Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Year Of The Baka

So I've come to the end of another year in Japan. Sometimes I think I should just copy and paste what I wrote in previous years, but this year was a little different I guess.

The big mother quake certainly shook things up in a big way. Contrary to overdone media reports I was fine, but it was a perfect time to make a graceful exit.

But I stayed. Why?

Because I don't know when to quit even when sometimes I know I should. For example, I CAN'T stop buying music gear. While I haven't bought another guitar (yet). I did buy some very groovy 80s Roland boxes and a Korg. Even this blog. Maybe it's ran it's course and I'm just treading water waiting to drown.

Catalyst? Yeah there was. I moved out.

I hesitated, but it was the right thing to do, although I STILL question my decision even now. The apartment is great if a little noisy for damn right wing protesters not shutting the f*ck up!

While I've started this rant I may as keep going for a while. Not so long ago I was thoroughly searched by police. Through my jacket AND wallet. I WAS wearing a big jacket. Very suspicious when it's 6 degrees! I was riled. I was going to write a "Don't come to Japan" post, but I relented.

A few days later I lost my bank security token and memory key on the street. With the help of the koban and some kind person I got it back within 30 minutes. Just when I thought all was good, I went to do my washing in my inconvenient coin laundry. I put my clothes in and started the cycle. No sooner had it started, an old man in the confined space lit up a cigarette!

First I said "sumimasen" (excuse me), then "kusai"(stink) and finally "baka" (idiot). For each time he ignored me. I have to deal with smoke because of the so-called "polite" Japanese in public spaces. The straw is getting shorter.

So that's it. My year in a nutshell. 

I haven't connected my Internet and even though I've been extremely bored out of my mind, it's been a GOOD THING. Just don't expect a post so often, ok?

H N Y

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Car Girl Exhibition

While it's called the Tokyo Motor Show, it REALLY should be called the "Car Girl Exhibition".

The cars seems to play second fiddle to the girls strategically placed around said vehicle to make it oh so more desirable.

This year they have made a wise decision to hold it at Big Sight in Odaiba instead of far, far away at Makuhari like previous years.

Coming around every two years the anticipation builds up, but the outcome was not going to live up to my expectations. While the concept cars were interesting, there didn't seem to be anything really new.

Even watching Honda's Asimo robot didn't really excite. Apparently now they have made him able to run, but it felt like he was doing the same old poses. Still kind of cute I guess.

Today the place was packed and it was VERY easy to get lost. I hated how families brought their kids here to "play" in the cars. I didn't get to sit in many cars, mostly sitting on Harley-style Japanese motorbikes instead for a few photos.

There's Porsche here for the first time, but nothing new. The Lady Gaga styled car demo was laughable. Most of the car girls weren't that stunning either. Didn't stop all the perves coming along with their cameras though. Almost more fun watching the dweebs get their one day of gratification for the year.

Top prize goes to the Subaru girls. Like two years ago, whoever designs their outfits knows how to turn the heat up on a lukewarm motor show.

The show is on until the 11th (Sunday), so be there, or don't!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Aerosmith In Tokyo

Last year I was lucky enough to finish work on Mondays early enough to be able to go to quite a few live concerts.

Unfortunately most touring acts do their concerts on weekdays and start and finish early, and this year all my lessons finish late in the evenings.

It's been a while since Aerosmith came to Japan last (2002), and they're one of the classic rock bands I'd been wanting to check out. I thought it'd only be worthwhile if I could get an arena ticket for Tokyo Dome.

I was almost prepared to spend double the face value for a B area ticket, but luckily I found one that was cheaper than the selling price and still a reasonable D section one.

So how was it?

Although my seat wasn't the closest in the house, I was pleased where I was positioned, a little off centre on the right-hand side. I mirthed when I saw the advertising for the language school I work at high above in the stands.

The show was polished, and judging by the setlists online they don't change their presentation too often.

For a band being around this long I guess it's hard to please everyone. My favourite songs are the ones from Pump and Permanent Vacation. I liked the harmonies of "Love In An Elevator" and "Janie's Got A Gun".

I kinda wished they played "Rag Doll" and "Dude Looks Like A Lady" or "Pink".

The mix was sometimes lost, losing some of the punch in the choruses, but I guess that was probably due to the less than ideal acoustics of Tokyo Dome. Still I got into "Jaded", "Cryin'" and "Sweet Emotion". Like usual, I listened to a mixtape of Aerosmith to be psyched up for the concert.

I think there was a lull in the performance when they went on a prolonged blues trip, and sometimes the songs went longer overstaying their welcome. And drum solo? While the drummer is a fine player my eyes and ears glaze over when there's this 80's self indulgence.

The crowd revived itself when "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" was played. I get the feeling the band doesn't really like to play this one. Among their other songs it feels almost completely out of place.

Having said that, I had a fun time, and was happy enough to endure the crazy merchandise stand line to get myself a t-shirt.

Everyone should have an Aerosmith T.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Mt Mitake Take Two

We came here last year a little earlier in November.

Although there wasn't as many colourful leaves from what I vaguely remember last time, it was a pleasant walk through the wilderness. This time we caught the cable car both up and down to maximize our walking time.

In doing so we covered a much wider area over six hours. By the end my calf muscles would be aching for another day or two.

Well worth a day trip out this way if you like hiking.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Yoyogi Park Sunday

Usually if I go here, it's usually a Thursday. It was too late to go to the mountains, so the next best thing was Yoyogi Park.

It's been a while since I came here so I was surprised to see how many people were here. Especially so as it's getting colder and colder these days. We walked around the back end of the park to find a dog running fenced-off area.

We watched as the dogs were chasing each other, barking, and sniffing their asses. Dogs being dogs. One black dog was adamant to mount a girl dog which was quite fun to watch the owner prying him off.

Going out an alternative exit we made our way towards Shinjuku. Along the way we ran into an 88 yen shop. This place was quite cool. Not only did they have 88 yen stuffs, but also a lot of secondhand gear like um.. music gear.

I've been wanting for a while now to see Aerosmith live in concert, but getting a desirable Arena ticket was nigh on impossible without paying an exorbitant markup.

As luck would have it, I managed to score one at a bit of a discount as well!

To "celebrate" we had some sushi. Good way to end a Sunday, ne?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

St Mary's Cathedral and Seoul Market

She wanted to go hiking, to see the Autumn leaves around Mt Mitake, but.. as usual I was drinking the night before and I didn't get up early enough to make it worthwhile to do a pleasant hike among the browns and yellows.

So.. What to do eh?

At the Metabolism exhibition I was wondering which of these places would be cool, (and not too far away) to go check out.

