Saturday, August 30, 2008

Toyota iWalk (and Captain Commando)

Who said all the prototype transportation vehicles had to have wheels? What if you are disabled and have to go up the stairs or what if you had to carry something really, really heavy? Toyota's iWalk seems to be coming straight from this arcade game I used to play called "Captain Commando" where a little baby and some bad guys were riding these things and using it to lift and throw others :P I think it would be amazing to see this one in action - and no I don't mean throwing bad guys, I mean walking and helping people with movement issues. For all those interested to see it in person - this can be found in Odaiba/お台場 in Toyota's museum.

And for comparison, this is what I was talking about when I mentioned the game - similar no? :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Some "future vehicles" from Toyota Showcase

Toyota's showcase "museum" in Odaiba (お台場) is a pretty fun place to roam around in and it is free to get in too! They have a whole bunch of cars from actual race cars to current models, hybrids, and of course different models of Lexus including one that costs upwards of $125,000. For me the most enjoyable part was the "future vehicles" section featuring futuristic single person and multi-person vehicles. They even have a demo of one of the individual-ride models which I think deserves its own post so for this one I will just put photos of the others ;)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Yakiniku (焼肉) in Kanagawa (神奈川)

Yesterday we had our annual company BBQ at a small theme park in the Kanagawa called プレジャーフォレスト (which even though is not really written in English, it would be something like "Pleasure Forest"). The theme park is in a very green area about an hour, an hour and a half outside Tokyo by car using the highway. There is also a nice lake that is visible from a few places in the park. Apparently they offer cheap overnight accomodations as well in tents (about 25 bucks a night), log cabins (35 bucks) and deluxe log cabins (45 bucks). There is a swimming pool, a mini rollercoaster, a place for BBQs and picnics among other things but when the weather is as gray and misty it was a yesterday the whole place looks deserted, almost like a ghost town...

When I first heard the term BBQ, I was under the impression that we would have a traditional BBQ - you know, with coal etc and steaks and all. Instead we had these hot plates, with very thin sliced beef and vegetables. You grill the meat in the center, take it out and dip it in yakiniku sauce. This traditional way of preparing food is generally known as Yakiniku or literally grilled meat. The meat cooks pretty quickly and tastes pretty good too. Unfortunately it is a bit tricky to pull off at home.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

28 years old today :)

Well, today is my 28th birthday and apart from feeling a tad older I must say I am feeling a little strange as well - this is my first birthday in Japan. My parents, my sister, and my grandmother called but still that's a bit different right? Anyway, here is a snapshot of my cake. The Japanese confectionery stores are just amazing and this is an example of that. The packaging makes sure the cake does not get smeared in the box while they include a little cold-pak to keep the thing from melting... Nice.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The "New" Yurikamome Line (ゆりかもめ線)

I wrote about Tokyo Big Sight before (it's in Odaiba/お台場) and if you remember that, you will remember how to get there may be - it's the Yurikamome line from Shinkawa Station (新川駅). I guess it was put into service pretty recently - so recently that it still keeps the word "new" in its title. The view is why I am writing about the line. See, the last time I went there it was a cloudy day and I was rushing so I did not get a chance to really enjoy the view but this time, well I was there to take my time and enjoy myself so I took my place in the front car and made sure I had a nice view. If you are spending some time in Tokyo you definitely need to check out this line. I mean, you have to visit Odaiba anyway so don't make the mistake of not using this line to get there ;)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Monkey on the run in Shibuya!

