a The Transit Lounge: December 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...

Thursday, December 31

Sayonara 2009

My last day of first the decade of this century has been spent skiing all over Happo-one, one of the ski fields of Hakuba in Nagano. It has been absolutely insane. Have a look:

At Happo-one station - temp started dropping!

Getting up the mountain.

I know, I know - we spoiled the picture. I'm not smiling and Ben blinked...Oh and it was about -15 celsius up here (about -26 with the wind chill!).

Powder, powder, powder...

...snow angel time!

The skiing has been phenomenal. It has been snowing for nearly 24 hours now and the powder is insane. Still here for another few days. Great way to see out the old year and celebrate the new.

Happy New Year everyone!!

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Wednesday, December 30

Is that...?!

Once in a while you come across somebody in Japan that reminds you of someone from the outside world. A few months back a friend from home came across the Japanese version of John Howard (ex-Australian Prime Minister), I have seen the local Brad Pitt and you see the Back Street Boys everywhere you go (circa 2000 of course). I came across this world famous movie star last week in Kyoto:

Yes that's right. George Crooney.

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Tuesday, December 29

Office Space

For rent: Cosy, unpretentious office space in Nogizaka. On top of Nogizaka station, walking distance from shops, bars, restaurants and Roppongi's Midtown. Large spacious window with city views. Secure locks, power, internet connection set up. Please browse the photos below.

Well like I said cosy and unpretentious. And it is all about location...

model: Door for Lambo
Stylist: Miss Riz
Clothes: model's own
Hair: Hat Hair by Adidas
Special thanks to Door and his modeling prowess for giving readers an accurate office space to human size ratio.

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Sunday, December 27

Rainbow Bright

I can't tell you how in love with the Rainbow Bridge I am. It is certainly worth the ¥8000-¥10,000 taxi ride from the Tokyo metro area to home just to go over it - but this has to be done after dark because the nightscape of Tokyo viewed from the freeway canopies of Tokyo is unlike any other throughout the world. And although it is called Rainbow Bridge, it is only this past week that has seen it lit up like one (perhaps for Christmas?).

My fiance and I pretty much use any excuse to catch a taxi home - my face is always plastered to the window, marveling at our neon playground.

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Thursday, December 24

Tracksuit Gold

Saw this little ditty at Shin Narashino last night.

Would you believe it was a Versace creation? Emblazoned across the back in huge, gold lettering was VERSACE. Never mind it was preceded with the initial "A.". Anthony? Angela? Aaron? At least is is a Versace. Doesn't matter it isn't the famous one.

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Wednesday, December 23

Dog Eat Dog

Tokyo's finest dressed 4-legged set putting their best paw forward. I will let the photos speak for themselves...

The poodles really got me!

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Monday, December 21

The Definition of Unhappiness

The definition of unhappiness is this cat - being wheeled around in a pram at a dog show yesterday held at Big Site, Tokyo.

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Friday, December 18

Electric Love

The Japanese love a light or two....million. And it isn't Christmas in Japan without illumination. Most cities have at least one area that will be brightened up each evening with the blessing of electrical lights. Tokyo has about 50 different areas alone.

Check out the pics below from the Midtown illumination. More to come over the next two weeks...

Got to admit, it is a little magical!

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Wednesday, December 16

Honolulu Marathon

This past Sunday, the Honolulu Marathon was run in Hawaii.

The nice thing about the Honolulu Marathon is that, unlike many other marathons, race officials allow all runners to finish and credit them with a time.

So when 77-year old Totaro Ito of Iseshi in Japan came in at 14 hours, 20 minutes and 4 seconds, although he was last to cross the line, he still got his finishing T-shirt, official race time - and bragging rights!

Congrats Ito-san!! 77 years and still powering along.

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Tuesday, December 15

Just Do It!

Don't mind if I do! I would just like to see how you dress for your happy time first...

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Monday, December 14

Flipper and Me

I got to swim with the dolphins this past weekend!

It was very surreal, beautiful, and awesome all at once.

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Friday, December 11


Found this little video I took in late April, during a trip to Kamikochi in the Japanese Alps of Nagano. Kamikochi is closed from November to mid-April each year, as the winter makes the area impenetrable - still there was so much snow around!

Not many people outside of Japan know what bathing in onsen (hot springs) is all about (for more information, here is an article I wrote for Kansai Scene on the whole deal). Yes you do have to nude up and no, it isn't all that bad. Since nobody else was around, I took the opportunity to film the inner workings. This one is pretty standard, but all onsen differ. Some are much smaller, some are much larger and some onsen are housed in fully-fledged bathing complexes with dozens upon dozens of pools all offering up different health benefits. But all are awesome. To any gaijin in Japan who has not yet indulged, get over it, nobody is looking and no-one cares. Jump in and enjoy!!

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Thursday, December 10


Bringing a touch of Japanese (or Korean) kawaii to the Eddie Aikau Quicksilver Memorial at Waimea Bay.

Say konnichwa my little tomodachi!

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Wednesday, December 9

Tokyo 5-0

I am currently sitting pretty in Honolulu, Hawaii. Well overlooking Waikiki Beach at this very moment to be precise. It was time for some RnR (and a tan up session) before getting serious about the Tokyo winter.

So, being my first time in Hawaii - and actually on any form of U.S. territory - I was surprised to quickly discover that Waikiki could aptly be nicknamed little Tokyo. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it makes me feel quite at home seeing Japanese signage, magazines and restaurants. Oh and of course Japanese tourists and their cameras. That means I can still bring you plenty of Japanese shenanigans with a tropical twist.

