Taken when pepe visited the world’s largest freshwater lake, Baikal
Archive for September, 2009
Today was a very good day.
It started off as most Monday’s do – volunteer work at city hall. I went extra early today, in order to finish early and meet George an hour before our lunchtime appointment at the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo re. Japan Podshow – George and I deserve a break at the end of our 6-month stint! It was about then that I posted this photo – note Tokyo tower in the background. I wrote a short blog to accompany this on dannychoo.com.
I also briefly posted the following photo to this blog by mistake – I’m posting by email a lot of the time and made a little mistake with the email address, sending it here instead of just to Flickr.
I tell you, that place is incredible. Lunch is pretty reasonable too, starting at 3,500yen. We had the Chef’s special which would have been 4,500 yen (had we been paying 🙂 More info here. Mondays are Ladies Day – 4 for the price of 3.
I note from the site that dress is ‘Casual Elegance’ – George and I were there in our jeans and T-shirts!
The staff were extremely friendly. Linda, the pr manager whom we’re working with to make this happen, is very kind. The catering and restaurant managers knew that we’d be visiting and came out to say hello too, which was nice.
We have a preliminary date set to shoot the last episode of Japan Podshow for late next month – our venue may well be the most expensive suite in the whole of Tokyo (and possibly Japan?) – it’s 3,300 metres of floor space, over 50 floors up. Whilst we’re pencilled in, if someone books it, we’ll use another suite.
We’re thinking this will be something along the lines of Cirque du Soleil.
Following that I spent a few hours getting shots of the exterior of the hotel. I tell you, I am loving this camera, and the new wide angle lens is fabulous.
Sat down at starbucks, posted another live blog to Dannychoo – and then later got an email from a stranger – who turned out to be the person who sat at that table just prior to me, had read my post on DannyChoo.com and also coincidentally had discovered Japanpodshow, and had seem me walking around with a tripod – small world!
After doing a bit of podcast editing I met up with Kamasami Kong of the Metpod, and together we attended a Media Tectonics gig at which Twitter/real life friend 1rick was presenting. Great stuff. very sexy keynote.
Also bumped into Christine there who presented with me on our podcasts from Wireless Japan Expo. Oh, and Lem Fugitt of Robot Dreams – whom we’ll be working with to make some videos at the international robotics expo in November – very excited about that!!
Also met Ian Thomas Ash, producer / director of The Ballad of Vicki and Jake – a hard-hitting documentary which will have its Japanese premier this Sunday in Nakana Zero Hall. The second film in this series will be out in December.
Anyway, Ian, a very nice man, lives not all that far away, and could do with a hand getting his work out there, and we could learn a lot from him and possibly borrow some equipment, so I hope we’ll do some work together.
All in all it’s been a fabulous day. Opportunities are continuing to present themselves as and when needed. I think we’ll be able to do some fantastic stuff this autumn, and hopefully start to benefit financially from the effort too!
Anyway, back to the full time job in 8 hours!
(p.s. ‘Sutarto’ is japanese for ‘start’!)
Here’s a short video of some of the dances, and a few shots I took of the dancing on stage.
Apologies for the movement of the camera – it was all handheld!
A couple of days back Danny blogged about leaving bags on chairs in restaurants to save a table whilst going to order. That reminded me of the practice of local plant shops, where they leave half of their stock outside every night, just protected by a net. I know of a couple that do it round here.
I like that. Shows that people can be trusted.
Having said that, when I attended the local park meeting there was talk of the newly-planted shrubs being stolen. I’m guessing it’s because there’s less chance of getting caught if you steal from a park vs. a shop.
The local toilet seat shop does the same. They leave a range of loo seats out overnight – the good ones with built in washlet (thing that squirts water at your bum after you’ve done your business).
This is the most incredible story.
It is the story of how one man has achieved something absolutely remarkable. It is a story that proves that if you have a good idea, believe in it strongly enough, refuse to listen to the sceptics, and put in massive effort, you can change the world.
Meet documentary filmaker Jeremy Gilley, and the movement that he began, Peace One Day
The short version
I recommend you watch the full version
This makes me look at what I’m doing. And think again. Hmm. It’s a question that won’t go away.
During our walk around Jiyugaoka last night we came across this – a totally automatic robotic bicycle bunker. Is this not the sexiest bicycle park you’ve ever seen?!
