Saturday, 14 April 2012

In Yokohama

I promised updates during my Japan first so here's the first. Unfortunately there won't be any pictures as I don't presently have a means of downloading the images from my camera. You'll just have to take my word for it that they were some of the finest examples of the photographic art ever committed to an SD card.

My experience so far has been extremely favorable. I arrived early Thursday morning, to clear blue skies and an abundance of cherry blossom trees visible even before I'd left the aeroplane. I'd agreed to be met in the airport a couple of hours later, which allowed time for a shower (I could do an entire blog post about how excellent the shower facilities were, compared to the joke that is Heathrow) and some basic necessities such as arranging cellphone rental. Japan is 3G, so many foreign phones don't work here - however the rental process could not have been easier and the phone came with a handy set of basic operating instructions. I was up and texting within minutes of receiving the phone.

I was met at the airport by Tomoki Kodama, one of the Japanese fans involved in the organisation of the convention. Kodama-san and I then rode the impressively fast and modern Skyliner train into the Ueno district of Tokyo, where we met Andrew Adams, an ex-pat Brit with a long involvement in science fiction and who has been my point of contact in the long run up to Hal-Con. Within a few minutes of meeting we were sitting in the upstairs section of a fantastic Japanese restaurant, and not long after that we were eating. I had to pinch myself - I'm in Japan. Foreign trips like this are often so much more enjoyable when you can tap into a bit of local knowledge, and this was definitely the case here. The food was great. I've eaten enough Japanese food prior to my arrival to feel that it was to my taste, but one never knows quite how well that will map onto the true experience of eating locally. However, so far I've found the food to be excellent and very much to my liking. After an enjoyable stroll through Ueno's park and museum, Andrew very kindly invited me back to his place for an evening meal. Andrew and his wife were extremely hospitable and served me a very nice selection of sashimi dishes. Then I met up with Kodama-san again and we took a series of local trains to the hotel in Yokohama. I'll readily confess that, while having heard of Yokohama before, until the preparations for this trip I didn't know that it was so close to Tokyo. We were travelling at night, but I never sensed any great transition from one urban area to another.

I like Yokohama very much; people here (indeed, everywhere since my arrival) have been unfailingly friendly and helpful. And I've had a great day at the convention, in a characterful old brick building that I think many British conventions would kill for. I'll say a bit more about the convention in my next update, though.


  1. Sounds like a great time! As for the proximity of Yokohama to Tokyo, I'd imagine it's like Los Angeles, where one giant city blends into another, creating a sprawling metro area. I'm not sure, but I think Tokyo is the largest metro area in the world.

  2. Having lived in Japan for several years, I can agree that the people are very hospitable and friendly on the outside. Just don't spend more time there than you need to, otherwise you'll start to see the other side!

  3. That's the case with many cultures, though - having lived in a foreign country for many years I know the difference between first/deeper impressions.

    All I can say is that I am extremely grateful for the helpfulness shown to me on my visit. Better that than the surly manners often encountered in the UK.

  4. Gah! That's what I get for not reading this blog for a couple of days. I missed Hal-Con in Yokohama and I wasn't even busy then.

    As a long time resident of Japan, the overwhelming but beautiful aspects of the Tokyo area have become blunted over time, but reading this post reminded me of all the things I love about Japan. Thank you for that.

    I found Revelation Space in the discount rack of the English language section in a book store in Ikebukuro a few years ago and bought it on the off chance it was interesting. Fast forward to now, and I have every one of your books on my shelf (except for a few ebooks on my nook, and Blue Remembered Earth, which I haven't had the chance to pick up yet). I've read them all on the trains while commuting to and from work, sitting on a bench while the crowds go by, and even by the riverside near my previous job. I think because of that, I will probably always associate your books with Japan.

    Sorry for the long comment, but in my roundabout way, this is a thanks for sucking me in with Revelation Space, and keeping my commutes interesting and scary.

  5. Sarah Humphrey22 June 2012 at 02:40

    Hi Al,

    I'm just catching up with your Japanese adventures. I could never go to a country where it's impossibe to read the road signs... ;-))
    Glad to hear the trip went well.

    Sarah H.

  6. It was a great trip, a dazzle of images and experiences. Very interested to go back.

    I'm back in ESTEC next week - doing a talk! Are you around?