If you missed the first part of our LA adventures, check them out here

Sunset Blvd

Keep on cruisin down Melrose and you’ll come across a skate shop – few less cliché skate items/brands and a few Nike SB items; Fat Beats for your hiphop music needs; forget trying to find the Footlocker, its gone but is still listed in directory searches; plenty of little boutique clothing and jewellery stores; then a few metres right, into N Fuller Av is JapanLA. As the name suggests, they stock cutsie Japanese inspired fashion, mostly Tokidoki but with more variety and generous sale items. There’s even boxes of clearance items at the back, hello Gloomy Bear figures for $7. The staff are very friendly and very easy on the eyes 😉 They also stock Mr. Egg and Mr. Toast! ^__^
Shopping in between season means you get winter bargains like Tokidoki hoodies for $30-40US. Winner!

The vinyl obsession continues a couple doors down with Munky King. This store is set up more like an art gallery than a retail store. Minimal lush fittings and an art space towards the rear of the store. They stock a big range of the usual Kidrobot and associate style vinyls as well as a few other more obscure designs and artists. There’s also a small selection of apparel. Definitely the place to visit if you’re getting sick of Dunnys or Labbits.

On the subject of vinyls and similar toys/action figures, be ready to pull them out of your carry on at American customs, especially those with small parts like Revoltech figures. Thanks to the unusual shapes and small parts, under the x-ray machine they tend to come up as “unknown”.

The shops start to thin off after this, but hook a left into La Brea for a couple of LA’s colourful landmarks. First is Pink’s Hot Dogs, no, not the singer but just as famous with many celebrities choosing to pop in for a quick bite and also being featured in many movies and TV shows. We weren’t disappointed when we walked passed and saw a banner “Pink’s welcomes David Hassellhoff“. Sure enough, The Hoff was there slingin dogs to a line half way down the block. Though a long line up is hardly out of the norm and is classed as part of its charm. We didn’t have time to sample the cuisine but all reports say its worth the wait.

Pink's Hotdogs on La Brea Hollywood

If you didn’t want to wait for food there’s a few fast food places including Macca’s as you head north on La Brea. Couple blocks on, you’ll also come across a Best Buy (like a cross between Office Works and Harvey Norman) and a group of shops including Target. In this centre, if you walk up the stairs to Target, there’s a landing where you have a clear view of the Hollywood sign. Perfect if you aren’t going up in the hills to check it out. Photographer’s tip: for a nice big shot of the sign – point and shoot users – you’ll need at least a 10x zoom; dslr users – 200mm is ok but 300mm if you want to fill the frame. Another photo op is available on Sunset Blvd at the intersection looking west at sunset (they don’t call it that for nothing!) against a backdrop of the clichéd palm tree lined street.

Hollywood sign

A block and a bit further you’ll come across everyone’s favourite tattooist, Kate Von D and her famous LA Ink store aka High Voltage Tattoo. If you’re familiar with the TV series, the store is just as crazy in real life with wall to wall decorations of memorabilia, varies knick knacks and art pieces. Even if you only have a passing interest in the pierced and painted, simply hanging round the store sees all matter of subjects from the quirky to the down right weird! Good luck getting an appointment on short notice tho!

If you’re Google mapping, search for “High Voltage Tattoo” which is the actual store, “LA Ink” shows up as its studio which is further down the block.

LA Ink - High Voltage Tattoo on La Brea, Hollywood

Beginning of Hollywood walk of fame

About 4 blocks after that and passing Jim Henderson’s Muppet Studio, you’ll hit Hollywood Blvd, which is the start of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and home to iconic landmarks such as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Madame Tussauds, Ripley’s Believe it or not and Capitol Records Tower.

Hollywood Blvd

There are also plenty of tacky tourist shops on this strip, but the pricing for the most part is reasonable and you can pick up multiple souvenir tee’s for $10US. Just check their quality first, even though the design might be the same, the consistency of the shirts tend to vary.

Hollywood Blvd

By now you’re probably just about spent but if you’ve still got a couple bucks left in your wallet and the shopping bags haven’t completely severed your fingers off, jump in a cab and head to the Beverly Center
On the cheap: find a bus that goes all the way down N La Brea to W 3rd St then get another that goes from there out to La Cienega Blvd.

The Beverly Center is probably the closest you’ll find to Brisbane’s own Myer center. Couple large higher end Department stores like Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s and then the countless specialty shops with the majority leaning towards female shoes and apparel. There is a cinema and food court on the top level but the real reason to head here is for the view. There’s an outdoor courtyard on the top level with a nice broad 180 degree view of LA.

