Monday, 31 March 2008

Sanpei Shoes

Another rainy day in Tokyo has prompted me to buy some new shoes. Both pairs I have from Australia have developed leaks that make my socks all soggy and uncomfortable.

I could go get the best pair of shoes that money can buy, or instead opt for the discount option. Yes, that's right, "el cheapo" wins again!

My choice was simple. I went to the chinese discount store, Sanpei in Shinjuku, where I got my backpack about six months ago.

While the backpack's not falling apart yet, it has seen better days and looks like the inside wants out. I didn't pay too much for it and it has served me well so far.

I said to a young assistant I wanted to try the shoes on, and he just looked into the distance because he had no idea whatsoever what I asked.

I had more luck with an older man that couldn't speak much more but he understood what shoe size meant. I'm about a 7.5/8 in Australia so here I'm about a size 25 in Japan.

I tried two pairs, one with a buckle and a slip-on pair. They didn't look too bad. I shelved the buckle option and paced for ages in the slip-ons trying to ascertain if this pair were not going to kill my feet in the long run.

I must've annoyed the shopkeeper as he said something I didn't understand, but the look on his face and tone of his voice made it pretty clear. I DID swap one of the shoes for one from the other box (same size though). Maybe that's why.

While I paced he helped another guy buy some 700 yen shirts. Rob, I think that was his name, was from Melbourne and was bar-tendering in Roppongi. He said he didn't have a visa and just goes over to Korea or Taiwan to continue on a tourist visa. Sneaky, but looks like he's pulled it off so far.

Finally I bought the pair of slip-ons for 1030 yen. Only time will tell if it's worth no more than that or even less than what I paid. As long as it's waterproof and stays comfortable, I'll be happy.

Before the shoes I went to Yamaya once more and picked up another four cartons of Don Simon, as well as Wonka chocolate, peanut butter and guacamole dip.

The dip's not exactly what I'm still searching for, but I'm ecstatic to find a product with the word "dip" on it in Japan. Damn hard to find round these parts.

My new year schedule starts tomorrow. I'm a little sad there is no more Shinjuku classes. I'll really miss this place.

Officially ten months in Japan today.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Better Late Than Never

Ok, I've just about stumbled over the ten month mark of living, working and breathing in Japan.

I had an epiphany today and I thought it might be an interesting idea to learn a bit of Japanese. You know, seeing that I'm living here and stuff.

While the gf drops a few choice words into my vocabulary (no, not swearing at me, although those are the ones I'm most open to learning), my retention of words doesn't quite sink in all the time. I can understand how those kids feel learning from a scary monster foreigner like myself.

One of the cool things about a DS in Japan is that it's quite possible to run educational programs as well as games on the machines. Crazy I know.

In Australia, a DS is just for kids, but here you wouldn't be surprised if some elderly person was busting some moves on one. Maybe that isn't THAT surprising, since it's also quite common to see adults reading manga comics on the train, some quite explicit.

The range of software here is pretty amazing. Not only can you get Mario Kart, but there are Kanji training, english learning, cooking and exercise ones too.

While the kanji ones are geared towards japanese speakers, I feel like these are totally out of my league.

For now I'm motivated to learn the japanese alphabets, Hiragana, Katakana and maybe a few of the 2000 most common Kanji.

I found a cool, free application that runs on the DS called Project JDS 1.30. The original website was down when I tried, but you can try downloading directly from here.

Another program worth looking into is Kana DS. At the moment, it's still in alpha release, so it's not a complete application but it looks promising and has a nice interface.

Finally if a commercial application is desired and you're at the say, "infant" level of japanese like me, Ojaru-Maru DS: Ojaru to Okeiko Aiueo looks interesting and simple enough.

The original site (in japanese) has a demonstration video here. Just click on the orange box that looks like it has a propeller on top, at the top left hand side of the site.

It looks like a very steep learning curve attempting japanese, but I hope I can stick with this.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Cherry Blossom Girl

Looks like the main reason the gf was pissed at me was because she had planned for us to have a picnic under the cherry blossoms for her birthday.

Thing is, she only hinted that was her plan so I was none the wiser, until the fallout.

Tonight we definitely made amends.

After I came back from work we went Hanami (cherry blossom [sakura] viewing) in Chidorigafuchi, near the famous Budokan.

I packed my special shochu and mango mix of Jimmy Juice®, while the gf packed a bag of bread, cheese and other goodies.

Looks like we weren't the only ones with this idea.

At night the white flowers look particularly beautiful, floodlit with different colours.

We found a nice place along the path to set up a little picnic. Everyone was watching us eating our tomato, cheese and bread.

