Another World: Krakor, the Cambodian Floating Village

You may remember back in April I attended a charity gala event at the Tokyo Hilton in aid of Hope Japan, a non-governmental aid agency that works to provide safe drinking water to families in third world countries.

At the time I said

Whilst geekery is fun, sometimes I do wonder what the point to it all is. If, ultimately, it doesn’t contribute to the overall good of society, then it could be entirely pointless. Just a waste of precious time. But put a valuable cause at the end of the road and suddenly there’s a burning reason to continue to push original material out there, to grow a community, to create a movement of sorts.

My feelings remain unchanged.

John Janzen has recently returned from the trip to Cambodia that was discussed on the night, and here’s one of his videos. Had my attention. I watched it twice.

Made me think – am I making the best use of my time by doing what I’m doing, here in Tokyo?

John wrote an intro piece on Japan Probe, which I quote in almost its entirety here:

I recently came back from a trip to Cambodia with HOPE Japan, an NGO that builds wells and provides micro-loans in the very poor rural areas of the country. Our team members were all either Japanese or people living in Japan, so we were quick to notice the influence of Japan in Cambodia. When we were driving out of the capital city of Phnom Penh headed for the rural areas, we encountered a massive, under-construction bridge that was nicknamed the “Toyota Bridge”. Apparently, the money for the bridge was provided by the Japanese government, with Toyota and friends providing the expertise. I suppose that both are anxious to get more Toyotas flowing into the country.
But Japan’s involvement isn’t all corporate and governmental. In the following video we headed out to a floating village near the village of Krakor where we encountered something completely unanticipated (about at the halfway point of the video):

Be sure to check out John’s other videos on his YouTube channel.

Another week in the life of Joseph Tame

Reconstruction of first moled space flight

Yes indeed. The world’s first Moled space flight. Captured on the Hibiya subway line.

So, it’s been a pretty full-on week this week. The day job has been hectic as we’ve had a lot of new contracts starting, and I’ll be out of the office most of next week teaching at a major electronics manufacturer. Still, it’s going much better than earlier in the year as it has been established that I know what I’m doing, and whilst I may occasionally make small mistakes I’m indispensable enough to treated with respect at all times (I don’t mean that to sound arrogant, it’s a true reflection of my reality of the situation). It’s good not being the office idiot.

Making it in JapanI’ve also been trying to get my new podcast, Making it in Japan off the ground. It took about 25 hours to get it to look and behave the same way as the one I had in my head at the start. That includes time spent designing and creating original images, adjusting the template layout / design, re-recording the audio intros and outros, getting the feed sorted and submitting it to the iTunes Store etc.

I’m quite pleased with the result. It’s the most minimalistic (wp-driven) website I’ve made to date, with deliberately few distractions and only a few things for people to click on. Very different from Japan Podshow which is all php whizzy bangs and html ferris wheels.

Check out the site here, subscribe in iTunes here.

The simple layout is echoed in the audio content. It’s just interviews. Interviews with inspirational English-speaking entrepreneurs and artists here in Japan. The idea is that it will appeal to those who don’t like long podcasts / don’t appreciate the humour of Joseph and George / just want to learn. Whilst most of the interviews will be repeats of those featured in Japan Podshow for the time being, those on Making it in Japan will be fuller in body, more detailed, and of course will continue past the end of Series 1 of Japan Podshow (episode 12 will bring it to a close in October).

By re-using content (in a way that I believe serves a different audience), I feel that I am not setting myself up for failure, as I am not having to do the main job of interviewing people twice over. I’m not creating a whole load more work for myself. I hope it’s a success.

I spent several hours today preparing for the next episode of Japan Podshow. This involved calling a stranger in London for an interview (successfully captured) – I can’t give any more details as it’s a surprise but I hope people enjoy it when it goes out. I also edited the interview I recorded with Kat McDowell at Sony Music – I find her very inspiring, and what a great voice (video).

Rocket-powered elephant

(note the note-book corners captured when the image was scanned)

I also began work in earnest on the Pepe photo / book project. This is something I’ve talked about for two long. Something that everyone says “ah yeah that would be great!” when they hear about it. And I say, “yeah, I’ll do it sometime”. I’m going to treat it as an experimental project, utilising all the online and offline tools I use all the time anyway (social networking sites / blogging platforms / photo sites / iPhone 3GS / MacBook Pro / Adobe Lightroom etc) I was looking at the cost of printing earlier today, and it’s pretty affordable now.

Also, this will be a bilingual project, meaning that I have another reason to use my Japanese. I hesitate to use Japanese on Twitter etc at the moment, as I’m aware that most people who subscribe are not able to read Japanese. However, the Pepe sites will be bilingual from the start. And of course being a penguin, Japanese is not his native language = mistakes make it more realistic.

I’ll announce the links etc when they’re all set up.

Speaking of Japanese, it was quite funny when I was editing the interview with Jeffrey Rowe for Making it in Japan. In that Jeffrey was asking me about learning Japanese, and I was talking about how much of a difference it made …and by the time I’d finished editing I’d re-sworn to study on a regular basis (I’ve since started using my iPhone flash cards again)! Wow! I really am a motivational speaker!

The week ahead looks interesting. Tomorrow I’m doing my regular voluntary work at the city hall – then meeting an old course-mate who’s just arrived in Japan. After that I’m meeting a chap from Australia who I’ll be helping out for an interesting little video project on Wednesday… more on that in due course. Then it’s back to Tokyo 2.0 for what sounds like will be a very interesting talk by futurist, blogger, digerati, writer, speaker and advisor Gerd Leonard. Thursday it’s my Japanese class time, Friday I may be interviewing the founder of one of Tokyo’s most well-respected media production companies, whom I personally am a big fan of.

