Posts for category 'Japan'

Another year over

Or nearly, anyway.

And it's been quite a year for me. A year in which I found out I would go to Japan, went there, and passed the exams so I could stay. Eight months I spent outside the Netherlands, beating my previous record of six weeks by a large margin.

I left behind friends and family, but made a lot of new friends, visited some great places, and generally had a great time. And I got to see my family again in the past week, and tonight I'm having a new years party with a lot of my old friends which is bound to be lots of fun too.

And there was work, dominated first by the Tokyo University entrance exams, then by lectures and the Rinko, and a lot of reading throughout. Looking forward I hope to get a more solid grasp on my research topic soon, and finish the lectures so I can concentrate on research. Work also meant learning Japanese, which I'm still nowhere near as good at as I would like. I have my moments, in which I construct compex sentences that surprise even me, but most of the time I'm still struggling, mainly lacking the necessary vocabulary to express myself, and the experience in building Japanese sentences on the fly.

What will 2008 bring? I can't say. More good times in Japan, I'm sure. Good progress towards my PhD would be nice too. :)

As I post this, 2008 is only 15 minutes away in Japan. Here I have another eight hours to go. But no matter in which time zone you are: happy new year! あけましておめでとうございます! (akemashite omedetou gozaimasu)

Categories: Personal, Japan
Posted on: 2007-12-31 14:45 UTC. Show comments (1)


Every semester, the Graduate School of Information and Communication Engineering at the University of Tokyo holds a special seminar (in Japanese: 輪講 rinko) where the various students give a presentation on a topic that will likely be related to their research (although people switching subject entirely afterwards is not unheard of :P ). Basically you do a survey of some recent papers in your field. Since I'm a new student, I had to give a presentation as well (in the future I will need to attend this seminar but I won't need to do another presentation myself).

This presentation is taken rather seriously. Although it is only 25 minutes long, everybody makes an aweful fuss about it. I don't think there was this much to do about even my final presentation for my Master's degree. :)

They even made me do two rehearsals beforehand with some members from my lab. Although I'm not particularly fond of doing that, one positive result was that this is the first presentation in years where I didn't go over time. I had 25 minutes, and I did it in 23.

Now I've passed this particular hurdle, I should really start looking into what exactly I want to do for my research (I have a general idea, but nothing fixed yet). Not that I won't still be busy in the mean time: next week I've got another paper to do for the Web Engineering lecture, and I also have a presentation coming up for Distributed Systems. Neither of which should be anywhere near as time-consuming as the Rinko stuff, though.

On top of which, I seem to have cought a cold somewhere. :( It doesn't look like it's going to be too bad though.

Categories: University, Japan
Posted on: 2007-12-08 05:30 UTC. Show comments (1)


One of the things I always planned to do in Japan was Aikido. I have done Aikido for several years in the Netherlands, unfortunately a traffic accident almost three years ago permanently injured my foot which means that I've not been able to train properly since then. I'd done several attempts to start again, the latest actually rather successful as long as I didn't overexert my foot. And so I planned to also try to do it here.

But since I had enough new stuff coming at me the first period I was here, I didn't. And the longer you stay away, the harder it is to get started again. Uncertainty about my foot also kept me from actively pursuing it.

But recently I've been thinking about it a lot, and I really do want to try it again, even if I have to take it slow. So, it was time for some decisive action.

As of yesterday, I am a member of the Aikido Aikikai Hombu Dojo, the world headquarters of Aikido, located in Shinjuku. I plan to go training for the first time on Thursday (the earliest I can fit it in my schedule). Naturally, I'm quite nervous; I haven't trained for so long and there's no telling how my foot will hold out. Also it's the first time training in Japan, and at the Hombu Dojo no less. But on the other hand I'm also very much looking forward to standing on the tatami again.

Can't wait till Thursday!

Categories: Personal, Japan
Posted on: 2007-11-13 11:35 UTC. Show comments (1)


One notable difference between doing a PhD here and doing it in the Netherlands is that here, there's a requirement to get some credits from taking lectures. I am required to get 8 credits, which by whatever system they're using (I'm not sure what it is, it's definitely different from ECTS though) comes down to four courses.

This isn't a problem of course. I have registered for four courses this semester so if I get credits for them all I'll be done with it. One factor that makes this more interesting is that most lectures are given in Japanese. Only one out of the four lectures I'm taking is in English. So can I understand those lectures in Japanese? Not really. One of them is okay because he has slides that are in English, but the other two are not so easy. But it doesn't really matter, I'll just have to attend the lectures and submit a paper (which I can write in English) and I'll get the credits. Sure, there are more useful ways I could spend my time, but it's a requirement and there's nothing I can do about so there's no point in complaining. I've got my laptop and wireless Internet so I can just work on something else during the lectures if I can't understand it.

Besides those four courses I also have to participate in a special seminar for students from my department. Here Master and PhD students give a presentation, usually a survey of recent research in whatever field they're also working in. Of course most of those are also in Japanese. I'll have to give a presentation myself as well of course, that one will be in English.

So with those four lectures, the seminar and Japanese classes three times a week (I'm taking those again as well), my schedule is looking pretty full (and it's all at Hongo so I have to spend some time travelling too, about an hour in each direction). And wasn't I supposed to do research too? :P

At least I won't be bored. :)

Categories: University, Japan
Posted on: 2007-10-21 12:30 UTC. Show comments (0)

Rebuild of Evangelion

If you know anything about anime, you probably know Neon Genesis Evangelion. Evangelion is said to have revitalised the anime industry when it first came out in 1995. It is also well known for its deep psychological themes, religious undertones and incomprehensible ending. As such, it's probably also the most over-analysed anime in history. :-P

Anyway, somebody thought it'd be a good idea to remake the TV series into a series of movies, with updated animation and computer graphics (the budget for the original series was very small so it suffered from low production values at some points), as well as some plot changes. The first of what will be four movies premiered in Japan on September 1st.

As an anime fan, I have of course seen Evangelion, and I thought these movies would be interesting to see in the theater. Of course, Japanese theaters are not in the habit of putting English subtitles on Japanese movies, so considering my current level of Japanese, that'd pose a problem. But I went to see it anyway. And I must say, I was impressed. The updated animation was great (while still retaining the style of the original Evangelion), and the sound was fantastic! The version of Eva I saw, the platinum edition, already had an updated 5.1 surround mix (the original 1995 series had a mono soundtrack), but this movie blows it away. Lots of good use of the surround and LFE channels during the battles. Just hearing that on a big sound system made it worth seeing in the theater.

As for the dialogue... I could understand about half. It definitely helped that I already knew the plot. Hopefully when the second movie comes out sometime in 2008 my Japanese will be better. But still, it was a very cool movie, and I definitely don't regret going to see it.

For those interested, a trailer.

Categories: Personal, Japan, Random stuff
Posted on: 2007-09-07 14:14 UTC. Show comments (0)

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