Tokyo

Well, here it is, the final instalment of Winterpark Tour ’07. I write this from home, sitting on the couch watching Lost in Translation, because my intentions of writing on the plane-trip home from Tokyo were thwarted by an unexpected bout of sleep! who would have thought it? sleeping on a plane?! unheard of.

So, after arriving in Tokyo with no sleep from the Redeye trip from Helsinki, i headed to the bank, only to realize i hadn’t done my homework, and had no idea of the conversion rate between the Yen and Aust dollar. I was hoping for a multiple choice selection, but had no luck with this either, so was forced to pick a number out of the air rather randomly, i chose quite high… 200,000 Yen… so, yes… thankfully the bank did not except that offer…. and i since discovered that the exchange rate is quite easy… being around $1 to 100yen… so yes… $2,000 out of the bank wasn’t a possibility… but let me tell you… i think that i could have easily spent that amount in a blink of an eye at two of the coolest stores in Tokyo: KiddyLand and Toyko Hands… so much fun little stuff…

Needless to say, Christmas shopping is very easy in Tokyo…. and those two stores in particular had things that fitted Jordy and I’s self imposed Christmas present requirement: being light and small. Our cases already busting at the seams, we had to be quite careful at what we bought…. but any thoughts of excess baggage went out the window when we discovered the joys of a second hand clothing shop called Kinji is Harajuku… so much good stuff that is the sort of stuff you wish you could always find at Savers, but never do.

Harajuku is a part of Tokyo that has a very large park in it, and on the weekends, lots of the young hip kids (you may know the magazine Fruits…)go to hang out and bands set up small generators and their gear to play… unfortunately we didn’t get to see this, as it was a mid-week visit, but we did see lots of the shops that those fruity kids shop at. I also discovered a great second hand Synth store that had some of the most amazing music gear i’d ever seen… as a bit of a gague a to the rarity of some of the stuff they had there, i’ll use the example that they had three TB303’s sitting in a window display… now these things are pretty rare to find in Melb… so to see three sitting all together was pretty impressive… add that to the Moogs, Korgs, Studio Electronics, Roland, and Sequential Circuits synths they had there, plus a whole bunch of other things i’d never seen before. awesome…. i could have blown the 200,000 yen there in 5 minutes, no problem, had it not been for the power supply issues… not to mention the excess baggage… ohh well… good to look at anyway!

Asakusa is great for a more traditional Japanese experience with temples and street scenes that are not quite as high-rise and neon…. but close-by to it is the amazing Akihabara… or “Electric Town”… where they sell all sorts of gadgets, computer stuff, and electronics components. One store was devoted to selling multi-coloured LED lights. I wish i could have spent more time there.

Shibuya is also very cool, full of great stores, some interesting sites and excellent for people watching. It is home to the famous massive intersection that has video screens on all the buildings and walking signs where all go at once, in all directions. kinda frightening if you don’t exactly know where you’re going.

There are a few Western faces about, but not as many as i had expected. Our local host Tim, (who is a myspace friend who got in touch with me initially because he was a Crettins Puddle fan (don’t hold that against him! hehe…) ) tells me that since one of the large chain of English schools went bust last year, the number of Westerners has halved in the city.

Tim arranged a lot for our stay, including arranging some shows, printing flyers, and even booking our hotel at mates rates. It never ceases to amaze me how generous people have been throughout the trip… so cool that people have gone out of their way to help out however they can.

Our show on the Friday was a great success, and an awesome way to spend the final night of our three month odyssey. Tim had arranged a friend of his Pugs to open for us, playing old aussie punk and rock songs. Awesome stuff. Pugs, it turns out, used to be in a Mornington Peninsula band called the Marzies, that i used to mix a bit around 2001. Small world. Tim brought a bunch of his friends along, and it was a bit of an Aussie night… so the audience was a 50/50 mix of ex-pats and japanese locals.

The gig went well, with a suitable level of Rowdyness coming from the Aussies to counterbalance the rather well-mannered Japanese applause. Afterwards, we met with Tomoko from Austrade, who had brought along a guy called Greg, who works at Tiger, a company that brings out and tours bands in Japan. He seemed very interested to work with us on our next Japanese Tour! which I think will be quite exciting.

Also after the gig, a self-confessed drunken Scotsman/Canadian introduced himself, saying that he enjoyed the show, and told us that he may be able to help us out a bit….. as it turns out, he gets paid by record companies to find acts to produce… he mentioned something about getting in the ear of a few people, and the possibility of getting us to do some things over in his studio in Hoxton/London. Pretty funny really, but his email the next morning confirmed his interest… so i guess we’ll see what becomes of that!

To top the night off, we ended up at a bar close to Tim’s place, after a difficult search for a taxi… finding empty taxis wasn’t the problem… them choosing whether they wanted to pick us up was the issue…. i’m not going to speculate too much as to the reasons why… but i guess a bunch of Australians with musical instruments isn’t so appealing to the Japanese Cab driver. We spoke to some locals, and more expats who had come to the gig (one of which was a guy from Newtown in Sydney who used to love Quadbox (my friend Nat and Shane’s old band) and then as the group got smaller and smaller, and the night was getting late, there began some talk of a Karaoke lock-in.

So from 3.15am-5.15am, we sang…. and after many pop anthems and some rock classics thrown in for good measure, we caught the train home…. sitting amongst the silence of the businessmen heading to work…

That’s a strange thing about Tokyo trains.. and perhaps Tokyo in general… it’s soo quiet… people don’t talk on trains… or on the street… well sometimes you hear a couple of words, or quietly spoken phrases, but you simply don’t hear people yelling, or talking loudly on phones.

It’s kinda odd…. but don’t think that this is a representation of the society being reserved. We also saw on one late night train ride home, two business men… one so drunk that he was asleep with one eye open, and one shoe off. He had a friend, maybe not quite as messy, but just as asleep sitting next to him. I guess it’s for this reason that they sell ties at the train stations… so the business men who wake up at the station after late night Karaoke sessions, can head to work with a new tie on.

What a funny place Tokyo is… 5 days was not nearly enough.

But 4 hours sleep the night before a flight sure makes it a lot easier to have a kipper on the plane!

Merry Christmas.

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