Overall, things are progressing well. The one thing I’d like to change over which I feel I have little control is the workload in my day job. It’s set to become pretty stupid come the autumn when our main season starts. I guess I just have to remember that I can only do what I can do. It is not to take over.

Anyway, I’d best sleep.

oyasumi xxx

P.s. Music really is a wonderful thing.

Japan Podshow Episode 9: Promo video

Whew. Did it.

Episode 9 - Manga and Modelling in the Land of Quakes

Here’s a little promo video using some random footage from the day we recorded it:

The editing process has been quite epic in it’s dramaticness. But overall, making this has been a lot of fun.

Remember – it aint over till the fat rooster calls. Although in this episode I cut off the end of the rooster’s call!

Shinjuku’s Cocoon building, and speaking Japanese

cocoon building shinjuku_5631

This is my favourite building in Tokyo at the moment. It’s the IMode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, winner of the prestigious ‘Skyscraper of the Year Award 2008’. I wonder if it attended the awards ceremony or just sent a video message explaining it was a bit tied up that night.

cocoon building shinjuku_5632

On Saturday George and I recorded episode 9 of Japan Podshow on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building – from there we had a great view of the cocoon – and the reflection of another skyscraper in it’s multi-story eye near the top.

I liked that.

cocoon building shinjuku_5642

cocoon building shinjuku_5640

Today’s been quite a productive day. Following my voluntary work updating a section of the local city hall English website this morning, I returned home and set about editing the podcast. I’m quite happy with it.

At 5pm I went to meet Kat McDowell whose first album is out on the 28th August. The interview (for Japan Podshow) was recorded at Sony Music, and she was accompanied by her management team of 3. It was a little intimidating, as they all sat across from me like an interview panel might – could I please explain what the podcast was and why I wanted to interview Kat?

I thought afterwards just how grateful I am that I put all that effort into learning Japanese. Had I not been able to explain myself, I feel it all would have been extremely awkward, and I would have felt like a right idiot. But as it was, it was cool. I could do it almost without thinking. (Although I realised afterwards that during a quick conversation about American Idol I inadvertently referred to her management team as ‘things’ instead of people!)

Kat, incidentally, is incredibly talented, and I reckon her album will be a big success when it’s out (I’ve had it on repeat play). We’ll be doing a Japan Podshow special on her.

Anyways, the next stage of production awaits – best get on.


There’s bean some progress

Elephant flies to the moon

I’ve been enjoying drawing lately. It started out when I tried to create some original art to illustrate episodes of Japan Podshow. As the series has progressed so I’ve spent a little more time on the pictures. It was inevitable in a way that I would find myself drawing elephants again – something I’ve done for many years when doodling.

I’m now in the process of creating a whole series of pictures which may or may not then have little messages added in Japanese and English, before being printed as postcards. Most of the drawing takes place on the Hibiya Subway line – my creative space. This means it doesn’t eat into the time I need for podcasting, allowing me to do it without stress.

Also, later today I’l be going out with Pepe and my friend / Japanese teacher / ideas guru @naminamy. We’ll be taking photos with Pepe for a book that I’m going to publish. Whether this means self-publishing or pro-publishing, at this stage I don’t know.

I’m also working on a more ‘professional’ podcast aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs / artists etc in Japan. The website’s nearly complete, and I hope to launch in the next few days. Initially, it’ll just feature the interviews I record for Japan Podshow (without all the bumph). It’ll be interesting to see where it heads.

One thing I’m enjoying is seeing that a lot of what I read in literature on achieving dreams is ‘correct’. Life has a truly uncanny way of working out for the best. It’s just a case of making a decision, acting on that decision, and having faith that those actions will lead to the goal (which of course may be somewhat different from that initially outlined). Whilst all these elements are vital, if I was to write a ‘keys to success’ book it would only contain two words:

“Just act”.

Books such as The Secret are all very well and good, and I agree that it’s important to align thinking with desired outcome, but at the end of the day, the single biggest factor that will determine if you reach a goal is whether you act on your ideas.

(Wow Joseph. What groundbreaking stuff!!!)

I have to laugh at myself for having put up all these imaginary barriers that ‘prevented’ me from doing what I wanted to do, whether it was a lack of time / lack of contacts / lack of money. It’s nothing that can’t be changed through action.

Life’s generally pretty cool at the moment. I’ve applied for a renewal of my spouse visa, which should be a three-year visa this time. I’m eating banana-and weetabix or banana-and-muesli milkshakes most mornings – it’s incredible how much easier 5 bananas slip down when drunk as opposed to being eaten. We’ve entered two teams for the next ekiden (relay race) in November, and Tom and I have submitted our entries for the Tokyo Marathon – being oversubscribed we get put into a lottery for places (result October).

Work is going OK. Now I know the basics of most things I’m not having such a hard time. I’m extremely busy most days, which is a good thing (no overtime so I just do what I do).

I grew a magic bean this week. It really was magic. This is what happened in 4 days.
Bean Progress

With so much to do for the podcast I don’t have a social life as such, but that’s OK for now. I do of course meet people in the process of gathering material, and am always making new contacts.

Anyway, I’m feeling quite hungry now. Time for breakkie, then editing – we recorded episode 9 at the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building this week. It was a lot of fun but there’s a fair bit of material to wade through!