Friday, 30 January 2009


I'm probably nuts to be going doe-eyed over sweet-looking guitars.

To follow on from my recent posts, the mirror-faced Ibanez JEM was traded in a local guitar shop and is now on 'flea' bay blocked from overseas bidding.


It didn't stop me from bidding on this.

It's a heavily customized RG Ibanez with JEM pickups and swirl. I bid US $950 (+$65 shipping) and was the only bidder up to the three minutes to go mark (at 5.20am no less).

In a show of weakness (or more likely, Italian guilt), I told myself I didn't need another guitar, but right up to this moment of typing this post, I'm kicking myself for not trying to up my bid in those final moments.

Another good example of letting a sweet deal slip from my fingers. For some reason I feel the need to spend a bit of that yen, and I've been trawling the guitar shops like a junkie looking for his next hit.

I really like the swirl finish on this guitar. This is how it's done.

Clicking here explains the process involved in "swirl painting" the guitar body. It looks simple enough.

I could use a new hobby.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Tea Water

Translated Ochanomizu, means "Tea Water". But those in the know, translate it as "Guitar City". If one is looking for a guitar in Tokyo, the "Disneyland" of guitar stores is in Ochanomizu.

After missing out on that Steve Vai JEM guitar, I still wanted to try those guitars out to see if I'd made a big mistake.

No one had the same model but I managed to find a secondhand JEM7VBK for 158,000 yen looking as good as new. It looked quite nice and felt good in my hands. The mirror scratchplate was easy to gather fingerprints, but it sure added that extra something along with the nice binding along the edges. It sounded better wound up with some distortion than clean, but better than I expected.

Just for comparison's sake, I thought to try the current JEM7VWK that Steve Vai uses on tour. It's has a different wood body and pickups. I'm not crazy about gold hardware. I have it on my Les Paul and strat, and it tarnishes pretty easily compared to chrome hardware. On this guitar it's probably too much bling too.

Having said that, the hotter pickups made it stand out a lot. Both clean and overdrive rang out nicely. Harmonics were plentiful. I like the sound of this guitar a lot. Just the style isn't my thing. I prefer the black or the mirror one I missed out on from America.

While I was in Ochanomizu I took the opportunity to try the Billy Corgan strat.

Overdriven it sounded very nice and had a great feel on the neck. It doesn't sound like a strat at all to me, but that isn't always such a bad thing. It's definitely a nice guitar to be rocking out on. It's matte black finish is great too. Anyone who's had a black guitar must know how much a pain in the butt they are to keep clean of fingerprints and smudges.

What I've been hoping to try out for a while now is an eBow. What's that?

It's a small device that you hold over a guitar pickup to create infinite, ringing sustained notes. The most obvious recorded example is U2's "With or Without You". I heard it was difficult to use, and after trying for about ten minutes I have to agree!


Something similar is the Fernandes sustainer pickup. Again I tried it out on one of the guitars, and it wasn't the most intuitive process either. Being explained the switches in broken English didn't help things either.

Probably a good idea though. For now I don't need another guitar, but it was definitely a fun day in Ochanomizu. It's been a while since I was there, so it was great to check it out once more.

Monday, 26 January 2009

For The Love Of God

It's what my mother would say if I'd bought another guitar, AND it so happens to be a Steve Vai song.

Why do I mention this?

Well I was VERY close to buying a very nice mirror-faced JEM guitar with a custom vine inlay neck. I guess there is quite a big risk trying to buy something off an American forum, and then hoping it arrives to me in one piece. Crazy maybe, but take a look at this..

Nice, eh? The guy would have sent it to me for US $2140 with the stock neck it came with as well. With the Australian dollar not so great, it would jack that price up quite a bit, and I'd probably have to pay customs/import duty bringing it to Australia.

Well, suffice to say, I took too long to decide and he traded it in at a guitar store. I guess it was just never meant to be.

I don't need another guitar, or do I?

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Garageband In A Japanese Mansion

These days it ain't much fun going out in the cold.

With my hankering for another guitar I thought it'd be a good time to fire up my little Steinberger guitar and busker's amp. I haven't plugged in for a while, so I have to be careful I don't let that battery lose all it's charge.

Thankfully it was still working, but by the end of my little jam I plugged it in the power outlet for more juice.

Once that was done, I thought it'd be fun to noodle around in Garageband and record some guitar lines. I found a nice "Arena Rock" preset that sounds like a Marshall cranked-up. Pretty convincing to my ears. One day you might get to hear some of it, possibly as the soundtrack to a Toyko video maybe.

