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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

ICALT 2007, Japan - a shaky start

I'm off on my travels again, this time to sunny (well, luke warm and sticky) Japan, and the International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (ICALT) 2007, held in Niigata on the north coast.

It was an interesting start to the trip. Just after we landed in Tokyo the Niigata area was hit by a 6.7 earthquake which caused quite a bit of damage to buildings and disruption to the travel systems in the area. As a result we ended up staying the night in Tokyo waiting for the Shinkansen to start running again.


It's my first time in Tokyo and the city seems a massive, sprawling urban landscape, without the defining centres that characterise other megacities like London and New York. Much of it is disappointingly bleak - as if someone cut and pasted Birmingham a hundred times - but some is fabulously alive with neon and activity, with fascinating curios stuffed into every possible space. For example, we walked along the edge of a raised train express route and the number and variety of businesses crammed beneath its arches was incredible; traditional Japanese drinking holes side by side with Limousine garages and trinket shops. We ended our unexpected day with a Lost in Translation moment in the 40th story of our hotel block, with a melancholy nightcap overlooking the steel canyons of Shinjuko.


With the Shinkansen running again we made our way to Niigata. The Shinkansen (the bullet train) is just stunningly fast, although we were frustratingly sitting on the bottom floor of a double-decker coach and the Japanese have built a wall 4 feet high and 200 miles long between Tokyo and Niigata which did an excellent job of blocking the view. Niigata itself is markedly quieter than Tokyo, it's a city the size of Glasgow with the personality of Wadebridge, perhaps Japanese metropolitan culture only ignites with millionaire populations.

1 comment:

Red said...

Thank you for these great facts about travel to Japan? It was a pleasant read:)