Monday, 27 April 2009

A New Uniqlo

Who would have thought that after I discredited it as a clothes shop devoid of any style, that I'd find myself stocking up?

A new Uniqlo has recently just opened up a few days ago on the west side of Shinjuku station opposite the Bic Camera/Odakyu store, where once was a mobile phone shop.

On Sunday it was packed out with shoppers looking for opening sale bargains.

My only purchase was a red plain t-shirt that I plan to screen-print something interesting you might see in a later post if it's a success or not. For only 790 yen, it was small change.

I found a pink polo that I took a liking to. (Yes, pink)

Unfortunately they didn't have my size, so we went to the other Uniqlo to find out though they DID have my size, it wasn't the 990 yen sale price. And NO, they wouldn't match that price.

Today I found a loophole.

I bought the medium size exact same shirt from the sale store, and trundled across to the other store to exchange for the "right" size. I wish they would have saved me this exercise and just matched the Goddamn price!

Feeling pretty pleased, I got myself an orange with white stripes polo as well that I thought would look really good with jeans in a Weezer kind of way.

Another fun day going to shoppingu.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

You Lookin' At Me?

I used to think that diaries were meant to be read to learn something interesting from other people, and maybe even give advice to others.

In hindsight, I learn now that the only ones that can totally speak their mind are posthumously, where being dead, the writer won't care too much about what's been said.

I'm getting a little sick of the spies turning my own words against me on my own, private, yet public blog. In turn it's making me feel like a spy for them.

So.. I am going to try to keep my thoughts to myself, and build back up that wall I had to before, to keep myself from getting hurt.

It doesn't mean that I won't write anymore (maybe), just that if I do write anything, it'll be more about my inane and trivial meanderings, rather than anything that opens me up to criticism I don't want, or need.

Any comments? No.. ok then.

Our little group went out tonight to Mike's Tex Mex in Higashi Rinkan. This time there were a few more invitees that ensured a night I can safely say was enjoyed by all.

In keeping with what I said at the beginning of this post, here is what I want to share with everyone.
No, it's not water, but my shot of tequila that did a good job of helping me forget any of the negatives in my life. Muchos Gracias!

I had time to kill before going to the restaurant, so it was as good a time as any to visit one of my favourite recycle shops, the Treasure Factory.

You never know what you might find.

This was a "blast from the past".

We used to have one of these Rubik's snakes.

There were three of them here in vintage (ie. old and faded) condition, but for 1,500 yen I passed on them, although it would have been fun to play with them for say, five minutes to re-live a bit of nostalgia.

This was just bizarre.

It's some kind of Ronald McDonald torch, perfect for creepy seances to awaken the angry spirits of former customers .

I think it was 1,000 yen or so. There was no way I was going to buy it. As much as I like hoarding useless junk, this is even too useless for me.

It's hard to miss all these funny signs.

I think this one was meant to read, "logistics room".

Those Japanese crack me up.

It's a good "pick-me-up" when I need it the most.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Laughter Is The Best Medicine

This is just a time-out to show a few amusing pictures I took this week.

As usual I didn't have my SLR with me so the quality is so-so from my iPhone.

This is an office supplies shop not so far from the apartment here in Yotsuya.

I wish more places had "a" staff that spoke English. It would definitely give me less of a headache. Maybe I should learn me some Japanese.

I know...

Even printing a few photos out from the many photo booths in Bic or Yodobashi Camera can provide moments of mirth.

"Note a forgetting of prints to take".


This one is just disturbing.

This week we put station beers on hold to go to a cheap 300 yen izakaya for some beer and light food.

In the bathroom there was this figure above the toliet.

It is clearly a male torso, and the last thing I want to see while I'm doing my "business".

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Coffee Gone!

The Merlo coffee I brought from Australia has finished today.

Looks like it's back to the Ethiopian blend that's been waiting the last, almost four months to be used. I'm sure it won't be as good as what we've been having.

It will be some time before the cheese is gone though. Five kilos takes quite a bit of eating to get through. Surprisingly it's holding up pretty good. It still looks and tastes like cheese.

Long live provelone!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Boss GT-10 Review

It feels like Christmas when I get that knock on the door at 9:20am this morning to find the courier man smiling with a large bubble-wrapped package containing my anticipated new toy.

He wasn't smiling. I made that part up, but yes I like getting "presents" even if it happens to be bought by me.

