Review: Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche

Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese PsycheUnderground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I find it very interesting reading non-fiction by writers that are generally better known for their novels. I like taking a sneak peek at how they perceive and document real events and whether their love for the imaginary can affect the way they tell a story.

For some reason I have connected Murakami with magical realism, even if I’ve only read only one other book of his and that not one of the most well-known. This book, then, didn’t feel like Murakami – possibly because I have no clear idea of what Murakami feels like in the first place, maybe because it had too little magical and too much realism in it, the hard-hitting kind, the “it could have been me” a lot of the people in the book kept saying.

However, I don’t want to do Underground injustice and understate the way it moved my imagination and sense of awe(m). In the second part of the book, a later publication which followed the success of what was originally just the first part (the one with the interviews of the victims and the indirecty affected), we get to see what Aum, the religious cult/organisation whose higher-ups were behind the gas attacks, was like from the inside. We get to read the stories of disillusioned still-members, tortured ex-members, believers that achieved superpowers through their association and training with Aum, personal histories that follow certain people’s fascination with transcendence and enlightenment and how ultimately that led them to the cult’s doorstep. These stories, what people were able to do, what peace they found, what secret powers their leaving the “secular world” unlocked in them… To be honest, judging by their motives and lost hopes in the world and by my own sense of being a ship in an endless ocean trying to find an island, I can completely relate; I, too, would have become a member. But would I have done things differently were I in their shoes? Maybe I should be asking myself what I would have done if I was Japanese before I ask anything else, of course!

The book left me wanting to investigate, to slowly discover more of the hidden world that was promised to those people but without the manipulation and the religious aspects, the Leader-centred bullshit. Underground also pushed me in equal parts towards further fascination, admiration for and disgust of the Japanese people and their culture. To illustrate, it would be greatly fulfilling to delve into the psyche of modern Japan -just like Murakami attempted to do with Underground- but at the same time I already know that too many aspects of it would make me feel like I’d be wasting my time and hopes on a lost case of a spent culture with no future. I would certainly be interested in reading a similar account of events of the 2011 tsunami and the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident.

At any rate, from now on I’m going to be subconsciously checking for smelly liquids on carriage floors whenever I ride on subterranean trains.

Thanks Daphne for lending this book to me.

View all my reviews

Game 2.0 — Shogun 2: Total War Review

Και ναι… Ένα ακόμα review μου για το σάιτ.

Μόνο που αυτό είναι για ένα από τα καλύτερα παιχνίδια που έχω παίξει εδώ και πολύ καιρό…

Το καλύτερο; Ο Cuberick, ο σταθερός υπολογιστής μου, είναι όφλαιν, σε κόμα, χωρίς διάγνωση (ούτε καν τα λαμπάκια της μάδερμπορντ δεν ανάβουν), οπότε το παιχνίδι αναγκάστηκα να το λιώσω για δυο LAN Partay βραδιές στα gnet της Μυτιλήνης. Ευχαριστώ όσους με βοήθησαν απ’το νετ καφέ να εγκαταστήσω το παιχνίδι όταν όλες οι ελπίδες φαίνονταν να εξαναμίζονται. 🙂

Το παιχνίδι της χρονιάς (μέχρι ίσως το Skyward Sword; One can only hope…)

Ένας επιπλέον λόγος γιατί αγάπησα αυτό το παιχνίδι (και τώρα δεν έχω ούτε λεφτά ούτε υπολογιστή για να το απολαύσω περισσότερο!)


I’m reading a book written by a spectacularly honest frenchman titled “How to talk about books you haven’t read”. In this book, among many other things, he says that a lot of authors refer to books they might have skimmed through or even not read at all. He uses a system within his own book that puts a certain tag next to each book he refers to, ranging from. He also uses a rating system from ++ to — to express his opinion on the particular book.

In detail, ++ is extremely positive opinion, + is positive opinion. – and — are negative and extremely negative opinions respectively. I think this system is perfect for sharing your disposition to something without having to use a 1-10 or 1-100 system. I hate it when people ask me to rate a girl, game, movie, or just about anything from 1 to 10. What’s a 1? Even more importantly, what’s a 10? Can you rate anything with a 10 without having any doubts about whether anything will surpass it, ever? Everything in life is experiences, including all the above, and experiences are rating-proof! By the way, before any of you say it: Yes, since the YRS (Yummers Rating System) is a 1-10 deal, I have concluded that it too is incomplete and needs revision.

I like the ++ to – – so much that I’ll use just it to describe what’s going on in my life at the moment by how much I like it!


Paradox Interactive. These guys are one of the best studio/publisher around. I’m seriously hooked with Europa Universalis III and Victoria. Hearts of Iron looks like a thing to check out soon (what am I saying, I already own two copies! I’m not going into detail with that, I want to forget…)

CouchSurfing. I just hosted an Italian guy, his name is Duan. 2 nights it was. I had almost forgot how nice and cozy hosting makes you feel, especially when it’s people you’d easily make friends with but will probably never appearin your life again.

