Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tokyo Tech Party Dec 17 2009

It's been Christmas in Tokyo since November the first when Mitsukoshi turned on the lights on their Christmas tree. But now is the season for Christmas parties.
Coming up next week is the Tokyo’s Biggest Tech Party Ever .

It's happening on Thursday, December 17th, 2009 from 7pm until 10pm

At the Restaurant and lounge 57 Fifty Seven
B1F 4-2-35 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo.

(Google Maps here )

It's Free Entry!

There will be a cash bar, and "light food menu", (make of that what you will)

It will also be the first ever “Beers for Bytes” charity event. The money will be donated to Room to Read’s wireless computer lab projects in Nepal and Vietnam, as well as other developing nations.

Who's coming ?

Well, it could be anyone from these many Tokyo technology related groups :

  • Asiajin

  • Asiajin is a weblog focused on Asian startup companies, websites, and technology communities. Their mission is to provide timely articles about Asian Internet in English. It was started by Akky AKIMOTO and Shunichi ARAI in 2007.

  • Digital Eve Japan

  • Digital Eve Japan is an international organisation of women interested in computing, the internet and digital lifestyles and is based in Tokyo with members throughout Japan.

    They host meetings, workshops and speakers to learn more about a variety of computing and net-related topics, as well as social events.

  • International Computer Association (Japan)

  • Established in 1970, the ICA (International Computer Association) has grown into one of Japan's largest, most influential organizations covering Information Technology and Business in Japan. The ICA provides a forum for information exchange, networking, and identification of business expansion opportunities with many of the key movers and shakers in Japan.

  • Tokyo 2.0

  • Tokyo 2.0 is a not-for-profit community event run by a steering committee of volunteers. It has hosted a number of very popular monthly events during the past two years.

  • Mobile Monday Tokyo

  • MoMo Tokyo is the leading networking organization supporting Tokyo’s mobile industry and has become a key gathering point for corporate managers, entrepreneurs, developers, analysts and the media in Japan.

    Launched in Japan in September 2004, MobileMonday Tokyo hosts regular networking events that routinely attract 100-200 participants working within the wireless industry.

  • Tokyo HackerSpace

  • The Tokyo HackerSpace initiative was created from discussions at TokyoBarCamp 2009. It's a collective made up of programmers, engineers, IT administrators, artists, chefs, musicians, and people interested in geek culture. The goal of the group is to converge technology, arts, crafts, and music. If you are interested then please join the mailing list.

  • Tokyo PC Users Group

  • The Tokyo PC Users Group may sound like a club for users of Windows-based computers -- but, in fact, many of our members use Macs or various flavors of Linux as well as Windows. Nor is our focus limited only to personal computing. TPC is a club for technology enthusiasts of all sorts, from beginners to seasoned pros.

  • Tokyo OpenSolaris User Group

  • The Tokyo OpenSolaris Community is one of the largest communities in the world of OpenSolaris. And since Tokyo is a massively big city with connections around the world, we intend to grow globally. If you are interested in Japan or Japanese technology or if you ever come to Tokyo for business or pleasure, then please feel free to subscribe to our lists and talk with us and come to our events. English or Japanese is fine. We have many people who speak both languages quite well, and the more diversity the better. And you don't have to live in Tokyo to participate. We are an international community, and we expect to have members from all over the world.

  • Ninjava

  • Nin-Java , (NIhoN-Java) is an English speaking Java User Group based in Tokyo with over 200 members.

  • Tokyo Linux Users Group

  • On June 16, 1994 TLUG was born as the "LINUX" conference on TWICS, which was the only public access Internet Service Provider in Japan at that time. The atmosphere was exciting and friendly, and everyone began helping each other fix problems and learn about Linux. One of the early members commented, "It felt like we were all on the edge of this frontier and that together we were taming this networked, high-tech jungle. It was great!"

    TLUG is a non-profit users group, whose members exchange information on the development and use of the Linux kernel and Free Software Foundation tools. Physical and online meetings are held in English and Japanese. All are welcome.

  • AppleCert

  • AppleCert group is a non-profit association for engineers focusing on Mac OS X and Apple technology integration. Our primary focus is to sustain a peer group of like-minded engineers to build their technical skills at an accelerated pace.

  • GreenITers

  • GreenITers are for people who want to “Green it !” the world we are living in via clean technology.

  • Mobile in Japan

  • The Mobile in Japan community is active both on the various groups and on the blogs.

    So there could be hundreds of people showing up next week to meet, mingle and party.
    I am sure a big majority of the people coming will be bringing their poken, so if you are going to be in Tokyo and want to meet some friendly techies, come on down.

    RSVP by email by Sunday, December 13, 2009. There is also a
    Facebook event
    to sign up on to where you can see who has already confirmed.

    ( This is also my entry to the December Japansoc, Blog Matsuri hosted by Dumb Otaku, on the subject of "Technology". )

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Geek Up Your Ass Gently

    I just caught the last few songs at this guerrilla gig under Shibuya station on my way home tonight. Awesome good sound. will buy their new album released today. www.geeks.co.jp

    Update: considering they were playing by the side of the road in the middle of Shibuya the sound was pretty good and very very loud, which was what attracted my attention while walking through the station upstairs.

    Their "First Debut" album is called Magical Vox Paranoia. "The best rock album of the year" they claim! It looked like they have a loyal fan base that were out in force to support the four lads. They had fliers which I have scanned for your delight :

    GEEKS, Tokyo Rock band flier. for new album side A

    GEEKS, Tokyo Rock band flier. for new album side B

    There were a lot of people taking video and photos so I hope I can find some to share.

