Design Festa 2015

This is your city's annual craft fair on steroids. MAJOR steroids. Design Festa labels itself as a "celebration of the arts at which anyone regardless of age, nationality, talents or language can exhibit". It is the largest art festival in Asia, with over 12,000 exhibitors, and is not for the feint of heart. We arrived late so we only had 3hrs to look around, and this is not a convention you want to rush through. Towards the end I stopped taking photos and just wandered around dazed and confused, but here are a few snapshots I managed to grab:

First off it's hosted in *this* building, very aptly-named the Tokyo Big Sight.

First off it's hosted in *this* building, very aptly-named the Tokyo Big Sight.

Throughout both (giant) floors of the space there are artists doing live art murals.

Throughout both (giant) floors of the space there are artists doing live art murals.

We really like Jane Lee's illustration wall. You can see more of her work here.

We really like Jane Lee's illustration wall. You can see more of her work here.

This frog was selling custom steam-punk bath tubs because that's what you do.

This frog was selling custom steam-punk bath tubs because that's what you do.

Imagine 10,000 of these booths over and over. 

Imagine 10,000 of these booths over and over. 

I think the gist of this event was that if you're going to sell art, you better damn look like the art you're selling. Case in point: Sticker Shoe Man & Sad Goth Girl.

I think the gist of this event was that if you're going to sell art, you better damn look like the art you're selling. Case in point: Sticker Shoe Man & Sad Goth Girl.

I didn't come out with too many souvenirs (because after purging all of our stuff from SF the last thing I need is more knick-knacks). I did buy a cute leather pig for ¥ 100 yen to keep the other pig in our apartment company.

I didn't come out with too many souvenirs (because after purging all of our stuff from SF the last thing I need is more knick-knacks). I did buy a cute leather pig for ¥ 100 yen to keep the other pig in our apartment company.

Also, it turns out that Design Festa will be hosting a Student version of the same event in August.

Also, it turns out that Design Festa will be hosting a Student version of the same event in August.

Measuring Exhibition

This weekend we decided to visit the 21_21 Design Sight museum in Roppongi to see the exhibit "Measuring: This Much, That Much, How Much?". It is quite literally an exhibition devoted to anything measurement-related: units and conversions, the history of measurement devices, and clever forms of comparison. I don't know if it's true for all Japanese museum-experience, but the whole exhibition was incredibly interactive. In contrast to most US museums you could touch and play with a lot of the stations, photographs were encouraged, and there was a lot of chatter. The exhibit runs until May 31st if you happen to be in the Tokyo-area. 

The tickets were measuring tape that people were using to measure pieces in the exhibit.

The tickets were measuring tape that people were using to measure pieces in the exhibit.

There were actually "help wanted" gaps where they couldn't find objects that were precisely that size.

There were actually "help wanted" gaps where they couldn't find objects that were precisely that size.

The weights of different Japanese characters.

The weights of different Japanese characters.

Different book-binding ratios.

Different book-binding ratios.

In the museum shop, you could purchase random bulk material by weight.

In the museum shop, you could purchase random bulk material by weight.

21_21 Design Sight reading space.

21_21 Design Sight reading space.

Traveling with the Apple Watch

I was lucky to have received my Apple Watch before flying off to Tokyo and have been using it daily for the last three weeks. I was firmly in the skeptic camp when it arrived, thinking the novelty would wear off in a few days and then it could keep my fitbit company in storage. Now that I'm abroad and in unknown territory, it's a whole new story. Here are my reactions to traveling with the watch:

Having a hand free is awesome, who'da guessed? 👋
As obvious as this sounds, it's huge for traveling. I'm one of those people who clings to their phone so often it might as well be a wearable. I didn't realize how impactful the watch would be until I was lugging multiple suitcases and a dog through LAX while trying to keep up with flight updates and an untimely deluge of twitter chatter. It actually gives me great peace of mind to be able to stow my phone away and has genuinely helped me enjoy my surroundings more.  As a nice side-effect, the watch has also helped subside my fears of pickpocketing. While Tokyo is a very safe place, I'm a lot less nervous when my data is snugly attached to my wrist vs. my pocket.

