Big Chuck’s Japan-o-rama 2014: Tokyo, Akihabara, Robots, and Vans

Update! I’ve been notified that seg-thingie was featured as a new product at CES 2015 [1] [2] [3]. Hurray! But you saw it here first on Big Chuck’s Robot Warehouse!

Continuing my tour of East Asia beginning with Shenzhen and stopping over in Beijing, Tokyo is the last stop on the way home. Originally, as I said, this trip was only going to be a Beijing stay, but I decided to take the opportunity of being in the neighborhood (for very, very broad definitions of neighborhood) to finally see the two places which I will allegedly never return from.

this is it

The place everyone and their thrice-removed Facebook friend has told me I have to go. The place I’ve been told is full of My People™ and that I will never want to leave. The origin country of Miku, vans, and mikuvans (and by extensions, Chibi-Mikuvans) alike.

Needless to say, I’m really hamming it up there for dramatic enhancement, but I was deep down quite excited about visiting Tokyo to get the ‘on the street’ story for myself, past the  “Weird Japan” websites and stories from friends. Not only that, but I tend to avoid tourist traps or the ‘usual stops’ on international trips – though there will still be some of it here because it’s friggin Tokyo – and try to get the story of the local maker scene and tour some of the industry instead. That’s just my personal preference, and I think reporting on what maker environs are like the world over will help us all gain some more appreciation of the unifying force that is making, hacking, & building.

I’m going to make no pretense of this report being some kind of review of or introduction to Japanese culture. It’s going to be shamelessly specialized towards maker folk with otaku tinges who are more into vans than they should be.  So perhaps, in a way, this is my own “Weird Japan” page that will join the ranks of others’ trip reports and photo albums on the matter, but hopefully with my own personal twist and much less hexadildopods (Don’t say I didn’t warn you…)

This is most definitely going to be another one of those ridiculously long posts that I will have to split into parts beforehand so it can be navigated. I have no less than 120 photos lined up for this page. That’s more than I typically take for an entire project build, spread over five days of running all Gaijin Smash like around the city.

  1. Day 1 (12/29): Visiting Tokyo University; a backstreet run around Akihabara; DMM.Make
  2. Day 2 (12/30): Comiket 87!
  3. Day 3 (12/31): Tokyo Sky Tree
  4. Day 4 (01/01): the Meiji Shrine; Harajuku
  5. Day 5 (01/02): Tokyu Hands
  6. Vans. Thousands of them.

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Big Chuck’s Chinapalooza 2014: Week 2, Beijing – Hardware on the Street, Beijing Makerspace; Resources Section Reshuffle

Giga-Totoro welcomes you to Beijing.

I’m actually writing this from back home – I landed back in town yesterday evening. My desperate attempts at keeping the site up to date with my travels was foiled by the complete sensory destruction that was Tokyo. This is going to be its own post, which might end up being its own book. See, I said I might have to write a book anyway.

(By the way, I’d like to give a shoutout to Ted Dilliard for writing up my three previous Shenzhen posts on InsideEVs. Go check it out – as usual, I welcome discussions and shenanigans in the comment box.)

Anyways, besides family business, I also took a journey around the maker scene of Beijing. I had contacted Beijing Makerspace about visiting. I also pinged Beijing Tiertime (makers of my favorite flavor of lollipop, as well as the Up 3d printer), but got rebuffed away with “We do not give factory tours”. Insiders, help me out here.

On my own, though, I visited the old ‘hardware streets’ I had first seen in 2005 when I was but a wee bunny. Back then, I went through the areas with a family friend since my Chinese ability at the time was around ‘zilch’. During that trip, and a following one in 2007, I took many photos (as I tend to do), but as I mentioned previously, these predate the current version of the site… and precisely captured snapshots of this site before summer 2007 and then after fall 2007. Oops. And I must have removed them from the Facenet since during those starving times, you could only have small albums of limited size, that didn’t even take 10 minutes to load page-by-page as you scroll! Now that my Chinese ability is around ‘one iota’, I wanted to go back to some of these places and see their current state.

So if you’re ever in Beijing and can 1. speak Chinese or grab a buddy who does, and 2. can stand the stench of cheap cigarette smoke, make sure to check out….

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