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    Windows 7 Advert

    I know I said I would not cover Windows 7 but this advert on the Yamanote this evening caught my eye:

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Meet the Korean Government

    I've not blogged much about Korea these days. It's been over two years now since we left, but I still have fond memories of the year we spent there. The launch of Windows 7 tomorrow reminds me of how I covered the launch of Windows Vista in Seoul. I won't be covering the launch of it's replacement in Tokyo. All I can say is, I hope the latest version works with the Korean websites.

    So while Korea is a distant memory I still notice news items about the country. [And of course I can hardly forget North Korea which dominates the news at least once a week with some sort of crazy or interesting antics. Here is just one of the two examples in today's paper alone.]

    So I was intrigued by the advert on the back page of the Economist this week : "Business Round table with the Government of South Korea". Restructuring South Korea's economy for a post-crisis world. Register now at www.economistconferences.com/kr09. Turns out it's only 1,990 USD and no onerous requirements. Sounds like a bargain to me. Go and heckle some of the ministers at the grand Hyatt Seoul on Nov 4th? Sadly I won't be able to make it. Perhaps we could put together some suggestions for those that do. What do you think?

    Saturday, October 17, 2009

    Ojarus, Strange performers. Ueno

    These street performers at Ueno were quite amusing.

    They've travelled widely in Europe too with their performance ojarus.com.

    Thursday, October 08, 2009

    Typhoon rail disruption

    Typhoon 18 (Melor) caused a lot of wind and rain last night peaking at 3am in Tokyo. The worst seems to be over now but I have never this many impacted rail lines on the status screen before.

    Here's the latest view of the storm's progress from the Japan Meteorlogical Agency

    Latest news from Yahoo

    Thursday, October 01, 2009

    Happy Sake Day

    I just discovered that today, October 1st, is Sake Day or 'Nihonshu Hi' as it called here. There's a Publicity page in the Japan Times with three articles extolling the virture of the traditional brewed beverage. ( Update : The supplement is now available as a PDF from their website: Sake Day Special).

    One of the items is from Timothy Sullivan of UrbanSake.com who was on my blog roll for a long time. He lives in the US and is one of only 17 Sake Samurai in the world. Probably the only other Gaijin Sake Samurai is John Gaunter of Sake-World.com whose sake course we went on last year. ( The pictures are on flickr.com but my account has expired and you can't see them at the moment! )

    There's an article about Born a brewery in Sabae, Fukui prefecture. They offer a range of high quality brands available in many countries around the world. Also included is a piece from Yoshimore Tomi in California, owner of the Japanese restaurant Sushi Ran. He will be celebrating Sake Day with an outdoor kagamiwari :'sake-barrel breaking ceremony', which sounds like fun.

    Where ever you are in the world, have a drop of decent Junmai Daiginjo and toast with me 'Sake Day'.

    Friday, September 18, 2009

    Delays on Inokashira Line

    My journey into Shibuya this morning was delayed by 10 minutes. A trip that normally takes 6 minutes took 16 minutes! Because this is such a rare event, and people don't believe you when you say there were delays on the trains, you can get proof to show your boss to explain your tardiness.

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Ebisu Advert II

    The advert I hated has been replaced with this for the same company : Happiness is lying down without notice. It makes no sence. I think I am going to smile every time I see it. Probably still wont buy the product though.

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    Ebisu Advert

    I hate this poster. I have to see this every evening on the way home. It looks he has a toilet roll in front of his face. I hope they change it soon.
    Update: 04 Sep , they finally replaced it with something much less annoying.

    Monday, August 03, 2009

    Yamashirogumi in Shinjuku

    Entertainment on Sunday was a brief trip to the Epson Epsite gallery in Shinjuku. Sadly Gallery 1, where the reptile and amphibian exhibition was on, was closed on a Sunday. Gallery with 2 with Yukikazu Ito's exhibition titled "The Rain, Asphalt", had, well, pictures of rain bouncing on to.. you guessed it, asphalt.

    The first couple of photos were OK, but half way round the small gallery I was thinking, yes, OK, I've seen rain on the road.. The final shot was the kind the kind of out-take I would just delete, but he seemed to think it was worth while printing anyway.

    The gallery acts as a showcase for Epson's range of printers and output devices. One gentleman was getting a photograph printed, which was a lot more presentable than some in the gallery. It's not clear if you have to pay for it, or they offer it as some kind of demonstration. I'm hoping to go back to see the Ryu Uchiyama's reptiles in Gallery 2 before it finishes on Aug 22nd.

    Location : First floor Shinjuku Mitsui Building. Nearest station Nishi Shinjuku, or 10 minutes walk along the underpass from Shinjuku station. Entrance: free.

    Outside in the plaza a large set had been contructed for the CAK festival. The Yamashirogumi group of percussion enthusiasts were formed in 1974 and play over eighty different types of folk music from around the world. We watched them playing some excellent xylophones.

    Yamashirogumi, Outdoor concert, Shinjuku, Tokyo

    Yamashirogumi, Outdoor concert, Shinjuku, Tokyo, closeup

    There's a three minute recording I took from the afternoon on YouTube here along with some other videos other users have uploaded too.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Visual Deception - Bunkamura Exhibition Tokyo

    The exhibition currently running at the Bunkamura museum is titled Visual Deception. The theme is "Trompe-l’oeil", paintings that trick the eye. The first section holds 16th and 17th century examples: a flat canvas that looks like a marble relief; a young lad climbing out of the picture frame (An image used in some of the posters); a paper note nailed to some wood; a picture of a picture.