To describe this photo, here’s the text from my post for Dannychoo.com uploaded earlier today:
*Twinkle* and I are having a lazy day today, the fourth day of the Silver Week holiday.
We’ve come out to Jiyugaoka, just a couple of stops down the line from our station, and 10 mins from Shibuya on the Tokyu Toyoko line.
Jiyugaoka (自由が丘, meaning ‘free hill’) is a pretty posh shopping area: with a lot of international brands and high-class cafes it’s popular with celebrities – a friend of mine regularly hangs out in the road outside the station (Marie Claire St.), celebrity spotting!
We’re in La Maison, one of the cafes that makes the town famous for cakes and sweets. Whilst I’d originally chosen the Special Autumn Set, and my wife the Mont Blanc, it seems that the tiramisu and caramel ice cream was too much for her to resist, so she’s swapped our plates, as you can see in the photo!
We’re just promising each other that we’ll start our diets tomorrow!
Here’s some more photos from our evening exploring Jiyugaoka
The lowest bridge in Tokyo?
A red-carpeted street
Today, myself and a couple of friends from Sheffield Uni +1, headed on down to the Grand Sumo Hall in Ryougoku, on the JR Sobu line just east of Akihabara.It’s day 9 of one of the six annual Grand Sumo Tournaments held throughout Japan.
It’s the first time I’ve been to see a sumo tournament. Despite having the cheapest seats in the house, we had a perfect view of the ring.
I don’t know much about sumo, and as there’s plenty of information out there I don’t think I’ll try and explain either. Instead, here’s a few shots of the action – a video will follow.
Rolling huggles are a prominent feature of bouts.
Biting is prohibited but sometimes unavoidable.
Advertising Sumo style – these moving commercials parade around the ring between bouts.
Go for the throat!
Here, the famous non-Japanese wrestler whose name I forget picks up his opponent by his pony tail and throws him out of the ring.
On losing, it is common for wrestlers to crawl around and cry
These chaps get together to make decisions following bouts where it is not clear who has won
There’s a lot of posing. The higher ranking the wrestler, the longer they spend stomping and slapping.
Now there’s a sign of affection if ever I saw one.
The chap who declares the winner
When the wrestling is over, a wrestler performs a closing ceremony with a spinning baton.
This is a test post – we’re seeing if Flickr can publish straight to
my blog, The Daily Mumble.
[Edit] And the result? It can. I just email my photo and description to Flickr (from my iPhone when out and about), which then in turn posts it to this blog automatically. This is good news.
I think I’ll start cross-posting a few of the articles I write for www.dannychoo.com, a little while after they’ve gone live over there, by means of keeping a copy of all my work in one place. This means we should see daily posts around here.
They’ll be Japan-themed. Let’s see how it goes.
Hope you like today’s picture, shot in a local park of an ancient Japanese house. It comes complete with plastic inhabitants and electric fire.
Wow, what a week! It’s been pretty crazy, with, until yesterday morning, virtually no downtime and little sleep. I tell you, if you ever think of making a podcast, make sure you have lots of marmite in the house or vitamin B supplements!
But before I talk about that (or the elephant wearing the iPod, or the rhinos who roam the plains of Japan in Sendai), just a quick note about an exciting development that’s come about in the past 24 hours.
Tokyo Live Blogging on www.dannychoo.com
If you’re interested in Japan and blogging, chances are you’ll be familiar with www.dannychoo.com, probably the most popular Japan-themed English-language blog in the world. It’s pretty incredible what Danny’s built over there. The result of a lot of time, effort – and the implementation of strategies to empower others to contribute, and thus build the community.
I can hardly comprehend those figures. I mean, look at any of his recent posts – one that he wrote just a couple of days ago has already had over 52,000 hits!
I’ve been fortunate to get to know Danny over the past few months, with him (or more accurately, his wife!) very kindly giving me a lift home from various events – they live not far from us. Anyway, this, and the stuff I’ve done online, has led to my being invited to join the Tokyo Live Bloggers crew.
The idea behind the Tokyo Live bloggers (whose latest posts appear on the front page of dannychoo.com) is that we’re documenting everyday life in Japan, as it happens. We’re all iPhone equipped, and use these to send our photos and descriptions to the site.
