Arts + Culture

Top Tech Destinations

by Cliff Kuang


Plugged in: Ever since Sony came to prominence in the 1980s, Tokyo (view slideshow) has been home to myriad big-time tech firms. But that's not what makes it so appealing to geeks—rather, it's the city's headlong acceptance of any electrical whizbang. This is the city that gave the world vending machines hawking live lobsters and robots (like the ones pictured), which run in front of the Miraikan national science museum. This is also where cell phones the size of breath mints are passé in three months. Even the cabs have automatic doors.

Homeport: A flood of hotel building has glutted the market with luxury options, but the newest and most high-tech is the Peninsula (view slideshow). It's sleek, modern, and stately, with cutting-edge appointments. For example, your in-room phone tells you the time and weather of the place that you're calling, and seamlessly switches from Skype to cellular if you take it with you from the hotel; the CD/DVD has 5.1 surround-sound speakers; and the bathroom phone has a digital filter for rude noises.

Social networking: The hard-core geeks hang out in Akihabara, which also happens to be home to the city's best electronics stores and manga shops. But at night, fanboys and oddballs can burrow into any subculture imaginable—theme bars are the rage, from eyelash-wig bars to maid cafés, a bizarrely ubiquitous trend in which servers wear French-maid outfits. Meanwhile, for a techie bent in the more polished Roppongi district, there's Super Deluxe. Usually, it's a concert venue, but every month, it hosts special meet-ups for Web entrepreneurs and technologists. It's also the birthplace of Pecha Kucha (below).

When to interface: Pecha Kucha—which means "chitchat"—is a recurring, semiregular event that's spawned outposts in more than 143 cities. The conceit: Presenters from all walks of geekdom show 20 slides in 20-second intervals, on whatever super-quirky subject they please. It's like a poetry slam for ideas: Presentations have included Nokia's ergonomics guru talking on how herders in Mongolia repair their cells and Thomas Heatherwick touring highlights of his techno-utopian architecture.

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