Saturday, November 05, 2005
Blue skies of Mongolia - an alternative cut of the Mongolia video avi
Fulham vs Middlesbrough - an evening at the football avi
An'nupuri Didge - Niseko snowboarding clips
Chinese TV - a collection of clips recorded from Chinese TV
A video for Austria - Every photo I took in Austria in 3 minutes
The Biggest Jar of Nutella - @ Julianna's place, Budapest
Budapest October 23 - something slow
bikes in Budapest - Protestors in Budapest
after the tear gas - Budapest
Trabant - Hungary
Mongolia - travelling in Mongolia
Stayin Alive - Cycling between Berndorf & Bratislava
Austria - Bike cam through Linz
China - coffee made in hutong - Beijing
China - tea - Beijing
Germany - Swing in Munich
Japan - didgeridoo
Japan - in the Gondala
Japan - Kansai airport
Japan - Dan Murphy has a beard
Japan - on the bus
Japan - on the bus again
Japan - Sapporo Airport
Japan - Snow storm at Niseko
Russia - the trans siberian railway
Adelaide - Turd Rub
Adelaide - Old classroom
Adelaide - Red Square
Adelaide - Donny - The musical
Germany - a band on the train
Germany - autobahn - Frankfurt to Munich
Germany - Bolivian Street Kids - Frankfurt
Japan - the coldest dog in the world
Japan - Snowboarding
Japan - Tyco Drumming video game
Finland - Dancing
Adelaide - Spin
Mongolia - das ist gut
Phony - a parody of the Sony Bravia commercial
radiohead vs Mayor McCheese
White Fear - Adelaide Uni
LeighStarDust - 'They Make Good Pets' (But I Don't Have One)
Thursday, May 26, 2005
People I've met on my travels (who have websites)
Adam - Los Angeles, USA
Allie - Dublin Ireland
Andy & Laurie - California (met in Budapest)
Arlyn - Sydney (met in London)
Audrey - Ohio, USA (met in Munich)
Caro & Wout - Munich, Germany
Ced 'n Avril - Australia (met at NUKE)
Chris - FM4, Austria
Christian and Helen - Shanghai, China
Cindy and Andy - Las Vegas, USA
Clair - Dublin, Ireland (met on a train from Salzburg)
Clara - Berndorf, Austria (met at NUKE)
CuntStunt - Vienna, Austria
Daniel - St Polten, Austria
Dominik - St Polten, Austria
Dietmar - Feldkirch, Austria
Dr. Mag. WG Riedl - A Viennese house blog
Erik - an Irish bloke I met in Budapest who likes bikes
Evgeny & family - Ekaterinberg, Russia
Flo - Vienna, Austria
George - Vienna, Austria
Jamie - Australia (met in San Francisco)
Kat & Andrew - St Petersburg, Russia
Kae - San Francisco, USA
Kate - Székesfehérvár, Hungary
Lisi - Vienna, Austria
Micha - Hamburg, Germany (met in Budapest)
Mizik Marcell - Esztergom, Hungary
Rastko & Jeccca - Serbia (met in Vienna)
Richard - Australian (met in Budapest police station)
Rico - Passau, Germany
Sid & Ninnu - Porvoo, Finland
Sofia - Finland (met in Budapest)
Su - Zalaegerszeg, Hungary
Tess - Canadian (met in Mexico)
Tim - Passau, Germany
Yoichi Watanabe - Hirafu, Japan
Zsuzsanna - Szeged, Hungary
Ann of the city
B for Bianca
Luke from radio
Nicht Das Papierkrieg
Peter's World Safari
Sam & Sally
Something for Paul Dempsey
stubborn like a mule
the every day truth
Cousin Judith - Living it up in Finland
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Today was my final morning with Mika and her sister and sister's fiancé. They have been so hospitable to me, allowing me to stay at their house, eat their food and butcher their language. Their bread here comes in smaller loaves but the slices are much thinker. A little confusing, but a good analogy for Japan: even though the country is about the same size as Victoria, the cities are bigger than anything in Australia. Hopefully my Gaijin presence can help Mika's dad accept Adam (Mika's Gaijin boyfriend in Adelaide). I said my Sayonaras and was on my way. On her way to work Mika dropped me off at the station and instructed me to go to the wrong platform. It was a mistake that turned out to be a blessing as it took me back to the main station and I boarded a Shinkansen to Nagoya. Rather than taking a couple of hours, within 45 minutes I was wondering around Nagoya in the hot sun looking lost and bothered. I had read in Lonely Planet about a place to stay and decided to take it up on the advice, only to choose the other suggestion at the last minute in the book as it was closer to the city centre.
