Tag Archives: holiday

Sony NEX-5R twin lens kit

An opportunity recently came up for me to procure myself one of these Sony NEX mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras and what better time than right around the corner from Christmas? Main reason for wanting this sort of camera? First, a HUGE sensor relative to the size of the camera (1.5x crop like most DSLRs) and fantastic video abilities. Without further adieu, I present to you the latest Sony NEX-5R(Y) with the Y denoting the twin lens version.

For a small camera, it comes in a decently sized box which is quite packed, so what’s inside? At the top of the box is multiple manuals (differently languages), warranty/support cards and software CD. Lifting the top flaps reveals 3 compartments, the left contains the Sony E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS zoom lens. The middle compartment contains the NEX-5R body itself attached to the Sony E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS zoom lens and the final compartment on the right containing a host of power cables, microUSB cable, desktop charger, battery pack, shoulder strap and detachable flash.

Now the original NEX series cameras came with the 18-55mm F3.5 which was pretty big when mounted on the NEX type cameras (similarly sized to a crop body 18-55 equivalent lens from Nikon or Canon), this made the camera unpocketable. This new 16-50mm is definitely much smaller and retracts when powered off, another additional feature is the power zoom; there’s a little rocker type switch on the left hand side which allows you to zoom in and out like a regular point and shoot, some will love it, some will hate it.

It has a similar hinged screen to the 5N, however slight improvements have been made to allow it to flip backwards so you can get the perfect self portrait, bear in mind however, if the flash is attached, the screen can’t be flipped all the way up. A little nice touch is when the screen is flipped for self portraits, a 3 second timer is automatically activated.

The screen tilts upwards and downwards to allow easy high angle or low angle shots.

Upward tilt
Downward tilt

It’s also touch sensitive, but I do believe it isn’t of the capacitive type and isn’t too sensitive which severely reduces its effectiveness. I was hoping a phone style interface with gestures but alas, it wasn’t meant to be, it does help access some features, but I have a feeling it won’t be used for proper shooting.

Now, the lenses, as mentioned the new 16-50mm which shipped with the camera does retract when powered off, below are some comparisons of size, note that the 16-50mm ‘waves in and out’ from wide to tele, i.e. longest when wide and zoomed all the way in and shortest when in the middle, also note the 55-210 is ridiculously large when mounted onto this camera.

16-50mm retracted
16-50mm extended
55-210 at 55mm
55-210 at 210mm

Unlike the NEX 6 though, the 5R doesn’t have a standard hotshoe, this small proprietary connector serves multiple purposes but has the problem of only serving one at a time, that means you can use the flash and not the optional microphones or viewfinder at once, personally won’t be a big deal, but an integrated flash like the 6 would have been that little bit better, especially for travel.

The integrated WiFi combined with the PlayMemories apps does make for a nice touch, but I do feel it’s still in its infancy. This combination allows for new applications to be downloaded and installed and at this time, there’s currently a Time Lapse ($10), Pro Bracketing app ($5), Cinematic Photo app ($5), Multi frame noise reduction ($5) as well as a few free ones; Direct upload, Photo retouch, Picture Effect+ and Smart remote control.

I personally don’t think the paid apps offer much and should actually be standard features, maybe for the exception of ‘Cinematic photo’ which allows you to create a hybrid stills/video leaving some areas still and others moving. The Smart remote control app is very basic and allows for a live view image to displayed on your smart phone and the ability to trigger it remotely, in this situation, the camera acts as a hot spot.

This has been a brief intro opening and I’ll try to report back with my feedback after it’s used for a few outings, so far it is pretty impressive and it does feel like a solid camera. The autofocus is pretty quick, still not as quick as D600 or D700, but definitely plenty fast for a holiday situation. For the price I paid (and definitely if I get rid of the 55-210 lens) I don’t think anything could have matched it, just need to get myself a Nikon F mount to Sony E mount adapter and I’m set.

2011 Asia trip – Day 1

The first day has come and gone and I’m sitting in a hotel room in Hong Kong as I write this. Not much to write about, nor are there many photos of the action from today as we haven’t really done much.

Departing Sydney at 9.30 in the morning, we had an 8 hour flight to Singapore with Singapore Airlines which was comprised of eating plane food and soaking up alcoholic drinks when possible, quite nice to be able to unwind with a Singapore Sling or a Alspiritzer on a long flight. We stopped for about 3 hours in Singapore (Changi airport) and just checked out the place. Quite a nice airport with a few things to do to kill time while you’re there. There was a butterfly sanctuary where you could go in and experience tropical weather and see butterflies flying around freely.