One such place was St Mary's Cathedral in Waseda. It just so happens that it wasn't too far away from where we live, so getting there wasn't going to take too long.

The church was designed by Kenzo Tange. What makes this church particularly different is that the walls ARE the ceilings and the whole building is shaped like a cross. With the silvery shine of the roof, it looked a bit Guggenheim to me too.

Inside the place was very peaceful. It was calming and relaxing. I wanted to stay longer. Although there were signs not to take photos, I snuck one in. I hope God didn't see that one. I'll have to do a few Hail Marys I suppose.

I wanted to go to Shin-Okubo to get a few Korean things. Along the way we came across a Korean market selling good luck ornaments and yummy food. I got a cheap ¥120 cheese-filled cake. Yummy indeed.

Shin-okubo is SO busy on Sundays. We went to the main Korean supermarket. I was looking for sauces to do my own yakinuku, but somehow I ended up with Topokki spicy korean snacks, and drinking vinegar.

For some reason drinking vinegar seems to be the next big thing. With popularity with Korean girl's groups, their image on the bottle helps to sell the overpriced bottles.

I bought some. Not the ones with the girl's faces on it. The cheapest one ;) The pomegranite flavour tastes pretty good and it's supposed to be healthy too.

I saw another guitar I liked and tried it. Got to be strong.. Or a least sell one of my other ones.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Cheese Day

I've done Cheese Day twice before in the past.

This year was QUITE different. Last time I came on a Thursday, but this year, Thursday was invite only, of which I didn't have :(

As soon as I got there on Saturday, I noticed a line! While it didn't take THAT long to get in, it was a sign of things to come.

This year they decided to make it more orderly. In other words more "Japanese". I mentioned before how people were like animals getting the cheese when it came out in past years.

This time it was queue time, and I panicked at the length of the lines, that I used all my tickets in the first round that I went in. Initially I was disappointed that they used this system, but later it made sense.

I watched a talk I didn't understand in order to get more samples, and even snuck back out and in to get more tickets. I went back AGAIN, but this 3rd time I just asked. I played dumb gaijin so it wasn't too difficult.

In the end I bought some Dutch smoked cheese and American Pepperjack. It's been a while since I finished the Swiss cheese I bought in America, so this was a welcome return to that sweet cheese taste.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Number 5 Is Alive

If there was a Jeopardy game show question about a word that comes into your head when you think of Japan or Tokyo, I'm sure one of the top answers would be "robots".

And so it is, when the International Robot Exhibition rolls into town, you better have a good excuse not to go, right? I first saw a poster with a gorilla with it's robot equivalent, when we were in Yokohama for the Music Fair last week, and decided then and there that I had to go.

I was ably informed that it would run from today till Saturday only, so I had little choice but to go today. This year it's being held at Big Sight, a suitably futuristic venue if there ever was one.

It's open from 10-5 every day. I didn't leave my apartment till around 1ish so I had to rule out my usual Rainbow Bridge walk, instead catching my trains to link up with the nearby Rinkai line.

As soon as I walked in, I was surrounded by salarymen in suits. I was tragically underdressed, but revelled in my individualism.

I was quite disappointed at first to see the "robots" were merely mechanical arms performing menial tasks. In the most cases quite yawn inducing. There were few booth babes, but even if there were it would've felt truly perverted to ask any of the girls for a photo.

The first exhibit to catch my interest was an air driving demonstration. It used the wii concept without a controller like kinect. Myself, and all the other geek boys wanted to have a go, but I didn't bother to wait.

After all the industrial machinery I finally found what I had been looking for.. *real* robots!

They were cute, voice responsive, and in some cases freakingly life life. A few gave me the flashback from "Short Circuit". I can't watch that movie again. It'd totally destroy my childhood memory.

I took a long time to see everything. Even once they played the closing song ("Auld Lang Syne *natch*) a lot of people were still milling around the exhibits.

Before I went back I decided to look around Venus Fort. I vaugely remembered the Lego shop, and decided to get a ¥500 Buzz Lightyear keyring.

Yeah they had cool Darth Vader, Jack Sparrow, Spongebob, and Indiana Jones that I also wanted, but being a "robot day" Buzz seemed the right choice for this occasion.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Running With Scissors

It's been over two years since I got my hair cut, and recently there's been some pretty big changes in my life. So..

They say a change is as good as a holiday, but I want a f*ing holiday!

I did it myself. I tied my hair back and proceding to cut, hack away. It was much harder than I expected. My hair was so thick it was literally like slashing my way through a forest.

Maybe it was not the best time to cut it seeing as we're heading towards Winter here, but I really needed to do this. I needed to react against what is happening around me, and it's an act of regeneration.

I kinda needed a new me.

And I had way too much hair.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Yokohama Music Fair 2011

I had an almost all-nighter last night. Against my better judgement, I thought I'd do something different and go with some co-workers to small bars in Dogenzaka and Shinjuku.

Preceding a public holiday you'd expect them to be a little better patronised. Both places we went to were quite sparse in people, but made up for it in exorbitant beer prices. The loud Belgians in the Shinjuku bar convinced me NEVER to do this again. I got shortchanged on my beer too which didn't make me happy either.

We DID make a deviation beforehand at my favourite English bar in Shibuya, so not all bad. I got home around the 430am mark.

I woke up slightly later than my usual at 1030am to the sound of right wing extremists blaring their propaganda from their vans. I wanted to go to the biannual Yokohama Music Fair at Pacifico in Minato Mirai. I've been good and haven't bought any more guitars (for now). But not so good for other musical things.

By the time I could drag myself out of bed and make my way, we'd arrive there a little bit after 2pm. Because I was going to a music exhibition I thought I'd do the rockstar thing and wear my hair out which I rarely do. Always worth repeating a bit of the Halloween scares I did last week!

Like last time ESP had the most impressive guitar display with weird shapes and colours. Fender also had an interesting stand with some very nice flower-cloth covered telecasters inspired by the paisley Fenders, or Flower pattern JEMs. It's surprising I've never seen Ibanez at these events. I REALLY liked the black one, so I tried it out.

Yes, I like it!

I also tried the Moog guitar. I expected it to be a better version of my Sustainiac-equipped Steinberger, but it was overly complicated, and for the money I like what my guitar does more than this did. Good. A guitar I can cross off my "want" list.

While most of the gear I could easily have tried already in a music shop, it was nice to try them here without the added pressure to buy. I saw the new Boss RC-300 loop station. I didn't get to try it, because a Japanese guy was hogging it for a long time. Korg has a few interesting new virtual analog toys.

