[EDIT: 22nd July 2010 10:30am]

Many thanks to all who tuned in to support us during our climb of Mt. Fuji. It all went extremely well on the mountain, and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback through the networks since returning to Tokyo.

Curated photos and videos will be posted to Tamegoeswild.com in due course.


Over the next 24 hours,  a group of 10 intrepid explorers led by @tamegoeswild will be making their way up the slopes of Mt. Fuji. At 3,776m the rim of this dormant volcano crater is the highest point in Japan.

Join them as they push the temporary NTT mobile data network to the limit with live streaming video, Twitter messages and GPS updates.

Take Part!

With them they have the Rinkya iPad of Stamina – this will be displaying all tweets containing @tamegoeswild – so send in your message now and offer them encouragement them as they battle up (and then down) the volcanic slopes. Have a request for a song, dance, Haiku recitation or purchase from one of the vending machined at the top? Send them in – all welcome!

Pocket Wifi and network access kindly provided by NTT DoCoMo. Direct-to-the-net Cerevo Cam kindly provided by the makers.

Thank you to @stevenagata for additional tech support.
Photo by Matsunuma.

See more videos archived throughout the day at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/tamegoeswild

Online video chat by Ustream

<a href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=08760ee492″ mce_href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=08760ee492″ >Mt. Fuji Climb</a>

Live Stream Schedule

The live event, which will take place right here on Mobile in Japan, is planned as follows:

Tuesday 20th July

  • 11:00 JST (02:00 UTC, 03:00 BST) – Live stream starts from minibus en-route to Mt. Fuji from Tokyo
  • 12:00 JST (03:00 UTC, 04:00 BST) – We start climbing Mt. Fuji (from station 5 on the Yoshida-Guchi trail)
  • 18:00 JST (09:00 UTC, 10:00 BST) – arrive at Mountain hut, station 8 (about an hour below the summit) – provide entertainment, stay the night there.
  • 03:00 JST (Wed in Japan, Tue in UK/ US (18:00 UST, 19:00 BST) Wake up, head for the summit
  • 04:30 JST (19:30 UTC, 20:30 BST) Sunrise from the summit, party on the roof of Japan, walk around the crater
  • 09:00 JST (12:00 UTC, 01:00 BST) Descend to the van, return to Tokyo.

In a departure from the MobileinJapan.com norm, contributor Joseph Tame encourages readers to join him as he leads a group up the slopes of Mt. Fuji – whilst live streaming the whole adventure over a special temporary data network.


Active Otaku

One thing I’ve promised myself is that if I’m going to be a tech otaku, I’m not going to the passive type. I’m not going to be one of those who lie in bed at night with their multi-generational iPhones lined up on the bedside table, ready for their daily polish.

The type who talk incessantly about the sensual curvature of the rear of their iPad, yet dare not take the device out of the house for fear of it becoming discoloured by the suns rays.

No, if I’m going to be a tech-otaku, I’m going to be an active one. I’m going to use my technology and push it to the limits. I’m not going to treat my iPhone with kid gloves – it’s here to work, and if that means forcing it to broadcast video for 42km, or send out tweets in the pouring rain, or act as a wedge to stop the front door from closing when I’m bringing the futons in from airing – well, so be it.

(OK, so that was actually my wife’s iPhone).

Mount Fuji Live! 2010

Having sat in front of my computer pretty much all the time since the Tokyo Marathon, earlier this month I decided it was time for a bit of exercise. And what better way to get in shape than climb all the way to the roof of Japan – whilst broadcasting live video of the adventure using a groundbreaking camera beaming data through a special temporary wireless network from atop a high-tech plastic helmet. I will be joined by a team of 9 intrepid fellow Tokyoites.

At 3,776m, the summit of Mt. Fuji – a dormant volcano that last erupted a little over 200 years ago, puts you almost within arm’s reach of the International Space Station.

Solar Eclipse Fuji Hike_5224

The trek to the top is often mistakenly thought of as not that difficult – but it can be lethal: two people died of exposure on the same path as us 24 hours after we descended last year.

Altitude sickness is never far away, and the danger of losing all your money is also pretty high as the bottled water sold from mountain huts gets progressively more expensive the higher up you go. On windy days the volcanic ash covering the upper slopes gets whipped up into a frenzy, blinding those without goggles.

