Saturday, 31 October 2009

Spiderman's Halloween 09

One way to travel light is to go out with the clothes you're wearing. In my case, it was a Spiderman costume.

Before I left for work I was deliberating whether I had the balls to go out in public with nothing else. After I locked the door behind me, there was no going back. I literally didn't have the time to go and change into my normal clothes. There wasn't a "Plan B". It was Halloween. People would get it.

I had the mask covering my face so no one would recognise me. In the morning it didn't feel that strange. Most people just acted not a whole lot different than seeing a gaijin on the train. Surprised me quite a bit. I thought there'd be a bit more reaction.

Yotsuya Station. Looks like I wasn't the only one wearing a mask. Ha Ha. This is my "full body" protection for swine flu.

Here I am on the Yamanote Line. You can see "Harajuku" on the TV screen.

You'd think people would notice Spiderman a bit more than this.

I'm only including this picture for the look on that guy's face. Ha, Priceless.

Coming back into Shibuya after work, there was a noticeable difference. Everywhere I went I heard.. "SPI DAH MAAN" and people sneaking photos on their cell phones. In Shibuya I couldn't resist taking snaps of myself in front of the very busy Shibuya crossing. It was PACKED and I stood out, just a little bit.

Shibuya is easily the most popular, social nightspot in Tokyo, and the Hachiko statue is where everyone chooses to meet up with their friends on a Saturday night. I couldn't resist to go one better and have my Spidey photo taken with him up close. Many others took the opportunity to get a picture to. I posed for a few minutes before moving on.
I wanted to take a photo here at the JR Hachiko entrance before catching a train for the Ikebukuro party. An old man tried to "shoo" me away, but some nice costumed J girls said "Happy Halloween", and gave me a chocolate biscuit. Nice. Thanks!

The party wasn't bad, but I was the only native English teacher there. Not surprising when they ask us to PAY to attend. With some of the students my head hurt trying to figure out what they wanted to say. I just wanted to drink. The staff harassed me so much to come along, I decided to come. They did put me on the spot asking me in front of students which didn't make me happy. Yokohama was my first party choice, but here was a little closer to home for a drunk spider.

On the way home the cameras were out in force where I happily er, drunkenly posed for them. The worst thing someone said was "Spiderman.. OTAKU! (geek)". Meh.

As I was about to walk across the Yotsuya crossing, a Joker (Heath Ledger style) yelled out to me and I went to shake his hand. I don't remember what he said, but it doesn't matter. Even though Halloween doesn't mean that much to me, I was part of something special tonight.

If anyone has any Spiderman sighting photos of me somewhere on the web (yes, that was intentional), link me the picture. I'd love to see them.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

A Game & Watch With Spinach

I've gotten pretty tired dressing up as Spiderman for Halloween week at work.

For the last 2 days I was wearing it for every lesson. I asked the students if it made them feel uncomfortable, I could take off the mask. Being good sports, they let me do the lesson "in character".

I was the only one who had a full body costume so at first for a while I felt like the only one at a party dressed up, but I loosened up and got asked for photos with other students, even the other teacher's kids!

I was drinking alone Thursday night. I didn't mind. Instead of the usual place, I made my drinking spot just outside More's. In this area I could log onto the internet on my iPhone to accompany each slurp of my chu-hi. I had my Spidey shirt under my normal shirt to keep warm too. It's been getting quite cold recently.

Maybe Saturday I'll go to work on the trains in my costume. It'll be Halloween. What's the worst that could happen, right?

Today I almost stayed in, but I thought it was Ochanomizu/Akihabara time once more.

I left the apartment about 2.20pm. I should be banned from guitar shops. Every time I go I'm tempted for another purchase. I first tried the same Edwards Les Paul from ages ago. These guitars are growing on me. They're really well made, but just shy of the real Gibson sound. Much cheaper though. This was 48,000 yen.

Just to do another comparison I tried a very nice Gibson 50s Les Paul Standard Limited Edition that was blue with white pickup rings and binding at Guitar Planet. Not mint condition, but this one sounded real nice and toneful. Shame about the 158,000 yen sticker price. The ebony fingerboard felt great too. WANT.

The first picture is not the actual one I played. You can see the real one here. I don't like how some of these guitar stores take their pictures. They don't really do them justice being so dark, and the quality looks like a cell phone camera.

Finally I made my way into Akihabara. I took my camera to take some maid pics and other sights. A maid politely didn't want her picture taken. They usually don't. It's a public area and I'm not taking anything indecent, so I don't see why I shouldn't. They didn't come out so great though. Too dark and blurry. Damn.

