A Week in Tokyo 20160220

POSTED BY DANNY CHOO On Sat 2016/02/20 23:01 JST in A Week in Tokyo
Another better-late-than-never A Week in Tokyo - these photos taken a few months ago though and I've only just managed to sit down to write the text for each photo ToT
First photo - on the way to work. Ever since my last sciatica attack, where possible I try to walk to and from work instead of taking the road bike or electric skateboard. My current commute is roughly a 20 - 25 min walk. Walking is the only time where I'm disconnected from the Internet and also gives me time to think - although I do stop from time to time to enter notes into Wunderlist.
As my company grows, I have more things I need to think about - the list starts with something like ( in no particular order)...
#Looking for new talent or vendors - how and where to find them.
#Vendor and quality management.
#New project initiatives.
#Product design and planning.
#Time and space optimization.
#Cash management.
#A load of other stuff which I can't think of right now ^^
#Staff management - we have a great team but I'm not going to kid you by telling you that all of my staff members are easy to manage - many of them come with baggage and are extremely challenging to deal with. Some of them are shite stirrers but talented super stars at the same time. Even though I'm the boss, I can't simply fire somebody just because they don't like me/I don't like them.
A close friend of mine runs his own company but fires anybody who he does not get on with - the result is that his business is struggling due to the lack of talent on his team.
Anybody thinking of starting up their own business simply can't expect to grow a company and have every single employee like you - it's like trying to get everybody to like tomatoes - some people like them - some people don't.
The challenge gets more challenging - the world consensus is that because you are the boss - you must be at fault and no matter what mood the employees are in - it must be because of your actions. If you are running a company you will know that this is of course complete bollocks.
Trying to create a comfortable working atmosphere which provides opportunities for employees to grow should be one of your top priorities - caring or trying to get all employees to like you should not be on your agenda at all. If you cared about what people think of you (regardless of whether they are employees or people you don't know) then you should not be trying to run a business at all because you will eventually fail. Caring too much about what people think of you will end up shaping your life - instead of you shaping your own.
This is also not to say that you should go around treating people like shite either. I treat my employees with respect and care for their working environment a great deal but am also realistic at the same time that some of them don't care whether I care about them or not - this is because they have their own agenda and or values.
If you are in the midst of starting up a company and are facing similar people issues - my advice is to stay strong even though your people can hurt you emotionally.
You will thank these people one day in helping build a stronger you and you are going to need to be stronger to face the even bigger issues in the future as your company grows.
Instead of spending your brain CPU on negative people, use your spare cycles to think about and process the more important things which drive you and the company forward.
And don't forget - one just does not simply fire somebody just because they don't like you!
Another visit to the hospital for another injection to the spine for my sciatica. No please-put-me-out-of-my-misery pain so far but my left foot is pretty much constantly numb.
We started to ship Ebony and Ivory Smart Dolls. Ebony is the first truly tan skinned soft vinyl 1/3 scale doll and has been doing very well - particularly in Japan.
At the laundrette opposite the office with Ebony-chan - I love the smell of launderettes! Reminds me of when I was living back in the UK - our washing machine broke and for many years I would go to wash and dry my clothes at a local laundrette.
CoCo Ichibanya do great curry - the only drawback is that you end up smelling like what you ate so make sure you have some Febreeze at home or the office.
Taking Ivory out for some Starbucks. Starbucks is kinda popular over here - no matter what time I pop into one, the place is usually packed.
The ceremony one should do when they get a Smart Doll - cos they come with bags that let you do so.
These days, pretty much everything revolves around a business. Folks who don't understand this are the ones who are being fed by parents who complain that apps cost 1 USD on Google Play - to run on the 600 USD phone that their parents bought for them.
As somebody running a business, I face the reality everyday that I need to make money to not only feed my staff but also grow the company.
People, tastes and trends change over night which affects what, how and when they buy things and consume services.
I try to spend as much time as I can learning about how others do business either through watching business TV shows, reading books, scouring the Internets, visiting places or participating in events - like Disney on Ice in Saitama.