Arriving at the summit after 6 to 8 hours of climbing, you feel both utterly exhausted – and elated. The view is spectacular. You stand their next to the defiant vending machines, speechless, wondering at the beauty of the landscape before you.

(Or, if the weather is like it was last year, you desperately try to take shelter in one of the packed mountain huts, begging to be served anything hot that will help your bones defrost, wishing that the weather was clear enough for a helicopter to take you straight home).

Pushing Mobile Technology to the Limits

There are many people who have never made it to the summit of Mt. Fuji, and for many reasons (e.g. having a bit of common sense) never will. I’d like to share the experience of making it to top with those people, and in doing so push some mobile technologies to the limit.

You won’t usually find mobile network coverage on Mt. Fuji, mainly because the local inhabitants (volcanic rocks) don’t have much use for phones. However, every July, NTT DoCoMo switch on two stations at the foot of the mountain, beaming coverage up its slopes. Receiving these signals are two repeaters placed on the rim of the crater, providing coverage around the two shrines up there.

NTT DoCoMo have generously provided us with one of their new pocket-wifi devices, the Buffalo DWR-PG. Connecting to this will be the Cerevo Cam Live – kindly provided by the makers for this adventure. The Cerevo Cam, homemade in Akihabara, has built-in wifi, and connects directly to USTREAM (or their own Cerevo Life service). We’ll be using this for much of our trek up the volcanic slopes, and from the top, hopefully catching the sunrise.

The Cerevo Cam Live has been cunningly mounted in a 1,800 yen plastic kid’s helmet bought in Donki Hote. It is held in place by generous dollops of the UK’s finest Blu-Tak.

We’ll also have the iPad of Stamina with us, provided by Heather, owner of Rinkya.com (who’s also climbing with us). This will be connected via Wifi to the NTT DoCoMo network, and will be used to display YOUR Twitter messages of support for the team to read whilst struggling to the peak (hashtag #mtfujiTV)

We’ll be providing a GPS signal too so you can keep tabs on just how slowly we’re moving.

We plan to do some kind of performance once on the summit – although are yet to figure out what this will involve other than coconut shells and a horn.

Live Stream Schedule

The live event, which will take place right here on Mobile in Japan,  is planned as follows:

Tuesday 20th July

  • 11:00 JST (02:00 UTC, 03:00 BST) – Live stream starts from minibus en-route to Mt. Fuji from Tokyo
  • 12:00 JST (03:00 UTC, 04:00 BST) – We start climbing Mt. Fuji (from station 5 on the Yoshida-Guchi trail)
  • 18:00 JST (09:00 UTC, 10:00 BST) – arrive at Mountain hut, station 8 (about an hour below the summit) – provide entertainment, stay the night there.
  • 03:00 JST (Wed in Japan, Tue in UK/ US (18:00 UST, 19:00 BST) Wake up, head for the summit
  • 04:30 JST (19:30 UTC, 20:30 BST) Sunrise from the summit, party on the roof of Japan, walk around the crater
  • 09:00 JST (12:00 UTC, 01:00 BST) Descend to the van, return to Tokyo.

Take part!

The live stream will be displayed on http://www.mobileinjapan.com from 7am (JST) on Tuesday 20th July 2010.

You can actively take part in this spectacle by sending your messages via twitter – just reply to @tamegoeswild and it will be displayed for the whole team to see on the iPad of Stamina.

We’ll be watching our timeline and will try to be as interactive as possible during the climb. Also, we’ll post updates on the latest progress to  @tamegoeswild in the lead up to the climb, and in the event that the video stream goes down.

It’ll be interesting to see just how much data we manage to push out. We’re not giving any guarantees here, so the whole project could fall flat on its face – but no loss if that’s happens.

Thanks to NTT DoCoMo, Cerevo, The Japan Times, the BBC and Heather of Rinkya.com for all of their support.

Special thank to @SteveNagata for his tech support, and @MikeKato for helping get all of this organised.

There’s been a surge of articles today about NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest operator, apparently announcing it would go SIM lock free by next year.

Heck, even its shares were up almost 1.7% at the Nikkei 225 -actually outpacing it.

Much ado about nothing?

We’ll see. The plan is still “under consideration“, it’s unclear if all handsets will be included and what would be the exact conditions.

One thing is for sure though, DoCoMo wants in on the iPhone action. That’s what it’s all about.

