Archive for April, 2016

USA/Japan diary, day 12

Monday, 18 April, 2016

Wednesday, 24 February, 2016. 22:02

I woke up even earlier this morning, at 05:30. I puttered around a bit, checking email and news and so on, before heading out at about 06:30 to find some breakfast. I planned to go to the same Sunkus convenience store in the Queen’s Square again, but when I walked over there the plaza building was locked. Coming back over the footbridge, I saw a promisingly illuminated store on the ground floor of the main Pacifico Yokohama convention centre building. I went to investigate and found it to be another convenience store, but it too was closed, with a sign saying it opened at 07:00.

Yokohama dawn
Dawn over Yokohama Harbour, from my hotel room window.

So I went for a bit of a walk, around the hotel to the waterfront and along there a bit. The weather was bitingly cold, but there were the odd walker or two, with a dog, and a jogger. I didn’t dawdle, but instead sought shelter from the cold back inside the hotel lobby for ten minutes or so until the convenience store opened. Then I dashed across, bought a couple of prepacked rice snacks, a fresh hot croissant, and a tub of blueberry yoghurt, which I took back to my room to eat for breakfast.

Read more: ISO meetings, hot stew lunch, shabu-shabu for dinner, and the chance to win dessert

USA/Japan diary, day 11

Sunday, 17 April, 2016

Tuesday, 23 February, 2016. 21:20

Today was the first day of the ISO meetings here in Yokohama. I tried to sleep to 07:30, but woke up irretrievably a bit before 06:00. So I ate the banana muffin I’d bought last night, then did some stretching exercises, before heading out around 07:00 to find something else for breakfast. I found a Sunkus convenience store in Queen’s Square, where I bought some prepacked sushi rice things. The nori wrapped ones from 7-11 have pictures on them so you can take at least a good guess as to what fillings they have, but these Sunkus ones only have Japanese characters on them, so it’s a complete gamble picking one. The random one I chose had salmon in it, which was kind of a jackpot. I also got one with no nori, where I could see the rice had bits of egg in it, and was coated in sesame seeds.

After eating, it was down to the adjoining conference centre to begin the ISO meetings. The first session was all the preliminary administration type stuff, which ended early at about 11:40. I went to lunch with Margaret, Jonathan, and Scott Geffert. Margaret said that the hotel concierge had told her about a good Japanese restaurant in Queen’s Square, so she led us there, after a bit of confusion over which lift to take. When we sat at a table and saw the menus, we realised they were only offering a lunch special at this time, with a very limited and uninspiring selection of meals, so we decided to leave right away and go try something else.

Sushi special
Sushi special lunch.

Read more: mostly food really, since the rest of the day was technical meetings

Garage treasure trove

Sunday, 17 April, 2016

The basement of my apartment block contains individual lock-up garages for every apartment. They’re fenced off with wire cyclone fencing so you can see inside, but are secure enough that people store things in there.

I was walking past a row of neighbours’ garages, and inside one I spotted a big stack of books. Not paperbacks, but large format hardcovers. The pile was split into two, sitting on shelves of a portable storage thingy. The combined vertical height fo the stack of books was about a metre or so. Curiosity being the better part of valour, I went closer for a peek to see what they were.

They were Dungeons & Dragons rule books! Second and Third edition rules, splatbooks, settings, and so on. Must have been 50 or more titles. Wow. I had no idea one of my neighbours was a gamer. Pretty cool.

USA/Japan diary, day 10

Friday, 15 April, 2016

Monday, 22 February, 2016. 20:27

I slept well, but woke just after 06:00, with the dim grey dawn light just poking through the window curtains. The view from my window is quite spectacular, looking north-east over Yokohama harbour from the ninth floor. I tried to sleep in a bit more, but actually started waking up, so I got up and began preparing for the day. I had to find my way to Kamata, and asked at the front desk again how to get there. The man gave me a very useful map of the local area, including Minatomirai station, the nearest one to walk to, and Yokohama station, where I had to change to a JR train to Kamata. I also asked if I could buy a Suica card at Minatomirai, and the guy said yes.

