Sunday, 30 November 2008

Three Minutes Happiness

If I took pictures of every weird shop name, I wouldn't have much time to do anything else. They're everywhere!

This one feels quite poignant. I think that is about the time span for my short bouts of true happiness.

Quite fleeting really.

Something like the seven second rule of dropping something, or as you see here the three second one.

Last week the coffee from YaMaYa was getting dangerously low, and we know how much I need my fix. Luckily Hanamasa was getting rid of their Ethiopia Mocha coffee for 299 yen a 500 gram bag. So, I got two. Three minute happiness right there!

It was due of the 27th, and from memory I think that day WAS the 27th. It tastes different to the last Mocha I bought, but after sampling some Starbucks, I have to say it is MUCH better than that stuff.

I downloaded a demo of Ableton Live, a music program this weekend too. It's a cool program. It has elements of Acid, another beat-mixing one I used to have. Yet another three minutes of happiness!

Keep them coming.

Friday, 28 November 2008

ADIDAS : All Day I Dream About

Only just last week I got the watch, and now I've got an equally good deal on an Adidas messenger bag.

I was looking at some nice ones, a "Converse" and a "Grand Stone" in Shinjuku.

The prices there were around the 5-6,000 yen mark. The Converse one was a good size, but had annoyingly loud, rippy velcro, and the Grand Stone one looked good but was a little small for my liking.

I kind of like the Freitag style. The one I got has the same look.

I went into B Select again. I had vouchers for a total discount of 200 yen, so this brought the price down to just 2,300 yen! It's big enough for my laptop, as well as a change of clothes if need be that I don't want to go home before going out.

My old bag that I bought last year is slowly falling apart, so this is a perfect time for an "update".

Sunday, 23 November 2008

I Had An Election And No One Voted For Me

I mentioned it before not long ago, the secret little izakaya bar in Shimo Kitazawa known to most of us foreigners as the "180 bar".

For two reasons I guess, the kanji is a little hard for me to translate, and the much better reason, 180 yen beer!

I guess they use the cheap beer as a dangling carrot to get you in. If only for the drinks, I'm sure I'll be back again.

I just wish I had more to celebrate.

Mt Takao

A special day so to speak. What better than to go on a little hike and get some fresh air in dem mountains?

Today we made our way to Mt Takao. I went there about the same time (a little earlier though) last year.

As I mentioned before this is one place that I haven't noticed in the usual guidebooks. If you want to do something different from the usual Tokyo sights, I highly recommend this place.

Going up, we followed the same Track 1 as last time. There were a LOT more people than last year and I pretty much had to dodge and swerve around the people who were moving at a snail's pace.

Quite a few smokers around too. I couldn't even escape them while sitting down as it looks like they wanted to feel comfortable sitting on the benches while they lit up. So much for escaping the crowds and fresh air!

On the way down we went via Track 6 which is a better way to appreciate the natural sights and sounds of this place. It was much less crowded too.

Unlike last time I decided to bring my SLR camera, so I think the pics turned out much better this time although I took less of them. So without further ado, here they are!
Although it's winter now, it's nice to see a few red autumn leaves still around.


If you look closely behind me you can see another person mimicking the ugly statue pose in the previous picture. Yes, I lost my weight. I know..
I really like the colours of this temple.

This is what happens when some guy gets in the way of the subject of the picture. Pfft!

THIS is what I was trying to photograph. Worth it? Maybe not.


So there you have it. It's worth checking out for sure.

Although my feet were a little tired we made our way to Shimo Kitazawa on the way back. Check the next post for details..

Friday, 21 November 2008

It's Red, It's Fast Baby

I need a hobby.

I didn't mean to, but I got ANOTHER watch today. Watch number five, come on down!

Today's "contestant" is a Casio G-Shock G-300L-4AVDR.

I noticed this one many months ago online, but at the shops around Tokyo this particular model was nowhere to be found. I think it's some kind of limited edition.

I was in Kawasaki a little earlier than usual. I was thinking of hitting up the UFJ bank to exchange some pieces of yen into quickly depreciating Aussie dollars. I had about 30 minutes and four kids classes ahead of me.

I knew that it wouldn't be a simple case of "telegraphic transfer", "money", "Osturaria?", so I saved myself a potential headache I really didn't want to have today, and had a bit of a look around Kawasaki instead.

One place that I really like is the B-Select store, which is yet another knock-off of the "offs", which isn't really an "off", if you know what I mean. (??)

It's mostly a clothing recycle store, but it has sports gear, glasses and watches as well for some pretty good prices.

In the past I missed out on a nice and cheap pair of Oakleys, and a watch that I kind of liked, to find they were gone the following week. This was not going to happen today.

