Friday, December 18, 2009

Cute little town of Nozawa Onsen

This is such a cute story I thought I would post it quick before I go to bed here in Nozawa Onsen.

Today I left my buddy Tatsuya and all the amazing Lucas Singapore peeps and Dave and Regina from Weta back at Siggraph Asia in Yokohama and took off north to Nagano. It was a long trip - I left later than planned and then (since I wasn't following any particular schedule, for better or for worse, hehe), I got to Yokohama station at 3 something in the afternoon. Then took off to Tokyo station, and actually found out I missed the Shinkansen (high speed train) to Nagano by like 5 minutes. Bah! But turns out Japan is the most amazing place ever, so there was another one about 45 min later. Hung out for a bit, got some sushi, and then got on the train. From there is was about 100 minutes to Nagano. I got off there and was trying to take a bus to Nozawa Onsen (I heard that was simpler and more direct than the train) - talked in broken Japanese to a travel agent at the station and found out I'd missed the last bus, so I took the local train... coming in... 1 hour! Crap! haha. So instead of standing in the cold for an hour, I bought a burger and it was tasty. Several arrigatos later, I bowed 100 times and then changed into my winter clothes - it was VERY snowy already in Nagano.

Got on the train to Togarinozawaonsen (closest train station to Nozawa Onsen) and 1 hour there, caught up on some emails and journal writing. Then got to the station and there was a girl heading for the same cab as me - "where do you go?" she asked. I told her I was going to Nozawa Onsen and she said "me too, let's share!" So we shared the cab and she asked if I had time for coffee. Turns out she stays with the guys who own the Burton Snowboard store here in town and she was inviting me to their store. I got there, they were very welcoming and she said "Welcome to Japan!" and slammed down an Asahi Beer and a bowl of potato chips. :) It was VERY snowy, so they got their friend to drive me in his car up the hill to my hostel! There I found a note on the whiteboard saying "Hey Mike! Come on in, we're in the TV room in the back!" Everyone here in Australian or Canadian, and SUPER FRIENDLY and AMAZING. I am SO IMPRESSED. This evening I went to an onsen outside, super traditional, bathed totally naked (2nd time so far in Japan!! As they say... when in Rome...) with strangers and this time in a super old school wooden onsen, big tubs and extremely hot mountain water bubbling around you. Awesome times! Then dried off and followed all the customs to keep your shoes away from the bathing area, got dressed again and headed out to the "Stay Bar". There I met 2 Aussies (one was the splitting image of Tim Nash) and a really funny older Japanese guy who lives here. As expected, they were all super nice and welcoming and so awesome.

Had some fancy sochu litchi graprefruit thing and then some hot sake which was nice for a cold winters night. The cool thing is that there was NO SNOW last week - friends in Tokyo said they'd gone up to a ski hill and it was all slushy and most runs were closed. I thought I should do some sort of haka/snow dance :) Apparently it worked :) It snowed a bunch Thursday onwards, and snowed like 50 cm just this afternoon I think. TONS of snow and it's SUPER FRESH. This is gonna be an amazing time tomorrow!

On that note I gotta go get some sleep so I am ready for the slopes tomorrow and lots more partying tomorrow night with all the people in my hostel! AWESOME TRIP. For those of you interested in photos and videos, please hold tight. I will be posting all that stuff, definitely, just not until I get back from Tokyo.

Now drinking a hot chocolate and about to go back to my awesome 4 person room which I have to myself tonight. I love Nozawa Onsen already. Can you believe those guys in the Snowboarding store??!?!?!!!!!!! Nicest and best hospitality I think I've ever seen. :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Asakusa at night

Awesome times. Got to Tokyo and made my way from Narita to Aoto and
then to Kuramae and found my hostel. Made friends in like 12 sec cause
they were from San Francisco too :) then out wandering to asakusa
shrine area and buying some street food and other tasty goodness. Got
some great green tea.

Note about my blogging on this trip: I'll post once in a while from my
iPod briefly like this. Full posts and photos when I get back to

It's 11:20am... I made it up this late!!!! It's like 6:20am body time
now and I am exhausted. Off to my 8 person dorm room which smells like
feet and backpackers :)

Met like 5 cool peeps tonight and hung out by the shrine and tried
some weird cheese bread cake thing. This is already the best trip

Toillets are CRAZY here.

