Brand Spankin’ New Digs!

November 16, 2010

“This will be a day long remembered…it has seen the end of Hongo, it will soon see the end of irate overcrowding.”

Well, something like that. What I’m trying to get at is that our offices moved yesterday, and Shimizu-san quoted George Lucas to mark the occasion.

For five long years UEI had its berth in the Hongo Ohara Building, which lay a hop, skip, and a jump (actually, probably only a hop) away from the University of Tokyo. This lent our comings and goings a distinctly academic vibe. The strict programmer dress code of jeans, flip-flops, and a t-shirt melded seamlessly with the garb of undergraduate and Ph. D. students. Engineers wined and dined mere table lengths away from esteemed scholars at the local Indian cuisineries. And on more than one occasion revelry at nearby bars had nothing to do with the cavorting of student whipper-snappers.

‘Twas a good five years. But it was also five years that saw UEI expand to the breaking point, from occupying one floor of the Ohara building to three, and reaching a point where there weren’t enough desks to go around. So, to cut to the punchline: we up and moved.

The new hideout is in the MS Building in the Yushima district of Tokyo. It’s actually only about ten minutes away from the old digs…just down the road, up one hill and down another, and straight on ’til…Akihabara, actually. Many of you probably know the name Akihabara from any number of manga, anime, or tomes of Japanese Studies, but for those of you who don’t, it’s considered the capital of Japanese media and contents culture. Historically a haven for dealers of electronic goods, it’s still the go-to place for any number of computer or electric wares. More importantly, however, it reigns as the supreme capital of anime and manga fandom, with innumerable comic and hobby stores. Slightly more dubiously, it’s also the birthplace of maid cafes. Welcome home, Master…indeed.

In any event, the new office positions us a mere five minutes away from geek heaven. No offense to academia, but this somehow seems more fitting for a mobile entertainment company.

Now comes the part where I need to clarify myself. UEI didn’t merely “move” our offices; we took the occasion to completely redesign them. To wit, here’s what a guest sees upon emerging from the elevator:

Open the pod bay doors, Hal. By the way, what this photo doesn’t show is the full-length mirror at one end of the entrance hall. And it only hints at the mirror running the length of the ceiling.

Yup. A ceiling mirror. If that doesn’t lend the eerie illusion of wandering into a 3-D Alien prequel, then check out this shot of one of our three new meeting rooms:

What’s so spooky about a white meeting room, you ask? Well, for one thing, as Shimizu-san pointed out, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the Death Star conference chamber. For another, it talks. Step inside, close the door, steep yourself in the dearth of windows and plastic plants, and listen. The room fills your ears with an uncanny whispering sound that would shame the island ghouls on Lost. And remember, we’ve got three of these puppies to welcome guests in.

Time to clarify again. Given the large number of congratulatory flower bouquets currently gracing the entrance hall, it would seem that our own offices are spooking us more than they are our guests.

Fortunately, the work space proper is slightly less ethereal. Here’s a look at the state of things in the hours immediately prior to the Great Monday Unboxing:

The biggest change from the old hangout is, of course, that we’re now all on one floor. This means increased morale, a sense of unity, and other warm ‘n’ fuzzy stuff. It also means that paper airplane dogfights have become painfully tempting.

But wait, there’s more! Balancing out the Death Star entrance hall, we also now sport a child’s play room. Well, it’s actually a meeting/brainstorming space…the action figures, television, manga, X-box, munchies, and cushions are just there for inspiration. Really!

And last but not least, we’ve got a pair of bedrooms. Yup…bedrooms. The irregular working hours of most of our staff necessitate the occasional snore session, and now they can do see in spectacular college-dorm style fashion. You see? We haven’t completely escaped from academia.

A personal aside: you spy that overhang in the top right corner of the picture? TALL FOLK BEWARE. My ill-fated encounter with it led to the inaugural bloodletting at UEI’s new offices, and sent me on a merry visit to the University of Tokyo hospital emergency room. Fear not: both the office and my skull emerged unspoiled.

Whispering walls, killer corners, comfy cushions, wide-open spaces, and maid cafes…all in all, I think it’s safe to say that UEI has come home.

By the way, here are the gentlemen who designed the new clubhouse. If you’re in Tokyo and need a job done, do check them out. The VIS folks did a superlative job for UEI, and we’re confident that they’ve got a plethora of other great ideas up their long, black sleeves.

One Response to “Brand Spankin’ New Digs!”

  1. God I’d kill to go to Japan. I mean I pray for them currently but what an interesting culture and country.

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