    Moving on, Archimboldo's portrait of Vertumnus/Rudolf II depicted in vegetables is displayed in Japan for the first time.

    One section is dedicated to Japanese works demonstrating similar effects, for example scrolls where the ties are painted on, rather than actual pieces of material.

    Artists from the 20th century include Salvador Dali and MC Escher. Three of his works are displayed including the well known 'impossible building' Belvedere and Waterfall where the water wheel looks like it can run forever.

    Another of my favorite artists is Rene Magritte. I visited an exhibition of his work in Seoul a few years ago. Here in Tokyo, three of his works are on show including Attempting the Impossible:

    Rene Magritte, copy of painting Attempting the Impossible

    [He was a far more successful Belgian artist than a certain Antoine Wiertz described in the Economist as "perhaps the worst painter to have a government-funded museum all to himself" in an article relating the perils of governments supporting ventures that may, at the time, seem like a great idea, but turn out to be less enduringly popular.]

    The exhibition concludes with some contemporary works including two tilt shift photos from a Japanese photographer, whose name I failed to make a note of and, since I was too stingy to buy the exhibition catalog, I now have no record of.

    Bunkamura Museum,24-1, Dogenzaka 2-chome Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 03-3477-9111

    Until : Sunday 16th Aug 2009

    Opening Hours:
    10:00 to 19:00. (Friday and Saturday until 21:00). (Admission up until 30 minutes before closing)

    5 minutes walk from Shibuya Station

    Adults 1400 yen
    Students 1000 yen
    Children 700 yen.

    Due to the huge demand for the exhibition we had to queue for 25 minutes on Sunday for a ticket. But if you plan ahead, tickets can be purchased online (in Japanese only) at Ticket Pia Lawson Ticket and e + (IPURASU). Or at Seven Eleven, Family Mart, Circle K, Sunkus, JTB and Tokyu Plaza Travel Center.

    It was a crowded exhibition so be prepared to wait in line to admire the art works close up, but it's well worth the effort.

    Monday, July 06, 2009

    Neoteny - Contemporary Art Exhibition , Tokyo

    I don't always like modern art, but the exhibition currently on at the Royal Museum in Ueno Tokyo showed some of the most interesting and intriguing pieces I've seen in a long time.

    cropped image of poster for neoteny.jp Exhibition, Royal Museum, Ueno , Tokyo. copied (without permission ) from neoteny.jp Image shamelessly copied from neoteny.jp.

    From the mirrored sculpture of a six legged wolf by Konoike Tomoko at the start, to the small group of creatures made of bamboo (perhaps?) on the way out, I was enthralled.

    The exhibition includes almost one hundred works from thirty three Japanese artists. The range of material and subjects was outstanding. Some of my favourites included :

    "History of Rise and Fall" by Ikeda Manabu. This 2m by 2m canvas includes such an enormous amount of detail in the imaginary landscape I could have looked at it for hours and still discovered something new.

    The huge canvas from Aida Makoto entitled Giant Salamander. If it hadn't been for the title, I might have missed the very large aquatic creature in the middle of the picture.

    "Human Lesson, Dress 01", which is where the wolf's head in the poster comes from, (and yes, it is a dress.. kind of) and the Victorian looking instrument of torture entitled Fingerspanner both from Odani Motohiko.

    A modern take on a classic Japanese style of painting from Yamaguchi Akira entitled Modern Times.

    And many many more. I highly recommend it, but hurry, the exhibition ends on July 15th.


    The Ueno Royal Museum ,Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0007
    TEL: 03-3833-4191 http://www.ueno-mori.org

    Until : Wednesday, July 15 2009

    Opening Hours:
    10:00 to 18:00. Fridays until 20:00. (Admission up until 30 minutes before closing)

    3 minutes walk from JR Ueno Station

    Adults 1200 yen
    Students 1000 yen

    More photos on the blog neoteny.jp blog

    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    New Starbucks in Ebisu

    This morning at 7:30 the 246th Starbucks in Tokyo opened without any fanfare, in Yebisu Garden Place Tower.

    Starbucks in Yebisu garden Place Tower , Ebisu, Tokyo, Japan. Opening day Jun 23 2009

    It's only five minutes walk from the Starbucks at Ebisu station.

    Starbucks coffee shop, Ebisu station, Tokyo, Japan.
    The new outlet provides the usual selection of coffee, tea, chocolate and some bottled soft drinks. A display cabinet holds pastries and sandwiches. A short cafe latte costs 320 Yen. Unlike the convenience store next door and the Starbucks branch at the station, they do not accept Suica electronic pre paid cards which is not very helpful. Around the side is a small area with some armchairs and small tables.

    The three cafes already providing coffee to take away are going to have a serious competitor right in the middle of the Yebisu Garden complex.

    Least to fear is MacDonald's. A small cafe latte costs 210 Yen. The queues when this branch of the Golden Arches opened last year went round the block, but they weren't there for the coffee.

    MacDonalds cafe in Yebisu Garden Place, Ebisu, Tokyo, Japan.

