blacklilly: (Default)
Hey all,

After last night's big aftershock, we're now being pummelled by some impressively strong wind.  I'm not sure now whether it's the ground, me or the wind shaking the house.  Thanks, weather.  Just in time for my hanami party too.

So, I actually just wanted to post this link to the Deathgaze review and interview at Rokkyuu Magazine.  Photos by me.  What a good gig that was.  I was a bit gutted that Deathgaze cancelled their Tokyo gigs after the quake, though it was entirely understandable.  I guess I shall be somewhere around the world when they next play Tokyo.

Speaking of which, there are now two weeks to go until the Peaceboat sets sail from Yokohama.  I am nowhere near packed (I have to be ready to send stuff off next weekend) and there are all these things I keep needing to do which jump out at me.   I attended two Peaceboat events this week.  The first was a pre-voyage fundraiser where I got to meet alot of the young volunteer staff, who are all ridiculously energetic and funny.  I then had a staff nomikai (drinking party) last night, where I was able to spend a bit more time with my bosses and co-workers.  They all seem like a great bunch of people, and there are a couple of people I'm pretty sure I'm gonna be good buddies with.

I've had flu and tetanus shots this week, and am thinking about thyphoid and hepatitis B - though they are prohibitively expensive.  I guess I shall just have to be extra careful.  I'm also a bit unsure about the malaria situation.  Basically, the costs and side-effects of taking malaria medication for over 80 days outweigh the risks of actually getting malaria, so we decided not to do it. The doctor just told me to go straight to a clinic if I get at all feverish.  A friend of mine told me he has had malaria four times (his father is/was a Nigerian ambassador) in his life, and he's doing OK...

In other news, I celebrated my freedom by making a return to my old goth self.  It certainly makes me feel about 10 times sexier than I did before, and is a  damned good excuse to wear more lipstick:

 
blacklilly: (Takoyaki!)
Hey all,

Just to let you know I'm still in Tokyo and still OK, though these aftershocks are starting to fray my nerves.  I'll give you a longer report another time, but for now, some good news.  All those gigs I've been shooting and articles a-writing are now live at http://www.rokkyuu.com/.  Please check the site out!!

Rock on (but not literally).

blacklilly: (Default)
I'm still completely exhausted from the weekend.  Lately, all I want to do is sleep.  I got 8 hours last night and I still feel rubbish.   Curiously, yesterday I came home from a little meeting with Peaceboat and sat down with a coffee and a cigarette, and magically felt much more alive than I had done all day.  I don't even smoke, but I had a craving for one so I gave in and bought some.  Weird.

Last weekend i went to the new h.Naoto store in Harajuku to shoot the new Sixh collection.  The new store is very airy and sleek, and there was a great space for the runway.  Luckily, it was just myself and the the s-inc photographer so I had plenty of floor space, which suited my sad knee very well.  I can't show you all the photos, but here's a cool picture of (Pirate King) Ibi wielding a sword:
 

Afterwards, I walked down to Shibuya to my friend's birthday party.  The bar manager had double booked what was meant to be a party with good DJs with a J-Pop video night, so until 11pm the music was unbearable.  Myself and a few friends defected to the nearby rock bar and had a great time listening to classic heavy metal.  We returned later, to hear the birthday day boy verbally rip the bar manager and the J-Pop DJ a new hole.  It was pretty funny.  Fortunately, my friend started a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday" and successfully diffused the situation.  The I went home, met a few other friends and stayed up until 8am laughing, chatting, listening to music and generally having one of the best nights I've had in a very long time.  And I wonder why I'm tired all the time...

This Sunday I was shooting at the Asia Girls Explosion in Yoyogi Stadium.  I had been convinced for some reason that I was shooting the Tokyo Girls Collection, so hadn't been much excited about it, until I actually did some research and realized that X-Japan's Yoshiki had masterminded the whole thing and that it wasn't the TGC but the AGE.  So not only did I get to shoot Marilyn Manson modeling, but I also got to see Violet UK and X Japan perform.  It was pretty cool.  I'm slightly enamored with Sugizo, but alas, not a single clear picture of him playing.  The stage was 70 meters away and my zoom just couldn't cope.  Fortunately, for the fashion shots, a bit of cropping and enlarging saved the day, and most of the Yoshikimono collection look pretty good.

On my way out, I got lost.  I was trying to get back to the press room, but got dragged with the crowds to the Harajuku exit, had my press pass taken off me by one of the staff, and then missed the press conference with Marilyn Manson and Yoshiki.  I was a bit gutted, but on the other hand, I was exhausted and busting for a pee so making a speedy exit home was probably the best thing to have done.

And now, into my last three weeks at work.  This Thursday is my last day at elementary school.  I like the kids, but I do not like 5.45am much.  I will also be happy to stop teaching rich weirdos.  Long story...

