Japan Journal-4

We also had the privilege of attending a very typical Japanese Tea Ceremony, in around october. As we were foreigners, and the only ones at that, it was an enthralling experience. The customs and rituals to be followed we intriguing, and Japan still amazes me with its mix of tradition and modernism.
You have to first enter this huge hall, where all the invitees are seated. You are handed a long sheet of paper on which your name is written ( in Katakana) . These sheets are taken later by the hostess, and you are called by name into a chamber. The chamber houses a priest, who presides over the tea ceremony. You are supposed to sit with your feet tucked in (not exposed), and are handed over a bowl of green tea(called macha) . Hold it and twist it three times clockwise before drinking it and while returning it back, twist it three times anti clock. You are supposed to murmur a phrase(which I do not remember). Then we were taken out into the larger hall, where we were handed over more macha. I had always heard and expressed a willingness to attend a Japanese tea ceremony. I did not come away dissappointed.

Tea Ceremony

In November, we witnessed culture of another kind. Now Japan, unknown to many, has a very large population of Brazilians. They stay mainly in the Hamamatsu and Toyohashi area, where no one is really surprised to chance upon a Brazilian. In late October, they celebrate their samba festival, by parading down the streets of Hamamatsu. Although the troupe size is small, and the dresses are way toned down from the Rio festival, the noise levels are deafening. The rest can be gauged from the picture below.


Japan Journal-3

Onwards ye maties.

Today I am posting two photos of Toyohashi Station. The first one is in the night (apologies if not very clear) . Toyohashi station has some awesome shopping in the inside. SALE is a sign that you will frequently see in the stores. Our favorite was Kalmia's, which housed a great clothes store. Japan is overpriced when it comes to clothes, but if you are patient you can strike a real bargain.

Toyo Station at Night

Hopefully you can see the fountain and the shops if front of the station. (will post better phots next time) .
Toyohashi Station in the Day

This is the same view, but in the day. (the yellow sign says Promise in katakana) What you see here is a regularity in most stations in Japan. These local bands play a small gig and there is always an audience to cheer them on. There are also these single guys, playing love songs, with an audience of a few ladies listening with a love-lorn look in their eyes.

I had promised a cycling trip this post, so here goes. This place is not too far from the station. I forget the time of the year, but there is a huge festival held. The main draw is firecrackers. What is special is the fact that Japanese men hold these specially held crackers in their hands, and then burn them( photo shows that)

Hanabi Matsuri


Japan Journal 2

The photo below is of Tokoha Hall

Tokoha Hall

It was the tech mall of Hamamatsu University. We used to finish up our work on the internet and we had another great use for the place. There were these large comfy lounge sofas, which we used to catch up on sleep that we had missed. As soon as our bus from arrived at the university, we all made a beeline for this hall. The reasons varied from completing that yet unfinished project to just relaxing in the hall. (The loo also warrants a mention for its excellent heated seats)

After finishing our classes, we took a bus and went over back to Hamamatsu Station. I have attached a pic below:

Escalator to Hamamatsu Station

From this station, we took a train to Toyohashi, the place where we stayed.

Toyohashi happens to be in the middle of Japan's industrial belt and is sometimes called its heart. Its proximity to Toyota makes it extremely important and it also houses most of the Toyota Supplier companies. (I am fortunate to have worked in 4 of them). More on Toyohashi in a later post.

This was a 45 minute train ride(pics of the train in a later post) and then a further 15 minutes by a smaller train. We stayed in atypical Japanese apartment

Our Apartment

I say typical because it did not have door locks between rooms, with only sliding doors to keep out people. The floor, as you can see, had Tatami on it. You were supposed to take out all footwear and then walk onto it. (A rule which sometimes had to be broken in times of urgency) Even the god damn cupboards had no locks on it.

It happened to be one of the cheaper variety of apartments, and at $650 a month, we wondered what was mildly expensive (forget expensive). Let me end this entry with a view of the lay of the area around my Apartment.

View From my Apartment

You can see the road, followed by the greenery of a school ground.

Next: Trip on bicycle around Toyohashi


Mumbai Darshan

Recently I read an article on India and how it lacks in basic infrastructure. Although I agree to this, infrastructure is not as bad as it seems.

