Happy New Year!

So much happens in a month, and when I go without posting I don’t even know where to start.

Today I went to Rikugien. It’s a garden with a beautiful pond in the center and paths all around it. There are 88 scenes from classical Japanese/Chinese poetry reproduced in miniature throughout the park. For example “The rock splitting the river,” where a small pond to the side of one path was fed by a small waterfall that flowed down and parted into two streams.

The view as you approach the small lake at the garden’s center.

 

Matcha tea and a little sweet bean paste treat.

 

The view as I drank my tea
Originally used to protect tree branches from snow and frost, this support is now a common tree decoration. To be honest I wish it wasn’t there, obstructing the view of the tree itself.

My phone battery died shortly after that last picture. I spent the rest of the time contemplatively, considering my perpetual desperate need to capture moments instead of just living them. Even the desire to live mindfully, fully in the present, is just another manifestation of that need. One day I hope to be comfortable in the knowledge that all existence, even each moment, is impermanent, and then live in the true freedom of that awareness. Or, to put it another way, in the words of my hero:

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Recently I went to a drinking and eating establishment where you got to catch your own fish and eat it.
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My coworkers. These are such fun, good people.

 

 

 

Blah blah blog title

Hey look at this stuff:

This is what breafast at Denny's looks like in Japan. That's ice cream and caramel and the envy of friends and family drizzled on top.
This is what breafast at Denny’s looks like in Japan. That’s ice cream and caramel and the envy of friends and family drizzled on top.
This titan costume is simultaneously horrifying and hilarious
This titan costume is simultaneously horrifying and hilarious

Recently went to an izakaya (after-work drinking place) that was themed like a school. Lots of fun.

The walls had children's art
The walls had children’s art
Backpacks were hanging up
Backpacks were hanging up
Okkun got a drink with a fizzing popsicle in it.
Okkun got a drink with a fizzing popsicle in it.
Matsukiyo had a drink in a beaker that glowed (thanks to an led-lit ice cube).
Matsukiyo had a drink in a beaker that glowed (thanks to an led-lit ice cube).
Yoshimura-chan had a flask of orange juice that came with a test kit of ingredients you could add to it.
Yoshimura-chan had a flask of orange juice that came with a test kit of ingredients you could add to it.
My local bakery
My local bakery
Had a bartender make me a sword balloon recently.
Had a bartender make me a sword balloon recently.
The Bonenkai (company year-end drinking party)
The Bonenkai (company year-end drinking party)
My coworkers!
My coworkers!
My coworkers!
My coworkers!
Yoshimura-chan, Hashidume-chan, Sasamon, and Okkun. Love these people!
Yoshimura-chan, Hashizume-chan, Sasamon, and Okkun. Love these people!
Ate at a pancake cafe and of course had to order the limited time Christmas pancake.
Ate at a pancake cafe and of course had to order the limited time Christmas pancake.
Tonight, stood on the roof of a department store in Harajuku and watched the sun set. Fuji is visible in the distance.
Tonight, stood on the roof of a department store in Harajuku and watched the sun set. Fuji is visible in the distance.
Closer view of Fuji.
Closer view of Fuji.

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:

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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.

 

 

My Not-Allowed-to-Stay-In-The-Apartment-All-Day Day

My company is on break for the Obon holiday for most of this week, and I am determined not to spend it in my apartment watching South Park and Seinfeld on Internet TV. So I gave myself a rule today: out by 10am and back no sooner than 7pm.

I hopped on a train in a direction I never go and asked my girlfriend to pick a number between 1 and 30 (she picked 22). That’s how many minutes I stayed on the train.

The results:

1. Got off the train and started walking around, ended up walking into the area around Sensō-ji, my second time there in a week but this time from behind the temple. Saw a lot I missed by coming in through the Kaminarimon Gate, like the lovely works inside the free admission Taito City Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum.

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Ate some delicious fried custard stuff and did a little shopping:

The cat make a speech. Listen to its meow.
The cat make a speech. Listen to its meow. Dream of a sweet love song.
Hehehe I don't know why I love this store's name so much.
Hehehe I don’t know why I love this store’s name so much.

Moved on, hop another train and ended up…

2. At Yashio station where I looked at some clothes

Satan Faith: Bulldog. hahahaha

And then I stepped into the spot to which, unbeknownst to me, destiny had been leading me all day: The 3rd Planet Game Arcade.

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And finally, I rounded the corner to witness a miniaturized horse race betting game. O_O

By the way, did you miss the fact that one of the jockeys’ bodies was horrifically snapped off at the waist? He was just a set of legs. I think that should disqualify him.

I was wandering around inside 3rd Planet thinking “This place smells just like the bowling alleys back home,” when I rounded the corner to discover:

It is also a bowling alley.
It is also a bowling alley. This place is incredible.

I played one game. One sad little game.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a two-digit bowling score.
A pirate-themed, two-digit, single-player bowling game score.

Finally emerging from the incredibly fun and diverse gaming experience that my day had become, I grabbed a bite at the finest McDonald’s I have ever laid eyes on.

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And now I’m writing this on the train at 7:30pm. Google maps says I’ll be home in 15 minutes, where I’ll upload all those pictures you just saw. My random train-riding journey took me to the opposite side of Tokyo from my home and cost me about ¥3000 total. Success.

If you’re ever looking for something to do, stop looking and just get outside. Something to do will find you.

Now for some South Park…