Here's a picture of me from Sunday, as I can't show you any pics from AGE until they're cleared by da management. It says everything about how I felt waking up.
blacklilly: (Amelie)
Blissed out

Let's go with the Blissed Out first.  Further to my musings on the VK scene and my little photographic forays into it, I actually go all fan-girly and excited (well, as fan-girly as I can ever possibly be) about getting to shoot Deathgaze at their gig in Shinjuku at the weekend.  You know, had I not got the chance to photograph them live, I would have paid for a ticket and forgone the photos anyway.  That's how much I like them.

The ed. and I arrived at 4.45pm and collected our press passes, before hanging out in the venue (Loft, Shinjuku).  I scoped the stage out but somehow completely ignored the photographers' run at the front of the stage.  It took one of the sound guys to point it out to me, and I was quite relieved as I did not fancy the prospect of fighting the moshing masses to get a good photo.

So, I crawled down the front and had a little chat with a photographer from Cure magazine while we waited.  It was actually due to case of lens envy that I got talking to her.  She had the lens I've been salivating over, but will never be able to afford - a 14-24mm Nikon wide-angle lens.  I felt rather inadequate, to be honest.  She had the wide angle, a cute little 50mm (by the look of things) and a zoom lens, all of which she alternated throughout the show.  I had my 35mm Nikkor prime lens, and my 44-200mm zoom, which at such close proximity was only good for trying to snap the drummer, who was sitting in the unlit depths of the stage most of the time.  It does take nice sharp photos, where the 35mm sometimes fails, so it's always good to take along, just in case.

Deathgaze took to the stage a little later than scheduled, Naoki and Kousuke taking to the stage first, before Takaki followed.  Ai appeared after a little pause and the band went slamming into the first number, which may have been "Crash Down", but I can't be certain owing to switching into photographer mode. I remember the third song being "Blood", as it's my favourite off the new album.  I'm currently trying to check the Deathgaze blog to find a set list, but nothing is loading up...nope, nothing on the blogs about set lists. 

I had a great time up in the bands faces taking photos and trying not to mosh too much myself.  They were full of energy and playing my favourite kind of music, so there was nought that could go wrong!  Apart from the lighting.  Which sucked.  Not for the band themselves - from the audience the set up was great, but for me down the front, there was far too much back-lighting and waaay too many red gels being used.  I don't seem to be able to figure out how to compensate for reddish-tones in photos.  Ai looks positively devilish in most of my shots...when you can actually make out his face, that is.   Both he and Takaki were playing up to the camera all night.  I was most pleased.

I had my boots off for the first half of the show, which made scurrying about much easier, but after ducking out half-way to get some crowd shots, kept my boots on and did the rest of the show squatting down and performing all manner of photographic acrobatics in 3-inch platforms.  My thigh muscles are still pretty sore and I seem to have almost pulled my toe nail off my big toe.  It doesn't hurt, but I can tell it's not right.  I dread taking off the nail varnish to see what the damage looks like.

The toe beating slowed me down somewhat, so I took a breather and sat on the floor of the the pit watching the show.  After two great encores the show finally ended.  I had a beer in the bar with music still going round in my head, and waited with the ed. to interview the band.  Sadly, while I was waiting, I realised that I didn't have enough money on me for a t-shirt, which saddened me, as I had wanted to get one.  No idea where to track one down in Tokyo. 

The details of the interview I cannot tell you, as firstly, you should read the interview when Rokkyuu publishes it, and secondly, I can't understand enough of what was said to give you anything meaningful, except that Kousuke said he liked animals.

To the right here, we have the lasciviously-tongued Ai posing for the camera.  The "blacklilly" on his leg is my internet name, which also doubles as my photography name.  So, no pinching without asking, ne.

I need to wrap this up as I have to go to bed soon, but the mention of photos and names brings me to theme number two.

Slightly Put Out


Basically, I've photographed a fair few bands now, and for the most part have had no issue.  However, twice last weekend I found bands uploading my photos onto Facebook having swiped them from mine.  I was credited, but I am a little uneasy about the idea of bands using my photos without letting me know.  The issue is not permission - of course they can use the images, I'm more than happy for them to do so.  However, I would like some warning so I don't look at their pages and wonder why that picture is so familiar.  I had a discussion with the singer of one of the bands last week and he got quite defensive about it all, saying that what goes on Facebook is fair game.  True, but common courtesy is nice to practise too.  So, I'm a little...annoyed/confused/ about it all.  I've actually considered not bothering anymore, but that would be a stupid response.

So, in the future all photos will be marked with my name and website (when I sort one out).  It perhaps seems a little overkill, but this is something I would like to make money doing, and I need to attempt some sort of professional behaviour.

Actually, I just realised that using that promo pic of Deathgaze is probably making me look like a hypocrite, but it's a promo photo which means someone was renumerated for it.  I wasn't.

