...the badly designed and laid-out blog of an Octopus in Japan...

Well, not really an octopus, but technically a British guy with a thick veneer of Old Europeanness in Tokyo doing obscure stuff involving IT

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014   1:08 AM

Commute commuted

So, I was kind of hoping to take up Salaryman's mantle with tales from the kaisha but recently I had a conversation with the CEO which went like this:

CEO: TokyoOctopus, I'm pleased to tell you your bonus is -
TokyoOctopus: I'm quitting.

I might be paraphrasing a little. Anyway it's a pity about the bonus, but I'm more than happy to be away from that bunch of insane workaholic money addicts.

On the plus side my application to McDonalds was accepted. No, scratch that. I'll be employed by a European company (which is one of the top ones in its field) based out of my home office working on something I genuinely enjoy doing, and as an added bonus the working conditions are European ones. Oh yes, and I'll have to work out what to do with the 40-odd hours I was spending each month communing with fellow Tokyoites on the trains.


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Saturday, February 22, 2014   2:51 PM

Groundhog Commute

As of approximately around now, I've been in Japan for 6 years, and for a whole variety of reasons ranging from personal to plate tectonical they've been very interesting ones. However one thing I've managed to avoid for the first five of those years was this whole commuting thing. OK, for much of that time I had been getting up every morning, taking a train to an office and back, but that was a pretty flexible arrangement which enabled me to make a positive contribution to society by not forcing myself onto the same overpacked trains as everyone else, and after March 2011 I ended up working mainly from home, which was a win-win situation because by that time I was working mainly with people in North America and Europe, so could start early from home to catch the end of the day on the left coast of Merkinland/Canuckistan, take a nice leisurely break, and deal with Old Europe in the afternoon/evening.

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Saturday, February 22, 2014  10:39 AM

I have seen Hell

In a high-rise in Roppongi. One of these fancy buildings with a glass curtain facade built since the turn of the century with an impressive-sounding name. Access is via a series of escalators and elevators, as complex as they are impressive. Inside it's all high-ceiling corridors with rich-looking, sound-dampening carpet. On my previous visit, I'd only been to the outer sanctum of the Big Boss Guy, ruler of a financial empire you've probably heard of. Which was impressive enough, though I have the lingering feeling giants of Wall Street would probably laugh at its comparative modesty.

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Thursday, June 6, 2013   3:16 PM

Every city should have one of these

A couple of weeks ago I crossed something off my bucket list, which was to ride a Greyhound bus while listening to Simon and Garfunkel's America. For various technical reasons the bus ride actually took place in Canada, but in global terms that's close enough. Anyway the aforementioned vehicle took me to Montreal, which apart from an unfortunate affliction with concrete pavements is a quite amenable city with copious lashings of free wifi. It's also home to Bixi Bikes, which is a kind of norihodai bicycle rental service. Normally I'm cautious about sticking my credit card unprotected into slots of dubious heritage, but I saw enough people trundling about that I thought it was worth the gamble, and it was.

Bixi Bike, Montreal

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Sunday, March 10, 2013  11:27 PM

First picture from Japan's Mars landing probe

In recent days the news has understandingly been dominated by the second anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami, and the successful landing of Japan's first Mars landing probe "Donko-ressha" has slipped by almost unnoticed. However contacts at JAXA were kind enough to forward me a copy of the first picture this brave little probe has sent back from the surface of the Red Planet:

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Monday, January 14, 2013   2:24 PM

Our house, in the middle of our street

Long time no post, and all that.

Anyway, it snowed in Tokyo today, and not just the usual brief whitening of the ground - the Kanto area was buried in drifts of up to 13cm, which are for the most part still there even though the snow has eased off. People from places like Niigata and Sweden are probably laughing uncontrollably at the way the capital region ground to a halt under whole centimetres of chrystalised water. Luckily it was a public holiday, otherwise the entire Japanese economy would have been paralysed.

So, as you can probably guess, unlike some more warmness-challenged cities Tokyo does not exactly have fleets of snow-removal equipment ready and raring to go at the first signs of white precipitation, and I certainly wasn't expecting our little street to magically be cleared at the expense of the tax payer. However when I went out to shovel snow off our steps as a precautionary measure using the only tool to hand (a 100yen store dustpan) I couldn't help notice some of the neighbours out shovelling snow off the road. Personally I was working on the assumption that the snow would melt away quickly and that no further action would be required on my part. However the Mrs. was of a different opinion and shortly afterwards I found myself clearing the road using the aforesaid dustpan. Which is not quite as impossible as it might sound, even though the handle soon snapped off.

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Friday, June 22, 2012  12:15 PM

Something fishy going on...

金曜 お肉の日Like anyone who possesses a mailbox in Japan, I'm constantly bombarded with a flood of leaflets advertising pizza delivery, apartments for sale and unwanted item disposal services. So it came as a bit of a surprise to find a pamphlet extolling the soul-saving properties of a monotheistic deity from a branch of that faith which, among other eccentricities, places great store in prominently displaying disturbing images of a Jewish dude nailed to a stick and engaging in rituals which symbolise cannibalism.

As someone who takes a relaxed attitude to this whole business of believing in sky fairies of various kinds (personally I worship at the shrine of Murphy and also whatever local deities happen to be hanging out in the same places I do), I wouldn't be particularly bothered, except it appears that of all the mailboxes in the apartment bulding (there are six, and I like to make a cursory check of the surrounding ones because the postperson occasionally gets confused by the weird jumble of letters or katakana which make up my name, and has been known to place important missives in neighbours' mailboxes, and also I like to surreptitiously peek at one neighbour's post because it always contains an alarming number of late payment demands and letters from lawyers) the pamphlet was delivered to myself and no-one else. It was clearly not meant for mass distribution (excuse the pun), being a manually-bound multi-page job which looked like it had been printed on an office laser printer or copier.

I can only guess that some acolyte of the religion has seen me going in and out of the apartment building and singled me out as a potential target. They do have a very nice compound a few blocks down the road, so it's not quite enough to have me freaking out in a lather of paranoia, but I can happily live without the special attention (including what I suspect was a follow-up visit a couple of days later).

On the plus side, they do seem to have been keeping abreast of the latest trends in Japanese-foreigner relations and were kind enough not to microaggress me, by providing the pamphlet in Japanese only.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012  11:37 PM

Tokyo Surreal Estate - Taking the Pistol

Recently it has been decided that a House shall be Purchased, and for reasons of neccessity this house shall be within reasonable commuting distance of the centre of Tokyo. Consequently this Octopus has been spending a lot of time over the past few months examining various plots of land with and without structures upon them. He has also been getting a crash course in the finer aspects of planning regulations as they apply to residential structures in this fine city, and they never fail to leave his head spinning in disbelief.

One frequently recurring phenomenon is the so-called "pistol-shaped plot" (ピストル型の変形敷地), which is what occurs when a reasonably-sized plot (say around 200m²) is divided into two plots each just large enough to squeeze a reasonably-sized house and car space onto. The rearmost of the two plots is provided with access to the road via a "driveway" along the side of the front plot, resulting in a shape which resembles a pistol (provided the pistol has a very block-shaped handle and short, thin barrel). Something like plots 2 and 3 in the plan below:

Pistol-shaped plots of land in Tokyo, Japan

This often happens because the previous owners of the land passed away and the heirs need to sell the land to pay the inheritance tax, and dividing the land into the smallest possible plots makes it easier to market. They also occur in new developments to squeeze maximum profit out of the available area.

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