Ceatec, Korakuen – On the Hikari Shinkansen from Tokyo

Yes. It’s true. I’m a lucky son-of-a-bitch. Sanyo was kind enough to send me to Tokyo on business. That means they paid for my to/from travel expenses – shinkansen-style!

Steve? He got sent to Tokyo on “business?” What the fuck? Yah, I know. =) I should clarify something, though: it’s only technically “business.” I got to go the a convention called Ceatec. It is the biggest electronic convention in Asia, apparently. If you call going to different companies’ booths, collecting information about new products and technologies, and gawking at the amazing woman displaying all these new things… then yes, I suppose I was working. And oh god, was it tough. =)

The shinkansen is the bullet-train that Japan is famous for. “Hikari” = Light or Ray. It is one of a few shinkansen models. I think there is also “sound” and “echo” (the fastest).

I went with 3 other “lucky bastards”: Alex, Lance, and John. Of course, this convention was on Friday at the beginning of a long weekend, so we simply MUST stay in Tokyo. Alex and I crashed at Jeff’s (he’s doing an internship for NTT) on Friday night. So sorry for being late, Jeff!! I’m still not sure why you waited for us, though…. Anyways…

Saturday morning, we get up nice and early. Alex and Jeff are going hiking up Nikko mountain, so I get booted out of the dormitory. I was thinking I would go to Akihabara (also known as “Electronic Town”) and see if I could bargain a decent price for the Sharp PDA that I’ve been eyeing. I left with Alex and Jeff, but I stopped at Shinjuku station and said bye to them (and everyone else they were going with). I thought I would take my time, so I hung out in Shinjuku for a while. I got breakfast from a Japanese bakery (chocolate muffin, pastry with fried chicken and gravy, and yogourt drink), and ate it on the sidewalk.

Shinjuku is considered the heart of Tokyo, but at 7:30am in the morning, it’s practically normal looking! The stations are unbarably clean, even more so than at other times of the day. I must have walked around Shinjuku station and its immediate surroundings 4 times. I had to sit down for a while and pull out my laptop to check email and train schedules – IMPORTANT! If it wasn’t for my laptop and useful websites that suggest routes for given destinations, I may still be staring at the tokyo subway map!

I could have chosen a better place to sit, however. I saw one man sitting at one side of a wide stairway, so I thought it would be okay. But, a few old ladies almost fell on me, because it was the only side that had a hand railing all the way down, and I was in the way! Oops. Now I know….

I met John in Akihabara for lunch. We ate ramen, and then wondered the crowded streets and electronic shops. John kept asking to go into all the cartoon-porn shops, but had to keep him in line. It was difficult to resist the urge, myself! 😉 Most of the shops in Akihabara are not good deals, despite being called “electronic town.” However, we found a small shady operation on the 6th floor of a building with barely any signs, and this guy had good deals! The thing I wanted, he would not get until Monday (today!), but it was still a bit more than I can buy it for online, anyways. I ended up getting some more memory for a really good deal. Cool.

Damn, I think it might be raining when I get back to Gifu-Hashima. We’re plowing through quite the rainy weather, right now… One of the tenants is checking tickets… sometimes, they skip people that appear to be sleeping, but she woke the woman up beside me to check her ticket. I like riding the shinkansen much more than the airplane. There is WAY more leg room, and the preparation/arrival time is almost nil. Oh, and it’s almost as fast, after all is said and done. Very enjoyable.

John was meeting some other people in Shinjuku for dinner, so I went with ‘im and we wandered around some more. It’s amazing how much time can be killed just by watching people. After I said “bye” to John, I had to use the washroom really bad – didn’t feel that good. So I use a washroom on the top floor of a large department building in Shinjuku. It looked clean – Tokyo department stores cater to the rich, after all. But after sitting down on the toilet, a cockroach that must have been over an inch in length crept into my stall! Wah! I try to stomp to scare him away, but those things are SO fast. Anyways, when a giant cockroach disappears behind the toilet of which you are sitting on, you may likely be traumatized. And when you pick up your bag and ANOTHER scurries away from underneath it, your situation may be worse. It kinda freaked me out, but I’ve since recovered.

After wandering around some more, I went back to Akihabara, and met Hana after she finished her job at a curry shop. I stayed with Hana’s family AGAIN for the next two days. They were, of course, incredibly hospitable, once again.

Sunday: I go to Korakuen Amusement Park in Tokyo with Hana. We probably went on all of the best rides. It is not as good as Nagashima Spaland, but a couple of the roller coasters were lots of fun! They didn’t let me bring my camera on the ride, though!! Next time, I’m not gonna bother asking… cuz I could have had the coolest video ever!! *sigh* We left in time to stop at Akihabara for ice cream (I eat a lot of ice cream since coming to Japan), buy some rum for highballs, and get back to her house in time for an early dinner with her family. Dinner was steak (awesome), okonomiyaki (awesome), yakisoba (awesome), and ika (awesome). Of course, there were other little things – I can’t believe I’m now voluntarily eating tomatoes! (Initially, it wasn’t a voluntary thing.. but a polite thing.) I could barely eat everything without feeling pain. The meals at Hana’s house are always so good.

For some reason, I was extremely tired this whole weekend. I feel bad for just falling unconscious after dinner – I didn’t really get a chance to talk to everyone. Thanks again, everyone! As it turns out, Hana may be coming to Vancouver next summer, so hopefully, my family can be half as hospitable as hers has been. =)

Just arrived at destination! It’s now time to try biking (with many bags) back to the dormitory!

Back at the dormitory. It took about 2 hours to take the shinkansen from Tokyo to Gifu-Hashima. There was only 2 stops in between, and none of that “changing train” business. This journey takes over 7 hours via regular train, and there are many many stops and changing trains. Shinkansen tickets cost maybe 12000yen and the cost of going by regular train would almost be 7000yen. Riding the shinkansen is actually enjoyable. Riding the train is not. Conclusion: I don’t know if I’ll be able to take the regular train on long trips again. ^_^

I gave my new camera lots of exercise over the weekend. Interesting pictures (and movies) of Shinjuku, Akihabara, and Korakuen! A lot of the pictures are experiments, trying to figure out the best ways to use my camera, and a lot of them are to portray the craziness of Tokyo to my family and friends in Canada. Hopefully, I’ll get the pics/movies up at some point.

It’s kinda sad being back at a grungy dormitory, again. And… work tomorrow. Maybe I’ll go swimming.
.. So tired….

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