Thursday, December 30, 2010

John Fluevog Shoes

At the airport at YVR on the way to NRT with our John Fluevogs. I know I rarely have self portraits, and even more rare is a picture of my wife....... as per usual, I'm doing Blue Steel.....

Japanese Love Waffles

A typical line-up at the Sugar-Fers counter at Seibu Department store food floor at Ikebukuro. The line-up continues to the far right, and out the other door and around the corner out into the train station...... this happens every single day!!

Typical waffle dessert at one of the many dessert cafes in Tokyo..........

I don't what it is about waffles, but it's pretty huge in Tokyo this time around. Every dessert cafe place sells some sort of waffle type dish. Even in the department store food floor (usually floor b1 or b2) there was a certain waffle dessert boutique Sugar-Fers that had line-ups all day, as you can see in the above picture.....I could barely get the above shot off because it was always a zoo surrounding the counter......

The second picture is of my favorite waffle dessert found at the UCC Cafe Mercado in Takashimaya at the Times Square building in South Shinjuku. Our favorite, not-too-busy and not-too-expensive coffee break place..... it's in the middle of the 8th floor, so check it out.......

P.S. both pics taken with my i-Phone 4...... not bad eh?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Japanese Bob Dylan Busking in Shinjuku

I love street musicians. I love the whole concept of it all. The guts it takes to throw yourself out there and try to win over someone's musical taste in like 5-10 seconds, or else they can just walk away. This fellow had this Bob Dylan type singer-songwriter vibe going, and his harmonica playing was really good!!

I was actually impressed, and this is coming from a huge Dylan fan, an avid guitarist, and singer-songwriter!! But did you notice something about the audience? I couldn't help but notice that every woman who passed by all gave him a chance.... I mean every woman. Every age group, every height, every fashion type, every hair colour. They all cranked their heads as they passed by. Not that he was ugly, but he was by no means a Brad Pitt. I think a guy holding a guitar and singing his heart out has a certain appeal to women? I don't know....

Darth Vader: Selling Out?

So you've seen some of the pics I've posted of Lost in Translation-esque scenerios where Hollywood actors go to Japan to sell their faces to sell products, although they would never do so back home in their domestic market. And as I mentioned, I'm not judging them or their decision to do so. Money is money, and work is work. It's just curious, that's all. It's weird seeing some huge actor in N.America selling underwear or pop drinks or whatever in Japan.

That's why I was totally surprised to see Darth Vader peddling cellphones. I mean, for him, is it really about the money? Isn't it about universal domination and control? Is he a sell-out? In one way he is achieving part of his purpose of control, by trying to penetrate the Japanese cellphone market, perhaps trying to help Docomo to monopolize the entire market? That would be totally a Vader move.........

Gadget Man

In Japan, more than anywhere else, people embrace technology. There's nothing geeky about carrying around an iPhone and an MP3 player, or wearing two watches at once, or like this fellow, having a speedometer, GPS, and his phone attached to his handle bars. Notice the bell? Sweet touch. At least there's one thing that doesn't run off a lithium-ion battery. I can only imagine what's in his red pouch under his seat (titanium digital air pressure gauge? Back-up solar powered GPS?) or in his huge backpack ( iPad, Sony Vaio P-Series computer, fold-out keyboard, mini-rice cooker, etc.)..... go Gadget Man go!!

Robot Park in Roppongi

I was walking through the embassy district of Roppongi and I stumbled across this public park with robots as it's theme. Robots!! If I were a kid, I would have peed my pants for sure. As an adult, I must admit, I almost did so!! So cool. It took all my will power not to run around and play!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chabuton Ramen

We took a chance and ate at Chabuton Ramen. They say they won on a famous tv show called TV Champion. It's a cool show where often common people compete the best of the best of whatever field. I've seen the best origami artist, or the best kite maker, and in the end of the show, the winner doesn't win money or anything. It's just the honour and recognition of being the best of the best in Japan. That's very Japanese. I like it.

Anyway, since he won best ramen a few years back, I thought I'd give it a try. I tried their tsukemen, which is basically ramen, but the soup and noodles are served seperately. No particular advantage or disadvantage I guess, it's just a different way to eat it. But the soup is usually more concentrated because there is a bit of water still saturated in the noodles, which would further dilute the soup. Anyway, it was pretty good. Where can you find this place? I'm sure they have multiple locations (even outside of Japan), but we ate at the location in Akihabara (electric town) at the Yodobashi Camera store, upstairs on the food court level.......

Bathrooms at OIOI

Okay, everyone knows how clean the bathrooms are in Japan right? They think of everything, from hooks to hold your umbrella while you use the urinal, to counter space to put your bag down above the urinals, sinks, and in the stalls, and countless hooks and shelf space to make your washroom experience enjoyable. Even the little things like seat cleaning equipment, emergency button (in case you run out of toilet paper or something is not working), the stalls comes right down to the ground for total privacy, and let's not get into the washlets......heated seats, built in bidet, some have built in blow dryers, temperature and pressure controls. Some seat lids automatically come up and then drop down as you come and go. I've had friends say they would never try a washlet, but would cry once they leave Japan, feeling... well, not as clean!! In fact, if you came to Japan just to experience their washrooms, it would be totally worth the trip!! Seriously!!

