Category Archives: Japan

Electricity Saved

After nuclear crisis happens in Japan, lots of tourists choose not to visit, including Tokyo, though it’s actually 240km from Fukushima power plant. My friend working at Narita airport said I would be surprised by how few people are in the terminal. I look forward to it.

Some people are worried about living in Japan, and some have decided to leave. I am quite confident about this country, however. Not just because I have friends here, or because I have visited numerous times. There are other reasons.

First of all, there are really no safe places around the world. In Iceland, you’ve got volcanoes. If you are living around the Pacific Rim, earthquake and tsunami are always possible. In Florida, you’ve got hurricanes. Tornadoes are also regular features in Mid West, US recently. These are just a few samples.

Japan really has high earthquake-proof standards to buildings. If there were not tsunamis this time, I am quite sure the world would be amazed by how few buildings collapsed in Japan. Compared with many other countries and places worldwide, I actually have more trust to constructions on this island country.

Of course, Japan has their own problems, not least including heavy reliance on nuclear power. After Fukushima and a few other nuclear plants are closed, Japan is destined to have serious power supply issues this summer.

This time in Tokyo, I did notice the city has been dimmer. Many shops and billboards have turned down their lights. Some vending machines are not in operation at all. Many stores have posted a “Energy Saving” flyer on their window.

It’s definitely one of the few positive developments happens after nuclear crisis. When things go to extreme, it normally turns to the opposite direction. Tokyo used to be too shiny. Now my friends and I just hope the current situation will last longer, and people will realize the city really doesn’t have to be that bright at night.


Travel Updates

Not all of my friends follow my Dopplr, and would be upset if I don’t tell them where I am going. To avoid that, here is the notice, boys.

I plan to fly to New York from September 20th until October 4th. If I don’t answer to your phone calls, it’s probably because I am in another time zone.

My flights would touch the ground in the evening on October 5th.

A couple of days later, I’ll fly to Tokyo on October 8th, and stay there until October 22nd. I won’t answer your calls either, as I don’t even have a 3G SIM card, so it simply won’t work in Japan.

Where to go next? You’ll never know.

I hope everyone is satisfied with the info now. 🙂

GVers I met in 2009

The last month of the year. Everything surrounded is rushing you to sum up. Everyone seems can’t wait to move on to the next year. New calendars are on sale. TV channels and newspapers are reviewing and ranking incidents of the past year. People start to say “see you next year” instead of “see you next week”. Clients are booking available dates in January (not a bad thing at all!). Not many people are paying much attention how to cherish or make the best use of the last month of 2009. Sometimes, it’s like thinking about dinner place before enjoying lunch’s desserts. For a sweet-lover like me, it’s a crime!

This is a fortunate year to me. Seeing many GV people means I have the chance to travel much around the world, since Taiwan is definitely not a popular visit place for other GVers. Hey, we are not New York. What do you expect?

Anyway, I just want to make a list of GV people I have met in 2009. Long or short, it’s such a pleasure to be with you guys in person. Will I miss anyone? Probably, I don’t have a computer head, after all. What’s the order? There’s no order.

Solana Larsen
David Sasaki
Georgia Popplewell
Ivan Sigal
Jeremy Clarke
Rebekah Heacock
Lova Rakotomala
Amira Al Hussaini
Eduardo Avila
Lokman Tsui
Jillian C. York
Ethan Zuckerman
Rebecca MacKinnon
Elia Varela Serra
Miquel Hudin Balsa
Portnoy Zheng
Sami Ben Gharbia
Oiwan Lam
Paula Góes
Marc Herman
Anna Gueye
Sylwia Presley
Percy Balemans
Mieke Tulp
Agnieszka Kwiatkowska
Tonyo Cruz
Tharum Bun
Chris Salzberg
Hanako Tokita
Tomomi Sasaki
Jannie Lung
Scilla Alecci
… …

Lucky me!

Just Got Back

Just got back to Taipei. It’s a wonderful trip. It not only inspires me during the experience, but also fulfils my mom’s dream for many years. As a son, bringing mom to where she wants to go for a long time is probably the least I can do.

This time I get to know another different face of Tokyo and Japan as well. Being versatile is what makes a city great, or at least stand out.

It’s always worthy to meet Global Voices people in person during every trip. Thanks Tomomi, Scilla and Jannie for coming to the meetup. Now they are more than just a 75×75 jpg to me. 🙂

Thanks Chris and Hana for your guest room offer. I’ll book it soon! Please keep my (and Eddie’s) bike for the next visit!

I must say Jason and Trent, my other two friends, have successfully made me don’t want to leave Tokyo this time. They share their precious foods, places and experiences with me. They are all unforgettable.

Cities are great, but it’s always these friends that make a city special.

iSummit08 Experience 02

Plug-ins are important to computer users. In Global Voices Summit this year, I really feel this issue. Participants all gather around plug-ins, and I face tremendous problems during the time because my converter doesn’t fit. This time in iSummit08, the situation is much better. I don’t need a converter in Japan, and better of all, I bring my own extension lead. Sitting comfortably on the chair, looking for plug-ins is never a problem to me.

But we have to look for food.