I found a few Game & Watch games really cheap at Trader. I bought Popeye for 1,680 yen! It was mostly clean, a few LCD marks but as you can see, the LCDs are still strong. While there are some sims available that I've mentioned before, playing on the real thing feels so different. The shop assistant threw in the batteries too which was nice.

They had quite a few others but I have good enough copies on my Nintendo DS. It won't replace my DS, but it's cool to have an old school original. I like the ol' school.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Creating The Never Before! : Tokyo Motor Show 2009

I thought it might be a disappointment considering the announcement of the pulling out of all of the foreign car companies due to the recession, but in hindsight it's clear that a lot of people didn't come here to see the cars. Most of us came here for the perfect accessory for a nice car.. some very sweet looking Japanese girls!

Some of us were here to actually take photos of cars. Not me, maybe these other guys.. Joking, there was another girl on the other side.
I took many, many more photos, something like 300 or so. I could put them up but I guess I'm just going to save them for me and my hand. Just to show that it wasn't all perve, I did take a few pics of cars too.

In Japan they call the Nissan Z car, the "Fairlady Z". Somehow I don't see that being as popular back home with that moniker. Next to that is the hot hatch, the Golf GTi.

There were quite a few cool concepts there too.

Honda put on an impressive show, where they brought out their star robot, Asimo. I really digged their "Segway" people mover, the U3-X and a N600 lookalike (that kind of reminds me of the Fiat 500 too), the EV-N.

Creating the Never Before!

I really had a better time than I expected. We arrived at 1.30pm and left 5 hours later! After that she wanted to go to Ikea (yes, they do have them here as well), not far away in Minami Funabashi. I can't say I was too excited going to a homeware store, more like tired out. Every seat or bed I just wanted to crash into.

We were feeling quite hungry so we decided to go into Shinjuku for a little something different.

At the moment Burger King (aka. Hungry Jacks) is doing a Windows 7 Whopper burger to commemorate the release of Windows 7. In this burger there are 7 beef patties!

We thought, "Wouldn't it be funny to buy one of these?". In one word, NO. On the poster it says 777 yen, but that is only for the first 30 customers. I paid 1,450 yen!

Another look of horror crossed my face when I saw how big the damn thing was. They would close in the next 15 minutes. Cut in half, we managed to scoff it down in ten. I looked at it as if it was a yakiniku meal in a tower between two soggy buns.

I'm thinking that the only people that would buy this would be other foreign English teachers. My feelings were confirmed when I found out at least two others took the plunge as well about the same time.

If you're in Tokyo you'd better hurry up. It's only till Wed 28th. I guess it's a good introduction to my first Burger King burger in Japan. I won't forget it, or the aftertaste in a hurry.

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Gretsch And Gibson

It's been four weeks break from the kindergarten classes. I woke up at the usual 630am to get to Tama Center on time. Although a little "jet lagged" from the change in schedule, I was really psyched to go hit it up with the kids. I had "This Old Man" all prepared with actions and everything!

I arrived just before my official start time to be told some kids had the flu, so they decided to cancel class. They called HQ half hour earlier which even if they got someone on the phone, I would be well on my way there anyway. Next time they'll contact me directly if this happens again. It's a long way out there and this morning it was moving a particularly slow crawl at Shinjuku Station.

Anyway, enough about that, let's talk about.. guitars! Ne!!

Uh huh.. Just like you can't have too many Japanese girlfriends, I've realized the same thing with guitars.

Today I tried a very nice Gretsch G7594 White Falcon II. It was quite pricey at 199,500 yen, but damn it was beautiful. See for yourself. My head says NO, but my heart says yes :( I didn't buy it.

I played an interesting Gibson Les Paul Supreme at Shimamura Music. It looked pretty good.

From memory it was about 231,000 yen. Yep, that's getting up there too, but I didn't mind this one either, but it's easier to resist.

I played my Tele again tonight. It still sounds sweet. No regrets there.

While I managed to sell my clarinet and camera, the two guitars I put for sale on eBay didn't get bid on, so I'll have to look at relisting those sometime.

Gotta make room!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The Day Called Today

The Autumn leaves haven't come out just yet, but I found a very nice 6.5% Suntory Akinama special brew to take me away from the cheap, but nasty taste of 7% Daiei (think Home Brand) shochu mixes I've been drinking.

I was introduced to this fine beer at the last school party. I guess that some good things come out of going to unpaid teaching sessions that I actually pay for.

