Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More ways to order food

If you are an expat living in Japan, especially if you just moved here, one of the things you must be missing the most must be having food delivered to your house/apartment. For me this was a huge convenience that was lacking as I used to rely quite a bit on the delicious unhealthiness of the delivered food in Pittsburgh. This problem was made worse for me by the fact that I could not order food through the phone without thoroughly embarassing myself. I sorely needed a way to order food through the web so that I could take my time when I did not understand a word or a phrase as well as be able to use translation tools such as Google Translate ( or Babelfish ( As you might have read earlier the first of those sites that I found was the way to order pizza but one can have pizza only so often - even when what is offered is delicious seafood pizza on top of two layers of thin dough with actual mozarella cheese filling. Yum! But I digress.. The reason why I am writing this entry is to introduce the new site I found -

I found this website through a KFC flier I found in my mailbox one day. I am not entirely sure if that was targeted advertising me being a foreigner and all or if people actually like KFC enough to order it often enough here. Come to think of it I have seen enough KFCs around (slightly less than McDonald's in my experience) that I doubt it was targeted to foreigners ;)
The website offers so much more than KFC though and has the map of whole Japan in the initial registration so there is hope for people outside Tokyo too. There are sushi restaurants, pizza places (yes more pizza :P), other Asian and Western restaurants but also various services like cleaners, etc. So far I have only used the KFC but I will get to other restaurants as well I think...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The great dust storm

The last weekend saw a huge wind storm in Tokyo. The wind storm was so strong that it was distruptive to public transportation causing stoppages in the train system as well as bringing down the temperature by double digits at some points.

For some people like me though the effect was even worse. The storm, picking up dust from places with certain kinds of soil, turned into a great dust storm. My apartment building being next to a highschool with a full outside soccer field meant that I got to enjoy the dust storm quite closely. By the end of the day the dust made its way under the entrance door, the stairs which are actually completely covered as well as into clothes that were hanging outside to try. The funny thing was that there were kids outside who were still playing with the wind going in full blast... scary...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Neighborhood Patrol

I am not sure how much this helps lower the overall crime rate but I see cars and even bikes marked with the bright yellow sign "Neighborhood Patrol" quite often here. To top it off there are lots of posters around. Some posters warn the children to not trust strangers while some, just like the one I took a picture of (this one actually is pasted right at the entrance to my apartment building) is more to warn the potential "bad guy". Note the manga style drawings with characters looking all serious and the translations of the message "this neighborhood will not tolerate any offense!" in English, Korean and Chinese. I guess they really want to make sure the point is not lost on the potential offenders even if they are foreigners ;)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Would you like a private room for an hour?

Here is a picture of a very interesting store I came across while visiting Akihabara (秋葉原). The service they provide is renting you a room basically for up to 12 hours. You get all the amenities in the room - digital TV, DVD player, magazines to read and of course internet access. The store is open 24 hours a day so I guess one could also spend some of that 12 hours sleeping but there was no sign of whether or not they also provide you with a bed but I don't think they do. Still - this is something I see for the first time in my life. I guess there is a need for the service :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I was on Fuji TV!

I was in Akihabara on Monday, taking advantage of the long weekend when a nice reporter lady stopped me to do an interview for Fuji TV. It was a good 5 minute interview with quite a few questions ranging from my favorite spots in Tokyo to "funny experiences with Japanese culture". Unfortunately I forgot to ask when it would be aired but at least I managed to get a picture out of it as a souvenir :)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Taking a crowded bus...

The busses in Tokyo, or at least in Kichijoji in particular (though I suspect this probably generalizes to whole of Tokyo if not to any big city in Japan), seem to not really have a firm limit on the number of passengers they carry at a time. While this does not usually cause problems for me (as I can walk from home to work and vice versa), weekend nights can be an interesting experience.

Take tonight for example - I was in Roppongi watching a movie at Roppongi Hills and by the time I was back in Kichijoji it was past 10 pm. For some odd reason the busses stop working earlier over the weekend save for one or two and past 10 pm there are may be only one one that goes from 吉祥寺駅 to popular stops including 三鷹市役所前 which is the closest stop to my apartment. The line for the bus was already reaching around the block by the time I made it to the line and I was thinking I would definitely have to wait for the next one, whenever that may come. However, to my surprise, they fit all of us in and even managed to pick up people at some of the stops. It definitely looked like people were used to this as noone made any comments with more people coming on and they all happily moved to the back of the bus, trying to take as little space as possible.

ps. I snagged the picture with my cellphone - that's why it is kinda long and thin since it follows the aspect ratio of the phone display.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Yet another use of cellphones with IC - ViT

I have already wrote quite a bit about SuICa (and it's sister in Osaka, ICoCa) which makes life easy by letting you deposit money into an IC card (or a cellphone with IC) and use that card for paying for busses and trains as well as for shopping at certain stores. Well, capabilities of IC enabled cellphones do not end there. As the IC circuitry can be used for many different purposes pretty easily (at least that's the impression I got) a lot of different applications emerged. In the case of ViT, the focus is on movie tickets.

I go to Virgin Toho Cinemas in Roppongi pretty regularly (once every week or every two weeks) and they use ViT to let you reserve your tickets. Right after choosing your seats on their webpage and giving your cellphone number, you get an email sent to your cellphone with "tickets" attached. The attachment automatically launches the ViT "i-appli" on the phone and the application imports the tickets which means when you go to the movie theatre and flash your phone at the ticket machine (bypassing the waiting line) your tickets will be automatically printed out. The application is extremely easy to install and even for someone with primitive Japanese skills like me, directions were easy to follow ;)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Kamakura sum-up

Ok, if I don't get back to this I will simply forget the details so let me try to summarize what is left - both in terms of what I have not covered on here and what I can remember.

One of the biggest attractions in Kamakura is the huge Buddha statue. I heard (and I could be wrong here) that it is the second biggest sitting Buddha in the whole of Japan (with the first one being in Nara 「奈良」). This place had distinctly more tourists than any other location in Kamakura on that day. If you are looking for it there are street signs and quite a bit of parking. They call it 大仏 - literally Big Buddha.

There are less known (and therefore less crowded) places to explore as well. Kamakura is host to many temples and shrines and some of the temples offer visitors traditional tea while sitting and gazing at a Zen garden. There is usually an entrance fee but it is well worth it. Unfortunately I seem to have forgotten the name of the temple we visited - 岩下さん, 原さん please feel free to leave a comment with the name of the temple if you remember ;)

Monday, February 4, 2008

I got a new video camera!

I am back from the airport and starting tomorrow I will get back to trying to pick up where I left off with the blogging. Meanwhile, I wanted to drop a quick line and tell you about my new video camera - well, it's just awesome (if I might say so myself ;)). This tiny little camera by Panasonic (HDC-SD9) is capable of recording in full High Definition and to top it off it records it onto a memory card which is why it is so small and light (a mere 250 grams without the battery and 325 with). So far my only problem with it has been trying to downgrade the video so it can fit on a CD and can be played at my parents house without HD hardware. The recording is basically Blu-Ray based and the camera can record the movies directly onto a DVD, albeit using the Blu-Ray format so you need either a Blu-Ray player or a Blu-Ray capable computer to view it. It will not be out in the US for another couple of months so I guess this is one of the perks of living in Japan ;)