    Excelsior Cafe has a branch in the building. It's a well known chain around Tokyo. It was created in 1999 by the Doutor coffee company to compete with Starbucks after the American chain first arrived in Japan in 1996. Excelsior serve a range of other beverages including beer. The large cafe with some outdoor seating is going to continue to attract people who like to sit down in a venue with more space and a bit more choice on the menu.

    Excelsior cafe, Yebisu garden place, Ebisu, Tokyo, Japan.

    Benugo's has to most to fear from the new arrival.

    Benugo cafe, Yebisu, garden place, Ebisu, Tokyo, Japan

    A small cafe latte here will set you back 330 Yen. However a 10% discount is available to people who work in the tower. They have a small indoor seating area and some tables outside. Their speciality is hot sandwiches something they started in 2003. Their eggs benugo is a firm favourite of mine. [The interesting article from the Japan Times describes Pret A Manager as their biggest competitor when they started but Pret a Manger pulled out of Japan in 2004 after their 50/50 partner Macdonalds withdrew from the project.]

    Some other interesting research I found comparing Starbucks and Excelsoir in 2002, and a good personal summary of some of the the other chains in Japan from Japan-Zone. For me, I'll probably buy the coffee from Starbucks, but go to Benugo's to eat, I just hope they stay in business. What's your favorite coffee shop?

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    Blogging for Perks and Pleasure

    Yesterday's item in the Japan Times titled "Bloggers gain perks to pitch tourist spots" reminds me, in a round about way, of why I started this blog almost exactly three years ago.

    At the time I was living and working in London, but my wife and I had had enough of living in the UK and were keen to go out to Asia. So, the plan was hatched that she would get a job teaching English in Seoul, I would have a year off from work and become a house husband, we'd spend a year there, then I'd get a job in Japan and we'd move across the Japan Sea. Which is exactly what we did.

    When I first told friends and family we were moving to South Korea most people knew very little about the country and the people. I had been following a number of blogs at the time and had been casting around for a good subject for a blog. I realised that a blog on what life offers in Korea might make a good topic. My aim was not only to inform friends and family of our life in Korea, but also to provide detailed information for other expats and tourists coming to Korea.

    I soon discovered a healthy Korean Blogosphere with a wide range of bloggers from those fresh off the plane excited to taste their first Kimchi to the seasoned long termers like Robert at the Marmot's Hole and Mike the Metropolitician.

    I enjoyed blogging about the interesting and varied places and events we visited. From the peace and quiet of Samcheonggak to the fun of the Hi Seoul Festival
    Other useful information I blogged about ranged from The Best Bread in Seoul , Discount Cards to the first day of the Arex Airport Railway.

    Since we moved to Japan my blogging frequency and volume has been reduced but I still try to post two to three times a month on something topical. I've done my best to promote regional attractions. I provided a link direct to Shizuoka Tourism's site promoting the new airport that opened at the beginning of this month. I documented our summer trip to Hokkaido last summer.

    This blog has always been a hobby and I never attempted to make any money by trying to commercialise it, I got as far as signing up for AdSense, but because the blog is still on the old format blogger template (long story) I have not bothered to incorporate the adverts. I have always been open to reviewing products or services in return for an honest write up, but have sadly never been offered anything.

    Strangely the Japan Times does not include any links to the bloggers depicted. I spent a few minutes searching to see if I could find any of their sponsored blog posts but I couldn't find anything obvious. Instead, I found another blogger ( Kimonobox) also commenting on the same story and looking for the same thing! She's done a bit more research and come up with nothing either. She is waiting (I fear in vain) for a reply back from the Japan Times to her request for more details. My guess is they are blogging in Japanese which is why the Japan Times did not include any links.

    So if the Wakkanai tourism association is interested I would be more than happy to accept a trip up to the northern tip of Hokkaido to see more of the spectacular scenery.

    This was intended to be an entry for this month's Japan blogs Matsuri which is hosted by Billy at Tune-in-Tokyo on the subject of Living on a budget in Japan. But, I am not sure after all that rambling, it counts on the subject of how to save money? What are your thoughts on bloggers posting for perks and could you save money from it if you have a blog?

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    Tokyo Design Festa 2009

    contemporary Japanese art from one stand at Tokyo Design Festa 2009
    Just one of 2,000 stands, originally uploaded by jonallen01966.

    I went to the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition centre for the Design Festa at the weekend. Over 2,000 local and international exhibitors took part in this extravaganza of art, fashion and design.

    The stands showed the artist's enormous imagination in a wide variety of media from oils and watercolours to wire, glass and plastics. Most of the items were for sale: everything including post cards, T-shirts, shoes, bags, clothes, wigs, hats and general nick knacks.

    Some of my favourites include A Banana and Cream Facial and a cheeky design on wood. More of my photos on flickr , an excellent selection from lhuga and a 12 second video of some hungry money boxes that eat coins.

    The festival happens twice a year and is happening next on the weekend of Oct 24th and 25th 2009.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Photo Quiz Answers

    Thank you to everyone who entered the Prize Draw. The winner has been notified and will receive the last Poken I have from the batch of 12 I bought.

    I am planning on buying another batch, so expect to hear more about Poken in the future.

    Now the answers :

    Museum of Maritime Science, Tokyo, Japan

    Answer 1: The building is the Museum of Maritime Science (Funenokagakukan).
    Situated on the island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay, this excellent museum holds a large collection of all things nautical. The NY Times reckons you could do the museum in two hours. I've been twice and still not seen half of it.

