APPLE MAPS ENHANCES JAPANESE STATION INFO AS TRANSIT ROLLOUT NEARS (UPDATE 2)

Apple Maps greatly enhanced station footprint information for major Tokyo stations today as the iOS 10 public transit rollout for Japan approaches. A few hours ago Shinjuku station appeared in the iOS 10 beta like this:
Shinjuku iOS 10

Now it looks like this:

Shinjuku Station 8-25 crop

The updated Shinjuku map displays platform detail for JR, Keio, Odakyu lines in dark blue and is much easier to understand. The station structure in light blue is much more accurate. The biggest change is the addition of indoor mapping: the underground maze of passageways, shopping arcades and subway lines that is Shinjuku, is all there. Exit information has not been added yet but if this update is any indication, changes will probably come gradually instead of one big update.

I have heard from a source that Apple is doing all the indoor mapping themselves as there is no data supplier available and major Japanese stations are the most complex indoor mapping challenges on the planet.

This update only appears to be for major stations with more than one train line but the overall picture is much closer to Apple’s preview image. Lower tier stations are still waiting for enhanced footprints and exit information. Other Japanese cities such as Osaka and Nagoya also have enhanced station footprints and indoor mapping for major stations.

To see the map additions in full glory you have to use the iOS 10 and MacOS Sierra betas. iOS 9 and El Capitan display the new station footprints but not indoor mapping.

With less than a month to go before the expected iOS 10 release and concurrent Japanese public transit rollout, the Apple Maps team will certainly be busy updating Japanese map data in the weeks to come.

Update 1: Blue building outlines are also showing up on iOS 10/macOS Sierra maps when zoomed in. It’s hard to know if this is a new map feature connected with indoor mapping as they are local only to enhanced stations and indoor mapped areas. My guess is it might have something to do with underground mapped areas.

IMG_0148

Update 2: Close examination of Apple’s Japan public transit preview image (below) suggests the blue building outlines are structure and buildings directly connected, or part of, the public transit infrastructure locale. The preview shows Shinjuku station with blue outlines that help define the different parts that make up Shinjuku station. This is not in the current iOS 10/Sierra beta version and will likely be updated as the map team finishes up the public transit preparations.

スクリーンショット 2016-07-02 11.28.58

HAIL TO THE LOTUS SUTRA – A Collection of Gensei’s Words and Calligraphy

IMG_1598
(L-R) Rev. Zensho Hagiwara, Rev. Keiryu Shima. The scroll is Gensei Shonin, Enlightened World Daimoku Mandala. It reads “There are many sufferings in this world, This triple world is my property, All living beings therein are my children, Only I can save all living beings, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo (Triple World from The Lotus Sutra Chapter III A Parable), Ryujoji Temple, Hiratsuka City, Kanazawa, Japan

Rev. Hagiwara had difficulty finding the right scroll box in the dark storehouse. The storehouse was new but constructed traditionally: massive earthen walls, tiny windows, no electricity. The dark heavy air was sweet with the smell of fresh expensive cedar timber. I used the flashlight on my phone to help him read the labels. “There it is.” he said pointing at a box for me to take off the high shelf. I handed it to him. He opened the box and slowly unrolled the scroll. Then he casually handed it to me and said, “Here, you hang it up.” We had just eaten lunch. I had not washed my hands. I did not have a pair of white gloves. I held the priceless scroll written by the great priest Gensei Shonin and glanced at the oversized hook hanging precariously on the highest shelf. I took a deep breath, muttered the Odaimoku and climbed the ladder to hang the scroll.

In June Rev. Keiryu Shima, former editor of Nichiren Shu News, asked me to proofread an English translation for his acquaintance Reverend Zensho Hagiwara, who is publishing a book on Gensei Shonin as part of preparations for a celebration on February 18, 2019 commemorating the 350th anniversary of Gensei’s death at, Ryuzoji at Teramachi, Kanazawa City

Gensei Shonin lived in the early Edo period of Japan. He founded Zuiko-ji Temple in Kyoto. He is well known as a great priest within Nichiren Shu, somewhat known as a poet in the rest of Japan, and not at all known outside the country. He is credited with creating the Nichiren Shu services that we know today, synthesizing various styles of medieval Nichiren Buddhist service styles into modern forms.

