Flat rate international roaming packet services

For the Japanese folks, this info is a bit old. But I realized talking with non-Japanese folks that many of them didn't know this so I thought I'd write this post.

** The Problem **

Global roaming fee had been a headache for most travelers... the options were, we either:

1) give up and try to hop through wifi spots or go to internet cafes
... this was what I usually did when I was a traveler. Before that, I thought if I lose internet I might not be able to survive. Internet connection was like oxygen to me. I was totally Internet addicted, Twitter addicted. Actually I learned how to survive- I had no internet connection at all for 4 whole days trekking in Machu Picchu :)

2) get a local SIM
... I sometimes do this in U.S. when my stay is long. But it is annoying to do this in each country you go, you don't know the language and you don't know the pricing models in that country, you don't know which career is good etc... it is painful.

Update 11/3:
@miyagawa taught me an awesome wiki "Pay as you go sim with data Wiki"
See also his blog post "Hacking Japanese mobile plans for geeks (or travelers)"
Thank you for the info Miyagawa-san!

3) use the SIM from the country of origin and "behave" not to use too much packets
... this is what people usually does.

4) use the SIM from the country of origin and use it as you want to.
... this is called "パケ死 (packet death)"

** The Solution **

In order to solve this problem, Japanese mobile carriers - Softbank and NTT docomo started to provide flat rate international roaming packet services several months ago.

Info in English for Softbank's service for iPhone/iPad

Info in English for NTT docomo's service

** How did this happen? **

Masayoshi Son, CEO of mobile carrier Softbank received a mention to his Twitter account (@masason) in April to request flat rate international roaming packet service. Maybe he already had some kind of plan already before replying, but his reply was " Let's consider that". A month later, he comes back with the tweet that Softbank will actually start that service from July. Some of the tweets from the conversation:


User: Can't you do anything about the ridiculously expensive international roaming cost?

Son-san: Let's consider providing flat rate international roaming packet service from countries that are possible.

出来る国から海外パケホーダイを検討してみましょう。RT @OKAMOTOAtusi: 海外ローミングの法外な価格設定だけはなんとかなりませんか。


User: Son-sama, if you can make the packets I tweet overseas a flat rate, I will run to Softbank shop and switch to Softbank now!

Son-san: Will consider providing it from countries that are possible.

出来る国から検討します。RT @chisato_mzn: @masason 孫さま、海外でツイした分も一定料金にしていただけたら、今すぐショップに走ってソフトバンクに乗り換えます!


User: Even if iPad is SIM locked, it would not be a problem if global roaming fee is fixed price.

Son-san: Let's do it. From major countries. Flat rate international roaming packet service.

User: Please do it with iPhone too.

Son-san: Yes.

はい。RT @eisuke0312: iPhoneでもお願いします。 RT @masasonやりましょう。主要国から。海外パケ定額。RT @hayatomo0711: iPadがSIMロックされていても、普通なら問題ないと思うんです。海外ローミングの料金さえなんとかしてしてくれたら…


User: I can't use (data) outside Japan with current price setting!

Son-san: Fixed. We will start flat rate international roaming packet service from late July in major countries. Details to follow.

決定しました。海外パケ定額7月下旬に主要国開始。詳細は後日。RT @hemolelelilia: @masason 今の料金設定では海外で使えません‼


Son-san: We're ready. Starting flat rate international roaming packet service from 7/21. Countries fixed. You will be released from several 10,000 yen packet costs. http://bit.ly/bHrive


** But wait... is this really feasible? **

Softbank needs to pay other carriers - is it really possible to do flat rate?
User: Uh, are you going to be OK? lol

Son-san: If you use too much, we will be in the red. Please don't be too hard on us.

皆さんが、ガンガン使うと当方かなり赤字。お手柔らかに。RT @terrysaito だ、
大丈夫なのか? w RT 出来ました。7/21から海外パケ定開始。対象国も確定。


The opinions expressed herein are my own and do not represent my employer’s views in any way. Nothing posted here should be considered official or sanctioned by my employer or any other organization I’m affiliated with.


