STORY Nov 11, 2016
 

The Day

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It started at the party following the event in Yamaguchi last year.
"Mr. Ishikawa, would you like to hold a Hebocon in the Bay Area?"
I don't really remember how I responded then. I may have said "yes, let's go!" without giving it much thought, or I may have waffled and said something like "wow, that would be nice."
Either way, I hadn't really thought about it much.

And now it's nine months later. One of my colleague Chikako, Yuko from Maker Faire Tokyo (MFT) and I. The three of us stepped foot on the West Coast of the United States.

We really came!!
1980 Born in Gifu. Making tricky and original devices of electric work, and collect music of frontier countries. Founder of Hebocon, a robot competition for those who don't have the technical skills to actually make robots.

So This is the American Dream

Let me get into the details later. First just look at the crowd!!
There were about three layers of people around the ring.
There were about three layers of people around the ring.
This time, they had to make the robots right then and there and have them fight against each other. The work area was full as well.
This time, they had to make the robots right then and there and have them fight against each other. The work area was full as well.
Mass production of low-tech robots
Mass production of low-tech robots
Children enthralled by the the match's progress
Children enthralled by the the match's progress
The group photograph is such a great memory!
The group photograph is such a great memory!
The cheers and reactions during the tournament were very American and five times as loud as in Japan. And amongst the cheers, "heboi" coming from everyone's mouth. (“Heboi” means clumsy.)
The tournament was held three times a day. I had the pleasure of commenting at the beginning of each as the founder of Hebocon, and asked the audience to remember the expression, "heboi".

That was when "heboi" was elevated to the status of a global expression following such words as "umami" and "karaoke".

The Bay Area is a Holy Land

Let's get back to the story. We went to the United States to hold Hebocon. So let's start with the background.

Hebocon is a "robot competition for people who are not savvy with technology" that I started in Japan two years ago. It is a battle of robots where people who don't have the technological acumen to make robots bring the junk that they create to fight against each other.

And this time, we went to Maker Faire Bay Area (MFBA). We participate in MFT every year, but this one is the high command of all Maker Faires held in more than 130 locations around the world each year.
When we set foot on the Holy Land (actually, just the registration tent for participants)
When we set foot on the Holy Land (actually, just the registration tent for participants)
Thanks to the invitation by everyone at the MFT organizers, we had the pleasure of holding Hebocon at MFBA. The plan was to Introduce Japanese Maker culture to the home of Maker Faire. It was a collaborative exhibit with MFT, so we were able to work together to prepare and manage the event. My appreciation gauge was at its maximum for this unbelievably fabulous opportunity.

What It Means to Hold an Event Abroad

It was about three months ago that the decision to enter was actually made, and we began to seriously prepare for it.

Not to toot my own horn, but I am quite experienced in holding Hebocons by now. I've held almost ten of them. I have in my head highly efficient procedures for everything from the schedule, items to prepare, and things to confirm with the site.

Little did I know that holding one abroad would be so different.
Even though I had the best partner imaginable in the MFT organizers, preparations proved difficult.
About 20,000 JPY worth of 100-yen store products stripped of their packages to lighten the weight and stuffed tightly into boxes for shipment (material to build robots with)
About 20,000 JPY worth of 100-yen store products stripped of their packages to lighten the weight and stuffed tightly into boxes for shipment (material to build robots with)
The photo I posted on Facebook with the comment that we made T-shirts and banners looks like it's in a jungle. It was 4 a.m. during the middle of the Golden Week vacation period. I was beyond confused and at the unhinged stage.
The photo I posted on Facebook with the comment that we made T-shirts and banners looks like it's in a jungle. It was 4 a.m. during the middle of the Golden Week vacation period. I was beyond confused and at the unhinged stage.
Even just sending a box meant 10,000 JPY (100JPY = 1USD) in postage. So it was necessary to carefully select which items to bring from Japan, which to acquire on site, and which to order from other countries.
But once I decided what needed to be sent, I didn't even know how to write the shipping slips.
I also had an incident where I ordered a large quantity of toys as material from a Chinese online shopping site, but had to re-order them because they got sent by sea.
A large quantity of toys arrived at our local staff's house two weeks after the event...
A large quantity of toys arrived at our local staff's house two weeks after the event...
When I held the events in Yamagata and Fukuoka, which were both far away too, I was so relaxed I was practically humming! National borders have great capacity to divide.

On top of it all, this was my first trip to the United States. I needed to prepare for my travels, and wanted to study some English, if a bit late. During the three weeks before the event, Chikako and I were in a state best described as "panic stricken".
The two of us annoyingly asking what SIM to buy in the US on a chat site for all of organizers
The two of us annoyingly asking what SIM to buy in the US on a chat site for all of organizers

Merrymaking in the United States in Seven Pictures

All that craziness was till three days before departure. (Nothing sent after that would arrive in time.)
After that, I busied myself buying things like a travel toothbrush and brush-pens that I heard Americans like, and it was time to leave.

It's finally time to leave.
United Airlines. With narrow seats and outlets that don't charge, it was a flight fit for Hebocon.
United Airlines. With narrow seats and outlets that don't charge, it was a flight fit for Hebocon.
Everything I saw in the US was so new to me, if I'm not careful, I'll end up writing three pages before getting to the site. To stifle that urge, I've represented my excitement from the trip in seven photographs. Let me just post these before getting into the main story.
My first meal in the US. Kind of similar to what we call taco-rice in Japan.
My first meal in the US. Kind of similar to what we call taco-rice in Japan.
Cargo all seems to travel on trailers in the US, and they are all huge.
Cargo all seems to travel on trailers in the US, and they are all huge.
Random photographs taken from the car all look very American
Random photographs taken from the car all look very American
The hotel had water with different fruit in it everyday, which I looked forward to, but they were cucumbers on the last day
The hotel had water with different fruit in it everyday, which I looked forward to, but they were cucumbers on the last day
Near the site at night. With no tall buildings around, the sky is vast!
Near the site at night. With no tall buildings around, the sky is vast!
I got so excited by the loose olives for sale, I ended up buying them as souvenirs, even though they weren't a local specialty. In fact, I bought the canned ones as I was scared they'd leak.
I got so excited by the loose olives for sale, I ended up buying them as souvenirs, even though they weren't a local specialty. In fact, I bought the canned ones as I was scared they'd leak.
The meat I had at the post-event party. it was the size of a grown person's face.
The meat I had at the post-event party. it was the size of a grown person's face.
I'm repeating myself, but all the scenery was really new to me.
And this was not only when I was outside, but also on the MFBA site. It was filled with people and things I'd never seen before.
These sort of things are not just props, and can be found moving around everywhere.
These sort of things are not just props, and can be found moving around everywhere.
A sigh coupled with the comment,
A sigh coupled with the comment, "I've never seen anything like this"
I went to the US for the event this time, and spent about 95% of my time, except when sleeping and eating, at the event site.
I hardly had the time to stroll or go sightseeing, but it was truly a "journey" in the sense that I was able to experience things I'd never experienced before and expand my horizons.

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