Archive | August 2013

R*-rated night out: Robot Restaurant

Before I get your blood racing, let me preface this by saying this is a PG-blog, so please, curb your enthusiasm.
R* is for “Robot”, “Ridiculous” and “Random”.
The talk of the town in Tokyo has been the “Robot Restaurant” in Shinjuku which opened about a year ago.

The Robot Restaurant is a one-hour show featuring dinosaurs, robots, scantily-clad girls and glowsticks. It had to be done. So yep, a bunch of us went to check what all the fuss was about.
The word “Restaurant” is rather misleading, because it is the worst food on earth. A restaurant it is not. It’s technically a performance show, but they serve you a tuckshop box.

Reservations are pretty much essential and tickets should be booked in adance. There are generally three performances most nights. You get there half an hour early to pick up the tickets. Seats are not allocated.

The venue itself is the seedy redlight district of Kabukicho (Shinjuku). And whoever designed the place was clearly on some hard drugs. It’s bright and gaudy. I cannot fathom how many lightbulbs were used to deck out the place.

During the pre-show half hour wait, most people grab a beet in the bar/waiting area.

From Robot

We went on a Thursday night and I would say the audience was 50% Japanese and 50% tourists. There was clearly a lot of foreigners there. It’s quite the tourist attraction.

The performance is in the basement, down about 3-4 short flights of stairs. The floor, the walls, the lighting is insane.

From Robot

The venue was heaps smaller than I imagined it would be.
It’s basically rows of school-type seats lined opposite each other against the wall. It felt like we were on the set of a game show.

From Robot
From Robot
From Robot

On your little “desk” you eat your bento box and Japanese tea. Ticket entry includes a bento meal box and Japanese tea. Beer and other beverages are available to purchase.

From Robot

And the most bizarre extravaganze begins. There’s loud music, there’s flashing lights, there’s girls in bikinis, there’s taiko drumming and so much more. It’s not just robots. In fact, there are dinosaurs and animals.

From Robot
From Robot
From Robot

They even give out awesome glow sticks to the audience. I am embarrassed to admit that I think I was more excited than I should have been about the glowsticks (sadly they have to be returned at the end of the show).

From Robot
From Robot
From Robot
From Robot
From Robot

During intermission you can go down and get your photos taken with all the robots.

From Robot

Argh, I’m being attacked by a robot:

From Robot
From Robot

Back to the show:

From Robot
From Robot
From Robot
From Robot
From Robot

The panda riding the cow was unexpected to say the least:

From Robot
From Robot

The giant female robots:

From Robot
From Robot
From Robot
From Robot
From Robot

It was certainly unique and entertaining. And definitely unlike anything you’ll ever see. It was good, clean fun. Children are allowed (there are no age restrictions). Photos are welcome and they even give you floor time to take additional photos with the robots etc. However, extreme close ups are not permitted, and they will kick you out for any unwelcome behaviour.

At 5000yen a ticket (with meal box included), they are certainly making a fortune). I’ve heard it’s not as good as used to be when it first opened. You used to be able to sit and ride on the robots!!! But there was none of that when we went). Expect tacky, bizarre, fun and you’ll certainly enjoy it. Cirque du Soleil it is not, nor is it a strip joint. It’s more like every nerd boys dream fantasy – dinosaurs, robots, music, lights and girls in bikinis.

And just when you thought your regular Thursday night couldn’t get any more weirder….

From Robot

That’s me, feeling somewhat inadequate. That was my “Quite frankly, I am not amused” facial expression. Could you tell? 😉

Ok. I’ll confess that the woman in the red dress above is a wax mannequin. (Yes, only one of us is real in that photo). For the record, I should make it clear that I do NOT make a habit of standing next to bra-less quadruple D-sized women (humans or dummies).

High Tea by the water: Gunners Barracks

High time for a high tea review.
I’ve been slacking on the high tea consumption recently. I think I’ve only done two in Tokyo this year. But I’ve done a few overseas ones which I haven’t yet gone around to posting.
I have replaced scones with swimming and SUPing this summer.