It looked like they wanted some too. It was either the food or some kind of jedi mind trick I pulled off with my Jimmy (obi)-wan hoodie pulled over my head that drew their attention to us.

After they eventually switched off the flood lights we made our way across the road to the Yasukuni Shrine where there were a lot of stalls, and people sitting on tarps or tables eating and drinking under the cherry blossoms.

As good an excuse for a drink or two if there ever was one.


Friday, 28 March 2008

The Lap Of Luxury

The gf was a little bummed out after I seriously screwed up her birthday. It wasn't all bad. She liked my presents. I even gave her the MoMA "hugging" salt and pepper shakers that were going to be my original gift before the watch.

Her therapy was to stay a night in a hotel.

No, not just any hotel but the Westin, a very luxurious accomodation located in Ebisu.

To say it was expensive is an understatement. F*%king expensive is a more appropriate term.

While I was there I weighed myself on the scales. Officially I'm 63.8kg. Before I came to this country I was 80kg. Japan is a good weight loss place without really trying. Japanese girls still think they are fat. "Women!" *sigh* Anyhoo..

Looks like the stay in the hotel worked though.

By the time I saw her again in the evening everything was rosy once again.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Happiness Is Limited

What a waste of a day.

I thought to extend my visa today. Since it's my day off I thought it was the right time to go. I had quite a bit of shochu last night (I was on a self-imposed hiatus), so I didn't feel like getting up early. I got to the immigration office as before. This time the gf tagged along.

I wished I got there earlier. The place was packed.

I mistakenly thought I had to renew my visa two months before it expires. Apparently it has to be done within the two months and not before. So basically we went there for nothing. I didn't have the letter of employment from my office anyway, so it was truly a pointless exercise.

From there I made the mistake to go to Akihabara to get two accessories for my DS. I don't think we were there long, but gf clearly didn't want to be there at all.

Just to let you know, today is gf's birthday and while I was a little plastered last night I gave her the present. It was after midnight and I couldn't wait.

It's an Alba Riki Watanabe branded Seiko watch. She said she liked it when we looked at watches months earlier. I had another present, but I thought she was worth more than that. Maybe I was wrong.

Walking back from the station there was a stony silence all the way home. She was muttering words in japanese, so I needed a time out and said I was going to the supermarket.

So here I am at Atre above Yotsuya station trying to make sense of it all.

Looks like I'm not allowed to stay happy for too long. It's just the way it's always going to be, I guess.

Happy Birthday gf.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Red Goes Faster

Like you didn't think it would happen..

Yes, I am now the proud owner of a nice little Nintendo DS lite.

After work I decided on the spur of the moment to go to Akihabara. I could have waited until thursday, but after Nakano I don't think gf wants to go to another geek hangout with me again.

First stop was Yodobashi. The gf likes a particular watch and I was thinking if I used my point card it could make the DS or the watch a little cheaper.

They unfortunately didn't have it in stock, and said it'd be a special order, so I passed on that. I saw it in Bic. I might get it tomorrow.

At Yodobashi the DS, like every other big store (Sofmap, Bic Camera, Sakuraya) has it for 16,800 yen.

I was having none of that, so I went to Wink Digital and got a nice crimson red and black shiny one for 14,800 yen. It's new, but for some reason the warranty has been stamped for the 13th of March. Ten days. I can live with that.

At least the 5000 yen cash back is going towards something worthwhile. I can hear my mother saying what a waste of money. Yes, probably but what a glorious way to blow it, huh?

If you're looking for stuff in Japan, a great price comparison site you should check out is Kakaku.

I picked up a nice cart for 3990 yen. That will come in very handy.

As well as that, I got a USB power charge cable for 100 yen, because it didn't have a warranty (?), but works fine.

I tried to ask what was wrong with it ("works good?", "ok?"), but none of them knew what I was asking at all. The cable will be useful for Australia as the power charger is only good for japan's electricity.

While I was in Akihabara I wanted to look around a bit as well.

I was hoping to go to Mandarake in search of interesting stuff like in Shibuya and Nakano but it was closed. Apparently they're moving and they closed their doors just yesterday.

I asked a guy yelling advertising his wares where it was and wouldn't you know it I was right next to the building. I saw a nice metallic aluminium case for my DS in R3 for 980 yen. Hmm, should've got it. Dammit.

Azo Bit City is another unusual shop filled with cosplay, manga and hentai dolls.
Even though they don't like anyone to take photos, I couldn't resist taking a shot of these life sized manga dolls.

I finally got myself some replacement blades for my Gillette razor from Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku. I added the purchase to my point card and I thought they were using my points instead of adding them, but the marked price was wrong. Just 1120 yen, Bonus!

