Still awake! Stayed up during almost all of the entire trip watching movies and reading… the view going down the west coast was amazing – clear blue skies… and now at Burn’s place right on the beach! Struggling to stay awake so went our for a quick bike ride – very nice to have the sun and the ocean so close again! Was a little tired of all the urban settings 🙂

Time Travel

So… at the Tokyo Narita Airport waiting for the plane for LA.
Crazy crossing the date-line… leaving here at 5pm and arrive in LA at 11am of the same day!! Jet-lag is going to be tough 🙂

Museum day in Tokyo

Yesterday I took the “day off” and just went to Akihabara to browse the electronic gadgets and play some video games.
Today, thanks to Gian Pablo’s tips (friend from ITP) I went to the following:
NTT ICC – an amazing space with ITP-like projects. Pity there it you are not allowed to take pictures! But the building itself was great… actually almost every major building here is a feat of architecture, design and engineering:

At the NTT ICC center, some projects worth I particularly enjoyed:
KAGE – a series of cones on the floor that produce an image both on the floor and two projections on adjacent walls when you touch them.
Modulobe – stick and joint models move around on the screen and through large buttons, a track ball and a joy stick you can make the model jump and drag it. You can also change the view you have of the model as well as change the model you play with. Very dynamic and entertaining.
The Secret Life of Numbers – a data visualization panel that shows the popularity of numbers from 0 to a million on the internet since 1997! Every time that number appears on a site it gets a hit. The number 1 and 1 million were obviously popular. To my surprise the number 365 (days in a year) was not popular but the number 6600 (one of Nokia’s phones) was very popular.
Tablescape Plus – a simple but very effective board “game” where the characters interact if they are placed close together, saying hello to each other or sitting on the bench for example.
There was also a special exhibit for kids – Sight & Sound – Watch the Sound and Listen to the Images – very entertaining even for adults… well, especially for someone who is going to ITP – trying to figure out what technologies were used and all. One puppet show project was actually using the Wii stick to control the animation… the girl explaining the project said I was the first one that noticed that 🙂
After that I went to Roppongi to the Mori Art Museum to see a fantastic exhibit of the architectural genius of Le Corbusier. An impressive exhibit with both his art work (paintings and sculptures) and his architectural work including original sketches, sc AND full size models and many videos about his work. Interesting to know that he is said to have influenced much of modern Tokyo’s urban planning in terms of joint housing, museum, shopping and entertainment centers!
As a bonus to the museum, you get to walk around the Tokyo City View – a large space around the building’s 52nd floor!

On the other side of the spectrum, the subway/train stations does not seize to amaze me. Not only the shear complexity and extent of them, but how deep the are! I was doing some mental calculations and my estimate is that some of these lines must be at least 10 stories or more underground… amazing.
Very interesting day!

I missed the earthquake!!

This is wierd… as you may know there was an earthquake in Japan today… 6.8 magnitude with epicenter on the northwestern Tokyo region…
I did NOT feel it at all!! I saw on the subway that many lines were delayed and service was suspended on some lines because of an earthquake. I felt nothing.
Max and Anais both felt it and said that they could see the top of buildings swaying and the lamps and curtains moving… as if you were in a boat in a storm…
I guess I was in the train and did not recognize it as a quake…

Tokyo – Odaiba

Today I went to an area called Odaiba – a futuristic shopping and entertainment district. Some amazing buildings, lots of shopping centers, and many very interesting museums.
I took some pictures and videos of:
– The ride on the unmanned rubber tired tram (Yuirkamone) and the interesting buildings along the way.
– Fuji Television building with a sphere inside its structure.
– National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) where kids learn about everything from superconductors, nano-technology, advanced medicine, space exploration, robots and much more – amazingly interactive and informative museum.
– Panasonic building with an amazing display of the electronics of the Matsushita group including a Wii event (yes, I played with the Wii – very entertaining!)
– Toyota showroom with their latest cars, a track with a self driving car and some concept cars
– The giant ferris wheel
– Tokyo Big Sight – a HUGE building for fairs and expos where I ate some lunch…
I still had to go the Museum of Maritime Science but I ran out of cash and honestly I was too tired from walking for almost 5 hours around this mega complex.
Good day 🙂

Very interesting blog about Tokyo/Japan

Came across this blog and found it quite interesting.
Was talking about all the small differences in culture, signs, behaviors and so on that a Japanese would probably not be able to point out to us Westerners simply because it is so normal for them. This blog though seems to be able to show all of the little quirks that makes this country so interesting.

Edo-Tokyo Museum

Today I went with Max and Anais to an incredible museum – the Edo-Tokyo Museum. I have never seen a museum with so much information in my life. It was actually exhausting to see and read everything but extremely interesting. A complete history of how Edo (Tokyo’s old name) became Tokyo… the typical houses, customs, trading, evolution and a series o reconstructions. Fires, earthquakes and floods constantly devastated the city throughout history.
One interesting fact was that Osaka was the production city and Tokyo was the consumption city…
This museum is a definite spot that every tourist should go to when in Tokyo!
Here are the videos:

Kyoto – first impressions

Got a hotel close to the train station as it is close to all the buses that go around town. The train station is unbelievable… it’s massive!

Walked around to see the temples close to the hotel (Toji and Nishi-Honganji Temples) but the rain was in the way and it was already late so they were closed. Managed to take some pictures and a some videos.

Hopefully tomorrow it will be sunny… there is a lot to see – there are over 1600 temples and 17 World Heritage sites! Uff!
Some more interesting things – the parking lot locks your car from underneath so that you can pay. Everything is automated – you can practically live off of vending machines – even inside restaurants you chose by the vending machine then pick up your order from the counter. I also loved the truck that opens up on the side. Here are the pics:


Went to Kowloon again to watch the fireworks celebrating the 10 years of the handover to China. It was absolutely packed… so many people. Went with Thomas and his kid Alexis – very cute and smart kid 🙂
Rode the subway for the first time – ultra high tech. There are no dividers between the cars – the entire train is a continuum making it very cool to look down the train and see it bend on the turns. You use the Octopus card – you simply hold it close to a reader and your fare is paid – the amount you pay depends on how far you go – just like the highway tolls in Europe. You can also use this card to pay for food, ride the tram, ferry and so on – basically a debit card. It is already being embedded into cell phones, watches and even jewelry. Very high tech.
We then went to his house on the eastern side of the island to drop his kid off and to eat something. Went to a delicious Chinese restaurant inside the Cyber Port – an office hub for media and technology companies… another amazing building.