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Media, Content, and More January 31, 2012

Posted by Dru in Uncategorized.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read more posts about Japan, Tokyo, and my own misadventures around the world.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Mr

2012 is the year of the Dragon.  It is an auspicious year where many great things are supposed to happen.  If this is truly a great year, I hope things will work out well for me, and for you as well.  In 2010, I made a conscious decision to try to start my own company.  I created another website where I offered tours of Tokyo.  Things have yet to take off with that, but it is mainly due to the poor quality of my own website.  This year, I will be offering more new services to coincide with that original decision.  At the end of 2010, I had met up with a friend who is also based in Tokyo and we decided to go into business together.  We have both been working hard at making this new project a reality.  Things had been delayed due to the earthquake and radiation fears after the March 2011 earthquake, but the ball really got rolling at the start of summer that year.  I have been working as hard as possible, while maintaining my main job as an English teacher.  The fruits of our labours are finally starting to pay off.  I mentioned in my year end recap that things will hopefully be different this year.  Like most tech related projects, everything is way behind schedule, but things will be finished.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to HinoMaple.  It is my formal company that will be the gateway to many projects.  I will still be offering tours of Tokyo to those who wish to have it, but there are other services that will also be available.  Unfortunately, due to the scope of the project, I may not be able to roll out everything until next year.  Here is hoping for the best.  When things are finally ready to be released, I will be more than happy to tell all of you, but until then, stay tuned.  My posts here will not stop either due to my new commitments.

For more information, please visit my new website, HinoMaple.  It is a very simple page and this blog will be migrating there hopefully in February.  It also provides links to the new Facebook Page where you can get updates into what is happening with both this blog and HinoMaple itself.  I will do my best to post a few extra photos on the HinoMaple Facebook Page as well.  I doubt I will post any previous photos, but I will do my best.


PS:  For any social media addicts like myself, you can also follow me on Twitter @dru46.

2012 Tokyo Auto Salon January 24, 2012

Posted by Dru in Japan, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2012 Tokyo Auto Salon” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-M4

Last week I had written about going to the Tokyo Motor Show at the end of 2011.  In January 2012, a second motor show of the season called the Tokyo Auto Salon is held.  This is a very different car show compared to the Tokyo Motor Show.  The Tokyo Motor Show is a typical auto show that focuses on new cars and concepts from the major car manufacturers.  The Tokyo Auto Salon is a tuner car show that is similar to the SEMA show.  For those who are unfamiliar with the auto industry, a tuner car is any car that has been modified from its original form.  This can be anything from upgrading engine parts, changing the paint or any other part of the car.  It can be very subtle to very crazy.  The Tokyo Auto Salon is the best way to see all of the potential craziness people can do to their own cars.

The first thing to understand about visiting the Tokyo Auto Salon is to know where to go.  The Tokyo Auto Salon is held in Makuhari Messe in Makuhari, Chiba.  It is one of the most famous convention centres in Tokyo with concerts and various trade shows being held at all times of the year.  Due to the layout and cheap rent relative to Tokyo Big Sight makes this a very attractive location for trade show organizers.  The Tokyo Auto Salon is a large show that encompasses the main 8 halls as well as a small exhibition outside.  While they don’t make use of the entire facility, they made use of a huge space nonetheless.  Compared to the Tokyo Motor Show, it felt somewhat smaller, yet more tiring.  The show itself has a lot more to see and it is all crammed into a somewhat smaller space than the Tokyo Motor Show.  There are relatively less people at the Tokyo Auto Salon but with the area being more cramped makes getting around the show floor difficult.  When visiting the Tokyo Auto Salon, like the Tokyo Motor Show, I highly recommend going early and being as patient as possible.

As I mentioned, the Tokyo Auto Salon is very different to the Tokyo Motor Show.  It focuses on tuner cars.  The entire Auto Salon in 2012 was loosely divided into sections.  There were the custom car areas, the manufacturer custom car division, accessories, sound systems, paint, and custom car displays.  While there are many sub-sections in each area, they generally kept close to their theme.  All of the major Japanese aftermarket tuners were at this show.        Many of the well-known Japanese aftermarket companies such as VeilSide, Tommy Kaira, and HKS were present at the show.  Wheel and tire manufacturers such as Bridgestone, Yokohama, BBS, and Rays were also present.  You could easily spend hours just visiting these booths to see what new and innovative products they had.  Each company had their own theme.  HKS was very much performance based while VeilSide was all about looks.  The major Japanese manufacturers had their own booths as well showcasing the products of STi, GD, Nissmo and others.  These names may not seem very familiar but companies like STi stand for Subaru Tecnica International.  They are subsidiaries set up by their parent companies to be somewhat independent but loyal to their parent company.  In fact, most of the companies were fairly loyal to one or two manufacturers.  RE Amemiya is a well-known tuner company that is known for their ability to tune Mazda RX-7s and RX-8s.  It provided a lot of variety into the designs of each car that can be both a blessing and a curse.