Here we have the Boss GT-10, multi-effect processor.

I had mixed feeling about this one. My first try was through a Roland JC-120 (It's a VERY common test amp here in Japan). I was actually quite unimpressed at that time.

My second try was comparing it against the Line 6 M13 stompbox multi, that initially I preferred more.

This time the winner was the Boss. Presets are really not a good way to test out Boss effects. I stripped out some effects to hear the "real" sound, and I think the GT-10 feels more versatile. The M13 seems like you have to do more of a tap dance to change sounds not unlike having separate stomp boxes in front of you.

So anyway. I plugged it directly in through the front of my Mesa and just like in the shop it sounded quite nice. I thought I'd have to use the 4CM method to plug it up, but it sounds fine to me this way.

I think the valves actually warm up the sound a bit. If there's a weakness it's in the distorted tones. There is a "Boss" sound that is slightly metallic, and at it's worst sounds nasally, like a wah left on in a mid position, but having said that for my style of music the tones I found were more than useable.

I had considered previously to get a Digitech Whammy and a delay pedal that would have easily cost as much or more than this unit. This baby has that, and much more. An added bonus to all the great effects is a direct to PC USB interface, and a nice little looper for cool solo jams and testing out sound patches.

It has noise suppressors which make my amp virtually silent compared to my amp's internal overdrive. I didn't get to turn it up to give a full impression of it's sound. (Japanese apartments aren't really the best place to test out guitar amplifiers), but I'm happy with this.

For those interested, useful information can be found here and some excellent Youtube videos here.

It's a nice piece of kit, that's for sure.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Wired For More Sound

I have to stop doing this.. I got some more music gear.

This time it's a Boss GT-10 Multi Effect unit.

About two weeks ago the Rock Inn had a one day sale which had the above processor for 39,800 yen. I contemplated whether I really wanted, or needed it, and in the end I let it go.

The next day I decided that I did want it, and tried just two days later to see if they could still do that price. Being in Japan I was not surprised that they flatly rejected doing it.

Yesterday I saw an online ad from Musicland Key in Osaka doing the same one day price for today. Naturally I thought it'd be no problem to go to the SAME shop in Shinjuku and ask if they can do the same price.

No, of course not. I DID get a free pack of strings from them so I won't hate on them too much.

I received an email from the Ishibashi store that their "best" price (non discounted at all!) was 49,800 yen.

"Many apologies for inconvenience this may cause you. Please let us know if you any concern!"

No inconvenience at all, I'll just shop elsewhere! Great, quick response to my email though. Kudos to that.

I thought to go back to Rock Inn but I didn't really think they deserved a second chance. I bought a cheap taiwanese guitar cable for 300 yen at TC Gakki and on the way back I thought I'd go to Shimamura Music in the Pepe building in Kabukicho.

I spoke to Tomomi who REALLY bent over backwards to make the sale. At first she tried to bring it down to 43,900 yen with a guitar cable. It didn't sway me. Next she noticed it was in Osaka, so I said I had a friend there who could get it for me.

She asked for Musicland's number in Osaka to confirm they had them in stock and came back to me to say they would do that price.

To be sure, I asked her if I could try it out before going through with the sale. They have a Mesa Boogie Express combo similar to mine so it was the perfect opportunity to test it with a comparable amp. The store was a little noisy, but I think it sounded pretty good.

It's refreshing to find a store that actually CARES about selling their products. To the other companies, let it be a lesson to you. You just lost a genuine sale. I highly recommend Shimamura Music. Even if you check elsewhere come here last, they actually care to match a price.

They didn't have the actual unit in the store, so they're posting it to me to arrive on Tuesday morning. I hope I got my address written right! Stay tuned for the low-down on this new piece of sweetness.

G.A.S. be damned.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Signing With The Devil

I've sold my soul to the evil that is Softbank for another two years.

Previously having bought my iPhone outright, I was free to leave my contract at any time without penalty. If I leave within this time now, I have to pay a 9,975 yen cancellation fee. Am I nuts?


The bone they threw me was a monthly discount on the "unlimited" internet usage from 5,985 to 4,410 yen.

The promotion is called "iPhone for Everybody" where they give the 8 gig for "free", and the 16 gig for a little more. The catch is actually paying it off throughout the contract with the phone cost discounting (in the case of the former, to zero).

