Mount Fuji Live! 2010

This post will be cross-posted at MobileinJapan.com.

日本語はこちらです。

Active Otaku

One thing I’ve promised myself is that if I’m going to be a tech otaku, I’m not going to the passive type. I’m not going to be one of those who lie in bed at night with their multi-generational iPhones lined up on the bedside table, ready for their daily polish.

The type who talk incessantly about the sensual curvature of the rear of their iPad, yet dare not take the device out of the house for fear of it becoming discoloured by the suns rays.

No, if I’m going to be a tech-otaku, I’m going to be an active one. I’m going to use my technology and push it to the limits. I’m not going to treat my iPhone with kid gloves – it’s here to work, and if that means forcing it to broadcast video for 42km, or send out tweets in the pouring rain, or act as a wedge to stop the front door from closing when I’m bringing the futons in from airing – well, so be it.

(OK, so that was actually my wife’s iPhone).

Mount Fuji Live! 2010

Having sat in front of my computer pretty much all the time since the Tokyo Marathon, earlier this month I decided it was time for a bit of exercise. And what better way to get in shape than climb all the way to the roof of Japan – whilst broadcasting live video of the adventure using a groundbreaking camera beaming data through a special temporary wireless network from atop a high-tech plastic helmet. I will be joined by a team of 9 intrepid fellow Tokyoites.

At 3,776m, the summit of Mt. Fuji – a dormant volcano that last erupted a little over 200 years ago, puts you almost within arm’s reach of the International Space Station.

Solar Eclipse Fuji Hike_5224

The trek to the top is often mistakenly thought of as not that difficult – but it can be lethal: two people died of exposure on the same path as us 24 hours after we descended last year.

Altitude sickness is never far away, and the danger of losing all your money is also pretty high as the bottled water sold from mountain huts gets progressively more expensive the higher up you go. On windy days the volcanic ash covering the upper slopes gets whipped up into a frenzy, blinding those without goggles.

Arriving at the summit after 6 to 8 hours of climbing, you feel both utterly exhausted – and elated. The view is spectacular. You stand their next to the defiant vending machines, speechless, wondering at the beauty of the landscape before you.

(Or, if the weather is like it was last year, you desperately try to take shelter in one of the packed mountain huts, begging to be served anything hot that will help your bones defrost, wishing that the weather was clear enough for a helicopter to take you straight home).

Pushing Mobile Technology to the Limit

There are many people who have never made it to the summit of Mt. Fuji, and for many reasons (e.g. having a bit of common sense) never will. I’d like to share the experience of making it to top with those people, and in doing so push some mobile technologies to the limit.

You won’t usually find mobile network coverage on Mt. Fuji, mainly because the local inhabitants (volcanic rocks) don’t have much use for phones. However, every July, NTT DoCoMo switch on two stations at the foot of the mountain, beaming coverage up its slopes. Receiving these signals are two repeaters places on the rim of the crater, providing coverage around the two shrines up there.

NTT DoCoMo have generously provided us with one of their new pocket-wifi devices, the Buffalo DWR-PG. Connecting to this will be the Cerevo Cam Live – kindly provided by the makers for this adventure. The Cerevo Cam, homemade in Akihabara, has built-in wifi, and connects directly to USTREAM (or their own Cerevo Life service). We’ll be using this for much of our trek up the volcanic slopes, and from the top, hopefully catching the sunrise.

We’ll also have the iPad of Stamina with us, provided by Heather, owner of Rinkya.com (who’s also climbing with us). This will be connected via Wifi to the NTT DoCoMo network, and will be used to display YOUR Twitter messages of support for the team to read whilst struggling to the peak (hashtag #mtfujiTV)

We’ll be providing a GPS signal too so you can keep tabs on just how slowly we’re moving 🙂

We plan to do some kind of performance once on the summit – although are yet to figure out what this will involve other than coconut shells and a horn.

