Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hello Japan! (part 1 - Tokyo)

Late last month I spent almost two weeks in Japan, a land I have never stepped foot on and two of the biggest unfounded fears I had before the trip (ie. it is going to be expensive and it is going to be difficult not knowing Japanese) can now be laid to rest. I urge every one who has not been there to take that journey for it will open your eyes to a new way of life, one that works and works very well. Even an Asian person like me from a highly-urbanised and efficient country was impressed with this seemingly-perfect balance of traditional and new, as well as spiritual and commercial. Lots of pictures and videos were taken during my much-needed vacation and in a series of weekly posts, I will share this most wonderful experience with you.

Akihabara is a place where all things electronics are sold. The entire street was freed of traffic the night I was there.

Winter in Tokyo is really mild and I had many perfect days there. My day at Asakusa was one of them.

Asakusa is touristy but I love the long shopping streets as they are the best places to learn about the culture of the land. Those umbrellas in the form of samurai swords are cute, aren't they?

Cute kittens that stay perched at the same spot for tourists to pose with and interesting modes of transportation in Asakusa.

High-end shopping in Ginza. Thankfully I am not one who seeks branded goods otherwise I wouldn't be able to enjoy the nice outdoor atmosphere. Once again the street has been freed of all traffic.

This is Harajuku (Takeshita Street pictured), where Japanese youth culture and commercialism exude from every corner. And then you chance upon this quiet shrine right in the heart of the bustling shopping district which totally transforms your perception of the city.

Tokyo Bay on yet another clear day. Although there aren't many interesting sights other than malls and game arcades in Odaiba, this picture alone is worth the train ride there.

The famous crossing at Shibuya (not as impressive at ground level and in the day). This place boasts endless criss-crossing streets of shops and eateries where you can spend hours on end to explore.

The day/dusk/night view of the Tokyo skyline atop Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills. I recommend spending that extra 500 yen to go on the Sky Deck for an even more awesome experience.

The famous Tsukiji Fish Market and a sample of the seafood on sale.

Although the tuna auction is closed to public this time of the year, the out-of-this-world crowd at the outer markets will blow your mind. You can't really shop with this many people but the electrifying local atmosphere was what I was looking for that day.

This is another crazy market called Ameyoko in Ueno. It is less crowded than the Tsukiji Fish Market and sells much more than seafood and produce (replica guns for example).

Ikebukuro is a major metro interchange and it has 43 exits! Can you imagine how many exits there are in busier stations like Shinjuku?

I was fortunate enough to experience New Year's in Tokyo. Ikebukuro seems to be where all the action is.

Other parts of the city were practically ghost towns on New Year's Day. It was a breath of fresh air to see Nihonbashi (Tokyo CBD) and Ginza void of the usual sea of people and the cacophony that comes with it.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Musical journey (42)

Hey hey I am back! It has been almost a month since my last post and boy has it been a crazy month. The stress of work over the last week has more than used up the relaxation points I have earned over my three-week holiday (two in Japan and one in Singapore).

To add to this, several international opportunities have popped up over the horizon, namely China and UK. The latter is my first choice but I would need to waste no more time and quickly apply for a spouse visa (my partner is a UK citizen) to enhance my chances of getting picked. The competition is really fierce as work is scarce in Melbourne right now and every one is clamouring for the glamorous UK opportunities. I just got off a phone conversation with the manager of the London office and it looks like an interview is in the works in the next two weeks or so, which might be the time when I have to confirm if I am going to take up the China gig for sure or not. Nothing is concrete at the moment and I seriously don't think I will be lucky enough to be in a situation where I am given both positions but still fingers crossed.

If I get the London role, it will be yet another huge move for us but it will be an extremely happy one as I have dreamed of living in Europe for the longest time (think of the amount of travelling we could do!). I think it is also a case of been-there-done-that with regards to Australia and it is time for a change in scene I reckon. It is an exciting time for us indeed.

I have tons of vacation pictures and videos to sort out before I can post them here so in the mean time, let me share with you a cover I did during my recent holidays at a bar called Shuffle in Singapore. I lost my voice from a lack of sleep over the "gruelling" holiday period (still hasn't gained it back yet) and it is obvious from the clip that I was struggling with the already-reduced high notes. Nevertheless it felt so good to be on the stage once again in front of an audience, something that I will never ever get tired of.