Traveling to Tokyo

It’s now the start of my first full day in Tokyo. The jet lag is a bit hard to deal with (13 hour time difference between here and Charlotte), though I did try to force the adjustment by staying up for most of the 26ish hours it took to fly to Japan, get to the hotel, and have some dinner. Still, after going to be around midnight JST, I managed to get about 5 hours of sleep.

The passing time on the flight from Minneapolis to Narita was much easier since I chose to fly first class. Any seasoned traveler will know that First Class means super comfortable seats, in-seat entertainment systems, decent food, and all the drinks I want. That last item in particular made the flight very enjoyable. 🙂

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Yes, I know… I’m a drunk 🙂

The flight in wasn’t actually too bad despite it being long. The flight landed in Narita around 17:20 JST. Following landing, I breezed through the quarantine checkpoint (didn’t appear to be active), passport control, baggage claim, and then customs.

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After meeting up with Eric, it was time to convert some money over and take the bus into central Tokyo. The ride itself took over an hour due to large amount of traffic in the city. By the time we hit the hotel, we were pretty tired and hungry. This meant going out and finding something to eat…

Our hotel is right across from a Tokyu Hands department store, which has a huge selection of restaurants. We settled on a tempura restaurant, which had some pretty good food.

IMAG0120After dinner, I was pretty much ready to pass out. I’d been up for most of the last 26 hours and was in desperate need of sleep. A quick shower was in order and then some channel surfing on the hotel TV. We stumbled upon what appeared to be the Bandai channel, which was showing all sorts of ads and reairing some older anime (including Mai-HiME).

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I managed to snap some pictures in the wee hours of the morning after I woke up at 5am JST. This jetlag is going to stay with me for at least another day, I suspect. I’ll need to struggle through the later parts of today and try to get myself on a good schedule. Fortunately, today is all about Tokyo Game Show, so I’ll probably be pretty wired.

More pictures and updates to come later on in the week!

Counting down to Japan

With a little over a week left until I leave for Japan, everything is falling in place. I got an email a few days ago from my travel companion with the following picture attached:

TGS tickets!

Thanks to his friend in Tokyo, we have our tickets for Tokyo Game Show 2009, which opens to the public on Saturday! I’m a bit sad that I won’t be able to make it there for the industry keynotes, but the public exhibition should still be awesome with all sorts of interesting characters showing up. I wonder if I can sneak myself into the Microsoft booth using my badge… ^.^;;

Our itinerary for the week has pretty much been nailed down as well, with only a few loose ends to work on. Here’s a rough outline:

  • Thursday – Depart United States, land Friday late afternoon JST. Go to hotel and crash.
  • Saturday – Tokyo Game Show
  • Sunday – Harajuku
  • Monday – Lunch with some Microsoft Japan folks, exploring Tokyo
  • Tuesday – Akihabara
  • Wednesday – Saitama for Washinomiya Shrine, Do As Infinity concert (hopefully)
  • Thursday – Ghibli Museum
  • Friday – Train to Kyoto in AM, do sightseeing
  • Saturday – More sightseeing in Kyoto
  • Sunday – Train to Narita and return to US
  • Monday – Taking day off from work to recover

It’s going to be a very packed trip, I think, and I’m getting pretty psyched about it. With our hotels booked and itinerary made, all that’s really left for me to do is pack and get on the plane next week!

Planning a trip to Japan – Part 2

Just as a quick update to my last entry about Japan, I now have confirmed dates and have booked my plane tickets! I’ll be leaving Charlotte on September 24 (arriving on the 25) and leaving October 4. Now that my airfare has been booked, it’s really going to happen! All that is left is to find a hotel, plan an itinerary, and pack.

…now, which camera equipment should I take, and should I bring a Figma along…

Planning a trip to Japan

Guide books!

After a couple years of saying that I was going to go to Japan, it looks like I’m finally going to do it this year! I’m still working on finalizing dates and details, but it looks like I’ll finally be able to go next month. I’m very excited about this and picked up a couple of guide books to help plan my itinerary…

At this point, there are a few things that I’m looking forward to seeing. For now, the trip coincides with the dates for Tokyo Game Show, so I’m going to be hitting up the show floor at least one of the two days. Also on the agenda is a trip into Harajuku on Sunday, a possible side trip into Kyoto for sightseeing, and Saitama to visit the Washinomiya Shrine. Of course, no trip for any otaku would be complete without at least one trip to Akihabara!

