Episode 16: Digital Daibutsu
This week's bizarre Japanese...

...advertising slogan: "NSK -- HOT STAFF".  Just what are
   they selling?

...shop name: "S nap'py" (punctuation and spacing carefully preserved).
   See above.

...TV commercial: in a evident bid to follow in the footsteps of
   rolling-in-bed-with-waterbottle-girl, a competing brand has
   started showing an ad where the girl performs a Monica Lewinsky
   on the bottle.  I can only imagine what's next.

...restaurant: Re-Flex, Shimokitazawa.  Decorated like a cross
   between a goa party and an Amsterdam coffee shop, it functions as
   a bar, a cafe & a restaurant (mainly curry & salad) as well as the
   HQ of goa-party organizers Equinox.  To get there, take the
   south exit from the train station (Odakyu line), turn left, walk
   one block and turn right, it's a few blocks down on the right
   (2nd floor), opposite Italian Tomato.

...fashion trend: the Tropical Girl.  The look consists of assured
   skin cancer achieved by either setting the solarium to "broil" or
   by application of thick layers of brown boot polish, combined with
   purple/green makeup and slinky dresses with designs recycled from
   polyester Hawaiian shirts.

...weather pattern: HOT. I get drenched in sweat within 10 meters
   of leaving an air-conditioned zone and my glasses actually steam
   up if I have to walk uphill or up a flight of stairs.
   Tokyo currently enjoys the dubious honor of being the hottest
   place on the planet in the morning (eat your hearts out, New Delhi
   and Tel Aviv).  I want my rainy season back!

            *** Warning: nerdy techie stuff follows ***

Despite my desperate attempts to make Chiba cyberpunk, the hands-down
winner of the "cyberpunkiest place on earth" award is definitely
the infamous discount electronics district of Akihabara.  I've been
there quite a few times, usually shopping for The Company.
But finally this week I too succumbed to pleasures that I formerly
thought were beneath me...  no, I didn't buy a liter of Prughurt;
instead, I am now the proud possessor of an authentic Ricoh DC-3
digital camera (along with a CC-W3 cable and a CD-ROM entitled
DU-4 W95J).  The camera's US MSRP is $499, but I scored mine for
only 16000 yen (~$110).  Needless to say, there was a catch, or
several of them to be precise.  The DC-3 was recently discontinued
in favor of the nearly identical DC-3Z (35000 yen), so shops were
getting rid of their old ones at low prices (19800 yen), but I
managed to get one shop's last display piece at a discount -- 4000
yen for a few scratches ain't bad.  The 2nd and 3rd catches were
that the PC connecting cable and software were not included and
had to be bought separately, setting me back another 7000 yen,
and the Japanese-language software will only work with Japanese
Windows.  Fortunately, TWAIN drivers were included so I will be able
to use it with Photoshop back in Finland.  Price comparisons plus
assembling all necessary components took 3 trips to Akihabara and
2 to Shinjuku (Yodobashi Camera, of course!), but now it works quite

So, it's time for J2J to expand into a more visual direction.
The photo archive is now online at http://jpatokal.iki.fi/photo/j2j/!
As this is not only my first digital camera but my first camera as
well, don't expect too much.  Especially this week's shots are
largely just tests of how the digital camera works, and I myself am
still working on learning things like "don't shoot against the light".
Some initial observations:

On the positive side, the LCD screen is nifty, even though it takes
a while to learn that the camera's eye is no longer identical to
your own eye.  It works surprisingly well even in sunlight.
Being able to snap away all you want without worrying about film
running out is great, all shots that you don't like can be erased
on the spot.  The camera's 4 MB is enough for 25 "fine" pictures
or up to 100 "economy" pictures, which is also nice.  And above
all, no hassles or expense with developing, and no chance of
entirely ruining a whole roll because the camera always shows you
what each picture looks like.  And as a cherry on top, the camera
is eerily quiet, the only sound is the gentle click of the shutter.

My first digital picture!

