Archive for the ‘ Japan ’ Category

New Years Resolution 2012

Usually, I’m not a great fan of New Years Eve. Usually, I look back on the year past with a sense that I’ve not achieved very much, not pushed myself to do something, anything with my life and have been content to let time slide idly by while dreaming about all the things I’d like to do

2011 has been different and was a great year for me personally. Probably the best and busiest year that I can remember, with so many highlights. If I had to rate it, I’d give it a solid 7 out of 10. I know that sounds low but if I score it higher there is less room for improvement, less room for me to push myself to make next year a 10 out of 10 year

There are a few things I want to do in 2012, a few things I want to try to do in 2012 and a few things that I want to start working towards during 2012, for the future. This year I’m going to do all of those things. This year I’m going to believe in myself and do those things that I’ve put off for far, far too long

And if, despite all of the hard work and effort I put into achieving the things that I want to achieve this year, I fall short of the target, I’ll do it knowing that I gave it my best shot

GERONIMO!

よいお年をお迎えください

Japan 2011 – Pre Tour

20110915-222632.jpg

Japan Day 0 – 9th and 10th September 2011 (23)

Its finally here! My long, long awaited and unfortunately delayed return to Japan…..

Please note, the following is a quick opinion piece which may contain some sarcasm and is in no way reflective of the blogs that will follow this. They will be happy, happy pieces about returning to a place I love with ever fibre of my being

So lets clear up one quick thing before we start

If you are travelling in economy class on any long haul flight anywhere in the world and you choose to recline your seat you are, without a doubt, a first class, grade A, bell end – of course this is just a general statement and is in no way at all aimed at the hugely annoying gentleman (lets call him Spencer, after the most odious person i can think of) who was sat in front of me on Virgin Altantic flight VS900 from London Heathrow to Tokyo Narita airport, no sir, most definitely not

Most definitely not aimed at ‘Spencer’ despite the fact that he wasn’t even sitting in his assigned seat due to a hilarious mix up where he was too thick to work out the difference between row numbers

The person who show have been sitting in row 35, seat A seemed a nice chap – definately not a recliner – but after he arrived looking for his seat to find it already occupied by ‘Spencer’ he kindly offered to swap seats to save the hassle of making ‘Spencer’ move

Personally I love it when the small tv in the back of the chair in front is reclined so far thats it’s barely 4inches from my face (I believe this is the optimum viewing distance recommended for all tv these days) and my fold out tray is squashed so far up into my chest during dinner that I no longer need utensils, I can just lap at my (admittedly delicious) food like a dog

I like to think there is a special level of hell reserved for these ‘recliners’ – somewhere between people that molest the elderly and people who watch the BBC ‘comedy’ My Family

Anyway, enough gloom – I’m in Tokyo and lots of things to tell…….

I’m not even supposed to be here today…

Right about now, I should be on a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-600 departing London Heathrow Airport and landing around 11 hours later at Tokyo Narita Airport, Japan – but I’m not, I’m here in ‘jolly ol’ England sat in front of my pc with a massive – I mean seriously MASSIVE – case of the blues

Following the terrible events in the Tohuku region earlier in the year we had to make a very quick decision as to whether we would continue with our tour as planned or re-book for later in the year. With so much uncertainty at the time and not to mention the scaremongering in the media, and with very heavy hearts, we decided to postpone and re-book for later in the year.

I wanted to give some kudos to our excellent tour company Inside Japan http://www.insidejapantours.com/ that we used on our previous trip to Japan (and are using again this time) who have been so helpful and supportive during the difficult period immediately following the tsunami and have kept in constant touch with updates and advice ever since.

On the positive side I had possibly the worst haircut in the history of the world earlier in the week so at least I won’t have to share my embarrassing barnet with the unsuspecting Japanese public. It will give me more time to continue my Japanese language lessons (which I really need – Nihongo wa muzukashii desu), more time to plan all of the places that we want to visit, more time to research all the weird and wonderful Kit Kat flavours that we’ll be looking out for (such as ‘Bubblegum’ and ‘Cheese’ flavours! – there’s a whole blog to follow about that) and more time to save extra spending money

Everyone points out that at least I now have something to look forward to later in the year and they are, of course, correct – but today it feels like little consolation

Kokuhaku (Confessions ) – Review

Kokuhaku (Confessions) – Friday 4th March 2011 at the ICA, London

Synopsis

It’s the last day of term and teacher Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu) explains to her inattentive, unruly class that today will be her last day at the school. She explains her reason for leaving is the death of her 4 year old daughter, who drowned in the schools swimming pool earlier in the year in an apparent tragic accident.
She goes on to explain that she has since learnt that it wasn’t an accident; that her child was murdered and the murder was committed by two of the pupils in the very class in which she now stands.

