Connecting to the Internet with AOSS

Just spent a few days without Internet access.  Normally, the router at the house is unsecured, but my brother-in-law bought a new one recently.

Normally you would use a key (or up to 4 keys) to secure the router.  Buffalo Airstation routers now feature AOSS (AirStation One-Touch Secure Setup).  In 60 seconds you are connected to the router.  Even Japanese Wii have AOSS capability.  Since Buffalo are best known for HDD in Australia, there’s not much support for their networking technology.

Fortunately I found Client Manager 3 software that works on non-Buffalo adapters.  Loaded this, pressed the button and I was go!

The Inherent Symbolism of Navigating Kyoto

Street signs in Japan may not be familiar to foreign drivers

It was not a rally by brown-shirted youths.  (Though I did see several black “noise” wagons driven by ultra-nationalists near Ōtani Temple later that day.)

The swastika is the symbol of Buddha and here signifies 2 temples straight ahead.  IMO as an ancient symbol of some 2000 years it will easily outlast its more recent use.

N700 Shinkansen to Kyoto

The Shinagawa Shinkansen station is a short walk from the hotel.  I planned to be there early so that I could take lots of otaku video before I had to board.  I didn’t expect to see George Gregan waiting for the Shinkansen before ours.  He was waiting in the Green Car (First Class) section.  He said “Hello”. I said “Hello”. He was with a tall Japanese man who I assumed could be a rugby player.  In respect of his privacy, I didn’t demand a picture.

More importantly, I was waiting for the particular series of Shinkansen.  The N700 Nozomi service marks a full set of JR West Japan series I’ve been on.  These include 0 (original “bullet train”), 100, 300, 500, 700 and now N700.  The N700 is faster on the windy Tokaido route as it tilts 1° in corners.  This allows a full 270km/h in corners of 2500m radius, unlike previous series that must slow to 250km/h.  This cuts a few minutes from travelling time and contributes to energy savings of 17%.  And there’s a 100V socket at each seat space, which proved handy for recharging Chikako’s DS and my video camera.

Shinkansen has wireless connection from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka.  However, I couldn’t connect to any of the four networks without a certificate or passcode and I couldn’t find those anywhere.  Passenger near me had was reading his Lotus Notes email. In the hotel earlier I managed a download speed about 1000 times faster than my 1.5Mbps connection at home, so I was looking forward to maxing out my wireless G.

But I did manage to connect my video camera to 100V socket and my netbook and transfer many megs of video and stills for later use.  Cityrail can’t offer that.
Snow and earthquakes can play havoc with Shinkansen timetables and sure enough snow between Nagoya and Kyoto, where the Tokaido line goes inland, pushed us back 16 minutes.  It is true that you will get the express portion of your ticket refunded but only if the train is more than 1 hour late.

The Big Buddha is Boss

The Daibutsu (Big Buddha) in Kamakura, Japan

The shrines at Kamakura for the Daibutsu (Big Buddha) and Kannon (a female form of the Buddha aka “Goddess of Mercy”) are a must see.  There are plenty of shrines in Japan but the quality of these is in Kamakura must be seen to be believed.

Washing hands at Daibutsu, Kamakura

I’ll post some video later.

Kamakura is about 55 minutes from Tokyo station on a rapid train and cost 690.

Two words: Chocolate Beer

"Chocolat Brewery is made from roasted malt and cacao, having the characteristic of aromatic chocolate flavor and bitter taste"

This is not as stupid as it seems.  Sapporo Brewery’s “Chocolat Brewery” is a crazy idea that works on so many levels. Think of bitter chocolate with 100% cacao.  Now think of bitter beer.  Now think “hmmmmmmm, chocolate beer”.

The aroma of chocolate matches the beer quite well. Think of those crazy Belgian Lambic beers (Peach is the surprise combination in an otherwise disappointing range of flavours) and you’ll probably think even less of adding chocolate to beer.

Believe me, you must try this beer.