By the time I spotted it, I didn't have much time to decide. The sticker price said 4,500 yen, but I was pleasantly surprised to be told all the watches were 10% off so, it was actually 4,050 yen, just for me!

Trying it there in the shop with my suit on, it wasn't much of a match, but coming home and trying it with a casual tee, it's bright red leather band looks pretty good to me. Like I said in the past, red goes faster. Ne!

Unfortunately, it didn't come with an instruction manual, not that it would've been any help in Japanese anyway. I managed to find it on the Casio site here.

On the site it unhelpfully asks for the module number (3750), instead of the model. This is the same for the whole G-300 series. I hope this helps other people too.

So now THIS will now go onto the "pile"...

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Let's Do The Xhake Shake

One thing that I really wanted to bring here to Japan was my Bop It Extreme II.

It's not exactly small, and would've taken up quite a bit of space in my suitcase. It would have been particularly useful on one of many cheap alcohol-fueled chu-hi nights. It makes a good party game, that's for sure.

Today I'm happy to say I have a found a great alternative for my iPhone. Ladies and gentleman we have the "Xhake Shake"!

It shamelessly rips off the same concept, but having it in the one compact package makes me VERY happy. With this game, you have to tap it, rub it, shake it, flip it and freeze (do nothing).

It mostly works well, save for the tricky flip maneuver which got me speaking French more that a few times.


Here's a video showing how it's done in "extreme" mode. I can see myself wasting lots of time with this.

Most notably when I should be learning some Japanese.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

La Cucharacha

Ok, so when something good happens, it should be repeated, right?

This is take two of another cool night of mexican food and alcohol. I still think it takes too damn long to get out there, but one thing I have to say is, "It doesn't matter where you are, as long as you have good people around you, you'll always have fun".

And so it was.

I was first to arrive. For quite a while I got paranoid and thought, "Is it the right night?", "Where the f*&k is everyone?!"

Thankfully the others were just a little late to arrive, and soon we were digging in to some real tasty mexican, beer and tequila.




It's wasn't all fun and laughter. We had some serious taco "spillage" going on.

Unfortunately all good things come to an end, so after missed train stops and light-headedness I walk into Hanamasa for some bread and milk.

Thank you BBD for the souvenir ;)

Friday, 14 November 2008

Idle Hands And Play Dough

I can't remember the last time I made play dough. Actually I think I've NEVER made it. The last time I even touched play dough was probably around Grade 3 or something.

So like my other "firsts" in Japan, I did just that today. It turned out as bad as you could imagine. We were supposed to make fruit and vegetables, but instead it was more like sticky ice-cream, which incidentally was one of the things you could make.

One of the proud ones was happy to show me his blue strawberry. It did look pretty good. Much better than my mush of nothing.

Here in sunny Kawasaki (yes it was), I got to see how popular the new Krispy Kreme is here.

Just like everywhere else in Tokyo, it looks like the Japanese can't get enough of it. I couldn't be bothered waiting the one hour and forty minutes after work.

Just a simple pasta and popcorn for me tonight, thanks.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

The Unlock

It was a really beautiful day today. That's very unusual for my typical days off, so I thought it'd be a good opportunity to go and get my red 707SCII unlocked from the clutches of Softbank.

I probably said this before, but they will not unlock a phone even if you fulfil a contract. To get the cell phone connection, I felt I was under duress to take their "free" phone, which I didn't need.

So anyway I found a place in Sakura Shinmachi that freed the phone in less than 10 minutes. Because of some uncertain legalities regarding phone unlocking, I think it's a good idea to keep this shop secret.

So now I can take this phone back to Australia for my father to use. Great! Over a free wifi connection I Skype-called him the good news.

I had plenty of time to kill wandering Shibuya.

When I got hungry I bought a McPork which has mysteriously increased in price, but not girth to 20 yen extra. I didn't really feel like it, but I also got a Krispy Kreme donut. Why?

The line was surprisingly short, and because they were giving away complimentary ones, I got two for the price of one!

Getting back to Yotsuya, I hung out at Atre again to listen to Internet radio back home.

I was tired, but I'm pretty happy with how the day turned out.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Radio Blah Blah

I always seem to get registered post delivered on a Saturday morning, when I'm not home to sign for it.

Although I had a little headache from last night, I thought it was a good enough excuse to get my lazy ass out of bed into the cold and rainy 12 degree air, and go into Shinjuku to pick up my "package".

My father sent back the Softbank phone I gave him because he couldn't find anyone that could unlock the phone to use on his network. Recently I found a place that may be able to do it here. When I go back home I can give it back to him.

I did the usual wanderings of the catchers, the "Camera"s, both Yodobashi and Bic, and Don Quijote. I had a look at Rock Inn too where I bought my guitar. There were some very nice looking guitars on display.