Today’s high tea is review is one from Sydney which I did over the Christmas/New Year trip back home. Long overdue, I know. About 9 months overdue. One could have had a baby in that time!

But better late than never, and without further ado, today’s high tea post is that of the Tea Room at Gunners Barracks (Mosman, Sydney).
There are two branches of the Tea Room (one at the QVB and the other at Gunners Barracks.)
The Gunners Barracks is a nice location. It’s on a cliffpoint that overlooks Sydney Harbour, and is a heritage building. Once a military compound, it is now a popular wedding and reception spot.

From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea

It’s a shame the day was overcast and cloudy.

From Gunners Barracks high tea

But still, can’t complain about water views over Sydney Harbour!

From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea

Sydney CBD:

From Gunners Barracks high tea

There’s an outdoor terrace seating area which offers prime harbour views. You’ll need to book and request terrace seats (otherwise you might be stuck in the indoor seating area which is no fun).

From Gunners Barracks high tea

The indoor seating area:

From Gunners Barracks high tea

A piccolo of champagne to start with:

From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea

Tea with a view:

From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea

Quite the afternoon spread:

From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea

Finger sandwiches (crusts off, of course):

From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea

Savoury morsels and scones:

From Gunners Barracks high tea

Jam and cream:

From Gunners Barracks high tea

The food was very good. Probably not the best scones I’ve had.

The view though was splendid and would be ideal on a clear blue sky day.

From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea
From Gunners Barracks high tea

Open for lunch and afternoon tea. You’ll want to book as this place is popular (times may be restricted for certain functions, wedding receptions etc).

Sydney Harbour + High Tea is a great combination:

From Gunners Barracks high tea

Lake Biwa OWS

Having already cycled part of Lake Biwa, and SUPed on Lake Biwa, on Sunday it was time to swim Lake Biwa.

From Biwako OWS

The Lake Biwa open water swim race is annual race, and has been on my bucketlist for a while now.
It’s Japan’s largest lake, and it was also an excuse to cross off another prefecture to my tally, bringing it to 35 prefectures (out of 47). I’ve got another 12 prefectures to go!

On the Sunday morning, I was not looking forward to getting back on a bike saddle. That damn mamachari. A 60km cycle and a couple of hours of stand up paddleboarding was probably not the best thing to before a swim race.
It was thankfully only about 20min cycle to the race venue.

I got to see the local Nagahama castle along the way:

From Sunday Biwa cycling
From Sunday Biwa cycling

Again I cycled along the bike path around the lake this time in the opposite direction (north, anti-clockwise):

From Sunday Biwa cycling
From Sunday Biwa cycling
From Sunday Biwa cycling
From Sunday Biwa cycling

To my left was the lake:

From Sunday Biwa cycling

And to my right were rice fields and mountains:

From Sunday Biwa cycling
From Sunday Biwa cycling

How very Sound of Music of me to be cycling through the countryside.

From Sunday Biwa cycling

The Lake Biwa open water swim race was held at Minamihama swimming spot. I cycled there from Nagahama. The previous day I had cycled from Nagahama to Shiga and back.

From Biwako OWS

I got to the race venue and parked the bike in the shade and settled in for a long hot day.

From Biwako OWS
From Biwako OWS

I usually do beach swims, but a freshwater lake swim was going to be a nice change. None of that saltiness.
The most surprising thing about this swim was how disgustingly warm the water was. It was 30.5 degrees. It was in truth, a little dangerous. Especially when you’re going flat out, air temps were about 35 degrees, and you gotta swim 3.2km!

The lake though is pretty flat so conditions were pretty good for swimming, apart from the heat factor.

From Biwako OWS
From Biwako OWS
From Biwako OWS

I was entered in the 3.2km race which didn’t start until about midday.
It was 600m straight out, 700m across, and then 300m back in, times 2 laps of that course.

