[FoRK] TRAVELMAN in Tokyo: Frank's 2005-inch TV!

Rohit Khare khare at alumni.caltech.edu
Mon May 16 19:22:52 PDT 2005


First the good news -- the lost & found system still works, however- 
many-centuries after the first Imperial edict on the matter. I left  
my Powerbook adapter in the conference room on Monday afternoon --  
and it showed back up at the registration desk after our final panel  
on WS-* Considered Harmful on Friday. It seemed like suspiciously  
convenient timing that it was gone all week in a conference full of  
Macs, but I was quite glad to have it back. My faith was tested over  
that week, but ultimately vindicated...

Second, the better news: we got to see a 2005" (50m) laser-scanning  
triple-hd projector. Jawdropping... but you'll have to read to the end.

 From the Economist:
> Pushing granny aside
> Joining an international chorus, elderly Japanese often grouse that  
> public-etiquette standards have fallen precipitously. They now have  
> a martyr for their cause. After a 65-year-old woman admonished  
> Akimi Odajima, aged 22, for putting on her makeup on a train  
> platform in Hiroo station, Ms Odajima allegedly pushed her critic  
> against a subway train moving at 35km per hour. The older woman  
> suffered several broken bones in her chest. Traditionally in Japan,  
> it is considered rude to eat or apply makeup in public.
Indeed, I read that after a few days of unease that I've seen more  
litter, animated behavior in the streets, and an actual bit of  
graffiti! But at least you can remain assured that it's deathly  
silent at rush hour in an overcrowded subway... ;)

> Smoking
> Japan is a nation of unreformed smokers—something that strikes many  
> visitors as bizarre. Billboard cigarette advertising is everywhere  
> and vending machines dispense cheap packets on most street corners.  
> Until recently, the only places to stubbornly insist on a non- 
> smoking policy have been Starbucks coffee shops and subway and  
> overground trains (though platforms have designated smoking areas).
>
> However, in October 2002 Japan's first anti-smoking law was  
> introduced in one of Tokyo's central wards, Chiyoda (home to the  
> celebrated Yasukuni Shrine). Today, those caught puffing or  
> stubbing their cigarettes in streets around here are subject to a  
> fine of ¥2,000 ($l6). It remains to be seen whether the ruling will  
> be extended to Tokyo's other 22 wards.
Still also very much the case... and the prize for pun of the day  
goes to the name of this new spa in the Economist guide:

> LaQua http://www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/e/laqua/
>
> The whole Tokyo-Yokohama area (what used to be Edo) sits on bedrock  
> that caps a bubbling cauldron of hot springs. The owners of Tokyo  
> Dome City had the idea of creating a hot spring spa by drilling  
> beneath their property; they hit geyser water at a depth of 1,700  
> metres. The spa opened in May 2003, with glowing reports. There is  
> a fitness centre in the building.
>
> It is possible to stay overnight (¥1,800 plus 5% tax), but there  
> are no private rooms and only reclining chairs to sleep in. Tokyo  
> Dome City is a large complex that includes a Western style hotel  
> and the Tokyo Dome stadium, home of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team.

... though the worst-Japanglish prize goes to a Canadian English  
teacher who rescued us in Koreatown and regaled us with tales of T- 
shirts surely designed by gaijin out to test the limits of what they  
can get away with -- a 2-year old showed up with a spangly little  
outfit her mother found cute -- that spelled out "LITTLE SLUT"!

I'd also like to share some notes from TRAVELWOMAN:

================================================

After we got in on Saturday, Rohit and I and a
friend of his who is also in town for the conference, Tantek, walked
around our hotel. We went to a mall and looked around, had some
sashimi for dinner and then did groceries at Carrefour.

On Sunday, we took the train into Tokyo downtown and walked around for
a while. We also saw the [Meiji-Jingu shrine], which was
beautifully maintainted. Unfortunately, I had only brought sandals and
they gave way on Sunday. So we hunted around for shoes and discovered
that the largest size they carry in Japan is US size 8. So after much
searcing, we found a pair of flip-flops (and that too from an American
store in Harajuku). Later in the evening, on the way back from Tokyo  
(the
conference and our hotel is in a suburb of Tokyo called Chiba), we
spent a few hours at DisneySea Tokyo. That was great fun. We went on a
couple of rides and given that it was Sunday evening, the park had
mostly emptied out. So we were able to really see all that we wanted
to see including the fireworks over the water. The rides that we
especially liked are the Indiana Jones ride and the Journey into the
Center of the Earth where my glasses almost flew off. :) :)

Yesterday (Monday), we went to Aichi via Nagoya to attend the World
Expo (http://www-1.expo2005.or.jp/en/ ). This basically happens every 4
to 5 years and is a showcase of countries and technologies of the
world. So most countries will have a booth showcasing their culture
and country etc.. Also companies such as Toyota and Mitsubishi etc.
also showcase their latest technologies.

We went to the Expo with friends of Rohit from Canada (Ottawa), Mark
Baker, his wife Christine and their 4-year old James who are also here
for the conference. It was a long trip to the Expo...took us 5 hours
to get there...about 45 minutes to downtown Tokyo, then the fast train
to Nagoya, then a subway to another nearby town and finally a shuttle
to the Expo.