Live Stream Schedule

The live event, which will take place right here,  is planned as follows:

Tuesday 20th July

  • 11:00 JST (02:00 UTC, 03:00 BST) – Live stream starts from minibus en-route to Mt. Fuji from Tokyo
  • 12:00 JST (03:00 UTC, 04:00 BST) – We start climbing Mt. Fuji (from station 5 on the Yoshida-Guchi trail)
  • 18:00 JST (09:00 UTC, 10:00 BST) – arrive at Mountain hut, station 8 (about an hour below the summit) – provide entertainment, stay the night there.
  • 03:00 JST (Wed in Japan, Tue in UK/ US (18:00 UST, 19:00 BST) Wake up, head for the summit
  • 04:30 JST (19:30 UTC, 20:30 BST) Sunrise from the summit, party on the roof of Japan, walk around the crater
  • 09:00 JST (12:00 UTC, 01:00 BST) Descend to the van, return to Tokyo.

Take part!

The live stream will be displayed on http://www.mobileinjapan.com from 7am (JST) on Tuesday 20th July 2010.

You can actively take part in this spectacle by sending your messages via twitter – just use the hashtag #mtfujiTV and it will be displayed for the whole team to see on the iPad of Stamina (and in our streams).

We’ll be watching our timeline and will try to be as interactive as possible during the climb. Also, follow me on Twitter @tamegoeswild for the latest updates in the lead up to the climb, and in the event that the video stream goes down.

It’ll be interesting to see just how much data we manage to push out. We’re not giving any guarantees here, so the whole project could fall flat on its face – but no loss if that’s happens.

Thanks to NTT DoCoMo, Cerevo, The Japan Times, the BBC and Heather of Rinkya.com for all of their support.

Special thank to @SteveNagata for his tech support, and @MikeKato for helping get all of this organised.

Tokyo Marathon 2010: The full (and final) story


One reason for starting this website about 10 years ago was to document my life. Doing so not only helps me remember, but also helps me reflect on the things I’ve done, and (hopefully) learn from them. Recent weeks and months have seen me posting far less on The Daily Mumble than I used to, as I’ve given priority to other projects. But I still feel that it’s a key part of my life, and so will continue to post.

Here, I summarise the Tokyo Marathon 2010 project, lest I forget.

We’ll start off with a 4 minute extract from ‘Tokudane’ – a popular Japanese morning TV show. Even if you don’t understand Japanese you should be able to follow what’s going on.

Live-streaming Video Beginnings

In mid-2008 Qik released the first live video streaming app for the iPhone. Apple were yet to enable video on the iPhone (3G), so it had to be distributed as an unofficial app, meaning that to install it you had to jailbreak your iPhone (this basically meant replacing apple’s operating system with another that has been hacked to remove built-in restrictions – and in doing so you voiding your warranty).

Because of the perceived difficulty in installing Qik, and due to the slow speed of mobile data networks restricting quality, not many people were doing it back then, or if they were it their videos tended to be short broadcasts from static locations.

Being in Tokyo, which had one of the fastest 3G networks at the time, I thought it would be pretty cool to livestream some event – and it just so happened that the Tokyo marathon was coming up.

I also saw this as an opportunity to start making a name for myself on the Tokyo tech scene – I was new here and wanted to connect with as many members of the community as possible. I saw that my doing a stunt like this would be a good way to introduce myself to others, in a way that communicated something about my personality.

The Tokyo Marathon: the odds are against you

Due to the popularity of the Tokyo marathon, only a small percentage of applicants are actually able to do the run: your chances of being selected are something like 1 in 17 for the 10km course and 1 in 9 for the full marathon, (chosen by lottery). However, if you’re a non-Japanese it’s a different story – there’s something like a 95% success-rate for foreign applicants. This is due to positive discrimination by the organisers (and Mayor Ishihara), who want it to be as ‘international’ as possible.

Knowing this, I decided to live-stream the run for those who couldn’t take part themselves, and so in late March 2009 created a special iPhone head-mount to broadcast from. It was a pretty primitive device, consisting of a modified hat, lots of tape and ‘the sponge of speed’.

Knowing I had people watching my stream, when the start gun went off, I ran as fast as I could …for the first 5km, before nearly collapsing! Thankfully I did finally make it to the end, and was happy to see that about 1000 people had tuned in (mainly thanks to this article).

