27 March 2007

Out-Japan-ing the Japanese

Yay! The game I was working on at EA finally has some English-langauge press.


Of course, I'm pretty fond of the quote

"I think EA is trying to 'out-Japan' Japanese developers."


25 March 2007

Genghis Khan flick

Tonight I saw the Japanese production 青き狼 (Blue Wolf), a film about Genghis Khan. I still couldn't understand every detail of the dialog, but it certainly was a riveting story. Afterwards I was pretty curious how much it corresponds to what we know from history... in general, it turns out, quite well (at least per Wikipedia), the major elements of the story are all part of the historical record for Genghis' early life (the movie ends when, after unifying the Mongol tribes, he begins his invasion of China).

The movie is nicely production-designed, and has an interesting history. It was produced by Haruki Kadokawa of the Kadokawa publishing house, who also made the surprise hit about the battleship Yamato last year. I can't comment in detail on the story, but it does have a little bit of the feeling of someone who saw "Crouching Tiger" and said, "I wanna make one of those." Good for hiim, though -- the mounted warfare scenes are great, and the scope of the movie is awesome.

Disclosure department: Before I arrived, Polygon Pictures worked on a few shots for the movie. We had credits and everything!

24 March 2007

Yuck! Picking up a French Fry?

The other day I stopped to grab a light lunch that included French Fries. I was using the time to get in a little gesture drawing, so I wasn't thinking about eating much, and about halfway through I realized I was carefully eating my French Fries with a fork. That's a little odd, since I've always eaten them by hand, but I found I couldn't bring myself to actually start picking them up anymore!

Here in Japan it's quite rare to touch your food. While there are a few exceptions (pastry, for instance), it's very different from European attitudes. Even in cases like Pocky (the candy) or Yakitori, you touch only a specially designated part of the food. It's because of this that the concept of a napkin is largely absent here -- a few types of restaurants have napkin dispensers, but on average you just don't get a napkin with meals. You're expected not to touch your food, and to eat neatly, such that you don't require a large napkin for either hands or mouth.

And so, after months of habit, I find I'm now quite reluctant to pick up a French Fry!

21 March 2007

Elements (Lehrer)

Flash used for purposes of good:


Day Off Part 3: Normal Park Things

Of course, lots of people do normal park things here. Below was a charming little lake with birds and paddle boats (quite popular, even though it's still kind of wintry here) in a park called Senzoku-Koen (洗足公園).

When I got down to the Tamagawa (多摩川), there were lots of folks doing outdoorsy things. This being Japan, that included lots of baseball... lots of baseball. I must have seen 40 baseball fields between Shimomaruko (下丸子) and Noborito (登戸).

Day Off Part 2: Get Certified on Your Delivery Scooter

Everywhere in Japan you see scooters with a box on the back delivering food (or, if it's a Chinese restaurant delivery, an ingenious hanging platform that can successfully deliver soup!).

While I was riding down the Tamagawa I saw this huge group of scooter riders going around and around between cones. As I got closer, I saw that they were following a motorcycle policeman (left edge of left photo below), and that they all had the delivery boxes on the back.

There was a car parked on a little hill in the middle with the supervisor in it. These folks were all getting certified as delivery scooter riders... I don't think we have certification for that in the states. Amusingly, despite the officiousness of it all, pretty much every cone on the testing grounds was knocked over!

What Do Japanese Do on a Day Off? Part 1

Today (Wednesday) was a national holiday in Japan. Alas, the Japanese haven't yet discovered that they can relocate all national holidays to Mondays or Fridays -- I wish that would import that piece of western technology.

Anyway, because there's just one day you can't really take trips anywhere, so I hopped on the bike and spent the whole afternoon riding down through various neighborhoods to the Tama River, out the river to a place called Noborito, back to Shinjuku and finally back to the house. Here are some things I saw on the way.

#1: They train their children how to behave in traffic

This was an awesomely Japanese thing. In this small park called "Chofu Central Park", there's this area where Japanese children can train to be adults. They have their cordoned-off area where they practice all the good traffic habits they'll require later in life.

