Adventures in Adelaide (Southern Australia)

Since a huge part of why I traveled to Australia was to see wildlife reserves and nature, my friend and I decided to fly to Adelaide for 4 days from Melbourne since this is the place where he grew up.  Like Perth, Adelaide is considered to be one of the smaller and more remote cities of Australia, but it actually has a number of unique attractions worth seeing.  Not only is it one of the two places in the country where you can hold koalas at the Cleland Wildlife Park, but it also has a yearly event called the Fringe with a number of theater and festive events.  Though my time here was very short compared to Melbourne, Adelaide left a huge impression on me and I hope to visit here again in the future!

After landing, the first thing I noticed about the city was the beautiful trees and architecture of the houses.  Though the spring season had just begun, the temperature here was much warmer than it was in Melbourne.  We were staying with a friend who conveniently lived near the airport so it was fortunately convenient to get around by using Uber and the trams.  Since the weather was in our favor we decided to go to Glenelg Beach and soak up the sun for a while.  This beach is perhaps one of the most popular because it is near Jetty Square that is filled with shops and boutiques.  I enjoyed the laidback atmosphere here and managed to relax a lot.  It was just what I needed to rejuvenate myself.

All of the food we had here was absolutely amazing.  I had a delicious chai latte sprinkled with cocoa powder at a cafe called Cibo, which I highly recommend.  Though I currently reside in Japan, I was curious to try the sushi here so we decided to eat at the conveyor belt sushi chain Kintaro.  Surprisingly, their sashimi selection was quite tasteful, and I enjoyed the heaping amount of sauce they put on my avocado crab sushi.  Next up were the Japanese Wasabi Doritos we found at Coles Supermarkets.  They were almost overpowering, but worth it for the meme factor.

We spent a lot of our time here catching up with friends, watching anime, drinking at home, and relaxing, but we were still able to see a lot of the city in the time that we spent here.  My friend went through his anime figure collection and found his Rei Ayanami piece that was actually the top of a pachinko machine in Japan, so it was definitely worth the trip.  One of my favorite landmarks here were the silver balls, or “gintama” as you would say in Japanese:

Apparently they are quite a popular meetup spot in central Adelaide–kind of of like a miniature version of the bean in Chicago.  We also visited an anime store called Shin Tokyo which surprisingly had quite a good selection of goods (way better than where I grew up in Michigan), and hilariously I found stuffed kangaroo balls at a souvenir shop nearby.  There was also something mysterious for sale for $15.  This city seemed to be full of humorous content for some reason:

Another awesome place I highly recommend checking out is called MOD.  This is a futuristic museum with interactive exhibits that will help you discover “hedonism”, or the pursuit of happiness.  They had various happiness simulators here; including one that gave you believable compliments to boost your confidence, and another that had classic games like Solitaire and Minesweeper that would auto-win the game for you with just the press of a button (but it seemed like a fair game at first).  They also had surveys regarding what makes the ideal workplace, and we found some interesting results (see the picture of the coffee cups for reference).

I jokingly called this museum the teamLab of Adelaide, because some of the exhibits have similar concepts with lighting and projected images.  I was actually really impressed with the technology they used for their giant globe that you could spin and interact with.  You could create your own character using touch screens to live out various scenarios through the Symbiosville simulation.  In this exhibit, you will learn through trial and error how to keep you and the people around you happy.  I think this is a vital skill in life.

In my next blog entry, I will talk about my experience hanging out with kangaroos, koalas, and other wildlife in Adelaide.  I hope that more people will make the journey out to this city, because it truly is an interesting place!

Exploring Aesthetic Art Galleries in Melbourne

img_5897
Upside-down kanji has never looked better in this florescent lighting.

While traveling on my spontaneous two week trip to Australia, I decided to peruse the National Gallery of Victory (NGV) in central Melbourne to see some aesthetic works of art.  Needless to say with their large collection of traditional paintings, sculptures, stained glass, and pottery, I was not disappointed by their selection.  Most of the exhibitions here are completely free to enter.  Only the rotating featured exhibit has an entrance fee.  Since it was one related to Asia (where I currently reside), I decided to skip it and see the other permanent parts of gallery instead.  Most of them were pretty awe-inspiring with pieces of art from all around the world:

The first room we entered had European oil canvas paintings that I found to be quite thought-provoking.  Some of the art were beautiful portraits of woman and landscapes, but others depicted quite sad themes like war and death.  I really liked how the portraits were juxtaposed on the bright red wall–I had to walk around this room several times so I could fully let the context of it all set in.

