Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Japan- Currently in Osaka, 25.12. 13 – Writing about Tokyo, 18th, 19th, 20th December


<<<<<<< Rewind

Getting into Tokyo was undoubtedly tiring and rather unpleasant. We’d talked about getting the NEX (Narita express) to Tokyo (as Narita is about an hour away or longer depending on where you’re coming from) but then Ange and Mankee thought about other options. It is a more expensive, luxury option. At this point I was all “Seriously? If you had a different idea, why not find out BEFORE we land?” I was pretty over it (we all were) which made for a bit of a downer. It was also stressful because I couldn’t connect to WIFI and we ran late- we were supposed to be meeting my friend Yuki in Tokyo. (I met Yuki in my Dip Ed course at Uni). 

With my super-mega-awesome map reading skills, we made it to Khaosan Ninja Tokyo Hostel (which, as a side note, we may or may not have chosen purely because it had “Ninja” in the name and we wanted to “go have a Ninj at someone” (to quote a very amazing fanfic) but to our great distress, we later realized we did not make reference to that quote- or any ninja quotes- at any point. Wasted opportunity. Am kicking self.) to find Yuki waiting! I was so happy/guilty, because I suspect he’d been waiting for a while. He helped us lug our bags up 5 flights of stairs (and to anyone who has seen Ange and my cases… they’re huge. 23 kilos and time to send some shit back…)  then we headed out to dinner. 

^^ Dinner with Yuki. ^^

After a little searching, Yuki suggested a 280 Yen restaurant, which was amazing. Everything was 280 Yen, which of course seems so cheap… so you buy lots… and you spend lots. Still, it was worth it. I tried some Yakitori-don (Rice with chicken pieces and an egg and soy sauce with strips of nori (seaweed) but it wasn’t something I adored. The Tori Karage (fried chicken, not unlike larger chunks of KFC popcorn chicken) was amazing, they had chips, and they had most importantly- a range of Cassis. Yuki and I enjoyed Cassis Orange, Ange had Cassis Pineapple. Cassis is amazing- truly.

^^My cabin. Messy like all places I inhabit. Also... spot the Ninja...^^

Then we headed back and met our dorm mates. Our dorm had “deluxe cabin beds”. Before staying there, I had no idea what the fuck they were. However, they were amazing! So cool! Anyhow, our bunk mates were also pretty cool. Keegan and James were from Canada and both into games. Like us, they were buying up way too much, but in Keegan’s case it was Japanese games he was ecstatic over and in James’ case, some dubiously clothed figurines.
There was another Australian named Kousa (?) I think, who was in the Navy and headed to London the morning we flew to Osaka. (Also, there was this guy who just glared every single time I saw him. Like, in the bunks- looking dour. In the hallway, gaze could fell an ox. I even saw him on the street, just looking like he wanted to destroy the world. He never said anything, just looked sullen.) 

The next day, we met Yuki and walked around Akihabara for a bit- awkwardly the first shop we walked into was less of a normal manga store and more of a perverted manga store. We worked this out after 6 floors of scantily glad comic girls and unrealistic cleavage. We got ramen for lunch and I had egg noodles with a dipping soup that, while never going to be a favourite, was tolerable. Then we headed back for the afternoon. I packed my stuff the day before so that I could take my suitcase downstairs and leave it there overnight. Because we were leaving early, I didn’t want to wake everyone up banging my suitcase into the walls at 7am. 

Mankee and I spent the time before Big Bang chatting to James & Keegan, while Ange slept… by the time she got up and got ready we were slightly late for Big Bang. After figuring out where we had to get off (Suidobashi) we headed to Tokyo Dome. From there, it was not hard to find as we just had to follow the crowds of girls and Big Bang product stalls.

^^ Seungri & GD. ^^

We lined up for a while to buy some stuff but the headband Ange and I wanted was sold out. Thus we spent $18 on giant Big Bang mallets (Could there be an uglier light stick?) and I bought a bag. An oddly sized, zipless bag, it turned out. Still, I know in my heart Big Bang will love me for wasting my money on their crap, Right? RIGHT?


From there, we headed in. Our seats… were not great. We were right on the side, so when Big Bang were in the middle of the stage we couldn’t see them, and we weren’t close to the front either. Still that is to be expected with a concert the size of this one! When Big Bang songs started playing in the leadup to the concert, the reaction was pretty amazing. All the fans were united in singing along and waving the light-up mallets.

^^Ange is holding the lightstick-mallet.^^

Then after a few false starts, (and I could count “Winner” to be a false start… not really convinced by their work) the concert opened with Haru Haru. My favourites were Haru Haru, Gara Gara Go, Blue, Tell Me Goodbye, RingaLinga, Doom Dada, Tonight, Sunset Glow.

^^Tracklisting courtesy of someone on Twitter. I suspect all Domes have the same tracklist, because despite this not being from Tokyo, all the songs were the same. Also, their Encore was seriously like 5 songs. It was ridiculously long, and for some reason, doubled up a lot.^^

All of the Big Bang members were outstanding and they all are obviously used to working a crowd. I love GD’s confidence, TOP’s “mysterious/serious” looks and random aegyo (He seems to have only 2 forms: “wooden” and “cute” and abruptly flips between both with no middle ground), Taeyang did his “I’m gangsta… yeah yeah” act (good try ‘Sol’), Seungri’s smooth banter but for me, the standout was Daesung, who I fell a bit in love with. He’s always so happy and I fondly remember the “dumb & dumber brothers” moments I’ve seen of him with Jaesuk.

^^ Daesang is fast getting to be a fave!^^

What can I say? The performances were great. Big Bang owned it- they were clearly well seasoned musicians, relaxed at MCing during costume changes, being cute, paying each other out (whenever they’d finish their individual songs, the other members would start quietly singing it as they trooped back on stage- it was cute/funny and often lead into other little skits). I really wish I’d been able to understand what was going on because I suspect it was quite funny- even without knowing what was happening I was thoroughly entertained. I know they were paying out Taeyang a bit for his shitty Japanese- everyone but Taeyang seemed super confident holding casual conversation in Japanese though so I guess their language lessons paid off!

^^ Like his hair, Taeyang's Japanese sucks. And who calls him Sol, seriously?^^

^^ ASSA, JOTA!^^

Of course, they did their individual sets- Seungri with “Let’s talk about love” (a bit average) and “Gotta Talk to you” (which I was really hoping for so I was ecstatic!), then Daesang with a pretty upbeat number (we were worried he was going to do a ballad. He has such a fantastic voice but often does ballad songs. Ange loves his trot songs.), Taeyang with (according to someone else’s tracklist) Break it down and Ringalinga. Ringalinga, of course, was pretty epic. GD was next with Crayon and Crooked (I’ve never really loved crooked) and finally TOP with Turn it Up and Doom Dada. TOP was surprisingly good- we were all surprised he could actually do his own rap, Ange most of all. 

^^TOP: Doom dada dippy da da doom.^^

This concert was a much longer one (*cough* 3 song-WAPOP! *cough*) and I got really tired of waving my mallet in the air. I have puny, weak arms and the constant motion strained what little muscle I had. Still, first world problems ey? Classic example! I got told off twice for filming, but it wasn’t really an issue. 
It was disconcerting to hear the Japanese version not the Korean version, which may surprise non-Kpop fans. You get used to hearing certain sounds, an obviously the words, sounds and rhythm changes when they translate the song to a different language. It makes it harder to mutter along, even using nonsensical sounds! My arms were hurting and our view was really shitty, but at the same time I didn’t want it to end! It couldn’t really have been more different from the WAPOP concert in terms of feel and seating position. 

^^An apparent example of 'fresh' dressing. Explains a lot about my style since becoming a K-Pop fan. ASSA, JOTA!^^

At last the concert drew to a close, but we noticed the fans didn't leave and the lights stayed off. Ange didn't think there'd be an encore, for reasons I can't be bothered listening, but we felt it couldn't hurt to stay. We then observed the security moving around and started guessing Big Bang would do a lap of the stadium in golf carts- we were close on the lap, but not on the golf carts! Big Bang had special bus/platform things that they came out on while doing what could have been the longest encore ever. And they were wearing Christmas stuff (Taeyang had a stupid looking raindeer hat and TOP was wearing the merch Jumper making Ange regret not buying one. 

^^ Good luck hustlin' in that dude.^^

When we left, the area was still packed. The Sobu line is (according to Khaosan Ninja posters) the busiest service out of the whole Tokyo metro, so we thought we might as well head to a conveniently located Maccas. It was a long, wet shuffle out of Tokyo dome, filled with too many umbrellas (tangling awkwardly in my hair) but the Maccas was delightful and by the time we’d finished, Sobu had cleared enough for us to get on a train. We then headed back to tell James & Keegan about how amazing Big Bang was, took a few photos and headed to bed. 

The next morning, we headed downstairs, got to the airport with plenty of time, accidentally almost missed our flight, then made it to Osaka!

- VIP  Carly, who would have liked another bottle to add to the VIP/BBC/ ARMY/ Wul-Zico Shrine.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Japan- Currently in Osaka, 21.12. 13 – Writing about Fukuoka/Hakata/Beppu, 16th, 17th, 18th December 

The morning on the Ferry was a bit weird- we docked and I got woken up because there was announcements and everyone was moving around…  but while we actually docked about 6ish, we weren’t allowed to disembark until 7:30. So I pretty much went back to sleep.

