It’s early 2012, and I’m still moving about, currently in Copenhagen, Denmark. I don’t know what it is with winter, but it has a reflective effect on me, it must be the ice crystals on my bedroom window.
I have decided to start a new series of retrospective posts covering 2011. Since my last one dates back to March, which was also happens to be a melancholic post, I’ll take it from there.
By dividing the year in quarters, ranging from Q1 to Q4, I will bring you; "2011, a year in photos". I’ll be posting photos (and perhaps snippets of some videos) of some of the things I have been up to after I got back from Japan. The posts will cover a tiny bit of Q1, more of Q2, 3 and 4.
I have been busy, and have been documenting as I went. These photos sit neatly in my Lightroom catalog, but are often forgotten. I think it’s a general and serious downside to digital photography, they end up in a lonely folder on my HD.
Recently I noticed how certain periods of my life can almost feel as if they didn’t happen. Maybe it’s age, or perhaps today’s information overload, that causes these memories to become foggy. By looking at the photos, talking about them, thinking about that time and how I felt, those memories become vivid again. Happy or sad, it’s good to be reminded of those times, for they have taught and influenced me. And sometimes it’s good to remind myself of something that I have experienced in the past, and apply this knowledge to the present.
Since the context of Facebook is so awfully shallow, and since Flickr doesn’t really blog well, I’m back to my tumblr, still with the intention mentioned in this blog’s subtitle.
Stay tuned, hang on, check back soon, I’m starting today.
Coming Monday, January 17, 2011, I am returning back home to the Netherlands. You have probably all read my previous blog post where I looked back upon a rough start at Kyushu University. It didn’t turn out the way I was hoping for.
No matter how much I love Japan, I have to return back home. What it comes down to however, is more of a financial issue. There are 3 mayor financial drawbacks I had to cope with. The first being the Euro v.s. Yen. Second, my cousin owing me money. Third, the consequences of not starting my Masters in April this year; having to cancel my scholarship, the future (and current:application fees) costs for new Universities, the upcoming costs of an early flight back home to Amsterdam and shipping back my belongings. Also the future flight in September to a new University (wherever that may be) and all costs that come with it, I have to be prepared for this. These 3 reasons weren’t budgeted in my original plan and there is only one way to fill the gap.
This sums up the direct reasons for my sudden leave. Back home, in Amsterdam, I will look for a job again, and work until the start of my graduation studies (September).
A year in Japan has been quite an experience! Every second was absolutely worth it.
Japan has changed me. If you want to know more about it, ask me.
See you around, for the coming months, back in the Netherlands, Cowboy!
Two and a half months have passed since I arrived in Japan after having spent the summer in Europe, to begin my second semester of studies. This time in a whole different location, I relocated from the Greater Tokyo area to the city of Fukuoka with the purpose of doing a 6 months Game Research pre-Master as a so called kenkyusei (research student), combined with the continuation of my Japanese language studies at Kyushu University. Followed by a 2 year Master program.
At least, that was the plan.
Things changed, or as I like to call it "shit has hit the fan".
The reason for my absence on this blog, that displays my daily life in a somewhat collective fashion, has to do with me cleaning up the mess that was caused by the event mentioned in bold. The mess had proportions that required all my attention.
Most of you in close contact with me already know this, but for all of you at a more casual distance it may come as a surprise:
To be honest, I am doing both extremely bad and quite well at the same time.
Will start with the latter.
Fukuoka is great, it is such a lovely city. Its a metropolitan city with about 1,5 million people. But it is much more calm than Tokyo. If you want, you can find the crazy Tokyo vibe, especially in areas like Tenjin, but there is much more tranquility outside of that area. The nature on Kyushu, this part of Japan, is unbelievably beautiful, get out of the cities and you will know.
The climate is the warmest in Japan and socially, it is a blast. I am meeting so many new people, out of which a couple might become true friends. Many internationals, out of which a Russian industrial designer and a Colombian product designer are now my closest friends. My Japanese is going well, my time in Tokyo has brought it to a level where daily conversations are going smoothly. The food is awesome.. in short; life is really good here!
Now for the bad part.
I’m doing bad because of my academical state; remember my plan. 1 year language + 2 years Masters. Kinda got messed up. I moved to Fukuoka to do the 2nd half of my language year, and to do my masters subsequently. Well, due to 2 reasons I am getting out of here again, by the end of March/Early April.
I cannot quite put into words my anger about this unfortunate course of event. Let me clarify;
Reason number 1- I am unable to find the right Sensei, someone who is sufficiently engaged in academic research in Games. I was informed by the University that there are multiple professors in this field. Finding one should only be a matter of meeting them and finding out which one would be the best supervisor for my research subject.