From Biwako OWS
From Biwako OWS

Race number 514:

From Biwako OWS

It was a super hot day. Most people had brought along tent shades to camp out for the day:

From Biwako OWS
From Biwako OWS
From Biwako OWS

Here are some action shots from the 500m race:

From Biwako OWS
From Biwako OWS
From Biwako OWS
From Biwako OWS
From Biwako OWS

Eventually it was my time to race. There was about 200 people in the 3.2km swim.
I swam pretty fast and overtook a lot of people. The water was dangerously warm though. Not good. Not good at all.

Ended up with a time of 58minutes for a 3.2km swim which I was super happy with. I barely ever break the hour for a 3km swim. I felt dizzy and lightheaded afterwards though….a bit of heatstroke I think. I came 19the female overall (out of 35), and I think I got between 4-6th place in my age group. No prizes but I did walk away with a PB.

From Biwako OWS

Swim Lake Biwa. Check.

From Biwako OWS

Watch this space. There is talk of a Lake Biwa swim crossing next year which a friend or two and I are tossing around. There is an annual Lake Biwa crossing swim race – 16km, but it’s a relay event. We are thinking about solo crossings….whether this will actually happen or not, I’m not sure….

Only one more swim race of the Japan summer season to go….but there will be an Aussie swim race to report back on later in the year . I’m excited about that one!

Lake Biwa: Cycling

Got up early on Saturday morning to travel from Tokyo all the way to Shiga prefecture.
Had planned on taking the overnight bus but the buses were booked out way in advance due to Obon and summer holidays. The shinkansen it was then.
From Tokyo to Maibara, it took about 2.5 hours on the shinkansen and then a short 9min local train to Nagahama station where I would stay overnight.
Upon exiting Nagahama station I headed straight for the west exit and to the rentacycle shop. There, I rented a bike for 2 days (for the Saturday and Sunday – only 2000yen for 2day rental plus a 500yen refundable deposit). I was going to be swimming a race in Lake Biwa on the Sunday and had to stay overnight the night before. I figured I would make the most of the weekend in Shiga ken.

The guys are the bike rental shop were super lovely and friendly. In fact, everyone I met in Shiga prefecture was super friendly. They only had electric bikes, so I made do with that. The guys were really concerned about the battery not lasting much more than 60km (I had told them I would be riding 60-70km on the Saturday alone). I would need to come back on Sunday morning to replace the battery.

Armed with my electric mamachari complete with basket, my plan was to ride to Notogawa about 30-35km away. I had found a place there where I could rent SUP boards. I sent off from Nagahama at about 11:40am. It was about 34-35 degrees. It was gonna take me a couple of hours to cycle there.

Lake Biwa is Japan’s largest lake (freshwater). It has a circumference of approx. 235km. At its maximum length it’s about 63.5 km and maximum width of about 23km.

This is Lake Biwa:

From Saturday Biwa cycling

This is how much of it I cycled in 2 hours:

From Saturday Biwa cycling

The most painful 30km ever. Cycling is not at all a comfortable sport. It was hot, I was carrying my overnight backpack, and my arse was killing me. Cyling is just nasty.

You can cycle all around Lake Biwa. There is, for the most part, an awesome cycle path that follows around Lake Biwa along the main traffic road. It is also pancake flat (or at least the portion that I cycled).
It’s a pretty easy cycling route, minus the bike discomfort factor.

Cycling around Lake Biwa in photos:

Follow the path:

From Saturday Biwa cycling

Alongside Lake Biwa:

From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling

The lake stretches on for a really really long time:

From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling

There are cycling road signs around Lake Biwa so you shouldn’t get too lost. I did have to detour a couple of times though.

From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling

There’s a tiny tiny island out in the middle of Biwako:

From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling

Every now and then, you’ll have to veer through off the main road and away from the lake.

From Saturday Biwa cycling

There’ll be more than a handful of bridges to cross as well, as lots of little rivers run off the lake.