Here are some useful tips to a foreign traveller to Mumbai(if you somehow managed to stumble upon my blog).

How to Travel on Trains:

Local trains originate from Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus and Churchgate Station.


Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus



Trains run empty in the morning if taken from these stations. Take a train and get off first at Marine Lines. You can take a walk on marine drive for a bit and while doing so, keep heading away from Churchgate. There are a few beaches along the way, but the breeze and the 'clean' atmosphere are good to begin the day with. Beware of beggars and urchins and so on. Ignore them and move on. If you have walked a bit, you can board the train back at Charni road(station after Marine Lines)and move on to Mahalaxmi.

Mahalaxmi houses the dhobi ghat and also the lovely race course. Please do not take a guide to explain how the washerman washes the clothes(waste of money) :)
The race course is a small walk away, and if you are lucky enough(and dress well enough, you can watch an ongoing derby.

Will continue in the next part..


India: Fragmented it stands, united it falls

While India scripts a winning story as far as GDP growth is concerned, I doubt if India will remain India after some years. To say that this division began with Raj Thackeray asking for migrants from UP and Bihar to leave, would be biased. It started with the demand for Jharkhand by tribals in Bihar and a hundred other rubbish demands. The violence that it threatened to unleash, made the then government shudder and they relented. The same is the case with Uttaranchal and the same could be the case with Telengana.

India, throughout its history, has been a fragmented nation, divided by caste, creed, regionalism and religionalism.( We rave and rant over Harbhajan being called a racist. Ask him how many people has he scoffed at for reasons like region, language etc.) The British took advantage of this with their famous Divide and Rule policy. It helped them rule over India for over 100 years. In 1947, the nation seemed to have divested itself of this but it never really happened. These issues still simmered below the surface and it only needed a match to light the powder keg. This match(or matches) has now been struck in various regions of India. It only remains to be seen how long we can hold on to this myth of unity.

My advice is, enjoy this illusion for as long as you can. India will be divided into Western India( Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa), Central India( Madhya Pradesh, Uttaranchal), Northern India(Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and uttar Pradesh), Eastern India( Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa), North Eastern India( All north eastern States) and Southern India( Tamil nadu, Andhra Pradesh, karnataka etc.)

The gunpowder has just caught fire. It won't be long before the bomb blows up. However, there is a silver lining for the Chinese here. While we fight between ourselves, they can conquer India and rule us as the British did. Only this could be for longer, way longer.


Welcome to the Mumbai Transport Guide

The AutoRickshaw ( AKA:Rick,Rickshaw,Auto)

Small, fits only for three passengers. First, they will go only if and when they want to. In case of Natures call for driver, probable charge to destination being lesser than Rs.100, not in mood and pure laziness, they will refuse you. Scarier, they will refuse to look at you. ( These problems lessen in probability if you are a woman (Duh!!) or if you are white (LOL. For obvious reasons)). Spoilers: In case of emergency, when in bad mood skip. On the bright side, ask the driver to crank up the stereo on a rainy day, and enjoy!

The Taxi (AKA: None!)

The larger version of the AutoRickshaw. Archaic remnants of a bygone era. Some with doors that are held together by strings, some with windows that do not wind up, some shiny on the outside and awful inside and some that you wonder about( Gosh! How is this even running variety) Please insist on rate card or a Rs.30 ride may become Rs.100 quite easily. Their brethren in Delhi are worser though. Again, as is the case with their smaller sibling, the driver will take you only when and if he wishes.

The BEST Bus

Double Decker (see image) or single decker. Crammed to the brim. Feet are somebody else's property and god help you if you by mistake slam into a woman( Kya Be! Dikhta nahin kya{ Translation: Ass! Don't you see where you're going). Conductor will dictate terms, which includes speaking only in marathi[ India's national language is hindi BTW], treating you like shit, giving a ticket only if you have the proper change (god help if you produce a Rs.100 note) and asking you to move forward rudely even if the bus is empty.
If riding in vehicle beside this bus, take vehicle on footpath and park. If pedestrian, pray to god that the driver is in a good mood.

The Mumbai Local Train (AKA: Local, Train)


The king of all transports. Transports over 40 lakh people a day. Perks of traveling include Body massage, sauna, free deodorant and of course, if you are a woman, the realization that you really are different (Come on! You know what I mean)

And that is that