Photographers tip: bring a tripod to set on a chair to shoot over the glass partition or a point and shoot to sit on top of one of the frame if you’re shooting at night to get pass the reflections, unless of course you carry a black bed sheet around!

LA at night - view from the Beverly Center (click for big)

In the way of sneakers you have a choice of 2 sporting stores Champs and Finish Line and 1 specialist (on the top floor level 8 ) Shiekh Shoes and Footlocker (floor 6). While only Shiekh Shoes has a selection of slightly more obscured models and colourways the real benefit is they all have a good selection of items on sale at great prices. 2 pairs of Adidas Attitudes for $50US? Don’t mind if I do! The Footlocker here is quite large as well so there’s a chance you’ll find a few extra colourways.

Useless fact: In the movie “Volcano” they have scenes when the center was still under construction.

By now, you’ll probably be as broke and broken as we were. We contemplated paying $50 for a cab back to Santa Monica but with a bus stop on the corner, we caught one up La Cienega Blvd to Santa Monica Blvd, got some booze and aspirin from the CVS drug store and then another bus all the way back out to 4th street in Santa Monica for a fraction of the cost.

Back in Santa Monica we hit the hay so we could hit boardwalk the next day.

Next up… Santa Monica and Venice Beach!
Los Angeles holiday photos here

Los Angeles part #1 – West Hollywood
Los Angeles part #2 – West Hollywood(pt 2)
Los Angeles part #3 – Santa Monica and Venice Beach Shopping
Los Angeles part #4 – Santa Monica and Venice Beach Sightseeing

Melrose Av West Hollywood +cliche' cop car

After a day stopover in Ueno, Tokyo we were on our way to Los Angeles. Crossing the International Date Line meant it was going to be the longest Saturday ever, even longer than that 3 day bender in college where I was down to drinking Vodka and cordial dregs from the night before by the end of it… but that’s another story.

It’s true what they say, “nobody walks in LA”. Simply because everything is so far apart… and to add to it, the public transport is pretty rubbish for a major city. So your best bet if you’re staying longer than a 2-3 days is to hire a car. Being the USA this can be quite cheap but remember you will need to find and pay for parking.

Since we were only there for 3 days we opted to skip the car and go with the alternatives. Coming from the airport, the easiest and quite reasonable option for door to door is to use Super Shuttle, a private shuttle bus company at pretty much every major city in the States. They’re easy to spot as you leave the terminal, big blue vans with bright yellow writing. You can just go to the stop and wait for one or pre-book, save a few bucks and guarantee yourself a seat, roughly $20-25US. Note that you will more than likely be sharing with other passengers over several pickup and drop off points so the journey can take some time. We also noticed there can be a lack of order/priority at times between the driver and the representative at the pickup point, pretty much whoever yelled/nagged or was stubborn the most got their way!

If you’re on a tight budget then your only real option is to catch a bus which may not be feasible if you have to make 3 transfers and still have to hike it with all your luggage. The up side is it’s a fraction of the cost (round $5US) and you don’t need to tip the driver.

After circling LAX 3 times with a full van load we hit the motorway along with LA’s oblivious sloth-like drivers. A bit over an hour later we were at our hotel, the modestly luxurious Double Trees in Santa Monica. 4 star/3 diamond rated, short 10min walk to the beach, 15min to the pier and definitely one of the better priced hotels for the location. The big warm chocolate chip cookie on arrive was a nice touch 🙂 Room size was more than adequate, large lounge area with kitchen space and large bedroom. Not to mention it was so good to have a shower after wearing the same clothes for more than 56hours!

I wrote a more detailed review on Tripadvisor, complete with a whinge about housekeeping taking our shoe boxes!

West Hollywood

We only really had one major day for shopping in LA so we wanted to make it count. While downtown has it perks you really cant go past the one stop shop, that is West Hollywood. If you want strictly high end designer gear than you’ll wanna keep going till you hit Hollywood for some Rodeo Drive action, otherwise this is a great place to start for modern streetwear, quirky vintage, good selection of sneakers and a generous serving of everybody’s favourite retail dish, sales!

First stop is Melrose Ave. complete with “Melrose place” (the street, which looks nothing like the show and no one actually comes back to life after they die (if only it was the same for the show)). This stretch of 10-15 blocks is great for a day, or even a half day power play shop-over.

