Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Nagoe Kiridooshi pass

A few days ago I joined a beautiful walk between the cities of Kamakura (鎌倉市) and Zushi (逗子市). The route follows ancient paths with man-made carved cliffs (大切岸 ookirigishi) and passageways (切通 kiridooshi) that used to protect the Kamakura shogunate. In particular, the route passes by the Nagoe-kiridoshi (名越切通), one of the seven major passageways that still remains close to its original form. Another interesting spot is the so-called Mandara-dou Yagura-gun (まんだら堂やぐら群), a group of cave-tombs carved into a clif.

Even if you are not interested in its historical value, the route has a lot more to offer. The beauty of its paths, the variety of trees and the smell of the Japanese wisteria flowers (beginning of May) are all worth the walk.

I have prepared a file containing the route I walked: nagoe-kiridoshi-pass.kmz. The file can be opened in Google earth or converted to your favourite GPS file format. The route starts and ends in Kamakura station. First, get on any of the following buses (you can walk instead): JR bus (platform 5) or Keihin buses no. 23, 24 and 36. Make sure your bus stops at Jōmyō-ji (浄明寺), the bus stop where you want to get off. Near the bus stop there should be a Spanish restaurant called La Casita. If you find it then you are on the good track. Then, just follow the route described in the .kmz file. There may be a few mistakes in the file, but I think it's mostly accurate. The route includes marks for the major spots, and suggestions for having lunch by the sea or for taking a break at a nice cafe (Hoa cafe) that serves delicious donuts. You can see some more pictures here and here.

24h de la bande dessinee 2016

This year I also participated in the "24h de la bande dessinee" event. The goal of this event is to make 24 pages of comic in 24 hours. The topic is decided every year when the event starts. These are the pages I made this year (translation to English here).

Naoki Urasawa's original comic art exhibition

Last March I visited Naoki Urasawa's "Draw, draw and draw" (描いて描いて描きまくる) exhibition at Setagaya Literary Museum (世田谷文学館).

I have been a fan of Urasawa-sensei since I imported the first 2 volumes of his comic Monster from Japan at the age of 17. At the time I couldn't read Japanese but I was lucky to get a translation to the Spanish language from a friend. A year later the series was finally published in Spain and I enjoyed every single page.

The exhibition was absolutely amazing and displayed lots of original comic art from Urasawa's masterpieces such as Monster, Pluto, Happy, Yawara, 20th century boys, Billy bat, or Master keaton. Pictures were not allowed, but you can see what it looked like from here, from here, from Urasawa's twitter account, from Setagaya literary museum's twitter account, or just by searching for 浦沢直樹展 on google images.

Urasawa recently became a TV star thanks to his wonderful program Manben (漫勉), a made up word that combines the first kanji for MANga (comic) and BENkyo (study). In each episode, Urasawa records and interviews a rather famous Japanese comic artist. You can watch Manben online.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Recaius x Hardware hackathon

Last March, I participated in the Recaius x Hardware hackathon, an event organized by Toshiba and JellyWare. The hackathon was held at Tokyo Telecom center's MONO co-working space, and was preceded by 2 hands-on that took place at DMM.make AKIBA Base and TechShop Tokyo respectively.

Recaius is a cloud service that provides a web API for your applications to use functionality such as voice recognition or voice synthesis. At the moment (May 2016), the API documentation is available only in Japanese, but there are several source code examples that you can check out from their github repository (check speech2text and text2speech for voice recognition and voice synthesis node.js application examples).

During the hackathon, attendants participated in several brainstorming sessions, and were later grouped together according to the affinity of their ideas. Each group worked hard on a common idea and finally presented it, together with a prototype demo, to the other groups and to the hackathon's committee. My main contribution was building a small wooden drawer that could be operated through a serial command interface.

To my joy and surprise, my team was awarded with a generous second prize. Thank you very much to the event organizers and to all of the attendants. For more information, an article in Japanese describing the event can be found here.