Wednesday, 22 June 2011


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


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!