How did Tokyo change me?

Mount Fuji!

Si Lumb said to me, something like…

Yeah I read the many blog posts you wrote and saw some of the images but what I really want to know is, how did it change you?

This is a tricky question… Every experience slightly changes you but this one was extra special.

I already said my experience of the Onsen was fascinating and enjoyable enough that I’m going to visit a local spa every few months now. It won’t be the same but lying in the water thinking about things was quite refreshing.

The experience of seeing the forward thinking culture of Japan struggling with over narcissistic approaches did have a profound effect that technology in the wrong hands can be toxic. This has renewed my politic thoughts about our rights online. Maybe time to donate more the Open Rights Group and spend more time helping out? Something to think about…

I hadn’t really considered getting a new scooter after my Silverwing dies but seeing the range of maxi-scooters in Tokyo. I’m actually reconsidering it. My thought is learn to drive, so I can rent cars for certain trips and times like going to Ikea. But get another scooter for general commuting and exploring.

I always said Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore and Seoul were on my list of places to visit. I enjoyed Japan and said I’ll go back in a few years time. I feel like I managed myself ok. With this under my belt, I’m much more willing to consider elsewhere in the near future. I guess it changed my thoughts on travelling alone into the unknown.

Lastly the stories I can tell about Tokyo and Japan are crazy. I’m putting together a presentation for a few people, but the interactions with people and things were fascinating.

I’m very thankful that I got the opportunity to go under my own steam, it was incredible… and now I can tick it off my new years resolutions! Not in a flippant, I did Japan way, but in a I feel enriched and want to visit again and other places. Other people will never get the chance.

Coldstone icecream Tokyo vs the States

I discovered a Cold Stone at the base of the Tokyo Skytree. The last time I was at one was in the states. The American store didn’t include singing like this!

As James pointed out the nearest coldstone is unfortunately Istanbul in Turkey. Somewhere I’m not keen to visit again anytime soon to be honest. But it was fun to find the video of the one in the states as a comparison.

Coldstone with no singing but the same great icecream. Think the Japanese win this one.

Ian what did you eat in Tokyo?

Dinner in Tokyo

Before I went to Japan, I and others worried what I was going to do about eating out.

Ian what are you going to eat in Japan?

I joke but its a deadly serious question for me. Either I’m going to come back from Japan  having lost a load of weight (i’m going to carry a lot of antihistamines in lei of a epipen) or gained a bunch from eating Burger King and KFC all the time.

Obviously I don’t want to eat western food but a mistake/error could mean the difference between endless puking and a trip to the hospital.

Well as I wrote earlier, I didn’t do so bad. I insured I had a reasonable breakfast of eggs and toast (although the only bread I could find was white bread and finding butter was tricky).

Out of 14 days, I had 1 incident which resulted in me projectile puking my guts up into the toilet where I was staying (we got a taxi back asap!), eating 3 antihistamines pills to try and dampen the unavoidable and falling a sleep pretty much straight afterwards. It wasn’t pretty but it wasn’t the worst I have been luckily.

The problem seems to be the marinade on the Yakitori  (やきとり) skewed meat dinner

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I did show the allergy card but we think the skewed meat I picked and some of the skewers the rest of the party picked got mixed up. Part of the issue for this was because the veggie skewers couldn’t be eaten by me for some reason (can’t remember why?) So I ended up eating more meat than I actually ordered. Things got mixed up too, as you can see its hard to tell which one is which.

I was doing so well up that moment and afterwards I decided found this very useful guide to Japanese food types and then a nice simple way to find them. Mainly Korean BBQ style Yakiniku (焼き肉) and of course Teppanyaki (鉄板焼き). After a while I got use to looking for the Japanese 焼き肉 (Yakiniku) and avoided やきとり (Yakitori).

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Most of the time I had mainly meat plus vegetables, and it was lovely. Especially the very well marbled Wagyu Beef...! Which wasn’t too badly priced at all.

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Classic Yakiniku style, embedded within the table. Its just a matter of switching it on, along the side of the table.

Dinner in Tokyo

This is the other style which seemed very popular. They bring the whole BBQ unit over to your table.

Dinner in Tokyo

This one is similar to the one above but instead of moving the whole unit, they just add white hot coal to the unit.

Dinner in Tokyo

Teppanyaki style dish, lovely tender lunch time dish in Ginza.

Dinner in Tokyo

Another Teppanyaki dinner in Shinjuku.

With all that meat and veg, it was surprising to come back to the UK almost exactly the same weight as I left. Yes I missed all the Sushi and other types of great food in Tokyo but what I had was great and I even tried tounge, but avoided the heart, womb and whale jerky! (seriously!)

Using Amazon Glacier on Ubuntu

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Looking at my little home server, I noticed a Spideroak warning telling me I am up to maximum on online storage. I assume the reason for this is the 1391 pictures I took over the course of the 2 weeks in Tokyo.

Rather than just pay for the next band up, I thought I’d give Amazon Glacier a chance. because frankly I don’t need to view the pictures all the time. I uploaded the best ones to my Japan photoset on Flickr already.

