Tuesday, August 30, 2005

People flocked to the streets today

Cops massing in front of the American Embassy around lunchtime today. No riot gear, just many lightly armored buses and regular cops bustling around. This is the first time I've seen so many gather there. They must be expecting a demonstration of some significant size. If that happens, I'll probably hear it from within my office on the 8th floor.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


I've been lucky enough to be able to see two fireworks shows this Summer. Fireworks shows are quite good here, but they are always mobbed with way too many people, like the Boston Esplanade shows, for those of you who have lived in Boston. Here are a couple photos I took from the Tokyo Bay show a couple weeks ago:

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(I'm going to use this link style for links to files on my own site from now on)

This show was almost rained out, but the showers stopped for just long enough to allow the fireworks to proceed. This might have helped keep the numbers of the audience down a bit too. My group of 8 got there less than an hour before the show, and we were able to find prime seating with a great view, in a parking lot designated for the purpose. Not to say that it wasn't crowded- it took us more than an hour to get through streets jammed with people to a train station after the fireworks. Still, our success in getting seating with little effort contrasts greatly with the experience we had at the Sumida River fireworks a couple weeks previous.

There we got in line for a good seat inside a baseball field at 6am. Then we took turns guarding our spot and resting at home. The viewing was great, but two of our group were unable to make it back to the spot for the show due to the sheer number of people between the train station and our plastic sheet. The fact that the cops close off many roads (to cars and pedestrians) with big barricades during the event doesn't make it any easier to negotiate the crowds. Part of that is due to the potential for very bad crowding situations. A couple years back a pedestrian road overpass collapsed under the weight of the crowd as well, so they close off all of those now too.

Y'know what they say though, "adventure isn't fun while it's happening." I'll try and post my photos from that show later this week.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Save Our Movies?

Quiet day at work. My partner, who has far more programming skills than I, is on vacation until tomorrow, so I couldn't tackle some of the tough issues. However, our project leader emailed from on-site in Southern Japan, where he is installing the software and debugging and developing at the same time. He wrote to tell me of a bug he found in my code. This happens from time to time as I pile conditional clauses up in our JSP files.

However this time I couldn't reproduce the bug, and wrote him back to that effect. Later in the evening he wrote back to tell me they found the bug was in their database on that end and not my fault. That's always nice.

This weekend I finally got around to seeing Star Wars: Episode Three. Went with Minako to Roppongi Hills' Toho Virgin Theater for their THX. The movie was quite good- definitely better than either Episode 1 or Episode 2. I quite enjoyed the dark overall feeling of it.

The strange thing was an ad that came on before the feature film. It was sponsored by the "Motion Picture Association" and featured a attractive Japanese woman crying. As the tears ran down her cheeks, they turned black, and then dripped into a pool which morphed into a film strip, showing a skull. Then a message appeared asking people not to copy or download movies, because it takes money away from the studios, followed by the message "Save our movies" inside a heart. This is the first time I've seen such a direct campaign by this industry. I don't know how they think this will keep people from downloading.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Darth Vader Vs. Japanese School Girls

It's obvious which one would win. Here are some photos I took late last month and didn't have time to post, until now. Some of you may find these amusing. I know I do.
These are two ads for the au cell phone company. Sorry about the bad angle on Darth. That ad was posted in a narrow tunnel and I couldn't get a good angle. The text on top of each image reads "Star Wars comes to au cell phones."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Earthquake and O-bon

You folks waking up on the other side of the globe from me might be alarmed by the news of a strong earthquake in Japan. Nothing much happened here in Tokyo, as the center was in Northeast Japan, about 300km away. My office on the 8th floor of a 40 year-old building swayed for about 30 seconds, while everyone looked around nervously to see if it would become severe. I haven't yet been in a public place when there has been an earthquake strong enough to make people panic or even head for shelter under tables and such. Japanese people are very inured to natural disasters.

On another note, the Summer holiday of O-bon is underway. This is one of two family-reunion style Japanese holidays (the other being New Year's), and many people leave the city to visit their families for a week. The office is about half empty and the streets and trains are pleasantly uncrowded. I wish it was this empty year-round. In the morning I have room enough to read a book, and in the evening I often can find a seat. Seriously, the trains are often too crowded to hold a book out in front of me during the morning commute!

Our project at work got extended by another month. This time it seems possible we might make the deadline.

It's still hot.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Loud Japanese Streets

My office is right next to the US Embassy in Tokyo, which makes for an interesting, if unnerving work environment. The place is always swarming with cops manning every corner. Today when I was walking to buy a bento the cops suddenly rushed into action and I stopped to see what would take place. One of the occasional political activist vehicles with speakers blaring a speech was crawling by. The cops blocked off the street with a small metal fence, and then with a huge armored police-bus, forcing the activists to drive on away from the embassy.

Unlike in the U.S., there doesn't seem to be any ordinance on noise pollution here. The recorded songs of the hot potato vendors, the broken appliance pick-up men, and the political trucks is ample testimony to that. Thus the best the cops can do is redirect the truck away, perhaps cite it for disrupting traffic for driving too slowly.

From within my office I can hear their vehicles pass by, from time to time, but even when I'm on the street, I can never understand what they are saying. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera at the time or I would post some pics.

Later in the week, the cops were deployed in force in riot gear. That was the first time I had seen that in three months of working here. The next day they were back to normal. I can't decide if their presence makes me feel safer or not.