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Hopefully, soon ...

I'm booked on an Air France flight departing Narita for Paris at 21:50 on Sunday night, six nights late. Hopefully Mount Doom that damned volcano will keep its opinions to itself and allow us (self plus spouse) to scuttle home; whereupon herself has approximately eight hours to get over her jetlag before she has to rush off to Amsterdam. For my part, I'm going to run the washing machine non-stop, remind the cats who feeds them, and sleep off the effects of too many time zone changes.

I'd like to apologize for not blogging more about my experiences on this trip. From the day-long excursion to the volcanic hot springs at Owakudani (in a blizzard, inappropriately dressed, on a pirate ship) to a hot day's wandering around Odaiba (an artificial island in Tokyo bay, dominated by corporate showcases, geodesic domes, a monorail-like people mover, and a bizarre Italian-themed shopping mall), by way of the miniature robot stores and shops full of pregnant nun bondage anime porn in Akihabara (I'm not making that up), it's been ... strange. Unfortunately the room we're staying in is so tiny I'm not really up to using it as a workspace (I can bang both elbows on the walls simultaneously while typing), so any real write-up will have to wait until I get home.

We have not gone shopping-mad on this trip (sterling is very weak against the yen). However, our luggage does contain a bottle of sake, a plastic cuttlefish, and a theremin.



I wish I were stuck six extra days when I was in Tokyo.

Mine was a trip as strange as the one you are hopefully going to more completely describe. My highlights included renting a bicycle, and touring the city on it in all districts except Roppongi (too many hills). And then finding my way back there, to the—for Westerners—famous karaoke place from Lost In Translation, for the birthday party of a guy who shouted me his invitation in Sapporo receding to the distance on the airport's speedwalk.

Don't you feel though, that Tokyo is somewhat of a fading light when compared to the more obsessed modernity of Seoul?


A theremin?

Someone still makes theremins?

Or is this a vintage item?


Sung to the song of a vintage Clash blues tune -- "My baby, she bought me a brand new theremin ..."

Yes, they still make and sell the things. Cheaply, even.

David: I've never been to Seoul. I am, indeed, Seoul-less.


Charlie: "a bottle of sake, a plastic cuttlefish, and a theremin"

Well, that's the essentials covered anyway.

A Theremin is high on the list of things I need to make my life complete and I think I've even managed to come up with a half-way sensible reason why I should have one.

Now all I need to do is A) buy it and B) learn how to play it... :)


Good to hear you're on the way back. I was stuck in Vegas after a 4 day tradeshow (along with thousands of other European exhibitors) - I've had people say 'cool, extra days in Vegas' - they clearly don't appreciate the effects of neon and slot machine overload.

At least I had my Amazon order of 'Trade of Queens' to keep me company - and said order also included a couple of Pokemon DS games for my son, I almost went and bought a DS so I could figure out why he loves them so much.

Anyhow, plane via Dallas to Madrid, chartered a coach with a bunch of other Brits to Paris (17 hours - what fun...) then managed to get Business on Eurostar home last night - at least I was on expenses, I really feel for people who are funding all this themselves.

Safe trip mate!


"However, our luggage does contain a bottle of sake, a plastic cuttlefish, and a theremin."

Otherwise known as "The Fluff undeath support system"?




I'm surprised the media (especially the British tabloids) haven't found a nom de plume for that volcano ...


Theramin! What's with the sudden upsurge in the things? Not that I've got any room to complain as I'm building one -a Theramax kit- for my other half (costs about a third of the completed article and I get to hone my soldering skills) And then build a proper Edwardian style box with brass fittings to mount it in. I'm hoping to get this done in the not too distant future.

I'm interested to see what the cats make of it!


why a theremin? You can get those anywhere last I checked. prebuilt ebay. Kits even (as stated above). Is this a special theremin? Does it have lasers in it?

curious minds are curious. And probably disappointed.

But nonetheless, I look forward to the pirate ship.


Why the theremin? Because it's funkier than the Hello Kitty kanji/katakana/hiragana label printer. Or the 900 odd photos-that-I-am-not-going-to-host-on-my-server due to bandwidth concerns. But possibly not the one-centimetre-high programmable remote control miniature giant robot.

(But they're all her souvenirs. I really need to buy myself an extremely silly memento before I go home.)


"I really need to buy myself an extremely silly memento before I go home."

I recommend a small suitcase full of capsule toys. The airport x-ray tech will do a spit-take.


Hi Charles,

You probably don't remember me - I think we were on a panel together about 25 years ago (Reconnaissence I think) - sorry I couldn't make it to your previous bashes at Popeye ... anyway...

...if you are going to be around Friday night (or anytime Saturday for that matter but you'd probably rather be packing, right?) and would like to meet/dine then I'd suggest Monja for an interesting and inexpensive meal - my treat. (Actually I'm ok with eating/drinking practically anything, but that's btb.)

Email is (I'm not afraid of spam, seeing as how I already get tonnes of the stuff).


......................Malcolm Cohen.


If you haven't done it yet, you should get yourself down to Tokyo Harbour around 6am and try some of the amazing (and very fresh) sashimi and sushi they have at many places around there.


Thorsten, my wife thanks you for your recommendation from the depths of her vegan heart. (Hint: she doesn't much like fish-breath.)


Regarding the photos you don't need to host them just throw them on flickr or picasa and link to the albums.