Can I say one thing!

Amazon Glacier is certainly not ready for the general public!

Yes I’m using Ubuntu and yes I was seeking to do it with a GUI but boy oh boy… Amazon webservices is very very developer focused.

In the end after about 4 hours, I finally settled on using Simple Amazon Glacier Uploader, which uses Java 1.6+. It was that or try and use Wine to emulate a Windows app called FastGlacier. Don’t get me wrong there are many clients but not many for Mac and even less for Linux.

The thing which I think most people will miss is the fact you need to setup a user just for the uploading. Once you do that you need to setup a bucket and then give that user permissions to control that bucket. This is done in the policy control, without this you will get lots of errors which don’t make a lot of sense.

I’m still waiting to verify my test upload worked but I believe its correct now. If so, then the next few days would be the time I could really do with Hyperoptic fibre broadband. My picture count is currently at 91.9 gigs over 68794 files…

Tokyo… So what did I think?

shibuya crossing

On reflection on this post and all the posts I did during my time in Tokyo starting with I’m dying to experience Tokyo by 2016.

Forever I have wanted to experience Tokyo. For me its always been a place of technological progress. I know its not for everyone, but the culture is so wildly different and technology is at the core.

I wasn’t wrong there.

So why have I not already been?

Well its bloody expensive and to be honest I have this vision of going bankrupt just searching through the market bins of Shibuya

I lived with a Japanese lady for a while and we would talk about me going to Tokyo. She always pleaded with me, please go with someone who can speak Japanese because my allergies will kill me.

Technology like Google translate really made the difference on this front.People have asked what my high and low points were in Tokyo/Japan?

Low point’s

The Airbnb for the first week was fine, it was quite nice having a place with Rebecca. But the second week when Rebecca went off to western Japan, I moved to a smaller shared airbnb apartment. What I didn’t know was how small it really was. There wasn’t enough room to get out the door as my suitcase blocked the very narrow walk way by the futon. I did wish I had taken photos but I was so worried about it ruining my whole holiday, I went looking for an alternative hotel straight away. Luckily I met  Alexandra after Herb Kim told me she recently moved. And she was able to help me find a great room in Nippon. I did finally get a refund from Airbnb, although they thought I was in the wrong?

After reviewing the details of your situation, there is no clear violation of our host standards and we won’t be able to retract the payment from your host. However, because this was the first time you were experiencing Airbnb as a guest, I decided to refund you the amount you requested…

Trying to get to Nagashima Spa Land the first time and standing on the wrong bullet train between  Nagoya and Yokohama for over a  hour, was also a pretty low points too.

High point’s

There were so many…

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Right from the flight on the Airbus 380 to Dubai with USB, mains power and wireless internet to each seat. Also nicely got the exit row at the very front with more than enough room for the tallest NBA player.

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Meeting up with Andy Budd and Alice who happened to be in Tokyo too. Having sake in Shibuya with them and the rest of the UX workshop, then seeing the sights and sounds of Shibuya. It was exactly how I imagined Tokyo would be like and it didn’t disappoint at all. I couldn’t walk down the street without taking pictures every few steps.

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Experiencing the insanity of the Japanese passion for the make believe in Anime and Cosplay in real life via the Robot Restaurant and Harajuku. The Robot restaurant was totally mind blowing. It was a real world anime with every move being better with a bigger and better come back. Honestly nuts and the audience were loving it. I kept saying only in Japan would this work.

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Shibuya crossing I visited about 3 or 4 times at different days and times. Each time it was an experience. I didn’t bring my GoPro but I really could have done with it, to show how many people cross at the same time. I did shoot some stuff on my phone (uploaded to youtube 1st here, 2nd here, 3rd time and 4rd here.) but its not so great. Especially like my video from the mid point. I’m still working out what to do with all those pictures (I have about 120!)

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The many theme parks I visited including Tokyo dome, Nagashima Spa Land and Fuji Q highlands. Thunder dolphin at Tokyo dome was frustrating due to the crazy following of every single safety rule but when I was on, it was surprisingly fast and the drops were pretty epic.

Steel Dragon 2000 at Nagashima

Steel dragon 2000 at Nagashima Spa Land was the winner of all, having me grab the rails on the first and second drop. After that one time I was back to my usual hands up when the G force wasn’t so great.

Fuji Q highlands

Fuji Q had some great rides but if I hadn’t been on Alton towers smiler I would have enjoyed Takabisha more (which is very similar, understandable knowing the maker)

Riding the bullet train (Shinkansen 新幹線) was quite an experience. At first I thought it wasn’t much faster than most of our trains at full speed. But then it got out of Tokyo and suddenly you can feel the gravity pushing you into the back of your chair. It really shifts!

Tokyo from up high

The Olsen (Japanese Spa) I went to in Tokyo dome was great, yes it was very weird being naked and having to wear their clothes (which didn’t quite fit) when moving to the mix floor. But even with the weird looks from the also naked Japanese business men. I found the whole experience pretty good and I enjoyed it enough that I stayed from about 2230 till 0230! My experience was so rewarding that I’m going to seek out one in the Manchester area and visit at least once every 6 months.

