Sunday, 31 August 2008

Eating Indian In Japan

After the all-nighter last night, I was in no rush to do much today.

I was in need of a spanner or wrench after trying hopelessly with the pliers I had to fix something. My first idea was to go to the closest 100 yen shop for a pair. They only had pliers, so reluctantly I kept going towards Shinjuku with my unwashed afro scaring away the natives.

I found an adjustable wrench at one place so I bought it only to find it totally useless as the nut was so hard to turn that it broke the teeth of the spiral part. For 105 yen I shouldn't be too surprised I guess.

I can't diss the 100 yen shop though. Apart from false advertising, it's cool what (usually) useful things you can find in these places.

How about a gas canister called "My Bombe"?

Don't get any ideas you crazy people.

Later that evening we had some great indian food in West Shinjuku at Bombay.

I thought I'd be able to get a picture of it from Google Street View but would you believe it's one of the few places the camera car didn't go down?

If you have Japanese fonts (OR A MAC haha), this is the address :

東京都新宿区西新宿1丁目18−13. Otherwise, look at this handy map I got just for you!

View Larger Map

Why should you go there?

I had the Bombay Thali set for around ¥2200. We had the cheese nan bread for an extra ¥200. Totally worth it.

How good does this look?

To top it off we had mango lassi. Mmm.. want.

The place was popular. It's pretty easy to see why. Just do it. Tell them Jimmy sent you, for no other reason than to get them to say "Jimmy who?"

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Captain Stag

I've mentioned the Don Quijote stores before in this blog a few times, but I just found out not all Donki's are created equal.

You may remember a short while ago I tried in vain to find a tent for an aborted camping trip during my summer vacation. The good news today is that I found one, for an unbelievable price.

It helps to ask around for these things and I was told that there was a bigger Donki in Mizonokuchi.

It just so happens that I went to a going-away party for one of the Japanese staff in Kawasaki tonight, and the quickest way there was through here!

So.. I got a, get this.. "Captain Stag" three man tent for 1980 yen!

Yes that's right, CAPTAIN STAG! The price was too good to believe. I asked one of the sales people standing around for a price check. I thought the price was 3980 yen. She said it wasn't it, but I thought she made a mistake. Nope, right price. Sweeeet..

But that's not all folks. Oh no. I also got a sleeping bag for 999 yen too. Less than 1000 yen and yes, "Captain Stag" brand no less.

From now on another of my "superhero", split personalities will be from this moment hence forth, Captain Stag!

How was the party? Pretty good I have to say. We went to Tapas, a Spanish-style izakaya. The jugs of beer flowed like a river.

Somewhere between there and another bar we ended up where they always do. KARAOKE.

There was a lot of bad singing, most notably from me. My particular low point was The Pixies, "Debaser". After 12,000 yen, we paid for it till the early hours of the morning.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Hard Parts

I bought a headphone adapter for my Tytn II phone today at Mobile Plaza in Akihabara.

It converts the mini-USB port to a 3.5mm headphone jack and cost 819 yen. I had a choice to get one with a microphone and volume control for 2079 yen, but I thought this would be all I need.

It actually sounds really good.

Much better than I thought it would. It could easily replace my iPod. The bass is even more prominent than what I hear from my iPod. With a "cover flow"-like music player, it isn't all that different from the real thing.

The funny thing is, I almost left the store without it after paying. Oh.

It's a little bit tight with the headphone jack. I'll have to be careful not to rip the headphone sleeve off the end.

As usual I'm always on the lookout for English that seems out of place or gives me a chuckle.

This one's from a Book Off. Do you see that? "Hard Parts". hehe..

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Unshaved And Dangerous

It's the last day before I head back to work tomorrow.

I think I'll need to have a shave before I get there don't you think?

The last time I shaved was on the first day of Summer Sonic. I haven't bothered to do it since then because, "I'm on holiday".

It's been endless nights awake, and one big long sleep in between.

Last night I hauled the gf's new laser printer ("rezabimu purinta" - sounds like Star Wars), from Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku to her apartment. It was probably only about 12kg, but the box was big and by the time I got to the apartment my arms were aching.

She didn't want to unpack it last night. When I buy something new, I can't wait to unwrap my new "present". So this morning I got it out and helped her install it.

There isn't much room in the apartment, but we managed to find a place where it fits nicely I think.

Apart from that, a pretty low-key finale to these holidays.