Part of the idea is to initiate conversations, which is why the descriptions often end in questions. You’ll notice the style of writing is also a little different from what I normally write – this is because I’m thinking of the target audience, which is a little different from my usual target audience.
Anyway, delighted to be a part of the project.
Japan Podshow developments
So, we finally got episode 11 out, “Harajuku and the Weblish Wonder“. This was a LOT of fun to make – well, I think if you give it a listen you can hear that…!
George and I have been toying with the idea of singing bits and bobs for some time, but it’s only now we’re nearly at the end of series 1 that we’ve actually done it! With an 8,000 yen guitar (about GBP35) and our untrained voices – what do you think? Do we have a career in music ahead of us?!
Accompanying the episode we have two videos, a pretty funny one of some of the people we interviewed in Harajuku, and one of Nobuki Ueda who sang for us in the kitchen. Nobuki is actually *Twinkle*s old classmate, whom she literally bumped into in the street last week. She invited him round, and I decided that it wouldn’t be too cheeky to ask him to perform. Check out his music on iTunes – really fantastic, especially when combined with his band.
In episode 11 we also featured an extract of an interview I did with John Daub of Weblish. It’s pretty incredible what he’s achieved – 100,000 subscribers to his educational entertainment video podcast (aimed at English learners). He’s regularly top of the iTunes Japan charts, passing the likes of Discovery Channel and CNN.
The full interview with John is over on Making it in Japan podcast. Personally, I think it’s a great interview. I love his story of Kilimanjaro, and there’s some great advice for people setting up business in Japan.
You’ll have to listen to japan podshow to find out about the rhinos that roam japan.
Tonight I met up with radio DJ, producer and general all-round nice guy Kamasami Kong. With series one of Japan Podshow coming to an end, it seems the timing is pretty good for me to take the Pokya project to the next level by accepting an offer to produce one of the daily Metropolis Magazine‘s Metpod Podcast shows. We’re being given total control over production here which is very exciting. Our material will also be included in daily radio broadcasts.
It also means that we can get some experience of monetising. It’s all very well doing this stuff for free, but without funding, the constraints of time will not be lifted. Anyway, watch this space for more on that.
Summary: the way things are
Things are working out really well. I feel the ‘experiment’ in establishing myself in Japan through the use of online media and offline interactions with others is working out a lot better than I could have hoped. Opportunities are being presented when needed, and resources turning up out of the blue. It’s kind of like magic really. Only it’s not magic.
Things with *Twinkle* are great too.
Been a great day today. You can hear all about it in the Audioboo embedded below, but I just wanted to share this photo, taken whilst I was interviewing our special guest musician on Japan Podshow earlier today, Nobuki Ueda.
I’m a lot less stressed now. Not entirely sure why, but one reason might be that I’ve given up being grumpy at home (as I had been for a couple of sleep-deprived weeks). Makes such a difference!
Life is bloomin wonderful.
Thanks to years of mind-bending grammar study, many Japanese students of English have pretty good grammar knowledge. Well, perhaps that’s not quite correct. Perhaps I should say that many Japanese students of English can only understand things if you explain it to them in (Japanese) grammatical terms (“Verb + noun” etc).
One thing I often find myself saying when teaching is something along the lines of, “Whilst it may not be grammatically correct, we do use it in this way”. That is, we often break the ‘rules’.
It’s only since I’ve started editing interviews for our podcasts thought that I’ve started to appreciate just how much we break the rules. Like, all the time. The random jumbles of words, half-formed sentences, interjections of erms and ahs – they’re all over the place – yet if you’re not listening out for them the people I’m interviewing sound perfectly natural and are totally understandable.
For the podcast I do try and clean them up a bit. Take the above picture – this is a 15-minute ish interview from earlier this year – every one of those little ‘bubbles’ of audio in the top section is the result of an erm or an ah being cut out of each side of them. Yet when I recorded the interview, I didn’t notice them all that much.
Having said that, these days I do notice them as I know just how much more work it’s going to be when I get around to editing the audio. Mind you, I quite enjoy that. It’s satisfying, and not all that time consuming now I’m practiced at it.
One thing that’s concerned me of late is my general stress levels. It’s an interesting kind of stress though – a kind that doesn’t really stress me out, that is, I don’t have a general feeling of ‘being stressed’.
