Work is still mostly the same. I just sit around playing with 3ds Max because they have nothing for me to do. I've just been practicing lighting and modeling tricks, doing online tutorials and such. It's good though because I wanted to practice, but never had the motivation to put the time into it.
First I have a super nerd observation about how Nintendo DS is pure genius. Most shops are sold out of DS with no sign of restock while they are fully loaded with Sony PSP. I took mine on the commute to work a few times and its brilliance became perfectly clear when used in its natural environment, Japan. #1 The DS Lite is roughly the size of a Japanese novel and opens like a book. So this is a form factor already familiar to Japanese commuters. Also, the device protects itself with its clam shell design. Nintendo also opted for putting its software on cards, roughly the size of an SD card, but more robust. Unlike the PSP UMDs, they have no access time and are less prone to damage. #2 The system has one function (well, there is a web browser coming out) and that function is to play games. Simple, uncluttered. A large portion of the games are puzzle games and turn based strategy games. These types of games are perfect for shortening the perceived length of the daily commute and zoning out during ones lunch break. PSP is more focused on in depth games comparable to home consoles. Also popular on the DS are various brain challenge programs, language training, and cookbooks, all made possible through the addition of touch screen and voice recognition interfaces. #3 Ingenious is the sleep mode. Perfect! Simply close the shell and the system goes into sleep for up to a week. You open it again and you are right where you left off. When you use it on the train, the usefulness becomes so clear. You get to your stop, close the system and stick it in your pocket. Unlike PSP, you don't have to shut down, worry about hitting buttons while transferring trains, etc.
Last Friday I ate at McDonalds for the first time. I simply couldn't get myself to go in, even though I wanted to see if there was a difference. The taste was nearly identical, just more fresh tasting. No freezer burn and the bun wasn't smashed. But really, the same, Made in a New Jersey factory flavor. The interesting part was ordering. I expected to struggle through for five minutes to get my crappy meal (I will explain the language thing later). I went to the counter and “Go kudasai” that's gaijin for “Number five please.” The girl looks back at the menu, then responds in flawless, accent-free English, “Do you want the set?” The rest of the process continued in that fashion. I imagine she grew up in the States at some point because her English was absolutely perfect. You run into English speakers in the strangest places. CEO of a company can't even say “nice to meet you”, but the guy at the convenience store is fluent...weird.
On Saturday I went to Nara. Last year I went to see particular sites like Tōdai-ji, which houses one of the largest Buddhas in the world. This year I just went to see what I could see and had no particular goal in mind. The day was perfect. Not too hot and sunny. I found some cool back allies in the town, then made my way to Nara park. I just walked through the woods. There were beautiful moss covered lanterns and vermillion shrines all over the place. The deer were out in force wandering looking for hand outs. I eventually made it to Tōdai-ji, but it was closed by the time I got there. It was still impressive because its absolutely massive. I took about 260 photos.
On Sunday I went to Engyo-ji atop Shosha-san. You take the JR Kobe line to Himeji, then a bus to the Mt. Shosha Ropeway which is a gondola that ascends the mountain. En route a woman said a bunch of stuff, of which all I could understand was “Toma Curusu” and “Rasata Samurai.” There were a few scenes of the movie filmed at the temple complex. When we got to the top, there was a light drizzle, but nothing to worry about. I began up the long path which is lined with small Buddhas, trees, rocks, moss, and other things not-Ōsaka. Along the way there were some minor buildings that were still cool. Then I came out of the trees and there is a temple on pillars rising from the side of the mountain, similar to Kyomizu-dera in Kyoto. Some 8 year-old kid came up and started talking to me. HewasborninJapanandlivedthereuntilhewasthree,butthenhemovedtoConnecticut. He'svisitingJapanforhissummervacation. The drizzle began to intensify, so I headed up to the temple. I took of my shoes and went inside. A few minutes later, the sky opened up and the rain came down like I haven't seen in a long time. But it was awesome. The rain cascaded of the tiled roof and echoed in the temple as it pounded the roof. The fog hung in the trees and everything looked so green against the grey of the sky.
