Friday, 27 February 2009

Taking Candy From Strange

When I was young I remember being told never to accept candy from strangers.

Seems like Japanese kids are much more generous, and actually give me the candy!


It was snowing today quite a bit. Probably the most that we've had all winter actually. But in my opinion it's half-assed snow. By the time it hits the ground, it instantly evaporates to a cold patch of water. If it lands on me, it looks like a 7-eleven slushie without the raspberry cordial. Right now it's about 3 degrees.

I woke up early today at 1030am. HA.

I thought it'd be a good idea to go to Ochanomizu and Akihabara for a quick perusal before Kawasaki "kamikaze".

I'm still on a guitar kick, but less so since I bought my latest trick.

What was beckoning me to come here today was news of this secondhand Jem 77B RMR in Akiba. It's the same model as the one from America. I HAD to see what I missed out on.

A quick babelfish translation of the internet post states "A little there is a crack in the contour part, but it is the beauty item".

From what I saw in the pictures and in person there was more than a little cracking in this mirror. If it translates to bad luck there's at least 28 years of misfortune in years to come. More so if someone actually pays their asking price of 198,000 yen.

In the shop it didn't look as bad as I thought it would. It adds a touch of character, and you wouldn't be so afraid to scratch it. It's already a pre-scratched relic!

I had a try of this Burny Les Paul copy while I was there.

My favourite guitar of all time is my 1990 Les Paul. I heard that Burny's (made by Fernandes) had a good reputation for LPs.

I saw that this had the sustainer AND a Floyd Rose whammy, so I wanted to see if this was as good as it sounds. The tone was quite nice, but I'm starting to get over the novelty of the sustainer. Still, it's a cool party trick. The whammy bar wasn't tight or recessed, so it didn't feel as good as I hoped in that regard.

The gf wanted to go to Uniqlo for a sale, so she tagged along with me to Kawasaki. Looks like the shopping spree lasted 6 hours for her solely in Lazona.


We went to Shi-an Gyoza, a Chinese Restaurant in Lazona after work. It was pretty tasty, although not quite as good as the one in Yurakucho. If you go to just one in Tokyo, make it here.

On the way out I saw these classic signs and couldn't resist taking these photos. A security guard looked puzzled about what I was doing. I'm a very dangerous man in Tokyo!!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

I'm Off

I noticed this on the train yesterday.

I didn't have my camera with me, so today on the way to Ginza I made sure to take a happy snap of it.

This is the new Asahi Beer campaign. Asahi beer makes you feel "Off"?

I don't know about Japanese people, but when I feel off, it's not a good thing. Personally I don't mind the Asahi brew. It makes me feel pretty good actually.

Nothing out of the ordinary today. Except maybe the two plain clothes police officers asking to check my ID while I was doing nothing more than walking around Yurakucho. You've got to watch out for those foreigners with cameras! Their trick question was asking in Japanese if I spoke Japanese. Strange.

Anyway to get over my "ordeal" I went to Kimuraya for some more anpan. It's been almost every week now. I think I'm addicted to that sweet, sweet bean.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Tama Plaza Anniversary

I'd forgotten all about it.

The Tama Plaza school was having it's one year anniversary party tonight. I'm reluctant to go to these things as I'm always worried it's going to turn into a extended free English lesson, but I have to say I really had a great time. Why?


Yes, alcohol! And plenty of it. One of the students even brought in a big esky full of the stuff. Nice.

Although it wasn't as decadent as one could hope for, I drank enough to be happy and sociable with everyone. I'm sure I impressed with my amazing chopstick skills while eating sushi, fish and chicken with them.

As the night drew to a close, I stumbled to the station deciding to catch the all stops to Shibuya, thinking I didn't want to miss my connection back to Yotsuya.

When I arrived through the door I practically fell onto the futon.

"Are you drunk?", "Are you sleepy?"

Those were the last words I heard as I quickly dozed off.

Friday, 20 February 2009

A New Hard Off

"You can take the man out of a Hard Off, but you can't take the Hard Off out of the man.."

..or something like that.

I had planned to get up earlier than usual to make my first trip to the Hard Off in Kawasaki.

I looked out the window as I sleepily got up and saw that it'd been raining, and still looked overcast. Still, I made half an effort to leave earlier, just in case.

I had a good hour and a bit before I had to start work, so I hot-stepped my way along the shortest way I could work out possible, with judicious use of Google Earth and street view help from the night before.

