The Japanese Lab Experience. . .
I'm an Atlanta, Georgia native, but I have been living in Japan for a few years now.
With that said, I took the CCIE Lab for the 1st time ever here at Tokyo. Overall, I was dissatisfied with the experience. Here's the breakdown:
3/5 Stars - Oh yeah, the facilities are perfectly clean. Japan is a very clean place, and the Cisco/Tokyo office is just awesome. However, the mouse and keyboard must have been at least 20 years old. They were very sticky and almost unusable. Being a former Marine, I sucked it up and chugged on. Just thought it was kinda funny, I mean for a test that cost $2,000 (in Japan) per try, you think they would buy a new mouse/keyboard combo at least once a year, which is only $20 max. Never took Cisco as a cheap skate, but meh -- it's bearable.
5/5 Stars - You get two large monitors, about 23 inches each. Very good quality.
0/5 Stars - As we know, this is now V5 which means it's all virtual. No real equpiment is seen, it's just a Desktop machine in a cubicle. However, when you do the exam, you need to remote-desktop into the virtual gear which sits in America. . .and as you might have guessed by me typing that -- YES, there is lag and it SUCKS. I mean it sucks terribad. There goes a majority of your speed on the exam right there, waiting for your command to finish because you ... type ... faster ... than ... RDP ... can ... communicate.. On top of that, the only permitted terminal program available to get into the equipment is MSDOS . Yep --- you guessed right again, you are limited to MSDOS capabilities (i.e. pressing ENTER to copy highlighted text, LOL). No more putty, no more Teraterm, no more SecureCRT. It's MSDOS guys..WOW. ON TOP OF THAT, the MSDOS prompt cannot go into the desktop background so you can see your tickets/diagrams/notepad. You must minimize the MSDOS prompt. I think next time, I will keep them all open on one monitor, and the notes/tickets on the other monitor to help save time from annoyance. I was 2 devices short of 40 on the CONFIG section, so I spent a majority of time maximizing/minimizing 38 MSDOS prompts so I could see my diagram and notepad. Total time killer, won't be doing that again.
1/5 - You get a cubicle with a desktop and 2 monitors as I mentioned. And if you're lucky, you might get a non-sticky from Mr. Butterfingers keyboard and mouse. The cubicle itself shakes like an earthquake everytime you type a key on the keyboard. It's not locked down right or something. I think this was just me though, as I didn't hear the other candidates' cubicles shattering like mine. Gosh I must have annoyed the crap out of them, but I didn't have a choice.
5/5 - These bad boys helped me wash-out the dramatic noise my cubicle was making. Total life saver, but don't count on it. Definitely bring some earplugs in case they don't provide ya some.
5/5 Stars - very comfortable, high quality. If ya'll got a bad back like mine, and you're picky about this -- no need to worry about this here in Tokyo.
5/5 Stars - He was a Chinese dude (I think), and he was very pro and cool. Obviously, he's not there to be your buddy. But he gets the job done, answers questions, and overall had his shit together.
5/5 Stars - Got a Japanese Lunch Box (aka Bento-box). Was a pretty high quality one too, and I love Japanese food.
EASE OF ACCESS
Since I live here, I can't really chime in on this. Of course for me it was easy to reach the lab, I live and work nearby (which is why I'm taking advantage of getting CCIE here before I go back home to Georgia). If you're coming from out of town, you simply need to tell the Taxi, "Roppongi, Tokyo Midtown Tower." He'll know where to take ya from there. And YES, take a friggin' taxi, do not be late for your exam because you decided to take the train which is super-complex if you've never been in Tokyo before. As a matter of fact, I recommend getting to the building the day BEFORE the exam so your'e familiar with it. Oh, and the tower can only be accessed from the front Main Entrance at 8:30 AM. There are numerous other entrances, but all closed before 9AM.
If you think you're okay with the ~200ms lag on your terminal, then I say come to Japan and check it out. The other things (crazy cubicle, sticky mouse/keyboard, shitty MSDOS prompt) I think are things you may experience at ANY location, and you're just gonna have to adapt and overcome if that happens to you. The lag part though . . . it is my understanding that all Asia regions now remote to the USA terminals for lab sessions, so honestly I do not recommend taking the lab anywhere in Asia anymore if lag matters to you. Go to America, or have . . . some . . .p a t i e n ce with the l a t e n c y.