World clocks are cool now. 🌐
I used to associate world clocks with SkyMall and mid-level corporate managers, but it's so nice to not have to constantly pick up my phone to check if it's an okay time to contact friends and family in the states.  

It's almost impossible to miss an appointment. 🕒
This is really important in Japan, where being late is a *huge* no-no. I constantly used to miss texts and alarms on my phone, but the haptic feedback on the watch makes catching notifications possible even in loud venues and crowded streets. 

Activity monitoring is a fun archive of your trip. 🏃
I was pretty much a sedentary potato before I began my trip so activity data was pretty useless. Now that I'm sight-seeing around the city everyday it's actually really fun to review just how much I was rushing around throughout the day. The motivation goals are also a great incentive to push me to explore more parts of the city. 

Maps...is not that helpful.  😕
Maps on my phone is my lifeline when exploring a new locale or navigating public transportation in a different language. However, I've found it incredibly difficult to integrate the Maps watch app into my routine. It's slow-loading, very hard to zoom and pan, and adding directions is a pain whether manually or through Siri. It just makes me that weird foreigner yelling repeatedly into her watch as I butcher the pronunciation of Japanese locations. It's a shame, as maps would appear to be the most obviously useful feature for travel.

Most 3rd-party travel apps are just for novelty. 🍭 
I've yet to find a useful watch app aimed at traveling. Airline apps don't add more value to their existing notifications, hotel room key apps are cute and useless, and translation apps are appealing until you actually converse with a person IRL and realize it's really awkward to start speaking to your wrist mid-convo or, even weirder, asking them to speak into your wrist. The one exception is currency conversion, which feels fantastic as a watch app and is actually practical. Hopefully as the watch market matures, these apps will move on from gimmicky features to more serious functionality. 

So far, the Apple watch has been a real luxury to have with me as I travel, and it really is just that: a luxury. You won't *need* one for traveling but wow does it add a lot of convenience on to my trip. No way I'm parting with it unless you pry it from my cold dead wrists.  

May Flowers.

I might have missed out on the cherry blossom season but our whole neighborhood in Meguro is full of blooms at the moment. It smells like roses when you walk down the street (!). Now I'm starting to figure out where all the  🌺🌹🌼🌸 flower species of emoji come from...

Every day, a flower fairy puts a new bouquet in front of our apartment. 💐

Every day, a flower fairy puts a new bouquet in front of our apartment. 💐

Bonus pic of the vegetable garden in the public park we live next to.

Bonus pic of the vegetable garden in the public park we live next to.

First Week in Tokyo.

Achievement: Recovered from jet lag.
Unachievement: Still hitting my head on the ceiling.

For the next 3 months Ben and I will be living in Tokyo. We've rented a small apartment between the Shibuya and Meguro wards. The weather in Tokyo is fantastic this time of year! Bye bye San Francisco fog and freezing wind. Our arrival coincides with Japan's "Golden Week" holiday where everyone gets the week off. That means it's been packed with festival, events and very crowded streets. My original plan was to start working on projects right away, but I think I'm just going to enjoy vacation for a bit longer 😎.

Our apartment in Meguro is tiny but light-filled ☀️.

Our apartment in Meguro is tiny but light-filled ☀️.

We're right next to the Meguro River. Cherry blossom season is already over but it's still a beautiful walk.

We're right next to the Meguro River. Cherry blossom season is already over but it's still a beautiful walk.

For Golden Week, we rode the train to Fuchu City where the くらやみ祭り Darkness Festival was taking place. The festival has been held for over 2000 years and lasts 7 days.

For Golden Week, we rode the train to Fuchu City where the くらやみ祭り Darkness Festival was taking place. The festival has been held for over 2000 years and lasts 7 days.

Over the course of the night, crowds of people carry 8 Mikoshi shrines around the temple. 

Over the course of the night, crowds of people carry 8 Mikoshi shrines around the temple. 

I also ate the most delicious grilled-rice-puff-thing at the festival. Way better than fried dough.

I also ate the most delicious grilled-rice-puff-thing at the festival. Way better than fried dough.