We started down the western end at Burton/Analog. Plenty of ski, surf and skate wear, relaxed staff and even their pet dog lounging next to the counter. A little further along is Fred Segal, kind of like “Country Road” meets Roger David and Cue, mostly noted for its vine covered building and in store toilet (a godsend since there’s no public toilets that we could see till you hit La Brea Ave more than 1km away!)

Heading east you’ll hit Bape, Adidas Originals and then a little cluster of the coolest group of shops you’ll ever come across. Kidrobot, Tokidoki and Loyal army covers the Japanese inspired art, vinyl collectibles and apparel so cute you’ll leave with sore thumbs from pinching the cheeks of everything there!

Loyal Army and Kidrobot on Melrose Av

Paul Frank continues this theme with their large store. They had quite a few items on sale but on the day we were there they were also handing out scratch-it coupons where you received a mystery %-off discount. The shopping gods smile upon us that day as we scored 40% off. If we didn’t have to try and get it home, the beach cruiser bicycle would be sitting in my garage right now!

The last shop of mention in this group is one of our favourites, Johnny Cupcakes. For those that don’t know, no, unfortunately they don’t actually sell cupcakes, but they do sell cupcake related clothing and accessories in a less cutsie and more So-Cal rock kinda way and the store is set up like a 50’s bakery!

Retro ovens, display cases, fridges and even a black and white checkered floor. Most of the items are in the fridges and a café pastry style display case. Not only that Mr. Cupcake, Johnny Earle himself is quite the entrepreneur and only too happy to share his knowledge on his blog and tours business seminars to uni students and work expos. The designs range from baseball and sport themes to their classic cupcake and bones logo, all in a variety of bold and vibrant colours. What makes the designs special is they are all limited, once the batch has sold out that is it forever. Definitely one way to not be another General Universal Pants clone.

Johnny Cupcakes on Melrose Av

A couple blocks along Melrose, you’ll hit North Fairfax Av. With Flightclub LA and Supreme. Flightclub has a feel of a Hong Kong or Tokyo shoe store. 2 large walls from floor to ceiling of shrink wrapped sneakers, very impressive. They also deal in pre owned items like K-Skit but don’t opening advertise it as such, so if you’re after brand new, you might want to check first. Either way, you’re in for some bargains and maybe some rare finds. The selection is predominant Nike and Jordans with a scattering of other brands, a small rack of tees and a selection of G-Shock watches and New Era caps. I picked up 2009 Nike SB Greenbay Packers for $60US, which are more than double that to buy locally at $160AU rrp and 2009 Nike AF-1 Armed Forces Ltd Ed. for $70US.

Most of the sizes are on display but don’t hesitate to check with them, just in case

Flightclub LA

Further down Fairfax is Supreme if you have a penchant for the more designer stuff or love muppets apparel 😉

If you’re still feenin’ for sneakers, back on Melrose is Sportie LA, which is divided up into 3 separate stores, new footwear, new apparel and preowned. The new footwear store is one of the few places that focus less on Nike, in fact they don’t even have a brand listing on their site, instead they opt for Converse, Adidas, Vans, Asics, Supra and even LA Gear. Though if you’re looking for some rarities or a bargain or just something a bit different than the norm, the preowned store is the one to scope out. There are some items that have clearly been on display forever and are subsequently “shop soiled” and dusty (no shrink wrapping), but the majority of the stock is in good/mint condition. Further in to the store is all new stock, with plenty of boots and dressier shoes for the ladies.

Stay tuned for part #2 when we continue to cruise down Melrose, up La Brea to Hollywood Blvd.

Los Angeles holiday photos here

Los Angeles part #1 – West Hollywood
Los Angeles part #2 – West Hollywood(pt 2)
Los Angeles part #3 – Santa Monica and Venice Beach Shopping
Los Angeles part #4 – Santa Monica and Venice Beach Sightseeing

04.28.2010

Akihabara, Tokyo

No trip to Japan would be complete without a (rather big) glimpse of what makes the country tick… and whirl, and buzz. Electronics! And there’s no better place to get your geek on than Tokyo’s CPU, Akihabara aka Akiba aka Electric town. Just picture Jaycar or Dick Smith times a million and you’re getting close. Any kind of premade electronic product EVER from radios, to game consoles, to cameras and computers to the components used to make them, replacement parts, capacitors, inductors, circuitry, you name it, if its powered by electricity, you’ll find it here… somewhere.