Akihabara, Tokyo

Shopping and browsing in the electric district of  Akihabara. I spent quite a few half days there and it blew me away how big the district really was. I explained it to friends as the size of Manchester’s shopping centre but all electronic markets and shops. I also went looking for Nikon lens (where else better than Japan?) for my aging Nikon D40X DSLR and ended up finding a basement the size of my apartment in Shinjuku, stocked full of second hand lens which ranged in price from cheap (£15) to stupidly insane (£3000+). It was called Chuuko Box, the tip was to go downstairs, this place is a treasure trove! I was so blown away, I decided to duck out and learn more about lens because I was obviously out of my depth – in a way I’ve not experienced in a long time!

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I did Karaoke in Tokyo with Alex and Len after I moved out of my terrible Airbnb. I don’t usually like Karaoke because I don’t know most of the songs and never had much of a singing voice. But singing away while drinking sake after the nightmare I almost had, was such a great relief…  It was of course also great being able to share experiences to date.

As I spent 2 weeks in Tokyo, I also quantified my walking and sleep. Here’s the numbers from my fitbit.

  • Steps: 121,531
  • Daily Average: 14,504 steps
  • Best Day: 18,961 steps
  • Total distance: 86.05 km
  • Daily average: 10.86 km
  • Best day: 17.95 km
  • Total floor climbed:183
  • Daily average: 23 floors

The sleep quantified data is under lock and key but generally I slept less and less over the holiday but I spent more time in deep sleep than REM sleep.

Talking of sleep, it was scary how many people I caught sleeping in public. I assume its something to do with the very work loaded culture.

In other fun quantified numbers…

  • Saw one Shrine
  • One allergic reaction
  • Went up 3 tall buildings/structures in Tokyo
  • Went to 3 theme parks
  • Went on 26 rides. (rode 13 times at Fuji Q Lands, 9 times at Nagashima Spa Land and twice at Tokyo dome)
  • Visited Shibuya crossing four times and crossed it 12 times.
  • Went with 26kg of luggage and came back with 30kg + 11kg
  • Visited the beach
  • Had 9 days of sunshine
  • Hottest day was 32c and coldest was 9c
  • Eat roughly 16 boiled eggs
  • Eat goodness know much meat!
  • Went one weight and came back 2 pounds lighter!
  • Took 989 photos and uploaded only 628 to Flickr.
  • Tracked over 500miles over Japan (difficult to get the exact amount from google)
  • Took 4 taxis
  • Rode the bullet train 4 times

I was wrong on many counts with Japan but I’m happy to see the techno-wonderland I thought it was going to be. There are scary tales of where the technology unchecked will take us.

I will go back to Japan because it is unique and theres so much left to try and do. The culture is insane, lovely and weird all in one massive gulp. I’ll be interested to see what effect the 2020 Olympics has on the Japanese culture, I’d like to check it out a few years beforehand and maybe afterwards. There are some frustrating things and some wonderful, wonderful things. I’m going to watch Lost in translation again real soon…

The maxi-scooters of Tokyo

Akira

Akira (1988)

Most people know I ride a big scooter and always been a fan of them since a early age. I like to think of the scooters (officially and legally called maxi-scooters) like the crazy machine in the Akira. Its clear Tokyo takes its maxi scooters pretty seriously, they were everywhere. Its was interesting to see the types and how they have been pimped up/out.

Scooters of Tokyo

Its my silverwing but a newer model, wondering what cc? as maybe an upgrade is needed in the near future?

Scooters of Tokyo

What on earth is this? Not fan of the colour but I like shape. Either its heavily customised or something I’ve never seen before? Reminds me of this crazy thing.

Scooters of Tokyo

This is a weird scooter (honda helix) which I thought died out but I saw quite a few of these but also pimped out.

Scooters of Tokyo

I use to have a Yamaha Majesty but it certainly didn’t look like this thing. Check out the trims and attention to detail.

Scooters of Tokyo

Skywave or Silverwing? I couldn’t work out if this was the same beast as mine with a slightly different body or something totally different? They look similar?

Scooters of Tokyo

Another one of those very long honda helix scooters. They appeared to be everywhere in Tokyo. So much so, I stopped taking pictures unless they were very different.

If/when I go back I’ll be hiring a scooter (almost hired one while I was there).

Back in the west, my rights and wrongs

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A while ago I wrote after Angie asked me to write about Japan.

Angie, was asking me about Japan and I made a comment that it was going to be very different. She asked me about how I feel it would be different from where I have been before.

I wrote a number of points which now since coming back from Tokyo, I thought it would be a good idea  to reflect on.

  • I’m expecting to face a few delicate situations about race.

I didn’t have a big problem, there were a couple black people around. Generally when walking through a major station you will spot one or two. People kept thinking I was American, when I talked. I was treated as a outsider same as everybody. However when I went to the Onsen/Japanese Spa, which has to be done naked. I did get some odd side glances.

So I was slightly wrong

  • I’m expecting to get lost a few times and not really have help getting back

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Oh I got lost alright!

