Blog - January 2004 Archives

January 2004 Archives


Japan .28 Renewing my visa: Part 2
Japan .26 The Mirror Project
Music .25 Neil and Iraiza candy
Tokyo .25 White Dunk
Cinema Tokyo .25 sayōnara, Ciné La Sept!
Cinema .24 The Fuccon Family
Japan .24 Renewing my visa, part 1
Cinema .18 chakushin ari
Technology .15 Microsoft security bulletins illustrated
Food Tokyo .12 Chocolate
Music .10 Panda music
Music .09 "Listening" discussion
Cinema .09 Company Man
Music .07 Famicom BGM
Cinema .05 Ghibli Museum
Cinema .04 Nausicaä
Music .02 Unknown post-Moda-choki
Japan .01 Happy New Year!

January 28, 2004

Japan Renewing my visa: Part 2

Payment stampYesterday, I went back to the immigration bureau, and I was was able to renew my visa for another 3 years!
Still it wasn't without a bit of confusion this time either.

First of all the card I had received just said to go to counter A, so I went there and started waiting in line for 5-10 minutes, and then out of boredom I started paying attention to a tiny marquee on which a message was scrolling at an incredibly slow speed, pausing continuously.
Something like: "PLEASE F"... "IRST BUY"... "A STAMP "... "AT THE C"... "ONVENIEN"... "CE STORE"... " ON THE "... "FIRST FL"... "OOR".
Why, thanks for letting me know so quickly. You'd think they'd put that kind of message in big red letters on the wall so people don't waste their time, but they preferred to go for a bit of hi-tech equipment.
So I lost my place in line to go buy my stamp (pictured) downstairs. When asking for a stamp at the convenience store, I was asked what price I'd like, I had no clue... So the lady took a look at the postcard I was holding and told me I needed a ¥4000 stamp. I got the stamp and went back to the end of the line, waited again a few minutes, gave the stamp and my passport, and was given a number.

Numbers were being called in quasi-random order "40, 22, 8, 9, 11, 12, 34, 13, 2". A Korean lady sitting in front of me seemed to wonder whether her number, 10, would ever come up. Mine was 44 and came up after about 20 minutes, before hers did.
I was then given back my passport, with a 3-year extension permit added to it! Yeah!! The extension is applied after the span of my current visa, which was going to end in March this year, so now I can feel home again until 2007!

Then I went to apply for a multiple re-entry permit (which allows re-entering Japan after travelling to another country) to save myself another trip to the immigration bureau in a month or two. I had already picked up the form on my previous visit and had filled it at home, so it was going to go quickly. I knew I'd need some stamps to pay for it, but didn't know how much and the price wasn't written anywhere. So I first gave my form, passport and gaijin card (aka "alien registration card") to the clerk, who told me to go buy stamps at the convenience store. It costs ¥3000 for a one-time re-entry permit, or ¥6000 for a multiple re-entry permit.
For a few minutes I was without any legal identification, which felt a bit strange. I got back, gave the stamps and my passport was ready, including the new re-entry permit.
I left the counter and when taking a good look at the permit, I noticed that it expires on January 26, 2007 (3 years from the day), while I thought it would be valid until my visa expires (March 2007). So I went to ask the clerk whether it was a mistake or not, and he says that it was that way. Oh well..!

So that's pretty much it for my visa peripeteia this time. All in all it went pretty well, though I believe that it could still go smoother if there'd be better information.

Next, I have to communicate the extension to my local ward within 2 weeks. They will take care of writing the new expiration date on my gaijin card. I will probably go early morning sometime this week (I was hoping to go today but couldn't wake up!). :)

I had began to count the days until my visa expires, so it really feel goods that the number of days has now reset to above 1000!
No more worries for a while...!

Posted on January 28, 2004 at 00:32 | Permalink | Trackback (2) | Comments (5) | Tweet |

January 26, 2004

Japan The Mirror Project

I contributed a picture to the Mirror Project!

Guardian God of Buddhism hologram

Posted on January 26, 2004 at 07:23 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (0) | Tweet |

January 25, 2004

Music Neil and Iraiza candy

Neil and Iraiza candyAfter Omotesandō, we walked to Harajuku and went to Escalator Shop. I bought the new Harvard single "A.N.O.T", and I got these cute Neil and Iraiza candies for free!

In blue is Matsuda "Chabe" Gakuji (Cubismo Grafico), in yellow is Horie Hirohisa.

Go grab yours while they last!

Posted on January 25, 2004 at 14:17 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (2) | Tweet |

Tokyo White Dunk

Nike buildingOn our way back from Ginza, we went to Omotesandō and checked out the Nike exhibition, located just below Aoyama-dōri, next to the prestigious Prada building.

