Tokyo Express

I returned from Tokyo on Monday. I gave a talk at the Web Directions East conference. I’ve never had a simultaneous translation of a presentation before. I hope it went OK. I’ll be forever grateful to John Allsopp, Satoshi Kukichi and the rest of the WDE team for inviting me to speak, being incredibly gracious hosts and generally being awesome people. I’ll never get tired of traveling to faraway places, where (without fail) the quality of people in this industry inspire, impress and humble me. I feel lucky.

I don’t think I’ll travel that distance again without the rest of my family.
I’ll never forget walking through customs after spending the entire Election Day in the air. CNN was on in the airport lobby. ‘Barrack Obama Elected President of the United States’ it said. Twenty seconds later, John McCain started his concession speech. Relief after 14 hours of nail-biting anticipation.

I took a lot of photos. I tried packing as much into a few days as possible. I was amazed by the giganticness of the city. I caught a view of the cityscape at night, at the top of the hotel where Lost in Translation was filmed. They wanted a $20 cover charge, so we left.

I loved that every train station in Tokyo has it’s own unique short little melody (hear them all). I love how this aids accessibility with audio. I’m thinking we need more unique audible melodies for events that happen on the web or desktop. I was also impressed with the grooved sidewalk path found throughout the entire city, which would direct a blind person from station to station, uninterrupted.
I probably didn’t bow enough.

I sang Don’t Stop Believing in a karaoke bar in Shinjuku along with friends old and new. I’ve never sang karaoke before. I had the best doughnut I’ve had in my life in Harajuku, at Tamagotchi Donuts. I was amazed by the depth of the character culture in Japan. It permeates everything and everyone — not just for kids, but a part of general communication throughout the city.

I tried the eel (unagi) and ‘chicken knuckles’, but was less adventurous with the raw horsemeat. I loved the simplicity of the food in Japan. I have a new favorite snack in ‘onigiri‘, a triangle of sushi rice, seaweed, and (in my case) teriyaki-soaked seaweed inside. I’ll have to hunt for those here at home.

I learned two Japanese phrases. I should’ve learned more.


  1. David Hughes says:

    Hi Dan
    We met at @Media last year and shared a few beers at the party… but I digress.
    I was fortune to visit Tokyo a few years back an loved it also. However, I did pay the cover charge for the Park Hyatt bar – what the hell I thought.
    The city looks amazing by night, I managed to get a great shot from our office looking back to Shinjuku: Flickr.
    I’d love to visit again.

  2. William Murray says:

    I was in Tokyo years ago, but thanks for bringing back some great memories! We traveled there in August, during the rainy season, and packed umbrellas in order to be prepared. What never occurred to us is that our brightly-colored American umbrellas would contrast so sharply with all of the Japanese businessmen and their black umbrellas…we were quite literally the only people with colored umbrellas most of the time!
    Also, I love to hear about little things like the unique melodies and grooved sidewalks. My work with universal design and accessibility has given me a new appreciation for how we can apply principles not just to web design, but to all facets of the world around us.

  3. Rahim says:

    You should have given in and tried the raw horse. It’s actually not as bad as you might imagine. The best way I could describe it is “meaty.”
    @William Murray The first time I went (December ’06) I forgot an umbrella, so I bought a cheap one at the 100 yen store. The seams busted after a few uses, but luckily, I found out Tokyo has an umbrella sharing system. It’s kind of like the “take a penny, leave a penny” system. Pick up any of the clear umbrellas that aren’t wrapped in plastic (those are in use by someone in the store) and drop it off at any other store with clear umbrellas. At least, I hope that’s how it works; otherwise, I’ve been stealing umbrellas all over Tokyo :D

  4. Rahim says:

    Oh yeah, here’s my night shot from the Tokyo Tower (worth going up once).

  5. Chris says:

    Did you get a chance to explore the city at all?
    I am from Canada and the two cities I want to visit the MOST in the whole world (at this point in my life anyways) are Vancouver and Tokyo. Judging by pictures of Tokyo it looks beautiful, (and knowing it’s population is greater than all of Canada’s) it looks like a craaazy city.
    You are very lucky!

  6. Chris says:

    Ooops, disregard the “Did you get a chance to explore the city at all?” I someone missed reading part of the post!

  7. Shane says:

    Tokyo is one place I long to visit. I’m envious of your trip, but I sympathise with you leaving your family behind – it’s not something I wish to do without my wife and son in tow.

  8. Ross Howard says:

    More on the Tokyo train station melodies and how they inspired some thoughts in user experience design.

  9. kazu says:

    Hi, it was so nice to see you again in Tokyo. Thank you for that nice and beautiful presentation – actually, yours was the best one for me on the day. I hope see you again someday, somewhere.

  10. Eli says:

    You should have tried the raw horse meat. It’s one of the best meats I’ve ever tasted. Now whale on the other hand… I could take it or leave it.

  11. Sagem says:

    How did you get on with the Japanese only subway hehe

  12. Nathan says:

    +1 on should have tried the basashi. It’s quite fantastic, with a small amount of ginger.
    I’m surprised you could find it in Tokyo though. It’s much more common in smaller cities like Kumamoto.