It looks like a monkey ran through Shibuya today causing the very busy train service to stop and managed to get away in the end - an amazing feat given the sheer crowdedness of the area (Shibuya is home to the world's busiest pedestrian crossing). This newspiece from CNN explains it in much more detail. It looks like the little guy has been travelling around Japan and may have very well visited more cities than me :P

Here is a little image to make my point about the crowdedness. This is taken as we were crossing the road (which you can't really see because of all the people). Credit for this image goes to my cousin Kenan though since he took the picture. Oh and a little bit of trivia - I am the guy in the blue shirt ;)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back from Hiatus (with a nice panorama from Roppongi)

My visitors left yesterday and I have tons of images and stories to tell but that was a taxing week with a lot of travelling and I am still recovering. So, what I am going to do today is to post a nice panorama I made while visiting Roppongi Hills with my visitors. This is the view of Tokyo Tower from the side of the Roppongi Hills complex. It is taken from a pretty awkward spot but I think the images came out quite OK. I really like pictures taken at night. The lights make it so much better IMHO...

Monday, August 11, 2008

No updates for about a week,,,

I have my cousins visiting me from the US this week so I will not be able to make any postings on here during that time. I promise I will be back on the 18th/19th with a bang ;)


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Efficient parking, Japanese style

See I keep mentioning how there is a shortage of space around here (as if you didn't know) but one then might wonder where do they park their cars. Yes, the Japanese do use the heck out of buses and trains, and there are lots of "paper drivers" - people who have a driver's licence but does not drive - but that does not mean the Japanese do not drive. There are in fact quite a few Japanese drivers out there and couple that with narrow side streets and you get sheer craziness during rush hour. Of course these cars need to be parked somewhere and this is where one of the ingeniuities of Japanese design comes in. The parking lots of apartments are pretty small so what do they do? Well, they create more space - under the ground.

This particular implementation is from a building close to mine. Each spot is converted into three spots. Each person gets a key to the parking spot they are assigned to and when they put in their key and turn it they get the right level set. I think it's a great idea but I wonder how much money it costs to build one of these things. I am afraid Tokyo is one of few places where the cost of parking spot is actually more than the cost of building this thing.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Singing and dancing at a temple on Sunroad, Kichijouji

Last Sunday was a pretty eventful day and this is one of the things I was lucky enough to experience. While walking around Kichijouji (吉祥寺), I heard sounds coming from a temple that I have never even seen people going into before - the temple on Sunroad (basically a covered street straddled by shops on either side). Curious, I walked in and saw a big crowd of people, lots of kids in yukatas and lots of adults too, dancing in a circle around a stage which had someone playing a traditional drum, an elderly gentleman singing and a lady in a yukata dancing. They also had games for kids where you can throw a hoop and try to land it on a stick to win the prize by the stick. It looked like everyone, especially the kids, were having a great time.

I know during this time of the year there are lots of celebrations at temples all around Japan with a few very big celebrations where all the temples in an area get together to celebrate with fireworks but apparently there are small celebrations like this one too. I am planning on attending a much bigger celebration soon. May be in 高円寺...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The sun and the ice sculptures in Ginza

Man, today was a hot day... I went to watch the Dark Knight today at Roppongi Hills (六本木ヒルズ) and made a stop-over at Ginza around noon. It was very humid and hot which is pretty common these days but there was something unexpected - a series of ice sculptures set up in the middle of the street (which is closed for traffic these days). I mean come on, I was feeling like I myself was melting. Thankfully the sculptures had a little help from thin blocks of dry ice put on and around them but I think you can see the water dripping even in this picture. I have no idea how long the sculptures kept up but it couldn't have been very long. Pretty lucky of me to have caught them just around the time they were put up...

On a not-so-related note, The Dark Knight, is a very good, if a tad long, movie. I enjoyed it quite a bit and I think the number of "foreigners" at Roppongi Hills Toho Theater was the highest so far.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

When a single word breaks the whole sentence...

This is from a menu in a very nice Italian restaurant in 池袋 (ikebukuro). I think this theme shows up quite a bit in a lot of places like menus in restaurants, general packaging, etc: They add a sentence or two in English even if the rest of the document is completely in Japanese and unfortunately more often than not a misplaced word or two shows up in there. It is pretty easy to pick up what that word is here :)