Monday, October 27, 2008

Back in Tokyo from Cyprus

PA120313I know I haven't posted for... well. too long. That's because I was on holiday in Cyprus for 2 weeks. I will start posting again right after I manage to catch up with my sleep and jet lag :P So for now I leave you with this picture from Cyprus - a view of the mountains from my grandmother's house.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Naked westerner swims in the Emperor's moat!

Now this is a weird piece of news... So weird in fact that I think it deserves a spot here. See, the Emperor's Palace in Tokyo (about 10 minutes walk from Tokyo Station by the way) is a pretty reclusive place. Visitors get to see the bridges over the moats connecting to the internal gardens and that's typically all you get to see (apart from the statues and a big park around there). It looks like a British tourist decided to jump and swim in the moat naked. If you watch the video you get to actually see something interesting about the Japanese culture too - in one scene the police are running away from the guy who just charges them without anything. They were very very careful not to hurt the guy later too even though he had a big metal stick - at least while the cameras were there but this compared to how the police behaves (even on camera) in the US is a big contrast. For one thing the guy would have been pepper sprayed pretty quickly if not worse.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cirque Du Soleil in Tokyo - ZED/ゼッド

PA050288 That's nice no? :) That should give you some idea about the new Cirque Du Soleil show in Tokyo called Zed. After their 15 years in Japan, the Cirque now has a permanent building right by Tokyo Disneyland/Disneysea and they kicked off the celebrations with a brand new show. The show itself is pretty good, the opening is amazing (so I won't spoil it for you with details) but if you happen to be in the area you should definitely check it out. Be warned though, it is quite a bit of walk from the train station (it uses the same train station as Disneyland). You need to walk through Ikspiari which is a huge mall type of thing. With so much association with Disney, you know that Disney will somehow show up in the show and it does in a nice little cameo type of thing which I won't spoil for you but don't expect Mickey to do walk tightrope or anything like that :P


The building itself is designed pretty well and stands out from the other buildings  around it. The ticket prices are usual for a Cirque show (about 90 bucks/10,000 Yen) and they even serve Champagne... Fancy...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Now that's what I call good meat!

P1040093 Steak House Satou is a, well, tiny, restaurant in Kichijoji. It is located on top of the butcher store with the same name which seems to have a constant stream of customers waiting to try their famous fried meats. This line can reach ridiculous lengths around lunchtime. The restaurant which is a bit more difficult to find than the butcher's is a bit more obscure but it offers top of the line quality Japanese beef with an English/Japanese menu to boot. They don't take reservations which may mean a bit of a wait standing on the steep stairs of the restaurant for a table to open but the service is very very quick and if you have the steak in their recommended way of preparing (medium-rare) the food is served literally within 5 minutes of taking your seat (they also ask for your order a little before they seat you so they get a headstart). The prices are very reasonable especially compared to other, fancier restaurants serving same quality beef. The portions come in three sizes 180 grams, 270 grams and 360 grams and I believe there are 6 qualities to choose from with prices going up quite a bit by the time you are talking about the finest of the fine. It is entirely possible to have a very filling meal of very good quality Japanese beef for around 50 bucks/5500 yen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

CEATEC Japan 2008

DSCF4739 I was lucky enough to attend CEATEC, a very big international consumer electronics show, yesterday at the Makuhari Messe (This translates to about an hour and a half from my apartment in Mitaka by train - or about forty minutes from Tokyo Station. For reference, this is pass Disneyland so it is in Chiba not Tokyo). There were quite a few different interesting things to check out and needless to say the place was bustling with people. I saw on the official CEATEC web site that about 30,000 people visited on the first day.

DSCF4747 The first order of business for me was attending a talk by two VPs from Microsoft - Brad Brooks and Shoji Doyama entitled "Magical Windows". Mr. Brooks is a VP of Windows Consumer Marketing and this was pretty obvious in the way his presentation was designed. He was very energetic, pacing from one end of the stage to the other  while talking excitedly about how with Vista and then Windows 7, how the OS is designed to come together with components of Windows Live and Windows Mobile making the whole experience seamless as one moves from one to the other during their everyday life. They showed a new phone for the Windows Mobile platform, called HTC Touch, which supports multi-touch and is integrated tightly with Windows Live, letting users take pictures and upload them seamlessly to Live Photo Gallery/Skydrive (which apparently is going to be called Skydrive with the rollout of the new version of Live). They also did a demo of Microsoft Surface for the first time in Japan (though they said the plans for how Surface will be used in Japan is not completely clear yet).

F1000025 After the talk, we were off to checking out the booths and the first booth I stopped at was Microsoft which had one of the biggest and brightest booths. I was curious about the new Microsoft Arc mouse and I got a chance to try it out as well as checking out the HTC Touch which will be available in Japan under multiple carriers. The phone has a very nicF1000022e and crisp display and it is relatively light and thin but unfortunately I will not be getting it as it does not have integrated IC  so it cannot be used with Mobile Suica and all other IC based conveniences in Japan. I was pleasantly surprised with the mouse, it was light and responsive but if you are one of those people who like to grab the mouse from the sides this one may not work out for you. The MS booth also had a cool little toy that I guess goes with the local culture - a Visual Studio robot. I put the one of those little guys on top of the mouse and snapped this picture.

F1000027 Next stop - Sony and Nissan booths. Sony had its extremely thin, 27 inch OLED TVs on view, boasting 0.99 cm of thickness - about 0.39 inches. I am guessing these right now are a bit on the impractically expensive side since their 11 inch cousins sell for around $1000 now. They also had this very interesting booth with Sony cameras lined around a half circle. There were two Japanese models in swimsuits, against a beach type of background drop, and you could use one of the cameras there to take their pictures since they were basically there to pose for you - interesting way to get people to like a new camera I guess. F1000028 On Nissan's booth they had a very interesting demonstration - a new technology for predicting a car crash before it happens based on bees. They also had this prototype little robot for your dashboard that's supposed to represent the mood of the car and talk to you. Interesting? I would like to think so. Useful? Not at this point but who knows, may be in the future...

DSCF4755 After checking out lots of other random stuff, I saw this big group gathering around the Murata booth. Murata is actually a electronic component manufacturer but in order to showcase their new gyroscope and other circuit components they built two robots - one riding a bicycle and another one riding a unicycle and keeping in balance by themselves while moving back and forth. Of course this being Japan both robots have names and genders, the one on the bike is a boy, and the one on the unicycle is a girl.

Tokyo Game Show will take place at the same location and I really wanted to go but it looks like I actually will not be in Tokyo during that time. This smaller taste of a "show" made me dread that even more but oh well, there is always next year I guess.