I haven't touched the guitars I already have for a while now, but this Fair has encouraged me to get off my ass (for a while at least). After we left Pacifico we walked in the dark into the adjacent Rinko Park.

It's funny that I've never been here before. By night it looked quite nice. My camera is with Panasonic to clean a bit of dust behind the glass in the EVF that was bothering me, before my warranty was up. They say that's going to take 3 weeks!

Sometime after I get it back I'll come back here during the day to take some photos. The Music Fair is on till Sunday. It's not just guitars, so anyone musically inclined should take the opportunity to check it out.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Back To The Future

Before I'd ever been to Tokyo, I had the idea that it'd look like the most futuristic city, like something out of a Sci-fi movie, or Astroboy. My first impression was a huge letdown.

What I saw were drab, ugly apartment blocks that lacked any creative imagination whatsoever. And looking out from the train window it looked like it was repeated over and over as far as the eye could see.

One of the most interesting architectural ideas to come out of Japan was called Metabolism.

It has the idea of a building being a living thing that could grow and adapt like organisms. The most well-known example of this in Tokyo is the Nakagin Capsule Tower and Shizuoka Newspaper building in Shinbashi.

Today I went to see Metabolism : The City of the Future exhibition at the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi.

It was really fascinating. There were examples of works that still exist today, as well as ideas that sadly never reached fruition. It's definitely the largest exhibition that I've seen since I've been here.

They showed lots of videos, as well as many scale models. What blew my mind was that these ideas were thought of in the 70's and yet, still today they would still be ahead of our time now.

If you go there I recommend to check out the Tokyo City View observation floor. As an additional charge to your ticket, you can see a great view of Tokyo. While there we had an overpriced "slime" nikuman, but it looked so cute, it had to be done. We just made sure to eat the face last. Unfortunately because of rain, the outdoor Sky Deck on the roof was closed.

The exhibition is on till the 15th of January so if you're in Tokyo, it's one not to miss. On Roppongi-dori there is one of the Nakagin capsules on display outside, so if you're passing through keep a look out for that.

Not many chances to see what the "future" looks like.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Adachi Fireworks

After another long day's work in Kita Senju, I noticed a whole lot more people around than usual, and many places were setting up shop outside selling a lot of festival food.

My original idea was to do my usual drinking in Shibuya. My friends had other plans, so before I'd jump on the subway, I thought I'd satisfy my curiosity by following the crowd towards the river.

Along the way I saw a poster with some fireworks and then it hit me. Hanabi!

This year the only fireworks I'd seen were the Meiji Jingu fireworks viewed from far away close to where I live. I totally forgot the date of the Yokohama fireworks and missed Sumidagawa as well. Like the other fireworks, the Adachi fireworks had been delayed out of respect for the tsunami victims.

I bought some strong plum chu-hi and inarizushi and asked her to join me. The place was packed full of people. We set up camp on the slope and I got stuck into my chu-his.

Of all the fireworks I have seen in Tokyo since I've been here. These were the best. No obstruction of buildings like Sumidagawa, and much, much closer than all of the others.

There were hearts and smiley faces. I was a like a kid again, a drunk kid! lol

The chuhi was so strong that by the time I got home I was tired and fell asleep almost instantly.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Softbank VS Wimax

It's quite funny how the docomo phone company used Darth Vader to star in their ad campaign.

In my mind the evil empire is Softbank.

My first beef was when I arrived in Japan they would NOT let me get just a SIM card for my unlocked phone. They vehemently insisted that I sign up with one of their "free" phones therefore locking me in for two years in which I'd have to pay for that free phone if I left. It added to injury that a co-worker managed to get a SIM only a few months later.

Secondly, when I foolishly decided to lower my Internet rate with Softbank, not only did it extend my imprisonment, but also auto-renewed my contract. Now in Australia once you finish your contract you can stay with the network as long as you like, or leave as you please.

Here, if I stayed with Softbank and decided to jump ship I would be subject to a 9,975 yen cancellation fee. Er, no thanks.

I asked what I could do. They said I could change my contract to 5,985 yen flat rate Internet contract (+ white plan, extra charges etc.) with no cancellation fee. Wow, pay even more. Thanks Softbank!

Finally I asked if I could go on their prepaid service. No.. Not with an iPhone! A phone that they provide, and locked only to them. What a fantastic company.

So, come July 10th, the last day of my Softbank contract I decided to cancel my phone. As soon as I left the shop my phone was completely dead. Thanks for cutting it off before the end of the day ********!

For virtually the first time since I got here I was phoneless, without contact with the outside world. Bit scary.

I was looking at my options, and what I had been thinking about doing is switching to a data only pocket wifi service. Most people in Japan rarely speak on their mobile phones, instead messaging by email so it's not as bad as it might sound.

I saw plenty of ads around, mostly with a blue Gachapin advertising the WIMAX service.

They talk of speeds up to 40Mbps, so I wondered if it was worth signing up with them. At this time of writing they had a free two week trial of their service, so it seemed a good time as any to see if I should switch.

They asked for a credit card in case I lost or damaged the wifi box. A few days later I noticed they deducted the 19,800 yen already. Thankfully before the end they did actually put it back. Maybe to test to see if the card was valid?

First thing I noticed is that the pocket wifi gets very hot. While it's not that big it is a nuisance carrying around an extra box and getting hot in this Summer swelter does not add to it's charm at all. Note that the running time is only 3.5 hours so best practice for me was to switch it off when I wasn't accessing my email, or have the power cable handy to recharge.

How was reception?

In most of the city areas I had no problem. At the beach in Zushi, the signal was extremely weak. Worse was underground. With a phone network you're able to get a signal at least at each subway stop. Totally dead here. Even on the first basement level of a pub in Shibuya I had nothing. Quite frustrating!

With a very unscientific test at home, I found that I was only getting about 3Mbps. In comparison my broadband is 20Mbps. For usual browsing with email and Safari it wasn't bad at all, but trying to download anything substantial would take quite a while longer.

So was it worth it? As much as I hate Softbank I sadly have to say no. For someone that's willing to put up with these shortcomings it may be ok, especially if you don't have any other kind of Internet access at home.

As of today I'm back with Softbank, BUT on their prepaid service.

I had a lot of hoops to jump through walking from Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya to get past lies and some not unexpected poor customer service. Yes, I AM using an iPhone (although for now my 3G), and it's working as I expected.

I'm paying even less than before. Almost half! So maybe I should thank them for that.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Wonderswan

I never played Crazy Climber before, but it seemed like it was one of those classic arcade games that even predated Donkey Kong.

The controls were said to be quite a challenge. I attempted to try it out on various sims, but the required double joystick made it even more hard to get the hang of it. I saw an LCD reproduction at Donki. It was about 880 yen. Not a huge amount but I figured maybe for a little more, I may as well get a Wonderswan.

