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岡崎 (okazaki), july 2006

zurr deutschen site, jawoll

to hong kong and shenzen via taipei and back (in one piece)

another month, another newsletter.
this month, the newsletter is not so much japan-related rather than adventurous. find out about the longest night, how to shrug off a traffic accident, why the ieyasu parade in okazaki is really not such a big deal and read the obituary of humankind.

day 1

in the early morning of october 19th, we took the china airline flight from nagoya airport to taipei where we transferred to a flight to hong kong. the flight was a success - we survived. this is less to be expected than to be welcomed as china airline's reputation is somewhat tainted due to its accident rate. the flight was even very entertaining because there was an unfoldable screen attached to every chair with movies and games a discretion. i played caveman up to level 21 but got stuck there. the food on the other hand was not exactly what can be called delicious. at arriving in taipei i couldn't help thinking of armin who had to bridge 8 hours of waiting time at taipei airport when he left japan. why did i think of armin then? because taipei is the single most boring airport i've ever seen in my life. at least that what i wanted to write because that was my impression. on the return flight we arrived at the same taipei airport but it was like day and night. whereas the airport look dull, old and smallish (barely any shops at all) on the way to hong kong, on the way back it turned out to be a modern, bright, clean and pleasant airport after all. maybe transferring passengers are not worth entertaining there?

taiwan international airport
taiwan international airport. boring?

the second leg of the flight to hong kong was very uneventful (glad about that) and after some more caveman and space invasion we landed safely in hong kong.

hong kong
hong kong as seen from the train from the airport to downtown hongkong

for general information, as usual, wikipedia knows more about hong kong that i ever will: wikipedia on hong kong

hong kong

the community of hong kong is not just one island, it's a bunch of island of which the main island is hong kong island (where downtown hong kong and the central train are located). the islands are well connected by the MTR (mass transit railway - hong kong's subway), roads and bridges. the train from the airport brought us quickly to the central station where we changed to the MTR where we exited at wan chai where our hotel was.

hong kong
the view from our hotel room

hotels and apartments in hong kong are small, which is no surprise. since the area is earthquake-free, the apartments might not be big but the apartment (and office) buildings are very tall. for people living in the japan, it's a rather unusual sight, some of the buildings look rather feeble and look like they would collapse if you kicked them (make sure you put on a hardhat in case of falling of apartment top floors).

hong kong
the view to the other side from the same hotel

my first impression was that hong kong is as lively as they make you believe it is. the city is vibrant and there are ppl from all over the world roaming the streets. even more so because that week there was a trading fair in hong kong. a rather negative surprise was the smoggy air but in that aspect, the worst was yet to come.

hong kong
some more tall buildings. plenty of them in hong kong

after a nap we visited victoria peak with the famous night view over hong kong bay. the victoria cable tram is, well, a cable tram and if in the dictionary there were, instead of definition, a picture to illustrate steepness, there would be a picture of the victoria cable tram.

view from victoria peak view from victoria peak
night view from victoria peak

there was also a gallery of pictures apparently painted by middle school kids but some of the paintings were suspiciously well done. i wish i had the talent of that 12-year old.

gallery on victoria peak gallery on victoria peak
some of the pictures of the gallery

an empty stomach calls for food but instead of visiting burger king at victoria peak, we took a taxi back to wan chai station and looked for a restaurant. we ended in a sort of family restaurant / fast food joint and beef noodles and rice congee with preserved eggs (they look greenish but are safe to eat).

neon light street in hong kong
neon street lights in hong kong. "innocence", anyone?

that was basically the first day. or so we thought. turned out that in the night it's hard to sleep if you're not used to the traffic noise outside. not much sleep that night.

day 2

towards 10:30 we left the hotel and moved on to the YMCA hotel where we were able to deposit our luggage until the return from china. then we walked along the bay (salisbury road) to hung hom station, where we got tickets to lo wu station, where the border crossing is.

although hong kong has been under china's regulation for a while already the border crossing is still a regular border with customs and all.
that means you have to fill out a departure card for hong kong and an entry card for china and then line up at customs.
japanese ppl don't need a visa to visit china but me no japanese.
something you don't want to hear at any customs is the following dialogue:

