Moving company guy came to my place this morning to give me a quote. Conversation went something like this:

Moving Company Guy: [taps random numbers on pocket calculator] Hmnn, let’s see… 20 boxes… Fridge… Guitar… Tokyo’s 23 wards… June… Migratory speed of African swallow… How about ¥80,000?

Dave the Negotiator: OK… huh… OtherMovingCompany Inc. gave me a very dodgy, phone-only quote of ¥60,000 that I really do not trust one bit.

Moving Company Guy: I see… err…

Dave the Negotiator: [prays very hard for any quote south of ¥70,000. Would probably still sign for ¥75,000]

Moving Company Guy: [emphatically taps on calculator some more] Let’s see… with super special extra rebate… because I somehow unexplainably really like the cut of your jib… How about ¥55,000?

Dave the Negotiator: [struggles to remain composed] Yes, I think that will do.

I am a negotiation genius…

Club Metro, Thursday, 1am

_ “Hallo! How aru you?”

_ “Whichu country… Whichu country aru you from?”

_ “Ahh… なるほど… すごいですね…”

_ “Your nose… Your nose: it is berry strong. はなは… つよい!I like very much!”

Don’t change a thing, Japan.

Last weekend was the Star Festival: a newly-minted, small-scale electronic music festival.

After a measly hour-and-a-half car ride (yay for local Kansai festivals!), Rei-the-man, Fanfan, Junko and yours truly arrived there early afternoon, somehow managing to be the very first car to enter festival grounds and probably not far from last to leave. In between: twenty-four (and some) hours of non-stop music, fun and dancing, the details of which shall remain safely out of the internets, just in case I do decide to run for public office one day.

But that still leaves room for a good ol’ festival acts blow-by-blow recount (don’t worry: more like this one than this one).

Afternoon

Getting us into our afternoon groove upon arrival, was friend of the gang Bayon, pushing his usual nice selection of techy and dubby house.
To be honest, I could have rocked it to east-Mongolian goa trance if necessary: just for the pleasure of dancing barefoot surrounded by forests and mountains on a warm late-Spring afternoon.

In a concerted decision, our entire carpooling group decided to retire to our majestic campground for a replenishing afternoon nap (that’s what happens when your breakfast consist of one onigiri and two large-size kirins).

Evening

Sleep, food and drinks later, we parked our funky butts in front of DJ Harvey: club music veteran that had faintly entered my radar in the past, but I had never heard live. Definitely one of the two best of the weekend. As with most of my personal DJing heroes, his set was a very eclectic mix of styles spanning the range from funk/disco all the way to hard techno, with healthy doses of electro in the middle. Highlight among the highlights: his epic set-closing 15 minutes of I feel Love (most likely the Patrick Cowley remix, but, erm, my notes for the evening are a bit blurry). A nice homage to the recently departed Queen of Disco & Godmother of Electro.

Aftermath was a little more hesitant, with time spent between stages, getting glimpses of DJ Nobu and mainly enjoying 80kidz‘s DJ set (more than 5 years since last hearing them at some tiny Shibuya club). Solid electro, as always.

The transition to DJ Aki around midnight prompted a hasty retreat to other stages where the music did not associate so closely with vivid memories of hoodie-wearing tweakers joylessly dancing in some damp East-end basement (sorry hardcore D&B fans, I love you but that Amen break’s gotta die).

Rest of the evening/night was spent in the vicinity of the third and smallest stage (“Chillmountain booth”), enjoying some damn funky grooves till late. Unfortunately, I have no idea who the two-three guys taking over the decks in succession were, and the official website’s section for this stage only gives artist names with no timeslot information.

Eventually, 3-4am was deemed as good a time as any for a retreat to our tent, followed by some attempt at sleep. Incidentally, the overall small size of the festival grounds (less than 5 minutes to walk one end to the other), while contributing a great deal to the brilliant atmosphere, made for very trying sleeping conditions: forget ear-plugs, it takes some particularly advanced skills (or lots of alcohol) to get to sleep when not one, but two booming basses are shaking the ground under your ears.