The building is shaped like a huge shoe box. The exhibition, "White Dunk - Evolution of an Icon" features works by 25 Japanese artists using or featuring white Nike Dunk shoes. From illustrations of characters wearing Dunks, to re-colored Dunks, and even Dunks used as media within sculptures.

A must see if you pass in the area. (and it's free, too!)

Bonsai-style artCD player with multitude of speakers
Click the thumbnails for larger images.

5-3-2 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku
From 11:00 to 21:00, until February 1st.

Posted on January 25, 2004 at 12:24 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (3) | Tweet |

Cinema Tokyo sayōnara, Ciné La Sept!

200401252530CineLaSept640.jpgYesterday we were in Ginza and passed in front of Ciné La Sept, a small theater that I like, and there was a big sign saying that it's closing at the end of the month.
Passer-bys were stopping to have a look.

There's still another Ciné La Sept in Shibuya, but I liked this location.

Posted on January 25, 2004 at 12:09 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (0) | Tweet |

January 24, 2004

Cinema The Fuccon Family

The Fuccon FamilyYesterday I bought the Fuccon Family DVD!
The Fuccon Family was a pre-"Oh! Mikey" series, featuring the same three main characters: Mikey and his parents James and Barbara.

The DVD includes 3 series of several episodes, each series begins with the Fuccon Family moving to Japan, and ending with them going back to America. In each series they even live in a different house, always in one a bit nicer than the previous series (in the 3rd series they live in a Japanese style home!).

The stories are quite funny, and its humor is quite a bit more black than "Oh! Mikey" which is a bit tamer.
Most of the episodes are centered on the family, without featuring many other characters. The topics include a lot of fighting and cheating, James and Barbara both having affairs, Mikey running away from home. Mikey even catches fire a few times! It's also funny to see the whole family together in ofuro.

Some voices are different from "Oh! Mikey", at least James'. And everything looks a bit more amateur too, but still very entertaining. English subtitles are included, and there's an interview with the director and some "making of" scenes from "Oh! Mikey".

Since I had pre-ordered the DVD at HMV, I got an original Mikey box for storing the DVD's! Now I need to get "Oh! Mikey vol.4" to complete my Mikey series, and there will still be room for another DVD (perhaps meant for other Vermilion Pleasure Night stuff, like Color of Life).

By the way, I just received the Oh! Mikey newsletter, and it says that Mikey has now moved to HMV Shibuya!

Posted on January 24, 2004 at 13:02 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (5) | Tweet |

Japan Renewing my visa, part 1

On January 15, I went to apply for the renewal of my visa, which expires in March. An engineer work visa lasts 3 years, and mine will soon be up. I heard that about 2 months before expiration is the right time to start the procedure. It's the first time that I renew a visa.

What I hate about this kind of official procedures, is that what you need is not quite documented anywhere, so you're likely to have some surprises. Getting prepared before going to immigration isn't obvious. There doesn't seem to be some decent documentation at a governmental site telling you what you need to bring.
This time I had done some searching on the Web, and this Q&A on Hiragana Times is what was most helpful, since the Procedures for Renewing and Changing Visas page said that, since I have a work visa, I'd have to submit a certificate of employment (在職証明書, zaishoku shōmeisho) "as well as tax documents" which after some more searching I figured out should probably be a certificate of tax payment (納税証明書, nōzei shōmeisho)).

So a week earlier I had asked my employer for a certificate of employment, which took about 2 working days to arrive, and I also went to the ward office to get my certificate of tax payment, which costs ¥300 to prepare.

Then I went over to the new Tokyo Immigration Bureau in Shinagawa. Before there were a few immigration bureaus in Tokyo, including an easy access one in Shibuya, and the largest (and most hectic) one in Ōtemachi, but they were all replaced by this one that's a bit far.

Instead of using Yamanote-line to Shinagawa station, I took Saikyō/Rinkai-line to Ten'ōzu Isle (天王洲アイル) station, and instead of taking the bus as it is suggested, I decided to save about ¥400 by walking to the immigration bureau, which is a 10 minute walk from Ten'ōzu Isle station. It was a bit confusing because from that station there are like no signs saying which way to go for the immigration bureau, there was no decent map to be found either around there. I had brought a map printed from the Web site and it was very useful.

When I got there, I went to the visa renewal application area (2nd floor). It seems like everyone has to tell the lady at the information desk what kind of visa they're renewing in order to get the correct forms. Since I had changed jobs during the period of my visa I also had to fill a form about the company I currently work for.

Then I had to take a number and wait about an hour, even though I had went first thing in the morning there were a lot of people waiting, over 50 numbers to go before mine. Then it went pretty quickly, I gave the forms, and waited a few minutes. I had to write my address on a postcard that would later be sent to me to inform me that my application has been processed.

