Sunday, 29 April 2012

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I didn't mention it on this blog, but from Thursday, the 9th of February to the 16th, I took the week off to fly back to Australia. It was two years since I had been back.

It was good because almost the whole family was there, and it gave me a chance to see how I might feel going back home for good. I didn't do much but relax. My car was out of service most of the time but it's funny how after so long you don't forget how to drive.

The most notable thing I did was cut my hair. When I gave myself that "trim" in Japan it was lopsided, so I couldn't really wear it out without some repair. So early morning April 15th, I got the clippers out to do this:

When I came back to Japan I decided that I was going to keep it short, for quite a while so I decided to look for some hair clippers.

I was at a school party one Saturday and I saw a pair of Phillips QC5530 hair clippers that were supposedly on sale at Bic Camera. I bought them only to find they were the normal price. I had points for Yodobashi, so the next day I took them to Bic in Shinjuku for a refund, to get them at the other store.

Close to a month later I clipped my hair to 15mm, but I was thinking I wanted to get the other model, so again I took it back.

The other model QC5550 had a special shaver attachment like one you'd usually use for your face, but it does a little bit more:

See where I'm going with this?

Uh oh :)

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Direct Sound EX-29 Extreme Isolation Headphones

My old Sennheiser CX-300 headphones were nearing the end of their 2 year warranty. They had a small, but not too discernible split near the top of the plug. It didn't affect the sound, but I thought since it was my last chance to have it repaired, and maybe give it an extended lease of life.

While it was getting repaired I had to use what I had in the downtime. I tried to tolerate a pair of the most horrible in-ear headphones I got on my Jetstar flight to Australia. With all treble and no bass, it only lasted one day.

I like over-ear headphones, probably more for the retro aesthetic look rather than any other reason. I LOVE the sound of my Kenwood KH-K1000 cans, but they easily leak audio making them unsuitable on the trains. And besides I sent them back to Australia!

While looking through Shibuya on the 3rd of March, I was again considering the Sennheiser HD25-1 II. They sound great and have easily replaceable parts. Close by I saw the Direct Sound EX-29 Extreme Isolation headphones.

I'd heard about these through seeing Paul Gilbert use them live and part of his first Signature Fireman guitar release a few years ago.

Also watching this video turned me onto their sound isolation features.

I switched between the Sennheisers and these to try to discern any noticeable differences especially with bass as the HD's had a spec down to 5 hz, but to my ears both sounded excellent, so with the price difference (and points I got from my last purchase) I decided to get these.

The clarity is very nice. They sound quite balanced. The bass is not hyped, so all kinds of music I listened  to were equally pleasant and the stereo separation was very clear. I let her hear it too, and she wanted mine! It was her birthday at the end of the month so I decided a week later to get her a pair as well.

All's well until April 21st when I was getting to work. I just took them off my head and the cup clip on my right side had snapped off the headband! Like all new things I baby them carefully so I was quite shocked.

From looking at some forums, it looks like this was a common problem. I was going to take them into the Shibuya store where I bought them, but I figured with my poor Japanese it'd be better, and quicker to go straight to the source.

I emailed Direct Sound's customer support and found them to be absolutely fantastic. They sent the replacement parts immediately so by the 28th, they were as good as new.

From looking at this video, it looks like they have made the headbands more durable, so I guess time will tell. But seeing how they responded quickly and professional, I'd still recommend these if you want a great pair of cans.

I get some strange looks when I walk around with these, but really, being a foreigner in Japan is par for the course for getting strange looks so.. meh. They get a little sweaty with prolonged use, and I'm sure in the Summer it will get much worse, but for now I'm quite happy with them.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Tokyo Character Street

Most people probably think that the centre of Tokyo would revolve around Tokyo Station, but unlike other cities, Tokyo doesn't really have a centre (closest would be Shinjuku, or if you're looking for younger lifeforms, maybe Shibuya).

Tokyo Station is usually devoid of much life save for the odd, (ha, like most of them aren't) salaryman.


I found it quite by accident. Underground, there is an interesting corrodor of shops called Tokyo Character Street. So, you want to get a little Hello Kitty, Rilakkuma, Totoro souvenir?

It's been open since July 2011, but I didn't know about it. I was after a wind-up Domokun toy for ages ever since the big Kiddyland closed down for renovation. So luckily I found one at the NHK shop here.

Don't know Domokun? :O Here's an appropriate video ;)

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

I Heart Hanami

On the 8th of April I did a hanami with a lot of people, a few other teachers that I didn't know so well, and others that I didn't know at all. This was the first time that I did it with a large group of people, so I wondered whether it was all that it'd be cracked up to be.

 Actually it wasn't.

 I felt apart from this group, so much that I enjoyed the cherry blossoms a whole lot more when it was just me and her. To make matters worse, she said it was the first time that we wouldn't experience hanami together. 

Fortunately we did get to do it today. Her fridge wasn't working so we decided to go down to the BIC Outlet store in Yurakucho to have a look, and on the way back pass by Chidorigafuchi, where we've been every other year.

The lights weren't on anymore but there were still lots of cherry blossoms to savour. It felt a little strange without having the obligatory chu-hi while viewing, but it felt like the good old times.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Lenny Kravitz in Tokyo

It's funny but I've never seen Lenny play live before. The last time he was in Japan for a proper tour was 14 years ago, so now seems like a good time not to have to wait any longer.

Like I've said before most acts play on weeknights and start early. Fortunately I had two opportunities to catch his show. My new day off, or even Saturday. Unlike the Aerosmith show I had to take a day off work for.

For some reason I thought he was playing Tokyo Dome. But actually it's in a much better venue, the Tokyo Dome City Hall (formerly JCB Hall). The sound was great, and I luckily scored a first balcony seat closest to the stage.

It was a great performance. He has a lot of popular songs which made it feel like a greatest hits show. You can hear a strong Beatles influence in many of his tunes. In my mind the weakest moments were his first CD's songs ("Let Love Rule" and "Mr Cab Driver"). Some of his newer songs were so too but only because I was not familiar with them, save for the "Come On Get It" opener, which follows the great formula for his well-known hits.

He was ably supported by his backing band. It was great to see a 3-piece brass section. It's not often you see the horns come out. "Always On The Run" sounded fab. The afro guitarist reminded me a little of a former me.

In the encore he did the rounds of the hall. I said "Hey Lenny", and he high fived. Hopefully some of that talent will rub off on me.