Visiting Nago Pineapple Park

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How much does a working holiday cost? What I spent in one month of living in Tokyo

Let’s talk money! When I first decided to move to Japan, I had no clue how much money it would cost to come/be here. So I thought I’d make this video and blog today to give everyone who is interested a rough orientation of the money you need to come and settle here!

 

What I spent in preparation of my working holiday:

So first of all, I will sum up what I spent before I even arrived in Tokyo. The application for the visa itself is free, but you need to have some documents ready. You just hand in your application to the nearest consulate or embassy. Once you handed your documents for your working holiday in Japan in, how long does the process take? If everything was done correctly, it’s incredibly fast, my application took less than a week to be approved!

In order to get the visa, you will have to buy travel insurance for the year (if you’re not planning to join the Japanese health care system), which cost me 570€. You also need a flight, or at least the money to prove that you can afford a flight. My one-way flight to Japan cost around 606€. I also had to pay a deposit of 20K yen (around 150€) to save my room in the share house (you can find several sites online, I went with Sakura House and am rather happy). Also, I paid language school upfront, which clocked in at 1060€. So all in all, preparation for my working holiday cost me 2379€.

1. Rent / phone / laundry (85,800 Yen) 

My rent in Tokyo is 82000 yen per month. You could probably get it cheaper, but for me it was important to be able to walk home from Shinjuku. Also, my room has 10 sqm, which is, believe it or not, pretty big for a share house.

Then, of course, I cannot live without internet on my phone. I am paying 3000 Yen for my Japanese phone contract of 10GB a month. Oh, I also added laundry to this cost, which was 800 Yen for doing my laundry 2x this month.

2. I pay for Stupid stuff (57,200 Yen)

This category is specifically for things you probably won’t have to spend if you’re not me. One of the expenses here was fixing my broken phone because I managed to crack the screen and paid 30K Yen for an express repair.

3. Some one-time things (53,800 Yen)

Things that go here:

  • my galaxy bedsheets,
  • a yoga mat,
  • my bike,
  • presents, post cards, etc.

My bike cost me 13,500yen (including registration that you have to do here).That’s around 100€. You can probably cheaper bikes if you go to certain places. Also, I went to the hairdresser for 27,000 Yen to bleach my hair and tone it white.

4. Eating out in Tokyo (30,553 Yen)

When compiling my list, i was a bit shocked that this is such a big part of the cake…but i count the occasional convenience store food into this category as well and i did visit quite a few veggie and vegan restaurants (I’ll make a video about them).

5. Buying Groceries in Japan… (20,251 Yen)

My top tip for cheap groceries: wait till late (shortly before closing hours of the supermarket) and then follow the employee with a tag machine – he reduces the prices of things that can’t be sold the next day.

6. Pasmo top ups (12,900 Yen)

There is this practical little card, the Japanese Oyster, so to say. I already had my pasmo upon arrival and it’s the thing everyone coming to Tokyo for more than a few days should get. I rode my bike to school, so i didn’t spend a whole lot on it – in total, however, it added up to 12,900 Yen.

7. Activities (9,300 Yen)

This is one of the expenses i am quite sure will go up the coming months. Things like karaoke, drinking with friends or going to concerts go here. As i went to language school i didn’t have much time for museums and cinemas so far, but I plan on doing that more from now on!

 

So in total, I came out at slightly above 2000€ for my first month here. I hope that list was helpful for anyone who is planning a working holiday in Japan or elswhere in the world!

A.

The 12 books I’ve read in 2017

In 2017, I challenged myself to read a book every month. Despite of always lacking a bit behind, I managed to do it and hereby present you my favourite quote from and opinions on them.

 

January: Une femme au telephone

“To love is to suffer and I am too cozy at my age.”

This was one of the first books I ever read in French (that was not by Amélie Notomb). The idea is actually quite cool: you just see one side of the dialogue of a woman on the phone. Everyone who’s far away from someone they love will be able to relate to some of the scenes.