Disney on Ice was fun - especially for nostalgic titles which I really enjoyed back in the old days like the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.
Events is a big business and I know quite a few folks who run events and make a good profit from them. I tried doing large scale events once with CJC (Culture Japan Convention) which made me realize that events is not really our forte. While we will still do smaller CJC's or CJ Nights, I think that leaving large scale events to the folks who know best about them makes sense while we focus on what we do best.
Running booths at events like Anime Expo and Anime Festival Asia is already taxing logistically and health wise too - especially for us where all our major events take place outside of Japan.
Passing by a hall filled with folks at a beerfest. I don't drink at all as I start to get wheezy if I do attempt to do so. A few alcoholic beverage companies have approached me over the years wanting to work together on promoting their beer or sake (Japanese rice wine) but I've declined their offers as I have not been keen on the idea of Mirai-chan drinking.
More curry! Curry was introduced to Japan in the Meiji era (1868–1912) - since then the taste has been localized and become so popular that you can find Japanese curry establishments in most towns across Japan. Katsu Curry is a typical curry dish which is curry along side pork (or chicken) deep fried in breadcrumbs.
The boss of Sentinel and one of the producers dropped by the office for some wheelings n dealings. They make a load of hobby stuff especially mecha.
For quite a while I was looking for a replacement for my battered Reeboks but always found myself walking into either a Reebok, Adidas or Nike shop - and then walking out again empty handed as nothing seemed to tickle my fancy.
I recently walked into a generic shoe shop and found a couple of shoes that I liked - never heard of the brand but picked them up straight away.
When you look for stuff to buy, how important is your understanding of the brand?
My wife and the neighbours love Shanghai crabs - me not so much of a fan though.
I love this dish! Forgot the name of the shop but it's the Hawaiian place in Lalaport Yokohama. The waitresses always remember us from our first visit when we brought Mirai-chan with us.
Cute looking bike.
Filling up the Mirai-mobile. Need to change the design soon.
Been using the standing desk at home and work for quite a few months now - so far the spine has been behaving well.
The job of the parking warden in Japan is to make the lives of drivers as pleasant as possible. Anybody can become a parking warden in Japan as long as they are over 18 - no qualifications are needed but candidates need to take a 14 hour test.
Parking wardens usually travel in numbers of two and you will often see them taking photos of the offending vehicle as evidence before cutting a ticket.
On roads where there are parking meters, one can only park for 1 hour - then you need to move the car a little bit and then pay again in the same meter if you want to stay longer. Meters have an infrared device installed that detects whether a car has moved completely out of the way of the meter before it resets itself for the next person to put their monies in. I would say that this is done purposely to fine drivers who fail to get back to the meter within the hour.
As the parking warden business is privatized, I heard that wardens are paid for each ticket that they cut which seems to motivate them - they are all seeing and it's normal to see them appear a couple of minutes before the parking meter hits the limit.
Parking fines are ranked depending on where you left your car - it can cost up to 18000 yen or 25000 yen if you drive a large vehicle.
How much are parking tickets where you live? I drove up to Canada from Seattle once - they seem to love sticking tickets on your car.
In the morning the recycle collection folks are out n about collecting cardboard, plastics, cans and bottles.
Recycling in Japan is carried out pretty much religiously by citizens. Plastic bottles are washed ( and dried ), stripped of its label and cap before being put in the bottle collection bin which is located in a communal location.
One day back in the UK, I saw the driver of a bottle collection van mix green, brown and clear glass into a single container which made me wonder why citizens were educated to separate them out into different containers in the first place.
This is Kamuro-zaka in Meguro which I walk down on my way to work. In the Spring this road is filled with cherry blossoms.
Before I came to live in Japan, I heard stories about how electronic products in working condition could be found lying around in the streets. Being brought up in the UK, I found this extremely hard to believe until I got here to find...electronic products in the streets.
I knew somebody who had an apartment filled with stuff they found on the streets including a fridge, TV and video recorder.