The station is only about 1km from Ueno, so it’s an easy walk or a couple minute train ride.

The first obvious places are the larger stores as you walk out of the station’s west exit (follow the signs to “Electric town”) being the multiple LAOX and Sofmap stores. These have an army of staff which are helpful and speak quite good English (some stores even have Caucasian staff) and also have duty free. They have similar style layouts, with a level dedicated to a certain type of product eg. Cameras, computers, watches, home goods etc. and a big index sign on the ground level will help you save precious shopping minutes 😉

While you will more than likely find what you’re looking for in these shops, nothing can prepare you for the onslaught from the mothership on Akiba station’s north east, that being the Akihabara Yodobashi Center.

Yodabashi camera store, Akihabara, Tokyo

Eleven floors of every model of every colour of every electronic item release in the last 5years (or there abouts). They even have sporting goods, toys and a floor of restaurants. I’d say its like Harvey Normal times 1000 but Yodobashi actually has good service and good prices (yea, I went there). Speaking of prices, while they are very competitive to the local AU market, they’re very similar to online (overseas) prices so you may want to save yourself some import fees when coming back through customs by not going all out on big ticket items. In saying that, being able to handle and eyeball similar products for a hands on, real life comparison, is indispensable.

After we surfaced from a sea of electric razors and toothbrushes, we headed to Super Potato (I know, right!). They specialise in retro gaming. Forget about your wifi enabled, pizza ordering, “I’m in a rap video” gaming consoles, its back to the roots with the 3 commandments. Shooting, driving, and jumping and maybe even all three! So basically anything prior to the Playstation 1, wall to floor to ceiling of games and consoles. Since very few cartridge games were reissued, they’re mostly all originals but are all still in good to mint condition.

Super Potato, Akihabara,Tokyo

Atari, Nintendo, Mega Drive, Master System to the ill fated Saturn, Dreamcast and Game Cube are all covered as well as plenty of domestic market releases that never saw the light on the world stage and a bunch of quirky little handheld games and mini consoles. Just remember when buying any mains powered devices from overseas, that it will work on your local voltage supply, if not you will need to purchase a separate power transformer. Anything powered by batteries is fine since DC current is universal.

Back out on the main drag amongst the cosplay girls handing out flyers, you’ll see more “Pichinko” (or “Taito”), no not something Elliot from Scrubs would say, but gaming houses filled with slot machines. Half a block away you’ll hear the deafening wave of bells and whistles as the automatic doors open and close. There are also plenty of gaming places dedicated to claw machines, but these are the same the world over. Only enough tension in the claw to give the prize the gentlest nudge of hope so you continue to funnel in your coins. You seriously have more hope getting a prize from a wishing well, so you’re better off just buying one from a toy store.

What’s that? Toy store? You thought I forgot didn’t you? Not at all! A couple blocks north of the station is another Mandarake store. Multiple levels include buying on the ground floor for those with a bit of buyers’ remorse, cosplay and 2 levels of figures and collectibles. They also have items for the die hard fans, like the actual helmets used in filming Power Rangers and uniforms from local productions.

Mandarake, Akihabara, Tokyo

Over near Yodobashi there is another large toy store called Animate. Unfortunately during another “can’t see the forest for the trees” slash “damn you google maps” moment we couldn’t find it but later discovered it in the background of one of our photos! Anyway, what you need to do is get to this store on a Sunday, when they close off a lane and its filled with performers and cosplayers.

Finally if you’re having withdrawals from sneakers or music, there’s still a few ABC Marts and a Music Vox to appease that hunger, otherwise its Gashapon time!

About 2 blocks north of Mandarake off the main street in a small side lane is a dirty yellow signed store that houses a ground floor of Gashapon and 2 upper levels of toys, figures and collectibles. What is Gashapon? You’ll know them as the gumball style machines at the exit of supermarkets that you nagged your mum for change so you could get a toy in a capsule when you were little. The difference here is the toys aren’t a poorly moulded ring, necklace or keyring, they’re highly detailed and painted quality pvc items. Best thing of all, you no longer need to nag your mum, you can buy as many as you want!

Choose anything from your favourite shows/games like Mario, Star Wars and anime characters to the weird and wonderful of light up poo keyrings, telescopic cat paw pointing wands, tote bags, countless mobile phone trinkets and for the (not so) mature crowd, the X rated figures in various states of undress and positions that will have even Paris Hilton taking notes.