 

February: Our Game by John le Carré

“A dead man is the worst enemy alive … You can’t alter his power over you. You can’t alter what you love or owe. And it’s too late to ask him for his absolution. He has beaten you all ways.”

I don’t even know how I got to read this book, it was written in 1995. Maybe I took it as my free book at a WH Smith’s. However, it starts with a police interview of friend of professor Dr. Larry Pettifer: Tim Canmer, who was the professor’s handler when they worked for a British Intelligence Service. The atmosphere stays tense throughout, which I actually enjoyed more than I thought. The relationships and actions between the characters, especially Cranmer’s love interest Emma, were interesting to follow. What

 

March: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

“Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some.”

A huge book this year as it was turned into a TV show and people found an access applicable to today’s time. I love dystopias, in this one we follow the journey of handmaid Offred (Of Fred, because they echo men’s names) through a brutally terrifying world. Women live to procreate and have little freedom, they are not even allowed to read. The most memorable scene for me was the description of how all of this started, when Offred thinks back to her old, free life with her husband and daughter and how quickly all of it changed.

April: On The Sublime Subject Of Ideology by Slavoj Žižek

“Ideology is not a dreamlike illusion that we build to escape insupportable; in its basic dimension, it is a fantasy-construction which serves as a support for our reality itself; an illusion which structures our effective, real social relations and thereby masks some insupportable, real, impossible kernel.”

I was kind of pulled into the whole Zizkek-versum earlier this year, first through his interesting presentation style (sniffing while talking) on YouTube and then through facebook groups that focus on memes about him. To give the whole thing a bit of fodder, I dove into the book. I’ll be honest, despite this allegedly being one of his easier books, it is sometimes quite difficult to follow. The tension is, however, regularly loosened by throwing in amazing pop cultural examples for the arguments he is making.

May: Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami

“Bumpers are for bumps.”

(translated from German by me)

No year is complete without a Murakami, and as May was my birthday, it was a good occasion for this short beauty. If your mysterious boss offered to give you anything you wanted for your birthday, what would you wish for? A 20 year-old waitress tells the story of one of her weirdest birthdays to the first-person narrator in this short book. In a second part of the book, Murakami talks about his own birthday. Both parts are very different and equally enjoyable.

 

June: Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,”

I’ll be honest, I got this one because there was a free deal for the Kindle eBook. I am very glad, however, that I downloaded it on that day, because I like reading about contemporary figures. The whole book gives a good overview on how Elon got where he is and disenchants him a little, as the struggles are not left untold.

 

July: The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth

“Poetry is much more important than the truth, and, if you don’t believe that, try using the two methods to get laid.”

Even though this book traumatised me a bit by teaching me about the etymology of avocados, it made my linguist heart bloom. I loved this book, because not only did I learn so many new things about words and the world (the true origin of the word Nazi), there also was barely any page that did not make me laugh or at least breathe through my nose a little bit. I recommend this to everyone who is slightly interested in words.

 

August: Swing Time by Zadie Smith

“Nostalgia is a luxury.”

I usually really like Zadie Smith’s characters, but in this one it didn’t really click. Yes, there is a lot of social commentary wrapped in a snappy way, but sometimes the characters behave a bit …out of character. We see the nameless (I actually had to look this up, but she doesn’t have a name) protagonist grow up with her friend Tracey in the tense field of family relationships. Their ways part when Tracey, who is a dance prodigy, goes to dancing school. We know little about what happens in between, but in her thirties, the protagonist becomes the manager of pop star Aimee. Aimee wants to build a girl’s school in West Africa in order to, as she says, do something good with her fame. The stories of home and being away, intertwined every now and then and relate past, present and future of the girls.

 

September:  Frappe-toi le coeur by Amélie Nothomb

“To set up his reign, jealousy has no need for a motive.”

Amélie Nothomb is one of the reasons I learnt French. This year’s novel of hers is a very reverse Oedipus-tale about mother, daughter and jealousy. What I loved was probably also that I saw how much my French had improved and that I could enjoy how Nothomb plays with language.

