In early February I received an email from a woman named Helen which read:
Obviously I though the e-mail was spam. Fueled by curiosity and a natural instinct to bait scammers I replied:
“Sounds intriguing. What topic would you like to write about?”
Its a bit weird when someone you’ve never met e-mails you out of the blue asking if they can write a guest post for your blog, but Helen seemed nice, and I decided to play along. I checked out her site to see if was legit, and it turned out coupons.org had some nice infographics like THIS ONE on bananas.
I wrote Helen back a few ideas for topics:
Top 5 Japanese Birds
Top 5 places in Japan to Dance
Top 5 Japanese fetishes
Top 5 Japanese Vending machines
Top 5 gadgets for 2012
We decided to go with Top 5 gadgets for 2012 for Living in Japan.
So, in all its glory, coupons.org’s guest post:
Top 5 gadgets for 2012 for Living in Japan
Guest Post: This article was written by Ella Davidson of Coupons.org. Coupons.org coupons and deal help consumers save money. Their research on the resurgence of the coupon has appeared on CNBC.
Japan has always been well known for their gadgets and inventiveness. In some instances these qualities can get a little weird and quirky such as fan ties, breast warmers, and kitty costume ears with headphones build into them. In other cases though, this inventiveness provides a new perspective on old gadgets or can even create a brand new product that makes the rest of the world jealous. This list shows off 5 gadgets that are native to Japan, some of which are the talk of the town and some are just for fun.
First on the list is the Sony PlayStation Vita. The next step in Playstation’s hand held arsenal, this item was originally only introduced in Japan. Offering up statistic such as a 5” OLED screen, two cameras, dual analog sticks, a GPS and 3G Wifi, this device rivaled even the best American equivalents including the Apple iPad and iPhone. The console provides top of the line touch screen and motion sensor controls that can be linked with the PS3 to make the ultimate gaming experience. This console has already made its debut in Japan where it has created a foothold and become an essential for any serious gamer.
Second on the list stays in the realm of video games. It is called the ICade 8 Bitty. For the gamers who are old enough to remember the first consoles like Atari or Nintendo, there is something familiar about the retro controller of old 8-bit gaming consoles. ICade offers just that feeling but for the use on an iPhone, iPad, or android. Imagine using the old wireless and blocky Nintendo controller to play classic games like Pac Man on your brand new iPhone. This makes it feel a bit like the good old days.
The third item on this list combines fun with practicality to provide a Japanese invention with the ability to either be a novelty or limitless aid. The device is called Mir:ror and takes the simple design of a mirror and combines it with a computer. The mirror is programmed to recognize the items that you put in front of it and perform assigned tasks.
You attach RFID Ztamps to an item and the mirror will perform any task you assign to it when you wave the item and the stamp in front of the screen. For example, show your mirror your umbrella and it will bring up the weather or wave your keys in front of it and the mirror will email your boss a sick note and book you a tee spot at your favorite golf course. The opportunities are limitless and it is simply designed so that even a 2-year-old child can use it. This Japanese item brings a little fairy tale to everyday life.
The fourth item on this list is the top of the line version of an essential Japanese item: the Sony A77. Only released in Japan, this Sony camera offers some of the best photography on the market with just enough character to attract people’s attention. If you are inertested in photography check out this item. It does run with a high price tag but the reviews say that it is well worth the price. Similar to the PlayStation Vita, this camera originated only in Japan and has made a foothold for itself as a staple before slowly transitioning to the rest of the world.
The last item on this list is the least useful of the bunch but it still plays towards Japanese inventiveness and creativity. It is the Toshiba ApriPoko Robot, a fun and cute robot that has learning capabilities. The toy learns commands through the use of a remote control and then internalizes the commands that can be voice activated from then on out. The toy even has a camera that lets it differentiate between different users and their commands. More known for their televisions, Toshiba has branched out to use their technology for a little fun flare that keeps Japan as one of the leading electronic names.
Here’s a list of the social media sites I am currently a member of:
Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pintrest, Sumally, Flickr, LinkedIn, Path, Wordpress, Google +, Foursquare, Fancy, Yelp!, Blogspot, Youtube, and Vimeo.
I’m sure there’s a site I’m forgetting now. Instagram isn’t on the list because I made a conscious decision NOT to join (since I think the concept is boring/dumb). 16 different sites for me to choose from to share my shit with the world. 16 different ways for me to let people know where I’m eating, how far I just ran, how my cat likes to eat candy corn, who I’m with, and my taste in music. I’m realizing that having this many choices when it comes to social media is actually a bad thing for all parties involved. I’ll call it “the splinterization of social media”.
I want to make sure that I’m not coming off as an old dude hating on “over sharers”. It should be obvious I’m not a hater since I’m sharing my opinion on my blog (which then links to Twitter and Facebook). I’m not against social media. I like sharing the stupid moments of my life with my friends, and I respect the insane impact sites like Twitter have had on the world. There’s just too many choices.
