2012/09/30

これまでの投稿


友人からベタ推しされたWordPressでしたが、その機能の多さに使いこなせず・・。
ブログ素人にも優しく、機能がシンプルなBloggerにお引越ししました。シンプル万歳!(トホホ)

英語になりますが、これまでの投稿では主に朝日ぐんま/AG記事用に取材させていただいたときのことを書いています。

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AG (朝日ぐんまより第一金曜に発行) 2012年6月号

日本を訪れる観光客、日本が好きな外国人に「マスト」なウェブサイト、Japan-guide.comのウェブマスター、ステファン・シャウエッカーさんにインタビューさせていただきました。(取材記事はAGの6月号に掲載されました)

旅行や出張で日本に来るという人には必ずこのサイトを薦めてきたのですが(私の説明よりも100倍は詳しくて正確なため)、まさかこのサイトが個人で、しかも群馬から運営されているとは!!数年前にその事実を知ってから機会があればいつかお話を伺ってみたいと思っていたので、AGで「誰か取材してみたい人はいますか」と言われたときに真っ先に頭に浮かびました。

 サイトを見ていても、実際にお話を伺っていても、とにかく日本への愛情の強さには驚かされるばかりでした。自分の好きなことを追求した結果が、あのサイトになったそうです。偏見ではなく、日本の良さを伝えたいという熱意が人気サイトの一番の魅力なんだと思いました。

japan-guide.comのテキストは英語になりますが、写真もとにかく素敵なのでぜひチェックしてみてください。
ちなみに、シャウエッカーさんの選ぶ群馬のおすすめスポットは草津温泉だそうです。

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スマホのアプリゲーム「ぐんまのやぼう」の開発者、RucKyGAMES(ラッキーゲームス)さんにお話を伺いました。今年のGWにリリースされてから、今や大人気ゲームの「ぐんまのやぼう」ですが、この制作秘話と、個人のアプリ開発に至るまでのお話を伺いました。(取材記事は朝日ぐんまの7/13号に掲載されました)


まさに「ゲームボーイ」なゲーム漬けの人生と、自分の遊びたいものを自分でできる技術で作る、という潔い姿勢は聞いていて背筋が伸びる思いでした・・・。 ご本人のブログでは、自分に影響を与えたゲームのリストがあります。・・・長い!(笑)でもスゴイ! 10年後あたり、未来のゲームクリエイターの「影響を受けたゲーム」の中には「ぐんまのやぼう」がランクインしてくるんじゃないかと個人的には思っています。

朝日ぐんま2012 7/13発行
当初は群馬県の名産「ねぎ・こんにゃく・キャベツ」を収穫してGを稼ぎ、日本全国を群馬県が買収していくというゲームでしたが、現在はアップデートを繰り返して銀河系まで制圧できるようになっています。ガチャやすごろくゲームもあったりして、とことんユーザーに群馬が刷り込まれるゲームになっています。もう何がなんだか分かりません(笑)

 やるべし。

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ソフトバンクが国内第一号として設置したメガソーラー、「ソフトバンク榛東ソーラーパーク」にお邪魔して来ました。再生エネルギーの固定価格買取制度の開始に合わせて、71日より運転しています。設置パネル合計10,122枚!一般家庭の約740世帯分の電力消費量(年間)がカバーできる電力が1年間で発電されています。

震災後、孫さんがメガソーラーを建設するというニュースを見てはいたのですが、なぜに第一号が群馬、しかも榛東村?(注:知名度が低い群馬の中でもわりとマイナーな場所なのよー。いい所なんだけど)と思っていたのと、メガソーラーってどんなもの?という興味があったので、見学に参加できて嬉しかったです。

AG 2012年 9月号
表紙は日本代表FC東京の上州男子よん
 大手企業第一号のメガソーラーを誘致するにはプロジェクトXばりのドラマがあり、最終的に群馬が決め手となったのは、恵まれた立地条件+自然エネルギー普及の学習拠点として活用していきたいという軸があったからということでした。本当に、こんなに自然と調和してていいのかしらと思うほど、山の中の湖のようにソーラーパネルが青く横たわっていました。(村では「天空の湖」と命名しているそう) 壮大で、とてもキレイでした。

幼稚園生からシニアの方が散歩がてら訪れるという「榛東ソーラーパーク」。自然エネルギーってどういうこと?と思っている人は、是非一度見学に行ってみて欲しいなと思います。「あっ、こういうこと!」っていうのがスッと入ってくるんじゃないかと。
見学会は村のホームページから予約できます。村の担当者やボランティアの方が40分の見学コースを歩きながら丁寧に説明してくださいます。高地で冷えますので温かい格好で、歩きやすい靴で行くのがオススメです。榛東村にはワイナリーもありますし、伊香保温泉もすぐそばです。強くオススメ!



