Monday, 31 December 2007

The Buzz (Cut)

This is the "girl" I leave behind..

It's my last day here home in Brisbane, Australia.

Although not exactly the fanfare and warm fuzzy feelings I sort of hoped for, it still is nice to spend some time with a few friends and family.

Last night I went to visit an old colleague from my last job and we had a lengthy talk about how things are going.

I'm a bit worried to come back to my old life. At least Tokyo keeps me on my toes and awake. More out of necessity and survival than pure excitement.

Saturday night I went to my favourite Down Under Backpackers bar with an drinking buddy and that was fun. We didn't get out of there until 3am. I REALLY miss this place.

I didn't have really have anything better to do today, so I decided to once again shave that mountain of hair I have off. The gf will be happy.

Tomorrow I will be on my way to Osaka. Open arms of freezing 3 degree cold and rain. I'll keep you posted how I go.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

The Dub

My time in Brisbane has mostly been checking out shopping malls for potential Christmas bargains.

Not all that exciting, but considering the weather has been absolutely CRAP, its probably the best thing to do on constantly rainy summer days.

For something different I decided to check out my good friend's art/tshirt exhibition.

It's called Mintabi vs Audiodirtbath. The former is his girlfriend's label and the latter is his own.

He's doing really well which is fantastic. If you like some of his stuff, pop over to eBay and get some art of a shirt!

After the valley, we raced over to Merlo Coffee to get another bag for Tokyo and get a last cup of coffee to go.

Later that night Mark and I went to the Down Under bar.

This is my favourite place in Brisbane. Warm and daggy like a well-worn pair of trakkie daks. If there's one place that I REALLY miss, this is it.

They play a good mix of the latest songs, but aren't afraid to play some long forgotten 80's hit like "Livin' On A Prayer". Another good thing is that the clientele are students or backpackers, so it has a constant feel good atmosphere and it's not like you see the same faces every week. Er.. except me.

What I also like, is that you can chill and sit down (or stand) with a beer JUG, or go for a little discogrooving on the dancefloor. One thing that I'm yet to find here in Tokyo.

Here's Mark trying to tell me something cool while I take a photograph.

This is Mark looking dazed trying to get further with a cute korean girl in a tweety (?) dress. She said he was cute, but wasn't giving it up.

All in all a good night. If only all my nights were like this, I probably wouldn't have left. If only it was acceptable to be drunk all the time..

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Is This It?

Being here a few days and things haven't changed that much.

I still feel like an outsider looking in. The people I know haven't really asked to hang out, so I'm understanding better the reason why I left and changed my life.

It's good to see the family of course, and a little emotional going through my old things.

I haven't played my guitars as much as I thought I would.

I'm real happy to drive my car and I'm glad that I still remember how to use it. I'm a bit down that the weather is not so great. Hot, but rainy and cloudy. Not exactly beach weather.

My new phone is taking some getting used to. I'm a little hesitant to leave my prized k800i. The camera on that is fantastic. I guess I'll have to get used to its quirks.

Hopefully things will look up before I leave in a few days.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Back In Brisvegas

I arrived back in Brisbane about 7:10am this morning.

The line at customs was so long. Customs in Tokyo was miniscule in comparison. Two flights arrived about the same time. So, by the time I waited in line and picked up my luggage it was almost an hour.

I was expecting them to search my luggage, but thankfully they spared me the embarrassment of a potentially exploding suitcase full of UFO catcher plushies.

I didn't get much sleep on the flight.

I was lucky to have the two seats next to me vacant but I stayed up for quite a while watching the movies, "Ratatouille" (still a great story), "Bourne Ultimatum" (highly recommended!) and "Shoot em up" (the definition of a "B" movie).

Being in Brisbane feels really strange. I didn't realize how LOUD Tokyo is until I touched down here.

It feels like a sleepy country town.

I looked around my old room, familiar but distant.

Still, it is a comfort to be back home. I have a "culture shock", returning to english everywhere, particularly the overload of Australian accents which is kind of depressing.

It'll be good to watch TV and understand everything that's going on too.

The main thing is that I have already taken my car for a drive and it feels.. FANTASTIC. There is nothing like the freedom from Tokyo trains.

The weather is nice and warm which is good coming from Tokyo's 5 degrees. Many reasons to be happy to be home, but one reason not to be.

Missing you GF.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

I couldn't wait any longer.

I let her open her presents early. I'm not going to be here for Christmas Day so there was no point in delaying it.

I showed her the boxes that she guessed correctly were photo frames. Damn..