We are out of milk today. At midnight we braved the freeze to go to Hanamasa for that, and some ham. It's damn cold out there.


Saturday, 24 January 2009

Mexi Can!

It's been on the cards for a while but finally everyone managed to get their asses to Higashi Rinkan once again for more nachos and tequila.

It didn't feel as memorable as past visits. Maybe it was the real winter chill, or else the late arrival of most of our posse.

Once everyone was present and accounted for, we got stuck into plentiful Mexican fare. I think I'll let the pictures tell the rest of this story..

Nothing spoils a good photo like a c*ck blocker. Damn!

This was the second round of tequila that I was a little peeved to miss out on.

I left the premises for one of the last trains, to be surprised by one of the first snow falls of Winter.

At this hour the trains are not express and it took an hour to get back to Shinjuku. Unfortunately I was really breaking the seal during the ride back, and I was terribly in need of an urgent number one. I was tempted to get off at the next stop, but I (just) managed to hold on.

While not the best Tex Mex night out, I think we'll be back there again no doubt.

Friday, 23 January 2009

La Cittadella

I haven't bought any new guitars (yet). It's always tempting, as I still like to check out the music shops in the meantime.

While I haven't been to Ochanomizu for ages, I'm always happy to find a new one to "ooh and ahh" over their stock.

Arriving with a little bit of time on my hands, I've discovered Yamano Music in the Italian-inspired La Cittadella complex.

They had a nice selection with mostly Gibson and Fender guitars. I stared longingly at a Billy Corgan signature Strat. I don't need it, but one very sweet guitar.

The prices look reasonable as long as I don't compare it to the (ever) weakening Aussie dollar. A bigger problem is getting it back home. The airlines aren't really accommodating to transporting guitars. Another sweet machine that I would LOVE to own is a Joe Satriani limited Chrome Guitar.

630,000 yen, anyone?

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Wake Up And Smell The Coffee

We opened up the new Mocha coffee I brought from Australia.

I wasn't sure whether to start the other 500 gram Ethiopian coffee I had or this one. While it's not too bad, this Merlo coffee has a preferable, fuller flavour.

Tonight we had station beers indoors for a while. One of the other guys had brought some Red Horse Beer from his trip to the Philippines. It's surprisingly easy to drink for a 6.9% beer. Dangerous.

On the way home a young Japanese couple were hanging in the middle of the train, with the girl looking a little tipsy. We noticed how the guy didn't seem to take advantage of this situation. Looks like they could speak a bit of English, so after the girl was making eyes at me they spoke to us.

Apparently they have been together for three years. He mentioned that he'd spent a year in Melbourne. Going our separate ways, HE gave me his business card.


Saturday, 17 January 2009

3 Seconds Rule

OMG.. Middle in Shibuya is having a sale!

It's the place where I got my infamous "Japanese Sorry" t-shirt and the "hilarious" Esca Master one.

I like the humour of those, so I decided to buy two! Without much hesitation, I got this "3 Seconds Rule" shirt for 2,835 yen (was 3,360). Mouseover to see the print on the back. (nb. it takes a little while to load).

I also got a Mr Miyagi "Wax On Wax Off" shirt too for 3,300 yen (originally 3,800).

Let's just say I'm a sucker for the Karate Kid. Some might even say Part II was responsible for making me want to come to this corner of the world. LOL.

What does it look like? Click the picture above or else click here.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Ten Days In A Nutshell

I've been really lazy since coming back to Japan, so instead of writing separate posts, I'll instead summarise the "highlights" of my week.

On the 6th, we opened the box of Belgium praline chocolates I brought from Australia.

To tell you the truth I'm not a big fan of pralines, but who can resist chocolate?

On the 7th, my Swiss watch that cost me a LOT of money to repair died again.

For great timing, it decided to stop working before my Wednesday classes in Yokohama. I went to Yodobashi Camera thinking it was just the battery gone flat, but they said in broken English it wasn't a flat battery. They just gave it back to me rather than offer to fix it. Ok.

I didn't have a watch to use that day. I just ended up taking the clock off the wall, bringing it into the classrooms.

On the 12th I opened up the 4.7kg of Provolone cheese.

We had it with bread, but its taste is similar to Parmesan, so we're finding it to be more suitable grated on spaghetti.

Also on this day we went into Shinjuku in the freezing 4 degree weather. That night we had shabu-shabu at Mo Mo Paradise. For a cheap feed, it's good value.

On the 13th, unlucky for some, but mostly me, I started to get a cold.

Firstly it was just a phlegmy, but not sore throat. Then I started coughing and lastly today I feel drained with a minor headache. At least I'm glad I brought my Panadol medicine from Australia. It's much better than Japanese medicine, which feels like nothing more than a placebo.