ちなみにチラリと宣伝すると、朝日ぐんま/AGの入手方法はこちら:
1. 群馬に住んで朝日新聞を購読する
2. 群馬県内のコンビニで「AG」が中にはさまっていることを確認して朝日新聞を買う(入れるのを忘れるところもあるって聞いたので!)

Updated on Jan 1, 2013



2012/09/27

“Heavenly Lake” – Mega Solar Power Plant

**This post has been transferred from my old blog post. It’s really not a fault of Wordpress. It was just me who couldn’t handle their millions of options.**


For September issue of AG, I went to see Softbank’s mega solar power plant installed in Shinto village, Gunma-ken. With 10,122 panels, this plant generates electricity to cover 740 households for a year (2,680,000kWh).

Shinto Mega Solar Park - Lucky if you can go on a sunny day!

This solar power plant, aka “Heavenly Lake”, is built in the middle of highland surrounded by mountains (fantastic view! seriously). The day I visited was very beautiful day, and the panels reflecting the blue sky shine and change its color like a clear lake. (I heard it’s used for promotional video or TV clip location. I guess it should..)

It’s also quiet, it doesn’t smell burnt and it’s comfortable to be near them. I somehow thought the “mega solar power plant” must be like a big hot flying pan (imagining I can make fried eggs on the panels) but it just sits there gracefully in beautiful scenery. That was surprising to me.

It does look like a lake!


This mega solar plant started its operation from this July, along with the new energy law in Japan took effect (now they can sell renewable energy). In fact, quite a lot of projects related to natural energy started from Jul 1. After the huge earthquake and its consequent disaster of Fukushima nuclear plant, the nation has been seeking alternative energy that is safe for human and environment. It’s so sad that we didn’t consider the importance of renewable energy until something horrible happened. But since we can’t go back to the past with De Lorean, we have to move forward by not repeating the same mistake…


Having said that, it’s way too early to decide if these mega solar power plant can be the reliable alternative energy. Obviously the biggest concern is stability because it’s completely up to weather which… we cannot control. I heard Shinto village’s plant is doing good, but other places have tough time getting enough sunshine… and this directly affects  profitability. I believe most of the companies trying out this business are now in trial stage, but if they found out this can’t make any profit they will walk away.  And a couple of solar power plants are not enough to replace a nuclear plant…

Softbankis one of the biggest telecommunication companies in Japan (known by white dog daddy) and this company has shown its strength and efficiency especially after the huge earthquake. I’m sure they have strong strategy behind this solar power plant, but partly they created this facility as a model that others can follow. (They show real time power status, click one of the places on Japan map.) If they successfully prove this can be a good business, definitely other companies will follow. For publicly-owned plants… I talked to some public workers from different cities in Gunma as a part of research, a lot of them mumbled that they cannot gamble with this business… yet (right, because their chips are coming from our wallets). So mostly they offer available space for private company and get land-use fee.

Oh well, I guess we’ll see how it goes in 2 to 3 years time. By end of next year, at least 7 more mega solar power plants will be built in Gunma soon (we’re blessed with sunshine condition).



Personally, seeing the high technology panels and beautiful mountains together, I can’t stop thinking that this is the future. After consuming and damaging nature for the development, finally the technology which can coexist with the nature. And I found its really cool. (I’ve read Google is testing their tide-operated power plant to generate some energy to use. “Generate Your Own Energy” can be a theme for future technology company. Having power plant on the roof or something… That’ll be awesome.)

View from the solar plant

Shinto village is offering a free 40min tour of this mega solar plant regularly. You can walk around the ‘solar park’ with a guide (the plant is closed usually, so you need to book beforehand). I highly recommend this tour. Be sure to wear something warm and comfortable (No heels!) and bring a camera. Shinto village is… quite a hidden place in hidden Gunma :D , but they got yummy grapes and there’s a winery too. So, go check out the solar power plant and winery. :) Village has a plan to open this space for training tracks or outdoor concerts in the future.

AG (from Asahi Gunma) 2012 September Issue
AG September issue (in Japanese only) was published and distributed on Sep 7 for Asahi Newspaper subscribers in Gunma. (I heard you can also get the issue when you buy Asahi newspaper at convenience stores.) Learn Japanese! Live in Gunma! Subscribe Asahi! :D (or contact me personally.)