Worn Out

Yes, I am worn out.  All I want to do is sleep, but when I get there I can't.  I am counting the days until I finish each of my jobs.  Sadly the one I want to get out of the most is still over a month away from finishing.  They were saying to me the other day that they want me to come back and work for them in July.  Which part of "I quit" is failing to register?  Very Japanese I suspect.
blacklilly: (Takoyaki!)
Well, finally, some excellent news to tell you about!  I just found out this lunchtime that I have been offered a teaching position on board the 73rd Peace Boat voyage.  What this means is that I will be travelling around the world for 3 months whilst working as an English teacher on-board a cruise ship!  This plan has been in the works for a while - I've been planning it since last summer - and last weekend I went for a full-day teaching demo and interview session.  I came out feeling that I'd cocked it up, and so was hoping that the fact that I called on my friends who've worked on Peaceboat to recommend me would sway the decision.  Well, something worked! 

They've actually got a specific role for me on board.  As a teacher with more exam experience than most, I will be teaching the TOEIC classes on board.  TOEIC is actually my least favourite exam to teach, but I'm going to accept the challenge and try to devise a way to improve people's TOEIC scores without boring myself to death.

I feel like I should be dancing around the place, kicking things and generally shouting a lot, but I just sat on my sofa and felt a bit numb after I finished the phone call with the co-ordinators.  I've been waiting since December to see which way my life is going to be heading this year, and now the decision has been made I guess I've gone a bit blank.  There are now so many things to organise.  Do I keep my apartment while I'm gone?  Do I come back to Japan and stay until my visa runs out in November, or do I move on somewhere else?  Moving to another country could only do wonders to my love life, I suppose...  Anyway, thoughts thoughts and lots of thoughts.



The cough and gravelly voice stuck around until Saturday.  I didn't feel much like getting out of bed for most of Saturday, but I had to get motivated to shoot this bunch of growly, screamy, heavy beasts called Reivier.  They played at AREA in Takadanobaba, which is a mere 15 minutes from Asagaya, so I didn't even have to go very far.

Following on from my musings about Visual Kei in my previous post, I was highly amused to note that the mosh pit at a VK gig is the only place  you will see people hanging out in slippers - only changing into their shoes to go skipping off to the toilet.  It's also the first time I've seen synchronized hand-banging in full force.  I noted that head-banging in Japan is much more fragrant (as it's mostly girls) and you are at a near-statistical impossibility of losing your teeth, owing again to the girls, and the fact that everyone knows what the moves are - there's no miscommunication, as a certain Fox news presenter would say - though I doubt synchronized moshing proves the existence of God.

I was down in the mosh-pit for part of the show, then hung back on the raised section with my zoom lens to catch the encores.  The band were pretty good live, which is good, as their tracks (the ones on Youtube, at any rate) actually suffer from the opposite of my normal gripe -  they don't sound well-produced enough.  They need someone with a good grasp of mixing metal to get their sound spot-on.  If they want to crack the overseas market, which they really could do, they need a good producer.  They were thoroughly entertaining, and certainly seemed to be having a great time themselves.

After the show, the editor of the VK magazine and I interviewed the band.  We slunk through the dressing room and found the guitarist Koh, who had arranged our press-passes. He corralled everyone into a corridor backstage and so we all stood in a circle and talked. They were all quite sweet and friendly, and were much more approachable than the last band I was involved in interviewing.  Mid-way through, the lead singer started de-robing himself, and stood about in his tight underwear and smudged eye make-up. 






Speaking of interviews, tonight I'm actually being interviewed by a magazine about being a vegetarian in Japan.  Three of us vegetarians, plus the owner of a vegan cafe in Kichijoji, will be discussing the trials and tribulations of our dietary choices over a FREE veggie meal.  I hear there will also be a camera there, so I should try to pretty myself up before I go out. 
blacklilly: (Amelie)
Despite my best intentions when I returned from Bali to make a little more time for doing nothing, which means actually relaxing at home with a good book, I have had remarkably little time to do so this month.  The weeks have flown by once again, and there seems very little to show for, although a far deal of stuff was done.

Back at the end of December I shot a goth fashion show in Harajuku, which featured X-Japan's guitarist Sugizo giving a live performance on both guitar and electric violin.  The shoot was for an online magazine, for whom I have written some album and single reviews. The magazine isn't live yet.  It was meant to come out last week, but it's now looking like sometime this week instead.   How I ended up writing for a Visual-kei magazine, whilst knowing almost nothing about the genre, is still to be discovered, but booze cruises in Tokyo have quite a lot to do with it.  I'm thinking of trying to research Visual-kei a bit more, as it's a genre of Japanese music which drives me slightly potty.  Potty, because they bands almost never look like they sound...or how I think they should sound, at least.

Let's use Daizystripper as an example.  Observe these lovely lovely young men to the right.  Rei (the bassist on the left) is rocking the cut-off t-shirt with his teeny-tiny waist, and the other all look thoroughly cute.  My problem was what they sounded like.  Looking at them, I was thinking something along the lines of the early grunge scene - you know, when Alice in Chains were more glam.  And then of course, I listened to a song.  Whatever song it was I cannot remember, but it didn't impress me much.  The music was fine, I just felt that the whole thing was overproduced and far too clean sounding.  And then I saw them in concert, which made my jaw drop.  Yu-giri getting on stage and growling and screaming earned huge amounts of rock points in my little world.The energy of the band was excellent, and I found myself bopping along in the photographers' pit.

