Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tokyo City: Week Three

Email To: Joseph Hammill, Rochester, New York
From: Akasaka, Tokyo 1 July 15:29:54

Hey Dude,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, but it's been a whirlwind the past few days...life is a carnival! (great tune by The Band).

Anyways, congratulations on the summer grades and I wish you the best when you start to look at RIT (I guess, is that right?).

Well, my parents made it to Tokyo, and we have been exploring the city together after I finish with classes each day. I had a final on Monday and I have another one on Friday, so I have been trying to balance books and Tokyo. On top of all that, I have a number of administrative things to take care of for the fall semester at Santa Clara Law, which is a pain to try and accomplish when working with a 16 hour time difference...

In addition, my internship starts this Monday. I have been placed at TMI Associates, a large international IP firm located in the swank Mori Tower, in Roppongi Hills. The firm seems to be a legitimate international presence...I told then I had still not acquired a mobile phone since I have been in Japan, and they informed me "they would prepare one for me." (SWEET!) My office is on the 23rd floor, and I assume I will have quite the view of the city. Monday I will be giving an introductory speech in Japanese to the ENTIRE firm (uh-oh, I think I might be in trouble there). Needless to say I am nervous to get started; I hope I can handle the work that they through my way, and I want to make a noticeable impact and impression in the 4-short weeks I am there.

Tokyo is AMAZING. So far the best experiences have been the Tsukiji Fish Market and dinner at the Park Hyatt Hotel. We went to the Fish Market last Saturday at about 4:45 am, right when it is starting to open up. We walked about 15 yards into the open warehouse market and I was splashed with water from these fish in a huge bathtub. A guy grabs one out, slaps it onto a table and WHAP!, chops off its head! That woke me up a little...then we saw them auctioning off those gigantic tuna; probably the biggest fish I have ever seen. The tuna were then carted off to various vendors' stations where they were butchered into quarters, and then sliced again into smaller portions. We also saw some frozen tuna that were being cut up on enormous jigsaws. Overall it was an incredible experience, not soon to be forgotten.

Then, Monday night we ate dinner at the Park Hyatt Hotel. If you've ever seen 'Lost in Translation', that is the bar/restaurant that Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansen(I think I love her) frequent. The view was incredible, and the dinner and service was world-class. Plus, I ordered a 20 dollar class of Japanese whiskey for dessert! If you are ever in Tokyo, we are 'suiting-up' and hitting this bar at least once!

Well, I am just about ready to head out for dinner again. The food is (probably) one of the best things about Tokyo...except when you have no idea what it is you are eating. (I think I ate some tofu-"goop" for lunch yesterday...but it was still delicious)

Until later,


Monday, June 22, 2009

The Latest 'What the Hell were they Thinking...?' News

ASCAP (that would be the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) is claiming, in a brief filed within the context of their current lawsuit against the telcom giant ATT, that the playing of a cell-phone ringtone in public constitutes a "public performance", for which musicians are owed royalties.

That's correct. Their position is that every time "Single Ladies(Put a Ring on It)" (...all the single ladies...mmm, what a jam!) goes off on your bling, bling iPhone, that you now owe Beyonce a royalty fee. That is, so long as you are out in public when your cellphone ring, so that other individuals are able(forced) to hear it.

Various responses to ASCAP's absurd and nonsensical (or is that overly redundant?) claim has been swift, and for the most part, relatively fair in its criticism. Techdirt points out that this claim hearkens back to ASCAP threat to Girl Scouts regarding the singing of various campfire songs at troop meetings, and that by posing such a claim against, ASCAP is overreaching, and targeting the wrong party (Mr. Masnick points out...how can ATT be held liable for what their users have installed as a ringtone, and where that ringtone is played?).

I feel that this claim is more akin to the recent claim by the Author's Guild, that the text-to-speech function on the Amazon Kindle is a type of "public performance", in violation of copyright law, that will ultimately deprive author's profits from the sales of audiobooks. Both claims follow failed lines of reasoning. No one is going to put up with Kindle's text-to-speech in lieu of an audiobook read by a professional, just the same way that no one is going tolerate a ringtone instead of purchasing (or (illegally) downloading, but that is beside the point, and another issue altogether) the full version of a song.

Additionally, the EFF has responded to ASCAP, and have pointed out that even if the ringtones can somehow be construed as a public performance, copyright law makes specific exemption of performances "without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage". Clearly, no one is attempting to profit from there cellphone ringtone (although, I could imagine a bum who carries around his ringtone capable cellular device, and dances to various clips when passersby call his number...).

Essentially, any claim of this nature by ASCAP should be DOA.

As new technologies continue to arrive, old media entities (such as ASCAP or the Author's Guild) continue to try and fit a square peg into an increasingly round hole. These media entities should focus on transforming their old business schemes into new money-making strategies that can embrace the functionality of new technology, instead of trying to limit or dampen its potential. Granted this is easier said that done, but still, I cannot see anyway in which claims of this nature are possibly beneficial to anyone within the music industry.

