Tokyo 2001 - 2004

POSTED BY DANNY CHOO On Sat 2008/10/04 08:25 JST in Japan

Following on from Tokyo 1999 - 2001. 2001 August was when I joined Amazon but will leave the nitty gritty details for the "Working in a Corporate IT company: Amazon and Microsoft" article.

This is was the view from my office at Amazon on a warm autumn evening.

dannychoo.com back at the end of 2001 was looking like this. More about the evolution of the site in the History of dannychoo.com article.

In 2002 dannychoo.com took on yet another look n feel influenced by my time working for the scientific journal Nature.

Back to the end of 2001 where we were still living in our first apartment after arriving in Tokyo. I remember how some of our gaijin friends would giggle at how small our sofa was.

Many apartments in Japan have tatami mats - some like them and some don't because they give off a distinct smell. I personally like them and sleeping on them during a sunny warm Sunday afternoon is priceless.

Tatami do wear out quicker than carpets though. We don't have any tatami now but I will make sure that we have at least one tatami room in the next house that we build.
Are you a tatami yay or nay? Can you buy tatami in your region?

As our apartment was more of the traditional style which don't have beds. We slept on a futon which we stuck outside on the balcony when the sun was out and folded away in the cupboard during the day.

The wooden door frame holds traditional Japanese slides which one can remove - you can just about see them on the right of the photo. These are made of paper and folks with kids need to replace the paper covering very often ^^;

In 2001 we switched from NTT Docomo to AU - mainly for the ability to use our phones outside of Japan. At the time, hardly any Japanese phones could be used overseas.
The job at Amazon had me flying around quite often and this little bugger saved me life.

More pics of the old place.

Our first TV that served us well for many years. Still using VHS tapes at the time.

Some of my team members at Amazon. I made a point of taking them out for lunch every week and whenever we went we would do the group photo thing.

For those who are wondering, apart from Japanese nationals, I also hired Filipino, Taiwanese, Shanghainese, and Australians into my team who had web, program managerial, coding, marketing experience. Their Japanese level was fluent - would not have hired anybody who could not speak Japanese as they just wouldn't be able to function in the company properly.

At a shrine near our place in 2002.

In 2001, I started to become interested in 3D graphics. Put this together in a landscape generator called Terragen - and I now find out that they also have a Mac version too!
this is another example of what you can do with the package and there are more examples here. Extremely easy to use.

Another Terragen piece.

I chose 3D Max to learn how to build 3D stuff. This is my all time fave space vehicle - the Vic Viper. Do you dabble in 3D work?

Another one of my 3D Max renderings. Took me months to learn how to make the tunnel. Its basically a cylinder with a map attached to it and then many tweaks of lighting. Cant remember how to do it though orz.

Out for din dins with the management team at Amazon and some of the senior folks from Amazon HQ including Diego Piacentini (Senior VP International Retail), Greg Greeley (VP World Wide Media). Me in the blue shirt next with Diego next to me.
This pic sure brings back a load of memories.

Management team at Amazon Japan including Jasper Cheung (Country Manager) to my left and Lauren Kawasaki (VP Entertainment) above.

Harajuku back in 2002-ish. When in Tokyo as a visitor, I would come to Harajuku often to buy a ton of idol photos - especially of Nishida Hikaru in bikini. Hikaru-chan in bikini below.

Was either at the end of 2001 or beginning of 2002 where we moved to our second dwelling in Tokyo. We was now on the Inokashira line near Shimokitazawa in what the Japanese call a "mansion." A mansion is basically a block of apartments where the exterior is usually made of concrete.
The place we lived at before was called "aparto" which was short for "apartment" and is usually made of wood.

We chose a mansion because I wanted somewhere quiet - I thought it was going to be concrete between each dwelling. While the exterior was concrete - the walls were wood. Very thin wood where you could hear people next door sneezing.
Are dwellings like this in your region too?

Was a small cosy apartment but much nearer to work. I could get to the Amazon offices within 30 mins which is considered a very short commute for Tokyo.

5 Windows machines at the time ^^; Would not touch a Mac.

We lived in this apartment until we moved to Seattle in July 2004.

2002-ish at Mount Takao San.

I wasn't really a blogger at the time and didn't take many photos either - something that I regret. How often do you find yourself taking pics of stuff?

I think it was in 2002 when I started to grow my hair long.

Was into airguns at the time. Went looking for a Socom after playing MGS but it looks like everybody else who was playing MGS also went looking for one - they were sold out everywhere!
Ended up getting this P99 instead.

The device of the time - IDE drive cloner.

Didnt like carrying a load of adapters when on a business trip so this was how I chared batteries - USB charges the Gameboy and from the Gameboy charged other batteries.

2002/2003 was the first time I went skiing - and injured my ankle which had me limping for months ^^;
Went twice after and injured myself both times - my wife done her leg in too. Couldn't stop laughing when I looked at us both limping back to Tokyo ^^;
Looks like we wont be going again any time soon.
You is be skiing when the snow season arrives? I remember the folks in Seattle used to leave work at 3PM (!!) to go skiing.

2003. My office at Amazon Japan full O Star Wars stuff. Even though I lived in Japan for many years, I wasn't really into moe.

Akihabara in 2003-ish.

I think this was either summer 2003 or 2004 when I got my first Gundam - GFF GP01. Up until then I had zero interest in Gundam. Watched Stardust Memory and got hooked on Gundam - wanted more.

I was asked if I would to relocate to Seattle with Amazon to manage a software development team. I accepted as we thought that it was a step that we needed to take in our lives. Before relocating, I moved into a different office.

By summer 2004 my GFF collection had grown.

Thought it was cool at the time - a wireless vacuum cleaner. Battery only lasted for about 7 months.

And then it was time to pack up and move to Seattle. Our second international move.

Amazon shipped all our belongings to Seattle. We had two shipments - a few hundred kilos for important stuff (like Plasma ^^;) and the rest by boat.

We came to Japan with only the blue n red suitcases and ended up with a load of junk after ^^;

The thing is that we are quite good about getting rid of useless stuff. Most of the boxes contain daily life stuff like hygiene, toiletries, clothes, books etc.

After all the boxes were taken away, we handed back the keys and said goodbye to our place that was our home for a few years. We were now literally homeless with no permanent address.

Before leaving for Seattle, Amazon put us in a hotel overlooking Shibuya - took this on the night before we left. This wallpaper (also available in the wallpaper pool) was my desktop image for my duration in Seattle - I missed Japan a lot.

Have you bee through an international relocation with either your work or family? What was the experience like? Did you have a culture shock on the other end?
Will talk about our experience in depth in the next article.

Some more pics that we took just before we left.

The decision to leave Japan for Seattle was a tough one but felt that it was something that we had to try out in our lifetime.

After living in Seattle for 5 months, I completed the project that I was working on and after many months of thinking about it, I requested to be transferred back to Japan. The plan to have us permanently in the US didn't go accordingly - I missed Japan too much.

in July 2004 we arrived in our new home - Seattle. We stayed in one of the tall buildings you see bunched in the middle of the photo overlooking the harbor.

Next I will talk about my time in the US with Amazon.