From the distance I gave myself a 30 minute time window before I'd have to turn around and get back to work. Luckily it was a little over twenty minutes on arrival. Along the way, I was not let down by strange shops names..

I think they must have a good breeze going through this shop.

This one says "Yokohama Lining". It's a motorbike shop, so I'm guessing it's a misheard/pronounced "riding" ?

I really like the layout of this "Off" store.

On entry I could see their Hobby Off section with a nice selection of Hentai dolls, and other hobby-type things. Although I was close to adding to my collection, with my short thinking time and good-sense I relented (for now).

Going up the escalator you will notice a distinctive Hard Off electronics section to the left, and a B-Style "Off House" area with homewares, sporting goods and clothing.

Even though I didn't see any Game & Watch LCDs (there are other old style retro consoles and games), there's quite a bit of stuff that was worth seeing.

This one is definitely in my top 5 of recycle shops so far.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

The Green Machine

I feel like I SHOULD go out on my day off.

I have nowhere in particular to go, so without much thought I went to Ochanomizu and Akihabara again.

I'm hoping to find a reasonable (ie. "cheap") secondhand E-bow that will tide me over before I fork out more yen for a sustainer mod on my Jem guitar, or worse another guitar something like this..

It's a Fernandes Ravelle Elite.

Instead of cutting out bits and pieces out of my new guitar, this one already has the sustainer built-in, and the cost's not much more than just getting the pickup added to my existing guitar. I gave it a try, much to the reluctance of the staff thinking I'm just there to "play and not pay".

It actually feels pretty good. On a distorted tone it sounded quite similar to a Les Paul - nice and chunky. The clean tones didn't blow me away, but were still quite useable. It's made in China, but looked solid enough. I quite like the trippy, but funky Les Paul stylistic changes.

If I wasn't so far from home, and I hadn't already JUST bought a guitar, I'd be tempted with this as well.

I hope I find a cheap e-Bow real soon :(

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Shinjuku Gakki

Just because I've acquired a new guitar, don't think that I've gotten over my guitar shop compulsion.

Oh no, not at all!

It's Sunday and I'm in Shinjuku.

One place that I hadn't gotten around to checking out is TC Gakki.

While not in the CBD of Shinjuku it's a relatively short walk through Kabukicho, past Seibu Shinjuku station, to Shin Okubo.

Google street view hasn't been 100% accurate lately in showing me the exact addresses on their map.

Although I get a kick out of the deja-vu of seeing things that I see on the internet, for the life of me I didn't know where the damn place was!

I went to the koban and asked the policeman for directions (that's what they do most of time directing lost people). While not exactly a smiling happy chappy, he helped me immensely to find it. If you're looking for it, coming out of the station turn left and then left again down a small street between the station and the Pachinko parlour.

I reckon it's worth seeing just for the amount of vintage guitars and amps they had there. Everything was quite pricey, but no regrets coming here at all. Maybe one. I didn't find what I was looking for.

I tried a secondhand Hamer guitar at the Rock Inn that had a sustainiac built-in. From my trial, this sustainer functions pretty much the same as the Fernandes one. Only thing I really don't like about these devices is that when the battery dies, so does the guitar. That's a big negative for me.

Lately I tried the eBow again and I had a little bit more luck getting the gist of it. On one string, it's pretty easy to use. Maybe that's going to be the easiest and cheapest way to get this effect.

It was starting to get a bit late so we had some okonomiyaki at Momoka conveniently close by.

We've eaten there before and I have to say it was delicious. I really like cooking the food myself. This time it didn't look like a dog's breakfast.

Can you see my name in mayonnaise? If you haven't tried/made this, you don't know what you're missing.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Ginza Fisheye

I'd been planning to take my SLR with the fisheye lens to Ginza for ages now.

In particular, I thought the Tokyo International Forum would make some awesome photos.

This one is definitely my favourite.

The only thing that spoils it, is my finger that you can see out of focus along the bottom on the picture.

Depending on where you're pointing the camera, it can be all too easy to see the cameraman in the photos.

Can you see me anywhere else?

Once I left the Forum I had to make my way back to start work.

From left to right it's the Fujiya building, middle is the Sony Building and then the Mosaic department store.

This just to show that yes, I was in Ginza. Here's the Ginza metro exit.

Time to start work!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Pencile And Sicers

Two things I like, a label maker and bad English on print.

Please excuse the "bendiness" of the pictures. I've got my fisheye lens at the moment on my SLR. I haven't used it for a while, so I thought I'd take it out for the day.