These products have been put out in the street at a specific time and location designated by the local ward who will come to pick it up for recycle. In the photo you can see a sticker stuck on it which has been purchased from a convenience store to let the ward office know that the recycle and collection fee has been paid for.
Folks who take nab these products for their own use are technically stealing but is extremely unlikely that anybody will complain even if they see you take it - for all they know you could have been the one that put it there in the first place.
How do you dispose of large electronic stuff where you live?
Our office is near the bottom of that large building in the middle of the photo. This river nearly over flowed last Summer due to heavy rain and flood sirens - we moved all the precious goodies (dolls) from the 1st floor to the 2nd floor on that day.
Luckily no flooding around our shop but the river did overflow and bit further down at Osaki.
If you come to Mirai Store from Fudomae Station - you will cross this bridge.
Being interviewed for something that I can't remember ^^
The bus terminal at the South exit outside Shibuya Station. Lots of changes going on around here especially for the 2020 Olympics.
Out n about filming in Shibuya with Mirai-chan who will be my co-host for Culture Japan Season 3. She said that she would take the job without pay and that she doesn't need a styling artist either.
Taking the bus in Japan can be odd at times. Depending on the bus company and the type of bus, you either pay when you get on or off. Taking a bus is a nice way to see a slice of life in Japan though.
Shibuya - the busiest crossing in the world. Can you imagine this area completely pedestrianised?
Center Gai has changed quite a bit over the years - the entrance feels odd without the electronics store Sakuraya which closed down a while ago.
Mirai Store Tokyo - opened July 2015 and has been doing quite well despite being in an office district.
We use half of the 1st floor for Apparel development and fulfilment and the other half for the shop. Even if no customers came we would be still making use of the space and worth paying the rent.
We thought it would be great to at least make enough money from the shop to pay for the rent but it turned out that the shop is now a major channel of income for us.
The only problem now is that the shop is becoming too small to cater for the amount of products and customers. The next step is to open the Mirai Store & Cafe. Wifey and I done research to see what it takes to open an establishment that serves food and beverages and the procedure is simple.
A representative of the cafe will need to take a course on food and hygiene/regulations at the local ward office. From then we are given a blue notice that we must display in the establishment which will also be visited by the ward office - done!
Out n about at the banks of Tama River.
This photo was taken on a Sunday before we started to open the shop on Sundays. Now my Sundays are spent in the shop manning the till and leading the Smart Doll Workshops that we started recently - folks can now make their own Smart Dolls with outlet parts at a reduced price.
A river bank like this is called Kasenjiki (also pronounced Kasenshiki) and is commonly seen in anime and drama. These river banks have been designed to prevent the river from overflowing into the residential areas nearby.
Instead of having high river banks, there is a wide area of land (usually made into a park) between the river and the bank meaning that there is more space to contain water which prevents (or makes it more difficult) for the river to overflow.
This video explains how Japanese Kasenshiki works.
Checking out the Futako-Tamagawa Rise office, residential and shopping district - also the new offices of Rakuten. Rakuten is one of the larger shopping sites in Japan. I use them a lot alongside Amazon and Yodobashi.
Amazon is fast (usually same day delivery), Yodobashi has points (and sometimes better pricing than Amazon) but Rakuten has a wider selection due to the variety of sellers on their platform.
How many of you have heard of Rakuten in your neck of the woods? They are supposed to be expanding out into many countries out of Japan.
Korean noms after work. The most popular non Japanese food in Tokyo is Chinese then Italian and then maybe Korean.
Out n about with Ebony-chan viewing the Autumn leaves - yes that's how old these photos are ><
In limbo between the Nagano Prefecture and Gunma Prefecture.
These round mirrors can be found across Japan at blind spots for cars to watch out for pedestrians and vise versa.
T-Shirt designs for our 2016 collection.
Folks on the 5th floor moved out so I went up to check it out. At the moment it doesn't make sense to rent 3 floors - not productive and we could probably get a larger place for the amount of rent we would pay for the three floors.
