a The Transit Lounge: August 2009

Back in the Day: I had a quarter life crisis, headed to Osaka, Japan for the unknown–only to discover that a passport plane ride are not necessarily a ticket to escape. Some Years Later: Settled back in Oz, the man of my dreams ended up in Tokyo for work–which is how a passport and plane ride showed me home is where the heart is. And Now: Well as luck would have it, we are about to embark on Japan Mark 3, with a baby in tow and another on the way...

Monday, August 31

Kanman-ji, Kisakata Part 1

Beautiful sunny day in Kisakata and Kanman-ji...

I love the temple cats!

Friday, August 28


At a Crossroad
Kisakata, Northern Honshu

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Wednesday, August 26

Akihabara Action

Just as my fiance and I were exiting Akihabara station, we came across Yoshio moonlighting as MC Megane, rapping about his eyeware to the people on the street.

More power to him. I love seeing this sort of individualism in Japan because you don't see it in this form bery often. He really had a beat going on - and an audience too!

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Tuesday, August 25

I Heart Shibuya

How can you not?!

These photos of the infamous Shibuya crossing are taken from my favourite vantage point, the Starbucks. Yes Starbucks, I hate admitting that, but it seriously does have the best view of this people fest (nearly 3 million people go through Shibuya station daily) - and is also about the only cafe in Japan that serves soy milk, catering for my bouts of veganism.

You think some Japanese company would have monopolised that entire building and gotten all the good seats - and the tourist trade - for themselves, but in true Japanese style it took an outsider to see the value in the space.

I heart Shibuya.

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Monday, August 24

Bride versus Bridezilla

Nearly 12 months ago, I had the unfortunate experience of being on the receiving end of a friendship-ending Bridezilla tantrum. All it took for nearly 20 years of friendship to go down the drain was a drunken miscommunication at this particular Bridezilla's hen's night. I awoke the next morning to find a rather nasty message to me on Facebook and told that in no circumstances did the bride want to speak to me.

In the following days, I left a number of phone, text, email and facebook messages and got nothing back. So I made plans to see my (then) boyfriend in Japan over the same weekend that her wedding was taking place (hey I was not about to let a long weekend go to waste!).

The timing of her wedding was around my 30th birthday, which she missed and I took as an indication the friendship was definitely over. After an awful phone call where Bridezilla screamed things at me such as "My wedding trumps your birthday any day", "I am allowed to say anything I want to you, I am getting married" and the pearler "I am getting married, I can treat people however I want" (I am still not 100% sure she could hear what was coming out of her own mouth), I told her I would not be doing the reading at her wedding nor would I be going.

She then screamed at me "What will I tell the wedding planner?"

I think that was it for me. I had no idea up until that point she had a wedding planner and I thought if you are still treating me like this when you have paid someone to take this stress on for you, then what gives you the right?

Yet since that phone call, I have often wondered if I was in the wrong. We had a great friendship for the most part and I am sad it went AWOL the way it did. Maybe the pressure of organising a wedding - or overseeing someone organising a wedding - is actually so vein-poppingly intense you really do deserve to walk all over people in any way you want. After all, at that time I was not engaged nor was I planning a wedding so I had no personal experience to go on.

Fast forward 9 months to July 2009. My boyfriend - the very one I left Bridezilla at the alter for - proposed to me and of course I said yes.

Fast forward another 6 weeks to present day. In that time, not only have my fiance and I managed to organise 90% of our Melbourne wedding from Tokyo, we have done it ourselves and with help from family, and done it all via phone calls, emails, internet and Skype.

I am so surprised at how easy and stress-free it has been - from my engagement ring (first ring I tried on) to my wedding dress (also first dress I tried on), with a good solid network on the ground (thanks mum and dad) and good communication (i.e. me telling the fiance and my family if I ever start acting like a bridezilla to bitch slap me there and then). As somebody said to me the other day "It only gets difficult because you make it difficult."

In too many cases it seems that people are way too focused on the wedding rather than the marriage itself. Then when something appears to go wrong, it is way too easy to flip out and over react without thinking responses through very well. Hey, your wedding is only 1 day after all. If you can't handle a little pressure then, how are you going to manage 30 or 40+ years of life together?