You can watch a video here.

In other news, I am looking after a rabbit for 6 weeks.  He's super cute, but doesn't like to be handled too much yet.  He runs in circles around my feet while I'm cooking, which is pretty hilarious to watch.  He also has an unhealthy relationship with an orange ball.  I had to take it out of his cage as the raping of said orange ball was freaking me out.  His name is Cecil.


Apart from that I've done some photography at a couple of shows -art shows and rock gigs,  but haven't yet put the photos up anywhere to see.

Next week I'm being interviewed by an eco-lifestyle magazine about being a vegetarian in Japan.  I get a free meal in one of the best vegan cafes I've been to in Tokyo (I was there last night, actually) and can wax lyrical about being poisoned all the freaking time.  I actually ate a piece of meat by accident on Saturday night, which pissed me off a bit.  I'm getting really fed up of telling the restaurant staff I'm vegetarian, only for them to forget about it as soon I've ordered one dish. Being vegetarian applies to everything I order.Rabbits
blacklilly: (Ero ero ero)
I didn't quite manage that daily update thing, did I?  I have a darn good excuse though.  I got a phone call last Friday from a friend who works for a rock magazine in Tokyo.  She needed a photographer for a visual kei fashion show and concert on Saturday.  At first I said no, owing to having private lessons to teach (and also a terrible fear of having to do a photo shoot with a band).  Then I sat about thinking about it, and thinking about it, and thinking about it, and then I rang her back and said I'd do it.

So I met her and the fashion ed. (also an acquaintance) outside LaForet in Harajuku on Saturday afternoon and hung about for a while until the bands and models did the press call photo thing.  I've never done one of these, and I've never had to do one in Japanese, so thank goodness my friend was on the ball on my behalf.  After that we had a little interview and photo shoot with the designers and band members of Sixh.  The light was terrible; they were not a little bit intimidating with their serious faces; and I was bricking it because all my Japanese left my brain.  I felt totally out of my depth and this was reflected in the fact that I totally forgot to get a decent band shot. 

After that was over the fashion show started.  I wish I was pin thin and gorgeous sometimes, as I'd love to get into those clothes (and actually look good in them), but then I wouldn't have amazing boobs, so I guess I just keep the belly that comes with them...and the butt...and the thighs.  Sigh.

After the fashion show ended the first band DaizyStripper took to the stage.  Looking at those boys photos, I would never have expected to be quite as impressed as I was.  Their first song started with a load of head-banging and gutteral screaming, which nearly had my jaw on the floor with the pure joy of what I was witnessing a mere six feet away.  So, I spent the evening crawling around on my knees, taking photos of the bands, enjoying the music, and again totally forgetting to get band shots, by which I mean shot with the whole band in.  Not one.  Some had two or three members in, at most.  And the poor drummers.  They just don't keep still long enough for me to get a good shot. Entirely my fault.  I shall not blame the equipment, or the drummers (even though I think drummers need to be blamed for more bad things in the world;). 

All in all it was a great night, and I learned a great deal from doing it:  don't freak out or the Japanese will fail you; group shots! groups shots! and drummers!; don't wear the baby-stomping boots when you will be crawling around on the floor (my knees have been complaining ever since).

Day 05 - Which, if any, Japanese mannerisms or expressions have you adopted?

I was having dinner the other week with a guy (oh, alright, I was on a date) who started laughing his head off while we were talking.  He had asked me a question and rather than replying with a "yes" (he's almost perapera (fluent) in English), I had used the Japanese "un" noise instead.  He thought it was funny that I did it so naturally.  My kids also picked up on it the other week when they asked me a question in Japanese, so I must be pretty convincing at it. So that's one thing. 

I sit on the floor alot (I didn't do this England - a house full of animals makes it far too dangerous).

I use "ne" a lot at the end of sentences, even English sentences, despite the fact that I find the overuse of it by aging women in the gym to be one of the most annoying things ever.

I guess the first thing I picked up was bowing, followed by my number 2 bugbear - the "peace sign" in photos.  Ask most Japanese people where this affectation comes from and none of them will give you a decent or consistent answer. I shall just let the mystery remain. I have no idea why I do it, but sometimes I do, even though I refuse do let people do it in the photos I take.  Here I am, at last year's New Year's Eve party, caught off guard by someone.  I think I was standing on the table in the middle of the room at the time.
blacklilly: (Default)
Well, I guess my favourite place not in the guide books would be Ina, but I'm not sure that counts as a place to visit, rather a place to return home to.  So, I guess the best place I've been to which IS in guide books but is a relatively little-visited place is Sado Island, about an hour and a half off the coast of Niigata in the Japan Sea.