Flying towards Hong Kong was a short rinse and repeat of the flight to Singapore, eating plane food and more booze, good fun. By the time we landed, it was quite late so it was just a case of checking into our hotel in Mong Kok and roaming the streets for a bit of food before resting up for the next day’s action.

Will try to blog a bit more on this trip unlike my last trip to Japan where the blog posts were delayed by about 3 months :P.

Melbourne!

So went down for a trip to Melbourne over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend (mostly because of a free domestic flight from JetStar). Decided to go down just to chill and get away from regular life in Sydney. Took a flight down on Friday morning and arrived at about lunch time. Hired a car, decided to go with a manual for some practice despite my lack of confidence in manual driving, but I seemed to do okay. Car was a late model Ford Laser which felt rather zippy.

The beast

Went shopping for a bit before heading into the city to check into the hotel room. Caught up with an old friend who moved down from Sydney before catching up with a friend I met in Japan. Went around drinking at night and ended up going to Alumbra. Pretty good place there and enjoyed the vibe there a lot more than what Sydney has. Next day went for a little more shopping at South Wharf before taking a trek down to the 12 apostles via the Great Ocean Road. The road is great fun and twists a fair bit. Took a wrong turn as it got dark as well and it became forest like and pitch black! Kinda scary driving down a twisty unknown road, just to make it worse, for one section there were cows along side the road. It ended up leading to a lighthouse but it was a heaps dark walk to the light house so I just snapped this and left.

Light house in the distance

Stayed there for the night so I could get up early and get some sunrise photos of the 12 apostles and stuff, didn’t quite turn out as I had hoped but this was the result:

12 Apostles by morning

Finally came back to the city in the morning to meet up with a few more people I met from Japan where they took me to eat and showed me round the grafitti and more of the town.

Streets of Melbourne

The last day was spent driving around randomly before catching my delayed flight home which was quite fortunate as there were heaps of people waiting around as their flights were cancelled because of the ash cloud.

Rest of the pics below:

Click here for the rest

 

Day 5 – Harajuku and Shinjuku

On the 5th day of the trip, I was completely messed up and buzzing from the night before. I just felt completely drained after three nights of booze and partying that I was mostly quiet for the whole day and just walked casually to experience Harajuku and the shrine/park with the Meiji Shrine. Andreas came along with us as we strolled the streets of Harajuku.Being so tired, I ended up giving my camera to Gavin and Ed to take pics, so a lot of the pics from Harajuku will be from them. Walking down Harajuku street, there was a lot of people lining the street. Going along we saw quite a few interesting looking people.

Harajuku St
Interesting fella

Straying away from Harajuku street we also enjoyed the sight of a few interesting shop names, one being candy strippers and another being Cannabis. A quick snack was found on the way as well, Takoyaki balls =D.

Candy Strippers
Cannabis!

One comment I must make about Takoyaki in Japan is that it is completely different to what you get in Sydney. They’re actually very soft and at times still somewhat liquid in the centre. They also come in different varieties, but without knowing any Japanese I can’t event begin to describe the differences or the ones I prefer.

Takoyaki

Coming on a Sunday, we were expecting to see a lot of people cos-playing, unfortunately they were far and few and we only caught glimpses of a couple. The walk down wasn’t as fantastic as I had hoped, it wasn’t until going to the Meiji Shrine that we saw some interesting things. Crossing the bridge to the other side we saw this guy with a funny hat hiding in a box.

I am your father

The park was rather large and it leads to the actual Meiji Shrine where inside we were fortunate enough to witness a couple of traditional weddings. The bride is in white traditional gown with this rather large curved “hat” on her head, followed by a guy holding a large umbrella above her. Everyone else follows them from behind and it was a rather interesting sight to see.

Traditional Japanese wedding

We were also lucky enough to be there for “Shichi-Go-San” or literally translated as seven-five-three, which occurs on the weekend closest to November 15. It’s a ‘rite of passage’ ceremony for boys that 3 or 5 and girls that are 5 and 7 years of age. They’re dressed in their lovely kimino’s and taken to shrines and temples to pray for their future. The kids were adorable and looked so cute, except for this one boy we saw in school uniform (or something) who had the shortest shorts I had ever seen.

All dressed up
I like short shorts (not really :S)

We also bumped into three Aussies we had seen earlier in Akhibara, yes the ones from the sex shop.  We chatted a little more and followed them through the park as they had found some Japanese students wanting to practise English.

