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2005-03-20

Tokyo (02/28 - 03/07)

I got back from my trip to Tokyo & Hong Kong. Beautiful places really. I loved Tokyo and enjoyed the friendship of Japanese people. Below are some places I visited and notes from my trip.

I flew to Tokyo on March 28, 2005 with American Airlines. I felt like I had my own cubicle at First Class :) As I had not sleep much the previous night to adjust to Tokyo time, I slept most of the flight.

When I arrived, I took a bus to Grand Hyatt Hotel at Roppongi where I was to stay for the rest of the week. It was rush hour I guess and it took us around 1.5 hrs. to get there. I was surprised to learn that traffic was from left as in England! I noticed that many cars had TVs or large GPS screens installed on the console.

Later, when we were leaving Tokyo, I learn that taxis had an advanced 3D GPS system so that the control center was able to track where they were at any moment and able to send out the closest available taxi to the customer. They were even remotely sending the route to the GPS device in the taxi and all that was left to the driver was to follow the instructions.

When I finally arrived at the hotel, I called my team-mate - Daisuke- to tell him I arrived. He met me half an hour later and we chatted a while and enjoyed Korean food in one of the restaurants at Mori Tower.

We got a call from our team-mate in London who was having a problem with the system we were supporting. So, we spent sometime in the office helping him.

Hotel was great. Room had a huge LCD TV and a small one in the bathroom. Oh BTW, the toilet seat was heated. It had a very comfortable bed and high quality tempur-pedic pillows...

The next day I woke up early and headed for the French restaurant at the second floor. After breakfast and going thru Japan Times, I arrived at the office. I spent most of the time meeting people and training helpdesk guys on our product.

Because I was waking up very early during the week (usually around 5am), I took the advice of my friends in NY and went to 'Fish market' early in the morning with Dai to try Sushi. It was a cold morning and we waited outside for about 1.5 hours before we finally got into a Sushi place. It was well-worth waiting. I especially loved 'Fat tuna' and Sea Eal - Anago in Japanese - Sushi.

When Dai left me at my hotel and headed home for a sleep, I decided to see Tokyo's electronics heaven, Akihabara. I asked for directions at hotel and was told to take Hibiya line at metro. It was kinda difficult to understand the Tokyo metro system at first. When I ended up at metro station, I was not sure if I was at the correct line, so I asked the guy next to me how to get to Akihabara. He happened to be a Chinese guy from Hong Kong. He told me that he was going there too.

So, he helped me to get on the correct train and we arrived at Akihabara in about 15 mins. We wandered around. He had been there a few times so he knew around. I checked out the gadgets and tried to avoid temptation to buy a I-O-Data dual layer 16x DVD burner that they were selling for about 8800 Yen (which is roughly $85). I ended up buying a 1000 yen bag to carry my notebook and stuff around.

I made it back around 7pm and after resting a while decided to see Shibuya which is a place where young people hang out mostly. I was better at figuring out how to get there via metro. I was a little bit confused about JR line which I later learnt was operated by a different company and that was why it was not showing up in my metro map.

Shibuya was a lively place with thousands of young people as promised. I decided to go with the flow and wandered around taking pictures and recording some video. I met some Turkish guys who were selling Doner Kebap. I was already hungry so I tasted it while chatting with the guys. It was very delicious but kinda pricey (~$9) for such a small amount from a street vendor. And if you know the size of the portions in Japanese restaurant you know what I mean :)

They were two brothers. One of them offered me to join him for a tea break. He told me that he had arrived in Tokyo not long ago and had already married to a Japanese girl about 4 months ago. As Turkish citizens did not need a visa to enter Japan, it was not very difficult for him to land on Tokyo. He was trying to get a Green Card like permit to stay as he was married to a Japanese citizen.

After I left them, I kept on walking the streets and had a late dinner at a Japanese restaurant. On the way back, I asked to Japanese Girl which trains I was supposed to get on as I was in a different station that I had arrived. He did not speak English much and did not know how to get to Roppongi but signaled me to hold on and started punching in some keys at her cell phone and quickly found out which trains I was supposed to take.

I noticed that people were glued to their cell phones. I guess from the movies I had seen, I was under the impression that Japanese people were reading something when they were commuting but in fact mostly they were bringing out their cell phones as soon as they got on train and playing games.

When I told Dai that I was surprised Blackberry was not working in Japan, he mentioned that cell phones were very advanced in Japan and it was all they needed for most of the things including e-mails. He also told me he was paying around $150/month for his cell. Unlike in US, they were not paying for the calls they received...

Now that I was able to finally find my way in the metro map, I easily landed on Shinjuku on Sunday. It was a cold day (~around 5 degrees Celsius). Shinjiku is where most of the high rise buildings in Tokyo take place. I walked the streets and took several pictures. I tried one of these Sushi places where there is a moving band with sushis on it.

Dai told me that Japanese people are impatient and they usually do not want to waste time waiting for food. These ready-already fast-food sushi restaurants serve the purpose. I went for my favorite 'fat-tuna' and tried several others. Price was quite cheap, just 5 bucks.

I saw a couple of young Japanese guys rocking on the street. When I asked a Japanese guy hanging in there to take a picture of me, he surprised me replying in American accent. He told me that I was the second Turkish guy he met that day and he too was visiting Japan. He said he was living in Boston... You never know who is who :)

When later I asked another guy to take a picture of me, he took it and immediately started to examine my camera. He told me that he too was planning to buy a digital Nikon but did not think the one I had was good in balancing whites and was sometimes producing too greenish results ( I never noticed) so he would go for a newer model. I told him that I was just a point-and-shoot guy :)

The next day, Dai, his former manager Yuko and I left for HK around noon. I told Dai that I 'had to' buy some Japanese magnets for my wife as she asked me not to forget it a couple of times already. We found some nice ones in the airport.

When I was looking around, I was shocked with the prices of fruit and I asked Dai if I was seeing wrong as the price tag read 1000 yen (~$10) for an apple. Yep, 10 bucks for an apple and 60 bucks for a melon! Dai joked that he got an apple as his Christmas gift but still defended the price saying it was probably the most delicious apple I would taste and people produce them with utmost care and it was probably worth the price. Yeah but still, 10 bucks for an apple? Hmmm...


Ps. See pics @ http://spaces.msn.com/members/hindistan

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