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About Us Travel Guides Digital Photography Work Wine Computing Languages Retired Pages Trips Trips (Komei)

Please click on this link to find out who Komei is.

Please click on this link to read about the recent events in our lives.

This Monologue page contains my random thoughts about several topics. Read on if you would like to get to know me.

I purchased a Smart ForTwo Passion Coupe in April 2008. Back in December, I signed up their $99 reservation program, but the estimated delivery date was spring 2009 :( They opened dealerships and started selling in January 2008. I went to their San Jose dealership on March 2nd, test-drove one, and signed up in the dealership's own waiting list (separate from smartusa.com's). On April 4th, they called me and told me a blue one just became available (somebody canceled). I went there and got the car :) As for my reservation at smartusa.com, I canceled it and received a $99 check 10 days later.
Here are my answers to the FAQ:
- No, it's not electric :P
- The catalog says: city 33 mpg, highway 41 mpg. I get between 33 and 39 mpg.
- Its top speed is 90 mph. It's relatively quiet even at 65 mph and accelerates reasonably. But you feel the wind on your steering when going over the bridge.
- Smart is German. The factory is in Hambach, France. Its parent company is Daimler, same as Mercedes'. More info here.

In October 2007, we bought a townhouse in Fremont. We are very excited to have our own place and we worked on various projects such as buying furniture, installing shelves, hooking up lights, stereo and computers, and also having an air conditioner installed and garage door opener replaced.

Several pictures from our engagement in December 1997 and our wedding in February 1998.

I got married in February, 1998. Her name is Risa. She is a Japanese-English conference interpreter. We got married in a church in Sausalito and started our life in the Bay Area.

My favorite and most "presentable" photos.

I think the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO can be better explained using the analogy of a (3D) box-shaped "bucket" than the commonly known "exposure triangle". Here is my "Exposure Bucket" tutorial explaining how to set those parameters under different situations.

Our brains are programmed to react to some visual patterns that is linked to the behavior we should take (at least when we were primitive mammals) for our survival. For each picture we think is beautiful there must be explanation from the animal instinct point of view.

In April 2002, we had a chance to join the wine class "field trip" to Cakebread Cellars in Napa and Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma. At Cakebread, Mr. Bruce Cakebread was kind enough to guide the tour for us himself.

I carry my digital camera everywhere and take pictures of everything. Since I'm often asked about digital camera, I put up a website for digital photography.

My friends often ask me which model of camera I recommend. Well, I'm not always familiar with the latest models, but I know a few websites to find out the goods and bads about various cameras.

I always carry my digital camera around and I take pictures of everything. Some of the things, which you wouldn't think of taking a picture of, actually come out quite nice very often. I hope some of these examples will motivate you to start using a digital camera.

When your subject doesn't fit the frame, you can take a few shots and later stitch them together using an image stitching program.

The idea is simple: Take two pictures from the position where the left and right eyes would be, and show them to each eye respectively. If you practice "cross-eye view method" or "parallel view" method, you will be able to see two pictures as a 3D image without the help of 3D glasses. However, 3D glasses make it easier to stereoscopic images for you and your friends.

Lenticular lens is a transparent acrylic sheet like the one in the 3D postcards you can buy at a souvenir shops. You can buy the lens, apply it on top of your own image, and create your own 3D picture.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range imaging. Basically it is done by taking 2 or 3 photos of the same subject with different exposures and combining them into one image. You can, for instance, face your camera toward the sun and capture both the blue color of the sky and the details of the subject in the shadow.

About drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and aerial videography.

I created 3D-printed rig to project an image from a slide on a big wall.

How to make your tripod more stable against wind with the same amount of weight.

I joined Crystal Dynamics in November 2004. I am in the Shared Tech Group and currently working on a level design tool. Click on the link to see the photos of our building and from the studio events.

My career in The Sims 2 team was just a few months long ;(

I worked for LucasArts in San Rafael from April to August of 2004. They had four waves of layoffs that year and let go half of the employees. I was one of them ;( However, the atmosphere there was very nice and it was also inspiring to be working with the ILM people.

On July 9, 2004, the programmers from ILM and LucasArts went on a field trip to Stinson Beach. While everyone was making their hands dirty creating "art", I took a lot of panorama pictures.

The 3DO Company went bankrupt and closed its doors in 2003. Although our employement at 3DO didn't end so well, I miss working with nice and talented people. I especially liked the brand-new building overlooking the Port of Redwood City. I took a lot of pictures over there.

Risa was already familiar with French wines when she was in Japan but didn't know much about California wines. I had almost no knowledge about wines. So, we started exploring wines together. We took a wine class in Menlo Park, where we got to meet very nice people and some of them are our best friends now.

Here is a list of the wineries we have visited.

In July 2003, Risa and I attended IPNC that took place in Willamette Valley (near Portland) in Oregon. It is an event where Pinot Noir winemakers from all over the world get together and more than 500 people attend to taste their wines. Risa and I were certainly looking forward to tasting good Pinot Noirs but we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. Every meal was like a full-course menu at a four-star restaurant. It was also spectacular to see student volunteers swarm around the tables serving 500+ people at once.

