Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A remote controlled LED light-bulb


I was out searching for an LED light-bulb in Yodobashi Camera in Kichijoji – my usual quick drop in and out place for electronics when I cannot take the 35 minute trip to Akihabara. I came across this little gem – a remote controlled LED bulb by Sharp.

The remote, which does not come with this strap by the way – I just added my old strap to it, allows turning the bulb on or off, setting the light intensity (5 steps though the two extremes and the middle value can be set using the 3 shortcut buttons) as well as setting the temperature (from soft white to an incandescent-like yellow) using the same number of steps and/or shortcuts. It is a pretty cool little toy if you can get beyond the weight of the bulb, relatively low luminosity (I would say this one gets about a typical 60W incandescent bulb), and the price (about $80). It also lasts (or should last at least) more than 40 times an incandescent bulb. That, we will have to wait and see. So far I am pretty happy with it…

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tokyo Game Show 2009 (photo blog)

Today I was at Tokyo Game Show (came back 5 about 3 hours ago actually) so I wanted to post this before the day is officially out in an hour and a half. I think something like the TGS deserves more photos and less text, a photo blog format if you will, (which coincidentally makes my life easier too ;)) so here goes:

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   Tokyo Game Show took place in Makuhari Messe, a big exhibition hall in Chiba (for those unfamiliar with Japanese geography – Chiba is not in Tokyo, it is its own prefecture). This translated to waking up pretty early and travelling for an hour and a half so that I could make it there before the show started at 10 am. It was pretty interesting to listen to all the “foreigners” on the train, talking about their impressions about Japan.


P9240454 Even thought I made it there about 15 minutes before 10 am, the line already reached outside. Thankfully though, Makuhari Messe is huge and once the doors opened everyone got in. This will of course not be quite the case during the “public days” on Saturday and Sunday when the number of attendees will probably grow ten fold (if not much more).


P9240491 There were a lot of famous game companies but some of the booths were pretty specific to Japan – for example this one by DoCoMo, the cell phone carrier. They had a lot of cell phone games on display and even had these huge walls with free games (though they were either feature or time limited. I did download a copy of Metal Slug M1 for my cell phone though). The lights on the wall are touchless (IC) terminals so putting your phone next to them automatically directs your phone to the download site for that game.


P9240471Some of the more familiar faces, Konami and Square Enix, creators of the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series.


P9240473 Microsoft had a pretty strong showing in a huge “booth”, showing off both exclusives like Halo 3 ODST and Forza, as well as non-exclusives such as Fifa 10. They also had a “secret” room set up for demoing Project Natal but they only let in the national television channel (NHK) and other “big media”.  One could look through the transparent stripes looking into the demo-room though and watch people play with Natal – it seems like they were having fun. I saw a part of the video they shot inside on NHK Nightly News tonight.

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P9240490 Of course no game show would be complete without the pre-requisite pretty women calling the participants over. Pretty much all of the big booths had a few and they somehow managed to smile and pose for pictures for the whole duration of the show which is no easy feat.




Game companies used a lot of other “gimmicks” to attract attention too. From a Mercedes used by Sony for their Gran Turismo franchise to the fighting statues (static except for the floor they were on which was rotating) for Tekken 6, there were a lot of different things. One particularly interesting one was at the Modern Warfare 2 booth, which used fake snow to “snow” on the people watching their preview video.


P9240507By 5 o’clock I could no longer feel my feet from the constant walking around. I think it was definitely worth it though. And as an added bonus there was this tank/robot hybrid thing on the way to the station flanked by 2 female “soldiers” – all characters from a game of course.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

“The only flower in the World”

I know I haven’t written in far longer than I really thought was appropriate but what was I expecting when one combines laziness with being on holiday? In my defense though at the hotel I was staying at by Kawaguchiko (河口湖) did not actually have internet in the rooms. I still survived the two and a half days I was there though which in an odd way impresses me. But I digress… I am not going to write about my trip just yet however – I just lack the time and will needed for such a sizable entry.

