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 parkingspots.com 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 Jig.jp‘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!