I Fell in Your Opinion

 

“I fell in your opinion when I fell love with you.” – Florence + The Machine

acoverph

At long last, my extremely long overdue Japan in April (sakura season!) post. Very very late and it feels like ages ago. But right on time for you to plan your next Japan trip to be in late March/early April to catch the next cherry blossom season!

It was my first time in Kyoto. So the posting will be more about things you can do in Kyoto, especially if it’s your first trip.

2015-04-05 13.56.50It was a rainy, rainy spring. I stayed in a ryokan (inn) that was built 150 years ago, complete with creaky floors and a kind old lady at the front desk.

1. Sakura Season

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This view greeted me every day. The inn was along the river, flanked by overhanging sakura trees, petals falling like snow with each passing day of the fleeting spring. Imagine cycling along this path, watching the seasons change along with the time.

The beauty of spring makes me really poetic.

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It was my first time seeing cherry blossoms. I’ve always seen pictures and heard about it, but seeing them in real life.. There are no words.

Ueno Park, Tokyo
Ueno Park, Tokyo

The flower does not think about competing with the flower next to it – it just blooms.

And for me, that was the hana of Noh theatre.

The confidence in your own elusive beauty. You don’t care if people are watching. Zero or one thousand. You are a flower, you are there, at the right moment.

I told you it made me poetic.

2. Cycling

2015-04-03 20.59.57My first time cycling in over 10 years.

I’ve always associated Japan with cycling, and I feel that there’s nowhere else better to pick up casual cycling again that the kind streets of Kyoto. Filled with endless slopes and small back streets, hardly anyone will see you if you stumble and fall. And crash into walls. Cycle right into walls. Drains. Cars. -whistles-

The pedestrians and cars are super sweet as well! They saw me cycling painfully slowly (T_T) and a car was just driving patiently behind me without honking. When I saw it, I got off the bike to let it pass and the lady inside made a little honk and BOWED to me. T_T I think if it was anywhere else I’d have been hit by a car already.

3. Gion / Temples / Shrines

2015-04-03 14.43.36 HDRKyoto houses the most number of shrines and temples. Best part was that it was walking distance (40 mins to an hour) to everywhere. It’s not bad because spring temperature it about 10 degrees C and walking keeps you warm. AND you get to see pretty streets!

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Like this! Wearing a mask because it kept the warm air in.

I don’t think there were any legit geisha in Gion. I saw some ladies in makeup and kimonos walking around but then they suddenly started speaking Mandarin so… I think it was a makeup thing. They offered kimono rental.

4. % Arabica

If you’re a coffee prick like me, and a fan of latte art, you might know Junichi Yamaguchi.

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He is the head barista of % Arabica, and a latte art champion.

I started fangirling when I saw him.

“A..Are you Mr. Junichi?!?!!?”

“…yes?”

“OMG HI I’M FROM SINGAPORE I LOVE YOUR LATTE ART AND YOUR SLAYER IS SO SEXY TEACH ME MASTER.”

“……”

“Can I have a photo??!?!!”

Preeetty much.

2015-04-03 15.22.31Isn’t his custom Slayer the sexiest thing?!

5. Fushimi-Inari Taisha

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And if you’re in Kyoto, you can’t miss the thousand torii gates of Fushimi-Inari Shrine. It’s a 4-kilometer walk up stairs.

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It may seem really crowded at the bottom, but as you get higher (and more breathless), the crowd really thins out.

And you are left with questioning your life decisions.

2015-04-04 13.07.27But nothing beats the majesty of the gates.

And also old ladies walking faster than you up the steps.

6. Arashiyama – Bamboo Forest

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The bamboo groves of Arashiyama is also one of the not to be missed attractions of Kyoto. It’s accessible by the JR train right into the heart of the district, where there are rickshaw drivers to ferry you up and down the narrow roads.

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Now that you can cycle, you can Google maps your way from central Kyoto up to the mountains, where the famed bamboo forest is. You can also take the train, but if you want to YOLO and have a sore butt and freeze your face off, rent a bike for 500 yen and take a 10 KM ride up.

The sights are beautiful. The view is breathtaking. Cycling along cars was terrifying but once again, kind Kyoto people don’t kill you.

2015-04-07 12.19.00You can also stop by a random river and almost get blown away. Questioning your life decisions once again. But you keep going on and on, admiring the beauty and serenity along the way.

2015-04-07 14.10.47At the beginning of the Arashiyama district, the rain causes the cherry blossoms to fall and embrace the ground in a soft, pink blanket. Lock your bike at a random bike area and hunt for the bamboo forest on foot.

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The tall bamboo stretches into the heavens, blocking the light of the afternoon sun. You may also imagine ninjas fighting through the branches by night.

The bamboo is so tall, and you feel so small next to it. For a moment, the 10km ride was worth it. But at the end of the path, you realise you have to cycle back.

You question your life decisions once again.

7. Photo Ops

The spring is so beautiful, everywhere is a photo opportunity.

You can’t take a bad picture. You just can’t.

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Even with your eyes closed, the grace of the blossoms surrounding you will save the photo.

