Back from Japan

I’ve just returned home after two weeks in Japan. First week was for TGS; second was vacation. I visited Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. Some totally random observations:

Games

  • The most interesting thing I saw at TGS was not a game. It was a DS clothing recommendation system — you pick the dress you want to wear, and the system recommends matching shoes, purse, etc. At least, I think that’s how it worked (TGS is clearly not intended for English-speakers.) Anyway, I could see how young girls would love this, especially if it has game-like elements built in.
  • Other cool things: a proprietary game system (whose name, frustratingly, I can’t recall) which included light sensors on finger straps. You slip them on your hands and they detect when you open and close your palms. The sensors also act as a pointer (Wiimote style.) Ever wanted to know what it feels like to throw a fireball in Street Fighter? Anyway, Next Gen has a decent wrap-up of other interesting things on the floor.
  • Contrary to accounts I’ve read elsewhere, I did not see many Nintendo DS units on any of the subways or trains I rode, and I rode many. In fact, I usually saw none, and only occasionally one or two. Given strong DS sales in Japan, this lends credence to a couple reports I’ve seen that indicate significant use of the DS in the home (often at the expense of time on other entertainment devices.) On a related note: some people seemed quite amused to see me playing a DS – I’m not sure why. Aren’t “older people” big buyers of the DS in Japan? ;-)

Culture

  • Most Japanese people seemed (true to reputation) amazingly polite and thoughtful. For example: on several occasions when I was reading a map, someone spontaneously offered to help me figure out where I was going. One guy (probably in his late 20s) walked out of his way with Eve and I for about 15 minutes, just to be sure we didn’t get lost.
  • I’ve heard people say that the Japanese like things small and quiet because living spaces are so compressed in Japan. But I’d never heard anything about the preponderance of convenience shopping options. There are convenience stores (i.e. 7-11) everywhere. There are an astonishing number of vending machines on every street, in every subway station, by every shrine, etc. There are people selling snacks everywhere. I wonder how the social factors that drive this phenomenon influence other markets (i.e. games) in Japan?

Totally Random Notes

  • The cheapest cluster of grapes I saw was $7. The most expensive was $35. I bought a couple of the “cheap” varieties, and the dark-colored, non-seedless variety was the sweetest, most flavorful grape I’ve ever eaten. Now I wonder what the $35 bunch would have tasted like. (Conversely, one of the best meals I’ve ever had was a bowl of ramen in a dive restaurant for about $8.)
  • Ground zero (for the atomic bomb) in Hiroshima is not to be missed. The memorial and museum are very moving, and contrast in strange and wonderful ways with the hordes of uniformed Japanese school kids giggling and taking group photographs outside.

3 responses to “Back from Japan

  1. On a related note: some people seemed quite amused to see me playing a DS – I’m not sure why.

    Oh, oh, I know, I know! You work for Microsoft. Nintendo is a competitor, didn’t y’know? ;)

    So where’s that Xbox Live Arcade handheld?

    Most Japanese people seemed (true to reputation) amazingly polite and thoughtful. … One guy (probably in his late 20s) walked out of his way with Eve and I for about 15 minutes, just to be sure we didn’t get lost.

    When I was a wee lad, I travelled to London with my dad on business. We went on the Jack the Ripper tour which brought us to one of the restaurants that ol’ Jack frequented. I guess I was distracted by the really tasty chips. I was going to buy another bag until I looked around and saw that the tour group (along with my dad and his co-worker) was nowhere in sight.

    I ran outside, slowly glanced around the corners of the building. “Be calm, be calm,” I told myself. Looking across the wide street, shadowed by tall structures and the night approaching, I panicked! I decided to run around downtown London looking for my dad. Three very colorful British streetwalkers near the restaurant offered to help me, but well, I was just on the Jack the Ripper tour. I ran around some more until a British man offered to help me look around, too. I declined again, but after achieving no success on my own, I went back to where that man approached me and agreed to his offer.

    A regular Sherlock Holmes, only dressed in black and wearing a leather jacket, he decided the best way to resolve the situation was to start at the scene of the crime. We walked together back to the restaurant, and upon returning, I saw my dad and his co-worker casually walking across the street back to the restaurant without the tour group. When they reached me, they asked if I enjoyed the tour. They didn’t even know I was missing! They thought I was ahead of them. The tour ended without me, but I had my own and probably more memorable adventure.

  2. You need to come to Seoul — you will see many DS’s in use on the subways here, typically younger people of both genders.

    Speaking of Korea, could you please explain why so many times Korea is the ONLY country where an XBOX Live Arcade title is NOT released? I know that ratings are not always to blame (1. often the content is unoffensive; and 2. I have checked the Korean game ratings board to see if a rating was applied for and in these cases, it wasn’t), and it is difficult to believe that

  3. licensing troubles are to blame (1. many of the games not released in Korea are by publishers/developers whose other XBOX Live Arcade titles HAVE been released in Korea; and 2. it seems like it would be far more trouble to exclude only one nation in the whole world than to simply try to get a game licensed there).

    What is it about the Korean market that MS finds so troublesome?

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