Dynamic bug

Static bug
On the negative side, the camera is a bit slow, with exposure
around 0.2 sec at worst (enough to blur if you don't hold it steady,
viz. Dynabug.JPG) and, worst of all, a random delay between pressing
the shutter and actually taking the picture.  This makes
taking pictures of anything fast-moving difficult, although
(as Staticbug.JPG shows) even rapid objects can be captured if you
can anticipate their path a bit.  The LCD's independent brightness
control makes it difficult to tell whether the camera is adjusting
for light properly (usually it does, but mixed-lighting scenes
tend to get wrecked).  And the LCD screen chews up batteries at
the rate of 4 AAs every two rolls or so; fortunately, the very
intuitive power system (screen up, power on; screen down, power off!)
makes it impossible to leave the screen on by accident.  There's no
zoom, which is a bit of a pity, but the camera's macro mode allows it
to focus as close as 1 cm for "zooms" of nearby objects.  Shutter speed,
aperture, white balance, etc cannot be directly adjusted, but there
are a number of selectable presets for white balance and exposure
values can be manually adjusted +/- 2 EV in 0.5 EV increments.
And there's a built-in flash with red-eye prevention plus self-timer.

In all, I'm quite satisfied.  Digital is without a doubt the
wave of the future: digital photos can be archived, copied and
dissiminated limitlessly, while old-fashioned pictures just gather
dust and lose their colors in photo albums.  The above limitations
are minor annoyances that will be overcome as technology progresses,
and I fully expect that within 5 years my DC-3 will be a museum piece.
In some ways, it is one already, but I figured spending my monthly
salary on today's state-of-the-art just wouldn't be worth it.

This week's pictures were taken (mostly) in two places.  The set
in the main directory is from my neighborhood, especially the nearby
Shizenkyoikuen ("Nature Education Park"?).  And an interesting park
it is too, because it consists of a piece of swamp.  Formerly part of a
nobleman's estates, this patch of land has been sitting in the middle
of suburban Tokyo for a hundred years, and for a nominal 210 yen you
too can do find out what Tokyo looked like before it was even a fishing
village.  There's a limit of 300 visitors at a time, but usually there's
much less than that, making it the quietest place I have ever seen in
Tokyo.  Forests, swampy lakes, birds chirping, crows croaking...  it was
almost like Finland!  The museum/park is on Meguro-doori, the closest
station is Meguro on the Yamanote line.  Check it out.

Ajisai flower at Engakuji

Jomyoji Temple

Cemetery at Tokeiji
The rest are in the subdirectory "Kamakura", whose contents were --
astonishingly enough -- shot in in the old famous temple town of
Kamakura, along with a few from nearby Enoshima.  'Twas a hot and
sweaty day and having all the temples built on hills connected by
miles of staircases certainly didn't help.  I visited around 10
temples, big and small, famous and obscure, and my top 3 would
have to be Sugimotodera for its views and mountain path, Jomyoji for
its exquisite layout and tea ceremony garden, and Hokokuji for its
bamboo grove.  All 3 are in the rather quiet eastern district of town.
Runners-up are Hase Dera's odd Benzaiten-filled cavern (not for
the claustrophobic!) and Tokeiji's cemetery, which is probably the
most beautiful cemetery I have ever seen anywhere.

Daibutsu, front

Daibutsu, back

Daibutsu, lobotomized
Personally, I didn't find the Big Buddha (Daibutsu) particularly
impressive, but you may still wish to check what horrible things I
did to him on (virtual) film -- free brownie points to the first
reader to figure out just what Daibutsu_Lobotomy is.  As if these
indignities weren't already enough, for omiyage I bought a box
of Daibutsu-dorayakis, filled with red bean paste and pressed into
the shape of the big man himself.  Oishii!
In all, Kamakura is definitely worth visiting, I spent 12 hours there
and only scratched the surface.  Up next was Enoshima, where I went
with the Enoden train line, already a cult classic and with reason.
This little 3-car train putters along literally through people's
backyards and in the middle of streets, also giving occasional nice
views of the nearby coastline.  After serene Kamakura arriving in
surfer dude heaven Enoshima was almost a culture shock; being
one of the very few places in Japan with anything resembling surf,
Enoshima was packed with real-life Tropical People sporting deep
suntans and toting their surfboards.  Unfortunately I arrived
somewhat late, most of the fun was over and I didn't even get to
see Enoshima's #1 attraction, the "hadaka-benzaiten", ie. a statue
of a nekkid goddess of non-Japanese proportions.  I consoled myself
by eating a rather insipid sazae-don (sazae being a type of
Enoshimaean shellfish that retails for 300 yen a pop) and resolving
to come back later.

Will next weekend's excursion be to Nikko?  Or Hakone?  Time will tell.


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