In the connecting hallways were displays of pottery from various centuries (I was especially fond of the vase with booty painted on it), sculptures, a rocking chair, and other interesting works; like a horse with a lamp on its head.  On the top floor is a beautiful stained glass window that illuminates the performance hall.  They also had some really derpy paintings of animals, and one wall of art depicted a hint of bestiality, but it was discrete and as tasteful as possible.

My favorite exhibit was definitely the neon upside-down kanji room.  It only exemplifies the difficulty of learning kanji as a westerner:

The final room we entered had shapes made completely out of pages from books which gave them a unique texture.  There was also the “Ship of Time” exhibit you could walk through to find the inner peace depicted in Zhuangzi’s parable.  Once again it was a lot to take in at once, but I managed to successfully cross over:

Overall this was probably the best free museum I have stumbled upon in my travels.  I was impressed with all of the diversity it had to offer, and despite my initial jetlag I had a lot of fun reading about the exhibits.  Be sure to check out the NGV if you ever are in Melbourne!  There is also the Eureka Skydeck nearby where you can see a beautiful view of the the city.

Invading Australia: Exploring the Picturesque Melbourne City

img_5824
Beautiful view from Albert Park in Melbourne.

For the past 2 weeks I’ve been invading Australia; starting from the southern picturesque city of Melborune to the charming countryside of Adelaide.  Since a number of my Japanese friends have studied abroad or traveled to this country, it’s always been on my radar.  Unlike my previous trips to Asian countries where I have a set itinerary for each day, this trip was a lot more easygoing and spontaneous.  A friend I met at a beach party in Japan kindly let me crash at their place near the center of the city, so together we decided to hit the city while catching up and also experience the seemingly endless nightlife.

A lot of my American friends have asked me what Melbourne was like, and I told them: “Picture a cleaner, safer, version of your favorite American city with slightly less people, and that’s pretty much it!”  One thing I notice about most Australians is that they are pretty laidback and travel more frequently outside the county than a lot of Americans do.  Australia is very affordable to live in, and the tuition fees for education are greatly subsidized by the government compared to America.  The only downside is that eating out is somewhat expensive, but on the plus side, there is no tipping like in the US.

This trip initially started out very rough because I negligently forgot to apply for my ETA to enter the country (I thought I could do so upon arrival), so Jetstar had to reschedule my flight a day later after I applied for it.  Essentially all you need to do is fill out a form online and pay $30 to enter the country so it’s extremely easy, but make sure to do this before your flight!  I have never had issues with tourist visas until this trip, but it was only a small bump in the road because I still was able to do everything I wanted.

Once I landed, I took the Sky Bus to Southern Cross Station to meet my friend.  Immediately he recognized me due to my flamboyant blonde hair despite us not seeing one another for over two years.  We first got some lattes at Mid Town Coffee which I highly recommend, then immediately proceeded to go day drinking at Melborune’s famous rooftop bar.  The coffee and the White Russians somehow helped me fight off the jetlag as we walked around Chinatown and other parts of the city.  What I liked most about Melbourne is that almost all of the downtown area is walkable and there are inexpensive trams available as well.  The system is very easy to figure out.

 

Being in Australia felt like being in an alternate universe America.  Instead of GameStop, they still have EB Games, which seems to have more selection and be far more superior.  Forget about Burger King–it’s called Hungry Jack’s here.  Porn Hub should cum and get their pizza8bit burgers is also a great place to eat out (I love their logo design).  Lord of the Fries is not only a good pun, but they also has an entire vegan menu.  Despite living in Tokyo, I tried a lot of Japanese places here that were a little expensive but overall delicious.  Wagaya was one of my favorites due to its large sake list, but Japanese Gyoza Bar deserves an honorable mention.  Those are just a few of the places that we visited, but there are many more!

 

My favorite dessert places were Chokolait, where I had amazing rainbow pancakes made with pavlova, and a cakeshop called Glace where I had an amazing mushroom pastry.  They also had a really cute marshmallow one I wish I could have tried, but was too full!

 

There are a number of bars along the Yarra river that runs through the city, but my favorites were Storyville where I ordered Butterbeer, and the Croft where one of my Japanese friends DJed.  They also have syringe drinks available that are very tasty and fun to share with others.  All of these places had really friendly and welcoming atmospheres, and I even managed to make friends in the bathroom!