A Wonder what??

In competition with Nintendo, Bandai released a handheld by the former Nintendo legend Gunpei Yokoi.

There were three versions released. The best one was the SwanCrystal, which is not only colour, but also has a sharper TFT LCD screen. On Sunday I looked through Akiba, and the cheapest one I found was a wine red one from "Friends", unboxed for 3,000 yen. It was in good condition so I grabbed it.

Before I bought this I saw a Wonderswan "set" in a secondhand store in Ayase. It had five or so games, and a Wonderswan Color. Most of the games were Japanese, but it DID have Crazy Climber. Today I went back and asked them if I could just get the game. On each box it had 300 yen. There was also a Space Invaders so I offered 300 yen for both. Quite easily he agreed, so my game collection was off to a good start.

Even more so, when back in Kitasenju in a game shop's junk pile was a 100 yen Gunpey cart, which is an interesting variation of a Tetris-like puzzle game.

Interestingly enough while in Funabashi, I found a huge warehouse shop FULL of everything I love about Japan, including retro games and consoles and UFO catcher stuffs. Even guitars! I asked the staff if they had any Wonderswan software, and after he asked another employee told me no. Untrusting as I am, I found that they actually DID have them. Not the first or last time I get a bum steer in this country.

For now I gave them a miss. Although not the worst place (like say Akiba), I had tips on other places I could buy these for cheap. It just so happened that I found them some more in Yokohama on route to the beach. I picked up a Beatmania and DJ Turntablist for Crunky money.

Bit of a crazy quest, but just another of those things that keep this place interesting.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Boss V-Wah

I won the bid for 6,000 yen. If I checked a bit closer, I'd have seen that he won the Yahoo Auction for the same thing for 1,000 yen cheaper. Oh the tangled web..

First impression was this was a little rough. Definitely not as pristine as the Harmonist. For the bucks I saved I shouldn't complain too much. After a pretty thorough play it did what it's supposed to do. To my ears this has a nice selection of wah sounds. The built-in distortion is useful although the switching is probably more confusing that it should be.

I found a cheap 400 yen-ish daisy chain at a Hard Off that allows me to power all the pedals from the Music Booster battery.

I'm really pleased with it. I don't notice any problems with having these all chained together - nice and quiet and powering it all nicely.

I did an experiment to see how long the battery would last running loops solely with the Boomerang connected. I'd thought the unit would be pretty power hungry. I only expected about two hours. To my surprise, it got pretty close to eight hours!

I'm really pleased with my setup so far. In terms of effects, I have what I need to keep me happy at least for a while.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

For The Love Of God Kids

I don't write much about work. For good reason, they asked me not to.

But this time I can't keep this one silent.

If you come to Japan you better love kids classes. I mean LOVE them. A kids class can have up to eight (unruly) kids in the room. In the little kids class that includes their parents, so you can imagine how crowded SIXTEEN people in a modest kids room can be.

On any given day there can be three or four of these classes. So days like these can be extremely tiring.

In my case Mondays were only the days where I was sure to have a reprieve from having any kids classes, and I was truly thankful that I had at least a break from them. But today I'm told they want me to take over kids classes on Mondays, which includes a large, crazy kids class on my only real day without them. I thought this might be coming as the quitting teacher informed me of his departure.

They say that a replacement won't live close enough, but even for me it's my furthest school, and takes a considerable amount of time to get there.

I REALLY DO NOT WANT THIS. I'm really hoping they find an alternative teacher, because an exhausted teacher is not a happy teacher.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Korea Town

I went to Shin Okubo.

It's located about a five minute walk north of Shinjuku. Just behind Kabuki-cho. OH, now you know where I'm talking about ;)

Usually the only time I go there is to check out the TC Gakki music store. Before that I went back to try out that Behringer Hellbabe wah again in Shinjuku. Nope, still a piece of junk! I also had a play of the POG2, which does similar octave things to my PS-6. For the money it cost (over 50,000 yen), I expected a LOT more.

This place is often referred to as a prominent Korean precinct of Tokyo. The place was bustling with people mostly eating at the amazing amount of Yakiniku (Korean BBQ) joints. Often you would hear me grunt, "MEAT!!"

This would actually not be such a bad place to live. It just so happens that this place that I thought was getting torn down is actually being restored! There is a strong geek part of me that wants to live here, if only for dubious bragging rights. Surprisingly we got inside easily, and up the escalator to the roof, but were thwarted by security-coded locked doors :(

Anyway, other surprises in this area was another Don Quijote store that I never knew existed. I was looking for certain spare parts, but unfortunately were not available here. I DID see some LCD reproductions of "Crazy Climber" by Pocket Toy, and a racing "Hang On" by El-Spirits at 880 yen. There was even a pretty crappy looking panarama screen rip-off that looked like a cheap toy.

These Sakubai scooters caught my interest. Kind of a cross between a bike and a scooter. The idea sounds great, but I don't know how well these would ride on Tokyo sidewalks.

There are a lot of cheap korean supermarkets here. My FAVOURITE noodles here are these Nongshim noodles. They are nice and spicy. The red of the package gives it away right? Ever so slightly cheaper here, so we stocked a bit on those. Bring on the MSG! And we got some special Korean pancakes packed with calories, and red pepper paste snacks that I'm addicted to, for good measure.

I could not come here and not go to TC Gakki, just looking of course. I tried a Fishman Rare Earth single coil acoustic pickup *face palm* I've been toying with the idea of putting all my gizmos through my effects acoustically so this would be necessary here (not back home where I have my semi though). It sounded nice and warm, but do I need it? Do I REALLY need it?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Harmonist

I got myself another present, and it's not even my birthday!

I won the Yahoo Auction on Friday. Paid for it on Monday. The guy sent it with Japan Post's Letterpack 500 (as in 500 yen) from Hokkaido, and it arrived today. All I can say is "wow". Now THAT is what I call fast, super fast.

Considering the distance, that would usually take at least two days back home. It makes me wonder why people send stuff here by Kuroneko Yamato and Sagawa, the "preferred" couriers for Yahoo Auction sellers. They use the same type of tracking as their EMS too. In this case it was accurate enough to let me know it'd arrive today.

My new toy is a Boss PS-6 Harmonist. It's quite a cool box of tricks. Part intelligent pitchshifter, part chorus, and part Whammy.

Why did I get this?

I sent my other multi-effects back home, and now I'm looking into battery-operated, or DC powered stomp boxes for possibly my busking project. I saw a nice shiny 20th anniversary Whammy, but was put off by the AC only requirement, and it's quite pricey for what it is.

I looked around for other alternatives, and this Boss looked like just what I was looking for.

The guy had it marked for free shipping, but after I won the auction admitted he made a mistake :( Still, it looks brand new, save for the slightest bit of dust, and I saved about 4,500 yen off a new one, so I'm pretty pleased. It's a LOT of fun to use.

With my sustainer-equipped Steinberger, I managed to coax some very trippy S-Bend (Whammy) tricks from outer space, and organ-like drones playing three part harmonies on single notes! It's very handy for my White Stripes "7 Nation Army" style bass lines, and Radiohead "Iron Lung" impersonation. The detune is convincing enough to make me not have to buy a Chorus pedal.

I think I'll have to get me some more guitar leads to connect this up to my looper and delay pedals, but I think it's going to take it to the next level!

Speaking of the Echo Park, I gave it a pretty good run through finally, listening to it through my laptop. I'm really digging the "old school" analog repeats, and self-oscillation. I think it sounds amazingly awesome to my bad ears. I wanted to sample some lines for some trip-hop style inspiration.

Only thing I'm not too pleased about is its attitude to batteries. I put a just bought (although a 100 yen shop 9V) battery inside, and I swear after only a couple of minutes it was already saying the battery was low and flashed red! I tried the same "low" battery in the Boss, and it was as happy as a pig in ****. It works fine on my Eneloop power supply though. To you Echo Park users, is this normal battery performance?

I kinda wished I didn't send my Wah home. That's on my next "to get" list. I tried a Behringer Hellbabe, that sounded and felt completely amateur, but a nice and cheap 2,100 yen. The Ibanez Weeping Demon was the second I tried, and it wasn't bad at all. I also liked that it turned on automatically from placing my foot on the pedal. REALLY nice idea. It was 5,980 yen.

I'm thinking of getting a Boss Pw-10 V-Wah. I tried one in Shinjuku and quite liked the variety of wahs, and the univibe. It could double as a dirt box, but I wasn't overly pleased with the overdrives. Anyone want to sell me one cheap?

I can't wait to put all this stuff together. It'll be like the keymaster and gatekeeper getting together for world domination, or something like that. Mmm.. harmonist. I definitely need more "harmony" in my life.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Eneloop Music Booster

With the "rainy season" supposedly in full swing, my hopes for a break in the weather today allowing me to go to the park and play me some guitar, were dashed.

I didn't want to stay in the apartment AND I did want to go to Ochanomizu/Akihabara, so at about 2.45pm I grabbed my umbrella and even decided to walk there. It's a bit of hike made longer by the rain but better than staying in on my day off.

Letting me go to Ochanomizu with the ever present temptation to buy more stuff I don't need is like giving drugs to kids. It just ain't right, is it?

Anyway, while I was there I was looking around for some neat pedals to go along with my newly acquired looper and delay. I've got on my mind a Whammy, and a Wah. The Whammy can't be DC or battery-powered for my busking project, so I looked at Boss for any alternatives.

I tried a secondhand PS-5 Super Shifter which could be useful for bass, harmonising and Whammy, but the newer PS-6 seems like a better unit so I'm on the lookout for one of them.

I have my Zakk Wylde Wah but I already brought it back to Australia *oops*, so I think I'll be on the lookout for a reasonably priced Boss PW-10, that can also double for a bit of a distortion pedal as well.

I saw a Crybaby that had "junk" written on it. I asked what was wrong with it, and the staff struggled with his English to explain what was wrong. Apparently the AC didn't work, the battery cover was broken, and the pedal didn't make sound! Ok, that was easy to pass on it.

One of the usual secondhand guitar shops was closed for renovation. I tried an acrylic telecaster that looked pretty cool, but weighed half an elephant. Sounded better than I expected, and the price was good. Shame on that weight.

My REAL reason to go out was to get a Sanyo Music Booster to give me portable power for my looper. The cheapest I could find it was in Akihabara. In other parts of the world it looks identical to their Pedal Juice. The only difference I could see was the carry case wasn't black.

The power cables are 2.1mm internally (like Boss pedals) so I also needed a DC 2.5mm plug adapter for my connection. I found online one for 60 yen, but the shop guy was a bit confused on the dimensions, so I got one in another shop for 100 yen, that was clear it was the right one. Better safe than sorry!

While I was in Akihabara I played a few cool retro LCD games - a beat-up Bandai Solar-powered Hikyo Amazon, and an immaculate Gakken Searchlight. I was *this* close to buying the latter. It was a little more than I wanted to pay for it, even with a 10% off today, but the deal breaker is that it had no mute for playing on the train, besides I can play this and many more great LCD Simulations here. Check it out!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Four Years In Japan

On this day the 31st of May 2007, I arrived in Tokyo.

I had high hopes for a major seachange in my life, and what better way than get out of your country?

I remember on arrival that it was pouring rain and the humidity was fairly high. Shinjuku was slightly familiar from a few years traveling through Japan before, but there was a nervous excitement of something new.

The apartment was very far away from Tokyo. I had to pay my rent money upfront. With nowhere else to stay I'd stay there for the first six months.

I met my first flatmate. He seemed indifferent to me. He didn't look like someone I'd call "friend". I learned later that he spoke unfavourably about me in his blog. He took a LONG time to remove my name once he found out I knew.

Other teachers that started at the same time as me are long gone from Japan. It doesn't really matter as I never really bonded with them either while they were here.

Have things changed?

Well I put up on that "wonderful" social network of my four year anniversary and the reaction from my "friends" in Japan. What reaction? Wow.

Have I changed?

I thought that I had, but the more I think about it, I don't think a person can really change their fundamental characteristics. I believe I'm still the same person that got off that plane four years ago. Japan puts you in that false sense of confidence because you are the novelty here, and just about anything you do makes you more "interesting", because you are a foreigner. My job gets me to feel confident because well.. that's my job to make conversation, and I get paid for it.

BUT.. put me back home and I think I'd be back where I started. That scares me a lot.

My recent outings at the park with my guitar remind of my favourite memories of relaxing at Roma St Parklands. So peaceful and calming. The true friends I have here have been more than great, but there's something.. missing. It's hard to put into words but this song sums up my feeling. The production and singer hides the message a bit, but it's a great song.

If I left tomorrow I'd feel incredibly disappointed. Yet, I wonder why I'm still here. After the earthquake, my family were urging me home. But I'm not ready.. yet.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Battery Hazard

This is strange.

Did you know that you can't send batteries in the post?