His poetry is also important. Rev. Hagiwara explained, “Basho’s master was a contemporary and acquaintance of Gensei. He suggested that Basho study Gensei’s Journey to the Sacred Spot, Mt. Minobu (Minobu Michinoki), Gensei’s famous poetic diary of his trip to Minobu to bury his father’s ashes. It had a big influence on Basho’s Oku no Hosoimichi, (The Narrow Road to the Deep North), but that is not widely known.” One example was a Haiku composed as Gensei prostrated himself before the Goshinkotu-do at Minobusan where Nichiren’s ashes rest.

Here remain venerable ashes
When I think of his hardships and sufferings
Tear drops fall on my sleeve.

When he became a priest in 1959, Rev. Hagiwara vowed to complete this book. He first encountered Gensei’s writings in the late summer of 1948 when he first visited Ryuzoji temple which was built by Nichizo. In those days the Jugoen school, established by Nikki, a scholar of Nichiren Shu, was the main facility for training Nichiren Shu priests. After completing his training, he visited second hand bookstores in the central district of Kanazawa, looking for Buddhist books. At Korinbo, he chanced on a book with a dark blue cover and the title printed in gold at the back. It said Sozanshu, Gensei Shonin Chosakusho, meaning Grass Hill, Collection of the Works of Gensei.

For nine years Rev. Hagiwara was the caretaker of the Goshinkotu-do, where Gensei composed that poem. Then in the late autumn of 1954 he left Minobusan and settled in a temple at Hiratsuka to the west of Tokyo. Only sixty Buddhist families were supporting the temple. The post-war land reform had taken away much of its land, making it even more difficult to manage. Eventually the Japanese economy revived. In 1970, with the support of the temple members, they were able to rebuild the residential areas and library.

It was then that Rev. Hagiwara resumed his research into Gensei’s life and works. He learned that Gensei lived mainly in Kyoto and its surrounding region. Gensei’s original works and calligraphies were scattered among several antique shops there. He frequently visited those shops to look for those original works.

In the process, he met many Nichiren Shu priests and scholars who admired and studied Gensei’s wisdom. He came across the following statement: “Nichrien Shonin founded our religious organization, based on faith in the Lotus Sutra which expounds the teaching of the One Vehicle. Sensei kept Nichiren’s teaching. Thanks to these two difficult achievements, the Dharma is expected to continue to exist eternally.”

We all know Nichiren’s hardships and sufferings as he propagated the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Sutra. But what did the phrase “Gensei preserved it” mean? As Rev. Hagiwara collected many original books and calligraphies by Gensei and studied his way of life, he finally discovered Gensei’s greatness as a “preserver of Nichiren doctrine”.

“Every time I see the calligraphies of Gensei,”, Rev. Hagiwara said, “I can imagine him in flesh and blood. They say ‘calligraphy expresses its writer.’ It is a pity to keep the valuable treasures of Gensei within Nichiren Shu, therefore I decided to make all of them public and publish this collection of them.

“Without a doubt, Gensei was among the highest elite in the religious world of the Tokugawa era. Truth shines above time and place. It is our Buddhist obligation to introduce Gensei’s greatness to the public. My lifelong dream will be fulfilled if it helps you to understand him. This ‘Collection of Gensei’s Words and Calligraphy’ has been realized with the goodwill of many people.

Rev. Hagiwara’s book is the first of its kind, the result of 22 concentrated years of collecting and study. He has dedicated it to Gensei, Nichiren and other eminent priests including his predecessor priestess Nikki, as a token of affection and gratitude.

600 volumes of the book will be published in September 2016. Copies will be sent to libraries around the world including Harvard-Yeching, Princeton, Yale, Cambridge and the Library of Congress.The volumes are only in Japanese but Rev. Hagiwara hopes they will lay the foundation for future English language scholarship and translations.

“I shall be delighted if this attempt were to satisfy Nicho, founder of Ryujoji temple, its successive priests and ancestors of its supporter families,” Rev. Hagiwara told me. “And I hope this publication will become the spiritual and cultural center of the surrounding community for another hundred years and beyond.”

