Saturday, October 31, 2009

『学園七不思議殺人事件』

「え~、子供の頃、何が怖かったかと言えば、薄暗い小学校の音楽室に飾ってあった作曲家の顔。あんな怖い物ありませんでした。 バッハ、シューベルト、メンデルスゾーン、そしてベートーベン。中でも一番怖かったのは、ヘンデル。えー、未だに音楽が苦手なのはあの肖像画のせいかもし れませんね。あの。今の小学校にも飾ってあるんでしょうか?もしあった先生、すぐにはずして下さい」
『古畑任三郎: 絶対音楽感殺人事件』

"
Erm, if we're talking about scary things when you were a child, I have to mention the faces of those componists, hanging in the dimly lit music rooms at school. There was nothing scarier than that. Bach, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Beethoven. The scariest among them was Händel. The reason why I am still bad with music might be because of those portraits. And... Do they still hang those portraits at schools? Teachers, please remove them."

"Furuhata Ninzaburou: The Perfect Pitch Murder Case"


One recurring motif in detective manga is the school curse. From elementary to high school, all schools have a school curse. Some might even have seven of them. (Or the ever clever: "That is the one of the seven school mysteries. Number eight!"). From the cursed staircase to the old abandoned X building to toilet-ghost Hanako, Japanese schools are not safe.

I have only seen this motif in manga, which are meant for kids, which explains why schools often appear as the setting for a mystery. But I guess there is some foundation to all this motif. Because Japanese schools can be creepy. "The old abandoned X building" does really exist.



Kyushu University has several campi spread across Fukuoka, with the Itou campus said to be one of the best equiped campi in the world. Most circles and clubs are also situated there and therefore it's quite aggrevating that Itou campus is in the western part, that is to say, the other side of Fukuoka. Which is way too far with the bicycle. And way too expensive with the bus. The International Student Center is located at the Hakozaki campus in the eastern part of Fukuoka, the original Kyushu University campus dating from the post-war period and home to faculties like letters and law.

Which is all fine and dandy, 'cept for the fact that they didn't really do maintenance here. Or something. It's just ugly. Which was incredibly shocking the first time I came here, having visited Waseda, which sorta set a high standard. But nowadays, I just imagine myself to be on a set for a horror flick or some mystery movie with cursed school buildings and stuff. For example, one of the buildings only has dimly lit corridors like on the picture. The four-floor building actually is not in use except for like a couple of international student classes a week and some crazy experiments from some sort of technical faculty which quite often sometime result in gigantic explosions. During class. The exterior is not much better. The name of the building is actually "the old Engineering faculty building" and I am expecting After-School Magicians running around commiting murders every time I get into that building.

There are actually loads of buildings on the campus which are deleted from maps (by blanking them), which feels like a futile attempt to erase the past or something. But those buildings are quite clearly still there. Like the old aircraft faculty building, which looks like the creepy tower from Professor Layton and the Curious Village (it looks worse up close). I fear it will collapse one of these days. Or this prison-like building, on which I could find no information.

But the creepy buildings are something I can get used to. And am slightly used to now. But the one thing I can not ignore, is this. And this. And this. Every 10 minutes, right across the campus. While I'm long past the stage of getting surprised every time one goes by, having the voices of teachers and students drown out every few minutes is kinda hard to ignore. You can actually count the number of windows at full resolution. They come that close.

Monday, October 26, 2009

「DOUBT。 一億円」

「そうか。最後の食事か。。。牛丼も食べられない。親子丼も食べられない。カツ丼も食べられない。餃子も食べられない。麻婆豆腐も食べられない。ニラレバ炒めもチャーシューメンもお寿司も焼肉もオムライスもウナ丼もチャーハンもおせんべいもみそ汁も豚汁もアンドーナツもクリームシチューもカレーライスもハヤシライスもおにぎりもたくあんもケバラも肉マンも杏仁豆腐も北京ダックもコーヒーゼリーもズワイガニも焼きソバもくず切りも焼きプリンもウニ焼きも塩辛もカツオのたたきも潮汁もハンバーグもステーキもうまか棒も酢昆布も。。。」、高野聖也、『喰いタン』

"
My last meal, so I won't be able to eat gyuudon anymore. I won't be able to eat oyakodon anymore. I won't be able to eat katsudon anymore. I won't be able to eat gyouza anymore. No mabo toufu, no nirarebaitame, no char siu men, no o-sushi, no yakiniku, no omuraisu, no unadon, no chahan, no o-senbei, no miso soup, no tonjiro, no an-donuts, no cream stew, no curry rice, no hayashi rice, no onigiri, no takuan, no nikuman, no annintoufu, Peking duck, no coffee jelly, no snow crab, no yakisoba, no kuzukiri, no yaki-purin, no uniyaki, no sukonbu, no katsuo no tataki, no ushiojiro, no hamburger, no steak, no umakabou, no sukonbu...", Takano Seiya, "Kuitan"

Captain's log. Heisei 21/10/26. Still haven't found normal sized gyouza yet. Getting desperate. Those midget-sized things don't taste bad or something like that, but you pay way more for way less compared to normal gyouza. Must control anger. Fukuoka is apparently known outside of Kyuushuu for its food. Not for its small gyouza though. Yatai however are a famous attraction of Fukuoka.