I intended to send the shaver that I bought my father by EMS from Japan to Australia. They ALWAYS ask at the post office if there are any batteries. I feigned ignorance and persuaded them to accept the package. Time was tight and I had to get to work. I didn't want to waste time.

I checked the tracking and my heart stopped when I saw "Return To Sender". I immediately thought I'd wasted all this money on a shaver that was un-sendable, or somehow unscrewing it to remove an non user-serviceable internal battery.

Strangely though, the problem they had was just the cleaning alcohol. I removed it and it was magically back on its way. Originally posted Tuesday the 10th (and resent on the 12th), arrived a whole week later on the 17th!

Now that I'm using my GH1 as my main camera, I decided to send my old Nikon back home. I thought if the shaver got through, I'd try not only the camera, but my iPhone 3G as well.

Again I checked the tracking and BAM! Return to Sender again..

I got the call on Saturday that it was in Shinjuku, so I diverted my drinking plans to make an emergency rendezvous with my package. Of course this time it HAD to be the battery.

Again strangely it was ONLY the iPhone that was red-marked as undeliverable. Looks like with their x-rays they could tell. With a crossing of his hands to say no, the post clerk told me "Smartphone". Once again removing the iPhone, the camera was allowed through. I was relieved that at least the camera could go. May 19th arrived May 25th - Not too bad but it would've got there quicker without this debacle.

I don't get it. Why can you fly on a plane up to your eyeballs with mobile phones, laptops, and bottles of intoxicating, yet flammable alcohol, yet with the post they make you jump through hoops trying to send them?

My guess is a curbing of overseas parallel imports, and international internet auctions. Sure, there was a case of exploding laptop batteries in a Sony laptop years ago that might have prompted this, but what doesn't have a battery these days?

Crazy. Seems like it's not just Japan though. In Australia lithium batteries can only be send by road with Australia Post.

What a headache.

Boomerang Looper

After I watched Heth and Jed in New York, and playing a lot of guitar in Yoyogi Park now that the weather had turned from freezing to heatwave, I've been inspired to push myself a little bit more to get out there.

I've given up on waiting for someone to jam with, instead figuring out a way just to do it all myself. Watching the guys on Staten Island gave me the idea of using a looper to add my own accompaniment on the fly. I thought of pre-recording some tracks onto my iPod, but I like the idea of a one man band doing it "on the spot".

So my search for a looper was on. I watched Heth explaining his setup on Youtube, and noticed he had a Boss RC-20XL loop station on his pedal board.

I looked it up and a LOT of other loopers.

It's advantage is it's battery powered, but I wanted more than a single overdubbed loop. Although, check out KC Tunstall and her E2 Headrush performance here and a Jackson 5 cover here. Great stuff.

The Boss RC-50 looked like just what I was after but it looked pretty big, and required to be plugged into a power supply. The reviews weren't that great, but there is a fantastic demo of it here that almost convinced me to get it.

Another option was to just buy a midi pedal board, and use the great (and free!) Mac program "Sooperlooper". It's quite easy to use and a lot of fun! The only negative here is that I'd be carting along a laptop where I play. Not the most ideal busking situation, but it was one I've been close to going for.

For something different I played around with Everyday Looper on the iPhone. This was a lot of fun too, but using it live with a guitar might be a little tricky trying to keep my hands free to play, rather than touching the screen. Highly recommended though!

Finally I wanted something small, but ticked all the boxes of what I was after. There are many favourable reviews of the Boomerang III phrase sampler.

I watched this video that shows just what this baby is capable of. You can have up to 4 loops with one of them being a master percussive loop that can continue behind all the other loops. That's what I had in mind so this should be perfect! Well, almost perfect. One "problem' is that it can't be powered by batteries.

Mike suggested a Duracell Powerpack but unfortunately here in Japan they can't be found. The closest I'm thinking of is an Eneloop Pedal Juice. Here they call it "Music Booster". It's a 9V Lithium-ion battery pack. According to the manual it says it can run off DC power, but I'm still waiting for Boomerang Music to get back to me about that. It might only give me 2 hours power but the Eneloops are much cheaper here in Japan that I could probably get two.

The Boomerang's made in the US and is probably considered a boutique pedal that it's hard to come by it here, but out of the blue like someone read my mind I saw one in a local music shop for sale and I jumped on it!

I made the trip out to Ikebukuro today to buy it. My first impression is that it looks bigger than it does in photos. For some reason I expected it to be about the same size as my Adrenalinn. In hindsight that would be totally impractical. This size leaves enough space to comfortably hit the footswitches.

They had trouble getting an input level, but it looks like the cord inputs are auto-sensing, so I suggest powering it down and on again, and it worked. It was mostly intuitive, but for all it can do I really needed a bit of owner manual help to know how the buttons functioned.

But you know I'm excited. Finally I might be able to realize those sounds in my head of my songs, and covers, that I don't need anyone else to help me do.

Busking may be my answer after all. Back to the boys for some more inspiration. Check this out too!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Three Year Visa.. Again!

I received my postcard to come back into the Immigration office on Friday the 13th (lucky for some I guess). I was surprised that it only took 11 days to get my notification. I thought that the best time to go would be on my day off.

I planned to go to the park as well later in the day, so I decided to take my acoustic guitar along for the trip. It was a pretty hot day. It probably wasn't such a good idea as I also decided to walk from Shinagawa like I usually do. Even though it isn't the heaviest instrument, it was more of a burden than anything. The chu-his I put in my pocket probably didn't help too much either.

I arrived at 1pm and was fortunate enough that I was at the front of the line at the Permission Counter A. Before waiting in line I made sure to get my revenue stamps from the AMPM convenience store on the ground level - 4,000 yen for the visa extension stamp, and for good luck I got a 6,000 yen multiple entry stamp.

The approval counter is located on the same second floor as where I put in my application, but is on the right hand side. I followed a yellow A line on the floor. Once I handed in my revenue stamps and passport, I waited patiently for my number to be called. I wasn't feeling lucky. My passport expires before a whole three years is up, so I was figuring I'd only get a one year approved.

After about 35 minutes I went to the counter... and I got another 3 years! (I can see my parents reaction now as "LOL Wut?!?")

Whether I stay that long is probably doubtful, but it made me happy that I HAVE this option if I want it. Another teacher got another one year, so I don't know what it was that made them give it to me. The multiple entry visa (which costs more)? or my happy, smiling face?

As if I needed a reason I wanted to drink, so with a little extra spring to my step I made my way to Yoyogi Park to celebrate my "win". The other guys couldn't make it, but I didn't care. I had a little victory and I wasn't going to waste it.

I got there about 230-3. There's always quite a few people around enjoying the park. I sat down under a bit of shade that looked out onto the pond. This reminds me of Roma St Parklands where I did much the same thing.