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8. Osaka + Other

Well, since you’re in Kyoto, take a 30 minute shinkansen (JR Pass rules!) to Osaka because, why not? I prefer living in Kyoto and travelling to Osaka because… well, it’s prettier. 😛

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The Osaka Aquarium!!! With otters!!! It’s a bit of a walk from the train station, but it was so worth it!

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And in Osaka, always have Matsusaka Project. I find the outlet in Namba the best, but they were fully booked, so you should make a reservation! (They speak English).

But desperate for meat, this was the outlet in Fukushima. Yes. Went all the way there for meat. #worthit

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In Kyoto, their well known food was tofu, served in a simple shojin ryori (Japanese monk food) style. Portions are small, mostly cold, very zen. So when one is in Kyoto, do as the Kyoto-jins do, right?

…..Yeeeeaaaahhhh not my thing. I like my food warm.

But it was a really delicious boat of tofu. It was a free flow tofu. Tofu trauma.

So that’s it.

I fell for Japan again, this time in spring. Advise for those who are about to rock? SPRING IS COLDER THAN EXPECTED BRING YOUR WARM CLOTHES. T_T

Bring your camera, because beauty is everywhere.

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I’ll see you again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Places to Go On Your First Japan (Tokyo) Trip

Wow, more Japan posts! (HAHA BAD WITH DATES WHY DID I WRITE 2015. PROPHETIC!)

I’m back from my 2014 Japan trip, and instead of procrastinating and waiting a whole year to post ten days worth of pictures, I decided to consolidate everything I did on this trip to introduce a place that I have fallen in love with, and so hope to share this love as well.

Also, I am trying to pass time from now to January, where the JET Programme results are out…

Some of my friends have been asking me about accommodation, but I’ll talk about that at the end of the post. For now.. I’ll keep your interest piqued with 8 places you should totally visit:

 

1. Asakusa

Asakusa, a walk from the Asakusa subway station. Last year, I visited Asakusa in the day with Chikage, on a Sunday, no less. It was crowded and lively, with rows and rows of shops selling food and chopsticks and fans and the like. But this year, Gima-sensei took us to Asakusa at night.

It was the first time seeing the beauty and majesty of the temple being lit up at night. Perks – it was practically empty because all the shops were closed. It was also drizzling and horrifically cold but.. Look pretty lights!

Near Asakusa you can also find the Kabuki Theatre, and it’s a short train ride to the Tokyo Skytree at Oshiage station (view it in the day if you have bad night vision like me), so if you haven’t been it’s one of the iconic places to go!

2. Ginza

Firstly, because it’s one of the biggest shopping districts with all the high-end brands, you’ll be wow-ed when you’re walking on it.

And more importantly, there is GU (the sister cheaper brand of UNIQLO), and THEY HAD HOT GUYS TO TRAP YOU AGAINST THE WALL AND SAY YOU LOOK CUTE IN THE OUTFIT WHAT.

-regains composure-

Also it is home to the amazing yakitori place which Chikage recommended and took me to last year, and it’s apparently one of the best yakitori places around!

Which brings me to my next point:

3. Visit Your Teacher (s) when she performs in Shibuya which is near the shopping district Omotesando and Harajuku

You can’t tell this super sweet lady has a super deep and slightly terrifying noh singing voice right? I watched Chikage perform Noh for the first time this trip, and behind the mask and her costume, I was, “WHO IS THIS PERSON?!” I knew it was her, she told me her character. Even so, I couldn’t link the character to her. It wasn’t her. I only saw the character, the mask, not the actor.

The Kanze Noh Theatre is in Shibuya, home to Shibuya 109 (SHOPPING WOOHOO) and the Shibuya scramble, an iconic crossing… So it’s all there! You can also take the train to Harajuku, follow the fashionable people to the famous shopping district, and spend a whole day shopping and cafe-hopping.

I also met Gima-sensei, who knows all the sights to see and good photo op places. So if you don’t have a teacher, he’ll be your Skype Japanese tutor! He speaks fluent English and helped my Japanese improve a lot when he taught me in Singapore, so if you’re looking to learn Japanese, go to Gima-sensei!

4. Akihabara

Home of electronics and otakus. It’s like Sim Lim Square (Singapore) meets Sunshine Plaza meets… cosplay convention. It was my first time at Akihabara and I was overwhelmed with loud advertisement (welcome to Japan), bright lights, music everywhere, and adorable maid-loli’s giving out flyers.

There was a meido in a window being cute awww she was adorable and sweet But I didn’t go in because I’ve already experienced a maid + butler before and.. uh.. not my thing. But it’s your first Japan trip, so everything’s an experience!

When I was in Japan last year, the other backpackers told me about a robot cafe, but there wasn’t time this trip to look for it amongst the tall buildings and anime shops.

I did, however, find a seven story adult shop. For a culture so shy and polite, everyone was so nonchalant about it like it’s any other department store. Check out the article about it here. I didn’t believe it existed but… you have to see it to believe it! ._. Both the young and old can be seen entering and exiting the shop with nonchalant poker faces. Ohhh Japan~~

5. Roppongi

Christmas illuminations in Japan are SUPER awesome!! It’s also where you can see the Tokyo Tower, another iconic tower of Japan.

Actually the Christmas illuminations in Roppongi were my favourite part.