Well let me make it absolutely clear: Kyushu University has no Professors active in the area of Game Research on an academic standard. The professors are basically managing a lab with students, networking with companies and government departments and getting funds for projects, they are not doing any other substantial work. There is no clear vision for the research, no academic aims. Besides, the projects they are doing are mostly of a commercial kind (making a game for Toyota for example). What the University DOES have, are staff members and professors who believe they are doing academic research. In their own way they are, but the level is simply not up to academic standard. Not by far. I don’t think it is appropriate to go into this fact about Kyushu University on this blog in more detail, but let me know privately if you want some more insight.
I do want to highlight some general things though, which might help other students who have the same plan/ambitions as I had.
I have been involved in the field of game research in Japan since my arrival here in March. I attended several game research conferences, I have spoken to and visited a multitude of universities who are involved in Game Research; Kanagawa Institute of Technology, KEIO University, Tokyo University, Tokyo University of the Arts (Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku), Waseda University, IAMAS and Kyushu University. I would say they are running behind on the west with about 10 years.
I have come to understand that academic research on games is highly underdeveloped in Japan. Northern Europe, Western Europe and North America are way ahead of the Japanese. This is both shocking as disturbing given the heritage of Japanese games and the important role Japan (Sony, Nintendo) still has on the global game market. You could say; well Thomas I guess you haven’t done your homework. Truth is, I believed in finding it underneath the rock called ‘Nihongo’, aka the Japanese language barrier. The academic works that are written in Japanese are so little in numbers and are merely about new technology (better graphics, input devices) rather than focusing on what to actually create with this technology, the content.
Then on to reason number two for my departure next spring.
2- My current temporary sensei screwed up big time (pardon my language, there is no better way of putting it).
He forgot to sign me up for the Masters before the supposedly early deadline (actually, he forgot to inform me that I even HAD to). Also, the website about this was unfortunately outdated, it displayed two deadlines, the second one is no longer in effect unfortunately. I got a nice “Ah thank you for pointing out this mistake on our website”.
The deadline for the Master program was on a Friday, the following Monday my sensei called me to his office and explained, apologized, and telling me I cannot start my masters until April 2012. Rules are rules in Japan, no compassion for teachers screw ups or students coming from across the ocean. (3 other internationals are having the same problem btw in this University).
Now because of this I have to wait another year, which I am not going to.
These drawbacks have hit me pretty hard in the face. Been down by them. I want to start working on my game projects and doing research really badly. Wonderful Life was a great experiment, but its time for a lot more. And now I have to focus on actually being able to do so, creating the circumstances ,instead of creating the games and doing the research. Its damn frustrating. But hey, I didn’t pick the path of least resistance, so I should cope with it.
Really trying to make the most out of my time here, enjoying more of Japan, deepening my knowledge of Haiku poetry and using the facilities the University has to offer. Meaning that besides finding a graduate school, I have started a new game project, with a deadline at the end of February. A super tight development schedule, a part time, 2 man project. It will be a short artistic 3D game for Mac and PC about leaving.
So no long blog updates, maybe some photos here and there, I am totally focusing on applying to other Universities now and my current project. University wise I am looking outside of Japan. No matter how much I love this country, my passion for the evolution of games will send me, at least at this moment in my life, to yet another place on earth.
Word is out; Today I got officially accepted to Kyushu University Graduate School of Design.
Time for an update;
Some of you might know, some of you don’t. But about 2 months ago I decided on one of the biggest question I faced since I graduated from the Utrecht School of the Arts. At which Japanese University would I like to do my Master’s? I had compiled a list that consisted of some amazing schools, each with their own unique approach to Game Design/Media Art/Interaction Design. And, I applied.
I spent quite some time checking out websites and reading brochures. I have talked to friends, students, artists, graduates and professors in order to get as much information on each of the Universities. I visited some. I was curious about the style of teaching, the make up of the curriculum, the atmosphere on campus and among students, the location and the vibe of the city or town where the University is located, the Academic staff members, the school’s vision and philosophy, the message of the Dean, to name a few.
In the end I narrowed my choice down to 2 Universities. Finally choosing Kyushu University (located in Fukuoka) as the school that best fits me, to me it was the most appealing on practically all points mentioned above (and I am sure I missed some).
There are numerous reasons why I think Kyushu scored so well on these points, which I am happy to go further into if you are curious (send me a mail!) but two points I wish to highlight; 1. the school’s experimental and full on academical approach towards (game)design. As opposed to Private Universities with a more commercial goal and business like attitude. 2. a high level, diverse and enthusiastic academic staff and a wonderful group of students that promise to be a fruitful environment to conduct research in.
