Adventure Time!

 

Today I set out to be a tourist again. It’s amazing how quickly anywhere in the world can get comfortable and boring if you don’t take it upon yourself to go out and see what’s around you. So I found the One Day in Tokyo itinerary on Wikitravel and decided to sort of follow it.

I started off strong by waking up around 9 therefore abandoning the whole “go to the fish market and have sushi for breakfast at 5am” part of the plan. No thank you. If clocks were people their butthole would be 5am, and fish for breakfast sounds like something that is illegal to do to prisoners.

So I went to the Edo-Tokyo Museum and learned about Tokyo’s history.

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Childbirth during the Edo period was generally seated delivery, and the woman in labor used a rope hung down from the ceiling or an assistant as a support. The newborn baby was given its first bath by the midwife, who seated herself in front of the bath tub and bathed the baby by placing it on its face on her lap. One reason for this was to protect the opening made from cutting the umbilical core from getting wet. Another reason was that it was commonly believed one should not take an eye off the child’s back which, according to Chinese belief, was an important place where all five entrails were concentrated. The mother of the newborn child, in accordance with a popular tradition to prevent blood from streaming up to her head, had to spend seven days and nights seated, either on the delivery seat or leaning against the futon piled up. Unfortunately, it was not uncommon that this practice ruined the woman’s health.

Check out the incredible process of woodblock printing. Step 1 is on the right, and each step adds more detail. I was impressed.

Next I went to the Meiji Jingu temple garden. That was a nice walk in a park which was frequented by the Emperor and Empress themselves when they were alive.

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Then I walked through Shinjuku’s Harajuku and found a place called Calbee Plus, dedicated to nothing but treats made of fried potatoes.

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Masaaki Yuasa spoke along with some other folks I didn’t know (but that probably just makes me the Philistine here, not them the unknowns). Here they are discussing the episode he was given free reign to create in Season 6:

 

OK then I came home and burned some gyoza for dinner and wrote this.

 

Image & Video Update, Plus Rakuten Tech Conference

Today I put a pin down randomly in the middle of Tokyo on Google Maps:

tokyo-pin

Then I hopped on a train and went there.

It was this building.
It was this building.

I guess they can’t all be winners.

Then I found a cafe nearby called the Bookshelf Cafe. The sign seemed to say they were open on weekends from 10:00 – 18:00, but the closed sign was up. The door had an automatic “wave your hand here” panel, so I tried my luck and it opened. I stepped in and woke up a dude lying on his stomach sleeping in a booth inside.

「Excuse me, what time do you open?」I asked in Japanese.

「Oyasumi desu」he replied. In Japanese, “Oyasumi” can mean a rest, nap, vacation, time off of work, etc. So thanked him awkwardly and left wondering what kind of answer “I’m taking a break,” was to a customer who wanted to come in during normal business hours.

It turns out according to the website they’re not open on Sunday at all. And while I still wonder what led that guy to come into work for a sleep in a booth, I realized what his sentence meant: it’s our day off. We’re closed. Like the sign says, jerk.

My coworkers haven’t been able to give me a good Japanese word to use in place of “oops” yet.

Anyway, the title says “Rakuten Tech Conference,” which I attended yesterday. Had a great time, and most of the talks are on Youtube. I gave a “lightning talk” about successfully implementing process changes on your team. In lightning talks speakers have a strict 4 minutes to talk on their topic, so I had to rush, but it was a good experience.

Afterward I got to hang out and talk with Nathan LeClaire of Docker (super smart guy working on and showing off some really neat things for a cool company) and the accomplished Jim Coplien who’s been in the software biz for decades, is well-read, and has strong and intriguing opinions on many things from scrum, kanban, & agile in general to organizational patterns and international politics, all of which were extremely fun to discuss with him over beer and Japanese food.

Now for some images and videos I’ve made recently.

Walking off the train, I have to take these baby steps and get knocked around by other commuters. Watch and feel my pain.

