A Week in Tokyo 201402

POSTED BY DANNY CHOO On Sat 2014/04/05 17:14 JST in A Week in Tokyo

Trying to keep up the pace with the revived A Week in Tokyo series ><
February was another packed month made up of events and a business trip to Barcelona and London. Also made a lot of progress on Smart Doll and we should hopefully be able to start shipping this May.

All this means that I've not really had a chance to have a breather and have been running on fumes since last June ><
This photo taken from the hospital that I've been visiting for the past couple of months. Since January, I've been having a chronic cough and medicine doesn't seem to be helping. Doctors think its something to do with allergies and my asthma but don't seem to be able to do anything about it.

I cough a lot during eating, in the shower and when laughing ^^;

Anyway, since my cough, my breath has started to really smell! if you are talking t me, feel free to look away to catch some fresh air from time to time ^^;

I went to a doctor for a while and as I wasn't getting any better I then went to a hospital. On my first visit I was kept waiting for 6 hours - it always seems to be like that at Japanese hospital for some reason. They also make you pay an extra fee of 3500 yen if a doctor didn't refer you to that hospital.

I went to a university hospital which are common in Japan but was recently told by a few doctor friends that university hospitals are mainly made up of students who don't treat the patients well which seems to be consistent though my experiences.

What are hospitals like in your neck of the woods - do they treat you as if they want to help you get better or as if you are causing a nuisance?

Once you reach the age of 30, various parts of your body will start to break down but eventually heal.
Then when you reach 40, those once healed parts start to break again ;-;

I've never used this machine before - it kinda pumps steam into ones lungs and deposits some sort of medicine inside.

Apparently, the doctor couldn't see anything wrong with my lungs and just said that my cough is caused by pollen and house dust and proceeded to prescribe a ton of medicine for me.

I have a feeling that after so many months, this chronic cough is something I'm going to have to learn to live with just like I've learned to live with Spinal Hernia.

How many of you are living with illnesses?

I love Japanese rail crossings.

Italian noms at Toscana in Musashikoyama.

February is when I built the doll studio on the 1st floor where we will begin production of Smart Doll. This is what it looked like during the early stages while we were also preparing for the Wonder Festival.

This is my first time making dolls so I don't know what the optimal assembly line should be like - the key is to do what seems to make sense at the time using the resources available and work from there and continue to make improvements.

Once MiraiFrame is assembled, we heat up the Outer Shell and place the frame inside.

Still currently thinking of a better way to store the frames when they are assembled.

Waseda student Vincent helps part time with frame assembly - I first met him in 2010 at Anime Expo.

Hole drilling for the neck joint.

Back then I was the only one doing the flash cutting as its a challenge to find folks who are Upper Ninja at cutting. Now I've managed to find somebody else to help who joined the team in March ^o^

Standard issue injury.

Before I used to use a hairdryer to heat the shell parts but that wasn't productive at all as you can only heat up a single piece each time.
I made this heatbox which is made up from an electric ceramic heater which blows hot air downwards into the box from a hole that I cut in it.

As you can see however, its not so sturdy and begins to sag after a while.
I went to get an estimate to see how much it would cost to make out of wood and was told 25000 yen - I said "hmmmmmm" and looked for more cost effective methods for making a heatbox.

I found some sturdy cardboard boxes on Amazon which are used for filing accounting papers - they came with a metal frame which prevents the box from warping - perfect and they cost about 1500 yen for 3!

New heatbox all ready for production. Some hobby makers use light bulbs instead of heaters.

This photo of the first ever robotic doll to be made at this size - was a proof of concept at the time and not designed for mass production.

This is our second Smart Doll which is more geared for mass production - the casing holds the servo motors and electronics.

Then its time to disassemble the doll studio and bring it all to the Wonder Festival.

It was our first major event participation in Japan and a most memorable one!

And this is what our booth looked like - a circle of Smart Dolls. You can see the making and response in this post.

My challenge now is to figure out how to develop a production line to make hundreds and thousands of these dolls over the next few years. The first step would be injection moulding of the shell.

Coverage of the rest of the Wonfes can be seen in this post.

In February, Tokyo was hit by the worst snow storm ever - photos of Tokyo covered in snow in this post.

And when it snows, folks get creative.

As soon as the Wonfes finished, we were up for another event - the Hobby Maker Show - time to pack Mirai-chan in the suitcase again.

The Hobby Maker Show is where industry folk gather together to check out the latest in the hobby world.

And this is what our setup looked like - completely reused everything from the Wonfes.

Am very proud of Mirai Suenaga Smart Doll and can't wait to release her to the world ><

Up until now, to be honest I didn't feel that I achieved much in life. While one of the best things about my job is that I get to make comrades around the world, I've always felt that I haven't done anything significant - up until now. Smart Doll changes everything.

Now when aliens come to Earth after the apocalypse, they can dig up a Smart Doll - they can dig up something physical that I created ^^;

Many folks around me seem to prefer that I stayed a blogger but I didn't want to die just writing articles all my life - I wanted to create something special and I believe that many humans are the same - they want to create.

From the time of the cavemen who had been creating paintings on the walls of their caves and even making dolls - I feel that I was destined to create something before I die which will could be anytime between now and 30 - 40 years time.

If I do live until I'm 70 or 80, it means that I've already lived for more than half of my life. While I couldn't really do anything about my first 10 years or so being brought up in a foster home, I feel that I've been able to take back my life after discovering Japanese Culture and this is the reason why.

Packing up time after the Hobby Maker Show. Now we have learned how to do doll displays in Japan, the next challenge will be to do it overseas ><

Together with a comrade from the Japanese Ministry of Transport and the boss of Edo Wonderland - some cool stuff in store for Mirai and Japan fans ^o^

Dropped my first generation PS Vita (review here) which broke at a timing that just happened to coincide with the release of the thinner PCH-2000 model came out. Sony Timer? ^^;

To be specific, the previous PS Vita would still turn on but it cant read the memory card anymore and as the first model didn't have any internal memory at all - I can't do anything with it except to use it as a door stop ^^;

The new PS Vita is very nice - thinner, lighter and can be charged with a micro USB. Some folks complained that the screen is not OLED anymore but still looks great to me.
Am currently replaying Gravity Daze as there is not a whole lot of decent games coming out for it after all these years ><

Cant wait for Gravity Daze 2 though. Wonder why they called it "Rush" outside of Japan?

Do you own a PS Vita and if so what games do you recommend for it?

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Our local shopping arcade Musashikoyama Palm Shotengai - come here if you want a slice of Japanese life. Get off at Musashikoyama station on the Meguro Line which is 2 stops from JR Meguro.

The best yakiniku place in my mind is Negishi - love it!

Setsubun season came and went.

Going out for dindins with the team after a day of MiraiFrame assembly.

Yoshikawa-san from Kotobukiya at the office to go over our next project ^^

With wifey at the shotengai - its been (and still is) really cold in Tokyo ><

With my Creative Director and CTO Linus who hails from Singapore.

Sushi noms.

As far as I know, there are only 3 manufacturers that produce soft vinyl 60cm tall dolls with inner frames - Volks, Obitsu and Culture Japan. Much of the production for these dolls is done in the East end of Tokyo in areas such as Katsushika, Kanamachi and Misato where this photo was taken.
There are many toy makers located in the area such as Takara Tomy and Bandai too.

I spend a lot of my time here working with various folks involved with production of Smart Doll and am also building my own soft vinyl molding factory here too. We will still have soft vinyl versions which will be sold along the injection molded versions.

Anyway, how many of you recognize this tall landmark?

After designing MiraiFrame, I've had to redesign the forearm so that it latches onto the frame where the elbow is. To do this, I take the same 3D printout that I used last time and stick the molding spout made out of wax on the wrist instead of the elbow. This is then cloned in silicon where it will then be electromolded.
More about the production process can be seen at smartdoll.jp

Together with Kamijo-san who owns a family business of making soft vinyl molds - his company makes the best molds and has even received awards for their work - he is the man!

A lot of buildings in Tokyo have a slant on one side - I originally thought it was just a design thing but its actually a regulation called the Kitagawa Shasen (北側斜線(きたがわしゃせん)) - put in place to prevent buildings blocking out the sun for smaller dwellings which may involve taking a diagonal slice out of a building.
You can read more about housing regulations in the Tokyo Property Purchase post that I've been meaning to update for many years ><

In Akihabara for meetings.

Nomnoms at Ootoya.

If you read the latest Desk Diary, you will know that wifey and I moved out of our house so that we could accommodate production of Smart Doll.

Not enough hours in the day usually means that I take work home and this is where I work. I want to be able to start earning enough to afford a proper office so that we can move back home ><

The only nice thing about our current apartment is that its got a big flat wall - we use the projector that we bought for events and watch movies on it.
These days we prefer to wait for movies to come out on iTunes instead of going to the cinema to avoid either:-

  • The person who keeps farting or smells of sweat next to you.
  • The person with the Carwash style afro sitting in front of you.
  • The person behind who keeps kicking your chair.

Also means we can pause the movie for a pee without coming back to the movie thinking what on earth is going on ^^

Here we are watching a motivational movie - probably my most fave called Trading Places.

Snow stops falling and its time to remove the chains.

The latest look around the office was in Desk Diary 2014/02.

Movies in Japan can sometimes come out a year later than the rest of the world. The latest Hobbit managed 3 months or so after - the Japanese trailer below.

Blue skies in Shibuya.

Vietnamese noms for lunch while in Shibuya.

The PS4 goes on sale in Japan after the rest of the world has tested for bugs. I'm not allowed to get a PS4 until I start selling Smart Doll says our finance Director (wifey) - although there does not seem to be many decent games out yet? #1stWorldProblems

PS4 games confuse me because most of the ones I've seen in commercials in Japan say "available for PS3 and PS4" - meaning that the PS4 version just has bells and whistles attached?

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Even though we got a coffee machine, its sometimes more convenient to use these drip bags. Do love a cuppa in the morning.

