Tuesday, June 25, 2013

ऐतिहासिक दस्तावेज: जपानी पत्रं - ३

Dear All,

    On Saturday morning, we left at 5.30 for Mt Fuji. September is a month of Typhoons, and it rains heavily. Since Friday it was raining, and the weather forecast said that the weather will continue for two three more days. So we were not sure whether we will be able to see Fuji. We went by a big car - a 10 seater one. And S was driving this rented car.I really appreciate her spirit. If she wants to do something, she has enough determination and courage to do it whatever the odds against her. Throughout the trip, I found that I could communicate with her better than with anyone else.
There was an accident on the expressway and there was a traffic jam of 6 km. This concept of the length of the traffic jam is quite different from ours - it means that for 6 kms the vehicles had to move at a very slow pace - perhaps 15 km per hr. Japan and particularly Tokyo is notorious for these traffic jams. I think that way we will have to say that on Karve road or JM road there is an eternal traffic jam!!! This was our first - and perhaps only experience of Japan outside Tokyo. Fuji is a major tourist attraction, and there are lots of tourists from all parts of the world. So this area cannot be called a typical rural part of Japan. But the infrastructure here is as good as that in Tokyo. The quality of roads, the facilities available there are same as those in Tokyo. And there is no poverty in Japan. We saw a few rice fields, and there were no skyscrapers there - otherwise any village looked like a suburb of Tokyo. Fuji - Hakone is a national park, and all the hills and mountains were covered with a dense forest. The entire route was like a sequence of picture postcards - It was difficult to take pictures, because there was nothing that could be omitted. I did not find any ugly sight of deforestation. I wish Sinhagad was in Japan! They would have taken care to preserve every stone of it. The difference is not just that of money - it was not only clean - there was a keen sense of aesthetics. Even the ever present adds of Coke et al are not encroaching on the natural beauty. I liked these things more than Fuji. Near Fuji, there are some caves formed by lava. We went to one such cave. There is ice inside this cave - the temperature is near 0 degree Celsius.  It was not a very deep cave - not more than 30 feet under the ground level. But for every three or four steps that we descended, the temperature decreased by one degree. It was amazing. There are five lakes near the base of Fuji. We went to one of there lakes. It was very beautiful. These lakes are famous for fishing. After this lake, we went to Fuji - that is, started climbing the mountain. Even this road is as good as the expressway. Up to the 5th level of Fuji, there is motorable road. We went to level 5. It was raining all the time, and we were driving through thick clouds. So we could not see anything of the peak.At level 5, there was a souvenir shop and a couple of Japanese restaurants. We had Japanese food there - soba and ramen. Both are types of noodles, and after testing soba, we appreciated ramen much better! Soba is made from a cereal like jawar. There was no salt in it, and they had put everything from sea weed to vegetables in it. I like bland food, but it should have some taste of its own - I really wonder how the Japanese eat soba and enjoy it. Ramen is the normal wheat noodles - more chinese than Japanese in taste. Fortunately we had also ordered some pan cake, and though it was a bit leathery, it was tasty. After this "lunch", we really enjoyed the vanilla softy available there - it was so cold and wet,  everyone was shivering with cold and all wet, and enjoying the softy! Here, just for a few seconds, the clouds around the peak cleared, and we could see Mt Fuji! After descending the mountain, we drove around another lake as beautiful as the first one. After that, our hunt for a camping site began. The car had a "navigator" which once in a while got all lost, and lead our big car in narrow dead end lanes! Unlike the tourist spots in India where every shabby hotel and eatery puts up so many sign boards and hoarding all over the place, there were no ads of camping sites on the road. But S wanted to find a good camping ground with a view, and we kept on searching. Finally, we found a beautiful spot next to a lake. We camped there for the night. S and A had brought a tent and a barbecue stove, and we bought vegetables, chicken etc in a community shop on the way. The tent was so handy - it could be packed in a small plastic bag - and very sturdy. It was drizzling most of the time, but the tent was completely waterproof, and very warm inside. The tent was ready within five minutes - and we all started with the barbecue. A is an expert in camping. Within twenty minutes we had good fire, and then it started drizzling, and the fire was gone! So, for the next one and half hour, we all were standing around the barbecue, holding an umbrella over it, trying to get a good fire. After the "dinner", we all sat in the car - chatting, jokes and songs started after that. Finally, we went to the tent for sleeping. (four of us had to sleep in the car, and those who went to sleep there repented it later on - the tent was definitely much more comfortable.:D) We got up at 5.30 in the morning and had a walk on the lake side. The sun was shining brightly, and the lake looked really beautiful. At 7.30, the remaining people got up, and by 9 we had packed up everything, and left for Hakone. Hakone is famous for its hot springs, and the beautiful view of Mt Fuji. This day was less cloudy than Saturday, and there were some hopes of the clouds clearing. after reaching Hakone, we went to the spot where the volcanic gases are coming out of the ground - the name was quite complicated, and I do not remember it now. (aai will be happy to know that, I know.) We went to this place by a ropeway. The view from the ropeway was breathtaking - it goes over two valleys - the first is lush green, and the second has hardly any vegetation - because of the the volcanic gases which are toxic. The transformation was so sudden - when we reached the end of first valley, we thought that it was the end of the ropeway, and suddenly we were over the other valley! Here the famous eggs are sold.These eggs are boiled in the heat of the volcanic gases, and supposed to be very healthy (or lucky? don't recollect.) But they had such a foul smell, that it was difficult to eat one. After this spot, we went to the teddy bear museum. The entry fee was too high, and we decided that we are not that much interested in seeing the museum. Next to this museum, there are very beautiful lawns - the picnics lawns of Hakone. Took lots of snaps here, and then had our lunch at a community stores. After this, we went to the crafts museum. The wood crafts displayed here are too beautiful. Then there was the flower center. I had to hurry through this place, because other people were waiting outside, and we had to go to the spa. I will describe these parts in the next mail now - there are so many more things to describe!!!