Kakigori at SadoI went there last summer for the Earth Celebration festival, and found the whole place to be thoroughly charming.  I particularly liked the total lack of convenience stores and vending machines.  You never realize how ubiquitous these things are until you can't just buy a bottle of green tea whenever you feel like it. 

I was on holiday with a friend of mine.  She arrived the night before I did and met some people from Nagoya who she proceeded to regale with stories about me, so much so that when I arrived the following lunch time I was met with the comment:  "So, this is the bitch you were telling us about?".  It turns out she was telling them about the time I capsized our kayak in Thailand and got everything, including the money, totally soaking wet.  Still, doesn't quit warrant the name-calling, ne.  Needless to say, since that holiday our friendship has cooled off a great deal.  Anyway, with said people we hired a car for the day and got to drive about the island, which has some stunning coastline, tropical-coloured sea and even a fjord.  On the other day we hired bicycles and cycled round the coast to a small bay where you could go sailing in a coracle.  On all three evenings, we climbed to the top of a hill and watched amazing taiko drumming performances before heading back down to catch the last bus back over to the next bay where we were camped out next to the beach.  On the last night I took the midnight ferry back to the mainland and caught the bus back to Tokyo, nibbling on onigiri I picked up at a brilliant vegan food stall on my way out of town.

Here are some more photos behind a cut so I don't take up more room:

Pics )Pic )
One of the performances down near the harbour.

Amazing coastline.
blacklilly: (Takoyaki!)
Since coming to Japan almost four years ago (November 6th will be my 4-year Japanniversary) I've lived in various locations.  Ina, Omori, Yokohama; but my current home is about 10 minutes on the Chuo line out of Shinjuku in Asagaya.  I moved here in May this year, and have always felt quite amazed by how quickly I got used to living here.  Ina took a long time to love because of the whole culture-shock, not speaking the language, and dealing with below zero temperatures thing.  I still consider it be my "Japanese Hometown", as I have lovely friends there, and always like going back to see everyone, but like any hometown you need to get away.   I liked Omori-machi, but I hated, hated, HATED my apartment and the various 'intruders' who liked to surprise both me and my guests.  I remember complaining about how much I missed Ina, when in fact, I just needed to live somewhere that didn't make me itch.  Yokohama was cool, convenient and clean, but lacking in social interaction once my late-night party girl [livejournal.com profile] jennarose went back to the US. 

Asagaya has a very "downtown" atmosphere, by which I mean that it feels like a small town with a sense of community.  There are all these little streets that wriggle all over the place, amazing restuarants (Japanese (of course), Thai, Turkish, Indian etc etc), tiny tiny bars and shops I will probably never go into, and old-style buildings that give the place an unusual attraction.  I was talking to a friend the other night about Asagaya, and about how now having such a firm sense of 'belonging' to a place and the people makes it increasingly difficult to imagine a life anywhere else.  I jokingly call my local bar my living room, but that is quite true.  I can go there any night and there will always be someone I know to talk to.

I also really like it because there's always something going on.  Next weekend there's a jazz festival, last month the omikoshi;  Koenji is just a 20 minute stroll should you need a change of scenery (or a tin of baked beans from Tesco), and when you want to blow off steam on a Friday night, Shinjuku and Shibuya are within easy reach.

Here are a couple of other pictures, one from the Omikoshi festival the other week, and one from the Asagaya Tanabata festival (which, oddly, was in August, not July).







 
 
See my Flickr for a better image.
blacklilly: (Genki)
So, here is a picture of me and two friends as we were heading off to the Koenji Awaodori Festival back in August.  Summer festivals in Japan are an excellent excuse to air out your summer yukata, wield a fan and shuffle about drinking beer and chew upon street food on sticks. 

I went to a "one week only" shop in Asagaya with Akiko(l) and Sonomi(r) where I tracked down a yukata for 5000yen.  The older lady running the shop took umbrance at my having a bosom, and was trying to gently flatten my boobs into a straight line with the rest of me (though given my experience with old ladies in Japan, she was probably just copping a feel).


(Alas, LJ doesn't seem to like this photo, because despite this image being really large in terms of pixels, I can't get it much bigger than this.  You can find a clearer image here)









I thought it would be interesting for you to see how a yukata is put on, as it requires someone to dress you, just like the princess you are.  So here you go:


First you need a vest and decent pants as that's all you'll be wearing underneath, though I opted for leggings to maintain some modesty on the stairs.  The yukata is really long, so once you've worked out how much material you need for the waist you kind of pull up the excess to create a sort of double-layer of material about you mid-section.






 


















The yukata is fasrened with lengths of cotton and then once your neckline  and material are all hanging correctly, your servant can begin tying your obi (belt).



Finally, you're ready to go and can then berate the boys you invited along (on the phone here) for forgetting their own male version of the yukata.