World Cup Soccer - Go go Japan!

**FIFA World Cup 2010**

FIFA World Cup Soccer Tournament is held right now in South Africa. Many Japanese soccer fans flew to watch the matches.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic
(photo via Twitpic of @KNNkanada)

Japan is ranked 43rd in the FIFA ranking, and it is our 4th participation in the matches. Despite all the pessimistic views before the tournament, Japan ended the group stage matches with 2-1 result (won against Cameroon and Denmark, lost against Netherlands) and made it to the knockout stage... yay!

The next match for Japan is against Paraguay, will be aired on TBS television on 6/29 23:00 Japan Time.

Update 6/30: Japan lost the match vs Paraguay (PK) but it was a very very close match. They did a really great job!

**Bidding for FIFA World Cup2022**

Japan co-hosted Worldcup 2002 with South Korea and is bidding for hosting Worldcup 2022 now.

Official website for WorldCup Bidding is here. Concept video for the bid can be seen here:

As you can see from the video, Japanese bidding team is trying to use various technologies to make the experience richer... automatic interpretation device to communicate, augmented reality (AR) devices will be provided to view information of the players etc realtime, " Freeviewpoint Vision" will capture videos in the soccer field using 200 high definition cameras, "Full Court 3D Vision" enables the viewers to watch the matches using 3D technology, etc.

They even had a PSP in their official "bid book"

This is the photo of the bidding team which I took at their report event after the official bidding. 2nd from the right you can find Professor Jun Murai- father of the Internet of Japan joining the bidding team.

OH and don't forget- Japan is the country that Yoichi Takahashi, the author of Captain Tsubasa or Flash Kicker was born, right? He joined the world cup bidding event held in Yokohama. You can see a couple of articles here and here with his photos. (I wish they'd make those photos CC licensed...!)



Last month on May 15th, I was involved in organizing an event called TEDxTokyo 2010.

What is TED?

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, it is an invitation-only annual conference held in long beach, with amazing speakers and participants from all over the world. Originally it was a closed conference, but they started to provide their video online using Creative Commons license which helped them spread the word. They also launched a translation project with which 4,000 volunteer translators worked on over 9,000 videos to 77 languages so far, which helped non-English speakers all over the world to learn about, and learn from TED conference videos.

What is TEDx?

TED licensed their brand for free as "TEDx" so that anyone who abides to the TEDx guidelines are able to hold their own TEDx event. They can either view the past TED videos together or invite their own speakers to talk. During the past year, 1,000 TEDx events were held all over the world in 70 countries with 35 languages, and more than 50,000 people participated. It is becoming a big phenomenon. The great thing about TEDx is that people around the world are using their own creativity harmonizing with their own expertize and culture to make interesting events happen, and most of them are streamed live and/or video recorded and uploaded on YouTube.

If you go to this channel, you'll be able to find tons of interesting videos from TEDx all around the world (1,874 videos as of 6/26).

What is TEDxTokyo?

TEDxTokyo is one of the TEDx events held in Tokyo, we held 2 TEDxTokyo events so far, one on 2009/5/22 and another on 2010/5/15 both of which were amazing and I am very proud of being in the organizing team :) I was serving as social media Japanese lead in charge of @TEDxTokyo_ja (Japanese language tweets).

We had amazing speakers- the following is speaker list from this year (link on speaker names goes to speaker profile, link on video links to the videos)


One of the great things about TEDxTokyo is that everything is operated as volunteer work. We as staffs met up at 7AM in the morning at the venue (Mirai Kan). It was a great sunny day!