- Gouri


    After lunch, we went to the Handicrafts museum. This was a small place, and did not look very promising from outside. But the wood craft articles displayed there were very beautiful. One of the artisans was displaying his skills there. He was joining different colored wood pieces to form a pattern, and then he was taking a thin layer of this pattern using "randha". This slice was pasted on a paper, and used for decorating various wooden articles. The patterns were very intricate and beautiful. I have got some of the samples - the discarded slices of patterns. We had seen all the exhibits before meeting him, and could not imagine that these beautiful articles are made this way. On the way back, we stopped at a place where "Amazake" is sold. "Amazake" is sake before it is fermented - actually it tastes more like rice porridge than like sake. It was sweet.
    The next stop was at the flower center. This is a garden of Begonia and orchids. The entry fee was a bit high, so only S, A, H and I went there. I saw the creeper of Passiflora here - the leaves are like those of krishnakamal. And passion fruit is a type of Passiflora. There were so many varieties of orchids - I have taken snaps of as many flowers as possible, as you can imagine. :D These are grown in a green house. The variety of flowers reminded me of Valley of flowers - but this is completely artificial, and well looked after. On the way back, we came across a historical stone "high  way". Centuries old cedar trees can be seen in this part. There is a hiking root through these cedar trees, but everyone else was too tired, and absolutely not interested in a walk.
    Now we wanted to go to some spa - the hot water bathing houses so famous in Hakone. We had to hunt
for a spa for quite some time - it was raining, and Sunday afternoon. So either the spas were full, or
too expensive for us. Finally we found one spa that could fit in our budget. After so much of exertion,
a hot water bath was the most soothing thing we could imagine. Here, there were separate sections
 for men and women (in some spas, there are no separate sections). Here, they provide you with a "towel" - that is just a small napkin. You can buy your own soap, shampoo, towels etc. You have to takea bath before entering the hot water basin - and no cloths are allowed there. We did not know this, so I was wearing my swim suit, and S and N also were wearing something. I did not feel good making the others feel conscious of their bodies. I wished our people were more comfortable with their bodies and could enjoy the spa like the Japanese. But S and N would not have come there if theyknew that no cloths were allowed! The water was
really hot - we could see the hot water stream from the windows. And it was clean. I cannot imagine such
a place in India - first of all some "moralists"will try to close that place calling it vulgar, and secondly it will never be this clean. The mugs and buckets here were wooden, and the basin was carved in stone. It was just great.
    So, it was a full weekend that I thoroughly enjoyed here.

