13.07.2006 - 15.07.2006 30 °C
I am back in Toronto now, at the office and already frustrated with work. Sigh. Anyway, just wanted to close out my Japan trip with a few thoughts. In a day or two I'll post a big, long entry full of useful information about what I learned about travelling in Japan, in the event that any of you want to travel there in the near future.
I spent the last few days of my trip in Tokyo. I really love Tokyo, it is a megaopolis city unlike any others I have been to before. It never seems to end, it is just tall buildings and crowded streets forever. Taking the train to Kyoto or Osaka, you'd be hard pressed to determine when you have left Tokyo. It just seems to go on and on.
I went to a number of different neighbourhoods within Tokyo - Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ginza, Shoidome (the above picture) and the portlands. Where there wasn't already a tall building, one was being built. And there were people everywhere.
To fit all these people, of course, you have to pack stuff pretty dense. To accomodate this, they have parking garages where you pull up your car on a platform. The platform then spins your car around to face a door, where you drive into an elevator. You park your car, and the elevator lifts your car into the sky.
The funny thing is that you really don't need the spinning platform. I think it's just there because it's cool technology and can be there. The Japanese love gadgets. Of course, lots of people have mentioned this before, so my saying it almost seems redundant and perhaps even xenophobic, pointing out the differences between US and THEM. But it's hard to miss, and I have a reasons (which will become clear shortly).
While things like the parking garage and the SONY humanoid robot (seen above) are definately clues, even upon first arriving you'll notice it. For the Japanese hardly ever walk on an escalator. They will walk almost a kilometer to transfer trains in the subway system, but upon approaching an escalator, they will all stand and let it carry them up. No one takes the stairs. It's so strange, because in addition to the walking, they bike everywhere as well. So they aren't lazy, they just won't walk on the escalators. It's almost like they have become subservient to the technology.
I went out to the portlands of Tokyo. In addition to some crazy shopping, a typical city beach and the technology museum, there is the Toyota Mega-Web, which is really a big Toyota showroom. One of the craziest pieces of technology there was the megaweb selector. You press a button, and cars circle around until the one you pressed is in front of you, pulled out to view on a revolving platform.
What's strange about this is that the selector is located in a two floor warehouse with nothing but space. Toyota could have easily put every car on the selector on the floor and had lots of room to spare. But why do things the low tech way when an un-nessecarily complex technology exists to provide the same function. Of course, when I was there the selector was broken, and thus no one could look at any of the cars.
The climax of these love of unneed complex technology faced me upon arrival at the airport. I entered the ANA frequent flyer lounge, and went to get a beer. And that is when I met the greatest robot ever. The robot that poured a "perfect beer."
First, you take a frosty glass from the fridge, and place it on a platform. Then, you press a button asking for a beer.
At this point, the platform tilts to exactly the right angle, and the beer is dispensed into the glass to exactly the correct height so none spills.
The platform then levels again, and a little extra foam is added on the top to give the beer the "correct" amount of head.
You then take your beer and enjoy!
While very interesting, it's not really that needed. After all, I can easily pour my own beer.
And, you'll notice that I put quotes around "perfect" and "correct" above. That's because if there is one thing I really learned in Japan, it's that the Japanese don't know how to pour a pint of beer. They put way too much head on it. I went to one place, which was a brewpub run by Kirin, one of the primary beer companies in Japan, and they would present you with a glass of beer that was 3/4 beer, 1/4 head and with another inch and a half of white, frothy, stand up straight foam coming out of the TOP of the glass.
I was going to make a joke here about too much head, but feel it wouldn't be appropriate, as it's possible young'uns might read this, so please feel free to make your own joke now.
Cheers, until the next adventure!