One event I recommend checking out is Delight because they run really fun music events with Smash Bros. tournaments at various locations in central Melbourne.  I met some very nice people here, and was impressed with the quality of music.

img_5948
それを考えぬく – EMBRACE

One of my favorite memories in this city was drinking Korean sochu while watching Kenny Beats & Zack Fox with two friends in an office building.  I felt like I was reliving my college days and it was extremely nostalgic.  The above poster I shot inspires you to let go of your thoughts and embrace your surroundings, which is exactly what I did during this trip.  It was really beneficial for my mental health.

img_5819
Seeing this Shelter poster hanging in my friend’s room only continued to add to the nostalgia.

Overall I was very impressed with this city and felt like I could finally escape from my high-stress life in Tokyo.  Some people refer to Melbourne as the “hipster” area of Australia, but I think it has a lot more to offer than just chic cafes and murals like other places that have that label.  I will be writing more about the art galleries and wildlife reserves I visited in my future posts so you can get a better feel about what this country is like, but I recommend that you visit it if you ever get the chance!

Exploring Singapore: From the Utopian Center to the Graffiti Streets

IMG_4366
The brave Merlion Statue is a symbol of good luck in Singapore.

Singapore is a vibrant and and multicultural country off the coast of Malaysia with a gorgeous bay, beautiful gardens, and picturesque beaches on its southern resort island, Sentosa.  Similar to Hong Kong, the island capital Pulau Ujong is highly condensed with shopping districts and bars which means you can easily travel to a lot of destinations on foot.  Though it is somewhat expensive to live here due to the cost of fuel and electricity and lack of natural reserves, there are many backpacker hostels and cheap transport options (buses, Grab, and the MTR) that are readily available.  I would recommend staying 2-3 days here to see the major attractions.  You do not need any special visa to enter Singapore for the purpose of travel, and almost everyone in this country speaks very good English.

What fascinates me about this country is the center of the city is really futuristic and looks liked something out of a Utopian society, but the suburbs (where I stayed at in Spacepod) have a huge Turkish and Indian population, so all the temples and shops look like structures from another planet.  Each part of the city has extremely intricate architecture everywhere you look.  There are clear influences of Japanese culture here too; you can tell by the way some foods are prepared and the interior decor of certain places.  When traveling here you’ll truly find a fascinating blend of cultures!

Here are the four main areas of Singapore that I recommend exploring, and I will be writing a guide to Sentosa Island as well.

Worldly Temples

From my hostel, I decided to walk towards the City Square Mall to the public transit and stop by the nearby temples.  I saw a variety of Hindu and Buddhist temples including Sri Srinivasa, Leong San, and Sakya Muni Buddha.  It was surreal to see so many different worldly temples in such close proximity together!  They were absolutely beautiful and only required a small donation to go fully inside.

Since I went here during the obon season where people believe their ancestors’ souls return to Earth, there were a lot of ceremonies and decorations around.  Anyone is welcome to enter the temples as long as they follow the dress code.  For those wearing short sleeves or dresses, there are usually cloths available for cheap rental so you can cover yourself up appropriately before you go inside.

Singapore’s Chinatown, which you can reach by the MTR, also has a number of Chinese temples worth seeing.  I recommend checking some of them out because they don’t take that much time to see.

Haji Lane

After seeing the temples, I decided to continue walking south to Singapore’s Hipster Street: Haji Lane.  This neighborhood is full of beautiful graffiti murals, shopping boutiques, as well as restaurants and bars popular for day drinking.  This is definitely an exciting place to come and mingle!  I stopped at Pita Bakery for some delicious bread and hummus, then walked to Singapore’s popular outdoor art gallery: Gelam Gallery.  There were so many gorgeous hand-painted and graffiti-sprayed original works of art there that I felt as if I had entered a wonderland of psychedelic colors.  I recommend walking though all of the little streets and back alleys because you’ll never know what you’ll find!

Sultan Mosque

IMG_4322

At the end of Haji Lane is the Sultan Mosque, which was originally home of Singapore’s first sultan.  Its gold roof gleams beautifully in the sunny weather and looks almost tropical facing the palm trees!  There are visitation hours where you can enter and go inside the glass domes that are a unique part of Muslim architecture.  There are also a lot of Middle Eastern restaurants around for those who are interested in trying some local food.  This was my first time seeing a mosque and I was grateful for the opportunity to learn about a new culture.

