Sony’s new digital paper

It was Steve who first pointed me at Sony’s new digital tablets. Its impressive but of course I don’t read japanese, even with google translate. But of course others do and did the work for me.

sony dpt-rp1 eink A4 tablet

Although it looks amazing, I can’t help but think about the software.

Using the digital pen, users will be able to annotate PDF documents, as with the previous version, but the compatibility is still locked to that format, so you won’t be drawing on anything other than PDFs unfortunately.

Maybe I’ve been slightly spoiled by the Eink tablet I bought, which runs Android 4.3 allowing most Android apps to run smoothly. I can’t imagine living within Sony’s view of the world hoping someone will hack it. It reminds me of the Ipad pro in more than just looks.

Updated

Jason pointed me at remarkable which I hadn’t seen before. Its also pretty pricey but looks very nice. The worry is lack of support for 3rd party applications and their FAQ doesn’t really encourage any joy.

The reMarkable will not initially ship with an officially supported SDK. We might initially, however, release an unsupported SDK for developers we choose to work with.

Shame… but interesting tablet regardless.

Are you sitting comfortably?

富士山 (Mount Fuji) - 04

In the continuing saga of undressed. I had an interesting awakening while waiting for my audition on Wednesday morning. They were very late but finally got hold of me on Skype.

During the Skype text conversation, I was asked if I was somewhere private. I was thinking this is an odd question? Then they said…

Just a reminder – we are doing these skypes in underwear

They might as well have said…

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…

To be honest I was very surprised (actually quite shocked), same as I was when the researcher called me back and told me the show involved being undressed physically not by the 36 probing love questions alone, as I had taken it.

Yes so I was wrong again and although I thought they were joking, it became clear it wasn’t. I had a decision to make, go forward or drop out. I went ahead with it, but I was thinking boy oh boy if this is some kind of sextortion scam, I’m in deep!

To be fair it makes a little sense, because it was an audition and I assume in the physical auditions it would be the same. Don’t get me wrong it was bloody weird having them fully clothed watching me on a webcam!

People I described this to, have asked

Why? why are you doing this madness?

A while ago I was listening to someone talking about how they were planning to climb something insane in the middle of nowhere. I thought about it and on reflection, I now feel some people challenge themselves physically (climbing mountains, tall buildings, running across busy roads, etc), some mentally and I guess for me socially?

I’m not putting myself in danger from my view and it is a good yarn (lumbs law). Yes I guess being on TV in my underwear does come with some reputation damage? But I’m not about to run down the gym, I’m just me and I’m happy in my own skin with that.

It reminds me of when I went to the Japanese onsen (温泉) in Tokyo Dome over night. Going naked in front of a bunch of japanese business men I’ve never met before was crazy but I did it. Wearing underwear seems a lot more acceptable at least. Plus frankly if you seen me swim or about to go to sleep… it’s not much different?

The drive to push my limits socially, is fun to me. Don’t get me wrong its also slightly terrifying but like standing at the top of a mountain, its certainly exciting and takes a certain person to do so.

Ambient intimacy the new loneliness?

A few weeks ago I took part in the eye contact experiment in Sheffield. The purpose was to connect with a fellow human being in a way we usually avoid in modern society.

I have already wrote about the use of Mobile technology in Japan and crossed it with the selfie craze. But I have to admit although the selfie/narcissism was bad. There was a low level almost ambient undertone to the silence of people looking at rectangular LCD screen.

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.

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?

Sounds familiar right? Some people have been calling it ambient intimacy, something I heard a lot time ago but hadn’t really stop and thought about.

I  forgot the term, which I saw as the logical conclusion of what I saw in Japan and seeing to a lesser degree here. I first wrote about it when listening to Leisa Reichelt talking at the future of webapps 2007.

This thought catalogue piece sums up quite a bit 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.

I was talking to a friend recently and she was telling me about the massive effect grindr is having on the gay men of Manchester. The once vibrant gay village of canal street is now full of hen parties and hetrosexual men chasing them. The gay men so addicted to the new reality of grindr, they don’t waste time meeting/socialising down canal street, when there is a sea of faces and other parts of the body on the comfort of your screen. Of course there is human contact but its short lived, fleeting but also highly charged and very exciting.  If its not, don’t worry theres other fields to go explore and why not?

This is something I talked about during my ragged talk.

In years, decades to come will we see the ambient intimacy the same way as we see smoking now? Or if Adrian Hon is right, eating meat?