The gf went to the 99 yen shop for some printing paper.

As you can see it says "free paper" all over it. It was 104 yen for the 100 sheets.

Not quite free is it?

Monday, 18 August 2008

Fantastic Story

What's helped me get around Tokyo a lot easier than if I didn't have it, is Google Earth and Google Maps.

I use it regularly to find addresses with no street names, and on my phone with my GPS.

A new feature I recently found out about is Street View on Google Maps/Earth. It's quite cool. You click on a street and it brings up an interactive 360° live photo.

I was thinking of doing the same 360° virtual reality (VR) panoramas with my camera. In the meantime this makes it much easier, but I plan to try this out for myself as well.

This is the street of our apartment. (I'm not going to tell exactly which one it is).

This is Yotsuya crossing with the Atre Building, and underneath there is the train station.

In the westerly direction is Shinjuku. The opposite direction leads you to the Imperial Palace, and the main Tokyo terminus station. It's a great location here in the middle of Tokyo and not too busy either.

So you can see this tool can be really useful. Want to see what an area looks like? I've used it to see all the places I used to live in (It's possible to see streets in Australia too). It brought back some memories.

Now I should have no excuse to get lost in Japan.

This was on a bus in Shinjuku today.

Being the "tourist" I couldn't help but take a picture.

I hope this fantastic story has a happy ending.

Friday, 15 August 2008

WM6.1 iPhone.. Sort Of

I haven't written for a few days because most of these holidays I've been sleeping. I know.. Too much excitement for lil' old me.

I had to abort a potential camping trip for lack of a tent (the cheapest I could find at short notice was 10,000 yen, which is more than I had in mind to spend for possibly the only camping trip I'm going to go on.)

I still want to climb Mt Fuji. It's hard to find willing companions wanting to go, but I WILL do it even if I have to go it alone.

So, in the meantime, I've been forever working on my phone to make it the best that it can be.

I've changed ROM again. This time it's Laurentius26 KDV10 TL.

The ROMeOS ROM was really good and minimal, but I think it's good to try a few others before I finally leave my phone alone. This one could be a keeper though.

It has a neat finger scrolling app similar to the iPhone, called Throttle Launcher. I had a bit of a headache with a continual start-up error, but I reinstalled it and it's been working fine ever since.

To make it a little more "iPhone-ish", I decided to replace the existing icons with iPhone ones. It's not perfect but I did better than I thought I would. I did a lot of editing in Photoshop to trim/resize about 60 icons. It took all day!

I even used the same wallpaper from my Macbook for the background.

Here's a video and some screenshots:

Note: Please don't ask me for Apple icons. Google it.

Just find the icons you want to use and replace/rename them in the "Pages" folder. Easy.

See You!

Bad Timing

I should've known but I didn't. Today was a REALLY bad day to wear my Japanese Sorry t-shirt. WHY? Click here.

Usually most people would get the humour, but I think it's akin to Australia's prime minister saying sorry to the aboriginies, and I'm not Peter Garrett.

I have way too much hair for starters.

Luckily, no Japanese said anything to me (Not that I would've understood it anyway).

This is just a mental note for myself next year. Don't forget!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Cold Playing In The Heat

Day Two of Summer Sonic turned out better than I thought it would.

I should've known I was being gypped when I could quite easily buy a ticket for the second "sold out" day. The reverse psychology worked well on me. I thought day one had more bands that I was interested to see anyway.

But, I'm glad I went.

As soon as I got there I checked if they found my cap. No luck. Looks like its gone forever.

If anyone's found it, it's black and has this Barcardi (rum) bat on it.

If you get it back to me I'll be eternally grateful. It has some sentimental value.

I was a bit down in the dumps but I soon picked up when I made my way to catch The Ting Tings.

These guys are a bit of alright (I mean good!).

Only a two-piece with the girl singing, playing guitar and some synth, and the drummer doing backing vocals as well.

Obviously for such a full sound they had some samples or sequences going on. It would be a real problem for them if it went down without a backup.

Having said that though, I don't think anyone noticed except the muso in me that always looks for these things. A fun set.

Sorry for the bad pic. The lighting was a little bright for my phone cam, but at least you can see the minimal stage setup for these guys.

I didn't have any must-see bands for a while so I just walked around a little, catching a quick peek at whoever was playing.

There was Mutemath that were a little dull for me, and Polysics, putting the "weird" in Japanese music.