A sign to let you know that if the river nearby overflowed then this area would be 3 meters deep in water.

Back in Katsushika again.

Lunch at a new place in our hood - forgot the name of the restaurant and also forgot the name of the dish too ^^;
Will take note when I go back next time. Will probably have small gatherings there as its nice n cosy.

The lads hard at work. If you are still not sure what we do then this post should help.

The samples of Mirai's hairpin is done! A magnet fits into the bottom which is then used to attach to the side of her head - this leaves her hair unruffled.
I made the injection mold at the Japanese branch of Protomold and any of you can use the same service to make your own stuff too.

The circles you see at the bottom is where ejector pins push the clip out of the mold - if you see circles like this on products you own then thats what they usually are. They may not be as deep as these though.

Momo Belia Deviluke by Max Factory GET - very cute and a great sculpt. Used to read the manga until it took a certain direction...

Noms at Yoshinoya - you can get cheap meals here from a few hundred yen.
This here is the Gyu Sukiyaki Nabe-zen for 580 yen

Roadworks in Japan are different to the rest of the world - they do their job and get it done with and usually have a sign letting folks know what date and time they will be finished by.

At our local post office - production of Smart Doll involves a lot of sending stuff overseas. While the body is manufactured and assembled in Japan, the wigs are made in Korea and apparel in various locations such as Barcelona, Hong Kong, Korea and Malaysia.

Mirai-chan shows off the mecha hand design that comes with MiraiFrame. Not sure if I should include the mecha hand with the doll as it may confuse first timers - shall I stick it in the box?

Have been working on Moekana Second Edition for the past few months - it will go up for pre-order mid April.
For those who don't know - its a set of flashcards for learning Japanese that sold tens of thousands worldwide which has lead to the second edition that includes Katakana too ^o^
Until we get the new site up you can read about Moekana here.

Towards the end of February it was time to head over to Barcelona to attend and give a talk at the Mobile World Congress.

Choice of method to the Narita Airport as always is the Skyliner from Nippori.

Its the first time taking business class on British Airways - its always interesting to see how each airline designs their seat arrangement. This was the first time I sat in a place facing the tail - interesting experience! Herald Sun has a photo showing the layout.

One of the great things about this job is that I have no idea where I will be in the next two weeks. The Barcelona/London trip was unexpected and I'm actually in Dubai as I write this - another unexpected trip.

All this travel does however contribute to my goals of sharing Japanese culture with the help of Mirai Suenaga ^o^

These days I just don't get time to sit at the office doing keynotes and always end up doing them on the plane, in the hotel and right until the last minute on stage ><

We first touch down in London as there are no direct flights to Barcelona from Tokyo.

Next stop Barcelona but have about 3 hours before the flight which passed in a jiffy as I continued with work on my keynote.

The event that opened up my eyes to a bigger world - the Mobile World Congress - event photos and report written up here.

Did manage to grab a wee bit of time to check out some sights around town - but need to come back again to spend more time as this was a very short trip.

This is Kuraikawai who I hooked up with on figure.fm - I saw her seamstress work and loved what I saw. I then proceeded to regularly commissioned work from her.
Since then, she became an official tailor for Smart Doll who looks after the design of the T-shirt that comes with the standard model.

You can order the same T-shirts (and moekana ones too) from her at Murasaki.me

By the way - if my smile here looks stiffer than usual its because my camera (Sony RX 100 II) was stolen 15 mins before this photo was taken ><

This photo was taken a few seconds before my wallet was stolen - but I managed to nab it back.
A lady saw us running for the train who purposely got on to the carriage slowly waiting for the doors to close - as the doors closed, she got on the train quickly and turned around to hold the doors open for us. Anybody would think of this as a kind gesture.

Now on the train, thinking that I now trust the lady after she helped us get on, she stood right beside me and started to pickpocket me from under a coat that she had slung over her arm.

I'm a sucker for trusting nice people and let my ninja defenses down until I moved and she dropped my wallet as she took it from my hip pouch.

To her surprise, my wallet was actually my Moekana Deck Case and probably thought WTF is this?!

I've heard so many stories about being pick pocketed and usually involves getting trust from the victim.

One of the stories I heard was about a lady with a load of luggage on the metro platform who had paint splashed on her from behind - a man approaches her to wipe it off which forges a trust with her.
Another man grabs her bag and runs off while the first man is still wiping the paint - the woman can't leave because shes got a load of other luggage so the man who originally splashed paint offers to look after her baggage - you can guess the rest.
She could not catch the first man after she ran after him and when she got back to the platform, her luggage is gone with the first man...

Have you been pickpocketed in your home country or while abroad? What did you lose?

Taking photos of Mirai-chan out n about Barcelona.

Another great thing about my job - taking photos of Mirai out n about in various parts of the world is not only a hobby but part of my work too - in this case its marketing for Smart Doll.
We dont have a marketing department so I try to work it into my daily life flow ^^

After Barcelona its back to London for various meetings and spending a wee bit of time with mum.

Culture Japan Night London! Will do a photo post on the event sometime soon hopefully ><
Read more from the A Week in Tokyo series below.