- Gouri

Dear All,
    Finally, yesterday I went to Disneyland. All alone - because no one else was coming. It was just great. It is impossible to put it all in words. I think I have never laughed so much in one day in my life! I started at 7.30 from home, and reached there around 8.50. From that time till 9.40 in the night when I left the place, I was just going from one attraction to another - and still I have not seen half the things that are there! Walt Disney has made so many people laugh for so many years - he should be awarded the Nobel prize for peace! I just cannot describe each of the attractions here - it has not sunk in as yet - too many experiences and impressions to be digested in one day.
   I was a bit apprehensive yesterday morning - I had decided that I will go even if no one else comes, but I was not sure whether I will enjoy the trip all alone. Immediately after I reached there, there was a parade - "Donald's big splash" - splash, splash, splash, everybody splash splash splash, everybody getting wet... - that was the best possible beginning for the day - Donald and his team splashing water over everybody on the way - all dancing and singing. After that I never felt that I was alone. And I think this feeling was present everywhere. Nobody can feel lonely, left out, or low in a place like this. At "Splash mountain", there was a couple sitting behind me. They had a poloroid camera. They just took a picture of me, and presented it to me - it was so unexpected - I just did not know what to say to them. They made my day. And while coming from "Aunt Sarah's Kitchen", I drop some 10 - 15 coins in a crowded place, and within no time people around me colleccted these coins and returned them to me! Perhaps I will be able to write about this place in detail later on.
- Gouri

हुश्श ... संपली बरं का जपानी पत्र! :)

Monday, June 24, 2013

ऐतिहासिक दस्तावेज: जपानी पत्रं - २

ऐतिहासिक दस्तावेज: जपानी पत्रं - १

Dear P,
    Day before yesterday, we went to Akihabara electronic city. You and A would love to see that place. All types of electronic goods duty free - from components to home equipments - everything. The range is just amazing. I found the electronic multimeter there, but it was not as compact as you said - it was the size of a scientific calculator. It can fit into a pocket, but not exactly the size of a calculator as
you wanted. Should I buy it? We bought a simple camera there. After Akihabara, we went to the imperial palace. You cannot go inside the palace, but the lawns, moat and the fountains are very beautiful. What is remarkable is, any tourist can simply walk to this place ... there is no security checking or the air of pompousness as you would find in say Mughal Gardens in Delhi.  
    Yesterday we went to Yokohoma - the landmark tower. It is a 70 storeyed building built in 1993. There is an observatory on the 69th floor. The elevator takes you to this observatory in less than a minute - we couldn't believe that we have reached the 69th floor. The view from this observatory is breathtaking. It is on the seaside. We could see the docks and an amusement park on one side. On the other side, mount Fuji can be seen. Then we went to the amusement park - there is a giant Cosmic clock there - a giant wheel. It turns very slowly, but you get a beautiful view of the surroundings. We also had a ride in a "vanishing coaster". Since it is on the seaside, it was very windy there. This is one of the scariest roller coasters here I think.
    So for two days M and I have been traveling on our own - and not getting lost even once! V was supposed to meet us yesterday, but she didn't turn up. But she had given instructions in detail, and we managed by ourselves.
        The other places we are very keen on visiting are Mt Fuji, Tokyo tower and Disneyland. 

- Gouri


Dear All,
    Yesterday we got a comp off. We had gone to Kawasaki and Shinjuku. Finally I bought an automatic non SLR camera - with 35 - 150 zoom. Then we went to Shinjuku - to Tokyo hands. Form Kawasaki, you have to go to Shinagawa and from there to Shinjuku. You can buy ticket up to Shinjuku at Kawasaki itself. The ticket fare information was all in Japanese, and we bought a wrong ticket. After reaching Shinjuku, we were not able to pass through the exit doors. We had to get the fare adjusted and then exit. There is no concept of fine here - it is assumed that you forgot to buy a ticket, or there was some mistake. When will we have so much trust in our public dealings?
    Shinjuku is a beautiful place. Just outside the station, there is a huge square with wooden flooring - "Times square" of Tokyo. There is a huge departmental store here. Next to the store, there is "Tokyo Hands". Next to Tokyo Hands is the bookshop we had visited earlier - Kinokoniya. Beyond Kinokoniya, there is the NTT - DoCoMo building - a replica of the empire state building. I checked for an English translation of Oshin at Kinokoniya, but couldn't find it. I had asked about it to S. She said there is a book in Japanese, but she was not sure whether an English translation would be available. She said the serial is available on video, but it will be a large set - the serial is quite lengthy. She also suggested a Japanese animation film about the story of a brother and sister during the second world war.
    Tokyo Hands is a place where anyone will find something to his interest. Art material, bathroom settings, fashion, puzzles... everything under one roof. It is impossible to see all this in one day.
    This Friday, there is a party - our project's party. So most probably we will get to test some Japanese delicacies on that day.