I’m confident that in a hundred years, eating meat will be regarded in the negative way we now view racism or sexism – an ugly, demeaning, and unnecessary act. Like smoking, it will simply fall out of fashion because we’ll find better and healthier alternatives, although we’ll still occasionally eat humanely reared-and-killed animals. Note that I still eat meat even though I should know better.

If there was one picture which sums up this slow backlash, it has to be this one… removed.

Removed

As the author says…

The joining of people to devices has been rapid and unalterable. The application of the personal device in daily life has made tasks take less time. Far away places and people feel closer than ever before. Despite the obvious benefits that these advances in technology have contributed to society, the social and physical implications are slowly revealing themselves.

I saw it a while ago but frank reminded me of the picture while we were talking about the eye contact event.

There was a number of talks at Thinking Digital Manchester which strayed deep into this area., including our own workshop.  Authenticity was the word of the moment. Be yourself and talk with a human voice. Something the Cluetrain Manifesto talks a lot about.

I have bounced back and forth and about this whole thing, creating many revisions (62 to be honest) and drafts of this blog post.

Part of me wonders if this is just the new reality and I’m actually just getting old?

Who couldn’t be excited by the new possibilities to be connected to many people at the same time? Jason Silva called itcollapsing geography with cellphone wormholes. However this also pulls us out of the moment (must finish reading Douglas Rushkoff’s Present Shock) creating physical barriers with the people we spending time with. Maybe its the intent or even the lack of intent which is the problem?

Like checking your phone at the table, your subconscious intent is that the current situation isn’t interesting enough to fully engage? Or a sign we feel strangely lonely?  The fear of missing out is a double edged sword, and is a really strong motivator in this all. Then throw in the paradox of choice and you have a recipe for long term problems. This is what I thought when I first heard the term present shock to be honest.

Mozfest Global Village

This was some of the motivation behind a short pathway of two great sessions at Mozfest 2015. Hacking Mental Health: Changing Views in Tech and Happiness in the digital era. (reminds me of  The Practice of Happiness workshop by Bobby Paterson at Thinking Digital 2011). We even ran our own eye contact experiment in the crazy space of Mozfest.

Eye contact at Mozfest Global Village

With all this playing on my mind (and the fact its a link between all the events over the last few weeks)…

I bought a copy of Alone Together and Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. I decided enough with the drafts, I’m putting this thought on hold for a further blog post or maybe a discussion some day?

New heights?

Dave Mee sent me a link to the New York times piece on the new league of giga coasters.

Just How Tall Can Roller Coasters Get?

This is not a rhetorical question these days..

Theme parks have engaged in a dizzying quest for height in recent years that has spawned a number of roller coasters as tall as skyscrapers. Altitude rather than velocity has become such a defining characteristic that rides that take advantage of their soaring heights have been given a name befitting a mammoth frame: the giga coaster.

Enthusiasts use the term to apply to a roller coaster with a drop of 300 to 399 feet, meaning that its riders fall the length of a football field. (Anything beyond 400 feet and you’re in strata coaster terrain.) Four of the five giga coasters in the world are in North America, at theme parks all owned by the same chain, Cedar Fair Entertainment (the fifth is in Japan).

On the face of it, I was thinking wow this looks like a good ride… But then I looked into the actual facts.

Fury 325 Carowinds (USA) March 25, 2015 325 feet (99 m)
Millennium Force Cedar Point (USA) May 13, 2000 310 feet (94 m)
Steel Dragon 2000 Nagashima Spa Land (Japan) August 1, 2000 318 feet (97 m)
Intimidator 305 Kings Dominion (USA) April 2, 2010 305 feet (93 m)
Leviathan Canada’s Wonderland (USA) May 6, 2012 306 feet (93 m)

 

Fury 325 is only a few meters taller than Millennium Force and Steel Dragon 2000 (which I had the pleasure of going on while in Japan). I trust its a great ride but hardly anything to shout about. Its also 15 years afterwards!

Loved Steel Dragon 2000 and the big one at Blackpool but for me its about doing more with less space. You only have to look at the Nemesis or the late Smiler. Heaven knows how they were able to fit 14 inversions in the space usually reserved for a duck pond in most American theme parks.

What happens when your dog is no longer serviceable?

