Japan Retro Blog

by on June 12, 2005

Ah, Japan: land of individually-wrapped bananas and toilets that squirt warm water up your bum.

Ten days in Nagano (Ena City) with the in-laws followed by visits to other relatives and friends. The food! The technology! Even the interminable shopping trips for kids clothes were interesting. Japan qualified for the world cup against North Korea in a match that nobody could attend (so they did the whole thing on video screens by proxy), Takanohana died (at 55) and there was some really weird stuff in the news for ages about roadside guard rails and the mysterious vicious spikes attached to them.

But first some listings:

– Best Janglish t-shirt spotted: “Trying to forget falling off that ladder” (as worn by chubby middle-aged man at flower festival). Although this made me chuckle for hours, I suspect it may not qualify as true Janglish as it’s both grammatically correct and shows signs of pre-meditated humour.

– Most innovative tech idea: Pedestrian crossing “count down” lights. As well as the standard green/red man thing, main zebra crossings have lights that tell you how soon you’ll be able to cross so you don’t have that “should I risk it?” feeling. Nice.

– Best meal: Kaiseki (by mistake in a hotel – 10,000 yen!) with umpteen courses including transcendental shabu shabu with soy milk, and zaru soba with flecks of gold leaf in the soba. I was too full by the end to appreciate the kama meshi though.

– Best fun tech: 3D sat nav with near photo-realistic imagery, voice control and insane local detail (“Nearest dry cleaners?” “Turn left at crossing in 700 metres, parking available at 800 yen per hour”).

I wish I’d had a laptop to blog stuff at the time as there’s too much to remember now. We did actually bring Kumi’s sub-A4 Loox T7 but for some reason her keyboard mapping was all screwy (we didn’t bring the external keyboard she normally uses with it). Amongst other notable things was the fact that 100Mbit broadband connections are now about £25 a month (with a setup cost of over £200 to get the fibre from the exchange into your house). Despite this, I found myself setting up Kumi’s 80-year old dad with an analogue dial-up on his Windows Me box, which crashed and crashed and crashed. Having to explain (well, failing to explain) what the hell was happening, and spending about 4 hours downloading as much as I could from Windows Update in an attempt to stabilise the damn thing, was to say that least a challenge. Nobody should run Windows Me Japanese if they can possible help it, least of all an 80 year-old man, but hey.

The jet lag hasn’t quite worn off yet, so I’m not thinking very clearly about it all yet, but hope to expand on a few things later.

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