From Saturday Biwa cycling

Whilst I was pedaling away, this guy was just chillin’:

From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling

Whilst the lake dominates the view on one side, you’re surrounded by rice paddies on the other.

From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling

After a couple of hours of cycling, and weaving in out of some rice paddies, I finally stumbled upon my destination:

From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling

This was the SUP rental place. They went all kinds of water sporting gear here.

From Saturday Biwa cycling

Such a cool little place. You can even stay overnight there.

From Saturday Biwa cycling

It was about 2pm ish by now. Just enough time to get in a couple of hours of SUP. I’ll tell ya what though, my arse from cycling was killing me. I was not looking forward to cycling back. The guys at this shop were super super friendly. They gave me a free ice cream which was a welcome treat after that cycle. They drove me to a nice flat section of the lake where all the other SUPers were. Away I went. Doing anything but cycling, was pure bliss. Good conditions to SUP on – Lake Biwa is really flat, although the wind picked up later which made paddling a bit tough.

From Saturday Biwa cycling

The water temp of Lake Biwa was disgusting warm. About 30 degrees.
I enjoyed my time out on the water – very zen. SUP is so relaxing. For me, just being out on/in/near the water is very relaxing and recharging. The other SUPers out there were all super friendly. They were all crazy fast SUPers and compete in races. One of the guys was fast enough to win himself a Hawaii flight prize at one his races. Impressive. I also met an American guy who is the owner of a surf and SUP board store back in Chiba. Got his details, so will probably check out his shop/surf school and check out the beaches in Chiba to keep practising.

At about 5pm I had to think about heading back. Ugh. I had to cycle another 2 hours back. I’m sure my backside was wincing at the thought.

From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling

I ploughed back to Nagahama on the bike. Did get to see a lovely sunset over Lake Biwa though:

From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling

Even at 6pm it was still 32 degrees!

From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling
From Saturday Biwa cycling

It was dark by the time I got back to my hotel.
60km cycling around Lake Biwa. And Stand Up Paddleboarding on Lake Biwa.
My arse will thank me if I never have to get back on a bike again.
In fact, I’m actually tempted to sell my 1-year-old roadbike and get a SUP board instead.

Yo wasSUP

Have found a new hobby that I’m addicted to: Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP).
So much fun! I’ve gone two weekends in a row now.
It’s been something that I had wanted to do for ages but never got around to until this summer. I had a sneaking suspicion that I might be half decent at it. I tried it for the first time a couple of weeks ago down at Koshigoe (near Enoshima). I got a lesson for a couple of hours and then had a bit of practice on my own. I was on an air SUP board which is a little trickier. And it was down at a surf beach where the conditions were a little tougher. Paddling is easy. The hard part is standing and balancing. I fell off the board so many times and ended up with major knee rash from the amount of times I had to heave myself back on the board.

Fast forward to the weekend just gone. I spent the weekend at Shiga prefecture for another open water swim race (that’ll be a separate post). I spent my time at Lake Biwa. With my newfound addiction, I researched on the Internet for SUP board rentals at Lake Biwa. I was in luck!

Found an awesome little water eco sports outfit that did SUP board rentals. Super cool, nice people. They even gave me a free ice-cream! They drove me down to a nice area of the lake where I went and SUPed. It was only my second time and it was out on a flat lake so it was soooo much easier. And I had proper board. Managed to not fall off once!

SUP is such a good workout! Really works the calves, and if you look at talented SUPers they have well-built calves. Being short (like myself) also helps because you need a lower centre of gravity to maintain your balance. It’s also quite the core workout. Being short and stocky, I have a bit more natural advantage, so I didn’t find it so difficult. I just need more practice and practice to work on my speed. Haven’t quite got up to SUP surfing yet!

Having since partaken in SUP, I’ve gone all OCD and have been researching all about it on the internet – mostly places where I can get rentals (SUP boards are expensive to purchase!). There are also SUP races which I might be tempted to do next year. In particular, there is an awesome event called “Paddle Mix” which is a 1km open water swim + 1km SUP + 4km run. That is totally my cup of tea!!!! I definitely want to enter it next year.