*custom officials leafs through your passport 3 times cover to cover* "wher is yor chines visa?"
me: *gulp, panic attack* "um... i don't have a chinese visa"
"yu need get chinese visa"
me: *heavy sweating - will i have to leave body parts as deposit?* "where?"
"there!" *points with finger in general wrong direction*
me: "um... ah... oh, yeah, ok"
it didn't turn out to be that bad. after another form, 20 minutes and 160 Yuan (ca. 25Sfr / 2400 Yen) and lining up again i was in china.

shenzen trainstation plaza
the plaza in front of shenzen central station

unfortunately in shenzen tourists and businessmen have been kidnapped and pickpocketers seem to be unioned (kidding 'bout that one) we guarded our little luggage closely while we waited for our acquittance and local expert shenzen-ise In-chan. she was a little late but with everything still there she accompanied us to the parking house next to the station and promptly got lost two times (how is it possible to mix up 3rd floor with ground floor???) before her sister (which turned out to be male co-worker of hers?!?) picked us up with a company car.

chinese folk culture village
a chinese traditional lantern in the folk culture village

we were driven to the china folk culture village first, a potpurri and showcase of many cultures and regional varieties of handicraft, culture etc. are chopped up into well-digestable tourist-sized pieces displayed and celebrated probably all-year round. part outside shopping-mall with plenty of opportunities to buy touristy crap and part show, part hiking area and part amusement park there's a little bit of everything for everyone.

folk culture village
chinese stone lions, usually posted at the entrance of a temple as guards against evil spirits

a selection of websites about the china folk culture village can be found on google: http://www.google.co.jp/search?hl=en&q=China+Folk+Culture+Village&btnG=Search

folk cultural village
traditional house made from wood - kinda reminded me of indonesia or bali

we watched a horseride/adventure show presenting some historic bits of the heroic dynasty (not sure about the name) - the show's fittingly titled "Large-scale Horse War". if you happen to know the show at the end of the ieyasu parade in okazaki and you think that is awesome (it's not - it's nice and well orchestrated but not awesome) then the horse war will blow you away - riders, fights, horse fights, real arrows flying, canons going off, walls cracking in the castle model, they have everything except nekkid samurai chiks (?). but who needs them anyway.

horse war horse war horse war
a small selection of pictures of the horse war show
horse war horse war short clip of finale (with sound and speaker in cantonese!) 3.8mb
note the canons on the left (very loud!)

i think we spent almost three hours in the china folk culture village. afterwards we were picked up again and driven to a chinese restaurant downtown. and by chinese restaurant i mean a chinese food restaurant. i mean, all the restaurants in china are chinese restaurants (because they're in china) and therefor all chinese food restaurants offer chinese food (food prepared in china) so what i really mean is a (traditional chinese food prepared in china)-restaurant in china. china china china. comparable to a sushiya in japan and a foundue shop in switzerland.

shenzen
buildings along the street

we were fed quite spicy food which seems to be the norm (although i suspect they ordered some spicier than usual stuff because i braggingly declared "spicy food - no problemo"). as usual upon eating spicy stuff i started sweating which always helps to cheer up the mood around the table but i managed to shovel in some really delicious stuff. something piggy (i don't wanna know in detail what it was but it was squishy), something fishy, something chicky (all of it heavily on the spicy side), something beefy and thinly sliced with cucumber and more. all of it very yummy. too bad we couldn't really talk to our hosts (who spoke japanese) - it was a quite noisy and the table was quite big so we all sat a bit far apart.

shenzen
pictures from along the road

again In's driver whose service we'd come to appreciate picked us up and we drove to In's apartment where she stays with her older sister and her (older sister's) husband. a very nice and large apartment, monthly rent 5 man yen, with the deepest subfloor parking space i've ever seen. like a maze.

shenzen
construction site along the road. note the scaffold made completely from bamboo, same as in hong kong btw!

we watched telly ("hollow man" was running), chatted for a while and ate kaki (persimmon). chinese people eat kaki when they're really squishy as opposed to japanese ppl who eat them while they're still solid to the touch. soon after that we broke up and the longest night was about to start.