And they have the hugest Don Quixote there, which is a 24-hour department store that sells practically anything.

But Christmas illuminations. *_*

6. Kichijoji

If you have 10,000 yen to spare, travel from Shinjuku, take the Chuo line to Kichijoji, look for Satou’s Steak House, and have beef so amazing you’d think you were drinking it. With the most amazing rice that seemed to be picked from the meadows of heaven.

It’s worth going to Kichijoji for eating. Shopping there isn’t bad as well. There’s a huge electronics store there. But this beef… It haunts me.

It’s in the main shopping district in Kichijoji, if you ask around, I’m sure you’ll find it! I.. found it with my gut feeling.

7. Disney / Universal Studios

Because DISNEY. And THE WIZARDING WORLD.

Tips – Get a fast pass. Don’t bother with the castle walk in the wizarding world, just go for the ride within the castle instead, it’s called Harry’s Adventure… or something. Take lots of pictures because it’s the wizarding world. And it’s weird watching Dumbledore speak Japanese. For Disney, fast pass and stay for the fireworks!

It’s pretty self-explanatory.

8. Osaka / Nara / Hakone

If you want get out of Tokyo, get a JR pass (it’s an unlimited use for the shinkansen and all JR lines, which is super useful because JR Yamanote Line will get you everywhere). It’s a 2-3 hour trip from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka.

Osaka is home to Universal Studios, Dotonbori (famous shopping street where the big crab and Glico neon sign is), and takoyaki (octopus dough balls). Away from Osaka, you can take a day trip to Nara, buy some senbei (crackers) and the deer will chase you until you show your hands and tell them you don’t have any.

Some of them will know you’re lying and bump you. But they’re super cute, so it’s worth going to Nara!

Osaka’s train station is super simple and tonnes easier to read than Tokyo’s crazy subway map. Just stay on the main line (Namba area is good) and you’ll be fine!

You can also take a Shinkansen to Hakone (Odawara Station). It’s an hours trip, and full of onsen and inns, if you want to relax! I pretty much stayed in the ryokan and rolled around during my stay.

November Special: Festival Tokyo

If you’re there in November, Tokyo’s theatre festival is happening, and there are TONS of amazing theatre pieces to watch! I caught Ninagawa’s “Ravens, we shall load bullets!” in Nishi-Sugamo Arts Factory this year. It was performed by Saitama’s Gold Theatre, which consisted of senior citizens and it began with old people sitting in fishtanks – you can see how amazing it was from the beginning.

Everywhere: CONVENIENCE STORES

Because if you’re on a budget. And also I can live on 7-11 onigiri (rice balls) and oden daikon (radish) everyday. And they have everything. I went to a convenience store every day. IT’S AN EXPERIENCE OKAY. It’s also where you can buy tickets to the Ghibli museum in Mitaka!

Lodging / Getting Around / Wi-fi?

AirBnb and if you don’t mind little and shared spaces, hostels. If you’re near the Yamanote Line (it’s a circular line in the middle), it’s easy to get around everywhere. Hosts on AirBnb are super helpful and friendly, and I think it’s a great way to meet people! You can take a limousine bus from the airport to Tokyo station, or take a train. I’ve always taken the train from Narita, which is the Keisei Line all the way to Ueno/Nippori which was on the Yamanote Line.

You’ll need to download or get a Japanese subway/train map (chizu) at a main train station. The train station at the airport should provide it. It takes a lot of scanning and squinting at the map because there are SO many stations. If you can read Kanji, download the app called “Navitime”, where it plots your route for you and tells you how much it cost.

I had pocket wifi, get the faster one with less coverage. It’s unlimited data, so you’re only limited by battery life. Bring your external charger. With it, you can google everywhere.

 

Well, I hope this short post helps you on your first Japan trip! Everything within Tokyo is super convenient and close, so you can do lots in one day! The younger generation speaks English, and everyone is super helpful so you can just ask for directions. “______ wa doko desuka?” (where is ____?) or “_____ ni douyatte ikimasuka?”  (how do I go to __?” and bow thankfully a lot.

Comment below and let me know how your trip goes!

Japan (Final)

So I just realised that I’m leaving for Japan in 3 days, and I ‘m not done blogging about the previous Japan trip (over a year ago). PROCRASTINATION! -smack self- Well, we know what’s going to be on my New Year’s Resolution list this year… Pffft.

So here it goes. My love affair with Japan, and the heart that I am returning to soon.

Kichijoji (I think)
Kichijoji (I think)

I took this photo out of spontaneity, and I never expected in my wildest dreams for this to be one of my favourite photos. Tokyo, by night. 🙂

Anyway, more about my adventures.

Artsy Bit

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This is Yuki-san. Yuki and Shoichi are partners in a company that reads books (with music) in various places. They took me to their job today – a children’s hospital. Or more specifically, a children’s hospital and a care centre for those with physical deformities and special needs.

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We spent the entire day, from morning to evening there, stopping for lunch at a lovely udon place. It was becoming autumn, and the momiji were starting to appear above the koi pond.