As you can see, it's quite big, and it comes with lane lines, direction indicators, and several special kid-sized traffic lights. It's never to early to train those children for societal conventions! Of course, the parents are watching to make sure nobody develops any bad driving habits. It's pretty amusing (and slightly chilling) to see a whole crowd of Japanese 5-year-olds stopped at a fake traffic light, patiently waiting for it to green before proceeding even though there is acutally no traffic in the other direction.

20 March 2007

Japanese Toilet Training Video

I've often remarked that in Japan, the custom of having cute cartoon characters for everything has never died out, the way it has in the U.S. As always, the web offers more proof!


18 March 2007

谷口楽器 is Japanese for "Nirvana for Left-handed Guitar Players"


I brought my guitar with me to Tokyo and especially since moving into the new apartment I've been practicing pretty regularly. I've been thinking of getting a cheap electric as well to practice with, but I had resigned myself to the idea that it would have to wait until I went back to the states -- Japan isn't very open to the whole left-handed thing, and I doubted stores here would even have lefty guitars.

So, for the last few weeks I've been going to the jam session at a small (very small) local jazz bar. I was talking to one of the guys I met there (Caucasian, but was born & raised here in Tokyo) about being left-handed and the limited selection of guitars that ensues. He said I should definitely to go a store that I heard as "Tiny Guchi Gachi" in the Ochanomizu neighborhood, which actually had the most left-handed guitars he had ever seen in Tokyo (he's left-handed, but like Jimi Hendrix he plays right-handed instruments upside down).

Today I biked up to Ochanomizu. I couldn't find the store on the first try so I went into the local Internet cafe and did some web searching -- it turns out I heard the name wrong, it's actually "taniguchi gakki" (谷口, taniguchi, means valley-entrance, and 楽器, gakki, means musical instrument; gakki is also the generic suffix for a store that sells musical instruments).

Armed with the information, I found the store on Meidai Doori in Ochanomizu no problem. The red-on-white text is the sign for taniguchi gakki.

Oh. My. God. It's not just that Taniguchi Gakki has a selection of left-handed guitars... Taniguchi Gakki is a Left-Handed Guitar Store! That's all they sell.

Yes, every one of those guitars is a left-handed model. And they're not done; there are three aisles of guitars in the store:

The fellow customer in blue, like me, was agape at the number of left-handed guitars, and was playing his way through a selection of electric guitars and wishing he had brought more money. It's not just that Taniguchi Gakki is a good selection of left-handed guitars for Tokyo; it's possibly the most left-handed guitars in one place anywhere in the world. The next time you lefty axemen are looking for a new option... come to the one store where you can play all the guitars and righties can't!

13 March 2007

Price, cost, and expense

Some Japanese words I've learned related to these concepts. Posted in an attempt to help others!
価格かかくkakakuprice, sticker price
 Boy, it's hard to see the prices in this store.
値段ねだんnedancost, price
 I didn't buy it because of the price.
物価ぶっかbukkaprice (as of commodity)
 The Yen will go up from now on, don't you think?
 Can you afford the expense?
原価げんかgenka"cost price", wholesale price, internal cost
 We have lowered our costs by 20% since last year.


Not a good time to be making a living from stock.

Pretty inevitable though.


Yay! It's MySims!

The game I was working on before I left EA to move to Japan is finally announced: MySims. I can't wait 'til it comes out, I really enjoyed working on the game (I was sad to leave the team to come here, but hey, I got to move to Japan!).

Those characters still look *really* cute!

...I'd better hurry and get my Wii. Unfortunately, that requires a television, which is sort of expensive...

04 March 2007

Mi Casa

Well, finally the apt. got the critical ingredient for a household last night: the guy from NTT showed up to turn on the Internet connection! After some time debugging at 2am last night (I went to our local jazz dive for a couple hours) and debugging mail today, I can once again post from the comfort of my very own bedroom.

You can see what I've been up to the last few weekends if you check out my Tokyo blog -- there's actually an apartment, with furniture an everything! We can even host a guest (futon on floor in Living Room), so stop on by. Here's a couple shots from home sweet home.

watashi no heya:
From Leo's Tokyo on Picasa

living room:
From Leo's Tokyo on Picasa

View of Tokyo Tower from the Balcony:
From Leo's Tokyo on Picasa

02 March 2007

You knew it had to happen

These are real, official Japanese post office stamps.