Thursday, 29 November 2007

Night Of The Christmas Suica Penguins

As usual I didn't feel like going out and surfed the net most of the day.

Luckily gf had the day off, so later we went to eat quiche at Pauls, and then went to the Yotsuya Library.

I picked up John Mayer's "Continuum", an Eric Clapton and Billy Joel hits CDs, a Blue Note jazz compilation and er.. Black Eyed Peas "Monkey Business". I also got a Japanese Grammar book. I may even have a read of it sometime.

From there we walked into Shinjuku on the hunt for penguins, Suica Penguins that is.

Gf wanted to show me a Penguin Christmas display outside the JR offices next to Krispy Kreme. Here they are..



Here's a new Suica Penguin mobile billboard outside the South Entrance to Shinjuku Station.

We proceeded from there to the yakiniku, korean BBQ for an "All You Can Eat". Normally it's listed as 2200 yen per person for 90 minutes but I had a 500 yen discount coupon that was due today. It was for the Yokohama one, but luckily they accepted it here in Shinjuku.

We ate SO much in that time and definitely got our money's worth. I was full, but not sick full like after eating at the pizza place. Not a wasted day after all.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

I am Otaku


I didn't feel like going straight back home after work so first mission was the catchers. I was hoping to pick up some more chocolate.

All up I spent something like 2300 yen, but I THINK I at least covered my losses.

First I went for a BBQ twisties-like snack box called "スコーン". I think I spent a ridiculous amount for this, but I had to get that Goddamn box in the fricken chute. FARRRK!!!




Anyway, after that I spied some Dead Or Alive Bikini girl mugs with um, breast "bumps".

For anyone who doesn't know, the DOA characters are from a video game on Xbox featuring said bikini girls playing volleyball.

Very juvenile, but I have no objections to playing this game. This is Jimmy who yes, once got Lara Croft, "Tomb Raider" on all fours in a suggestive pose. Maybe that is something I shouldn't write on a public post. Hmm.

Anywho.. it took about 600 yen to get that one. I cheated, and asked the arcade staff to make it a little easier though.

After that I saw some Rilakuma headphones with cute bear headpieces that I thought would be hilarious to wear on the train listening to my iPod.

Again, I spend too much on doing that so I quit, cut my losses, and got the hell outta there finally.

I did a walk around Shibuya before heading home and eating some curry pasta. Yes, you heard that right. I don't think this has existed before this moment, so I have decided to call it "Jimko", named after us.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Kyoto II - The Sequel

Like most sequels, our second day in Kyoto was just not as good as the first.

We left a little earlier but we're still overwhelmed by the amount of places to see and the limited time that we had to see them.

Gf had a much better idea of where we should go. I did have a look at my Lonely Planet guide, but I wasn't sure which places were better than others.

SO.. First we went to Rokuon-ji Temple, otherwise known as Golden Pavilion for obvious reasons.

Today is the Labour Day holiday for the japanese, so it was incredibly crowded.

As you can see here, the maple leaves were as red as the ones in Higashiyama area.

Reaching this area is not very easy. It is really accessible only by bus. Being a busy day the buses were packed and moving so slowly that one could walk faster than this.

This made it worse, making us both feel lethargic and short-tempered.

Next we went across to Ryoanji Temple to check out.. some rocks.

Not wanting to take the unusual route, we took the usual one to the Rock Garden."The longer you gaze at it, the more varied your imagination becomes". At least that's what it says in the brochure. There are fifteen rocks in the garden. From every angle it's impossible to see all fifteen at once. Fascinating.

To end off a hectic day we walked around Kyoto Station.

It's the 10th anniversary of it's existence. It's a very modern station, so it looks new to me.

After hours of getting all templed out, it's a nice break to see something different.

From the station we could see the Kyoto Tower, but we didn't go up there. From Kyoto Station's (free) Skywalk we had a great view of the large Kyoto area.





What do you think this "ball" thing is? It's a Pachinko parlour! I just don't GET why japanese are so into this crap gambling habit.

Finally, we catch the Shinkansen back to Tokyo.

