Life in Japan 2003/2004

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July 2004
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June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
r e c e n t   e n t r i e s
Christmas in Japan!
Out of This World Premiere
Hong Kong
First Japanese Mac
Mt. Hinode
Satoshi and Ayu's Wedding
Apple Store Ginza

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December 28, 2003

Christmas in Japan!

Christmas in Japan was BUSY!
It started when Lisa (my co-worker) threw a British Christmas Party complete with "Christmas Crackers!", then there were three AEON parties (one adult party and two for the kiddies!), we also decided to have our own Christmas Eve dinner for which Brian made another scrumptious feast, we waited in a crowd of thousands for almost two hours to see the Millenario (a disappointing light show), and it ended when we had a Nabe post-Christmas feast at Kaori's!
It was very different from Christmas back home, but memorable too. Christmas is a relatively new import to Japan, with no religious grounding it is 100% commercialized, the only thing known about Christmas is Santa Claus (not a nativity scene to be seen!) and very little is even known about him. It is also strange to be in a place where Christmas is the only holiday celebrated this time of year - no Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Ramadan. For Japan, New Year is actually the big religious family holiday, when most people return to their hometown and visit temples and shrines.

We hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season (whichever holiday you celebrated) and have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Posted by deanne at 08:22 PM

December 23, 2003

Out of This World Premiere

Today Deanne and I went to the premiere of "Out of This World", this was the film I was a extra in earlier this year. The premiere was held at the Yoimuri Hall in Yurakucho, Tokyo. It was a very festive atmosphere at the premiere. Sakamoto Junji (Writer & Director), David O'Heily (Assistant Director), Hagaiwara Masato (Actor), and Odagiri Joe (Actor) introduced the film. It was very strange to see myself on the screen, but even stranger to see my name in the end credits. It was a good film and I recommend everyone see it. The Japanese theatrical release will be in February 2004.

The film's web site:
You can view the trailer and production stills.

Pictures of my time on the film set.
Pictures of the premiere.

Posted by brian at 11:44 PM

December 22, 2003

Hong Kong

On 6 November 2003, Brian and Deanne achieved a HUGE goal on their long list of travel dreams - HONG KONG!!!

If you know us, you probably know that we have wanted to visit Hong Kong for years! "Why?" you might ask. True, there aren’t many famous 'sites' to see on the different islands that make up Hong Kong, it's only a big city, but "Why not?!?". Our love of traveling, cities, Hong Kong movies, Chinese food, shopping, etc… we’ve wanted to go! And it was a great trip - five days filled with shopping, vegetarian food, and more shopping. We feel like we've got a better understanding of San Francisco, the world and commerce after visiting.

We decided to book a tour, which took care of our hotel, air tickets and travel to/from the airport in Hong Kong. All we had to do was get to/from Narita airport and around Hong Kong. Easy enough, well, basically...

Day One - We woke up at 5AM, to get to Narita airport by 7:50AM, and it was pouring rain! Our first thoughts were "Oh no! The trains". In heavy rain the trains in Japan sometime stop, but we made it to the airport and through check-in without any problems. Our next stop was Japanese immigration, which was our first memorable delay.
It seems that someone on the 'immigration list' has the same name as Brian, so he was pulled from the normal 'stamp the passport, get'em through' line and sent to a special seated area. The situation was cleared up quickly and without any questions, but we don't have any idea how. We had a great veggie meal on our ANA flight and watched a lot of movies and TV. Customs in Hong Kong was a breeze, but we had another memorable delay when Brian was pulled from line again to have his temperature taken. Remember SARS and all of those airport thermal scanners, will Hong Kong still has them. I guess Brian appeared too 'red' on the screen because they sat him down and took his temperature. The funny thing is that I was the one feeling sick! We met with our tour coordinator, who spoke in Japanese and called Brian "Mr. Boss". She took us to The Eaton Hotel in Kowloon, checked us into our room, then we set out on our Hong Kong adventure.
We tracked down a veggie restaurant from the Lonely Planet guide book (yummy food!!!), walked around, window shopped, found a very cool theater/book & DVD store/cafe and got tickets to see the Matrix Revolutions. We killed some more time walking around Temple Street Market (a nighttime street market where you can find all kinds of things just watch out for bootlegs!) until the movie started. We watched the Matrix in English with Cantonese sub-titles (a change from the Japanese ones we are used to) and were very disappointed. Our only consolation was that we paid Hong Kong movie prices not Japanese!