Thinking on why this might be, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because it tends to be short-term stress induced by having a lot to do within short periods of time. It’s contained, marked off by (for example) the start and end of my day at the office, or a weekend in which I put myself under pressure to achieve X Y and Z.
So, it’s not an overwhelming “I’ll never catch up” stress.
And of course, It’s all my own doing. I don’t say ‘no’ enough.
Restructuring in my day job has resulted in my having more responsibilities, that is, more to do in a limited amount of time. But as I may have mentioned before, I’ve decided to not allow this to extend beyond 7pm – and I must say, this has been met with considerable success, in that I don’t tend to spend any time thinking about work outside of the office. (It’s not that I don’t enjoy my job. In fact recently, having been given the opportunity to catch a glimpse inside a few other companies that in the past I might have been interested in working for, I’ve come to feel pretty fortunate that I do work here).
But no matter whether the stress is long term or short time, I appreciate that it is not good for me, and with our family’s history of heart problems is something I need to watch. I guess at the moment I’m putting up with it because I see an end in sight – it’s a bit of a vague end, but it’s around next Spring, when I hope to significantly change how I use my weekdays.
I’m glad the heat of summer is over (well, at least the humidity of post-rainy season summer) and that glorious Autumn is on its way. Thinking of autumnal weather in Japan, and the accompaniment of the stunning display of leaves really moves me – to the extent that a tear comes to my eye. I’m grateful for this. It’s a sign that despite living in a concrete jungle, my natural link with nature is still as strong as ever. With few opportunities to express itself, when it does, it’s pretty powerful.
Long term, the city is not for me.
I try not to think of winter, which I distinctly remember last year wishing would come to an end. One day our house will have insulation. Might have to get it shipped in from the UK though as it seems to be illegal here.
Last week, whilst doing the washing up, I looked down at my stomach, and was pretty shocked to see that it was touching the sink, despite my standing a little way away. I was FAT! Twinkle was there, and was pretty impressed by how pregnant I was able to look. Admittedly I had just eaten a fair bit, but nonetheless, this was pretty shocking for me.
I know the reasons for this. For a start, there’s a lack of exercise, which needs to come to an end anyway as the November Ekiden (relay race) is approaching. More than that though, there’s all the convenience store crap I’ve been eating. We’re talking chocolate and cakes mainly. The thing is, I have a sweet tooth, and am not prepared to not cater for it. So, I’ve decided instead to buy fresh fruit whenever I feel the need for sugar. So far it’s working! I love fruit more than almost any other food, but the expense of it here in Japan means I don’t eat as much as I’d like to. However, given my condition, I’ve decided it’s worth spending a bit more and being healthier in return.
In other news, it’s an absolutely beautiful day in Tokyo today, and I’m pretty happy.
Whew… very long day today.
Still, very productive. Had a great meeting with Kong of the Metpod, talking about where it could go from here. Interesting ideas for collaboration once japanpodshow is done. Look out for changes in the autumn.
Check it out over at Making it in Japan. It’s a good interview – hear about some very original marketing campaigns carried out for the likes of Red Bull, Audi and Panasonic. Also, Mike has advice for others wanting to set up in Japan.
The second is the video I shot at Tokyo Hacker Space’s first Open House event on Sunday, uploaded to the neglected Japan Tech Show. The video looks much better in High Definition on our Facebook page or on YouTube.
That brain machine was pretty crazy. I can hardly believe just those two LEDs caused me to see all those patterns etc.
Really enjoying learning video editing. Have a way to go!
Ok, off to bed for me.
been a great day today. Very productive. Voluntary work this morning at the city hall, editing a video I shot yesterday at Tokyo Hacker Space this afternoon, then edited almost an entire episode of Making it in Japan on the Hibiya subway line before meeting Christine and Steve (both of whom have appeared in Japan Techshow) to help Christine choose an eeeeeepc at Akiba Yodobashi.
Started to shoot some stock footage around Akiba – sell on iStock photo perhaps? Good way to at least start making an income from it!
Back to Meguro for an English lesson, then back home.
One issue I have with the Canon HF S11 is that the lens isn’t wide enough. But this is deliberate – they sell wide angle attachments separately, and I’ll think I’ll get one, as I’m so impressed with what this consumer model can do. Cost a pretty 25,000 yen though!