I will instead write about this song that got stuck in my head. One of the places I visited during my holiday was the “Music Box Museum” and one of the most popular pieces the little contraptions they sold at the gift store played was a song by the Japanese group SMAP, called “世界に一つだけの花” which I guess roughly could be translated into “The only flower in the World”.  The song dates back to 2003 and it has a very catchy tune. The lyrics are also pretty inspirational – not something typically found in songs by boy bands. Anyway, below are two videos – the original, and an “unofficial English version” which has the translated version. I really can’t get this song out of my head – tonight I must have listened to it at least 15 times, different versions combined.

Original version by SMAP

English version

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tokyo Game Show 2009 – invitation to business days


My invitation is finally here! I missed this last year and I was very sad that I would miss it this year as well but nope, I actually get to go! I am so looking forward to next week to go see the show on both Business Days (Thursday and Friday) before the show opens up to the general public – and becomes an all too crowded endeavor to fully take in. Anyway, this will be a short post… Being an avid gamer and in general crazy for new, exciting technology like Microsoft’s Natal, I just couldn’t contain my joy. I will be sure to take a lot of pictures to post here next week :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

The biggest library in Japan

DVC00022The National Diet Library of Japan, located in Nagatacho (永田著), Tokyo, is the biggest library in Japan. It is located extremely close to the Diet, the Japanese assembly, so a visit to the library ensures catching a glimpse of the Diet, together with a level of security uncharacteristic of Japan – roughly 1 policeman per couple of square feet…

The library itself, not terribly imposing or even impressive from outside, is home to every single publication ever made in Japan (yes this includes all manga publications as well ;)). Furthermore, they have a very very impressive international collection which I tested by borrowing a 1887 copy of “Huckleberry Finn”. The services offered by the library are pretty impressive – not only you can borrow books from these extensive collections, and get copies made for certain parts, but you can even request copies of sections through the web, to be mailed to your address. A quick point of information though – this is not your typical library so “borrow” just means “borrow to read inside the library”. You cannot take any materials outside which I guess explains why it was so easy to get my hands on a book published in 1887 so easily in my hands.

If you live in Japan, becoming a member of this library and paying it a visit at least once should definitely be something on your to-do list. However, make sure you check out the procedure and the needed documents online at the website I linked above.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

“A member of an organization”


File this one under “so close, yet so far away” category… I took this picture of a hairdresser’s sign close to my work. One can kind of ignore the “Good sense and professional technic” tagline based on poor/awkward choice of words but the “A member of an organization” is simply baffling. Which organization? Any organization? It is not even a matter of picking the right article here since “A member of the organization” would still carry a vagueness as to which organization we are talking about here.

I have done some digging on “Zenbikanren” but came up with nothing. Now I am really curious…

Monday, September 7, 2009

Armies can have mascots too


This guy, who apparently is a mascot for the Japanese Self Defense Force, was flanked by actual soldiers – definitely an uncommon sight in the middle of Shinjuku. This public square, right across from the East Entrance (東口) to Shinjuku Station, usually is where new albums of a music group are advertised – together with a small concert of sorts. I have even seen groups filming music videos here. This, definitely was an interesting change of scenery. I guess this was a music related thing too since they were advertising a concert by the army marching band as well as asking for recruits. The army people were very nice – they gave everyone, including me – a foreigner, JDF phone straps. I took a picture with the mascot too… He seemed cool ;)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The mystery of “Shoecream” solved


When I first heard the term “shoecream” in Japan I was more than a little shocked. See, we were walking from lunch at a restaurant close to where I work and a Japanese friend asked me if I would like some “shoecream” as dessert. These turned out to be little cream filled puffs and I figured out that the word was simply a phonetic construction. It was not until about two years after that, or more precisely, last weekend, that I saw a box of “shoecreams” at the supermarket and realized what the original phrase is - “chou a la crème”. It’s a French phrase which, of course, means “creampuff”. It is very easy to assume that a foreign word in Japanese, rendered phonetically, comes from English as most actually do but in this particular case that assumption turned out to be worse than wrong. Still, it was pretty funny while it lasted ;)