Special Report: Tokyo Your fearless commander-in-tech coming to you from across the Pacified Ocean in the Land of the Rising Sun: Tokyo, Japan; here on a10-day R&R mission with a constant eye toward technology and how our north Pacific brothers and sisters are using it.
Stiff little fingers One of the first things you notice in this city of 12.4 million, after you stop staring at all the blinking neon lights, are the 6.2 million locals walking around with cell phones in their hands. They are not holding it to their ears or by their sides with a hands-free wire stretching up to their auditory orifice—they’re holding it out in front of them, thumb on the key pad, as if it was a global positioning system (GPS) guiding them as they walk. What they most likely are doing is text messaging. Some may be playing a game or taking a photo, but most are typing away at Bullet Train-speed, somehow creating complete novelettes in Japanese Kanji (ideographic script) using only 12 keys. I have watched for hours and I still don’t understand how they do it.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? You’ll also notice that Ridley Scott’s futuristic Los Angeles in 1982’s Blade Runner depicts this city perfectly—stimulation overload. Blinking, strobing, pulsating lights, gigantic overhead video screens, audio blaring from every direction, cars, motorcycles, running pedestrians … everything Harrison Ford dealt with except for the flying cars and cyborgs. Who needs hallucinogens when we have Tokyo.
Tech-y toilets There are tech surprises in the most unlikely places—from streets lined with vending machines selling tea, hot coffee, beer, cigarettes, adult toys, fried chicken and used women’s panties to public toilets with more dials and buttons than a home stereo system. I completely soaked my left arm after activating a robotic bidet in a bookstore restroom before calling my local friend Ray in to translate all the remaining functions of the electronic porcelain receptacle.
Lost in translation Without a doubt, the most fun I have had so far is getting totally and completely lost. If there is an entrepreneur reading this who wants to make a pagoda full of cash, invent a GPS system that foreigners rent and/or buy at Narita International Airport to navigate this amazingly huge, complicated maze of a city. Or, if you like to get lost, spend your next vacation in this tech capital of the world. Oh yeah, I didn’t see Godzilla, I haven’t had to fight off any ninjas, I didn’t get my pinkie cut off by Yakuza and everything I have eaten so far has been cooked. I’m heading back out to the blinking lights. I’ll be back in Chico soon. Sayonara.