Problems with the 2009 live stream

A couple of problems arose during the 2009 10km broadcast. One was the long delay on the ‘live’ video: having reached the end of the 10km course Tom and I visited the Apple Store to check our Qik channel, only to find that due to constant pauses for buffering, the video still showed us about 20 mins from the end of the course!

The second was the relative lack of audience participation. Whilst people could comment on the video, I couldn’t read what they’d written until after the race, so there was no interaction as such.

Tokyo Marathon 2010

Live streaming the Tokyo Marathon 2010It only seemed natural that my friend and trainer Tom Kobayashi and I enter for the full marathon this year. As expected, being non-Japanese we got through the lottery no problem, and soon started our 16-week training program. We’d do short runs on weekdays, and then meet up on Sunday mornings for longer distances.

I remember our first 10km, 15km, 20km and 30km runs, all exhausting at the time, but giving us a real sense of accomplishment. Initially we stuck to circuits around the Imperial Palace, but as the runs got longer so we became more adventurous – for several weeks we explored Setagaya-ku and Meguro-ku, heading down unknown roads, gradually straying further from home.

When 20km became the norm, we began cross-Tokyo runs, passing through Shibuya and Shinjuku, including circuits of Yoyogi Park, or heading across the south of the city to Tokyo Bay. One of my more memorable trips took me across Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba – something I’d wanted to do for years.

Running the Yamanote Line

Two weeks before the actual race I decided to attempt another long-held goal – to run the 36km Yamanote railway line that circles central Tokyo. As it was, due to the zig-zag route I had to take, that run ended up being 41.3km, only 700 metres off a full marathon! However, it had been punctuated by multiple photo-stops, and at one point some walking and chocolate eating. My GPS tracking app had been playing up too – so I only discovered I run that far when I got home and checked my tracking stats, map and photos online.

The Grand Plan

Realising that I couldn’t just repeat what I’d done the previous year, I started to think about how I could improve the live-stream experience for viewers. With the aid of friends, I came up with the idea of having a central ‘studio’ with multiple live video streams feeding in to it from both myself and a team of reporters positioned around the course. We’d use Twitter for live viewer feedback, and a constant GPS uplink showing where I was on the course to enable people to see where I was at any time.

The Team

It was actually only about 10 days before the event that this plan was put into action, when technologist and good friend Steve Nagata very kindly agreed to manage the ‘studio’ side of things. We then asked for volunteers who could be our roving reporters along the course, and were grateful when the following friends offered to help out:

The Studio

The next step was to find a suitable ‘studio’. The Washington Hotel, only 2 minutes from the finish line, was ideal – we booked a room on the 14th floor with excellent views over the final stretch of the course. Here, Steve would manage the second of our two live video channels, mixing in the broadcasts from our teams about town, and his high-def camera positioned by the window, zoomed in on the course.

The night before the race Steve and I checked in, and proceeded to dismantle the room. The double bed was turned on its side, the trouser press converted into a second desk, the projector screen set up, the 3D map stuck to the wall. The internet connection was suitably fast, and the first attempt to connect a Sony Handycam to the MacBook Pro to use as a webcam succeeded.

The Apps: Ustream, Glympse, TweetTalk

Live video stream: Qik vs. Ustream

When it came to choosing a live-streaming app, we basically had a choice of two: Qik or Ustream. Both had advantages and disadvantages. Whilst the resulting video from a Qik stream was higher quality, it only achieved this by pausing to buffer mid-stream, meaning that ‘live’ shows could easily fall behind real-time. This was especially a problem for us as we’d be constantly moving, and being a race, realtime was important. Qik was also lacking Twitter integration, something that ultimately became a major factor in our success.

Ustream video however tended to be lower quality, and at times the image would freeze for several seconds (although the audio continued) – it did this so as to remain ‘realtime’, skipping a few seconds of video and resuming the ‘live’ image when buffering was complete. Ustream of course had the Twitter integration, (and although it hadn’t been a consideration before the race) it also has a good following in Japan – another factor in our success. A final reason that we were initially drawn to Ustream was the fact that there was a desktop app available (Ustream Producer Pro), although ultimately it turned out that it had a fatal flaw in that we couldn’t switch to another live stream (co-produce) with it – thus we went back to using the web interface.