The cleanest and coolest washroom my wife and I found was at the Marui Department Store (OIOI) in South East Shinjuku. 8th floor where the Starbucks is. It was totally futuristic, and yet still very charmingly Japanese....... the women's stall even had a private sink that lights up when you put your hand under the sink!! Sorry, I had to get my wife to take those shots. Check it out!! I've got other washroom posts coming up, and a special vending machine report as well, all coming up in the next few days!!

Not only is this urinal futuristic looking and clean enough to prepare food on, it makes sense. No drip marks along the bottom.... it makes total sense!! Notice the counter space at the top to put your shopping bag or man bag.....

Super clean sinks, no touch operation, and notice even the umbrella hook on the left side of the wall. Good thinking. Again, lots of counter space to put stuff down..... and look at the greenery inset into the wall as you come in.... it's calming isn't it?

Women's stall. The stall lights up when you walk in. Smart. Notice my wife's purse stored along the back counter space? Extra counter space to the left as well, and most stalls have more than one hook on the door.......

Built in sink inside the stall!! How awesome is that?

And it lights up when you put your hand on it? Not necessary, but totally awesome!! I want one for home!!

Thanks Cynthia for taking these pics!!

Super cool washlet controls. Yes the far right button is the artificial flushing sound, just in case you're making too much noise doing your business and are shy about it, make fake flushing sounds to cover the real sounds of you dropping the kids off at the pool......

This is the mother's/father's room. A couch, a baby chair, sink, warm water maker.....

A crib, etc..... some bathrooms even have an actual powder room, for women to do their make-up..... and remember, each floor of the department store has these duplicate washrooms, and this is only building one of two, and Marui probably have 20-30 locations just in the Tokyo area!! So awesome. I went in twice, even though I didn't have to go!! Same as my wife!! I love washrooms in Japan!! In Canada, you just hold it in until you get home, or you slyly sneak into a hotel washroom, and even then, it's usually just acceptable!!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shinjuku at Sundown

I was in Shinjuku just before sunset, so the lighting was just perfect...... my wife was out shopping at a recycle shop called Treasure Factory, so I was free to roam about and take pictures. I nerded out at a few stationary stores and at Tokyu Hands at Times Square, and then got down to taking some pictures......

Thursday, November 25, 2010

$10 Coffee in Ebisu

Sitting at Miyakoshiya Coffee in Ebisu Gardens and relaxing with my wife. We came to look at the beautiful light display here at night. I would never spend $10 on coffee back at home, but for the ambience, the made in Italy cup and saucer and made in Japan cutlery, the million dollar view, and a chance to rest my tired feet (we came straight from the madness of Akihabara to the calm tranquility of Ebisu), it was totally worth it!! In fact, the best cafe mocha I've ever had, and I don't even drink coffee!! The Japanese always have the coffee at the exact perfect temperature. I don't know how they do it all the time, but they do!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chabuya Ramen

I've been on the hunt for the best ramen in Tokyo, and although I know I'll never find it (as much of it is a matter of personal taste) this place has come at the top of my list:
Chabuya Ramen.
They use classy and modern cutlery, Peugeot pepper mills on the table (I should have checked if it was actually pepper in it, or perhaps it was sesame?) and a cute drawer to store chopsticks at each spot. They even had monogrammed napkins! A bit of a modern flare, even in the presentation, but the food held up on its own. I had the shoyu, and my wife had miso. Even the egg was perfect, with the yolk half creamy, have solid....... I must go back again!! Even the gyoza was done a bit different!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Rainy, Late Night Walk in Ikebukuro

I've walked by the Toyota Amlux Auto Salon a million times on numerous trips, but always through the glass late at night. When I have time to go, I'm with my wife and she doesn't want to go, and when I am finally alone to do what I what, everything is closed, except for bookstores. Actually, that's why I was out, to go pick up a magazine to read at night before going to bed.....

Entrance into Sunshine City entertainment district late at night. Tokyu Hands had already closed. Too bad.....

Bikes everywhere, and getting wet.......

Even in the darkest, most isolated alleys, there's always a pop machine to save the day, including hot drinks and soups. Corn chowder anyone?

Another pop machine working hard when everything else is closed.......

Bars and food establishments are everywhere and open late. Too bad I don't drink, or do I like to eat late.......

They can't just have one pop machine on a sinlge corner, but to make sure that traffic from both directions see their products, they put the exact same machine facing out on each corner for all to see.......