It’s such a bummer I live too far from the beach. It takes 2 hours to get to the closest beach from Tokyo. And it’s an expensive hobby. I guess it’s a little bit like snowboarding but on the water.

Here are some action pics of SUPing at Lake Biwa, ah fun summer days!

The shores of Lake Biwa – the largest lake in Japan:

From Biwako SUP
From Biwako SUP
From Biwako SUP
From Biwako SUP

Out in the middle of the lake (I had my waterproof camera with me):

From Biwako SUP
From Biwako SUP

Nice flat waters – ideal for starting out.

Me out on the water:

From Biwako SUP

A pro SUPer in the making, mark my words:

From Biwako SUP
From Biwako SUP
From Biwako SUP
From Biwako SUP
From Biwako SUP
From Biwako SUP
From Biwako SUP
From Biwako SUP

It’s so relaxing, just being out on the water, paddling away.

From Biwako SUP

Sunset over Biwako:

From Biwako SUP
From Biwako SUP
From Biwako SUP
From Biwako SUP

What can I say, I had an uber SUPer weekend!

Life’s a beach

週末のために生きている。
I live for my weekends.

Spent an awesome day at the beach yesterday.
It’s not often I get to enjoy a lazy day at the beach.
My trips to the beach are usually to compete in open water swim races.
Was nice to finally do a lazy summer beach day.

Headed out all the way to Onjuku Beach – the far side of Chiba.
Totally worth the 30buks and 90min train ride to get there.

From Tokyo station, you can get the express train “Wakashio” and ride the train in air-conditioned, reclining seat comfort.
Note: the train departs from Platform 1 at Tokyo station. There are TWO platform 1’s as we discovered the hard way as we stood waiting at the wrong platform and had to sprint through Tokyo station, the whole 500m to the other platform 1 to make our train. We literally got on the right train on the right platform in the nick.of.time. *You will want the Keiyo line, platform 1 and not the Chuo line platform 1.

From Onjuku Beach

You know you’ve reached Onjuku beach when you see the camel statues:

From Onjuku Beach
From Onjuku Beach

Onjuku Beach is one of the best leisure beaches I’ve been to. Way better than the Shonan beaches. The water was beautiful and clean and clear. We parked ourselves on the sand for 5 hours enjoying the sun, surf and champagne (BYO champagne).

From Onjuku Beach
From Onjuku Beach

This is how you beach, in style:

From Onjuku Beach
From Onjuku Beach
From Onjuku Beach
From Onjuku Beach

We rented a beach umbrella for the day. The sales assistant not only carries the umbrella to your beach spot, but even digs a hole in the sand and sets up the umbrella for you. At the end of the day, you just leave the umbrella and they’ll pick it up at the end of the day. Bless, Japan. And the beach has beach shacks which sell food and more importantly, beer.

Beer, books, the beach. Bliss.

And just when you thought the day couldn’t get better, the day was topped off with an onsen. There’s an onsen right by the beach. The water was amazing. It was a dark brown colour (the colour of coke)…it was like a bathtub of coca cola. It made your skin feel amazing.

The day was so ridiculously awesome, that I plan on doing it all over again next Sunday (except maybe try and get to the beach even earlier!)

Mud, sweat and beers: Where’s Wally Warriors

Got a fun post for you today. Two weekends ago, a bunch of us entered in the Warrior Dash.
The Warrior Dash is a 5km run in fancy dress costume through a bunch of obstacles. Think Survivor-style obstacles in a festival-type atmosphere with music and beer.
Sounds like fun, ay. Try doing it in 30-degree heat, ridiculous humidity, and in a Where’s Wally outfit!

Riding the train at 7am in a Where’s Wally outfit. Mind you, I felt sexy!

We travelled all the way to Chiba to a place called Deutsche Mura – a German village theme park. Very random.

From Warrior Dash 2013

The turf here was ridiculously green and well manicured.