Location software: Google Latitude vs. Glympse

A friend of ours from Google pointed out that we could actually configure Google Latitude to make our GPS location data available to everyone online, but a test of this in Shibuya a few days before the run showed that the updates were a little too infrequent. We wanted a live feed, with my location being updated every few seconds if possible.

A few months back Twitter friend @markmatsusaka put me on to Glympse, a service whereby you could easily share your location using a free iPhone app. One week before the marathon I finally got around to testing it – and found it to be near-perfect, with it providing live GPS updates showing your current position and recent trail. There were a couple of problems though – the maximum length of time a ‘glympse’ could be active was 4 hours (manually extendible to 7 hours), and also, the map showing your position wasn’t embeddable.

I figured it was worth contacting the developers to see if they could help – and to my delight they replied very promptly offering to provide us with an extended-time on our Glympse, and allowing us to be the first people ever to use their not-yet-released embed feature. Fantastic!

Twitter-to-Voice: TweetTalk
I got a similar response when I contacted the developer of TweetTalk – an iPhone app that would read your tweets to you (and that could also be used to control iTunes). I found a bug with the app that would prevent me from using it with Japanese Tweets – just minutes after I’d sent my email I got a response from the developer promising to fix it. Four days later the update appeared in the iTunes store – magic!

Hardware

One of the things I wanted to demonstrate through this project was just what could be achieved using consumer (as opposed to pro)devices. None the less, we did need quite a lot of stuff – 9 iPhones for starters! Here’s a list.
Home made iPhone headmount:

  • iCrew waterproof iPhone holder
  • 2 mecchano-like strips of metal
  • 3 pairs of nuts and bolts
  • 1 hacked headtorch
  • 1 baseball cap
  • 1 strip foam
  • Blu-Tac
  • Lots of sticky tape

Gadgets

  • Emobile D25HW Wifi Hotspot (connected to 3G network)
  • iPhone 3GS #1: Joseph’s live video (connected to Emobile D25HW
  • iPhone 3GS #2: Joseph’s phone, Twitter-to-Voice
  • iPhone 3G: Joseph’s Glympse GPS locator
  • iPhone 3GS #4 ~ #9: Live video from 4 teams of reporters around the course
  • Nexus One: Steve Nagata’s co-ordination hotline
  • Sony HD handycam: live video shot from studio window
  • Sanyo Eneloop USB battery
  • Mophie Air Juice Pack
  • Zaggsparq Mobile USB Battery Charger
  • Multiple cables and headphones
  • Livestream management:

  • Macbook Air
  • Macbook White
  • Macbook Pro
  • Fibre-internet link
  • Softbank and Emobile 3G networks
  • Airport Extreme Base Station
  • Lots of cables

Thank you to Sandbaggerone for sending us his iPhone, and *Twinkle* for donating her brand new iPhone which arrived just 20 hours before the marathon.

Fuji TV

When registering and picking up my runner’s bib at Tokyo Big Sight the day before the marathon I was approached by Fuji television. They were planning their marathon coverage, and were looking for some human-interest story. Seeing me filming myself (I was videoing an intro to the project which I’m yet to edit), they realised that I liked cameras, and asked me why I’d chosen to take part in the run. It wasn’t long before I whipped out my special headgear and told them what I was planning on doing. “Mind if we call you tonight? We might want to film you tomorrow”.

Sure enough, the following morning in the pouring rain I met them next to baggage truck 29, where they filmed me prepping my hat. The plan was then for them to film me at various locations around the course, and then again at the end. It sounded pretty simple …little was I to know that I’d end up talking to them for ages on the phone whilst actually running…

The Race

Having stayed up until about 1am the night before prepping the studio and making the special live-streaming website, I was running on adrenaline even before I started the race. The weather was absolutely atrocious, with steady rain and very cold temperatures – it actually snowed at one point.

