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.

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?

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.

Japanese culture conflicted

Ariana Miyamoto Eletta Miss Giappone Ma Scoppia La Polemica Perchè Di Colore "Non è pura

From the BBC

With a Japanese mother and African American father, Ariana Miyamoto has become the first bi-racial woman to be crowned Miss Japan.

The question of whether a person of mixed race should be eligible to win the competition has since provoked a heated argument on social media,

Oh I can so believe the kind of comments Ariana is getting. Japanese culture is so future focused in some things and ever so in the past for others. I understand the history of Japan, but I can’t help but say its 2015!

I honestly can’t imagine how bad the Japanese view on mix race relationships…  Hopefully this will start to sway things.

Stop the slut shaming crap…

The Morning After.

A friend of mine read the post I was sent from Tony. They commented on the post and I will power phrase it as this…

The casual hook-up crap in that post is really awful… Hookups aren’t people you feel nothing for. they can be intense, lovely experiences that make you feel alive and fulfilled. You can learn a lot about what you want, what you like and who you are through them. that post was just nasty “slut shaming” crap.

And they are right… lets read the key parts in full

We sleep around — a lot.

Some less than others, but most individuals have multiple partners every year. Don’t get me wrong, I like sex just as much as the next guy, but sleeping around ends up leaving us feeling empty.

It starts out feeling exciting and gratifying, but ends up making us feel even more alone. Worse yet, it makes finding someone to love infinitely more difficult. You’re wasting your time with people who mean nothing to you and, to top it all off, you are likely to turn sex into a sport.

When that becomes the case, good luck trying to make love. Good luck enjoying sex when sex is no longer a special or unique experience, but just another trivial evening.

Bollox, yes there are some people whom see it as a sport or game with achievements but having casual sex does not mean you are wasting your time, not capable of making love or even having a long term relationship.

This reminds me of the talk about non-monogamy in Manchester when somebody suggested that people in a poly relationship might as well forget about falling in love because there love couldn’t be as deep. Once again Bollox!

We need to get over this crap, this is the type of thing which breeds ignorance and terrible sex educational black spots. This is why I have a new found respect for the Japanese and their age laws around sex. At least they are dealing with it, instead of the head in the sand approach or simply con-damming it.

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!)

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?

DSC_5364

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 .

Japanese way

+Tokyo

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 promised to do a blog post about my thoughts before and afterwards. So take this one as my before…

Bear in mind I have spent most of my life in the west, having only gone as far east as Stockholm, Sweden up till 3 years ago. Recently I went to Istanbul, Turkey (that didn’t turn out so well), so I have no experience beyond the middle east. However I have been a consumer of Japanese culture in multiple forms. Manga, Technology, Toys, etc…

Its would be fair to say Japanese culture is quite different. I am expecting a Tokyo to be thriving metropolis like the time I spent in New York, London, Chicago and Toronto. Theres going to be a lot of people around, like a silly amount of people. I’m expecting most people to be shorter than the average in New York and London. I’m also expecting some funny looks as people wonder why I’m there. Not in a hateful way, just a curious way.

I heard conflicting reports about the amount of English which is spoken, so I am preparing myself for little to no verbal communication which is going to be hard when telling people I may die if I eat fish, seafood, etc.

My thoughts on Japanese culture isn’t based on the media alone. When I got divorced, I shared the house with a Japanese lady who was wonderful. I lost contact with her when I moved to Manchester but we did talk about Japan and even she said dont go because you will die. We also talked about the school girl thing (which I find very weird and creepy) and the strict social hierarchy’s which are being overthrown.

Like most countries the capital isnt much like the rest of the country but I know Angie wanted my stereotypes not this wishy washy overview. So here you go…

  • I’m expecting to face a few delicate situations about race.
  • I’m expecting to get lost a few times and not really have help getting back
  • I’m expecting my size (height and weight) to cause at least one problem
  • I’m expecting at least one person to touch my hair or poke me in some way.
  • I’m expecting at least one allergic reaction and the chaos which will come from not being able to commutate what’s happened.
  • I’m expecting to end up with no cash sometime and being slightly stuck.

I’ll do a after review once I’m back…

I’m dying to experience Tokyo by 2016?

