Thursday, December 15, 2005

Japan #17 - The Rest

(At the end of August/beginning of September '04 I took a pleasure trip to Japan. I meant to have all the blog postings done in the first week, I'm now hoping to have it done within 90 days weeks of the trip.)

Ahh what to add?
Well how about the fact that it's been over eight months since the last Japan post?
I'd written earlier about the difficulties I was having with a certain DVD editing package. This is directly related to the fact that I had purchased a digital video camera in anticipation of our trip to Japan. I had only shot about 30 seconds worth of video before landing on the ground in Osaka, and I hadn't shot much video before. What little I had filmed, I never watched so I was never aware of what I could have done better.

I had high hopes of pressing the DVDs in a rapid fashion, but three things wound up holding me back:
  1. An hour of ripped video off of my camera (1 tape for me) takes up 14GB; editing it into blocks means duplicating the video (+14GB). I had three tapes (x3) which for simplicities sake I wanted to do all at once. Add some work area (4GB) and ISOs of the disks (4.5GB x 3) and that makes for a grand total of more than 100GB! Until fairly recently, I lacked the centralized space to do all the work.
  2. My firewire card died and despite months of work, I couldn't bring it back. Shortly after getting a workaround for this, my DVD burner died.
  3. And most importantly, there were some, ahem, impolite moments where I learned the first rule to filming: keep yap shut. Fairly recently, a friend of mind, by coincidence, gave me a video editing package that could handle it.
This doesn't count in the amount of time it took either. I could have just dumped the tapes to disk, but what would be the fun in that - I may as well have purchased an old style, VCR tape camcorder. Needless to say, I just completed composing the DVDs.

A common wardrobe feature for many young people in Japan.

So anyway, I can finally close the book on my trip. Did I forget to note anything? Probably, so here's a random sample of stuff I have sitting around of things you may have difficulty finding in Japan:
  • Trashcans. I should have taken a picture of it but at the time I thought it was a fluke; it was an overflowing trashcan in Tokushima, probably the only one I saw on that strip. People had stuffed garbage into every open crack in the wall that the trashcan sat against. I guess if I ever make it back I can get a picture of it since I'm sure it still looks the same way.
  • Paper towels in the bathrooms (goes along with the no trashcan thing).
  • Soap in the bathrooms (goes along with the paper towels).
  • Bacon. How a country can live without thin strips of fatty, smoked pork meat I have no idea.
  • Dairy Products. It's been too long, so I can't remember how this manifested itself, but I'd imagine the lack of arable land would make dairy farms cost prohibitive.
  • The '/' on Kanji keyboards (as in http://) . I'm sure this was a user training thing.
  • Tobacco dip. This wasn't a concern of mine, but a friend on the trip only brought along only one can because he was operating under the mistaken impression that it would be pretty easy to buy more locally, but it was not to be.
  • Land that does not contain a vending machine. Of course Japan's vending machines are of legend, but this is a much missed feature. The equivalent in the States would be if you were to have a robotic fridge that contained a wide variety of drinks follow you around where ever you went. And need I mention again the FRIGGIN' BEER VENDING MACHINES. It was like....heaven.

For it being Tokyo, most of the prices didn't seem shocking.

Now though, it's time for a special treat. I've collected about 20MB worth of video clips which probably hold as much interest as your average family vacation vids (I'll allow that my photos were slightly better than okay, but my video was lacking). Right click -> Save As!

  • Video1 (2.2MB) - A clip from the show at the Awa Odori museum in Tokushima
  • Video2 (3MB) - The Golden Temple in Kyoto
  • Video3 (3.8MB) - A hilltop shrine in Kyoto
  • Video4 (1.9MB) - Some controversy on this one. I detested this portion of a cultural program we caught in Kyoto, but my wife liked it and my son didn't mind it. The clip is just 30 seconds; loop it five or six times in a row to get the full effect.
  • Video5 (4.6MB) - Shibuya
  • Video6 (4.9MB) - The top floor of Tokyo City Hall.

Last Train

Well, I think that's it. Don't know when or if I'll make it back. Although my company's primary customer is in Japan, my company is more interested in sending people over who know engineering than know Japanese. Since I know little to none of either (and only an interest in the latter), well, you get the picture.

Would I recommend it? Given the same amount of cash, we could have gone to an all inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic three season. Now given the chance, I'd go back; but I'd have to believe that most people would take the month long Caribbean vacation.

(Update: In my rush to post this, I neglected to mention a lot of boring stuff about Tokyo, but I forgot to mention that I made it down to Roppongi for a little clubbin' after midnight. From what I remember, Roppongi is like the 'foreigner' area of Tokyo. My impression is that it's everything the rest of Japan isn't: dirty and full of dirty foreigners. It's no wonder Japanese would be Xenophobic, one trip through that place after midnight would cure and ideas about immigration. It was fun to be sure, and it was quite interesting to see just about every ethnic group on the planet crammed into a square 1/8 of a mile. But just to set it up for you...

  • Beers were like $8 a piece.
  • I don't get out a lot (well, never), but this was the only time in my life that I was actively solicited by a prostitute.
  • This was the only time in my life that I'd seen someone busted for using X.
  • This was the only time in my life that I'd seen a group of Guardian Angles in action (breaking a fight if I had to guess).
  • This was the only place in Japan during my short trip that I know I saw a for real Yakuza
  • I was rather tired, but I realized the next day that a sailor at one of the clubs probably had slipped his date a mickey of some sort (or she was strung out, hard to tell with the characters hanging out at that place at that time of night).

Yes, yes, I could hear 'Welcome to the Jungle!' playing in the back of my mind. But I was also kind'a edgy. If someone was to off me and dump me in the river, I know the Tokyo PD would put all of 15 seconds worth of effort into finding my killer. I'm sure the crooks know that, and that hardly provides a deterrent. Needless to say, I value my life and possessions so I didn't take my camera down to Roppongi. I'm sure this is nothing compared to what my sailor brother saw in TiaJuana, but that's as probably as close as a closeted tech nerd like me is going to get to something like that - a kind of TiaJuana, Japan) .

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