Wrapping up 2017: Big in Japan

Let us continue wrapping up 2017; it is high time. In the previous post from a few days ago, I shared how September to October had fared for me. In this update, we will go from November to January, and thus not only wrap up 2017, but also kind of wrap up the lunar Year of the Rooster.

Japan time - November 2017

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Nagoya

After my mom’s visit to Taipei, I had three days to finalize my presentation for the workshop I was an invited speaker of: Workshop on Mimetics II: New Approaches to Old Questions, organized at Nanzan University 南山大学 in Nagoya, Japan. I am very greatful to have had that opportunity, as it brought me into contact with some other researchers of ideophones, like Keiko Murasugi and Emily Lake, and strenghtened the relations with other scholars I had met before, like Kimi Akita or Arthur Thompson.

I will now embed the presentation I gave over there, so you can leisurely scroll through it. Should it take a long time to load or fail to do so, click here to go the figshare upload (it is a pretty big file; 5.2 MB).

So the next day, after the invited speech in Nagoya and the accompanying dinner which was nomihōdai 飲み放題 and tabehoudai 食べ放題 — “all you can drink and eat”, I went to collect my Japan Rail Pass that I had ordered before going to Japan. I made some calculations and for me this was cheaper than buying my tickets locally, and certainly most time-efficient. However, you can still travel more cheaply by taking Japan’s non-highspeed trains. So I got to the station and the person behind the desk me fill out the pass three times because apparently “you can’t mix languages” or whatever. But I did get my pass. And I did take my train, to Kanazawa. Here is a random picture I took during the trainride.

The view from my train. This was going to be very good.

Kanazawa

Ai, beautiful Kanazawa. There is no other way to put it. Kana-“the golden swamp”zawa 金沢 is located in the North of the Middle of Japan, if that geographical description makes any sense. The city was historically important, as it was (one of?) the biggist feudal domain within the shōgunate. It was ruled by the Maeda 前田 clan, who ruled from their castle across the beautiful garden etc.

So what was I doing in Kanazawa? I went to visit my friend Bert Collin, who was my kōhai 後輩 at Leuven University (making me his sempai 先輩 — kind of like an older-younger student relation) and our student organisation Eoos. While I studied Sinology, he was studying Japanology, and became one of my best friends. He’s now affiliated to the JET programme as the representative of Belgium’s Ghent city, which is a sister city of Kanazawa. Read this interview with him on our friend Sheena’s blog, or read his own blog (which is also in need of updates, chop chop Bert!). Now, let the pictures begin! Let’s start with what’s left of the castle.

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Now, Kanazawa is still famous today as the biggest producer of gold leaf, which in Dutch is called the other way around blad-goud ‘leaf-gold’, but in Chinese and Japanese jīnbó or kimpaku 金箔 ‘gold-foil’. Whatever be its name, it is beautiful and Kanazawa is made completely out of it. We went to the old geisha disctrict (I think — I don’t seem to recall geisha’s) where you could buy whatever you want in gold leaf. I didn’t really buy any souvenirs, having been introduced to goldstrike and other unearthly drinks during my studies, but I did wipe the sweat of my face with a gold leaf sweat paper.

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Afterwards Bert had to go back to work and I was left to explore the beautfiul Kenroku-en garden.

20171113_121906 Where Bert works.

The first thing I need to tell you guys about are the huge spiders. Quickly scroll through if you can’t handle them.

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Now, beautiful pictures of the garden. Warning, they may make you want to go check out Kanazawa yourself!

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20171113_131149 Amidst the garden I saw a little gardenhouse (Seisonkaku Villa) and decided to take the tour. This doll apparently survived the great burning of Kanazawa and is therefore haunted.

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20171113_133657 I loved these girls’s kimono.

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IMG_20171113_163056_076 I want to take my wedding pictures in Kanazawa.

20171113_135945_HDR Also, I met Belgian celebrity Margriet Hermans who sat on a bench in the garden. Apparently there was a whole tour group of Belgians that were dropped off there and were wandering through the beautiful scenery.

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Other beautiful things that Kanazawa is rich are the Oyama-jinja 尾山神社 shrine. Look how tranquil it was, I had some sort of godswood experience when I was there.

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The last day Bert took me to the Contemporary Art museum where we swam without getting wet.

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And also to the Daisetzu Suzuki Museum, where they built a space that attempted to achieve Suzuki “Buddhist teacher to the West” Daisetsu’s dream of meditation and reflection.

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They often say wisdom comes from a child’s mouth, and the child in the picture was a saint, transferring upon us the teaching of “pen. pinapple. apple. pen.” (see here if you don’t know what that means.)