Tokyo City: Day Ten

Email To: Sardina Family, Rochester, New York
From: Akasaka, Tokyo 22 June 20:02:16

Hey Ma, Dad and Jenn,

How is everything Stateside? Mini-golf looks like it was fun; what course did you play?

Everything is going well here in Tokyo. It rained nearly all day Sunday, following our Skype conversation. I ran into a few kids from the program at breakfast, and we hung out together all day.

First, we tried to go to the Kabukiza Theater to see a Kabuki play, however, tickets were sold out. Kabuki is the tradition-style theater characterized by actors/actresses adorned in masks and ornamental kimonos. We got some information about ticket availability in general, and it sounds like if we can get there by 4pm when the box office opens on weekdays, it would be possible to get a relatively cheap ticket. This could potentially be something to do when you are here, depending on your interest levels.

So, instead of the theater, we decided to visit the National Museum, located in Ueno. This ward is home to several Museums in addition to the National Museum (Art, Science, etc.) and there is a Zoo located nearby as well. The National Museum was terrific! It is located on expansive grounds, and consists of 5 or 6 buildings, each housing numerous displays. I would recommend starting in the main building, on the second floor, working your way counter-clockwise through the exhibits. This path tracks the history of Japanese art and culture from the initial settlement of the island, up through the Edo period and into Modern-day Japan. I grabbed some food at the restaurant within the grounds, while the girls went on a tea ceremony tour to the idyllic tea house located behind a pond. They weren't thrilled with the entire undertaking (I don't think that they really enjoy tea), but it sounds like something that Ma would particularly like to experience. I believe they are held daily at Noon and again at Two.

Following the museum, we walked through a Pachinko hall/parlour, and had the peacefulness of spending a day in the National Museum completely destroyed in about 3 minutes time. A Pachinko hall is like a more crowded, louder and smokier reboot of a Vegas slot room. Even if I could figure out how it all worked, I am not sure I would want to hang around long enough to actually play!

We went out to dinner at a restaurant up the street that has a giant touch screen remote from which you order small food-items(Yakutori skewers, pot-stickers, sushi rolls, fried rice,etc.) to share with the table. I believe it is a chain (a place we ate at as a large group in Shubuya had the exact same menu and the decor was eerily similar), however the food is decent and relatively cheap. Oh yeah, Dad, its located right next to the Maserati dealership! (I don't think they allow test drives, but we should see if we can get some pictures with these cars!!)

All-in-all today was relaxing. We started a new class, International Trade, and I really enjoy the professor and the subject matter! We have an exam tomorrow, and then have some interesting plans...more about that later.

Can't wait to see you guys...Jenn should I try to save a ticket for the Giants game for ya? It is at 6pm the day you arrive (you guys get here Friday at 1:15pm)...

Until later,


Friday, June 19, 2009

Tokyo City: Day Seven

Email To: Justin R., Rochester, New York
From: Akasaka, Tokyo 19 June 17:01:58

Hey Justin! Whats good in the old neighborhood? How's the job search coming along? Did you break 40 on the golf course yet?!

Meeting with Mari was awesome. She specifically pointed out this sushi place in Shibuya, where they have a conveyor belt of sushi going around the place. It is super cheap and extremely tasty! People in my class have called it "the best sushi in Tokyo", and I have been there once so far (probably going again later tonight) and so far I agree. It is amazing!

I wanted to say that I didn't get Nate's invite (if he has sent them already) before I left for Tokyo. But I do plan on going. I wanted to book my flight, however I need to know the dates again to be sure. Also, I wanted to RSVP if I need to do that (I am unsure re wedding invite protocol).

Tonight we are going to dinner where you order a set meal, and it is all you can drink while you eat! It sounds good, but all you can drink Kirin is awesome for about two sips of beer! Japanese beer is driving me CRAZY! I would just about kill for a Saranac or Long Trail Blackbeary Wheat (don't even get me started on the Haze!).

After dinner, we are going to a hip-hop club in Roppongi. Apparently, it is one of the biggest clubs in the city, and they have live Hip-Hop (could be sweet) downstairs, and 80's hip-hop (I am hoping for some Tribe) upstairs. As you know, I am not a big fan of the club scene, but I want to try everything there is while I am here...at least one night of clubbing won't kill me.

I received my internship assignment; I am working for TMI Associates in Roppongi Hills. Their office is on the 23rd floor of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower (google it! It is quite impressive). That starts in a few weeks after classes end. I have tickets to see the Yoimuri Giants play the Yakult Swallows (they are the two best teams in the J-League) next Friday, and then my family will be getting into town. I will update you with more later on.