I attempted to wait out the rain for a while, but it was not letting up, so I made a run for it. After stopping in a small pavilion, I made it to the main temple/Tom Cruise temple. This was also very impressive. The rain only added to the whole experience with waterfalls forming all around the grounds. Although I had an umbrella I was soaked, but didn't care. It was truly worth it. The unfortunate side, is without a tripod and an assistant to hold my umbrella, I missed out on a lot of good photos, but still took almost 200.
As I learn more about Japanese language thanks to Yamamori and Kumi, I start to notice the weird backwards incompatibility between English and Japanese. There are many books you can read on this stuff, so I'm just going to talk about some of my experiences. I think one of the biggest challenges with trying to learn Japanese is I can't read it. I can't increase my vocabulary by reading signs, and menus, etc like you can with French, German, or Spanish. I mean, I can pretty much read and understand the Spanish in El Croquis even though I haven't studied Spanish for 8+ years. There are three sets of Japanese characters, katakana, hiragana, and kanji. Katakana and hiragana make the individual sounds like ga ge, gi, go, gu etc. There are about 60 of these sounds, hiragana used for Japanese words, and katakana used for foreign words. So, if I just needed to learn these characters, ok, I can manage 120 characters. But oh no, then comes kanji, the Chinese characters which can have upwards of strokes. In order to read a newspaper, you need to know all of the kana, plus 2000-3000 kanji. I know crap like cat, dog, woman, person, mountain, mouth, river, forest. The result of these sort of definitive sounds is really an inability to learn and make new sounds. And in general, all consonants are followed by a vowel. It's a little more complicated, but you get the idea. Like I said, a character means a sound, you can't make new sounds. In English, as messy as it is, we can fairly easily add words from other languages. So words like coffee become koohhee, iced is aisu, CD is shidi, game is gemu and the list just goes on. But the thing is, no one can pronounce my name. It's either Bobu or Robaato. Omar is either Oma or Omaru. The funny thing is, Robato means “after the donkey.” Worse is Omaru means “bedpan.” Now this also becomes a very strange problem. The other day I was in a coffee shop and I ordered chocolate cake. The girl looked at me with total confusion. So I pointed to the cake in the case which also contained a sandwich and some lemon bars. She makes an expression of understanding and says “Chokoreto Keki.” Ok, so the word is 95% the same, and there was nothing else in the case that could be confused with “chocolate cake.” And this happens ALL the time. I think it's because so few Japanese have ever actually spoken to an English speaker, that when they encounter a gaijin, they really can't understand us. It's really, very strange, and never ceases to amuse me.
It does drive me insane though how many gaijin MUTILATE Japanese words. Because Japanese words are for the most part very easy to pronounce (at least relatively accurately). The “kyo” in Kyoto and Tokyo is a single “syllable” so it's Kyo-to (hard to type). “O” in Osaka is an extended “Oh” and the “As” are both the same soft “A” sound. I heard people that have been here for extended amounts of time still saying “Key-yo-toe” “Toe-key-yo” “O-sack-a” “gee-sha/guy-sha” “Nair-ra.” It's like nails on a chalk board.
I think I need to write a book because this is way too long and I have so much more that I was planning on writing about. Topics that didn't make it from this week's notes:
-Yamamori procrastinating, eating “Crunky” (a candy) and me introducing her to crunk, Lil' Jon, and Dave Chappelle
-Japanese excessive packaging
-Crappy Muzak in Japanese shopping centers
-How bad the driers in Japan suck. They have no vents, so they just super heat the water in your clothes, but nothing dries.
-Infiltration of Chinatsu's social circle
-Why I'm always tired
-Japanese armored car guys.
-Mushroom head lady at Lawson
-Japanese marijuana culture
-Proposal for a social science research study/simulation of Japanese patterns of movement in public transportation settings. Not some stupid emergent flocking crap like architects talk about, but a real actual study. That would just result in a translucent blob train station that is ever less efficient.
-American and Japanese family name vs. given name usage. In my quadrant of floor 5, there are 84 employees, of which, 4 are Ikeda, 2 Kurita, 3 Maeda, 2 Tanaka, and I know 2 Kojyo, 2 Yamaguchi, and 2 Hiraoka.
You'll just have to imagine what else I was going to say about each of these topics.