One piece of advice about Nagoya though. This month Nagoya plays host to World Expo 2005. If you are not here for World Expo, and you are gaijin, you're going to get fleeced. This place has geared up for let's screw the foreigners and is doing so left, right and centre. The youth hostel I'm staying at is 1000 yen more than usual; Nagoya castle walks mysteriously doubled it's price about 3 weeks ago; all free tour buses to outlying factories (Toyota & Asahi) have been diverted to Expo; and the locals are sick of stupid gaijin asking stupid question in a stupid language they don't (and shouldn't have to) understand.
After reading this you could be fooled into thinking it's all gone to the dogs here, which in some ways it has. On the flip side of this however there is much fun to be had if you're prepared to make the effort. Lonely Planet has moulded, saved and helped plan many holidays for westerners. The ability to have a writing style close to that of a friends travel emails from abroad allows the reader to relax into the idea that these suggestions are coming from a loved one rather than a brochure. It is on this principle we must approach all said suggestions with care. On the advice of LP, I decided to make my way out to the Asahi brewery and get the free tour of the factory.
It starts with a phone call in a public phone booth. "mooshi mooshi – insert bad Japanese for "do you speak English? When is the beer thingo?" – I gave my name and the booking was made. After killing some time (oh man I wish Katamari Damacy came out in Australia), I followed the directions in the LP and headed for the main station of Nagoya. According to the guide, a free shuttle bus leaves every couple of hours to the Asashi factory. No dice. All buses diverted to Expo. Fuck. It's 1:30, I need to be there for the 2 o'clock tour, the train ride is 15 minutes and according to LP it's another 15 minute walk to the factory. Fuck. I get off the train at the right stop and by a stroke of luck I was able to spy the big Asahi sign on the distance. I walk double time in the direction and end up circumnavigating the entire perimeter of the factory before discovering the entrance near the station. Fuck. I walk up to the gates not seeing any English signs or anything that would hint of a tourist-like affair, and it's 2:10. The guard at the gates looks me up and down, steps out of his little windowed box and approaches me. Fuck. "Mr. Daniel, we are to be having expecting you". Close enough. I follow his gesticulations until I end up at a tourist friendly looking building. I am greeted by a young girl in a red uniform with a cute little hat. "Welcome Mr. Daniel. Right this way";. I get corralled into a large waiting room with display cases of the many goodies that Asahi breweries sell and several rows of backless and personless chairs. Great, the tour has started without me. Fuck. I dump my bag and sit waiting for the usually 200-stong tour to return to rub their collective beer experience in my face.
"Ok, shall we start the tour Mr. Daniel?" Huh? Turns out World Expo has watered down the tour to a much more reasonable number today.... just me and my personal tour guide, Emi. It was great. I got to chat to her about beer, Australia, Japan and compared beers from other countries. It turns out that while Emi needs to tow the company line, she has tried and does like Coopers. She knew about the secrets behind Vegemite and described the taste of it as Matzui. The tour itself wasn't that interesting, but did make for some cool photos and useless facts. And after the 20 minute tour, I sat down for the 20 minutes taste test. This is where one can sample as much of the product as you can in 20 minutes and I decided to do just that. Emi joined me (on soft drinks), and ended up practicing her English on me for about 40 minutes, totally forgetting about the time restrictions. Before I was too drunk to remember any Japanese, I got some suggestions on what to see in Nagoya without having to travel too far.