Some of the performances don't need language. Amazing Ukulele performance by Jake Shimabukuro:

Performance by Cirque du Soleil:

As TEDxTokyo is in held in Japan, we had some very traditional Japanese performances by Japanese artists such as Kamikiri by Imamaru Hayashiya:

Also noh performance by Naohiko Umewaka:

Some speeches were about advanced technology of Japan, Dr. Yoshiyuki Sankai showing his HAL system which is a robot suit that enables the disabled people to stand up or walk, weak people to hold heavy loads etc.

Morinosuke Kawaguchi talks about the Japanese super-advanced toilets.

Some talked about the lost values of Japan. Dr. Hiroshi Tasaka talks about the age of "invisible capitalism".

Azby Brown talks about how the sustainable practices of the Japanese Edo era can serve as a model for the modern world.

Some talked about how Japan can contribute to the world- Kentaro Toyama talks about The Technology for Emerging Markets research group which investigates ways the world's poorer communities can harness technology to drive their socioeconomic development.

Kanae Doi shares her experiences from NPO "Human Rights Watch" on how Japan should be helping more refugees around the world.

Jakob Lusensky talks about branding using music, but the presentation was received by the audience that his insights can be applied in various areas.

Industrial designer Kiyoyuki 'Ken' Okuyama shares his thoughts on how society and space is changing and how companies/people should change the way design spaces and products to meet those changes.

Some of the speakers comes back! Techno Magician Marco Tempest's performance from TEDxTokyo2009:

This is Marco's performance from TEDxTokyo2010:

I'm getting tempted to introduce all of the speakers but this post is becoming too long already- all of the videos from TEDxTokyo can be seen here :)

The other great thing about TEDxTokyo is that it is basically invitation only, and the audience are amazing people as well. Some of the speakers this year were audiences last year, and some of the speakers from last year came again as audience this year. I think it is becoming an amazing community.

Mario Tokoro, speaker last year participates as audience this year:


Joi who couldn't join last year participated this year as an audience.


As the organizing team is volunteer work too, the video shooting and streaming team brought their equipments for free and worked for us. It was amazing.


There were amazing things happening even outside the main hall. Rinpa Eshidan was live painting the walls during the event.


If you are not familiar with Rinpa, check out this video. I'm a big fan of them.

Sponsor booth by the sponsors:


Lunch time was fascinating too. Lots of interesting people, doing interesting things.


HAL (robot suit) was walking around at the lunch venue:


Imamaru-san was doing kamikiri (paper cutting) during lunch time too:


Tesla- one of our sponsors brought a Tesla car to the venue:


Our Ustream team was working on interviews during lunch time as well:


Photo from the stage when all of the staffs and volunteers got on stage:


I would like to thank all the speakers, sponsors and partners, organizing staffs and volunteers, audiences at the venue as well as on the live stream! Also, many thanks to the social media team- Steve Nagata, Joseph Tame and Paul Papadimitriou!

BTW, I love how speeches at TED are always so inspiring and loved this Ten commandments:

Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick.
Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something
Thou Hast Never Shared Before.
Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion.
Thou Shalt Tell a Story.
Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.
Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.
Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.
Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.
Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.
Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee.

If you are able to read Japanese, it looks like I wrote 31 posts about TEDxTokyo in Japanese here :P


Spacecraft Hayabusa's return to the Earth

Last night, Japanese netizens were filled with excitement watching Japanese spacecraft "Hayabusa" return from its 7 years mission to explore asteroid "Itokawa". Hayabusa's trip was not easy- it lost communications with the earth, had various technical problems. But the Japanese scientists had overcome such difficulties and brought Hayabusa back home, which was bound to explode entering the earth's aerospace to bring back a capsule containing a sample of Itokawa and land in Australia.

If the capsule indeed carries a sample of astroid, it will be a big scientific success as it will have precious clues to understand the origin and evolution of the Solar System.

(photo:JAXA Hayabusa Mission press kit)

Asteroid Itokawa

(photo:JAXA Hayabusa Mission press kit)

Although this mission demonstrates an excellent example of how Japanese scientists had overcome difficulties and achieved a world class success, none of the TV stations reported this live - yes, they were reporting world cup- and people watched live streams from Ustream and NicoNicoDouga and shared their excitement on Twitter.