From Warrior Dash 2013
From Warrior Dash 2013

Here I am decked out in my outfit, in pursuit of Wally (or Waldo, for you American readers):

From Warrior Dash 2013

Our team of Where’s Wallies:

From Warrior Dash 2013

Everyone was decked out in costumes which was great to see:

Mario and Luigi:

From Warrior Dash 2013

The toga team:

From Warrior Dash 2013
From Warrior Dash 2013

Let the race begin! Contestants set out in wave starts every half hour.
We took it quite leisurely and helped each other out through all the obstacles, stopping for lots of photos along the way. The 5km distance alone was a struggle…I’m pretty sure we walked most of it.

There was probably at least 10 obstacles throughout the course.

Obstacle 1:

From Warrior Dash 2013

Obstacle 2:

From Warrior Dash 2013

There was fire jumping (somehow managed not to burn myself ;-):

From Warrior Dash 2013

The Spider trap (Obstacle 4):

From Warrior Dash 2013

Horizontal rock climbing:

From Warrior Dash 2013

Barrel jumping:

From Warrior Dash 2013
From Warrior Dash 2013

More climbing:

From Warrior Dash 2013
From Warrior Dash 2013

A much needed water break. It was so goddamn hot, we could barely breathe:

From Warrior Dash 2013

Wearing knee-high socks and a beanie probably didn’t help the situation.

More obstacles to get through, not even half way through yet!

Spiderman doing his thang!

From Warrior Dash 2013
From Warrior Dash 2013

Goddamn, more climbing. Someone kill me now says the girl with no.upper.body.strength. I should add that with a few of the obstacles, there was also an easier version (often shorter, smaller obstacle version). So you don’t actually need to be a superhero to compete in this event.

From Warrior Dash 2013

Will this climbing never end?!

From Warrior Dash 2013

Run, Wally, Run!

From Warrior Dash 2013

Pace slows to a walk:

From Warrior Dash 2013

We sweated our way through the course which was hilly, gravelly, up and down hills – a flat course, it is not.

Relief came at the water obstacle. It was a breath of fresh air. It was just what we needed on this 30-degree plus heat day. Never have I been so eager to crawl through tunnels submerged in water.
Yep shoes and socks, fully clothed into the pool.

Wet Wallies:

From Warrior Dash 2013

Time for an impromptu water fight!

From Warrior Dash 2013
From Warrior Dash 2013

And then back to the race (clearly, we were not going for the fastest time):

From Warrior Dash 2013

Where’s Wally now? Drowning, apparently (and yes, this is me):

From Warrior Dash 2013
From Warrior Dash 2013

We were sopping wet, and we still had another 4 obstacles to get through to get to the finish line.

More climbing!

From Warrior Dash 2013

And crawling:

From Warrior Dash 2013
From Warrior Dash 2013

Are you tired just reading this? You try running this course!

And because there wasn’t enough climbing obstacles, for a bit of variety, there was more climbing!

From Warrior Dash 2013

(I opted for the easier version)

From Warrior Dash 2013
From Warrior Dash 2013
From Warrior Dash 2013

Nearly at the finish line:

From Warrior Dash 2013

But not before doing the Mud Pit!

From Warrior Dash 2013
From Warrior Dash 2013
From Warrior Dash 2013

Fully clothed, with shoes and socks, glasses and beanie, we crawled through the muddy water:

From Warrior Dash 2013

We finished and survived! Hell yeah. Go the Where’s Wally Warriors!

From Warrior Dash 2013

Hooray for the finish line. It took us over 90 minutes to finish. Mind you, there was a lot of stopping and cheering and supporting everyone and photo taking etc.

Time for our medals:

From Warrior Dash 2013
From Warrior Dash 2013

Mind you, the laundry aftermath was a bitch! I had to put everything through the wash twice and had to actually dispose of my socks which were unsalvageable.

The Before and After shot: Evidence of a great day.

From Warrior Dash 2013

A super crazy fun day!
Mud, sweat and beers all round.