Sunday, November 07, 2004


Finally, here are a small group of the photos I've been promising. I didn't want to overload you, so I kept the numbers down.

Here are some recent photos taken with my nice new camera:These were taken with a lousy camera built-in to a cellphone on a trip to Nikko. The quality is not so great:

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Red Sox in Japan

I just watched most of the MLB All Stars versus Japan League All Stars game. I bet you don't get to see that in the US! Anyways, it appears the MLB team won, as they did last night, thanks in part to a home run by Ortiz. Manny was also there but didn't play tonight. Anyways, I say "appears" because the Japanese tv stations have what seems to me a strange tradition. When the clock says it's time for the next scheduled program they end coverage of the baseball game, even if it's not over. So the last I saw it was 5 to 3, MLB, Japan coming to bat in the bottom of the 8th. It wasn't even a particularly slow game. Argh.

On another note, here are two photos I took in Omotesando, Tokyo Friday night. No, that mannequin is not wielding a light saber. I'll get more photos up here shortly. I'm happy to report I had zero problems connecting my camera to my Linux box. Actually it was so easy I didn't realize I was done. That's Linux for ya.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Jacob Gets His Hair Cut

I haven't been in Kawaguchi for long enough to establish a preferred barber yet. The first time I got my hair cut I went to the $10 place on the shopping street. Straight-forward and quick, they never-the-less managed to cut my hair asymmetrically. I don't ask for a lot in my haircuts (I don't have that much to cut), but this was too much (too little?) even for me.

So this time I stopped in at a place that I pass every time I go to the station but only noticed recently. They're sort of hidden under a staircase. Their window advertises $17 haircuts for adults. This area is thick with barbershops, but most charge at least $30. I sauntered in early in the afternoon on our recent holiday. One guy was in line ahead of me, but it took at least twenty minutes for me to get into an actual barber's chair, despite the three staff hard at work. When I finally got served I realized there was a reason for this.

To start with my barber cut my hair. First with scissors, then with clippers. Then he shaved around my ears and the back of my neck with a straight razor. Then he washed my hair after putting some sort of plugs in my ears. I'm not sure I've ever had anybody dry my face for me- body all swathed in robes and towels as I was. It felt like the ultimate in luxury. Then there was a brief shoulder massage. Somewhere in there he trimmed my hair again. Finally there were a couple blow drying sessions and a brush down with a brush to get those last stray hairs.

I've never had such an involved haircut in my life! For the extra $7 and 15 minutes, it was worth it. I'll be back in two months, if I'm still in Kawaguchi. Oh, and this guy cut my hair symmetrically.

My Optio 555

Throughout my nearly one year here in Japan I've thought off and on about buying a digital camera. My big old fully manual film camera just didn't do it anymore- especially as I don't have a scanner. I put off this purchase until about three weeks ago when I dragged Jeff and a Japanese friend around Akihabara, looking at what was available. (Akihabara is the electronics district of Tokyo) That night I came down with some illness which turned into pneumonia, so for three weeks my thoughts were elsewhere. Namely being able to breathe and sleep well again. Thanks to my multiple visits to two different doctors I'm feeling much better now.

Thus I decided that I should make another trip to Akiba (as Akihabara is affectionately called by those who frequent it) and actually get the job done. I did a fair bit of research on the net and decided I wanted a Pentax Optio 555. Nice zoom, nice resolution, and not too expensive. Also I could use my SD card, which I had foolishly purchased for a phone I decided not to use. That's another story though.

After examining to determine the cheapest place to buy my camera, I scribbled down the map to the store in my notebook (I don't have a printer either) and set off for Akiba.

The place was quite busy due to the holiday and the police had closed a major street to vehicular traffic. People were also lining up to buy the new Nintentdo DS- their latest handheld with two touch screens.

I eventually made it over to where my map said the building should be but was a bit surprised to find no building there at all. The whole block was under construction for a modern office/store of some sort. At a loss I wandered around the general area for some time, in case I had drawn the map wrong, but to no avail.

Eventually I gave up and began looking at other cameras in a few of the many many stores in Akiba. I realized that my camera of choice was no longer being sold in major stores, or indeed anywhere I could find. With some internal grumbling I resolved myself to doing more research and buying some different camera. I found a couple good looking deals, but kept myself from buying until I could do some internet research.

This is one of the hardest parts of shopping in Akiba. There is so much good looking, cheap-ish stuff that it's hard to limit yourself to the items you came in to buy. No I don't need a new mouse, or a USB stick drive, nor even an iPod, but I want all these things, and they were constantly hung in front of my nose as I contrasted and compared cameras.

Eventually I worked my way to Sofmap #8, which has a good selection of used cameras. Sofmap is characteristic of many shops in Akiba in that each of their locations is tiny and specializes in one category. I think there are something like fifteen Sofmaps in Akiba and more in Shinjuku. While I was perusing the glass cases of used cameras it ocurred to me that this might not be their camera specialty store. Sure enough, I was directed (with a map) to Sofmap #11, on the other side of the station.

I located this one and lo and behold- there is my Optio 555 sitting on a shelf, surrounded by used cameras of all descriptions. Sofmap #11 also specializes in PDAs and digital music players, but I managed to ignore the iPods and purchased my camera! The price worked out to somewhere around $370, after I added on the three year, $30 warranty. Clutching my new toy to my chest I went off into the warm night to fill up my memory card. Hopefully I'll even be able to post them here, once I connect the camera up to my computer. Stay tuned.