After taking pictures I handed the scroll back to Rev. Hagiwara who rolled it up slowly. “We’re lucky to have this opportunity to physically touch and see one of Gensei Shonin’s possessions. You have a link to him now and that carries a deeper meaning. Here, hold my hand,” he said to support him as we walked back down the storehouse stairs. I told Rev. Hagiwara something a friend once heard from his grandmother in Sado. She said “I feel sorry for your generation, you’ll never know why some things are important or tell the difference between real things and false things.”

Rev. Hagiwara shook his head in agreement, “Yes that’s it isn’t it? If you have any compassion for future generations, you must endeavor to study things so you can teach them. Otherwise how will they ever understand the true value of anything in this life?”

Edited by friend and colleague Rev. Shinkyo Warner

APPLE PAY COMING TO JAPAN WITH iPhone 7 (UPDATE 2)

 

Japan’s leading smartphone journalist Tsutomu Ishikawa reports mounting evidence that iPhone 7 will support the Sony invented FeliCa standard by way of East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and KDDI. If true this would finally pave the way for Apple Pay to work in Japan with the massive FeliCa installed base and the many FeliCa based services offered by the JR Group (Suica), the major carriers DoComo, KDDI and SoftBank, and many others.

As reported last week, KDDI announced carrier billing for their au iPhone customers. The timing and sly hook into the KDDI/au payment system certainly feels like a teaser for Apple Pay. This is exactly the point Ishikawa makes in his article. He also mentions the UQ Communications co-venture funded by KDDI and JR East and the solid working relationship between the two.

Ishikawa san doesn’t name any specific sources but as a longtime Nikkei journalist, his sources to date have been very solid. He simply does not report rumor unless he is sure.

With all three Japanese carriers selling iPhone these past few years, KDDI has been the most eager one to adopt Apple technology and services such as Apple SIM and carrier billing to gain an edge on the competition. The other carriers, so far, have been taken a slow approach.

If KDDI and JR East announce Apple Pay support alongside Apple’s upcoming iPhone event, Japanese customers will have a good reason to upgrade to iPhone 7.

Update: Added KDDI details. 8/24
Update 2: Bloomberg “broke” the Apple Pay coming to Japan story without giving any credit to Japanese reporter Tsutomu Ishikawa who published the story last week. Typical shameless Bloomberg behavior. If they had any integrity they would have given him credit. 8/26

TOKYO STATION SIGNAGE

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JR East is joining the station numbering scheme found on Tokyo Metro and other private company train lines such as Tokyu, Keio, and Odakyu. As a long time Japan resident I find station numbering more confusing than helpful and with platform signage now offering English, a recognized international language, along with Chinese and Korean, which are only there for the convenience of tourists. I don’t see the point. Squeezing more information in a limited space doesn’t mean the sign is more informative, it’s just harder to read.

In real world use it all comes down to how much information can be taken in at a three second glance from a moving train. The small station numbers, Chinese, Korean, even the English get lost. The intent to be helpful here only makes things more complex. And I’m sure somebody somewhere is making a lot of money making all those new station signs.

Like so much in life, simpler is better, and easier to understand. Especially at a glance.

iOS 10 MAPS: NEARBY SEARCH UI IMPROVEMENTS

The iOS 10 beta on iPad adds some nice UI refinements in Nearby search.

IMG_0137IMG_0138The first two steps of a Nearby search are exactly the same in iOS 9. iOS 10 improvements start in the next step of the search, cafe in this case.
IMG_0139Instead of a mass of red drop pins the new iOS 10 Nearby UI offers search result icons with the cafe name in bold. If there is more than one cafe in the immediate area, Nearby displays a number. Tapping on the number icon filters the result list. The UI is dynamic and changes as you zoom in. The experience is cleaner and easier to use than Nearby search in iOS 9.
IMG_0140

Another very nice addition, similar to Google’s approach, is the “Search Here” button that dynamically appears when you navigate to a adjacent area. Tap on it and Nearby searches again in the new area. IMG_0141

 

JAPANESE CARTOGRAPHY COMPARISON

Justin O’Beirne has published part two of his epic essay comparing Google Maps and Apple Maps: “Content — The  Map as a Whole”. It’s a great read and deep analysis.