Looking forward to tomorrow too as I have the afternoon off for a meeting – and more editing. Really enjoying being creative and productive.
Things are moving in the right direction – it’s all good!
Below – my video from Koenji Awaodori, one of the three biggest annual festivals in Tokyo with over 12,000 performers. You can watch it in HD (big) mode here.
As you can see I stuffed up the aspect ratio as I’m a newbie at Final Cut (video editing software), and there’s a significant loss in quality due to it being on YouTube. You can download the original from Japan Podshow.
Yikes. 1.34am again. It was yesterday too. I’ve been wanting to write for a few days now, but, well, it’s not going to happen, I mean, not in the way that i would like. So rather than it not happen at all it’ll happen like this.
Japan Podshow is doing very well. We’re close on 12,000 downloads now – that excludes listens using the built-in flash player, YouTube and Facebook video views. There are rumours that for the next episode George and I will be reporting from an NHK TV set… more on that if it all works out.
Tonight I was fortunate to meet the founder of a fantastic online Japanese music store – we have an interview for Making it in Japan, and hopefully a decent prize for Japan Podshow listeners too. It’s pretty exciting – now we have an established online presence we’re being approached by some pretty cool people with collaboration proposals. If only we had the time!
Last week saw an extraordinary turn of events. Thanks to the stuff we’ve done on Japan Podshow, a business owner from Australia who was wanting to make a video here in Japan to promote his brand, was put in touch with me via a friend whom I met on Twitter – would I like to direct / shoot the video? It sounded like a pretty interesting project.
Aside from getting to spend some time with the very cute and ultra-nice Rei Hamada, I was also able to learn a fair bit about shooting video in dark, crowded bars.
But of more significance for us, we now have the full-time use of a Canon HF-11 – the most advanced consumer level HD camcorder on the market at present (well, the Japanese market at least, it’s yet to be released in the US / UK).
The camera is AMAZING. It takes TV-quality video, I kid you not. Looks incredible on my 17″ display. Great sound too – especially with the gun-mic we have for the shoe. I’ll be posting a podcast filmed at Koenji Awaodori next week, which provides a great demo of the incredible image stabilisation system this thing has.
I can’t over-emphasise just how much of a dream come true this is. Along with the lighting rig and extra mic that we were gifted we now have our first full ‘studio’ setup. I am deeply grateful to the business owner and my friend InvisibleGaijin for this extraordinary act of trust and generosity.
I also have a strong feeling that this came to us as a result of us strongly wishing it to, and working hard to enable it to do so (preparing for it). You may laugh, but I have the evidence!
You know, they say that if you want to succeed at something, you just have to get up and give it a go, even if you have no idea how you’ll be able to do it. Don’t worry about the HOW. Here’s a perfect example of that. We’ve been wanted an HD camera for months, but haven’t had the funding. And this happens, out of the blue. Incredible.
We’ll be doing more shooting with this company when they’re back in Japan.
I’m looking forward to a friend’s birthday party this Saturday after work, and then on Sunday a launch party for Kat McDowell’s great new Album Echoes Over the Ocean (which incidentally we’re giving away on Japan Podshow). I’ll also be squeezing in a WordPress training session for a friend, and writing a bio for Kat too. I’ve also decided to redirect the effort I’m putting in Metropolis Magazine’s Metpod Podcast, and so will take half a day off work next week to meet with the magazine’s web editor to discuss my taking over (developing and maintaining) the website for the podcast (as opposed to audio sections).
My day job’s been pretty mental lately. So busy, I’m way behind with my regular work as urgent projects keep on popping up. I’m not bringing it home though so that’s OK.
Tomorrow morning (5 hours from now) I leave for the immigration dept to get my spouse visa renewed. Gaijin card expires tomorrow too.
Spent an hour on the phone to my brother in the UK tonight. That was wonderful. Really great to connect. I also like the fact that the call, made on my iPhone, was basically free thanks to Skype.
Oh, I’ve decided to not upgrade to Snow Leopard just yet – will wait till apps are updated as there’s no real rush and I need my computer to work, not just look sexy.
OK, must sleep. wiped out!
I wonder how long this routine can go on for?