Shinkansen's are great. More space than I thought there'd be and super quick too. It's around about two hours to Tokyo.

I finally managed to take a pic as it was arriving into Kyoto Station.

As a final note, I just want to say a "Happy Birthday".

I don't want to make a big deal about it, but I just want to thank everyone for all the "Happy Birthdays" I got.

Just hearing it made me feel special for at least one day, even though I don't like the thought of getting older and feeling like I haven't accomplished anymore than the year before. That clock just keeps on ticking.

I am a little disappointed by some things that happened today. No matter what happened it was MY day, and I don't need anyone or anything to bring me down. OK?

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Kyoto

I know I didn`t mention it before, but we are staying at the Luna Studio Hotel near Sanjo-Keihan Station in Kyoto.

I don`t know what it is, but like in Hiroshima, there was a girl obviously enjoying a tryst in the neighbouring room.

We were supposed to get up to have breakfast at 730am, but I think it was closer to 8am before we were down in the lobby to have our free feed. We put a few extra rolls in our bag to eat during the day.

Luckily, I thought to bring an umbrella here as it was raining a little today.

First we went to Tofukuji Temple, in the east side of Kyoto, and checked out some amazingly beautiful autumn maple leaves. Pictures don`t do the colours justice. The leaves distracts you from bothering to look at the temples themselves.


DJ "Scratching" on the spinning thingies at Tofuku-ji. Hit my head on the corner there. Oops.


It was probably about a 20 minutes walk from Tofuku-ji to Fushimi Inari. Along the way I heard a small truck playing some music. You can see me here bopping my head to the music while eating.





The main attraction here at Fushimi Inari are endless lines of orange torii going around the mountain. We didn`t do the full circuit as this would have taken more time than it is worth. Is there such a thing as too MANY torii? Yes, I think there is.


This is my "running through the Torii" video moment. Note the touches on the last few ones, and a final Rocky victory pose. HAHA.

We also went through Gion, an entertainment area where it`s possible to spot geisha.

Apart from a single geisha, the only ones I think we saw were girls who got made up in costume, as they didn`t quite fit the image of japanese beauty, unless of course "sumo geisha are the "in" thing these days.

It's quite disappointing that they allow this. The last thing I want to do is take a picture of a "tourist" in make-up.

Our final stop for the day was Kiyomizu-dera Temple. This is a very picturesque elevated area. Here, we waited until dark to see the area lit up for a different perspective.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Losing My Shinkansen Virginity

Tonight we left on the Shinkansen, the bullet train to Kyoto.

I didn`t get a chance to take a picture of the front so this is just a poster of what it looks like. Sorry.


We didn`t get a chance to have dinner before leaving home, so she bought a bento, and I got pork sandwiches (550 yen) to eat on the train.

A little bit expensive for one sandwich cut into three pieces but it was pretty tasty.

The train was super quick.

From Toyko to Kyoto only took about two hours to get there. This is us waiting to board the train at Tokyo Station.

See how excited I am? This is my first Shinkansen trip, and the second trip outside of the Kanagawa and Tokyo areas. Kyoto should be really something!

Saturday, 17 November 2007

This Is Nuts

Ok, hard to believe, but we passed the five month mark of this relationship. While I can't say it's always been roses, it's been as good as I could hope for.

After work I did the usual walk around Yokohama station. To me, Yokohama is a more attractive city than Tokyo. It has it's charm. I can't work out why Tokyo appeals. Aesthetically it ain't pretty, but it has.. something. Maybe because it just IS Tokyo.

I went to the catchers again near Tokyu Hands department store. No matter how much I try, I just can't ween myself off these things.

I saw the Ghana/Crunky combo sitting tantalisingly over the edge that I HAD to have a go. Ok, I really went there to get that damn chocolate.

I bought a small Crunky slab the other day for 98 yen at the supermarket and it feels too small now that I had been spoilt by an almost endless supply of chocolate. So in two goes, that's 200 yen folks, I made that bitch mine.