An Mitsu Mihashi

This place is suppose to be pretty famous for their desserts, and at times has line-ups to get in during the afternoon tea rush hour (mostly women.... I always feel out of place at dessert and coffee shops during the mid afternoon). Very good dessert. Call me cliche, but I always have to have some sort of green tea in my dessert..... have you ever had the Haagen Dazs green tea icecream sandwich? I think it was a limited time special, because I can't seem to find it..... I'm going off track. We went to an Mitsu Mihashi dessert shop near the Ueno JR station, but they have multiple locations. They also have a really good hot dessert, the zenzai (red bean soup?) with mochi. I'll try that next time. It looked good......

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cold Apartments in Tokyo

Considering Japan is the future (my friends always tease me when I get back to Canada by asking me how the future looks like.....) heating in homes and apartments are pretty backwards. Tables with blankets on the bottoms with built in heat lamps to stay warm, and heated floor mats are all pretty cool and hi-tech, but how about centralized heating and insulation? I think that's a bit easier isn't it? I was told that houses are built to breath because the summers are so hot. Okay, perhaps that's true for Okinawa, where I'm originally from, but how about places like Hokkaido? They have the same problem up there too..... anyway, this is the heater that keeps the room that my wife and I sleep at night warm...... sometimes it feels colder inside the apartment than outside!! I feel like I'm in a cave!!

Famous Hollywood Stars in Japan: Continue.......

Uniqlo is a huge clothing retailer in Japan, similar in pricing to Gap, but better quality and selection. They even do t-shirt collaborations with famous designers, artists, and iconic brands (I picked up a Ricoh GR t-shirt!!). They have a single store in New York, and one in London, and maybe Paris? None in Canada so far, but I think Uniqlo should be the model for all clothing retailers. I'm going off point here though.

I took these pictures to show how there are so many Hollywood actors who go to Japan and allow themselves to be plastered all over the place, as advertising in Japan is nothing like what it is in N.America, and perhaps even Europe. It's pretty "in-your-face" ad campaigns, sometimes with the same poster lined up 100-200 times in a row, or 50 foot banners off sides of buildings. I'm not complaining about 50 ft Charlize's and Orlando's, it's just odd seeing them out of context in Japan.......

Friday, November 12, 2010

Who's the Boss? Me or the Old Guy?

It's very common for famous stars to go to Japan and partake in ad campaigns that are hard to ignore. Bill Murray's character in the Suntory Times whiskey ad in Lost in Translation was sort of a satire I guess on the whole thing: American actors who would never, ever do an ad campaign for a pop drink or for a fast food chain, or mass market clothing company in their domestic market will gladly go to Japan and happily lend their face.

In this picture, I was trying to get this shot with no one in the way (which is very difficult at a Tokyo train station), and just as I was ready to snap, a young boy appeared in my frame, and it worked...... downstairs of Ikebukuro Station in the North West corner of Tokyo.......

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tokyo 2010: The Beginning

Well, first new pic in a while, and first fresh pic from Tokyo in a year. Since arriving, I've been busy doing some work for my father, as well as settling in, and going here and there with my wife, I just haven't been able to get any good shots. By the time I see something I want to shoot, hand over a shopping bag to my wife, take out my camera from my bag, make sure the settings are correct....... I lose the shot!! I just wasn't mentally in shooting mode yet. I felt out of photographic rhythm.

Today was the first day I felt half on. I've been playing around with my i-Phone camera as well. The resolution and quality is okay, but I like working within limits, and it's a lot easier taking certain pics with an i-Phone versus a camera, especially taking discreet pics of people. I may do just i-Phone pics only entry soon.

This picture was taken just outside the outer area of the Imperial Palace grounds in Tokyo. A bike rider taking a nap in the afternoon sun. From a distance he looked like a street person, but as I got closer, I noticed his sweet wheels and killer frame, and finally his Knog riding cap and super green windbreaker!! Sweet!! I wanted to wake him and tell him I was a fellow bike rider, but I didn't want to disturb his nap.... my dream is to ride my fixie in Tokyo..... one day.....

Friday, October 29, 2010

Yoshi Swims

Sorry for the slow-down in posts. I was sick a few weeks ago, and then my wife got sick. Then 2 weeks ago my wife's beloved cat Koko had to be put to sleep. Perhaps one day I will post the whole story and some pictures of the whole ordeal, but it was quite sad and tragic. Let's just say the vet messed up and basically forced our hand to put the cat to sleep.... not too impressed, especially of how it affected my wife.

As soon as the cat passed away, the turtle started having some issues with shell rot. My wife frantically did everything to make it better, including another visit to the vet ( a different one that specializes in reptiles ). I thought I'd take some pictures of Yoshi as he swims happy in his 55 gallon tank...... I'm not a big pet person, but it is pretty cool to own a turtle. Minus the cat, we still have a turtle, birds, and a dog..... man alive!!

My posts will soon be more regular as I'm off to Japan again for most of November. I'll try to post daily....... thanks for visiting!! Comments are appreciated!!