Two Weeks in Japan, Part 6: Tokyo vol. II

This article is part of the “Two Weeks in Japan” series and follows Two Weeks in Japan, Part 6: Tokyo vol. I

For our second day in Tokyo, August the 19th 2012, we first visited the Sony Building in the fancy district of Ginza. The building has several floors, each one with a bunch of Sony gadgets. It is not very interesting unless you’re into technology and you like Sony.

Tokyo Imperial Palace

After that, we tried to visit the Kabuki-za theater nearby but it was, unfortunately, under construction so we had lunch in a rāmen place nearby.
After lunch, we visited the Imperial Palace in the heart of Tokyo. Of course we could not enter the actual palace but just seeing the surroundings is nice, especially because I remembered the place from some documentaries I had watched.
In there, another very Japanese anecdote happened: we had stoped for a minute (it was hot as hell), and when we were already leaving, we realized we had lost our map (just a regular paper map but it had our itinerary) so we went back to the little security guard cabin to ask if they saw it and they had it! They saw it flying around, picked it up and kept it in case the owner came back :)

Kyoto's Imperial Palace

Yours truly in front of the Tokyo Imperial Palace

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower

The next step in our trip schedule was to visit the Tokyo Tower, and go there by foot. It seemed to be so close to the Imperial Palace in the map but with the heat and our tired feet, although it took us just about 1 hour to get there, it felt like much more.
We might have waited around 15 minutes in the line before going up. With 333 meters (2 meters more than the Eiffel Tower), the view over Tokyo was awesome and it even had a window in the floor so you can stand on it and imagine what’d happen to you if you fell :)

View from the Tokyo Tower

Yoyogi Park

After the Tokyo Tower, we headed to the Yoyogi Park. This park is world famous for the rockabilly style dancers performing in there but this wasn’t the only interesting thing that it had. It is very big and a lot of people were doing different activities in there, from a drums group, to lousy music bands and group gimnastics or dancing. When we were watching the rockabillies’ performing and taking their photo, there was a drunk japanese old man taking photos of western tourists, including Helena’s. Later, walking through the park, we saw how he would try to participate in every activity he passed by. He was kind of screwing the group dancing session so what did the group leaders do? Instead of telling him to go away, they kept moving the group of around 20 people away from the guy, several times. Oh, and the guy was drunk and drinking beer can after beer can but he had a bag of trash with him and kept all the cans, never littering. Gotta love Japanese education.

Rockabillies in Yoyogi Park

Roppongi Hills

The night was finished in the rich area of Roppongi Hills. It was like a fancy mall, with expensive stores, live music and restaurants here and there. We went the cheap way instead, got our food from 7-Eleven and had dinner in a nice square with chairs and tables that didn’t belong to any restaurant.

Roppongi Hills

After dinner we went to the hotel, a different one than the previous couple of days. It was called Chiyoda Inn, located in Arakawa and it was a bit more expensive (about 85 €/night) but much better. The next day would be a very special one to me and any anime fan: we would visit Akihabara!

Akihabara

I have mentioned in previous articles that going to Japan was a childhood dream for me and an important part of that dream was to visit Akihabara. If you don’t know about it, Akihabara is the electronic district of Tokyo, a paradise for any video games/electronics/anime fan! As a proof of her love and patience, Helena agreed to spend the whole day in there. So basically we arrived at around 10AM and confirmed the view that I expected to find in there: massive buildings, covered in ads for video games and anime outside; inside there were usually several floors, each floor with a different theme/purpose. For example, comics stores had usually one gender or demographics per floor; including hentai for all the tastes (I will leave the details to your imagination).

I felt like a kid in Akihabara. I lost count of how many books, games, electronics and anime stores I visited that day. I especially loved to see the action figures for anime TV series I loved when I was a kid. Unfortunately those were very expensive so I didn’t buy any (around 80 € for a small one).

Picture of buildings in Akihabara

Buildings in Akihabara

Some of the buildings’ floors were actually amusement arcades with a great variety of games, from classics like Dance Dance Revolution (in which the local players completely blew our minds with their speed and accuracy) but also more modern ones like guitar hero or some XBox dancing game using the Kinect. Helena played her favorite video game — Tekken — hitting the buttons so hard that the other players around us thought Godzilla was coming to town again. I just played some Guitar Hero clone.

In the evening we also went to a Maid Café — a café where the waitresses are dressed in traditional French maid costumes and treat customers as their “masters”. We were heading to some less expensive one that was mentioned on our guide book and found a “maid” in the street getting people to go to her café. I thought that she would take us to the one I was looking for but she took us to a different one on the other side of the block instead. So once inside the café, there was a minimum consumption policy of around 15 € — if I remember correctly — and, obviously, prices were high. We were hungry so we asked for a menu that included a drink and a piece of cake only to find that the juice we ordered was in a very small glass and the cake was okayish in size but the price was rather “justified” by the anime drawings made in topping on the dishes as you can see in the picture. The maid was “pleasing us” just when she delivered the cake and made us mimic some “kawaii” gesture and words to magically make the cake more tasty.

Picture of a cake with Shin-chan drawn in topping.

Only Shin-chan could save us from this ripoff!

The feeling was very strange. I love a lot of things in the Otaku culture that might seem strange to people but maid cafés is not one of them.

In the end of the day, we bought some souvenirs for our family (I bought a Japanese whiskey bottle for my father which was not expensive at all but was really good!) and went back to the hotel but our geek journey wasn’t finished for the next day we would visit Odaiba but that’s a story for another day.

to be continue…

OCRFeeder 0.8 is out

After a long time without a new release, OCRFeeder 0.8 is out! The previous version was released in February 2013 from another continent :) After that a lot of things happened in my life (very good ones) and I didn’t really have much time to devote to the project.

What’s up?

This version represents one big change: it was ported to GObject Introspection (and thus GTK+ 3)!
This is also related to the delay (because GooCanvas’s GI, a dependency, was not usable in the beginning). Also, after the port started, a few things were deprecated in GTK+ — like Stock items — but this will only be updated on a future release.

I didn’t want many new features in this version as I wanted it to be basically about the port to GI. This way, “eventual” bugs are likely to be about this change and not about unstable new features. I included a small novelty however: support for multi-page TIFF images.
There are, of course, some other small improvements that were developed, as well as a number of bugs that were fixed.

Future

Work, life and other projects make it more and more difficult to find the time to work on OCRFeeder. I would nonetheless be happy to help anyone interested in contributing to it to give the first steps. I believe that OCRFeeder is a useful project and not only for accessibility purposes (although this is a great reason on its own!) so, if you like Python, GTK+, and want to help make this project better, drop me an email.

I need to thank one more time to the awesome GNOME i18n team for keeping OCRFeeder available in many languages and to my dear friend Berto for keeping the Debian package up to date and for the useful bug reports!

Source tarball
Git
Bugzilla

Not going to GUADEC

For the first time since I first started attending GUADEC in 2009, this year I am not going.
Strasbourg is very close to where I live (about four hours driving) but some factors just make it very difficult to attend the conference this year. We have a guest over and I didn’t want to go by myself because, even though Olivia is a very relaxed baby, I still notice how I am more tired than usual and it would be risky to drive all alone (besides, it’d leave all the responsibility of taking care of the baby to Helena). Taking everybody there could be an option but I could only go for the weekend anyway and, since we’re going for vacation a week after the event, logistics and timing are just not convenient.

I will surely miss having a beer with old friends.

Have a great GUADEC!

olivia_and_daddy

Two Weeks in Japan, Part 6: Tokyo vol. I

This article is part of the “Two Weeks in Japan” series and follows Two Weeks in Japan, Part 5: Takayama.

