Nippon 2007

For those of you coming to Worldcon, here’s the list of panels that I’m scheduled to be on.

Sat 1000 The Inevtiable Google Panel
Participants: Dr Andrew A ADAMS, Eileen GUNN, Tom GALLOWAY, Adam RAKUNAS
Love it or hate it, more than half of all net users search via Google. Is it really the end all and be all of all human knowledge? Computer knowledge? Our panelists have fun and try to predict where it will be in 2 year? 10 20? 100?

Fri 1400 The Transparent Society
Participants: Charles STROSS, Chris COOPER, David BRIN, Dr Andrew A ADAMS
David Brin wrote “The Transparent society”. In it he claims that current information technology kills privacy and that we must all adjust. Related concepts are scattered through his fiction. Is it possible to put social and legal limits on the processing of private information, now and in the future?

Sat 1600 Sex and Technology
Participants: David D LEVINE, Dr Andrew A ADAMS, Patricia MACEWEN
The automobile…..the movie……the Internet……then? How has modern technology affected sex? What lies ahead – virtual reality harems? Computer-enhanced marital aids? The orgasmatron? What can we look forward to? (and is this all a Good Thing?)

After a Nippon 2007 meeting today at the site in Yokohama, the staff attending split up into smaller groups and went to check out various restaurants. There are a lot of different restaurants in the Queens Square and Landmark Tower Malls near the Pacifico Yokohama conference centre. They’re not badly priced, either. Certainly I recommend the short walk across to the Queens Square (you go through that to get to the Landmark Tower Mall, about ten to fifteen minutes walk – longer for slowcoaches) rather than eating in the Intercontinental (small portions and extortionate prices).

So, along with Inoue Hiroaki-san, Inoue Tamie-san, Trevor Knudsen (what name for a Westerner living in Japan, try getting Japanese people to pronounce it from the written form), Rodrigo Juri and a couple of the other Japanese, we went in search of something that would fit me (picky beggar, mostly vegetarian) and Rodrigo (on a tight budget). Tamie-san suggested we try an okonomiyaki place (she remembered there was at least one in the Landmark Tower Mall).We went to the Yokohama Landmark Plaza Botejyu (okonomiyaki is food from the Osaka region and this is a chain that started in Osaka).


This evening I went to dinner with my old friend Hirai Hirohide-san (Jack) and his wife Chizue-san. They live in the Eastern part of Tokyo, though not too far out. It’s easy to remember where to go on the train because the nearest station is Hirai on the Sobu (local) line past where I go to work via Ochanomizu station.

Hirohide-san and Chizue-san live in a new government-developed area of Hirai about fifteen minutes walk from the station. The local government bought up a bunch of land and put up high rise “mansions”. Despite the English (or should that be Engrish) name “mansions” are poured-concrete apartment blocks. The block Hirohide-san and Chizue-san live in is fourteen storeys high and they live on the top floor. It’s more expensive to live up there, but they don’t have to listen to people clomping about upstairs. As with all fans, their apartment is full of stuff. Lots of books and lots of stuffed toys. Chizue-san is a soft toy nut, and was very intrigued by my description of a beeblebear. I remembered I had a photo of BWNN on my laptop so booted up to have him pronounced Kawaii (cute). They’ve bookmarked the ZZ9 website and Chizue-san definitely wants one from Hirohide-san for her upcoming birthday.

It was raining when it came time for me to depart so they gave me a lift back to the station. They mostly only use their car on holidays (quite a few people who live in Tokyo own very nice cars but use them very little) so they don’t mind that they’ve got the lowest bunk on a three-car high storage lift in the car park outside the apartment block. Each space in the car park has a car lift which drops into the ground so that the uppermost one can drive off. If you want to get the lower two out the car lift rises up to bring it to ground level. If there’s a power cut or a flood, the lower ones might be in trouble (actually, if there was an expected flood, say due to a typhoon, they’d probably raise the lifts in preparation of the problem. Wouldn’t help the guys on the more expensive top layer, though.