With a photocopied Japanese UBD/Melways I made my way out of the factory in an "I haven't eaten much and I've had 5 (or was it 6?) beers" haze. I found my way to the Nagoya castle, which has limited time only Expo pricing for the castle walks, which could be as easily seen from an adjacent building's 2nd storey balcony. I decided to look around the surrounding gardens, take some photos and sober up. I ended up spotting another gaijin in the park and begun chatting with her. She turned out to be one of the representatives for Lithuania's Expo exhibit and she was on her day off. We wandered around for a bit, met up with a friend of hers from Osaka and went for Sushi. After food we spent about an hour looking for a café, and ended up going back to the Nagoya station for Starbucks. Balls. We ended up comparing our concepts of Normal with each other and talking about the quirks of Japanese culture. It's good to talk to people who have a grip on the English language. It helps to regain a little sanity (which a lack of is still fun) in this crazy place. I return to the Youth Hostel, at 10:05pm. Their showers close at 10pm and they don't let you have a shower in the morning. Fuck. They charge extra for towels and give you a tatami mat to sleep on. Fuck.
So I'd just like to say thank you to Lonely Planet for the Asahi suggestion, and fuck you Lonely Planet for the shithole I've forked
out 3500 yen to stay at.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
The cars here are like nothing else Iâve seen before. They range from being the sleek futuristic type to the all concurring Toyota Crown taxi. It seems this 1980s car has fallen through the space time continuum and is still the current model. These Crowns while still retaining their mid-80s shape, have had upgrades to bring them kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Apart from having a Flux Capacitor for a meter, the rear doors have been fitted with a remote open and close mechanism, the headlights are those funky xenon kind and Iâm guessing their engines are fairly schmick. However, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT catch a taxi for any reason what so ever in Japan. They are stupidly expensive. From what I can tell it costs $AU8 just to get into one, then you pay through the nose from there on. Iâm guessing itâs a way of trapping dumb Americans and making them pay for what they did to Japan all those years ago. By far the most popular of makes, Toyota is everywhere. A close second is Nissan, followed by Subaru, Mitsubishi and Mercedes. And everything Japanese is really cheap. Iâm talking $AU4,000 - $9,000 for a decent second hand Japanese sports car. And they arenât fussed by silly little things like standards. While they drive on the same side of the road as Australia, the ratio to right hand drive and left hand drive cars is about 2 to 1. What is cool is that most people, thanks to space restriction and traffic hassles, opt for using public transport and bicycles.
Why buy a car when you could purchase on of Japanâs most popular of status symbols, a living and breathing dog. Theyâll set you back anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on what sort you want and with most pet shops being open 24/7, one can indulge in a yapping poo machine any time. What I would like to set up is a âdogs for carsâ exchange program between Australia and Japan. Iâll swap some sort of compact terrier for a 1999 Subaru WRX with 40,000kms. Iâll even throw in a few cans of chum for the plane ride across. I guess this is why Sonyâs robot dog Aibo is so popular here. At about half the price of the real thing and the ability to wrap it up without it dying, itâs certainly the smarter option for a birthday gift. By the way, the Aibo is very cute and I want one. The design is like a G4 Powerbook with legs.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Day 6 - Noborito and Kawasaki
I leave Ollies at around 12. Ollie is not really a morning person so after a few grunts and sleepy exchanges I leave. I feel particularly crusty as this is my second day without a shower. What I expect for free? At least I brushed my teeth. I walk past the family mart near the train station and grab a bite to eat. I resist the temptation of the random choice and ask, in bad Japanese about what the person behind the counter recommends. I end up with something that cost about $2 and was like a steamed bun filled with beef. Oichi. I get to the station and decide rather than going back to Shinjuku or Shibuya or some other place I've already seen, I hop on a train to Kawasaki. I put my headphones on and Tool it down to where those fast bikes are made. Wow. What a beautiful train journey. Cherry blossoms everywhere, with plenty of temples and squished in buildings thrown in for good measure. Real post card material in some parts. Especially about 5-10 minutes out of Noborito, with the train running parallel with a stream for abut 30 second. Gorgeous stuff that makes me realise I can never truly "see the world", as little things like this are hidden away, and if I had been facing the other way on the train, I would have missed it. But I guess there's plenty of Japanese who can experience it for me. Next time I'm here though, it'll be on a bike. Any want to join me?
Kawasaki was interesting.
Piss farted around Harajuku markets for a while. Managed to sell some badges to a shop there. I sold about 20 and got about $1.20 each for them, with the guy interested in buying some more. Please don't tell the Japanese government as they can deport my arse back to Australia for such business dealings.
The way the Japanese deal with crime is interesting. Illegal things are not done in Japan for the same reasons they're done back home. Over here people don't do illegal things because they might get caught, they don't do it because it's wrong. This is a strange concept for us dishonourable westerners to comprehend, as our system depends on the fear of punishment rather than shame. I find this to be a very beautiful concept, but it leaves them open for Gaijin fuckers to take advantage of them in ways they're just not equipped to handle. As Mr Oliver pointed out yesterday, when shit goes down here in Japan (say the school shooting about a month ago), the police turned up too late and people got killed. There was a family murder suicide a little while ago, with some male teenager shooting his folks, his sister and then himself (I think). The cops turned up too late and everyone was dead. The attitude towards it though was quite weird. Not shock and horror, but shame and disapproval. What troubles happen in the family should be sorted out in the family and not by the police.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Day 2 - Ueno, Asakusa and Ichigaya
These were some notes I made when the western songs stopped and the japanese songs began at around 3am at karaoke.
Day 2 - Ueno, Asakusa and Ichigaya
Getting up and watching tv at the capsule hotel.
Buying a banana. $2 each. Individually wrapped.
Walking over to Shibuya station.
Making my way to Ueno
Meeting Ayako, Hiro, Ai and Akira.
Get off at Akihabara station and transferring to another train.
Having lunch at sushi place.
Getting a tour of a quite cherry blossom area.
Tour of small temple.
Back to train station
Leave group and venture to Akihabara then transfer to Ueno
Walk thru huge crowds of people around lake and cherry blossom.
Eat hello kitty and derimon moulded treats.
Have rice bun with sauce
Calling Hiroshi to catch up with the gang.
Getting lost for two and a half hours
Finding the gang
Tackling Japanese toilet
Getting to Nishi-Kasai
Going to Karaoke
Singing badly until 5am
Walking to Hiroshi's place/shoe box
Begin to hold deeper understanding of Japanese people.
Home is for sleep and washing, not filling up with crap you don't need.
Day 3 - the day after Karaoke
I wake up in Hiroshi's lounge/bedroom/sardine can. I think I would be happy with the small space. I'm looking forward to the end of the year when I take off on my BIG trip. This is when I get to purge all my shit and reduce my possessions down to what I'll need to start over when I return. This hoarding habit has been picked up from my mum, who loves to surround herself with stuff that stopped working years ago. So come November, get in line, because I'll be giving it all away.
I asked Hiroshi about Buddhism, Zen and other religions in Japan. As the conclusions I've come to are more like feeling than words, it's not something I can write about here.
I have learned my first Kana or Kanji. I forget which one is which. By using my phrasebook I have been able to find my way around Tokyo, even when there hasn't been any English or Roman characters on signs. The trick to it is finding the name of the thing you want (in this case: Capsule Hotel) and then memorising what the first couple of Kanji look like. Simple stuff.
There's a neat little chain of Japanese eateries called "Yoshinoya". These guys have about 7 dishes to choose from with prices ranging from AU$3-$5. Fast food that is filling, tasty and cheap. What more do you want? The cool part is there is no take away, you have to sit at the counter and the ueita hands you a complementary Japanese tea on arrival. Don't speak Japanese? No problem. Point at the pictures on the menu and gesticulate your preferred size.
Day 4 - Bike in Akihabara
The main road next to the electronic shopping district is closed to traffic on sundays. This allows the many shoppers to spill out onto the streets without the fear of being skittled over by an angry toyota crown driver.
Japanese Fact #35
It is rude and considered offensive to blow your nose in public. Hocking some nasty sounding phlegm up and pissing in the first available corner in public is perfectly acceptable.
Japanese fact #586
You are not allowed to answer you mobile phone on public trains and it must be switched to silent or off depending on which part of the carriage you are standing in. However, it is perfectly fine to text message, listen to music or watch television on your phone whilst on the train.
In Ueno station, while looking for a locker to cram my bag into I found an envelope with a magazine called âSamsonâ in it. On the front cover (back cover for us whiteys), was an illustration of two gents in business attire. One was sitting on an office chair, while the other was standing beside him with his hand on the otherâs shoulder. With the pair laughing, I got the impression that it was a comic about the fun that can be had at work and the pleasure found in the company of colleagues. I opened it to find that my reading had been right, just the type of fun and pleasure was different from the one I had imagined. Now porn in Japan cannot legally show genitals. However, the impression one gets of what is going on in said porn is not lost due to a few pixelated knobs and fannies.
Walking around Akihabara, you get the impression that the protagonist in the majority of Japanese cinema seems to fall into four distinct character types:
1) I am a 15 year old school girl who looks like I've just done something naughty.
2) I have inordinately large breasts (okii opie), and I'm hoping you can help me with dealing them.
3) My clothes have spontaneously exploded and I only have a few threads left with which to cover my shame.
4) All of the above
Great thing about Akihabara is they sell everything electronic. From fridges to laptops; from foot spas to walkmans. And the best part is that one of everything is on display so you can suss out how it functions and whether it will work in your home country before you buy it. Here's a tip on shopping ion Akihabara. Leave the store "AOX" until the end. Because on the forth floor they sell massaging chairs which you can try. Oh me, oh my. Just what I needed after lugging a back pack around all day.
It's weird though, some things a really cheap compared to Australia, while other things are either the same or even more. And second hand computer stores look the same as they do here as they do back in Australia. Full of over priced, outdated shit with all the best buys either snapped up by the owner or a local geek who knows the language and therefore can out-bargain some git from Adelaide any day.
Day 5 - Mr Oliver and Noborito
Sorry - I seem to have condensed my journal into one document for a few days. But here's day 5
Woke up late at Capsule hotel. Missed opportunity for shower. I'm a Stupid Gaijin. Shooed out by owner.
Killed some time at Shinjuku
Caught up with Mr Oliver - met at Hachiko statue in Shibuya
Went for food - All you can eat Japanese pizza, which has as many hits as there are misses.
Back to Ollie's at Noborito - The Davron Park of Tokyo without the scumbags. Full of Gaijin ESL teachers. Americans, Canadians, English, Scottish, Australian, Kiwi. Pretty much every native speaking English country represented. Except South Africa as someone pointed out later on.
Went for dinner in Shinjuku and to meet Chris, who has been living here for two years. Great guy who I can vaguely remember from Adelaide. We had a few things in common which made for interesting discussion. Chris has a Japanese girlfriend and has just moved in with her. Ollie doesn't like this because it means he gets to see less of Chris, which from what I can tell he is pretty close to. Chris' girlfriend was still shitty at him for going out drinking rather than spending the night with her a week or two ago. A little over the top at first, but then he told us it was her birthday. A no-no in any language.
63,000 yen taxi ride ($720) to the beach
Renting etiquette in Japan â (2 months bond, 1 months rent, Key money and âthank youâ money - aka "fuck you" money)
Said goodbye to Chris and went back to Noborito. First sardine like experience on train. Ollie informs me that it gets much worse. As in Salary Men pushed up against the windows. A smart guy was riding in between the carriages and therefore avoided the crush, allowing him to quietly playing his PSP, with another guy playing his DS next to him. Man I wish I had my camera.
Got back to Noborito and sat up until about 1:30 talking ESL with the other people in the Gaijin house. Heard some funny stories about teaching English in Japan from all the teachers. Has made me want to do work here more. Just need
My town has lots of Cancer. I like to eat cancer. - ask me about this story
Monday, April 11, 2005
Day 4 - Lost in Translation
This may be Kiefer Sutherland, but Richard Gere is the man. His face is on every taxi, every 4th billboard and on a handful of TV adverts. There are plenty of Western celebrities that have lent their image to the Japanese advertising industry. It might be that because his hair resembles that of Koizumi.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Day 7 - Akihabara
Think of the busiest, craziest place in your city then multiply it until it covers an area with a 70km diameter. Have you seen Blade Runner? How about The Fifth Element? Have you seen any film set in the future? Well I can tell you now; they got all their ideas from Tokyo. From the police sirens to the architecture, this is the source for the west's view of what the future might be. This explains why Japanese cinema is so cool. Personal space is at a minimum and most of the relaxation time is spent out on the town. Subsequently this means people nod off in coffee shops and on the train, people eat out more and karaoke joints occupy ten storey buildings. Music from cartoons and video games blare out of huge speakers on a regular basis at train station and shopping districts. There is one JR train station that plays the theme from Astroboy ever time a train arrives. As the trains are as regular as breathing, you could see how this could get irritating after a while. Walkmans / iPods play a larger role in this place than back in Australia. With all this external noise and huge crowds it's easy to see why the Japanese want to disappear into their own little worlds. You are not allowed to answer you mobile phone on public trains and it must be switched to silent or off depending on which part of the carriage you are standing in. However, it is perfectly fine to use the phone for text messaging, listening to music or watching television.
Friday, April 08, 2005
After not travelling on one for a while, it's easy to forget how big a 747-400 is on the inside. It was an overnight flight with a 'quick' 90 minute stop over in Cairns. I'm seated next to an Australian-Japanese lady who is visiting relatives near Tokyo. After chatting for a while and finding out it was my first time to Japan, she offers me her contact details if I should get into trouble. I land in Narita airport, with the cherry trees in full bloom lining the runway. The lady says that extremely lucky to see Japan during this time. I'm grunted through immigration and get my first opportunity to practice my rudimentary Japanese on a true local: a customs inspector. Success. My 'arigatos' and 'domo arigato' get a smile and I'm shooed into the country.
On the advice of the wonderfully helpful Shelley, I take the Narita express to Tokyo. Great journey through rice paddies (patties?), burbs and golf nets. A few rows up from me is another aussie called Dan and it's his first time here too. I get chatting with the guy next to me and he tells me about what he does and the things I need to see while in Japan. Turns out he imports expensive European watches into japan and has just returned from a conference in Geneva. We arrive at Shinjuku I say my goodbyes to Honamichi and his friend and look for something to eat before transferring to Shibuya.
I walk into a noodle joint on the train platform and knowing I don't speak enough Japanese I point at the pictures and then at me to indicate my purpose for entering. The guy behind the counter waves me away and turns his back on me. Not working. Honamichi's friend comes to my rescue and pulls me out of the shop. He points at a vending machine with about 30 different things to choose from and asks me what I want. He then inserts his own money, makes a selection, grabs the ticket that is produced, herds me back into the noodle bar and leaves. It was all over before I could thank him. After eating I find a locker to store my larger bag and go exploring. I walk out into the heart of Shibuya square and I was greeted with the busiest place I've ever seen.
Apparently this is the busiest intersection for pedestrians in the world; about 1.2 million people a day. To know what I saw, watch Lost in Translation as this is the first place Bill Murray walks into when he arrives in Tokyo. Opposite Hachiko square, which is the place just outside of the station is a wall of buildings, with three of them lit up buy massive TV screens. There are people that look like protesters with signs and mega-ma-phones, shouting aggressive stuff I don't understand. The amount of people that were moving about could only be compared with a crowd at the big day out.
I spend the day looking at all the wacky shops and crazy arcades, taking plenty of photos. One thing that sticks out is the homeless people. I decide to have a bit of a rest next to Hachiko; the statue of the dog (good story behind it if you look it up). This dog statue seems to be the Malls Balls of Shibuya with many people sitting around, either searching the endless crowds for their friend or texting them to hurry up. The young guy sitting next to me drops his phone and I pick it up for him. We stumble our way through a conversation and he expresses an interest in showing me around. Wataru and I look around Shibuya for a bit and then meet up with his friend. They suggest going for food and take me to an Izakia (cheap eating and drinking) place just off of the main square. The food was good and we end up spending a few hours there drinking beer and making poor attempts at each other's languages. I stumble out of there and they help me find a capsule hotel to stay at. I get my bag and check into the tiny little capsule. Good deal really. For a place in the heart of the city, with showers and lockers included in the price (3200 yen).