On this day I tried out the unlock for the iPhone. It works with a docomo sim, so it should also work with my phone back home too. Take that Soft---k!

On the 14th I installed OS X Leopard on my laptop. So far, so good. It doesn't seem all that different. There wasn't anything wrong with having Tiger, but I guess sooner or later Apple won't support it, so I may as well get on board now.

So today I'm just trying to keep myself rested hoping that tomorrow I'll be feeling genki enough to trooper through my (sigh) four kids classes tomorrow.

Brisbane Snapshot

It's been just over a week since I came back from Australia. While I'm not rushing to book my final flight back, I was a little sad to be leaving.

On New Year's Eve I was once more at the Down Under Bar with wingman, celebrating the final moments of 2008. It was free entry, and they had a basic Hawaiian theme, which just meant they gave out leis for everyone to wear. That night I ended up with three.

Just for the memories I took quite a few pictures before I left Australia. Without further ado...

The new Krispy Kreme stores were a little hard to find, but being in Australia I could ask directions easily. Mouseover the picture to (eventually) see the 2nd storefront. Yes, I bought a half dozen for $10, but no complimentary donuts here. BOO!

The middle of the Queen St Mall at night. The red fast food joint in the corner looks familiar, right? Mouseover for a close-up.

In Australia, "Burger King" is called "Hungry Jacks". Same menu, different name.

This is also in the Queen St Mall. "Jimmy's on the Mall". Nice.

On my last night I walked across to Southbank to take a picture of the new Ferris wheel, and a view of the city.

Brisbane Square at night.

If there's one thing that I miss most of all, it would be my car. Almost every day I took the opportunity to drive my car around. I only played my guitars once or twice, but driving I REALLY missed.

You think my hair's getting long? Look who this is. This was taken more than ten years ago. The years go by pretty quick. It feels like yesterday.

Goodbye Brisbane.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Here Comes The Cheese

I had to wake up this morning around 315am.

Jetstar were unable to get us to leave from Brisbane airport, so we had to catch charter buses from 345am to the Gold Coast. By the time I checked out of the hotel, my bus didn't leave until 445am.

Once at Coolangatta airport, there was a huge queue checking in the 270 passengers onto today's flight. Going through the screening process, they decided to pull me up on the huge chunk of cheese I had in my messenger bag. I thought they were going to confiscate it, but luckily they just put in through separately to check it.

All that 4.7kg is mine! Cheese is expensive in Japan, so it's like gold to me right now.

My rescheduled flight finally left around 830am. Overall the flight wasn't too bad. I requested a window seat and somehow got one of the central seats instead. Go figure. At least the seat next to me was free.

For our troubles today they provided in-flight meals free of charge.

My baggage took a while to come through, but it was easily identifiable.

My father thought it'd be better wrapped in plastic than with a padlock.

I could spot it a mile away, and so could everyone else!

Along with the chunk of cheese, I got a lot of other food as well - Chocolate, biscuits and coffee.

There were even clothes in that suitcase.

It took ages to get home. Unfortunately I missed work today, so I'll be faxing that letter Jetstar provided.

First day back tomorrow.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Come Fly With Me.. Or Not

Today was meant to be my last day in Brisbane.

I got up at 530am this morning to get ready and drive all the way to the Gold Coast to catch my 1050am flight. I was all ready to go..

It took no time getting through customs, so I waited, and waited. Finally over the intercom they said they had to fly a part from Melbourne to repair a fault on Jetstar JQ11.

Narita airport has a curfew, so even if they fixed it that night the plane wouldn't be allowed to land.

There were a lot of people waiting at the gate, mostly Japanese. They gave us a letter explaining the delay, to give to employers, so that should excuse me from work tomorrow.

I sent them an email (hope they get it), called HQ to an answering machine I didn't understand. They read my blog so eventually the message will get through.


I think I started something when I took a photo of the delay sign. All the other Japanese started taking photos of it as well.

They've put me up in a nice hotel, the Sebel, with dinner included.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Click My Heels Three Times

Only one more night before I go back to the weird and bizarre land of Japan.

Unlike last time, I think I'm actually going to miss being home in Australia. I actually had a much better time than before. The adjustment didn't take that long to get used to.

Sure, life here feels slower than Tokyo. You definitely don't feel the suffocation of too many people everywhere. It's laid-back and sometimes that's better.

Last night I had another night at the Down Under with a good friend. It was a mellow night. I think most people spent all their money on New Year's.

I have one more night in Brisbane. This time I leave with a little more sadness than usual.