Saturday, 30 January 2010

Akiba Maid Dolls

It's always good to wander around Shibuya after work.

First I went to the Ikebe side and checked my internet on the open wifi near to 246. Then I bought some Ritz crackers that are going to go well with my guacamole dip from the best 100 yen drugstore where 100 yen is REALLY 100 yen.

Making my way to the other side, I went to Ishibashi and my favourite otaku store where I bought my new Akihabara maid dolls. Candy and Cherry are back in Australia so I was getting lonely again.



At the moment I've named them Emi and Risa for no other reason than an Emi I know would make a super Akiba maid if only for her love of Tokyo Disneyland and Mickey Mouse, and Risa because it's cute how Japanese can't say "Lisa".

I saw a Kimba the White Lion money box, blue Totoro and a weird Japanese block figure there too, but I thought the dolls would do me fine for now.

Looks like there's ANOTHER new guitar store in Shibuya. Rock Inn have opened up a branch on the upper level (5th, I think) of the HMV building. I was thinking it would be a small one, but it was actually pretty big. Epiphone has released a cheaper copy of the Gibson Tak Matsumoto DC Custom.

For a Gibson, I think this is the first new design that I think has potential to open up a new look and market away from the Les Paul shape. I actually really don't like Eppy's and this one sadly was no different. The neck felt horrible for me to play and the pickups felt seriously weak even though I was playing through a JCM800. Pity.

Before heading back I wanted to check out Rock On. It's a small music recording equipment store, a little on the outer fringe of the central Shibuya thoroughfare. There may be a purchase from here in the not too distant future.

On the way back I perused through Tower Records, and then went to Bic Camera to have a look at some lenses and alcohol.

They were selling that Chocolate Beer so I bought two cans. I wanted to see if it was just a fluke I liked it. Nope, still good. I may have to get a 24 can for about 5,000 yen box, it's that good! Oh. At the cashier they had this Zima Orange drink for 108 yen (53% off), so I grabbed it. It tastes just like Fanta. You can see the chocolate beer in the background.

Mmm.. Chocolate beer and Akihabara maids. Is there anything better?

Thursday, 28 January 2010

iPad iDowner

I stayed up till 3am last night to watch the launch of the iPad.

First impressions were great. It's really slim and the size of the screen compares reasonably to a netbook size. But then the doubts set in..

Where's the webcam? Running Skype on this would have been fantastic.

Where's a USB port? Importing photos on the road for say.. a blog would have been cool. What about if you could connect a midi to usb keyboard or mic to compose on the run?

Installing Mac programs? Reason or Logic would've been cool to run. Photoshop would be nice for some simple photo editing.

Where's Flash? It's nice to be able to click a Youtube video directly from a webpage isn't it?

I really don't see what this machine can do that I can't really do already on my iPhone. I can fit that in my pocket at least.

For the "oldies", I think this could be great. Their eyes might not be as good as they used to be, so I'd say the size would benefit them. The simplicity of a "walled garden" would prevent them from "pushing the wrong button".

For me though, iPass.. There's a cheap netbook on sale at the moment that I can do all the above things. Apple reminds me of Japanese logic or lack there of.. I was hoping it would be something more, but I'm just left frustrated about what should have been included.

I guess Apple are saying, if you want those things buy one of our laptops. I think it will be quite successful regardless, but I REALLY wanted to like it a whole lot more.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

An Inconvenient Truth

It started last Friday.

Before work I decided to pop into Rock Inn in Shinjuku. Online I saw they had a Zoom H4n stereo recorder for the best price I could find.

I showed the sales guy the page on my iPhone and he spent ages on the phone discussing whether they were going to sell it to me. In the end he says "that is web price" and I had to order it online from their web shop.

I don't understand that if you have a physical storefront, and there is someone willing to throw cash in your face to refuse, but that's just how it works in this country. I wonder how anyone sells anything here.

I walked out disappointed and went to every other music shop in the vicinity trying to haggle the same discounted price from them. Nobody was willing to match the price, so I gave up and just made my way to work.

