Freitag, 17. Juli 2009

Cities of Japan I - Osaka and Kyoto

The Heart of Kansai

Home base during my two weeks in Japan was Osaka, Japan's first (temporary) capitol, located in the Kansai prefecture. Osaka is well-known for its down to earth, talkative people and its Okonamiyaki. Osaka is also home to a great museum, the Osaka Museum of Ethnology.

Although none of the original structure remains, the people of Osaka cherish their little palace. It is sorrounded by sky scrapers in a quiet little palace park with a plum garden.

Young and old alike come to the palace garden to relax and take a break from the other 2.7 million people in Osaka.

Most of those can be found in the entertainment and shopping districts, of course. With its little canals, Osaka (deliberately) recalls an Italian city. A recent city publicity campaign titles Osaka as "Japan's Venice".

However, when the clock strikes 10, life slowly fades from the streets to the small bars and clubs of the city. The young Americanized shopping and lifestyle crowd vanishes.

As the consumers recede, the less fortunate business men set up their temporary habitat. The box homes are built quite elaborately every night. Many of these men (I've never seen a woman) were doing comparatively well before they lost their jobs during the recession.

Sleeping on the street is not a problem in Japan though. I have never felt so safe as on Japanese streets, at day or night. Crime appears(!) to be completely absent. People hardly lock their bicycles or worry about items unintentionally left somewhere. They will still be around when the owner comes back. The moderate climate in Osaka supports the street sleepers, and card board is supposedly very warming.

Kyoto, another one of Japan's former capitols is a little smaller than Osaka and is home to the traditional side of Japan. It is literally covered with shrines and temples, another old palace...

... and "Japanese" Gardens. Arashiyama is part of the Kyoto prefecture.

Actress Scarlet Johannsson hopped these stones for the movie "Lost in Translation", lost in the traditional, calm and quiet atmosphere of Kyoto.

However, even in Kyoto you will feel the pulse of a thriving economy as soon as you leave the religious sites.

Montag, 13. Juli 2009

Internet Giants and Small Geeks - Google Meetup in Seattle

Google and the simple geeks - Google Meetup Seattle ©pcbritz
Google and the simple geeks - Google Meetup Seattle ©pcbritz

Google is taking over the world! Next Stop: Fremont

One of the advantages of living in Seattle: Adobe, Amazon, Boing, Expedia, Getty Images, Microsoft, Starbucks are... literally... just around the corner! That means, when they have something new going on, you're the first guinea pig to try it out.

Currently, Google is starting a national PR event series to "connect to the users while the corporation is growing". Tonight was the first "Google Meetup" in Fremont at the Red Door. On the agenda: a free drink and some Q&A.

Generally a good idea, they will have to work on the concept. While sitting and chatting with the Google hardcore geek fans was fun and nice, it took 1,5 hours for the questioning to start. Sparks flew between the Google geeks and the Google user geeks, however, they were not very well prepared for questions on security and issues that were interesting to the more "general" public like "our grandmas and fathers and sibling out there" that Google supposedly wanted to connect to.

I'm still sceptical about Google's privacy handling and the fact that the company collects a lot of personal information about its users. I'm just uncomfortable with giving up that control and Kathy Gill's remarks at the meeting about security confirmed that I am not alone among the super nerds.

I'm curious to see where Google is going with these events and if their attempts to connect with customers will actually go national or even international. the first step is made.

Update:Check this Link for issues of security with google. Nice article I read a couple of days ago!

Sonntag, 12. Juli 2009

Big in Japan - Technology

The Portable Thumb Gym

Japan. The country with the beauty ideal of Marasmus - is not known for its strong and muscular people. But in the strength of one muscle, they probably outrun the rest of the world: their thumbs!

They might have competition from African countries like Simbabwe, but I don't think the Thumb Piano requires quite the same download speed.

Every Japanese has at least one cell phone with lots of "bling" hanging from it to make sure the mostly ugly square bricks attract enough attention. Cell phones are cool, you see?

Since it is impolite to talk on the phone when people around might be disturbed though (ie. in public and especially the metro), the texts fly in and out like there is no tomorrow.

In the time between the SMS, you can entertain yourself by surfing the web (running on the worlds fastest broadband in Japan), checking your emails, listening to music, shooting a video of your feet or you just draw out the antenna and watch TV (since even the most basic phone will come with a TV plan).

If you get realy bored waiting for someone to text you, you go to a museum, zoo or other attraction. There you make sure to capture every moment and add some beauty touches to reality. Then you text this out into the world: "I saw a penguin on my cell screen". You may now relax and lean back while the flood of "Kawaaaiii" (cuuutte) texts flow in.

Museums have caught on the trend at last! And since some poor individuals run out of battery at times and foreigners often dare to come without electronic devices, attractions have started to give out their own! At the Muesum of Ethnicity in Osaka, I received a PlayStation!!

This English audio guide featuring a stone-henge domino game kept me distracted for the full 4,5 hours I spent at this incredible museum. It lead me from Oceania over the Americas, Africa and Europe , East Asia and finally Japan. I did not have to look up once, except to find the bathroom, which was not quite easy.

Where has the rest of it gone? Has technology failed here?

Fortunately, Tokyo was advanced both in its technology as well as in its software applications.

This iphone clone did not only introduce me to this utterly confusing city on my first morning, it also safely led me to the closest pot hole potty - properly labeled!

Bottom Line:
Japanese technology is fascinating - and the rest of the world has some catching up to do! Let's start with me: Who wants to give me a new i-phone for Christmas? I was a good boy, I promise!!

Do you have stories about Japanese technology? Let's hear it!! Comment below!