Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cosplay at Harajuku

Harajuku district in Tokyo has always been the epitome of youthful exuberance. Off beat, irreverent and often rebellious in nature, Harajuku has a life of its own.

Takeshita dori (street) just opposite the Harajuku train station is the place where this youthful subculture flourishes. Ever-changing and always trend setting, this is where the happenings are.

Cosplay, or costume roleplay, is the activity where the Japanese youth dress up as their anime or manga comic characters. Harajuku is where cosplay events dominates the weekend. The area just south of Harajuku Station is the grand mecca for all things relating to cosplay. This culture has even spread to areas outside Japan, including Singapore which has a large cosplay fraternity.

I shot this video around 2005.

Sorry for the low-resolution as some of you had mentioned the slow downloads.
If you want to see a high res version, click here

Thursday, July 09, 2009

How to light up a gas water heater.

Light up a gas water heater? Why is this in a travel blog, you may wonder?
Just bear with me and all will be evident as you read on.
This little bit of advice may become a life saver for you some day.

Gas water heaters use natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas, as its name implies, to heat water for bathing or other uses.
Unlike a gas stove where you use a lighter or a static spark to ignite the gas, a gas water heater uses a constantly lit tiny little flame to ignite the gas.
This tiny flame, called a pilot light, heats a sensor that detects if the pilot is lit. If it detects that the pilot is lit, the sensor releases gas which ignites and heats the water. If the pilot light is not lit, then the sensor detects that there is no flame and does not release gas to be burned.

Simply, this means that the pilot light must be lit for the heater to work. Therefore, to heat water in a gas heater, you must first light up the pilot lamp. On all heaters there is a button or switch marked Pilot that must be turned on while you put a flame (match or lighter) to the pilot tube. As easy as that.

In Singapore, 99.99% of all water heaters use electricity to heat the water. To work the heater, simply throw the switch on. This probably also means 99.99% of all of us have never turned on a gas water heater before.

Many years ago, I traveled to Germany for a trade convention in a small town. Flying from Changi to Frankfurt, then on a domestic transfer to Saxony took almost 16 hours. This was in late winter and the temperature averaged -10 degrees C outside during the day. Brrrrr.

In that small city, the few hotels available were fully booked up for the convention and so we had to rely on home-stay accommodations. This is very common in Europe where families rent out their spare rooms, or entire apartments, to conventioneers. My colleague and I managed to secure an apartment all to ourselves.

After that long tiring flight, all I wanted was to get cleaned up and off to bed for the night. Got ready for a shower and then, wham! how do you turn on the gas heater???? My colleague and I were stumped by something as simple as not knowing how to turn on a gas heater! Nothing in our lives had prepared us for this situation.

In the dead of winter, there is no greater torture than not having a hot bath. So imagine us desperately needing a shower and the water was near freezing.

If you have never used ice cold water to bathe before, let me tell you that you will never ever want to experience it a second time. Frankly, I can still remember the cold shock, the shudders, the screams and speed which I had to soap and rinse, towel off, get dressed and dive into my blankets to get warm again.

So, if ever you are in a small town in Europe in the dead of winter and the gas heater does not work, light the pilot lamp first!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Travel Movies - Arabian Coast

Most people know of Disneyland, be it in Anaheim, Paris, Hong Kong or Tokyo, or even their American cousins, Walt Disney World and Epcot Centre. Yet strangely, quite a lot will scratch their heads when you mention Disneysea. Disneysea??? really?

Disneysea is Disney's only water-theme park and is located next to Tokyo Disneyland. The park centers around seven Ports of Call, namely Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta and Port Discovery.
Rides are based on Indiana Jones's adventures, Jules Verne's 10,000 leagues under the sea, and the little mermaid Ariel, amongst others.

Here's a clip on the Arabian Coast.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Travel Movies - Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Japan

Within the heart of busy, bustling and fast paced Tokyo lies one of the most serene and peaceful green havens to be found.

This is the Meiji Shrine, located next to Harajuku, built in 1920 to commemorate Emperor Meiji. He was the first emperor of modern Japan, having regained power back from the Shoguns in 1868. It was he who pushed Japan from a feudal country into the modern westernized country that it is today. He was the emperor in "The Last Samurai" who finally defeated all the traditionalist warlords with modern weapons. He died in 1912.
Video was shot in 2004 at the Meiji Shrine featuring a traditional Shinto wedding procession.