I have been the only native Japanese speaker in the company and my friends often ask me questions about the Japanese language. I compiled my page focusing on basic questions such as "How do you type Japanese text into computers?" and "Can the Japanese people read Chinese?" The page also features a simple Japanese character flash card program.

When I was in Japan, I learned the Japanese Sign Language. After coming here, I am learning the American Sign Language (ASL). I'm not that good yet, but it is fun to learn.

I have some good friends who constantly send me good jokes and I have collected a huge number of jokes over the years. Here are some of my very favorite articles. Enjoy!

There are so many live cameras connected to the Web these days. When I used to be extremely busy and stuck in my office all the time, I, at least, enjoyed watching the views of San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, etc. in the background of my screen. While I was calling my friends in Japan, I browsed through the WebCams in Tokyo to see what the weather is like. Then, I created my own web page to see the views of the places I like. (I followed the style of Wax Museum's web site.)

There is so much information on the Web already that I don't have much to contribute. This Guide page is like a reminder to myself of the places (mostly restaurants) that I have been to.

In March 2014, we visited Shanghai briefly before going back to Japan. For Komei, this was the very first time to visit mainland China.

In the summer of 2013, we went on a cruise for the first time. We flew to Rome and then went on a 10-day Medieterranean cruise to Italy, Greece and Turkey.

In January 2014, we went to see Risa's friend and her family in Philadelphia, PA. They took us to Longwood Gardens, a 1,077-acre botanic garden.

In August 2012, we attended our good friends' wedding in Washington State near Columbia River.
Next day we drove and hiked with everyone to see two beautiful waterfalls.
On our way back, we spent one day in Portland. Even though we had flown to Portland to attend IPNC twice, this was our first time to explore the city of Portland.

I visited Bigpoint Hamburg headquarters on a business trip during the Jan-Feb week of 2012. Luckily, Risa was able to join me for the first few days of my stay. We went to see Lübeck together Sunday morning. Risa went sightseeing during the week (Bremen one day and a tour inside the City Hall, etc. another day) and headed home early. I spent last two days in Germany (weekend) in Berlin and Potsdam.

In summer 2010, we got together with friends and spent a week in Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

During the Thanksgiving week of 2017, Komei drove to the Redding, CA area and visited MacArthur-Burney Falls, Mossbrae Falls, and Shasta Dam, and also dropped by at Point Reyes on his way back.

In mid March, I visited our Austin studio for a week. I explored the Austin downtown early in the morning and after work a few times. On the night of March 17th, there were tens of thousands of people on the street, many of them wearing green for St. Patrick's Day. On the day I was flying back (Sat 3/20), I drove through a terrible thunderstorm to San Antonio and had a quick walk in the downtown in the morning.

In January 2009, Komei and a few other colleagues had a one-week business trip to meet with the Eidos Montreal team. In March, Komei was again on the away team to visit Montreal, this time for a 4-week mission to work with the development team. Luckily, Risa was able to join him for 10 days and we also managed to visit Quebec City for one weekend.

In September2009, we went on a 10-day trip to Switzerland. We visited Zermatt (Matterhorn), Grindelwald/Interlaken (Eiger, Moench, Jungfrau), Luzern, Basel (visited friends), Riquewihr (Alsace, France) and Zurich.

In January 2009, Risa had an assignment in Las Vegas which just happen to be on the CES 2009 week. So I flew with her to Las Vegas, attended CES and while she was working, I walked around the exhibition halls all day long. It was a good exercise. There were so many big (and thin) flat TV's. What I thought was interesting this time was those small plaques next to the big TV screen showing the model number and features of the product -- those were small LCD panels in many cases. That is so "meta".

We went to Chicago for 4 days around a weekend in the summer of 2008. Modern buildings, good public transportation, good food and friendly people made Chicago one of our favorite cities. Warm weather and nice breeze, too. We don't want to find out what the winter is like, though :)

We celebrated our tenth anniversary in Baja California, Mexico. We mostly stayed at our hotel and relaxed except for one day when we went to the Cabo San Lucas downtown, took a water taxi and went to see Lands End ("El Arco" arch).

London is of course the favorite destination of the tourists worldwide but we didn't realize there were so many things to see and so many places to visit.

In March 2007, I went to Utrecht, Netherlands with a few other colleagues to visit Crystal Dynamics' developing partner. It was still windy and cold but I woke up early, took the train to Amsterdam and managed to take a number of photos.

In October 2006, Risa and I had a one-week trip to Hawaii. We stayed on the Big Island for 5 nights and spend one day in Honolulu (Oahu). We saw glowing magma in the volcano crater from the helicopter.

In September 2006, Risa had a business trip to Philadelphia and I joined her for one weekend. After visiting Liberty Bell Pavilion, Penn's Landing and a few other places, we went on an amphibian vehicle of the "Ride the Ducks" tour and saw Philadelphia from land and water (Delaware River).

In May 2006, Risa and I had a trip to Cancun for a week. We visited the ruins at Chichen Itza and Tulum and we relaxed for the rest of the trip by the beach.