With this choice also comes a big change of plans; I will be leaving the Tokyo Metropolitan Area sooner then planned, namely; in 2 days. In other words; I will leave Kanagawa Institute of Technology after having studied Japanese Language here for (only) 1 semester.
Why? Well it was brought to the attention by one of my friends from Fukuoka; it is possible to already start this year at Kyushu University, in October, as a Kenkyusei. In English this is called Research student. It is a 6 months lasting pre-Master (can be longer if you want to). It is recommended by the school to take a this step before enrolling into the actual Master program (which kicks off in April 2011).
And -how- I want to get started. The sooner the better. This is the main reason I came to Japan! I am very very eager to give game design my full attention again.
The research I will be doing for a period of 6 months will be the foundation and the starting point for my Master research. This period is also used so one can get to know the faculty, the students and above all; the professors. Evidently, I need to find a professor under whom I will do my research for 2 years. Getting a clear idea on who’s the best Sensei to give me the best feedback and support is key. I understood that a lot of the feedback is also exchanged and given by the other students who work under this professor (or Lab as the Japanese call their academic space) so I really look forward to meeting the my fellow students.
So to sum up my current state of affairs;
- today I received the acceptance letter of Kyushu University
- in two days my first semester comes to an end, and with that my time at KAIT.
- on the 3rd of August I will be flying home to the Netherlands to spend the summer with my dear girlfriend, to celebrate various events with family and to catch up with friends.
- somewhere around the 3rd week of September I’m back in Japan and moving my so far accumulated material belongings to Fukuoka. I’m turning this whole moving thing into a big road trip (I’m gonna be driving from Tokyo to Fukuoka!) and I will stop at many cool and interesting spots along the way.
- October 1st, starting my 6 month period as a Research Student
- December, Master’s entrance exam
- April, start of the 2 year Master program.
To end this update; it’s time for celebration, for packing, preparing to move out of my apartment, for saying goodbye to my newly made friends here in Atsugi, in Tokyo and for realizing what has passed, what is going on right now, and what will be there to come!
This Sunday the 30th I will going on a trip to Mount Fuji along with some fellow students of Kanagawa Institute of Technology! Today started off cloudy, I’m hoping for the best. I’ve got a 3 hour trip lying ahead, so there’s some time for the weather to clear up.
Today I will try out the Tumblr app with wich I can update this blog on the go! Today this blog will update multiple times, it will a live Mt. Fuji feed! Stay tuned.
In reply to Martijn who asked me about my house and my school. Btw, he used the comments section! ;) Actually, the comment got a big long, so I decided to post it here.
So yeah the rent is quite low I think. It’s ￥40.000 a month. Then there’s internet, gas, electricity and water of course, making it a total of about ￥49.000 a month. In euro’s…that’s currently about 436,-. Ermh when I moved to Japan the Euro was still high in value, right now, as you know, it isn’t. Actually it makes living here more and more expensive, which get’s me worried. When I signed my contract and paid my first month of rent, I paid 380 euro’s. Meaning, in about 1 month time, my rent is up with about 50 euro’s. I found the house through a Tokyo based housing agency. A representative from the company showed me around many different houses, various prices, various sizes, and I decided on this one. Bear in mind that in order to be eligible to rent a place in Japan you need a financial guarantor. I didn’t have one, so I used the Housing Agency’s guarantor’s service, evidently, at a price.
So apart from the instable Euro at the moment..my apartment here in Atsugi is still very affordable. In Japan this type of house is called a 2DK, since I’m only a 45 mins train ride away from Downtown Tokyo (where a proper 2DK like this costs about ￥80.000, at least) it’s a good price.
At the moment I’m studying at the Kanagawa Institute of Technology (神奈川工科大学), the Intensive Japanese course for International Students. This university is suiting my needs best for my first year in Japan. My goal is to focus on learning Japanese this year while being surrounded by technology minded fellow students. That’s the reason why I didn’t go to an ordinary language school, but to this university.
Besides taking language classes every day, I also got accepted into the 3D CG and Animation lab where I am surrounded by academics researching in these fields, my professor is Mr. Kojima.
I’ll be here at KAIT for 1 year, up till and including March 2011, and I hope to attend a Graduate School (Masters in Game Design/Media Art) after that. Currently I’m in the process of deciding on which Graduate School I will apply for. The list is becoming shorter and shorter as my understanding of each school grows, so that’s really exciting.
