Speaking of Water, water everywhere..., the next stop on this round-the-world trip lands us in Tokyo, where DevCon 2007 Japan is taking place. We narrowly missed Typhoon Fitow (the name means "beautiful fragrant flower" in a Micronesian language), which passed to the north of Tokyo two days before we arrived. The rain has pretty much continued since arriving... sometimes in very heavy downpours, which is a bit unusual for this time of year, but it does not seem to deter any spirit. Eventually, the rain did stop long enough for the sun to peak through the clouds.
Unlike Beijing and Shanghai, which have changed noticeably over the years that I have visited, Tokyo pretty much has stayed the same. It is a BIG city... but I always enjoy visiting. The mass transit system is one of the cleanest, on time, and efficient ones I have used. Shinjuku Station is supposedly the busiest of its kind in the world... having been through there on a number of occasions (including this trip) leaves little doubt about that. I have also noticed that Tokyo is very clean for its size. Shop keepers maintain the outside of their stores... including cleaning sidewalks, ashtrays, and trashcans. The city and surrounding suburbs are all lit up at night... just about everywhere you go, there are lights of every color blinking, sweeping, and flashing. It is really an amazing site to see.
Our DevCon 2007 Japan event is in Ikebukuro, which is a northwest suburb of Tokyo.
DevCon Japan is usually the smallest of all the developer conferences that we host, and it is definitely the quietest, but that is really reflective of the culture, along with its respect, honor, tradition, organization, politeness, cleanliness, and incredible work ethic. During the presentations, I observed a good deal of writing, which translated to me that the our message was getting through. Speaking of message, we use real-time translators for our sessions, which can be unnerving to those who have never experienced it -- especially when presentations are highly technical (like ours often are). You have to go more slowly than you normally would and can only present about 30 seconds worth of material, then let the translators get through that, then you go, then the translators, etc. This results in longer presentations and the stop-and-go nature does have a tendency of negating any momentum that you may want to build. But, once you get used to it, it is really not that bad, especially when you have good translators (like we have had the good fortune of getting in recent years).
One of the most important aspects of these sorts of events is the face-to-face time that you get. All of the events that we do result in ad-hoc meetings with third-party developers (either those currently in the program or those considering to be). The opportunity of being able to sit down at the same table is incredibly valuable to everyone involved... we get to communicate things that might otherwise be lost in translation (figuratively and literally) and we also learn a great deal. This time was no different... we have some very successful meetings that are certain to help all in the long run.
Like last year, I was able to get away for a few hours. I am quite privileged to have very good friends here who take on the challenge of communication with as much patience and fun as I do. Sometimes, we look at each other with dismay and perplexion, but patience usually prevails and we end up laughing about how we come to conclusion. This time, we traveled to a suburb called Asakusa, which is noted for its shrine, pagoda, and plastic food souvenir (no kidding).
We had a great time just walking around and taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells. On the way, we pass the Sapporo Building... I think my eyes glazed over until I realized that it was a building.
During my stay, I had one of my favorite things for breakfast -- a steamed cake (more commonly referred to as mushi pan). I did a couple of rounds of dinner roulette this visit, first with my colleagues... neither of which are all that keen with fish (my quote "Ummm... we are in Japan, which is an island and there is a lot of fish served"). We actually were looking for a yakitori place recommended by one of our colleagues, and I messed up the name and ended up going to the place next door. However, it fit all of the criteria... at least initially. One of the wait-staff, who spoke some English, noticed that we were having difficulty figuring things out (well... at least we were able to deduce which menu was for drinks and which one was for food!) and came over to offer assistance. We politely deferred assistance, but we did give him our order. The result was way beyond my colleagues expectations... I ended up with a grilled flank steak and the others got a shrimp dish (cooked) and something that we think was pork (well... that is our story and we are sticking to it). Although we shared some of the entrees, I ended up with the shrimp (certainly did not mind that). One of my colleagues tried to figure out what I ordered so he could get one for himself.
The second dinner roulette was with my friend. We went to a noodle house (hand-made soba and udon) that was away from the main routes. This particular dinner ended up in a twist, as I was at the mercy of my host and did not order anything. But, as mentioned previously, trust is a big thing in Japan. I will not go into detail regarding what new thing I ate, for fear of distancing myself with family, colleagues, and friends back home, but I can say that I was pleasantly surprised with what I had.
In all, it is another very successful developer conference... and wonderful experience in Japan. Next up, Budapest.