Despite these conditions our team of live reporters turned up trumps, positioning themselves around the course. As ever, I was heading to the start line with Tom, my trainer and close friend. Memories of the 2009 10KM race came back to us – there was the long slow walk to our block – this time trying to avoid hitting people with our umbrellas.

Despite the weather, spirits were high, and at 9:10am it was great to hear the starting gun and finally get going. The choir sang, confetti fell …and we gradually found our pace. The plan was to take it pretty slow – with weather like this the goal was to get to the end, and not worry about setting record times.

Disaster Strikes after 1km!

Soon after we began I checked in with Steve in broadcast HQ – was my video OK? With the Phone mounted on my head I couldn’t see the picture – but yes, all was looking good! Mind you, all that bouncing up and down made for a pretty rocky ride …and there was something wrong with my hat. I couldn’t figure out what it was. I just had this feeling …and sure enough seconds later the iPhone fell off my head! I’d had to carry out some last minute maintenance on the iPhone holder, but had failed to stick the case back together properly – and so after just 1km it fell apart.

This was quite a shock – what should I do now?Live streaming the Tokyo Marathon 2010

Well, there was nothing I could do but carry the thing, and so that’s what I did for the remaining 41km!

I’m very much a believer in synchronicity, in things happening at the right time for a good reason, and looking back I can now see that this was one of those situations. Having to carry the iPhone in my hand meant that I had a lot more flexibility in what I showed. It wouldn’t just be the road ahead, it would be the cheering crowds around us, our faces of pain, and other runners who I thought might have interesting stories to tell whilst running.

In the meantime, I plugged my free ear into my 2nd iPhone runner the Tweet-to-Voice app – it was wonderful to hear the feedback from our growing audience – some people really made me laugh. It was also great to hear a tweet from Tom’s parents in the UK (my own parents also tried to send a message to be via Twitter but somehow managed to get banned in the process!).

Coming up to 10km we were due for our first rendezvous with team 1 of our mobile reporters – Nami and Phil. Steve and Christine were doing a fabulous job in the studio of co-ordinating, and as I approached Phil and Nami’s location so Steve gave me a call and told me to look out for them on the left. And sure enough, a few hundred metres later there they were!

Meeting our live reporters around the course was a huge boost to our spirits. In addition to Phil & Nami, Pietro & Pepi, Jonny & Oren, and Lem were always ready with their iPhones live-streaming, providing viewers with multiple perspectives on the race and encouraging us to keep going!
If only the same could have been said for Fuji TV! Without an iPhone between them, the camera was unable to view my GPS signal, and so started the phone calls…

“Where are you now?”
“I’ve just passed the imperial palace”
“What? Already? But we’ve only just got here!”
“Sorry, I guess I’m going a bit faster than expected”
“Where can we meet you next?”
“How about in front of the park by Tokyo Tower on the road down to Shingawa? I’m just going past it now but the road loops back in itself”
“You’re there now? So we missed you in front of Tokyo Tower?”
“Yes, but I’ll be coming back in about 15 mins, the route turns back on itself at Shinagawa”
“So we missed you?! Should we go to Asakusa?”
“No! I’ll be back by Tokyo Tower in 15 mins…”
“So we missed you did we? Where are you now?”
“I just told you! Do you have a map of the course…?!”

And so it went on. At one point, after what seemed like a 20-minute phone call I actually hung up on them, trying not to lose my temper in front of about 450 viewers! If only they’d had an iPhone!

The run continued. I started to see if I could find some stories with which to entertain the growing audience watching our live stream, and just a few moments later the perfect participant appeared ahead of us – a runner carrying a guitar! I steered myself over to him and chatted a bit, then asked if he might do a live performance for us. He was happy to oblige, and so the first ever live broadcast of ‘Sakura’ performed by a marathon runner being filmed by another marathon runner took place!

We met several more interesting folks along the route, including the former K1 boxer and TV celebrity ‘Bobby”. Tom had to tell me who he was as I’m a but out of touch with that scene, but on hearing that he was a celebrity I decided we needed to talk to him, and so the first of several live ‘interviews’ with him took place.