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As usual, the food was AMAZING. I had mochi udon for the first time! All chewy and stretchy ahahhaa. And below is Shoichi’s bigass curry rice. I honestly don’t know  where he puts his food…  -shifty eyes-

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Anyway… why I love Japan so dearly. Watching them work. Watching them read a book from their hearts, with all the commitment and love, even if it was to just ONE person who may or may not be listening at all. The work ethic poured out from them. I met the director of the hospital and he showed me around the building as well. All their facilities and staff and protocols were committed to making their patients feel as good as possible, even though they were unable to fully express themselves. I honestly started tearing up at this point because of how much they care. This is why I love. Everything, born and done out of service.

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The next day, I was supposed to meet Shoichi for a Festival Tokyo (F/T’13) performance called “the long field trip”, but it was only in the evening, so I decided to head to Omotesando to do my nails. That was my virgin gelish experience. So cute right! Ehehe.

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The sun sets over Itabashi. This is where I lost my Suica (train pass) and panicked, because the station masters asked me to go back to Shinjuku because that was my last transfer. It also didn’t help that I panicked and my Japanese was worse at that time, so I called Shoichi, who just told me to stay put at wait for him to save me.

Which he did.

I just had to pay the fare from Shinjuku to Itabashi. Heh heh. Don’t lose belongings people.

It was an amazing show by the theatre company called “SAMPLE”. The space itself, the Nishi-sugamo Arts Factory was an old school gym, and the performance started with a freaking pick-up truck driving on the stage. Yep. It also had subtitles. Woohoo! I’m going back this year to the arts factor to watch Ninagawa’s “Ravens, we shall load bullets”. Such excite!

Touristy Bit

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The next day was a Chikage bringing me to do touristy things day!

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Because what’s going to Tokyo without going to Meijijingu? (Meiji Shrine)

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Looking at the trees becoming flame red in the fantastic weather.

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Eating yakitori in Ginza!

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Going to the Kabukiz theatre!

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Going to the Asakusa Temple! (I obviously crammed being a tourist all in one day, poor Chikage… Ahahah..)

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Chikage, and our dessert. Which was the exact same dessert Yagnya ordered when she went to Asakusa with Chikage. This is why she’s my perfect friend. I miss you woman.

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We went to the Tokyo Skytree at night, looking over Sumida River, and I was awestruck. Looking over Tokyo.

There are no words…

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Food in the Solomachi, the shopping mall within/next to the Tokyo Skytree. CALBEE. CHIPS. Fresh and hot with ICE CREAM. I’m going back there, if not for the Skytree, for the beautiful potato chips. Unggggghhh get in my belly!

Also, had sushi and sake with Chikage. My first uni (sea urchin) experience!

.______. creamy.

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The next day was my final day before I flew home! Bought a matcha soft serve (this was the smallest size) in Nakano, and ate it ALL. ^_^

Shoichi had helped me book a Butoh performance at night, so I had the day to kill.

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So relax, I did. I went back to the Skytree Solomachi and had a katsu-omurice. I love omurice. YUM YUM IN TUM TUM. Obviously hungry while writing this.

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This was the dance studio where we waited for the Butoh to start… I was falling asleep because it began with 15 minutes of music and multimedia. But when they danced. WHEN THEY DANCED! Goosebumps! I wanted to stand up in the theatre and gasp and… it was electrifying. Their bodies were so fit, moving with such fluidity and simplicity. No extra movement wasted.

Leaving

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My flight was in the late morning, so I left the hostel early to take the train to the airport.

I took the train to Shinjuku, and changed to the Narita Express to NRT International.

As I was leaving, I knew I left my heart there. I had come to Tokyo, alone, to see if I still loved it. To see why I loved it.

I found myself falling more.

An unexplainable pull. A place that always finds me.

And this is why I’m going back.

 

買い物に行った!ー原宿と表参道

Now, back to my unexplainable love for Japan.

So I had a day off for shopping and cafe-hopping at Harajuku, land of fashionable people. So, the plan was to look for my favorite Japanese labels (minus EMODA, which is at Shibuya 109) like, Lowry’s Farm, Jeanasis, etc. And I knew STREAMER Coffee Company (by Sawada Hiroshi, celebrity barista that people from Maison Ikkoku know) was in the area, so to Harajuku I went. This photo was taken at at LAFORET, land of awesome shops. (What biased opinion?)

Cookies and Cream

And how does one go to Harajuku without having a crepe? I think this was one of the points during my trip where I was a bit 寂しい (lonely) because the crepe was too big and there was no one to share with. 😦 It was incredibly yummy in any case, but I guess I shouldn’t have eaten that combini onigiri for breakfast.

So after that no photos were taken because shopping. I’m in love with Japanese changing rooms. *w* They also make me feel bad every time I buy something because they wrap it with such love and care and tissue, then carry it all the way to the exit of the store, and bow until I’m out of their sight.

-sigh-  Japan.

Streamer

Streamer, from the outside. It took me a really long time + asking for directions + google maps + WHY IS IT UP A HILL to find it. I almost jumped for joy – but had to keep it in because we’re in Japan guys be cool…  Hiroshi wasn’t in, I missed him by an hour or so. T_T She also snapped at me for trying to take a picture of the espresso machine. First time someone in Japan was a bit UNpolite! -collective gasp- But I was there and I had to have coffee. Signature Latte:

WAVE. OF. HEART.
WAVE. OF. HEART.