This is an archive of Ustream by Wakayama University.

Screenshot of Hayabusa's re-entry and turning into firebolt


Control room was Ustreamed as well, with over 63,000 viewers

Video of the re-entry taken by NASA

As you can imagine, people were tweeting heavily about Hayabusa, and Hayabusa was tweeting too. "Hi everyone, I'm home" tweet by Hayabusa.

Hayabusa was shooting photos before its re-entry to the earth's atmosphere- see how lower part of the photo has lots of noise- it entered the earth's atmosphere before finishing the data transmission...

(c)Jaxa on Twitpic

You can see how Japanese netizens loved Hayabusa- Hayabusa cosplay of a girl with Itokawa at Make Tokyo Meeting 05.

Make Tokyo Meeting 05

Google Japan's doodle was Hayabusa

A figure characterizing Hayabusa is going to be on sale.


Overview on HAYABUSA from JAXA's website:
May 9, 2003 Launched by the M-V-5 Rocket from Kagoshima Space Center.
May 27, 2003 Ion Engine operation started.
May 19, 2004 Orbit transfer using the Electric Propelled Delta-V Earth Gravity Assist
July 29, 2005 Performed the Star Tracker imaging of Itokawa.
September 12, 2005 Arrived at Itokawa. (about 20km away)
September 30, 2005 Arrived at the Home Position (about 7km away).
November 12, 2005 Released the probing robot ”Minerva”.
November 20, 2005 Performed the first touch down and release of the target marker with 880,000 autographs inside.
November 26, 2005 Performed the second touchdown.
December 8, 2005 Lost communication with the earth due to operation rupture by fuel leakage.
January 26, 2006 Resumed communication and operation.
January 18, 2007 Sample-catcher was actually transferred into the recovery capsule, and latched and sealed.
February, 2007 The ion engines ignited and operated again.
April 25, 2007 The homeward journey with an ion engine drive was started.
October 18, 2007 Finished first phase orbit maneuver toward Earth.
End of May, 2008 Reached the farthest deep space from the Earth.
February 4, 2009 Firing ion engine and starting second phase orbit maneuver to return to Earth.
November 4, 2009 Ion engine anomaly.
November 19, 2009 Resumed cruise by combining two partially working ion engines.
March 27, 2010 Finished second phase orbit maneuver toward Earth.
April to June, 2010 Trajectory Correction Maneuvers (TCMs)
June, 2010 Back to the Earth , capsule recovered.


Hatsune Miku - Update

I've been writing a lot about Hatsune Miku, Vocaloid and NicoNicoDouga on this and my other blogs. I thought it might be good timing to do a recap.

Hatsune-Miku is a DTM (Desktop Music) software created by a company called Crypton Future Media(ja). It was released in 2007,and was the best selling DTM software then.(DTM software that sells 1,000 copies are supposed to be hit- Hatsune-Miku sold 30,000.) Its price is 15,000JPY.

Hatsune-Miku and the Vocaloid series (#1 was Hatsune Miku, #2 was Kagamine Rin & Len, #3 was Megurine Luca) created a completely new phenomena in Japan where people who had never created music (just listens or hums or sings in Karaoke etc) started creating original music using Hatsune-Miku. Just like what blogs did in text world, what Youtube did in video world, Hatsune-Miku opened up a possibility of "consumer generated music" market in Japan. Already 3 years have passed since its release, and the energy of the creators has not faded.

I wrote a blog post about the decline in the music industry in Japan here. One of the exceptions was Vocaloid.

"EXIT TUNES PRESENTS Vocalogenesis" (a music album created with Vocaloid software)was #1 for 5 days in a row on Oricon album daily ranking, and was #1 for the weekly sales ranking for the week of 2010/5/18~22.

