The company’s 30th Anniversary Celebration

Chinese opera

Mad day today. Started off with my spotting a Tweet (on Twitter) by Kamasami Kong of Tokyo Metropolis Podcast

Looking for someone who went to Eric Clapton’s concert in Tokyo. Did any of you go? I need a report for the MetPod. Thanks!

I replied to his message via Twitter, and shot him an email too: five minutes later he was recording my review of Eric Clapton’s concert, which has since gone out 36 minutes into this weeks Metropolis Podcast.

Listening to it tonight I can’t help but laugh at how much I talk. He barely got a word in edgeways. Also surprised by how crappy the signal is – will have to use Skype next time.

It was an interesting experience, seeing how Kong did it all so quickly. We had a little chat after the interview too, which gave me further encouragement to move forwards with my next podcast.

Following that it was a mad dash to work to pick up the video camera and tripod, then to Shinjuku in the snow to pick up some DVD RAM disks for the picked-up camera (a word of advice – NEVER buy a camera that writes straight to DVD disk and cannot be controlled from a laptop, absolute pants), and finally to Nakano Sun Plaza where the company’s 30th anniversary celebration was to be held.

Mr. D
Friend and colleague Mr. D, one of the nicest folks you could hope to meet in Tokyo, all dressed up for the celebrations.

It was an ‘interesting’ event. I think if you imagine what a Virgin 30th anniversary party might be like, and then invert it, you’d get a good idea. I gather that that sort of thing is quite normal for Japan: lots of thanks, speeches, lots of formality.

I did enjoy the speech by the university lecturer who specialised in the economy of the geisha industry. Learnt quite a bit there, about how they are diversifying and adapting to deal with the modern economic situation.

tiltshift umbrella_3581
A tiltshift Yellow Umbrella, taken from the party venue window

The food was great too. There was an idea that as the hosts we shouldn’t eat or drink until after the guests had left. Whilst all of the Japanese staff stuck to this expectation, us naughty foreigners decided to forgo social norms and be naughty foreigners.

Caw It was nice!

Following that there were another few speeches (pretty entertaining really – the chap in charge of training at a large shipping company gave a short speech in Chinese to demonstrate what he’s learnt when he took one of our courses. I was damn impressed.

Chinese operaThe main surprise came though when I heard that the lady who I’ve sat next to at the office for the past 5 months was about to perform. Perform what? I thought. Turns out that she was a professional opera singer in China before coming to Japan. I was flabbergasted – she was great!

There was a nice sense of groupism by the end of the day. A bunch of us took the same train to our respective homes, each clutching a big bunch of lilies that had been given to the company by its founder. We chatted away like a bunch of gaijin, ignoring the silence around us.

It was especially nice to get a chance to talk to one of the new staff who just started last year. She’s had a real tough time, and a few of us try to look after her. She’s obviously been working hard to improve her English too, as it’s way better than it was last October. I find her inspiring in that way.

Back home I’m shattered. Tomorrow should be a relatively quiet day, I’ll be working till 4pm (editing videos between phone calls I think), then back home to create some loops for the podcast.


It really has felt that life has taken over this week, with routines being kicked to the side in the wake of incessant urgent demands. I hope next week is a little more orderly.


Live video streaming from the iPhone (again)

Having enabled video on my iPhone, I thought it would be fun to check out the possibility of live streaming to the net – via 3G, out on the streets.

I’ve done two short tests today, both of which can be seen here. (The first is below, the second one is very long, and dull, although I was hopelessly excited as I had two viewers watching at the time sending me their feedback via the built-in chat function.)

Will think about how I can use this technology in the future. Love it.

Good People Networking Event

NetworkingI’ve just woken up from a pretty surreal night of dreams about social networking and web 2.0 technologies. It was fuelled by the experience last night of spending a few hours at a networking event held in Ebisu, where I was able to meet some really interesting folks (about 134% of whom were iPhone users) doing some good stuff in Japan.

This was the first time I’d been to an event with a primary tag of ‘networking’, and I must say, I really enjoyed it. It was especially good to meet Andrew Shuttleworth, someone who I felt I almost knew due to his web activity, but had yet to meet face-to-face.

Andrew is also the first person I’ve met who has jail-broken their iPhone …and I’m tempted. I’m especially interested in Qik (live video streaming from your iPhone), oh and also by the prospect of tethering it to my Macbook to provide mobile internet access for my Macbook. I may give it a go this week.