When I finally got back to Yotsuya I went to the Atre building to play around in it's free wireless hotspot area with my iPhone.

Lately I found some really cool radio apps that work nicely on it.

Ever heard a song in a shopping mall, and wanted to know what it's name was, or who sung it? Yes, me too!

Last time I was here they had some really melodic songs playing, so I wanted to test out two song recognition apps, Shazam and Midomi.

Although the volume was at the typically quiet background level of a shopping centre, both programs did a great job of identifying every song. I have to say Shazam looks nicer, but Midomi seems to have a few extra features such as singing or humming the tune. I've had varying success with that part, but I guess better to have than not to have it. You can try it out for yourself online here.

I tried to use the Pandora app from iTunes, but unfortunately due to "licensing restrictions" I'm unable to use outside of the US. It works on a simple premise of putting in a band you like, and it'll make a radio station stream of bands with the same "genetic" sound.

Seeing that that didn't work I tried out Last FM. It works on the same principle as Pandora and from the brief test I found it to give good results.

Being in Japan I feel a bit left out of the loop when it comes to the music scene back home. Apart from American hip-hop, the airwaves are mostly filled with J-pop.

So armed with trusty iPhone I've stumbled upon Fstream.

With this app I added all the web address URL's for streams of the radio stations back in Brisbane! The addresses can be found here.

Finally I thought I'd give Fring a try.

With this one it's possible to use MSN (and other clients), as well as make Skype calls. With calling I had a lot of dropouts, but I think that is more due to the weak wi-fi signal I was getting. Unlike on windows mobile, the conversation is like a normal phone call, not speaker phone, which is much more uncomfortable to use in public areas.

ALL the apps I've mentioned in this post are free and work over wi-fi and/or 3G. So what are you waiting for? Go get them!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Body Chalk Outline

What do you do when they don't want to lie down to be traced on paper?

You just volunteer to do it yourself, that's what.

The things we do for money in this world. My "chalk outline" in crayon came out pretty good I think.

I hoped none of the kids would mark my clothes because I decided before leaving for work today, that I wouldn't bother to go home and change for the goodbye party later on.

There wasn't a bad turnout, but I have to say the izakaya left a lot to be desired. It was an "all you can drink" with finger food for one and a half hours. The cost was 3,500 yen each, and I'm sure I didn't get my fill. The food wasn't very tasty either.

On arrival back in to Shibuya I was bursting to go to the bathroom, so I made my way to the closest one in Tsutaya. Even though I didn't think I had as much alcohol as I wanted, I was actually pretty drunk by that stage, and making it to the 3rd floor toliets was quite a task.

Before going home I wanted to check out Tasu-Ichi.

I didn't miss anything. There were more guys than girls and it didn't give me any incentive to stay, let alone buy another beer.

I guess it all depends how you sell yourself :


"Hi! I like walks on the beach and sunsets. I'm into water sports and photography. I'm a Sagittarius. What's your blood type? Let's talk!"

Hmm.. Next time.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Krispy Kreme In Kawasaki

Looks like Krispy Kreme are setting up shop here in Kawasaki.

I wonder how long the American dream of sugar-drenched doughnuts will last here in Japan?

In Australia there is never a line, and surprisingly there isn't even a KK in Brisbane yet. They DO still give free ones waiting in line, that they definitely don't do back home.

I guess time will tell.

It's just about been a week since the gf moved out, I mean left MOMENTARILY, for her prac work in the sticks.

I'm surprised that I don't feel as lonely as I thought I would being by myself. Maybe Tokyo isn't that scary after all.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Gachapin Walks

I thought I had this monkey off my back but no, as you can you see I got a Gachapin, but he's cool.. he walks!

After the staff could see how pathetic I was they gave me the money shot for 800 yen. It would've been 700 yen, but dammit my "crack" hand was shaking and my second to last shot was a failure.

My little friend will be coming back with me to Australia at Christmas along with my cow-suit Rilakkuma (and a sh*&tload of other junk I've accumulated at the damn UFO catchers). My bedroom is sure to be my Japanese "shrine" back home.

It's getting much colder here, but I have to give the ladies a big thumbs up for still wearing those minis. Thank you, no REALLY thank you.

The "anything, anytime" on the noticeboard was taken down, only to be replaced by another one. All I can say to that is "great". Oblivious and charming at the same time.

After an absence of station beers we are back in full swing. I hated coming back home sober. Horrible, just plain bad.

A gaijin came up to us asking what we were celebrating. Strange. Maybe him going away was worthy of celebration.

A few things on the cards..

Another wild night is planned not too far away. Stay tuned.

O- le’!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Kampai!


Another month, another "train manners" poster.

This month Tokyo Metro have set their sights on the alcoholics amongst us. (A really BIG perk is the really cheap alcohol available from supermarkets AND convenience stores in this country).