The Aussies

Heading back, we crossed the train overpass again and saw that interesting guy again, it was only until we saw him the second time we realised what he did (aside from this ‘I am your father’ sign). He also had a sign that said “I can sing a song in your language”. We told him we were from Australia and he started to sing our national anthem out loud. There was also a group of Americans who proceeded to do the same afterwards. Quite a quirky guy that one.

Singing the Aussie anthem

At this we split up as Tang and I wanted to go up Tokyo Tower, but we had to make a detour to Asakusa as Andreas needed to get some stuff. This is where we came across a rather interesting looking building, take a look at the pic below and what do you think it looks like?

Asakusa's golden shit

Some say it looks like a golden shit, while others think it’s a golden sperm. Story is that it’s supposed to be a flame but when they went to put it on top of the building, the crane wasn’t tall enough to hold the flame vertically and they just ended up putting it on its side. We also caught a glimpse of a new building be constructed, known as the Sky Tree (at this point we had no clue) and it would be taller than Tokyo tower. (~680 meters vs. 333 meters).

Sky Tree under construction

We moved towards Tokyo Tower afterwards to go up and look at the view, unfortunately, when we got there, the line was absolutely massive and the wait was closer to 90 minutes. All there was to see was this cute girl sitting alone, if only we knew some Japanese, would have been the perfect moment to say “He’s not coming…”. Bummed that we were unable to go up, we decided to go explore the rest of the Tokyo and decided to head to Tokyo Station.

He's not coming...
Another Tokyo Tower pic

Getting off, we were dumbstruck, there weren’t neon signs and flashing lights, instead there was…nothing (ok, except for the station and the statue below).

Prometheus!
Tokyo JR Station
Tokyooo

And then it hit us, Tokyo itself is a business district so there’s no need for it to have a night life. At this stage we parted ways with Andreas and headed to Shinjuku to meet up with Gavin and Ed. We had agreed to meet at the JR Ticket office in Shinjuku with a 15 minute window to wait. However to our surprise, when we arrived, Shinjuku station was rather large and actually had 5 ticket offices, all rather far apart, even though it was a lost cause, we wait at the closest ticket office for 10 minutes before heading to a second one. Being unable to find Ed and Gavin, we decided to just have a look at Shinjuku.

The place is astonishing, it’s what you picture Tokyo to be, neon lights, flashing lights and large screens everywhere. Walking along there were a few street musicians trying to make a buck by playing and selling CDs. The other lovely sight was an interesting building facade, it had what looked like little windows/compartments, and they were lit up with different colours, very pretty sight.

Coloured windows
Girls singing on the walkway
Screens and lights in the distance

After a short stroll, we decided to eat and randomly picked a place, it was called Witamin-chi and I later discovered that it was a chain restaurant. Inside had a dim appearance and an interesting food menu. They had a lot of Yakitori and other cool dishes.

We ended up with some eel on charcoal, Udon spaghetti, fried chicken breast, karaage chicken and interestingly, horse sashimi. Yes, horse. It was quite different as it came in two pieces, one was the horse meat and the other was fat, eating them together gave a nice chewy texture. Definitely not something you want to have everyday, but nonetheless it was interesting to try.

Eel
horse meat!
Horse Sashimi =D
Almost like vitamin c

When we got back to the hotel, Huynhzie decided to get his hair dyed, but I was just dead and went straight to bed.

Day 4 – Odaiba

With everyone somewhat drunk and tired from the night before at Womb, we woke up rather late and didn’t leave our hotel room until 2pm. First thing was something to eat, on our way, I saw one of my favourite cars parked on the street, a Honda NSX.

Honda NSX

Lunch would be a simple bowl of Ramen, nothing to special to write about it, just a photo. Once finished, we’d be making our way to Odaiba.

Ramen!

The trip to Odaiba involves firstly a regular train to Shimbashi and then a change to a new train network called the Yurikamome, which meant something like train of the future. It’s hard to call them a train as they’re more of a hybrid with a bus, this is in the way that they still utilise tyres to go around (as opposed to a track) but they’re also guided (like how a track would guide a train). These things don’t have a driver and are operated by computers, this meant I could get a cockpit view of the Yurikamome and pretend I was the driver.

The Yurikamome Station
View from the front
Notice the tyres?

To get there we would have to cross the Rainbow Bridge which is a very nice suspension bridge, unfortunately the trip across the bridge  was surrounded by a cage of sorts(as well as being on the bottom level of the double decker bridge) and the view of the water below wasn’t very good. So I decided to be creative instead and make it seem like we were going at ‘light-o speed-o”.