The other aspect of the show is to showcase individual cars.  At the Tokyo Auto Salon, some of the aftermarket companies brought cars to be judged.  Other individuals from around Japan also brought their cars to be put on display.  Most of the cars on display in the general area were street legal.  By far the most memorable was one by NATS (Nihon Auto College).  It is a school that teaches the students how to fix and modify cars.  They modified a Lexus SC430 (SoarerZ40 in Japan) to be a modern take on the original DeLorean from the “Back to the Future” movies.  It was a work of art and craftsmanship that was nearly unmatched in the entire show.  There were other great examples of their work that was present in the auto show but that one still sticks out in my mind.  NATS is a great college that probably doesn’t get much attention overseas.  It is a very creative group of students and teachers working together like a master and their apprentices.  In fact, I would say that most of the companies at the show acted in a very similar way.  From my very limited knowledge of the aftermarket industry, a lot of it is art with a healthy dose of mechanics.  With enough time and money, you could create anything you wanted but you still need the ideas to make something good.

One other aspect of the show is the women.  No auto show would be complete without having beautiful women posing in front of the expensive cars.  The Tokyo Motor Show was the same yet very different.  The women at the Tokyo Motor Show had to either fit in with the theme of the manufacturer.  Many times you would see women in the strangest costumes just to fit the theme.  At the Tokyo Auto Salon, that seemed to be less apparent.  Most of the women at the show were there to get as many people to their booths.  You could tell which booth had a woman modeling by the crowds surrounding them.  If there was a large crowd, it was highly likely that there was a woman there.  It was a bit sad as the most beautiful women, rather sexy looking, were getting the most attention.  The women who dressed in a regular way or those who didn’t go the extra mile to look beautiful or sexy didn’t get large crowds of men with cameras in front of them.  It is an unfortunate part of life that men usually think predictably.  Each booth that had girls had a slightly different taste but in general.  When you see a few booths, you have basically seen all of the girls as they all have girls that are differentiated by the colour of their clothes and a little difference in taste or style but generally it is similar and gets numbing after a while.

There are several final thoughts I have about the show itself.  My first thought is that it was cramp and crowded the entire time.  At the Tokyo Motor Show, I had a lot more energy to see the entire show whereas at the Tokyo Auto Salon, after an hour or so I was exhausted.  I would also say that the types of people that went to the show were different.  The Tokyo Motor Show is geared towards the average person.  I saw more families at the Motor Show compared to the Auto Salon.  I also saw more young people and “gangsters” at the Auto Salon.  While I would not say that they are gangsters, some of them did fit the bill in terms of style.  There were also more camera geeks who would do anything to push their way forward to get dozens of photos of the same girl.  It was annoying and difficult to manage.  For those who love fixing cars and seeing tuners, I highly recommend visiting the Tokyo Auto Salon.  In fact, you might enjoy it a lot more.  Unfortunately, since it is a tuner crowd, expect to see a plethora of Nissan GT-Rs, Toyota Prius’, and Mazda RX7s.  It is an unfortunate reality that domestic cars will get more attention as it is cheaper to buy a domestic car than an imported car and easier to get parts for it.  Either way, there are some great cars to see and if I had the time and patience, I would go for a second day as well.

2012 Tokyo Auto Salon is part of a series of posts about various car and bike shows in Tokyo.  To read more about the other car and bike shows, please follow the links below:


Tokyo Auto Salon:  http://www.tokyoautosalon.jp/

NATS (Blog with Tokyo Auto Salon information):  http://www.nats.ac.jp/pc/as/ebizo/index.php?day=20120114

2011 Tokyo Motor Show January 17, 2012

Posted by Dru in Japan, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Plesae venture on over there to read “2011 Tokyo Motor Show” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-LT

In December of 2011, I had the luxury to head to the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show.  It is a regular pilgrimage for me to go and see this event.  The Tokyo Motor Show has been held every second year since 2005.  Prior to 2005, it was held every year, however one year was dedicated to passenger vehicles and the next was dedicated to commercial vehicles.  Since 2005, they combined both shows into one large event.  The last Tokyo Motor Show was in 2009 and it was at the height of the financial crisis that started in 2008.  While a lot of the pain of the financial crisis had subsided a lot, most of the planning for the 2009 show had to occur in the beginning of the 2009 and a lot of manufacturers pulled out of the show citing financial problems and a declining relevance of the Tokyo show itself.  The 2011 show had a very different feeling and it is debatable whether things got better or worse.

