 90days of arrival at the airport. If anybody lives in Japan even with a work permit lesser than 90 days need not to be registered.

But to be noted, without Alien registration one cannot really open a Bank Account or Acquire a Japan driving license or even any other property trade in Japan. While you have your alien card, it makes more convenient of not to carry the passport everywhere but alien card.

The process of obtain this card is that, visit the local office and take a token from the vending machine installed in front of the officer’s desk. The Govt. offices in Japan are just like a private company’s corporate office, so clean. The foreigner registration cell who entertains this registration will call you for filling up an application for the registration. During your application writing they verify your passport for the VISA and expiry information. There is a requirement for 2 numbers of passport size photographs; this information was already found in the yellow slip issued by the immigration officer at the Narita Airport. They are really clamming and helpful till you complete the application form. After receiving the filled in application the officer provided me an acknowledgement paper. It was indicating the date on which I should return to the collect the Alien card. Along with it, I have also received couple of papers and a book explaining activities of the administrative office. The papers included a judicial area map of that office with all the major locations and routes found. Throughout my visit in the local administration office in Gyotoku I really felt the humble handling of people by the government officials in there. This is a branch office for the Ichikawa city administration.

I went to the same office today 16/01/2007 to collect the card, to my surprise instantly after getting my acknowledgement paper they issued the card without wasting either of our time. The card was having my photograph embedded with colorful hologram on top in a typical credit card size. The card was in white color with all the information about me and my passport alongside the expiry information about the card. I really appreciate the patient and kindness of the people in Japan’s government offices.

These local administration offices also provides cultural exchange programs, guide to woman, foreigners and local information. This offices are basically all in one sort, they register the vehicles, register the new person on the area, take care of garbage work, hanko (authorized stamp of individual, in Japan the signature is not accepted as authenticity) and even other civil works around the political limitations. Whenever somebody moves out of an area or enters to another are the person should register them in the local administration area of the respective location.

I have spotted a flyer in the office today stating 500JPY for one day Japanese class, the cultural exchange programs encourages foreigner learning and sharing cultural and cooking information with the local people.

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Japan’s disastrous mobile bills

Yesterday I had the most shocking experience in my life looking at a bill sent to me by the mobile phone operator (au by KDDI). The bill was generated for 16days of time from 12/12/2006 to 31/12/2006 and carried the outstanding amount as 39,693JPY. I wouldn’t have seen any other service provider charging such a huge amount for no international calls and no domestic multi city call option. In fact nearly 28,500JPY charged for just for the WAP service.

This makes me even more affraid for using the same service in the last 10days in January, I may probably expect one more such a bill in the first week of February now.

First of all the mobile doesn’t have enough memory for downloading huge content, which means there is a limitation for downloading. Secondly typing through mobile phone is always considered as pain hence that rules out the effective use of internet via. mobile phone. Additionally no WAP site is been classified into image rich site that is another fact getting away from heavy data transfer. Also the tiny screen can only show a small piece of data at one stretch which are technically called decks in WAP technology and consumes more time for browsing even a text based site, now you know what would have been a average WAP usage.

In spite of these entire things, I got my moderatively used mobile WAP service charge for 15days is about 28,500JPY plus 11,000 for making local calls. I’m now wondering if such a facility in a tiny mobile cost a fortune then why should we call it as value added service. The technology should be made available to public in an affordable way not destructive manner. This made me to call all the readers of this blog to ignore au by KDDI mobile operator to all possible extent wherever possible. If you know, in India which is a developing nation provides mobile internet connectivity with unlimited usage for just as low as 400INR equal to 1000JPY. Are my Japanese friends are so ignorant to raise their voice against such unjustified pricing policy of a service providers? It’s one of the very bad day I have ever came in while visiting Japan.

Here by I request you guys please take extra caution while using mobile phone in Japan.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Pongal Festival - browsing my memory in Japan

It’s my second time missing one of the most important festival that is been celebrated in the southern part of India in my stay in Japan. In fact this is the festival which really ties me with my relation not only with humans but nature. I pledge to give some information bits(forgotton truth) that I know behind this festival for you.

Paying homage to our mother nature is the key element made the ancient Indians grows faster and safer in terms of all the aspects of life. Dravidians (I call the native Indians as Dravidians, other branch are the Aryans who came from European continent) who were black in color, who had no Hinduism, who never lived in the Indus valley, who are never restricted them with caste systems but divisions with their work systems are called Dravidians. (Parayar – Announcer, Kuyavar – Potter, Vannan – Laundry person, Udayaar – Landlord, Mudaliar – Accountant and Arasar - Ruler are some examples of divisions used in the ancient India before Aryans)In the modern days these people are compressed into southern part of India where the Information technology is booming to fuel the countries GDP growth.

Even before Aryans invasion into India, The Dravidians lived with a supreme civilization. Those were there in the stone sculptures as ancient scripts but nothing to prove or show to the world like Indus valley. However if you rotate the time in backwards it’s a scientific proof that India was once part of African continent where the human life believed to be originated. Looking at the Indian animals Lion, Tiger and Elephant will tell you that this concept is truth these were the same animals spotted in African forests. Focusing at the people skin color one can easily point out similarities found in Africans and Dravidians (South Indians) and they are brothers for millions years ago.

I remember recently watching a movie called “God must be crazy” where shows the footage of tribal community who lives in the African forest alongside the wildest animals and without ground level water for about 20000 years. They have no god, no religious but they believed the Nature. This provided the place, food and the entire thing needed for living and mutual share of land with all the creatures of the world.

I’m recalling all of these historical and scientific truths here to point nothing but a festival the Dravidians celebrate even now called “Pongal”. This is a festival to honor the great nature for providing light, water and land for cultivation of food. This is a festival that comes in series of three consecutive days. The first day of this festival is to burst those of unwanted things from us which states the cleanliness followed in the ancient days, followed by that comes the harvesting day which is the most important among all the festivals for the Dravidians to thank the nature (Sun, Earth, Water, Sky and Air). The third day of festival is for the friends of human, who helped through out the cultivation process and transportation for the human. In this day the people decorate their domestic and pet animals with colorful things and feed them along with paying respect to those animals.

This festival is not for any Hindu God its for the nature, here we see the undisturbed culture that Dravidians followed for millions of years even after the invasion of Dravidian land by Aryans who brought several things that today’s mankind if proud of like invention of zero, the art of love Kama sutra and many other. However there were several mis-concept popularly spread across the world thinking that Sanskrit is the oldest language of the world, but the truth is different even before that the language Tamil is been used in the world. An inscription says “Kal thondri man thondra kalathe mun thondri mutha kudi thamizh kudi”, this means even before the formation of rock or sand the Dravidian civilization had founded in the earth. In the recent history India has been ruled by majority by the northern state people who were believed to be Aryan decedents and spread the world with much untruth information. However, they had the inventions which showed the way for today’s modern world.

Some information I thought the world should know altheas to a brief is here, however it is every single word in this blog has branches to several micro and macro levels. This is just information for greeting the world for the Worlds only festival common for anybody from any religion “Wish you a very happy and prosperous Pongal festival

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Finding (Information of) a Geisha!

The moment anybody outside this tiny country Japan is thinking about Japan will immediately find an image of a colorful female in their mind. Though Japan is famously known for its electronics, efficient cars and earth quakes what comes in ones thought is the female who is elegantly dressed with costlier kimonos and painted her exposed body parts like face, hands and neck with various colors.

Who is she? and where is she? are the questions raised to me when I heard of my trip to Japan initially from India. I found the females referred as Geisha (‘Gei’ means art and ‘Sha’ means person in Japanese, in a simple form an Artist). Often, we can notice at least one of the souvenirs purchased on the foreigner's return to their home country from Japan will be a ‘Geisha’ doll. An immensely represented figures of Japan the Geisha.

In the beginning my idea of Geisha is a rich woman or a woman from the imperial family is who the Geishas are, but later I found a different view about them. These are the people who entertain their customers with dance, music, story telling and communication (probably drama) expressing the illusion of a female. Their dressing needs aid from a professional as it involves lots of difficulties. In the ancient days Geisha are not females instead males. Later the term has transformed to females, as no entertainment ends without the spice of a woman. The Geishas are trained from their young age, some times from childhood. They have a special training for how to entertain their customers, when they were matured or learned to become Geisha these young people will go on an apprentice period during that time they will be referred as Maiko.

All these information were an original Geisha related, but what is their stand in the modern society of Japan where the western influence is more than their culture. That leads the answer pointing the sex workers, now the majority of Geishas are referred or meant as prostitutes. Though Geishas are not originally sex workers they were the people to entertain their customer no in the form of sex but various arts.

I wanted to meet the today’s Geisha, got information of their locations primarily Kyoto the old capital of Japan. But having limitations with the work schedule I’m really unable to visit that far. Next place came to me as an option is Asakusa of Tokyo (Refer my previous blog Auspicious Asakusa). Finding Geisha out from Asakusa is a real challenging task; finally I met a Maiko(Trainee Geisha) on the road. She was beautiful with the pink colored makeup all over her body with a black Maiko’s kimono. As a matter of fact, I never missed the opportunity to ask her to pose with me for the camera my friend carried along with me for the trial. She accepted my request with a beautiful smile (look at the picture). She was accompanied by two men dressed in a colorful form, but I still have no idea of who to refer them as this is the time I have seen a person like them. Some of the points stated here are the output of my discussion from the Maiko and the two men along with her. They stated couple of tea houses in the area hosts the shows of Geisha.

As the Geisha culture is turned very costly because of their traditional training process of ages and dressing. The modern community (though preferred but) is not really making their visit to tea houses of Geisha. As the bars and hotels entertain their customers in Japan with hostesses on the western costume which are economical for many. What ever reason, the population of Geishas are in extinct in Japan leading a faded future of Geisha.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Silent atmosphere of Samyoji temple – Japan

Samyoji temple, Kannonji temple, Entsuji temple and Okura Jinja shrine are the religious establishments of Mashiko which falls under the Tsukuba - a mountain. Apart from the temples, Mashiko local government also had developed several museums of pottery and the collections. Some of this museums charge a fee for public access. As our plan for Mashiko is restricted with one day trip, we could not enter into all the listed spots but Samyoji Temple.
Samyoji temple is on the little elevated but not in a highest mountain with aged about 600 year old. It is located on the Tsukuba mountain belt. The temple is not crowded; it’s a clam environment residing in a peaceful location on the green hands of nature. After driving the car in a single hairpin bend the samsoji temple parking area has been reached. The parking area has the food stalls selling squid, octopus and fish varieties.

There are two stone lanterns installed on the stone made stairs which leads to the temple. There were about or lesser than 100 steps to reach the temple from the stone lantern installed. In front of the lantern the temple authorities has a shop to sell some religious items. I have no clear idea about the names of those items but those seem to be a wrist bands, fortune tellers and some memorandums. Also on the parallel side of the 2 stone made lanterns I have also seen a Buddha statue with kids playing, some people had also left some soft toys near to the statue as a religious belief I guess. The stone made steps are neat and divided with a steal pipe climbing and returning people support.

This temple has a 3 storied wooden pagoda, an Entrance and two temples. The primary temple is larger and taller in sized. The temples are erected with statues in it, those were larger in size. As a custom this temple also had the water pot where people wash their hands before entering to the temple. The small sized temple had a giant sized angriest God with two other subordinates in it. Except the main temple, including the entrance had the roof with a sort of grass topping. The entire temple has shown no sign of cement or concrete, everything was made with wood. But it was elegant and had a speciality of Japanese style architecture.

After spending about an hour in the temple, we were rushed towards Tokyo on the car, our visit to Mashiko had turned really interesting as we had chance to see the country side of Japan.

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Visit to Pottery Paradise, Mashiko – Japan

After a month time interval I had an opportunity to go outings in Japan, This time the idea to know the ancient Japanese pottery making has been sparked by Mr.Uchida (Our Guarantor). Hence we have chosen to visit a place about 100kms away from Tokyo called Mashiko.

The 2nd day of 2007 morning 10:00AM our team has set ready for the tour to Mashiko. Mr.Uchida also had never been to this place; hence our tracking of route on the car was solely depended on the GPS system installed. The in car navigator has been set starting point Nishi Funabashi and destination as Mashiko Information center the community building. It quickly recognised the starting and destination points and showed the entire travel distance as 106kms and 2:37mins has driving time.

We had chosen to travel the local roads in stead of the Highway as everybody requested to see the scenic country side of Japan. The car started its journey with 6 people on board. It was a pleasant trip to us to experience the relaxed life outside Tokyo. The villages on the way to Mashiko had full of Salvage yards and used car dealers’ show casing numerous cars that were used in the roads of Japan. In a short while after an hour and half drive we stop at Seven Eleven a convenio store on the roadside for our meal.

Mashiko is a famous country town during Nara Era (A.D. 710-784) for manufacturing pottery goods. Due to several political changes in Japan the Mashiko had to loose its glory and blurred the pottery business. The current Mashiko contributes to Japan as tourism attraction exhibiting the classical age pottery manufacturing techniques. There are several schools teaches the pottery manufacturing art. There visitors can pay as low as 1000yen for a guided pottery manufacturing tour during which they can make their own pottery, there will be a additional charge for boiling the visitor made pottery and shipping it to the visitors address in Japan after 2-3 days of the whole process.

There were many pottery shops in the area to attract visitors, but majority of the shops sells the ceramic owl dolls and Japanese style bear dolls. I have spotted these bear dolls in many Isakaya (small Japanese style hotel) establishments in Tokyo earlier. There is a Giant sized bear statue is also seen on the Mashiko central area as a landmark. Many of the information boards in this area are written in English as an exception but several letters in those boards were missing due to lack of maintenance. But it doesn’t stop us reading that partial information seen on the board.
The area information office provides detailed map and information flyers to those who visit Mashiko. There is plenty of car parking available around the attractions in Mashiko. The Mashiko area is filled with pottery makers and shrines of ancient Japanese Nara Era. 

After a while we have moved towards Samyoji temple in Mashiko from that point our travel has started towards Tokyo. Apart from the salvage yards and used car dealers the way to Mashiko also had several villages with rice fields. I have a plan to visit one of their villages soon to discover the farmer’s life in Japan and the techniques they use in the cultivations.

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Welcome to the great future - 2007

First time in my life ever celebrating the New Year outside my home land, filled with expectation, happiness and doubt. Surprisingly nothing has materialised on the 31st December 2007 night to welcome the New Year.

I used to roam around with friends in India during the New Year night with some beer and celebrations. I always had feeling of greater New Year celebrations in Japan but it was in vain, as the night turned to me lonely at the apartment without transport facility to go out. I was calling the friends to find out the places to go and celebrate the New Year event, some indicated Shibuya, Odaiba and Roppongi. But the Tokyo Metro train schedule indicated no trains after 12:00AM in the mid-night. With the temperature running 1-4degree celsius passing the whole night in the roads are ruled out. That laid the path for demolishing my new year celebrations, my apartment sharing friend had already left to his friend’s place which added more worries on the final movements of 2006. Finally with few larges of Jamaican Rum I had to end welcoming the New Year at the apartment and went on sleeping. As usual I decided to start the New Year with going to a temple; hence my travel towards Asakusa had been ignited. I had to call my friend Anwar、as he had procured a new Canon DSLR in the recent past he wanted to go for a photographic session during the festival time.

Another disappointment had waited in Asakusa; earlier couple of my Japanese friends understated that during the New Year day the Japanese wear Kimonos in large number and visit Asakusa but the situation was totally against as I had not seen anybody with the cultural dress in there. Instead the ultra modern western dresses were attracted our eyes.

Asakusa looked like the busiest Chennai streets as the place was filled with lots of police patrol to prevent any illegal things on the crowded day. The place was also hosted several food stalls around the temple, I can say without those food courts no temple could be visited in Japan. There is a custom of eating Squid, Octopus and fish in the compound of the temple in Japan is seen. Look at the picture which tells a story of what I was meaning in here.

Later few hours of walking around Asakusa we had moved towards Akihabara to probe any electronic gadgets under discount sale is available for our photography needs. But not much to state, all the prices were under the same ceiling of pre-festival rates. There was a minimal discount as low as 5% of the original good. Hence we decided not to buy on the New Year day. Our search had also prompted us to visit Shinjuku area for the similar reason but the result was same. We entered to Yodobashi, Bic Camera, Map camera and Laox stores in these areas but as mentioned no much attractions. I’m only writing this for the future to keep reference of what you can expect on the New year’s day in these areas. I was told by somebody to expect 30% discount but later understood that it was biased information.

I also spoken to my family members on the New Year day and shared the celebrations with that I end my New Year celebration of 2007. Now its time to Plan, Frame and track the year to favour us throughout the 365 days of time. Probably this year will bring us new attractions, life style, career growth and increment in the bank account. I may get lot more to share with you people on forth coming days, I strongly hope that the year 2007 will make another milestone in my and your life.

Let us all link our hands to chain and lay a beautiful path to welcome the New Year 2007. I wish you all a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2007

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Closing the account of 2006 in Japan

Very few take an opportunity to thank the year which brought us a fruitful of memories, growth, wealth and promotions in life and career.

Frankly speaking I’m an opportunistic person who takes things favourably for my sake. The year 2006 had given me a great gift “Adhava” my second son, helped me fly to Japan to learn new people, culture and work environment. Yet another milestone in the life passed age plus one in an increment manner.

I got several new friends, new comments on my site, new photographs from my tiny little camera kit and offcourse this blog. Every think had happen in the very few 365 days circle.

Last year also set goals in my life to achieve new targets and a new lifestyle along side the year also brought some sad thinks to compensate and balance the life. The year also made me to Loss my cousin, missing the life to stay with family and friend in India.

Unacceptable manner of execution of former Iraq President Saddam Hussein made the year 2006 recorded in the black book. Though Saddam Hussein seemed cruel and brutal ruler in my view Saddam is another mankind to commit mistakes, unfortunately that had caused loss of thousands of life along with his life in the end. However killing is not the punishment for killing, committing crime against another crime. I had an opportunity to see the Saddams final movements on the web; it was real horrible, the comments passed to him before his death when he was standing on the gallows was unacceptable by any human. More than punishment the event looked like political revenge in my eyes, if he is punished by law then the punishment would have been involved a lot of differences.

With all the above lines in the books of 2006 with much other unforgettable history I’m closing the book of 2006.
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