2012/09/10

Gunma’s Ambition – Revenge of Uncivilized Land


**This post has been transferred from my old blog post. It’s really not a fault of Wordpress. It was just me who couldn’t handle their millions of options.**


A smartphone game app called “Gunma’s Ambition” has been creating big buzz since its release. It’s a game about collecting points by harvesting Gunma’s local vegetables, and buying other prefectures with points to expand Gunma… The developer of this game is RucKyGAMES, who is from Gunma (naturally) and I met him for an interview a few months ago. (My article was published in weekly AG paper in July, to subscribe this see my previous post.)

Gunma’s Ambition and His book “50 reasons why B-grade games that major game companies don’t make could become big sellers”… this title says it all.


First of all, why this game could make a buzz not just in Gunma but anywhere in Japan? Aside from the game’s addictive nature, there’s a reason. Gunma is known to be “the least-known prefecture in Japan”. Which means, when people try to list all 43 prefectures in Japan for killing some time, they most likely forgot to list our name. Maybe at the end, maybe after checking the answer on the web, or maybe never… So, people often mock us by calling “uncivilized land”, and what’s more, some internet group kindly posted wrong photos tagging Gunma! It gives an impression that you cannot come back from Gunma without breaking some of your bones…

Then, this savior is emerged. When people started to see the tweets from this game saying “Gunma conquered Tokyo” or “All prefectures in Japan are now belong to Gunma”, they took this as Gunma’s revenge. Finally!

The game title reminds us some kind of aggressive theme, but in fact, it’s really really loose. But the scary thing is, you unconsciously remember the name of place in Gunma while playing this. Well, according to RucKyGames (the developer), this was the true intention of this game. He wanted people to remember “extremely unnecessary information” through this game.

As of end of August, the game was downloaded for 700K times, indicating this much people are taking time to get to know our land. And guess what, the developer was appointed official tourist envoy of Gunma last month! :D (Now the game has merchandise like smartphone cases and strap too..) It became a great example that the game can be used to promote places.


Asahi Gunma 2012 July13 issue
(It's on cover!! Yipee!!)
In the article, I couldn’t spare much words for the developer himself but it was surprising to hear how much his life is involved (or soaked completely) in games. He claims that he played Game & Watch as soon as he began to understand things, attracted to those handheld video game devices, not just playing different games but also obsessed to get the score until counter stops… and decided to become a game creator when he was an elementary school student.

All went well as he planned; he started to work at a game company after graduating a professional game school (where he can learn how to design or program games) in Tokyo. Working at game company to buy more games… Sounds like he is the life size Game Boy who made his dream come true, but he said he became really really anxious about his future right after he joined the company. He joined them as a programmer but he realized that he didn’t have enough skill to keep going or change jobs. After several years working with huge anxiety, he decided to create his own game in his spare time to look for opportunity.

His first app game was created purely for trial, he said. He wanted to see how App review process works, and create very simple game to avoid disappointment when it’s rejected. It was a game about putting a small decoration flower on Sashimi plate… you just keep putting flower on plate, nothing more (LOL) This game has passed the review without any issue (hmm, Apple must have sense of humor), and somehow… probably because of the sensational theme of this game, it gets popular.

Looking at his huge selection of games (now over 90 apps), I first thought he is trying to make somewhat ‘eccentric’ games. But his answer was “I wish I could make some classic type of games, but I can’t. So these are what I could make only with my own skill. (..) I just try to release it when I got ideas, someone may like it.” And, that’s how Gunma’s Ambition was born too. (But he promised himself to create one app in a month.) Graphics and texts in Gunma’s Ambition are mostly his drawings, and he even recorded his voice for sound effect. Very homemade. You know, among those recent flashy 3D visual games, this clearly stands out. :)


Photo by By stoychy I was looking for retro game photo, but look this! Can't resist!


As part of the research, I read his blog post about the 5 games that had influence on him. (I enjoy this type of info but man, it’s a long list. Not just 5 games.) Just like he had, I bet this Gunma’s Ambition game will have an effect on some future game boys.. because even I got the impression that ‘wow, so… anything can be a game…’

Gunma’s Ambition (Free app) can be downloaded from iPhone/Android. Get one and increase some useless knowledge. :)


My memorable game is Dragon Quest III (and V). Love the music of DQ. These taught me that game can be a form of interactive storytelling. Or simply I have 8-bit game nostalgia. Now games are way too complicated with too many buttons…

What’s your memorable games?

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