The 2011 Tokyo Motor Show had moved from its recent traditional home of Makuhari Messe in Chiba to Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba.  It was a bit of a shock for me to hear that, but at the same time I was very happy to hear it.  I don’t normally enjoy heading out to Makuhari Messe as it feels very far away.  Odaiba is still within Tokyo and there is a lot to do in the area.  Makuhari is a somewhat isolated area that is famous for the convention hall, baseball stadium, and outlet mall but not much else.  In 2005, the largest show I attended, it occupied all of the main halls in Makuhari Messe.  This created over 70,000 square metres of exhibition space.  In 2009, they only occupied the main halls with over 54,000 square metres of space.  It was a very noticeable difference that year.  For 2011, they used all of Tokyo Big Sight for roughly 80,000 square metres of exhibition space.  I couldn’t completely verify the numbers for Tokyo Big Sight but I thought it was a lot smaller than that.  It is a large convention hall regardless and it still took me nearly a full day to see everything.

The theme of the 2011 Motor Show was “Mobility can change the world”.  On the Tokyo Motor Show website, they say the motto shows how technology developed in cars and other vehicles can help change the world for the better.  Whereas the typical internal combustion engine has been derided as a harmful invention for the environment, the organizers of the show wanted visitors to understand how the various manufacturers were trying to change people’s perceptions.  In 2009, the motto was “Fun Driving for Us, Eco Driving for Earth”.  This is a bit more fitting as they are explicitly talking about the new green technology that most of the manufacturers were trying to promote.  While the 2011 show did have a heavy “green” theme to it, it also had a very strong theme that things will change in the future.  All of the manufacturers in attendance brought the standard set of concept vehicles, new vehicles, and displays of technology.  Upon reflecting on the exhibits I visited, there did appear to be a bit more emphasis on technology at this show compared to past shows, but it could also be a bit of a bias on my part after researching this post and reflecting on what I saw.
The 2011 show was most notable for its return to Tokyo, as well as the return of a few foreign manufacturers.  In 2009, a lot of the manufacturers pulled out leaving the show nearly crippled.  This time, enough had returned to create a better balance, but on the whole most of the exhibits were Japan based manufacturers.  In fact, the Toyota group took up an entire hall on their own displaying the various products from Daihatsu, Lexus, and of course Toyota.  All of the manufacturers brought various new cars as well as concepts however the area seemed to be more spacious.  I was lucky enough to attend the show on a weekday, but it was still as busy as ever and very hard to get around.  It wasn’t very enjoyable trying to fight with people trying to take photos but that is the life of those who can’t go to the show on press days.

Comparing this show to the past shows I attended, I would say that things are similar, yet different.  I was happy that the show was back in Tokyo, rather than still being in Chiba.  I was also happy that I could go on a weekday and see the various new cars.  Unfortunately, there weren’t many world premier cars at the show.  The relevance of the Tokyo Motor Show is decreasing each year and I fear that the ability to see cars for the first time in person before most of the world will be rarer and rarer.  With China and India vying for greater importance in the automotive world, Japan will be nothing more than an afterthought as most manufacturers, Japanese included, vie for increasing markets in developing countries.  Let’s hope those in Japan can continue to get a top notch motor show for the foreseeable future.

2011 Tokyo Motor Show is part of a series of posts about various car and bike shows in Tokyo.  To read more about the other car and bike shows, please follow the links below:

Pets (Dogs) in Japan January 10, 2012

Posted by Dru in Japan.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Pets (Dogs) in Japan” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-GY

If any of you have checked out my other blog, “A Sox Life”, you will know that I had gotten a dog in December 2010.  I have been an avid dog lover since I was young and had a dog for most of my life.  I have spent years without a dog in Japan, but I always had one back home in Canada.  It is a difficult but happy event to get a dog in Japanand I never regret getting a dog.  Owning a dog, or a pet, in Japancan be a very complicated process.  The actual process of getting a pet and keeping them in your house/apartment is simple enough but it’s difficult to be done officially.