I was going to Nagashima spa land on the bullet train and transferred to a normal train from Nagoya. It was going to Tomida but somehow went towards Hisai. I can’t work out what happened but I think the train split and half went one way and my part kept going forward. The train staff were friendly enough but busy and sent me back with a note on my ticket.

When I got near Nagoya again, thats when the mystery girl/lady helped me greatly.

It wasn’t the only time but it was the one where somebody took some serious time out to really help me and get me back on track.

Again I was slightly wrong?

  • I’m expecting my size (height and weight) to cause at least one problem

It wasn’t a problem. I did have one slightly drunk Japanese guy make a joke about my size while I was eating Korean BBQ/Yakiniku. Nothing major issue, just a bit of fun.

My height wasn’t a problem although I have to say the Japanese are quite short, so I’m looking over most peoples heads. Makes finding people in the station a lot easier.

So I was wrong…

  • I’m expecting at least one person to touch my hair or poke me in some way.

DSC_5522

Nope unless you count the usual pushing on a train.

Wrong again

  • I’m expecting at least one allergic reaction and the chaos which will come from not being able to commutate what’s happened.

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I had one allergic reaction from a yakitori in Ueno with pre-marinated meat. I did show them the allergy card but I think we mixed the meats and some were marinated with some peanut oil. I say peanut oil only because the reaction I got was sharp and sudden.

We had planned to go clubbing but instead we rushed and got the bill and got a taxi back (in a ride which seemed to go on forever). The reaction was endless throwing up even with 3 antihistamines.

I stayed clear of all soupy stuff and things I had no control over, the one time I let down my guard it happened. At least the next day I was ok and it didn’t involve a trip to the hospital.

So I was right

  • I’m expecting to end up with no cash sometime and being slightly stuck.

Tokyo tower

Yes this did kind of happen. I went to Tokyo bay and used the light railway to go to the islands. As I had a JR pass, I can only get on certain lines, which didn’t include the light railway. Anyway had a look around but I was low on cash, so looked for a seven eleven but didn’t find one. In the end I walked from near Tokyo bay right up the Tokyo tower (Minato). It didn’t seem that far but if I had the cash, I may have got a taxi instead. To be honest I should have checked if Uber worked too.

I did find most places did take chip and pin cards or a signature, but not the smaller restaurants and public transport systems.

I was right…

Alone together forever with the narcissistic?

Tokyo from the Skytree

There is something not quite right about the whole selfies thing. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it unlocks something much deeper and more troubling…

Its all about me

The selfie thing, I do find it self indulgent and dare I say it – slightly narcissistic in nature.

Narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes. The term originated from the Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.

Maybe instead of a pool of water, its a reflection of yourself in a 533 DPI mobile screen?  I don’t think everyone who does a selfie are inherently doing it for narcissistic reasons. Let me be clear about that. But there is something not quite right about seeing friends Selfies all over my facebook timeline of nothing more than people trying to style things out in front of a mirror. Then you get the likes or +1’s.  Finally you got the millions of selfie sticks being sold and used by people who should know better… its enough to  makes you wonder, right?

While in Tokyo, I saw a lot of selfie sticks and lots of people using them. There use seem to go from a picture with friends to a slightly more worrying shot after shot after shot of them self till they got the right one to share. One guy must have taken about 30 pictures before he was happy with one of them. I know because I was watching him on his super bright iPhone 6  plus.

Its about you… alone

As you can imagine I’m not the only one thinking this.

What greater testament could there be to the “me generation” than the rise and rise of the selfie? Anointed by Oxford Dictionaries’ editors as the word of the year after a 17,000% increase in its usage, the selfie is surely the ultimate emblem of the age of narcissism.

One of the names I’m most unlikely to align with is Andrew Keen. I have slammed Andrew in the past for his views on the internet. But it kills me to say, he makes some good points on  Twit.tv’s Triangulation 183. I’m sure his new book will still have me and many others shaking our heads, I haven’t read his book and are unlikely to buy it to be honest but he’s spot on about the use of algorithms and the selfie thing.

Tokyo from up high

While on my trip to Tokyo I took a few selfies. I never quite feel good about it, my face generally describe how I felt about the whole thing. I also started to wonder if the break down in our social humanity (if people like sherry turkle are correct) can be seen ahead of time in Tokyo?

Japan is always known as way ahead of the curve. When most of us were still using desktops and laptops to connect the internet, residents of Japan were using their phones. Theres many other examples but I spotted something which deeply worries me. Sherry Turkle’s connected alone was playing out everywhere you went.

Selfie Sticks

I was in the queue for a rollercoaster and 4 guys were standing in silence through out the whole 40-50min queue. There were each transfixed to their phones not uttering a single word till we finally got on the ride and then they were best buds, laughing and chatting away. I saw them again later (the theme park wasn’t that busy and isn’t that big – about the size of Thorpe Park) and it was more of the same.  They may have been playing the same game but together they were alone.

Alone together

Sad as it may be (you could say its part of the Japanese culture, but I’m not so sure), you are seeing more and more of this. And its not just a age thing. The online world can be very seductive and some people forget the offline world for many reasons. Maybe things are difficult there, things are not going so well, they can be somebody else? Theres a load of reasons.

