Friday, August 27, 2010

Tremendously overdue and just tremendous in general update

Hi kids, how've you been? We miss you all! We miss that we missed Ange's Bday, Beno's farewell, Baccae's Toga Party, Nick and Georgia's burrito love and pizza. We also miss West Lakes food court's fish and chips.

So you're wondering what we've been up to?

J&F Farewells
Our friend Linda left on tuesday, which naturally required a lot of drinking and some eating. We missed her farewell BBQ but we made it into the kitchen in time for the fun to really start. And by fun, I mean lots of alcohol (not so much on mine and Sarah's part) and seemingly endless repetition of a Japanese song that goes "Linda Linda! Linda Linda Linda! Linda Linda! Linda Linda Linda!" and so on. (With such lyrical diversity, I'm sure you can't imagine how I found it annoying...) The day after that, Oche left, but no one knew he was leaving and to be honest, we didn't see him before he left. Weird. Then our good friend Sebastien, one of the nicest guys I know, left back to France. We're going to see if we can catch up with a few J&F people when we hit Europe!

From top, left to right: 1) Linda is the one pointing, 2) Nicolas, Ayumi and Sarah bewildered by the drunken goings-on, 3) Sarah and I get exited, 4) Fumio decides to breakdance, hilarity ensues, 5) Kira... I don't know what Kira is doing, 6) Sarah does the ALIEN DANCE! (aka "We no speak Americano")

Spaghetti Party!
The reason we missed Linda's BBQ was because of Chizuko's Spaghetti Party! Miho was finally better and Chizuko invited us to lunch. We took our Malibu, pineapple juice and garlic bread with us, and Chizuko made us two different types of spaghetti to try, one with eggplant, ham and ... I have no idea what else, the other a kind of herby tomato with feta cheese. They were both quite nice, though I admit, I ate just the pasta and tomato sauce, none of the extras!

DenDen Town
On tuesday we went with Miho and Mai to DenDen town. DenDen Town is like Tokyo's Akihabara district, only it's in Osaka, obviously. Sarah bought a tripod stand for her camera, while we looked at the newest iPod gear, over expensive "jewel" headphones (seriously, they look nothing like jewels, how dare you try to charge that much??!?!?) and Sarah's favourite gaming shiz! It was REALLY hot. We toiled on, looking through game shops, wasting our money on machines that gave us awful keyrings, buying figurines we really didn't need (Okay, that was me, but they had Meyrin and Lacus cheap! Now of course I have to get Kira and Yzak.)and had a look at cosplay shops. Wigs here are pretty expensive, but way cool. I want Aqua hair! We stopped for a snack break at Maccas (what, it was so hot! Maccas is air conditioned, has ice cold coke and is delicious! And cheap. so many reasons just to stay there forever!) Then we (reluctantly) walked into the heat and continued down the road... to get icecream! It was delicious, by the way. Soft serve is called "Soft cream" and comes in many different flavours, including "Corn Pottage"... wtf is that?

1) Carly under a nice looking arch, 2) Sarah finds a sword, 3)Akatsuki BLING Gundam with Cagalli and Mwu La Flaga sparkling on the box, 4) A giant Gundam punches a hole in the no-photo rule, 5) Den-Den Town, 6) Statue from Fall Out 3 game.

Hard Rock Cafe
After DenDen town, we went to Hard Rock Cafe. Sarah was excited about the food, me about the cocktails and I didn't think Miho or Mai knew quite what to expect. The cocktails were arse. You paid $10 and they didn't even put them in a cocktail glass, just like, a normal coke glass! Not impressed! Also, despite ordering three different cocktails, they all looked identical. Boring! Unfortunately, with the exception of Sarah's blackened chicken pasta, the food was pretty lame too. Sarah loved her pasta, Mai's caesar salad was okay, but Miho's fish and chips were absolutely awful. The chips were gross- tomato sauce couldn't save them, and the fish was... It was about 5 small fish, not one piece, which wasn't so bad. The fish was 70% tasteless batter and grease, and 30% warm sandy tasteless fishmush. Lemon did not assist in any way, and I felt sorry for Miho. My garlic bread was quite average, and I was not impressed. The only area in which I rate it is music, cause it had awesome music, and at the perfect volume; you wanted to dance but you could still talk easily.

1)Mai, Sarah, Miho & I at Hard Rock Cafe Osaka, 2) Mai and Sarah, 3) Miho and I

After sternly deciding on a budget, we then proceeded to go shopping. Hyakuen stores are quite dangerous- deceptively cheap they are, yet buy $15 worth I do. Understand this mystery, Yoda does not. We found a Daiso right near us- just a 10m walk away. We literally spent an hour scouring its depths, and i spent $13 on $1 products. I bought "shiny powder". We also hit UniQlo. We'd found a great bargain there before, many great bargains actually, but this time, we wanted to buy another and it was GONE. Oh we didn't know how well we had it- if only... but it was not to be, as I even tried ringing the Umeda UniQlo and they too were sold out. Of course, I didn't know this until Miho rang for me, after asking my carefully translated question and then announcing I did not speak Japanese, the guy launched into quickfire Japanese which seemed much more elaborate than the simple "hai" or "ie" I was looking for.
Nonetheless, we still triumphed, returning with more clothes than were previously had. We love UniQlo.

Kelly’s Party
Kelly’s party was on the 40th floor of a building in Miyakojima. It was pot luck so we bought Pesto Pasta (courtesy of Sarah) which went down well. When we came in we were the centre of attention which was unnerving; we felt like hobos attending an expensive dinner (maybe not too far from the truth). Most of the people were Chizuko’s colleagues, including Kelly and his brother Corey who are Canadian. The Japanese people were very nice and keen to talk to us; I think I scared them talking about sharks, snakes, poisonous spiders, octopus and jellyfish, drop bears and killer kangaroos.
There was more Takoyaki, which we declined, slightly alarmed. The view was killer, as you’d expect from 40 floors, and we took some nice photos including “you’ve run a marathon and now you’re puffed out”, “you're that suave Japanese guy who thinks he's Italian”, “ and more. Also, we had fun train watching and saw some fireworks from far off.
When we left, we looked down from the 40th floor (the building had a hollowed out square in the middle... a straight, 40 floor death drop) and if that wasn't facing my fear of heights, I'm not sure what was. I also kind of felt like I should have a light saber, and that Luke Skywalker was coming to toss my boss into the abyss.
At 11:30 we decided we’d better catch the train home, alas, the last train was at 11:34 from a stop 10 mins away. This was slightly awkward but Chizuko and Miho came to the rescue, refusing to leave us on the streets. We walked back to Chizuko’s, buying a delicious “soft cream” (soft serve) cone in choc-vanilla. It was cheap but ridiculously delicious.
Then we got to sleep on a real Japanese Futon! It was pretty comfortable actually, though I did have a weird dream about trying to convince a plastic bag to turn back into a boy. The boy was also pregnant. Weird stuff, I know.

1)The view from the balcony, 2) same view, diff pic, 3) "You're a walnut, hanging from a tree", 4) "You're a plane, coming into land, tilting a little to the side", 5) "You're a samurai", 6) 40th floor of the Death Star, 7) Fireworks in the distance, 8) Carly and Sarah, 9) Miho and Carly, 10) Sarah and Miho, 11) view from the balcony with a blue light, 12) futon party, 13) "dead" on the futon, 14) a mighty sly monobrow sneaks its way across Saros' forehead.

The day after
After a nice sleep in, we watched SYTYCD America (and got the COOLEST idea) then we departed for Maccas- futatsu cheeseburger, ooonion to muuuustard to pickulshu nookie de! I also created beauty with our leftover wrappers.We then headed back to J&F and had a lovely shower, wasted our time (Onion, NO! Mustard, NO! Pickles, NO!) and made Miho Tacos for tea! And watched Gundam Seed ;)

^^ I created a TANK! ^^

"Planning" with Miho
Today we decided to visit Miho and plan more activities for September. What actually happened was we watched America's next top model, then headed to Daiso and UniQlo. Upon comparing my budget and my money, I was alarmed and vowed not to spend much money. I then bought two dresses, a skirt and a scarf and some presents. And a new handbag. Oops? So we're trying to plan again on thursday. Also, on the train on the way to Miyakojima (Miho's station), a kid got his hand stuck in the train doors... they didn't close on his hand, his hand got dragged into the space where the doors slide into when open. He screamed and screamed, and it was really freaky. In the end about 6-10 Japanese men were trying to pull his arm out while holding the half closed train door open. His hand, when pulled out, was fine... Sarah and I half expected it to come out bloody and like raw meat. It was both relieving and slightly disappointing, after the feeling of horror! Also, I'm not allowed to eat Maccudo (Maccas), chips, or ice cream until next sat. If I do, I have to eat lots of octopus. I am a sad panda.

^^ Never thought I'd be grateful Adelaide train doors are so weak...^^

To my family- Sorry about Skype, I didn't blow you off, talk to you Thursday for sure!
To Kim Simpson, your malteser and Mars bar goodness is unbelieveable!
To Kim Bowden, I'll try to catch you on skype this weekend or friday?
To Ange, you should really check your email more often.
To Ben, we really should have bought those hats.
To Laura Turner, get on those pantsu cards!
To Laura Simpson, I didn't even know you had a cat. Looking forward to Skype date!
To Kirilly, yes, when we get back, we will make punch!
To Beno, your pizza makes me jealous.
To Georgia, you haven't commented us! WHY?!
To John, wow, grounded? Sucks to be you!

Hugs, Kisses and ... (you can fill this one in Ange),

Ichinose Maki
Darth Vader
Carlos Jorgen


Dear Diary,
Nose a little itchy today...
xx Ichinose


Secret Video coming soon here ;)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It's So Hot...Milk Was a Bad Choice!

It was one of those days where you kind of wake up in a lazy mood, not really feeling excited for the events you’d already planned and would much rather stay in bed all day and read a book. However, it is also one of those days, when it does turn out to be worth getting out of bed for…

The morning started with the usual routine of Carly sleeping in, and myself getting ready and (unsuccessfully and not so quietly) sneaking out and sitting in the kitchen with my laptop, cup of tea and bowl of oats (thank you import store!). We had planned the day before to go to pool at 11am... so by 12pm, we had just started leaving JF house for 40 minute walk to the pool in 37 degrees/80% humidity. 15 minutes into the walk, it felt like we were already in a heated sauna. The pool we went to was in Nagai Park, which has a famous stadium and park surrounding it.

We were bewildered by the signage which was in Kanji only (the really difficult Japanese characters) – this led us to a bicycle park…so we ignored the Kanji signs and arrows and followed some other people who looked to be heading towards the pool. Finally locating the entrance, we were stumped again when we realised you bought your tickets through a machine which, you guessed it – was in Kanji only!!! Looking suave, we pretended to be waiting around and watched some people come up to use the machine and see what buttons they pressed. Luckily, our friend Linda had been to the pool on Monday and mentioned it was 400¥ to get in. Taking a wild guess, we just put our money in and pressed the button with 400 written on it. Sweet (we thought) as the ticket popped out at the bottom. Now all we needed to do was walk in, give the ticket to someone and hop in the pool right? Wrong. This is Japan people!

We entered the foyer of the pool, and were directed to give our tickets to a man standing behind a small desk. He took the tickets then, as we went to walk off, placed a sign in my hand in –KANJI. *twitch* Carly and I both muttered “Wakarimasen.” (I don’t understand.) So, instead he pointed to my backpack and checked it, then asked us “Beer cans?” or “Big Beach balls?”, neither of which we had, so we were allowed to go on our way. . At the end of the hall we were met with 4 paths - two to the left, two to the right, all written in KANJI!!! We took up the bewilderment stance once again as we watched people enter all different doorways. Luckily, after a minute or two, a lovely old man was kind enough to tell us in his minimalist English that to the right was the indoor pool, and the left led to the outside pool, with the door closest to us being the women’s change rooms. As we entered, we were confronted with naked toddlers and naked women around every corner of lockers. Averting our eyes, we picked out a locker and finally headed out to the pool. On the left we had the toddler’s pool, which was ankle deep. Next to that was the kiddies pool, which looked to be about knee deep and also had two slides (as pictured)

Last, was the ‘Adult’ pool - standing at 120cm deep and coming up to just below our waist at its deepest point. Heading straight into the water, we found it to be almost as hot as it was outside and more like a bubble-less spa rather than a refreshing pool. It was packed with people who were frequently bashing into you, which made me feel like I was part of a pinball machine.

At one point, the lifeguards said something in Japanese a few times we realised that everyone was climbing out of the sides of the pool so we decided to try and get into the inner pool. This was achieved with little success as no one was in the inner pool either; and everyone who was standing along the side of it were all old men in budgie smugglers and high topped short shorts. Back in the outdoor pool, we managed to take a few horrible photos of ourselves before being told off by the life guard that photos weren’t allowed (our bad!).

We left the pool at 2pm to go get ready to meet Yoshida-san at 4, ready for our adventure to Osaka Castle. Amazingly, we managed to find the right train after asking a couple of people if it was indeed the train to Osakajokoen (Asking where to go places is probably the only full sentence I know in Japanese and has come in handy quite a lot lately.). We made it only 5 minutes late, which was a definite record for us, and met up with Yoshida-san and her best friend Noriko. Yoshida-san surprised us by getting us tickets to ride on the Train car to the entrance of OsCast. It would’ve been a 20min walk otherwise, and I don’t think our feet could hack much more after already walking 40min to the pool and back in the raging heat. The castle is surrounded by a huge mote, which we thought was pretty cool considering we’d both never been to a real castle before. The base was infested with wild cats that MongKitty probably would’ve be proud to have as family. I took a few shots of them as a shout out to Loris, who I know appreciates cute animal photos.

Train Car win!

The Moat!

Mong Kitty's dad?

An albino asleep - with giant paws! These feral cats were everywhere, but they are quite friendly, and live right by the moat.

Saros the Photographer at work.