Tokyo - 東京

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.

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.

I almost went once for work but my wedding clashed (Sarah would have killed me dead if i changed it for Tokyo) with the trip so instead Lisa went to keep an eye on Dave.

I’ll be honest although I have always wanted to go, I have a hard time justifying paying for holidays. New TV, better phone no problem. But 1 week away in Denmark? It feels like a world apart in my mind.

Watching Graham Hughes again (first time at Thinking Digital) at TedXSakford. Made me think what is stopping me? This was further realised after watching Steve Mazan in his inspirational and funny video (must watch!). It also answers the question I had about death and if the only way to make people wake up is with death.

Anyhow, I’ve decided by 2016 I will go to Tokyo and experience Japanese culture. Its got to be done! And I’m going to do it. Its now been added to my Schemier along with visiting South Korea.

People of the internet you can help me by recommending cheap places to stay, food which won’t kill me, best time to go and cheapest way to get there (within reason).

If you want to help Graham Hughes out. Vote for him on sos-island.com. He gets my vote for the inspired challenge he set himself and ultimately for prompting me to go…

Who pays? Let’s see what the Japanese do

After my blog when I mentioned the programme where the Japanese were not having babies. Pete Aka @binaryape wrote a tweet to me a while back related to who pays on the first date…. Which you can see is related to the Japanese crisis in the lack of babies.

@cubicgarden You might be interested in this (Japanese perspectives on first date meal costs) http://www.tofugu.com/2013/10/25/should-men-or-women-be-paying-for-a-date/

Thanks Pete the reading was very educational.

In Japan, many people still believe that men paying for women is point of good manners and Koichi talked about this in What It’s Like A Dating a Japanese Guy as well. In fact, some guys even feel insulted, or that their pride was just given a ‘low-blow’, if a woman insists that she should pay for herself. This is standard dating-conduct for men in Japan. So, if you are a non-Japanese girl out on your first date with a Japanese guy, insisting to pay your half may be more hurtful than helpful to his pride.

But wait a minute! This has been changing quite a lot actually, especially amongst the newer generation of couples. Nowadays, many men wish more women would help pay for the date tab. It’s also more common for men to ask women to contribute somewhere between 20-30%. If at no point does the woman offer to pay for something, then the man may actually be lead to believe that she is not a generous or thoughtful person!

The whole thing is well worth reading as it goes back and forth with many examples from different cultures including the UK and China. I especially like the writers way of settling the bill with a game…

I had an ex-boyfriend who suggested that we decide who pays the bill by playing rock-paper-scissors. I accepted and from there on out we always decided that way. I found it pretty fair and kind of fun, too

I have always loved sushi…

Vegetable Sushi

…but dared not touch it. Why?

Well with the amount of allergies I have, I would be a total fool to risk it. Now to be fair I did try veggie sushi once and there must have been some cross contamination (which to be fair is bad). That experience put me off for the good part of a decade.

However the other day I went out and met up with old friends Miles, Dave and Harry. We went to a vegan Japanese restaurant near Kings Cross called Itadaki Zen. Looked at the menu and was really stuck for what I was going to eat. Everything had nuts, peas or beans within it.

After a little negation with the patient waiter, he came back with Sushi mainly made of sticky white rice, seaweed and some veggies. They were awesome and after doing my usual try a bit see if my lips start burning or throat starts to feel scratchy, I was off.

So good, the question is if I will try it again one day soon?

dozo yoroshiku: welcome to the open web

hajimemashite watashin wa. Ian desu. dozo yoroshiku

My friends keep asking why I don’t use facebook? And I always respond with some quite crushing comments about the walled garden of facebook and the mentality of facebook users. Anyway once we get past that they usually ask me whats so great about Twitter? I usually respond by saying its open and public which means there isn’t this closed walled garden to hide behind. Some of my friends who have been paying attention usually say, “well I don’t want everyone reading what I write.” Then I throw in an example where having the public discourse is actually a good thing.

That example is now famously called “the Japanese babe” example. Unfortunately with twitter making changes to the way things are archived it may get lost, so I thought I’d highlight it on my blog so others can also use it as a example of the open web vs the closed web and or even why twitter is very powerful compare to facebook.