The majority of Gashapon cost between 100-500Y, with dedicated stores like this one having a change machine and recycle bin for used capsules. Depending on how many you buy, it’s a good idea to bin the capsules to save luggage space.

FYI, “Gashapon” refers to “Gasha” as in the crank machine that holds the toys and “pon” the sound the capsule makes when it drops. A lot easier to say than click tic tic tac click tacka!

Gashapon

Tokyo part #1 – Ueno for a day
Tokyo part #2 – Getting round Tokyo, Ueno Sakura at night
Tokyo part #3 – Harajuku
Tokyo part #4 – Shibuya
Tokyo part #5 – Kichijoji and Shinjuku
Tokyo part #7 – Odaiba and Leaving Tokyo

Photo Gallery Here

04.22.2010

Shibuya crosswalk, Tokyo

Just one stop from Harajuku, less than a kilometre down a gentle hill, so if youre not carrying too much shopping, its an easy walk, just follow the train line south. If you see Tower Records you’re heading in the right direction.

Coming by train to Shibuya, which lets face it, is one of those Tokyo “musts”, you get to witnessed one of the world’s busiest stations in full stride. But don’t let photos from above fool you, while yes it is busy ALL the time, once you’re in the midst of it, its no different than any other major train station round the world, even if its comparative to Grand Central, Paddington or Guangzhou Rail. Likewise for when you step out of the station and into the infamous Shibuya crosswalk aka Tokyo’s Time Square. From above it looks like ants before a storm but in reality its no different than jaywalking cross Adelaide and Edward streets in Brisbane (though if you’re going to jaywalk here, do so at your own peril!). Just get to the front before the walk signal goes then skew off on the road of the direction you want to go, sorted. A bit of extra pep in your step to keep ahead of the surging masses doesn’t go astray either.

Shibuya, Tokyo

Shibuya could very well be Japanese for department store since the place is littered with them. Shibuya 109 (buildings 1, 2 and 3), Parco (buildings 1 and 2), Tokyu and OIOI Marui City are the notable mentions, though the whole “suburb” is pretty much one department store with a huge variety of stores.

Some of our faves were Bic camera their website says it all, electronics galore, one of the more well known stores with English speaking staff on hand; the Disney store with its Alice in Wonderland staircase and across the road is the 500th KFC (has a plaque n all :p ).

Sneaker-wise there’s another Adidas store, the usual scattering of ABC mart’s and THE KiksTYO, not a large range of sneakers but a few rarer models and of course their famed apparel and tees. There are also a few smaller independent sneaker stores near Parco (and a TGI Fridays 😉 ).

How do you know you bought a genuine KiksTYO tee? It comes in a box 😉

For toys you’ll want to try and find Mandarake. The building isn’t very well signed but it is called BEAM, head up 3-4 blocks on the main street from the Shibuya cross walk in a north west direction and you should stumble on it. Depending on the direction you come from you might catch a glimpse of the “BEAM” on a cyclinder structure on a corner. Its in the same building as RECOfan if that helps!

Mandarake is def. targeted to an older market, mainly because of the vintage collectibles. Wall to wall glass cabinets housing vinyls and figures that either were clearly someone’s fave childhood toy or the yellowing plastic of a original sealed toy from a child with some serious self control, all sporting hefty price tags to match. On the plus side, since they do deal with a lot of used items, you can pick up current stock at a fraction of the price, if the box has been opened. Most are still in mint condition and have all their parts. There are also shelves and bins of bits and pieces and clearance items for those that don’t mind a rummage.

I walked out with a bunch of Revoltech figures, a model kit Space Cruiser Yamato aka Starblazers (one of my childhood favourites!) and of course the obligatory Transformer (and random Gashapon :p).

As mentioned RECOfan is in the same building, one of the larger music stores that also do used items and records. Roughly about 5 times the size of Rockinghorse Records in Brisbane you could easily spend a day crate digging. Good thing is the sections are well labelled in English and are alphabetically broken down into genre and artist with a fair serving of rarities and country only releases. If you don’t get your fill here, there’s also Disk Union and “Dance music records” stores with a block or so.

For some sightseeing novelty check out “Love hotel hill”, basically a small lane dedicated to the oldest profession in the world. Good for a laugh or a quickie.

