Category Archives: Asia

Huaqiangbei Electronics Market (Shenzhen 2 of 7)

Shenzhen is one of the most important centres in the world for electronics manufacturing. There are many factories in the city producing your favourite electronic devices, along with copies of those devices.

The Huaqiangbei district of Shenzhen is home to many electronics markets which span several floors and several buildings. These markets are places for locals to buy their electronics as well as wholesalers and resellers to buy components in bulk. To a North American, these markets are somewhat comparable a flea market, except for electronics.

Competition in these markets is high, and was actually quite intimidating for me. Upon entering or approaching most booths, the staff will seemingly swarm around you, and watch your every move quietly, ready to answer questions, or make a sale. I prefer a bit more distance between me and the sales staff as I try to shop, particularly if I am just browsing for nothing in particular. Continue reading

Shekou and the Bay of Shenzhen, China (1 of 7)

I recently travelled to Shenzhen on the south coast of China for a 3 week business trip. This is my third visit to Asia, and my first to China.

Shenzhen is now one of the most built up cities in the world, and currently has a population of 8 million. Before 1979, Shenzhen was merely a small village of 30,000 people, so nearly everything that exists in Shenzhen has been constructed in less than 4 decades. The city’s rapid growth was made possible by foreign investments following the establishment of the Shenzhen Economic Zone in 1979. Continue reading

Japan – HRI 2010 Robotics Conference (3 of 3)

Of course, my main reason for visiting Japan was to present a poster of my work at the HRI 2010 robotics conference.

Robovie is one of the many robots being shown and discussed here.

You may remember these guys from my pictures of last year’s Japan visit. They made an appearance again here. These robots are quite expensive as I found out after last year, at over $25,000 each!

An optional bus tour was offered as part of the conference. One part of the tour took us to a grocery store where this robot was demonstrated as a shopping assistant. The robot helped guide an elderly woman through the entrance of the store.

This is me with the famous Ishiguro android. Although it can be very hard to tell, I am the only actual person in this photo. I am looking towards the robot which has been designed almost exactly like its creator.

This concludes my Japan 2010 blog posts. More updates coming soon, including a few photos from my quick stop in San Francisco on the way back from Japan.

Japan – Osaka (2 of 3)

After being in the Tokyo area, I took the famous Bullet Train to Osaka.

This view from my hotel window shows the characteristics of this particular neighbourhood as well as the city as a whole. In this shot, you can see the highway running over a river with roads snaking around all over the place.

This is some public artwork near the top of the Business Innovation Center, where the conference took place.

Lots and lots of bikes! It is actually somewhat dangerous to walk on sidewalks as people riding bicycles zoom past and around you. I witnessed a person on a bicycle running into a person who was walking. No one was hurt, as the bike wasn’t going fast.

I visited a temple on the way to the shopping district.

A night shot of a large department store which isn’t far from other shopping districts and a major train station. This department store occupies pretty much all of the large building, which isn’t something we see too much of in Calgary.

A night shot of a famous display of ads, including the walking man. Although you can’t see in this still, many of these ads are animated in some way.

More photos from Osaka are in my Gallery.

Japan – Tokyo and Hiratsuka (1 of 3)

I have been fortunate enough to visit Japan a second time, once again to present work at a conference. The first stop was Tokyo and a nearby small town of Hiratsuka.

This is just part of the big city of Tokyo.

I had a nice view from my hotel room here. This neighbourhood is very expensive to live in.

Streets in Japan are often much narrower compared to what North Americans are used to. This is most likely a two way street, though some areas are unpassable by two opposing cars at the same time. In these cases, drivers must simply look for traffic ahead before proceeding.

I viewed some academic seminars at the University of Tokyo. On campus, space is apparently very limited. In the foreground of this picture, you see two buildings, not one. The upper building is supported completely separated from the building below.

I had one day in the small city of Hiratsuka. It was very rainy and as we were walking away from the ocean, announcements came through the city over loudspeakers that a tsunami was expected in a few hours due to the Chile earthquake. Being next to the ocean in this location made me a bit nervous!

The Japanese train operators were also nervous because of the possible tsunami. The local train station was closed just before I was supposed to board one for Osaka. Although I did make it to another station by car farther away, my plans that day were delayed by several hours.

I have posted more pictures in my gallery, and am working on more blog posts to post soon!

Japan – Goodbye for now! + Video (10 of 10)

After 2 weeks, it was time to go home from Japan.


During my visit, the H1N1 virus was an issue being addressed. Upon landing, an extra hour was added to our time on the tarmac while Japanese health officials took everyone’s temperature on the plane. This experience was a bit unusual to me. We were told not to take pictures. Don’t worry, I didn’t and no one else did either.


My last meal and one of my favourite in Japan was beef curry rice at the airport. This is a popular dish and one that is easy for Canadians to eat with the familiar fork instead of chop sticks.


The airport in Osaka is actually on an artificial island connected with the mainland by a very long bridge. I suspect this is cheaper than expanding to develop on the mountains in the distance. Shortly after taking this photo, the plane lifted off and I began my long trip back to Calgary.


And now for something a little different from my usual blogging. I have compiled a video with clips from random sights around Japan as well as the ICRA2009 conference. Enjoy!

This concludes my blog postings for Japan, 2009.

Japan – Japanese Pub and Osaka University (9 of 10)

Upon arriving at the place where I was staying in Osaka near the University, Dr. Kitamura who was hosting me suggested we go out to a traditional Japanese pub for dinner. Driving with him to the pub was my first time on the left side of the road in a car! (I’ve been on the left in buses before in the UK, though)


This is the table where we sat inside. It was quite uncomfortable for me sitting on the floor since it is not a position I am used to!


This is one of the many Japanese dishes that Dr. Kitamura ordered for us. I don’t eat seafood though, so I had to pass on some of them.


This eggplant pizza actually tasted quite good.


If I remember correctly, this is a bottle of Sake. This bottle belongs specifically to Dr. Kitamura and is stored at a special spot in the pub.

My main academic reason for going to Osaka was to present at Osaka University in the lab where my supervisor, Dr. Ehud Sharlin, has worked previously.


This is me presenting as students from the lab watch. Thanks to Dr. Yoshifumi Kitamura for this photo!

It was here at the university where I became familiar with a few more Japanese customs. For example, before entering the lab area, everyone removes their shoes and puts on slippers. There are big cabinets to house everyone’s shoes, including some pairs for guests.

After this, I have one more post for Japan. Stay tuned.

Japan – Rest of Osaka (8 of 10)

Besides Osaka Castle, I saw a few other sights in Osaka. I also spent some time just walking around, at least when the weather was cooperating.


Tsutenkaku (informally known by some as Osaka Tower) is a famous landmark in Osaka. I went up. They have a gift shop up top, but unfortunately they accept cash only, and I was short on cash and couldn’t buy some post cards I saw there. Post cards are actually hard to find in Japan compared to other tourist areas.


The city of Osaka seems to stretch forever in this view from from the tower. This is actually a better view than what I saw in person. There was plenty of clouds and rain occurring.


This is one of Osaka’s bustling streets near the tower. Convenience stores like the one to the right are everywhere in Japan, almost on every street corner and they are open 24 hours a day.


Osaka at night is brightly lit and active, especially around one of the main train stations where I was here.


In Osaka, there is a section of several street blocks of electronics stores everywhere.In the centre of this photo, you can see a sign identifying this particular building as the Windows Tower. The logo being used is quite old from the Windows 95 era.


Some are the many stores are smaller versions of North American big box stores, while others are small and carrying various electrical components like you see here. One store also sold used versions of every iPod ever made, and many stores carried all kinds of tiny laptops.