To get cheaper flights we took a flight on Thursday/Friday to fly from Europe to Japan (never really understood the pricing model of flights). So we had two days off before the actual conference and many colleagues (who also took cheap flights) were also there. We went to do some sightseeing in Nara and Kyoto - which was great.
In Kyoto we got personal guides - students from a University in Kyoto - who offered to show us run and use this to practice their English. It was great for us as we got many insights we would have missed by ourselves and it was great to talk to some locals. Hopefully they enjoyed their time with us, too. In the evening we learned once more that the Japanese people are very social; we met the Nara Air Rescue team in a restaurant - and this was proof :-).
One thing that surprised me greatly was that very few people in Nara and Kyoto used their phone in public. On the train nearly nobody spoke on the phone, watch mobile TV or browsed the web. This is obviously very different from Tokyo. Overall Nara and Kyoto are very enjoyable and calming places. I hope to have at some point the time to spend more time in Japan (… when is my next sabbatical? ;-)
For more photos see: http://foto.ubisys.org/pervasive2009/
PS: an some people find a disco in the street...