Thursday, 24 September 2015

Disney Sea

One of life's big decisions - Disneyland or Disney Sea?

 In the end Disney Sea won out. Ride-wise it's a no-brainer. I accidentally left my Mickey t-shirt here so my clothing for the day was easily decided. Coming along for the ride was my Mickey popcorn holder.

I won't repeat too much from what I said last time. You can read those details here.

One thing I wasn't counting on were the sh*tloads of high schoolers running riot. We didn't realise it was a holiday for them. This of course made the lines almost unbearably long and tiring. Even the line for the must-have curry popcorn took ages.

Highlights for today. The small girl holding her teddy bears, bawling her eyes out after riding the Tower of Terror (2nd row, seat 3 above), Aquatopia being closed (crap ride), and Toy Story Mania being as much fun as it was last time.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Tobu Zoo

As well as going to all the places I hold dear in my memory while I was here, I always wanted to do things that even while I was here I never got around to doing.

I don't know exactly what led me to this place but I remember I had stumbled across Tobu Zoo while looking online at Theme Park Reviews. Mind you this review dates back to 2004 which I hadn't noticed, and quite a few rides are no longer there anymore :(

Why would you go there? Two Words - Kawasemi and Regina. Oh and they also tacked on a zoo to this theme park!

Kawasemi was great. It's not the longest ride, but the drops, especially the first one is intense! Regina is a large wooden coaster. Not as smooth as Kawasemi, quite rickety but still worthwhile. We went on both twice. I know rebel, right?

The other rides are typical show/ basic theme park quality, but what is fantastic about this place is that it's nowhere near as crowded as f**kin' Disney! Imagine not waiting hours for one ride. *bliss*

Others have said not so nice things about the zoo part, but I thought it was a nice addition to the park and added some value to the price of admission. Highlights here were the white tigers and penguins. Must love penguins. Oh, and killer geese.

I'm hoping that the relative lack of people coming doesn't turn Tobu Zoo into Tokyo's version of  Nara Dreamland. I'm guessing they removed a few of their rides because they were getting into disrepair. It looks like their first ferris wheel (not operational) is already getting that trendy haikyo look urban explorers are going for.

Tobu Zoo is in Saitama. To get there catch the Tobu Skytree line to Tobu-Dobutsukoen station. While there is a bus, it's an easy 500m south-west walk virtually beeline. The entrance is on the northeast corner of the park. Just make sure you DON'T walk along the river path or you'll go too far in the wrong direction.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Odaiba and Sumo

I didn't plan my holiday very well. I didn't know what I wanted to do so I more or less decided to just "go with the flow". One consequence of this was finding out sumo tickets and the Studio Ghibli museum that I later thought to go were sold out.

 We kept a look out at the ticket shops and found a pair of inflated price tickets. They were cheaper than most tickets we saw but later found out they were seats in the last row of the sumo arena.

We decided to go to Ryogoku via the water bus from Odaiba. Catching the train to Tamachi, we walked across the rainbow bridge to Odaiba. The waterbus was popular so we had to book a later time about an hour later which gave us a bit more time to look around here and less time to watch sumo :(

 There happened to be a Mexican festival with music, stalls and wrestling. We had a nice syrup slurpy to cool us down from all the walking. We walked to the big Gundam for the obligatory photo and had a look around Venus Fort. Unfortunately we got separated here and almost missed the departure of our water bus!

It was my first time to take the water bus on Tokyo Bay. There are two kinds of water bus. One where  it looks like some kind of spacecraft (where you cannot go outside), and the other allows you to walk around the roof. Thankfully we had the latter type which allowed me to take photos from the really unique perspective of the bay. Highly recommended. More information about the water bus can be found here.

Although arriving at the arena later than we hoped, we still managed to see plenty of wrestling matches. Even though I've seen it before I didn't get bored. It's one of those things that you only really see in Japan so always worthwhile. Even though we were in the last row, the view was still good. This time I bought my camera with battery along with my super zoom lens so pictures turned out great.

