Thursday, September 30, 2010

Where's my Samurai?

AIIII I'm your little butterfly....

Yes, I was listening to that song - who on earth would think that would be a good song? Anyway, on to the vague, rambling and obscure reference filled post! *Heroic pose*

Scandal are a band from Japan I've liked ever since the Arrancar arc of Bleach,.So I'm watching Kurosaki go all "BANKAI" and suddenly, on comes Shoujo S, one of Scandal's more famous songs and all of a sudden, it's like, coolies. So then I download Doll and Beauteen and they're coolies too. Point? well actually I've just been rambling, but anyway, we found out by ABSOLUTE CHANCE Scandal were playing at Zepp Osaka, and I turned to Sarah and said "Bro, we gotta hit that, or are ya doggin me?"
Actually no, that's probably one of our good friend Jim "Mixeleven" 's many varied and indecpherable "hood lingo" status updates. But we went on a quest to get tickets, and it was a quest worthy of a novel, or the following sentence:
We couldn't buy tickets online so Sarah found a 711 and got the tickets.
Wondering how big it was going to be, and also how crap (I read a review saying Scandal were lame live), we hit the Tanimachi line and then the Chuo line to Kosumo (Cosmo) square. Cosmo Square brings to mind some sort of wicked entertainment district- I know I certainly expected that rogue bay ferris wheel to be sitting there right next to the station but alas, it was at least a stop back. I was crushed.
So luckily Sarah checked where we were supposed to go, and we set off down the road (C: Are we going the right way? S: Yep. C: Really? S: Yes, really. C: So you actually know where we're going? S: YES!) and what do you know, we got there!

^^ Videoclip to Shojo S ^^

To view the BLEACH opening theme, clickies and enjoy the kind of creepy seductive look of the characters- except the ugly ones who are in the dark or facing away.

There was a big ass line and our tickets being 1196/1197 were therefore not exceptional tickets... a long time of staring at each other and trying to work out where to go later, we eventually pointed to our tickets with a confused look and Japanese people took pity on us and pointed us in the right direction. From there, it was a good hour waiting in the rain, with my sweet ass umbrella ("Shoot to Kill, Shinsou!") snapping out and almost decapitating someone.
Or not, but hey, I bet it could. Also, the jacket, which saved me from rain on my arm. Possibly also egg on my face. No rain or egg on my arm- not a glob.
Unfortunately, not all in the line were as prepared as us, and could only wish they had an umbrella while the points of my umbrella dripped all over their heads.
So to make a long story short, as so far, I've been making a short story incredibly long, we got in and were directed to an awesome section, which we eventually figured out was just for girls, because Japan is fantastically sexist like that. We had an awesome view, good luck to the (shorter) crazy girls behind us. So we figured the opening band would play, only there were no opening bands, which really, was good, though they did play some Bono (Elevation) beforehand.
Then, with an explosion of sound that possibly rendered me legally deaf for the foreseeable duration of my life, it began.

^^"I'm in a glass case of emotion!" - Temptation Box, Scandal's New Album^^

I was worried they'd suck. In fact they were awesome- excellent singing and harmony (a few times the high pitched one was too loud and drowned out the other one, but man, she sounded like a 3 year old on crack). Even though I didn't know the majority of the songs and had NO IDEA what they were singing about, all the tunes were catchy and their costumes were kind "cute school girl". They opened with "Everybody say yeah", then "Beauteen" came up, which was good- they performed it really well, "Doll" made an appearance and Shoujo S, which I felt was probably their poorest performance (difficult vocals, to be fair, and late in the set) though still quite good.
Only thing that totally bewildered Saros and I was three times, they stopped playing and started this monologue (which we obviously didn't understand except at one time they were talking about Takoyaki and Gohan). The crowd itself was wack- during the monologues, which lasted a fair while actually, they stood listening gravely, with the occasional laugh or cheer when required.
During the show, they were electrified, with a "Yeah yeah YEAH" or hand pumping/waving action when required, otherwise, completely silent and docile. Also, did I mention, what the hell were they talking about for so long?! In the middle of the set, they chucked their instruments and sang (and did some weird ass arm dance) to Shoujo M (not the same as Shoujo S). The song was cute, but what the hell were the arm movements going on? Sarah thought they were doing a mid show stretch.

