11.01.2015

Halloween is one of our fave times of the year so this year we thought we’d throw together some spooky photos for the occasion. Oogey boogie!

The Midnight GA400 with a Totoro
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The WEBered GDX6900
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The BLudman G9300
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The Ectoplasmic GAC110
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The pumpkin jam(min) G5500JC
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Bones and Bullbars GA100
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GD120CM red blood cell cam-oh noo….
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Toxic Pumpkin GD100/GD120CM
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GPW(alking dead)1000
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M.U.D.(Mercenary of Unplanned Disasters) Master GWG1000
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We’re going out with a bang for the last stop on our trip and what could be better than all the fun and craziness of a movie studio theme park!

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Universal studios is just across the bay from the Osaka Aquarium so if you time it right you could easily do both in the one day if you kept the aimless wandering to a minimum. Like most major theme parks its a breeze to get to, just one change of trains from Osaka station (approx. 10-15min) and a short walk along “Hollywood Boulevard” (a bunch of familiar western and westernised eateries) will have you in front of the famous rotating Universal fountain globe in no time. Check their website for transport options.

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Travel tip: Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate for around $60-70AU for a standard adult fare. There doesn’t seem to be any difference between online and gate prices so we chose to grab them at the gate. There are so many manned booths that there were no lines at all, unfortunately this is the only place that didn’t have lines!

Travel tip: Lockers are located on the outside of the park before you go through the gates, so dump your gear first as there are no pass outs once you enter the park.

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Once inside the park, its the usual constant battle for just about everything, having a map handy and some kind of game plan certainly helps. The website tries to assist with two recommendations, one for the littlies to chase down their fave characters and one to experience the featured rides.

Instead, we chose to hit our “must-dos” first, see how we were going for time then fill it with whatever was left. It’s a good theory till we arrived at our first ride at Jurassic Park and the posted approximate time was 45min. Damn. It’s a slow saunter through the obligatory zig zag maze but they try to ease the waiting and build the illusion of being immersed in the movie with authentic reports and warning sounds from monitor screens above the cattle run. As you’d expect the buildup of tension continues with a first person feel of traveling through the movie. I’ll hold back on the spoilers but will mention, about 10min later you more than certainly will be a little drenched!

Travel tip: take a disposable rain poncho if you want to keep dry. They’re available for purchase on site at a premium so a stop at a daiso for a 100Y special could be in order.

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One of our other fave rides would be the Back to the Future ride – a mechanical ride coupled to an imax sized screen to create a virtual environment, it was great but was over far too quickly.

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The entertainment is never short even if you’re not queuing for rides, parades are regularly scheduled as are the high flying shows on the main stage. Food, merch and souvenirs are also readily available in appropriately themed shops scattered throughout the park.
Being Japan it would almost be a crime if there wasn’t Hello Kitty and she doesn’t disappoint with regular stage shows (complete with backup dancing girl band) and her own section of the park drench in pink and nausea inducing cuteness.

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As you would expect features change semi regularly depending on what movie/franchise is big at that the time like Pirates of the Caribbean making way for Harry Potter. Its also not uncommon to see patrons cosplaying like they’re part of the show too. Not sure if creepy or awesome.

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So with tummies full of Hello Kitty pork buns and arms full of things like DeLorean model kits and Spiderman mugs, this closes our final entry for our epic Japan trip. While it only took us two weeks travelling, its taken closer to two years to write about it! So its probably best we didn’t make any promises on how long the next installment (Tassie 2014) is going to take :p Of course, we’re hoping sooner than later!

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If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on our Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

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Two of Osaka’s most popular attractions happen to also be conveniently the two most central. The first being Osaka castle, only a few stops from Osaka station and a little bit of a walk.

Osaka Castle

Its much of a muchness by train, regardless of what station you get off, however since we came from Osaka station we just had to stay on it till Osakajokoen station (check out the scale model of the grounds and castle in the foyer). From there its roughly a 1km walk past a lot of open concrete and numerous sporting facilities before you get to the park which has a lot of open spaces and waterways. The trees in the park are sakura (cherry bloosoms) which makes this a very common spot during the few weeks a year (usually late march/early april) when they bloom.

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The foliage thickens and becomes almost a little rainforesty once you cross the bridge over the moat. This is where you catch the first glimpse of signs of a “fully functional” castle with battlements and large stone walls surrounding the water. There are also plenty of shaded spots where you can stop for a breather if you’re travelling during the unforgiving warmer seasons.

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The castle sits majestically high above everything in the surrounding area upon its base of rock and stone and is trimmed with typical Asian rooftop styling and gold finishings. A large courtyard area sits at its base with a selection of vendors in cute little vans selling food and souvenirs. For the history buffs, entry into the castle is about 600Y and about 200Y for the greenthumbs that want to check out the castles extended gardens. Costumed guards frequently roam the grounds for your hashtagging pleasure.

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One thing you may not expect to see is a time capsule. Placed there in 1970 for the World Expo, it is built with two levels, the first to be opened every century and the second in the year 6970, probably by Cher.

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Umeda Sky building

Love going to “The Eye”’s around the world but hate the whole moving thing and still want a good view of the city, then this is the place for you!

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Only about a 10min stroll from Osaka station (longer if you’re anywhere south of the station since you have to walk either around or through it and if you’ve been in Japan more than a minute you’ll know that’s not always as simple as it sounds!) but about 15-20min coming from our hotel via a few back streets for some random street photos.

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Travel tip:
The English version of the website has nice simple to follow maps and venue information.

Even from several blocks away (or from our hotel’s external elevator) the Sky building looks menacing in a 90s scifi where the bad guy is the only rich person in the world kinda way.

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Photo tip:
If you’re going later in the evening, get your “from the ground” photos first as they turn off the upper lights before closing time, and check out the art installs while you’re at it

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Like any building with an observation deck, there’s a bit of cueing and staring at elevator floor numbers clock over like it’s the pledged amount on a telethon but you’ll get to the deck in no time. The last section is up a see-through enclosed escalator before arriving at the closed-in viewing deck. This section would definitely be handy during the colder months or if you’re unlucky with the weather, it still offers decent views but if you don’t want the headache of taking photos from behind glass at night, head on outside.

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First impression, you will be forgiven if you think you’ve accidentally stepped into a 90s UV rave. UV paint splatters cover the ground while your white clothes and teeth glow in typical freaky fashion but thankfully this doesn’t detract too much from the view and more so the ability to take some nice photos!

The deck offers almost 360 degree views of downtown Osaka and Osaka bay and even when busy, the crowd ebbs and flows enough that if you stand still you’ll eventually get any spot you choose.

Photo tip:
It’s not a cluttered skyline and the building sits high above anything near by so you may even consider a mid range zoom instead of a wide angle. Like most night shots, a tripod helps alot, even better if you can be bothered carrying something with some height to clear the barriers/railings. There will be plenty of others with the same idea as you so you may need to be patient with nabbing a good spot.

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If you get bored or are waiting for a spot to free up, head to the “lumi deck” for a wall with lit up squares making different shapes, of course the very Sleepless in Seattle-esque heart shape is a clear winner for those thinking it could easily be the Empire State building. The fun continues inside with an interactive light room which… you guessed it, changes shapes and colours as you move like Elaine dancing.

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Finally, after (or perhaps before) you’ve returned to ground level, there are several restaurants on the basement level that is themed in an “olden days” fashion not too unlike the Ramen Museum but most close well before the observation deck so get in earlier if you’re after some grub.

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Next stop, the Osaka Aquarium!

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

02.01.2015

Candee Flip was back once again like the Renegade Master! A whole night of classic 90’s rave nostalgia with cream of the crop DJ’s Jen-E, Thief and Barking Boy dropping hands in the air madness all from vinyl and Bexta topping it off by playing live.

Check out all the whistle blowing action in the extended gallery below.

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Some words that regularly get thrown around a lot for Osaka are “smaller” and “laid back” in comparison to Tokyo, which of course could easily be misconstrued as it being some kind of little beach town, not so. Its still a large city with plenty of hustle and bustle, to put things into perspective, Melbourne is Australia’s most densely populated city at 430/km2 while Osaka crams in over 12000/km2! So while it may only have a population of Brisbane its shoe horned into the space of the Cook Islands. That said, the only real difference between Tokyo is they stand to the opposite side of escalators. Tokyo = left, Osaka = right. Weird since they both drive on the same side of the road, either way, we’re just glad there’s -some- etiquette and commonsense! (Yes I’m looking at you Australia, get your act together! :p )

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Travel tip: In Osaka, we chose to stay at the Hearton Hotel (Nishi Umeda), a short walk from Osaka station with the majority being undercover thanks to a short mall which joins the station. The mall is pretty much all restaurants and cafes (bar the token electronics store) so its perfect to grab a bite at the start or end of the day. There is also delis, fresh fruit and bakeries/dumpling huts(with some of the biggest pork buns we have ever seen!) along with Auntie May’s Pretzels (not as good as Wetzel’s but a worthy substitute) and McDonald’s inside the train station.

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Ah the wet season, always just enough rain that you need some kind of protection but its too hot and muggy to wear a hardshell so a brolly is the way to go. $5-10 from just about anywhere or just borrow one from the many that are left at entrances of the train stations, just remember to pay it forward 😉

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Nipponbashi aka Den Den Town

Our original plan was to stop off at the Shitennoji Temple markets, one of the biggest in the area but with the rain unrelenting as we exited Tennoji station (closest to the temple) we made the executive decision to turn straight back around and head to back Nanba. This is where the JR pass pays for itself, no need to worry about paying again on a failed mission.

Walking out of Nanba station had a instantly strange small town feel, gone were the towering skyscrapers of shiny glass and metal and in its place, a “main drag” of a small town…comparatively. Not to the point of only a fish and chip shop and a pub but awning covered footpaths, a two way street that wasn’t as wide as it was long and far less signage and neon lights bearing down on you. Many buildings were still about 6 stories tall so there wasn’t a chance of seeing a horse and carriage. The best part, there’s no need for any kind of navigation, it basically just one long street centered on Sakaisuji Avenue.

Travel tip: Walk out of Nanba station East exit (follow the signs to Den Den Town) then turn right into Sakaisuji. One of the first shops is tourist info if you need a map or extra help getting around.

Den Den town is Osaka’s answer to Tokyo’s Akiba, it’s an electronic and toy haven… just on a smaller scale, but what it lacks in variety it makes up for in savings. Prices were all noticeably less here, a quick scan of the Bandai model kit section saw most kits $5-10AU cheaper than their big city counterpart.

Laox and its countless clone stores handled the electronics side of things but it was the toy shopping that tweak our interest with Super Kids Land leading the charge. Five floors of specialties from general collectibles to model kits to air guns and RC vehicles to trains and a whole floor dedicated to Tamiya. If you have any sort of passing interest in any of those things, you may want to budget a bit of time here 😉

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Other stores of mention, Herogangu: very similar to Mandarake, a big variety of toys, collectibles and memorablia. Check out the “best Optimus Prime halloween costume everrrr”, and Astro Zombies (of rockin toyland), worthy of a look on name alone, but there’s much more to this store.  One of the more quirkier stores we’ve come across, it not only sports the usual fair but takes a hard left into pop culture and movie related items from resin casts and busts to masks and props. For those not able to make it to the states, there’s also a big selection of vintage Americana related toys.

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Used camera stores are also plentiful but contrary to belief f1.2 lenses aren’t just thrown away, most of the good/usuable stuff has already been picked through or can be found cheaper online (and new!).

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Dotonbori

If like us, you walked down one side of Sakaisuji Av and up the other you’ll end up with the dilemma – do you keep walking to Dotonbori or walk back to Nanba station to catch a train to the next station and walk back from there? We figured since we were already walking to just keep going. It was only a km or two and we found a nice little spot for lunch along the way. The shops and scenery however dies off and it’s a rather uneventful walk till you get to Dotonbori which is hard to miss with all the giant sea creature signs on the front of shops! It’s a shopping and eating mecca and basically the go-to destination for all Osakian travellers. You could easily spend a day exploring both sides of the canal and the long covered shopping mall that runs perpendicular to it. Nike Osaka is also nearby if you’d like to try your luck for some regionally exclusive items.
On a clear day, jump aboard the mini ferris wheel to get a higher view of the area.

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Photo tip: The Glico sign (makers of one of our fave snacks here and over there, Pocky) can be clearly seen from one of the major canal bridge crossings and is common tourist attraction.

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Heading a little further north you’ll come across Amerikamura, known locally as Ame-mura is kind of like a little America-town, doesn’t quite have the same ring as Chinatown though and its relativity to America is pretty much only in the form of clothing shops with a hip hop angle (closest “wrong” American style food was probably the ice cream/cream filled hotdog bun. We passed, something just not quite right about it… tho if they threw some bacon on it… 😉 ) so again, if you’re missing out on travelling stateside then this could very well be the stop for you, if of course, your wallet agrees. With the some what implied exoticness of all things American, clothing prices reflect that. Basic Adidas tees were around 4-5000Y and just like Harajuku there are plenty of guys of African persuasion trying to jive talk you into their store to give you the hard sell.

Travel tip: If you’d rather not be bothered or would like to browse in peace, give them a blank stare to imply you don’t speak Japanese or English, they give up pretty quickly and move on to the next person 😉

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The stand out for the area however will please the sneakerheads out there, there are several sneaker stores sporting the higher end models, namely Jordans but also a selection of local releases. There are even stores which have larger sizes for those that normally don’t have much luck when travelling through Asia. Fine Crew Osaka was one of the stand outs and clear lovers of the Jumpman.