Morning

Early morning tunes and good vibes were also courtesy of anonymous DJs at the nearby Chillmountain stage (I woke up to some loungy downtempo female cover of 上を向いて歩こう, which is more than I can say about most mornings). As it turned out, sleep was a lot easier to achieve, lying on the grass under the sun in front of the stage, than up in our tent…

After some tasty Thai breakfast, courtesy of the Japonica booth, we got treated to a brilliant closing set by Calm: old acquaintance from way back and easily my favourite Japanese DJ. Hearing his very special blend of deep house, electro, soul, jazzy disco and the occasional true-to-form reggae track (among others: a beautiful downtempo cover of Minnie Riperton’s standard) makes it easy to see why he is a staple of day-parties across the country: his music is the perfect soundtrack for a shiny sunny day.

With an unprecedented hour of extra dancing, way past official closing time (if you’ve been anywhere in Japan, you know that even the most free-form, disorganised, hippie event will end on freaking schedule, not one minute after it is supposed to), we slowly packed our way back. An hour drive later (did I mention: yay for local festivals!), we were replenishing our energy in Kyoto with some kaiten-zushi before heading home for some much-needed quiet sleepy time.

This post originated as a comment to this entry on the eminently readable blog of a scientist living in Osaka. Midway through writing it, I remembered I had my own soapbox for that sort of drivel: better than crowding some innocent bystander’s comment section.

Usual limited-interest-topic disclaimer applies: unless you are have a vested interest in getting your PhD (in Japan), you are better off skipping this entry and waiting for more pictures of awesome Shanghainese moped-riding cats.

By and large, I agree with everything Jan wrote. The operative quote, I think, is that it depends more on university/faculty [and advisor] than anything else.

As a freshly-graduated PhD student (from a Japanese university), I figured I could offer some extra pointers, gleaned from personal experience and that of close friends in similar situations at a couple “major” Japanese universities:

April 24th: I’ve ranted so many times about the comically horrid shortcomings of Parisian infrastructure that it has become a stale subject long ago. I still want to set the record once and for all: rallying in short succession the cities of Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai from their respective airports, makes one really wonder, upon landing in Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, what economic world-tier France sits in.

Forget the usual mess at immigration, the overall decrepit state of arrival satellites or the thoroughly unhelpful signage1: riding the RER to Paris (only semi-reliable, affordable way to reach the city centre) made me honestly ache on behalf of hapless first-time visitors, their head full of clichéd romantic Parisian imagery, who get to sit on some of the nastiest train cars this side of Eastern Rajasthan, stopping at every single suburban town between the airport and Paris, having to meekly apologise to dour-faced morning commuters for taking precious space with their luggage. Who-the-fuck designs an airport line with no room for luggage and non-existent escalator/elevator access to the platforms?

Anyway, consider this my heartfelt apology, as a honorary Parisian, to anybody who ever had to land in Paris.

April 24th (3h and a quick shave later): The story of how close I was to end the Japanese chapter of my life prematurely.

Barely summarised excerpt of my exchange with Japanese embassy employee:

  1. “Paris by Train”? “Paris by Bus”? I lived in Paris for 5 years and I have no idea what these are supposed to mean. Give me a fucking line number I can find on a map. []

As of today, I am officially offering my services as Human Rain Cloud for hire:

For a modest fee (and travel expenses), I will visit your city and bring unseasonably cold and wet weather for a duration of time equal or longer to my stay. No matter how naturally arid or sunny your local climate, my rain cloud-conjuring abilities have been tested on a variety of European towns, with a perfect 100% success rate to this day.

Hire me and ensure your crops do not go dry and your golf course lawns remain a healthy green, even in the middle of the draughtiest summers.

My service fees will go toward paying hospitalisation costs for the pneumonia I am developing.

PS: to all my friends in Paris, Bordeaux, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Berlin: I am sorry for fucking up your sunny Spring weather. I’ll be going soon and normal weather should resume immediately.