Around seven in the evening, small carts start to appear downtown, which actually are moveable kitchens. Yes, yatai are moveable mini-restaurants, most of them selling ramen and oden. While yatai are also to be found outside of Fukuoka, the sheer number and the mood is quite different from other places. Whereas the Tokyo yatai are ususally visited by drunk salarymen, the Fukuoka yatai are visited by tourists as well as the normal Fukuoka inhabitants. Or as Naganuma's Koyama-sensei said on Fukuoka yatai, 'even women eat at yatai here'. Tried it once now and while it tasts good and the mood is quite nice and homely, I have a feeling it's also sort of a tourist trap, as I left the place having spent more money than I would have expected from a yatai. For the same money, I've had more at Ippudo.

In other news, the first two weeks of class have finally ended. At the moment, we have JLCC-exclusive classes (classes meant to improve use of the language through a study of the Japanese language and Japanese culture), Japanese language classes (for all international students) and for some, faculty classes (which for me is Ancient Greek 2).

After the placement tests for the Japanese language classes, we all got a short consultation session with the head of the JLCC program, and while I placed around the level I expected myself to be, it never can be a good sign when the consultation begins with "I think you know few kanji. For a Chinese. So I'd like you to take Kanji-7." Which apparently is also the Japanese language class with the most homework, which after two weeks me and my recently demised right hand will believe instantly. Still trying to revive it for this weeks homework.

Greek is getting more fun though every week. The stuff we do is probably second-year/third year Greek in the Netherlands, but I really don't remember a thing anymore. The teacher randomly inserts English in his explanations now (I suspect for me, though he uses English texts too), everybody thinks my Ancient Greek pronouncation is fluent and just reading the story of the Minotauros in Greek and then translating it to Japanese is so much fun. And hard! Whereas at times I might know 4, 5 different ways to translate the same thing in Dutch or English, I usually only know 1 or 2 ways to translate something in Japanese. I don't have any Writing classes now, but this helps a lot.

And after two weeks of class, there is one thing I really really have to mention about the Hakozaki campus, but that has to wait as I am working on a horrors of the Hakozaki campus post.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

『一人二役』

「現世(うつしよ)は夢、夜の夢こそ真実(まこと)」、乱歩
"
Reality is a dream, your dream at night is reality", Rampo

While I like Edogawa Rampo's stories, I really need a lot of time to read his stories. I haven't really read many pre-war stories so I don't know whether this is a general thing or not, but the usage of kanji in Edogawa's work is very aggrevating at times, with of course many pre-war kanji and strange ways to write words from a modern point of view.

So while I actually wanted to translate The Murder Case of D-Hill, the first Japanese locked room mystery, I've put that plan on hold for the time being and instead did the simpler, short One Person, Two Identities. Which is an OK (non-detective) short story of Edogawa, but what is more interesting is how the theme of one person, two identities plays a big part in Edogawa's stories. People taking on other identities, people taking on other people's identities, blurring lines between reality and dream, no knowing anymore what is the original, it's a theme I enjoy very much in Edogawa's work. Silver actually makes an interesting point in Purloined Letters: Cultural Borrowings and Japanese Crime Literature when he mentions how Edogawa's work can be read as stories that were both emulating the Western model, as well as atempts to try to move away from them, as Edogawa might have been afraid to forever remain nothing but 'an impersonator', never to be an original himself. But of course, who is to tell what original is in this world, what seperates the daydream of reality and when Morpheus' world ends ?

『名店の餃子を食い散らす!』

「福岡は日本語が通じる外国だ」、小森先生

"Fukuoka is like being in another country where they happen to understand Japanese.", Komori-sensei

While I won't go as far as my wise Reading teacher (who used to live in Tokyo), it is true that for someone used to living in Tokyo, Fukuoka is really different. Two consecutive discoveries did disappoint me. Especially as they relate to things very dear to me. One was being all happy because the release of the two annual Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo books was this Friday, only to hear from a bookclerk that "Well.... Fukuoka is kinda far from Tokyo, so we always get our books late. If it says the 16th, expect it to arrive around the 20th." Then she apologized, but I didn't really listen as I was still in utter shock. At such times, even if Fukuoka is the largest city in Kyuushuu, it feels like I am in the boondocks or something.