(better image here)
blacklilly: (dean you're soooo sexy)
The weather this morning was amazing.  Just as I left for work, the first rumbles of thunder were heard overhead and the rain came gushing down.  I quickly swapped into my skull-print wellington boots and headed out into the storm.  By the time I got to the station (4 mins) the rain was pelting down and the thunder overhead was AMAZING!!!  We must have been under the centre of the storm as the thunder absolutely ripped apart the sky above us.  It was all I could do not to jump up and down gleefully on the train platform, but I''m sure someone must have spotted the huge grin.  Interestingly, I'm just this minute listening to a lesson on Japanese onomatopoeia and how to describe thunder...

So I booked a holiday to Bali for Christmas.  Much as certain people may feel this is a rather rash decision on my part, given my various financial commitments, I need a frelling holiday, somewhere that isn't Japan.  I haven't had a holiday since last Christmas, and I haven't left Japan since May 2008, so I'm busting to get away.  I want to go somewhere reasonably quiet, in the mountains, and preferably warm.  As it happened, it was rather a spur of the moment decision.  I was at work mulling over what I wanted to do for the Christmas holiday, when the idea of Bali popped into my head.  It has long been on my list of places to go, but I was at a loss for what to do there, as me and beaches don't often go well together.  And then it hit me!  Yoga!!!  There are so many yoga websites I read which have advertisements for overseas yoga retreats, so I googled a few places and eventually found somewhere which people seemed to highly recommend up in the hills of Ubud.  It's a week of yoga and meditation, spa treatments and wandering about in the jungle.  Most importantly, it's going to be really quiet, especially on the one day when they run a voluntary silence for 24 hours.  I'm around for a day and a half after the retreat finishes so I'm planning to go stay in a family compound somewhere in Ubud and check out life when you're not staying in a luxurious hotel room. 

As a result, I'm limiting myself to living on 500yen per day, which is entirely doable, as long as I remember my lunch.  As it happens, I've not been feeling too hot since the weather changed, so not going out or even doing anything suits me fine.

Now, this book has totally bypassed me before, but I have been made aware of Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love" by Front Row and Women's Hour on Radio 4.  The more I hear about it, the more worried I become.  According to what I've read, Gilbert went to Bali to "find herself" or whatever, thus sparking a flood of "women of a certain age" (whatever the hell "a certain age" is) heading to Bali to meditate and attempt to find love.  Which makes me wonder who I'm going to be on holiday with...  I for one, am not a "woman of a certain age", especially as I'm still passing for 26 years old at the oldest estimates from drunken strangers (beer goggles do me wonders).  I'm certainly not going to Bali to find love.  All I want is some peace and quiet, lots of yoga, and to chill out.  And to eat all the vegetarian Indonesian food I can.  So, I may have to get a t-shirt made which says: "I do not Eat, Pray or Love".  It's a suitably grammatically dubious statement, so could pass for a Japanese creation.  Maybe I could sell it...?
*       *       *
 
Attention-seeking Parrot

This guy is part of a pet shop in Asagaya.  The shop is full of cats, dogs, rabbits, a giant tortoise, masturbating monkeys (it's a long story), and has a HUUUUGGGEEE dog who lols and slops about the place.  The shop absolutely stinks.  I don't know what animal rights laws Japan has in place for such places, but it would be shut down in the UK.  This guy stands outside and occasionally responds to the call "Banzai!" by raising his wings and posing.  He also loves having his photo taken, as evidenced by the following:




blacklilly: (Default)
I should be going to bed as I have high school tomorrow, but there's clearly not enough time in the day and I still haven't sewn up the hem on my trousers.  Could be a total waste of time as rain in hurling down at the moment, and may well be tomorrow also, it being a Wednesday when rain usually seems to be falling.  In fact, last Wednesday the dry spell finally broke with a typhoon.  So you know what I did?  I went down to the open air pool in Asagaya and went swimming in a typhoon.  It's was the best thing I've done in ages, though probably not as good as if I had been naked also, but one can't have everything.  I enjoyed feeling the rain pounding me as I ploughed up and down the pool. 

Started running again last week.  Am following the Couch to 5K programme, but after two days it became obvious that my sports bra cannot quite keep things still enough anymore, so I now have to wait until the new sports bra I ordered from England turns up.  Ho hum.

Am organizing a jazz/funk night at the bar I help out at.  Had a painfully difficult conversation with one of the musicians the other night.  I could barely understand what he was saying so in the end he asked to be handed over to someone Japanese, which only made things a bit better, as the Japanese speaker had to keep repeating stuff too.  Anyway, felt a but embarrassed and depressed about my Japanese so have sworn to try and get back into things after 6 months off.

Have a pic.
Koenji Awaodori Festival, August 2010
Goodnight.
blacklilly: (Takoyaki!)




















