Welcome back to Notes From The Gaijin.
Carry a Compass --
A reader from Australia recommends bringing along a compass. It will spin like crazy while you are on the subway, but after you navigate some of the bigger train and subway stations youill get yourself oriented very quickly by carrying one.
Bone Up on Japanese Food --
A reader in Sapporo recommends boning up on the Japanese foods you may not already know. I recommend this book:
Whatis What in Japanese Restaurants by Robb Satterwhite
This is the only Japan food book I bother to look at any more. It has not only the English descriptions but also the Kanji for most foods you are likely to encounter, from tonkatsu (Fried pork cutlet -- try it, Tokyo is known for being a good place to eat it.) -- to Fugu, the puffer fish (Yes, Iive eaten it. Very mild but very expensive).
The Makuhari Prince Hotel is Filling Up --
A reader sent me a message saying that the Makuhari Prince Hotel told him they are almost completely full for the show. Take a look at the first article for some alternatives in Makuhari.
Two Beautiful Places You Can See in a Day
If you are like me, you are on a short trip to Japan and you want a little culture with your tech. Here are two places I enjoy visiting while in Japan. Both Harajuku and Asakusa have great restaurants, so it makes a very nice day to follow up a morning visit to Akihabara with lunch and afternoon culture at one of these places.
Meiji Jingu can be reached by taking the train to Harajuku Station or the subway to Meijijingumae Station. IBM Japan has a great map of the area.
The Meiji Shrine is dedicated to the current emperoris great grandfather, Emperor Meiji. The "Meiji Restoration" is the return of power to the emperor of Japan. The shrine is a shinto shrine, and respects the Emperor and his wife as "living gods." The Tokugawa Shogunate ("the Shogun government") collapsed in 1867, and under Emperor Meiji, Japan became a somewhat open country that wanted to compete with the rest of the world.
Here is a great snapshot of what Shinto is all about. It is one of two dominant belief systems in Japan. Christians make up about 1% of the population of Japan.
Let me stress that ceremonies do still take place here. It isnit just another tourist attraction. But it is a lovely place to visit and breathe in some traditional part of Japanese culture.
Yoyogi Koen (Yoyogi Park) in Harajuku used to close off their main street so that young folks could dress up, dance, play music and act cool. That has fallen out of fashion, but you may still see a few fake Elvisis wandering about if you visit on a Sunday.
There are also plenty of fine restaurants and small art galleries in the Harajuku area.
This is one of my favorite places to visit. The grounds of Sensoji are lovely, and are in close proximity to the many stalls and small stores that provide some very nice gifts to bring home. The big lantern at Kaminari mon, the front gate, is a great place for a picture. You can find an area map at the Paper Lantern site. Read what our friends at Paper Lantern have to say about Tokyo. They have some great advice although I havenit found the rickshaw guys all that friendly.
There is a long row of shops, Nakamise, leading up to the Sensoji, and they have a lot of tourist stuff to sell you. Donit spend all your money here though. There are many small shops in the general area that carry some lovely items. I found a leather worker that made small toy animals with incredible detail, all from a single piece of leather and a little paint. It cost $5. On your way up to Sensoji, stop at the big pot and waft some of the burning incense into your face. It is supposed to give you good health.
Up at Sensoji you can also receive your fortune. There is a donation box to one side, and a cabinet full of drawers from which you can pull out your fortune. In some places, the only fortunes you can get are good ones. But here, you can get some disastrous ones as well. Fortunately, you can also get any number of small charms that will ward you against disaster. They make great souvenirs.
There are some great tempura and soba houses in the area. But I recommend strolling down Kaminarimon Dori (the main street on which the great lantern sits) as youill find some very good places which donit cost you as much as the places just adjacent to the big lantern.
Beware when you travel, as there are two Asakusa stations. The one that reads "Tobu Isesaki Line" will only take you way out of town. The other one will take you back to Ueno Station, which is a major hub in Tokyo. Youill find Ueno Station on any subway or train map.
Cool Hardware in Japan
Not all of this hardware is directly related to the Macintosh. But you will very likely come across it, either at the show or while visiting Akihabara.