Let me jog your memory. Last April, under the freshly-elected DPJ Government, Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications sparked a debate with its intent of rendering the whole mobile industry SIM lock free.

Following that month’s meeting with the big three, the government set a deadline for the public to give it feedback. That was June 23 -and, yes, it’s Japan, you could send your opinion by fax.

It’s all over now. The guidelines for 2011 are about to be finalized. The schedule is not lost on DoCoMo.

But we’re talking about guidelines. Yup, guidelines, not regulation. If you fancy reading the preliminary ones in Japanese, here’s the official document [PDF], but basically, they’re saying one thing: “we’d love it if you could unlock your SIMs, but just love it, right?, we’re not forcing you in any way”.

Hey, did you really think that government would take a stand with KDDI raising its network compatibility issues, Softbank pestering against it -projecting a doomsday with soaring costs in handsets-, DoCoMo being more lenient about customer’s choice and an onslaught of faxes?

Anyway, here are my thoughts: DoCoMo is probably the operator that has the least to lose in such a move. It has the better network, the largest -and very loyal- customer base (around 56m) and it doesn’t have the iPhone -nor the iPad. Yes, I know, some of you hate that thing, but it is shaking the mobile market in Japan: Softbank knows it and is adamant not to let this SIM lock free craze go without a fight.

I urge you to read SoftBankSucks’ coverage of the SIM-lock debate for more: part 1part 2part 3 part 4.

In the end, you have it all. Guidelines, a saturated market, a shaken industry and the battle for the smartphones.

Good drama.

Have I just felt an earthquake?

Fujitsu Limited and Toshiba Corporation announced that today they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to merge their mobile phone businesses.

link: Fujitsu and Toshiba Sign MOU to Merge Mobile Phone Businesses : Fujitsu Global

Toshiba and Fujistu? If you’re an international readers, you’ve probably never touched a handset from either. In Japan, you might just have. As per tradition, those phones are rebranded via the operators.

Toshiba provides handsets for KDDI Corporation mainly, some to NTT DoCoMo and a few to Softbank Mobile. Fujistu only deals with the first second.

Yet, it’s Fujitsu who will hold most of the shares (estimates ranging from 70 to 80 percent) of that new entity which could bear its name. Why? Well, it’s produces a lot of so-called dumb phones, which I would qualify as gimmicky phones, since they boast such amazing features as waterproof capability, perfume holder and metallic yellow color.

A lot of dumb phones, but no real smart phones. Toshiba, on the other hand, has released the internationally recognized T-01A. You know a very thin unusable phone based with a custom-built UI to hide Windows Mobile 6.1.

What a blast it was. It even got a successor, the TG02, a decent effort with less emphasis on hiding WinMo 6.5. Another hit. Not.

Anyway, join the two companies and you’ve got a juggernaut holding less than 1% of worldwide market share. Which means they’re basically selling only in Japan.

With some success, to be fair. All those scented waterproof pink phones do sell. The company will actually become the 2nd biggest handset seller with 18.7% of the market, right behind Sharp (that other company you have seen phones from, right?) which holds 26.1%.

The two companies are merging in order to strengthen their smartphone handset development -saturation not being a strong enough word when it comes to the dumb phone segment, 25% mobile phone shipment plunge last year cannot be understated.
That’s a good idea. A better one would be to forgo Windows Mobile for a while -at least until Windows Phone 7- and get in the Android boat. That’s just my two cents, but when you witness 50,000 pre-orders for the Sony Ericsson (I’m certain you have heard about that company this time) Android-based Xperias, that shows you the Japanese market, for all Galapagos it can be, is ready for some action.

Some action dutifully provided by the elephant in the room, Apple’s iPhone. It might hold a tiny share of the market (let’s say 3% for the sake of debate) with almost 3m handset sold, but has clearly set a new pace in a country which for some time was used to dictate all the mobile rules.

Need one more official reason behind the joint-venture, besides the unspoken-of Casio, Hitachi and NEC mobile merger?  Overseas expansion plans. Well, the phones are already mostly made in China. Oh, they’re talking about actually selling their handsets abroad. Ok then. Good luck.

Have you felt an earthquake? I didn’t.

ERRATUM: Thanks to community member Dan for spotting the factual mistake I did out of hastiness: Fujitsu only manufactures handsets for NTT DoCoMo and not KDDI.