Day 9 - Convention Day 4

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

A bit of a disappointing day. Well, it ended on a low note. Started not to bad…We started the day with a visit to a café that is operating at the convention for attendees. It serves a basic set of dishes including some nice light breakfast dishes. Not terribly Japanese (though the operator did not speak any English, having to come out from behind the counter to see what we were pointing at to eat on the poster on the wall) but not too bad. Mother was happy with her croissant and coffee while I had some pancakes (or something else even less memorable).

Mother tried her hand at an early (ish) morning Karate session at 10:00 but said that it had a number of people there that knew what they were doing and were not all that helpful to her – who did not. I spent the time less strenuously with a visit to the dealer room again this time taking in more of the pictures on display and having a bit of a rest at the “Heinlein Café” which is a small booth, really, that is dedicated to the memory of Robert Heinlein – a master author of Science Fiction – which offers free refreshments – tea, basically – as well as showing a recording of the broadcast he had made with Walter Cronkite narrating Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 moon landing.

My not-so-fun (but interesting) visit to the convention continued with my first panel: “The Economics and Sociology of Abundance” (10:00 to 12:00). It did not get into as much about the lack of abundance in certain areas of the world but did talk a lot about the nature of abundance and the impact it has on society. Yes – a heavy conversation to be having early on a Sunday morning. I did, in my defence, attend “Godzilla 2007” (12:00 to 14:00) afterwards which was a lot of fun. The panellists spoke both Japanese and English – with several of the English speakers helpfully able to translate their words into Japanese for the large crowd of both English and Japanese. I was amazed at the knowledge of the western panellists regarding the Godzilla films many of which I had never heard of before, particularly some of the films that have, evidently, been made in recent years. They did not have anything good to say about the Hollywood outing of a few years ago…The conversation was quite interesting with everyone expressing their thoughts and talking of their impressions. I enjoyed when one of the English speakers (Norman England, director and actor) showed slides from his visit to one of the Godzilla sets and explained how they worked in a hanger-sized room with the different departments – make up, and the various special effects groups – having corners set aside for them. Evidently this same method of cranking the Godzilla films out has been used for years. He also had some interesting pictures of himself getting into a Godzilla suit and explaining how they worked. Now, this was a Japanese panel!

We attended a panel next on “Free Will or Neurochemistry” (14:00 to 16:00) which was quite interesting but talked more about what consciousness with the idea that you have to be conscious in order to have free will. Of course this lead to discussions about artificial intelligence and the work being done there (but still on-going despite years of promise).

My final panel of the day and, indeed, of the convention was “Anti-Americanism” (16:00 to 18:00). This panel had Gregory Benford as one of the panelists so was always going to be interesting (being, as he is, a southern American scientist). The discussion was actually quite reasoned and interesting though a few comments were a bit much. One of the opinions expressed was that anti-Americanism was the result of jealousy of the rest of the world towards the life-style that America appears to represent: The standard of living they (appear to) enjoy (as demonstrated in the American medium of films and television). There was a bit of arrogance in the room on behalf of the Americans – a sort of smugness that does not endear itself to others. Mother joined me in the audience a short time after the start of the panel as hers had ended a bit early and/or she was bored of it. She thought it was an intriguing conversation as well.

Thus ending our visit to the convention normal panels we spent the evening on a cruise – the Donbura-Con cruise. I had read about this quite some time ago in the convention literature sent to us at regular intervals. It is an awards dinner for people in the Science Fiction industry. On this occasion the dinner was on a boat that toured the Yokohama harbour. I was only marginally interested in the awards but more interested in the boat trip and food (in roughly equal measures).

Donbura-Con Cruise Boat

We had to queue up quite some time before they would let us on the boat moored up behind the convention hotel in the harbour. The boat was really, really, full with our finding a table to sit at in the far corner on the first floor (near the bar and a buffet table). Of course, being so full we had to share our table with others in our case an author (and space science commentator) that I found quite interesting but we only chatted for a few minutes in the milieu of what was going around us with the large number of people which got even larger and noisier with the arrival of food as everyone pushed to get to the buffet tables. The food was very disappointing: Not Japanese really in the slightest. Quite European though they did have rice and a nice Japanese curry sauce. The food went quickly. Throughout the fairly modern ship there were television screens that were broadcasting the award presentation taking place in the large glass room at the front of the ship but we could only make out one word out of two and no one was really listening anyway…If I make it out to be a bit of an ordeal, I suppose it was. We did manage to find some peace and enjoyment by stepping over people to get to the back of the boat where there was a narrow walkway. Though a bit nasty because of the fumes from the boat we did manage to see a bit of the bridges of the harbour as we passed under them – There is not much to see in the harbour as the city is not really right on the harbour. All that is right here is some not very large shipyards and more industrial areas. The area where our hotels are is a bit different: The Ferris Wheel has a light show on it's spokes (it is a giant digital clock and each spoke leading out from it can be lit separately or in sequence – often like the second hand on a normal clock) and the hotels are all very nicely lit up as well. Towards the end of the cruise we found another area at the front of the boat (through the door marked “employees only”) that allowed us to look forward and had less engine fumes. The cruise ended where we came aboard but we stayed on having been given the option to take the boat to where it berths very close to Yokohama Chinatown which we had not yet visited. Most people got out and we watched them from above. The short trip to the berth was quite pleasant with no one really left on board – We could actually talk to people without having to yell and it was far less crowded (no more than about 20 of us left).


After that rather hectic trip the walk through Chinatown was very pleasant. It is an area of the town which is fairly old – which we have not seen much of here as we are in the most modern area. The small, narrow, streets had a number of people walking around. The colours are everywhere and a lot of the buildings are quite ornate. A lot of red and gold.

Chinatown Gate

We ducked into a 7-11 convenience store (the same as you would see anywhere in North America but slightly different things on offer…) as I was looking for a Slurpee – An ice drink available in many flavours including (my favourite) “Coca-Cola”. I was disappointed but we did get something to drink since it is very warm tonight. Trying to drink a lot.

From Chinatown we headed back to the harbour and through “Yamashita Park”. It is a nice green space that was actually quite busy considering it was 9:00 PM. Walking along the pleasant park then the suspended walkway above the boats berthed beneath on the way back to the Minato Mirai area we both only wished we had visited this area earlier in our visit to Yokohama. We passed by the red warehouses along the water that are now fashionable shopping centres (with a number of names that anyone in the west would recognise) until we passed over a large pedestrian overpass on the far side of the Yokohama World Porters shopping mall (opposite our hotel) – Amazing as it was this large circular walkway above the street with massive steel girders.

Shopping Centre (Queen's Square Yokohama)

Our walk slowed as we approached the hotel. This is our last night in Yokohama as tomorrow we make the trip to Kyoto. It has been a pleasurable but busy visit. I am not sure if I am interested in coming again. Yokohama does not have the same atmosphere as Tokyo and does not seem to have as much to do though we hope to do a few things tomorrow before we leave…

Day 10 - Kyoto Arrival