For example….There’s eBay, and there’s Craigslist. I use eBay to buy and sell things that I can’t find locally, and I use Craigslist for the opposite. I have a pretty easy decision to make when I choose where to sell my stuff. If I want to buy a used drum set, I go to Craigslist not eBay. Easy.
What if you take the same scenario into social media? For example, lets say I’m out to dinner with a friend and want to let everyone know “I’m eating dinner with Mark at Biwa, and the hamburger is legit.” I could:
The list goes on and on…I’m finding that as the number of options I have to share my life online, the less inclined I am to share. When I first got on Facebook I shared a lot. Then I got a Twitter account that divided up the same amount of sharing between the two sites. Then I got this blog and shared more here, but less on Facebook. Now with Google +, Path, and Pintrest, I’m paralyzed with choices of how to share my life online. I’m sure I’m not alone.
I know what you’re saying….”All of my accounts are linked together, so when I post a photo to Instagram, it automatically forwards to Facebook, Twitter, and Google +”. Stupid. Does that make it right? All it says is that no one wants to be caught off-guard sharing the lame way (Friendster), and that we’re incapable of picking a single lane (Facebook). I’m guilty as anyone…I’m on Path strictly because the interface is slick even though its basically a mini-Facebook. I’m still on Google + even though my single post (“So far, google + is stups” – dated July 16th) sums up how I feel about their site to this day. I’m not exactly sure why I don’t just cut the cord (or push the Cloud away?).
If I was some super-nerd tech genius with the deep pockets and the ability to code I wouldn’t be interested in creating another version of Twitter or the next Youtube strictly out of not wanting to enter a over-saturated market with a ton of competition.
While we’re on the topic of eBay, here’s what I think: There’s only room for one eBay.
Imagine if there was an aBay, bBay, cBay, dBay, and eBay. You’d have five choices where to sell with possibly 1/5th of the traffic. Not good for the seller, not good for the buyer. Having one major online auction is good for everyone. Having one eBay means that it’s easier for me to sell my stuff, its easier for you to buy my stuff, and when I want to sell you my stuff in the future I’ll go back to eBay. Going back to eBay ensures they’ll stay in business long enough for me to sell you my stuff in the future. Phew.
Maybe monopolies are a good thing after all.
The best part of this post is the links below this sentence.
Tokyo Flashback #3: Sapporo Ushitie
I’ve been back in Portland for over three months, and I’m just getting around to finally putting together my last Tokyo blog post. I was going to write about this crazy night where I had a 3am parking lot meeting with a Yakuza member who wore Crocs and was watching Beyonce’s Girls Run the World video on a flat screen TV in his car, but I guess I’ll have to tell you about that one in person.
This is a story about the best meal I’ve ever had in my life. Not the best meal I had during my time in Tokyo. The best meal I’ve ever had. In any city. At any price. Ever.
About three weeks into my trip to Tokyo I spent the day in Ikebukuro checking out some craft gallery that turned out to be lame. I googled “lunch in Ikebukuro”, and read about some “Hamburg” place nearby that sounded pretty interesting. After 45 minutes walking around in circles led by iPhone’s GPS I finally found the basement entrance to Sapporo Ushitie.
The interior of Sapporo Ushitie wasn’t all that memorable minus the giant flat screen TV playing sports, which is usually either a really good, or really bad sign. Turned out that the TV was a sign from heaven. As for most of the amazing places I ate in Tokyo, I was the only white dude in the place.
Hamburg (as I later learned) is basically a hamburger without the bun. I know what you’re thinking…a hamburger without a bun should be illegal, but some who they made it work.
The menu at Sapporo Ushitie is simple and perfect; Pick the size of burger, how you want it cooked, toppings, and size of rice. That’s it.
I usually eat super fast…like professional food eating competition fast, but I took my sweet this meal. I would take a bite, then take a photo. Take a bite, then shoot a video of what was left on my plate. I noticed both the patrons and staff of the restaurant staring at me, but I didn’t really care. It was that good.
When I finished my meal I bowed to the staff a million times and tried as best as I could to tell them how good my meal was. I think I said something like “That food was number one most delicious meal ever”. They smiled. I took more photos.
About a week before I came back to Portland I brought a group (including my Japanese friend) to go to Sapporo Ushitie, claiming it was the best meal I had ever had, and they should judge for themselves. They agreed with me.
When we entered Sapporo Ushitie the chef immediately recognized me, and asked in Japanese “You’re the guy who was taking photos a few weeks ago, right?”
The guys at Sapporo Ushitie were amazing, and invited me back to film the process of cooking a hamburg from start to finish. I tried my best to capture all the nuances, but to be honest I don’t think I did. Trying to interview someone in a language you don’t speak is even more difficult than it sounds.
One of the coolest things I learned was that only four people know the recipe for their secret sauce, which is shipped in daily form Sapporo. Even Miyazawa-san, the hamburg chef doesn’t know the recipe.
So…If you’re reading this blog and you ever go to Tokyo (and you’re not a vegetarian..can’t help you there), you have to go to Sapporo Ushitie. If your meal is anything less than perfect, i’ll give you your money back for what you spent on lunch. Its that good. Map it HERE.