Rainbow Bridge
Light-o Speed!

The trip to the island was met with a lovely setting sun with some nice rays peeking out of the clouds.

Rays of light peeking through

Getting closer to our stop I could see a lovely wedding in the distance and heaps of helium balloons were being released into the sky, unfortunately I couldn’t pull it out quick enough (the camera that is, haha) and snap a photo.

Wedding in the distance

Walking off the train, I soon realised that everyone else had gotten off a stop earlier and I had to wait around for them to realise. During this time I saw more of the wedding and it seemed rather extravagant, even though I couldn’t see that many guests. What made me think it was extravagant? It was the videographer, it’s the first time I’ve seen someone use a boom for a wedding and they not commonly associated with cheap weddings. I was hoping it’d be a hot actress or j-pop star of sorts, but I couldn’t get an opportunity to see the bride’s face or get a good photo.

More of the wedding
Weddings in the distance

The island itself is rather interesting, as it’s actually man-made, there’s also a beach on there, but from what I could see, it didn’t appear too appealing. The other interesting part of the island I saw initially was the Statue of Liberty (I kid you not) sitting close to where the train station was. It’s only a miniature version of the real thing, but the detail is rather good, no idea why they would decide to copy another monument instead of making their own.

Statue of Liberty v2!

The view from the island itself is quite spectacular, especially seeing the Rainbow Bridge in it’s full glory.

View of the bridge from Odaiba
Setting Sun

There a few odd displays out and about, and at one, Ed would decide to show his love and propose to Tang.

Tang will you marry Ed?

Moving onwards, we dropped into a large shopping mall with a rather interesting tropical fish display, the tanks varied in shapes and sizes with a few shallow square ones and interestingly, gem shape and dodecahedron (or something).

Gem fish tank
Colourful fish!
Fish around a Pyramid
Dodecahedron Tank!

By this point in time, we were getting hungry and pushed to find some food. I don’t quite remember the name of the restaurant, but they had a picture menu and it looked pretty good. I decided to get some beef patties and the regular dish had 2 with a lot of cheese, silly me thinking that the regular wasn’t going to be enough (because you know, the japs don’t eat that much), I opted for an upgrade to 3 patties. When the plate came out it was huge, Ed had a meal with a pattie as well, but he had a single one with a tiny bit of extra meat. This thing was huge, by the time Ed was done with his single pattie, he was rather full. I had struggled to finish that thing even though it was quite delicious, a lot of beef and a lot of cheese made me feel completely stuffed.

3 patties!

After finishing dinner we moved on to see the Fuji TV building (at this point I felt like I wanted to roll there), it’s certainly an interesting building in terms of architectural design as it’s got a giant ball in the middle of it. From our brief visit there were stalls inside selling various gifts and souvenirs from Fuji TV productions. Outside was a funky escalator to go higher where we found a gift shop with plenty of balls for sale.

Fuji TV's Ball
Tunnel vision
Inside Fuji TV

The next stop would be Joypolis, but before we got there, out eyes were drawn to a rather interesting store, it’s name was Condomania, and as suggested by the name, they sell condoms. Going inside, there were plenty of wacky things, some rather amusing but all related to condoms in one-way or another.

Condoms!
I wanted one of these posters

So Joypolis, what is it? Best way to describe it is “Sega-world”, it was very reminiscent of the Sega-world we used to love in Sydney until it closed down (and now demolished to make way for CBA). Armed with our passport (2500 Yen), walked inside. It was very similar with plenty of games around and wacky rides inside, whether they were small rollercoaster type things or wacky VR or simulator type things. My two favourites there were the Initial D game and this ‘Storm-G’ game.

View from Fuji TV
Our passports
The Entrance!

Firstly, the Initial D game was awesome, instead of your regular dingy arcade setting or tiny VR type pod, there were three whole cars that you could sit in. A WRX, a Toyota AE86 Corolla (i.e. Hachi-Roku) and a RX-7 FD3S, all cars from the anime/game. These things weren’t models, but striped out versions of the real thing, the doors close with a nice clunk and the tacho inside actually works. It was unbelieve as the car rocks side to side while you drift your way down the mountain. Amazing to be sitting in the driver’s seat of those cars while playing a game.

Hachi-Roku!

Storm-G was a Wipe-out/luge type game where you’re strapped into a little ship which spins around. When I say spin, I mean it spins all the way around 360 degrees. Unfortunately the pic I took was rather bad, but hopefully of the others have a nice pic or video. Once we were in, we had no idea what to expect because all we knew was we had to press a couple of buttons in sync at a particular time to spin and steering the craft was a team-effort. Ed and I ended up winning the race fulfilling every spin action required. It was awesome being spun around, with a couple of double spins thrown in at times.