If you’re hanging around into the evening and want to get your boogie on then Shibuya is also home to Womb one of Tokyo’s biggest nightclubs with matching exuberant entry fee and drink prices. Check the “Womb cruise” party in May 2010 on a boat that looks like its come straight out of the Thunderbirds!

Tokyo part #1 – Ueno for a day
Tokyo part #2 – Getting round Tokyo, Ueno Sakura at night
Tokyo part #3 – Harajuku
Tokyo part #5 – Kichijoji and Shinjuku
Tokyo part #6 – Akihabara
Tokyo part #7 – Odaiba and Leaving Tokyo

Photo Gallery Here

Over the next month or so, I’ll be summarising our recent holiday to Tokyo, Los Angeles and New York City. Posts will include our personal highlights along with tidbits of info on general travel and sight seeing in these cities and of course tips on shopping, most notably sneakers and toys (:

Pour yourself a nice warm glass of Saki, first city up is Tokyo.

Once seen as only the country that made cars and tv’s, the land of the rising sun has long shed its industrial stereotypes and has been recognised as one of the world’s leaders in fashion. Most notably heavily influencing Australia’s own fashion sense since the turn of the millennium, however to us here at SBM, fashion is dead and its all about the toys! ;D

We had a day stop over on the way to the USA so instead of getting loosing our minds in the airport for 12 hours we did a quick scouting mission in to Ueno. This worked well as this was not long where we were staying for 4 days on our way home, but also home to one of the biggest blossom festival areas in Tokyo.

Walking through Ueno park (up the stairs between Ueno and KeiSei stations) we saw the festivities were just beginning with stalls and decorations being set up. Most of the trees showed little signs of blooming except for the one at the entrance which had its full bloom on display giving us a teaser of what was to come.

We checked out the Ameyoko markets under the train line and surrounding blocks from Ueno station, which later became our savior for a last minute suitcase purchase when we realised that we went way overboard with the Boxing day style of shopping, but more on that later.

Across the road from the station is Yamashiroya, 6 floors of toys, games, anime, collectibles and everything to make you feel like a kid again. You could easily spent half a day in there with a limited vocabulary of “awesome!”, “awww that’s SO cute”, “wtf???” and “I don’t care, I’m buying it”. Of course with that kind of diminished rational we walked away with a pillow sized Kirby plush and Revoltech Yamaguchi figure set without any thought of the frustration that we’d endure from lugging them tens of thousands of miles across the globe in the coming weeks.

Just before we headed back, we walked a few blocks south towards Akihabara to find a sneaker trader called Buy Sell (Ueno). Their stock isn’t huge like K-Skit (but who’s is??) but they have a decent selection of new and used (in various conditions) sneakers, clothing and accessories. Definitely one of the bigger selections of clothing compared to similar sneaker shops.

If you’ve been into sneakers for even the shortest amount of time you will know that there’s no real holy grail out there and there’s no one store that sells all the “best” models. It’s all just a matter of how deep your pockets are and if you’re willing to not pay rent for a month or 2. That said, they still had a few of the rare exotic models along side cheap dunks in colourways not available in Oz. Check out their frequently changing stock listing on their site, updated regularly.

A side note which I wasn’t going to go into (out of embarrassment!) but will as a courtesy for future travelers to Japan – not all signs that sprout “anime” and have cartoon caricatures are toy stores. You’ll know as soon as you step in the door, the over abundance of middle age to elderly men, the curtained cubicles with shoes and pants at the door, possibly someone snoring, oh and the wall to wall of Manga p0rn aka Hentai! Don’t know what the local name for these places are, but it seems pretty much like a self service library if you will. If you’re female or are traveling with one, you’ll be met with an abrupt “no no, men only!!”. Say no more, reading you loud and clear buddy!

Here’s an example just around the corner from Yamashiroya

Moral of the story, don’t trust google maps! While it can guess within 50m as it says “approximate”, take heed! Unless of course you can read Japanese, then just back away slowly, you were never here.

Tokyo part #2 – Getting round Tokyo, Ueno Sakura at night
Tokyo part #3 – Harajuku
Tokyo part #4 – Shibuya
Tokyo part #5 – Kichijoji and Shinjuku
Tokyo part #6 – Akihabara
Tokyo part #7 – Odaiba and Leaving Tokyo

Photo Gallery Here

12.23.2009

Ok so you want to build an army of custom minions to do your bidding or perhaps the Rsvp’s to your tea parties look a little thin? Then its time to get your Martha Stewart on.

If you’re thinking “Ay? What’s this all about?” then you need to have a quick read of this. For those up to speed, continue reading.