I waited a short while to take in the tranquility, then broke open my first chu-hi and took out my guitar to play some tunes.

Although no one came directly up to me, quite a few people came fairly close sitting nearby and listening to me play. Two girls even managed to fall asleep on the grass. I guess my playing has that effect on some girls. A Japanese guy said he liked it, and asked to take my photo. I said ok, but I didn't look at the camera while I played. This definitely didn't happen back home.

As it got much cooler and closer to six I made my way to Shibuya to continue drinking with a friend at a bar. I had an "interesting" confrontation with one of those bad gaijins you hear about, but once they were gone, things were back to normal.

Well normal enough for Tokyo.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Echo Park


Of course I didn't need it but G.A.S. is hitting me bad. I haven't bought a guitar for a while, but going into guitar shops is just asking for trouble.

I liked to have a cool delay pedal and the Line6 Echo Park was looking at me being the glass and said, "Buy me". It was only about 6,000 yen, so not such a great loss. I knew I'd be kicking myself if I passed it up. It wasn't brand new but good enough for the price.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

There Were Pandas?

In Japan the fourth of May is Greenery Day.

Apart from being a nice perk of a national holiday, it's also a day of free entry into Ueno Zoo! The last time I came, almost two years ago was also on a free day, but it fell on a Thursday so it wasn't this crowded.

By the time we got there, we found a line that seemed to have no end. It felt like we walked around the whole circumference of the park and gave up near the entry where we found a much shorter line. Apparently that line was to see the pandas. Sure, I'd like to see the pandas, but I'm not waiting all day in a queue to see Pandas for only a few minutes. Even more bizarre were people cueing up to take photos of their kids with panda statues!

The tiger and gorilla enclosures weren't the best suited for crowds of this size, so I joked to myself we would not see any animals at all today. There were bottlenecks in a lot of places, and kids rudely pushing in front of me quite often. Little s**ts.

I brought along my GH1 camera. Since I bought this one with the smaller zoom lens, I threw on my Nikon adapter and connected my 18-200mm. It's been a while since I used it, so my first photos were terrible. The Nikon lens has to be exposed and focused manually. Getting used to it again, my photos were turning out much better.

With this long zoom lens, it was pretty easy to get this close up to a giraffe.

Even better is getting some nice examples of Japanese English like this.

Who needs pandas? The real stars of the show have to be the penguins. I could look at these guys all day.

Even as we left the line for the pandas for as big as ever. I had great timing getting this picture of the "End of Panda line" guard losing his hat. I don't know how that happened!

Since we were in Ueno, I thought it'd be a good idea to check out Yamashiroya. Another teacher told me about it a while ago. Since Kiddyland is a little smaller these days, this looks like the best big toy store of the moment. After getting a bit burnt out wandering the zoo, we didn't stay there very long though.

The Uniqlo store was right next door and they had their T's on a 990 yen sale, so I got these two. Yes, that does say rubber band. I like a shirt with some kana on it too.

As we left Ueno we made our way close to Akihabara. My father wanted a Braun shaver, and I found a limited edition one considerably cheap than in Australia, so I decided to buy it to send it to him. Later I'd find it a bit of a headache, as you'll read in a later post.

We asked Yamashiroya if they could match a deal we saw at Toys R Us in Odaiba for Singamajigs, they said they don't match prices *big thumbs down*, so we decided to make our way back to Odaiba.

We passed through Ginza to get some anpan, then through Shinbashi where I noticed the Nakagin Capsule Tower.

To me this is a good example of a cool haikyo-style building. With the ever present threat of being demolished, I hope they choose to restore it. Tokyo needs more of these amazing structures.

By the time we got to the Rainbow Bridge it was getting late. We made our way across going along the walkway. I could never get sick of doing this. Our sole purpose was to get a pair of singamajigs that were about 3,000 yen for two.

How old am I. Crazy? Was there any doubt? I think they're cool no matter what. And yes that is a bubble blower you see between them. Oh.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Visa Renewal

I have this theory that when you wake up feeling depressed it's because you had a sad dream, or you realize you have to go to Immigration because your visa is almost expired.

My Visa is up for renewal by the end of this month. You can renew it up to two months before, but this year I was putting it off for as long as possible. I REALLY hate going there.

I don't think I explained what you have to do, so here you go -

There is a 200 yen bus that goes from Shinagawa Station to the Immigration Office, but like the other times, I walked there. It was a nice day and it's a pleasant walk.

Once inside there is an AMPM convenience store to get revenue stamps. 4,000 yen for your renewal, 3,000 yen for a single re-entry, and 6,000 yen for a multiple. NB: YOU DON'T NEED TO BUY THESE UNTIL YOU ACTUALLY COME BACK IN ABOUT TWO WEEKS AFTER APPROVAL.

You go up the escalator to the second floor and on the left side you'll see counters and a seating area. You go to Counter (B) to get your documents looked at (about 30 minute wait here), and there you'll be given a paper slip with a ticket number.

What you need is your passport, gaijin card, proof of employment and enrolment in National Health Insurance, and filled in application forms for visa renewal, and it's a good idea to do the form for re-entry to save you having to make an EXTRA unnecessary trip back to this place.

Once I got my number I waited about an hour to hand my forms in. YMMV depending on what time you get there, and how busy it is. Once forms are in, they'll get you to fill in a postcard with your address that will be sent when you come back in approximately two weeks to get those visa extension stamps pasted in your passport. I asked if 5 years was possible. After checking the guy said max was three years. Usually you get a approved a 1 or 3 year extension, but I heard a rumour that five years may be available in the future.

Walking back I could see that we weren't that far away from the Rainbow Bridge, so since it wasn't that late we decided to walk to Odaiba. Getting to the bridge took about 30 minutes. I'm sure people are sick of hearing me rave about going across the bridge on foot, but there are many great photo ops. This is my panorama "miniatures" version of the "island" you can see on the southside footpath looking across into Odaiba.


At the moment they are doing a trial of letting you take a bike along the bridge.

Unfortunately you can't ride it across, as they'll put a bike "skateboard" on your rear wheel. Still it's a great idea. Odaiba would be ideal to ride around.

This is a good place to take a date. We sat in a grassy area near the beach and had some onigiri (riceballs). I brought my 105 yen badminton set for a bit of exercise. They have quite a few mall shops to browse around too.

Being the big kid I am, we went to Toys R Us. We saw some really cute "Singamajig" talking plushies that we regretfully didn't end up buying. Who'd have thought in less than a few days we'd be making our way back here JUST to buy these?