He did make me laugh.

The Twitter Snowball

Throughout the race I noticed a steady increase in the number of viewers. From 500 to 700, 900, 1000 …it seemed the live video was going down pretty well. Looking at my Twitter stream pn my other phone, I was surprised to see that the vast majority of tweets we were getting (tagged with #tm2010) were in Japanese. This was totally unexpected as I had had very few Japanese Twitter followers up until that point.

Realising something was going on here I changed tactics, and started talking in Japanese and English (as opposed to just English). It was only after the race that I was to discover that we were getting about 1,000 tweets an hour urging us onwards, the majority of which were from Japanese users. It turned out that the Ustream community in Japan had seized upon the story, and a couple of influential Twitterers had retweeted our uStream link. This meant that towards the end of the race we had over 1,500 simultaneous users, and a total over 13,000 unique viewers.

I was deeply touched by the support of our viewers. I never expected such a reaction. I wanted to reach out to everyone and thank them personally, but with so many tweets coming in an hour by the end it just wasn’t possible. Here’s an example of some of the support we got – these tweets by @mikamika59

The surprise cheerleaders

Returning to Ginza around the 30km mark having run all the way up to the north of the city, we were starting to hurt pretty bad. The weather had taken its toll. Food and drink stations offered some comfort; as we stuffed chopped up bananas in our mouths so the people manning the stands urged us to FIGHT!! and GANBARE!!

The support of the crowds became increasingly important as we turned to cross over to Odaiba. There were a couple of inclines that really hurt – at one point I remember an elderly spectator walking up the road approaching a bridge faster than I was running!

It was around then that one of the most extraordinary things happened.

I was just about to collapse when I heard shouts of ‘Joseph san Ganbare! Ganbare!’. Turning to look at the side of the road I saw a family there – mother, father and 3-year-old son. the mother was holding a sign. It read, “Joseph, we’re livestreaming you!”

I must admit I was totally stunned and couldn’t really comprehend what was going on. Who were these people who’d been waiting for me? They had a laptop computer to livestream me from, and a bag with curry-bread in labelled ‘Ganbatte Joseph!” I checked out their twitter feed later, and discovered that they’d seen what I was doing and had decided to support me. I was immensely touched by this gesture – it was so totally unexpected (I’ve since been in email contact with the family to thank them).

The family later blogged about the marathon, in addition to kindly uploading a photo album to flickr, and leaving the Ustream video above for me to watch later.

The final 3km were very tough. Both Tom and I were in quite a bit of pain – but we knew that by this stage, no matter what happened we had to make it to the end. Steve and the rest of our team were just wonderful, phoning us to urge us on, and then waiting by the road in the final kilometre to wave, shout and take photos.

Finally, we rounded the last corner – and there was the finish line ahead of us! That was a very happy moment. I was delighted that despite having become separated for quite some time during the race, Tom and I were together as we crossed the finish line, 5 hours, 7 minutes and 26 seconds after setting out from Shinjuku – we’d done it! What a fantastic feeling of achievement.

Fuji TV were there waiting at the finish (they knew to expect me due to further phone calls in the last hour of the race!), and once I’d picked up my medal, banana and pain-relieving spray we recorded a final section for their morning programme Tokudane. This also involved phoning mum and dad in the UK via Skype (at 6am) and having dad say what he was told to say!

After that, I staggered back to our ‘studio’ in the Washington Hotel where the team were waiting. What a brilliant job they’d done, I was very grateful… and remain so. I owe them all a huge debt.

The Outcome

A few hours later, IT Media News, an influential Japanese tech site, published the story. Shortly after that, it was republished on Yahoo News Japan. Tokyo MX TV got in touch to ask for permission to feature images from my channel in a story on their 8pm news programme. The following day J-Wave radio picked it up – I was online at the time and prompted (via Twitter) to tune in – DJ Taro got quite a surprise as I messaged him via the Ustream interface. Ustream themselves also contacted us with congratulations, and a request for a meeting to get feedback on the event, and an offer to help us however they could in the future. My good friend Kong, producer of the Metropolis magazine podcast (the Metpod), allowed me to blabber on about it. The story was republished on numerous blogs, some people went so far as to look at other stuff I’ve done (!).