Two pieces I have saved in my instapaper, really got me going…

One is via Tony Churnside10 Reasons Why This Generation Is Losing The Ability To Be In Love.

Every individual in the world is egocentric; we all think about our needs and ourselves first and foremost. Whether this is good or bad doesn’t really matter; the world is the way it is. It’s part of human nature.The problem arises when our egocentricity overtakes our ability to feel empathy. As human beings, we have no choice but to live and function within society, within communities of different sizes.

And I found the next one while following links on a site called Thought catalogueThis is the new loneliness

Our generation of sadness and loneliness is of the unchecked variety. Of wallowing. Of letting ourselves be disconnected from both others and ourselves. Learning to soothe more than heal. Learning to put a band-aid on problems instead of working through and solving our problems. If something is not immediate, we don’t want it, even if it’ll make us stronger. We’re not growing as people, not really. We’re shoving away “bad feelings” we don’t want to face by clicking, refreshing, scrolling until we’ve numbed ourselves out enough. It’s addiction.

We cut ourselves off from others, avoiding contact with outsiders. How scared are we? That we are not willing to hand over our camera and talk to (maybe) a familiar stranger?  Who knows what fruitful conversations may spring up because of that moment/encounter/opportunity? But we will never know because we are too focused on our virtual selves.

Sherry Turkle and Andrew Keen could have wrote either and I would somewhat believe it was them.

Akihabara, Tokyo

Virtual friends and likes

This should go without saying because there has been so much said about virtual friends, buddy lists, likes, +1’s, follower counts,  etc. And this is also where the difference between Narcissism (the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes) and Egocentrism (the inability to differentiate between self and other).

I use narcissism because I feel it requires other people to breed as such. Its also something we shouldn’t be heading towards. I can deal with a room of egocentric people for a short while, but a room of narcissists is deeply worrying.

Its all pretty troubling but I have hope for humanity. I feel like its a craze right now. The market can sell more goods you don’t actually need. The drive has always been to make us feel less empowered and cut us off from each other. A disfranchised citizen makes a good consumer?  Retreating to the wall gardens of the 5 stacks.

My hope is we will have more which saddle between the real and virtual worlds and operate in a open fashion. I believe the user interfaces we build, shapes our use and therefore it shapes us – ontological design. From the Cluetrain

#79 –  We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party.

Warning!

This was written and scheduled during a 17 hour flight with very little actual sleep (trying to adjust to GMT as soon as I get off the plane). I’m very tired and I am likely to be connecting things in a very weird way (not like that never happens eh?). But I do feel like there is a link and worth posting…

The technological revolution spoken

I’m now on my way back from Japan (mainly Tokyo) about to land in Dubai  and its amazing to think about all the experiences I had with Japanese people.

There certainly is a  massive language barrier, there is no way of avoiding it. Now you can spend time learning Japanese which will take some serious amount of time (especially for somebody like me). Or you can rely on the services which come about using connected devices.

Google translate came to help me many times while in a sticky spot and I’m not the only one. While sitting in the maid cafe (as mentioned before) I got talking to TAHK0. He was telling me how he climbed a crazy mountain and when I asked him about his Japanese, he admitted he knows a couple of words and thats it. He then went on to talk about Google Translate.

We shared stories of use and of course I had a few of my own.

I had a serious problem with the Airbnb apartment I had for the 2nd week, which meant moving all my stuff to somewhere else. To do this, I needed to be a couple of taxi rides. Unfortunately the taxi driver didn’t speak any english whats-so ever.  I was trying to explain to him that I needed to go to a place, get him to wait for 5mins and then go somewhere else. To make things worst the place where the Airbnb shared room is, wasn’t near any landmark I knew of or could find on a map. I showed him on Google maps, but that didn’t really help. In the end I had to direct him from the back seat by typing and reading aloud from my tablet. Google translate worked just well enough for me to get the main point across.

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The point is, it worked!

When talking to the lady/girl during my unsuccessful attempt to get to Nagashima Spa-land the first time. We used Google translate to talk quite a bit. It wasn’t exactly free flowing but at points it wasn’t so bad and we laughed quite a bit at the slight errors Google would make. The crib sheets I printed never got used and wouldn’t have be anywhere as useful.

Even when I sat in a restaurant trying to understand a Japanese menu items with Google translate. The chef used Google translate to attempt to understand what I was actually asking for. It was one of those moments which was unbelievable. Likewise when going clubbing on Saturday night, the taxi driver pulled out his two sided Android phone got my translation and put the results into his Google maps navigation system. It was a thing of beauty, honestly…

Taxi drivers phone

I’m not saying Google translate means you shouldn’t learn the language and to be fair without 4G/LTE wireless the whole process would have been terrible. What I am saying however is, the world is so much more accessible due to the internet and services like Google and I understand this is the trade off I have to make.

What is it with the school girls and business men of Japan?

I went to the maid cafe

Another touchy subject following my unclear thoughts on Japanese culture.

I once had a Japanese lady who was my flat mate in London. She was lovely and we talked about me going to Japan one day (how ironic now, I’m actually here). We also talked about many things including Japanese men and women. I picked up through anime a lot of very questionable things around the traditional school girls (and when I say school girls, I literally mean under 18s!)

I always felt very uncomfortable about the whole thing, so I asked her whats the deal? Now I don’t really remember but yesterday when I met up with Alexandra who recently moved out here, she also thought it was a bit creepy and weird. But she also told me something which shocked me at first. The legal age of consent is 14 in Japan and 13 in Tokyo!

This deeply troubled me and while walking around Akihabara earlier in the week I was always wondering why there were girls on the streets handing out flyers? So I googled it… found some very interesting bits including tourist trap akihabara.

Maid cafes? They’re the biggest scam in Japan. The most dispirited girls will line the streets in their costumes and when they’re not looking at their phones, they’ll try and get you into one of their cafes that I guarantee you are run by Yakuza. Inside you’ll find drinks and food prices 5x more than what they’re worth and scenes that will make you weep for manhood

So of course I had to check it out to see what it was about (while in Tokyo and all that). I did and all I can really say its cutie overload! The only reason I stayed to the end, was because the guy next to me TAHK0 (pkmn trainer garrett) was a interesting guy. From Wyoming and LA and going on a tour of all the places on the Pokemon map.

In the cafe photos and video recording is banned, so I can’t show you how it looks but I had cocktail and some sausages. I also had my photo taken with a girl who looked like 16… There were things which you had to do like sing with them to activate food and drinks. They danced and generally walked around collecting orders and delivering drinks. I would say it was like Hooters (not that I have been in one) but the girls are fully dressed and being cute all the time. I would say the ages seemed to be about 16-19, but they might be a bit older. There was a western woman there who had the same look I had on my face really.

So once I finally got out of the crazy cute land of the maidcafe, I looked into the age thing again still feeling weird about everything. Wikipedia make me think…

The Japanese Penal Code sets a minimal age of consent of 13. However, all prefectures and districts have (largely similar) “obscenity ordinances” (淫行条例) that forbid “fornication” (淫行) with anyone under 18 years of age, but exempt sex in the context of a sincere romantic relationship (typically determined by parental approval)

Ah so I think the age of consent is low but for teenagers having sex with each other, not so sleazy business men can take advantage of young women!  This confirmed my thoughts and got me thinking… I have always been in favour of clearing up this myth that kids don’t have sex. We all know they do and open sex education is the important thing here. I had jumped to the conclusion that it was too low…

So low compared to where? Look at many of the European countries and you find similar ages: Austria, Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Estonia, Hungary and Italy it is 14; France, Czech, Greece, Denmark it’s 15, many others it’s 16, and Spain is at 13.

I don’t think this excuses the fact some business men see these girls in a highly sexual way but it explains a little more. Still freaks me however.

I went to the maid cafe

Its the Japanese way?

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Some people are going to hate me for this post, and they may be right. Who am I to comment on Japanese culture? I don’t even speak the language and only been here a week. But these are personal experiences which I am talking about, aka don’t send abuse you’re experience may be very different.

Its the 4th day of my trip to Tokyo (Japan) and I’m on a speeding bullet train going to Nagoya to ride rollercoasters and hopefully spend sometime in the Spaland. When the bullet train (Shinkansen) first started I thought this isn’t bad but then then it gets to lines outside of residential areas and you can feel a difference of G’s on the body. The train is super clean and theres plenty of leg room and room for the laptop (as I’m writing this now). There is power (although I didn’t bring my power and theres wifi but I can’t work out which SSID and there all secured (using my myfi instead)

Anyway talking about the speed of a bullet, I had the joy of going on the Tokyo dome city’s Thunder Dolphin. First up I would say every major city should have a major roller coaster! Imagine if London had one on the site of the Olympic park or the 02 Dome? I could imagine one in Manchester at Sports City (near Manchester City, but then Manchester Utd would want one at Old Trafford). Anyway this isn’t just a crappy rollercoaster, oh no its in the top 20 highest rollercoasters in the world and the view of Tokyo is fantastic, shame you can’t take a camera.

And this is the rub…

Japanese culture is fascinating but also  frustrating from an outsiders perspective. The line for Thunder dolphin wasn’t long, but I passed a point where it suggested it would be a 40min wait! There were about 100 people in front of me and bear in mind the roller coaster has 12 carts of 2 each, so 24 people each time (leaving out single riders, which is another problem, I won’t go into here). The ride takes 90-100 secs. Basically I should have been on the ride in under 15mins even with change over time. However, the ride guards were very insistent on everything being locked away in the ride lockers. They even made me put my tissue in my pocket in the locker! Watches, rings, loose change, etc also had to be put away.

The lockers were not like you get in theme parks in the UK, it was locked things with keys you would wear on your arm during the ride. Making the idea of your watch falling off a bit of joke to be honest. Of course I was never going to point that out. The procedure to make sure everything was done, was done to the letter.

View image on Twitter

I read the sign and laughed when reading don’t scream as it may be uncomfortable to other passengers. Think I’m being a bit alarmist? I’m not the only one…  I want to go to Fuji Q highland which is close to Tokyo (no bullet train unfortunately) and sits in the base of Mount Fuji. But this worries me…

Robin Franzi wrote

This park has a great potential, but it is so badly managed. The lines are really long (1 to 2+ hours per ride) because the personnel takes so much time to get people seated. Seriously, the lines could be divided by at least 2 if they were more efficient. The frequency of the cars is extremely low. With a little bit of rain or wind, they stop running them. Don’t buy a daily pass unless you have the whole day. This park can be very frustrating. Be warned.

I think sums up Japanese culture better than I can explain. Everything seems so efficient but actually is quite annoyingly convoluted unless you question. Maybe this is why the extremes of the youth of Harajuku? Breaking out of a very  traditional culture?

Our Airbnb host (i’ll call her catfish ninja because she looks noting like her photo and myself & Rebecca thought she was the mum of the women in the picture actually. She also lives in a area where ninjas use to live and I can see why) is lovely but when asking about a spare key, she answered saying we don’t need one, just leave the door closed.  Now this made us feel very uncomfortable as we do want to go different places at different times and we don’t really like the idea of leaving our passport, money, clothes, etc in a unlocked apartment in a city we don’t know. I understand Tokyo has very low crime but I don’t want to take the risk.

Tokyo is very safe and except the few people shout something at me in Japanese, being called a Gaijin a few times (quietly of course, under their breath) and being asked if I want champagne and a girl in Shibuya late a few days ago. Its all been ok.

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Think of this as part 2

While I was on the wrong bullet train back to Tokyo after failing to get to  the Nagashima spa-land (I got on a commuters train on the same platform going to the same location 5mins too early). I was standing all the way to Yohohoma because of the wrong train thing, and because all the non-reserved seats were taken. I saw a man with a laptop case on a chair next to him (I was about to nab the seat) but a woman got in there ahead of me. She tried to gesture but the man looking at his phone with earphones ignored her. She tried multiple ways without actually touching or speaking to him. In the end she picked up his bag and positioned it between her feet. The idea of inconveniencing him by sitting on a seat she paid for, frankly ignores and worries me.

Before the wrong bullet train back from my failed attempt to get to Nagashima spaland, I was stuck at some unknown station near Nagoya, wondering what had gone wrong and how I was going to sort stuff out, when some lovely woman/girl came up to me and asked if I needed help. She was so wonderful, not only asking where I needed to get to but also helping me get some solid food, pointing out better ways to get to Nagashima spa-land from Nagoya and even Tokyo.  A real breath of fresh air.

Her spoken English wasn’t great but neither is my Japanese full stop. But she could write english well. So in the burger bar near the station, we sat and talked via paper and google translate on my tablet. She was great and I can’t believe the amount of time she took out of her schedule to help me out. It was truly amazing and she was so wonderful. A hour had gone by the time we got back to the station and got two different trains.

Talking Japanese via paper

I have experienced a tiny slice of the negative and positive sides of modern Japanese culture in a short matter of  time. It really makes you think how different things are in our own western culture. Fascinating to think what will come over the next week.

Don’t forget to check out my Flickr group full of interesting bits I’ve captured and shared. Right now I have taken upwards of 350 pictures, the .

I’m actually in Tokyo

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It feels like I have only been in Tokyo for less than a day but gone through so much already.

The flights were great. I left Manchester airport about 2pm on Wednesday then got a flight to Dubai airport on the Airbus A380, which I didn’t know till then, is one heck of a plane! I went economic/standard class but bagged myself the front exit row with nobody sitting besides me. While flying above London, I discovered Free Wifi and in chair usb and mains power! Well as you can imagine, I was set. The Free wifi was free up to 10meg but after that it was 80p for 500meg, which isn’t bad seeing how its “WIFI on a motherfcuking plane!”

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Anyway once we hit Dubai, it was time for a change to a boring/boeing 777. Exit row and wifi again but only USB charge this time. I did grab some food at Dubai which was a good time to try my allergy card. It worked as they changed the menu item from a nutty teriyaki chicken into one without a trace of nuts (replaced them with garlic).

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The flight to Tokyo was ok (bit of crap after the epic A380) and I did manage to get a bit of sleep here and there (more like 2hours over all). Wifi was available but very sketchy and when crossing China, they had to turn it off. By the time we hit Japan I’d lost about a day and half it felt like, as it was Thursday night. I unfortunately got pulled to the side and had my luggage searched by customs. My thoughts was the new luggage was too big for a 2 week holiday. Funny enough they were not interested in my laptop bag at all.

14 day JR Pass, pocket wifi (myfi) and Rebecca all crossed off the list, we headed to Tokyo on the train. Finally found the Airbnb host (swear we were wondering for about 20mins) who did a little tour of the neighbourhood before showing us the place. Still pretty hungry we went out looking but most places seemed to be shut or shutting. In the end we ended up at a store buying bits and Rebecca cooked something veggie and I popped some already cooked plain chicken into it. Pretty much went to bed as I was dying on my feet. I don’t know if I got lucky but I slept right through till midday on Friday, while Rebecca got up at 8am I think? I somehow switched to Tokyo time over the two flights.

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Today when I got up we wondered around the area and decided to check out Shinjuku. Didn’t really get a chance to check out the shops but I did have my first proper off the menu meal in Tokyo. It was ok, more a starter than a main but I guess its kept me going till 9pm ish. No allergic reaction and the allergy card worked. Also finally spent some Yen (I bought stuff with my card in the shop before)

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Now time for dinner… this will be interesting!

Off to the land of the rising sun

And the craziest crossing in the world… I actually won’t be staying that far from there even.

Sometimes I wonder…

I’m currently sitting in Manchester airport terminal 1 (at Starbucks) waiting for the flight to Dubai’s gate to open. Sucking down on a tall mocha frappichino, while considering what I’m about to do.

7hrs to Dubai and then 7hrs to Japan, that’s a lot of flying and its the reverse of my preferred way to fly the earth (prefer east to west). I’m very conscious I know little to no Japanese and may have checked in too much stuff for a 2 week trip (26kg in one suitcase).

The accommodation is a worry as its airbnb and although I have hosted people, I have never actually stayed somewhere let alone the other side of the world! I feel slightly in prepared for the culture shock and the problems I face with food allergies. I keep saying if I had a little more time? But there will never be enough time, isnt this the point?

Regardlessly I decided to just do it and theres many reasons but mainly the importance of living life. How ironic that its almost 5 years since my brush with death.

Anyway time to stock up on chewing gum (makes the descends bearable on my ears) and some food for the flight (you don’t want an allergic reaction on the flight)

Bon voyage! I’ll hopefully be tweeting and posting to flickr.

Ian what are you going to eat in Japan?

I joke but its a deadly serious question for me. Either I’m going to come back from Japan  having lost a load of weight (i’m going to carry a lot of antihistamines in lei of a epipen) or gained a bunch from eating Burger King and KFC all the time.

Obviously I don’t want to eat western food but a mistake/error could mean the difference between endless puking and a trip to the hospital. Even vegan sushi is a risk due to the language barrier.

Luckily I have spotted things which I can eat, including Korean BBQs! I’m also wondering how Korean food I can find, got to love Kimchi fried rice.

Our rights in the data/digital/cyberspace

Doc Searls

We have two selves in the world at any given time now. We have the physical self, our flesh and blood, our voice, our presence in the world which extends beyond our bodies but lives in this physical space. There’s this other space, we started out calling cyberspace a long time ago, but it’s a real thing. It’s a data space.”

…Doc Searls

There is one charity I always give time and money to, the Open Rights Group. For me our human rights transcend (must/should)  into the digital domain. Its the new battleground. Its also something lots of people are not really aware of or take for granted. But every week there’s another news story of our digital rights being taken for granted and abused on unimaginable scales.

Digital rights are your human rights in the digital age. They are one of the most important aspects of your human rights today: privacy and free expression online are among the most contested. The digital rights movement exists because we need people to understand how technology is shaping our rights, for good and for ill, and who it is who is seeking to employ and capture technology for their benefit rather than yours.

There are positive and negative sides which I have written about many times.

Its becoming clear that the services we use, connected objects and spaces we inhabit are collecting our personal data. What they are doing with that data is only one of the question asked in ethics of data documentaries.

The documentaries which were put together by BBC R&D, exploring the implications for  digital right through the lens of the physical internet, personal data, data ownership and data management.

Alexander DS

Why the physical internet?

For many people the internet is still an entity which exists in a box, be it a desktop computer or laptop. This notion is pretty much broken by mobile devices and smart tvs. LG and Samsung have both been caught out using personal data in ways undesirable by most people were not expecting. But thats only the tip of the iceberg as Alex says…

You could make a good case for technology to be imbedded in everything we know. What kind of technology it is and what does it do, and what purpose does it serve is always the next question

Its time to consider a much wider context that most people think about when they hear internet of things. Think smart homes, cars, spaces and cities.

Jon Rogers

You’re personal data and privacy?

The comments made by the likes of Vint Serf about privacy being an anomaly and this being a digital dark age. It made sense to try and tackle the big issue of privacy in the digital age. There so much which could be explored as this is a very deep  and complex subject. There is only so much you can explore in minutes, but I feel Jon highlights why this is more critical than ever before.

We always make mistakes and we always want to forget them and the trouble with the internet is that we can’t forget them.”

Adriana lukus

Its about ownership and choice?

It all seems pretty scary and negative, and it never was meant to be. So to underline the choices people need/should make, we looked into ownership and choice. Something I have through a lot about especially with my history with dataportability. Early adopters are not only collecting their own data but also analysing it and quantifying it. As Adriana says…

“The quantified self is that, is the living, breathing part of the web or the technology scene where people genuinely care about data.”

The documentaries are made so you can comment directly on parts (thanks to reframed.tv), so please do. We look forward to the discussion and don’t forget to join our diigo group bookmarking related news stories.

Thoughts and ideas of a dyslexic designer/developer