Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Eve at Shibuya

Καλή χρονιά! おめでとございます!Happy new year!

thanks to my friends here, I had the chance to spend a wonderful day at shibuya. we had dinner in a greek restaurant. yep, it happened and it wasn't my suggestion. the food was ok, but the prices were london-expensive. it came as a shock even for me since I am now used to not paying a lot of money for food here! my friends were very curious about greece and they generally enjoyed the food and the atmosphere. I also had the chance to meet the owner of the restaurant, Mr. Nikitas and he was very friendly and kind. I will go again I think. after that, we went to have a coffee and we kept discussing until it was about 12.00.

it was amazing in shibuya. so many people were there at the countdown and we were all clapping at the change of the year. the atmosphere was fantastic. many foreigners were around and everyone was happy and enjoying themselves. if anyone had told me that I would be spending a New Year's Eve in Japan I would have never have believed them. but life thinks otherwise. at least, I had a very enjoyable night with some great people instead of spending the change of the year alone at home. at least it's something, isn't it?

let's all try to make 2006 a better year for everything, shall we?

Friday, December 30, 2005

Jehovah's Witnesses, Sushi and Cinema at last!

yesterday I went to see my first movie in Japan, Memoirs of a Geisha. it was enjoyable but maybe not great. I liked the way the japanese life was portrayed. I was very curious to see how our japanese friend would feel about the movie and she liked it. so, I am happy! a funny highlight is that after the movie ads (which btw have a good time lag behind the US and Europe screenings!), a small movie merchantise object was advertised. the peak moment was a pen for The Legend of Zorro which had Kathrin Zeta-Jones. BUUUUT... if you moved it, it would reveal her bikini! all of the foreigners laughed hard at that time...

before that, one missionary from Jehovah's Witnesses knocked on my door. a japanese member with using fluent english. sentence patterns like:

- are you a christian?
- yes
- you are so lucky!

took place. it was funny. the bad thing is that I don't really care about missionaries and stuff, since my "official" religion has declared them as heretics. but she was so polite that I just had to play along. fortunately, our connection from my video-phone was lost and I could just go back to sleep...

after the movie we went to a sushi bar and it was great! the fish was of excellent quality! all three of us enjoyed the food a lot. we also had the very very good part of the tuna. and it was extremely cheap. things like that just reaffirm the fact that life quality in japan is so so good.

a great day overall. if only I could start working...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


today the new-year's vacation has started. we were actually told to leave the building by 4pm because it would be locked after. the university will be shut until the 6th of January. and I will be spending my time working during the holidays. and today we had 2 earthquakes. and that's all.

Greek coffee tasting day

yesterday, I treated my lab to the greek cold coffee Frappe. it was hailed a success! even my sensei had one, which was very nice. it's amazing how japanese people like to try new things. it is something I don't really see so often in greek and (maybe) english people and it really makes the japanese people stand-out. cool stuff.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Nagano (or a guide to what to not do when going for skiing...)

on thursday I finally finished my abstract for the Lisbon conference. that was a relief.

also, even though I thought my trip to Nagano was for Friday. well... aparently not. I got a call from Fumie-san (who by the way organised everything and I would really like to thank her again!) who informed me that it was actually for thursday... anyways, I finished the abstract and rushed to get the bus from Yokohama. at about 8.00am we were in Hakuba. it was snowing and everyone was clearing out the snow from the streets and walkpaths.

I was to find a big surprise when we got to our hotel. it was japanese style! tatami and all! it was really comfortable and nice. after about one hour of sleep we head off for skiing. of course, my friend Stan was so eager to go skiing that we went immediately. we met him later on. Hakuba was the place that the winter olympics of '98 took place. and the skiing adventure began... with Stan's advice I managed to get down this slope!

the view was fantastic.

which is not something I could say for my skiing skills... another proud moment in my life...

it took us about two and a half hours to get down this slope... then we went to a different slope. and this is where it all started. I had slept for an hour and I was really tired of falling and getting up. so at some point I just started walking... and then we realised that it was about 6.00pm, it was dark, no one was around and the skiing centre was officially closed... we decided to continue walking to get down to the base of the centre. on the way we actually found a girl that was also lost! we gathered at the Cafe Fifty (btw, it is named like this because it sell coffee for 50yen :P). and it was just freezing. after two or three phonecalls, we managed to let know of the centre that we were lost...