    Rainbow Bridge, from Odaibia, Tokyo Japan

    Answer 2: This is the Rainbow Bridge.
    Linking the island of Odaiba with the mainland, the Rainbow Bridge was named after its multi coloured illumination . More from the Time Out Guide to Odaiba (The link only seems to work in IE)

    Diet Building, Tokyo, Japan

    Answer 3: The building is the National Diet Building.
    Located at 1-chome, Nagatachō, Chiyoda, Tokyo.
    Sessions of the House of Representatives take place in the left wing and sessions of the House of Councillors in the right wing. It was build in the 1930s entirely from indigenous materials. Tours around some areas of the building are available from Monday to Friday. Well worth a visit.

    Sakura Daimon , Leading to Imperial Palace, Tokyo , Japan

    Answer 4: Sakura Daimon leading to the Imperial Palace.

    Statue of Hachiko, Outside Shibuya station, Tokyo, Japan

    Answer 5: The dog is named Hachiko and his statue stands outside Shibuya station. Hachiko and his master Prof. Uyeno, were inseparable friends. Each day "Hachi" would accompany his master to the train station when he left for work. Upon returning, the professor would find the dog patiently waiting. One fateful day in 1925 the professor was taken ill at the university and sadly died before he could return home. Hachiko waited patiently at the station for his return that day and the next. He continued his daily vigil for over ten years, becoming well known to the commuters passing through the station, until he passed away on the same spot he last saw his friend alive. [Abridged version of the full story from here.]

    I hope you enjoyed the quiz. I may run another one. Any input is welcomed.

    Saturday, May 09, 2009

    Tokyo Photo Quiz, Two Days Left

    Just two days left to enter the Tokyo Photo Quiz. I have extended the deadline for entries by one day. You now have until 9pm Monday 11 May to send the answers to me.

    There have been ten correct entries so far. Last chance to get your thinking hat on, answer the five questions about the photos of Tokyo and email your answers to enter the prize draw to win a Poken.

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    Tokyo Photo Quiz, Win a Poken

    Want to win a Poken? Simply identify these five locations from around Tokyo and send an email to the address at the end of the post.

    Question 1: Name the building:

    Question 2: Name the bridge:

    Question 3: Name the building:

    Question 4: Name the important location this gate leads to:

    Question 5 : Name the railway station this famous dog stands outside:

    Just send your five answers by email to :

    poken [at] allenmannaro [dot] com

    The winner will be drawn at random from the correctly answered entries at 9pm Tokyo time, Monday 11th May 2009. [New Date].

    Only one entry person. The prize is one Poken, I will post the prize to the winner so don't worry if you don't live in Japan. More details on why I think Poken are great here.

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    Win A Poken, Prize Draw

    I have mentioned Poken a couple of times before on the blog. I bought one at my first Beer and Blog meeting and they were discussed at the Tokyo 2.0 event. The day after that event I decided I would get more involved with Poken and I ordered a pack of twelve. My package arrived this weekend :

    Photo of open pack of 12 Poken
    Of those twelve, I managed to sell five last night at the Beer and Blog event in Ningycho, and three more have been reserved. However, I am going to save one of these gadgets as a prize in a little competition I will launch tomorrow on the blog.

    I will post five photographs of well known Tokyo landmarks. All you have to do is send an email, to the address I will provide, with the names of the places depicted to be entered into the draw.

    On Sunday 10th May 2009 I will chose a winner, at random, from the list of emails with the correct answers. The competition is open to you where ever you live. I will post the Poken to the winner, but if the winner is local we might be able to arrange a hand over in person and exchange a "high four".

    For those not aware of what Poken is: It's a gadget, small enough to put on your key chain, that you can use to exchange contact details when you are out at parties, events, meetings etc. No need for a business card, simply touch your poken to the poken of your new friend and your details are stored. When you get home, plug the poken into your computer (PC, MAC or linux) and click on the Start_Poken link to upload the contact details to the DoYouPoken.com website.

    Screen shot of uploading contacts to Poken website

    The very first time you use Poken you have to register on their site and create your E-business card. This can include your photo, a background, email addresses, phone numbers, postal addresses and links to your details on all your favourite social networking sites : Facebook, Linked In, flickr, MySpace, Youtube, Twitter, Ning etc. This is what mine looks like:

    Screen shot of my Poken E-business card.

    You can control what information you release to which contacts, by setting up separate identities. For business acquaintances you might not include your Facebook profile, but only Linked In and use your work email address. For other friends you can include your home email address and different links.

    For those that are skeptical, yes, I agree it's a long shot. However they are becoming popular in Europe, the company that launched the product is based in Switzerland. They are making money, which is unusual for a small technology start up company. Poken has only just been launched in Japan and these gadgets are not for sale in very many locations. The list at the moment shows only 3 places. The logic behind this approach is they are aiming for a viral marketing campaign: Getting their customers to recruit more customers. It is obviously working because that's why I am writing this blog post and running this prize draw!

    Stephane Doutriaux, the founder of the company, gave an excellent presentation at a Google Tech Talk in Jan 2009. He goes into some of the technical details of how it works, what their plans are and some ideas on future directions which will include an API. This will allow 3rd party sites to access your Poken contact information.

    "Why not use your mobile phone?" is a question often asked, well have you tried? It's not quick and it's not easy. Poken is designed to be fun, quick, and easy to use: no checking compatibility, no problems making sure you have the right software. That's all taken care of.