Travelling by train is a big deal in Japan. Even though Japan is known
for its cars, most people travel by train at least in the metropolitan
areas that we have been in for lack of parking space presumably. Japan
has some of the fastest trains in the world travelling at over 150mph.
In fact the trains that we took from Tokyo to Nagoya and back
travelled at that speed. These are called the Shinkansen
(http://www.japanrail.com/meetourtrains.php ). We saw an even faster
train called the MLX train at the Expo that will debut in a couple of
years (http://www-1.expo2005.or.jp/en/venue/pavilion_private_b.html ).
This train will travel at about 350mph almost as fast as a jet!!! So
we have to come back to travel in this train in a few years.

We visited the booths of a bunch of countries at the Expo. The first
one we visited was that of Canada
(http://www.expo2005canada.gc.ca/en/ ). There was a big line to go into
that pavilion. While we stood in line, I noticed a couple of Mounties
(the Canadian Royal Mounted Police) posing with visitors for photos. I
decided to pose with them as well and in the process asked them if
fellow Canadians could get into the Expo without having to stand in
the lines. Rather generously, he said that indeed we could do so. So
after Rohit took our photo, he took all of us around the building to
the VIP entrance. There he introduced us to a guide who gave us Canada
Aichi pins before escorting us on the tour. The presentation was a
narrative-less movie depicting Canada and its diversity. It was
projected onto two layers of sheer fabric which created a gorgeous
effect. After the presentation, we picked up a couple of mementos and
moved on. Overall we got royal (but democratic) treatment!! :) :)

We then proceeded to the American pavilion which also had a big line.
One of the Americans hosts was on a Segway which was kinda cool
(http://www.segway.com/ ). Rohit asked her if fellow Americans could
get special treatment. Apparently we could if we called in advance and
made an appointment. Since we hadn't done so, we stood in line and had
to get X-rayed like everyone else to get in. The presentation itself
was about Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of America
and also an inventor. It was very nicely done. The typical format for
this and other presentations is a pre-show introducing and explaining
the presenation in a neighbouring room followed by the actual shindig
in an auditorium. The actual presentation was about Franklin talking
about how he would have loved to be around today to witness and
experience the tremendous technological advances of the day. He did so
by describing some of the key technologies of today and thinking aloud
about some future technologies to look forward to.

The American and Canadian presentations were very different
stylistically. The American was focused on technology...a bit of the
past and some of the future. The Canadian was more abstract and a bit
subtle...reflecting on their cultural diversity of today. Rohit summed
it up well...is basically was very much in sync with the respective
national identities.

Most of the other booths did not have presentations and we organized
more like an exhibition with posters etc. We scavenged around and
found Rs. 6 to try to bribe our way into the Indian pavalion if
necessary but we didn't have to because the traffic flowed pretty
easily. The Indian one had a bunch of stores on the second floor
showcasing traditional artwork. While the Japanese did look around
quite a bit, they didn't seem to be buying much!! There was also a
Bollywood masala cafe where we got some chicken curry...which was
shockingly good!

We generally snacked around eating kabab at the Bangladeshi pavilion
and drinking rather overpriced coconut water at the South Pacific  
one. Some
of the other highlights included a trip to the Austrian one whose
walls were made of ice (http://www.expo2005.or.at/en/pavilion/tour ).
The most fun aspect of this pavilion was a wooden slope designed to
give visitors the experience of sledding downhill. Check out the
website for more details.

We also visited the Scandinavian pavilion with its gorgeous artwork
partly because both Rohit and I hope to visit that part of the world
sometime (hopefully soon). Rohit has beent to Norway, Denmark and
Sweden though not to Iceland. Apparently now there are direct non-stop
flights from SF to Reykjavik (Iceland). Of course, I cannot imagine it
hosting any of Rohit's conferences so we may have to make a pure
vacation out of it. Let's see.

The most fun technological pavilion we visited hosted the gigantic
Sony theatre supported by 3 High Def projectors. The screen was 2005
inches as compared to you TV of 19 (or maybe 27 inches) and our
wall-wide screen of 105 inches. Basically, the screen was 3 times the
length of a normal theatre sceeen. We saw a documentary about nature
and the various colors were just gorgeous. It was definitely the
technological highlight of the event.

I should probably stop now since this email has gotten very long
already. I will write more about our general experiences in Japan.
Suffice it to say, it is a telecommunications' hellhole. The phone
card that we bought at the airport when we first callled you has not
worked from any other payphone. And we cannot quite figure out why. We
tried using it to call you on Mother's day but to no avail. And rather
shockingly for a country that is a leading producer of cellphones, the
GSM network which works everywhere else in the world does not seem to
work here. So even within the technologically advanced social network
of Rohit's that's in town, we have no working mobile phones. We have
locked our phones away in the room safe because they are useless here.
Also, the only place we have internet access here is in the room.
Rohit's friend had his laptop out all of Saturday searching for
wireless access but to no avail.


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