I think I did pretty well on a single blade since I arrived. Ten months, not bad. If only I didn't feel like I was cutting sheets of skin off my face.

Oh I experienced my first earthquake during a lesson today. It wasn't big. The students didn't even notice until I pointed to a slightly shaking coat hanger.

Anyhow, It made a good warm up.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Very Very Thanks!

As long as the japanese don't hire english proofreaders for their advertising campaigns and shop names, I will always have some great english to take photos of.

This one is in the CIAL complex of Yokohama station.

This is how I feel every time I find myself "trapped" in an amusement arcade.

Of course today was no different.

I managed to flee Yokohama before succumbing to the siren's call of the arcades (ok, I looked at a few BEFORE work).

Thinking that maybe just a quick peek in Shibuya couldn't do any harm, is where the trouble starts.

Being a "100 yen a pop" day doesn't help either.

To cut a long story shorter, I picked up my first grey Gloomy® murder bear for 300 yen after watching another guy's moves on the machine. The second was a 100 yen give away when the staff girl let me have the money shot (NO, not that one).

I missed a few other potential prizes later, but being my good hearted self I helped some young japanese win their very own Gloomy®

These bears have a battery that shakes it's victims around (It looks more like he's masturbating but that's what gf thought, not me). Nothing to write home about. Better than one that does nothing I suppose. Here's a video demonstration.

I also went to my secret shop. I was looking for some Bandai solar games and only saw Kyofu No Mujintou (Shark Island).

I had a quick play of it. I couldn't work out the controls. It's not my long lost video game, but 1050 yen isn't too bad a price as long as I read the instructions first. There're a few simulators on this link too that you should try. Not exactly perfect, but it brings back some memories.

You'll notice in the left side of the picture is Airport Panic for 2100 yen.

Decisions, decisions. I saw a Nintendo DS secondhand for 12,800 yen. Tempt. If I stop spending money I'll probably save some good money one day.

One interesting thing I saw outside Yodobashi in Yokohama, was a Fiat Barchetta.

I haven't seen a Fiat, let alone their convertible in Japan at all. I saw this car in Italy many years ago and hoped it would one day come to Australia, but that day is still yet to come.

I'm happy with my little Mx'y. Pity I don't have it here. I miss driving, that's for sure.

80s Handheld Simulators!

Following on from a previous post, I found a great site with a heap of game simulators, mainly Nintendo "Game & Watch" titles.

The simulations are excellent. If you have a windows PC, or a mac running a Boot Camp or virtual windows machine, I strongly recommend you try some out here.

The memories will come flooding back.

The tabletop handheld I had that I thought was Galaga was actually Astro Wars, also known as Galaxy II.

The look and feel is very similar to Galaga though.

Try it out on that simulators page. All the sims have a GUI that looks exactly like the handheld. Extra cool points for that.

Another one that I forgot that was my brother's toy was Condor from Time & Fun.

Even though it has very simple left and right buttons, it's quite a bit of fun to play. Similar to the "Game & Watch" Snoopy Tennis.

Another link for 80s game sims can be found here.

I had a ball playing my old Donkey Kong Jr "Game & Watch"(Panorama Screen) simulation and even Tomytronics, Tron.

Some of the prices the actual vintage units are selling for in Nakano are way overpriced. I guess nostalgia costs as much as your memories are worth.

Nakano Broadway

First mistake. Gf asked where I wanted to go today. I said Nakano Broadway.

For those that don't know, Akihabara isn't the only sanctuary for geeks.

Nakano is probably more so, because as Akihabara's popularity and maybe coolness rises, the outcasts have to make their place somewhere to call their own.

While Akky is convenient for computer products, Nakano has a large selection of manga and a heap of figurines.

If you weren't looking for it, you'd probably miss it.

To get to Nakano Broadway, you have to make your way from the station down an avenue of shops, with a partial transparent ceiling. It reminds me of the same types of avenues in Osaka and Hiroshima.

If you keep going you'll see the Nakano Broadway complex, with the name in shiny chrome.

Once inside, just go up the escalator to the next floors and you'll find a maze of shops. Some specializing in manga, others in doll figures and computer games. Probably pointless to mention but yes, I enjoyed it A LOT. The gf, not so much.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Room For The Memories

The place in Shibuya brought back a lot of memories. Here is a clue:

Growing up in the early 80's was a interesting time for me, probably never to be repeated.

When computers were still new, Nintendo brought out a whole range of small LCD "Game & Watch" handheld games.

Like many kids of the time I had quite a few of them.

Donkey Kong Jr "Game & Watch" Panorama screen:
The screen flipped open where the actual screen you played from was a colourful LCD reflection in a mirror.

