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 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 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 :

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 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 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 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 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, 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'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 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 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.