Aibo meets Nabaztag: first meeting

The Aibo went the way of the Nabaztag

When Rob told me about Sony shutting down the last one of its service centre for Aibo robotic dogs, I instantly thought about the consequences of a locked down iot device. This is going to be bad

Back in 1999, Sony released a robotic dog called Aibo, a canine companion that didn’t crap everywhere and only ate electricity. It sold pretty well — 150,000 units, despite the $2,000 price tag. Some owners became remarkably attached, which makes it even more sad that Sony has stopped repairing Aibo. Slowly but surely, they’re all dying.

It was bad in my mind but then I watched the NYtimes video and remembered how the Japanese think of most things having a soul/spirit of some kind.

The New York Times has recorded the plight of current-day Aibo owners in a completely heartbreaking video. They interviewed a series of owners, whose Aibos are a central part of their lives, but are slowly having to come to the fact that their dogs have a life expectancy.

What you are left with is something which is kind of heart breaking to watch. Seriously, especially having experience the culture first hand, I can just imagine. I liked my Aibo but nothing like the Japanese love theirs.

Still remember the first time I saw a Aibo in real life. It was at the ICA in London and some guy kicked it off the stage to the outrage of half the audience. Just to make a point about humans attaching human emotion to artificial objects or robots. Fascinating in the face of UK remake of Humans on Channel4.

…fund a lifestyle that makes everyone insanely jealous

Tokyo tower

Yeah I hate that title too but its worst than what I wrote… The full title is What it takes to get paid… and fund a lifestyle that makes everyone insanely jealous.

As I read the post recommended by Dave, not sure for ironic reasons or what. I pretty much hovered over the delete button but I did find a few things which I thought was actually interested.

“What you seek is seeking you” – Rumi

In other words… Imagine if what you really want, deep down – is actually seeking you out at the same time…

It’s a nice thought to hold as you go through tough times because it gives you faith to keep pushing through.

Ok I think this actually nice to remember and think about.

Designing your life so that everything is a pure delight to use

See the most exciting thing about lifestyle design for me, is treating the world like a giant smorgasbord of delicious options. You pick and choose the stuff that RESONATES with you the most. And discard the stuff that doesn’t vibe with you.  I believe in making every single area of your life, from the time you open your eyes and wake up to the moment you go to sleep – an absolute DELIGHT to use.

I quite like this outlook, it makes it loud and clear you are somewhat in control of your own destiny. You need to design/craft your life. The choice about people, places, things and activities is quite key.

When I asked people what I should do in Japan, I included a list of conditions.

  • I speak little or no Japanese, so best not recommend somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
    Very true!
  • I’m also not so big into the traditional culture (don’t hate me, just being honest!) so you may want to limit the amount of shrines.
    Indeed, only went to one.
  • I love metropolis cities, so I’ll spend all day at markets and cafes soaking up the modern culture.
    Oh and so I did!
  • I’ll spend most of the time in Tokyo because theres so much to see…
    I wasn’t wrong there!
  • I also love modern art, manga, people watching, amazing architecture and great landscapes like Mount Fuji.
    Certainly did a lot of these…
  • Love theme parks! and amusements.
    3 theme parks and lots of rides
  • I don’t have a problem just wandering around suspect locations like the red light district in Amsterdam.
    Well I did rub shoulders in Roppongi and Shibuya
  • I’m going in mid April for 2 weeks, so it will be coldish and maybe wet
    I was right at first then it got really hot, sometimes up to 29c!
  • I will get a JR pass, so the trains should be fine
    Well in theory yes, but I wasn’t prepared for the changing of
  • I’m terrified of dying from eating fish, seafood, nuts, beans or peas. So don’t recommend a fish restaurant 🙂
    Enough said…
  • Actually if you can recommend places where they do lovely meat, I’ll be very happy (heard the Korean BBQ’s are perfect for me)
    Enough said once again.

You can look at the list as restrictions on myself but I don’t see it that way, I see it as myself designing my holiday by removing the things which don’t resonate with me.

When I moved to another place when my airbnb screwed me over in the 2nd week. It was important to me, because I just knew it was going to upset my holiday and I wasn’t going to let that happen!

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.

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…

2015-04-15 16.48.25

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.

2015-04-18 20.32.04

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.

2015-04-18 20.16.15

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.

DSC_5356

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!)

2015-04-19 19.54.14

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!

2015-04-23 23.33.56

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

2015-04-19 16.12.11

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

2015-04-20 16.00.51

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.

2015-04-24 21.16.24

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…

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!