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.

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