The postcard just arrived yesterday, which means that it's time for me to go back there once again on Monday. I hope it's good news and that there won't be any surprise in the process.

I'll be glad when this is all done with!

Posted on January 24, 2004 at 12:20 | Permalink | Trackback (2) | Comments (24) | Tweet |

January 18, 2004

Cinema chakushin ari

chakushin ariToday we went to see the new Miike Takashi movie, chakushin ari (着信アリ, "You've had a call"). It's an horror movie that's a flagrant descendant of Ring, actually the story is almost same except that the elements have been changed a bit.

The fear element is now about receiving a strange message on your mobile phone's... a recording of your own voice, recorded at the moment you will die, a day or two later.
Furthermore, the message's date/time isn't the time at which your phone rang, but the time reflecting the message's creepy content, telling you exactly at which time you will die.

I found this new intrigue interesting, and the film sure has a lot of suspenseful scary scenes that make it worth it. However, I found it a bit predictable, perhaps because of its obvious predecessor.

I don't think I'll become as paranoid about messages on my keitai as I was of TVs after seeing Ring, now that movie had really given me the scares.

Posted on January 18, 2004 at 22:34 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (0) | Tweet |

January 15, 2004

Technology Microsoft security bulletins illustrated

5kr1p+ k1dd13Microsoft security bulletins are usually too long, boring, and intended for those with at least a bit of technical knowledge.
MS04-003 in English

In Japan, we get some straight-to-the-point illustrations all over them.
MS04-003 in Japanese

Posted on January 15, 2004 at 14:08 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (0) | Tweet |

January 12, 2004

Food Tokyo Chocolate

Shimura shoutenToday we went to Ueno, and I bought chocolate at Shimura shōten, where you pay ¥1000 for as much as will fit in a bag... well not quite so, but still you get a lot for your money.

The thing is that a lot of the chocolate is set to expire within 2-3 months, which doesn't cause me a problem since it will all be gone within a few weeks. :)
The selection consists of Japanese and imported chocolate. This time I got Belgian Côte d'Or, Swedish Marabou "Noblesse", Switzerland Lindt and German Milka "Lila Pause".

Pictured: The guy at the top shows chocolate bars and dumps them in the bag held by the lady. When the bag is pretty full, it's sold to the closest customer. This just goes on and on.

Posted on January 12, 2004 at 20:40 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (4) | Tweet |

January 10, 2004

Music Panda music

Today we went to Enban in Kōenji, a café/CD shop with a space for live events. I went there to get a compilation CD-R of panda-themed songs, called ニーハオ!大熊猫君の巻 ("nihao! Panda-kun no maki").

I'm a bit in a panda mood lately (since seeing "Panda Kopanda", also yesterday I received a sonosheet of the theme song), and we found a mention of this compilation on a Web site last night.

This was a very good buy! At ¥800 the price is very low, and it ended up being quite entertaining! It consists of 21 tracks, mostly old Japanese songs transferred from vinyl, most quite groovy and funny. Since they're all about pandas, many have a sort of Chinese feel to them, and most of them sound like children's songs. The only thing is that there are no liner notes, so it's impossible to tell the names of artists or tracks.

The CD-R compilation is part of a series compiled by the shop's owner Taguchi Fumihito, available at ¥800 each.

Posted on January 10, 2004 at 21:56 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (2) | Tweet |

January 9, 2004

Music "Listening" discussion

I've added a discussion thread to my "Listening" side-blog (located on the left of my main blog page). You'll find the "Discussion" link near the bottom.

Feel free to post whatever my "Listening to..." list may inspire you: musical suggestions, general music talk, questions, etc.

Posted on January 9, 2004 at 17:58 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (0) | Tweet |

Cinema Company Man

Company Man DVDA few days ago we watched Cypher (known as Company Man in Japan) by director Vicenzo Natali. It was truly a great movie!

It's basically a spy movie, but unlike most spy movies it's not focused on action (though there are a few suspenseful action scenes). The plot is quite mind-twisting though not non-sense, and contains good surprises! The main actors Jeremy Northam and Lucy Liu are fantastic.

The Japanese DVD includes a special interview with the director done in Japan, in which he speaks a few words of Japanese and says he loves Tokyo! :)

Posted on January 9, 2004 at 12:00 | Permalink | Trackback (1) | Comments (0) | Tweet |

January 7, 2004

Music Famicom BGM

Famicom 20th Anniversary Original Sound Tracks Vol.1Today I picked up a soundtrack of Famicom (Japanese edition of Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)) games from 1983-86, called "Famicom 20th Anniversary Original Sound Tracks Vol.1".
It was playing at Tower Records, and I just couldn't resist buying it. It's probably only in Japan that you'll hear Super Mario Bros being played on a whole floor of a large music store!