On March 19, 2006, we finally got a chance to go to the famous French Laundry restaurant. From there, we drove to Sonoma and explore the wineries for a few days. We also visited Point Reyes, Muir Woods and Mt. Tamalpais.

Stayed at New York, New York.
Saw Blue Man Group.
Went to see Stratosphere, Wynn and Bellagio.

Images from Tokyo.

After my father's funeral, we brought his ashes to his hometown in Kagoshima, Japan.

Visited southern California wineries with our friends.

In June 2003, Risa and I went to New Jersey to attend Risa's friend's wedding and stayed a few more days in New York. The wedding took place in a cottage overlooking a lake and it was beautiful. In New York, we saw a Broadway musical for the first time. It was "Gypsy" by Bernadette Peters and her performance was fabulous.

In February 2003, Risa and I had a weekend trip to Santa Ynez Valley (40 miles north of Santa Barbara). We stayed in a cute little town called Solvang and visited the wineries in the area. Solvang is called the Danish Capital of America. The Scandinavian-style building, windmills, stores and restaurants create a very cozy and relaxed atmosphere.

In December 2002, Risa and I went back to Japan and stayed there until the beginning of January. We enjoyed seeing the holiday illuminations in Tokyo and visiting the Mt. Fuji area with our family.

In August 2001, after attending Risa's friend's wedding in Seattle, we drove to Vancouver. We took a train and boat trip to Squamish to enjoy the view of Howe Sound.

In August 2000, my parents visited us from Japan and four of us went to Las Vegas and Grand Canyon together.

For the 1998 Christmas holidays, Komei and Risa visited Hong Kong for a few days.

We always wanted to go to Yosemite and stay there for a few days, but we were too lazy to make a reservation. Then, we heard the waterfalls in Yosemite might run out of water at this time of the year and we just decided to go there just for the day on July 19, 1998. Thanks to El Nino, there was still enough water in the rivers and waterfalls.

In July 1998, we went to San Simeon, again with Mr. & Ms. Yamaguchi, to see Hearst Castle.

We went to Seattle just for one weekend in June 1998 to see Risa's old roommate Stephanie, who is with University of Washington right now. She and her husband Leo showed us around in the city.

I had to attend a conference (ACM CHI 98) in Los Angeles in April 1998 and I decided to drive down there with Risa and our friends, Tom and Sanae Yamaguchi. We stopped at Carmel and Santa Barbara. Komei and Risa also visited Getty Center in L.A.

In September 1996, I went on a driving trip with a friend to Grand Canyon, Yellow Stone, Seattle, Vancouver, Banff, Winnipeg, Totonto, Niagara Falls, Washington, D.C., Charleston, and Atlanta. WE drove 11,000 miles in 14 days. I took 250 film pictures, 180 digital pictures and 6 hours of video.
In November 1996, after attending a conference in Boston, the same friend and I drove to across New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick and visited Quebec City and Montreal.

I have been to Lake Tahoe for skiing maybe ten times in the last 9 years, a few times with Risa. I took a good number of pictures including panoramas and QuickTime VR's.

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We went to Puerto Rico for the winter vacation of 2016.

In December 2015, we went on a tour to Argentina and Chile including the cruise ship tour by Australis through Patagonia, the southern end of South America. The tour started and ended in Miami. So we also spent a few days to explore Miami and Key West.

For the Memorial Day weekend of 2016, we had a short trip to New York.

We spent the first 10 days of August 2017 in Iceland. We rented a SUV and drove the "Ring Road" all around the country. We spent so much time preparing for this trip and built up expectations, but Iceland didn't disappoint us. It was one of the best trips we ever had.

We visited north Vietnam before going back to Japan briefly over Thanksgiving. After spending a day in Hanoi, we went on an overnight cruise to Hạ Long Bay and one-day trip to Ninh Binh.

Norway turned out to be the first country we visited twice. We first flew to the north-end of Norway and drove through Senja and Lofoten. Then we flew to the south and visited big cities like Bergen and Ålesund to travel to the fjords. This time we rode boats, buses, trains, and airplanes (17 times in total excluding local train rides) and stayed at 12 different places within Norway.

We drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park, Redding, and Crater Lake on a weekend in June. We had such bad luck and the trip was too eventful. First, Lassen was still closed due to snow. So were most of the trails in Crater Lake. (The lake was beautiful, though.) Risa slipped on the snow and had serious scratches. Animals and insects came jumping at us. (I have a picture of photobombing bird to prove it.) Finally, a deer came out on I-5 at night, hit our Tesla, and got away. We had no problem driving back home but the damage (repair cost) was big and it cost us the deductible amount. On our way home, we drove through Montezuma Hills (across the bay from Pittsburg) to see the windmill farm up close.

In August 2017, we flew to Oregon to get together with our friends and see the total solar eclipse on August 21.

In April 2018, we visited Singapore for a week before going back to Japan. The architecture, entertainment, and food were amazing.

Travel Guide: Japan

Travel Guide: San Francisco Bay Area

Travel Guide: Iceland

Travel Guide: Singapore

Travel Guide: Scandinavia / Northern Lights