Day 2 in Tokyo: Still Afraid of Heights

Today was amazing. Tsutomo Kodama, Director at Japan Hopper, joined us today and was another great tour guide for our group. Kodoma worked at IBM for a while, and is now working in the venture capital field to work with more startups. He’s quite interested in location-based mobile applications, especially those that deal with solving the parking spot problem. That interest gave the two of us plenty to talk about, considering I recently covered a new site called on Mashable.

Today, we did all sorts of touristy and not-so-touristy things in Tokyo.

The day started out with a trip to Asakusa, where we visited the Sensoji Temple, which was built over 1000 years ago, and is the landmark of the area. In the front area of the temple, you can pay $1.00 to get your fortune. You shake a can until a stick comes out of this tiny, tiny hole, then see what the number is on this stick. Open the drawer that corresponds with the number on your stick, and read your fortune. Surprisingly, I got a bad fortune! Something about dark clouds and losing things (my mind, perhaps). Now, if you get a bad fortune, you’re able to tie it to a wire in the temple, and leave it there so it won’t follow you home. Well, I tried to tie that bad boy onto the wire, and it ripped apart instead. Maybe I will have bad luck for the next year!

Next we went to a nearby craftsman museum, where we saw some lovely artwork, and a jumping spider with ginormous mandibles (the spider was real, folks. I almost screamed). After walking around a bit more, through the theater district and to a shop that sells traditional hand-painted towels, we ate lunch. Today, lunch consisted of Okonomiyaki, which is kind of like Japanese pizza. You cook it yourself on a grill in the middle of your table. We were gracious enough to let Kodama do most the work–he’s a great chef indeed. 😉

We also went to a traditional Tea ceremony, in a specially-designed tea room. It was quite lovely and serene, and it also gave me great insight to the subtle form of communication that’s portrayed in this type of traditional Japanese culture. Everything from the size of the doors and wall thickness to the placement and type of the flower in the room is carefully considered, and meant as a way to communicate with the guests.

Afterwards, we went shopping. We even went to the Apple store. I don’t think they had anything different than what you’ll find at any other Apple store around the world, although Bob mentioned that he saw a Japanese version of SIMS 2 for the Mac after we left…so I’d be quite disappointed if I found out that the Japanese SIMS has different wardrobe and furniture options. The main shopping districts we visited include Ginza and Shibuya, which are quite similar to Times Square in New York City. We even stood on the most expensive piece of property in Japan: 1 square meter in the shopping district is worth about $100k. Whew!

Then we went to Roppongi. OMG. My fear of heights has been confirmed. The Roppongi building is the tallest in Tokyo, and houses a museum, an academy, restaurants and cafes, shops, residential units, and an outdoor skydeck on the very top of the building (as in the roof). Good heavens! It was an amazing view, of which my camera did no justice. And even though we were on the roof of a 54-story building, the breeze was nice and I eventually got to relax a bit.

In the Roppongi building, there’s also a club, where member and prominent Japanese venture capitalist Tohru Akaura met us for dinner. Akaura’s firm is an incubator for startups, and he is quite interested in mobile applications. He showed us some of the mobile widgets that operate on‘s platform as an example of one of the companies he works with closely. A private dining room commanded the same gorgous view of the city while we enjoyed our meal. Lunarr and the rest of our hosts gave us some beautiful gifts, all of which represent Japanese culture. I can’t wait for tomorrow!


Deep Dive Tokyo, Jumping Right In!

This is turning into quite the travel blog, eh? If you follow me on Twitter, then you already know I’m currently in Tokyo. Lunarr, a company I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing a couple of times on Mashable, has set up a wonderful “Deep Dive” trip to Tokyo, Japan. Right now I’m here with Hideshi Hamaguchi of Lunarr, Marshall Kirkpatrick of Read/Write Web, Bob Walsh of WebWorkerDaily and Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher.

Over the next four days, I’ll get a chance to meet with startups based here in Japan, visit the Panasonic office, and go on a tour of the subcultural parts of the city that regular tourists don’t often see. I’ve been in Tokyo for several hours now, and though I’m just getting settled into my hotel room, I’ve already had the opportunity to meet, tour and dine with Hisashi Katsuya, Venture Development Executive, Japan Representative, at IBM’s Venture Capital Group. Katsuya also has his own blog at Venture BEAT, which is distributed on CNet. Dinner was at a quaint, traditional restaurant where I can honestly say that forgetting my socks wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it would be, and that it’s nice being short enough to sit comfortably on the floor (cross-legged) for an entire meal.

The long strolls through Kagurazaka (Town of stone-flagged alleys) both before and after dinner were perfectly delightful. I’m amazed at the engineering that went into designing these alleys in order to provide a smart way to build out the city. I doubt I’ll be able to stream live video from here, but I have a bag full of devices that I’ll be lugging around, so you’ll be sure to see some photos and videos, featuring interviews, presentations, and touristy stuff to boot.

Surprise! Chicago Welcomes Me Back with Open Arms.

After spending several weeks in San Francisco, I was pleasantly surprised when my friends back in Chicago planned a party for me.  I think the biggest surprise of all was the fact that I didn’t learn of the surprise party despite its public status as a Facebook event.  Nevertheless, I greatly appreciate the Chicago tech community giving me such a warm welcome home party.  It was great to see everyone, all at once!  I regret to say that I won’t be able to make it to the upcoming Tech Cocktail conference, but I’ll be there in spirit!

Or shall I say spirits?  The overwhelming response I got from others in the tech community after posting my story about the Krisiti being born at DEMO has led to a Techtini Pocket Guide that will debut as schwag for the speakers at the Tech Cocktail conference.

Thanks to the undying support from SharedBook, this collaborative cocktail recipe guide has become quite real, and in a few days, anyone will be able to submit their own cocktail recipe to be accessible by anyone that would like to create their own custom recipe book.

I’m also extremely excited to say that the proceeds of the cocktail recipe books will be going towards non-profit organizations, so here’s saying “cheers” to a good cause.  Look out for more details about the pocket guide in the next few days, and see below for a few photos of my surprise party from last week!  Thanks, Chicago!!!!!

1 Month Anniversary: Kristen Nicole in San Francisco

I’ve been in San Francisco for about a month now, and I hate to say that my schedule has been so crazy, that I haven’t been able to update my personal blog as often as I’d hoped. At any rate, I’m glad to say that my past few weeks in San Francisco have been great.

Other than meeting with more people than I’ve ever been able to, taking in the San Francisco culture has been an equally rewarding experience. Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, a lot of folks have been able to recommend restaurants, clubs, bars and museums that they’d think I’d find interesting while staying in town. I went to Prana last night for the Fast Company HOT party, and I enjoyed the decor and the location. The bar tenders at Prana and Ambassador are great, too. 😉

Over the weekend, with my mother visiting, I got to do some of the touristy stuff around town. We checked out the farmer’s market, pier 39, the fisherman’s wharf and even Dottie’s cafe for a great breakfast of sweet potato french toast and a spinach omelet. Yum!

Other than eating and walking around the city, I’ve also had the opportunity to attend a handful of conferences. The Video Summit was the first conference I attended after moving out here, while ad:tech and Web 2.0 Expo all but took over my life for the following two weeks. I even got to take a ride in the Schwaggin’ Wagon. Check out the Mashable FLickr stream here.

Center image credit: Brian Solis