    What about privacy ? The Poken website does not store any of the passwords to your social networking sites. You have to provide the passwords to authenticate your access just once, to prove that it is your profile they are connecting to for the first time. Nothing is stored on the physical Poken itself, except some unique, encrypted identifiers. If you lose it, no one else can use it to connect to your details on the website (unless you give them your password to the website.) More FAQs on their website here.

    I hope I've persuaded you that you need a Poken? Come back tomorrow to enter the competition to win one. If you can't wait, Amazon is selling them online for 2,480 Yen each.

    Update : here's the link to the Quiz

    Prize Draw Small print:
    Only one entry per person please. No alternative to the prize of one poken will be offered. Your privacy is important to me, I will not use your email address for any other purpose than contacting the winner. My decision is final, no correspondence on the result will be entered into. I reserve the right to cancel the prize draw without notice. If I have more than one Poken you may get a choice of which design, however that is not guaranteed.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Shizuoka Airport, Win an iPod Competition

    The JapanGuide.com newsletter brought to my attention the Shizuoka Prefectural Tourism Association's competition to win an iPod.

    The tourist board is running this event to celebrate the forthcoming opening of Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport on June 4th. Even if you know nothing about this area, it looks their website has enough clues to help you win one of the 15 Nano iPods they have to offer : https://www.enjoy-shizuoka.jp/en/

    The airport is opening three months later than originally planned due to the unfortunate discovery that the trees at the end of the runway were taller than international regulations permit. Taking responsibility for the oversight, Governor Yoshinobu Ishikawa stepped down in March.

    4 Roundtrip Flights to Shanghai from Mt. Fuji Shizuoka - Second Int’l Route w/ Regular Flights

    Photo Credit: Airport News Japan.

    The airport, approx 175km from Tokyo, will have have international flights to Seoul with KoreanAir and Shanghai with China Eastern Airlines. Domestic destinations will include Naha and Sapporo with ANA.

    Some people have questioned the wisdom of opening another airport so close to Tokyo. It remains to be seen how this new airport will fair in the current financial climate.

    Update: I just hope it does not end up like this airport in South Korea. Yangyang International built seven years ago for $400m (£260m) has not seen a single passenger since November 2008.

    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    Aoyama Cemetery , Tokyo

    Aoyama cemetery
    Aoyama cemetery, originally uploaded by jonallen01966.

    I recently discovered this quiet oasis while on a bicycle, riding at random around Tokyo. Aoyama Reien is one of the largest cemeteries in Tokyo, just a few minutes from the noise and skyscrapers of Roppongi. And yet, you can hardly hear the traffic, and there are very few people around. Even on a bright Sunday afternoon the place was almost deserted.

    Aoyama cemetery 14

    What makes this cemetery unusual is not only the size of it, but also the park-like layout. Wide spaces between the graves and trees and bushes make it unlike the majority of Japanese graveyards which are normally small and tightly packed with graves.

    First opened in 1872 Aoyama Reien was the first municipal cemetery in Tokyo. Many famous people are buried here include General Nogi Maresuke, a war hero who joined his leader in death by committing suicide when Emperor Meiji died in 1912. Many noted foreigners who came to help modernise Japan in the Meiji era are buried in the small foreign section of the cemetery. A list is maintained at the Foreign Section Trust website, a small group dedicated to preserving the area.

    Aoyama cemetery 17

    I just missed the Sakura by a week when I was there, you can just see the tail end of the blossoms in some of the photos.

    Aoyama cemetery 12

    But, if you look closely, this month the native dandelion species Shirobanatanpo are currently in bloom.

    The full set of photos is here on flickr.

    This is my entry in the Japan Soc Blog Matsuri. Ken at What Japan Thinks is hosting this months carnival on the the theme of Slow Times in Japan. Aoyama Reinen: It does not get much slower than this.

    View Aoyama in a larger map

    Update: 4 days after writing this post, I opened the Japan Times to see an article describing how an interest in history and literature has recently generated a large increase in visitors to Japanese cemeteries. Books featuring tomb tours have also been published, prompting more people to visit cemeteries.

    "Sotai Shimashou" ("Let's Clean Moss"), a book published last March by Shueisha Co., features graves of historical figures and Japanese history. According to an editor, the first edition sold 10,000 copies.
    . So it may not be such a quiet option for much longer.

    Thursday, April 16, 2009

    Poken at Tokyo 2.0

    Earlier this week I attented a Tokyo 2.0 evening at Super Deluxe in Roppongi. In contrast to the previous week's Beer and Blog night, this was a much larger event. Nine different companies each had a 10 minute time slot to present their business. The theme was The Sustainable Web.

    The presentations varied in style: some were smooth and professional, others could have done with a little more polish to attract the interest of the audience of more than 100 people. Most of the talks were in English with a second person translating, or some people talked in both English and Japanese.

    Flavio Souza presented his community website called GreenITers.com. It is a forum for discussion on all aspects of how IT can help the Green cause. He has a video of his presentation from the event on the site, only available if you've signed up to the site.

    Kaoru Iwasaki demonstrated her project TakuTomo which, roughly translated, means 'Taxi Friends'. The site enables you to share a taxi ride home in the early morning after public transport stops running. The idea is that you register on her site along with the locations you often stay late at and your home destination. When your evening has ended and it's time to go home, you send a quick message from your mobile phone and it will match your desired route with others in the vacinity keen to share a ride to save money. I think it might work, but it will need a large user base to give you a good chance of getting a rideshare.