day 2 - the longest night part one

(just in case you're wondering - it's a true account of what happened) probably around one o'clock in the morning and after one hour of sleep, i was awoken from sleep. it sounded like a cheap plastic football being kicked against a concrete wall. and shouting!
*grmbl* don't those kids outside ever go to sleep and shut up? the noise didn't stop after a couple of minutes and "dmbps, dmpbs" (sound of a cheap plastic football being kicked against a wall) and some consideration in half-sleep status
*grrrr* that's not outside that's the building, don't those kids ever go to sleep and shut up? the "dmbps, dmpbs" noise and the shouting continued
*argh* that's not only inside the room, that's the room next to ours which means... (thoughts being processed)
*alarm bells in head going off* there's someone inside the apartment crapping stuff and shouting
*PANIC* a burglar - what to do?

quickly got up, out of bed (as silent as possible) and waited behind the door to surprise burglar if he tried to enter our room. meanwhile the shouting continued. reconsider surprising the burglar dressed in slips only - sneak back to put on shirt and trousers. got behind the door again. listening intensly to shouting and swearing in cantonese.
as expected, don't understand a single word. *why are there no subtitles?*
crap, there's a female voice (obviously In's older sister), sobbing. what to do? trying to recollect everything ever read about martial arts, the art of war, surprise attacks and breaking arms. is it my duty to try to save someone i barely know? where does the wisdom of staying put turn into cowardness?
listening to some more cantonese swearing. still don't understand a word.
trying to talk it out? no good, all i know in chinese is "thanks", "my name is", "i love you", "take your clothes off" and "leave me alone", which, however cunningly combined won't help a lot. besides, i remembered them in mandarin chinese, not cantonese. which means, even if i had a mobile phone and knew the number of the police (both to no avail) i couldn't do anything. i don't suppose the local police speaks japanese, english or even (god forbid) german or french.
after another 20 minutes and considering that my advantage would be much bigger if i had a weapon.
start evaluation available material. glass sherds make for a good knife but how to break the glass of the picture without making a sound?
a paper cup does not hurt very much even if filled with water. unless it's frozen. no avail in late summer with an average annual temperature of 22 degrees.
in the end i decided my digicam (canon ixus300) does not have a sharp edge but is made from metal (remember, metal is your friend and saviour!) and with a corner applied to the forehead with the energy of m*v^2 should give me enough of an advantage to temporarily stun an average burglar who might not be expecting a scared but camera-equipped swiss bloke behind a door in a darkened room.
there is also a high probability the burglar would carry a weapon. no smart burglar would enter a building without carrying a weapon.
this doesn't make sense though. a burglar is supposed to be silent, not shouting. maybe he's not a burglar but mafia or something. not too long after thinking crafting another plan to catch the burglar (or at least the burglar's hand) between the door and the doorframe, the shouting stops.
oh no, is that a change for the better or the worse? what's that mean? is he "busy" with In's sister? has he simply left? do i have the duty or the courage to venture outside and check out what's going on? after some more time the light in the living room went on as i could see from below the crack of the door. safe? probably but better wait some more. after even more time some slight sobbing again so i went to check. the table had holes in it and In's sister was cleaning up a broken bottle and sweeping the floor. obviously she had been crying but otherwise seemed to be okay so i went back to bed. the next morning i realized the right thing would have been to help her cleaning up but i was too quite upset to realize that back then.

in the end, as In explained to us the next morning, the "burglar" turned out to be In's sister's husband who was drunk and making a ruckus. poor sister!

day 2 - the longest night part two

back in the bedroom i was surprisingly quick to cool down so i tried to get some sleep. just a couple of minutes later the familiar and yukki sound of "bzzzzz" of a moskito startled me.
*argh* light on, clap your hands a couple of times (sluggish beasts make for a quick death after midnight), wipe hands, light off. #1
"bzzzzz"
*wtf?* light on, clap your hands a couple of times (sluggish beasts make for a quick death...), wipe hands, light off. #2
"bzzzzz"
*wtF?* light on, clap your hands a couple of times (sluggish beasts make for a...), wipe hands, light off. #3
"bzzzzz"
*wTF?* light on, clap your hands a couple of times (sluggish beasts...), wipe hands, light off. #4
"bzzzzz"
*WTFthisisunreal!* light on, clap your hands a couple of times (...), wipe hands (yikes, blood!), light off. #5
"....." heavenly silence
"bzzzzz"
*shinjirarene~zo* light on, clap your hands, light off. #6

to make a long story short, the count went up to #11. the moskitos must have played some kind of tag game. "ok, chen,
yun has not come back, it's your turn, go!"
In must have thought Swissies have the strangest hobbies in the night, clapping hands all night.
*set eyelids to half-mast for day three*

day 3

the next morning (after very little sleep), we drove back to shenzen again to check in at the hotel for our last night in china. In who had gotten her driver's license in 2005 was driving to gain experience, the pervious day's driver was in the co-driver's seat to give pieces of advice. the ride was smooth except for the accident right in front of the hotel.

