What happened was, I got an email from a Japanese colleague asking if I could come to an all-day meeting at the Sun EBC with the Open Source Software Society Shimane. I wrote back saying “Huh?” and he wrote back explaining that Shimane is a prefecture in Japan and that the delegation would include Yukihiro Matsumoto, also known as “Matz”, the designer of Ruby, who lives there, and that I’d been asked for. I wrote back saying “OK”, and now I want to go and visit Matsue, the capital city of Shimane, an hour’s flight from Tokyo.
The Shimane delegation, nearly twenty strong, squeezed a bunch of visits into just four days in California. Back and forth across the Pacific in that time-frame is pretty grueling work; my hat is off to ’em.
The Place · To be honest I’d never heard of Matsue or Shimane, but the delegation brought along tourist brochures and magazines and local cookies, and it seems a very inviting place; here’s the official Matsue tourism site. Like many people who’ve been to Japan often on business, I’ve rarely poked my head outside Tokyo, and Matsue looks like a good place to soak up a little bit of the rest of the country.
The city authorities, with co-operation from some local IT shops including Network Applied Communication Laboratory, the system integrator where Matz works (“NetLab” for short), have decided to try to build up Matsue as a high-tech centre specializing in Open Source. Sensibly taking advantage of local resources, they’re focusing on Ruby and Rails; the initiative is called Ruby City MATSUE. They’ve set up an open-source lab facility right by the train station; it looks quite decent, and I wish them luck.
This summer there’ll be the second annual RubyKaigi conference; both will have been in Tokyo. Like most Ruby conferences, it sells out fast. So since Matsue’s only an hour away, and since foreigners like me who might want to attend would love to get out of town, I wondered out loud, to Matz and Hiroshi Inoue, NetLab’s president and thus Matz’s boss (odd concept, that), why not hold it down there where Ruby comes from?
I’m not sure the idea had ever crossed anyone’s mind, but let’s see if it takes hold.
The Visit · Since it was organized by our people from Japan, it was done in the Japanese style. The evening before we all went out to dinner at Fuki Sushi, which was outstanding, then for lunch at the EBC there were bento boxes with, of course, more sushi. There was general hilarity at this; if I were entertaining Japanese guests in California I’d give ’em steaks and West Coast Fusion Cuisine at alternate meals. Whatever.
Matz pulled out his camera for a shot of every dish, both meals. He explained that he wanted to show his kids back home what he’d eaten on the trip. Reasonable enough, I guess.
As for the actual business, well, they pitched Matsue and Shimane to us (rather well, I thought) and we pitched Sun’s open-source enthusiasm to them. Everyone who reads this has heard the Sun open-source message. But you might want to consider a side-trip next time you’re in Japan.