In some ways it has been a little sad in realising that organising a wedding really can be so easy and hassle free. In other words, it is a downer to comprehend that Bridezilla's behaviour really can't be justified at all.

Saturday, August 22

Babies in Motion

In Japan, children are often sent to some form of pre-school from age 2 and onwards. When it calls for excursion day, this is how the teachers and carers get about with their young charges.

The first time I ever saw it, it reminded me of flower bulbs sitting in trays at market! Or of some kind of Anne Geddes photo shoot. Very, very cute to see.

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Wednesday, August 19

I Heart Japan Because...

Japan is definitely not a cashless society. In a country where ATMs close on public holidays, banks issue cards that cannot be used internationally, nor international cards be used on most domestic ATMS, cash is not just the safest option, it is the only option.

A couple of Sundays ago, my fiance and I were in Ginza looking for an engagement ring , when I realised I had left my purse in a Du Tour cafe in Ginza (yes that one on the corner of the main crossroad). Worst part was I had about ¥115,000 (AUD$1500) in it.

Funny thing was, we had been looking at rings all morning, decided to take a quick coffee break while we thought about it, and then were literally in Tiffany's, in the upstairs room, giving the chosen ring one last try when it dawned on me. Quicker than you could say "Marry me!" I was out the door and bolting up the street back towards the cafe. My fiance later said the poor shop assistant had no idea what I was doing (my Japanese always cracks under pressure) and thought I didn't like the ring and wasn't sure that my fiance should purchase it.

Yet that horror quickly faded and I actually stopped running because I knew I would get the purse back intact, with every single yen accounted for.

I was not disappointed. We had probably left the cafe 15 minutes before, but someone had already handed it to the koban (police box) next door. See below.

Sitting inside was my purse, contents on the table with the cops itemizing every single thing in there - including my receipts! I did have to fill out 6 forms to get my purse back, but I was so relieved.

5 minutes later Ben met me at the crossing and with ring in hand, re-proposed to me on the corner. Hehe.

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Tuesday, August 18

Girls on Film

This is a great (and rare) example of foreigners in Japan who can actually model. In the words of Tyra Banks, this lass looked absolutely fierce.

Yet for every girl who does model in Japan and makes a living from it, there are dozens more who came over on the English Teacher and/or Hostess boat, were asked by a few students or bar customers if they ever modeled back home and quicker than you can say sushi, these ladies are suddenly answering ads in Metropolis or Kansai Scene calling for models of "all shapes and sizes with no experience necessary" whilst trying to arrange some sort of port folio.

Foreigners also tend to assume that if you are blond, you will definitely get work. While Japanese people are certainly fascinated and intrigued by those with fair hair, Japan has had enough exposure now to the rest of the world that this look isn't so novel and unique to them. When you look at the advertising campaigns that feature foreigners within Japan, it is easy to see that blonds are not any more favoured over dark or red heads.

What some ladies fail to understand is that the people who do well out of modeling in Japan were already doing well from it in their home countries and around the world. Or that a lot of the foreigners booked to do big campaigns are brought into Japan specifically for that job. Not too many of them are preparing English lessons in between shoots.

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Sunday, August 16

Getting Misty-Eyed

On a hot, humid, summer's day, this contraption found in the streets of Shibuya was an absolute find.

It was just the perfect amount of cool and mist to refresh you was you walked by, without making you damp or leaving you with the need to wipe anything out of your eyes. Found some more in Ropongi Hills too. These misters should really be on every street corner, with the vending machines.

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Thursday, August 13

Singing Cicadas

I was in Shinagawa earlier this week and the song of this little fellow was deafening. It seriously sounded like a power tools were being used.

My friend Danyk recently wrote a story about the sounds of the different cicadas. Japan has 4 types and each type has a unique song. Depending on the time of year and day depends on which song you will hear. Osaka apparently has all 4 cicadas as it gets much hotter down there, whereas Tokyo has 3.

I have no idea what this one was singing about, except that he sure knows how to make himself heard.

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Wednesday, August 12

Gripe of the Day

Why is it that Japanese bus drivers turn off the engine at every red light? Do they not know it burns up more fuel turning the engine on and off in quick successions like that?