The inspiration for my future (and by future I mean now) latte art! In the signature Hiroshi latte bowl (is it his signature?) and a WAVE! Japanese latte artists are amazing at waves. So I had my first cup of legit coffee since I came. The latte art was amazing, but the coffee was normal. Sweeter than normal, probably because Japanese milk is creamy, but nothing special. Maybe I was expecting to see rainbows and shooting stars. And I also missed brewed coffee.

And so I walked back to Omotesando and found this!!!! It’s a tiny obscure shop under the famously long-queue Eggs n Things. I loved the place! The baristas were friendly, I was the only one in there so I could talk to them, and they played Florence + The Machine! Talk about an awesome place to be in.

Beans! Didn’t buy any because the roasting date was WAY too far back, but they gave me free samples anyway! T.T

And here, I cultivated the love for brewed coffee (specifically the chemex) over ice.

I saw rainbows and shooting stars. Light, refreshing brewed chemex, with it’s clarity intensifying with the ice.

And made by the sweetest baristas. ❤ Hanging out there was really enjoyable.

It was getting dark and I wanted to get back to the hostel, but I went to look at Christmas illuminations first. :3 Ahhh, Japan and your fairylight abuse. I love it. I also walked around a lot more trying to find number76 hair salon (found it!) and just roaming around. Then I got lost, asked for directions, and headed back to Nakano.

I wanted to experience what the rush hour was like, so I went to Harajuku to board the train to Shinjuku to get back to Nakano. I couldn’t get on the first train… But I got squished into the second. They’re just very squishy people, just when I thought we couldn’t squeeze anymore, we all squeezed together, with me not daring to breathe. When it was time to exit, I did what everyone else did, just squeeze your way out. They had no qualms about being in such close contact with each other, and I know if this was in Singapore we wouldn’t be all polite/apathetic about it. They just grin and bear it, I guess.

I went back to the hostel, had dinner, and went to the sento (public bath).

Until next time~

Go To The Sumi (能楽 Nōgaku)

(Or ‘Love affair with Japan part 2’)

Today, I will only cover day 3 of Japan.

On Day 3, I met Chikage-sensei at Shibuya to watch a Noh Theatre performance. I first knew Chikage from my first year at LASALLE, where she introduced me to Noh theatre, and taught us all about it. Now, I would soon discover that doing it and watching the real deal happen are two complete ends of the spectrum.

At that time, I loved Noh for it’s structure and it’s beautiful stories… And of course, the concept of “hana”, a state of presence an actor should strive to achieve. Oh, you know actors, always wanting to be present. 😛

Road Up
Road Up

Kanze Noh School is a walk from Hachiko Exit at Shibuya Station. I met Chikage and she walked there with me, then we walked somewhere to have coffee, and then she went earlier to prepare for the performance. In Japan, she doesn’t perform but is still a stage hand actively helping in the performance.

Since I was at Shibuya, I went to Shibuya 109 (OF COURSE) and to my favourite Japanese brand – EMODA. And bought my favourite pair of shoes yet. Sighhh Japan you’re just giving me more reasons to love you. Shibuya 109 is fantastic for shopping, and all the salespeople are SUPER friendly. I still haven’t figured out how to say “I’ll take this piece.” at that time, so I kept awkwardly saying “I wish to buy this.” to them. /hawkward/

Anyway, I found my way back to Kanze Noh School 15 minutes before the doors were supposed to open. Meaning 30 minutes before the performance.

THERE WAS ALREADY A QUEUE. I wish I had the picture to show you. It was a bunch of old people in their kimono’s all dressed up in an orderly line waiting for the doors to open. >_< So cute. The doors finally opened at 2pm, and Chikage told me to sit in the middle of the main stage. Get ready for my long schpeel about Noh Theatre.

Majesty
Majesty

I CAN DIE IN PEACE.

VIDEOS AND PICTURES DO IT NO JUSTICE.

I ALMOST CRIED. BEFORE IT BEGAN.

It was more than I imagined a Noh stage would be. (Now I’m digging up the programme booklet and trying to read all the Kanji.) The performance was from 2PM-5.45PM. It consisted of two Noh plays with a Kyogen (something like farce) in between. Note: Noh is performed in archaic Japanese.

First was “野宮 (Nonomiya)”, then the kyogen, then a Noh play I am familiar with because she taught it at Lasalle – “紅葉狩 (momijigari / maple viewing)”. Wow all the Kanji I can’t read in the programme.

So… It began. 3 hours and 45 minutes of an excruciatingly slow performance in archaic Japanese.

At first, I thought I was going to die before I got to the end of the performance. It began with an old man suriyashi-ing (sliding) slowly out to set up the stage by putting a little wooden prop-gate on the stage. I think that took about 10 minutes. But then in the waiting, in the quiet, I… discovered what Zeami meant by “hana”.

Context: from The Noh

One cannot speak of Zeami’s Noh without referring the concept of “Hana (flower).”

What is “flower”? By thoroughly following the inevitability of surrounding environment and your own innate nature, you create a new appearance suitable for each moment. This is the meaning of “flower.” To acquire the “genuine flower” is what Zeami aimed for in the art of his performance.