^^ Scandal Promo pic. Click Beauteen to see the song, where they're hardcore promoting Pocari Sweat^^

They left the stage and immediately the crowd started chan"En cor ru, en cor ru!" which I eventually figured was encore. So we waited, and we waited, and they chanted and clapped. Still we waited, as the techies came on stage to fiddle with guitars and shit. The only reason I stayed at this point, was cause the soundies behind us looked like they were waiting for something, and sure enough, Scandal reappeared to the delight of their fans. They played another song, then launched into some sort of speech so we thought it best to hightail it outta there. Anyhow, we beat the crowd back to the station and headed home, to my usual cbf dinner of vegemite sandwich, ironically, also my breakfast and lunch, though I have purchased knock-off Frosties. (I'm not kidding, they actually have Frosties but Sarah told me they were too expensive and I had to get knock off. She has knock off cocopops).


Farewell Dinner

On Sunday we met up with Yoshida to go shopping as she wanted to buy us something to remember her and Japan. We were originally going to the horrifically overpriced Kintetsu store, but ended up going to Yodobashi camera, which I'm ashamed to say actually had a whole other store in it that we never knew existed! We met in a cafe after getting quite lost on the way, and had some fantastic chocolate pudding. One thing the Japanese do well is a good pudding- their pudding is fantastic. (Cold pudding, FYI).

^^ Yeah, that's as good as it looks!^^

We then went to UniQlo in Comme Ca, where Saros and I angsted over both wanting the same Jacket (it's a good jacket!) and eventually both got it. We travelled to other stores, buying fragrances, salt and pepper shakers (They were under $1.50!), Mint M&Ms (which were delicious, btw) and other misc stuff. By this time, it was almost time to meet Chizuko and Miho, so we went back to the station and then to Saizeriya for dinner.

^^Comme ca had all these sweets shops! These cakes made me think of Nanna V!^^

Saizeriya is awesome. It was our shout as a thank you to them, and it only came to 5700Y, which is very cheap. The pizza was the best I've had in Japan (it was Adelaide quality. Not quite Pizza Hut, but certainly up there!) The servings were small, so we just got lots! We had Garlic Bread that actually had garlic (stuff you La Pausa!) and Sarah and Miho had Spaghetti Bolognaise, Creamy Spinach and Bacon Spaghetti and Steak between them.

^^Food of the GODS!^^

^^ The steak ^^

^^Having fun!^^

It was all you can drink for like, $2, and I found I actually quite liked the Melon- because it didn't taste like Melon!
We gave out our thank you presents (including for Chieko, Noriko and Masako) and Chizuko was quite overcome by the Opal necklace. So thank you mum and dad- we owe you! Noriko was quite nice; she couldn't come but gave us both a mirror and an M&Ms Mint strap, which looks pretty swift on my camera!

^^ M&Ms Mint (which I'm quite partial to, the strap and my Saizeriya Melon drink!^^

After that we headed home to say a quick goodbye to Nicolas who left the next day for France. Meanwhile, Juerg's moving out to Daikokocho on thursday so he's leaving before us too! Coming up we've got Miyajima, Kobe, Lunch with Yoshida, possibly Hikone, packing and cooking Tacos on Friday and Sat- TOKYO via Shinkansen- the beginning of the end!

^^ The presents were a hit!^^

^^ Happy Group Photo!^^

And the usual- Miss you all very much and kisses!
xx Carlos and Saros

You know what's not wickhouse? No one but poor Ben commenting. Also, why am I listening to Shania? Correction, I newly love Shania. But I didn't even realise I had "If you're not in it for love" on my ipod...

Shout out-
Shania Twain, and Ben. That is all.
(She's probably reading this right now and nodding).

We'll be on the move almost non-stop from now, so thank you so much to everyone who sent us a package of love (especially if it contained food!) but you probably can't send anymore. We'll probably be harder to get in touch with too. Onward- TYO and Euro!

I want that Samurai.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Clubbin', Kyoto and the Dotombori

Friday Night - Sam and Dave's One Club So on Friday night, we rocked up at Sam and Dave's foreign club at 11pm, hoping to have some better luck that our last club. What we got was another empty club with two old men sitting next to us. Miho was unimpressed.

*Note old men in the background. Luckily, it was only $10 to get in, and that was with 2 free drinks! So Carly and Miho got "Fuzzy Navels" and I got our drink of Summer 2010 - Cassis Orange!

They were delicious, and free! The music was rather loud, but eventually they started playing some songs that we could actually dance to. So we were up on the dance floor by ourselves, the only other person being some older man who looked like he was dancing around with some fairies - well at least he was entertaining.

We managed to also get him in the background here. On our next round of drinks, Carly thought she'd order something a little special, she was going to go with the "Blue China" cocktail, when I noticed one called "Kir" and well, there was no way we could NOT order a drink in Kirilly's name, so a Kir it was, while I went with a nice and frothy Pina Colada - considering these cocktails were still was pretty good value for money! What we didn't realise was a Kir is a mix of white wine, red wine and ice. Carly was looking pretty apprehensive as it was poured, but when we took it back to our table, turns out the combo tastes pretty nice!

It was after this that a few random mixes of songs had us looking a little bewildered - for example when Metallica's Enter Sandman started playing...we thought it was a bit weird for a popular club, until a remix of Lady Gaga started playing over the TOP! It was horrible! After a while, the songs luckily went back to normal Top 20 songs. We stayed until around 2:30, before heading back early to Miho's house in a taxi to try and get some sleep for another big day at Kyoto. When we got back, Chizuko had already set up the futons for us and we were asleep in no time.

Saturday - Kiyomizu Temple

On Saturday morning, we were awoken by the smell of perculated coffee and something sizzling on the stove. By the time we were up, we sat down and had hotdogs and garlic toast; which were delicious! It was a great start to the day, then we encountered a Japanese shower. It's basically like a small room that looks like a bathroom, with tiled walls, a bath and a long mirror, and a shower head which is in between the bath and the floor. It was after Carly had already attempted her shower, that Miho cheerfully explained to us that you don't stand in the bath and shower, you stand on the floor...which didn't look like a shower floor at all and had a weird drain that I didn't even realise WAS a drain. Then we also had to be shown how to turn it on and how to adjust the temperature. It was very complicated. Just like their toilets, which had the seat warmers activated on it when we were really don't want to press any of the buttons on the side, because you don't know what you're going to get! We will try and get pictures next time we're there to explain these technological phenomenon!

With another 2 hour journey, we made our way by subway, train and taxi up to Kiyomizu temple with the worlds tallest Pagoda. It is right at the top of a hill, so the taxi dropped us off about half way, as the rest is closed off to cars. We made our way on foot up the narrow, crowded and winding path of souvenir shops that led up to the temple.

Couple of views from the train ride.

The famous Kamo River, Kyoto - popular tourist destination and romantic date spot.

The start of the path to Kiyomizu - it was a long way up!

Halfway along, we found a Kimono place, and took the plunge and got dressed up. To get dressed up, with our hair done was only $40 for me, and about $45 for Carly and Miho, which wasn't too bad considering it was to hire for the whole day.

We don't think we turned out too badly in the end haha there were a few people who wanted their photo with us, and a couple more who stood behind Chizuko, snapping away when we were posing in a few areas.

This was a famous lookout/photo spot, and we actually told some people to move out the way so we could have our photo taken haha I don't think they were too impressed, but oh well! The temple entrance was quite wide, and the steps were very steep; making it almost impossible to walk up them gracefully in a Kimono!

The temple itself was lovely, and had some great views. The only thing that was a little disappointing was because it was so crowded we didn't have the opportunity or time to do a couple of the things that you could do there (such as drink from a famous/lucky waterfall). We did however, manage to find some great scenic views, and take a few nice portraiture shots in our Kimonos.

Once we left the temple, we followed a path around the mountain which eventually led back to the beginning steps of the temple, and the start of the narrow road of shops back down the hill. It was almost 5pm, and we found out that all the shops closed at 5:30, so in a mad rush and with lots of shuffling, we made our way through the shops looking for any last minute bargains to take back with us. Unfortunately, Carly had a lot more luck than I did, and I came out empty handed. By the time we got back, we were exhausted, and headed to bed for an early start the next morning.

Along the Dotombori

unday morning, we were up at 7am, and out of JF with Ayumi and Nicolas by 7:30...ish. We had planned to go to Parque Espana, but soon found out once we had already waited an hour for the train, that we had not only missed it, we also would've had to pay another $15 just to book a seat - so it was almost $50 one way... deciding Parque Espana was now a no go, Ayumi and Nicolas decided to go to some waterfalls...somewhere... but Carly and I weren't too keen and instead headed to Shin Osaka and cashed in our JR Rail Passes, then headed to Shinsaibashi to check out the Dotombori River. The river was probably the equivalent in dirtyness to the Torrens and also housed a few local bums. The stench of urine in the air reminded us of home, back in the Port.

Carly had heard there was a cruise, but when we went to the spot where she thought it was, we found a crowd of guys swapping photos of what looked to be famous girls in school was a little creepy. Thinking of giving up, we instead walked around to the other side of the river. This is where we spotted the guy amongst the all the creepy photo collectors, that we were meant to see about the cruise. We made it just in time, with the next cruise leaving in 5 minutes.

We got a few pictures of the scenery along the way, with the only picture of us not doing us much justice.

Us looking not so flash.

The famous running man!

The Don Quiote Ferris Wheel.

The MC on the cruise had quite a high pitched voiced, and her incessant babbling, paired with the dirty water and lovely views of underneath bridges 50% of the cruise - made it a rather interesting experience. Especially, on the way back to the dock, where she pulls out a bazooka and hands it to a tourist in front of us, and explains that he must shoot the overly large octopus on the wall of a building we were about to pass. So as he pretends to fire this gun, the octopus starts releasing smoke, while playing theatrical opera music and disco lights illuminating its eyes. So overall, we were left quite bewildered by the whole experience, and while it wasn't that bad, it wasn't that great either. We will however, leave you with the wonderful experience that was the octopus!

Coming up, we have a concert on Thursday night to go see the band SCANDAL, then on Sunday we have shopping with Yoshida, and our farewell dinner that night with Yoshisa, Chizuko and Miho.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sunday to Wednesday

Sunday BBQ
For Fumio’s birthday we were invited to a BBQ, which we thought we should attend since we missed Linda’s. We told Fumio we probably wouldn’t eat much (i.e. ANYTHING) but he still made us pay- between the two of us it was $25 and it was the biggest rip off ever. We will never again be going to any kind of BBQ. First of all, we walked about 45 mins (a slow group walk) to the river, Sarah and I talking to Ida and Ayumi. The river itself was nothing spectacular, I was pretty underwhelmed. It was about 30cm deep and you couldn’t even see it from the banks. It did seem to be a popular spot though, as there were other families and groups of friends having their own BBQs. We actually had to pay $10 just to be there. RIP OFF!

^^Fumio, Sarah and I^^

^^ Sarah, Ida and Ayumi^^

Since we had to pay, Ayumi insisted they put food on for us first as we had to leave about 20 mins after we got there! They had “Aussie beef” (cows tongues), Taiwanese meat (intestines) and some other beef in a sauce, which was the stringiest, fattiest, most unappealing “aussie beef” I’ve seen in a while! Sarah and I glanced at each other in horror as everyone waited on our verdict. Our verdict? “Ooishi” meaning delicious (in reality: absolutely horrific). Ida too glanced around in dismay, whispering to us “The last BBQ just had normal stuff, like hot dogs and hamburgers, I thought this one would be the same!”

^^ Ida and I cry tears of horror ^^

^^ Sarah and Ida didn't do anything wrong! Why are they punished?!^^

^^ The sentence: Death penalty ^^

Umeda Sky
Luckily though, after some BBQ corn (the only nice thing), we bailed, heading to Umeda Sky to see the Mexican Festival. The Mexican festival too was underwhelming, there was a big stage with performances and booths with Mexican food (looked kinda greasy and dodgy to me…) and we left the BBQ so late we got up to Umeda Sky just after dusk rather than just before dusk, but we got up there!
Umeda Sky is two 40 storey buildings with a giant donut shaped “floating observatorium” smacked on the top. It’s very high, and the elevator ride on the way up had me thinking “I really don’t want to die! If the cable snaps….”. I realise heights are not so bad as heights + see through elevators for me!

^^ Umeda Sky from below. The things going across the gap are escalators^^

^^ Comforting to know we were suspended over 39 storeys of NOTHING! ^^

^^ But the view was magnificent! ^^

Anyway, we got up to level 39 and took the “across a giant 39 storey chasm of death” elevators to the other side of the top. Well, the view was awesome, as you’d assume, and there were speckles of glowing paint and black lights on the footpath. At one stage, they turned on a giant white light, and we waited in vain for Batman to appear.

^^ BATMAN! ^^

They also had a platform where couples could take photos in front of a giant, glowing loveheart. It was pretty tacky, but we went with it anyway 'cause that's how we roll.
Then we headed down and grabbed some soft cream (we tried Strawberry- it was quite awful) from a multi-flavour shop. Soft serve is different here, each flavour of ice cream comes in a small tub, and is inserted into the machine that then turns it into soft serve. It’s way cooler than our one-flavour soft serve!