shenzen
some city quarter in shenzen. notice the trash on the ground T_T

day 3 - how to shrug off a traffic accident

regarding In's inexperience with driving and the traffic chaos right in front of the hotel, i guess the accident couldn't be avoided.
in fact, the way chinese people interpret and follow traffic rules, it's a surprise we only had one accident. maybe it's because everyone is honking all the time. In unfortunately entered a one-way street from the wrong direction looking for the entrance to the underground parking lot of the hotel. she stopped the car looking around and monitoring the oncoming traffice from the right took off again at walking pace.
unfortunately, at the same a scooter rider tried to get around In's car from the left and indeed he did cut the path around the car very close. but then again, In was not using the indicator either.
anyway, car vs. scooter the loser is and always will be the scooter.
it toppled, the rider fell off, the car went *hump, hump* (sound of a car driving over something) until In realized despite her lack of driving experience that something was not as it was supposed to be.
In and yesterday's driver dude got out of the car to look out after the rider and the car. the rider made a painful face and held his left side of the stomach. the car and the scooter seemed to be ok except for a few scratches. the scooter was even still running.
an argument started ensuing and people from around started flocking in. the argument's outcome is still somewhat of a mistery to me but after a couple of minutes In and her co-driver got back into the car, the scooter rider disappeared somehow
and that WAS IT. no papers filled out, no police, no hospital, no "here's your get-well card, now bugger off".

shenzen
the mini eiffel tower at world window in shenzen, an amusement park next to the folk culture village. a glass pyramid, same as the one in the louvre was also visible from the road. in fact, the edge of it is juuuust visible on the left side

day 3 continued

after check-in (to a very nice room, a suite actually - probably meant for longer stays because it came with a kitchen) we finally went for breakfast (at 13:00) so we hopped back into the car and drove up and the roads for at least another half hour.
i wondered why we passed the same points points again and again, turning 180 degress and then going back.
finally In explained that the restaurant we had been heading for was being renovated so we had to change our breakfast plans.
we ended up going to the food court on the top floor of a supermall where the girls wanted to do some shopping anyway.
the food court was overseeing an ice rink (yes, inside the supermall on the 7th floor). we picked a couple of dishes incl. peking duck, congee, sesame rice ball, cooked vegetables, fried bread (supposedly salty but somewhat tasteless) and fruit drinks, all very tasty.
afterwards at my request the girls dropped me off at another small mall containing a musical instrument store and a book shop.
the musical instrument store was nice but not overwhelming. amongst modern instruments like guitars, basses, pianos, clarinets and such they were also selling traditional instruments such as the erhu ("niko" in japanese) which were made with snake skin covering the sound body (exactly the kind of erhu made with snake skin that notices at japanese airports warn you about).
the book shop was big but somewhat boring because, well, i can't read cantonese.
they also had a big section on english textbooks (just like in japan) and i even found a chinese textbook written in german. as my "shopping" usually tends to be not very inquisitive, short and marked by spending as little money as possible, i was done quite quickly and went back to the supermall with the food court. of course the girls took their time so i decided to wander around to kill time and looked at.... the same stores as everywhere (brand shops and such). most stores are targetting girls anyway and the few shops where men can indulge in purchases offer watches (don't wear one), suits and brand clothes (don't want any) and electronics (interesting but how many hand-helds can you use simultaneously?)
honestly i find modern supermalls quite boring but i have to confess that's mostly my own fault. i wish i'd brought a book...

shenzen
the tallest building in shenzen. all the area around this spot was just empty twenty years ago

once the girls got back we went back to the hotel.
the girls went out for some more shopping and once they got back they wanted to get pictures taken in traditional make-up and costumes.
so they sent me off to a near-by shopping district ("the district starts from here, see? easy and you can't get lost"). i didn't get lost but once i get close to feeling uncomfortably about getting lost soon. the streets were crowded and at every corner street sellers were handing out flyers ("massage?"), most of them indian/pakistani-looking (the street sellers, not the flyers). others were saying something that sounded like "shekschi" - i guess they meant "sexy", most probably a codeword for a massage of the deeper kind *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*.

shenzen
view of the city from the parking house next to the station
the river on the right side is part of the border between hong kong and china

i went back to the hotel at the appointed time but the girls weren't back yet. they didn't show up for another two hours!
because the shop was crowded and the waiting list was long. or so they said. nice chance to explore the 56 channels on
the hotel's tv.

day 3 - chinese television

given the keyword "chinese television" - what would be your first thoughts?
communist propaganda?
kung-fu movies?
right on the mark! i watched some old hong kong classics and zapped through some staged communist celebrations with everyone wearing the traditional worker's clothes complete with the red star on the hat.
of course there were also the obligatory news channels, japanese anime (seems to be popular everywhere on earth) and korean drama (seems to be popular everywhere in asia), too.
quite a number of channels showed chinese opera or chinese traditional songs or shows revolving around them (kind of a schlagerparade maybe?).

chinese money
chinese banknotes. they use three different versions of 1 Yuan notes simultaneously ¬_¬

the propaganda channels got me thinking a bit. having been to japan, korea, hong kong and china i think it's safe to say that people are the same everywhere (customs are different of course). it's the respective countries government who politize their people and turn them against other countries. how else could you explain wars (ok, greed and lust for power are also reasons)?

day 3 - the rest

after the girls finally got back (they got me seriously worried at some point - i remembered that even if asked by the police i would not have been able to give any kind of description where they went, In's complete name, phone number or address), it was time for another gluttony event although it was already around ten in the night.
we went to a near-by chinese food made in chinese tradition in china chinese restaurant with a very interesting view over a crossroad. dinner became not only another excursion into the realm of culinaries but also a study of human indifference towards the danger of public transportation.
in short, i wonder why the authorities ever bothered to put up a traffic light at that crossroads.
at least in the night it was basically ignored by everyone, incl. the bus drivers. equally interesting to watch was the way drivers dealt with the one pillar of the pedestrian bridge over the street. the width between the pillar and the closest sideway was just enough for one car making this effectively a one-way passage but yet the passage was being used by whoever got there first.
apart from one near-collision, no accidents.
the pedestrians crossing the road directly (not using the bridge) were eqully daring (or death-defying?). "safety-aware" pedestrians used a break in the traffic flow to walk up to the guard rail in the middle, others would just walk into the road whenever there was a space somehwere and count on the goodwill of the oncoming drivers to stop. all of it very unnerving.

the food was delicious as always. the type of chinese sweet and sour that most westerners probably dearly love (at least i do - chicken, port - bring it on!) is actually a traditional dish from northern china (shanghai).
same as yesterday, all the dishes came without rice which surprised me a bit. i thought of chinese are as rice-loving (the food, not the scary bush-doll) as japanese.
true, chinese prefer chahan (cantonese fried-rice) over white rice but still, just eating "main" dishes felt somewhat weird.
we had the above mentioned pork sweet and sour, steamed meat buns, prawn spring rolls, some more buns and fried eggs with orange coated in sugar (a very exotic and filling experience).

that was the conclusion to day 3. after dinner we thanked In for all the troubles she went through for us and wished her good-bye. would be nice to see her again one day.

day 4 - return to hong kong

day 4 was not very exciting in terms of troubles. we used the free shuttle bus to the station around noon, got ouf china without problems, got into hong kong without problems, got a ticket, on the train, off in hongkong on the kowloon island and walked to ymca hotel.
ymca hotel sounds like a youth hostel but it's a 14 floor hotel with gym, dining hall, course center etc.
our room had been upgraded to suite (lucky!) on the 14th floor with a nice view on the streets below.

hong kong hong kong hong kong
view from the ymca hotel. funny construction site, check out the trees.

swiss bloke hong kong
some swiss dude in hong kong, the living room in the suite

after checking the 40 something channels and some tea we ventured for a shopping spree in the close-by district.
as usual my attention span in clothes shops drops quickly to zero so i checked out the musical instrument shop next door which was smallish but well equipped.
we split up after that and i roamed the streets alone. i almost bought some very typical souvenirs of hong kong (a ps2 game ontroller and a guitar instruction magazine in hmv) but decided against it.
could it be that shops tend to be the same as everywhere?

hong kong
view from the hotel over the bay and hong kong island

we had dinner in a restaurant at canton road. the restaurant was praised as one of the best in a japanese travel guide and the food was really good indeed. pork sweet and sour, vegetarian buns, spring rolls and more, as dessert mango pudding and black sesame tofu pudding which looked like coal slime but which was very delicious.

hong kong
busy street at dawn

to help our digestion, we walked to the bay area with a nice view on hong kong island and (hidden in the clouds) victoria peak. at 8 o'clock a show called "symphony of light", a mixture between music and light show from buildings all over the bay area, started and lasted for maybe ten minutes. quite spectacular and clearly a tourist magnet, being awarded and running every night.

hong kong bay hong kong bay
the area around the culture center. night view of the bay and hong kong island.
the tower on the left reminded me of valencia in spain, for some reasons.

180° night view of the bay 3.8mb (right-click and select "save target as...". clip should be viewable in media player etc.)
symphony of light clip 1 3.8mb
symphony of light clip 2 3.8mb
symphony of light clip 3 3.8mb
symphony of light clip 4 3.8mb
symphony of light clip 5 2.5mb (finale, unfortunately cut off at the end)

day 5 - return to japan

after a western-style breakfast (croissants and coffee) in a shopping mall and the subsequent check-out from the hotel, a friendly ojisan-style taxi driver took us directly to the airport.
we had to be transferred to an earlier flight due to problems with our original flight even though it was still two hours till departure.
the earlier flight meant we'd have to spend more time at the 'boring' taipei airport but that couldn't be helped.
the china airline employee issuing was funny. while he processed our tickets which took ten minutes we spoke a lot of crap in japanese, making jokes and such (not about him though) and he apparently enjoyed listening to us although he couldn't understand anything. or so he said.
it was good to see some smiles on his face - the customs personal at the chinese border the previous days was the coldest and unfriendliest lot i've ever seen.

hong kong hong kong
picture from the seapromenade along salisbury road (kowloon island on the left, hong kong island on the right)

the flight to taipei was uneventful (no screens and games) and the served meal was typical airline food. this time, the transfer terminal in taipei was very pleasant and i bought some typical omiyage from taipei airport (mango pudding, pineapple cake, suncake).

the connecting flight to japan was also very uneventful (more caveman and space invasion), the food was somehow okay but once again (as always when seeing flight attendants) i wondered why so many girls dream of becoming flight attendants.
it's just a waitress job in cramped work space with the additional risk of crashing and dying. ever seen a regular restaurant crash
from the sky, killing everyone inside?
** sidenote: in a recent comment on boingboing.net i finally found out why you're supposed to cover your head with your arms and assume a fetal position in your seat when the plane is about to crash: the impact is most likely to kill you anyway but in this position your denture is more likely to remain intact which makes identifying your body a lot easier - grizzly thought **

taipei
funny fruit paintings on the china airline plane that brought us back to japan

so far, every time at japanese customs i had some sort of problems.
no matter whether i had a re-entry permit or not, came back on the same visa, came back after getting a student visa or only needed a tourist visa (coming to japan for the first time), every time i ended up being singled-out and waited at the "potential criminal" area and waiting for something to happen inside the office without being told what's going on.

omiyage omiyage
omiyage (souvenir) from taipei airport. check out the fine details on the box, just lovely. this one is pineapple cake.

so this time, i tried to beat the system and headed straight for the "criminal" area but was waved to the foreigner qeue, only to discover that carrying a re-entry permit i would have been elligible to line up at the same qeue as japanese passport holders.
bummer.
the custom official processing my passport must have been a new employee or confused or both.
he checked my passport three times from cover to cover until i showed him the re-entry permit to speed the process a bit.
he did the customs thingy (stamps'n'stickers) and returned the passport. i was about to move on to declarations when he demanded to see my passport again for a double-check to make sure he'd stamped it and stamped it at the right place.
interestingly, during his leafing through the passport and checking the records on the computer he mentioned that it was still on record that i had been trying to enter japan without a certificate of eligibility at some time in the past.
it's easily deductible to identify that this must have been april 8th 2004 when i first came to japan.
i didn't have a certificate of eligibility with me because yamasa didn't send me one due to internal issues.
but after more than two years, being on the third type of visa, having obtained two visa extensions for two different visa types and two re-entry permits for two visas, all of which were legal actions i'd say it's time for customs to move on.
i know though that it's their job to check passports thoroughly.