They were still setting up the candles as we made our way up the hill through the castle’s garden’s and paths towards the centre where the castle stood. Unbelievably, Carly was right when she said they might have Frozen Coke at the castle which I was pretty excited about, as these ones were large AND had ice cream on top. In the heat, it made it that much better! We headed into the Castle just as the sun was starting to set and were grateful once again as Yoshida-san purchased our tickets before we could argue.

Osaka Castle was built in 1528; and in 1665 the main tower burnt down when lightning ignited the gunpowder warehouse and wasn’t rebuilt until 1843. The castle was made up of 8 levels – 7&8 being observation towers and the rest made of historical artefacts and stories. We stayed on the top observation deck until the sun went down – the city was shrouded in a humid mist and the whole effect was both creepy and cool at the same time. We had a good spot on the deck that looked over the candles in the garden, enabling us to get some pretty good birds eye views of below.

These candles made out a design of a running man and were about a large marathon that will be held around the castle in 2011.

We headed down to the lower levels of the Castle where we read all about the wars that went on at Osaka castle - the two major ones being the Battle of Sekigahara and Siege of Osaka.

I didn't actually read what most of the plaques said...but Wikipedia has some great information for those that do want to read up the history further. The old war uniforms were very interesting though, and ranged from beaked-masks to bear fur full body armour. I think the best ones we saw were these, they were so lively and fierce! These were also the most popular with both the Japanese and tourists visiting the castle:

As you can see, these ones were definitely the best in the whole castle. Simply breathtaking! The castle was starting to close up so unfortunately we had to leave the brilliant war suits behind and head down to the candle lit gardens, stopping to get some more shots before leaving to go and get dinner.

We headed to Osaka Business Park where we had been on Tuesday to vote and went back to the first floor of the IMP building to have a look at the available restaurants. We saw Ange's Cafe again with the delicious Crab Claw Pasta, but thought we'd have a look at what other restaurants were available (thank god!) I went ahead and found that they had an Italian restaurant which I not so subtly said we could go to, unless there was somewhere else they'd rather. Unfortunately for us, the Italian place was no longer serving, and Noriko wanted to take us to a Okonomiyaki Restaurant (yay...). The last time I had it...there had been octopus in it... but as Yoshida-san was shouting us once again we could hardly refuse, so with a slight twitch and Barbie smiles, Carly and I followed them to the restaurant where we found out the food is brought out half cooked and finished on a large hotplate set into your table.

Luckily, we managed to find a safe order of French Fries to share, Pork Yakisoba, and Noriko also ordered a vegetarian Okonomiyaki for us to try.

As predicted, the fries and tomato sauce were awesome, the Yakisoba nice and tasty as usual and believe it or not, I actually liked the Okonomiyaki and Carly didn't MIND it, but didn't really like it either.

Still, it wasn't a complete fail...until...we had a SURPRISE meal from Yoshida-san - TakoYaki! Fried Octopus balls! Yayyy....oh...we were just overjoyed to try more octopus!

Yoshida-san knew we didn't like it, and had her iPhone out ready to film our feeble attempts at eating the Japanese delicacy. Which went something like this:

Notice Carly's does almost return the octopus back to the sea of soup in the bowl. I would say she did quite well, and I don't know if this was an eating tactic by her, but kudos none the less - breaking the ball before putting in your mouth - brilliant idea Carly and I resent you for your smartness!!! The next attempt from me, is a little more subtle, you need to watch the signs here - as you see, when it was my turn, the waitress who had brought them out was standing and watching me ready to eat it. So in order not to embarass our guests or the restaurant I had to put on my best attempt to like this dish.

What you see - Sarah enjoying a lovely ball of Takoyaki, it went down smoothly and 'it wasn't too bad!' with a meer shrug. Now let me tell you, I don't know what was going through Carly's head, but this is what was going on inside mine - shit, everyone is watching. shit, the waitress isn't leaving. Ok, it's just egg and octopus - dip it in the soup and into the mouth and Oh my god EWWW - smile - smile- shit! Just swallow, don't chew, noooo don't chew the octopus, stop, breathe, ohhh it tastes soo bad and warm and...just swallow whole...and... done...oh dear god never again .SMILE! and Thumbs Up! The waitress was happy and walked away, while my stomach was still spasming with the contents. To put it as nicely as possible, the egg was LIGHTLY cooked on the outside. So putting it whole into my mouth and biting down resulted in an explosion of warm gooey, fishy eggy crunchy octopus YUCK. I hate runny egg by the way, so, now look at the tell tale signs of my inner horror - the squinty eyes, the hand to the mouth. Such a horror.

The rest of the night went well however, we caught the subway home and relaxed on the roof to stare up at the non-existant stars and talk with the JF Crew. You guys WISH you had roof couches, but instead of just being jealous, we'd love to hear your comments ALL about your jealousness.


Much love and Takoyaki. Saros out!