Donkey Kong Hockey:
This one was different. Unlike most of the "Game & Watch", you could play an opponent or the computer and it had wind-up controls that fit inside the unit.

I had a solar-powered game made by Bandai Electronics.

Invaders Of The Mummy's Tomb, also known as "Pharoah's Pyramid" is called "Nazo No Pyramid" here in Japan.

Now THIS has a bit of a story. I had this one for not as long as I'd hoped.

Way back in 1982 my brother was just a little baby and my mother wisely thought it'd be a great idea to give it to him to play with. I pleaded with her, saying that he'd break it.

In an instant the little s**t snapped it in two. I was CRUSHED. No, they didn't get me a new one.

This may be the time to get it back. I recall seeing a few Bandai games in the shop.

From what I remember it was a pretty cool game. Look here for a 1982 magazine advert describing the game play.

I had an arcade-looking handheld of Galaga that was really cool, and also a handheld electronic bowling game, (the controller was a bowling ball) but trying as hard I can, I just can't find any pictures. Sorry.

So back to 2008.

At the shop I saw quite a few of the Nintendo and Bandai handhelds.
Remember this? Donkey Kong
And Oil Panic? I saw this one for about 3000 yen.
What about Green House? Another classic.

With my recent fixation of the Nintendo DS lite that the gf's friend's 10 year old daughter lent me, I tried a "Game & Watch" collection on the DS that features all three of these classics.

I had a go of them and I think I'm in trouble. The gameplay is still as addictive as I remembered it, and the LCD ghost images ups that retro cool factor.

This cart is very rare as it was not offered for sale to the public (only to Club Nintendo members, and only in Japan), so it's very tempting.

To finish off, I think I'll share a treat. One of the 80's handhelds I used to like (but not own), was Tomytronics Tron. I managed to find a very playable lightcycle game online. Download it here.

Imagine the game Snake, but with 3D graphics and more than one "snake". Addictive is the word.

Yen It On Back To Me

For once, I was given a heap of yen instead of losing it.

Like magic I turned this:

Into this:

I took my Nikon cashback money order to the Post Office in Shinjuku after my shift.

As always the place was busy. I grabbed my queue number, and patiently waited until I was called.

Once I got to the counter the clerk told me helpfully in japanese what to fill in. He couldn't give me my money though. He only handled mail, so I obviously had to go upstairs to cash my cheque.

It didn't take long so without any help I was outta there in no time.

To kill a bit of time I checked out some prices on Nintendo DS's. Looks like all the electrical stores have no idea about any legal ramifications of price fixing, so at every shop it was pretty much 16,800 yen. I might hold out a while.

So anyway, while doing this I somehow found the vibrators section of Don Quijote. I had NO idea they had this kind of stuff, REALLY!

I saw a pack of what I think was bubble bath, but the picture on the package looked like the girl was bathing in pink slime. I'm sure in a certain situation it might work. uh, maybe.

I didn't really want to stay in Shinjuku too long. The weather didn't look great and there are some really forceful gales blowing around at the moment. The last thing I want is another broken umbrella.

Yesterday was the Spring Equinox holiday (and my day off no less), but judging by the weather it's not changing in a hurry.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Shibuya's Amusement Arcades

Ok, I don't know why I decided to do this (well I do. Remind me to punch out that teacher). Everyone needs some kind of therapy and I guess mine is telling everyone about what's happening in catcher land.

So without further ado.. It's Shibuya's turn!

The most obvious amusement arcade is the Club Sega. It's located at 35°39'38.28"N 139°41'52.07"E.

The only win I can remember here is Woodstock, the night we also played a puck game.

The staff seem reasonably friendly, but it's actually pretty small and winning is a little difficult.

Very close by is Adores at 35°39'40.44"N 139°41'53.57"E.

Apart from the "broken" machine winning these mugs, the staff don't really want to give easy wins.

I played here for Wonka chocolate paying more than the retail and the blue DOA doll, that I had no help from the staff with. Dammit!

Not to be mistaken with Shinjuku Sports Land actually IN Shinjuku, they also have a Shinjuku Sports Land here in Shibuya.

You'd think they'd just call it "Shibuya Sports Land", but that looks like it's too difficult to change.

Should you come here? In one word, It's tiny. The staff here are practically non existant, and the prizes are a bit of a yawn. I couldn't be bothered searching for the geo-codes. It's on Center-gai. If you REALLY want to go here, you'll find it.

Almost done..

This brings us to yet another Taito Station on the east side of Shibuya station. It's at 35°39'35.01"N 139°42'7.41"E, right next to Bic Camera.