I went across to the Marine stage inside the stadium to watch a bit of 311.

I remember hearing one of their songs a LONG time ago, so I thought I'd see what they were like. This is probably the worst band I've seen all weekend if only for the reason that the singer was singing off-key more than once.

Apart from a reasonable Cure cover it was pretty yawn-inducing, so I was quick to move on.

One band I checked out last night online was the Japanese group, Boom Boom Satellites. What perked my interest was the comparison to Nine Inch Nails. One of my favourite bands.

To these ears they sounded a bit like Underworld with heavier guitars and techno beats. I wish I was more familiar with their songs. After a while it sounded all the same to me.

Another Japanese group I stumbled on were the Radwimps.

These guys were pretty cool. Although some songs were in Japanese, they have a good sense of melody and sound. A nice surprise.

I had to toss up between seeing Alicia Keys or Devo. I did want to see Devo just to see them "whip it good", but circumstances (and the long distance between stages) let Alicia win this one.

Alicia knows how to shake that booty and has an amazing voice. Her set had a real classic R'n'B vibe. I'm talking "motown" feel with more Aretha, than Beyonce.

I don't know her songs too well, but with pipes like that who cares? Great backing band too.

Finally to the reason I really came here today. I've been curious to check out Coldplay live in concert.

Like them or hate them, Chris Martin has got an exceptional voice, and they've built up a repertoire of some great melodies perfectly suited to a stadium setting.

"It was all yellow". An instant classic.

You can see them wanting to be the next U2, but they looked like they were really enjoying themselves up there. They made me really miss playing in a band.

The guitarist's melodic lines were very prominent in the mix. Great sound. "Fix You" got me all misty-eyed too.

One surprising, but U2-inspired moment was when they all got off stage and put themselves on a riser in the middle of the stadium with just guitars to perform "The Scientist".

The drummer sang a short tune by himself. Although he doesn't sing too bad, I felt it was a bit out of place.

The night ended with cannons shooting out butterfly-shaped confetti, and fireworks.

I got to see some Summer fireworks after all!

It took ages to leave the stadium. My feet were so sore from walking around all day. It still feels hard to walk even now.

Apart from some small incidents (Hey Japanese guys, quit pushing through the mosh like you're trying to get the last Yamanote train! F*CKERS! Oh, and those staff that didn't let me bring in my sports drink, because it wasn't water. LOSERS!). Even if I had just seen Coldplay today, it was money well spent.

Will I go next year? Give me a line-up worth seeing, and we'll talk about it.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Almost Killed By Perfume

Interesting headline?

Well, it was not such a good start for my first day at Summer Sonic 2008.

I got to Makuhari Messe just in time to catch the start of the set by a very popular Japanese girl group, Perfume.

Looks like a LOT of people had the same idea. As you can see in the photo, there is a curtain drawn down where the entrance is and a huge crowd of people.

I got to that curtain, but even from there the masses were pushing trying to get in.

It got to the point where I was feeling really uncomfortable and decided to bail before I fell over or got pushed onto the temporary railing. There's no way I was going to meet my end while watching the "Japanese version" of the Spice Girls.

Even though I was right out the way you can sort of see the three girls from the group in the middle of the photo. I didn't miss much. Their vocals are so heavily "robot-sounding" ("vocoder'd"?), I wouldn't be shocked if they were miming. Their para-para moves were kind of cute though.

The banter was a bit long too. Too me it sounded like "squeak, squeak" (applause) "squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak" (more applause).

Things got better after a bit of a walk to the Chiba Marine Stadium side (the Marine Stage). I finally got to the right area to catch the set by ONEREPUBLIC.

I quite like the "Dreaming Out Loud" CD, but I don't think this band is really suited to playing a stadium. The songs are a little slow, but melodic. The singer has a great voice.

Actually the general feeling to me is that they come across as a bit of a Christian band. Not as trite as the band Live has become, but they're the closest band I can compare them to.

As you'd expect "Apologise" went over fantastically. They did a short cover of Rihanna's "Umbrella", which sounded really good. They should have done the whole song. And where was "Goodbye Apathy"? One of the best songs on that album IMO.

I didn't have to rush to see any other band in particular, so I hung around for The Subways on the same stage.

I hadn't heard their songs before, but the energy level rose considerably following the last set I just saw. The shirtless singer tried to get a bit of audience participation going, which had varying degrees of success. (What does a Japanese person do when they are told to "go crazy" in a part of a song?)