The Merlion

The Merlion is a half-mermaid, half-lion mascot that watches over Singapore and is said to bring good luck!  The head of the Merlion represents Singapore’s original name, Singapura, or ‘lion city’ in Malay.  Its four teeth represent the four main ethnic groups that reside in Singapore: Malay, Chinese, Indian & Eurasian.  The Merlion just may be my favorite mascot in the world because I love how much symbolism was put into its design.

I rode the MTR from the Sultan Mosque to reach Merlion Park.  From Merlion Park, you can get a beautiful picture with the Merlion jetting water out of its mouth, and also eat Merlion ice cream from the shop nearby!

There is also a Merlion Observatory Statue you can see on Sentosa Island which I will be writing about in my next article.

Gardens by the Bay

When the sun finally set, I decided to go out again and see Singapore’s famous gardens illuminated at night.  Gardens by the Bay was designed by professional landscapers and engineers boasting over 100 gardens housed with state of the art technology.  My favorite garden was the Supertree Grove, where you can see the giant trees with dazzling lights that Singapore is famous for.  There is also a Skyway available so you can see a great view of the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the surrounding area.  This area is quite large, so I recommend giving yourself at least an hour and a half to see everything.

Gardens by the Bay is located near the Merlion and stays open from 5am – 2am.  You can easily access them by riding the MTR.  The entrance price is $28 at the door, but you can get cheaper prices online or by asking most hostels.

As you can see, Singapore is influenced by many different cultures and is definitely worth traveling to for this unique experience.  I was happy I started with the historic temples and ended with the futuristic gardens, because it really gave me the chance to see everything.

For more information on Singapore’s nightlife, please see my Favorite Bars in Singapore article.

Seeing Fireworks on a Junk Boat for New Year’s Eve in Hong Kong

26167651_10213406613191189_1827352556962937794_n
New Year’s Eve on Victoria Harbor from a Junk Boat in Hong Kong (2018).

I never thought I’d be sailing through the Kowloon district of Hong Kong at midnight on a rickety junk boat with my former housemate and his girlfriend, but this was yet another exotic adventure I had somehow stumbled into!  At this time in my life, I had lived in Japan for 2 years and intended to stay there forever.  I had seen most of the major islands and cities in Japan, so my good friend Li Bai, who I originally met in a Tokyo sharehouse, invited my to come to Hong Kong for something new.  He had lived in Tokyo for 3 months and China for about a year, and said Hong Kong was one of the craziest places he had ever been to.  I took his word, but I still was a little nervous back then!

Now I would leap at an opportunity to go to a new country, but initially I had mixed feelings about traveling outside of Japan.  This was mainly because I was so comfortable with my daily life in Tokyo and didn’t want to leave, plus I wasn’t sure if I could navigate in another foreign country without knowing its native tongue.  It actually took a lot of convincing on Li Bai’s end, but he assured me if I loved Tokyo I would enjoy Hong Kong and all it had to offer.  After some time I decided this would be the best opportunity to see Hong Kong since both of my friends spoke Chinese and could guide me get around.  It was also the chance to see a whole new country and learn about its culture with people I was close with, so in retrospect I’m quite glad I took the opportunity.

I stayed in Hong Kong for a total of 4 days in a cheap hostel in Kowloon called Rainbow Lodge HK.  Li Bai recommend staying in Kowloon Town because it has a lot of history, and it is cheaper than the newer luxurious parts of the city.  Formerly called “The City of Anarchy”, Kowloon was known as walled city that was home to many imperial soldiers during the Sung Dynasty.  The city had a culture of its own as it refused to be colonized and was once one of the most densely populated areas of the world.  Though it was infamous for crime back in the day, now it is fully safe and historic.

Like Tokyo, Hong Kong is a bright and vivid city with a lot of neon lights, street vendors, and shopping.  The train system is very cohesive and you can get around the island with ease.  The biggest difference I noticed was Hong Kong was a lot more westernized; English was widely spoken and manners were a lot looser.  At the night markets you could barter to get lower prices which I did with the help of my Chinese-speaking friends.  This is concept is actually common in Asian countries, but not in Japan.  I also really enjoyed the warm weather.  Tokyo and Korea are much colder in the winter, so I felt like I was in the tropics the whole time I was here.