 

October: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

“Actually, the problem is that I can’t lose my mind,” I said. “It’s inescapable.”

As someone who lives on the internet, you cannot miss out on a John Green novel. Like John le Carre’s novel, the plot is driven by a missing person. Aza Holmes and her best friend Daisy hear about the disappearance of a billionaire. He just so happens to be the father of one of Aza’s acquaintances and love interest during the book, Davis Pickett. But Aza also struggles with OCD, she has a callous on her finger that she repeatedly re-opens to squeeze out a possible infection. What I especially enjoyed here were the lights and metaphors around them.

November: Hühner Voodoo by Hortense Ullrich

“Too bad, there are some things you just need to accept. But do you? No, you don’t!”

(translated from German by me)

Hortense Ullrich is one of the first people who really made me enjoy books. When I was a teenager I loved her “Freche Mädchen, Freche Bücher” books about the teenage struggles of a girl called Jojo. I was excited to finally read one of her adult novels, which has a title that translates to “Chicken Voodoo”. The quirky protagonist Gwendolyn Herzog has no more money – yet, she has life experience and neverending brazenness to get through life. Just some of the things she easily handles are: getting her unhappy wannabe-bride niece reasons to live, opening a psychiatric office, and removing a curse from one of her clients. A real page-turner and fun read, not least thanks to its witty dialogues.

December: Science in the Soul by Richard Dawkins

“Nature, fortunately or unfortunately, is indifferent to anything so parochial as human values.”

What can I say, I am a Dawkins fangirl. Since I finished all the greatest compilation videos of his debates (here are some of my favourites), I was happy this book was released earlier this year with 41 bite-sized writings, perfect to read on the go. Firstly, it was hard to choose a quote, because to me, Dawkins is infinitely quotable. Also, I love the alternation of difficult passages on evolutionary mechanisms and some easier-to-read bits, in a way interludes, ranging from anecdotal to sarcastic. Finally, I think this could be a good starter if you haven’t read anything by Dawkins and you want to read shorter bits (but if you have time maybe just stick to The Selfish Gene).

香港 The Best and Worst Vegetarian Restaurants in Hong Kong 香港

Going to a new country as a vegetarian always makes you a bit anxious – will the friends you meet tolerate the search for vegetarian food? Will you be able to enjoy food stalls and find restaurants where you like the food?

If you go out with friends, the sharing culture of the Chinese makes it very easy to just get a bowl of rice and convince them to order some veggie dishes. Alone, however, it will be a bit harder.

However, through some research I found out about one nunnery and one monastery that offer vegetarian food.

The Best – Chi Lin Vegetarian

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Next to the beautiful wooden Chi Lin Nunnery there is Nan Lian Garden – including a golden pagoda, a waterfall and – behind said waterfall – a vegetarian restaurant.

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Dim Sum from Heaven – great vegetarian food in Hong Kong

After a week in Hong Kong I could finally enjoye some steamed buns. Other than accidentally ordering a desert as pre-course, I really enjoyed the variety of Dim Sum, Fried Rice and amazing fruit shakes. I did not understand what half of the ingredients were – so here’s a little overview:

The Worst – Big Buddha

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After the aforementioned good experience I thought it were a good idea to check out another restaurant next to a holy place. But of course, just next to the Big Buddha this one was for the masses of tourists going there. After buying a normal or premium meal ticket, you are lead into a huge food hall where food is served rather roughly, the taste is not refined at all. I would definitely invest in the tad bit more expensive ticket next time, as at least the room looked nicer.

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I won’t even show you the food, here’s the garden instead

As an alternative, I’d recommend you take a picnic in the way calmer Wisdom Path area and enjoy the calmness it offers. And then, when you return, go to Branto Pure Veg and enjoy some delicious Indian Food instead.