On August 17, 2012, at around 5pm we finally arrived in Tokyo for the second half of our trip. We stayed in a western style hotel in the Ikebukuro district which was the cheapest of the entire trip but it was in the basement, with a very tiny bathroom (I had to lean in order to shower without bumping my head).

Best rāmen in Tokyo!


We found the best rāmen place while exploring Ikebukuro in our first night. For the first time we used the machine at the door for ordering. You put the money in, choose the dish and it returns a ticket that you have to give to the waiter. This way waiters don’t have to handle money. Pretty smart!
In this place, I ordered a different kind of rāmen. The noodles didn’t have any soup but there were rather two extra bowls with a different sauce each. Since I didn’t know how to eat that in the beginning, I asked a man that was sitting nearby how to do it and he explained and invited us to join his table. He was maybe under 50 and could speak a bit of English; as most of the Japanese people we met, he was very curious to know about us, where we came from, etc. and then he said something like “Tokyo is very expensive! It is a shame my cousins are staying with me and my wife and I have no extra room for you but I give you my number and the next time you come to Tokyo you can stay at my place! By the way, I can drive you around after dinner if you want, my car is nearby…”. This could be seen as creepy from a Western point of view but I truly believe he was sincerely being nice. We were tired anyway so we kindly declined and went to the hotel as a new intensive week was about to start.

Shinjuku

Tokyo is a HUGE city. It’s more like a set of cities so we decided to explore one or two districts each day if we could. Thus, the next day was a very big one! We decided to go to the Shinjuku district and visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building with the purpose of seeing the landscape from the top. The view was impressive: buildings and more buildings spread until the horizon, giving us a good idea of the dimensions of the city.

They rebuilt fast after Godzilla!

After coming back down from the Metropolitan building we had to wait for a while because of the thunderstorm and the heavy rain that had formed meanwhile. Luckily we found that there were what seemed to be underground streets so we proceeded to our next destination: the Square Enix Store!

While we were looking for it, another very Japanese thing happened. I couldn’t find the store so I asked a young man who was entering a restaurant (it was lunch time) if he knew where it was. He explained where it was but then postponed his lunch a bit and walked with us for a while until we were at the store! Go to a city like London and ask someone where something is and you’ll see the difference.

Harajuku and Shibuya

After visiting the Square Enix Store we headed to Harajuku, the young and hip district known for its Gothic Lolitas. We took some photos of street artists and funky things we found in the streets and walked further south to Shibuya.

Harajuku’s street art!

Whenever you see videos of Tokyo, there is a good chance you will see Shibuya Crossing, supposedly the world’s busiest crossing. Our first impression was that we expected it to be somehow bigger. It is indeed packed. It’s amazing the number of people crossing when the pedestrian traffic light is green and then give way for the cars. It was also amazing to see the scene in that same cross in Resident Evil: Afterlife after we had been there. Luckily we didn’t experience a zombie outburst.

Next to the crossing there’s the statue of the famous dog Hachikō. Being the good tourists we are, we took the typical picture next to it :)

Next to Hachikō!

Kabuki-Chō

After that we passed a bit by Kabuki-Chō, the red light and yakuza district where we saw many love hotels and other funky things but the craziest thing I managed to do was to be able to change a pair of sneakers that Helena bought in one store in Shibuya by a different color in another branch of the store in Kabuki-Chō. Pretty bad-ass!

And that is all for the first day in Tokyo! I will try not to take too long to post the rest of the trip…

to be continue…

Hello World, from Olivia!

A week ago, the 5th of March, my day started very early and Helena‘s even earlier; our daughter was coming!

The (almost) 12 hour labor was not easy at all but everything turned out well. Olivia was born with 3380 Kg, 48 cm, exhibiting a lot of black hair and her mother’s asian-ish eyes.

Olivia spent her first two hours of life resting on my chest while waiting for Helena. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of looking your newborn in the eyes for the first time — it’s simple and beautiful in a way I didn’t know before.

Now I am enjoying some time off with my girls at home!

My baby girl and I
Olivia loves her life