two patrol staff came. we waited until about 7.30pm in the freezing cold. I was sorry for the patrol guys... most of the parts of our bodies were wet... and then the snow-plough came to pick us up! it was amazing!!! one of the patrol guys took us to our hotel, they were great... after that, we went to the hotel's onsen. the only thing I'm going to say is that... it's great to dive naked in the snow and then on the hot water! ohhh that was a great day...

exausted we went to sleep. I had the chance to get some good pictures the next day. and we went to a different onsen, more traditional. it's amazing to watch the snow while soaking outdoors in hot water...

it was great fun. I should do it again.

Καλά Χριστούγεννα! Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

One of the things I miss here.... going to the cinema! there are some movies I would really like to see on a proper cinema. for example, I read that King Kong is quite good. and really, this is not a movie to see on DVD, it is the definition of a cinema movie. apparently Peter Jackson has made another great film. who would have thought he could reiterate the success of Lord of the Rings... OK. I LIKE NAOMI WATTS. besides being very very beautiful, she is a superb actress. really...

on the other hand, Memoirs of a Geisha could be seen outside of a cinema. especially with all the criticism the movie received for basically inaccurately portraying the japanese life of the early 30's and geisha life. in addition, the movie was locally criticised in China for the "sell-out" of Chinese actors. even though in english and describing japan, the movie features an almost completely Chinese cast possibly to grab a bigger market. of course, the chinese are very aggressive against the japanese lately, which will probably mean that the movie will be a flop in the chinese market. on the other side of the sea of japan, the japanese feel also a bit frustrated that a movie about the life of a japanese in japan was described without one actor being japanese, given the recent chinese hostility and the innacuracy of the movie. therefore, the movie is titled Sayuri here, from the name of the heroine. so, the movie will probably be a flop in Japan too... still, some reviews say that Zhang Ziyi (my god, she's really pretty) has made a very good job in portraying Sayuri. my supervisor said that the book is great so I will try to get my hands on it.

anyway. to return to the problem, there is no cimemas around my place. there are some cinemas in Shibuya, but I haven't found any there. I will probably try to find one soon... I also had the chance to see two movies on my new incredible laptop, I, Robot and Constantine (heh, we have the same name :P) . they were ok, but nothing really great. I, Robot is directed by Alex Proyas whose work I generally like, as he directed The Crow and, one of my favourites, Dark City. well, one must watch what he can get his hands on in this country!

Friday, December 16, 2005

World of Warcraft Musical!

It's amazing what people can do with too much free time. the result is great though! all the images come from the most popular online game in the world... enjoy ;)

Thursday, December 08, 2005


omg, I should be sleeping but it's soooo funny. for people that want to know the correct way of eating sushi in Japan...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Kyoto and Osaka: The Trip...

ok... here goes the story of this past weekend!


we got our shinkansen from Shin-Yokohama and headed to Osaka were we were staying. after about 3 hours we were there. Osaka is the second biggest city in Japan and it is realy more down to earth compared to Tokyo! in our hotel, we enjoyed the fabulous view of a city in action

and then we rushed to Kyoto. it was already late and we had to get going soon. unfortunately, when we arrived it was already dark for sight seeing. so the first night was consumed in strolling through Kyoto and its fabulous streets.

where I also had the chance to see the local market where all the nice but beautiful things used in the fabulous Kyoto cooking are sold. also, a kabuki theater! apparently, Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan...

and then we went to the traditional japanese restaurant... my only objection is that the music playing was european slow music. I would have prefered something more japanese but I have to admit the music was soothing... the food was of excellent quality and taste! especially this EXCELLENT dish of grilled fish, and I know it doesn't look like it!

on the restaurant we also made some new friends! maybe you noticed the HUGE plate of raw food waiting to be boiled!

after that we went for a drink... I will try to describe as vividly as possible. on the bar, one of the barmen was (apparently) gay. when he talked about himself he used "atashi" which is the female version of "I"... at somepoint he asked where I'm from and then he replied "kawai" meaning "how cute..." finally, for one of my friends (which he clearly liked the most) he said that he is "oishii" meaning "delicious"... it was a fantastic night and as for me, after two regularly-sized bottles of sake I was starting clearly to become "happy". we somehow made it back to Osaka using one of the last trains. unfortunately, I contacted a friend and he informed me that he had broken up with his girlfriend, which is really sad because they were probably the best couple I knew and she is a great girl! that actually clouded the conclusion of the night with a bitter taste. hang in there, guys. anyways, the next day I woke up with a mild headache...


we again went to Kyoto with the immensly optistic plan to see many many sights... but given Friday night, that was too much given headaches and late wake-ups...

so after having lunch, we went to our first stop, kinkaku-ji. the temple's colours is actually plated gold. the place was packed!

the reason for the packing is that this the best weekend for someone to get to Kyoto in all of the year. and the reason is because of the characteristic autumn leaves of the trees in Kyoto, making it a stunning visual experience... honestly, when I saw House of the flying Daggers,I thought that the stunning images in that movie were computer-enhanced! NO! Asia is beautiful. simply beautiful...

we then rushed to our next stop, Nijo-jinya. the house was used for visitor lords in the Edo era and was built about 300 hundred hears ago. at the time this was a house with fortress abilities. it has everything!!! from secret rooms and closets, secret staircases to allow for escaping when some enemy was inside the house! low ceilings to avoid sword-wielding, windows that would reveal possible eavesdropers, unstable floors, falling traps and sooo many more things! of course it was fully unreachable from the outside with places for guards and everything. an amazing place. the closest to a ninja-fortified-place in the world! unfortunately, no pictures were allowed so you will have to go and see on your own... oh, and we also found some interesting shops and places, but unfortunately most of the main sites I wanted to see were unfortunately closed...

BUT, we had time for Kiyomizu-dera. and, believe me, even if it was the only I saw in Kyoto it would have been worth it. when we got in the temple, I was just stunned by its beauty. one of the protected sites by Unesco in the world (Kyoto actually has 17!!!) it is just stunning at that specific weekend of the year and especially when lit up at night. ofcourse, if I knew it so all of Japan would. and believe me, they knew... just at the time we entered the temple, my camera informed me of two things. first, the batteries were gone and second, the card was almost full... typical. so, I will try to give you the feeling at the temple given the bad photographer I am and also the fact that it was very dark, making photography very very hard. here goes...

and then it happened. I saw the most beautiful thing those eyes have seen. maybe the photograph doesn't make any justice but here goes (once again, thanks Sugi-chan)...

and that was it. mind-blowing. just that. it was really hard to get the pictures above but it was worth it! after that, we went back to Osaka. even though we were really tired, Sugi-chan convinced me to go for Karaoke. and even though I thought the day was already great it just turned amazing.

this is the Karaoke room. one can identify the central unit that is responsible for reproducing the songs selected by the people inside. actually, the songs are a close reproduction of the song, not the song itself which is a bit of turn-off. still, all the words show on the screen and follow the normal flow of the singer.

IT IS SO HARD TO SING! I had about 10 songs killed that night, two of which were japanese... (ok, at least I tried). that was maybe the most entertaining night I had in Japan. I definitely have to do this in Europe!


since we had to depart at 2pm, there was not enough time for going to Kyoto again. So, we went to the closest best thing, which is the Osaka-jo.


it was huge and beautiful. too bad we didn't have enough time to explore it more, we had a shinkansen to catch... still, it was a really nice site

we returned to Yokohama, with me having one of my best weekends finished. I'm really thankful to my friends for their company and the good times we had! I hope I gave you an idea of the beauty I experienced. Let me know what you think!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Mime rules....

I never thought it could be so funny! Kyoto images to come shortly...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Before Kyoto...

tomorrow, I'm leaving for Kyoto. It was a request (actually, more of an order...) from my supervisor. fortunately, this is the best weekend to go to Kyoto in all of the year because of the coloured leaves of the trees which makes Kyoto immensly beatiful. unfortunately, this also means that we could not find affordable accomodation in Kyoto, so we will be staying in Osaka. Osaka is the second biggest city in Japan and only 30minutes from Kyoto. so, it should be fun even though our time is short. will be using the shinkansen (hikari, not the fastest Nozomi) from Shin Yokohama to Osaka. expect many pictures on Sunday people!