These are the steps to create a simple decoupage’d custom

    Step 1.

You’ll need a few supplies

Ask for help if you need to, just dont ask Ken.  He has minimal articulation ;)

Ask for help if you need to, just dont ask Ken. He has minimal articulation 😉

1.a) Hey doll! – Nooks knock off toy. These are available from Cardiology. As these are privately run franchises, stocks vary between stores. I have been getting mine from the Garden City store (Mt Gravatt, Brisbane) as the city store doesn’t stock them. Call ahead to save yourself a trip. They’re $10ea. If you’re planning on doing a few of them, ask for the loyalty card, buy 10 get one free. (unfortunately I only found out about it after I had already bought 10!)
b) Choosing your Nook. There’s quite a variety of different shapes and colours (you can get an idea from their site), so choose one to match your mental blueprints. Depending on the colour of paper, you may want to choose one that matches or best compliments the colour you’re working with. If you’re after predominately white or black characters, the mouse and the skeleton respectively are the way to go.

2. Get the – Paper. The sky is the limit for this. You can use anything from newspaper to wrapping paper to butcher’s paper. Have a look round the house or pop down to your craft/discount store. The only thing to remember, it has to be rather absorbent and not too thick so the glue can soak in, which makes it stick better and is a lot easier to work with ie. More pliable around edges and curves. Beware of papers that have a high gloss, super smooth finish or are woven, these can have
a plastic/cellophane content and are really tough to work with. If you’re not sure, you can test your paper by cutting off a small piece adding a drop of water, then seeing if it will mould and stay around the edge of the foot. If it doesn’t stick or hold its shape when you crease or fold it then you might have to choose different paper.

3. Stuck on you – Glue. The cheaper and thinner the better! You’ll need to soak the paper in glue so the thinner it is the more likely it will soak right through. This also gives a light lacquer finish on the final product. I used a simple glue pen. Great for controlled, no mess application and readily available. IGA has them for .92c

4. Ya – Tool. This will be used for applying/spreading glue and selecting, positioning and “working” pieces. I chose a couple good quality round toothpicks. Cheap and plentiful. The point is used to press the paper into creases and joins ie. Around the neck and arms and also to “magnet” pieces so you don’t need to put everything down each time you add a piece. The round edge will help you roll pieces flat, mould them to contours and edges and also to disperse excess glue. You’ll want something that will sit comfortably in your fingers, so find something that suits you, wooden skewers or disposable chopsticks are also options.

5. ob ja dart – Other bits and pieces. The rest are things you should have lying around the house and will just help make your customising a bit easier. Clear working area – little bits of paper + glue = mess in any language. Scissors – for cutting decou bits or for those corners that just don’t crease. Something small to “fence” or contain your decou clippings from exploding everywhere at the first sign of a cough or if you sit down too fast, I use a large roll of sticky tape. Damp cloth – for stray glue bits or if your fingers or tool get sticky. Drying rack – something to sit the little guy on with minimal contact while its drying, I used an up turned flat backed power adapter.

    Step 2


Prepping the toy. If you’re using lighter coloured paper you may need to go over the painted areas of the original toy so they don’t show through. You can give it a quick light coat of ACRYLIC paint in a similar colour or if it’s a predominantly white one, at a pinch you can use “white out” tape.

    Step 3

Paper prepping. Tear or cut your paper into random shapes and sizes roughly 1-2cm (Note: larger pieces can be harder to work around contours and edges). Torn paper = greater absorption and bonding to other pieces. Works better for random patterns. Cut paper = better for joining/matching up repetitive patterns. To minimise overlaps, joining edges need to be straight. As the space is filled you’ll have to start tailoring the pieces to fit exact spots.

    Step 4

Decou-ing. I start from the top down. Apply a liberal blob of glue round the top, front and back of the head. Make sure its nice and thick, not too the point its dribbling but enough to wet and soften the paper. Any excess can be wiped or “squeegeed” later. Don’t worry about the glue drying on one side while youre working on another, it takes quite some time to dry by itself (~15-30min). Start with the larger pieces to cover more of the easy areas first. Place a piece on the gluey area then lightly dab it round the edges with your toolpick. When it starts sticking, roll from the center out, just like if you were rolling out a pizza base with a rolling pin. This kneads the paper and helps it absorb the glue and also squeegees the excess glue out. If some parts pop up or don’t make flush contact, add a couple dabs of glue on top of the paper, this will soften the paper
and make it more pliable. Some of the acute angles like on the feet or hands, you may need to soak the piece in glue and let it sit or even add a drop of water to the piece before sticking it to the body.
Stick torn pieces with a little overlap and cut pieces edge on edge to help make a smoother finish. Too much overlap it may end up lumpy, too little and youll have thin/clear spots that you will have to go over with pin head sized pieces.