My Twitter follower count had exploded, rising from about 1,100 to 1,800 in a few hours – nearly all of these new followers were Japanese. When I got home I had a chance to read through more of the messages we’d received, and it began to sink in just how successful this had been.

jdash2000 had uploaded a screencapture video to YouTube of the last 10 minutes of the race – it shows just how many tweets were coming in as we reached the end of the course.

Reflection

Live streaming the Tokyo Marathon 2010
I was in a kind of state of shock for a few days after the marathon. Firstly there was the physical exhaustion – it was difficult to walk, whilst bending down or climbing stairs was a complete no-no!

The run itself was a lot physically tougher than expected – I’d run just 700m less than a full marathon only two weeks previously (the Yamanote run, above) and it hadn’t been that difficult (I think the weather was a major factor). But mentally, it wasn’t half as challenging as it could have been.

The reason for this was the camera – I was so focused on that, on trying to provide people with something of interest, that I had little time to dwell on how tired I was. It seems that when I have a camera turned on me, something takes over, and the performance starts. But it’s not a fake performance, it’s not a generated persona – it’s very much me, being me. This was the first time that I’d spoken Japanese to such a large number of people, and I found it liberating, using my bad Japanese without caring about mistakes.

Talking with Namy after the event (whose Japanese tweets had started the ball rolling), I learnt more about the reaction of the Japanese viewers. It seems that they felt that they could connect with me, that my personality carried across the mobile phone network – and this was an important factor in encouraging them to spread the word.

There were of course other major factors – the Tokyo Marathon had a huge professional media machine behind it already, so people knew of the event and were interested in it before we’d even thought up our plan. Another factor was that this was a great challenge, and we enabled people to become a part of the challenge, to aid us in reaching our goal. The Twitter-Ustream integration was key, and without that we would have only had a very small audience.

Permitting the Dream to move into the sphere of Reality

Ridiculous though this may sound, one thing that the marathon made clear to me was that I am in Japan, and that I am surrounded by Japanese people. Until now, my online media production (podcasts etc) has been directed towards English speakers either in Japan or interested in Japan. I’ve enjoyed that, and I hope to continue doing so, but if I really want to become well-known (as it seems I do, for reasons I won’t go into here, but rest assured they are not entirely egotistical, and are connected with doing good!), then surely it would make sense for me to appeal to the majority?

2.5 million non-Japanese, or 124 million Japanese? Logic tells me I stand a better chance in the market that’s about 50 times bigger than the other!

Another thing that was made clear to me was that I need to start using my Japanese a lot more. Not only that, I need to get back on the study path. My Japanese language abilities must improve if I am to achieve the long-held dreams that I’m starting to permit myself to believe in (dreams that until now I’ve written off as a kind of joke).

Last Sunday, two weeks after the marathon, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by NTV for a Saturday morning show. They were looking to get a foreigners perspective on Akihabara, and I was happy to oblige. It was with a new-found feeling of confidence that I started talking. I made all the same silly mistakes, and I was often at a loss for the appropriate language, but I decided that it didn’t matter. As the interview continued, so I settled into being me. The performer emerged, and before I knew what was happening I was in my stride, causing the crew to burst out laughing again and again, and providing plenty of material for the interviewer to pick up on. A crowd gathered – it was a lot of fun. I was happy to be entertaining people. To be engaging people. To be giving a part of myself, and inviting trust.

I guess in a way it’s just a continuation of what I’ve been doing for years via my websites – only this time the audience is Japanese.

Live streaming the Tokyo Marathon 2010

Final Thoughts

I strongly believe in synchronicity. I see it occur on a daily basis, all around me. Seemingly unrelated things happen, that turn out to actually be part of a large, perfectly-formed jigsaw puzzle.

The marathon was like that. So many things came together at the right time. Decisions I’d made months or even years ago that I hadn’t really understood at the time started to make sense – so much of what I’d done over the previous two years had helped make this event the success that it was.