After sumo we went to Yoyogi because I wanted to have yakiniku at least once this trip. We opted for the cheapest place, Gut's Soul. You know it's cheap when the whole place is filled with high school students :P

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Zushi the sequel

Today I went back to Zushi. Look how good that weather is!

The weather had been a bit iffy so I was thinking I wouldn't get a chance to return. For me Zushi is one of my zen places where I remember some of my happiest and not so happy times in Japan. It also reminds me of my favourite beaches I love in Australia like Burleigh Heads and Cape Hillsborough.

Like last time there were mostly windsurfers. Strangely enough some foreigners were having a beach BBQ playing loud music and drinking alcohol. I read they had banned all of the above which made me think that Zushi was going to lose everything that was fun about it. Seeing this put a smile on my face.

This was around the same time of year that I got massively stung by jellyfish, so I was more than wary of the same thing happening again. I had my cans of chu-hi but I wasn't going to run in head first again.

I did get a few stings from what we call sea lice in Australia. It made me feel uncomfortable for the rest of the week, but I'm glad I had a second chance to come here.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Mitsuo Outlet Costco

I went to Costco in Japan WAY back in 2009 when I went camping with some other teachers. At the time I thought it was cool to buy some foreign food that was hard to buy in the regular supermarkets but I never thought to get a membership.

I think that one was near Sagamino. I didn't really know where we were because I didn't drive. Recently I found out there was one only about a kilometre away from where I lived in Tomioka, Kanagawa! I really regret not exploring more when I lived there.

So today armed with my Australian Costco membership I thought it'd be a good opportunity to see how different it is to the local version.

Although there is a closer Costco in Kawasaki, we opted to go to the Kanazawa Seaside (closest to Tomioka). We also wanted to check out the marina and Mitsuo outlet stores not too far from Costco. To get there we caught the Keikyu Seaside line (change to it at Shin-Sugita), and got out at Torihama. Note that this is where to get out only for the Mitsuo Outlet/marina!

The place is quite nice. I took a few photos here. We looked at some interesting shops. She liked a watch in the Seiko store, and I bought a cool Graniph t-shirt to replace the similar one I gave to my brother. There was a Lego store but the prices were normal. I couldn't find a R2D2 keyring. I had bought a new one but darned if I can find it.

She had in mind to catch the train to get closer to Costco, but I didn't think it was that far away. Being a hot sweltering day it definitely felt longer to get there. My bad.

Costco in Japan is quite similar to back home but definitely more "Japanified". Here you can buy a sushi tray which sadly they don't do in Australia. The bagels have a few extra flavours too. They had samples out like in Australia but whereas there isn't any formal etiquette to getting said sample, here people LINED UP to receive their sample. I actually got told off for not following local custom. I am a BAD, BAD gaijin ne.

We bought what we could practically carry to the station. We first walked the wrong way back but soon got back on track. The closest train station is Sachiura station.

If I was still living there I think I would've got a membership. Access to western food in Japan, while available, is fairly limited. For 4,000 yen (+tax) I think it's definitely worth it, probably more so than here in Australia.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Ochanomizu VS Akiba

I was feeling terribly hungover from last night. I don't drink in Australia like I used to drink here.

I was planning to do Tea Water and Akky on my posting day, but I was too damn tired after sending that stuff off. I really miss not having my bicycle. It took a long time to walk there (and back), but I need the exercise I suppose.

I stopped by Yasukuni shrine taking pictures along the way. I am taking more pictures in this holiday than I usually would if I was living here. When time is short, you don't want to take these moments for granted. 

Ochanomizu is much the same. Ishibashi has reshuffled their stock between stores but that's about it. I tried out an Edwards E-SE-108R relic'd SRV copy. It actually sounded pretty good. I know of a used one, so I have to be careful.

I also asked to try a Tokai AST-115. This is a copy of Fender's paisley strats. I prefer the Fender version personally. I was shocked that the sales guy would only let me try it if I was going to buy it. I told him I would need to try it to know. Maybe it was better that I didn't try it out. Do I need to be tempted?

I had a nikuman and used the Family Mart wifi and then made my way down to Akky.