I Didn't take that many pictures though.

This here's Yotsuya station. I was hoping I'd get a bit more width of the station and the sign with this lens, but I guess it was just not meant to be.
Australia, the Movie! I haven't seen it, but it gives me the impression of an Aussie "Titanic" from this billboard... maybe.

On my guitar search, I went to five musical instrument stores in Tachikawa.

I'm surprised there are that many there. Most of them were small, but you never know in backwaters like these what interesting things you might find. Sadly, today there was nothing that caught my eye.

The search continues..

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Double Whammy

Today I ventured alone into not only Akihabara, but also Ochanomizu once more.

I'm still going through my seemingly never-ending guitar phase. I am itching to buy another guitar. I certainly don't NEED another one and being in Japan isn't going to make it so easy to cart it back to Australia.

I guess I have a real bad case of G.A.S.! (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)

The mirrored Ibanez Jem that I thought I'd lost out on, may still be possible. I made an offer to the American music store and he is considering it. I thought he wouldn't accept it, so I'm again debating whether I should get it or not.

Unusually for a Sunday I was awake by 830am, and I thought of checking out more guitar stores.

I "discovered" a new store in Akihabara called Revolve which is a part of the Ikebe Gakki.

I had a LOT of difficulty finding this place. Usually I check Google Earth street view to find an address, but when I checked, I couldn't see the store in the photo so I relied on their map for directions. It's not the clearest thing to understand.

Basically from the station, you have to go across the busy road with the river on your right-hand side. Oh, and DON'T go out the Electric Town exit (It's on the east side you need to go out).

I'm pretty happy I found it. They have a GREAT selection of guitars. Just about every guitar I wanted to try was there.

First I had a go of a secondhand Ibanez RG20051.

The reason being was the finish. I kinda like the swirl that they did on the JEMs, so I wanted to see how this looked and played.

It looked in good condition and played fairly well, but I didn't feel like I HAD to have it. It looked a little cheap, but it was 73,290 yen.

I wasn't convinced.

Next I tried a recently released John 5 Triple Telecaster Deluxe. This had a more impressive feeling of quality and I really liked the mirror scratchplate on this. It looks the business for sure.

The pickup selector felt like it had a loose connection and was cutting out a little. The bridge pickup was very nice though. A very useable chunky sound. For 94,290 yen this one felt pretty good. Only thing here (apart from the dodgy pickup switch), was the weight. This is one weighty guitar, like an old Les Paul heavy.

I was getting the feeling the staff didn't want me to try any more guitars so I left pretty soon after that one.

Before I went to Revole though, I went to Laox Music Vox.

I'd forgotten all about this place. It's not a bad store, but not as good as the others. They have a few different levels of gear so it's fairly big.

Here I tried a Jem 77v bk.

This is the guitar most similar to the guitar I've been considering from America. It has the same pickups, so I imagine it will have the same sound.

I don't know what it is, but I'm not excited about this. It doesn't sound bad, but I prefer the hotter output of the white VWH model. With those discounted ones at Rock Inn I am tempted, but the gold on white isn't my preferred colour scheme.

Once I finally left these music stores I made my way around the usual Akiba places, then on to Ochanomizu.

By now it was already getting dark and colder, reinforced by a really cold wind. I should have went home but I couldn't stop this urge to look at guitars!

The Jem I tried last week was gone. It wasn't priced too bad, but like I said here, it just wasn't seducing me. Some guitars have some real mojo (like my Strat and Les Paul), and others just don't.

In one of the used guitar stores I tried a Hohner headless guitar.

I've never seen one of these before. The body was like a squashed strat (not the Jack), with three single coils and black scratchplate. It didn't play too badly either. This is more of a clean tone guitar (like a Fender), but it was in great condition for only 32,000 yen. Tempted on this one, just for it's rarity. If anyone knows what this is, let me know!

Finally before leaving I REALLY wanted to try the Fernandes Sustainer on a guitar again. In the same shop I saw one that looked a little old, but played great. The sustainer was easy to use and got me wanting one of these bad!

It sure beats fumbling with an eBow. I found an excellent youtube video here explaining how it works.

Lucky for me in Japan, Ikebe Gakki sell some Jems already fitted with a (white) sustainer in the neck position, so I could kill two big birds with this one stone.

We'll see what happens eh?

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Once You Go Black

Just to kill some time I went to the Shibuya guitar shops again.