Once you finish the head and body, you’ll find less dry spaces to hold, so it’s a good idea to do it in parts, allowing the sections to dry in between. I used an upturned power adapter as a cradle to sit its head in so there would be minimal contact and less chance of it falling over while drying. Those of you in countries that only have 2 prong adapters may need to find an alternative. Once dried, go over the completed areas and make sure there are no air bubbles or stray/rough edges. Some can be pressed down with your finger nail while others may need going over again with an extra dollop of glue.

For finer details around the around the neck and arms, you can choose to lock it in a London guard position by decou-ing over the joints or if you want movement you can use a scalpel afterwards.
Take extra care to roll the feet flat, the dolls are nose heavy and topple easily. When its almost dry, find a flat surface and press down hard to make sure they can stand their ground.

    Step 5

Finishing. Once you’ve finished gluing, give it overnight to dry then check for any gaps or thinner areas in the paper. Touch up accordingly, allow to dry then add your final touches, paint, pen or glue on other features or accessories and you’re done!

Here’s one that i whipped up using the dragon analogue
kid burner

Been busy? Hit us up in the comments with your own custom vinyls!

12.12.2009


With the call of Xmas and all the consumerism, especially of the moulded plastic kind, that it has to offer, we thought we’d give tribute to the little things that some how make us smile no matter what (:

Here are some of ours Gallery here

munny… then you get the rest of the family!

Kidrobot has a reunion for Munny with a family they never knew they had! Now under the aptly titled Munny world, Munny gets 4 new buddies Trikky, Rooz, Buband Raffy in the DIY range. All figures sit around the 4″ mark in size, are only available in white and retail for the same $9.95US as the Munnys. The possibilities are endless!

We’ll definitely be grabbing a couple soon enough 😀 If you can’t wait for them to hit the Aussie shelves and are willing to foot the postage costs, you can grab them from the site here

Get customising!

11.24.2009

Nuked Nooks

by admin

Kid BurnerA few months ago we stumbled across what can only be described as blatant ripoffs of Kidrobot Munnys. They’re called Nooks. The basic body mould and arms are pretty close (except they’re made from a cheap soft pvc blend. The arms are even softer along the lines of a dog’s chew toy, but more on that later) to that of the Munnys while the heads are an oblong sphere skewed towards the front. The main difference lies in the different styles of characters. Each one is a different “thing”, ranging from standard animals: mouse, cow, kangaroo to mythical creatures like a dragon or a Cyclops guy with a bolt through its head or people like nurses and kings. So each character has a different add on to the basic mould be it wings, tails, horns or ears along with a terrible attempt at personalising with a name, favourite game, “friend” and a rego number to take to the seizure inducing Teletubby designed website. What it is for, I can’t tell you, but as soon as I get a hold of a 5yo, I’ll let you know.

Despising aside, I thought, these could actually come in handy. Instead of spending $20-30AU to purchase a 4″ DIY Munny locally that I could potentially ruin, I can pay half that and practice on the cheapy instead. So in doing that I’ve created a little how to for those wanting to get their art on and letting a bit of creativity run wild.

The first thing I tried was a simple coat of paint to get rid of the ugly faces and colours. As mentioned theyre made from a soft pvc type plastic which causes some problems with adhesion and drying. If you apply very light coats (I used a cheap enamel spray paint) allowing drying time between each coat, the body and head seems to dry ok, however if you get it even slightly thicker in places, it will have a tacky texture. As for the arms, forget about it. They stay just as wet as the day you sprayed them. So you will need a pvc specific type paint (I’m still trying to track down the best type for the job) for it to dry and adhere properly. Not having this handy at the time I instead decoupaged it in plain paper and then repainted it.

The other option of course is decoupage from the start, basically covering the whole thing in small bits of paper with glue, paper Mache style, and this is what we’ve done. I will detail the process I used in a future post.

Till then, a sneak peak of one I whipped up. In tribute to the Kid Robot knock offs I’m aptly naming them Kid Burners (:

DSC_2537-4 copy

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