I've been living in Japan for 16 years and no matter how many times I pass through Shinjuku station I get lost ^^
Shinjuku - my hub when I first came to live in Japan. I would travel from here on the Seibu Shinjuku line to West Tokyo and get off at Higashi Fushimi.
I've been meeting with Isetan a lot of late working on a project which will be a big deal for Smart Doll in Japan.
My fave Yakiniku gaff - Negishi. This one near Gotanda Station.
Japanese roadworks - always fascinating to look at. Some guy even created a moe character to promote the coolsomeness of Japanese roadworks.
The roadworks that I had been accustomed to back in the UK would always take years to fix a small patch in the road and would always be filled with newspaper.
With the folks from Hoya - the Mirai Genesis project is in motion and we have been working on the voice mechanics which will enable Smart Doll to read notifications from your Android device.
The photo booth that I already talked about in the most recent Desk Diary - it's actually changed again quite a bit with more equipment since we last spoke. I'll get round to the next Desk Diary as soon as possible.
The short throw Benq projector that we bought originally for visuals at an event has been recycled for our use as a home theater and games screen. The roll screen was order made from this online store and cost 26,324 yen - it's not meant for projection and was just a roll screen for windows but I figured that it would work out.
Here I am with Snake which I would broadcast from time to time. My Playstation ID is dannychoodotcom - as always feel free to add me.
All my other consoles are at work now including the XBOX360. I only played the 360 for fitness games and thought to myself that I wouldn't get the XBOX ONE (not even for Rise of the Tomb Raider which is currently an XBOX ONE exclusive) but I recently found out about Quantum Break which looks very slick - I love the concept of time (most of the Mirai Millennium characters names are based on the concept of time) and this is something I would get the XBOX ONE for. What consoles are you playing of late?
My new pair of Sony MDR-XB950BT headphones - which don't pair with the Sony Playstation ^^
The small alleys around Musashikoyama Station which housed a ton of small restaurants are no more - the whole area is currently being knocked down and in its place will be residential and shopping facilities.
I managed to take a few snaps the day before they closed the area off. Japanese buildings have traditionally been built to be taken down one day. It's amazing to see how fast they tear down a building and make a new one in its place.
At the time of writing I was still using the Xperia Z2 - now I'm using the Xperia Z5 which is my third Xperia.
The building with the mirror windows is our office - at the moment we own the 1st and 2nd floors. After some recent space optimizations and chucking out a ton of crap - it looks like we will be able to continue to work here for a wee bit longer - will show you how much more room we have in the next Desk Diary.
In the previous Desk Diary, I mentioned that I was thinking to have manufacturing done in Japan at our factories and then assembly done overseas in maybe Malaysia to serve Asia and in the US.
Then I saw a bunch of comments from folks who seemed to think that assembly overseas meant firing local staff and mistreating staff overseas in outsourced factories - I was like "what are these people smoking?!"
I neither had intention of letting local staff go, nor any intention to outsource to a factory who mistreated staff!
Local staff would do development and license management (which I mentioned in the post) and assembly overseas would be done by companies that I set up locally to run studios (which we own) run by staff (who we employ).
But anyway, even though our products are made in Japan - you would be surprised at how appalling vendor quality can be from time to time - even in Japan. Given this - moving assembly or part of the production overseas would mean introducing the same complications that we have been working through for the past few years which is frankly not worth it.
We will continue to expand our operations and manufacture Smart Doll (and the recently announced Pocket Doll) in Japan.
Sunny day in Gotanda where our office and shop is located. Gotands is an office district meaning that there are a load of places to eat too.
If you are traveling to Tokyo, where possible, choose to fly into Haneda Airport which is in Tokyo - not Narita which is outside of Tokyo and takes ages to get to the city center.
When you fly into Japan, which airport do you choose?
Time to head off to Singapore for Anime Festival Asia.
Our Culture Japan booth at Anime Festival Asia in Singapore. We have tried various booth layouts over the years and found the current one to be the most optimum for our operations.
And this is what a lady from Singapore tourism gave me at Changi Airport... Not sure what it is. Looks like a disorientated prawn or something.