This one has a nice malty taste, and after one or two I feel pretty good! I'll really miss them at the end of season. In preparation, I looked around for other strong beers.

At the local supermarket I saw another Suntory brand that had "Clear Strong 8%" that caught my eye. I bought a 500ml can to try it out, and drank it while walking home with my cold cuts. You can't do THAT in Australia. *sigh*

This one tastes like fairly ordinary draft beer, nothing to write home about, but it's nicely went to my head. I'll probably go back to shochu after the seasonal beer run is over, but this would make a quick, emergency beer fix.

It always nice to have a good laugh from the bad English I see in this place. Lately there's been some great ones. Check these out..
This is Sh**ting paper? I had no idea!

This is a clothing shop in Chofu.

Japan's photobooks are a little different to Apple's. "It has been convinced that the day called today becomes memories at the life". Touching.

I always like going down the rabbit Labbit hole in Shibuya. My favourite "stuffs" shop. "Smorkin Labbits" were a huge hit kid's toy here.

I wanted to try the video with my Nikon D5000 so for something a little different, I popped on the fisheye lens for some trippy bendy video in Shibuya. Enjoy!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

How to Fix A Flat Tyre

When someone asks you to fix a flat tyre, I'd usually recommend to say NO. It's my day off and today I was asked to do it by the gf, and well I couldn't say that, could I?

I've made a mistake previously by taking the bike to a bike shop before. They take one look at gaijin and they see dollar signs in their eyes. No, this time I was going to do it completely myself.

The hardest part is getting the outer tyre on and off the rim of the bike. Once I did that it was pretty easy. I bought the equipment from the trusty Don Quijote store, a 3 pack of ring spanners (1,280 yen), the tube (498 yen), and outer tube (998 yen). Not all the stores have bike supplies. This was in Yokohama.

It was the back tyre so I had additional challenges with the brake assembly and chain, but I put all the pieces in a orderly manner so I wouldn't have left over screws.

If you plan to do this yourself I'd suggest checking out this video. The guy explains everything really well.

It took me about an hour (only because I took my time to make sure I did it "right").

A wise man, Confucius I believe, said "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime". So true. I've learnt to catch my fish! Luckily it didn't turn out like this other proverb, "Give a man enough rope and he will hang himself". Oh.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Radio Gaga

This post is mostly a mental note for me, 'cause I posted off my cashback for my D5000 today. It'll be 5,000 yen minus the 120 yen postal fee. Come to daddy..

Going to Nikko Sunday, I took both the GH1 and D5000. I drove the Nikon, and she did the Panasonic. Other than her shakey trigger finger, the best photos were great from both cameras.

From the short time I've had both cameras I can summarise that the Panasonic feels like a video camera that does photos on the side, and the Nikon is the camera which does video on the side. If I had to sell one, it'd be a difficult decision for sure.

On a plus note, I've got a first bid on my old camera, so that one's in the bag. I'm still waiting on bids for the other stuff but I've had a good number of views and quite a few people marking my stuff to watch. I'm crossin' my fingers for a good outcome.

Instead of listening to the usual tunes on my iPod, I've been connecting my radio remote and listening to a few Japanese radio stations. At the moment my favourite is InterFM (76.1 Mhz). They play a lot of western music and the DJs speak in both English and Japanese.

Next in line is J-Wave (81.3 Mhz). It's another western-influenced station but it's mostly spoken in Japanese. I've not been able to find any webstreams on either station to listen via the internet which is a shame.

Unfortunately the radio remote doesn't work with the iPhone which REALLY sucks, but there are free apps that allow me to listen to my radio stations back home in Brisbane which is fantastic!

First is F-Stream which I can manually add stations to my liking. I found most of the webstreaming links from here, although be aware that some of the links may be out of date.

Another great free app is from Nova. You can only listen to the dmg radio stations around Australia, but the added bonus of this app is the display of the song that's playing and the artist, which is very useful when I hear a song I like! Nice to hear that Australian English to remind me of home.

If I'm at home on my Mac you can also play these streams in iTunes or VLC which is pretty cool too. Now I won't feel like I've been on another planet (which of course I am).

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Let's Go To Nikko!

We didn't leave Yotsuya until 11am.

I know we should've gotten up earlier, but getting up is a real challenge these days so I think we should be commended for managing to even be awake at that time.

Today's plan was to make our way to Nikko, a world heritage site of temples and shrines. On the way there we paid the extra extortion reserve seat fare to use the limited express because our time was limited as it was, and would get us there a little faster.