Bandaiis WonderSwan is a very thin GameBoy like handheld device. A new color version appeared in December 2000, and will even feature a special hook up to Sonyis PS2. Youill remember that Bandai owns the Power Rangers, Digimon (now a rage in Japan since Pokemon fever has died), and Gundam licenses. J-Fan has a site in English totally devoted to WonderSwan. Beware as his site takes a lot of bandwidth. His site mostly covers the original WonderSwan, not the new color one. But it is worth a look.
At 6,800 yen, that is about $60 US. It looks like Bandai will bring these to the US, but then again, maybe not. You can also link them together for one on one play.
Aibo and Robo-Pets
If you also went to MacWorld in San Francisco at Moscone Center, you no doubt dropped in at the Sony Metreon building. Sony sells many, many products in Japan that never appear in the US.
Sonyis robot dog remains a popular adult toy in Japan, and there are even special editions available at half the original price. Aibo even has his own magazine called AiboTown. The newest Aibois now can use Sonyis memory stick technology, making Aibois brain a bit more expandable. If $1,500 is out of your price range, you might want to look at other robots like WonderBug. Akihabara shops are overflowing with robotic friends, many of which speak much better Japanese than you do.
Yes, you are more likely able to buy one of these in Japan than in the US or Europe. Beware though, as it will only run Japanese versions of PS2 games and the DVD region format used in Japan. That means your Region 1 DVDs you buy in the US wonit work on it.
In addition to extremely small MP3 players using Sonyis memory stick technology, youill find a lot of products for the laptop traveler. A new product from Sanei House is a pair of very small "ceramic" speakers instead of a magnet, with amplification, that can plug into just about anything. At 7,800 yen, that comes to about $67. Check it out.
Magneto Optical Drives
MO Drives have long been a favorite in Japan for back up storage. It uses an optical technology which keeps any moving parts from touching the media on which your information is stored. Because of that, you wonit experience the "click of death" or other fatalities associated with ZIP, ORB or most other removable media drives. I have a nine year old drive that still works great! Why this technology didnit become a standard in the US, I do not know. Companies keep revising their estimates on life of the media because these disks just donit wear out!
Want to get one? Try 2nd Wave, a US maker of Mac oriented drives. The core technology is a long time seller of all the big drive makers, so this technology is not going to die out (if you are thinking about the lamentable loss of SyQuest).
Some Japanese and non-Japanese companies are already talking about what they are going to release at the show.
Bios Corporation will be showing off a USB Hub especially designed for the Pro Keyboard. They will also produce a special stand for the G4 Cube. Booth 618.
Mikasa Corporation will show off their new level 1 Raid storage for Macintosh and "DupliDisk II for Mac Edition" solution. Booth 629.
Morisawa will be unveiling several new families of new Open Type fonts. Booth 410.
Shin Nichi Corporation will be showing drives based on the Castlewood ORB, in addition to the Thumb Drive, a cool little device that plugs right into your USB port. The Thumb Drive has its own site at http://www.thumbdrive.com. Booth 614.
Emulators, Inc. is going to show off some new developments with support for the Pentium 4. Apparently SoftMac has become very popular with Vaio users. Booth 643.
LinuxPPC, Inc. will demonstrate a Japanese version of its Linux distribution with support for running Linux on the G4 Cube. Booth 647.
Yamaha Corporation will be showing off its new Firewire and USB devices for musicians, and also an ISDN wireless router. Booth 404.
Atessa will show off a number of new peripherals for PowerBooks. Book 532.
Something you are burning to know about MACWORLD Conference & Expo/Tokyo 2001 or traveling there? Let me know at email@example.com and Iill put it into the next update.
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Notes From The Henna Gaijin comes to us courtesy of Japanware.com where this series is being written by Lynn Fredricks, the President of Proactive International. Lynn is the former International Sales Manager for Now Software, one-time makers of Now Up-to-Date and Contact and Now Utilities (both since acquired by PowerOn Software), and later at Qualcommis Eudora division.. You can find more information on the Henna Gaijin at Japanware Web site.