After that I went to the Vivre store. First I went to the Sofmap store to play with the micro PCs I have had my eye on. I managed to get one of them connected to the Apple Section wi-fi. Apart from the text being super tiny, it works great. Everything including Youtube worked like a charm. I can see myself getting one of these babies real soon.

Next, it was on to the musical instrument store. I had a play with the Roland electric kits. I am a pretty ordinary drummer but I had a bit of fun rockin' out while the staff were looking on a short distance away. That secondhand kit is still tempting me too.

I've saw this poster on the wall at Yokohama Station. I think it's pretty funny. It says "Which is more impolite?" in Japanese. I see myself as the monkey with the headphones. You HAVE to be wired for sound to avoid going insane on these long monotonous train trips.

Finally, I made my way back to the station to get back home to Tokyo. Passing through Shibuya I couldn't help but notice this advertising. Apparently this is some teenage girl's magazine called "Nuts". Too true.

The Scritti Politti and Robert Plant CDs are pretty good. Wham! is well Wham!, so there really isn't any more to say about that band.

At home I had a very nice dinner and a yummy chocolate dedicated to the five monthivesary relationship. On the cake here are five candles. Tricky camera angle.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Australian Embassy & Yotsuya Library

After not going to bed until 3am last night, I woke up at the crack of noon.

Today I thought it would be a good idea to vote for Australia's federal election. I must have been bored. If a person is not in Australia, it is not compulsory to do it, BUT you are supposed to inform the AEC that you are overseas which I didn't do.

I had planned to walk there from here. I think that it would take around an hour. I didn't leave the apartment until about 4pm so instead I caught the train to Azabu-jūban on the Namboku subway line, which is the closest station to the Embassy.

I was slightly disorientated when I got there but I found where I had to go fairly easily. I realized walking there that my soft headphones case must have dropped out of my pocket. I should've been more careful. I was a little peeved, but I think I have my old case with the semi-broken pair I had before.

After voting I decided to catch the train back to Yotsuya and then onto the Marunouchi line to the Yotsuya Library. I got off at Yotsuya-sanchōme station, but I probably shoud have got off at Shinjuku-gyoenmae which is a little closer to the library.

I got my library card organised thanks to one of the male staff that spoke enough english to tell me what to fill in. So, now I am a fully fledged member of the Yotsuya Library! Woo Hoooo!

I can borrow any items from any of the Shinjuku ward libraries. For my first borrowing I got a Rolling Stones (US) magazine and three CDs. Mystic Rearranger (Robert Plant), Anomie Bonomie (Scritti Politti), and um.. The Final (Wham) greatest hits.

After the library I walked towards Shinjuku and went to the recycle shop. The roland electric drum kit is still there. Mmm.. tempt! I also went to the Key musical instrument store and had one of the salespeople following me around, which felt strange.

We met up in Shinjuku and walked around a bit before having okonomiyaki again for dinner. It didn't look that great the way I made it but it tasted good and was filling.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Show Me The Money!

Not much to say today, except that I got all 60,000 yen back of my deposit from the Tomioka house!

I gave the english rep of the company a call with the excuse to "verify my bank details", and lo and behold it was in my account the next day. nicee. It feels like I "won" the money until I realize it's my money to begin with.

I heard stories that the rental company was slow to pay back deposits, but I'm very happy to say that was not the case with me. I am thinking that it was my intense house cleaning that made it easy for them to pay it back quickly, but they didn't look around very long when they inspected the place.

While I'm not short of money, this is very welcome.

Another thing is, Softbank have given up asking for my credit card and posts me out convenience store slips. Things are looking real good 'round here!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Cheese Day

Today we went to Aoyama for Cheese Festa 2007 at Spiral.

We caught the train to Harajuku and walked from there, which wasn't very far away at all.

Along the way we walked past Kiddyland and got to see the amazing green dinosaur, Gachapin!



Apparently we weren't the only ones with the idea to go to a cheese sampling festival. The place was absolutely packed.






We were given four cheese coupons to try the cheeses for free but wine and other drinks had to be paid for.

Any thoughts that Japanese people are polite and courteous was thrown out the window as many of them fought over getting their samples first like pigs at feeding time.

I like their slogan, "Have A Nice Day With Cheese'.

