Monday, March 08, 2010

Tokyo - Pocchari Edition

Our day started in Harajuku - it was terribly wet, dreary and cold. The 100 yen store supplied us with eight 100 yen umbrellas. As with most Japanese things, they were both practical and stylish. Due to the horrible weather, there were no Harajuku teens congregated around the Jingu Bridge.

The rain however was not to deter our shopping efforts given Harajuku is renowned for being the fashion capital of the world for unique street fashion. I had great success having found a pair of anpanman socks! Squee! I'll let you know soon if it actually fits my feet. My feet are on the giant side in Japan - could not find any shoes that fit in Uniqlo Shoes. Speaking of Uniqlo, the boys went Uniqlo crazy, visiting no less than 2 stores today. I suspect that we will also be going to the Ginza Uniqlo tomorrow.

Crepes are a must-do when when strolling down Takeshita Street.

We then eventually made our way to Akihabara, with intentions to try world famous Kyushu Jangara Ramen, and dine at a maid cafe.

The most popular dish at Kyushu Jangara Ramen is the thin noodle, pork based broth with the lot (number 1a). I am not a pork fan, so I went for 2a - miso based soup with the lot. The verdict? Probably one of the best ramen I've ever tasted. It really was good, particularly on a cold, wet night. Be warned though, you could be in for a long wait.

Probably the most exciting and interesting part of the day was the maid cafe. There are a number of 'maids' loitering on street paths inviting passersby (usually targeting men) to come into their maid cafes for more intimate, fun, personal frivolity. Here's a re-enactment ...

By some bizarre twist of event, we ended up in a maid cafe that catered for clientele that has a pocchari (meaning chubby, slightly plump) interest (I don't really want to use the word fetish, because that will degrade the whole experience). The cafe itself was located in a darkish alley, away from the main street, where I suspect the more traditional (or less pocchari) maid cafes conduct their business.

We walked in hesitantly, but with a sense of wonder and ordered 4 coffees - luckily we had Ken (sorry Ken, named and shamed) with us who could read the Japanese menu.

We giggle, marveled and people watched for 30 minutes. It is a fascinating environment, and there is quite a lot of social and cultural commentary I could make about the experience. However, in the interest of brevity, I will say that this: there is nothing overtly sexual about the concept. It genuinely felt like the maids were there just to provide fun company and engage in a bit of friendly, harmless conversation. Sure they were making attempts to shower you with attention, but a lot of the patrons in the joint looked like they really needed it. The experience cost us about 1000 yen each (around $10 AUD). Part of our bill included a photo with your favourite maid (favourite pocchari maid in our case). They insisted that we all do the cat pose, and kept yelling directions of 'meow meow, meow meow, meow meow' from behind the camera. It was hilarious - yes even more hilarious than Ken's awkward face.

Oh, and I find it disturbing that my face is as pocchari (if not more) as the pocchari maid ...

Sunday, March 07, 2010


We have rounded out the snowboarding part of our Japan 2010 trip, and today we spend the day in transit from Rusutsu, to Sapporo and then finally to Tokyo.

The journey was hard going on the now haggard body - there are more than a few weary and sore limbs and muscles in the group.

We are staying in a fairly swish hotel in Shinjuku - Citadines Hotel for those that are looking for affordable, spacious and nice accommodation in a major hub. The highlight of the day was the traditional Japanese dinner at Ukai Toriyama Restaurant which is about 50 minutes from Shinjuku. The setting was beautiful - it presented as self sustained village amongst lush gardens, narrow paths, stepping stones, fancy footbridges, mini water falls, ponds, koi fish. Each dining party has its own room/private dining area, most built with traditional materials, i.e. wood, bamboo, stone, mud walls, tatami mats and washi screens. And this is before we got to the FOOD! The food was sublime. My favourite was the red bean mochi - yum yum YUM.

Unfortunately, the battery in my camera died, probably due to the cold weather, so this photo of the gang will suffice for now.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Rusutsu Resort

We have been at Rusutsu Resort for the past 3 days. To describe Rusutsu in a few words, think: Bellagio + Dreamworld + Snow Resort. A few of the novelties here include: amusement park, arcade, roller coaster, water slide, wave pool, musical fountains, monorail, pony rides, caramel making etc etc ...

We are staying on snow, in a lodge which is positioned directly adjacent to a ski lift. The only downside to the lodge is that there is 1 bathroom between 8 people! Luckily most of us are making full use of the public bath/onsen.

The snow at Rusutsu has been above average. The runs are long and wide, and pockets of powder can always be found on the edges of trails. There are a lot of school kids at Rusutsu, all in their school jumpsuit kit.

Ok, short entry, need to hit the onsen. We pack our bags tonight and its onwards to Tokyo tomorrow morning. I shall leave you with a few pictures from Rusutsu, and our fun tubing experience.

And when in Japan ... do what the Japanese do:

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Wandering Sapporo

We spent the day wandering about Sapporo, and hitting the usual staples of Japanese shopping and culture including:

A pet store with unbearably cute puppies ... and some not so cute puppies

Bic Camera - you can take a picture with just a blink of an eye with this particular camera

Expensive Fruit Shops - approximately $35 for one rockmelon! Now I feel bad about the rockmelon that is rotting in my fridge.

Subway - check out the mirrors next to the doors. Tell me this is not a great a idea!

Not to mention food halls, moss burger, seven ereven, Lawsons, and of course Anpanman shopping:

Off to Rusutsu tomorrow. Wish my shoulder good luck ...

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

First Skidoo Experience

The powder was pretty epic on our last day at Kiroro (popurar ... particurary).

Unfortunately, I was the powder 'buzz killer' for the rest of the group. I crashed at high speed on the freshly groomed, aptly named 'power run' run. Kenneth (prematurely) flagged for the emergency medics, lots of fuss ensued ... and then I was on a skidoo back down the mountain. I ticked the 'overconfidence' option on the form I had to fill out at the medic centre.

I have to get ready ... I will pass over to Sharlene:

Hmm, what to say, that Marissa hasn't already. She has probably torn her rotator cuff, as said by Dr YDG. So, it was not as serious as first thought, but she did hear a *crack* when she went down.

Have to say, the snow was awesome! So awesome, that we dared to go through the trees. I got up, close and personal with a skinny trunk. I think I came off worse, hence the tree not budging, and me adding a bruise to my list of injuries.

Okay, have to go, we're in Sapporo now, taking a two day break of eating and shopping, before heading to Rusutsu resort for a few more days of snow.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kiroro - Day 2

I am going to rely on pixels to tell the story of Day 2 Kiroro.

To be clear, the intention was to spell out "Kiroro" in the following picture.

Oh and YATTA! Success with the 100 yen anpanman machine. Not only did we get the red bean man himself, we also scored the 50th anniversary edition anpanman in a cake! Sugoi! Let's not mention that we managed to empty out the machine, and the fact that we were desperate enough to ask the hotel staff to open up the machine for us. But it was fate and destiny . Hotel staff didn't have the key, and the very next spin gave us the elusive anpanman. My holiday is now complete.

I shall leave you with Kiroro carnage.

Kiroro - Riding - Day 1

First day of riding today; snow condition was abominable for Japan standards. Some sections of the mountain were, dare I say it, Thredbo-like. Eek.
On the upside, the runs were empty and queues were non-existent. In fact, the only people en masse we had to contend with was at the breakfast buffet. The runs are long and wide, and there were still sections of the mountain with decent snow. My new boots held up well. Not sure how my toenail-less big toe held up though. It could be suffering badly under the 2 layers of sports tape and 1 layer of bandaid. I might muster the courage to open it up tomorrow.

The litter of beer vending machines strategically positioned at popular (or should I say popurar) rest stops is also a luxury to most, and a necessity to some (we call the latter drunks).

Dinner was, surprise surprise, a buffet. The cold dishes (raw prawns, snow crab, salmon sashimi, squid etc) was oishii! Queen of buffet YDG yet again brought her B-game(i.e. Buffet Game). She murdered the buffet.

My quest for anpanman magnet continues. I have added another 3 to the collection since the following photograph was taken. I'm starting to think that there is no anpanman is that dodgy 100 yen machine. I'm about to clean it out!?!?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Kiroro Snow World

We actually found the auction room at the Fish Markets (too) early this morning. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay for the actual auction since we had a domestic plane to catch ... bound for Kiroro Snow World.

We are staying at the Kiroro Mountain Hotel. It is a ski-in-ski-out resort hotel. This is my first ski-in-ski-out experience. Amongst many other advantages, we can now spend longer loitering around the breakfast buffet. I just have to get rid of this gastritis first - azuki bun waits for no buildup of gastic juices!

However, resort hotel means resort prices. A half a litre can of Asahi has inflated from 320 yen (~$3.50) to 420 yen ($~4.50). Guess you win some and you lose some.

Story behind pictures:
1) Massacred tuna @ fish markets
2) Signs designed to confused tourists
3) Anpanman drinking Fire coffee - read the description
4) Anpanman at Kiroro

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Annual Japan Snow Fix - 2010

After a sleepless night (basketball finals plus celebrations drink plus last minute packing equals no sleep) and yet another Jetstar debacle - they actually cancelled our 6am flight; no warning, no prior announcment, nothing! - we arrived to 15 degree weather in Japan.

I do love Japan. She excites the sense, yet brings order to chaos. She is a living, breathing example of juxtaposition at work.

We are heading out at 4am to visit the Fish Markets in Tokyo tomorrow, then is onwards to Sapporo.

A few photos to finish off.