I underestimated the time I needed to look around. I passed through a few of my favourite stores. In Mandarake I saw a copy of Ghosts n Goblins and Judgement Silversword for my Wonderswan, but both were much more than I'd want to pay for either.

The Hardoff store had the same stuff I swear was still there from almost two years ago. The Mac Collection Creators Land has some nice toys, a Volca Sample, Babyface. There was a very cool, Korg Polysix for about 60,000ish yen.

I didn't get to go everywhere I wanted. Shops were closing and it was getting dark. I took lots of photos. I don't think I ever took many photos of Akiba at night. With my long lens it wasn't too hard to do sneaky maid on the street pics.

By this time I really wished I had my bike. My feet were getting sore from seven hours of walking. I could've caught the train back but like I used to say, that's Crunky money!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Hub, We meet again

Despite coming back to take a lot of junk back, I'm really looking forward to catching up with past teachers that thankfully are still here in Japan. An old Japanese staff member is also coming so it should be a good time for nostalgia.

The rendezvous was Shibuya at 2pm. It was raining so not the best weather. I brought along a brolly. Surprisingly I was the first to arrive so I looked around the nearby UFO catcher place while I waited. No prizes worth winning (apart from maybe a motorised walking Ted bear), and they've made the setup harder to win these days.

I brought along two kombini chuhis, but we ending up going to the usual sushi first. Avocado maki here still tastes the business.

Because of the increased tax rate to 8% and an impending rise to 10%, a lot of shops including this one is only showing the pre-tax price. I REALLY hated this system when I was in New York. What is really bothering me is the price showing looks like the usual pre-tax price (5%). If they add the 8% to this, it makes it actually 13%!

I guess this will have to be added to the "things I hate about Japan" list :(

Next stop is the Hub. That bastion of gaijin drinking, or as I like to call it, the English school where Japanese practise English for free from drunk, unsuspecting teachers!

Unfortunately my favourite Hub, with the magic meeting table, in Center Gai has moved up to Dogenzaka. I loved that table because that table was very conducive to starting conversation with cute J girls.

I bought three Long Island Ice Teas (like old times) for 700 yen during happy hour to keep me happy. Somehow I did end up talking to one J girl, but she wasn't anything special looks-wise. Still better than one of my friends. For some reason he has a real knack for getting J guys talking to him. Just like old times!

The Hub has free wifi now, which is nice. I checked when my last train was. By that late time all the other guys had left and I was struggling to fix the last sips of my Long Is. I don't remember getting home but I somehow made it back ok.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Lightsabers and Pedalboards

Lucky for me the neighbour was throwing out a HEAP of cardboard boxes.

I had a look at bags of stuff I left behind when I left. Some things are just going to have to be sent by post. I think again I will leave the big pack for the last minute and still leave something important here.

I have a Master Replicas Anakin Skywalker that definitely won't fit in my luggage and by the size guessing it looks longer than 1.5m to go by cheap shipping, so EMS it is. I tried to sell it by Craigslist before I left, but no takers. I'm guessing with the renewed Star Wars interest it will be worth more.

The other thing is a Behringer midi FCB1010 pedalboard. I got an email for it last time but the guy didn't come to get it. It's set up for Japan 100v, but I've been reading it's possible to change it either by replacing a wire for another wire (which doesn't look like pictures I've seen), or using a different fuse which I'm suspecting is the case. For better or worse, I've posted it back too.

Both items cost 4000 yen each to send back. Because the pedalboard is going by ship, it's going to take a month or two to arrive.

My Crate buskers amp that I inadvertently broke is most likely staying here. While it would be cool to bring back, I may try to sell that here again for cheap.

As I grabbed some of the cardboard, the owner of said cardboard, a Japanese woman, came out and spoke really good English and asked me a lot of questions but had no trouble letting me use it.

It was tricky finding the best uncut sizes, so I spent a long time cutting them minimally for just enough to be allowed to be posted.

At the post office I got the usual "battery?" question. While I think the requirement for sending batteries has been relaxed, this still give me the sh*ts being asked about verbatim.