It has been the hottest summer in Japan for 113 years.  I think it's nearly 3 or 4 weeks without rain.  As a British person, I find this quite worrying, as I feel that rain is something one should see at least once or twice a week.  The Japanese have a word 夏ばて which kind of translates at "summer weariness" - the lethargy of months of oppressive humidity, no sleep because of the heat, no desire to eat etc etc.  I also have been savagely attacked on a near nightly basis by mosquitos and other unknown beasts, and have had to resort more than once to antihistamines due to the hives crawling up my legs.  I've got heat rash that won't disappear, and huge dark circles under my eyes, from not having had a good night's sleep in months (though that is normal, really).

Other than that, I'm working working. Perhaps stupidly I didn't take the two week holiday I was given.  I worked at the British Council instead, but I'm now feeling like I should have taken some time off.  But the money was going to be needed, so...

Bought a new camera - a Nikon D5000.  Still getting the hang of it.  I took a pic of these cool Cirrocummulus clouds the other day.  Very pretty sky for about an hour. so I sat on my balcony and enjoyed the view.

blacklilly: (Crazy)





















So, this weekend I will be exhibiting some of my Holga photos at an exhibition at the bar about two minutes from my house.  My friend Mikey is the "Art Director" for the bar, and normally organizes an art show every month - pop/street/underground stuff - but he had enough enquiries from photographers that he decided to do a photo show.  And then the other week he said:

"You know how I feel about photography.  I just can't get excited about it, but you can get enthusiastic about that shit.  You do it."

Which is how I became the "Photography Director".



Last night we started hanging prints.  We were expecting about 10 photographers, but only 4, including myself showed up.  Two were sick, one was working, and one (on account of being just over a year old) was asleep.  Which left one unaccounted for.  Anyway, the first guy I met was a slightly odd one whose girlfriend came along and proceeded to ignore everyone in the room.  She reminded me a little of my former self.  The first shot he put up was of a forearm into which had been carved the word "Love".  Not being a stranger to the odd bit of self-mutilation in the past, I asked him whose arm had been carved up for that shot: 

"Mine," he replied.

"Have you got the scars?"

"Not any more."  Which also reminded me of my former self and begged the question as to whether or not he'd put new ones over the top, or whether he too is blessed with magic skin.  It doesn't bother me that he was taking photos of his own knife-work -  hell, I've got notebooks and diaries smeared with my own scarlet miseries - but I wonder how it'll go down with the audience, especially as I would say he only had about 3 very good prints and the rest were...meh.  I hear that his other stuff is a bit more sexy, so I wish he'd brought that along.

The rest of the stuff should be hung this week, including my own stuff.  I was searching for mounting board today in Shinjuku, as framing pictures is ridiculously expensive.  The opening night is Saturday. 

Funnily enough, 3 people in that room had pictures of the Cosmo Clock in Yokohama.  It's a big old Ferris Wheel which I've always had a desire to snog someone on, but alas, the chance has never presented itself. 








blacklilly: (Amelie)
I've had a frantic past couple of months, but it all seems to be settling down a little now.

I moved into my new place on May 15th, and started working the same week, so things were pretty hectic.  Then I've been trying to sort out money, which has caused no end of hassles.  One particular case involved transferring money to my Japanese bank from England, only for it no to show up (and we're talking about £1000).  It turned out that the Japanese bank refuses to accept overseas transfers, despite apparently having a transfer system in place.  So I requested that the money be returned to my bank account in England...two weeks ago. And then it turned up, mysteriously, when I called the bank yesterday to complain about its absence.  Allegedly, it was credited to my account yesterday (probably about 2 minutes after the start of the call I bet), but at a loss of about £100 due to the various charges and exchange rates.  Thus, I will be writing letters of complaint after I finally get this cash (withdrawing it from the ATM, incurring further charges).  The money is going to pay back my friend who lent me the cash to get this apartment, and I feel bad for having to make her wait so long for it. 

There must be some sort of alternative banking system available, which doesn't mess you about so much.

About a week after I moved in, I was chopping spinach for dinner, and sliced my finger open on a new knife.  Normally, the sight of blood and minor injuries has no effect upon me, but this time I passed out.  I'm not sure how long I was out for, but there were some funny old thoughts going through my head while I was gone.  I guess it was a matter of seconds, but it was certainly long enough to bleed all over myself.  Fortunately, the cut healed up super-fast.

Anyway, here are some pictures:
The streetlight outside apartment reads "Star Road".
That light blur in the background is the Chuo Line train.


Look at the size of that kitchen!!!  It even has two, yes TWO, gas burners.
My leopard-print sofa has been much remarked upon.
The glass in the sliding doors is "Showa glass" and rattles when the wind gets up.


The day I moved in, my friend Saori came to help.  She was armed with kitchen towel, cloths, washing up liquid...
and dinner!  Here we have (top left going clockwise) - manjyu from Matsumoto, home-made plum wine,
sour plum and seaweed rice balls, stewed pumpkin, oden, and spinach and mushroom in Thai sauce. 
It was delicious, and kept me fed for a few days!

