iPhoning Japan Presents: Live-streaming the Tokyo Marathon with an iPhone strapped to my forehead

marathonstreamingtest007iPhoningJapan.com is delighted to bring you the most epic iPhone challenge yet seen in the world (probably).

Joseph Tame, known for his addiction to his iPhone (a.k.a. ‘my baby’) is going to attempt to complete the Tokyo quarter Marathon in record time whilst carrying 30,603 pairs of eyes on his forehead. This epic feat has been made possible by months of training, an Apple iPhone, Qik.com and a new invention of Joseph’s, which he calls ‘A Modified Hat’.

He will be joined by his trainer, Tom Kobayashi.

35,603 people applied to run this epic race across Tokyo – only 5000 got in: Joseph and Tom were two of the lucky few.

Knowing how disappointed the unlucky unfortunates must be feeling, Joseph vowed to make things right. He decided, he’d let them run with him.

The full story of this epic adventure will be featured on the new podcast that Joseph co-produces – Japan Podshow.

To get live alerts via twitter of Joseph’s progress & broadcasts, be sure to follow him @tamegoeswild.

Exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of this epic challenge is also available on YouTube.

Be there and submit your comments as he runs to make his iPhone vibrate – he’ll know he’s carrying your eyes and your hopes too.

(This post is a crosspost from http://wwwiphoningjapan.com)

Firing on all cylinders

Streaming the marathon

My running the Tokyo quarter marathon whilst streaming live video seems to have caught people’s attention, with two major US websites now offering to promote it, and another Japan-based media organisation interested in interviewing me tomorrow.

I’m raising money for Oxfam Japan.

This has all come out of the blue. I think the idea was a joke at the office at first, but has refused to be forgotten since.

That’ll all be featured on http://www.iphoningjapan.com, although I’ll be cross-posting here,

Meanwhile, there’s been a storm of attention around http://www.japanpodshow.com, which hasn’t even started broadcasting yet. The number of emails and Twitter messages I’ve received wishing us at Pokya the best / offering to help out has been pretty overwhelming. Nope. No pressure.

Japan Podshow

Once again astonished by how, if you just make a move, take a step out of your comfort zone providence moves too.

I also took part in an hour-long live podcast tonight, talking about the iPhone, social networks in Japan and their impact on our lives. I have a way to go yet before I’m Andy Ihnatko.

I also took part in the Smart Phone showdown at the PInk Cow (Shibuya) – streaming the event live from two iphones whilst using a third to try and twitter that the stream location was going to change due to battery issues.

Friday I attended the third Tokyo CGM (consumer generated media) hosted by Danny Choo and Andrew Shuttleworth. What an experience that was. Imagine finally meeting a whole host of people whose stuff you’ve been reading for months (or years) but have never seen in the flesh. It was pretty incredible. I’d love to blog about that more, but will save it for the podcast.

The twitter network we have here in Tokyo (and of course beyond) has proved to be an invaluable tool, and I would thoroughly recommend to anyone setting up home in Japan (who is that way inclined) to use it’s amazing power to connect to others. A lot of good things have been coming my way through Twitter.

You can follow me

Anyway, I’ve got videos to edit so I’d best get on. Volunteer work at the local city hall tomorrow (work on their website) then hopefully getting much of the first podcast in the can (my second beautiful Samsung C01U USB Condenser mike arrived today, just 24 hours after ordering it online). In the evening I hope to visit the studios of the Tokyo Metpod, then a goodbye party near the company for a couple of colleagues.

Sleep is next year. Gripped by nervous excitement.

Joseph

A new bird feeder

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Following on from my last post: having packed my rucksack with Macbook, clothes and shoes for work, water and stuff for my Japanese lesson, I realised it would be daft to try and run like that. Carrying so much weight would not be easy, and would probably leave me with mightily sore shoulders.

So, instead, I decided to run across the south of Tokyo to the bay area, or more specifically, to Rainbow Bridge, from which I thought I might be able to get a mighty fine view of the area.

I left home at 6.30am, and arrived an hour later – only to find that the bridge opened to pedestrians at 9am! It took me another hour to get home, but I made it in time for a shower / change and then off to the office for a 10am start.