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Bonus: Broccoli Trees as seen from the glassed flood of the Cable car to Big Buddha

 

5-ourite places in Kopenhagen

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After a rather disappointing Rock am Ring experience I decided to take off a long weekend and share through a weekend in Denmark. We went by BlaBlaCar, stayed over in an AirBnb and went back with gomore.dk. Saving money on travel helps you enjoy your sightseeing more and worry less about , after all.

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1. Borgen
As a viewer of Danish Drama I didn’t miss out on the Danish parliament, visiting the secret night-discussion spots of twilighty politicians.

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2. Tivoli
A view like this or similar is to be expected from Tivoli, which is not only the second-oldest amusement park but also a go-to place for the youth. On Fridays, evening-tickets are available from 7pm and you can enjoy a concert or just the magical fairy atmosphere.

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3. Nyhavn
The number one place for people who like bucket lists and places-to-go-list readers. The beautiful colours of buildings reflecting in the water (and prices) are almost too much to handle – be it by day or night.

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4. Food – Smushi and Døp

For my Veggie friends: there are options! Denmark’s third-most-famous thing, Smørrebrødis available in sushi dimensions (half size, double price though) at Smushi, a place uniting Danish design and food (and somehow Japan).
There is an amazing hot-dog stall called DØP just next to it to fill your stomach after with a variety of sausages and hot-dog variations. I recommend the one with mash and pickles, but make your choice.

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5. Everything else
Everything. So much beauty to discover just strolling around the neighbourhoods and independent Christiania with its Green-Light district. I also enjoyed the Lille Havfrue quite a lot – whoever is disappointed by her size should probably lower their expectations a bit and understand what “Lille” means. 😉

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Scotland-Roadtrip to the Dunmore Pineapple

IMG_0025.jpgTo everyone’s surprise I have never actually blogged about pineapples here, but maybe I’ve just been waiting for the right moment. So as this weekend I went to the Pineapple House near Dunmore, Scotland, with Sara and Alex, it seems like a good moment.

A brief history of the pineapple (fruit)

The fruit of the  Bromeliaceae family (same as strawberries – there ARE pineberries) was discovered by Columbus himself in 1493 on is second journey to Guadeloupe and named as a piña de Indes (he was not a smart man). It was brought to Europe in the 16th century, first recordings of the name by French explorer André Thevet stem from 1555. And yes, the name basically stems from Europeans thinking it just kind of looked like a pine cone on an apple.

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More interesting is the etymology of its other name – Ananas. It stems from the Tupi word nanas, literally translating to “delicious fruit” (smart people here). There are some urban myths about the name stemming from banana crates where the b was simply crossed out as they lacked pineapple crates. I have not found any evidence for that so far.

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Charles II being presented with the first pineapple grown in England.

Starting to be cultivated in only the 17th century, the pineapple soon became a symbol of hospitality because of being associated with the return of ships from long journeys. You may often see pineapples in castles, carved in guest beds or on paintings – they could actually be rented by the hour back then to show wealth and, well, hospitality.

Today, pineapples are mainly grown in Costa Rica, the Phillipines, Thailand and Brazil. Sadly, their cultivation causes quite a lot of trouble as more pesticides are used than in most other tropical fruit.

A brief history of The Pineapple (house)

The house, built in 1761 by John Murray, was actually used for growing pineapples. The actual pineapple, however, is said to be built in 1776 (designed by Sir William Chambers, who is also responsible for Somerset House and Kew Gardens). That was when Murray returned from Virginia, where he had spent the time in between as a governour.Dunmore_pineapple_north_elevation

The pineapple itself is 14 metres high, mixes several architectural styles and is one of the most impressive architectural representations of the symbol, showing off what stonemasons can do. Today you can actually rent the pineapple as a holiday home.

How the Internet can impact the concept of Friendship – a little review of facebook

At first, let me be clear to separate the meaning of friendship from the highly inappropriate declaration of “friends” on networks such as facebook.  I personally add a lot of people – mostly to promote my photography my criteria for adding someone aren’t too high – I guess not many people only add their real friends anymore – since you organize basically everything via that platform.