Anyway, what she didn't guess was that in the frames I put photos of her dog. I told her she would be emotional about this present more than the other one, and I was right. Very emotional.

After that I thought she may as well open the other gift. After carefully unwrapping the red paper, she saw it was an mp3 player. Although not as emotional as the photos (of course), I think she liked it a lot.

Mission Accomplished!

Today I paid for the TYTN II phone that I won on eBay.

The guy was great. He's going to let my brother pick it up directly from him in Sydney, and he knocked the $20 postage from the price as well. I just hope that money goes into his bank account real soon. My brother is coming up on saturday!

The bid I put on the other "toy" had yet to be beaten so I was secretly worried I'd have to buy something that I didn't exactly need anymore since I'll be getting this phone.

Finally someone else placed a higher bid, so I'm breathing a sigh of relief.

We went to Yotsuya library again. I got Kanye West, "Late Registration", Coldplay's, "Rush of Blood to the Head" and Prince's "3121". I don't have much time to listen to them though.

We had curry for dinner and after that I gave her the Christmas presents.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007


I haven't mentioned in a post before, but I have recently got myself addicted to eBay all over again.

I was on the hunt for electronic gadgets - mobile phones and internet tablets.

My current faves are the Nokia N800/N810 internet tablets (no, they are NOT phones, just internet), the HTC TYTN II Windows GPS smartphone, and the Nokia N95 8Gb.

After making a few failed bids, I nabbed the TYTN for $920, including postage. I'm a little surprised to win. I probably paid too much, but this includes a car kit and GPS software so it seems like a good deal. I just hope they send it in a hurry so I get it before I leave Australia.

Oh, I don't think I've mentioned this yet.

I'm going back to Australia leaving the 23rd December and coming back January 1st in the morning. Crazy I know, but this was the ONLY time I could get a reasonably priced ticket at this time of year.

It will only get me to Osaka and I will Shinkansen it from there. More in a later post..

Anyway.... where was I? Oh yes, the phone. Not only that but I also put a bid for the N800. I'm secretly hoping I don't win it now. With this new phone I don't need it as much. Still useful though.

Christmas Shopping

I already know what I'm getting the Gf for Christmas.

Usually I am totally confused about what presents to get people but for some reason I have a real clear idea, a mission if you will. And a mission it was!

My first idea is to make framed photos of her recently departed dog, "Cookie" for her and her mother.

On tuesday I photoshop'd all the pictures of her dog (they were really low resolution so I thought to make it a photo with a lot of little photos rather than trying to make them bigger and losing quality).

I put them on my phone and I planned to bluetooth or infra-red them to a photo machine.

You'd think this would be simple but the lack of Japanese made this incredibly difficult. I went to the only photo shop I had noticed but they said I could only do them from a media card.

I asked the other teachers for suggestions and they said Yodobashi Camera nearby.

I went there with one of the other teachers who spoke a bit of japanese.Even with his help the staff were next to useless and didn't think I could do it even though japanese were using their cellphones RIGHT BEHIND ME.

One machine wouldn't read my infra-red signal. Another time I had to start again because there wasn't any "back" button to fix my mistake. Another thing is that infra-red is incredibly slow for file transfer so that took ages as well.

I was exhausted after finally getting my pictures printed but I still had lots to do.

Still firmly addicted to the UFO catchers I did my catcher run and saw they had the DOA hentai mugs with the protruding boobs.

I thought that I liked the purple haired, blue bikini'd manga babe on this one better than the one I have, so I asked them to move it into position for me. He gave me a fail safe win, only 100 yen! That's my present taken care of..

I went to get some photo frames. Me being me, this took ages as well. How hard can it be to choose a few frames? Of course the wood had to go well with the pictures. I got two, one for Yuko and one for her mother.

NOW.. for the pièce de résistance.

I had in mind to get the Gf an mp3 player. Of course the iPod shuffle was always an option, but doing some research I found that the Zen Stone was a good alternative.

From reviews I read on the internet, it looked to be a pretty good basic player with really good sound quality and a CD changing option (which the shuffle doesn't have).

I plugged in my own headphones and was quite impressed. It was as good as my iPod in sound. I had to make a quick decision as they were playing "Auld Lang Syne", the GET OUT, WE'RE CLOSING song.

I chose red as everyone knows "red goes faster", and it was the last red one they had. The store has free gift wrapping so it looks real pretty with red paper and gold ribbon. So.. that's presents taken care of!

I thought it would be good to have when she goes to see her mother. Besides everyone should be wired for sound. Am I right? Of course I am.