This is the weekly ranking of a Karaoke company -JOYSOUND as of 2010/5/28.

Top 10 songs are:
1・3         anime
2・4・6・7・8・10   Vocaloid
5・9          Commercial music

Let's take a look at top 20:
14・16・17・19   anime
11・15・18      Vocaloid
12・13・20     Commercial music

Vocaloid series stimulated people’s creativity- not only did people create music, but people who heard the music started to draw amazing pictures, animes, and 3DCGs etc for the music. Some even created a free software to create 3DCG (MikuMikuDance).

A video clip explaining how to use MikuMikuDance:

An example of awesome video using MMD by WakamuraP

The reason why this happened owes largely on 1) the strategy of Crypton Future Media to use a cute character image as well as to use the voice of a famous anime voice actor (rather than just creating a DTM software), 2) Crypton's policy to open up the character (Miku) for the amateur creators to make parodies. You can't imagine Disney allowing people to create parodies of Mickey Mouse, Nintendo allowing people to create parodies of Pikachu, but that's what Crypton did. And they even created a website "Piapro" (ja) where people can upload their parodies. And the CEO of Crypton (Mr. Hiroyuki Ito) LOVES those derivative works.

-screenshot of Piapro website-

People talk about remix culture and parodies and mashups all around the world these days. Like adding this music and that or that anime and the other one, right? "Remix culture" we're talking about with Hatsune Miku is totally different. It's like a universe. The following chart is just a part of it- how one music video (a dot in the center which is this video "Mikku Miku Ni Shite Ageru") got remixed to numerous videos. And as you can imagine, this is just one exampe but there's lots of popular Miku songs like this so there's many more universes :)

Data source: Network Analysis of Massively Collaborative Creation of Multimedia Contents

Also, the great thing about this remix culture is that people provides their creatives with love, and people remixes them with love and respect for the creator, and they are creating positive cycles around creativity. The fact that the character is open for remix, most music created using Miku is open (and generally creators loves it when their music is remixed, sung, played with musical instruments, made into anime or other creatives- because it increases their views too.), and further remixes are generally welcomed. You don't have to worry about copyright infringement even though you are remixing a high quality content- that's a big benefit for creators!

Asahi Newspaper has been creating a bunch of videos to introduce Hatsune Miku to their audience.

This one covers overall aspects of Hatsune Miku.
"Vocaloid Hatsune Miku, the worlds virtual diva" (Japanese but has English subtitles)

This video covers one of the AWESOME video creators "Tripshots" who creates Hatsune Miku videos.
【Hatsune Miku】video creator・Tripshots~「Nebula」 (Japanese but has English subtitles)

If you're interested in watching more of Hatsune Miku videos, here's some more :)


Jigyo Shiwake Tweets and Amakudari

Last week, I wrote a blog post about Tweeting Jigyo-Shiwake".

As I was busy with various works, I was not able to stay home and watch Jigyo Shiwake the whole 4 days, but asked on Twitter for others to help out. I would like to thank everyone who helped, especially @MMHero who was devoting much of his time during the 4 days.

Personally, I think it is better to blog than tweet for this, since non-Japanese people would need explanation on technical terms and Japanese political custom (such as Amakudari etc) , but I think this was a good experiment.

I was watching many of the sessions and there was 1 thing that is common to most of the sessions, which is Amakudari.

Quote from wikipedia:

Amakudari (天下り) is the institutionalised practice where Japanese senior bureaucrats retire to high-profile positions in the private and public sectors. The practice is increasingly viewed as corrupt and a drag on unfastening the ties between private sector and state which prevent economic and political reforms.

Jigyo shiwake is about cost cutting, and when they try to do cost cutting on any public sector, the big chunk of money dangling in front of the shiwake-nin is the huge cost of Amakudari people.