Next band to see on my list was Paolo Nutini on the beach stage, which is actually on the beach!

I happened to find his CD in the Yotsuya Library and it's really good.

His voice to me has a rustic "Rod Stewart" kind of vibe.

While I was watching I started eating some anko "jelly in a sardine can" that I brought from home. There was security that I thought were hanging around close by to watch some drunken foreigners near me, but they confiscated my can! Weird. Lucky I finished it.

You might notice not many photos.

The security are photo nazis. No photos allowed not even from crappy phone cameras. I got a few in though. To quote Arnie, "Sue me d&$khead".

I had to cut his set a bit short missing "Jenny Don't Be Hasty".

I didn't want to miss Death Cab For Cutie playing far away at the Sonic Stage. They have buses but the line was huge. It was quicker to walk.

I found out about this band from the singer's involvement in The Postal Service, that have a great CD, "Give Up".

Ben Gibbons has an ordinary sounding voice, but it's instantly recognisable. It's just too "nice". I can imagine Sesame Street asking him to do a song for them like Feist's "1,2,3,4", Sesame St version that I actually like better than the original.

Some of his and the bass player's movements seems a little over-exaggerated, but I enjoyed the set. I was waiting for them to cover Supertramp's "The Logical Song". For some reason I think they'd do it well.

(Ben's "Against All Odds" cover with the Postal Service is great, and I HATE that song)

I moved a little closer at the same stage for The Fratellis.

I've heard both their CDs, so I knew this set would go off. The usually static Japanese crowd went absolutely nuts.

It's quite funny to watch the Japanese at concerts. They have this thing where they extend their hands to "accent" the beats, even for slow songs. You have to see it to know what I mean.

I had a blast. I danced and bounced around imitating the fun vibe. I danced stupidly with an "Ugly Betty" Japanese girl with glasses. She lapped it up. Take off the glasses, and she could've been beautiful, or something like that. hmm..

I was going to go across to the Chiba Stadium for the Prodigy, but they closed some access areas and it would've been a long walk.

They had a TV screen showing them live, so I don't think I missed much. They sound quite dated now. Great back in 1993 though.

I had a quick look at the Sex Pistols and it left a bit to be desired too. Past it. Nice chunky guitar tone though.

That just left me then to watch Paul Weller.

The music didn't do much for me. It's just not my kind of music. He has his fans and the crowd looked to be enjoying it.

On the way out I bought a 50 yen onigiri. A short time later I realized my cap I had in my pocket fell out somewhere. I'll have to check lost property tomorrow. DANG!

For tomorrow I don't have another ticket. They just put on this wristband that I have to keep on until then. It's a little uncomfortable though.

I am so tired, and I have to do it all again!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Lucky Seven

I knew the gf would want this one. It's the big mama.

This one took 1,100 yen (6 tries). The Shinjuku staff didn't move it around much for a better go, but it wasn't too bad.

She was so happy. It's called, "Mama Moichan".

Tomorrow's the first day of Summer Sonic. Only one more sleep. I'm excited!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Going Sonic

I've decided to go to the Summer Sonic music festival at Makuhari Messe/Chiba Marine Stadium in Tokyo this year.

Looking at the lineup, I think they've got some great bands playing.

The easiest way to buy tickets in Japan is by going to a convenience store like Lawson or Family Mart. The ticket machines are in Japanese, but there is a good guide to using them here.

According to the Summer Sonic website, the tickets for the second day have sold out, but I've somehow managed to get one for both days. I hope that doesn't cause any problems when I get there.

So who am I excited to see here?

Death Cab For Cutie, Onerepublic, The Fratellis and Paolo Nutini, (oh and Perfume, lol) on Saturday.

Coldplay, Alicia Keys, The Ting Tings and Devo are the ones I'm most interested in watching on day 2.

Sometimes at these kind of festivals there's an overlap of two bands that I want to see, but the timetable is actually pretty good, so that shouldn't be too bad. The lineup is really strong. Much better than the Fuji Rock Festival I think this year.

It's not just the bands though, I'm hoping for a really cool atmosphere/vibe of being at a festival too.

Are you going to be there too? Let me know how you go and I'll keep everyone posted about my experience there too.

Happy Summer!

Tokyo's Sprung A Leak

How many Japanese does it take to stop a spraying water leak in the bathroom?