Yes, my balcony is blue and green, just like my building.
The landlady is a slightly eccentric but cute old lady, who asked me if I spoke Spanish.
She has a brilliant garden, which I will endeavour to take photos of (and steal grapes from!).

My balcony is going to become a small jungle:
gerbera, geranium, marigolds, aubergines, tomatoes, mint, habaneros, basil, oregano, mint.
I'm still on the look-out for fresh coriander!
blacklilly: (Genki)
See this:

http://community.livejournal.com/lomography/3412421.html.


Which reminds me of a moment of comedy I had yesterday with my student's motorcycle helmet and a bread knife from the 100yen shop:

me with knife

Having been watching CSI before I left the house that morning, I had murder on the brain.

I usually find school parties more than a little wearing, which is why I find the lubrication of alcohol useful on such occasions.  There's nothing like entertaining on your day off to make you crave all the beer.  However, the picnic was made all the more interesting (in fact, the picnic was SAVED) by a Cosplay festival at the local exhibition hall.  It being a lovely sunny day, all the cosplayers were out in the sun posing with those huge light reflectors and enormous cameras.  Camera-crews were running about trying to get the most scantily clad to pose for them, and the general public looked on in a mixture of lust, shock and bewilderment.  I thought it was brilliant.  Sadly, this was also the day when I decided not to be bring my SLR with me, so I couldn't capture much of what was going on, but thank goodness for mobile phones:


A bit of a boring picture, but you get the idea.

Later, after a Mexican birthday party, I came across some interesting stuff in Harajuku:

 
A slightly ghoulish tribute to Alexander McQueen in a shop window.

A nearby shop left a Dyson on display.
And another bastardization of the English language.

Today I took a walk with a new friend from Shibuya to Harajuku to Omotesando to Aoyama to Sendagaya to Harajuku to Shibuya.
It took a while.
Then we did some karaoke and I sang Bjork's "Venus as a Boy".
Singing Bjork at karaoke is never advisable.

Now I'm waiting with interest for tomorrow.
We've been called in for a meeting at 10am (I don't start until 1pm) which will explain the "new system".
Should it involve pay cuts in any form the whole teaching staff with go into revolt.
I doubt it will be that bad, but I hate having to give up my morning.
blacklilly: (Default)
I'm still here... just super busy. 
The weather in Japan is freakish to say the least.  
I think between Sunday and Monday the temperature dropped about 10 degrees.
Tonight, it's so cold I wouldn't be surprised to find snow outside.
Another busy weekend ahead.
More on that another time.

Here, have a photo.



This was taken at the Sado Island Earth Celebration Festival 2009.

 

blacklilly: (no)
Yesterday, my cat Hercules was put to sleep.  He was 18 years old.


 

This picture was taken when I was about 18 years old.

Dumped

Feb. 14th, 2010 10:33 am
blacklilly: (Ero ero ero)
Or, at least, that's what I'm giving the title of this little photo:


Dumped - A Lonely Heart in Asagaya

I found it in the corner of a bar in Asagaya, and as I was trying to waste film on my poor broken SLR I took a snap.

There a great bit in SPN when two people on a date get all snoggy and horny and start eating each other.  In fact, they eat each other to death.  I thought that was quite brilliant.  I'd post the video, but the buggers on Youtube took it down.
blacklilly: (Default)
Wednesday last week was pretty average.  I went to the gym; I hung around in work getting frustrated, then I went home.

Thursday was considerably more exciting as I had a visitor from England!  The sister of my high school boyfriend's friend (yeah, you can work that one out) came to Tokyo by herself so I offered her a reprieve from the dizzying heights of Tokyo by showing her around the harbour area in Yokohama.  She said it was the first time she'd seen blue sky and a horizon all week.

We met at Sakuragicho station, then took the scenic route to the Redbrick Warehouse then along the harbour front to Yamashita Park and China Town.  In China town we ate lots of street food - goma dango, hana maki, niku man.  Cate had spent all week trying to get herself a niku man or "fluffy cloud with meat in" all week at the convenience stores but kept being given the an-man - fluffy clouds with sweet red bean paste in - which she detested.  I think they're brilliant, but then I am a strange foreigner according to one of my Japanese friends.

After sampling the delights of China Town, we headed back to Yamashita Park and took the Sea Bass (or should that be Sea Bus, I've often wondered) back to Minato Mirai, where we wandered through the closed fairground and then had lunch in the (on the Sea Bass - Cate's only touristy photo of the whole trip)                      Landmark Tower. Cate managed to almost snap her credit card in half by       being  forced to use a Japanese-style toilet by a persuasive old lady.  Here's a picture of me brandishing my chopsticks at a bowl of vegetable tempura:
(yes, I am threatening those vegetables quite violently)


It was nice to have someone from back home come to visit.  Being able to talk about things and people you have in common, sharing a similar humour and a familiar face to talk to is a welcome treat.  You should all come and see me, English people. 

Right, off to work, so I leave you with a piccie of one of the temples in China Town:



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