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On the ground

J'arrive, as they don't tend to say here.

Landed at Narita at 9am this morning after a lengthy but dull flight. Best movie on offer was Hotel Rwanda - very good, but not exactly light-minded pablum to pass a long plane journey. Reread Three Men In A Boat and Our Man In Havana, so am saving the Stross for when I feel really low.

Bus to hotel uneventful - ride on motorway gave me my first view of rice paddies. The Japanese drive on the left, so I've been trying to force myself to look the right way when crossing the road (that is, to the right) rather than my standard learned response to look left in forn parts. Hopefully will not get run over.

My phone doesn't work here (but then neither does Glorious Leader's quad-band Motorola, much to his chagrin), so hired a phone for the week for the princely sum of ¥500 per day (about £2.50) so I could work out where the rest of them are going to be drinking in the evenings. Still not found my long-suffering ex-officemate Steve, who's giving a tutorial tomorrow morning.

Got to the hotel at 11am (pretty unassuming modern deal) to find that our rooms wouldn't be ready until 2pm, so had to kill some time. The rest (bar Glorious Leader) had an IW3C2 meeting from 11am, and GL himself was willing to pay the 30% surcharge on early registration. Left my bags in reception and went for a wander. The hotel district in Chiba City is pretty bland, and not at all what I was expecting from reading Gibson novels.

The weather here isn't too bad. Warm, and a bit muggy, but bearable (certainly better than Florida for ISWC in 2003). We're not too far from the coast here, so walked down to the beach, or what purported to be the beach (and bumped into Andy from HP Labs, which is hardly surprising since he also was looking for something to do while waiting to get into his room). ias, all I'd like to say is that Portstewart has nothing to fear. The beach itself wasn't too bad per se, if you don't mind great gouts of tar and oil, but the view was uninspiring (oil tankers bracketed by a power station and an oil refinery further down the coast in Chiba on the left, and a baseball stadium with the distant towerblocks of the outskirts of Tokyo on the right) and there was a persistant bass roar from the direction of the refinery. Still, there was birdlife in evidence - bloody great crows, asiatic sparrows, asiatic pied wagtails and something that looked and sounded like a larger, brighter, noisier starling. Only the best, clearly. Didn't take any photos, since my camera was back in the hotel, but I'll try and get some tomorrow.

On the plus side, teh intarweb in the hotel is not free, but is cheap (¥500 per day) and fast.

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Ah, but what colour is the sky above the port?

Yellowish-blue, which is the oddest television channel I've ever seen.

Didn't you think to check what cellular systems are in use in Japan ?

There is no GSM coverage in Japan (see http://www.cellular-news.com/coverage/japan.shtml)


Re: Phone coverage

Oh, I already knew that my phone wasn't going to work. Glorious Leader, on the other hand, was flogged one a Motorola V3 by his operator (either T-Mobile or O2) on the grounds that it was quad band and so would "work anywhere in the world, including Japan". Ri-ight. Once he'd stopped swearing, I explained the difference between GSM and W-CDMA. I think he should take this up with his operator, since he's clearly been missold the phone, although I'm not sure that there is a GSM handset that'll also do W-CDMA.

The rental phone I've got is a Sanyo J-SA51, rented from Vodaphone. I'm none too impressed, partly because getting the damned thing to stop using hirigana and start using romaji is a bit of a trial, but also because the interface for sending and reading text messages is completely barmy, and it isn't possible to send text messages to GSM networks from a PDC phone of this kind (this wasn't clear from the bumph on the Vodaphone stand).

Oh, it also doesn't help that the keypad is labelled in hirigana and katakana - I've no idea what the button label "クリア/マナ-" means, though it's pronounced something like "kuria/mana-" and the button behaves as a go back key to return to a higher menu.

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