This is where I got this espresso coffee maker for the "bargain" price of 1400 yen. Hmm..

This place has bad karma. I don't feel like I can win stuff here easily. Trust your feelings.

Finally just to make this a thorough review, I made my way to the last discovered catcher in a small alleyway across the busier road from Club Sega.

You know you are in the right place when some seedy looking places pop up, and the odd love hotel. It's not really worth seeking out. I have never played these machines and never will. It feels even worse than the Taito.

Well, there you have it. I'm spent. This will probably be the last catcher review. We can only hope.

I found my otaku wet dream of a shop here in Shibuya. I'm not going to say what it is. Let's just say it's my guilty secret and it brought back a lot of memories.

Finally I received my cashback cheque from Nikon. 5000 yen! sweet. That's going to buy a LOT of Crunky.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Yokohama's Amusement Arcades

Continuing from my last post, I'm going to keep going with my catcher reviews.

This time it's Yokohama.

Fortunately I decided to take a few pictures before work because later it was raining hard.

Many times I have spoken of Yokohama's "Exciting Space Game" Taito Station. The co-ordinates are 35°27'50.61"N 139°37'0.55"E.

It's probably where I have won the most items. It's usually where I end up after work.

Wins: 5+

Staff: Generally friendly and not too intimidating to ask to move items.

Potential for winning: high, with some help from staff.

Not far at 35°27'49.32"N 139°37'2.01"E, is the Breeze Sega.

Wins: One

Staff: Will only help out when you've lost a few 100 yen.

Potential for winning: Low. The staff are reluctant. Try Taito first

Nearby, not too far away is the Round 1 at 35°27'50.26"N 139°37'5.16"E.

This should be your last resort.

My only win here was the mama penguin for about 2000 yen. There's a big floor space of catchers, but it's hard to win stuff here.

Some look deceptively simple to sink, but require many tries. Besides the Cole Porter song, "Blow Gabriel Blow" they play on high rotation will drive you nuts. Walk away!! (or go bowling instead)

Finally, as I've mentioned in other posts, is Gento's Taito Game Park. The map directions are here .

I'm not going to post the pictures again. You can see where it is, and what it's like here.

Before anyone tries to tell me I missed Minato Mirai's Club Sega and Cosmo World. Yes, I know but I've never won anything from those and besides, writing these posts gets tiring. For me and for you.

Next stop. Shibuya and it's many arcades.


One thing you don't see every day is a guy in a green suit with an unmistakable bulge walking down a busy Shibuya street.

No, it's not an aroused Gachapin, but until now I finally learn of Hokkaido's famous Marimokkori.

I was trying to take a picture with my camera, but there were too many other people trying to take his picture and it was raining. Many thanks for the youtube post of this video.

Just when I was thinking Japan wasn't that strange this happens.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Fujisawa's Amusement Arcades

Last weekend I remarked to a teacher that I practically knew where every UFO catcher was in every part of Tokyo I've been to.

He thought it'd be cool if I made an online "guide" to them. I know this is asking for trouble but here it is! Starting with lil ol' Fujisawa.

If you find yourself out here, there isn't much to do, so you may as well come here.

First on the list is the Adores chain at 35°20'13.09"N, 139°29'21.88"E. (Smack those co-ordinates into Google Earth for a bird's eye view).

You'll know you're in the right place by the tacky blue arch that goes over the road next to the building.

Wins/Tries: zero

Staff: seemingly friendly, but I haven't tried any machines so I didn't need to ask them to move anything.

Potential for winning: low

You can find the other arcade easily by going through the Adores to the back entrance and you'll see it from the other side.

The Fun Fun Game In is even less likely to bring any spoils. While there may be a few things worth catching, it looked impossible to win anything.

Tries: once

Wins: zero

Staff: hard to find so can't ask

Potential for winning: low

On a personal note, today was my last lesson with my first kids class.

I have to say I'm a little sad to finish with these little guys. I think I did make a difference to them. I may be teaching my favourite one, (my "son") in Yokohama next month, so maybe not all that bad.

Whether the catcher reviews last is another thing. Did I play them today? No, contrary to what the impression you might have, Just because I go there doesn't mean I play everytime I go in.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Salami Baby One More Time!

This has got to be a record.

Not only two posts in one day, but I think I have created a milestone (for me), in the longest time to eat something past it's used by date.

Tonight I finally finished the salami that was brought over here in the new year. 

Click the picture for a closer look at the label. See the date? Yes, that's right, 23rd of February,2008!

So it's almost a month overdue. Going by "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger", if you don't see another post you know what happened to me. 

At least it wasn't the chinese gyoza fiasco that the japanese media won't let go of.