 The performers had “Hana”. I mean, they were just SITTING there. Sometimes they closed their eyes. But my spirit was excited and warm and I KNEW they were present. Wherever they were, they were all there. They didn’t give a shit if you were watching them or not, they just existed. When it came to “Momijigari”, I was completely mesmerized. The vibrations were speaking to me even though I didn’t understand, my body did.

The thing about these Noh plays, they’re really epic. The SLOWING DOWN of it makes it even more so.

Take Momijigari for example. It belongs to the “demon” category of plays, which is about a warrior who is hunting and then sees a lady in a forest, banquetting/having tea. He joins her, and then falls asleep because of the wine he has drunk (or a date-rape drug, who knows). While he is sleeping, the woman has disappeared (gasp) but returns as her true from… A DEMON! It was actually really scary and epic because of the masks, but then the local God of War appears, wakes the warrior up in time and gives him a sword to kill the devil-woman with. The End. Moral of most “Demon” category plays: Everyone is secretly a demon. But you usually can kill them or give them a peace offering. How do you not love something like that?

— End of Noh rant. There will be pictures now.

To reward you with your patience in reading my passage about Noh (if you read it, well done!), here is a picture of the cool toilets. Full of buttons. There is a deodorizer, which is fantastic. And sounds to play so no one will hear you do your business!

Then the problem was : WHICH ONE IS FLUSH? Which was usually followed by me pressing ALL the buttons. Sometimes it was a sensor, so it was  mostly, “Do I wave my hand? Button? MUST I DO A DANCE? Just FLUSH!!”… Sigh.

Apparently this problem isn’t limited to me. Chikage faced it, too, so I feel a lot better.

We went for a shabu-shabu dinner after the performance! IT WAS SO GOOD. Actually, no meal in Japan was bad. I don’t think Japanese food can actually taste bad.

When I saw this, my first thought was, “Lard?”

But Chikage said, “Ko-ra-gen.”

– long silence –

“COLLAGEN!!!!!!”

“YES IT MAKES YOUR FACE SOFT AND SMOOTH!”

So, I had collagen shabu shabu. Yes, my face was bouncy the next day.

I want shabu-shabu now. Once again, yes, there were mushrooms but I ate them all. When I eat steamboat in Singapore, I usually throw in the veggies first, and have the meat later, and eat it with rice at the same time. But they do it in a “meat-veggie-rice” order. The meat goes in, followed by the veggies so that it soaks up all the flavor of the meat, and you have the rice last so that the soup is the most flavorful.

Just take me back!!!

The dishes are fished out into a dressing of your choice and then eaten. I chose sesame and shoyu dressing. WHATEVER IT WAS IT WAS SO GOOD. Despite us sharing, we were both really full after the veggies, so we asked for a small portion of rice so that we could finish the meal (remember, finish everything!).

Sweetest Noh practitioner you will ever meet.
Sweetest Noh practitioner you will ever meet.

THIS, MY FRIENDS, IS CHIKAGE.

Do not be fooled by her sweet and adorable 超可愛い demeanor. She is one badass Noh performer. She can be soft-spoken and gentle when you meet her, but HER VOICE WILL SHAKE YOUR SOUL. I still don’t know her secret. Her family practices Noh, and she first performed when she was 4. In the blood.

Other than that, I’m very grateful to have met her! She comes every year to Singapore to teach the Level 1s about Noh, so I look forward to meeting her every time!

Okay, that’s enough Japan obsession for today (NO NEVER IT WILL NEVER END)! Hope this post was enjoyable and somewhat educational! ❤

Until next time xx S

Illogical Obsessions

(or ‘Love Affair with Japan Part 1’)

It is no secret I am in love with Japan. Ever since I went there for an exchange program in 2006, Japan has always been in the back of my mind, in the depths of my heart. 日本が、いつまでも、私の心の中にある。I thought it was just a childish dream, so I threw my attention to studying. Becoming at actor. Back then, I wanted to be a musical theatre performer. I planned to take the Junior College – Theatre Studies – NUS route.

But of course, time changes the course of things. God opened doors at the perfect times. So I began the Acting course at LASALLE. In first year, I was exposed to Noh theatre. Something stirred in my heart. A dormant feeling I thought I had long lost… Then I met Yagnya, then I was exposed to Japanese art and aesthetics, then I discovered Suzuki’s Method of Actor’s Training, then I watched TNS’ Mobile 2: Flat Cities…

And I realized I might have left my heart in Japan in 2006 after all.

This is my first trip overseas alone. I needed to go. It was something I had to do. I wanted to see if I really left my heart in Japan.

Pictures taken with my iPhone 5. I didn’t bring my Lumix on this trip.

When I got off the plane, it was early in the morning, about 9AM. I couldn’t believe my eyes. That was my first feeling.

“Shit. I’m really here.”

Hooooooooooooooomaigad.

IMG_9391

Now, my conversational Japanese is alright. I can read and write basic sentences and find my way around and ask for directions. So that was how I found my way from Narita Airport (Chiba Perfecture, Northeast of Tokyo) to Nakano Station (West of Tokyo).

It took me about 3 hours and about 3000 yen by the train.