Shin-U is notoriously bad for this. In my whole time here, I have only ever had 1 bus driver who doesn't do this. I bet there is a reason I have only seen him once. Some other bus driver probably got wind of this harlequin driver and got him kicked off the fleet. Now he can only get by bussing in derelict areas full of gaijin (foreigners) like Roppongi.

Bring back Yoshio!

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Tuesday, August 11

That's A Wrap

I am always amazed at the amount of packaging used in Japanese society, as described in this previous post I wrote over 5 years ago. Take a look at an example provided by Dean & Deluca and one of their coffee scrolls.

The way in which they package up take-away coffees is even more bewildering!

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Monday, August 10

Not so Scum-tious

My fiance is involved with rugby union. And that's ok by me. He is big, buff, fit, has an amazing body, is very good-looking and has taught me a hell of a lot about the game. I am, after all, from an AFL dominated part of the world. *Melbourne*sigh*!

There is one aspect of rugby I do not understand no matter how hard I try. And that is the women who play it. They too are big, buff, fit and....In my experience, that is where the similarities end.

Australian Female Rugby Team

This past weekend Australia's female rugby side made it to the World Cup in London next year. More power to them. But that is part of the problem. Can't they trade in some of the power for poise?

My iPod Fast Facts application popped up with the following information this morning: "Testosterone levels in female rugby players rise up to 24 per cent pre and post matches, whereas the testosterone levels in male rugby players only rises up to 9%."

All I am saying is that maybe female rugby players should follow the example set by The Matildas, the Australian women's soccer (football) side. There is a very good reason Australians, soccer fans or not, actually know their team name.

The Matildas 2008 Olympic Team

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Sunday, August 9

Copping A Hairful

This afternoon I was on the train, minding my own business when this hair sat opposite me and made itself my business. I was surprised to see a man attached to it.

I have some questions for said man.
1. Is it heavy?
2. How long did it take you to do?
3. How many cans of hair spray did you use?
4. Can I touch it/What does it feel like?
5. Does it have a name?
6. If you were in a house fire and had to save only one thing, would you choose your hair over your girlfriend?
You know, just the usual questions.

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Friday, August 7

Sub Woofer

I love dogs - and no dog goes past Teddy, our beloved family Airedale who passed away nearly 6 years ago aged 15. So around 2 1/2 years ago, when my parents decided they were ready for another dog, we were all very supportive particularly as they chose to get a Welsh Terrier (a mini-version of the Airedale). Which is how we got Harry. See below.

Do not let the pretty fool you. Turns out Harry has a temper...which has resulted in countless hospital visits, Tetnus shots and scars amongst our family.

So Harry, what's doing mate? With the help of an invention called the Bow Lingual by Japanese company we just might be able to find out.

As Ezine Articles describes: "The gadget comes in two parts: a radio microphone that attaches to the dog's collar, and a receiver held by the owner that is said to translate the dog's barks. The translater is capable of translating the growls, grunts, and whines into phrases such as "I'm hungry," "walk me," and "I'm tired." The phrases as well as illustrations are displayed on the receivers LCD screen. Although the phrases are far from complex sentences, they do a reasonable job in describing what the dog wants or thinks.

In addition to translating what your dog is saying at any given moment, Bow-Lingual is equipped with a Data Analysis Mode, which allows the owner to track changes in the dogs perceived emotions over time. The doggy translator also includes a Body Language Translation Mode, a Training Mode and a Medical Reference Mode. It uses 5 "AAA" batteries, and the first set is usually included.

So how does Bow-Lingual turn bow-wow into human talk? Well, the device uses what is known as an animal Emotion Analysis System. This basically means that it has a large database of dog sounds which have been translated into human language by dog experts. So, when the dog makes a particular sound, the device matches the sound with the closest one it its database and spits out the human equivalent. Thus, the accuracy of the device is largely dependent on the experts prior ability to properly assign words and phrases to dog barks. And this, of course, is far from a perfect science."


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Thursday, August 6

Osaka - The New Face of Fashion?

Woo hoo - my next article in Kansai Scene is online here. I have always thought the fashion coming out of the Big
O was nothing short of sensational...and the influences of this awesome fashion scene are definitely felt here in T-

I heart Osaka and I heart Kansai Scene.

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