    Hiroshi Ikeda and Hirofumi Manganzi gave a presenation on their company OpenTrace. Their idea was one of the finalists at TechCrunch50. The aim is to build an open database of the materials used in the production of various kinds of products, from cars and computers to food and clothing. The goal is to be able to calculate the impact on the planet of any product you might buy. It's a massive task, I wish them good luck.

    Peter Van Der Weeën gave a short presentation on Poken. These are the little 'electronic business cards' that I mentioned last week. They have launched the Japanese website www.poken.jp now, and are planning to make them available for sale in shops in Japan very soon. They proved very popular at the event and I have now exchanged details electronically with 21 people. One feature available on the DoYouPoken.com website is the timeline of your contacts. So each time you meet it is still good to touch poken, to keep track of when you last met the person.

    These mini gadgets, that plug into the USB port, normally cost 2,000 yen each, but if you go on over to JapanSoc Blog, Nick Ramsey is running a simple competion you can enter to have the chance of winning one. Check out his video where he explains how to use one too. The competion ends on April 26th, so don't waste time: get twittering, blogging or YouTubing to enter the draw.

    And, if you dont win one there, I have just ordered a pack of 12 from their website and I will be running a competion on this blog very soon for another chance to win one.

    If my description has not completely put you off Tokyo 2.0 events, the next meeting is titled Women in the Web Industry and will be held on May 13, 2009 from 6:30pm to 10pm – at Super Deluxe. I hope to Poken you all there.

    Tuesday, April 07, 2009

    J-Bloggers Meetup for Beer

    Last month I met up online with some Bloggers on Japan. Last night I met up in person with another group of bloggers and techies in Japan.

    Organised by Ken Brady of Genkii.com who runs the Tokyo Beer and Blog website, it was a very social evening with no agenda or presentations. It was mostly an excuse to get together, enjoy a drink at the Hobgoblin Pub in Shibuya and meet other technology enthusiasts.

    Andrew Shuttleworth, one of Tokyo's well known social network gurus, was there. He had some electronic "Pokens" for sale at 2,000 Yen each. They were soon snapped up by those of us not already owning one.

    photo of Poken. The electronic business card

    Poken is your social business card. Scrap the paper business card! Your Poken card is far more comprehensive. Rather than handing out a piece of paper that shares just your basic contact information such as company, address, phone, and email, with Poken you can include your social network profiles as well. When you associate a social network to your Poken identity that social network's favicon appears on your Poken card. If you are connected to your friend on that social network, then they can click the favicon link to instantly view your social network profile. If you opt not to be connected on that social network, then they will simply see the public-search version of your profile.

    We discussed these on the J-bloggers conference and several people were looking forward to getting one. I think they could catch on, but these days with everyone having iphones and mobile phones, where data exchange is already very easy, the extra step of having to register your Poken on their website maybe be one hurdle too many. According to their website they are doing well in Europe.

    Some of the many people I met include: Steven Nagata, Ted from TokyoFoodCast.com, Sam Ragnarsson and Matthew Dons who is planning to run a Bar Camp event in Tokyo at the end of May.

    Joseph Tame, who has just launched his new podcast site JapanPodShow was there briefly, before having to go to work. In their first podcast: Joseph and George discuss some news items; guest presenter Honor of TokyoTopia has some advice on flying into Tokyo; there's an interview with Ken Brady about Genkii.com's new project Sparkle: The first virtual world for the iphone; the inventor of the Poken talks about how he first thought of the idea and how he met Britney Spears; there's an interview with a musician and a competition to win a Poken too! Go on over to JapanPodCast.com to hear the full story.

    One last thing: check out this Web Trends map of the most influential websites arranged in format of the Tokyo Subway map. From Information Architects.
    (Hat Tip to Japansoc.com where it is one of the top stories. In fact it should appear in the widget on my sidebar with the subject Websites as Stations on the Yamanote )

    image of Information Architects web trends diagram of the top sites on the internet represented as the Tokyo Subway map

    Wednesday, April 01, 2009

    Tomo Today

    We all know Web 2.0 is where it's at. FaceBook, Mixi, Myspace and all the other Social Networking Sites are the hottest thing. Building your network, adding friends and followers to all the different site can become a full time job.

    If you are new to this technology, where do you start? Especially in Japan where it's all work and no time for play when do you have time? What if there was a service that would help you build your network quickly and easily ? Step forward: Tomo Today

    Tomotoday logo

    "We provide a short cut to a substantial social-media presence," Horauchi said last week in an exclusive interview with The Japan Times. In short, TomoToday will friend you left, right and center, and follow wherever you wish to go.

    When the service officially launches on May 1, TomoToday subscribers will be able to choose from strategically selected sets of virtual friends, dubbed "InstaNakama," tailor-made to nurture the user's desired online identity.

    Say you're a shy young man, in need of pointers and ice-breaking intros. The Wingumen are at your service. Or perhaps you're a recently single woman between relationships. Horauchi recommends the Ikemen-tachi, a handsome mix of flirtatious beaus.

    Other readymade TomoToday circles include: Jetto Setto (multilingual friends from all over the globe); OB-Gun (long-lost school chums); Power Ranchers (for the corporate networks); and Geek Gumi (for socially challenged otaku).

    TomoToday is still in beta-testing and the company asked that the site URL not be publicized until the site launches in May. Please watch this space for updates.

    Yeah right. Nice one Japan Times and if you need more facebook friends, just remember what the date is today.