After this it was time to say goodbye to Bert and move on to Tōkyo, where I had been last year, but now again, and better.

Tokyo

Just like last year, I stayed at my friend Antonio and Alejandro’s place in Tokyo, which I am once again very grateful for. As you can see from the picture, we had a lot of fun.

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Tokyo is not easy to explain if you haven’t been there. It’s a mish-mash of old Japanese culture, new Japanese culture and foreign influences. I think the best way is to just put the pictures and take you guys on a visual train ride.

20171115_120450 Meiji jingu 明治神宮

20171115_120753 Apparently it was “wear a kimono if you’re a woman and wear a suit if you’re a man Day” and nobody had told me about it 囧

20171115_121725_HDR This guy knows where to get commemmorative stamps

20171115_124114 She has been there for more than three years, Antonio assures me.

20171115_152801 This is where everybody crosses in all directions.

20171116_111241 I am big (大) in Japan.

20171116_113150 the National Museum in Ueno.

20171116_113912 Woodblock statues you couldn’t take pictures of. Oops.

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20171116_123404 Nice woodblock prints by Yoshitoshi!

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20171116_132014 I really really really want this screen in my future house. Or Japanese castle. One of the two.

20171116_235028_HDR Antonio was too tired after work.

They suggested I took a daytrip to Kamakura 鎌倉, possibly known to you from the Kamakura shogunate, as well as more beautiful temples. I am just going to list the temples I visited: Engakuji 円覚寺, Kenchōji 建長寺 (by now you probably figured out that ji means ‘temple’), Tsurugaoka Hachiman gu 鶴岡八幡宮, and the Kōtoku-in with the Big Buddha 鎌倉大仏殿高徳院.

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Tōkyo has so much to offer, besides beautiful daytrips like Kamakura and I really want to go back there again (although I must first go to Kyōto and Nara to feed the deer before I return to this part of Japan). Anto and Ale were really good hosts (even though they might have felt they were spending too little time with me - no worries, I managed!) and took to me to all these other places where I didn’t take pictures, but which I am happy to share some stories of if you ask me :) .

Nagoya 名古屋 again, and taking the Meitetsu 名鉄

So after the Tokyo adventure, I went back to Nagoya - barely making it on time for the check-in in the beautiful Kyoya Ryokan hostel. Seriously, this is the place if you want to get a lot of value. The service was impeccable, there was a public bath, the whole atmosphere was that of a traditional Japanese guesthouse (tatami as far as the eye can see), and most fun of all - the free Japanese yukata:

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While I spent a lot of time indoors - it was getting cold and wet - I did get to see Nagoya castle, of which I approved! twice.

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After this, I took the meitetsu to the Nagoya’s airport. It only dawned on me that morning, at 6 o’clock or so, that the mei- and na- of both words are the same character 名. Chinese makes more sense in this way, pronouncing both as ming.

Afterwards, in Taiwan

Let us now quickly wrap up the rest of 2017 (finally!).

I think one of the moments that stood out for me was when CJ was performing in the EVA airlines orchestra.

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But of course I can’t let out the Christmas party of my department. Here are some pictures that convey the atmosphere.

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Other memorable moments include the lectures given by the cognitive linguist and specialist in Japanese metaphors Nabeshime Kojirō 鍋島 弘治朗, as well as going to karaoke with him and my advisor Lu Chiarung 呂佳蓉.

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Other visits that were nice were Bert’s visit to Taiwan (yes, the same bert from above!):

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As well as Arthur’s lecture-visit (yes, the same Arthur as from above!):

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Or my old friend Lucio visiting (he’s still too tall to take balanced pictures):

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I am really standing on the tips of my toes in both pictures.

Wrap-up

So, my 2017 was a really good year. I am happy for the people I met, or got to know better, for the progress I made, the chances I was given and the chances I took, and for the way that all progressed. After this sentimental sentence, I just want to say that the final papers in January were a bit tougher than usually, maybe because I had the feeling of falling behind. However, in hindsight it just seems I wasn’t really behind, but just working to get ahead, and I feel I’m in a good place to start this second semester.

Now, if you have read this far, first of all, congratulations. I would like to ask you for a tiny bit more of your time to answer the following questions - just to get a better view of my readership. I promise one more concluding picture below it, of the beautiful view I had of the fireworks at New Year!

(should for some reason the questionnaire not work here, please help me fill it out here)

IMG_20180101_002354_697 Okay okay, it was not very visible, but I heard they were beautiful!

Here’s something shiny:

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