Jeffrey Bergier

Quick dessert and highball at Tokyo Dome Hotel 🌃

あけおめ!

良いお年を!

I went to Omotesando to get a glimpse of the Christmas lights before they disappear on Sunday.

It’s sort of hard to illustrate how long they go on for in a photo, but I did my best.

秋保温泉に行って来まーす!

Enjoying the end of autumn leaves (紅葉) in my neighborhood.

My favorite thing in Japan is to go to onsen (温泉) and relax. I can’t claim to have been to many onsen but I think I have been to enough to know what traits I like.

  1. I like them to be near-ish a major station.
    • Many of them are near station stops that are just for that onsen and that means there is nothing there, so in-between check-in/out and the train there is nothing to do.
  2. I like to go to ryōkan (旅館) with good food.
    • Many of them are more like family restaurants with mediocre buffet food.
  3. I like to go to ryōkan with good baths.
    • Many of them have baths where you can clearly see the next ryōkan over or where you can’t see much at all.

For these reasons I pretty much always find any of the ryōkan in Sakunami Onsen (作並温泉) and Akiu Onsen (秋保温泉) to be 💯. These onsen are easily accessible from Sendai station (仙台駅). Sendai is the biggest city in the Tōhoku region (東北地方) of Japan. There’s plenty of things to do there and eat there. Sendai City is known for gyūtan (牛タン), zunda (ずんだ), and sushi (寿司). You can look up the first two on your own. I always go for the sushi. The sushi there is always delicious and very affordable. The quality of an expensive sushi lunch in Ginza (銀座) for only $30 or less; Its incredible! All of the sushi places are great but if I had to recommend one, it would be: umai sushikan (うまい鮨勘).

The other thing that is great about going to Sendai is you can take the fastest Shinkansen (新幹線), the Hayabusa (はやぶさ). It does 320kph (199mph) along the way in quiet comfort; its absolutely incredible.

I don’t want to go on too much of a rave, but I think westerners probably don’t know about just how incredible the Japanese bullet trains are. They’re sort of overbuilt and over-engineered in a typically Japanese way that highlights one of the reasons why I like it in Japan so much. To clarify, as far as I can tell, its the safest form of transportation ever created. The busiest line runs between Tōkyō and Ōsaka and it runs about 365 trains with about 500,000 passengers every single day. It has been running continuously for 57 years (since 1964) and it has never had a single death due to derailment, fire, crash, etc. Furthermore, despite Japan’s bad weather and propensity for earthquakes, its average delay over a year is about 24 seconds. All of this precision and safety comes at a price though. The one-way trip from Tōkyō to Ōsaka with a regular seat is ¥14,320 ($126). Yet 500,000 people ride it every day. That’s another thing that is great about Japan, things are nicer because people pay more for nicer things. (Source for figures in this paragraph)

Ok, rave over. I didn’t even take the train between Tōkyō to Ōsaka, I took the newer, better, faster train that goes between Tōkyō and Hakodate, the Hayabusa. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any video while I was doing 320kph but I found this YouTube video that shows what the experience is like (spoiler alert: its quiet, comfortable, and boring).

So now that I got to take a fast train and eat some delicious sushi, I got to go to my favorite ryōkan, Ichinobo Sakunami (一の坊作並). This place has amazing food, amazing baths, amazing views, etc. Because its autumn right now, there was beautiful kōyō (紅葉) and all the leaves were turning into great colors. This place is also amazing in the winter when its snowing and in the spring when there are cherry blossoms… yes I have been here for every season 💅. I could go on and on about this place, but instead I’ll just let you enjoy the photos below 📸.

Well everyone, I have big news. I bought an apartment! Its a 2 bedroom and about 53m². It has an all new interior, plumbing, electrical, appliances, etc. The building is fairly new and has all the latest and greatest earthquake standards. Its in Jinbōchō right in the center of Tōkyō near the Imperial Palace, the Buddōkan, and Tōkyō Dome City. Also, the train lines are great. I can get to Shinjuku Station, Shibuya Station, Tōkyō Station, and Ginza in 10 minutes or less.

Well, why did I do this? Am I planning to stay in Tokyo forever? Not sure yet. But I’m really enjoying my new work at Woven Planet working on awesome stuff for Toyota. Everything I’m working is several years out and I want to see this stuff through. That combined with the home loan interest rates being insanely low (0.4%-1.0%), it didn’t make much sense to rent any more. So now I have this great place, the mortgage is less than my old rent. Instead of throwing away nearly $1800 per month, I’m now throwing away about $400 in interest and building fees. The rest goes to the principle.

I could go on and on about this place, but I’ll try to keep the post short. I have already shared this with my parents. I hope the shock wasn’t too much. I do plan to visit again once its safer. But for now, know that I’m doing well and have crossed another major milestone in my long process of becoming an adult.

I also want to thank all my friends and family. I know I’ve been a bit out of touch through this pandemic. Right when it becomes the social norm to do video calls, I somehow don’t have a lot of energy for it. Its not you though, its just me. My social skills are definitely waning and burnout is always close (there’s nothing to do except work). But I’m working on it. I hope to be in touch with more of you soon.