I was pretty much too tired doing anything else today. May my packages have a safe journey.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Kawasaki Recycled

Some things you just never forget, for example a thirty minute walk to a recycle shop that I had done many, many times before in my past life.

I'm a sucker for a junk shop when the stuff here is actually pretty cool, unlike the same back home.  Today I went to one of my favourites in Kawasaki. I thankfully wasn't too tempted to buy anything, but as always there were quite a few interesting bits and pieces.

I think being in Japan I might actually lose the ten kilos I gained from being back in a typical Italian household. My feet ached way too soon, and the humidity was just enough to make me feel a little uncomfortable and sticky.

After a nice two hour browse and walk I was back in Lazona tired and hungry. A doughnut and a meat patty burger fixed that.

On the other side of Lazona, in the More's building, is another Off store, and to my surprise they have expanded selling much the same stuff as the place I just came back from! I saw some interesting Mickey watches that I kind of regret not getting. They had the same Danboard I just bought yesterday, a few hundred yen cheaper *sad face*

Lazona has probably one of the best, reasonably priced supermarket, Sanwa. Along with some alcohol and stuff to make Mexican, we picked up some discounted Haagen Daaz limited-flavoured icecream - banana milk, custard and Sicilian lemon pie. Should be interesting.

Outside the apartment the neighbours have left out a lot of cardboard. Very handy for me. I found a box big enough to send a, um, lightsaber back home. Happy days!

Monday, 14 September 2015

Lights on (Nakano) Broadway

I'm never good at getting up early.

Today was actually sunnier than yesterday. A good day to have gone to the beach. I haven't really planned what I really want to do this holiday. Most things have already been done and doing things the second time round doesn't have that thrill of the new feeling.

Because I couldn't think of anything better to do, we went to Nakano Broadway. The place where the REAL otaku go for their geeky kicks.

It was around lunchtime so we had icecream at Daily Chico on the basement floor. It's quite famous for their massive eight flavour cones for 480 yen. I settled for the medium size four flavour for 330 yen. (small is 250 yen). From top to bottom I got fizzy candy, grape, banana and green tea. I liked the banana best. The other flavours weren't particularly memorable. I think there is more effort in the colour than the flavour. She had a chocolate which actually tasted very chocolatey, but I don't think that's a real word. Just like last time I had a huge icecream headache, so recommended if you crave a big icecream fix.

While it satisfied our initial hunger urge I was still hungry so we followed that with a nikuman from a nearby eatery. Quite yummy that was too!

I've realized very quickly that I am quite unfit (and fatter) than I used to be. Walking around the floors of Nakano Broadway got me beat all too quickly.

Lots of hentai dolls to pique my natural curiosity. Resisted the Miku Hatsune dolls but broke my resistance with a Danboard (which is like I imagine Google Cardboard if it resembled vaguely human form. 30cm high I underestimated how big it was. Another thing that will make my packing harder than it needs to be. I wasn't expecting them to add the tax to the sticker price. Ga, foiled again!

I was previously thinking to go to Shinjuku afterwards but after walking around for quite a long time, that was not going to happen anymore.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Must Heart Zushi

I woke up somewhere between 730 and 8. Way too early for me on a holiday that's for sure. With the on/off rain that I saw on the weather forecast I'm thinking that days to go to the beach are numbered.

I plan to recreate as many of my good memories as possible, and probably the "goodest"memory of all were my day trips to Zushi beach.

Looking out the window the sky appeared clear, but by the time we left the apartment the overcast clouds were mocking and taunting me.

As the train was getting closer I saw that the streets were still wet from rain that must've fallen not long ago. My heart was sinking a little thinking this trip might be wasted.

My spirits lifted when we arrived on the sand. There were actually other people there! Not packed but still a lot of bathers and windsurfers. I wasted no time and immediately went into the water. It was quite windy but the water wasn't cold and I didn't want to ever get out.

Zushi apparently banned drinking alcohol (and loud music) on the beach a year or so ago, but I brought along two cans of chuhi. Nothing was going to get in the way of my memories.

On the way back we walked around Yokohama. I noticed here to a few things have changed. Funnily enough an old UFO catcher place closed down, and in the same building Ishibashi moved in! I saw a cool perspex strat that wanted me to buy it, and another Steinberger that wasn't too expensive, but my will is good for now.