I think I'll give it to her early as I won't be here for Christmas anyway. Besides I'm anxious to know what she thinks about them.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Kichijoji again

It ain't too bad here.

Mainly because I wanted to go back to the discount sweet shop for some more goodies.

There weren't any more Chin noodles, but that didn't really matter.

They had the 16 pack Ferrero Rocher chocolates for the crazy price of 349 yen that I had originally brought to Japan.

At this price I bought two. They are due in January, but I'm sure we can eat them before then. If only someone would finally "break the seal".

I also bought a Crunky/Ghana party pack for 310 yen. 5 yen cheaper than last week but no complaints here. THAT'S CRUNKY MONEY!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Ginza Goo

It's just one of those days with not that much to do.

After sleeping for longer than we maybe should, we first went to Yotsuya Library.

I borrowed out some more CDs.

I picked up Santana's, "All That I Am", Stereophonics, "Sex, Violence, Other?" and a Steve Winwood CD, "About Time". I so far haven't listened to any of them so I can't comment on them yet. Sorry. I'm sure they will all be excellent.

After going there we turned around and headed to Ginza for want of nothing else better to do.

We checked out a toy shop and a cake store, picking up some nice Shinseido parlour cookies. Yes, these are the makeup people. They're branching out into the cake shop industry by the looks of things. Yummy biscuits by the way.

This is one strange sign I noticed in Ginza. I couldn't resist taking this picture. "Goo" is a car information magazine apparently.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Still Together After 6 Months


You'll have to excuse me right now, but I've had about 3 glasses of (3/4 of) shochu and orange juice.

In my slightly (?) inebriated state, I'm currently reflecting on the time that has passed.

Sometimes I do things "wrong" that I am either unaware of, or haven't done QUICK enough. I know, life isn't perfect, but I want the happy days to go on and on.

Having said that, when the days are good, I'm as happy as I can ever be. I really like the Gf and I would sense a real loss losing her through my own stupidity, or taking her for granted.

As usual, today I was doing my normal shift at Yokohama.

For something different I thought it would be nice to see the Christmas lights at Minato Mirai, and maybe have dinner there as well to celebrate our six months.

Some students had mentioned the lights, so being a while since I've been there I decided we should check it out.

They were less spectacular than I imagined, but better than nothing I suppose.

It was freezing outside. One thing I don't get is the extreme change in the weather. It is either burning hot or freezing cold.

I guess Japan really DOES have four seasons (I have heard some say that we DON'T really have them in our countries. Now I understand what they mean).

By the look of this photo, it must have been almost 9pm when I took this shot. This is looking out from the Minato Mirai complex towards the amusement park area.

We were getting hungry real quick so we finally decided to have okonomiyaki at Botejyu, a chain okonomiyaki restaurant originating from Osaka.

I REALLY like okonomiyaki. It's one of the japanese foods that really fills me up and usually tastes great.

For some reason it didn't taste as good as I expected. Maybe it was the fact that here they made it for you. I LIKE the idea of cooking my own food, even though it looks roughly made.

We made our way back home after that. I haven't really taken many pics of the crowded Yamanote line. This is an example, though I reckon it gets even more packed than this easily.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Oops I Did It Again

As you can see I have relented to the UFO catchers once more and brought not one, but two furry hedgehogs home.

The first one I got was the brown one for 400 yen, and then I decided that we couldn't leave without his "brother", so that was another 500 yen.

Why did I get these? Well, they are from the same company that make the penguins and turtle I got before, and their fur feels so soft and nice to the touch. I HAVE to keep the family together. These ones are boys by the way.

The day started off quite late.

After realizing we had only one egg left between us. I came up with the bright idea to make pancakes. The gf was surprised that I made small pancakes. She said she never saw them done that way before. Well, I did want to do something wild today.

We finally left the house at around 5pm. The weather was terrible and cold. We went to Yotsuya Library, then off to Shinjuku and the catchers stopping in Freshness Burger (a japanese take away) for a quick feed.

Before going to bed we watched "March Of The Penguins". It wasn't as good as I'd expected but the penguins were definitely cute!

Suica Penguin Rocks Out!

This is the latest JR advertising with everyone's favourite (especially the gf), Suica Penguin.

Here you can see him rocking out on a mobile phone "guitar".

Basically the ad is saying how your mobile phone can act the same as the Suica train card. Practically a cell phone credit card. Not only for the trains, but also you can use it also to pay for purchases elsewhere like restaurants, combini etc. Pretty cool huh?