Arriving at Tobu Nikko station we were a little disorientated where to get the 1,000 yen combined ticket, but once we found it we were on our way.

Getting close to the temple area is the Shinkyo Sacred Bridge.

We first went to the Rinnoji Temple which houses the impressive three Buddhas hall. It's a shame photography wasn't allowed inside. I guess they have to sell postcards somehow. We had to wait patiently for the guide to hurry up explaining, so we could move on to the next location.

Moving right along was the 5 storey pagoda, and the Carvings of the Three Monkeys on the Sacred Stable building. For some reason I really like pagodas, and this one looks really nice. The monkey carvings apparently tell a story. You can see the monkeys do the "Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil" thing.

Close by you can see the Yomei-mon Gate entrance to Toshugu Shrine.

From what I read the Sleeping Cat carving was quite ordinary to see, so we bypassed that, and the kept going to the Futarasan Shrine.

There were no forbidden photography signs inside, so I discreetly took a picture of this cute little model.

Our final destination was the Taiyuin Shrine, but unknown to us they closed at 430pm, and we arrived there at 431pm. I wasn't too impressed by that.

We were pretty tired anyway so we started making our way back to the station. Coming here reconfirmed my feelings that temples and shrines aren't all that for me. While as a tourist it may worth the trouble to get here, for me nothing has topped Miyajima as a must-see in Japan. There are quite a few hiking trails around here so that could be an interesting alternative.

Going back we caught the normal trains which was close to an almost unbearable 3 hour ride home. Getting back I realized it was cheap icecream day at the supermarket. I rushed there just before closing to get our weekly fix. I may be tired, but nothing gets in the way of my sweet tooth!

I didn't realize tomorrow is the Sports Day holiday. Had I known that, we'd probably go then, and earlier. Still, it gives us a nice day to relax and recover.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Splatter Caster

Only a day has passed, and I already got the urge to get another guitar!

I didn't go for that paisley Strat I reserved. No, this was a "Splattercaster", a 2003 limited edition mexican Strat that was priced pretty reasonably, and looked reminiscent of the swirled Ibanez Jems. It was in great condition.

I played the guitar before work, and it didn't sound too bad either. Being single coils, it did have a bit of noise heavily overdriven, but the tone was better than I expected. Still with residual guilt from buying the last one, I relented but there's a part of me saying I should've got it.

It looks better in person, than in pictures. I found a good demo on youtube that shows what it sounds like. Deep breaths.. in.. out.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Typhoon Of Obsession

The Japanese don't give their typhoons very interesting names. Today we were due for a big one called "Number 18".

I was kinda hoping it wouldn't come around until Friday so I could have two consecutive days off. No such luck. The trains were delayed for hours because of the strong winds. I thought the Yokohama Music Fair was this month when in actual fact it's not until next month. Lucky then, I had enough time to realize my mistake. I was also planning to meet up with a friend of a friend in Yokohama. I didn't get the call, so that was given a miss too.

Surprisingly after quite a bit of rain last night and this morning, the skies opened up into a picture of blue. Amazing! I'd put two Fender guitars on hold at Ishibashi, so I thought I'd go into Shinjuku to make my next unnecessary guitar purchase.

Just for a laugh I thought I'd wear my fluro yellow Oakleys. I got a few strange looks. Yes, stranger than the usual strange looks. At first I was a little self-conscious thinking I looked a little clown-like. But compared to the "competition", I guess I'm one hot clown. Har har.

One of the guitars is at the Ishibashi Umeda store in Osaka, a paisley pink Strat. Because I don't have the chance to try it, I tried the equivalent guitar with a different finish in Shinjuku. I wasn't that excited by it. It sounded a little weak and noisy, of course compared to the noiseless pickups of the Telecaster I reserved at this store.

The guitar I reserved was a special 1999 American Deluxe Telecaster. What sets this one apart is an extra Strat pickup in between the usual two with a 5-way position switch and a 2-way mini toggle giving seven total tonal possibilities.

What makes this guitar somewhat rare, is that this guitar was produced for two years only in 1998 and 1999. I played this guitar for at least an hour through a Marshall and a Fender amp. It sounded good and was in pretty good condition. Not mint, but still quite clean. I tried the current model Deluxe, but to my eyes I prefered the sounds of this one.

I bargained with the staff as hard as I could, which was the usual uncomfortable laugh, and to and fro-ing. What I had in my favour was that I just didn't, nay DON'T need ANOTHER guitar, so it was fairly easy to walk, which gave me a nice Poker hand.