Japanese people, or people overall, love the word “limited”. It has magical power to make people crazy, either in a good or a bad way. They line up for hours, days, or weeks for limited items, such as luxury bags, toys, concert tickets, and even donuts. I personally hate to line up and wait for anything, especially for food.

In iSummit08, however, you really have to run for it.

You have to observe carefully when the food is available. You certainly don’t want each session before lunch ends up late. Don’t get in line, act quickly, as the food is limited. In the reception, I didn’t remember this tip. In the end, it seems like my staple is souse. This definitely doesn’t create a positive towards the whole event when people face nearly empty plates. At the second day, I learn to either leave the session five minutes before it closes, or run instantly after it’s done. That’s how people get a little mountain of food with a victory smile.

It’s also not a very good idea to place coffee machines at one place. That will only create a long line waiting for a small cup. Separating coffee crowds in two areas will surely look better.

Overall, never underestimate how hungry, thristy or greedy participants are when organizing a conference.

Another frustration in this summit is about language.

Chris Salzberg’s post on GV has touched upon this issue already. All I want to do is add a little personal flavor. There are Japanese-English simultaneous translation service during keynote speeches, but other than that, you’d better choose your field/session carefully. My English-speaking ability is not good enough to compete with native speakers in several sessions, obviously. Maybe it’s because of free and open culture, everyone with compatible English comprehension can freely cut off others’ words and start their counterarguments. Don’t pause when you talk, even just one or two seconds, otherwise others will start.

Several people I talk with during the summit have mentioned the same experience. It makes me understand more clearly how important translation and interpretation is, which is my current job. Language can be a very high barrier in a meeting or conference. In this regard, GV summit has done better. Audience can raise their comments by talks, online messages, or notes. In the closed meetings, our moderators always remind people to respect other people when they are talking (thanks David and Solana).

This experience really brings me a mixed feeling. It’s so good to see new and innovative ideas, but it’s sometimes not so good to feel like an outsider.

iSummit08 Experience 01

Chris, Hanako and I, representing Global Voices Online, visit Sapporo, Japan, for iSummit08. I am probably the one who has the least knowledge/understanding toward free/open content idea in the whole conference. 

You will never know what keynote speech will turn out to be. They are all big names in this field. Some are received and talked about like a star, but in their speech, they only touch upon very general issues or challenges. Those are disappointing ones. Others are amazingly (or unexpectedly) wonderful. On Day 1, one of the best keynotes is from Mohamed Nanabhay from Al Jazeera (also a GV Arabic person). He mentions very concretely about what Al Jazeera are doing, why it is doing them, what channels they are using (YouTube, for example), etc. His speech clearly explains their goals and approaches.

In the Local Context Global Commons lab, I heard several interesting/exciting/amazing projects. Instead of writing posts about iSummit08 for GV, I will probably do several (email) interviews with some presenters I met here. I think it will be more interesting.

Five Minutes to Midnight is absolutely a good one. They hold workshops, for instance, for young people in Kibera, one of the largest slums in the world, learning to use digital cameras to record their life. The results are wonderful and showcased in their book Kibera. In the presentation, Wojciech Gryc, their representative in the summit,  explains what challenges they have in the process, including lack of internet access, high costs of technology, and need for ICT training. It sounds quite relevant to GV Rising Voices project, in fact.

There are more good ones. I will write about them later.

Does Leonard speak Japanese?

Hana and Chris keep asking me this question. They suspect that I secretly take Japanese classes for a long time and pretend not understand what they are talking about. The spy and undercover story. Although I reiterate that I learn only some phrases from Japanese TV shows and others, Hana and Chris just don’t believe me. 😛

Compared with English speakers, it is definitely easier for Mandarin/Chinese-speaking people to travel around Tokyo. Lots of kanji, Japanese characters somewhat similar to Chinese, everywhere. We can often have a good guess of what it might mean. Although not necessarily accurate all the time, it still gives us some clues. Besides, I don’t look a foreigner to many Japanese. With an Asian face, shopkeepers, clerks and waiters all speak to me in Japanese. What should I do? Answer them in Japanese!

It’s always good to have a travel phrase book with you. Just open and point the words (or the menu), and they will understand you very well. To tell the truth, you don’t even need to learn Japanese to live in Tokyo for a long time. I have a friend just does that for more than two years. (Yes, Jason, I am talking about you!) Tokyo is really a big city, and is equipped with signs in English everywhere, especially in the subway. Some people say it looks complicated when you read the Tokyo subway map, but to tell the truth, it’s fairly easy. The subway company is really afraid that you will get lost inside, so they provides MANY MANY signs. Just remember the color and you’ll be just fine.

Back to Japanese language. I later find out that not only Hana is suspecting my Japanese comprehension is way beyond what I claim to be “jodo” (Japanese, means “a little”), but also our friend and GV translator Mariko seems to share the same doubt. I think it is a good proof that learning language, especially Japanese, from watching TV is effective in some ways. The grammar is still difficult for me, but it’s quick to have a sense of Japanese.

Anyway, I haven’t successfully persuade Hana and Chris that “Leonard doesn’t speak Japanese”, but I think it would be more difficult as we spend more time hanging out together.

What language should I learn next?