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Watch Back Remover

On Saturday night after coming back from drinking I had a eureka moment to use scissors to open the back of my Trapezoid watch to change a battery.

I saw a video that showed the same idea that I had, so I thought then and there to give it a try. I managed to cause a few tiny scratches on it so I gave it up feeling defeated (and drunk tired).

I went into Akihabara today to buy a tool specifically for this purpose. It's three points fit into the notches giving it enough traction to screw open the back.

I found one place on the Internet that was a little over a thousand yen. We looked around if I could find it cheaper, but of that type it was the cheapest.

Along the way I bought a pink multi-card reader, and batteries for the watch. I didn't bring my camera for maid photos although it was the perfect sunny day for it.

Arriving back I wasted no time putting it all together. The back was screwed in VERY tight. There's no way I could have done it with scissors (or say, needle nose pliers). If you do this, get this tool. It will save you a LOT of heartache, and scratches. Trust me.

I like the old proverb, "If you get given a fish you eat for a day. If you learn to catch fish, you eat for your whole life".

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Yoyogi Park Hanami

With some good friends I was goin' to hanami like it's 1999!

The cherry blossoms were dropping their petals like snow.

There were quite a lot of people eating and drinking, and playing badminton!



The weather is finally warming up, so I'm looking forward to more park drinking. Let's drinking!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Chidorigafuchi Cherry Blossoms

We'd been coming here every year to see the cherry blossoms but this year it feels kind of sad that they decided not to set up the floodlights.

Another kick in the face was the remark from Tokyo's governor, Ishihara stating that we shouldn't celebrate cherry blossom parties in respect for the victims of the earthquake.

I think if anything the people here in Tokyo need this more than ever. The cherry blossoms give us a bit of solace, and being able to forget about the troubles (and aftershocks) is really necessary.

Cheers.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

New York 2011 Day 4

Last day and the final time we'd get to eat this..

..and see this. *sniff*

My main regret is I didn't buy any to take back to Japan. Today was the last day in NYC, so we didn't have much left to do. I wanted to buy some guitar accesories that are cheaper than Japan and Australia from Guitar Center in Union Square. She bought some red shoes.

From there we made our way to the Central Park area. I wanted to go to the Apple Store, check out FAO Schwartz, and walk around Central Park.

The iPad 2 was out but I didn't feel compelled to have one. Biggest feature seems to be the camera that should have been on there from day one.

At FAO Schwartz they had the piano from the movie "Big" on display.

Being the final day, the weather was just about as perfect as it was going to get. The sun was out and the chill was almost gone. Just my luck. We walked around Central Park.

I was secretly hoping to see my squirrel friend and here he is to say goodbye!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

New York 2011 Day 3

Even since the last Cheese Day, I've been on the lookout for the best cheese I tasted that day, Tete De Moine.

As just about any food imported into Japan costs a lot, this cheese will set you back about 7,000 yen! In Australia it's pretty expensive but here in America it's still expensive, but a more digestible US$40 for almost a kilogram.

Luckily the cheapest place I could find it was conveniently located only about two blocks from the hotel at Ideal Cheese. Sampleman was happy and there is a nice aroma of fresh cheese. The guys were kind enough to let me take some photos too.

It was fortunate that we bought it today. As a last minute check I found out they'd not be open on a Sunday. Taking cheese back into Japan seems like it's ok.

Before we got the cheese, I thought it'd be a good idea to stock up on things that I can't get so easily back in Japan. Namely good anti-perspirant deodorants! I had a wonderful, long time in Bed, Bath and Beyond merrily throwing things in my shopping basket. Colgate toothpaste, sunscreen, Mr Bubble bubble bath and two Arrid XX Cool Shower deodorants. I picked up a cheap Moka Pot and a stainless steel thermos as well for good measure. I didn't really account for the sales tax, but it was worth it.

After wasting too much time doing all this we walked into midtown Manhattan's Rockfeller Center area.

Moving right along we made our way towards SoHo and decided to have lunch at Katz Delicatessen, most famous for the classic Meg Ryan "orgasm" scene in "When Harry Met Sally".

We had to wait in a line outside and inside the place was totally packed as well. As you can see from the sign, we were sitting very close to where the scene was shot.

We had one of their famous pastrami sandwiches. I'm pretty sure it's what Meg had :) It was amazing.

Feeling well fed we walked nearby to the Bowery area. I wanted to see the legendary CBGB, or at least where it once was.

Now the place is John Varvatos, an expensive rock'n'roll boutique selling overpriced wares to wannabe rockstars. Sure, it's slightly better than being turned into a bank, but this place smells like Ed Hardy consumerism. The punks must not be too pleased.

It's nice that they left a lot of the graffiti memorabilia on the walls and vents.

For the money I shouldn't have, but I ended up buying a pair of limited edition green Connies from there. They cost a bit more than they'd cost in Japan, but here in America I could've bought something similar for a whole lot less. Still about the same as in Australia, so not all bad.

She bought an "All My Friends Are Dead" book at the New Museum on Bowery. Her birthday was the next day so I got her a Marimekko bag from Crate & Barrel in Soho.

Friday, 25 March 2011

New York 2011 Day 2

We packed so much into our first day the remaining days were quite lax in comparison.

The weather was much colder than last time, and definitely colder than Tokyo, constantly around the zero mark and even dropping below that. It didn't really make us want to do a whole lot.

After scoffing our morning Ess-A-Bagel, we decided to go downtown to the Ground Zero again. There's been a lot of progress and the site seems to really be taking shape. The towers are quite recognisable, as are the footprints of the former twin towers.
Inspired by the movie, "Working Girl", and the tightness of my wallet we caught the free Staten Island ferry to take a few photo ops of the Statue Of Liberty. I REALLY wanted to go up to the crown of Ms Liberty, but tickets to climb weren't available until May so the cheapest way to get a close enough view was to catch this ferry.
It was much better than I expected for the (zero) price. You don't have a lengthy security line, and the queue itself passed through very quick. It was going to just be an up and back trip. There doesn't seem to be too many people hanging around to look around Staten Island.
While waiting to catch the ferry back we heard the cool sounds of Heth and Jed. I liked how they fed their sound in a looper to provide a bit of a beat, and echoed sounds. Quite trippy.

Around Wall St I noticed a lot of fire escapes. I took a few pictures of them. Why? I don't know. It kind of reminded me of West Side Story.

Next stop was Little Italy. It's our first time here. It felt pretty much like a tourist trap, but we couldn't leave without having the delectable cannoli, and by night we had a pizza at Da Nico. Even with tax and service, it was much cheaper than pizza in Tokyo, and definitely closer to the real thing from Italy than Japan's version of what it should be.