Onsen are very popular in Japan. As Japan is on an active tectonic fault, it’s prone to earthquakes and has volcanic activity. One of the upsides of this is a significant number of hot springs all over the place. As in most places these are used for vacation and therapeutic purposes. So popular are hot springs that their water is sometimes trucked many miles by road tanker. For example, there’s an Onsen near the Nippon 2007 site (The Pacifico Yokohama) which receives its water daily by road from the Atami Onsen down the coast.

I visited the Atami Onsen  (Atami Train Station picture) for a staff meeting of the Nippon 2007 worldcon over the weekend. There’s a  bunch of pictures from the banquet and the party on the gallery. Unfortunately, since I have eczema, taking baths in very hot water is not a good idea, so I didn’t try out the hot baths myself. For those worried about reports of mixed bathing facilities, the vast majority of Onsen do NOT have mixed bathing. For some reason, possibly to do with differences in the facilities or the feed of the water, the hotel we were in would switch around which of the two facilities was male and which female. If visiting these places without a Japanese reader (and the signs used there were not so simple as just otoko/onna, but used more complicated kanji signs which I wouldn’t have been happy relying on, although I was fairly sure I could tell which was which) then you should ask the staff.

It was still an interesting experience. The staff shared “Tatami Rooms” with up to five to a room. These Tatami Rooms consisted of two parts: a really traditional tatami room which contained floor level seats (backs and seats but no legs) and table, during the day, and which were re-set to futons in the evening. The other half contained two western style single beds. So if you’re going as a couple , you could have one such room and it would serve as a suite. Don’t expect that to be cheap, however. I’m not sure what the split was between the room and the banquet, but it was about Y13000 for me to share the room and pay for the banquet.
One of the rooms the staff were using  was given over to a “Tatami Room Party” on the Saturday night. It was still going very strong when I bailed at 3am. Room parties look like they’re alive and well and living in Japanese fandom.

Yesterday (Tuesday 16th January) I went around the Conference and Exhibition Centres where the Nippon 2007 worldcon will be held. Tamie-san helped John and Peggy Rae Sapienza move from a hotel near Narita to one of the convention hotels. I met up with them and we had lunch in the Intercontinental Hotel (fairly nice but very expensive and quite small portions) then met with staff from the conference centre. They showed us many of the rooms we’ll be using for the convention, including the main theatre, the smaller programme rooms and the big exhibit hall which is where most of the elements of my division will be sited. There are some photos on the gallery, principally of the big barn of the Exhibit Hall. We were also shown the Harbour Lounges where some of the evening events will probably be taking place.

Lots of useful information about the programme rooms, which will inform our discussions this coming weekend at a staff meeting in Atami.

Exhibit Hall A is pretty close to a rectangle 80m by 45m. It has a set of toilets at the loading dock end. There’s a convenience store just outside the entrance to the hall, which is open from 07:00 to 23:00. The store contains an ATM which takes Visa and Mastercard – useful for the dealer’s room.

I spent much of the day with Inoue-san and Tamie-san at a new year’s party at their apartment in Mitaka, another Western suburb of Tokyo. It took about an hour to get there between two trains and a bus. Imaoka Ato-san (deep in thought using the computer in this photo) kindly agreed to meet me at the train station and show me where to go on the bus and to their door. After hanging around outside for a bit at the station I popped back inside and found Ato-san waiting there for me, of course. We wandered over towards the bus stops and he rang Tamie-san on his keitai (Japanese for mobile phone, also keitai-denwa). She’d forgotten something she needed for the party (don’t you always) so we had to retrace our steps to the station which is in the same building at Kichijouji as the shopping centre. That done, we headed back tot he bus station once again. It had turned a little bit colder in Tokyo today, though it’s probably still a little unseasonably warm. During the wait for the bus, another of the Nippon committee turned up and joined us in the queue, heading for the same party. When getting off the bus we found that another of the Inoue’s friends had also been on the bus so there were four of us at the door when we arrived.