^^We had to cross this river every day to get from Khaosan to Hakata Station.^^

From there, we got the bus to Hakata train station, and followed the directions to our Hostel, Khaosan Fukuoka Annex. We were very lucky our room was ready so we could go straight in- the first thing we did was have a shower and have a bit of a rest. Later that afternoon we checked out Hakata and visited Canal City shopping centre. It was a bit of a disappointment, and the busses sucked there (Ange and Mankee tried to ask a question to the driver through the front door- which is the exit door- and the driver shut the door in their faces and then drove off.) so we walked back to the hostel.

^^ Canal City is pretty but the shops are lame.^^

^^ Waiting for the shitty bus.^^

^^ Hakata station at night.^^

The next day we went to Beppu, and as planned, took the Beppu Ropeway up to the top of a mountain. It is known to have a great view of Beppu; alas, it was pouring with rain and when we were about half way up the mountain, it began to snow. So we had a beautiful view of blinding whiteness. Of course, at the top of the mountain it was freezing- we ventured out for some quick photos, I found some novelty KitKats and bought them (Hint: They were not grape as I’d imagined) and then headed back down, a little discouraged.

^^ Really great views of Beppu, as you can see.^^

From there we went back to the station to buy a return ticket to Beppu (a 2 hour trip). We tried for a popular hotspring but missed the bus, and as a result, worried we wouldn’t make our trip back so decided on a local hotspring. Mankee’s map reading skills lead the way to a popular local onsen which had Sandbaths. We pretty much got buried in hot sand (like a heavy, slightly too hot blanket), tried to refrain from going to sleep (or passing out?) and then had to wash off to go in a little mini onsen, which was HOT! I was the first one out because super heated water isn’t really my thing (just like cold water really- I’m good in neither terribly hot nor terribly cold circumstances.)

^^ The wind/snow were more violent here.^^

At that point we realized we weren’t going to make our trip home (we felt bad but because we had our Kyushu rail pass, could just book another trip without paying any extra) so we ventured in to a restaurant for tea. This was a good choice in general- I enjoyed a Cassis Spark cocktail (pretty sure I paid 100yen extra just for a light up ice cube but whatever) and I had chips and a cheese pizza, which was okay. Mankee and Ange had a bit of a fried rice mishap (two serves in one bowl-  then we couldn’t understand the waitress when ordering the second serve…) but overall, enjoyable.

^^ That extra dollar for the light up ice cube was totally worth it.^^

The ride home was a sleepy one, with us going to bed virtually straight away. The next day we got up early to pack our stuff and leave. We checked in for our flights online, giving us an extra hour to sight see in Fukuoka. We left our bags at reception, who were super helpful.  (They rang up to see if we could get to Gukanjima, which I really wanted to go to, but there were only 2 companies. One company just toured around the island and the company who actually let you ON the island were closed for repairs. We were like… no thanks. Why bother just taking a boat ride around it?)

Then we headed to some shrines in Fukuoka, which were quite beautiful. We visited a bunch of shrines that could have been Shofuku-ji, Nyujo-ji and somewhere else, but to be honest, I’m not 100% sure and when I tried to check on Google maps, the images looked rather unspecifically like every shrine ever. After that, we headed to Hakata station, caught the subway to Fukuoka airport, which is super conveniently located like 5 mins away and then headed to Tokyo!

^^Bye Bye Fukuoka! Bye Bye Kyushu!^^

xx Cassis Fiend, owner of Boysenberry Danger (alias the Mulberry Defender), Priestess of the Wul-Zico Shrine. 
Japan- Currently: Osaka, 21.12.13, writing about Seoul/Busan 15.12.13

The day after Block B and BTS was tough- physically Angela was sick and we were all heartsick at having to leave our idols after coming close (SO CLOSE) to them. I was still waiting for an invite to the after party- that invite never came. We woke super early at 6 but since Ange wasn’t really up to it, slowed down a whole lot. I unfortunately couldn’t get back to sleep properly but our departure time was about 11am by the time everything was done. The guy I assume is “Kevin” from Stay in Gam (all the internet Wifi signals say “Stay in Gam Kevin” or “Stay in Kevin”) came out and bid us goodbye, he seemed really nice but we had to explain to him who Block B and BTS were- I don’t think he was really into K-Pop.

From there, we took the Subway from Jongno Sam Ga to Seoul station and booked another KTX train. (We missed the one we were supposed to catch but the beauty of the rail pass is you can just book more tickets on another train.) From there, we headed to Busan. The KTX is the Shinkansen (bullet train) of Korea- it doesn’t feel like it goes that fast but it got up to 296k/h according to the TVs on board.