    Sunday, March 29, 2009

    Earth Hour in Japan NOT

    Yesterday at 8:30pm local time all around the world it was Earth Hour.

    Earth Hour Logo

    Started in Sydney in 2007, this year it was celebrated in over 4,000 cities in 88 countries according to the organisers. One notable exception from the list was Japan. "It hasn’t resonated in the same way as it has in other countries in Japan" said Andy Ridley, the, very diplomatic, event’s executive director.

    Even if Japan did not participate, at least two bloggers here had heard of the event. Kanmuri at Turning Iwatean had plenty to say about all matters green. Kayo at Osaka Life Blog is also disappointed that the local media seem to have lost interest in the Global Climate Change. There was a Candlelight Buffet at Le Jardin lounge of the Four Seasons Tokyo which is the only reference to "Earth Hour" on the japantimes.co.jp site.

    At least NHK covered the event on TV this evening. Maybe a few more bloggers can raise the profile of this event for next year and persuade Japan to participate. Who knows, if enough of us work at it, we may see Tokyo Tower go dark for an hour

    Tokyo Tower at night. This was St Valentines day when it was in Purple.

    Could we get Ginza to Go Green? Shinjuku to Shut off off the lights? I sense a possible Action Alert for JapanSoc bloggers next year.

    Personally, I always try to turn off lights I don't need. (Don't you?
    Why not? Money to burn?) Many critics have pointed out that turning the lights off for an hour is not going to change the world. Well, no, but the world is driven by people, and just maybe, if enough people start to think about this kind of stuff it might finally start to sink in that we cannot continue in our endless quest for growth at the rate we have been growing. I could go on, but I'll stop there.

    Monday, March 16, 2009

    St Patrick's Day Parade Tokyo

    Cheerleaders, originally uploaded by jonallen01966.

    St Patricks's Day is celebrated on the 17th of March, but that's not a good day for a parade, so this years parade was on Sunday 15th.

    It's the biggest Irish event in Japan and it was started in 1992 to introduce Ireland to Japanese people. (And to give all the expat Irish an excuse to walk down the middle of the road.)

    The parade in Japan is organised by the Irish Network Japan, and if you missed the Tokyo one there's still time to catch one in Yokohama and Nagoya on 21st Mar and Tsukuba 28th March.

    A few more photos of the fun on flickr

    Sunday, February 15, 2009

    Comedy in Tokyo

    Sadly, The Punchline Comedy Club has been unable to continue bringing well known comedians to Tokyo after their major sponsor Virgin Atlantic pulled out in September 2008 and no other sponsors could be found.

    However, all is not lost. To continue to get my fix of comedy, there are some alternatives that I discovered, thanks once again to Alan at lemonsoju.

    Coming up this Tuesday 17th February the Tokyo Cynics present: "An Evening of Stand Up" at The Hobgoblin in Shibuya.

    Performers to be announced.

    Doors open: 7 PM

    Show starts: 9 PM

    Show ends: 10 to 10:30 PM

    Admission: FREE! ... but you are asked to buy at least one drink at the bar.

    The Tokyo Comedy Store Crocodile Show provides live stand-up and improv comedy in English on the fourth Friday of the month at The Crocodile in Shibuya. The next show coming up is on 27th Feb.

    Act One feature's Tokyo's best stand-ups and special guests. In Act Two the improv comedy group, Spontaneous Confusion, create always-new hilarious scenes, songs and musicals based on your suggestions.

    Doors open at 7:30. Food is served all night with a full menu including pizza, pasta, dinner plates and, so it says on their website, crocodile. Remember FFF: Fourth Friday Funny!

    And finally, as a one off event to celebrate their 60th anniversary, The British Chamber of Commerce in Tokyo presents : "Whose Line is it Anyway". On Friday 13th March 2009. It starts at 19:15, but it's a little bit more pricey than the others. A seat will set you back 18,000 Yen at the The Conrad Tokyo. However that does include :
    * A Best of British Menu from the Michelin-starred Gordon Ramsay
    * Jazz by the House Band
    * Hip-hop entertainment by the Hana Enterprises Dance School
    * By special arrangement with the Punchline Comedy Club, direct from London, the all-star cast of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” offering the very best of improvised comedy.

    I'll have to check my financial situation at the end of the week to see if I can afford that one.

    Tokyo Tower with blossom

    Tokyo Tower with blossom, originally uploaded by jonallen01966.

    The blossom has begun already. I'm looking forward to the Sakura (Cherry Blossom). This year's forecast has not been released yet.

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    Valentines day came early

    A tradition in Japan on Valentines Day is for the ladies to buy the gentlemen chocolates. These were the generous gifts from some of our friendly users to my team.

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Real Ale Festival, Tokyo, Feb 15 2009

    Regular readers will know I like a glass of beer. So I was delighted to find out from Alan at lemonsoju that there is a Real Ale festival in Tokyo on Sunday this weekend.

    Sunday, Feburary 15 2009

    13:00 - 17:00

    Sumida Riverside Hall, Azumabashi, Tokyo

    Organized by
    Executive Committee of the Tokyo Real Ale Festival

    Co-hosted by
    Good Beer Club、Brewers

    With the Assistance of
    Yaho Brewing

    Map and list of beers available here:

    Tokyo Real Ale Festival banner

    Tickets have sold out in the two pubs in Shibuya, (I got the last four from the Inishmore) so make sure you call ahead first if you are still looking for tickets that are sale at these pubs Tokyo Real Ale Society.