Thursday, 28 June 2007

Weekend work

And now for some messages...

…have a great day to Super John and Anna who are getting married this weekend and…

…good luck to Hutch, Gaz and Jase who are off participating in the “4 Peaks Challenge”.

Oh, and good luck to me as I climb my own mountain of 15 shots in one sitting and then attempt to come into work the next day (probably havre to work both Saturday and Sunday this weekend dammit).

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Sushi

I’ve started writing about Sushi a few times but never managed to write anything I was happy with. Typically this has been from the angle of “Japanese Cuisine” or “I don’t really like fish”.

Well here’s the odd thing, I’ve tried it a few times here and its actually starting to grow on me. Specifically, one restaurant (Gonpachi) here does lumps of tuna in a wasabi sauce which is excellent. I’ve tried bits and pieces in other places too which haven’t been bad either. Now I’m not saying I’m converted – far from it. I’m still not gonna go by choice but not as against it as I used to be.

One I have yet to try is “Fugu” blowfish. If you haven’t heard of it then here’s a quick rundown. This fish is poisonous and the chef needs a special license to prepare it to make sure you don’t eat too much poison. Still unsure about this especially since the news a couple of weeks ago included the story of a doctor who died after eating it…

Hostess bars

After having been to a restaurant last week we were looking for a bar in the business/shopping area of town know as Ginza. Not a lot going on there but there are a heck of a lot of “hostess” clubs.

These are where Japanese business men will go after work (every night) to drink in the company of women who are employed by the bar. These places are everywhere but are Japanese only – until last night. Having almost given up finding a normal bar we blagged our way in having adamantly told the doorman we were recommended this place by our friend “Daniel San” who owned a club in the next building – and he bought it (next time we’re going with Mr Miyagi as the phantom club owner). Odd place, about three or four Japanese business men and about a dozen Japanese girls all dressed as if they were going to a wedding. Still it was serving beer so we had a couple before wandering off.

Back to the guide book here and a phrase called OLs or “office ladies”:

“usually travel in small groups wearing matching office uniforms of skirts and white blouses [shock, white - SB]. These women may be secretaries but may equally be women who do the same work as their male bosses for half the pay.”

Now the only reason I tell these stories is to point out that Japan isn’t the most advanced as far as equality goes. Also, it gives me the chance to post this random picture which I think is hilarious:


Monday, 25 June 2007

Geronimo!

Almost all the Yanks were back in the US this weekend so I was out with my new Japanese friend Kyoko on Friday night. She took me to a few new bars including the one where we spent most of the night which was called Geronimo. A couple of gimmicks in this bar:

- the wall advertises that if you drink 15 shots in one sitting you get a free T-Shirt (big whoop) and a metal plaque with your name on the wall. In move which will shock the world (or at least the 30 or so people who seem to read this rubbish fairly regularly) I didn’t…yet…I’m thinking about it…

- there is a drum hanging above the bar and at about 1am a guy (who coincidentally was originally from Blackheath) hit it. Suddenly the music stopped and the barman announced that if you hit the drum in Geronimo you have to by everyone in the bar a shot (about 50 people at this time). The same guy went on to hit the drum three more times in the next couple of hours along with a couple of other punters so 6 free shots - can’t argue with that.

Music was good there too so may well be back there. On the subject of which (and credit to Hutch here for the recommendation) here’s “Heavyweight Champion Of The World” by Reverend and the Makers. If this isn’t being played constantly on the radio in the UK then something’s gone wrong.

Alternatively, for those of you who think hearing is overrated and are pretty much done with that sense here’s some Merzbow as “recommended” by Nick.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Japan v Junior All Blacks

The Junior All Blacks are basically New Zealand “A” so they are pretty damn good:

15 Scott Hamilton, 14 Rudi Wulf, 13 Ma'a Nonu, 12 Tane Tu'ipulotu, 11 Anthony Tuitavake, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Sione Lauaki, 7 Daniel Braid (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Hoani MacDonald, 3 Campbell Johnstone, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: 16 Derren Witcombe, 17 John Afoa, 18 Kieran Read, 19 Mose Tuiali'i, 20 Andrew Ellis, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Sam Tuitupou.

Any team would be happy with that back row and with Nonu and Hamilton in the backs there was plenty of firepower there. Bit of a tough ask for Japan then and the final score would suggest it was pretty much one way traffic at 51 – 3 but it really wasn’t.

I’m getting ahead of myself, lets go back to the beginning. The stadium for the game was right next to the Swallows baseball ground who were also at home. Both matches started at 2pm so it was a bit busy in the area to say the least. The weather on Saturday afternoon was fantastic so it was rather annoying that the game was on Sunday afternoon when there was a constant drizzle of rain and the stadium was uncovered.

Japan flew out of the blocks and had all the play for the first half hour. However, all they had to show for their efforts was one penalty. They had hit the post with another and only last ditch tackling by NZ had saved a couple of tries. So half an hour in it was 3 – 0 to Japan.

NZ woke up a bit in the last ten minutes and got a penalty and a pretty soft try (the Japanese right winger kept getting sucked in off his man when he didn’t need to and this let in a couple of scores in the 2nd half too) to go in 10 – 3 up at the half.


Despite my vociferous support of Japan the 2nd half was pretty much one way traffic with Japan falling off a few tackles they shouldn’t have. It still took two tries in injury time to get the score above 50. Japan suffered from the same old problem – they’re just not big enough and they’re scrum and lineout were in trouble all day long. But in open play they caused NZ a lot of problems.


I was actually surprised there weren’t more Kiwi’s in the crowd as it was almost all Japanese – probably about 15,000 in total.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Not enough time

Sorry folks, no time to write up much today so here's a rundown on my weekend plan. Tonight I'm out to dinner with one of the Japanese girls I met last week. Tomorrow I'll go explore somewhere new in Tokyo in the afternoon, go to work for a few hours in the evening and then off to watch the tri-nations at 10pm.

Sunday I have a ticket for the Japan v Emerging All Blacks game in Tokyo so a quiet Saturday night planned!!!!!

As today is a bit crap have some music I've found posted elsewhere:
"Over and Over" by Hot Chip (v catchy)
"Acceptable in the 80's" by Calvin Harris (from Dumfries no less)
"24hr party people" by The Happy Mondays (could have been written about Tokyo)

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Ninjas and Transvestites

If I write a weirder headline for a post in the next two years I’ll be impressed – off the top of my head I can’t think of anything that could top that. But to the stories, which I’m sorry to say are exclusive of each other.

As I mentioned yesterday we went to a Ninja themed restaurant last night (you’ll find the link is yesterday’s post). Obvious tourist gimmick and opinion was split as to whether this was a great or horrendous choice for dinner. In actual fact the food was pretty good and the ninja stuff quite funny – obviously all the waiters are dressed as Ninja’s and on the way in you are led through a “Ninja Training Course” with various animatronics. All in all a bit of a laugh.

Now, transvestites. We went for a couple of beers afterwards and came a cross a fairly lively bar (for a Wednesday night). Clue number one – the music was such hits as “We are family” and “YMCA”; Clue number two – the toilets (apparently) had one room with urinals only and one door with both the male and female signs on it. Beyond that I’d like to say it was easy to tell the real women from the transvestites but debate continues to rage this morning about a couple of individuals in the bar. One drink, we were out of there.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Vending Machines

Nearly forgot to post anything today so it'll have to be quick.

I read in my guidebook that there is one street vending machine for every 20 people in Japan – I can believe that as they're everywhere. Almost all the ones I’ve seen are for either drinks or cigarettes (on which subject the drinks are almost all different brands although there must be 1,000 different brands of water and tea). I’m yet to see one of the mythical ones which dispense used pants – so all you people who wanted me to send you some you’ll have to wait.

We've got reservations at a Ninja themed restaurant tonight - hit the maroon coloured bar above the Dining/Bar opening hours to enter the site. I'll report back on it tomorrow...

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Odaiba

First things first, I’ve found a receipt in my wallet which tells me I was in the Sushi restaurant at about 6am on Saturday night (actually that really is more Sunday morning) so that helps a bit with my confusion from the weekend. Also, I didn’t have enough time yesterday but wanted to find this track – “Lost Weekend” by Lloyd Cole, exactly what I have.

Now onto more mundane matters – the rest of my Saturday. I had to go into work but could wander into the office whenever I liked. Everyone else went in about midday and left about 5pm. I thought that this was a waste of a day and decided to go explore somewhere new during the day, go into work at about 4pm and leave at 10pm in time to get to the bar for the rugby (as I said yesterday this plan was fine if only I’d got the ko time right for the game).

So during Saturday I went to Odaiba which, if you look back to the view from my hotel window I posted a week or so ago, is across the river from where I’m staying. This place is completely different to any other part of Tokyo I’ve been to – there are massive wide open spaces as it seems that development has been pretty recent. A rip from Wikipedia tells me that I’m right:

“The modern redevelopment of Odaiba started after the success of Expo '85 in Tsukuba. The Japanese economy was riding high, and Odaiba was to be a showcase as futuristic living, built at a cost of over $10 billion. T3, as it was nicknamed, was supposed to be a self-sufficient city of over 100,000 residents. The ‘bubble economy’ burst in 1991, and by 1995 Odaiba was a virtual wasteland, underpopulated and full of vacant lots.


In 1996, the area was rezoned from pure business to allow also commercial and entertainment districts, and the area started coming back to life as Tokyo discovered the seaside it never had. Hotels and shopping malls opened up, several large companies including Fuji TV moved their headquarters to the island, and transportation links improved.”


The architecture in Odaiba is all pretty mad, for example here’s a shot of the Fuji TV building which has a “Death Star” type sphere in the middle of it:



It cost ¥500 (~£2) to go up to see the view back towards central Tokyo. On this shot you can see my hotel on the far right and the office I’m working in on the far left (about a half hour walk between them):


There’s also a Statue of Liberty here as well – just a bit smaller than the one in NY:


Also, there are a few massive Ferris Wheels in Tokyo and one of them is in Odaiba. I’m really pleased with this picture:


So there’s a quick run down on this part of town. Back to my normal mid-week space filling rantings on some random issue I’ve noticed tomorrow.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Missing: One Saturday Night

If you have any information as to the whereabouts of one SJB on the night of Saturday 16th June please let me know. Seriously, I’ve completely lost this one – where/when the hell was I!!!! Another weekend, another Sunday write-off. Last week at least I had a reasonable idea of timings and venues from the night before – not this week.

Here’s what I’ve managed to piece together:

I arrived at Legends Sports bar at 10.30pm to watch the Tri-Nations match – having got my timings wrong this was half an hour after the match had kicked off…I left there around one and went to The Train Bar with a colleague who had come along to join me after the rugby. Timings become a little sketchy from here on but it was still dark outside when a couple of us moved on to Motown II so we can safely assume it was before 4am.

I really have no idea when I moved on again to Ricardo’s Brazilian bar but it was light outside so we’re probably past 4.30am by now. I have a vague recollection of salsa dancing which gives you a pretty good idea how far out of it I must have been at this time!

I ended up in some Sushi restaurant at I have no idea what time with a couple of Japanese girls who had been out with us since The Train Bar (Sushi’s a subject to revisit another day so we’ll skip over that for now) – I lost my colleague in Motown II and given that he doesn’t even remember going there he’s not able to add too much to this story.

I had been planning on going to the Japanese Beer Festival on Sunday which was ¥4,500 to get in (~£18) and then free samples of 120 different beers – however waking up at 3pm kinda put paid to that (probably for the best).

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Hotel Life

Right, I feel normal again today after yesterday's issues (see below). What can I tell you about today.

I know - living in a hotel on expenses has some pretty good upsides (and I don’t just mean not paying rent). Think about it:

- no shopping, cooking or washing up to do (just room service - club sanwiches at 5am are good);
- no washing or ironing to do (just the extortionate hotel prices – hey, I’m not paying);
- no gym membership fees to pay (not a bad gym in here either); and
- no cleaning or tidying up

All in all things could be a lot worse. Ok, the only famous person I can think of who lived in a hotel was Alan Partridge which I guess isn’t the best role model…that gives me an idea – I’m off to buy a really big plate…

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Karaoke II

...holy crap. I just remembered, I also sang Delilah - not that the Yanks could help much with the usual accompanyment.

Karaoke

Ticked off another Japanese cultural experience last night with a bout of Karaoke…at 2am…on a Wednesday…

My “setlist” (from what I remember) went something like this (with mp3s by the original artist where available):

Ruby” by The Kaiser Chiefs
Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting” by Elton John
Munich” by Editors
“Walk The Line” by Johnny Cash

Its now 9am and I’ve had 3 hours sleep – this is gonna be a fun day…

Observations of Tokyo office life

So I’ve been in the office for a few weeks now and there a few oddities here that I find quite amusing. Here’s a few that spring to mind right now:

1. ~95% of shirts worn by employees are white. Virtually all of the remainder are a very light blue. There are absolutely no patterned shirts at all in this place. I on the other hand have no white shirts and no plain shirts. Barring the fact that I’m about a foot taller than everyone anyway I doesn’t help when you’re one of the only people not wearing white;
2. lunchtime is very specific – the lunch bell (I kid you not) goes off at 11.45 for one half of the company and 12.15 for the other half (we’ve taken to going at 12.00 to avoid the rush at either end. Go later would be a plan but the canteen closes at 12.45;
3. when the lunch bell goes the lights go out in the office and a fair number of people sleep at their desk for half an hour rather than get lunch;
4. there is a shop in the building but it is only open at certain times and even then certain sections are roped off sometimes. For example, you can’t buy magazines before 5pm; and
5. there is a very strict etiquette to the lifts here – if you are one next to the controls you are expected be in charge of making sure the doors are held open or closed immediately movement has stopped. Additionally (unlike the underground where it is a free for all getting on and off the train) they are all very polite in getting on and off the lift – everyone at the door will file out and then back in again (as they know the designated controller will hold the door for them.

I’m sure there are other tings but that’s all I can think of at the moment.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Technology gone too far

OK, so the image of Japan is of a country on the cutting edge of technology and you can see that is a reasonable claim just walking around here. But here’s a picture of somewhere this has been taken too far (click to enlarge):



Seriously, was there really any need to add an electronics element to the toilet.

Now, if only I could figure out the “Three Seashells”…(bonus points if you can get that pop culture reference).

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Tokyo beer shortage

There’s no beer left! I drank it all!

Holy crap do I have a bad hangover today (Sunday). Bars here don’t seem to close at all – I think you can see where this is going. This weekend was a complete write off.

After dinner in The Oak Door, Friday night from about midnight was spent in a multi level bar/club called Muse and then on to The First Bar (basically a cheesy club) – I left there about 5am. That was a relatively quiet night compared to Saturday…

Seven of us had tickets to see the Yomuri Giants baseball game at Tokyo Dome which is an entirely indoor stadium. Only five of us made it as two casualties from Friday refused to leave their hotel rooms. Not nearly as good as the Swallows game as the fans weren’t half as funny. Also, the stadium was like a sauna. A good few beers there (it was warm –they were cool) and then off into town.

We managed to get into a restaurant we visit fairly regularly, Gonpachi, which I can best describe as a Japanese tapas bar (lots of small dishes) and got started on the Sake there – apparently this place was used to film a scene in Kill Bill but as I couldn’t stand that film I can’t remember which scene. Then on to the bars and a place called Propaganda. We moved to a tiny bar called Train Bar about 2am which I really like – it was here that the Yanks began to falter and by 4am I was on my own. I wandered off about 6am to another bar (in bright daylight as the sun comes up around 4.30am) and ran into another of my colleagues who had been out for the night too. We then hit a couple of the really late clubs and I think I left about 8am but details are sketchy at best and I’ve no idea when I lost my colleague…

Woke up at 2pm and haven’t left my room…this place is dangerous.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Relationship advice from the world’s least qualified person

So a lot of the posts recently have been just comments on Tokyo in general rather than specific stories about what I’m up to so here’s a run down on last nights comedy.

About 1am in a bar in Ginza one of the girls here was telling us how her new boyfriend in the States had sent her a “care package” including DVD’s, vitamin pills, chewing gum and other assorted junk – this cost the guy $100 to ship plus whatever was in the box. This was after she had mentioned on the phone to him that she there was no TV, no good gum, etc.

She seemed surprised when all five of the guys in the group swore that this was not the behavior of a normal bloke and that such a gesture would never have crossed the mind of any of us – additionally, someone (who may or may not have been me) might have suggested that the guy sounded like he was probably gay. This also met with the general approval of the group and the girl is now definitely contemplating whether her new boyfriend is either a) weird; or b) gay.

Good Friday hangover as a result of that session – having shots of whisky with every round of beers wasn’t a good idea. Still most people seem to be feeling worse than me.

A few mp3 bits and pieces I’ve been meaning to post links to:
- “Hobo humpin slobo babe” by Whale (one hit wonder – actually was it ever a hit?)
- “Dreaming of you” by The Coral (excellent track from a generally overrated band)
- “Life in a day” by Simple Minds (from back ~1980 when they were good)
- Thundercats theme tune (why not?)

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Getting around

I mentioned a week or so ago that I’d managed to suss out the underground system without too much trouble and the system is excellent (although I haven’t worked out the pricing system it seems relatively cheap). You also don’t seem to be able to transfer between lines without going out through one set of ticket gates and back in another (i.e. paying for two journeys) so the fewer transfers the cheaper seems a rule.

Now, here’s another gem from Japanese culture that I can’t understand the logic of. Apart from main roads (“dori”) very few streets have names so addresses work by narrowing down the location to a rough area of a few blocks and then hoping for the best. Seriously, just come up with a few names – if you’ve no imagination just use numbers like the Yanks. It would make life a lot easier.

New Editors album in a couple of weeks but a lot of the tracks seem to have been leaked already - you'll find three here and another two here and finally another here (along with loads of other good stuff).

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Staff turnover

The Yanks here are all working 3 weeks on and 1 back in NY (with the weekends at both ends). I reckoned that this was a bit pointless from my point of view as its not like I have anywhere to live in NY yet. So I’m here for the long haul through to around August. The bonus to this is that I don’t get stuffed by jetlag every few weeks which I hate. Also, I have a pretty strong case to argue a few long weekends off here and there.

So I’m planning on heading down to Sydney for about 5 days to look in on CK in July. Purely coincidentally this will be when the Convicts play the Safa’s in Sydney in the Tri-Nations – its almost like I planned it that way…

You may have noticed I added a video bar on the right hand side of the page. This is currently set to grab a few random Interpol videos from YouTube but I'll change it every so often. To play one just click on the video and the player will launch at the top of the page.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Cold

Not the weather which continues to be pretty damn good but my health – I’ve got a bug of some sort so am full of the cold (or SARS or Bird Flu). This leads me to an odd bit of Japanese etiquette – according to my guide book it is considered rude and disgusting to blow your nose in public. I’m supposed to “maintain a stoic and noisy sniffle until in private”.

The other no-no listed in the guidebook is eating anything while walking other than ice-cream. This probably has something to do with there being no bins on the street anywhere. If you buy a bottle of water to walk round with expect to still have it in your hand long after you’ve finished.

Seeing as ice-cream is the only thing you can eat while on the street here’s a song called “Ice Cream” by New Young Pony Club. It was on some advert in the UK a few months back so you’ll probably recognise it.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Earthquake!!!!

OK, so the one in China got all the press as it killed and injured people but Tokyo had an earthquake too on Saturday.

I say this having been informed by my colleagues this morning as I didn't notice a thing! Looking up the news apparently a 4.6 quake hit at 2.46pm just North East of Tokyo. I think I was probably in Tower Records at that time but I'm not sure. I'm tempted to say I'm disappointed that I didn't notice but don't really want to...

Anyway, even though I missed it how about "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC.