Sunday, September 30, 2007

Picture Of Mt. Fuji

Shot as we flew into Japan, I caught sight of Mt. Fuji.

Picture Of Japanese Not Gambling

Gambling (or not) Japanese style. These places are everywhere, a racket of a million ball-bearings rattling through these machines. Pushinko, I think it's spelt.

Picture Of Ueno Market

Down by Ueno station, an old market area. As you can see the subway system runs directly on-top of the buildings.

Picture Of Asakusa At Night

One of our first sights of some serious neon signs.

Picture Of Asakusa Market

The market strip that runs from Senso-ji to the Thunder Gate. Lots of good shopping to be had here.

Picture Of The Biggest Crosswalk In The World

The biggest crosswalk in the world, in Ginza, just outside the Sony Building.

Picture Of Samantha And Dorothy

I 'heart' U. Dorothy and Samantha having fun at a big light box we came across.

Picture Of The Tokyo Skyline

At the top of the Government Building. Not much more amazing than the Tokyo skyline at night.

Picture Of The Bright Lights Of Shinjuku

The very image of Japan I always imagined.

Picture Of An Almost Empty Market

Ma-haaa! Scary ghost-like images suddenly appeared in the empty market.

Picture Of The 100 Yen Shop

100 Yen Shop. We'd wanted to find one of these places, and finally a happy Samantha did some shopping.

Picture Of Another Buddha

Daibutsu a huge bronze Buddha, built in the 13th Century. In 1495 a tsunami that hit Karakura wiped out the temple that used to house this statue.

Picture Of An Old Man At The Temple

Picture Of Hasedera Temple

The main Hasedera temple building.

Picture Of Me Chilling At A Temple

A small corner of the temple complex that I really liked.

Picture Of Kamakura

Kamakura, from the temple overlooking the bay.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Back At Home, Back At Work

Well Japan was a buzz. Back at home now, and ready for some serious chillin' out. Need to recover. Glad we only have had 2 days at work before the weekend. Then it's going to be a do nothing weekend. Even though it is Club Night tonight, and my birthday on Monday, I'm just not bothered to do too much at all.

Maybe go out for a quite drink with some mates, and that'll do me. The sofa, and in front of the TV is where I want to be most of this weekend. Plus I've got, photo's and a blog to update with all the fun from Japan.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This Is The cRaziest Shit eEVr

I am sat in a booth, overlooking the central Tokyo skyline. Around me is a TV DVD PC and PS2. Around me as far as I can see are other similar booths. Its the early hours, the sun is up now. These places run 24hrs. You have access to games, movies, free food and drink. A shower if you need it.

People get lost in these places for days on end. Paying by the hour. Sailor suited school girls wander through through the back streets below me, on their way to school. skyscrapers reach for the clouds, multi-level highways criss-cross high above ground. Every sci-fi film is laid-out before me, and it is real. Tokyo is the future, now. What every geek sci-fi reading school boy ever dreamed of.

These entertainment rooms are the ultimate expression of all this. You plug in to the latest technology, by the hour. Full immersion, techno overload. Hook in and chill out. Escape the world for a while. Also its cheaper than a hotel room, and far more interesting. Couple more hours we will have to fly out back to Korea.

Going to chill out to a movie, maybe send another email, throw a coffee down my neck and flck through a comic book. All at the same time.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tokyo First Impressions

We landed into a clear and unusually warm September day, into Tokyo. The flight was less than 2 hours, giving us glorious views across Japan. Especially outstanding was the view of Mt. Fuji sticking through the thin cloud cover surrounding it.

Once landed and through immigation, we caught the Skyliner from the airport into Tokyo itself. The journey was around an hour, we were both tired and dozed on and off through the trip. I tried to stay awake, so I could soak in the atmosphere of the real Tokyo, the suburban sprawl that goes on for mile after mile. New squashed tight against old, tiny houses sandwiched between low-rise apartments. Buildings gradually started to reach for the sky, as we got deeper and deeper into the heart of the city.

Apart from the expected, huge billboards, and a general abundance of advertising everywhere, my first impressions of what I saw were as follows: The buildings, some only seemingly a few feet wide are crammed together so tight, that you could probably cross a whole district from rooftop to rooftop, without once pausing to cross a gap that maybe to wide for you to leap across. The subway system often when above ground runs across the self same rooftop. Literally the tracks sit on the roof of houses and shops. The ground shaking ever so slightly whenever a train thunders by.

There is the courtesy in Japan that you hear about. Unlike South Korea, the cars stop at intersections, and give priority to pedestrians. They even drive on the "right" side of the road, like us Brits. The many bicycles weaving through the pedestrian traffic takes a little getting used to, but you quickly learn to up your sensory awareness on such matters. Also despite the areas we have seem so far being old, Tokyo is a very old and in places tired looking city. Or should I say it looks "lived in", comfortable like an old slightly thread-bear armchair. Tokyo is clean. Not clinically clean, but unscrupiously tidy.

Well it's our second day now, and the day we get to see most of the city. Once we've sorted out our accommodation. We've got to shift over to another hostel this morning. No big hassle, just a minor pain-in-the-arse. After that, it's breakfast at Denny's, which the American's among our party seemed to get all excited about when they saw it. After being fed and watered, then temples, parks, weird Japanese customed tribes of teenagers, neon, sleaze, high-rise skyscrapers, technology beyond imagination, strangeness, cultural quirks, huge cross-walks (the worlds biggest and the worlds busiest here in Tokyo), and many many other photo opporunities to bore everyone ridged with.

Right I'm off, going to find a vending machine. Shouldn't be so hard, there is 1 for every 20 people here, so many to choose from. They have them on every street corner, selling everything you could ever imagine that you could fill such a machine with so that it maybe despensed at your convenience. Except after closing time! Yes some vending machines shut down at certian times, we found out late last night. Oh, well another quirk of those quirky Japanese.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I'm Turning Japanese

Less than 24hrs, and we'll be there. In fact less than 12hrs before we set-off on our way there. Yes, yes, YES!!! Japan!!! I'm going to Japan. We're going to Japan. That being Samantha and myself, Jorge, Dorothy and Melanie. We all leave and (obviously) arrive at different times, but we'll be hooking-up around this time tomorrow. Jorge being the last to arrive.

It's not even just going to Japan. It's Tokyo, that mind-blowing metropolis I've dreamed of going to ever since I was a child. I can't wait to soak it all up. To take in one of the ultimate cities in the world. Neon, saki and vending machines. Probably all rolled into one, with a flat-screen TV running Japanese cartoons for good measure.

Well must go, Samantha has finished class. The pizza is on order, we are good to go. Home, pizza, pack, chill, catch some Z's. If that's possible, and then outta 'ere by 4.45am tomorrow morning. Whoo-Hoo!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Party, Run, Party

Well it's been one hell of a busy weekend, we really crammed a lot in, as you will see from the photos below. And they only tell half the story. I now will tell you the rest.

I suppose I should start at the beginning, as it will confuse you dear reader if I started anywhere else. Friday night, Samantha and I shot home, showered, ate and went out. It was Kristin's leaving party, and she wanted us all to go down to Osan, about a half hour south of Suwon. This is a town with an American base slap bang in the middle. So plenty of cheap bars, and juicy girls.

So we hooked-up with Kristin's friend Petrina, and got ourselves to the bar in Osan where we were all going to meet. We got there, Kristin was there with Alan and Wahrena, just waiting for Dorothy and Ian to show. I got asked my age by the bat owner, who himself it turned out was only 3 years older than me at 40. This amused me no end, and of course made me feel pretty good. A good few beers there. I particularly enjoyed the 1000ml beers that only cost 4000 won.

I got chatting some of the military guys, and got drawn into a long conversation with one called James. A Black Hawk pilot who was there with his crew. I shared in no end of rounds of shots with them all. It bemused some of our lot, as knowing me, they knew that these guys would normally be the last people on the planet I would hang with. True, but I like to mix it up, and talk to different people. It's what makes the world and a night out interesting.

After Osan, we grabbed subway back to central Suwon. There we met with Chris, Jorge, Ben and Amy. Wahrena and Alan had got off earlier. Alan was a little tipsy to say the least. Pressing naked bum up against the subway window when he got off, pretty mush confirmed that. And gave to passengers a good old laugh, at the same time.

Well the night carried on, as we finally settled into Team Bar. The place where the do the fire entertainment every so often. The whole gang had a good time, drinking and chatting. Before we knew it, it was gone 5 in the morning. Most people drifted home-wards. Kenny was going to stay at ours again, but said that he may as well get the first subway back home. So we had to keep him company, of course. That meant going to Dear Bar, our usual 'one for the road' hang-out in Suwon central. Chris came with us, doing pretty well on his virgin cocktails. We saw Kenny off, and made our way home. It must have been about 7.30am by the time we got to bed.

Despite the late night, we got up bright eyed and bushy tailed. The Japan gang were to meet up to discuss what we are going to do. So Dorothy, Jorge, Samantha and myself went and met Melanie in her neck of the woods to thrash out the details. After that we did some shopping, and went back to Suwon. Jorge carried on the subway, as he was off out again! We grabbed some food with Dorothy and Ian, then went home for an early night, as we had to be up very early to do the Terry Fox Charity 10km run that Dorothy had bullied some of us into.

So 5.00am Sunday morning Samantha and I dragged ourselves out of bed, met Dorothy and Ian at the station. We'd rang Jorge, as he was supposed to be coming too. He was in a Nori Bang (karaoke) with the guys he'd gone out with the previous evening. So we didn't think he'd be coming. Next thing we know, while we're stood on the platform, he rings us. He's here, not to do the run. But he did say that'd he do the 5km walk with Samantha. Not too bad for a bloke that hadn't had any sleep.

So we all went into Seoul, meeting up with Erin and Selina, Dorothy's friends, on the way. It was about 7.30am when we got there, ready to put ourselves through some kind of torture. The run started, and I started to do something I've never done and never thought I'd ever do, or could even do. I ran, and I ran, and I kept running. Running without slowing, stopping or anything for at least 7 to 8km of the course. Not bad for someone who doesn't do, physical fitness, who thinks
exercise is a dirty word. I shocked everyone, including myself. I only slowed down when I did, as I'd achieved far more than I expected, and didn't want to push myself too far. I ran the 10km in about 50mins, a respectable time I think.

Selina and Erin came in together first, out of our lot. Ian next and me not long after him. Dorothy was about 10 to 15mins behind me. Samantha and Jorge, turned up not long after, after doing their walk. Job done, we went home. Still early afternoon, which seemed weird.

That evening. we went to Neighbor Bar, our local hof. It was Nicole's birthday party. Jason has arranged for a suprise gathering. We had to all hide down the side alley, while Jorge rang her pretending to be a potential 'Korean' blind date. The funniest thing I've heard in so long. She went stood out the front to take the call, so we all sneaked in the back way and hid from view. Jumping out when she came and sat back down.

Well the night ticked along nicely. Plenty of people turned up, for it. It was also Kristin's last night, so it was nice for her to see everyone before she caught her flight the next morning. We left relatively early, as we once again had to be up at stupid-o'clock. Kristin stayed at ours, and we said that we'd see her to a taxi at 6.00am. It wasn't easy to get out of bed, after the weekend we'd had. But we did it, and saw her off.

Now it's Monday night, nearly 11.00pm. I'm feeling a little stiff, but not too bad considering. We are only a few days away from Japan, and all is good with the world. Hey, it's a hard life you know!

Picture Of 2 Men And 2 Litres Of Beer

Yep, that's right, 1000ml glasses of beer. A good way to start the night!

Picture Of A Drunk Man With 2 Sober Women

Alan was well on his way, and this was still early. not that long after this we got to see his arse, and it wasn't the last time that night either!

Picture Of Kristin, Kenny And Samantha

Kenny hooked up with us for Kristin's leaving party, as he lives only 5 minutes away from here.

Picture Of Me With My Mate James

James here is a Black Hawk pilot. He became my new 'best' mate while in Osan. A proper full-on, 'kill-em all and let God forgive them', sort of guy. Interesting to talk to, if not a little scary.

Picture Of Us At Team Bar

We made back from Osan, and hit Team Bar in central Suwon.

Picture Of Samantha And Chris

Chatting until the wee hours.

Picture Of The Devil Himself

Rock n roll, dude!

Picture Of Us Queuing

We waited in nervous anticipation as we registered for the 10km run.

Picture Of Us Getting Our Vit. C

Dorothy and I partake of some oranges. You need all the energy you can get when you do long distance running. Especially when you've done no training whatsoever.

Picture Of Samantha Laughing

Yeah, she can laugh, she wasn't the one running.

Picture Of The Lazy Foxers

Here we are, run done (or walk) and certificates to prove it.

Picture Of Samantha And Nicole

After we had to sneak in and hide, the party got into full swing. Along with it being Kristin's last night in Korea, a big gang turned up, and we had a good time at Neighbor, or local hof.

Picture Of Us Both At Neighbor

How cute!

Picture Of Kristin, Samantha And Petrina

Enjoying a last night out with Kristin before she flew out early the next morning.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Another Day In Insadong And Night In Itaewon

Much like many others we have had, we spent last weekend in Seoul. A pleasant afternoon meandering through the arty streets and boutiques of Insadong. The evening and night developed into something strange and ultimately very amusing.

Jorge, Kristin, Samantha and myself had a chilled day in Insadong, and decided to got over to Itaewon to grab something to eat a Mexican place Jorge knew of. After having our fill, we did the usual thing and went to Geckos for a drink. There we happened to bump into Kenny and his mate Jonny. So we stuck around and had a few beers with them. Eventually Dorothy and Ian turned up too, soon followed by Ben. So the gang all been here and all, we made a night of it.

We were sensible, and came back to Suwon pretty early, rather than falling prey to an nasty Itaewon all-nighter. A last drink with the guys in Zapi's and we went home, Kenny in tow, as we said he could crash at ours. He lives another 30minutes south of Suwon, and he'd way missed the subway.

He had a Playstation 2 with him, so we grabbed a pitcher of beer, and planned to have a few games before bed. It wasn't long before 2.30am came around, and thoughts of sleep were not too far from our minds.

Then there was a knock at the door. It was our neighbour from the 5th floor. Asking to borrow a hammer! Slightly bemused by the request, we dutifully found him a hammer, and invited him to have a drink with us. He went away, hammer in hand, and after hearing some banging returned with his mate. Turns out they are both mature students at the university near here.

They brought Soju, always a mistake. A couple of shots of that and I was done in, crashing on the sofa. Leaving Samantha and Kenny to entertain the guests. The bit I missed of the evening, was the more drunk of the two, having gone home supposedly to bed, returning. He had on only his shorts, and was brandishing a fried egg on a spatula. This he thrust at Kenny, and declared that he'd made it for him.

Needless to say Kenny accepted graciously, if not more than a little confused by our new friend's gift. Anyway, that was the weird twist to what had been quite a sedate Saturday. Sunday, well we didn't do much at all. Kenny hung around, Dorothy and Ian popped round. Nothing compared to the strange happenings of the night before.

Picture Of Robot And I

Saw this guy, and just had to have my picture took next to him.

Picture Of Samantha And Jorge

On the roof garden of a boutique mall in Insadong.

Picture Of Us Sitting On A Tea Shop Balcony

Jorge, Samantha, Kristin and myself, basking in the warm afternoon sun. Happily watching the world wander passed us below.

Picture Of A Traditional Wedding Procession

Wandering through the streets of Insadong, this guy rode by.

Picture Of A Man In Blue

Why he was stood stock still, where he was is unknown to me. He just looked cool, and let me take his picture.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

When September Comes

Well slap me daft! It's September already. That means we are only a couple of weeks off from going to Japan. Hurrah!!! I can't wait. A childhood dream, now within my grasp. That whole Blade Runner, Black Rain, full-on neon craziness that I loved in Akira, Lost In Translation and all those classic movies set-in or influenced by Japanese culture.

Apart from that coming up, well not much been happening. We've been reigning ourselves in due to the Japan trip. So we've had some quiet weekends, hanging around the apartment. We did go horse racing Sunday before last, which was fun. And a cheap day out.

This weekend we are going into Seoul, as we need to pick-up our tickets. Plus there's stuff we need to do around there.