Now if only I can find a way to get hold of one of those inflatable Suica Penguins outside many restaurants. Hmm. If anyone has a spare one lying around, I'd be happy to take it off your hands.

The japanese here means "Moshi Moshi". It's what japanese people say when they answer the phone.

A few choice rock poses!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

A Wham Christmas

Christmas is coming.

Just like back in Australia, the retailers here milk the season for all that it's worth as well.

At least there are some pretty decorations all over the place.

This one's outside the Tokyu Hands store in the Takashimaya Square complex in Shinjuku.

This is the "Shinjuku 07 Southern Lights" display near Krispy Kreme.

This is a strange one.

The famous Shibuya 109 fashion building has the usual Christmas decorations around it. For some reason it says if you look closely "Xmas in Las Vegas". Oh really.

On a final note, just about every day I have heard Wham's "Last Christmas" playing everywhere and I mean EVERYWHERE. I swear it's driving me nuts!

Monday, 10 December 2007


This picture is from Kichijoji, where I'm subbing a kids class.

Walking back to the station I glanced at this narrow corridor thinking it would make a cool photo. So, a few seconds later I walked back and took this pic.

Kichijoji isn't a bad place. It's about twenty minutes from home on the rapid train. What makes it extra special is there is a cool discount sweets shop. I saw the Ghana/Crunky party packs that I had been "winning" on the catchers. To my surprise it was only 315 yen, making my efforts a bit of a waste.

Earlier today while standing freezing in the shower I answered my phone finding out that I'll be doing a new regular lesson. I hope next year is not going to be too hectic. I'm really enjoying my schedule right now as it is.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

An Office Christmas Party

What a day!

Walking to the school I noticed this new "smoking area" box.

Unlike a lot of the designated areas, this great design is totally enclosed, letting the fools that smoke suffocate on their own fumes. Good.

Busy as usual at Yokohama. By the end of the day I was quite worn out. I have to say thanks to Jon for taking my last lesson. This guy is "tha man".

I was thinking just to go home, but swayed by popular opinion (and alcohol), I decided to hang around for (one of the many) office christmas parties.

Jon and I hadn't gotten any christmas presents, so we decided to try our hand at the UFO catchers. He tried a Gachapin gumball machine, and I tried a Rilakkuma christmas bear. We both lucked out.

At another place, we coerced the staff to make a cool manga sake glass easier to sink. After a few tries, they made it a (bump the machine) giveaway. With my 2 cent advice, I finally got Jon to sink it. I told him to keep it, but he thought to give it as his christmas present. What a nice guy huh?

I didn't try anything else so I decided to get 500 yen worth of chocolate at the Daiei supermarket instead.

By the time we got back a LOT of students and teachers arrived. Much more than I expected. I want to put this picture up because I think the look on my face's quite funny. I'm hoping no one's going to mind having this posted. I just want to show what a great time we all had.

Unfortunately this only made me think it would have been a better idea to have stayed in the office and drink as much of the alcohol as possible before they arrived.

We passed the presents around in a circle like a "secret santa", and when the music stopped, that was your present. Lucky for Jon, his cup was "won" by his flatmate! I got these interesting Moomin Valley sugar spoons. Oh, the left over mayonnaise was a "token" gift from staff as I was leaving. Strange, but useful!

A lot of people made their way to karaoke, but I decided to head home as I didn't want to be stuck in Kanagawa. I wasn't exactly sure when the last train was to get home and I wasn't in any mood for an all-nighter.

I was around Shibuya momentarily passing by the catchers, and for nostalgia's sake, the Tasu-Ichi bar. I didn't go in though. The place was packed and I'd had enough fun already.

The Yamanote line was packed with commuters. It seemed to take forever for it to show up but I finally made it home. It feels quiet being here all by myself. Strange.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Ticket To Ride..

..back to Tokyo.

I'd been getting paranoid about how I was going to get from Osaka back to Tokyo, when I am flying back from Australia.

We went first to Yotsuya library. I took back the last CDs I borrowed and the Japanese Grammar book that I merely perused. I WILL eventually learn a bit more japanese I promise.

I picked up some more CDs, Paolo Nutini, Rolling Stones, "Forty Licks" and an Audioslave CD.

From there we went to Shinjuku to get me a train ticket!

I was curious to check out the bus fares first. We went to JR's highway bus booking office and found a last available seat for 6000 yen and an early leaving time. Although the price isn't bad, the thought of 8-9 hours in a cramped bus makes me feel sick.

I WAS spoilt by a very fast, comfortable and spacious Shinkansen ride to Kyoto. So, we said we'd think about it and made our way to the Shinkansen booking office. The line was long so if I said "no" the gf would surely give me a real dirty look.

Although not as cheap as the Kyoto ticket, I bought a one way fare for 14,250 yen. A little bit more than the plane ticket, but then again I don't have to find a way to the airport to be there at 630am.

I'm glad to have that sorted. All I need to do now is to find myself a place to sleep there for three nights. A bed, wifi connection and a fridge should be all I need. Oh, and a shower would be sweet.

From there we were craving Krispy Kreme donuts. I was thinking the worst, but the line was pretty reasonable, and even better than that, because I bought a box we got them in about 5 minutes!

I was a bit worried we wouldn't get our extra free donut in line, but the girl must've seen my face and gave me one. Must be those sad puppy dog eyes of mine.

The gf got a New Year's Card for a friend at Tokyu Hands. I was surprised to get a call from my old flatmate, Derek. He's finally got hold of an electric guitar. He asked if I could help him learn it. I said I'd give him a bit of direction, and he could find a lot of stuff on the net as well.

We had some ramen at Kohmen again before making our way back home.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Yoyogi Park and Shibuya

Nothing special planned for today, but we did a big trip around the Harajuku and Shibuya areas without using the trains.

As you might remember, Yoyogi Park is next to Harajuku. We saw the usual freaks hanging around the station there, including the "Bono" wannabe, "free hugs" people, and an old man dressed up strangely with a "second" head hat.

The things lonely people do to get some, or any kind of attention.

Yoyogi Park always has a great atmosphere - A few DIY rocks bands busk on the footpath, and people having picnics.

The autumn leaves look quite good here too with the pretty colours.

One thing that really stood out in the park was watching the autumn leaves, in this video flying seemingly of their own accord. It looks like the hot air from the subway grill makes for a spectacular sight.

From Yoyogi Park we went on our way to Shibuya stopping at Levain, the french bakery to get pumpkin bread and some yummy raisin scones that we ate there before moving on.

We had a wander around Shibuya. For some reason we had a craving for Azuki icecream so we bought a Haagan Daaz Azuki Milk and Azuki Kinokuniya supermarket icecream. Strange, for a cold autumn day? maybe..

Walking around we found a funny t-shirt place called Hen-T. Some really cool, strange ideas here. Gf liked the "Ping Pong dash" one. Basically it means ringing ("Pin Pon") a stranger's door bell, then running off. Ah, those crazy japanese huh?

Another strange thing we found in a store was a JR Yamanote and Chuo line clock and that -
"JR East has begun selling a clock that plays those melodies you hear at various stations. Each station has its own melody which gets hammered into the subconscious of commuters."

If anyone's interested just what the train melodies on the Yamanote sound like click here. In particular find "Takadanobaba", the music will sound familiar. Apparently it is the home place of it's creator. Cool huh?

We made our way back to Yotsuya slowly but surely. I'm glad I wasn't by myself. Until I get some kind of GPS, my sense of direction isn't going to get any better around here.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Six Months In Japan and Counting

I have now made the half year mark of living in Japan and to tell you the truth it doesn't feel like I've been here that long at all. A funny thing is no matter how long I have been here, I still get a "wow, such a short time, welcome to Japan!" from the japanese.

Looks like I'll never be anything but the new arrival. Everything's been sweet so far although I'm pretty tired from a usual busy saturday at Yokohama.

These pictures don't fit anywhere else so I've decided to put them here.

The Gf looks quite hot here with a small head of a model courtesy of the recent Metropolis english magazine. I'm glad there is SOMETHING to read here in english.

This was seen in a japanese sweet shop window in Gion, Kyoto. What are those dogs doing to each other? Hmm.. Notice the Azuki rice balls nearby.

This is a poster of something I was hoping to take a photo of in Tokyo (This was in Gion as well).

It's a japanese production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" which from this poster I had decided to call it instead, "Kabuki Jesus".

This is an "outtake" from the Kyoto trip. I like the photo so here it is. Red or Blue Pill?

Oh, who could forget the "Super Smile" supermarket on the way to Fushimi Inari, Kyoto? Uh, I did. here it tis.

Last but not least, i have to mention that I have been called "Sampleman" by the Gf, from my insistent need to try any food samples that we happen to come across in food areas. I like it. It makes me feel like a superhero. This is also from Kyoto.

She comes up with some great ones. You have to love "power pants". I'll leave that for you guys to work out on your own.