Storm G!

There were a couple of other cool rides like the spin-bullet, house of the dead and a prison break role-play sorta thing. The prison break thing was quite cool, it could have been much better if it was completely in English, instead the “tour guide” had to speak Japanese first and then provide a translation in English which kinda dampened the go-go-go action-esque nature of the ride. There was one ride which wanted to go on but it had a massive long through-out the night. It was basically a half pipe and you’re strapped onto a giant snowboard attached to a pendulum thing. It would swing up and down and you’d spin once you hit the peak. Unfortunately I don’t have photos of many of these rides (I was lazy to pull it out of my bag)

The other thing I noticed about Joypolis, is that it’s very couples oriented, with a couple of rides providing love-ratings when the game was over, I think Gavin and Tang were made for each other when they scored a very impressive 92% in this trouble in paradise shooting game ride.

Making our way back to the Yurikamome, we stopped by to admire the view of a large ferris wheel, but first we found this rather amusing sign. It appears that signage is required to stop people from peeing in public or in certain areas.

Ferris Wheel in Odaiba
No peeing here

The night ended for the everyone except me when we headed back to Shibuya and to the hotel. I decided that I would going to go to ageHa no matter what to see the lovely German trance DJ by the name of Jerome Isma Ae. Everyone else was too tired so I departed the room with two bottles of vodka and lemonade in my hands, a phrasebook, money and my passport.

By this point, it was about midnight and unfortunately for me the trains are about to stop running. I had to take a train to Osaki and then change to Shin-Kiba. When I got to Osaki, I was faced with a terrible sight, the entrance to the platform for train to Shin-Kiba was closed and that meant only one thing, no more trains. Screwed either way, I decided to Taxi it to Shin-Kiba, the second bottle of Vodka and Lemonade later, as well as being 6000 yen poorer (yes, that’s close to $80) I was at Shin-Kiba and close to the club.

Walking there I noticed a large building and thought nothing of it and would never have thought the club would be the whole thing. Heading there to line up, it felt like it was the size of a warehouse and it wasn’t until you walk inside and around you appreciate how big the place was. Lining up I met a bloke by the name of Andreas who I pretty much spent the night partying with.

ageHa is a seriously massive venue (I can’t emphasis this enough), nothing in Sydney can possibly come close and the production there is simply mesmerising, as is the sound. For a club, the entry price is VERY steep, if you thought the $25 cover charge in Sydney was a pain, this place cost 4500 Yen to get in (yes, close to $60). There’s 4 rooms (more like stages) in the place and the outdoor one has a pool in the middle, although if you jump in, you get kicked out), it was also a bit cold to go for a swim.

I would have loved to take some pics, but security there is very strict (comparable to an airport), and I had to leave my camera in a locker outside. As soon as Jerome Isma Ae came on, so did the lasers. I don’t actually remember too much of the night being pissed drunk and I really only remember a couple of songs from Jerome Isma Ae, one of which was Stars (as for the ones that know the rest of the story, no comments please =D).

But yes, ageHa was simply an amazing experience, I would have to rate the experience as one of my best trance experiences, even exceeding some of the large festivals. It would have been an epic experience to stay for their 8th Anniversary on the 18th of December where Ferry Corsten and Solarstone will be playing. I’d strongly urge you to pay it a visit if you’re inclined to any sort of dance music.

Day 3 – Akhibara and Tokyo

I know my blog posts have been few and far while I’ve been gone, but I’m still going to endeavour to have a blog post for every day of my trip. While the blog is only up to the 3rd day, the trip so far has gone up to it’s 12th day (out of 21). As I write this I am on a bus to Osaka from Tokyo (probably won’t post this til I’m in our hotel at Osaka (or Shin-Imimiya to be precise).

Day three of the trip was destined for Akihibara, also known as the electric city, but first the day started off with a deliciously oily breakfast courtesy of Lawsons. It was to be two pieces of fatty fried chicken, a calpis water, orange juice and two macaroons.

mm... greasy chicken
Calpis and Macarons

Absolutely delicious after a big night out at Club Asia and everyone was seriously buggered. Check out the photos of Nugen and Huynhzie, they could barely stay awake in the morning, but regardless, we pressed on to see electric city.

Nugen... gone.
huynhzie... gone.

Before actually going I did a quick Jesus pose on the train platform as we made our way to electric city.