Sumiyoshi Taisha Grand Shrine
On Monday we headed to Sumiyoshi Taisha grand shrine with Yoshida and Noriko. We caught the subway to Tennoji and then a tram. Sumiyoshi Taisha is apparently the number one shrine in Osaka/Kansai. It had great greenery and all the buildings had wicked bright red-orange railings and accents. We washed our hands first (as is common at shrines) then stopped at a table. We paid $2 to shake a box of sticks with a hole in it- then we tipped the box and only one stick can come out of the hole. It has a number on it, and you then take the piece of paper with the number you chose. Sarah pulled 13, which Yoshida and Noriko said was one of the worst and very unlucky! I pulled number one (to anyone who watches Bleach, I sang Ichigo’s “number one” theme song the whole time! OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHH!) which is the luckiest! Yeah! Because of that, Sarah had to tie her bad luck to a tree, but I got to keep my good luck!

^^ "If you want to be the best... something something center OF ATTRACTION..."^^

Then we went to the temples, where you toss a coin, shake a big rope attached to a bell, step back and clap twice, then pray. (Though I have seen people pray and then clap). The shrine was very beautiful and had a river with a very high bridge over it. There were turtles and carp. There was also a sign that I felt strongly was telling me that the water wanted to eat me.

^^ Noriko, Sarah, Rieko/Yoshida ^^

^^ "If you fall in the water... it will eat you." ^^

We then had dinner at a “Japanese Pub” with Yoshida and Noriko. I was lucky they had furido potato and gohan (chips and rice) but we also had Gyoza (dumplins), Tori Karage (fried chicken), yakitori (chicken skewers), some sort of weird eggplant stuff. We also had our drink of choice for summer 2010- Cassis Orange! Then Noriko had us try Umeboshi, a plum that’s sat in salt for a year. It is very, VERY salty. Kind of like eating a salty-plum-lemon. We finished with delicious waffles and ice cream!

^^ Gohan (rice), furido potato, beef, tori karage (chicken). More food came later!^^

^^ This is served with drinks before the meal. It's actually eggplant. Gross! ^^

^^ Noriko and her dessert ^^

Chizuko’s Birthday
Wednesday was Chizuko’s birthday (Happy Birthday!) and we went to Miho’s to give her the present… only we forgot the present! *smacks forehead* We spent the day watching the rest of season 3 of America’s next top model (riveting stuff, I assure you) before heading out to take some pictures and video of Miho’s area. Also, maybe, to get soft cream. Then Chizuko suggested we go out for dinner to celebrate her birthday, and we went to a place around the corner from their house. Despite not having furido potato, the gohan was there and they had prawn crackers! I dislike prawns, but those crackers are oiishi!

^^The three boxes are the accompanying dish for drinks, the other, a PRAWN wrap^^

^^Birthday Feast!^^

I also had what I personally think may have been the nicest cocktail I ever had, and can’t wait to try when I get home. It had Strawb and Banana liqueur with pineapple juice! Way cool! There was pizza, but I much preferred the prawn crackers and Miho had something like a chicken schnitzel only with spinach and fish eggs in the middle! Eugh! Sarah had Karage again, and we had the nicest butter corn ever! Plus I think my horrendous chopstick skills may be improving… a little…
Then, we had some of the cake Chizuko’s boss Kelly gave her and it was so nice! It was a chocolate cake with chocolate cream, and it was the first time I’ve ever eaten cake with chopsticks!

^^Saros and I show we can pick up corn with our chopsticks... even if it takes a few tries!^^

^^We eat cake with chopsticks, 'cause we're badass, yo!"


This morning we were woken up by a storm- we didn’t go to Kyoto today because it was forecast to be raining, but the lightening was incredibly bright and lit up the whole sky. The thunder was the loudest I have ever heard! Maybe it’s because of all the tall buildings amplifying the sound? We tried to get the thunder on video but the storm was quite short.

^^ Look at the escalator! ^^

In other news, Happy Birthday Mandy! We would like to wish Sarah’s mum a very happy birthday (23/9) and hope she has a great day (and gets lots of cool presents)!

We miss our friends and family, and are starting to count down the days until we leave Osaka- that sounds weird now, we’ve been here for so long! Coming up on our itinerary are Kyoto again on Sat, Sam n Dave’s on Friday, and Parque Espana on Sunday, whew! Miss you all, and missing pizza,

Xx Carly