A kitten at a cat cafe wants to chew my phone cord (of course).

A man fights sleep outside of a McDonalds and loses. I have been this dude so many times.

Thanks to this walk to Doofles, the neighborhood arcade, I’m sort of OK at Tekken Tag Tournament 2 now.

A photo update regarding music and friends.

It’s a beautiful, rainy day here in Tokyo. Let’s look at some pictures.

I’ve spent a few nights at Shibuya’s Ruby Room. They have a Tuesday night open mic, and I love open mic nights. There’s always such a variety of skill levels and musical styles, and I have a special place in my heart for amateur artists performing for the love of the music. For me the soul of lo-fi and live beats a polished and produced recording any day.

 

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Apart from open mic nights, I also checked out show by The Casablancas there.

 

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Good stuff. They actually opened for another band that night but in my opinion stole the show.

Also, had dinner with coworkers the other night. I love these folks! They really know how to have a good time together and have been super welcoming to me.

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I love this country.

Music!

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Check out this awesome studio that is a five minute walk from my apartment. I have this space to myself plus use of all the equipment in it for less than $8 an hour! It’s called Gourd Island Studio. I’m pumped: I can play drums again, I can record music and sing loud and plug into nice amps, all without worrying about bugging my neighbor.

Also, I finally went to the Ruby Room last night, which sounds like a strip club, I know, but is actually a pretty well-known music venue in Tokyo.

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One of FIVE BANDS that played last night! Dig the double-neck bass+guitar combo in the back.

I had pretty lucky timing, five bands played and they were all really fun and there was a lot of talent on display. Met some cool folks, too. They have a Tuesday night open mic I’ll be back for this week.

 

 

I Get To Learn What a Japanese Hospital Is Like

I went to the hospital in Japan. Hooray for new experiences! Mom, I’m fine.

I was doing some squats a few nights ago—no weights, just down and up with my hands in front of me—and I guess I was doing them wrong because after I finished number thirty (the last one) my back sent a very angry letter of resignation to the rest of my entire body.

My back's message. Also, hello new readers!
My back delivers a message to my brain via the central nervous system. Also, hello new readers!

The next morning I hobbled to the hospital.

It looked like this on the outside and just getting there felt like a huge success so I took a picture.
It looked like this on the outside and just getting there felt like a huge success so I took a picture.

When the shift began, all the hospital staff lined up and greeted all the patients in unison with a “good morning,” a bow, some other Japanese I didn’t get, and another bow. That was pretty awesome.

The waiting room. On the left: a counter where everything you need from reception to billing to pharmacy are all lined up with number-taking systems. Very efficient. Upstairs: all the doctors.
The waiting room. On the left: a counter where everything you need from reception to billing to pharmacy are all lined up with number-taking systems. Very efficient. Upstairs: all the doctors, nurses, and technicians.

I had an x-ray, two consultations with a doctor, and blood work done. Then I got a week’s worth of two different kinds of pain medication plus about 50 disposable heat pads. The total bill was around ¥8600 (less than $80 USD). Americans reading this will be amazed. Anyone else will be wondering why I’m even mentioning it.

Anyway, may I never spend more than 2 minutes talking about my health problems, a genuinely boring topic, I know. But for what it’s worth, I had a visit to the hospital in Japan and as usual even the worst of experiences was better in every way here.

A Dream

Sometimes I look around and just say to myself, “Wow. I’m here.”

Japan is not heaven or anything but it’s a place I wanted to live. Now, whatever that place’s reality turns out to be, it’s a place where every day I have the ability to look around and say “I did it.”

If you have a dream, no matter how big or small or absurd to others, pursue it now. Make it happen. You can make your dream come true, and nothing will change your life for the better more than proving that to yourself. Nothing can rob you of the knowledge that you set your mind to something and accomplished it.

If you’ve already accomplished something you set out to do, take time as often as you like to remind yourself that you did it.