It has been 1 month since I moved into my apartment here in Atsugi (which is a suburb of Tokyo, about 45 minutes from downtown Tokyo by train, just in case you didn’t know..), and I still don’t have internet at home. Applying for an internet connection took quite long! I couldn’t contact the ISP by myself since my Japanese too poor, and English speaking staff was not available when I called.. so I had to do it through a native speaker. Now finally, the date is set for the construction of my connection.
I thought I’d get it right from the start, and so I ordered a “whopping” 200mbit (up and down) optical fiber connection! This means that some construction work on my house has to be done in order to get it to work.
May 11th, 1 day before my first birthday in Japan, the men from NTT will drop by and install the line. This should be done in a couple of hours I was told, since all Japanese wirings run above street level. Electricity, TV, Phone and Internet lines are hanging all over the place on wooden poles, it’s like the Wild West, exactly like a Lucky Luke comic. I as a Dutchmen find this, evidently, an extremely ugly sight. I’ve heard some people calling it charming..yeah right.. Well it might be an ugly sight, but it surely speeds up construction! The famous Dutch PTT abbreviation is highly unlikely here in Japan (PTT: ‘Putje graven, Tentje zetten, Tukkie doen’ *sorry dad).
To conclude this post, I’ve also, finally, bought myself a mobile phone. Having been an iPhone user I couldn’t go “back” to any other device, so I got myself a brand new white 3Gs. I know that there will be an iPhone 4G any time now.. but hey, the 3Gs is still the best phone out there, I think. So mobile twitter updates and twitpics posts will start coming from now on. Oh yeah, and my ever ongoing quest to find iPhone games that offer new, thought provoking, rich experiences will continue once again. So from the 11th on, I will flood this blog with more movies and photos that I saved up. More importantly, I will finally be able to enjoy long lasting, hassle free, undisturbed Skype calls with friends and family.
ps. Golden Week in Fukuoka was incredibly nice. I met so many nice people and made new friends. I had a great time with Yoshiko and my goodness, Kyushu is such a beautiful Island, more on that later!
I am in Fukuoka at the moment, celebrating Golden Week.
Two days ago I arrived in the City of Fukuoka, located on the Island of Kyushu. Kyushu is the most southwestern island of the 4 island that make up Japan. It is said to have the best weather, fine food and very friendly and warm people. And so far it is definitely living up to its expectations. This national holiday is called “Golden Week” and it is the major Holiday before Summer starts. I am spending my days here with Yoshiko and/or her friends. Lovely company and since I got here I am in such a good mood, meeting new people, making friends and exchanging thoughts.
Today we will visit an Onsen for some high quality Japanese bathing! I must get ready now! On the 6th of May I will be flying back to Tokyo, early in the morning since I have class that day! Luckily the flight is only 1,5 hours.
Hey all. Thanks for all the wonderful messages I get from everyone watching this collection of moving, shaking or still high definition images. Just in case you hadn’t noticed, the videos I am posting still have a major delay of about 4 weeks now! I stayed in Seoul until the 1st of April. The reason for this delay is mostly thanks to my busy schedule.
My typical daily schedule is something like this.
The day starts with breakfast at home, then off to school at around 9:10. Takes about 5 minutes on bicycle (oh yeah I bought a bike! a new one! the bicycle racks in school are my domain hahaha, will post some photos of it later).
Language class is from 9:30 until 13.05, five days a week. With many small 5 minute breaks in between. The end of the lessons are always filled with working by yourself, practicing writing and doing exercises.
Then off for Lunch in one of the 5 school restaurants. I eat a typical Japanese (warm) lunch every day consisting of rice, miso soup, some vegetables and meat and green tea.
After lunch I head over to my Labo (Lab, its what the Japanese call a studio), an Academic space where I have my own desk, pc and drawing tablet. This Labo is one of Animation and Game Development. Here I am surrounded by the lab’s professor, Mr. Kojima, and fellow students, about 10 others who are all graduate students, working on their own projects. So am I, working on my Programming skills and setting up a small scale art game project.
I usually leave the Lab at 20:00 to get some dinner either with other students at a restaurant/noodle place, or cooking by myself at home.
The building is open 24 hours I believe, so in the future I will probably see the sun come up more than once! The lab is on the 11th floor, overlooking the mountains and city.. that must be quite a sight actually! A reward for pulling an all nighter.
That’s about it. Reason number 2 for my delay in videos, no Internet at home yet! Surely I could use schools connection to upload the videos, but I’d much rather stay in focus on my study while I am at school. If I start deviating from this work habit.. where will it end?
Internet should be delivered on May 11th, just one day before my birthday. Woohoo! I will be back in full swing again when I turn 24!
p.s. Talking about birthday presents.. Steam for Mac is due to be released on May 12th!