Japan was everything I imagined it would be. Beautiful. The streets, the lack of dustbins, the bicycles… I found my heart just where I left it.

It felt right. This road was somewhere near my hostel. I checked in and took a walk around the streets.

This was the road opposite my hostel. If you walk a little further and made a left, there would be a public bath (sento), where you could take a bath and soak in 40 degree C water. BEST THING EVER IN AUTUMN/WINTER.The temperature would be about 14-17 degrees, so it was cold but bearable.

When you come out of the sento you will feel SO TOASTY WARM it’s completely alright to walk around in the cold!

Yadoya Guesthouse
Yadoya Guesthouse

This is the view of my hostel, taken from the 7-11 across the road. I spent about SGD$300 on accommodation for 9 nights in Tokyo. The staff were really friendly and it was a nice, clean hostel. It was small (I was in the 8 bunk room), but cosy and enough for me.

Keep in mind I’m short and enjoy sleeping in small tight spaces. Check them out here if you’re interested! I met loads of backpackers, travelers, and locals there and it was a fantastic experience.

My view going down the stairs.
My view going down the stairs.

To the left would be the kitchen/common area, and the right was the back door opened by a keycard. I didn’t do much on my first day, mainly because I slept for about 2 hours on the flight. So I lazed around, ate food from 7-11 and slept in.

The next day, I met Shoichi. I first met him through Yagnya when I watched a performance he was involved in – The Necessary Stage’s Mobile 2:Flat Cities. I chatted with the cast after being introduced by Iggy after the show. How things just fall into place…

Anyway, I owe Shoichi my Japan trip because he introduced me to a lot of Japanese theatre (I didn’t plan. That’s a terrible idea. Always plan.) and as luck God would have it, I was there during F/T 2013, a theatre festival.

First legit meal
First legit meal

Menus are hard to read when there are no pictures. 😦 I had to have the menu read out to me like a child. -sigh- But my Japanese is much better now compared to then, so who knows? This is tempura cold soba. Then I discover…. THE PORTIONS ARE HUGE. And it is considered rude not to finish your food.

But the soba was fantastic. Ugh, typing this makes me miss Japan. I want soba now. You’re supposed to slurp up the noodles but I was extremely unskilled in noodle-slurping. Haha, I shall practice at home when there is no one to judge me! #bucketlist

Anyway, we met up to watch a theatre performance called “No More Winds Blow” /「もう風が吹かない」by a company called Seinendan (青年団) in Kichijoji. We took the train from Nakano (it’s apparently just 2 stops) but we took the wrong train (Express instead of Local, so it skips stops) but made it in time for the performance. You can read more about it, but it’s in Japanese.

That was my first theatre experience in Japan. Entirely in Japanese. I understood bits and pieces of it, but still had to have a short translation afterwards. Better to clarify, right?When I watched it, I thought, “Yes. Yes.. I could do this. I could live here. I could fall in love with art here.” Aiyah, I mostly wanted to touch the set design also. I wanted to take pictures, but… I don’t think it’s allowed. Might be rude, don’t know, didn’t want to get kicked out of the country on my second day….

The performance ended about 5PM and it was getting dark out, so we had time to kill before dinner.

Kichijoji is really cool.

Then this happened.
Then this happened.

So I had to do something somewhat touristy, so NEKO CAFE!

1000-2000 yen per hour.  I don't remember...
1000-2000 yen per hour.
I don’t remember…

So you just sit there and get surrounded by the cats. They were really pretty, but being cats they didn’t give two hoots about you. But surrounded by such fluffy, it’s a mood-lifter!

Until the food came out, of course. Then they all became friendly and happy. Then they wouldn’t run away when you want to stroke them. ^_^

Then, dinner time. Decision-making for food has to be one of the most difficult things in life, no matter which country you’re in. We walked around for some time before…

Very Japanese bar, like the kind I read in Murakami!
Very Japanese bar, like the kind I read in Murakami!

Yay for being unable to read the menu!! Kanji I somewhat can read. Then you write the menu in cursive Japanese. COME ON. T_T No, really. But it was delicious, whatever it was lol. See that bowl next to the beer?

MUSHROOMS.

If you know me, I don’t eat mushrooms. I never liked mushrooms. I spat mushrooms out in Kindergarten. I ate all the mushrooms. Japan, this is how much I love you. I eat mushrooms for you.

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Interior
Interior

SUPER COOL PLACE, RIGHT? Yes, yes I can live here forever.

Totally the kind of place I would read in Murakami.

I’m want to go back. I’m totally feeling sad now. 寂しい!T_T I realize I’m speaking in short and very simple English aiyah by language brain is very confused now alright? It’s looking at all these Japanese photos and expected to describe them eloquently? I. Think. Not.

Sashimi.
Sashimi.

It is a sort of fish. I think it’s yellowtail. Any fish experts want to tell me what it is? Whatever it is, IT WAS SO FRESH. I was stunned at the thickness of each slab of fish, but you’re supposed to put the whole thing in your mouth… Woah but it was really good.

Mozoku モゾク
Mozoku モゾク

This has to be one of the “WTH” things I consumed. It is… mozoku seaweed. The white stuff is “sticky potato” and it is sitting in a slippery lemon juice. It’s okay Japan, I still love you even if you have weird food.

I guess I would eat it over rice, but on it’s own it was really sour and slimy.. Acquired taste, like natto I guess? Maybe Yagnya-obaachan would love it hehe.

Eggplant + Miso Paste
Eggplant + Miso Paste

I burnt my tongue trying to eat this! It was really hot. It’s an eggplant, baked (it seemed baked) with miso paste and sesame seeds.

The skin makes it hard to eat. It was good, but it would have been wise to wait for it to cool down. -whistle whistle-

Chazuke (?)
Chazuke (?)

Rice and tea and seaweed! Can’t go wrong with that! All the things I love in one convenient bowl! Katanashi in Singapore serves it, too!

Then my favourite that I do not know the name of:

 

"NO IDEA WHAT THIS IS CALLED"!
“NO IDEA WHAT THIS IS CALLED”!

BUT IT WAS SO GOOD.

The noodle-y thing wasn’t noodle but a kind of jelly. It was an oden-like soup with potatoes and onions and carrots and pork? Quite sad because since I don’t know the name of it, I can’t order it, right?

You think if I show the pictures to random bars in Japan they’ll do it for me? Haha. Or I could just ask, right?

After dinner, we went to a cafe to sit down and plan my theatre experience for the rest of my trip.

I don’t know what I did to deserve the fortune of this tour guide but THANK GOD for Yagnya for introducing me to Shoichi because WHO DOES THIS KIND OF THING?? So 優しい I cannot take it. T_T

I had this feeling he wanted to facepalm and kill me for not planning what I want to watch beforehand from the amount he was smoking then but if you see this,  將一さん、本当にありがとうございました!

I owe you.

The person I owe the trip to. T_T
The person I owe the trip to. T_T

So then, the butoh performance and Festival Tokyo performance was booked that night. So thankful…

This concludes Part 1 of my Japan trip. Which was actually just 2 days… But writing this helps me remember. It seems like a long time ago, but the memories I’m living now are fresh.

My heart is still there, in Japan. Writing this makes me want to cry, I think, because I am far away from my heart. It’s illogical and unexplainable why I should be there. I don’t know either. But I think this is the leap that I have to take.

I trust God will open the doors that needs to be opened.

Part 2 next time! Hope you enjoyed reading my obsessive post. x S

大切なもの (Important Things)

It has been too long since my last post.

I have been occupied. Occupied, distracted, lazy, unmotivated, busy, exhausted… Or perhaps I have lost my muse. My last post was September 2013. It is now the end of January 2014. About 4 months have passed without my recording of it. That’s…. Unfortunate. However, I’m motivated once more and I’ll start again.

In August 2013, I had my convocation.

Well, at least I think it was August. I don’t recall. The significance of the ceremony, with my family there watching be receive my degree, was perhaps them watching their support manifested physically. Everything I had worked towards and they had supported me in, I guess was in this education.

Mother always mothering.
Mother always mothering.

As the youngest in the family, I feel it’s a “SHE FINALLY HAS A DEGREE” moment, so I’m glad everyone came… to sit there for hours just to watch my 10 seconds on that stage. That’s love, ya’ll.

Momma, me, and my big brothers.
Momma, me, and my big brothers.

Because at the end of it all, they are the ones who have seen me at my stupidest, most unglamorous and unlovable moments. I don’t know why they still love me.

But I’m glad. (Yes, all my family members are short. This is where I get it from…)

I’m glad that they support me in whatever I do, be it my dreams or my work. They may never get to hear these words from me directly because I am Asian and we very hardly do all these loving things, but I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by them. By their support.

After receiving my degree, I looked at what I spent the last 3-4 years of my life slaving for. All the memories I made in Lasalle. All the things that I learned. I would definitely say the experience was worth it. I had my ego stripped away. I was discouraged. I was empowered. I never imagined myself knowing so much and falling in love with all this… Art. The paper is a just a piece of paper. But everything behind it is priceless.

Mother.
Mother.

And most importantly, thank you momma. My mother is the greatest gift God could have given me. I don’t think I’ll be able to understand why she does so much for me. All those years of me studying she has always got my back. I mean, you want to understand undeserved grace? MOTHERS LOVE. See, now I’m tearing up as a write this. So, thank you God for giving me this mom to help me fathom just a fraction of how much You love me…

So what now, after I graduated?

In November, I went to Japan. I left my heart there. You know how sometimes, you feel that this is where you need to be? There are no logical explanations for why I need to be there so much. I fell in love again. I’ll upload photos from my phone and do a whole other post sometime.

In December, I was involved in Yellow Chair Productions’ version of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. It was a beautiful experience, working with an entirely new bunch of people that are not my classmates. We’re having our post-production party soon, so more on that when it happens.

Right now, my work life consists of:

  • Teaching Drama, both kindergarten and secondary schools.
  • Barista at Maison Ikkoku
  • Research project for Aole and Elizabeth
  • Assisting Adam in Grotowski class at Lasalle
  • Acting for Rachel’s graduation show

Other than that, I’m still learning Japanese and will be beginning my Intermediate 3 lessons soon. I hope to be able to find time to update more in the following days to come.

Until then, take care.