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Caps and head gear is covered by New Era dealer, On Spot which is conveniently on the way to our must-stop sneaker spot, K Skit. Sadly though, many of their shelves were bare with remaining stock spread out, quite possibly waiting for their next shipment. It was definitely a stark contrast to their brimming Kichijoji store, none the less, its rather easy to find being above GStar Raw.  Just hope you don’t catch them on an off week!

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With the rain unrelenting we made our way back to the hotel for some much needed rest and crossed our fingers it would give us a break the following day when we head to Kyoto!

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

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Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

Krafty swapped his usual funk and breaks for a bass heavy sound to tear The Met a new one the other night.  Check out all the action in the bumper gallery below.

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Nissan HQ

Having just parted with my faithful old 180sx, a close companion of nigh on 15 years, mere weeks before this trip it was a fitting tribute and just a little coincidental that Nissan’s Global headquarters was on the way to Yokohama bay, just a short walk from Yokohama station.

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Travel tip: The PDF on the Nissan site gives you all the info you need to get there.

Needless to say, the place is impressive as it is sprase, not to say its empty, just very spread out with a sizeable selection of current models from pocket sized kei cars to the ugly duckling Juke (regardless of how many Nismo parts you throw at it) and the business man terroriser, Godzilla aka the GTR. They even have a balls to the wall and extremely rare Lemans R390 GT.

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The best thing is, even though it is a showroom/dealership, there are no pushy salesmen or any obligation at all, its actually quite the opposite. You are free to sit in, adjust and play the open and close game to your heart’s content. Assistants are only too happy to show off a feature like the Swiss army knife seats of the Cube, nod with a smile then leave you to “how many combinations can we do now?” 😉

Of course no attraction is complete without a gift shop and this one doesn’t disappoint with more branded merch than Hello Kitty. Ok, maybe not that much but there’s still more than enough knick knacks, memorabilia and clothing to deck out any fan and their house, car or work space.

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Update: Reports since our visit sees the space expanded to include sections and information along the lines of a museum with accompanying vintage cars and artwork being swapped in and out regularly, all the more reason to check it out :)

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Yokohama Bay area

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As this was just a day trip for us, Queen’s Plaza was a logical choice for a centralised jump off point. The train stops at Minatomirai station below the mall which makes its easy to get around and a good spot to ditch accumulating shopping in one of the many available lockers.

Landmark Plaza and Queen’s Plaza (and now MARK IS mall) are all within a short walk of each other sporting a higher end feel, with accompanying stores, from your regular Westfields. Kids (and our 😉 ) faves, Hello Kitty, Studio Ghibli and Pokemon stores are abound but the stand outs were Snoopy Town, Lego store, The Disney store and… Mister Donut 😉 Early evening, about an hour before closing they start clearing stock so donuts and other desserts can be had for some great prices, of course we had to try some (:

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It was well into the evening by the time we made it outside to the waterways around the bay unfortunately being the wet season it rained more days than it didn’t and this day was no different. But all was not lost, the view and lights around the bay still looked beautiful and it wasn’t heavy enough to make the walk to the World Porters mall unpleasant.

Along the way you’ll come across the Cosmo World amusement park, however also due to the less than ideal weather it had closed up early. The Cosmo Clock 21/ferris wheel however was still lit up and looked very cool against the night skyline.

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The Cup Noodle Museum is also down this end of the bay but we missed that by a good hour (!) so that left the Red brick Warehouse and World Porters malls. Maybe it was just the wind down to a rather long day but both malls were rather uneventful, on the plus side however, they’re open late so you can pretty much have the place to yourself if you venture out after dinner.

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Travel Tip: There are a few pedicabs around the area if you want someone else’s legs to get you back to the train station.

Next up, we’re back on the shinkansen and heading to Osaka!

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

Dead Letter Circus brought some midweek rockin to the Hifi last week and we stepped out for The Music magazine, check out the full gallery below…

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This week we take a break from The Guide cover photos while the rest of The Music magazine team are out getting loaded at Big Sound, but not a break from shooting 😉 We caught local post hardcore lads The Amity Affliction with their special brand of yelling and singing with shoulder to shoulder stage security (thanks to an overzealous crowd at a previous concert) at the Riverstage.

Bumper gallery below.

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More photos over at The Music magazine’s website.

We don’t photograph cars that often but when the mighty Godzilla menaces over your suburb, you make like a terrified Japanese business man and do what it says!

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