We had really enjoyed driving our oddly-named Mazda Bongo Friendee, which is a minivan with a top that opens like the old Vanagons, great for watching fireworks with the kids (there's a cult following for them in the UK). We wanted to replace it with something that was just as much fun. The keyword in the 2006 crop of Japanese minivans is "business class," and the new versions of cars like Toyota's Estima and Nissan's Elgrand sport reclining second-row seats with extendible foot rests -- they have cool names like "Captain's Chair" or "Super Relax Seat." I really liked the swivel seats in the Elgrand, allowing everyone in the family to face each other for an in-car game of Uno if the weather turns bad. Other features we liked in several new models included interior illumination (LEDs that fill the car with a cool blue glow) and the RFID-based "in pocket key" that lets you start the car without taking your key out of your pocket. In the end we decided to go with the newly redesigned MPV by Mazda, which had the business class-style seats, all-flat third seat and a hideaway space for me to store my onsen bath stuff.
I'll never forget my first trip to Tokyo, which I made a couple of weeks after arriving to Japan. As an anime fan, I knew I had to make my way to see the various real places that had appeared in the shows I'd watched. First I went to experience the weekend bustle of Shinjuku and stand before the famous Studio Alta television, and of course stare at the grandeur of the My City department store, which popped up in City Hunter from time to time. The icons of Tokyo's hip Shibuya area were my next stop -- I had to see the Shibuya 109 building and cross the famous "scramble intersection" (so named because you have to scramble across quickly or you'll get hit by a taxi), and of course pay homage to the statue of Faithful Dog Hachiko. Then it was over to Tokyo Tower, the 333 meter high scale replica of the Eiffel Tower, which is featured prominently in many CLAMP anime stories. It was a great time to be alive.
More images from Tokyo. This is the South Side of Shinjuku, which is where you go if you want one of the more pleasant Starbucks, or to go to Kinokuniya, the massive 6-story bookstore (and the best place to buy English books in Tokyo).
In addition to Tokyo Tower, there's a replica of the Empire State Building that I hadn't noticed before. It looks pretty cool but it's way smaller than the original, to the point of being ridiculous.
This is Takashimaya Times Square, a really cool Borg Cube of a building, basically the area of sixteen JC Penny's or something, stacked one on top of the other.
Apple's iPod seems to be doing really well in Japan, and all the wanna-be competitors keep making crappy products that no one wants to buy. Their biggest competition might come from AU, who is blending phones and iPod like features. This is their LISMO download service, which parodies Apple's silhouette and colors.
There's the Starbucks, on the right. Kinda cool the way it's out there by itself. Course, you can never get a seat inside, since there are so many people there.