More than that though, I’ve been left with a deep sense of gratitude towards the new community I am a member of here in Tokyo. From old friends such as Tom, to relatively new friends such as Steve, Christine, Lem, Jonny, Pietro, Pepi, Nami, Phil – none of this would have been possible without their selfless generosity. There were of course many more people that helped make this what it was, including the thousands of viewers who tuned in, my parents back in the UK who participated via Ustream, and my wife, *Twinkle*. I thank all of you for your support.

I owe *Twinkle* special thanks for putting up with me on a daily basis, for loving me, for believing in me. Her love provides me the secure foundation on top of which I feel I can build my reality, knowing that when I need to reach into uncharted waters, she’ll be there for me, supporting me.

So what’s next? Well, the marathon has thrown up a few opportunities. I think it’ll be a gradual process, but provided I can allow myself to believe in this dream, I’m pretty certain I can achieve it. It’ll be a lot of work, but I think we can make it happen.

Thanks all for all of your support.

Joseph

New personal distance record: South Tokyo half-marathon

Tom and I continued our training for the Tokyo Marathon 2010 this morning with our longest run yet – 22.5km around the south of Tokyo.

It was great fun, as we weren’t following any prescribed route, rather, just left Naka-Meguro at 7.30am and headed in the general direction of Rainbow Bridge, taking any road which looked interesting.

Here’s our route. You can view this is 3D in Google earth by downloading this file.

Our Tokyo hald-marathon training run in Google Earth

View the widescreen version here.

South Tokyo Half-Marathon


Map your trip with EveryTrail

Here’s a few of the embedded photos:

maple leaf_5150

We found some big deserted roads down by the harbour
joseph deserted tokyo_5124

Rainbow Bridge
Run to Rainbow Bridge

Tom’s on a boat
tom on boat_5129

Bizarre… a man playing a piano on a roof
piano on roof_5138

Secret 5-foot tunnel under the Yamanote line – being held up by Tom
tunnel under yamanote_5140


Some kind of rich religious chemistry cult?
chemistry building_5143

Passed by the legendary parasite museum
parasite museum_5146

Us at the end of 22.5km
Joseph Tom end of run_5149

Feel’s good to have done that. Good start to a Sunday.

Ritz-Carlton Tokyo project: Suta-to!

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.

Ritz-Carlton Tokyo Lunch

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.

Cleaning windows at Ritz Carlton Tokyo

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!

Joseph

(p.s. ‘Sutarto’ is japanese for ‘start’!)

The perils of being a techaholic

Yodobashi Akiba
I’m at the most dangerous shop in Tokyo – Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara.
Why is it so dangerous? Well, it’s one of Japan’s biggest electronic’s stores, and once you enter through it’s sliding doors you will be bombarded by so many sexy gadgets that it will be impossible to resist buying something, and before you know it your wallet will be empty!
You can try and fight the urge to buy – but it will be useless. The famous Yodobashi Camera song (which has verses sung in both Japanese and English) fills the aisles, brainwashing you – it’s said that if you play the song backwards there’s a message telling you that shopping there IS the meaning of life.
Walking past the E-Mobile-wifi-dongle-¥100-netbook displays you’ll be accosted by men standing on stepladders blasting out their special offers over loud speakers.
Even if you run out of the front door you won’t escape – there’s a cute girl doing an iPod demo who tells you, “if you stay until the end I’ll give you a free iTunes store card!” – Resistance is futile!
And even if you know all of these tricks and go in there like I do – with headphones and dark glasses – you will find youself going home with a Yodobashi Camera bag – as I have today. I bought a wide- angle lense for our video camera – we’ll be shooting our final podcast at the Ritz Carlton in Roppongi, and need to make sure we can get the high ceilings in.
Oh, and I seem to have a free iTunes Store card too…!
(the photo is two photos stitched together by the iphone – as you can see it’s not done a perfect job, but I quite like the effect! You can just see the Yodobashi maid on the wall at the very top …and a man picking his nose at the bottom – bonus!)
(This post first appeared on Dannychoo.com)