I tried a Yngwie Malmsteen candy apple red Fender Strat, and an Ibanez prestige guitar with an ebony fingerboard and vine inlays.

I just couldn't get used to the scalloped fingerboard. I know if I persevered I may have gotten used to it, but it felt like I was slicing my fingers with the strings trying to STILL touch the fingerboard. Pickups weren't hot enough for my taste, but it had some nice tones.

An Ibanez RG7 CTTL prestige looked a little beat up, but what drew me too it was the fingerboard and inlays. It's the first time I tried ebony and that board was smooth. After the YJM Strat this was nice to get around on. The finish was a sickly blue green, with a nice see-through maple top. The guitar was fairly cheap around 50,000 yen, but I'd only really want it for that ebony.

It was real nice.

We had Shakeys tonight, and again we felt bloated and queasy. But it's cheap!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

A New Coat Of Paint

As you can see I've done a little makeover for the site. I hope you all like it. It's been a while the same as it was, so a little feng shui can't hurt, right?

My posts lately have been dwelling over guitars, and why I should have another guitar, when I already have too many.

My time in Japan has been going through many phases, that I can only attribute to "Space Madness". Don't get me wrong. I've been having a blast most times with only myself to blame for holding myself back at times.

Anyway I feel it's time for a little, just a little self improvement.

I've put it out there before, but if anyone in Tokyo is looking to have a jam, maybe in Yoyogi Park PM me, and we'll maybe play some cool covers or something.

While my priority should be learning Japanese, I've decided to change tack and study my guitar better so I can be a rock god (once more) and have chicks worship at the altar of JIJ. I mean really, Japanese language is one hell of a hill to climb, for what? Speaking Japanese in the one country that uses it? No thanks.

Damn you Kanji. Really.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Jimmy In A Koma, It's Serious

Sometimes I really hate it when I see something I want to photograph and I don't have my SLR with me. I hate it even more when I lug it around and not take a single picture.

The Koma theatre in Shinjuku is closed, so before they bring in the bulldozers I thought it should be captured for posterity.

In case anyone doesn't know, this is in Tokyo's poor excuse for a red light district, Kabuki-cho.

You want red lights, go to Amsterdam. Anyway, I digress.

Yesterday I lurked around Shibuya, going into ALL the guitar stores. Highly recommended for eye candy were 246 guitars (used) and Ikebe Gakki. Oh, and don't forget the easiest to find, Ishibashi off Center Gai.

Weirdest part of yesterday was a girl falling over as the train stopped, then she slid out the door into a ball outside. I couldn't really help, but thankfully some women went to her aid.

So today continuing the madness I decided to check out all the guitar shops I could find in Shinjuku, with my main intention to see in the flesh, a very rare and coveted chrome-mirrored Joe Satriani Ibanez.

Check these out..

It's really difficult to show off the chrome on this machine in photos. In some of these pics it looks almost black.

There was what appeared to be an almost imperceptible light scratch under the bridge, but it was clear that this guitar was a museum piece and not played. Being in storage, the guitar's frets looked a bit dirty (the guitar shop said that it would be cleaned on sale. It was on consignment). There were some scratches on the bottom of the custom case too.

Do I want it? Hell yes!

How much? Asking price is 630,000 yen (currently in AU $11,030). Ouch. If I went ahead and bought this, I'm sure my parent's would disown me.

So, what else did I photograph today?

Along the way into Shinjuku I saw this next to Marusho in Yotsuya Sanchome. Yes, the perverted will see something in this. Linger over the photo for a while to see more. OH! This apparently is some kind of secondhand store.

If the predicted Great Kanto earthquake finally hits Tokyo, let's hope all the new buildings look something like this.

This is the Atrium building being built in Yotsuya Sanchome.

Before going home I thought I'd try (again) a Vai Ibanez at the Rock Inn to see if still liked it. (It's a heck of a lot cheaper at 'only' 189,000 yen on sale). Cranked up it sounds sweet. I could get some nice clean sounds too. Tempt.

Finally as I was about to go home I had to go to YaMaYa for some more mango juice.

I tell myself never to buy food while I'm hungry. As a consequence I ended up getting some corn chips and a Sara Lee Cheesecake.

I'd seen it there before, but after trying a few Japanese-style cheesecakes I wanted the "real" thing. At 1,180 yen, it's a bit expensive for what it is, but I totally forgot to get one when I was in Australia so this is kind of making amends for that.

Making amends can never be so sweet. It was oishii!!