It sounds like a bad joke and it is. Too many it seems.

Since Tuesday the leak has been growing because no one knows where the water mains is to turn off the water. The plumber didn't have the parts and the problem is getting worse.

I don't need to go to Niagara Falls for this summer vacation (which incidentally starts today), I have it in the bathroom!

For those fascinated by pipes, here's an extreme closeup of the cause of our summer stress.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Opera 9.5 Beta Quick Review

This post is being typed on the new Opera 9.5 BETA browser for Windows Mobile.

It's not as easy as I'd hoped, but for web browsing, I'd say it was as good as, or dare I say better than Safari on the iPhone.

It is still in beta, so there are a few bugs. I quite like it. It's as fluid as the iPhone, and can cut and paste too.

Take that Apple!

It's giving me a reason to keep this phone longer now.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

I Don't Wanna Go To Akiba

I didn't really feel like going to Akihabara today.

Yes you read that right. I was so tired from my endless search for the perfect operating system on my phone. I was up until 5am ironing out the never-ending kinks.

The gf was after a USB drive and needed it on Monday. So we caught the train and I found one that didn't cost too much to do the job. Naturally being here I want to look around my favourite little shops.

I felt the gf wanted to leave as soon as she got what she needed. It felt like pulling a boat anchor from place to place.

We were getting hungry so we looked for a place to eat. I was happy to eat at Yoshinoya, but we went to a ramen place instead.

Looks like it was a bit of a mistake.

For the second time now I was bending over the bowl spewing my guts out. The side-dish actually looked and kind of tasted of it anyway, so I guess it wanted out quickly.

Should've had Yoshinoya..

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Hard Reset!

Full of iPhone envy, I decided I needed to do something to relieve myself of the jealousy of not having one.

I decided to Hard Reset my TYTN II phone, wiping everything from it. A bit drastic?

Yes but.. I did backup everything before the point of no return. As I didn't check if the backup was 100% ok, I put a lot of faith that it would restore correctly. Thankfully everything seemed to be in its place and working.

With that test run acceptable, I thought I'd try one of the cooked (custom) ROMs featured on the XDA developers site. It looks like quite a daunting process, but I also watched a video on this site for a live walkthrough.

DISCLAIMER: I didn't have any problems. If you try this as well, I accept no responsibility for anything going wrong. But it LOOKS harder than it is.

I wanted a updated Windows Mobile 6.1 ROM, so I've decided to start with Dutty's Diamond V1 Build 19588 which as the name suggests, is a port of some HTC Diamond features.

It does feel a bit faster and solid. I had a few minor things not working properly (two program launch buttons went to a blank screen and I couldn't switch the phone off at all at one point), but I think that's due to me being a nOOb rather than real problems.

Soon after I decided I wanted to try another cooked ROM. This one is called ROMeOS v4.1.

From what I read this is a popular and stable ROM, and has a much anticipated accelerated driver (though not complete as yet) as an extra file.

I would have loaded this file first, but it didn't have a Radio (no not FM, but a receiver for calling, GPS etc.) With a first flash I was a bit nervous about that, so I went with Dutty's first.

First impression of this one was that it is quite fast, maybe a little bare on the apps. At least it has a calculator. You don't know how useful it is when you need to do some quick math.

So far so good. The radio's not so great though. I just put on a eMonster radio based on a Japanese eMobile ROM that uses the TYTN II phone.

It seems pretty good so far. It's picked up six satellites sitting in my apartment. Gotta love that.

Although I've had a few headaches, this phone tinkering has given me something new to do in little ol' Tokyo.

Moichans And A First Scratch

I thought it would happen eventually.

I dropped my new Oakleys on the ground. I was in the bathroom washing my hands and they fell from my pocket, face first on the ground.


(For anyone wondering who the hell is "Jan", click this Youtube video, or the wiki explanation.)

There are only two sand-like scatches, but on a fire mirror lens it's fairly easy to notice. At least I notice, and everytime I look at them, I'll be kicking myself. Why doesn't it happen to $20 ones you buy?

Anyway, deep breath in, deep breath out..

Later that evening in Shibuya, I noticed a few places with some more of the little Moicho I won for the gf last Sunday in Shinjuku.

We had some tasty, but pricey unagi first.

After that it was my mission to get some more of them. In fact I got another five of them.

So, six in total now!