While the gf is at a graduation ceremony tonight, I bid a fond farewell to the salami that has served me well the last few months with an olive oil, salami and onion spaghetti dish.

I will miss you my friend. Back to the bacon and brie.


My toy shop will be opening soon no doubt.

Today, I played for the same company of soft toys that make the penguins, at Shinjuku Sports Land. 

Believe me when I say they make the most touchable fur you ever stroked on a plushie.

My sights were set on getting a set of pandas. Just one would never do.

The good news is the first one took three tries and 300 yen. The bad news is.. hmm, no you don't need to know. I just should have stopped at one.

I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. I kept waking up at odd hours. At least I felt better later on at the schools.

A pretty good monday if it's possible to say that. 

Sunday, 16 March 2008

DIY Blog Redecorating

You may have noticed a few pretty widgets on the right side of the blog right here.

A big clock to tell you what time it is here in sunny (today, yes) Tokyo. A weather guide to say how much I'm freezing my butt off. (Today was a little warmer, but it's the blizzard winds that cause the pain).

Most interestingly I've installed a online counter that tells how many people are looking at my blog right now, and where they're from. I didn't know I had much of a fan club. Thanks!

While you're here why not leave a comment? I'm always interested in what people think. If you have any questions I'll try to answer as best as I can. Please be kind. Constructive criticism is ok.

What did I do today? As little as possible. I had a bit of hangover that stopped me from doing anything worthwhile. Sometimes a rest can be beneficial though.

I'm hoping for a quick, painless week ahead. Crossing my fingers.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Don't Post Drunk

Does blogger log in quicker when you're intoxicated?

Tonight I went out with the new crew from Shibuya.

We went to some unnamed izakaya (I have no idea what it was called). I tried my best to drink as much as the 3000 yen I paid as I could, and right now I struggle to write this post with both eyes open.

Most of the night I was bored with a canadian teacher talking too much, when I was more interested in getting drunk.

I had a toxic mix of shochu. beer and something that tasted like alcohol and tomato juice that couldn't find it's rightful owner.

After the izakaya, Jon and I went to Tasu-ichi, where I first met the gf (and because of that meeting I now call it, "Love Connection").

It's pretty much a gaijin bar, but much better than a expensive night in karaoke.

It's good to be back here. We had some good conversation and suggested a karaoke night another time with the original boys from Tomioka.

It wasn't my best night, but at least it allowed me to be social.

I have my new schedule, and if anyone is listening, I wish I had less kids classes (except for my "surrogate son", of course) Especially no C levels! And please, good angels of mercy, can I have schools closer to where I am living?

Oh, while I'm at this low point in the night, can I get paid more to make this all seem worthwhile?

I'm going to save this post before I fall asleep. Thanks for listening. Goodnight.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Happy White Day!

I looked all over the internet to find an example of the shameless advertising the shops are doing for White Day.

Even though I had plenty of time, I was too slack to take a photo with my camera.

I had a little trouble finding what I was looking for, so instead I googled "white day" and "manga" and found this picture. I thought it was cute, so all rights reserved and stuff, thanks a lot!

I can finally mention that the time spent in Harajuku wasn't just to look around a kid's toy store.

I actually bought a Moomin Nyoro-Nyoro ghost/worm that the gf liked. It was white, and it's for white day so it seemed appropriate.

I thought to give her chocolates as well. Another Wonka caramel delight wouldn't go astray, so I got them to gift wrap that in the package as well. Hopefully the gf will share that with me!

There was a bit of a huge downpour today, even some rare thunder.

Before I met up with the gf I went to Yamaya to get some more mango juice, cashews, and chocolate spread.

There was only one juice carton on the shelf, so I ripped open a sealed box and got another three from there. You can't have too much of this juice. Looks like the secret is out.

The gf is visiting her mother tonight, so before she left we had a chinese buffet at Kowloon Ten Shin. It's on the 7th floor of the Lumine building next to Shinjuku station where there are a lot of other restaurants.

For 1,887 yen you can eat and drink (tea, juice and soft drink) for 70 minutes between 11am and 5pm. They have a good selection of food. In the end I was quite stuffed. Not bad at all.

On arriving back to the apartment I found that the gf got me some presents too!

Now White Day is supposed to be when the boys reciprocate the gift giving from Valentine's Day, so I was quite surprised that she got me a Penguin moneybox and a small photo album for my pictures. Very nice, thank you!

With the gf away it's so quiet. TOO quiet. I may have to get the guitar out.

This morning I finally got my address changed with the bank.

Yes, I know I've been living in Tokyo for a while now. I heard the horror stories of how difficult it can be. Surprisingly enough I got it done in about ten minutes all by myself. It helped that they got a person who understood english.

