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.

Dog cafe, Tamagawa Shingen Shrine, and a pizza

Last night I treated myself to my first Japanese pizza and just watched some old South Park episodes. T’was nice. The pizza place was called Pizza La.

Facing at least two dozen very Japanese pizza choices such as corn, teriyaki chicken, and mayonnaise sauce instead of tomato, I was a coward and just ordered the plain cheese pizza. But judge me all you want because it was delicious. The cheese covered almost the entire crust, and it all had a unique taste that’s hard to describe but not to be found in America (at least, not by me).

OK, I’ll describe it, it tasted like burned cheese, but in the good way, I’m serious. If you’ve ever had some crispy, slightly-burned cheese you know what I’m talking about. If not, you’re missing out. Go burn some cheese in a skillet or something. Moving on…

Today, I decided to head over to Denenchofu Station and visit Deco’s Dog Cafe. I thought it would be like a Cat Cafe except with cool dogs hanging out everywhere waiting to be petted and/or begging for food.

Inside Deco's Dog Cafe
Inside Deco’s Dog Cafe

It turned out to just be a cafe that was super-accepting of dogs. I was pretty much the only dude there without one.

Hello! Hello! Hi! I'm a dog and you're a dog hello!
Hello there! Hi! I’m a dog and you’re a dog hello! (Three dogs get acquainted.)

Nevertheless, I had a delicious mango sorbet and got to pet a golden retriever, so that’s a success in my book.

My mango sorbet. Tasty.
My mango sorbet came out, like practically everything in Japan, looking like a picture in a catalog.

Afterward I took a walk around the station, an area called Tokyo Square Garden. I stopped in a flower shop where I saw gorgeous flowers in arrangements priced sometimes at ¥30,000 (about $300 USD).

And I visited a cake-baking shop where I saw this wall-o-flour:

No kidding, this is about a hundred different types of flour for sale.
No kidding: this is about a hundred different types of flour for sale.

At the nearby Starbucks I was given this hand-made (photocopied) iced coffee recipe by one of the baristas while I waited on a seat:

starbucks-recipe
Adorable. And look how perfect that pitcher picture is drawn!

And finally, I visited the Shinto shrine called Tamagawa Sengen.

Tamagawa Shingen Shrine sits next to a gorgeous view of the Tama River.
Tamagawa Shingen Shrine sits next to a gorgeous view of the Tama River.

 

There are many such holy Shinto and Buddhist sites in Japan, and while I’m sure anything can become familiar to those who have lived here their entire lives, each shrine and temple I’ve visited possesses a stillness that easily turns one’s thoughts inward. I sat for a long while taking regular shots of the sunset and just thinking about things that I usually think about when I get pensive.

sunset

It is true that nothing I do matters on its own. No single cell of the body is any more or less important than the rest. All one life amounts to is as a single grain of sand.

Grains of sand under a microscope – each individually beautiful and simultaneously meaningless. Remove even the most beautiful one and no one would notice; remove them all and there could be no beach.

It used to really bother me to consider the “vanity” of life (as the author of Ecclesiastes calls it) — the fact that all ambition is a chasing of the wind. Nowadays, in light of the reality that is the cosmic scale and the wonder that is human consciousness, I think life may simply be a precious gift.

What am I that I should be the steward of such a thing?

I have struggled for years to find that activity I should pursue which might be an adequate, fitting use of this small taste of life I’ve been given. Like a child given a toy agonizing over how exactly he should play with it, when all the giver intended was that he find joy in it.