I really enjoyed the challenge. But you know, I’m struck by how small Tokyo really is. Shinagawa is, in my mind, miles away, somewhere that is somehow in a different realm, access to which is only granted by train or subway. But my jog gave me a concrete sense of the relationship between our home and Tokyo Bay. It makes me feel that I have somehow tamed that section of the city, that it can’t overwhelm me, as I’ve seen it for what it really is – and it’s not scary.

I shot a number of videos whilst jogging which were live-streamed to http://www.qik.com/tamegoeswild. One thing I discovered is that the iPhone Mic is susceptible to wind noise, and that’s something I’ll need to get sorted for the race next week. I bought a jogging hat today and will try and modify my iPhone arm-band so as to accommodate it and the extra battery, and attach to my new hat.


Today I’m taking the day off the day job to work on other stuff. I find it difficult to work in untidy surroundings, so utilised productive procrastination to tidy the whole flat, do a load of washing up and wash all the bedding.

A couple of days back I bought a couple of plastic bird feeders – but they were a bit pants really as they had to hang on the edge of the 40cm-high railings outside the window, not giving the birds anywhere to stand as they ate. However, this morning at about 7am I heard a few birds pecking away at the ultra-small window sill – they’d been throwing the food out of the bowls onto that.

This inspired me to think about creating a proper windowsill …and that’s what I did. I picked up some cheap wooden racks at the local department store, sawed them in half and then nailed them together, and slotted them into place between the existing mini-windowsill and the metal guard.

And this is the result.

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All part of the ongoing (yet already successful) effort to make home home. Mum and dad have an incredible number of birds at their feeders in Orcop – the photo at the top of this post was taken from their conservatory – and I’d like to continue what I think of as an English tradition. It also only strikes me as fair. We’ve destroyed so much of the natural habitat of birds that I think it’s right that we try and make their current lives as pleasant as possible!

Good timing too, what with the approach of Spring!

Running across Tokyo to get to work (probably)

Run Run as fast as you can!

Just a quick post tonight, to tell you of my plans for tomorrow morning.

After work tonight I visited the ‘citizens’ centre’ just down the road from the office, and asked about local gyms. Apparently there’s a council-run place in Kanda, about 20 mins walk from the office, and about 16km from home. That should be ideal.

The plan then is to run from home to Kanda, get there at 9am, shower & change, then get to the office for 10am.

Of course this means I’m going to have to run with a rucksack full of work clothes (including shoes), and my Macbook, and some stuff for my Japanese lesson in the evening. I think it’s going to be quite a challenge – and I may not make it!

All this is in aid of training for the Tokyo Quarter Marathon next week.

I’ll also use the opportunity to test out live streaming video from my iPhone using the new Mophie juice pack I picked up today. It’s an amazing device, doesn’t look like a battery at all. Very sexy. I’ll do a review of it in a week or so on http://www.iphoningjapan.com.

The videos will be here. I’ll need to use my gps sometimes to find my way so it won’t be a continuous stream.

Just trying to figure out how to attach the phone to my head for the marathon. I think it’ll be a case of modifying the armband strap I had so I can attach it to a baseball cap. I’m going to look pretty silly with an iPhone strapped to my head but I doubt I’ll care when I’m doing the run.

Best get on with the prep.

p.s. Smartphone Showdown is being held at The Pink Cow this Thursday! Yay for mobile obsessives!

How being able to speak Japanese has changed my life in Japan

KanjiI’ve been wanting to write this little post for some time. It’s not aimed at people who are perfectly happy not using Japanese whilst living in Japan (which I think is perfectly OK). It’s aimed at those considering studying Japanese. My hope is that it provides at least one person with a little inspiration.


It’s perfectly possible to live a very happy life in Tokyo without using Japanese. Our dear friend John John managed it for 30 odd years, and never seemed to have a problem (although he did have a lot of bilingual friends willing to help out when his VCR went kaput !). I also lived in Tokyo for about a year with a very limited Japanese vocabulary. Those were happy times, and I don’t recall feeling frustrated at not being able to speak Japanese.

My Japan-related History 2003-2008 in 6 short paragraphs

Prompted by the expiration of my visa (with no hope of a renewal) and a huge amount of debt, in 2003 I left Japan and returned to the UK.

I had a simple goal: to be back to Japan within five years with a university degree that would allow me to obtain a work visa (I’d previously bought a degree off the internet for US$300 but was laughed out of Otaru Immigration office).

Once back in the UK I applied to do a foundation course – with virtually no qualifications to my name and having been out of education for 7 years I needed to learn how to learn again. One year later that was complete, and I received an offer from the University of Sheffield to study Japanese at the highly respected School of East Asian Studies.

Graduation 2008There then followed 4 really tough years of study. We started off with about 50 people in our class – 16 of us made it though to the end (above, with Nagai sensei and Kitaka sensei. Note my appallingly cheesy grin). Though though it was, it was bloomin’ marvellous, and I would recommend the course to anyone.

Last July I graduated on a Tuesday, got married to my daringu *Twinkle* on a Friday, and returned to Japan shortly after that upon receiving my spouse visa.

It took me a while to settle back in. Having rejected a job offer from GABA that I’d secured over the phone from the UK I was unsure as to what I would do for a while. Also, I’d not used my Japanese for a while and seemed to have forgotten an awful lot. It was an uncomfortable yet exciting time.

Graduation, July 2008

Being able to speak Japanese and the impact it has upon my life

It’s now just over 6 months since my return. For reasons given in my previous mumble I’m now feeling very much at home. But there’s another reason I feel a lot more at home now that I didn’t go into in that post, and that’s my ability to speak Japanese.

Why? Simply put, it gives me more choices in how I live my life.

As I sat in the meeting room above the local gym, I had a little out-of-body moment. There I was, sitting in a room of local Japanese grannies and grandads, participating in a meeting to discuss how our local park should be run.

Wow! This is pretty cool! I thought. Six years ago when I used almost nothing but English in Japan I wouldn’t have been able to participate at all. I wouldn’t even have had the choice.

At work too I’m now using more and more Japanese. As my English telephone conversation classes peter out (it’s the end of the season) so I’m doing more work on creating marketing materials. This means working with the sales team, none of whom speak much English. In meetings with my (Japanese) boss I now find it far more natural to use Japanese – wow, I’m doing business in Japanese! OK, so I make a tonne of mistakes and my keigo is going through one of those non-existent phases – but it doesn’t matter. The important thing is I can communicate (and I’m continuing to study before work to help fill the 3 billion cubic metres of room for improvement).

Yesterday, I decided that I wanted to spend some time with a friend of ours who was made homeless a couple of years back and now sells the Big Issue outside Shibuya Station (East Exit, Ogura-san). He’d not been there for months, but yesterday, in accordance with what some call coincidence, he was there as we dashed to change to the subway. I quickly arranged to meet him after work, and last night, I did. I’ll talk more about what happened on the podcast, but just to say it was an enlightening experience – and something that could never had happened had I not learnt to speak Japanese.

I can sort stuff out at the bank by myself, I can run errands for *Twinkle* (where previously I would have had to get her to run errands for me). I can volunteer to help at the local city hall, I can speak with non-English speakers at parties and bars… I can do anything that I couldn’t do before due to the language barrier.

Speaking of *Twinkle*, it gives her greater freedom too. I don’t want there to be a language barrier between us – statistics show that intercultural couples are far more likely to divorce than others, language difficulties being one of the causes. I want her to be free to choose to use the language that most suits her feelings. I want to be friends with her friends, to communicate with them on the same level as she does. I want to be able to do stuff with her that requires Japanese language skills. I don’t want to be a husband who needs constant translations and explanations, or whose input needs to be translated back for others.

(I’ll repeat here that I’m not having a go at people who don’t speak Japanese. I don’t see Japanese speakers as being in any way ‘superior’ to those who don’t. We’ve all made our own choices and we all have our own priorities, and the way we lead our lives is entirely up to us)

Life is hard enough as it is without an optional language barrier making things more challenging.

And for me personally, I have another big reason for learning Japanese: for our (as yet not-conceived) children. I feel it is very important for me that I be able to communicate with them in their native language (which is likely to be Japanese). Yes, I’ll probably be using English with them a lot of the time as well, but I never want to be in a situation (probably later on in their lives) where I can’t understand what they are trying to tell me, or where I can’t respond in Japanese if the situation suggests that that would be best.

Take away all the benefits I feel on a daily basis, and that alone is enough.

So, no matter what the time and financial costs, if you are considering learning Japanese, I’d say go for it! The pay-back is potentially so enormous that it will dwarf the initial investment.

And of course the good news is, if an idiot like me can learn Japanese, anyone can!

頑張りましょう!