The first hurdle one must jump is the need for a place that allows pets.  For anyone looking for an active pet such as a cat or dog, you must find an apartment that allows pets.  Before moving to the east side of Tokyo, my apartment didn’t really allow pets.  The initial contract said pets were not allowed but after asking the company that leased the apartment to us, they said a small pet was okay.  My dog, a Shiba, is a medium sized dog in Japan, yet he is on the small side of that scale.  My old apartment was too small for a dog anyways so we found a place that did allow dogs, but my current apartment owner says that cats are not allowed.  Small dogs are fine, and he said a Shiba was fine too.  When getting a pet, you typically add an extra month or two worth of deposits.  This is due to the increased costs of fixing the apartment due to having a pet.  While it seems simple to find an apartment that allows pets, this is a very difficult thing to accomplish.  In a completely unscientific method based on my memory, 98% of all apartments don’t allow pets.  The ones that do typically allow only small pets, and if you have a big dog, you can almost forget about finding a place anywhere in Tokyo.  It is almost necessary to own your own house.  Even apartment owners are restricted by the building rules and they typically restrict the size of a pet.

The second hurdle is to find a pet.  There are several places to get one.  The typical pet shops are the easiest, albeit expensive, places.  Personally, I refuse to purchase a pet from a pet shop due to the way they keep their pets.  The small boxes with windows where customers constantly bang on the window and the poor state they keep their pets is saddening to me.  I believe the major shops in Japan do a good job during the day but at night, who knows what they do.  I have also seen some of the small shops that are terrible.  When getting my dog, I looked at a website/NPO called Chiba-wan.  They are a group of volunteers that adopt cats and dogs from shelters and bring them to twice monthly events.  One event is geared towards small and medium sized dogs, and the other is for all sizes.  It’s a very well run organization and a network of nice people.  There are many other organizations but they are the only ones I know.  Typically, it will cost about 40,000 yen to get a cat or dog from them.  This is mostly in gifts and reimbursements.  Sox was adopted by the volunteer and he had to be neutered.  He also got an electronic chip inserted under his skin and the volunteer had to pay for food and such for the time he was with her.  Typically a person who is adopting the cat or dog will give a “thank you” gift of money to compensate the volunteer for the surgeries and food as well as a few other supplies so they can use it for future rescued pets.  Unfortunately the organization cannot rescue every pet as some are not capable of being adopted.  Some are too old and some are not cute enough.  Some are also too aggressive.  It is unfortunate but it is the only way for them to operate as there aren’t enough volunteers for these unwanted pets.  Some of the volunteers will rescue up to 5 pets on top of whatever pets they already have at home.

Once you adopt a pet, you have to register them.  For me, I had to wait a month as a trial period.  In this time, I can change my mind, but within a week, I knew he was going to be my dog forever.  It took a long time to register him, but it’s a very simple process.  Taking a few documents to the city hall and finding the appropriate window was simple.  My city actually has a dog event where they vaccinate and register dogs all at once.  It was pretty convenient to do it.  After that time, he was mine and everything was fine.  Of course that is just the beginning as with any other pet in any country, you need constant “maintenance”.  Finding a vet, a pet store for food, and other things like that take time.  In Tokyo, there are very few shops that sell pet items.  I found many places had a pet corner but the variety of goods sold was for small pets such as a chihuahua.  It took a month or two before I headed to another station and found a large pet store.  They had everything I needed and pets were welcome inside the shop.  Unfortunately I can’t bring my dog there as it’s a little far.  Thankfully it is probably one of only a few places that have a wide variety of items.

When owning a pet, you eventually have to leave your home and go somewhere else, be it for a vacation or to move.  It can be difficult to find a way around if you don’t have a car.  If you have a car, there is almost no limit in where you can go.  Without a car you are limited to where you can walk.  With my dog, that is roughly 5 km.  It can get a bit difficult to go places and with him, it’s difficult to take him on a bicycle.  Of course I can hold him but my cycling skills are no where near good enough to hold him in one arm and cycle at the same time.  I could put him in the basket but then I have to worry about him jumping out.  I’m also worried about him taking off as I ride the bicycle or him darting out in front of the bicycle and me hitting him if he runs alongside me.  It’s a difficult challenge that is not easy for either of us.  For those with a cat, it might be easier as using a hard cage isn’t too bad.  The other option is to get a cage and carry him around.  Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Having a big cage is heavy and cumbersome.  Sox is a little small but at just under 10kg, he isn’t light over long distances.  I could always purchase a stroller for cats and dogs but they are very expensive.  In reality there isn’t an easy way to travel with a pet if you don’t have a car.  If you have a very small dog though, it can be much easier as you can just stuff them into a bag and you are done.