And the second discovery, or rather observation, is gyouza - related. Having already experienced the extreme shock of realizing people here don't use the triforce of soy sauce, vinegar and something spicy to accompany the gyouza, I could not have foreseen that, that wasn't the greatest surprise behind gyouza here. For the real horrible secret is that gyouza here always seem to be quite small. Of course I am still looking for shops proving me otherwise, and I am not expecting to find jumbo gyouza everywhere, nor even Ekoda's Tokyo Ramen sized gyouza, but I keep getting across shops that only have hitokuchi gyouza, bite size gyouza.



And with bite size, I mean you could eat 3 of them with just one bite. So that's kinda disappointing here, foodwise. Though there is this delicious gyouza restaurant called Ni no Ni (written very archaic as 「弐ノ弐」, originally a Kumamoto restaurant), which serves great and very cheap gyouza (even though they are likewise quite small).



Despite their size, Ni no Ni's soup and water gyouza are a must-eat when in Fukuoka. And Ni no Ni happens to be right next door to Ippudo, so you can begin diner with some gyouza and finish off with Ippudo's awesome ramen.

Monday, October 12, 2009

『奇妙な着想』

"And once in one of those dizzy places, his brain turned also, and he fancied he was God. (...) He thought it was given to him to judge the world and strike down the sinner. He would never have had such a thought if he had been kneeling with other men upon a floor. But he saw all men walking about like insects. ", Father Brown, "The Hammer of God"

So I suddenly decided to go to one of those mountains in the background. Which really wasn't that far, probably just a bit more than half an hour with the bicycle. Even if you're me and you manage to lose sight of a set of mountains for a while, it only takes about 50 minutes. By the time I got to the entrance of the walking trail of the mountain though, I was pretty sure I had climbed about 75% of the mountain already, because the residential area continued all the way up. And it sure was a pain with my gearless bicycle. I'd hate to be the high school student who after a long day school has to go up that way every single day to get back home.



As I pretty much decided to climb the mountain 20 minutes before I set out from my room (it's really close), I didn't even know the name of the mountains. After asking a fellow mountain climber, it seems there are two of them, the Tachibana mountain and the Mikaduki mountain and with a bit of walking here and there and passing through giant gravesites, I eventually ended up on the top of the Mikaduki mountain. Which according to the little sign on the top is 272 meters high. The view was quite nice, as you could see all of Fukuoka and with my binoculars I could pretty much spy inside my own room. No one was present. The Tachibana mountain is about 100 meters higher, I think, but having no water and rations left, I felt it should wait for another time. I was quite glad it was all downhill from then on.

『共犯者X』

「何をする気にもなれないのです。人生の事が凡て、ただ頭の中で想像した丈けでもう十分なのです。何もかも「大したことはない」のです。そこで、彼は年中汚い下宿の一室に寝転んだまま、それで、どんな実際家も嘗て経験したことのない、彼自身の夢を見つづけて来ました。つまり、一口に云えば、彼は極端な夢想家に外ならぬのでありました。」、『パノラマ島奇談』

"He didn't want to do anything. He was happy with just imagining his whole life in his head. Nothing was worth it. That's why he spent his whole year lying down in a room in a filthy pension and without experiencing anything real there, he kept on fantasing. So in short, he was nothing more than a radical dreamer.", "The Strange Tale of Panorama Island"

As I've been told the last few posts are strangely book-free, and I certainly don't want to make anyone worry, I'll make up for it now with stuff on books. And detectives.

There are few book stores around the kaikan and only one of them is actually good (which I probably will mention one time or another), so this week I have been busy planning out the Ultimate and Most Efficient Bicycle Route to Bring Me to Book Off, Kinokuniya and Maruzen. My notebook (the analog one, not the digital) is full of strange and enigmatic notes ("Look for 'Albion'", "Park here", "This store has critical literature on detectives!") and mini maps now. The closest Book Off is about 30 minutes away from the dorm with the bicycle, but that store had a strange sale going on the last few days. You get a 50 yen discount on pretty much every normal book, which is nice, but surprisingly, the 105 books get a 55 yen discount, meaning I got to buy books for 50 yen (about 40 eurocent) per book. As if 105 yen wasn't crazy enough as it is. Anyway, my room now looks a bit more like my room now, with books and manga everywhere. Which is comforting. The way one's bookcase is set up can actually tell a lot about one's personality. Of course the books themselves tell a lot about their owner, but even the way the books are placed (Alphabetically on title? Alphabetically on author name? Seemingly random but with some kind of hidden algorithm only the owner understands?) can tell a lot about someone.

