|LIFE IN JAPAN
Senior Software Research Engineer
Time in Japan:
Where are you from?
What brought you to Japan?
I came in 1987. I was interviewed in Dublin by my current employer, Ricoh, through an
Irish government agency program. The objective is to have Irish graduates gain technical
experience in an international environment and then hopefully take it back to Ireland. For
Japanese companies it represents an opportunity to internationalize their work forces.
What do you do now?
I work in Ricoh' Software Research Center. I handle collaboration with other company
teams around the world on a new international technical standard called MPEG-7 (Moving
Pictures Experts Group-7). The audio format (MPEG-3, from the same standards organization)
is very popular for downloading music from the Internet but it doesn't adequately protect
copyrights for artists. MPEG-7, which debuts in October 2001, will ensure the protection
of copyrights but it will have other powerful functions, namely, the representation of
multimedia data on the Internet so that it can be archived and retrieved efficiently and
effectively. For example, if we forget the name of a song, we can whistle the tune into a
computer and after a search, the name of that tune is retrieved. If you want a picture of
Arnold Schwarzenegger's motorbike from the movie T2, I can search a movie database by
making a high-level query such as, "find me the motorbike that was used by Arnold
Schwarzenegger in T2."
Tell us about your involvement with the Irish community in Japan.
I've been directly involved since 1988 when I became a member of the Irish Network Japan
(INJ) committee. We organized events and a monthly newsletter for which I was the editor.
The biggest events were and still are the INJ annual ball, held in autumn, and of course,
St Patrick's Day parade, held in March on Omotesando. The events are not just for the
Irish but for all those with an interest in Ireland. Of course, pints of Guinness play
their part in this process! Additionally, I helped set up Celtic Festival Japan (webpage: www.celtic-festival.org) in 1991 and we have had
six festivals to date. There is a very strong interest in Celtic culture today with quite
a few Japanese musicians playing the fiddle, harp and bodhran (Irish drum).
Are there any big events this year?
We're making progress towards a millennium Celtic festival in October. Announcements will
be posted on our webpage or information can be obtained by sending requests to email@example.com
What was the weirdest experience you've had here?
When I arrived in October of '87 and was baptized by a Japanese Christian church. A woman
at Shinjuku station poked me and said, 'Do you wanna go to church?' What I'd normally say
in Ireland would be no, but I agreed with reservation. To my amazement, at the church a
priestess started screaming at the top of her lungs into my ear! She eventually asked if I
had grandparents who had passed away and I told her that yes, there were three. They
brought in a huge guy who didn't look too friendly and he said, 'You have to come to the
back of the church'. Though I tried to resist, I felt intimidated. There was a pool of
water in the back which they asked me to get into; it was bloody freezing! The priestess
then suddenly pushed me and I was completely submerged and ducked three times. It was
terrifying! I got home eventually and told my friend and he laughed his head off. I laugh
about it now but the lesson I learned was, be yourself all the time, and don't flex or
bend to be like the Japanese or change dramatically who you are as a person. Customs sure
What's your favorite thing about Japan?
Opportunities to try new things. Here there's no barrier to trying new ideas and events. I
even acted on stage, sang with a Japanese rock band and played Australian rules football!
It's been a very international experience.
What's your recipe for a happy life in Japan?
Get actively involved in one or two events outside of work and take two to three good
breaks a year to get away from it all!
Neil Day spoke to Maki Nibayashi.
Do you know an
interesting person in Tokyo? If so, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org