Unluckily, I opened a bottle of water at the start of the trip and promptly dropped it, it disappearing beneath the KTX seats to wherever lids go when they don’t want to be found. Thus I stayed awake and holding said bottle all 3 hours so I didn’t accidentally drop it. It was also a good idea for one of us to be vaguely aware of the stops so we could get off at Busan station. We disembarked with few problems- Ange feeling pretty tired elected to stay in the terminal while Mankee and I checked out a “Foreigner shopping street” across the road from the station. Alas- it was just Chinatown, and a downright crappy one at that. Mankee was decidedly unimpressed, as was I.

We headed back, got on the bus to the ferry terminal and after waiting a while, boarded the ferry. It was odd, because even though departure time was 10:30, we had to get to the terminal at 6pm and boarded the ferry at 7:30. Once on, the ferry was really nice. We paid $90 for second class rooms (cheapo) where there were futon style mats on the ground with a  box for a pillow. Note: There is a reason pillow means pillow and box means box. Thank goodness we had our travel pillows. The other people in room 439 were pretty nice, and then we discovered- the ferry had, among other things, Karaoke… well…

The singing was epic and terrible. We found our fave Korean and Japanese songs and howled them. It was only after a rather stunning rendition of “Hot Pants”, “Kill Bill” and “Shojo S”, we got kicked out and realized… those rooms were not soundproof. And we did not sing well… (Nor did we even sing in actual words… ) Next door to us about 6 teenage girls were singing “I got a boy”.  Anyhow, after that, we went back to our cabin, went to sleep, and woke up in Japan!

^^ This box is the "pillow" you are provided with. It is pretty much what it looks like- an uncomfortable box.^^

Some random observations of Korea-
Trains: They’re cool. The music to announce a train arriving is hilarious- it sounds like a king is arriving or the cavalry with lots of triumphant sounding trumpets going off.
Hershey’s Chocolate Milk: Tastes BLEH. To be actively avoided as much as possible.
Doors closing: When elevator/train doors/any automatic door closes, don’t rush for it. It will just crush you. Unlike back at home where if they touch you they immediately shrink back, Korean doors are like “Huh, something’s here. Push harder.” Also, there are hilarious signs of people leaning on elevator doors and then falling to their doom. It both alarms and amuses me every time I see it.


Plastic surgery: Plastic surgery is super common in Korea, and lots of idols (as well as everyday people) get it. My fave female singer, Park Bom of 2NE1, has had SO MUCH surgery. I think sometimes her face doesn’t quite move normally anymore, because while I love her, some of her expressions can look a little odd.  Jaw shaving, eye widening, nose jobs, lips, botox, face lifts… you name it, the surgery is there for it. There are advertisements on trains showing “before and after” photos, and kindly doctors that creep me out a bit. I heard on EYK (Eat Your Kimchi) that there are worries about Doctor Swapping- you pay for a top doctor and then they sedate you and swap out the good one for an avo one! Eek! Anyhow, plastic surgery sounds both too painful and too painfully expensive for me to contemplate, even though I love Bom. (Everytime 2NE1’s comebacks are delayed we wonder if Bom’s face has fallen off.)  I think it’s a bit sad that so many Korean people feel the need to get surgery to look good.

^^ Bom with Blond hair^^

^^ Bom is the brunette this time. She is attempting to express "That boy is hot" but is really just frightening a bit here. Her voice is amazing though, especially in "Up" by Epic High ft Park Bom.^^

Snow: It’s slippery. It’s an absolute bastard to try and move quickly on. I only fell on my arse once though! (Thank you Boysenberry Danger for shielding me from the brunt of that impact!) We did have fun stomping on it a bit, trying to catch it on our tongues, trying to mould it into snowballs (mine fell apart instantly and stuck to my gloves) and then whinging that it was cold. (Also me).
Mint Chocolate Milk: It’s around a lot, from hot chocolate to chocolate milk. The cold chocolate milk was quite nice, and I enjoyed it muchly. 
Old people:
They were really nice to me! Ange had a bad experience on her first day, but really, the people around me were always lovely, especially the old people. The young people looked rather apathetic to my presence, which was a disappointment. We did however meet some really nice girls at the WAPOP concert, (which I forgot to mention- they were trying to steal people’s seats in the front row and hoping someone randomly didn’t turn up to claim them. Super nice, but super sketch! Ironically, the girl who talked to us the most actually noticed I got Zico’s water bottle and was so excited for me!)  but that was about it aside from the Stay In Gam staff, who were lovely.

xx Chocolate Milk Taste Tester


^^ Pepsi time. It's fun time.^^