Maybe they listened to me a little when I suggested the "platform pizza" idea?

Still, I'm sorry but I can't really agree on this one. With the above mentioned places for acquiring alcohol, the train is a great place to get tanked-up on drinks before going into a bar or club where you'd pay standard prices.

With a little dutch courage you can look that hot J girl in the eye instead of taking a sly glance from the reflection in the train windows.

Want? NE!

Just make sure you don't "break the seal" before getting to your destination.Ok?

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Enter Space Capsule

Yesterday the gf bought me a red leather iPhone case for a present.

I said that I liked it (when I went "hunting" the other day), but I thought she knew which one(s) I really liked. I even took photos of them! Anyway, needless to say I went to Yodobashi and exchanged it for a Switcheasy Capsule Rebel.

Before I made the big switch I went into another store and tried my iPhone in the same red one she bought, just in case I was making one of my many bad life choices.

It actually looked pretty good! The deal breaker was the thickness, and the flip of leather that covers the front. Red is a great colour choice though.

The next big decision was choosing which one to go with. I narrowed it down to the "Tiger" black and yellow, or the clear see-through "Arctic" one. After much deliberation, I settled on the Arctic. The other one was definitely an ice-catcher, but I chose the white iPhone, so it should be seen not hidden, right?

If anybody has, or is thinking about getting an iPhone I highly recommend the app, Kotoba.

It's a Japanese dictionary which allows input in kana/kanji and romanji. It saved my butt today. Quickly I looked up "exchange" and "present", which got me understood immediately. Unlike the hour before when I was trying to explain to a clerk I wanted to try the red one in the box.

"sample","demonstration","demo","try?".

The guy just looked into space, I think hoping for me to just go away, which I did in frustration.

Getting home I was all anxious to try this new case!

Mostly so, because from past experience I suck at putting screen shield/protectors on phones/iPods etc, and the instructions were in Japanese. To make sure I was doing the right thing I checked out some Youtube videos on how the best way to do it.

I have to say I did a pretty good job first go. Not perfect, but it went on with only a millimetre out, and one small, persistent air bubble at the top edge that I just can't get rid of. It looks good enough. If I took it off again, I'm sure it would have ended in tears.

The case looks excellent!

While the "Tiger" was the one I was VERY close to getting, I think this is the perfect choice for everyone that has white iPhones. Pictures don't do justice to how good it looks. If you have one just get this case, you won't regret it.

I congratulated myself with the "Chocolate Pie" I bought from the 99 yen shop. From the picture they look just like Wagon Wheels back home. No, they don't really taste the same. For a start, no jam. What's up with that?

When I get back home to Australia I can't wait to scoff all the food that costs here more than it should. A Sara Lee cheesecake for over 1000 yen. Are they insane?

I'm glad I went to YaMaYa today too.

There's going to be lots of pasta nights for a while now.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

One Year in a Tokyo Apartment

On this day one year ago I moved in with gf to her apartment in the centre of Tokyo. (By centre I mean geographically. Yotsuya is roughly positioned in the middle of the main Yamanote Line. Tokyo really doesn't have a central city area. Probably the closest to that definition would be Shinjuku, NOT around Tokyo station.)

Anyways, so yeah this is it. How do I feel? Should I have moved in with the gf? Every now and then I question my decision, but I don't feel like I have too many regrets.

By coincidence or by design, also on this day I'm going to get a taste of what it was like before hooking up with the gf. She's going away for six weeks for study leaving me left to my own devices.

It's a strange feeling.

I feel the lack of her, but I also feel a sense of relief, a time-out where I can collect my thoughts and some solitary Jimmy time. I was with her only two weeks into this "adventure", so maybe this is my opportunity to walk on my own two feet, not be lazy, and not rely on anyone for some things I should force myself to learn.

After work I went with a co-worker to the Eda Treasure Factory to kill some time. He was looking for a elevated kitchen table/shelf thing. We also went to another recycle store that I hadn't been to before, which wasn't that great anyway.

There was a very nice Aria Dreadnought acoustic guitar for only 5,000 yen. I told him he should get it. With that little bit of persuasion he got it, to discover on paying for it that it came with a case too! If I didn't have my guitars I would've snapped it up. Nice.

He got a call from someone while we were there to go out drinking, but didn't bother to ask me along. It's one of my major peeves with all these guys.

F@#king invite me too a**h**s!

Heading home I didn't really want to go straight back, so I decided to go to Tasu-Ichi for a beer or two. I really needed a passive smoking fix. More so, I really wanted to get back to going out socially, even if it was on my own. It's a celebration of sorts, so two beers down, I had enough and went home.

No fanfare, but I'm satisfied with that. I didn't need one.