So I was on a train heading back from London going to Manchester. The train was busy but not crammed. I think I was sitting next to a old lady most of the journey till we got to stoke on trent. At stoke on trent things cleared up and the lady left, leaving me a whole table with plug for my laptop to myself. Anyway, the next stop a woman came aboard and I couldn’t help but notice her, she was Japanese and very attractive.

She sat down at the seat opposite me and smiled briefly, asking if the seat was free then put her laptop down and put on some headphones. She shifted around a bit and her legs touched mine under the table. She said sorry then shifted her’s while in the meantime I shifted mine too. We collided again and again saying sorry each time. In the end she settled on a position between my feet, not quite touching but close enough.

We both laughed about the footsie situation we had landed ourselves in and she put her headphones back on. She was listening to something in Japanese. How did I know? She had plugged the headphones into the wrong port on her laptop or she had dual audio ports like mine. Anyway I ended up taking off my headphones and telling her that her audio was playing out loud so everyone could hear it.

Once again she smiled and shifted her feet, so we went through the footsie thing again.

Some of you are thinking what the hell has this got to do with twitter, well hold on I’m getting there.

So we traveling to Manchester, cute lady sitting opposite me and we’ve played footsie a little bit but not much else has happened. So I decide to twitter the situation I’m in.

Unfortunately Twitter.com no longer gives you access to old tweets you may have written so I can not link to any of them. Bad form twitter!

Anyway that tweet when out and lots of people saw it, much more that I expected. Because I received lots of replies with helpful information on how I should get the ladies attention without sounding like a cock.

End of the day a guy (wish I could remember his twitter name) suggested I write on the back of a business card…

hajimemashite watashinwa. Ian desu. dozo yoroshiku

which translates to,

How do you do? My name is Ian Nice to meet you (or please be good to me).

…and slide it across the table to her.

Obviously I had no idea what it translated to and was very skeptical of doing it in case it said hi i’m ian and I’m a cock or I want to shag the pants off you or something like that. Anyway after much going back and forth with people on twitter, there was a consensuses that the mystery reply was ok enough to do. Although some people were saying don’t do it, it reads something unsightly.

So I took out a business card and wrote on the back of it the phase. With one more twitter message and lots of people saying do it! I slid the card across the table and she took off her headphones and read it. We had already hit stockport which is just outside of Manchester so we getting ready to depart the train. But she giggled nervously when she read the card, and turned to me and said…

“This is very sweet of you but I got a boyfriend already and he’s coming to pick me up from Manchester station, sorry…”

By this point the train had pretty much arrived in Manchester Piccadilly, so I had to close down my laptop and cut off twitter which meant everyone who had been wait to hear what had happened, had to wait even longer (twitter on the mobile phone in the uk was rare, plus my data plan was weekend and evenings only). She smiled sweetly at my attempt but got up and left just before I did. Later on the platform, I saw her with a guy and another girl. I just did a little slow nod to say “take care” and she smiled back. That was the last I ever saw of her.

When I finally got back online, twitter was reaching fever pitch with people wanting to know what had happened. I explained what had happened over multiple tweets and there was a lot of people saying good on for me doing it.

I have to say that a lot of them came from people who either heard about it on the public timeline (a few), checked out the strange trending topics (a few more) or saw the re-tweets from others (many). For the rest of the day I was saying thanks to people for there comments and encouragement.

The open web almost helped with my love life. Now thats something a lot of people can’t say. Imagine if it was Facebook, I would have got all my friends advice but none of them can speak or at least write Japanese. So the opportunity would have gone up in smoke, plus having loads of strangers willing you to do it really gets you going. This is something which can only really happen on the open web.

So why now am I telling this tale? Well I’m moving flat and I found the business card with the writing on the back. It is a shame I can’t link to all the tweets made during that period of time on the train, but you can imagine what it was like. It certainly made me think a lot more about social media. In actual fact it was one of the drivers for my twitter dating service – tweet foxxy or tweethookup (as it was first called), which I later sold the concept of after my talk at ignite Leeds in 2009. I’m actually surprised this is the first time I wrote this down?