We looked around Shibuya too. I checked out a few of my old haunts. For dinner we had some burritos from the newly opened Taco Bell in Dogenzaka. For some reason it sadly wasn't as good as the Taco Bell we had in Guam.

I was still a bit hungry so we walked a little further to another favourite sushi place where they make the BEST avocado maki. What's a real pain is this place is doing a dirty trick of listing the menu price without the tax. WTF! This isn't New York!

I think Japan is trying to give me new reasons to dislike the place again :(

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Hello Shinjuku

In the morning I kind of woke up to a fairly strong earthquake centred around Tokyo Bay. I guess it's Japan's way of saying "ようこそ". Ga!

I was planning to meet up with some old colleagues so we decided to walk to Shinjuku to make it easy to meet them. Last night I thought the weather was not so bad, but today I could feel the humidity is still around. It was a rare beautiful and sunny day. If I wasn't going to meet up with the guys I would've went to the beach instead. Unfortunately both guys piked on me so it wasn't going to happen anyway.

While most things are much the same as they were, I was occasionally surprised to see whole new buildings suddenly sprung up. Most notably the south-west Shinjuku station building, and the new Toho cinema that replaced the old Koma theatre in Kabukicho. At the moment there is a Godzilla hanging off the top of it, but somehow I don't think that's a permanent fixture.

We went through a few of my favourite guitar shops. I saw a nice Ibanez PS120 Iceman. Even though it's a Chinese version it didn't look half bad. Gotta be strong while I'm here!

Finally we had sushi in Shinjuku. Oh it's SO good to taste real sushi again! You can see the shiny moisture on every piece and the price was more than reasonable. If I only came back to Tokyo just for this, it's already worth the trip.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Slight Return

I was waiting for the right time (and the right airfare) to come back to Japan. Early in the year I had heard on the last day that there were cheaper tickets. With little preparation I didn't have time to commit to a flight. Sadly I let that one  go.

In May the opportunity came up again. Jetstar are the cheapest, but they try their best to cut their fares by making it extra for checked bags and other non-nessities for example, food.

While my principle reason is to catch up with old friends, the other big reason is to bring back a whole lot of stuff I had to leave behind because I had run out of space in my luggage, and also ran out of time.

I had mixed fears of nerves and excitement. My strongest memories were the things that I really missed so I was hoping that I would be coming back with a refreshed and less cynical outlook of the place.

My flight left at 7 in the morning and I had only two hours of sleep. I didn't have much to pack. I bought a 2.7kg suitcase mainly to carry as much as possible on the return flight.

Jetstar asks for a two hour check-in, even though my first leg was a domestic flight to Cairns and then onwards to Tokyo. It wasn't really necessary. I practically checked in immediately. 

There was only a modest amount of people on the flight. Going to Cairns there were the obligatory "larrakins" (translation: d*ckheads) that made me embarrassed to call myself in the broad sense, Australian. Every other word was "fark" and they wouldn't STFU. I could even hear them over my headphones. Yes, that bad.

Transferring in Cairns was much worse. The line was larger. I was bursting for the bathroom, but I had to wait to check in. The new dreamliner aircraft looked nice and shiny, but I felt they tried their darndest to fit in as many extra seats as possible.

Unfortunately you had to pay for the in-flight movies, so I spent most of the flight listening to the Triple J Hot 100 which wasn't all that bad. My mother had made me four sandwiches, which were two sandwiches too many. Hopefully I'll lose the ten kilos I've gained since I had come back.

Customs in Narita took a long time as usual because foreigners are still treated like criminals having our fingerprints and photo taken. I hope Australia does the same thing. It just started my reminders of the 101 things I hate about Japan.

I made my way back to Yotsuya surprisingly easy and relatively quickly. I hoped to use the free wifi, but my iPhone kept sending me warnings of untrusted certificates for the wifi hotspots. Nevertheless I had a train map which made reminding me of the connections pretty easy. In an hour and a half I was back in very familiar territory.