Dokodemo Door!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Got my Chinese Visa

Yup. Quite simple, really. All you gotta do is hike-down to the grim-looking service window at the People's Republic consulate in Osaka during its four (non-contiguous) hours of operation, fill-out the paperwork, pay the yen-equivalent charge of $183, and-- three days later-- voila!

To stand in line for a sticker that expensive, I was hoping for a hell of a lot more decorative bling, you know? Or maybe something, like, I dunno, a complementary goody-bag full of bath oils and chocolate truffles? Or a voucher for a free Grand-Slam Breakfast at Denny's?

At least make it a scratch-n-sniff visa, right?

What's mildly surprising to me is that Japanese citizens don't need a tourist visa to visit China. But if there was one country on the planet that you'd think China would want to screw as much money out of as bureaucratically possible, it'd absolutely be Japan, right? Go figure.

Incidentally, late last year, Japan relaxed the rules for Chinese who want to apply for a tourist visa. Apparently, having a gold credit card will smooth the way.

Oh, did I mention that Mari and I are planning to take her dad to Beijing in August? Yeah, we're talkin' Great Wall. Temple of Heaven. Forbidden City. Peking duck. And with my fabulous Mandarin language skillz, absolutely nothing can pissably go wrong!

Er, possibly go wrong, I mean!

Nothing can possibly go wrong.


It's gonna rawk, bay-beh!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Getting-Over Disaster Fatigue

The steady, plodding stream of grim news tends wear you down. It's the kind of thing that you learn to tune-out after a while. If you don't, you'll just lose your mind.

Fortunately, we had the sakura come-out onto the trees not very long ago. Really, that's the nicest 2 weeks to be in Japan. Sitting under the sakura is especially good when you've got copious booze to keep you company.

There never seems to be positive news coming-out of Fukushima; sorting good information from bad is well-nigh impossible. The cable news in the U.S. has not done much to help matters, either.

All I know is that the people who work at Fukushima are doing so under extreme conditions, dealing with multiple, cascading problems. This unprecedented nuclear disaster has thusfar required a great deal of improvisation and, really, they're in way over their heads and are basically hanging-on by their fingernails. These are the kinds of conditions under which critical mistakes can be made. It's the kind of thing you just try to forget about because, if you don't, you won't be able to concentrate on anything else.

What also stinks is that Fukushima is the name of a perfectly decent city and prefecture. The name, by reputation alone, is going to be tainted more or less forever.

Anyway, Golden Week is coming-up. It's a stretch of three days off in the middle of the first week of May. Some months ago, back before the disasters of March 11th, I was planning to head down to Kagoshima. It didn't quite feel right to me, so I'm going to be spending those three days doing volunteer work in town. The people of Kobe, who know something about earthquakes, have been putting together some charity projects so I plan to be getting involved with those.

Here, have s'more sakura: