Archive for June, 2009

Video Mumble: being grumpy and fighting birds

Just a quick video post in which I talk about a couple of things on my mind, and introduce you to my fighting pet sparrows!

I keep my eyes almost shut as I’m still asleep.

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iPhone 3GS Video Review – shot, edited and uploaded to You Tube by the iPhone 3GS

iPhone 3GS UnboxingWhen I figured out that if I cancelled my current iPhone 3G contract and bought a new iPhone 3GS, I’d end up paying almost exactly the same on a monthly basis as I already did, I was straight out of the house and on a train to Shibuya to the Softbank store.

In Japan, the general rule for iPhone users who want to upgrade is, well, you can’t. You just have to pay off the remainder of your 3G contract at the regular monthly rate – in my case this is 17 months at 3,360 yen – a grand total of 57,120 yen (US$600, UK£360 payable on a monthly basis) – then take out a new iPhone 3GS contract at the discount rate of 780 yen a month (with unlimited data but excluding calls this totals about 6,500 yen / US$68 / UK£41 a month).

  • Monthly cost of old iPhone 3G : 10,000 yen / US$105 / UK£63 a month with unlimited data but excluding calls
  • Monthly cost of new iPhone 3GS + one contract-free sim-free iPhone 3G: the same 10,000 yen
  • No brainer!

    Anyhow, nevermind the numbers, what about the thing itself.

    OMG it is a beauty! Here, in this video which was recorded, edited and uploaded direct to YouTube by the iPhone itself, I explain why it is the new love of my life.

    As I say in the video, I’ll be GIVING AWAY MY iPHONE 3G FREE to a listener of my podcast Japan Podshow – the iPhone is in very good condition and will come with brand new headphones / charger / cable and the box.

    n.b. You can tell this was edited on the iPhone as I managed to irreversibly cut the first 5 seconds of the video off – and there’s no undo!

    Stormtrooper meets Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son

    Last night there was a meeting of two giants: Danny Choo, King of Otaku Stormtroopers, and Masayoshi Son, Softbank CEO and the richest man in Japan.

    Son was speaking at the official launch party of the iPhone 3GS in Japan on 26th June 2009, in Ometesando. In the video, Mr. Son is seen talking about the many benefits of the iPhone, one of which he has had for a couple of weeks. He also presents the audience with two gifts – little Softbank dog mascots to hang from their mobile phones, and iTunes gift certificates.

    Following the countdown to zero, Son turns to leave the stage, but it met by a Stormtrooper (Danny Choo) who suggests that they have their photo taken together. Assembled photographers are clearly delighted by this photo opportunity, and Mr. Son seemed to take it all in his stride!

    n.b. Danny’s bit is 4:47 into the clip

    For more stories from Japan, check out www.japanpodshow.comEpisode 6 has just been released – and we’re giving away the brand new Otaku Encyclopedia in our competition!

    Japan Podshow Episode 6 – Otaku Attack!

    (This is a repost of an update I’ve just made to www.pokya.jp/japanpodshow)


    Japan Podshow Episode 6 - Otaku Attack!In episode 6 of Japan Podshow, George and Joseph, prevented from leaving the house by the start of the rainy season, come to you live from the kitchen table.

    Listen to the show here 34mb, 33 mins, MP3

    Download it direct here, Subscribe and listen in iTunes or Listen via our RSS feed

    Entrepreneur Interview: James Rees

    It’s a jam-packed episode, featuring two interviews: the first is with James Rees, an entrepreneur based in Tokyo who operates an import-export business, making use of Japan’s hidden ‘naishoku’ system (hosuewives doing piecemeal work at home to earn a few extra pennies, as seen in ‘The Last Samurai’), and a niche market that he discovered through his interest in …carp fishing. As well as giving an overview of how his business works, James talks about the problems he’s faced, and gives some advice to others wanting to set up their own companies.

    Interview: Patrick Galbraith, author of The Otaku Encyclopedia

    The Otaku EncyclopediaThe second interview is with Patrick Galbraith, author of the brand new book The Otaku Encyclopedia: An Insiders Guide to the Subculture of Cool Japan
    – a copy of which you can win in this week’s competition. Patrick, a regular contributor to Metropolis Magazine (which features Patrick’s book as it’s front-page story this week, and the podcast of which features Joseph once a week) knows more about Otaku sub-cultures in Japan than anyone else would dare to know – what started as a 600 page volume of his own notes on Otaku has now become a fantastic 200 page A-Z of everything Otaku you might find in Tokyo.

    WIN A COPY OF THE OTAKU ENCYCLOPAEDIA!

    In this week’s competition you have the chance to win a copy of the enclyclopeadia – just email your answer to the VERY EASY QUESTION to hello [at] japanpodshow.com

    Winners of www.Rinkya.com commission from Episode 5

    Rinkya.com in the newsCongratulations to all of our winners of the Rinkya.com commission competition. The following people have each won $20 for use on the the fantastic Japan Auction & Online Shopping Service. For those of you who didn’t win, remember that it’s free to sign up with Rinkya – so go check them out!

    Winners:

  • Rick Martin
  • Miako Kuran
  • Brett Fyfield
  • Daniel Jones
  • Listener’s feedback

    Thank you for all the feedback this week,

  • Mark (from Illinois?)
  • Vinai Norasakkunkit
  • Everyone over on the Japan Soc blog article
  • @tokyodan
  • @sireneast
  • @shanesakata
  • nandeyanenpod
  • rainbowhill
  • fatblueman
  • meganechan
  • orchid64
  • nickramsey
  • Band of the Week: Johnsons Motorcar

    This week’s music is provided by Johnsons Motorcar. Blackie does the honors of introducing the band with a short interview: they’re a very lively Irish band who can often be found playing in Tokyo and beyond. Check them out on MySpace!

    We welcome your feedback – you can phone us, skype us, join our facebook group, comment on our blog, twitter us @japanpodshow, or email us hello[at]japanpodshow.com

    End of week thinkings

    Twinkle at Yamaki Organic Farm(Today’s photo was taken on our trip to Yamaki Organic Soy farm last month)

    Morning.

    You find me on the train to work. It’s a Saturday. About 8am. Not too crowded. I got a seat. It’s 30 minutes to my stop from here, no changes.

    It’s been a challenging week. It started with my working on Monday, which I would usually have as a day off – occasionally I’m asked to go out and teach one or two-day intensive English course at client offices. I must admit I find these exhausting – they also serve to remind me that whilst I am perfectly capable of teaching, it’s not my forte. I’m more suited to planning, organsing, arranging for things to happen, then motivating people (through example etc) to carry them out. Still, I don’t mind teaching now and then. It’s good to have a change of scenery.

    I do best at work when I’m presented with a problem which needs a radical solution – I’m thinking of multi-stage processes that until now have been carried out piecemeal – lacking a workflow. I like to analyse the stages and see where connections can be made, where waste can be cut, where duplication can be avoided. Unfortunately, it looks like it will be increasingly difficult to devote much time to this kind of thing as the recession sinks its teeth into our industry, resulting in more work for fewer people.

    Due to my not having Monday daytime off, I had several very late nights as I attempted to do the misplaced podcast editing. Thus, from Wednesday on I found myself absolutely exhausted, and had a couple of early nights. This meant that I was unable to do anything on those days but my day job (and a Japanese lesson on Wednesday night) – something I always find immensely frustrating, as it feels that I have simply sold a whole day of my life just for the sake of money. I know that this is the way that our economy works, and I know that the sum of money I receive in exchange for my time is infinitely more than so many people on the planet, but it still makes me feel a little sick.

    These feelings are exacerbated when I watch incredible films such as Home, which I highly recommend you make 90 minutes to watch. It features some stunning ariel photography shot over a period of many years, telling the story of the development of the Earth, highlighting the challenges we now face, and attempting to inspire us to do something about it (hat-tip to Bastish.net, one of my all-time favourite Japan photo-blogs, for the link)

    I found myself feeling pretty upset and frustrated by the middle section of the film – not due to the film itself, but due to the things it was telling me about what we have done to the planet. It also made me think about what I am doing here. Well actually, to be honest it made me feel that I am completely wasting my life by devoting my time to earning enough money to pay the bills so that I have enough money to go to work …and pay the bills again. I should be doing something to make a difference.

    But this is why I try to make use of every hour outside of my day-job to work on my portfolio. One of my medium-term goals is to be making English-language environmental documentaries, which are linked in with online resources that allow people to get involved and make a difference themselves, locally. If we’re going to sort this problem out we need to empower everyone to do their bit. What Yann Arthus-Bertrand has created is absolutely phenomenal, but it would be even better with a little postscript of actions one could take.

    Incidentally, I’m not pretending I’m any great film-maker – as you can see from my YouTube channel I’m not. But there are great film-makers out there, and I would seek to work with them. Likewise with the online side of things – I’d always seek to team up with those with expert knowledge / resources.

    I’d also love to be doing something like this:

    Extreme Ice Survey in Action from Extreme Ice Survey on Vimeo.

    It’s early days.

    I find it comforting to remember that it’s early days. If I look at people around me who are doing some great stuff in Japan, I see that on the whole they have been here for a good length of time. Say, 7-10 years. This gives me hope – I’ve only been back 10 months. If I can achieve what I have so far in 10 months with a full time job, what will I be able to achieve in 10-years (much of which will be spent without the distraction of a day job, although with the distraction of children)?

    The podcast experiment is going well, with a doubling of subscriptions in the last 10 days (thanks to the Debito interview), and approximately 4000 downloads. This week marks the halfway point too (we agreed to make 12 main episodes for series one, and are now at number 6) – that feels good. I’m glad to be on the Metpod too (Thursday edition, about 3/4 of the way in); it’s good practice in being concise.

    Transformers

    Last night I made a mad dash from work down to the new digi-IMAX (uses standard film instead of IMAX film) in Kawasaki for the first showing of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – a great film for little boys like me. The gathering had been arranged by my good friend Steve Nagata, who had kindly sorted out the tickets and stuff in advance.

    It struck me that this was the first time I’d hung out with a bunch of people from the Tokyo tech scene for a non-tech event – that made me smile. It’s nice to have friends.

    I was given a lift back by Danny who blogged it at (www.dannychoo.com) – this was no ordinary lift home though as he provided Transformer sound effects for us as we drove, transforming the Nissan into a huge Autobot. The film had obviously infiltrated his sub-conscious as (to my alarm) upon leaving the car park, whilst concentrating on the GPS he attempted some off-road driving, mounting the central reservation! The thing that amused me was that as we headed for the kerb I was actually expecting the car to detect the side of the road and somehow stop of its own accord – clearly I’ve been hanging out with tech geeks too much.

    I’m planning on registering as a sole trader on Monday to help offset some of the costs of our extra-curricular businesses. Podcasting doesn’t exactly require require a lot of investment in expensive equipment, but it does involve a lot of travel and so forth. It would be good at least to get the tax back.

    The rainy season has begun in Japan – it will last for another month or so. I’ve decided that I quite like it, what with it being a natural part of the cycle.

    Anyways, we’ve long since passed my stop, so I’d best be off.

    tarra.

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    Video: Dancing Bean

    A short experiment created for The Daily Mumble and my own interest:

    I was given a bean by *Twinkle* last week. I’ve been amazed by the speed with which it’s grown. Anyway, yesterday I decided to film it as I worked and listened to some nice music …and to my amazement, the following happened!

    Perhaps the first time this kind of activity by a plant has been captured on film?

    Apologies for the poor quality

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    Interviewing Arudou Debito

    Arudou Debito by Alfie Goodrich
    Arudou Debito by Alfie Goodrich. Special thanks to Alfie for taking this photo – for more of his work visit www.alfiegoodrich.com
    Earlier today I finally managed to post my interview with Arudou Debito, recorded a week or so ago at the Foreign Correspondents Club Japan. It was a lot of work, but well worth it as I learnt a lot in the process of production.First off was the practical stuff: we had an interview room booked at the FCCJ – but it turned out to be totally inappropriate: poorly lit, and with a ventilator that couldn’t be turned off. It might be good for pen and paper interviews, but for anything else it’s pants as it is. Next time I would check out the interview location myself first, and then make sure I took along any lights etc that I needed (I bought some lights last year for photography projects – although only ever used them once (false nails) – oh, and once to light up the sea of cherry blossom in front of our balcony).

    Next: I need to know my equipment better. One of the cameras was leant to me by a kind friend – but having not used it before it was only when it switched itself off whilst Debito was talking that I discovered that it will stop when files reach 1GB. I also need to make sure I have enough tapes – I forgot to take a spare, and was only saved by the fact that had taken a third (digital) camera along with me.

    I shouldn’t be mixing the DV tape cameras with the pure-digital cameras – the DV cameras play back at a different speed to the digital recordings – this cost me hours of additional editing time spent trying to sync the recordings. It’s odd though, as I thought DV *was* digital…

    The sound worked out fine. It was recorded using iTalk on the iPhone – what I use for much of our non-studio Japan Podshow stuff.

    I do need better (semi-pro) equipment. At the moment I only have relatively old household electronics, and although this stuff is only going out on YouTube I believe it does show. Also, working with output from different devices makes editing take forever – I spent the best part of two days editing the Debito interview and outputting it in the various formats.
    I also need to figure out what happens when I try to put multiple media files in a single WordPress post. I spent hours today trying to sort the RSS feed out, reposting at least 5 times using different plugins and combinations. I apologise to anyone who was spammed by them.

    As an intermission, here’s the full interview. If you’d like to choose which parts to watch, please see the post on Japan Podshow. For more info on Debito, see his website www.debito.org

    Japan Podshow Interview: Arudou Debito from japanpodshow on Vimeo.

    Personal lessons:

    I need to develop my interview technique. The laughter at the beginning of the interview was totally out of place – we’d been laughing before we began. Also, I need to cut back on the amount of feedback I give – I am getting better at this, tending to nod rather than offering vocal feedback (this was a huge problem in a recording I made for episode 2 of the podcast – the recorded was peppered by my ‘un’s and ‘eh’s and ‘I see’s). I also need to stop saying things like ‘no way!’ and ‘awesome!’ – on recordings at least. I also need to be more conscious about cutting down on ‘um’s and inserting spaces after I have made a mistake for easy editing.

    I was also too casual in my body language at times.

    I’m glad I feel able to learn in this public way. I know that if I were a professional producer (and not me) I would want to pull all this stuff offline straight away due to the amateur nature of it all, but I’m not a pro yet, and I am me. …and the best way to learn is to do, right?I want to document my journey – and these first efforts each mark an important step taken towards reaching my goal.

    The comments over on Japan Soc

    I find it interesting that (so far) nearly all of the comments made on my video on the Japan Soc entry are criticisms of Debito. It reminds me of Japan Today, a site I rarely visit these days, where you get hundreds of comments missing the main point of the news story altogether and instead focusing on criticising others for no apparent reason other than to make the comment authors feel superior or ‘right’. I wonder why these people feel the need to criticise him for continuing to raise important issues that few others take the time to raise.

    It strikes me that these are the kind of people who might claim that non-Japanese in Japan are ‘guests’ and that we have no right to complain! What a load of rubbish! Imagine if all minority groups (such as black people in the US in the early 1950s) had gone along with this twaddle – we’d still have segregated buses!

    I even found that one of my friends shared this view the other night – I tried hard not to roll my eyes.

    Anyway, I don’t want to make time to get into that debate here – there’s plenty of other places you can go for that.

    My train’s just got in to Naka Meguro, time for me to go. `

    EDIT: Orchid64 has written a 2-part post on discrimination against foreigners in Japan here – and looks into why some foreigners insist on defending it here.

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    Launch of The Daily Mumble Podcast

    The Daily Mumble podcastWith so little time to blog, The Daily Mumble has suffered. Recent weeks have seen little original content – just repostings of content I’m producing for other outlets.

    Tonight I was thinking what a shame this was, as I do enjoy writing The Daily Mumble. When do I have regular downtime in which I can write it?

    Erm, well I’m not usually doing much when I walk home from the station. Typing for those 7 minutes would be a bit tricky though. I’d need some kind of harnness for my MacBook Pro.

    …or I could just use my iPhone as a voice recorder and turn the Mumble into what it was always destined to be – a literal Daily Mumble.

    So that’s what I’ve decided to do.

    Welcome to The Daily Mumble Podcast.

    There’s no promises with this, and, as with The Daily Mumble, I’m doing it more for myself than anything else. It’s not meant to attract a huge number of listeners. It’s more just a way in which I can document my life.

    I’ve updated The Daily Mumble feed so that it’s podcast-compatible, so the feed hasn’t changed from what it was before. It may in due course be available in iTunes too.

    Or you can listen to it here: The Daily Mumble Podcast 11th June 2009 (10 mins, 9.3mb, MP3)

    In this episode I introduce the podcast, talk about being busy & marriage, talk about my debut on today’s metpod (about 25 mins in to the episode) and pass by the local fire brigade practising.

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    Japan Podshow Episode 5: Killer Karaoke

    Hhmm, I completely forgot to add Episode 5 of the podcast to The Daily Mumble at the weekend. Silly me.

    For those of you who hadn’t realised, I’m now using The Daily Mumble as a kind of central library featuring all of my online content. Stuff from Japan Podshow, misc videos, blogs etc

    Apologies to those who are also subscribed to my Japan Podshow feeds and get the same content twice (you could just listen to / watch it twice!).

    Anyway, here’s Episode 5 of the podcast. It’s very silly I know, but also informative and inspiring I think. Check out the interview with http://www.rinkya.com‘s president Heather Russell, and the interview / music from Daniel Edwards.

    Feedback welcomed.


    Japan Podshow Episode 5 - Killer KaraokeEpisode 5 of Japan Podshow is the most musical to date, as George and Joseph invite you in to their Karaoke booth in central Tokyo.