Dear All,
    day before yesterday we had the project party. It was also supposed to be a welcome party for M and me. We thought it would be in a restaurant. It was in a traditional sake house! That place cannot be called a bar. The atmosphere there was very different. You have to remove your shoes before entering here - as in any traditional Japanese home. There were low chairs - on which most of us were sitting cross legged. The party started with a toast of beer. M sat in the smoking part of our small room, and I went to the non - smoking part. S was not there, so we didn't have any interpreter. Everyone around me was trying his best to speak in English. They requested me to speak only one sentence at a time so they could understand.:) There was a lot of variety in food and drinks. I tried everything except beef. So first we had crab. after that, there was a dish of beef – very much like sizzler. I ate all the potatoes and onions in it. :) Very tasty. I also tried fish, and like it. Here everyone drinks - many of them drink everyday. The alcohol percentage in the Japanese beer is very low, and they drink it like water. I also had grape sawa and some other kind of sweet sawa, and of course, sake. Besides this, I tasted every drink that was ordered on the non - smoking table! On this table, we were six of us - Mr Yamada - president of the customer company, Mr Sunaga - the head man in testing, Mr Ueda who is working with us in our module, Mr Hayashi and one more. Most of these people seem so serious in the office - very polite but formal - here they talking very freely. Surprisingly for me, they did not mind sharing all this with their boss - Mr Yamada - which is unthinkable at our place. In our company, if people really want to enjoy, they will call no one from the management to the party.I liked this atmosphere and team spirit very much. No outsider could make out who is the boss and who are the employees. We had a great time.
    On Saturday, we went to Odaiba - this is reclamation land, joined to Tokyo by the beautiful rainbow bridge. It was the day of the Hanabi fireworks in Tokyo bay, so all the local trains were as crowded as any of our fast Bombay locals in the evening. And the artificial beach in Odaiba - Decks beach was not less crowded than Chowpati. There is a replica of the statue of liberty in Odaiba. Japan is a prosperous nation, quite advanced in technology and fine arts. Still I feel there is so much of imitation - or an attempt to prove oneself - I found it strange. Why should Tokyo have Tokyo tower " taller and lighter than the Eiffel" or a statue of liberty just like the French one? Perhaps I was expecting something more original from Japan. The fireworks in Tokyo bay were very beautiful. That is the largest firework display in Japan. We saw it from quite some distance from Odaiba - still, the fireworks in Asakusa that we had seen earlier were nothing compared to this display. The rainbow bridge looks very beautiful in the night. And we could also see the Tokyo tower behind it. While returning from Odaiba, there was so much crowd - and we had to wait in a Queue to the station for more than half an hour. Everyone was in the queue ... no one keeping watch and no one jumping the queue. By the time we reached there, we were completely exhausted.  We got in the train, and then realized, that this train was going in the opposite direction. M got down, and before I could get out, the doors were closed. So I had a free ride to Daiba - the next station, and back. :)
    We were planning to go to Mt Fuji yesterday. But we got very tired on Saturday, and it was late. For Mt Fuji, you must start early in the morning - at this time of the year, Fuji is open and you can climb up to the top - its a 6 hrs plus climb to reach the top - "more than Sinhagad" as told by V. So we decided that we will go on some Saturday. Instead, we decided to go to Ueno. There are lots of museums and a zoo in Ueno. By the time we reached there, everything was closed. The area is very beautiful. So we strolled there for some time. We could hear some drums in a distance, and went in that direction to see what was going on. It was a Buddhist shrine, and Hanabi (summer festival - the fireworks were also part of Hanabi. Hanabi is celebrated all over August in Japan.) festivities were going on there. There was a group of 8 - 10 men and women - young as well as old - who were playing wooden drums in the courtyard of the shrine. We enjoyed this display very much. After the drums, there were 2 jugglers who displayed their balancing skills. One of these was a Frenchman who was speaking Japanese. So instead of the zoo, we saw something totally unexpected and very beautiful.
    Day after tomorrow, the team from Pune will arrive here. They will be staying at a different place. We will be shifting to a larger apartment in our present building on 15th. At present, M is finding it very difficult - he has to sleep without AC and fan, and it is very hot and humid. Mr Yamada told us taht this is unusually hot even for a Tokyo summer.
- Gouri