Lastly, I found out this week that Do As Infinity will be releasing their first new album in three years while I’m there. After a little searching, I found out that the NHK is hosting an outdoor live event to help promote the new album, so I’m going to try to get tickets to the show!

I’m extremely excited about this trip, though I’m probably going to wind up completely broke when the dust settles…

A week in Seattle – Part 2

In yesterday’s post, I went into some of the daytime adventures from my trip to Seattle, so today I figured I’d focus on some of the ancillary events and things I didn’t have time to cover yesterday. Since this was a Microsoft event, most of our evenings were booked with networking opportunities with fellow employees. To facilitate conversation, copious amounts of food and alcohol were provided. More on that later, though since we did have two free nights to fend for ourselves, we decided to take advantage of a few great restaurants in downtown Seattle.

IMG_3281Outside the Brooklyn Seafood-Steak House

Being on Puget Sound, Seattle is host to a lot of excellent seafood. In years past, we’d always had dinner one night at the Brooklyn Seafood-Steak House on the corner of 2nd and University. Even though we were thinking of doing something different this year, we eventually found our way back on Monday evening. If you happen to be in Seattle and have a little money to spend on dinner (about $50 with wine and dessert), I would highly recommend checking out this little place. This year, I decided to have the Wild Alaskan Salmon and a cup of Clam Chowder. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to take a picture of dinner since it looked so delicious and dug right in… I did manage to restrain myself on dessert and grabbed a quick shot before it all disappeared.

Continue reading “A week in Seattle – Part 2”

A week in Seattle – Part 1

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Last week, I had the privilege of attending TechReady, a bi-yearly, Microsoft-only, technical training conference. In all, thousands upon thousands of content was prepared and delivered, from recently finished products like Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, to future products like Office 2010 and Windows Mobile 6.5, to ********* (sorry, can’t talk about that one!) 😉

In addition to the technical components, it was also a great chance to network with some fellow employees. Most of this was done, of course, over some good food and drink. Most of the technical details are pretty boring, so here’s a quick summary:

  • Windows 7 has been stripped down to perform better and be even more secure than Vista was; most of the tweaks under the hood served to improve abilities for a broad range of users
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 features a host of improvements focusing on helping customers get the best out of their investment
    • Branch Caching and DirectAccess will prove to be invaluable for enabling the mobile workforce to be more productive, while at the same time allowing administrators to manage and monitor those machines
    • Hyper-v R2 adds a plethora of features to go head to head with VMWare, including Live Migration (complete with migrating across different generations of CPUs), increased scalability (up to 64 logical processors), and improved virtual network performance
  • Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 are being built to enable better live collaboration across the PC and web platforms while Office gets some significant UI tweaks to improve on the ribbon
  • Bing.com will continue to be improved and implemented, be sure to look for continues releases over the coming year. Some changes will be significant, but unfortunately I’m not able to talk about them. 😦 Nonetheless, I saw some preproduction demos and they’re really cool!

Continue reading “A week in Seattle – Part 1”

Hanami in Washington DC

While traditional Hanami happens in Japan, I had the pleasure of visiting the nation’s capitol this year for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The trip was only for a few days (March 31-April 5) but our time there happened to coincide with the peak blooming period (April 1-4). We wasted no time going out to see the trees and packed our gear for the beautiful walk around the Tidal Basin. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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IMG_2134 The walkway along the basin was lined with trees and people

IMG_2181Looking across the water to the Jefferson Memorial

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In addition to the trees, Saturday brought the annual Sakura Matsuri street festival. As one of the largest Japanese festivals in the nation, it closed down 6 blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue and featured performances from cultural groups, taiko troupes, and even JPop artists. This year’s major guest was singer Kawashima Ai, the young and talented JPop artist.

IMG_2943 The crowds gather to eat, play, and enjoy the beautiful weather

IMG_2924 No celebration of Japanese culture can be complete without Cosplay

IMG_2960 …or Godzilla, for that matter…

IMG_2949 Kawashima Ai performs on stage