Due to their age Yuko knows that these pupils, referred to as Student A and Student B, cannot be appropriately prosecuted so she has taken their punishment into her own hands. This is Yuko’s confession.

The film then follows the ‘confessions’ of those involved. Student B, now reclusive, shut in at home with a mother who is unwilling to accept that her child could be responsible for such an act. Student A, now vilified at school but defiant, unrepentant and desperately seeking the attention of the mother that abandoned him, and the one student, with a dark secret of her own, that that supports him.

Through these confessions, secrets are revealed, the truth is uncovered and Yuko’s revenge comes to a conclusion

Summary

It’s taken me quite a while to write my summary. In fact, this is my fourth attempt having completely discarded the previous three. The main problem being that Confessions is such an amazing film that I found that I could write nothing but gushing praise and just kept filling the page with superlative after superlative.

Every facet of Confessions borders on perfect. It’s visually stunning, coming from the team that brought you the brilliant and brightly coloured ‘Kamikaze Girls’, here the colours are muted and almost cold and clinical in comparison but each shot is so perfect, you could almost hang a frame around it. A slow-motion scene in the rain early in the film and another scene I won’t spoil near the conclusion are fantastically realised and vividly brought to life and are accompanied by a spot-on soundtrack, featuring the likes of Radiohead and Boris

The acting is flawless on all fronts from the detached, damaged teacher Yuko (Takako Matsu) to her over eager replacement (Masaki Okada) but the real credit here must go to the students, particularly Student A who plays the role of the quiet sociopath, brooding in the corner of the classroom in such an effortless manor as to be genuinely scary

Of course of all this would be nothing but window dressing if the story did not deliver and fortunately it really does. Japanese cinema can at times be almost impenetrable for a newcomer but Confessions, possibly due to its origins of being based on a novel by Kanae Minato, adopts a more familiar story telling structure and this makes it much more accessible.

Yet another stunning release from Third Window Films, Confessions is no ordinary revenge thriller and was understandably Japans entry to this years Oscars and is now on a limited cinema release. I urge you to see this film while you can

In the coming weeks it can be seen in London at:
The Prince Charles Cinema – March 15th, 18th, 23rd and 24th
The ICA – March 16th and 17th

Score: 9/10 – It’s not often I would even consider using the word ‘Masterpiece’ but Confessions really does deserve it. Dark, subversive and utterly gripping from start to finish.

More details of cinema's currently showing Confessions can be found on the Third Window Events page:

Third Window Events

Confessions is out on DVD & Blu-Ray on April 25th

Photo Blog – These are a few of my favourite things..

As i’m still struck down with terminal man-flu and my posts havent been as frequent as i’d hoped, I thought I would share a very quick couple of pictures of some of my favourite Japanese bits and bobs which I either got in country of have picked up since

This was a gift from my Japanese teacher – a Cherry Blossom and Green Tea flavoured Kit Kat. On our travels we noticed many ‘unusual’ flavours (Blood Orange, Green Tea, Tomato Soup off the top of my head – there seemed to be different flavours in different parts of the country)


This is the JR Rail Pass, which allowed you free access to pretty much all public transport. Absolutely essential if you are planning on seeing as much of the country as you can. The picture doesn’t do the pass justice and is pretty much a work of art (using the famous image of ‘The Great Wave of Kanagawa’) and makes British Oyster cards look a little depressing.


This is a postcard that I picked up near Kamakura, which is home to many beautiful temples and the amazing statue of The Great Budda (Kamakura Daibutsu) which is the second largest in Japan. But Kamakura also loves cats! I loved the cheeky smile on this postcard so much that I decided to bring it home and frame it (I haven’t yet had a go at translating the text)


On the theme of cats, the flyer above is for a Cat Cafe that we visited during one of the fun evenings we spent in Shinjuku, where we paid about 800 yen (about £6) to spend an hour in the company of some of the most well groomed moggies I’ve even seem. Due to cramped living conditions, it is not always possible for people in the bigger cities to have their own pets, so this is the ideal place to unwind after a hard days work. Very relaxing, although I wanted to take them all home with me

Incase you are interested the website is here: http://catcafe.jp/


..and end on a geeky one! This is a pair of Luke Skywalkers Lightersaber chopsticks that my wife got for me for Christmas – haven’t had the chance to use them yet!

anyway, just a couple of pictures for now and I’m off back to my sick-bed!

Oyasumi Nasai

Tasuke!

It’s my first Japanese lesson of 2011 tonight and to say i’m bricking it would be an understatement!

It’s amazing how much you can forget in the two short weeks break over the Christmas period – my homework is a complete mess and I can barely tell me ‘are’ from my ‘kore’ and don’t get me started on particles – wa, ha, ni, go, no – it’s all, well, Japanese to me!

Oh well chin up, or as the Japanese might say – Gambatte! (or they might not – I might have got that wrong as well)

Sayonara