Arminnnnn

This is the place where some say, if your phone or camera is out of batteries, there’s so much electricity there that when you hold it up in the air, it starts to recharge.

Akihabara
welcome to akihabara

Unfortunately for us as tourists (me the most) we got conned by an old man who we thought was nice enough to show us the way there. Instead of just telling us where it ws, he led us there even though we said we were fine. It wasn’t until we told him we were okay now that his true colours showed, he told us he was hungry and begged for some money. He asked for 400 yen, I thought I’d contribute for most of the group to save them the hassle but he ended up begging to each of them, far out.

Where we lost this stinky old man was a rather weird shop, at the front were a couple of nice anime figures on a whiteboard type thing with pens and erasers for us to write some stuff, we decided to tag it for fun and snap some pics. Little did we know what was really inside the store (more on this later).

Anime girls

I know most of you would think that a place like this would be heaven for a guy like me, but unfortunately for me, getting here has taken away most of my money and I didn’t have much left-over to spend on electronics. Luckily for me there’s not really anything I’m in desperate in need of, so I was about to steer clear of the shops.

Neon Genesis still alive and kicking

An arcade did manage to lure me in with a rather interesting claw/skill tester type game which involved me moving the claw by balancing on the board to control the arm. I failed miserably and lost my 300 Yen.

Cute dog toys in the machine
Me having no clue what to do

Also walked past some sorta set up for a concert being pulled down, luckily I managed to take a pic of the massive domokoun inflatable that was used.

Domooo

As the day went on , we just walked around and admired the vast variety of shops for anime kinda stuff as well as electronics. It wasn’t until a couple of boys decided to head to Maccas that things started to become difficult, while they were waiting, Edmond, Tang, Louis and I decided to move on and have a look down the street, after a while we decided we should head back and meet up with the rest.

shops in the back streets

On the way back, Tang and I decided to check out the back streets while heading back to Maccas. It was a strange and eerie feeling, while it was only a single street parallel to the main street, it was very quiet. Aside for the occasional bike rider, it was very quiet for a major city, there was almost zero noise, it was rather amazing. When we finally got to Maccas, there was no one there, not Louis or Edmond, we waited around for about half an hour before deciding to just go on and meet back at the hotel.

Moving forward, we decided upon some Katsu Curry for lunch at a chain store called CoCo-Ichibanya which was close-by to Maccas so we could keep and eye out. While inside and eating however, our eyes weren’t on Maccas but this very cute waitress who had this really down-to-earth look. Unfortunately for Tang and I, we never got a photo with her (didn’t know how to say it) but with some WiFi, we managed to ask her to take a photo for us and Tang was ballsy enough to say “Anata wa utsukushi” which translated means, “you are beautiful”. The end result, she giggled and blushed a little before we left. Tang reckons he made her day.

Rice, curry and runny egg. yum.
CoCo Ichibanya

After another quick look in Maccas, we explored further down the road where it got much busier again. Working from the right side, we stumbled upon some markets, long this alley-way. The place was packed with people and store-keepers selling various things from clothes to seafood. It had a very busy vibe to the place as we looked curiously  not knowing what most things were. Oblivious to where we were, it’s not only know that I realised we were next to Ueno and the markets we had explored were actually rather famous, the place is known as Ameya Yokocho

Ameyo Yokocho
Busy place
dried seafood for sale
strange random foods
Candy i think?
Some sort of fish

Moving to the other side of the street we saw more Pachinko and slot towers and other busy alley ways lit up with neon signs and flashing lights. Funnily enough we found a place called King Oscar.

King Oscar

Just further up we discovered a large pond with a temple in the middle, again we had no clue where were actually were, the ponds we saw were called the Shinobazau Pond and the temple in the middle was the Temple of Benten

temple of benten

Moving on we took the other side back bumping into some nice small cafes with nicely planted autumn trees. Also checked out a little cake stall called Doremy Outlet, where inside they played a very catchy tune over and over again. The only words of the song I could make out where the name of the store. I ended up buying a little heart pastry/cake sorta thing. Quite nice.

Doremy Outlet
Various cakes
Yumm

After the sun set, we walked back to Akihabara station (as that’s where we came from and were comfortable with), again we took the quieter streets as we had already walked down the main road. While going down, a certain car caught my eye, there was something different about it, it didn’t look quite like a normal Mercedes. Once I had gotten closer, I realised it was a Brabus Tuned Mercedes Benz, the final result being known as a Brabus W221. As I was snapping pics, the owner came out and asked me where I was from and showed me the inside before being driven off, it was a sexy looking beast.

Brabus = hot!
Brabus W221

Luckily for us we found some Christmas installations with lights running all over the trees along the walk way, more lighting displays were seen as it was a little display called “Winter Illumination 2010”. Moving on, we stumbled upon the “Gundam Café” across the road, we went in for a quick break and had some cake and coffee.

Winter illumination
more lights!

Tang ordered a plain black coffee and felt ripped off, I still think it was his fault for simply asking for coffee rather than a Cappuccino or a Latte. The café had a really nice décor to it, fitting of the Gundam name, but if you do go, the best bit is the toilet. If you’re there, you MUST push the red button inside the toilet, I told Tang to video the inside, not sure if he did (my DSLR doesn’t do video D:), bug him if you really wanna see inside, but it’s better to experience it yourself. To see a red button and have no idea what it does when you push it.

Gundam Cafe
the menu
Nice cake

After the break we had a quick perusal around the station again and back to the store with the sexy anime characters, our tags and messages had been erased and reverted to their original “How shall I please you master?” It wasn’t until we headed inside that we found out what was hidden behind these lovely women. It was a seven storey adult store, each getting storey up getting weirder and weirder. The bottom was fairly tame, having your condoms and novelty kinda stuff, moving up was vibrators and dildos and further up again was DVDs and magazines. Top floors, you really do not want to know what’s there, if you’re that curious, you can ask, but I’m telling it’s rather disturbing.

interesting sex toy

We ended up seeing three Aussies inside and gave each other awkward looks as we keep crossing paths. We quickly left with a souvenir magazine and Gundam condoms as a memory of that strange place, funnily enough, we bumped into the three Aussies again outside the store where they told us where they were from, what they were doing in Japan and so on. One girl had been living there for 8 months or so, said we had to go to this maid café called @home, unfortunately for us, there was no time and we said we would visit again.

After the nice chat, we headed to Tokyo tower where the others were supposed to go, after getting off our station, the Tokyo Tower was to the left but we were seduced by the little sign that pointed right and read “Tokyo Pokemon Centre”, we couldn’t escape our inner child and proceeded right (while the tower was to the left). Inside felt like a Poke-Centre from the game, why? Because it had the same music, playing over and over again on loop. Wondering how the staff there put up with it, we noticed a couple of staff members wearing earphones, we could barely stand the chime by the 4th listen. After buying a little Pikachu souvenir toy, we moved on back towards Tokyo Tower.

Pokemon Centre

Again we were distracted by some loud music and decided we had to see what it was, upon getting closer we noticed a little cute girl in giant oversized love heart glasses belting out some catchy Japanese tunes and a moderate crowd enjoying the show. The performers were “AMP” and “m i m i k a”, one I assume was the singer and the other the guitarist and “box-player”. The instrument he played literally looked just like a box. The crowd composition had a lot of older men, some looking like they were all in their 50’s but funnily enough, they were really into the music. Waving the arms around, smiling and even following the dance routine actions, not sure if they were into the music or the girl.

AMP
m i m i k a

Getting on with Tokyo tower, it’s  a rather beautiful site from far away as it was lit a vibrant orange colour. As we approached most of the orange lights suddenly turned off and switched to pink-purple kind of colour and rather than being cast across the tower, they were just bright spots running up the three hundred and thirty three meter tower. Upon arriving and being mesmerised by the site of the tower, there were nice looking Christmas decorations all around the base, lots of Christmas lights, a large Christmas tree and little lit-up train display you could sit in. We decided not to head up as we thought the boys might do the same (looking back, I have no idea why we decided not to).

Tokyo Tower in the distance
Base of Tokyo Tower
Christmas display
I <3 Tower

Instead we checked out the shops inside bought some souvenirs and headed back home to the hotel. Dinner would quick, followed by a few quick drinks, then heading to the world-famous club in Japan, known only as Womb. Having a quick chat to a few German boys outside the 7-11, I found out that Jerome Isma Ae was playing at ageHa on the Saturday (and not Sunday as I originally thought, lucky they told me other wise I would have missed out). Entering Womb was rather odd, from the outside, there’s no way you could tell what kind of gem was inside. Inside was rather big with a set of stairs spiralling up three levels which surrounded the main floor. Smaller areas were situated around the main room, but that’s not what I was really interested in.