Being in Japan means the revival of anpanman references:

Warning - the following content may be offensive to some viewers
Haven't even hit the mountains yet, and already injuries to report.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Metaphysical Studies

2010 is the year for me to indulge in metaphysical studies - these were the instructions from a bona fide, for real feng shui master; thanks YDG for the freebie, bulbous fruit (because they are lucky) filled seminar invite.

In fact, my foray into metaphysical studies had already begun prior to this edict. For some subliminally unknown reason, one of my 2010 resolutions was to dabble with yoga and meditation.

So here is the running list (accompanied by trivial commentary) of kooky activities on my check list so far:

The amount of clothing you wear is inversely related to your yogi-seriousness level, i.e. the more clothing the less serious you are - I fall in this category). Full-on yogis seem to wear next to nothing. There is always one (male) groaner in the class. The male yoga instructors have the best physiques ... one in particular, and he knows my name! Now that's incentive to keep turning up to class.

Feng shui
Year of the metal tiger. The best advice is to stay away from people born in the year of the monkey (that's you 80's baby). Oh and fill your rooms with salt lamps and air purifiers.

Meditation book sitting on my best side table - thanks Gregan.

Apparently I eat too many carrots? And my chronic neck/shoulder pains is actually a manifestation of some deep seated mental blocker that may or may not have happened 4 years ago. Duh. Isn't everything related to mental instability?

Blue Moon .. and Mars in Opposition
Yup you could really delve into that header, but to be clear, I mean Mars the planet. Here is my digi cam photo of the rare event that occurred on 30 January 2010. The blurb from astroblog: "This Saturday Mars is at opposition, where it is biggest and brightest as seen from Earth. It is also the night of the "Blue" Moon, and the Moon this night will have the largest apparent diameter of the year. So all in all a good night." You might have to look really hard (potentially with the help of a microscope) to see Mars in my picture. It is to the left of the Blue Moon.

But guess what, there will be another Blue Moon on 30 March 2010. Perhaps it will be a cosmic year after all.

Annual Japan trip coming up next week, this time with added company of KS-personnel. Can't wait to get boozy every day on those $2.20 Asahis. Oh the snow will be nice too. W00t!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Road Trip

We are accompanying the BMW 335i on its quest to rack up enough kilometres to escape FBT damage. How does this sit with my renewed go green/eco-button outlook? Let's leave it as a rhetorical question shall we.

We stopped by Canberra yesterday and squeezed in the Masterpieces exhibition and Canberra Caps vs. Sydney Flames basketball game. Studying the artworks has given me resolve to sign off on my creations (should they ever be immortalised) using the FULL year, rather than just the last 2 digits. And why is it that all these legendary artists were marred with such insufferable doubt.

The caps vs. flames game was a cracker. It went into O.T with LJ hitting a game winning 3 to get her team up down the stretch. As expected, I made the gang loiter around after game while I go through my fan-girl/stalking for photos process. However, I think the fangirl stage of my life is drawing nigh, given that everybody around me, including the players, were half my age.

Best part of the night was catching with our friend Millie. It was so great to see here again ... she is still so gentle, caring and ever so diplomatic (well she does work for government). She really did warm my heart.

Onwards to Melbourne.

Sent via BlackBerry® from Telstra

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Price of Oil in Dubai

I suppose it is about time I started sorting my The MEAT photos. I am hopeless with filing and cataloguing photos. My SD card full of THe MEAT photos remains untouched (until today), almost like it has some kind of awful disease.

Came across this picture which gives you a sense of how unnecessarily cheap oil is in Dubai.

For background, 1 Dirham = approx $0.30 AUD; 1 gallon = 3.79 litres.

The calculation works out to be approx $0.49/litre. Hmmmmmm

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Sun-Kissed Tattoos

End of the naughties, start of 'the Tens'. If it were a numbers game, this should be an excellent decade for yours truly given No.10 is my number of choice. That gives me 10 years to get it vaguely right.

Our farewell to the naughties was ceremoniously bizarre and quirky. We wound up at Mingara Recreational Club in Tumbi Umbi on the (false) information that we could oooh and aaah at the Central Coast version of midnight fireworks from the club. Wrong. and Fail. But there was a fake Elvis shaking things up.

The only semblance of fireworks I saw was the 15 free spins from my lucky pyramid pokie machine. While I won enough to pay a small cheese burger meal, others were not so lucky. Mingara is now entrenched in KS vernacular, and can be used to replace terms such as 'ripped off', 'dodgy', or can be simply be used as exclamations e.g. you Mingara!

Aside from Mingara and sleep, the rest of our waking hours were spent playing golf - now that's Mingara'd! We played 3 rounds of golf in 3 days. I ended 2009 with a crap golf game, and I started 2010 in the same fashion with the added eyesore of hideous tan lines. I officially have a natural Michael Jackson white glove on my left hand.