So here in Waikiki, the Japanese tour groups do it slightly differently...

I nearly got knocked over in utter amazement. And I almost signed up for a tour, even though it is entirely in Japanese, the chance to buzz about town on an motorized roller is too good an opportunity to pass up!!

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Tuesday, December 8

Nonbeiyokocho Nights!

For a different kind of Japanese experience, those visiting Tokyo should definitely spend a night in Nonbeiyokocho. A narrow alley way running along one side of the railway tracks near Hachiko at the infamous Shibuya Crossing, Nonbeiyokocho has in more recent years become known as Drunkard's Alley - and it isn't necessarily because of the inebriated foreigners. This is where the salarymen like to get their drink on.

In this area, 40 of the smallest bars cram people in to smash back beer and food such as oden, nabe and yakitori. A typical establishment will hold no more than 6 people - 8 or 10 if you are lucky! - perched around a bar with a mama-san (the lady running the place) stuck in the middle. I say stuck because who knows how she gets in and out of there! Some of the more modern bars such as the Piano bar (named so for the piano that acts as a counter in the entrance room that seats only 2 guests) make use of their upstairs space too. Although the staircases are so small and steep that you may have to turn side ways to enter, and you may want to watch how much you drink because getting down is harder than getting up - especially in heels. See the piano bar below.

The way in which to get the best out of Nonbeiyokocho is just to open up one of the door ways and make a space for yourself. Most of the bartenders/owners/mama-sans speak a little bit of English but even if they don't, once the drinks are flowing, the conversation - and charades - do too. I can recommend the Piano Bar, Calms Bar as well as Yoshinoya - which is run by a very high-spirited (I don't want to say crazy) lady. We were bustled into Yoshinoya by a drunk salaryman who happened to run into us on his way back from the bathroom and proceeded to push us into the bar and slam us with beer and food.

After about 30 minutes, he paid our bill and then asked us to leave....it was like he had his gaijin entertainment thrill and that was that! There was also a great little bar opposite Yoshinoya which had just opened. It also had upstair seating by the way of cushions on the floor....and a pulley system to get your drinks to you. You shouted down the order, and up the drinks came!

Apologies for any fuzziness in the images and video....we were pretty drunk. A half hour of drink killing with a salaryman will do that to you. The best part was, the Mama-san was keeping up and then some. She was the drunkest of all!

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Monday, December 7

The Future of Real Dolls

Science and technology aside, we could not help but think Kokoro Robotics robot was a bit of a sex pot, or at least supposed to be!

I am sure a doll like this would do well in the adult toy/companion industry.


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Friday, December 4

Smile to Good Health

Last week I had the chance to check out IREX - International Robot Exhibition - 2009, held at Big Sight in Odaiba, Tokyo. While there was a hell of a lot of technology present that made you think "Man power is going to soon be obsolete!", there was just as much stuff that left you truly in awe of what is to come.

Meet Herby the Panda, designed by the Kabe Lab at Waseda University here in Toyko.

Herby has been produced with the elderly and sick children in mind, in an effort to promote companionship, smiling and laughter. With social interaactions (limited at this stage) designed to get you talking to Herby and him responding, those of Kabe Lab believe Herby will help alleviate loneliness and encourage health in sick children.

Herby responds to "konnichiwa" (hello), "kawaii" (cute), as well as "sayonara" (goodbye). He also recognises your smile. If the camera to left of the panda senses less than what it perceives to be 60% of a smile, the panda will ask you to smile more. Check out the footage below. This robot is a really sweet concept.

He certainly gets my kawaii vote.

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Thursday, December 3

Fun Fridays

I was very lucky to be a part of Learn Japanese Pod's Fun Friday podcast last.....Friday funnily enough.

You can check out the podcast here. I have not yet listened to it, but bear in mind it took place in a basement Mexican restaurant over frozen margaritas, after we had already started the night at the ¥500 bar in Midtown, Roppongi. Yes, we were fairly coherently incoherent if that makes sense. Mind you, the nigh didn't end there. If I remember correctly, there were some dance-capades at the New Lex, followed by some serious karaoke. I may have even been drunk enough to sing a version of the song I am walking down the aisle to.

Also, in terms of getting the local language down pat, you really can't go past the Learn Japanese Pod, all courtesy of Alex (and featured in my "suggested side trips" to the right of screen).

Oh, and there is a plug for the new blog the editor of the Weekender and I are doing on the mag's website: Tokyo In Heels! Check it out...

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Wednesday, December 2

What's Cooking?!

It is officially winter now and that means we can openly eat nabe! Nabe is basically the Japanese version of a hot pot. So easy and so delicious.

Basically you need your stock (we have been using a kimchi-based stock) which you put into your nabe pot, add water until the pot is almost full and start to heat. Throw in your veggies (cabbage, carrot, spring onions, mushies) and when they start going soft add some tofu in to (any variety is fine). Cook up some rice in a separate pot and when everything has come to a boil, serve together!

We are vegan at the moment so everything is veggie only, but you can add thin strips of beef, prawns, chicken balls, squid.....whatever you fancy. The best way of doing this is by holding a nabe party; you use a portable hot plate with a gas cooker on your dining room table and everyone takes it in turns of adding ingredients and managing the hot pot.

YUM YUM. Seconds please!

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