SPACED!! After Hot Fuzz and Dawn of the Dead (I mean, um, a couple of years before those), comes Spaced. It’s awesome, pure awesome, and I recommend it to anyone who has a thing for cleverly stupid humour. Anger, Pain, Fear, Aggression…

Jose Saramago. This guy is quickly, and I mean quickly, becoming my favourite writer. Period. I couldn’t resist and gave ~100 euros to get 5 of his books together (along with the book I mentioned first and 1984). Which brings me to…

1984, by George Orwell. It shocked me. A masterpiece of 20th century literature. I may write something on it one day…


Soon I’ll be translating and subbing eco films, and not for free! I am excited for what may be my first paid job.

The Balkans, by Mark Mazower. An excellent read on the real side of “European Turkey”.

I’m entering a Guitar Hero contest. Yay?!

I’m learning Japanese… And want to learn Turkish. I want to communicate with the world! Is it normal that I’m only learning the languages of the… “bad guys” (plus german)?

We dressed up as vampires with Alex. It had been so long since I had done something like that…

In January we made a little cut-out animation for uni. It’s not completely ready yet so don’t expect to have a look if you haven’t already! 😛 It did turn out well though…

My money is running low much faster than would be desirable, even if we eat everyday at the Uni with Mario!

I still think I have no certain purpose or goals. That I’m not really good at anything but only mediocre in lots of things. Same applies to everything. Is this good or bad in the end?

Nationalistic idiots annoy me.

Pop songs that use Beethoven’s 9th also annoy me.

Waking up early to catch those pesky morning lectures is always a problem… So it is now!

No time for everyone that I would like to have more of in my life… You know who you are.

– –

Keeping my house clean is a nightmare.

Rain and cold. Cold and rain. And no central heating This pretty much sums up 2009’s weather up till now. And for the past week, it’s extreme rain and cold. Where’s summer? Where’s the sun?! I seriously don’t believe I’m uttering these words…

Every time it rains, my second room gets flooded. Argh! How can people be so stupid they mess up a balcony this much?

I hate the announcements in the ships. All of them. Lissos, Mytilini especially. I want to kick the (taped) announcers to death. Yes, that’s how much I hate them.

All I want for Christmas is a time machine

Well well, here I am in Athens, finally finding a tiny bit of time to update my Dimension. The last few days have been hectic but in a good way. I’ve been out with friends, window shopping every single day (although I did already buy some parts for my new PC, namely mobo, CPU and a CPU fan) I’m also buying presents for my close ones. Thing is, most I’ve bought through net still haven’t arrived and I’m getting kind of worried. Anywho…

On my first day here and after a good sleep, Mario called me and told me they were selling Game Boy Micros in Electroworld for only 15 euros! I called George and together we went there for me to get one. And there, we saw it… That moment changed our gaming lives once and for all! 4 Premium Xbox360s with Perfect Dark Zero and NFS: Carbon for only 120 euros. 120 euros. 120. We were both like: “WTF IS HAPPENING HERE? IS THIS FOR REAL?”, looking at eachother and hardly believing what our eyes told us. We asked around and found out that they were the original XBoxes that came out 2 years ago, which also means noisier and more problematic (?) hardware. Still, you can’t beat THAT kind of a discount, I mean we bought 2 of them at less than the price of a Wii with no games. Yes, we bought them. George had been looking for a Xbox 360 and I always thought it would be a good purchase but only when the price was right. Well, the price was right there and then. Couldn’t let it go, even if it meant that I had to cut down on my new PC budget. And I also walked away with a GB micro, as planned. ^^. What a single call can bring…

Of what I’ve played so far, it’s an exceptional console. I even think it’s a better package overall than Wii at this point. More games that are good, better hardware, better online system. It’s a gamer’s system, unlike Wii which is an everybody’s system. Still, “everybody” includes gamers so it’s all good but I think that this little console has a lot going for it. Only problem: it is much too expensive to buy games for. Wii has much cheaper games. Anywho, I hope rentals will do the trick…

Hexic is addictive.

Apart from that piece of news, I have to say that going to huge shops like the ones in The Mall or Public has a certain effect on your psychology. You see all these books, all these games, all these music CDs… And you think that you don’t own remotely enough. Especially with books, they remind you how little you know and how little you’re going to read and/or learn. I wonder if it’s a trick they use so they can get you to buy more. If that’s the case it has the reverse effect on me: I’m so purely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of products that I end up buying nothing!

Yesterday Mordread® visited us here in Athens. Him, me, George, Maria and Evi, we all went to Furin-Kazan, a good but expensive japanese restaurant where we had some sushi, sake and yakisoba, and later went for some milkshakes, right in the middle of winter! Go us! Ice cream with soda is good. Yes it is. Mordread missed his train so he stayed at my place. I toured him around Nea Smyrni and even though it was a surprise visit we had good fun.

So Christmas is almost here. I’m sorry to note that I haven’t uploaded part 3 of my tribute to N64, I was planning to have it all complete by tomorrow, which is the true 10th anniversary. Since I’m evidently missing my deadline, I’ll post updates as soon as internet speed (I’m on 56k here. Noooo!) and personal interest allow me to. So, have a merry christmas everybody and remember: Santa Claus is not Agios Vasilis.