At the Book Off sale, I also picked up some Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo books which I actually own already as a different release, but this version has several short stories included, which are to be found nowhere else. And to celebrate, a translation of the first of these short stories. And I am actually translating while reading it, so I am kinda wondering who the murderer is too.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Greek Coffin Mystery

綺麗なからだで
飛んで行きたい
またいつか
みんあに出逢うてめに
仕返しは消えても
こころはきえない
『探偵神宮寺三郎:きえないこころ』

I want to fly away
with a pure body
So someday
I can see you all again
Even if my thirst for revenge disappears
My heart won't fade away
"Detective Jinguuji Saburou: Unfading Heart"

While my Japanese language classes haven't started yet, I have attended my first class already. It's compulsary to follow some 'normal' classes (the ones offered to Japanese students at Kyushu University) in the JLCC programme, so I decided to do Ancient Greek II. Yes, I am studying Ancient Greek in Japanese. Of course, I have studied it for 6 years already in high school and loved it, but it's all faded away, so I thought I might as well do this course as a refresh course.



But even if it has mostly faded away, I was glad I had a background in Greek language, because following a real Japanese class (in comparison to a class meant to instruct the Japanese language) is quite hard at times. I kept looking up grammar-related words which are so simple in Dutch/English (i.e. first, second person, infinitive), but which I had never heard of in Japanese. That was probably the hardest part of class. What I really look forward too though is translating though. I haven't really done precision translation to Japanese before, so it will prove useful too probably.

The class did bring back some nice memories though. The Ancient Greek class here was also comprised of just 5 people (very nostalgic!) and the texts used and the way how the class was conducted (reading aloud!) was pretty much the same as in the Netherlands. Maybe, just maybe, Ancient Greek classes are always the same where ever you are.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

『風のラララ』

Wishing on a dream that seems far off
Hoping it will come today
Into the starlit night
Foolish dreamers turn their gaze
Waiting on a shooting star
But, what if that star is not to come?
Will their dreams fade to nothing?

"Winds Nocturne",
Lunar: Silver Story

Yes, the typhoon did hit Kyuushuu, but Fukuoka's been pretty safe for now. It's more like a windy autumn day in the Netherlands and a lot better to bear compared to the usual 'wet' hotness here. Guess I won't have to put the skills learned at my second disaster training in use. Which was strange in two ways. One was that disaster training here was a lot more relaxed compared to the one I did in Tokyo. No crazy computers saying you died when trying to escape a fire and apparently, you don't need to hide under a table when in an earthquake, a cushion on your head is enough. You'd think they'd at least instruct the same way all across Japan. The second surprise was that Dutch tourists joined our group at the disaster training complex, on their last day in Japan. The teacher (of the university) actually made me translate for them.

Classes haven't started yet, so most of the time till now was spent doing countless of procedures as registrating for a foreign registration card and getting a cell phone. And finding the perfect solution to my forgetfullness (this is going to save my life. I can feel it). And riding recklessly on my bike. I don't think there are actual rules for riding a bicycle here, you don't even have to stay on one particular side it seems, so I just try to blend in with the other reckless riders. When in Rome. Though I can't really seem to get used to riding on the sidewalk.

Oh, and the Hakozaki campus of Kyushu University has to be the ugliest campus ever. And I've studied at the VU University for three years. Guess that's the difference between a private and a public university. I can so understand the recurring motive of the 'haunted school building' in Japanese detectives now. I won't even try to make pictures. Except for maybe the really rundown building with birds nesting in it and just looking like it came out of a comic of GeGeGe no Kitarou.

I should so make a 'horrors of Fukuoka' photo series, starting with The Birds and the haunted mansion. And Istart writing about detective fiction again.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

『秘伝のラーメン食い尽くす!』

「この謎はもう我輩の舌の上だ。」、ネウロ、魔人探偵脳神ネウロ

"This mystery is already on the tip of my tongue.", Neuro, "Devil Detective Nougami Neuro"



The best ramen ever? Having graduated in ramenology through watching the movie Tampopo, I was naturally interested in the famous hakata ramen. And where else to eat but at the head restaurant of Hakata Ippudo, a famous ramen chain? Rumors regarding the taste have not been greatly exaggerated. The white, milky pork bone broth is amazing and can't be explained through words. It just tastes so enormously rich. Unbelievably great food. Of course, like I explained earlier, there are almost no restaurants around the dorm, so I have to travel quite a bit to get to Ippudo, so I am not planning to go that often. But I am sure that every trip to Ippudo is something to look forward to. Just like going out for jumbo gyouza.

There are also a lot of fugu restaurants here, so I might try it once. Of course the restaurants that seem the 'safest' are also the most expensive ones...