Pictures of day one

Day Two - Friday was spent on Hong Kong Island. We took the ferry over from Kowloon and had more great veggie food at a roof top restaurant above a gallery/theater, in a converted ice warehouse. We took the 100+ year old tram to the top of Victoria Peak the see "the view" of Hong Kong. This truly is required if you go to Hong Kong - the ride and view are amazing. From there we set out to find the Hong Kong Film Archive, which proved to be on the far end of town and disappointing. Sadly we never did find the Bruce Lee museum, we were told it moved but couldn’t find the new location. We took the double-deck streetcar back to the ferry, another item on the must-do Hong Kong list. Make sure you sit on top so you can get a good view!

Pictures of day two

Day Three - We woke up Saturday to pouring rain but decided to head to Lantau Island to see the big Buddha despite it. It was long bus ride up and over the twisty narrow roads of Lantau, but even in the rain it was a nice change from the non-stop rhythm of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. We had a filling vegetarian lunch provided by the Buddhist monks before we made the windy rainy climb to the Buddha. The rain stopped on the bus ride back to the train (of course!) and the entire bus "ooohed" and "ahhhed" at a double rainbow that suddenly appeared straddling a mountain ridge. We were glad we went, even with the rain.
Getting back to Kowloon we decided to check out Mong Kok, which we heard had some good shops. It was here we truly embraced the culture of Hong Kong - shopping! Brian was in heaven discovering DVD’s cost only HK$16.00 (about USD$2.50) and I couldn't believe my luck stumbling into a used clothing store specializing in used Japanese clothes (strange huh?). Our great night of shopping was made even better by finding a wonderful veggie restaurant. We had to wait 45min to eat...but it was worth it!

Pictures of day three

Day Four - Sunday we started out on Hong Kong Island. We went to Times Square, an enormous mall where the shops are organized on each floor by type, and had wonderful veggie dim sum lunch. After lunch we were blown away by the sight of all the Hong Kong maids on their day off. We had read about this, but there is really no way to describe it. Lots, and I mean LOTS of people in Hong Kong have live-in maids, and Sunday is their day off. With no place to go these women gather in public places to have picnics and relax - parks, office building plazas, under freeway overpasses, covered walkways, etc.. there were hundreds and hundreds of them. It was an unbelievable insight into Hong Kong's domestic life. We road the double-deck streetcar back to central Hong Kong and discovered a great record store and spent about HK$600/USD$100 on vinyl (even though we have nothing to play them on in Japan, we couldn’t pass up the finds!). Then it was back to Mong Kok on Kowloon for more shopping!

Pictures of day four

Day Five - Time to head back to Japan, but before we went to the airport we had to squeeze in some more shopping! First we went to the Jade Market where who do we see but a handful of the Miss World contestants. We didn't take a picture, but they were there! And they looked entirely out of place wearing too much make-up and too few clothes. After the market we only had enough time to quickly walk a few streets and alleys and soak in some last Hong Kong sites and sounds before we got our bus to the airport.
We had another great ANA flight back to Narita filled with another great vegetarian meal and more movies. After we landed our biggest worry was that Brian would not be allowed back in the country by immigration since he left he country only having a travel visa. We got VERY worried after I made it through and he was pulled from line and sent to a special seated area (again!). But five minutes and three immigration officers later he was allowed into Japan without a problem. Just like when we left Japan - the situation was cleared up quickly and without any questions, but again we don't have any idea how.

Pictures of day five

It was a great trip. The food and shopping in Hong Kong truly are great! We can’t wait to visit again! Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Posted by deanne at 11:09 PM

December 18, 2003

First Japanese Mac

Yesterday I was in my favorite Second Hand store, Hard Off, and I found a iMac for only 9000 yen. I should explain that Hard Off has two categories for their inventory, normal working items and "as is" junk. One persons junk is another's ebay item. The iMac was labeled as junk but I had a feeling that it was in working order. I was right, it booted up fine and I installed OS X.

Its a Rev. A iMac, the first iMac I had as a workstation at Le Video in 1998. I can't believe that the machine is 5 years old and sill will run the latest Apple OS.

Posted by brian at 07:18 PM

December 12, 2003

Mt. Hinode

On Saturday I rode the famed Mt. Hinode. For months I read about the trails on Mt. Hinode but never had the time to get there. It was a great set of trails. A mixture of steep climbing, techincial root riding and fast downhill. The weather was nice for a my solo trek and I am planning to ride it again next weekend.

BUT, On the train ride home...

I was only 2 stops from my house and It wasn't a full train, Joban Line around 5PM. I was sitting next to my bike which was in a bike bag and reading a book. A older japanese guy boarded the train and stood over my seat. He looked like he was in his 50's and started asking me what is in the bag. I told him it was a jidensha. I returned to reading my book. He asked again what is that in the bag and again I said. "JI-DEN-SHA." I slowed it down because sometimes I speak Japanese and English too fast for people to understand. Again I return to my book.