    Listen to the show here

    Download it direct here, Subscribe and listen in iTunes or Listen via our RSS feed

    Karaoke does of course play a vital part in keeping Japanese society moving, providing an opportunity for stressed out salarymen and swine-flu infected school children to relax and express themselves.

    Entrepreneur interview: Heather Russell of Rinkya.com

    Rinkya.com in the newsEpisode 5 also features an interview with Heather Russell, founder and president of http://www.rinkya.com – the fantastic Japan Auction & Online Shopping Service! Heather is a truly inspirational entrepreneur, and over the past 8 years has built www.rinkya.com up to be one of the most popular sites for people wanting to buy things from Japanese sites.

    Competition time!

    We’re GIVING AWAY $100 of Rinkya commision! Listen in to find out how you can win – entering is easy! Just listen to the show for the question – and you’ll find the answer on Rinkya.com – you might want to check out their blog too! (See the Rinkya Page in our Guests section)

    Next on the show we introduce the kansai-based Nandeyonen podcast, available from http://nandeyanenyo.podbean.com/.

    Doctor Foster (left) and Professor Wild

    Meet Dr. Foster and Professor Wild!

    The doctor and the professor are new contributors to Japan Podshow, and will be appearing on a regular basis. In addition to Japan Podshow, you’ll also be able to catch them on Tokyo’s Metropolis Magazine podcast, the Metpod http://www.metpod.com. The professor gives his reaction to some of the stories featured in Metropolis Magazine‘s Small Print section.

    We then announce the winners of the episode 4 competition to win vouchers on Edufire – the online video learning platform. Congratulations to the winners who correctly identified the secret voice as saying ‘Zenmaisamurai’ and then a few days after release just ‘Samurai’: Perminder Suman, Sylvain vedrenne, Alexandre Coutu, Jeff Smith and Miako Kuran!

    Check out Edufire today – there’s lessons available 24 hours a day, it’s easy to use, and there’s hundreds of subjects to choose from.

    If you want to learn Japanese, we recommend Rainbowhill (aka Brett Fyfield), the incredibly popular instructor who featured on Japan Podshow episode 4.

    Listener’s feedback

    This week, that includes

    @TokyoDan
    @ShaneSakata
    @Tokyotopia
    @socialpreneur
    @kelly62
    @deizu
    @papadimitriou
    @michaelqtodd

    Thanks also to messages from
    BusanKevin and Vinai Norasakkunkit.

    …and a very special thank you to Craig and Linda Martin of the Indie Travel Podcast, a fantastic resource for travellers and armchair travellers alike. Check them out!

    Smile by Daniel Edwards

    Music: Daniel Edwards

    We finish off with an interview and song from Tokyo-based musician Daniel Edwards, a very talented guy whose new single ‘Smile’ (and his entire back catalogue) is now available in iTunes. You can also check Daniel out on MySpace, and become a fan on Facebook. In the US, his single Smile is available from Amazon.com.

    After the interview we hear “Heaven”, taken from his album “Curtain Call”.

    There may even be a little bit of bonus material at the end of the show – The show ain’t over till the fat lady sings!

    We LOVE getting your feedback! Join our Facebook group, skype us, email us, Twitter us (@japanpodshow) – we love hearing from our listeners, please do give us your feedback!

    Background music in the Small Print section is “Calling from Japan” by Comfortable.

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    Video: Joseph and *Twinkle*s trip to Yamaki Jouzo

    In our first video podcast collaboration, *Twinkle* and I take you to Yamaki Jouzo, an organic farm located about 2.5 hours from Tokyo in Kamikawa-cho, Saitama (accessible by train to JR Honjo and then bus) [Google Map].

    This video was originally going to be a Japan Podshow episode, but in the end we were unable to get all the footage we needed.

    It would be a waste to not use what we did get though – so here it is for Daily Mumblers.

    Large version available on Facebook

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    Video: Amazing DIY Rapid Hair Grower

    Japan is always ahead of the game when it comes to hair care. With more hair per square kilometre than over 76% of the earth’s surface, Japan takes it’s hair seriously, thus, when hair-loss situations arise, a whole variety of techniques have been developed to combat it.

    Here’s one I tried last night – as you can see, it was a great success!

    ect>

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    Harvesting my pineapple …and other stuff

    In this video I mentioned my interview with Honor and Shane’s about Japan Discovered, and my participation in Japan Tech Talk.

    You gotta love the thumbnail image representing this video! Not much I can do about that!

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