The soundtrack includes background music from Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong/Jr./3, Devil World, Clu Clu Land, Balloon Fight, Ice Climber, Wrecking Crew, The Legend of Zelda, nazo no murasame jō, Metroid, and Kid Icarus. All of which I played a lot in the 80's, except nazo no murasame jō which was a Japan-only release.

My favorite BGM, or at least what I was most glad to hear again, is the one from Wrecking Crew, Kid Icarus, Clu Clu Land (seeing the title in katakana for the first time made all the sense, "kurukuru" is an onomatopoeia for "spinning"), and Zelda.

Also, I picked up HASEBE Novko's [mini-]album "Pandaman" (2000).
HASEBE Novko was a front member of Modern Choki Chokies, and she wrote several of their songs, including the hits "jitensha ni notte," and "tentai kansoku". Her music is probably what I've heard that sounds closest to Modern Choki Chokies' sound.
"Pandaman" also features ex-Moda-choki ISODA Osamu.

Posted on January 7, 2004 at 00:03 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (0) | Tweet |

January 5, 2004

Cinema Ghibli Museum

Totoro and me :)Today we made it to the Ghibli Museum!

We got to see a lot of fantastic stuff featuring characters from Ghibli's movies. One of the most impressive things was a large spinning structure of Totoro characters in different positions, with a stroboscope creating a live animation effect.

A cool part of the museum was the café, where we had coffee, a chocolate parfait, and a strawberry shortcake. When ordering we found the prices to be expensive (our desserts were ¥750 each), but everything was big! It's not too common in Tokyo to get portions larger than you'd expect.

Since there's currently a feature on Russian animator Yuri Norstein, we got to see his short film "A Hedgehog in a Mist" (1975). The free tickets to the movie were real film strips from Ghibli films, which you get to keep.

A bus to Ghibli MuseumA Totoro sign, midway between the station and the museummakkuro kurosuke peeking outside the museum
Click the thumbnails for larger images.

Posted on January 5, 2004 at 22:24 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (2) | Tweet |

January 4, 2004

Cinema Nausicaä

Nausicaä of the Valley of WindA few days ago I finally watched Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind (風の谷のナウシカ), and it was great!
I wish it would have been possible to end up liking the Ohms (monster insects from the forest of Fukai, which turn out being good as long as you don't bother them), but they're pretty damn repulsive.

Now I feel quite ready to visit the Ghibli Museum tomorrow, having seen 5 films already!
Today I rented another, Kiki's Delivery Service (魔女の宅急便), which I'll be watching tonight.

I also rented Cypher (known as "Company Man" in Japan) (2002), Canadian director Vicenzo Natali's second full-length film, following Cube (1997) which is one of my favorite films of all time.

Posted on January 4, 2004 at 18:53 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (0) | Tweet |

January 2, 2004

Music Unknown post-Moda-choki

Unknown Soup & Spice "Chant"Today I bought Unknown Soup & Spice's album "Chant" (Sony SICL-57), and I absolutely love it.

Unknown Soup & Spice is a Japanese unit consisting of ex-Modern Choki Chokies lead singer HAMADA Mari and IWASHIRO Taro. Their sound is quite "ethnic" (as Japanese generally define what's from the Middle East), reminding me a bit of Banco de Gaia, and HAMADA Mari sings beautifully in a language unknown to me. The album also reminds me of "aire kawaiya" (produced by Autechre) from HAMADA Mari's second solo album "amu onna".

I found out about this unit a few days ago while searching the net for "元モダンチョキチョキズ" (formerly of Modern Choki Chokies), guessing that of the dozens of members there must still be a few doing something. I knew about HAMADA Mari's two solo albums but not about this recent project.

The search also led me to Philip-kun's "rock unit" called "sore wa himitz" ("that's a secret"). Their Web site also contains their recently started online radio program "Radio Himitz Golden". The last show just featured ex-Modern Choki Chokies member Nurupyon.
The Himitz site's links page also led me to sites of other former Modern Choki Chokies members HASEBE Novko and ISODA Osamu.

I'm glad to see that some members are still active! Now I just wish they'd get back together, and perhaps release the 1994-announced "Made In Taiwan" album.
Not quite likely though.

Posted on January 2, 2004 at 23:53 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (0) | Tweet |

January 1, 2004

Japan Happy New Year!

KumanojinjaLast night we started the new year by walking to Kumanojinja (熊野神社), located on the West side of Shinjuku Chūō-kōen.

Food stands at temple usually consist of Japanese food such as ramen, yakitori, yakisoba, okonomiyaki,... so we were surprised to find Thai ramen!

Kumanojinja lanternThai ramen

Happy New Year!!

Posted on January 1, 2004 at 11:14 | Permalink | Trackback (0) | Comments (5) | Tweet |

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