I let it go for a day or two. Then I thought, what if I could order it online and then pick it up on Monday? The gf sent them an email of my intentions, but as Monday came around there was no answer so I just went back to Rock Inn to ask again. They told me it had been sold to someone else (They DIDN'T hold it for me), but I could still buy a different box at the normal price. Ah, don't think so buddy..

On Tuesday I looked it up again to find that it was relisted online again. I was ANGRY. I got the gf to order it straight away. They should have sent it free postage, but instead I had to go out of my way today to go into Shinjuku to pick it up.

They had it ready for me to pick up. It was discounted because there was supposed to be damage to the box. The English translation online said "pain in the box", but it was in great condition. The recorder was brand new! I was relieved to finally get it.

You'd think this was just a one off inconvenience, but this is what I quite often have to experience. Instead of someone making an executive decision, everything just goes around in circles leading to frustration.

Bargaining is practically a waste of time, yet recently I was told by a Japanese woman that English lessons were expensive. She was strongly hinting, "Can you give me CHEAP, private lessons?". I gave her suggestions to help improve her English with media sources and books. If people don't give me the time of day for a better price, I don't want the uncomfortable situation of stating my price.


Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Sound Meister Me

I mentioned way back here of demoing these headphones in Yodobashi. The sticker price was 29,800 yen, so I put it on the backburner for a while until..

Yahoo Auctions!

On Sunday night I saw them. The price was quite a bit lower, but what really got me interested was the guy bought it on the 6th of January this year. That is close enough to new for me. I noticed it was bought from Yodobashi in Kichijoji, so I figured this person must live pretty close to me.

I sniped my auction in the last seconds, and even though Yahoo has the annoying habit of extending the auction another five minutes I was left victorious in the afterglow.

I asked if I could pick them up at his station (which was actually Kunitachi), he said he was scared of being stalked, which was pretty strange considering he added his actual address to the email. Ohhhh K. The postage he asked was more than I thought, but less than a train trip so not all bad.

On Monday I decided to go to my bank alone to attempt a bank transfer at the Mitsubishi UFJ ATMs. UFJ in their infinite wisdom decide not to allow bank transfers in English, which usually have me relying on one of the geriatric security guards to help me do the transfers.

Today was more worrying. The actual bank was closed, so there weren't any staff to help and the queue was quite long. I asked the person behind me for help but she only confirmed what I already knew and didn't help at all! I stared at the machine hoping I'd be able to "work it out", but I was terrified of putting my savings somewhere I didn't want them to go.

I motioned for some Japanese in the line for some assistance, but no one was willing to help. I spied a westerner waiting at the start of the line and gave my saddest "please help me" face. If he reads this I hope I can add a few more thousand thank yous to the ones I told him afterwards.

I was tired and stressed from all this. Soon I will take some photos of a transfer and do a "How to", not only for myself but anyone else in my situation. I don't see UFJ doing anything about it anytime soon.

I decided to buy a Kirin Stout to drink on the way home. I was thinking this would taste similar to Guiness, but I think the chocolate beer I had the day before tasted closer to it. "Enrich my precious time"? I think not. I don't think I'll get this again.

Monday was also an open day at the kindy with all the parents coming to watch me. One of my kids gave me an "I love you" card with origami figures inside. Aww.. How cute. Oh the irony.

Anyway, back to the headphones..

They arrived at almost exactly 11:11am today. I was half awake beforehand, hoping I wouldn't miss the knock on the door. Everything looks brand new and the sound is great, especially for classical or jazz where the subtle nuances come through nicely. As far as I'm aware these are only available in Japan. I thought they were closed back, but there is a fair amount of leakage, so using these on the trains may cause some problems. (Probably why the guy decided to sell them).

I saved a bundle so I'm still real happy about it. My spending spree has not quite abated yet. Check back soon. I have another surprise coming up ;)

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Chocolate Beer

Japanese have an inventive taste when it comes to food.

You see this most notably with pizza. Pizza, Japanese-style can have lots of corn, chocolate syrup and fruit! If you look at their version of Domino's here, I don't think you'd quite recognise them, and check out the price. Damn!

Cold as it is, I had to go to the supermarket to get some stuff. I said it before, and I'll say it again, I love YaMaYa. It's a great place to get international food without paying too much.

Wandering the (beer) aisle, I saw this Sapporo Royce "Chocolat Brewery" beer. I couldn't resist, I bought it and it actually tastes quite good! It's not a sweet chocolate taste. More like a bitter coffee chocolate mix. Actually almost like a Guiness, but not as thick. You can smell the chocolate when you open the can. Apparently it's supposed to be limited edition. I like it! It's a little pricey, but I'm VERY tempted to get me some more of this. Very drinkable.

I got a litre of some peach schnapps too for only 980 yen. That'll be a nice alcohol fix for now. I'm off chu-hi for the time being.

I'm getting the spending bug again. With the big Sakuraya sale, I finally bought a camera tripod. I picked up a Velbon CX 560 for 2,926 yen. It was 50% off. It didn't have a box, bag or instructions but that's a bargain. It's strong and it can double as a poor man's mic stand.

Some other things are on the horizon to buy. I might let you know as they come to fruition. No, not more guitars. At least we can hope not.

Today I fixed my sagging Switcheasy Rebel iPhone case. The bottom lip was quite loose and exposing the chrome bevel. From the interwebs I read a great fix. Basically you heat up the bottom. They suggest a hair dryer. I used the gas stove. It does melt easily, so DON'T do it for too long!

Then you put the iPhone cardboard insert into the case and wrap a rubber band top to bottom. Put it in the freezer for about ten minutes and it's done. It works! It looks much better now. I hope this helps others. A good turn..

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Sakura See Ya

To those that don't know, three of the biggest Electronic stores in Japan are Yodobashi Camera, Bic Camera (no, not just cameras) and Sakuraya.

Sadly or maybe not, Sakuraya will be closing their doors come February 28th. As a last hurrah they are giving us, the consumers, a 20% discount across the store. I never really went there to buy stuff or the other guys for that matter, because usually the prices were probably marked up 20% more than what I could get from other places.

The gf got a juicer, and we were both debating the Apple products. Just like back home, Apple's prices don't vary too much from store to store so a 20% discount was actually pretty good! I decided to get a green 16 gig Nano for the gf. The iPod Touch and Classics were sold out, but there were still shuffles and Nano to be had.

Yesterday Wendy's, next Sakuraya. What's next? How about closing a few of those damn combinis..

Saturday, 16 January 2010

A Shakeys Analogy

At the moment Shakey's Pizza has a great deal of all you can drink alcohol for 500 yen for one hour!

The catch?

You have to get an "all you can eat" pizza meal for two hours, and it's an additional 1,500 yen. What's bad about that? Just eating as much second-rate pizza as I can, and drinking as much beer and cocktails as possible is a recipe for disaster.

While working our way through those two interesting hours, I thought the situation was a great analogy for my life. The pizza is all the BS you have to put up with, and the alcohol is the good stuff, if you know what I mean. Obviously I tried to drink as much as I could in an hour, which by my ever decreasing memory, was about six drinks.

Not surprisingly she couldn't get past one and a half. The pizza tastes even worse when you're drunk. They kept putting stuff that looks and tastes kind of like "imitation" meat. Every day I'm coming home to "pizza", and it feels even worse when I'm drunk. Figure that out.

I feel like a genius!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Happy New Fear

You might notice a few changes around here..

I thought it was time for a major revamp of my site. I basically started from scratch. I kept the elements I liked, but I gave it a whole new look. I made a nice background of a Shinjuku photo I shot to give this blog a real Tokyo feel. I added a bit of transparency in the text areas. I'm not that great with website design, but I'm real pleased with how it turned out.

Do you like it? Let me know. If there are any broken links I'd like to go back and fix them too. All part of a good start to this year I hope.

Two years ago I wrote my New Year's resolution was to learn more Japanese and to really do something with my guitar playing.

While I don't think I totally disregard following through on this, I really have been taking only baby steps towards either of these. If it was guitar BUYING, then I could say I really excelled doing that, didn't I? *nervous laugh* I picked up a FREE guitar case yesterday for my acoustic. I hope that redeems me a little from my excessive spending.

This year I sense great change. I need to. I need to reassess where I am now, and where I want to be in the future.

Tonight there was a "situation" that made me question exactly what I'm talking about. There was a meaningless argument, I walked out by myself to get us a pizza. A random girl smiled and said hello. I got back to a locked door and tears. I don't need that. I'm not going to say sorry. No one ever said sorry to me. No regrets? I try, but it's hard kicking against the pricks.

Change starts today. Day one.

Thanks for reading. Happy New Year.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Home Is Where The Big Screen TV Is

I had a bit of a debate with my brother about where home is.

Is it where you live now? Is it where you grew up?

He said that where he lives now is home. I said, "Home is where the family is". So, in my case home is my parent's house. I always know that when I need refuge from this place there is someplace that will always be there for me.

Tokyo, nay Japan will NEVER be home to me. Why? Well one reason is people like this. (Thanks, Jude)

Who's that, you ask? He's the guy who rudely interrupted our usual drinking session by swinging his cane, yelling "Japan's Rules", probably trying to tell us off for drinking in public, which actually is quite legal in this country, while nearby there were (Japanese) smokers in a clearly marked "no smoking" area.


Although it hasn't been that long since I was back home, I am glad I was here. The weather was a big letdown. It was either raining or overcast most days. Definitely not beach weather.

It felt GREAT to drive. At every opportunity I wanted to drive my car. My dad put racing seats on his, MY convertible, so I feel more like a poser than I want to be. They look a bit big for my car, but I'm quickly getting used to it.

I tried to play all my guitars but with so many now, I "forgot" to play my Jem. Oh well. I even took apart my old Les Paul Standard for a much needed cleanup and inspecting the pickups I found some nice surprises. No wonder I love this baby! I plan to put two of my collection on eBay so we'll see how that goes to alleviate my guilt.

Catching up with friends was a little bit disappointing. I had an opportunity to go to Noosa to stay at a resort, but I wasn't keen for the 2 hour or so drive up there. I had lunch with Elly and we watched Avatar 3D which you should see even if only for the 3D rather than the story.

Later we checked out the APT (Asia Pacific Triennial) at the Southbank art galleries. I was really looking forward to seeing this exhibition. It's on only once every 3 years so it's worth seeing.

On Tuesday's one dollar rentals I rented out Terminator Salvation, Inglourious Basterds and for a laugh, All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane. It's not a great film but the scenes of Brissie made me feel nostalgic and homesick (while I WAS home).

New Year's Eve felt a little hollow. I was thinking of going out drinking but I was tired. As midnight came closer, I drove my car to an empty allotment overlooking the city. I sat in my car and watched the fireworks bursting over Southbank. It lasted only ten minutes. There were quite a few people in the same place watching them as well, but no-one said "Happy New Year" to me.

I had a V drink (Aussie genki drink) to keep me awake and did the rounds of the Brisbane city and Valley in my car to see what I might be missing. By the looks of things, not that much.

When I got back home I decided to get drunk with my bro's James Squire Golden Ales, and later played my guitar in semi-darkness. I can't remember all that I played, but I somehow have a slightly tipsy recording of a melancholy Miracle Of Love on my iPhone.

I only went to the Down Under once this time. I bought a $6 pint and settled in to the casual vibe of the place. I met a group of guys who kindly refilled my glass often enough that I didn't have to buy another drink. Nice. I love this place!

The days went by so fast that it felt like I had to leave in no time so much so that I almost missed my flight back! The gf constantly nagged me about when I was arriving back in Tokyo. My flight was leaving at 1250am Monday the 4th. In my mind I was thinking Monday night, but it was actually Sunday night, right?

I had plenty of time to pack. I didn't bring many clothes so my suitcase was again another 20kg of cheese, biscuits, coffee and sweets. Yummy, but heavy! On the plane I wanted to watch a few movies, but I could hardly keep my eyes open to get through them. Tired yes, but the beer helped that too.

I had to transit again through Hong Kong airport. They were still playing christmas carols! えー? Hopefully I'll get the chance this year to actually have a look around this city instead of just the airport.

Arriving back in Tokyo I didn't feel anything. The same fingerprinting and photo. I caught the train back with little trouble. Around me only Japanese faces.

Welcome back.