Tokyo, OSM & Japan

The second of my Japan blog posts: A couple of weeks ago, we had a mini mapping party at Tokyo. My hosts were Hiroshi Miura from and the Kodeo (Little Edo) Linux User Group, a great group of people, professionals and enthusiasts. We met at the IPA (the IT Promotion Agency – a kind of governmental centre for promoting excellence in IT), near Sugamo. Hiroshi Miura, who recently has started invited me to give a talk and demonstration about OpenStreetMap (slides) and then afterwards we walked out to map a local famous garden. Unfortunately, I may have gone on a bit, as by the time we got there, Rikugi-en Garden was closing (4:30), so instead we journeyed out to the more complex streets around probably better for giving a more representative view of osm mapping, if less pretty!

Tokyo LUG Openstreetmap mapping party

Most of the folks had GPS, after Miura-san introduced the OSM project to them earlier in the year. Many different types of GPS were present, a few built into phones, bluetooth, loggers, and one person even had a PSP with GPS unit (he said that the quality was quite poor, plus the only application that it can be used with, only works in Japan). Part of the afternoon was meant to be an exploration of the various quality of GPS receivers.

Tokyo LUG Openstreetmap mapping party

Road signs are different in Japan, many roads are not named – instead, the block that the road goes next to are marked, blocks of houses become the address, rather than the street the house is on. More details can be found on the wiki for mapping in japan (in english), and (in japanese). The ward boundaries are apparently available from the government under a similar to CC-by-A licence, so work could be done to help import this into the osm database.

Tokyo LUG Openstreetmap mapping party, apaman

This is “hatochan” Kentaro Hatori – the organiser of Kodeo LUG, pointing out local landmarks! In this case the very famous Anpanman, outside a childrens creche.

Here are the initial results from that day (click map for big):

results from sugamo mini mapping party

We noted many things, such as a difficult five road junction, with various types of roads. Junctions, parking, amenities, restrictions and buildings were among the things mapped. We also encountered a special form of police box a “Koban” – different from a police station (we came across one of those as well). Japan’s cities, and Tokyo is a good example are very compressed and dense – something that was mentioned a few times by those mapping- which brings certain problems and opportunities, but I’ll talk about these in my next post.

After heading back to the IPA we extracted GPX tracks, and started to do some editing using potlatch and JOSM. Then it was off to the pub. I’m pretty sure we ended up at Akasaka Gorou Hazime, for beer, shochu, dried & fresh fish & other tasty morsels. Much laughs, and cultural understandings were exchanged about the world of otaku, and things geek! I found out about bash-on-rails (apparently it works really well), and some of the activities of the LUG, including selling “attractively covered” linux mags at the huge twice yearly Tokyo Comic Market. We ended up at a famous pig back-fat ramen shop, for a bowl of oishii-delicious noodles. I think we all enjoyed ourselves! Thanks to Hiroshi and the folks at Kodeo LUG!

Crime mapping, Kyoto & the Tories

Back from Japan, and warming up for a couple of big posts, I notice from the Telegraph that the Tories want crime maps published to the public (youtube video). Some people might know that in the past, I was working on crime mapping, and crime perceptions hence my interest. Also good to see the release of geospatial data becoming a political issue.

Over in Kyoto, Japan, I spotted a map, published and displayed in the subway station:


Which, is the hotspot map (just number of incidences) of one particular type of crime. Perhaps someone could tell me what it is its mapping exactly (robbery / theft from person is my guess) big pic is here. But I was happy to see it there, as it might be an indication that they have my belief that access to accurate information and data about crime would actually reduce the fear of crime, and inform people that the streets are really quite safe and not full of danger.

Back to the UK. The Conservatives “Giving the Public a Crime Map” (pdf) is worth a look. It looks at existing sites, including the quite good site from West Yorkshire Police Authority, As currently, although there is a requirement to communicate to the public, and produce figures, there is no requirement for the police and councils (they are meant to work in partnership with each other) to produce maps, and maps which show crimes at a high level of detail. Also, each partnership seems to be doing their own thing.

They reckon the costs would be quite unbelievably cheap “just £20,000 to cover the website and an official to make sure the figures were accurate and up to date”. Triple that, at least, a one site fits all approach probably will fail, as each authority and division works in a different way, they have different software, servers etc, but they may be hinting at a central website.

For the mapping side of things, the issue of privacy comes up. Nice to see the idea of highlighting a road, or part of a road, instead of randomising a point location (for more sensitive locations).

They also say that they would be able to release the data for third parties to use, hinting that we would be able to make map mashup. But I bet they will say “oh sorry, it’s crown copyright afterall, as we use a geocoder using the postoffice address file”, you cannot use it. Thus making the benefits marginal, and keeping the data centralised and controlled, something the tories criticise the government of doing.

Osaka, OSM, Japan

OK, I’ve been in Japan for about 10 days now, so will relate some of the events in chronological order, over the next few posts. In short, I decided upon a short spell of travelling to Japan, and noticed at the time that had just been formed, and the community was starting to come together, so sent a couple of emails out, asking if anyone would like to meet up, for a mini-mapping party or something. Was invited to Osaka City University to talk about OSM, and take part in a short mapping party to a local shrine, and invitied to Tokyo (where I am currently) to talk at a Linux User Group, and a mapping party around the area.

osaka mapping

Professor Venkatesh Raghavan and grad student Diasuke Yoshida, invited me to Osaka, to give a talk. David Hastings of the UN ESCAP also spoke on sustainable tourism via the web. Before we talked the geo phd and masters students walked to the nearby Sumiyoshi-shrine, together with multiple GPS devices, paper pen and digital dicataphone. We walked along an ancient road to the shrine past ancient buidlings, amazing gardens, shrines and cemetaries.

The talk went well, with interesting discussion about integrating other VGI information, harnessing the power of people (as typified by wikimapia), about how to utilise osm for pedestrian navigation. There is a great deal of enthusiasm for openstreetmap, and there is a feeling that the country will be mapped quickly by a growing band of mappers! In Osaka, the students are involved in a number of interesting projects including automatic feature extraction from gpx, live streaming of gps nmea to server, using differential GPS, forecasting (futurology) of geospatial (GPS was sucessfully predicted by japanese in 70s). Fascinating stuff.

Some general notes about mapping in Japan, from a westerners point of view:

Railways and subways have been privatised, and are often run by different companies, however they use colour for identification of these.

Tall buildings in city centre, not good for those old GPS units, but elsewhere, in the cities, there houses are about 3 stories tall, and smaller in Kyoto, for example.

Special mention has to be given to Prof. Raghavan, Diasuke, Sensei Minami, Akiko, and Danielle for their overwhelming hospitality in Osaka and Kyoto. An open invitation is offered to the UK to them!

next post will detail Tokyo, Openstreetmap, LUG, and some more observations about mapping such a dense place as Japan. Sorry if i’ve forgotten stuff, I’ve a horrendous cold (gotten from walking up a mountain in the rain!). Will try to update with more info.