What I refer to as friends in this little text are the lucky people you would give a star to – the ones you actually like and occasionally hang out and share secrets with.

Disproportionally to the counter of people you have added on facebook, the number of real close friends keeps getting smaller. If we consider to have a rather big choice of people – which are getting more and more accessible through the cyberspace – why is that so?Of course, this is a broad field, but that doesn’t mean I cannot give it a shot. I’ll go with some good old naïve empiricism.

1. We get more and more picky

If you have a list of 1000 or so people you basically have met and could talk to, it will include several interesting human beings. So there’s always a little hint of fear that you hang out with the wrong people – the big supply reduces people to what they present themselves as on facebook. And that reflection will also affect real life. People who don’t post their latest adventures (god help if they do not even have facebook) catch a lot of odd looks.

2. Misrepresentation

What you see on your facebook wall will always be a distortion of society – as it happens in every kind of media. This has several reasons.

Firstly, the people we add are from our environment. This fact alone is a distortion – since you will (sadly) always rather have contact with people of the same social background and education as yourself.

Secondly, the web isn’t the real world, and therefore different people will seem more or less active than they really are. (The correlation and effects on real life by that can surely be found in some studies, but I’ll leave it at that.)

Thirdly, facebook does not even show you everything that’s going on with the people you added. What will usually pop up are “top stories”, i.e. posts of people you already hang out with or chat with. This is not a good or bad thing; I’d just like to state it since some people seem not to be aware of the fact. And you also filter people yourself by unsubscribing to their posts. So some people will drown in that pool of awkwardness – you don’t even dare to write them a message on facebook since you don’t even greet each other on the streets anymore.

 3. Delicate Information will cause more harm

Those “a-bit-too-candid-shots” land on facebook, spotted pages spot a bit too much, a bad breakup ends up as a raging war of comments. Most of us have seen or experienced something like that and want to prevent events like that. Hence, we are (at least I hope so) more careful not only with what we post, but also with what we share with other people. We keep more secrets, worrying about our image and what others could post about us. Gossip takes less time to spread wider, a photo is uploaded quickly without thinking about it. And anonymity of the world wide web gives a diluting effect, making it hard to find roots or extinct rumors. But in my opinion, what makes friendship is: not having to hide anything, overcoming the acting of your character, just being yourself.

Doubtlessly, facebook helps getting closer to people – but I hope you also have some people to share yourself with – analogue and without any fear.

The hero we need.

Forget Batman and the talks about “The Dark Knight”. Forget what people tell about the hero we need right now. In the last Batman-movie he’s been quite self-pitiful. I didn’t like that. The hero I think about doesn’t have time for that.

There’s a nice little girl in an ordinary world,
show us your fangs (Yay Mona)
Life goes on, life is weird, tell its everything you feared,
show us your fangs (Yay Mona)
Grab your cat, grab your cape,
Boogeyman: there’s no escape.
Give a hebie jibe grin fight those nasty till you win. (You will win)

Despite being produced over ten years ago, I am highly confident on the fact that we need “Mona the Vampire” now. No, I am NOT on drugs. Of course, I watched the series in TV when I was a child and always found her kind of cool. But only since this offer in Poundland, that made me buy a complete season of my favourite heroine’s show, I can see that it wasn’t only children’s dreams. There are good reasons for fact that I find her highly admirable and some piece of my always wanted to be like her.

Mona and her friends are sitting in her room. They are thinking about battles they already won. Someone is knocking on the door, Mona explains that it is her “Robot-Babysitter”. 

 Of course, it may not be easy to see what is so special about her. On first sight, she is only another cartoon girl. But Mona is more than that. She always has a plan. Every episode follows a certain principle – despite tackling diverse issues like national socialism (will upload it later, better than PETA’s approach btw.), environmental problems and wrong ideals. Mona sits in her classroom, suddenly her sight becomes blurry and she sees something really scary threatening the world. This may be – like mentioned in the German version of the theme song – “Zombies, Mummies, Aliens, Ghosts” – or something else where everyone would just look away or hide. Funny thing is: when grown-ups watch it, they ask whether anything of this is really happening. Children don’t ask that question.

They discuss what to do next, since the world is in danger again – them being the only ones who can take care of the issue. The ordinary kids put on their hero-costumes to fight the evil. Mona obviously becomes a vampire, her sidekicks are not only her cat fang. There’s Lily Duncan as Princess Giant, this wrong ideal of beauty. And Charley Bones as Zapman – Wikipedia describes him as intelligent but scared boy.

Ordinary people hide their feelings and lie – Mona doesn’t. She always speaks her mind – to her teacher, her arch-enemy Angela, and of course also to her friends. Every situation that seems hopeless – Mona doesn’t just crumble. She stays cool and figures something out. She tells her friends to get special weapons. And she fights till the last moment.

Of course, the grown-ups don’t believe her. The situation gets more hopeless when even her friends turn their backs on her.

But Mona still doesn’t give up. She doesn’t victimize herself. She just thinks about how it can go on.  She’s a strong woman in a world where loads of things are going wrong. I want to be like Mona. She stays strong against every restriction .She has leadership skills Wall-Street bankers can only be jealous of.

Final battle. Mona has figured a plan to not only destroy the demon, but help them to be included in the real world. She doesn’t see the evil as pure evil – she tries to understand what they need.

No, Mona doesn’t take drugs either. She has everything a heroine needs and stil the innocence of a child. She doesn’t give up. Never ever. She has strong ambitions and a vivid imagination. she has the power of rescuing everyone – she is like Liam Neeson in Taken – with the innocence of a child.

The fight is over – surprise surprise, Mona won. Nonetheless, the others will come up with some rational explanation for everything that happened. All that Mona says is “That is one explanation”.

Mona has her own. But she doesn’t mind what other think. She is just happy that everyone can live their lives; ignorance is bliss.

Mona has a smile on her face, some final dream-sequence shows a comic relief.

It doesn’t really matter if it’s real or not.

She the woman we need right now. The light(-headed) heroine.

Tenacious D

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Tenacious D or “Guts.”

I may be biased when writing about Tenacious D. It may be because I saw them in the beautiful city of Dublin. I may be biased because I went there with my best friend. It may be because the O2 Academy is one of the prettiest venues I’ve ever been to. My bias might also stem from the fact that I love the D’s songs ever since I first saw their movie „Kings of Rock“. It may be Jack Black’s incredibly powerful presence conveyed by his gestures and rocking on the stage. And it is definitley because they are the best.

But, also from an objective point of view, they got what it takes. They have guts. Tenacious D was formed in 1991, when I was not even a dirty thought in my dad’s mind. It may be due to the fact that they can come on stage in glowing bathrobes and make it look simple to entertain one of the most manifold masses I’ve ever seen. You need balls to perform standing in front of a huge phallic Fenix. And I am not only talking about the toy gun Jack Black fired at an alien puppet during “Death Star”. Starting off with only new songs, Tenacious D made the anxious crowd just go crazy when they just suddenly played well-known “Kielblasa Sausage”. My personal show highlights were the theatrical interludes performed by our kings in between the songs. And, of course, it was not a surprise that the smash hits “Kickapoo” and “Tribute” led to multiple eargasms. One thing is sure: they love what they’re doing.

There was a huge fuss when they announced their new album to be released by the end of November. The euphoria went down a bit when Jack stated it to be called “Simply Jazz”, featuring only one 45-minute song and only appearing on vinyl. And when they then started giving a 5-minute preview (starring Kyle Gass with a flawless flute solo), everyone should be able to tell the mockery. But, after the grande finale with everyone doing a solo – coming to its zenith with Jack’s vocalizing – everyone was reconciliated. Nevertheless, the encore with “F’’’ her gently” exceeded it again.

The whole evening could be described as grand, and I had the impression that everyone left the concert happily. That may also be because Tenacious D seem like old friends. After all, they are but (full-figured) men.