I was a little peeved they discounted the actual handsets, but hey, Softbank are evil like I said although, I have to say the girls on the English help line sound kind of cute.

I'm sure with the new, possibly 32 gig iPhone, Softbank will think of another way to screw their current customers.

Customer Service.. *sigh*

Speaking of.. Last night I bought a secondhand Artec Se-Adl analog delay for 4,480 yen to use with my tube amp from Ishibashi.

I tried it at home and felt a little disappointed. It was definitely sucking tone and making my amp sound weak, noticeably with the internal tube overdrive. Also with gain, the pedal added another layer of noise that at volume would be quite undesirable.

I was running it directly in front instead of the fx loop, so I'm sure this would've made a big difference, but I didn't have any other cables to test this. In contrast my Crybaby still rocks my world.

Anyway, I decided to return it for a refund, before they'd have the excuse that I had it for longer than 24 hours. As usual the process was like pulling teeth, but luckily playing the dumb gaijin, they relented and gave me my yen back.

I said it before, don't buy anything in Japan that you might ever consider asking to refund. It's a lesson I'm still yet to learn.

In other news, today's three and a half hour adult class went surprisingly (to me) really well.

Three cheers for me!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Hello Kitty's Town

Today was my first day of kindergarden lessons at Tama Center.

Tama Center is mostly known as being the home of Sanrio Puroland (or more succinctly the home of "Hello Kitty").

I arrived more than a half hour early so I took the opportunity for a little stroll around the area. I can't say that this place does much for me. Apart from this "attraction" I don't see there being that much else to do here. From the amount of people coming out of the station I was under the impression they were all going to work there in Hello Kitty Land.

Having said that though, I thought these sculptures were pretty cool.

I had to catch a bus from the station to the kindergarden. The thought running through my mind was that they were going to drive me nuts like they did to Arnie in Kindergarden Cop.

At first they were a little stunned to be in my presence. With a little improvisation, I got them mostly on my side. Save for the one kid I can only describe as a little too "clingy".

Anyway I survived my first day of TWO long kindergarden classes. Let them always be nice children to me please.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Cherry Blossoms Part II

Although after Kanamara Matsuri we were so tired, we made a big effort to have a mini hanami once again around the Yasukuni shrine near the Budokan.

We arrived earlier than last year, so I had the opportunity to take pictures during the day this time as well as at night.

We came prepared with bentos and peach shochu from Hanamasa. It wasn't the best bento I ever had.

Actually, it was quite ordinary, but it has to be done.

Drinking and eating under the sakura is quite nice.

I had a lot of looks from passers-by. You'd think they'd never seen a gaijin eating before. I think they secretly wanted to do the same thing too.

Of course there were lots of people taking photos of the cherry blossoms even with their mobile phone cameras.

There were quite a few people in hired blue boats admiring the sakura from the water. I'd love to have done it but neither of us had the energy to row, so we gave it a miss.

At night, the cherry blossoms look even more beautiful.

It seems that beautiful things are too good to last forever.

This is the weekend of the full bloom. By another week or so, the flowers will be gone for another year.

Maybe we value things more knowing they aren't meant to last.

Kawasaki Penis Festival

I wasn't going to miss it this year. No way!

On this special day, the first Sunday in April is the Kanamara Matsuri in Kawasaki Daishi.

It's better known (at least to foreigners) as the "Penis Festival". Everywhere you look, it's there in not so subtle detail.

Carved out of radishes.

It was eaten as candy. She looks like she's really enjoying this.

It was getting really crowded once they sent that big pink phallus on it's merry way down the street at midday. Strangely it seems guys were taking most of the photos today. Penis envy?

There were also a few wooden penises (penii?) around that almost no one could resist for that perfect photo op.

This truly was for all ages. Grannies were climbing on board. Even parents were putting their little kids on for a ride. Great to see those fricken surgical masks on too. The whole family!

I couldn't wait to get on that wooden phallus myself. We're going this way!

A couple of randoms posing for this one. It didn't take much persuasion either. Thanks guys!

There's not a whole lot of information about getting there and times. If you're thinking of going, the easiest way is catching the Keikyu line to Kawasaki, where you change trains to the Keikyu-Daishi Line and get off at the Kawasaki Daishi station (3rd stop). You'd want to get there by the midday procession down the street.

Would I go again next year? Not telling..