So I rugged up in my coat and the scarf M. had left behind in San Francisco, to brave the cold morning air and walk to the station. The temperature here was much colder than it had been in San Francisco, hovering around the 5°C mark. It took a few minutes to get my bearings, but I eventually found the right street to walk down and then found the station. I bought a Suica card at a ticket machine, then hopped on the train to Yokohama. This first train was fairly empty, and I thought maybe I’d be lucky and avoid any crowds. But Yokohama station was big and frantic with thousands of people rushing to and fro in their morning commutes. My main worry was that the Suica card came with just 500 yen on it and I had used 180 of that on the two-station trip from Minatomirai to Yokohama. I wasn’t sure if the remainder was even enough to get me to Kamata, let alone on to Shimomaruko.

Shimomaruko station
Shimomaruko station.

Read more: Shimomaruko and back, riding a giant Ferris wheel, sushi lunch, Cup Noodles Museum, a guy making omelettes, the Yokohama Museum of Art, and German wurst and beer for dinner!

USA/Japan diary, day 9

Monday, 4 April, 2016

Sunday, 21 February, 2016. (Written next day)

The flight was okay, with a bit of bumpy turbulence near the beginning. I stayed awake the whole time, to force myself into the new time zone of Yokohama. During the flight I watched two movies: the recent remake of Poltergeist (not as good as the original, although the creepy clown doll scene was very well done), and Max Max: Fury Road, which I thought did not live up to the hype my friends have given it. Then I watched four episodes of The Big Bang Theory, and an episode of the new Muppets show.

The plane landed at Tokyo Haneda Airport on time at 22:35 on Sunday night (since I’d crossed the date line during the flight), but there was a long line at the immigration clearance area, and I didn’t get through until nearly 23:30. I spotted Margaret Belska behind me in the queue; she’d been on the same flight as me from San Francisco. I’d been planning to get the train to the hotel, screenshotting a few timetable options, but I didn’t figure on waiting an hour to clear immigration, so had no idea when the trains were running, and wasn’t looking forward to navigating the unfamiliar stations either. So when Margaret said she was getting a taxi if I wanted to split the fair, I jumped at the chance. Even better, we were staying at the same hotel.

We arrived at the Intercontinental Yokohama Grand hotel right on midnight after a lengthy ride through the empty freeways and streets of Yokohama late on a Sunday night. We checked in, and I went to my room for a quick shower before tumbling into bed. I set my alarm for 07:30, after asking the reception guy how much time I’d need in the morning to get to Kamata station, which I know is the transfer point to get to Shimomaruko and the Canon headquarters, where I have a meeting tomorrow.

USA/Japan diary, day 8

Sunday, 3 April, 2016

Saturday, 20 February, 2016. 16:30

I slept in lazily this morning, getting up about 08:30, then going down to get some yoghurt to have with the last of the Grape Nuts for breakfast. I packed my luggage, making room for some of M.’s stuff that she’d left behind by leaving out my coat to wear on the plane. I searched for something to do quickly this morning before checking out, and found the Children’s Creativity Museum, just a few blocks away. This sounded good, and it opened at 10:00, letting me have a bit over an hour there before heading back to check out.

I walked over through the brisk morning air, glad to have my coat on, through Yerba Buena Gardens, to the museum. It turned out to be a fairly small affair, over two storeys, and dedicated to interactive activities for kids, roughly categorised as for under 5s and over 5s. The woman who took my $12 entry fee suggested trying the animation studio, which was upstairs, so I headed there first.

Plasticine studio
Stop motion animation studio at the Children’s Creativity Museum.

Since the place had just opened, it was still mostly empty, and a couple of staff greeted me as the first visitor to the animation studio today. There were several tables laid out with uniformly cut lumps of multicolour streaked modelling clay, and crude wire figures of people. A guy showed me the instruction sheet, which had photos showing the process of moulding the multicoloured clay around the wire to form a figure, then getting specific coloured clay pieces from the staff to roll thin and layer over the top to create skin and clothing. At one end of the room were a few tables set up with cameras for making stop motion movies using the clay figures. This looked fun, so I grabbed some tools and started making a human figure, then got some dark green, light brown, and dark brown clay to make a rough Steve Irwin type of figure, in khaki shorts and with a floppy hat. This took quite some time, so I passed on the animation so that I could look around the rest of the museum.

Read more: the rest of the museum, lunch at the Ferry Building, heading to the airport to fly to Tokyo