In other techy news – have you downloaded Safari 4? It is looking mightily sexy.

Anyway, time for me to go network with the bath. TTFN.

Volunteering, earthquakes and my dream house

purple flowers_0101As I mentioned on Twitter, *Twinkle’s* come down with a nasty itchy rash covering her whole body. It’s pretty spectacular. What’s equally spectacular is how quickly it appeared, and how much it’s faded following a night of rest. She’s still not 100% though, so is taking the day off, and is as snug as an itchy bug in a rug on the futon behind me.

We’re pretty sure its due to tiredness (last week’s conference saw her doing crazy hours) – so rest is what she needs. Incidentally, I used the NHS (National Health Service) Self-help guide – highly recommended.

I spent a couple of hours at Meguro ward city hall this morning, discussing how I might be of assistance to the Meguro International Friendship Association (MIFA). My motivation for volunteering was the frustration I’ve felt at not putting myself in situations where I have to use Japanese, which has resulted in a slip in my language abilities. This seems ideal. My main role is to give advice and feedback on their services, from the gaijin perspective. I’ll also be helping them get their website up to date (spent quite a while trying to explain RSS today!), and figuring out new ways of reaching foreigners in the area who are unaware of the services they provide.

I also did some translation and proof-reading. I’m glad I did that as it made me realise that *Twinkle’s* not emptying the bath after using it was not laziness, but is actually something that everyone is recommended to do in case of earthquake.

It’s also prompted me to decided to get provisions in for when the earthquake does strike. We’ll be getting a few sacks of no-wash rice later today (to be used in rotation), and a variety of other food for emergency use, oh, and a cardboard-box toilet.

The dangerous (tall and heavy) items we do have are already secured to the walls, so that’s cool.

Whilst of course there’s no way of telling whether the big quake will strike in our lifetimes, I think it’s worth taking precautions just in case.

Yesterday was a pretty interesting day. Following a run from Shinjuku to Roppongi via the Imperial Palace, I taught English for an hour in a Shibuya cafe, then headed out to visit someone who owns an Amway business, and had built a pretty stunning house on a hilltop next to a large ‘wild’ park.

It was a really funky place. To reach the entrance you climb a short flight of stairs and then cross some stepping-stones across a big (shallow) pond, which is actually the roof of their garage (which houses a very sexy talking Mercedes). Passing by the lift (for when they get old and are unable to use the stairs), you enter tatami-floored reception room. Going upstairs you’re greeted by a huge glass-walled living room, featuring one of the longest tables I’ve seen outside of a film, and a grand piano (that had to be lifted in by crane through the window).

Photos were not allowed – the home security company complained that they could not do their job with so many photos of the place floating around online.

We laughed when we were shown the wife’s bedroom closet – it was almost big enough to fit our entire flat in!

Dinner was the freshest seafood (caught by their fisherman friend), washed down with some rather nice champagne.

Personally, nice though it was, I wouldn’t choose to live in such a house.

My dream house is entirely self-sufficient in terms of energy generation / use, and has a vegee garden that keeps us going in fresh produce for much of the year. It has every energy-saving gadget installed you could imagine – the toilet even does a self-assement of its contents before flushing, and adjusts the flush accordingly. We have a garden on the roof too. Flowers, deckchairs, and a special light funnel channelling natural warmth and light to the rooms below, including the branch office of our charitable organisation.

The house systems are fully controllable from my iPhone, wherever I am in the world.

It’s mounted on large ball bearings so as to prevent earthquake damage [demo].

There is ample room for guests in the annex, which has its own kitchen and bathroom, and an open-door policy. Both short and long stays are possible for those either on holiday in Japan, or in trouble.

The whole house is networked with a main server acting as a central entertainment repository whilst also maintaining the house systems. It runs Mac OS (XI?).

There is a car in the garage. It is an Audi that runs on compressed air. Zero emissions.

The point of having such a house is not just to be happy with the home we live in. We hold frequent open days to demonstrate the steps people can take to reduce their impact on the environment, and offer a consultancy service to those interested in reducing their own home carbon footprints.

We have a log-cabin retreat in the woods too, comfortably housing up to 30 people at a time, where various holistic sessions are run year round.

Is this just a dream? At the moment, yes of course, but it’s a dream I believe will come true.

Best get to work then.