I won't go into details here, but some of the Japanese "institutional practices" are as follows:

1) Public sectors in Japan are based on Seniority System (年功序列)

Japanese companies were based on seniority system till recently too, but the economic situation no longer allows such thing. You need outputs to get promoted in most Japanese corporate entities now. However, public sectors still have seniority system and the older you are, the higher your position (and salary) you get.

2) Japanese bureaucracy has "Career" people and "Non-Career" people (キャリアとノンキャリ)

"Career" are the people who passed higher level exam for the National Public Service(国家公務員試験の上級甲種またはI種), and are promised to be executives in the future. "Non-Career" people are people who passed the exam for National Public Service, but not with the higher level one. "Non-Career" will not be promoted above unit head. A Non-Career I met recently told me that she is really discriminated by the "Careers".

So when the Career people get old are ready to retire, they get plenty of retirement bonus from the agency, and the Seniority System and Career System secures them "posts" in public and private sectors with high salary, with not much work to do. That is how "Amakudari" works.

In most sessions of the shiwake I watched, shiwake-nin would ask how many board members they have, and how many of them are Amakudari, and how much their salary was. Each time the reply was given, Twitter chat on Ustream would go mad as their salaries are around 12 million - 16 million yen, when average salary of the citizens are male: 5.3 million and female: 2.7 million. "Fire those Amakudari and hire more younger people who does the actual work!" Twitter users say. Totally. Now that we are getting a clearer view of the cost of Amakudari, I am hoping that the Government Revitalization Unit will actually take action to abolish Amakudari. (Government Revitalization Unit is responsible for government reform as well as Jigyo Shiwake).

**FYI: Japanese Average Salary**

Data source: The National Tax Administration Agency (unit is 10,000 yen)

**Some pics and screenshots**

This is how the venue looks: view from behind the audience


closer view towards the shiwake-nin


view from the other side


Tons of cameras on both sides


Hand-written shiwake results on the walls.



During the last Shiwake, there were criticisms that the press were getting tables (whereas others just have chairs) and some press people left their belongings to secure their seats but weren't sitting there. This time, press had a separate room where they have tables and chairs but can only watch Ustream and Nico Nico Nama Housou, and in the actual room for the Shiwake, they only had chairs just like other people.


Screenshots from Ustream

Screenshots from NicoNama- some people couldn't answer the questions from Shiwake-nin and are asking folks sitting behind them.

Screenshot from Stickam. BTW, none of the streaming companies were paid by the government to do this live streaming, but they were allowed to put advertisements on their streams. So during the breaks, Stickam was actually putting various advertisements that they sold to their clients.

Ustream was using the poll function. This is a screenshot of the question about the facility that was getting shiwake. The options are 1) I have used the facility 2) I have NOT used the facility 3) what the heck is that?

And as you can imagine, only 6% replied they've been there, 36% said no and 59% didn't even know what that facility is. (And they are using enormous amount of money to construct and operate that facility using our tax... that sucks!!)

The next poll was which political party you plan to vote for the coming upper house election.

**Summary of English tweets**


Tweeting "Jigyo-Shiwake"

Last month, I wrote a post about "Jigyo-Shiwake" in Japan. The next round of "Jigyo-Shiwake" will start tomorrow and will be held on 5/20,21, 24th and 25th.

Today, I was asked to come to the upper house to discuss the possibility of tweeting in English about Jigyo-Shiwake. Unfortunately tomorrow I am packed with interview, meetings and event and it is impossible for me to watch shiwake and tweet. I can probably go to the venue on Friday so I will try to tweet on that day.

If there is anyone who is able to watch live-streaming of Shiwake in Japanese and tweet in English, that would be awesome.


You will be able to watch live streaming here:
Room A in Ustream
Room B in Ustream

Room A in NicoNama
Room B in NicoNama


Please use hashtag: #sasshin_e for English tweets on jigyo-shiwake.

Personally, I will be tweeting from a separate account @fumitw from my usual account @fumi.

Not sure if anyone realized but they have photos from Picasa and videos from YouTube on the top page of Shiwake now :)