Brian is in town on business, so last night he and I went out with some friends of his, first to a Harvard Business School party at “Soho”, I think, then to a bar called Propaganda in Roppangi. At the HBS party, the bar looks like you’re tightly glassed in next to a minature version of New York’s Guggenheim. I was first introduced to two women who worked at Disney and DeBeers, two of my top nemesis companies. Disney I have a love-hate thing going on with. Toy Story is one of my favorite movies, but we spend a lot of time at the Center disagreeing with the company on copyright issues. DeBeers is another matter entirely. The woman was carrying an ostentatious Dior purse, in the Tokyo style.

We left there after some hedge fund apologist annoyed Brian and headed for the bar. Strangely, it reminded me of every American bar I’ve ever been in in any foreign country I’ve ever been in. Except that the people were even drunker! Someone passed out in a locked stall in the ladies room and the flirtatious bar back had to go in there with a screwdriver to pry her out. At about 2:30 A, I took my leave and battled the other early-departing older members of the partying crowds for a taxi. There were lots and lots of people and several cabs there, but they all appeared to be waiting for something other than being hailed. I walked about a half mile down the street for a better vantage point, but there were drunk people there too, and they were very aggressive! Finally, some kind soul pulled over and took me to my hotel, following the directions on the full color GPS driven map he had in the cab. The ride cost US$40, but now I can cross Roppongi off my list.
At New College, Prof. Eugene Lewis had us read Jacques Ellul, from whom I learned to fear the self-propulsion of technological development, even if he was a religious nut (Ellul, not Lewis). Subsequently, I�ve come to embrace, then adore, then be employed because of, technology. So, this morning I went to the world famous �Electronic City� of Akihabara to pay homage.

My goals were simple. See if I could buy a digital camera and see if there were any cool doodads or geegaws for my father�s Christmas present. My expectations were high. When I was little, my father took me once to New York�s tech town, down near Canal Street. I remember loving the different blinking lights, but being pretty underwhelmed with all the resistors and transformers, until one sales guy showed us a �piano� he�d made from those parts that would sound different notes when you hit the keys with a magnet in the tip of a drinking straw. I was amazed. I wonder if my father remembers that.

I�d done my research by reading Tech Know, an excellent column on Tokyo�s electronics scene published in Metropolis Magazine. From there, I�d actually checked for the prices on the camera I wanted. The review was in Japanese, but the price was in English. So I had some idea of what it should cost, which was pretty close to what I could get it for in the U.S.

Akihabara was all bright colors and neon and the cutest roundest pinkest washing machines I�d ever seen. It wasn�t particularly attractive, and neither were the prices. In the huge Laox, the camera was listed at 10,000 yen more than Kakaku said I should pay. All the stores were similar. But they did have the camera in a sparkly red! I wanted it.

Eventually, I found a bunch of cramped stands, one selling transistors, then next, resistors, the next capacitors, the next cords to connect stereo components. I thought of all the gearheads Brad and I knew and how they should be here with me. In that warren, I found the camera I was looking for, also at the inflated price. After some heavy bargaining, in a mixture of broken English and passing the calculator back and forth with our offering price displayed, we came to a mutually satisfactory deal, or at least I thought so. We had a serious misunderstanding over how much extra memory was included in the setto I�d negotiated for. Whereupon, already stricken with the amount of money I was prepared to pay, and after a series of experiences traveling in Brazil after which I vowed not to be a push over about money when traveling where I don�t speak the language, I expressed my willingness to revoke the deal by handing back my credit card for a refund, the seller sighed heavily, walked off, and returned somewhat huffily, agreeing (again?) to my price. Do you have to make the seller mad to feel like you got a good deal? To calm down afterwards, I got sushi on a conveyer belt. Excellent.
A fun day with Brad, Yuko and Ryoki. First, Brad and I reveled in our navigational limitations when, lost in Shinjuku while looking for an anemic flea market, we realized we were unbelievably hungry and passed up several coffee shops serving toast in hopes of something better, only to find ourselves in a coffee shop, half an hour later, hungrily ordering toast, because that was all we could find.

We then met up with Yuko and Ryoki and went for an excellent lunch, where we had chirashi, because it was the specialty of the house. I asked why that was the special and the chef said if I ordered it, it would be obvious why. It was. It also came with an odd pudding that had chewy lumps of something of the same color in it, making them difficult to avoid, and a hidden shrimp and green-yellow-red maple leaf shaped confection.

We then went to a lovely strolling park that was built to illustrate the stories and principles of poetry – Brad: Principle One: It Doesn�t Always Have to Rhyme – and then to some bookstores to shop for manga. There, in addition to lots of great books about visual art of all kinds, we saw a popular calendar girl holding her shaking-hands opportunity for a long line of eager young men.

Perhaps perversely, I really enjoyed Yuko and Ryoki navigating us around the city. Native Japanese speakers, they also tended to be unable to locate where we were going or which way to turn. Upon asking at stores in the native tongue, salespeople also were found to be remarkably ignorant of the neighborhood. For example, Yuko asked a hair salon employee where the street was that the sushi place was on, and she said she didn�t know, maybe over somewhere to the left. Just before following her uncertain hunch, Ryoki spotted it, one block straight ahead.

With Brad in town, we�ve now made a solemn pact to focus on eating well. Tonight, we�re heading to Shinjuku, Blade Runner territory, for shabu-shabu.
Shinjuku is unbelievably vibrant. There are floods of people going every which way, listening to music, playing music,

drinking, checking out the sex clubs, playing video games,

eating shabu-shabu (us). But if you ever notice they are all going the same way, that is because the subway is about to close, and its time to get on it, unless you want a $50 cab ride home.