This is where it gets good...

He started tapping my book and started speaking rapid fire japanese. I could only make out every other word. He was saying something like "I shouldn't bring that on the train, it was too big, I should get a smaller folding bike, I was messing up the train...just stupid things like that." I put my book down and almost stood up to tower over this little man but a just stared at him and let him vent. I really want to cut into him but my Japanese isn't good enough so I just continued to stare at him, Jedi mind trick style. But he wasn't letting up. Finally, there was a younger guy standing behind him and he leaned in and pointed out a seat on the other side of the train and that he could have a seat. But it wasn't about him sitting down because there were plenty of empty seats. The old guy continued his ranting now directing it at the younger guy. That was the older guys mistake.

The younger guy got in his face and his voice got REALLY low and started gunting at the older guy. I think he said, "Just shut up. Its ok to bring a bike on the train." This kinda surprised me because I wasn't worried about the old guy but now the whole situation was escalated. The old guy won't drop it now he was fully addressing the younger guy who had turned his back to him. But when the old guy opened his month again, the younger guy turned around and pressed his forehead up against the older guy, grabbed the back of his collar and started really gunting. I was like DAMN! you only see that kind of stuff in the yakuza films. When the reformed guy gets pushed the wrong way. Because the younger guy look like your average Japanese person.

Well now it was serious, I said. "It's OK don't worry about it" The younger guy let go of him and threw in some curses. The old man shut up then! But get this, he apologized to me! and he had to get of at the same stop as the younger guy, which was one before mine.

You can see the pictures I took here

Posted by brian at 11:55 PM

December 05, 2003

Satoshi and Ayu's Wedding

On November 3, 2003 we attended our good friends Satoshi and Ayu's wedding in Tokyo. It was beautiful...and our first Japanese wedding!
Brian created a separate site for the pictures, please have a look.

We've know Satoshi since 1999 when he put Pam, Brian and I up for 10 days in his Tokyo apartment. Since then we have become very good friends. We were excited and honored to be invited to Ayu and his wedding. The time we have spent with them we've seen what a great couple they are and know that they have a wonderful life filled with love and happiness ahead of them.

Satoshi and Ayu, thank you again for inviting us, we had a wonderful time.

Posted by deanne at 12:08 AM

December 04, 2003

Apple Store Ginza

On Sunday November 30th, Apple computers opened their first international retail store in Tokyo, Japan. Instead of placing the store in Tokyo's computer and electronic center Akihabara, they choose the upscale shopping district of Ginza. De and myself were two of the first 10,000 people that were there to see this milestone in Apple retail history.

The store was scheduled to open at 10AM, and we got there a little after 9:30AM. This was not early enough to be one of the first 2500 who received a special Apple gift. Not by a long shot! At 9:30 the line was already 10 blocks long. While De walked to the end of the line to secure a place for us, I took a few pictures of the first people entering the store. There was a exciting buzz in the air. Steve Jobs was on hand to celebrate the grand opening. I ran back to find De and our place in line. It was a far walk from all the excitement at the front of the line. It didn't help much that it was raining on this happy Apple day. I found De and settled into our spot in line. After about 30 minutes we struck up a conversation with the couple in line behind us, John and Etsuko. They were teachers in Osaka, but moved to Tokyo four years ago to be teachers at private schools. Spirits were high and soon after 10AM the rain stopped and the line was moving at a semi-constant pace. As our conversation with John and Etsuko continued we learned that besides being a Mac fan John was born and raised in San Francisco. This gave us hours of conversation material.

Our plan was to just check out the Apple store and met up with Kaori and Yuko for lunch. We had no idea that every Mac user on the Kanto plain had the same idea as us. As it turned out, when the time that we had planned to met Kaori and Yuko came, we were still in line. So we called them and asked them to join us. At this point we had been standing in line for about 2 and a half hours, but we honestly didn't feel bad. We had a good time. After 4 and half hours we stepped through the doors of the store. Every group of customers entering the store was meet with cheering and clapping by the Apple Staff. We were so excited to be inside the store we cheered and clapped with them! The store was cool. It was the nicest Apple store I have ever been to. To make a long story short we walked around the store for about a hour with Yuko and her friend Kayoko, checking out the new 20" iMac, G5's , and the new Powerbooks.

You can view our pictures here.

See pictures from the Apple site here.

Posted by brian at 12:28 AM

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