Harajuku parade tomorrow!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

iMenorah is the "iPhone App of the Day" on Appolicious!

Wahoo, we're the App of the Day!!

Great review here:

Thank you, Appolicious!!

Un-jetlagging in advance

I'm really happy this worked out in my favour!! So I've been so busy doing a bazillion things this last week or two that I keep going to bed after 4am every night. I am now stuck in a bit of a routine going to bed super super late and I was curious to see if I somehow managed to un-jetlag myself in advance of my trip to Japan... survey says... YES!!!!!!!!

It's currently 3:40am and I expect I'll finally get tired in like 30 minutes. That is equivalent to 9pm Japan time!!!!!!!!!!! So that means when I arrive in Japan it'll be just like it's the late afternoon, and when the evening arrives in Japan I can probably push myself the first night to stay up until 11pm or so pretty easily... and then I am exactly into the swing of things on the first day!

Haha, I love when my chronic doing-too-much-stuff-at-night finally pays off. :)

Here we go!

Japan and South Korea, here I go!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Awesome Japan trip blog

Was searching for photos on Bento Boxes on Google Map and found this blog ( about a girl's trip to Japan. It is excellent!! Great photos, lots of good pictures and descriptions in English of all the food and sites. Awesome.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Freakin' AWESOME Star Wars stuff

Today I got 2 ABSURDLY AWESOME Star Wars things, and I figured I had to post this.



The first is a couple sets of Star Wars lightsaber chopsticks created by Kotobukiya in Tokyo! They come in adult and child-sized, and I got the Vader/Yoda and Luke Skywalker/Yoda combo packs. This is going to make for some magical sushi eating when I get back from Japan!!

The other thing I got today is SO INSANELY AWESOME too. This is a signed 8x10 photo of "Luke and Leia", signed by BOTH the actor Mark Hamill and actress Carrie Fisher. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! This is so frickin' amazing. It's an authorized print, verified by the Licensing department. So ammmaazing. I'm getting this beast framed, for SURE.

iMenorah at the Apple retail Store

Don't think I posted any of these yet...

A few photos from one of the Apple Stores in San Francisco with the display of a huge iPhone with app images on it, and all the holiday-themed apps posted around it. Then a few photos of Matt and I freakin' out at how insanely awesome it is that our iMenorah App is on there!!



Matt pointing out the iMenorah App Logo to random passers-by :)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

iMenorah - our iPhone Menorah App, is now an iTunes App Store FEATURED HOLIDAY APP!!

This is absolutely absurdly insanely amazing, I can hardly talk.

Tonight I logged onto the App Store on my iPod Touch, and noticed a new "Holiday" banner. Pressing it, I got to the list of the iTunes App Store "Featured Holiday Apps" list...

iTunes App Store - new "Holiday" button

...and iMenorah is on the list!!!!!!!! Oh maaaaan!!!!!!!! I can't... believe... how awesome... this is. :)

iMenorah is on the list!!

I called Matt right away and we celebrated and jumped up and down with excitement. Not only are we are SO excited from all the reports from friends about the iMenorah logo in the holiday displays at Apple retail stores across North America (so far: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Winnipeg, Toronto!), but to add to the excitement, iMenorah is now featured in iTunes as a "Featured Holiday App!" This is so motivating and surprising and SO SO SO SO cool.

Even better, this is not just exciting news for us, but we hope this advertising will help us make an even bigger impact this year for our local community. Last year we donated approx. 10% of the 2008 holiday proceeds of iMenorah (in multiples of $18 - חַי) to the San Francisco Jewish Community Center, to help with their renowned Arts & Ideas lecture series. These seminars bring all members of the San Francisco Bay Area community together - Jewish and non-Jewish alike - in a captivating spirit of shared learning, questioning, debate, and inspiration.

This holiday season, we have decided to donate to a local San Francisco Food Bank. This past Thanksgiving weekend, many local news outlets reported about a significant increase in the patronage at local food banks, and we feel that food banks meet an incredibly current and rising need in the United States. With your support, we hope to donate more this year than we did in the holiday 2008 season! So, thank you in advance!

For more info on iMenorah, check out our site here:

And it is available for purchase now on the iTunes App Store, by clicking here:

Thanks for your support, and Happy Chanukah!