Until Later,


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tokyo City: Day Three

Email To: Sardina Family, Rochester, New York
From: Akasaka, Tokyo 15 June 2009 6:48:33

Hello Ma, Dad and Jenn,

It is bright and early (and humid)...Here is the latest from Tokyo...

Yesterday was an incredible day. I met up with Mari here at the hotel, and we rode the Ginza Line to the Omote-Sando station. I purchased a Pasmo card, which allows you to simply tap the turnstile with the card to gain access into the station, instead of relying on paper ticket stubs. Using it makes me feel like a seasoned commuter! (Except for once I am inside the station, I have to stop and gawk up at the signs in an attempt to determine the correct platform)...

From the Omote-Sando station we walked up the street, along an extremely congested route to Harajuku, which is an even narrower and more congested street, littered with corner shops selling flashing tee-shirts and bright colored sneakers. It is nearly impossible to describe the scene; there are so many people, including lots of Japanese dressed up in outlandish costumes (little bo-peep was a popular choice). With a sheepish grin on my face, I kept remarking to Mari, "this is amazing!" Harajuku is certainly a must-see when you visit.

From there, we looped around to Meji-Dori, and walked towards the center of Shibuya. According to Mari, this is a popular city district for the younger, more fashionable Japanese crowd. Here is where the recognizable five-point intersection (junction) is located. I think it was feature in 'Lost in Translation'. We went up a few stories to a Starbucks window and watched the people gather, waiting for the light to change so they could cross the street in one giant throng of moving bodies. Again, the site was incredible.

We walked around a little in Shibuya; there is a place that Jenn would like, it is called Shibuya 109. One tourist brochure states that "the fashion building is hugely popular among teenage girls..." and, from what I glimpsed as we walked through the lobby, it is 9 floors of crowded shopping pandemonium. Jenn and Ma can check that out, while Dad and I browse the electronic store across the street. We only had time to walk through the 'cell phone floor', but I saw numerous devices that puts the iPhone to shame!

Also, nearby, we briefly stopped into one of Mari's favorite Sushi places. Inside, a conveyor belt slowly rotates around a square bar. In the center of the island bar, two sushi chefs are preparing fresh rolls, and place the plates on the conveyor belt; when a particular plate you want goes past, you simply grab it off and enjoy! Payment is based upon the color of the plate (blue plates 105 yen, red plates 200 yen, etc.) Mari said that this particular place featured very fresh sushi and was extremely reasonable in price.

Later, I rode the subway back to the Asia Center for Orientation, which was more of a meet-and-greet affair than anything else. We received a CD with a PDF file on it with our coursework for the first section of the course, the Japanese Legal System. Our first class is later today. The internship assignments will be distributed tomorrow, and we will have our first opportunity to make contact with someone from our respective firm on Tuesday night at the reception.

Following orientation, a number of us who are staying at the Asia Center (just over half of the students are staying here as well) went out to the New Tokyo Beer Hall for dinner and drinks. The Beer Hall is a frequent haunt of Professor Jimenez, who informed that it was tradition for him to go out with students to the restaurant the first night of the program. The food (sausages, thin-crust seafood pizza, teriyaki beef tips, and spring rolls) was amazing, and the beers were HUGE! The atmosphere was terrific; the table next to us was a party with all these older Japanese guys in suits, who were tossing back beers and singing traditional Japanese songs. Professor Jimenez suggested that the group was a good representation of the Japanese after-hours professional life and culture.

Overall it has been a great start to the program; the other students who are staying at the Center seem to be good people. There are several from Santa Clara and another kid who was an undergrad at Ohio State from 2004-2008, as was I. One student even went to Binghamton as an undergrad (he has previously studied abroad in Japan, through a Binghamton program like Jenn will be doing to Spain)...

That's all for now...until later,

Friday, June 12, 2009

Tokyo City: Day One

Email: To Joe Hammill, Justin Romagnola, Rochester, New York
From: Akasaka, Tokyo, 13 June 2009 8:08:13

Hey Dudes! Its 8 am here! Just chomped on some grilled fish and rice for breakfast! It was actually very delicious.

Anyways, got in last night. Everything was fine through customs/immigration. It all seems like one big haze because of the jet-lag. But I made it to the hotel, and they actually had my room reserved and all!

I walked around the area for a little bit, trying to find something to eat. I ended up in some fast-food looking place pointing to a picture of something and saying "Can I have this one?" I think it was chicken....but who can be sure?! Not knowing any of the language definitely works as a handicap, but so far it has also been fun being completely outside my element.

I am going to try to navigate the subway today...and then I have to hunker down a little and iron my clothes and stuff for the next week. Mari(Keiko's friend) is meeting me tomorrow at 3 to show me a couple of the closer city districts. I have the program orientation Sunday night, and classes begin on Monday.

Thats all for now...I will update you guys again soon. Pics to follow (I hope, pending my ability to operate the camera).