For those looking for a less traditional pet, things can be much easier.  Most apartment owners say no pets, but hiding a small pet is much easier than a cat or dog.  Cats can scratch a lot of things, and dogs can be noisy.  A small pet such as a gerbil or a small rabbit are much easier to maintain.  While you still have to clean up after them, as long as you have a cage and a few other things to keep them happy, you don’t have to worry too much about them destroying your apartment.  They don’t need to be walked everyday so the chances of the owner seeing your pet is also much lower.  Snakes, bugs, and fish are very similar as well.  As long as you can hide them in your apartment without the owner knowing, it isn’t difficult to keep one.  In Japan, I’d say fish are the third most popular pet with gerbils/hamsters/mice also being up there.  For many kids, they love to keep Hercules beetle or a giant horned beetle.  They often have a huge fascination with them and you can often buy them at shops around Tokyo.

As a dog lover, having a dog is a life changing event.  It is almost always for the better.  Having a pet in Japan made me wonder how different things would be compared to Canada.  Aside from the need to find an owner who will allow us to have a dog, there really isn’t much trouble finding a place.  The only other problem is manners.  Carrying a dog to and from our apartment isn’t always easy and how to react when you meet other dog owners isn’t always set in stone.  It’s pretty similar and a dog lover in Japan is almost the same as a dog lover in any other part of the world.

Pet Information:

Chiba-wan:  http://route326.kir.jp/satooya_top.htm (Japanese Only)
Chiba-wan (Cats page):  http://boshuu.chibawan.net/cat/tokyo/index.html (Japanese Only)
Chiba-wan (Dogs page [males]): http://boshuu.chibawan.net/dog/male/index.html (Japanese Only)


Tokyo — Otemachi January 3, 2012

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo – Otemachi” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Is

Otemachi is a small business district north of Tokyo Station.  By all means, it is not a place most tourists would ever consider visiting.  It is an area that is virtually shut down on Sundays.  It is devoid of any open shops and restaurants which makes looking for food a near impossible task.  While there is almost nothing to do on the weekends, it is an interesting place architecturally and they do have various events scheduled in the area.

The first thing to understand when visiting the Otemachi area is to learn how to get around.  For most people, entering via Tokyo Station will be the easiest.  Entering via Otemachi Station will also be easy, but the labyrinth of underground passages makes this a very daunting task.  The street is much easier to get around, but due to the changeable weather at times, this is not always feasible.  Being close to the Imperial Palace, it is often rumoured that most of the tunnels around Otemachi were originally built in the build-up to World War II and that there are several secret tunnels still remaining.  Unfortunately, a walk through the tunnels of Otemachi is nothing interesting.  It is a typical labyrinth of access tunnels that will get you lost.  Otemachi Station itself is situated in a square shape around one block making transfers from one line to another very inconvenient.

Otemachi is one of the oldest areas of Tokyo and it is currently undergoing revitalization.  In many areas of Otemachi, you will see various construction sites and buildings in various degrees of completion.  Some of the older buildings will be around for many more years, but like the neighboring Marunouchi district, the old buildings have been destroyed or in the process of being destroyed.  If anything, you can get a great sense of Tokyo’s construction industry and how it functions when building high rises.  When visiting some of the newer buildings, you can find a lot of surprises.  The older high rises are generally closed to the public, but newer buildings are open with shopping floors in the basement.  As Otemachi continues to be revitalized, it is looking less and less distinct from neighboring Marunouchi and will soon be indistinguishable.

Otemachi, for tourists, is well known for being located at the entrance to the Imperial Palace East Gardens.  A short walk across the street from Otemachi is the main entrance to the East Gardens.  Located adjacent to the entrance is the Wadakura Fountain Park.  It is a beautiful park with many fountains.  It is just as beautiful, if not more, at night when the fountains are lit up.  While these are the large parks in Otemachi, Otemachi also has many tiny parks and areas to relax.  Similar to Marunouchi, this area has many secrets waiting to be discovered if you look for them.

As I mentioned in the beginning, Otemachi is an area that can easily be skipped by a typical tourist.  Neighboring Marunouchi has more things to do while Otemachi is a true business district.  There are many offices in the area and very little else.  Most people will just pass through on their way to the East Gardens and that’s pretty much it.  For those living in the area, or rather working in the area, it can be a treasure trove of secrets.  You can find passages underground that you never knew existed.  You can find small parks that are populated only by people working the surrounding buildings.  You can also find the typical “slaryman” of Japan.  Unfortunately, you won’t see them in their natural after work environment, the bar.  For that, you’ll have to walk across Tokyo Station to the Yaesu district.


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