One of the main games in web 2.0 is using bandwidth someone else is paying for.


If anyone's interested in Theremins (I only found out what one was last night) and lives near London, there's a free exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall on at the moment that has a load you can play with

On Saturday 17th April they're also having a 'Theraminist' concert.


Theremin, eh? A decorative fzzzt Jacobs Ladder (keep away from cat and beard) and a dry-ice machine and you'll be all set for a proper mad author's office :)

18: 7: I've heard "Bjorksuvius." That's in the US.

A theremin, brilliant!

May I ask what model? Do you plan to try and learn to play it?

A friend of mine has been dying to get a Matryomin from Japan.

If you're interested in this kind of stuff, the 2010 edition of the Hands Off theremin festival was held last weekend at the South Bank Center in London. It was as geeky as it sounds, with one of the highlights being a beautiful duo of vintage theremin cellos playing renaissance music, sort of a live equivalent of antique music time-traveled forward through an 8bit filter.


Rather you than me!


@7&18: Come on, we're in the US. We should be calling it "Pelesdatter" or "Kiluaea East" something similarly jingoistic. I'm trying to find some bad joke involving the krona.

Otherwise, I found out from the telly last night that Iceland's what happens when a mantle plume gets stuck under the Mid Oceanic Ridge spreading zone. Talk about two types of hell for the price of one.


Spoke too soon. Since "mountain in Icelandic is "fjall," "Kronafjall" might work. Skuldirfjall might work as well (check


Well, in Germany there's one kind of hell that everybody tries not to look at. There's nothing quite like living in a country that has volcanoes easily comparable to anything that Iceland has to offer - only that they prefer to stay silent for about 10,000 years, before turning that particular part of Germany into an astonishingly accurate, though short-lived, depiction of hell on earth again.

Did I mention that the last episode was about 10,000 years ago? (You may especially like to look at the "Laacher See".)


Safe journey home Mr Stross. If luck and the Boeing holds I'll also be home Sat., via NY and Hamsterjam. As fun as its been sat here by the window watching the crowds surge into Fenway park each evening, I'm ready for undies that haven't been washed out in the sink the night before, home cooked veggie food, my own bed, wife and dog (not necessarily in that order and as opposed to someone else's bed, wife and dog). And then in two weeks I get to do it all again - yay!


If you're still trying to find vegan options in Tokyo, check "The Japan Times Online" (

Vegetables given pride of place in upmarket kaiseki cuisine

Lean, green and no hippy aftertaste


That's nothing. I live only about a thousand miles from Yellowstone -- if that caldera goes, we're dead. Pretty quickly, although not quickly enough.


Sorry, but just found this site. Hope it helps.


Charlie lives about a mile south of TWO dormant volcanoes (I live about a mile west of one of them). Weve probably got more chance of being glaciated than fried in a pyrolitic flow though -- the ice rolls through here about every forty thousand years or so and its been about forty thousand years since the last Big Slurpie. Coincidence? I think not.


Hi Charles

This comment is certified theramin-free.

Going back to your original post, in the words of one of the "four Yorkshiremen": "You were loocky!" We are not due to fly out until next Thursday! Cheers Finnair! Oh well, there are still parts of Tokyo we haven't seen yet; and people wondered what we are were going to do in one city for TWO weeks, never mind four. BTW, what is Air France's policy on picking up the tab for your extra bed and board since your original flight was cancelled? We have asked Finnair repeatedly to comply with EU regulations and cough up for our out of pocket costs but, so far, no go. Sorry to hear your hotel room is so cramped. No danger of bruised elbows here at Hotel Strix - Yay Strix!

Enough already.

Steve T


Yes, I realise I mis-spelled "theremin". How embarassing!


Ben, one of the advantages of web 2.0 is all the personal information you can haemorrhage, for the benefit of the corporations who will profit from your willingness to index and tag your entire life in order to make it more convenient for their microadvertising-based monetisation strategies.

Thanks for the suggestion, but no thanks for not thinking it through.


Let me guess: This was the "Hakone Free Pass" trip, involving Odawara, Hakone, Gora, Sounzan, Owakudani, Togendai, etc.

I hope you stayed at the Fujiya Hotel - for the refined ofura, and the vague memory of, oh, MacArthur, etc.


You've got a theremin. I now can't get the Half Man Half Biscuit line out of my head ('I think we'd better let him in: I heard he's got a Theremin' from Look Dad No Tunes).


Patrick: yes, but we did it as a day trip (no hotel stay).


You reminded me of my dent the day I was on the pirate ship:

Another full day. Bus, Cable train, cable car, hydrothermal boiled egg, cable car, pirate ship, pizza, bus, open air museum, bus, internet.

Strange and wonderful place. Did you eat an egg Charlie?


They only sold the eggs in batches of five.

(So I ate five :)


We have not gone shopping-mad on this trip (sterling is very weak against the yen). However, our luggage does contain a bottle of sake, a plastic cuttlefish, and a theremin.

"...but they were in there when we arrived in Japan."


My nephew used to play one in his band but has since swapped it for a musical saw, which provides similar sounds and is easier to carry for the live gigs ...

Fun fun fun ...


Unfortunately the room we're staying in is so tiny I'm not really up to using it as a workspace (I can bang both elbows on the walls simultaneously while typing)

How Gibsonian of you...



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on April 22, 2010 10:35 AM.

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