One less thing I have to do here.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Jimmy In Kiddy Land

Today on my day off I went to Aki.., NO, not there, Harajuku!

It's been a while since the last time, and I had a few things to do. Checking out my trip on Google Earth, it actually looks closer than Akihabara so it should take less effort. Going there by myself means that I actually take notice where I am and get to know Tokyo better.

Harajuku was packed with people. I walked slowly through Takeshita St and made my way to Kiddyland.

I could spend all day there. I started at the top floor with the Gundams, and made my way down each floor (yes, Hello Kitty, Moomin, Ghibli, and Gachapin levels).

From there I walked to the nearby MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) Store. This is the gf's favourite shop. A lot of the items look like works of art.

There is a very nice watch by Issey Miyake which seems to be a Seiko brand. At 45,150 yen I think I'll give it a miss for now. I'm still very happy with my recently rejuvenated Swiss Military watch.

Next door to the MoMA shop there is a temporary art space with interesting photos blown up to canvas size. It often changes and today's theme was "water".

From there I wanted to go to the UT store.

This is a Uniqlo shop that sells predominantly T-shirts.

The gimmick here is that the shirts are in cylinders lining the walls. It definitely makes the product look classy. If only the prints on the shirts lived up to the promise.

There weren't any designs that caught my interest. They actually looked like the cheap K-mart brand back home. Pity.

For cool shirts I recommend Hen-T in Shibuya. I mentioned it in a previous post. The shirts are better quality and the prints are pretty funny.

Next I checked out the Audi Forum Building.

Interesting huh?

Definitely a good example of modern architecture here in Japan. I had a look in the Audi showroom.

There was a bright orange TT roadster and the R8 supercar. Both very nice. No, I didn't buy any of them. Not today.While I was there I took a photo from the 7th floor in the elevator. Here you can see Meiji Jingu, the skyscrapers of Shinjuku and a bit of Harajuku down below.

Shortly after I made my way back to Yotsuya. From the lift I could see the military tower of Yotsuya to make a bee-line home before dark.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Suica Penguin Rockin' The Shin-Kan-Sen!

Thankfully JR (Japan Railways) have brought everyone's favourite Suica Penguin back for an encore.

This time it's to say that we can use Suica mobile on the bullet Shinkansen trains as well.

At least it gives me something else to watch other than the sweet looking "Cook One" girl ad (one of the staff members bears a passing resemblance), and the hypnotising "trainglish" tutorials from a rival school.

You know the one.

Thanks in advance to alzonic for posting the Suica ad. Cheers.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Shinjuku Jacket

Another great day in the centre of the universe known as Shinjuku.

Why do I sound so happy?

Well, I think for once I made a good purchase. Adolfo Dominguez, a spanish designer boutique here is currently having a 50% sale for all their winter season stock.

I tried on a nice dark brown jacket last week that was 38,000 yen, down to 19,950 yen (about AU $200 more or less).

I thought it was a slightly big, but I liked the cut and style of it. It was on the window mannequin so walking past today I was tempted to try it on again.

Later the gf joined me in Shinjuku to help me decide because, on my own I would've been there for hours. I felt sorry for the poor sales girl.

As you can see I went ahead and got it. I think it looks good and it has a detachable hoodie too. I had the guilts for buying it though. (That's what you get from growing up italian).

It's still cold here in Tokyo so I think I've got plenty of time to make use of it before the hotter weather finally comes.

Thanks to the gf for making me look like a model in the photograph. She said, "Make love to the camera".

Ok, she didn't, but it makes good copy.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Meidaimae Okonomiyaki

Another restless sunday. We almost stayed in all day.

We would have, if we hadn't got an invite to join the gf's friend and her daughter at Nanjya Kanjya, the okonomiyaki restaurant that her friend worked at.

I'm REALLY glad we did. The food was fantastic. I wish I'd have brought my camera. Along with the okonomiyaki we had monja and ankomaki, an azuki paste roll delight.

I played a Nintendo DS linked wirelessly with her daughter's other DS. She seriously kicked my ass at Mario Kart, snickering at my bad play.

This is not a good thing. I may be inclined to get one of these little time wasters one day.

She lent me one of the machines to take home. Probably so next time she has a worthy opponent.

I gave them one pair of my stainless steel mugs I won at the catchers. The Mickey and Minnie one. I think they liked it.

I couldn't help but notice outside Meidaimae station there was a Peace Makers Box.

From what I understand it's pretty much an ordinary police box to help those in need.

Why they don't just call it and make it another Koban is beyond me.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Stainless Steal

You'd think after my craziness on wednesday I would've avoided the game arcades like the plague.

No such luck.

I'm trying to think of my rationale, and the only thing I can think of is that it's one of the places I can go where there is zero reliance on speaking japanese. I have no problem whatsoever asking staff to move an item.

"Pink one, sumimasen.."

So, before work I perused the arcades closest to work. I didn't play any. Just looking.

After work I went to the Gento near Minato Mirai. I like some cool mugs with Japanese writing and manga girls, but the way they positioned them made it impossible to win.

I went to Shibuya and looked around the usual places.

One machine drew my interest. A japanese couple were winning some stainless steel Disney coffee mugs easily. The catchers claws were actually picking up the boxes and dropping them in the chute with ease.

I thought at first this must be a fluke, but it happened three times!

Sensing a broken machine, I thought they must have set the sensitivity on this one to "non rip-off" mode.

I couldn't resist so I tried three times and got all three, 300 yen!

I was tempted to keep on going, but my better judgement decided to stop while I was winning.

What am I going to do with all these mugs? I may keep one box. The other two are likely to be gifts.

I just have to decide which one I like the most. Big decision.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Sunshine? Moonlight? Blame It On The Gundam

Business as usual. Work. UFO catchers.

I might have done something tonight to make me stop doing this. Maybe..

I don't want to say about it in detail, but it involved a cash changer and forgetting to take ALL the notes. That's all I want to say.

Anyway the good news here is that I have another Gundam. Mr "Virtue" if you will. He has big guns.

800 yen I think. It's not my best attempts, but from what happened later, it was better than what I did from then on.

In my depression I've broken out the shochu (Not that I really needed an excuse). If I drink enough I will forget what I did. At least I have two other Gundam to cry my sorrows to.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Wired For Rilakkuma Sound

Next on the list of (almost) useless things I don't really need, are Rilakkuma headphones. Oh Yeah!

I was at the Taito Station opposite Kabukichō and I couldn't believe my eyes seeing these hanging easily (and I mean EASY) over the chute.

Walking away would have been very strong of me, so I did what I always do and nudged it in first go for 200 yen.

I asked them to move a Gundam in its place but they weren't making it easy, so I put that off for another time.

I should've stopped on a high. I thought I could win a Rilakkuma mug at another catcher, but after what I'd thought would be an easy 100 yen didn't work.

After that I went back home. For once I figured it would be a good idea to get home before dark.

I opened up the headphone box to try these babies out. To my amazement they don't sound half bad! Sure, they aren't Sennheiser quality, but totally acceptable clarity with a surprisingly good bass output. Sweet.

I may dare myself to wear them on the train to Fujisawa tomorrow. Hmm..

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Hama-rikyu Gardens

With an urge to explore, we left the house around 1pm.

For breakfast we had pancakes.

The fake nutella doesn't taste as good as I'd hoped. It tastes like whipped cream and nutella. Not terrible. It went reasonably well with the pancakes we ate this morning.

Today we went to the Hama-rikyu gardens in Shinbashi, near Yūrakuchō and Ginza.

Normally the entrance fee is 300 yen but with a Tokyo tourist guide they knocked off 60 yen. Not a lot, but almost a Crunky.

It's not the most attractive garden I've seen, but it was a pleasant stroll nonetheless.

After walking around for a while and taking a few photos we made our way to Shiodome.

This is an area of urban renewal with modern skyscapers. If the rest of Tokyo looked like this area it'd be a great looking city.

This area has a "Little Italy" feel with many italian restaurants and exhibitions.

In particular we checked out the Shiodome Italia exhibition, with an emphasis on moda (fashion).

If I remembered to charge my camera battery the night before, or not take so many pictures of the cats I could have taken a picture of this area. Oops.

From here we went into the Yūrakuchō district near Ginza. I picked up a Wonka chocolate for 420 yen. I wanted to get two but I only ended up getting the one. We were pretty hungry, so between us it was finished in less than ten minutes.

We looked around for the new Krispy Kreme shop and finally found it in the OIOI (marui) building basement.

Around the Yūrakuchō station I looked up and saw a strange building with a "boat hull" roof. This is the Tokyo International Forum, a convention centre. I don't know why I didn't notice it before. I guess I never looked up.

We were still hungry so we went to Xin-Li, a chinese gyoza restaurant near the station.

The dumplings tasted great. We also had a fried rice and pork dish, and spicy noodles that all tasted really good. For about 3500 yen all up we were fully satisfied. More so than the Shakeys pizzas we had last night.

Before heading home we passed by Roppongi near the tower and the Hanamasa supermarket for some corn chips and salsa. Don't ask me why but I've had a desire for corn chips lately.