Moving up for some more drinks, we met quite a few foreigners (especially a couple of rather cute Brits, unfortunately both taken) and had a nice chat to all of them before heading to the main room to check out all the hype. Firstly, the sound system in there is incredible, loud and crisp without any sign of strain or distortion. The only thing I found odd was not actually being able to see the DJ as the booth is up rather high and not really that exposed. Looking up was a gorgeous sight, lights beaming onto a giant disco ball was simply mesmerising, even more so with the hands of Aiba controlling the lights in sync with the music. Ended up giving a guy a piggy back until he got a little too close until I realised he was gay and hitting on me, Tang of Gavin got a rather nice pic of this and hopefully I can grab it off them before I post this. Luckily for me one of the British girls, Helena came to my rescue and we started to dance together, getting closer and closer until he disappeared. Bummer was as soon as he was gone, so was the dancing.

The 2 Brits

Anyways, the crowd there was mainly Japanese and they were all happy keen for a good time, I somehow ended up mingling with a group of locals and they found me a girl to hang out with. After she was whisked away by a local Japanese dude, she came back until he kept trying and trying. In the end, I won the fight and he was never to be seen again ;). By the end of the night, I found out her name was Samantha and grabbed her number and email. I walked back to the station with her and her friend and had a little chat. She spoke a little bit of English and  said she really loved Australia.

Ended partying with this group

It ended up being a great night and funnily enough, I ended up walking home alone again as the others had left about an hour earlier. The walk was rather long as I had done a massive loop around via Shibuya station. Unfortunately for you guys I don’t have another blog post detailing my journey home, but I was very impressed by the experience in Womb. The group of Japanese people really made the night fun as they were just after a good time and I felt really welcome there.

Even though you’re not supposed to take photos or videos in there, I managed to snap a couple of nice ones and a video to show you the beauty of the place. It really is a world class venue and it really puts anything Sydney has to shame.

giant disco ball

Well that was it for Day 3, stay tuned for my blog of day 4 and my crazy adventures to Odaiba and ageHa.

Off To Japan..

So exams are over and it’s finally the day we leave for Japan. All sleep deprived, I’m sitting at Gold Coast Airport with two Davids, Michael Tang, Edmond, Gavin, Belrich and Louis with over an hour before our flight to Osaka. So the day started with an all-nighter before leaving for the Airport at 3.30AM.

Airport and boarding pass

Arrival meant a Maccas breakfast at Sydney domestic airport with a bacon and egg McMuffin and hot cakes providing the fuel for the flight towards Osaka.

Maccas – breakfast of champions

Quick group photo in Sydney

After a brief one and half hour flight which went by rather quick due to all of us falling asleep rather quickly we’re now stuck in Gold Coast Airport with not much to do besides sort out what to do while we’re in Tokyo as well as Korea (as we don’t really have anything planned). With not much to do, we’re all rather bored while waiting for our flight, the Osaka flight at 10.05 and the Tokyo flight at 10.50.

Sitting around at Gold Coast Airport

The excitement for the trip hasn’t really hit in yet, but probably because I’m too tired, haha.

Will give another update when we’re in Osaka.

Results of my mango pancake adventure

So, I think I did pretty well with the mango pancakes considering that I was completely clueless, but will perfect them next time we’ve got some nice mangos. Pictures are below, they could have been presented better, but here’s some evidence that I made them, haha.

1. The pancake and the filling

Final product

Other thing of interest today, the mailman finally delivered the GPS logger I had ordered, I bought the i-gotu GT-600 and the plan is to have it on with me at all times while I’m on holiday to Japan/Korea and it will log exactly where I’ve been. The purpose of this is so I can attach some location information to every single photo that I take, either allowing me to plot them on a map or simply let me go back and see where the photo was taken if I forget. Much better solution than carrying a notepad and noting down image file names and location.

One down, four to go.

So, had the first of my five final exams and I’m feeling a bit okay with it. I guess it’s not too bad considering I could only manage to get a little over two hours sleep (not because I was cramming, but I just couldn’t sleep). A couple of questions I wasn’t too sure about but I hope it’s gonna be okay.

Was planning to spend the rest of the day studying at Uni, and can you believe on a WEEEKEND, finding an empty room in the ASB is not an easy task. I was seriously expecting half the rooms to be empty, but as I walked along the first level, each room I passed had someone studying or sleeping inside (as well as the occasional stash of books and bags). Instead of making good use of a few hours at Uni, I procastinated and instead bought the lonely planet’s “Discover Japan” book and had a quick skim through it. Also tried to get a rough idea of when we’ll be where and when the best time to fly to Korea would be.

It’s been quite hectic few weeks with studying and as a result, planning for the upcoming Japan trip has been put on the backburner and I really have no idea what I want to be doing over there nor do I know much about what’s there to do.