For now, please enjoy some photos of the place 📸

Near my house, there is the Buddōkan (武道館) and the Imperial Palace (皇居) (Kōkyo) and there is this big moat around it. As winter was turning into spring, I noticed that small plants were starting to grow on the water. Well, through the course of the spring, summer, and now into fall, I was able to watch the Lotus (ハス) (hasu) rise and fall. From nothing, to small leaves, to giant blossoms, and then fading back to nothing.

I tried to take photos so that the progression could be seen over time, but I didn’t do a very good job of it 😛. Also, on the side closer to the Buddōkan, there is more shade from the oppressive summer sun, so that side has survived so far. But the other side, was gone by the middle August.

2021/05/31

2021/06/02

2021/07/08

2021/07/13

2021/07/14

2021/07/15

2021/07/21

2021/08/18

2021/08/27

2021/10/09

2021年の月見。Moon night tonight. I got the goodies from McDonalds 😋

Shinjuku tonight while I get dinner. Sorry the window is kind of dirty. A typhoon sort of nudged Tokyo last night. It’s probably also why the clouds look so great.

桜 (sakura) (cherry blossoms) have come and gone this year. For the second time in the pandemic the opportunity to 花見 (hanami) (cherry blossom viewing) with friends was squashed. Luckily, the first year I was here (2019), I opted into this new, to me, activity. I’m looking forward to doing it with friends again in 2022.

My new apartment in 千代田区 (Chiyoda-ku) (Chiyoda Ward) is right near 日本武道館 (Nippon Budōkan), 皇居 (Kōkyo) (Imperial Palace), and 靖国神社 (Yasukunijinja) (Yasukuni Shrine). The 桜 here are the best in 東京 (Tōkyō) and some of the best in Japan. Although there are some very special places in 田舎 (inaka) (the countryside). But anyway, it was a good place to live to quickly check on the trees every day and watch them change over the 2 weeks or so that the season lasts.

Long time no post. Times have been quiet recently. Not much to do other than work, eat, and sleep I’m afraid. Those things have been going well. I’m quite lucky to have ended up in Japan for this pandemic where it is quite safe and be able to go out and eat delicious food has not been dangerous or hindered by the pandemic. But anxiously waiting for the slightly slower rollout of the vaccine. In the mean time I thought I would post some photos of my normal weekday work from home 👨‍💻breakfasts.

Winter is definitely over by now but I started this new breakfast routine in the new year and Winter is strawberry season in Japan. My normal breakfast now usually consists of:

  • おにぎり 🍙 (onigiri) which is a rice ball with a filling. I usually pick 鮭はらみ (sake harami) (grilled salmon) from Family Mart.
  • プレーンヨーグルト (plain yogurt) I was getting individual cups at Family Mart but I recently found this one (iMuse) at the grocery store and its so good. Not sure how to describe it but it has a much stronger dairy flavor and less tangy flavor.
  • りんごデニッシュー 🥐 (apple danish) Sometimes I can go to デパ地下 (depa chika) (department store grocery) to get a good one. But many times I just get one from Family Mart.

Optional items I like to get:

Christmas Eve lighting at the office

Great day to work from the office.

このクリスマスツリーディスプレーが1番好き。

Yesterday I randomly popped into the 丸の内 Apple Store and they had the new m1 MacBook Air. The person there said I had super lucky timing. It was the first day after launch day that they had them in stock. So yeah this will replace my 4-year-old Rose Gold 12” MacBook.

日本橋から九段下へ

I recently moved… a post to come on that soon. But for now, since its Christmas and things are lit up nicely, I wanted to share some incoherent ramblings about my commute home from work.

I work in 日本橋室町 (Ninhonbashi muromachi) near 三越前駅 (Mitsukoshimae station). The 半蔵門線 (Hanzomon line) can take me directly home from this station. But the walk to 日本橋駅 (Nihonbashi station) is really nice.

Here is 三越本店 (Mitsukoshi main store). This department store is famous and was originally founded in 1673. I don’t have much use for expensive department store goods, but I often run through the デパ地下 (department store underground food area) to get a bento 🍱 on the way home. Also, as far as I’m aware, the station is the only station in Tokyo named after a private company. There are others named after government buildings or universities but none named after companies, except for Mitsukoshimae station.

This is the view after crossing the Nihonbashi bridge. I didn’t take a photo of the bridge, but its the official center of Tokyo and has a marker to display that. Also, from here you can see the competing department store, 高島屋本店 (Takashimaya main store) (the orange illuminated one on the left).

Also, difficult to see in the photos, but my favorite part of this street is the lighting. The road is long and straight and every streetlight is illuminated on the side for a really incredible look.

The station entrance is at the first intersection in the photo and from there, I can take 東西線 (Tozai line) 6 minutes to home.

Once I arrive at 九段下駅 (Kudanshita station), I’m greeted by 専修大学 (Senshu University) and the 首都高 (Shuto Expressway). While the expressway isn’t the prettiest thing in the world, I always appreciate how the bottom of these things are not only kept clean, but kept shiny. This consistent level of cleanliness is one of my favorite things about Tokyo.

If I turn around from here, I can walk to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni shrine). And if I turn right I can walk to 日本武道館 (Nippon Budokan). And, of course, if I go straight for about 2 minutes, I end up right at home🏡.

It’s Christmas time in Tokyo 🎄

Got my mini 🤩

TL;DR

I’m really excited to announce a big change. I’ve started a new job here in Tokyo. I’ve accepted a new position at Toyota Research Institute Advanced Development (TRI-AD). I’m a product manager working on the Arene Platform. I’m super excited. I’ve always been a huge car guy and have always wanted to work in the automotive industry. This is my chance to combine my experience in product design and software development to bring big improvements to how software is developed in the automotive industry.

Full Post

Before I give more detail I wanted to briefly cover my career to date to explain why I made this change.

In university I studied Industrial Design. The program really focused on learning the design process and how to solve problems from a wholistic perspective. After university I was a UX Designer at Riverbed Technology.. There I worked on really tough problems involving complex networking technologies and device management of networks with worldwide scale. During that time I was getting involved with the iOS development community in San Francisco and teaching myself iOS development. After a few years of doing both full time I got a job as an iOS developer at Topology Eyewear. We were working with really cool Machine Learning and 3D technology and it was a great way to get my feet wet as a professional iOS developer. I left that job and San Francisco to travel for about 10 months. While traveling, I visited Tokyo and I liked it more than I expected. After I finished traveling, I was looking for jobs. I wanted a change. I wanted a bigger city than San Francisco. After a bit of searching and interviewing I had a job offer in New York and a job offer in Tokyo. Because I wanted a change and because I really liked Tokyo when I visited for 2 weeks, I decided to give it a shot.

Working at Mercari was great. I was an iOS developer working on an app with 30+ million users in a place where I was surrounded by amazing and diverse people. Everyone was so supportive there and I was able to be mentored and to mentor as well. Eventually I decided to go for Engineering Manager. I led a great team working on really cool internal tools. That said, not everything was perfect. There are many reasons I started looking for new jobs, but one of the main ones was that Mercari in Japan is a very mature product. Depending on the day you look at, 25% of the population of Japan is using the app and that doesn’t leave a lot of room left for growth or experimentation and I got a little bored.

In this time I had also really learned to love Tokyo. This place is polarizing for sure. I mean there’s the easy positive things to mention; incredibly safe, incredibly clean, best food in the world, best trains in the world, etc. There’s also the easy things dislike; incredible bureaucracy, hot-humid summers, language barrier, difficulty integrating into society, etc. But I really love it. The above things aren’t really even the reason. I mean, of course I like those things. But there is something deeper, something harder to point at that I love so much. Maybe I’ll do a post in the future to try to explain what exactly draws me to this place. Anyway, I wanted to give it more time. I learn more every day that I’m here and every day that I learn more about life in Tokyo, the more I like it.

So yeah, I accepted a product manager position at TRI-AD. Its kind of a risk because, for better or worse, companies tend to look at your resume and they want to see X number of years as Y. But instead I have worked for 8 yers in the tech industry under 4 different roles; UX designer, iOS developer, Engineering Manager, and Product Manager. But I don’t see it that way. I see it as 8 years solving problems in Silicon Valley style tech companies from many different angles. I hope, in the future, I can continue to convince prospective employers of that, instead of the traditional way of counting experience. And in any case, I see many years ahead of successful and rewarding work at TRI-AD.

As mentioned before I’m working on Arene Platform.. I can’t talk about what I’m working on exactly. But its something that combines my experience in product with my experience in developer tools experience to create something great for future developers using Arene. I started about a month ago and so far everyone is extremely talented and kind. The vibe around the office is exactly what I expect in a Silicon Valley style tech company. Everything is going smooth. The office is in the heart of Tokyo in Nihonbashi. The area is one of the nicest in the city and the office is one of the nicest in the world (I’m sure). While work from home was always an option (even before COVID), I still try to go a few hours a week just because its so nice, and I’m honestly sick of work from home. But most importantly, I’m excited again. I’m excited about what I’m working on and I’m excited to continue learning everything that is great about Tokyo.

I expect things to unfold slowly because things move more slowly in the auto industry… for very good safety reasons. But as things do unfold, I intend to provide information here. In the mean time, enjoy a promo video that shows our office and some photos I chose from the website.

Also, obligatory shoutout, we’re hiring. If you come from a non-traditional tech background or from an underrepresented community in tech and you’re passionate about amazing technology, contact me.

Sorry for the long delay in posts. I’ve been super busy. I have some big news coming soon. But for now, enjoy these photos of the bar at the top of the Tokyo Dome Hotel. It was totally empty and has amazing views. Even just the elevator ride (see video) up is worth the trip.

千疋屋のマンゴープリン🥭😋

🍈函館🦑から新幹線🚄💨で帰りまーす🗼

🌇🤩