Even though we were given four cheese tickets each, we walked out and walked back in and picked up another four tickets.

If it's possible to overdose on cheese we did it. We sampled quite a few varieties from Spain, Netherlands, France, Italy and even Australia.

The one we liked best was the french Brie cheese. The worst was probably the Italian Gorgonzola, with a blue vein mouldy taste, it wasn't the best.

The most deserted sample table was the Japanese Camembert. Why would Japanese sample cheese they can get in their supermarket easily?

We caught the train from Harajuku to Shinjuku. The train was delayed for ages as there was some crazy person running along the tracks so they stopped all the Yamanote trains.

Gf bought a new saucepan at Tokyu Hands and I got a 105 yen pack of playing cards so I can learn magic tricks. A new teacher showed one of my students a trick which makes me want to do them.

It will probably end up in the same unused place as the yo-yo I got months ago.

We ate some spicy noodles, dumplings and rice for dinner in Shinjuku and decided to catch the train home instead of walking. We were both tired and it started raining.

A good, cheesy day.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Re-Entry Visa

This is my first full day off in Tokyo now that I am finally living here.

I woke up at 11am. I had in mind to go to the Tokyo Regional Immigration Office to get my re-entry visa organised.

I still have a lot of time to do it, but knowing me if I leave it to the last minute I would forget about it, meaning that without it I will not be able to return to work in Japan next year, which in a word would be a real "bummer".

After a lot of procrastination, I managed to leave the apartment at 2:10pm.

I worked out that the cheapest way to get there is to get off at Shinagawa Station and walk the rest of the way.

The immigration website suggests to get off at Tennozu Isle Station, but that costs almost double and the walk isn't that much different.

There IS a bus to the Immigration Bureau from Shinagawa Station that costs 200 yen. True to my mantra, "That's Crunky money!", I decided I could manage the short 20 minute walk by myself thank you.

You'll know you're going the right way if you see the Minato-ku garbage factory tower on the left side of the second bridge.

From the bridge you can also see very clearly which building is the one. It's shaped like a cross.

The procedure is pretty painless. In 30 minutes I was outta there.

First I picked up an application form from the ground floor and proceeded to the D section on the next floor, where the lady informed me I didn't mark off that I was a male. Oh.

Before she put my application through she told me to go downstairs and buy a 6000 yen (multiple entry visa) revenue stamp from the am/pm convenience store while holding onto my gaijin card and passport ( true to it's name, conveniently located on the ground floor in the building).

I picked up another queue ticket thinking I'd have to wait in line, but she motioned me to come to the desk and had my passport already processed. Nice.

Shinagawa is a pretty ordinary place. I used to go through here quite often as it links my old Keikyu (Keihin Kyoku) Line between Tomioka and Tokyo. I thought there was a Suica Penguin shop but I could only find combini selling JR's overpriced penguin merchandise.

I made my way shortly after onwards to Akihabara, a strange place. The land of maids and geeks. I went through Electric Town looking for the Sony micro-portable and found a second-hand one for 69,800 yen which isn't too bad. Don't know if I really need it though.

I scored a plush turtle at the UFO catcher. It's made by the same company as the penguins and the purty fur feels similar. I did it for around 600 yen. It's VERY easy to lose track of how much yen you put in.

After that I met up with gf and we had dinner at a ramen noodle place in Yotsuya, with the unusual difference of tomato sauce and cheese. I was expecting it to taste like pasta, but the sauce was kind of spicy with unexpected pieces of tender chicken. Gochiso sama Deshita!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Mama Penguin

Today at Yokohama I did the usual UFO catcher run after work to see if there was anything worth sinking.

At the Round 1 Bowling Centre (with game arcade), I spied a machine with penguins, BIG penguins.

Girlfriend has a penguin fetish, so I know I wasn't going to go home without at least giving it a good go.

I asked one of the staff to move the one that looked similar to the ones she has at home. I wasn't sure if I could actually do it. The toy is quite soft and there were a few obstructions to make it pretty difficult. I first put in 500 yen, but it just wasn't happening.