In the end I managed a 5,000 yen saving for what they were asking for it, with an additional, almost 2,000 yen in redeemable future store purchases with their point card. Not bad, but damn I had a killer headache leaving that shop!

We had some coffee at Maccas, followed by some tasty sushi (No, not at Macdonalds though haha, as if!)
At the moment I'm selling some stuff on eBay (They had a one day "no insertion fee" day on Tuesday), including two of my older electrics, so I have a new place for this one. Didn't help my Italian guilt though. I didn't feel as happy as I should.

What cheered me up no end, was taking some pics of it, and bashing out some riffs on arrival back home. Check out this Youtube demo. (No, it's not me). This axe has some serious MOJO!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Nikon Rewind

I thought I got a great deal on the Nikon camera body until later I realized for an extra 2,560 yen, I could have got it in a kit with an 18-55mm lens. Sheete!

So.. naturally I wasted no time, and today I went back to Akihabara to exchange it after work. I used the Yamanote line to get there which was slower than changing trains, but I didn't feel like switching. I gave my seat to an elderly couple, which I've been doing lately to improve my karma.

Unusually for Japanese customer service doing the exchange was totally painless. How refreshing. I talked to the same guy who sold me the camera. I gave him the difference (3,000 yen with a extra 10 yen coin so I'd get 50 yen as part of the change instead of four tens). He gave me just 50 yen back, so I told him I should get more change back. He quickly gave me back a 500 yen which was actually 50 yen over what I was expecting to get back. Oops.

I was pretty pleased with doing the exchange.Although I don't need the extra lens, it was a no-brainer to have it anyway.

While I was in Akiba I may as well look around again, right? I did the rounds, the usual otaku haunts while checking out the maids calling out for the geeks to come to their cafes along the street.

I had a rich chocolate donut from Mr Donut cos I was feel quite hungry. Later, getting back to Yotsuya we had Shabu Shabu. It's a little pricey, but we haven't been back in a while. Yummo.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Ueno Zoo and a Spiderman Costume

Last night one of the gang wasn't at work so we didn't have our usual station beers outside the station.

I had pre-bought my drinks at the Daiei as usual so I was more than happy to do that. Instead I was vetoed to go to TGI Fridays for some dinner and a beer. There was some good conversation. I heard that one of the boys scored with the Japanese girl that approached us last time. Hard to see that happening. Ha Ha.. I got a nice smile from a girl leaving with her boyfriend. I guess anything is possible.

Lately I've been staying up incredibly late. Even past 5am and seeing the sun rise. What have I been doing? I found a way to play Windows games on my Mac, so I've become ever so slightly (ok, fix me up) addicted to them, avoiding some much anticipated sleep.

Today is Tokyo Citizen's Day, which meant that Ueno Zoo had free entry and it was my day off too. The problem was that I momentarily woke up at 12, then quite easily nodded off again till 2pm! The zoo was only open until 5.

I had the smallest breakfast of some toast and coffee. Even with minimal preparation I wasn't leaving Yotsuya station until 3.30pm. It's not a long ride to Ueno, but an hour and a half isn't much time to see everything.

Against the odds I got around to seeing everything I wanted to, taking many nice photos. Have a look..

I wish I had more time to take it easy going around. I think most people probably think that zoos are just for kids. There were a LOT of them around today, but I think this is a nice place to take a date or just some quality time alone.

Just outside the gate there were some street performers too.

In Ueno park there's this interesting looking Koban (police box) too.

Not too far away from Ueno is Akihabara. Being so close you know I couldn't resist making a visit. I saw online that the Nikon D5000 was getting even cheaper so I thought today might be the day to finally get it.

I went to one place that was more a warehouse than a shop. They told me I could only buy it online. When I checked later the price had "mysteriously" increased. Instead I got it from Wink Digital where I got my Nintendo DS. Having an actual storefront made me feel more comfortable as well as making sure I could that 5,000 yen cashback.

While I was there I picked up a 3,150 yen Spiderman costume and hentai (boob) mug for 420 yen at Mandarake. I love this shop. Brings out the real otaku in me. Later I checked that the costume retailed for about 10,000 yen so good buy there. It will come in handy for Halloween kids classes, and the debauched Halloween party.

We had talked about going as Akihabara maids, but I think giving up on my hopeful idea of being a stormtrooper, Spiderman is the next best thing. Having a mask allows one to be incognito and no doubt, hijinks is sure to ensue.