omiyage omiyage
more omiyage from taipei airport: mango pudding and suncake, daily freshly baked. this one was daily freshly baked on oct. 11 - i bought it on oct 24. and it's best eaten daily freshly before nov. 25. hm....

thus, on the fifth day (which is the next one after the fourth if you start counting from one) endeth the epic saga of a journey through 4 countries (that is, if you include the transfer area of taipei airport).

obituary of humankind

• name: humankind
• age: 200'000 to 250'000 years
• address: planet earth (3rd planet from the sun in terms of distance) of the solar system
• cause of death: enviromental pollution, overpopulation
• place of death: see address
• date of death: in the next 50?100? years (most likely not more than another 100 years)
• occupation: explorer, hunter, gatherer, farmer, trader, worker, warrior, politician, creator, scientist, destroyer, killer, explorer
• other survivors: hopefully none

coming from a country where environmental standards are high or very high, being in japan can be, at times, very trying.
the environmental consciousness of the typical japanese is unfortunately rather low and because old habits die hard, even truly unnecessary things like keeping the car engine running while the driver is going to a shop, even if it takes more than 10 minutes, will not change soon (please note that this practice called 'idling' has officially been outlawed by the government at the end of 2005 and is subject to penalty but the police is too busy doing something else - what i don't know).
other issues like using reusable chopsticks instead of wooden ones (excerpt from wikipedia on chopsticks: "In China alone, an estimated 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks are used and thrown away annually. This adds up to 1.7 million cubic metres of timber or 25 million fully grown trees every year. To encourage that people use and throw away less, as of April 2006 a five percent tax is added to the price of chopsticks." - for the essay of a japanese university student about this problem, read on here:
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/speakout/editorial/chopsticks.html
and using your own shopping bag instead of six or seven(!) free (!!) plastic when doing some big shopping would be harder to resolve because of the japanese inclination to server the customer as well as possible (which does not explain why atms close at nine on workdays and at five on saturdays/sundays/holidays).
this is all enraging and cumbersome to me but now that i've been to shenzen, which is not only one of the fastest growing cities in the world but unfortunately also one of the worst examples of environmental pollution.

in four days i've witnessed air pollution on a scale that i thought was simply not possible (and i only heard about the water pollution problem from newspaper but not witnessed it myself).
air-wise, hong kong was already bad compared to okazaki but shenzen was partly just unbearable. china is in regards to environmental issues still a developing country and the authorities are still rather unwilling (the problem of pollution has been recognized and the worst offenders have been punished though) to curb progress (by which they mean 'profit').
i can clearly see that the people there prefer having a car without catalytic converter over not having a car at all.
if they had enough money they probably would buy a catalytic converter-equipped car, i imagine.
that is why the problem cannot be solved by developed countries suggesting "buy catalytic converter-equipped cars" because there might not be any or if there were any they might be too expensive.
europe and america went through the same cicles: progress, profit and finally environmental awareness (america, and also
japan, are still severely lacking in that department).
so, until everyone's standard of living has been raised in china and catalytic converter or cars with lower gasoline usage become more common, i don't see how this could be solved in a short amount of time.

that is why, as sad as that might be, i'm pretty sure we won't be able to overturn global warming and air pollution until it is too late (if that is not the case already).
al gore said in his film "an unconvenient truth" that we don't need more knowledge to save the earth, we can do it with the technology we have now (of course, future improvements are welcome). and he's right, it's just a matter of starting to use it and initiating the change. but unfortunately, not all of us have access to that technology or the means to acquire it.

the only soothing i can find is that humankind's effect on earth will really not last that long. read this article of
Times Online: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2399972.html

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ok, that was a long newsletter. お疲れ様で~す。
thanks for staying till the end and reading!

chris