Tribes seen in Ginza today

Everything in Ginza has style
Everything in Ginza has style
  1. Fashionista with DJ Toma Tei-style frames with no lens (male)
  2. Mother riding “Mama-Chari” (Mother’s bicycle) with small child
  3. Lolita in pink maid’s outfit carrying a violin case. The look is probably based on an anime character who:
    • leaves a life of servitude for the life of a soloist or;
    • Teenage Police Officer who carries a BFG in a violin case.
  4. homeless guy (1)
  5. homeless guy selling The Big Issue (1)
  6. construction workers in those amazingly baggy pants and camel-toe boots

Jetstar fine print

New vertical takeoff meets mixed passenger response
If someone can show me where it says that a passenger travelling on frequent flyer points on a Jetstar flight gets treated as third class freight, I’ll give them a chocolate fish. My bet is that such print if it exists is buried in a reference to “operational matters”.

In the not so olden days, JAL ran a route from Sydney to Kansai (Osaka) where we would normally go. Either JAL or Qantas would fly to Narita (Tokyo). So codesharing was the norm. And JAL was the best for customer service by a fair margin. It was such a pleasure to ask for beer after beer and the only comment you received was a complementary bottle of water with your third. Sure, it was difficult for me to fit on the seats of their old planes, but I was usually accommodated well.

First minor miracle was that we didn’t have to carry our bags from the second QANTAS flight to Jetstar in when transferring from domestic to international in Cairns. (I must admit that it wasn’t until seeing my bags in Narita that I was sure!) So it was safe to assume that we were being treated as Qantas passengers on a codeshare, right?

Economy gets complicated now that Jetstar is the carrier: Your ticket could be Qantas or JAL, in which case you got fed, or Jetstar where you had to pay for everything but you could pre-pay and show your receipt, etc… The back of the plane gets very complicated. Up to this point we’ve avoided that confusion by flying Qantas or JAL or by being in Starclass on Jetstar.

I do “get” budget airlines; why should you pay for stuff that you don’t want? If I were back-packing around Asia, a discount airline would be an attractive option and I would put those minor hardships into consideration. The problem is where there is no warning that you are subject to these rules.

The first hint of something amiss was no blanket and no pillow, followed of course by no meal or drinks. The flight attendant told us that as we were flying on (Qantas) points, Jetstar was not obliged to honour much more than the seat we were sitting on (which had a broken headrest, while I’m at it!) He couldn’t find the document that explained such things but he was sure that the website had it somewhere. The nice man got us a meal at the end of service when he found two spare, but by that time we had spent a bunch on food and drink.

I cannot recall any such warning. As far as I’m concerned, I was a Qantas passenger on a codeshare. On that basis I think that there was an obligation. Anyway, I’ll raise it with head office.

Fortunately we’ll be returning in business class. To make up for the experience on the way over, I’m going to ask for everything from sleep mask to a sponge bath and I expect to get it!

The holiday begins…

My first real break in a few years. I noticed from my old passport that the last time I was in Japan was September 2007, though Chikako has been there twice since then.

This time it seems almost like we’ve planned it: a few days in Tokyo, a couple in Kyoto with friends then back to the house. My sister and her family will be in Osaka for a week, only 70km away from the house. I’ll also get back to Hiroshima for the first time in 10 years.

The dogs go to the kennel today, or “Camp” as we call it. An emotional time for Chikako. However, picking them up in 3 weeks time it will probably be difficult to get Maruko and Shiro back out.

Gadgets: After defragging my computer room a few weeks ago I have all of my gadgets, chargers and adapters in order. Most universal chargers have a simple “figure-8” plug, so it is easy to swap an Australian 2-pin for a Japanese/US 2-pin cord, of which I have 4. So that will cover our mobile phones, netbook, Palm, Nintendo DS, digital camera, HD camcorder and iPods. Sorted.

Tomorrow the route will be Canberra-Sydney-Cairns-Narita (Tokyo) arriving at about 20:00 local time. And cold… 8° maximum and 1° minimum for the next few days. I love the cold, me.

Funny how just before getting on the plane feels exciting and routine at the same time. 🙂