October 7, 2005
Kyoto Daigaku, Kinkakuji, back to Tokyo
On Friday I left the Keihana area and headed to Kyoto to meet with Professor Toru Ishida, whom I was introduced to by Professor Sal Stolfo. Professor Ishida spent some time at Columbia University years ago. We had a nice lunch and talked about the upcoming "Language Grid" project and other things. I should contact Isahara-san at NiCT.
After meeting at Kyoto Daigaku for lunch, I headed out to Kinkakuji. It was really nice - the golden pavilion is just so dominating. I took some pictures with my Japanese cell phone, but it turns out that the camera on that thing is like 64x64 or something! It's horrible! While walking to the temple I met a family of three from Utah who had visited Kiyomizutera and Ginkakuji earlier in the day, and were finishing up with Kinkakuji. It seems like they were having a really nice vacation in Japan, which is nice to see.
After Kinkakuji, I headed back to Kyoto station and had a coffee. I tried to connect to the free wireless network in Kyoto, but you had to register (in person!) to get an account to set up a VPN. So that didn't go anywhere. Anyway, I caught my Shinkansen at 7pm, and made it back home by 10:00pm.
American Analog Set in Kyoto
So my sister tells me that I need to see the group "American Analog Set". They are currently touring Japan, and as luck would have it they played in Kyoto while I was there interviewing. According to my sister, the girl making her dress, Jesse, is dating the drummer of AmAnSet. Since I'm staying about 40 minutes away from Kyoto, it is a bit of a hike for me, but I thought it would be stupid not to see them, so I headed out.
I got to the venue (Metro) at about 7pm, and people had started lining up. They started to let people in about about 7:25 or so, and luckily they hadn't sold the place out completely so I was able to get in. Unlike New York, small live shows are really expensive: 5,000 yen for this one (included one drink.)
The first group up was 13 & God and I liked them. They had some nice soft soothing music, punctuated by really hard rocking parts and loud, fast rap. A guy I was talking to in the audience told me that the album is almost completely mellow, which was really surprising given the show, but I'm definitely interested in picking up their album, or perhaps some of the stuff from the component bands, since "13 & God" is apparently the joint work of a group called "the Notwist" and "Themselves". Here is a kind of nice review of their history together. "Doseone" even had one of those thinkgeek favorite LED belts. And at least one song was about gravity and atmosphere, so it has a geek appeal that I would like to check out.
After 13 & God, American Analog Set came on. Unfortunately, I had to leave after their first song in order to make it back to the station to catch the last train (I actually got the second-to-last train) back to my hotel. But I did pick up their latest album, "Set Free" which has 4 bonus tracks (remixes) for the Japanese release.
I didn't hear a thing out of the closing band, Her Space Holiday.
October 6, 2005
Talk and interview at ATRI gave a talk today at ATR (also in Kyoto) and met with some people there: Dr. Yutaka Sasaki, the head of the Natural Language Processing department. I also spoke briefly with Dr. Eiichiro Sumita, a principal researcher in the NLP group, and I heard about Dr. Kiyonori Ohtake's work on Japanese paraphrasing / simplification.
After lunch with Dr. Sasaki, I met with Yoshinobu Tonomura, the deputy director at NTT. We talked for about half an hour I believe, and I think he was impressed with (if nothing else) my Japanese.
October 5, 2005
Shinkansen to Kyoto, talk at NTTI took the Shinkansen to Kyoto today, from Shin-Yokohama. It took about 20 minutes, not including the ridiculously long time it took me to get to Shin-Yokohama. To get there, I took the Toyokosen to Kikuna from Jiyugaoka, about 25 minutes, then at Kikuna realized that I had forgotten my passport (which I will need to exchange my order for the JR Rail Pass I bought) so I turned right back around and was back at Jiyugaoka 25 minutes later. A short 10 minute taxi ride to the apartment and back to get my passport, and then another 25 minutes to Kikuna, from there one stop on the JR Yokohama line, and I had about 2 minutes to spare to catch the last Hikaru Shinkansen (the fastest type you can get with a JR Rail Pass.)
Of course, that train had no reserved seats remining so I had to chance the unreserved seating, but since it was only the second stop, there was plenty of room. I arrived at Kyoto at about 11:45am, and arrived at NTT at about 12:30pm.
The talk went well, and I met with Hideki Isozaki, supervisor group leader of the Knowledge processing group, Eisaku Maeda, Tatsuto Takeuchi (HR, Research Planning Supervisor), Naonori Ueda (Executive Manager), and Hajime Tsukada (Senior Research Scientist.) I really got the feeling that I would be welcome there. It was a nice visit, I saw a demo of their Q&A system, and heard about some knowledge ontology work that they are doing.
September 20, 2005
Cafes in Akihabara: Maid and Linux
A few days ago, I saw a show on "Maid Cafes" - places where the staff dress up in Maid costumes, but otherwise normal cafes. There are apparently a lot of them in Akihabara. Admittedly, that is a very popular destination for their presumed target audience: Otaku, but there still seems to be a very large number of these things. There are at least 5 or 6 in Akihabara, and that was just after a quick internet search. I didn't think it was worth counting after seeing there were that many.
I resolved to go check one of these places out when I got a chance. I went to Akihabara today to pick up a cooling pad for my laptop since it has been getting very hot lately. I decided to get lunch at the first Maid Cafe I came across.
I found a place called Cure Maid and went in. I had a nice Tonkatsu Curry Set for 1000 yen. What really surprised me was the normalcy of the place. There were at least twice as many women in there as men, which was the big surprise with me. It seems like these are just normal mainstream cafes, where the wait staff happen to dress up. I think maybe some of acceptance might be due to the wide publicity the "Otaku" has been getting recently in the Japanese media, especially from shows like Densha no Otoko, but it is still pretty surprising.
While I was there, I saw at least two couples come in for dates. In both cases the girls in each couple were semi-cosplaying. One of the girls was wearing a very cute dress, most likely handmade, that was in an Alice In Wonderland theme. It had a cute hearts and spades pattern, and some cat imagery (possible Chesire-inspired, but it didn't look like the Chesire Cat to me.) Anyway, that was a bit more in-line with my expectations.
After making my purchase, I wandered around for a while and saw this sign for the Linux Cafe. Now that is some place that I would like to visit. Apparently, they offer free wireless with purchase, which is very rare in Japan. It is a place that I will try to visit on my next trip to Akihabara. I can't say that I go there all that often though, so who knows when that will be.
September 18, 2005
Apple Store in Ginza
Yesterday, Eric, Sharon, and I went to a Matsuri at Toritsu Daigaku. They had a Taiko drum that Eric and Sharon enjoyed beating on for a while.
September 3, 2005
Job hunting in Japan, blog softwareI arrived in Japan August 24th, 2005 to start my job hunting activities. I also installed bBlog on FuguTabetai.com, and I think it is quite nice software. I should be able to post a bunch more because this automates a lot of what I was doing by hand.
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