And if you’ve never had a dream, what are you waiting for? Take a minute today, imagine something that makes you smile. Then go after it.

–Abraham Lincoln

I Get a Package From America (and Other Little Updates)

This one’s for Gina. Thanks for reading!

There are a few difficulties with having a blog and living here:

  1. I get new and amazing experiences so regularly that if I don’t blog for a week I feel overwhelmed by how much I want to share (which causes me to put off writing for another week and the snowball begins to grow…)
  2. If I approach an experience with the mindset of wanting to write about it later, I take photos and think about how I would describe it. I spend the moment, as my photojournalist friend Kelly once told me, documenting life instead of living it.

So, lately I’ve just been trying to experience these moments, getting immersed in them and letting myself forget how I would describe it later. It’s been nice.

Now it’s time for a huge messy brain dump. I think I’ll just lay out whatever’s on my mind. Enjoy. 🙂

I got a package!

My friends Vanessa and Moses sent me a box!

I got a box in the mail!

 

“Thanks for accepting this package.” 🙂 Actually they crashed at my place a month or so ago.

 

Oh. Oh my.

 

100% honest: I started laughing uncontrollably like a cartoon villain as I emptied the box. I’m laughing right now. Look at all those Reese’s Cups!!! HehehahahaHAHAHA!!

 

So how well did they survive shipping through the summers of Georgia, USA and Tokyo, Japan? Let’s find out…

 

Wow! They held up surprisingly well.

 

Delicious. If you’re reading this, thank you guys!

They also sent me a cool collection of sci-fi stories based in or about Japan, and toothpaste because I heard it can be hard to find toothpaste with fluoride in it. I think there’s a different fluorine ion in it here instead but readers familiar with chemistry are already noting that I have no idea what I’m talking about so let’s just move on.

I got a guitar and I’m discovering the Tokyo music scene.

Shimokitazawa (“Shimokita” as all the cool kids call it) is an awesome little area near where I live, littered with vintage clothing shops and houses playing live music. I’m going as often as I can.

I got a Yamaha FG-251 acoustic guitar for ¥6000 (about $56 USD), restrung it and adjusted the truss rod. Now I’m trying to overcome my fear of bugging my neighbor by playing it. I mean, I can hear his microwave beep through the walls, so there’s no question whether he’ll hear my strumming. Probably should’ve bought an electric.

It's got a huge gash in the top, but sounds pretty good.
It’s got a huge gash in the top, but sounds pretty good.

I’m also writing music in Garageband while riding the trains. None of it’s any good of course—I think music is the first (only?) thing I’ve ever been able to just give up trying to be great at and started doing just because I love it.

 

I’m introducing software development process improvements at work.

I’m going to write a separate post on this and link to it here later. Unless you’re into software engineering you’ll probably wanna sit this one out, but it’s making me happy.

I’m learning a lot about not judging and seeing myself in others.

Things can seem pretty different at times. Discovering that a laugh is not always a laugh and can mean many things from “I find this humorous,” to “I have no idea what you just said,” to “I’m feeling pretty uncomfortable right now,” can make you question all of your judgments of others. And that’s been a good thing to question.

Learning you can’t trust your assumptions about another person’s intentions forces you to fall back on faith: what do I think is in the heart of the average person? If you think people are basically good, you’re going to respond to culture shock and culture clash positively, assuming the best when in a situation you don’t fully understand. Think people are basically cruel and every puzzling situation will leave you wondering if you are the butt of an ill-intentioned joke. I’m glad I’m able to believe people I meet are more likely to be kind to the stranger than rude or hateful.

I discovered the mille crepe. Oh my god.

This is a mille crepe. It’s a slice of “cake” that’s actually about 30 crepes with creme between them. It’s a French food but these are made by the Japanese and you’ve never had anything so delicious in all your damn life.

 

Want some don't you?
You can be jealous now.

OK I guess that’s enough for now.