One interesting point I noticed is that people often lay down cardboard boxes in the street and have little picnics in them!  I think it’s a very clever idea because it easily brings people together:

26168053_10213402449007087_6047458476397084824_n

The streets of Hong Kong are really fun to wander because they are super condensed and beautiful murals are everywhere to be found.  I arrived before my friends, so I took to opportunity to explore the city on foot.  I saw a lot of unique murals and architecture, as well as graffiti.  My favorite was a green Slime from Dragon Quest was some kind of insignia on its forehead, not to mention the mysterious door with eyes.  The polar bear butt sculpture near my hostel was extremely charming too.

My friends from China arrived around 8pm and that’s when the party finally started!  It felt so good to catch up with them because it had been over a year since we last had seen one another.  We first barhopped around Kowloon and found a Mexican place with giant mixed drinks and tequila which we feasted on after the long flight.  We also bought a bottle of wine and drank on the streets while walking to the Victoria harbor.  Honestly, we got along so well like no time had passed at all!

Around 11pm we boarded a traditional Chinese ship with a vivid sail called a junkboat.  Junkboats resemble pirate ships and were used to transport cargo back in the day (not actual junk).  We booked the NYE fireworks tour through Aqua Luna online, and it included an all you can eat buffet and an hour of smooth sailing around the harbor.  Though it was somewhat of a tourist activity, it was extremely fun!  This was honestly one of the most enjoyable NYEs of my life because I had made it all the way here to Hong Kong, a place I never thought I’d travel to in my life.  I’ll never forget the incredible neon hue the sky turned once the clock stuck midnight!

26166197_10213406575550248_5185073052305635825_n
Midnight on Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong (2017-2018).

At the end of the little sailing expedition, we were all tired so we decided to turn in for the night.  But this was just the first day!  The next day we decided to sail to another exciting place!  Look forward to the next blog of my Hong Kong series: Setting Sail for Macau.

“Moment” by Bahi JD Exhibition at Shinjuku Ophthalmologist Gallery

65763894_10217258471605242_8831974888395767808_n
Framed album artwork for Carpainter’s “Returning” (2017).

If you have any interest in animation, please stop by the Shinjuku Ophthalmologist Gallery and check out this amazing exhibition by Austrian artist Bahi JD, who has worked as a key animator for various Japanese companies and has created many original designs. Not only has he drawn covers for Carpainter albums (“Returning” and “Digital Harakiri”), but he’s also drawn his own original manga (“地球のマグノリア”) and has worked intricately animating scenes of Blade Runner, Fate/Apocrypha, SSSS.GRIDMAN, and more, as well as his own original GIFs that went viral. I’m really lucky I had the opportunity to meet him here, as I have cherished his art for a while!

For those who would like to see the in-depth animation process behind his works; a room of the gallery is covered with stills and a looping video so you can see each individual frame of his original animation up close:

Most recently Bahi has created the storyboard for and directed the beautiful opening for the anime “Carole and Tuesday” which premiered April 10, 2019:

The dynamic colors and physics he uses in his animations are quite unique and highly entertaining to watch! I hope people who are interested in working in animation can see this, as he is a major inspiration as a foreign artist that is very successful now in Japan.  

For more information on his work, please see his online portfolio, and stop by this gallery which will be available until July 3rd, 2019.  There will likely be more of his works display in the future, which I will be sure to visit and write about!

Menmeiz Retro Aesthetic Vaporwave/Citypop Art Gallery

If you’ve ever walked through the streets of Tokyo, you’re probably familiar with flashing neon lights, the bustling districts highlighting fashion and music, and the fleeting nostalgic moments you feel as people in this city come and go.

In the most recent gallery/pop-up store by Menmeiz, vintage and retro-inspired artwork is on display from various artists on the 4th floor of Beams Japan in Shinjuku. The artist I wanted to see the most was Shiho So, who has not only done VJ work for some of my favorite DJs in Tokyo, but also has designed posters, album covers, and a book cover for “Ring of the Day” too!  Her art combines pastel colors with a retro art style that is reminiscent of the 80s in Japan.

In addition to brightly-colored balloons, shirts, hair accessories, zines, posters, and wands, this gallery also features citypop music by Night Tempo for the best viewing experience!  Conveniently located next to this exhibit, there is a store with vintage Sony stereos and cassettes for sale.

If you would like to know more about vaporwave and how this kind of internet subculture originated, you can browse through zines on the table for more information.  I personally enjoyed the one titled “ももたろう/PEACH BOY” because it was a nice homage of the old Japanese classic.

If you are in Shinjuku, please be sure to check this gallery out!  It is only viewable for the short duration of June 14th – June 23rd, but there will be more events like this available in the future.

64595022_10217221449919723_8773142688368164864_n