Another staff member moved it a little and still after another 1000 yen, he must have felt sorry for me and moved it into a "knock the machine and it will fall in position". So, all up I think I spent no more than 2000 yen.

I was as usual a little drained after my ordeal, so I went to the nearby supermarket and bought some orange juice as a mixer to go with my 4 litres of the 'chu!

On arrival home I got my phone on video and wanted to show the surprise on her face. She exclaimed something in Japanese, that I think means something like, "Oh wow!".



She has decided that this penguin is the Mama Penguin. I don't know why she insists on all the penguins being female. Apparently the Suica Penguin is the father. It's going to be a little bit harder to get one of those..

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

What Does What Mean?

I still need to get used to my extended travel time.

Fujisawa is my furtherest school from Tokyo, so I have to plan accordingly to get there on time.

Even more so today because I only have about 2000 yen in my wallet where virtually all of that will go towards my train travel today.

Probably the biggest expense (after rent) living here in Japan is the cost of train travel. Pay top dollar to stand on a train for 30-40 minutes. Yes, please!

First, I wanted to go to an ATM to get some more of that yen. ATM hours are like the banks, open until 3pm, but still useable after that incurring an after hours charge.

Then, more importantly I wanted to get to Fujisawa in plenty of time to get this four litre bottle of Green Shochu. Beautiful isn't it? I got it at the Bic Camera, an electronics store!

This cost 2580 yen. Alcohol in Japan is quite a bargain. Even a normal bottle of Smirnoff Vodka is about 1000 yen (AUS $10). Damn the Aussie alcohol taxes.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Cars & Girls, But Mostly Girls.

The post everyone has been waiting for. Yes, it's the Tokyo Motor Show 2007!

If I didn't stay up until 4:30am I would have felt much better getting up at 8:30am this morning. I had so much to post yesterday, and that took a lot of time. Hopefully this won't take as long, but I did take a lot of pictures today.

And yes, I took a lot of pics of the sweet looking car model girls. Like I would just go to a motor show just to look at cars. Enjoy.

First though, at the merchandise stand I was surprised to see Motor Show cookies along with the usual t-shirts, caps and things.





I got my first picture taken with a girl in a red skirt, but gf decided to take only a torso shot of us both. I knew there was a catch to letting her take these pictures.

After that I took all the other girl pics myself. You don't send a girl to do an, um otaku's job. From what I saw I was not alone in my mission. I'm sure there were more pictures of girls than cars today.



Mmm.. the Bosch girls.

And, the Subaru Girls.

Alfa Girls.

A Honda Civic Girl.

A Corvette Girl.

Two Ford Girls. It's getting a little hot in here isn't it?

Yes, it is. Oh is that a Ford Charger Girl? I think it tis.

A Hummer girl in short shorts. nice.

Ok, just to prove that I actually looked at the cars. Here are some pics of some new cars and some concept cars. This would have to be the best motor show I have been to.

Unlike in Australian car shows, I actually saw a lot of cars that either have not been released yet, or some really interesting and desirable cars close up, that looked like they might actually go into production.

Finally, it looks like Subaru have got it right this time with the front of the Impreza. This is the new WRX STi.


The Peugeot 308RCZ looks fantastic from the front..






... and, from behind.


I needed to sit down and rest. Where better to do that, than in front of the sweet Audi R8. Standing next to the TT, it makes that car look real ordinary.

The Lexus LF-A concept car.

The Honda CR-Z : Compact, Renaissance, Zero. Whatever that is supposed to mean.The Honda Puyo girl (bouncing up and down like a japanese rabbit) was more entertaining than Puyo, the weird japanese concept car, but not as good as Asimo the Honda robot.

Nissan Round Box. That name makes a lot of sense.The Nissan GT-R. It looks better in real life than in photos.The Pivo 2. As a sequel, it should be better than the first.

The VW Eos, which I look REALLY good in.And, the VW concept, Space Up! (I don't know what this one is about either) and oh, another car girl. Sorry.


Just to end off this post, here is my lame driving in a Mini Cooper simulator. The steering was really sensitive. I really drive better than this. I swear.