I think there is a much simpler and subjective comparison test: is the map easy to read, does it convey the most important information at a glance? What is the map ‘Glance Quotient’?

Glance Quotient
Here are three comparison iPhone 6S screen shot views of Shinjuku Station (left to right) in Apple Maps, Google Maps and Yahoo Japan Maps (Best viewed on a desktop browser, WordPress resizes the 50% image to 25% on mobile browsers).

three shinjukus 10 D
Approximately 10%

There isn’t any meaningful detail in Apple or Google maps at 10%, but you can make out the red Shinjuku station outline and yellow/orange major roads in Yahoo Japan Maps.

three shinjukus 25 C
Approximately 25%

The basic information in Yahoo Japan Maps is surprisingly clear even at 25%, Google Maps much less so, Apple Maps not at all.

three shinjukus 100
Approximately 50%

At 50% the large bold text station labels in Yahoo Japan Maps are coming into focus. Google Maps Japanese text is clean but still too small for my eyes to make out. Google’s use of the similar colors for the map background and Shinjuku station is just wrong. Apple Maps does offer a little more contrast between the background and Shinjuku station, but the low contrast colored text is illegible, and the technicolor measles icon overlay Apple uses is pure distraction that offers zero information.

I have always said that Yahoo Japan Maps has the best cartography of the big three Japanese digital maps. To be fair though Yahoo Japan Maps does have it easy, they only have to focus map resources on Japan and use Bing maps for the rest of the world. Apple and Google have to map the whole world.

(The full size screen shots used in the above comparisons are included below)

Shinjuku Apple
Apple Maps view of Shinjuku Station 750 x 1333 pixels.
Shinjuku Google
Google Maps view of Shinjuku Station 750 x 1333 pixels
Shinjuku Yahoo Japan
Yahoo Japan Maps view of Shinjuku Station 750 x 1333 pixels

iOS 10 MAPS AND THE JAPANESE LABEL PROBLEM

That sinking feeling. Here it is mid July already, two, maybe three months until the release of iOS 10. That’s very little time to fix things, if it can be done at all. It reminds me of the iOS 6 beta cycle. I assumed all the Japanese map problems in the WWDC beta would be fixed by the final release. They never were and the rest is history.

I have covered the Apple Maps Japanese label problem in recent posts, here and here. In iOS 9 it isn’t highly visible as the user has to drill down and open the info card before they can see the label. In iOS 10 on a iPad, the info card immediately pops up when a place icon is selected. This is a problem for Japanese public transit service, due to arrive with iOS 10: Apple Maps often mislabels Japanese train stations. Let’s take a look at Shinjuku Station.

Shinjuku Station
iOS 10 beta 2 map view of Shinjuku Station with the info card.
The Japanese label listed for Shinjuku Station above, underlined in red,  is “Romen-Densha-Eki” which literally translates as “surface electric train station”. The actual meaning is “Street Car Station”. Shinjuku Station has street cars? Of course not. This error is probably due to machine translation that has not been checked by a human being who understands Japanese.

Shinagawa Station
iOS 10 map view of Shinagawa Station with info card.
Shinagawa Station is labeled as a “Tetsudo-Eki”, which does translate as “railroad station”. However this usage is old fashioned and nowadays refers to non-electric diesel trains. This might be appropriate for a non-electrified areas like Hokkaido, but not the best choice for a major Tokyo station where all the trains are electrified.

Yukiga Otsuka Station
iOS 10 beta 2 map view of Yuki-ga-otsuka Station info card
The label for Yuki-ga-otsuka station reads as “Unso”. This literally means “shipping” or “transport”, as in ship cargo or truck cargo. This is a passenger train station so it looks like another machine translation that needs fixing by a human being.

These kind of label errors will not instill user confidence in Japanese public transit if they are not corrected before the rollout this fall. To be fair though, Google Maps doesn’t always get Japanese station lables exactly right every time either.