Sunday, 30 December 2012

Road Trip to Nikko!

So, let's end the year with a travel experience!

I'm really indebted to Yinghui, who invited me to this one-day road trip and slowed my descent into becoming a "hikikomori". Because of that, I woke up around 5 a.m. yesterday to get ready for my trip to Nikko (in Tochiji-ken)

It's about two hours away by car, which is definitely faster than the train or bus. But ever since I came to Japan, I get carsick easily (I'm way too used to trains). Coupled with the really awful turns, I more or less made myself sleep the way there and back (I'm not very good company).

And unlike Tokyo, Nikko was snowing/had snow! I would show you a picture of a magnificent waterfall, but it was so foggy we couldn't see anything. It looked awesome on Google Search Image results though.

We did manage to see this tiny waterfall though. Unlike the huge one, it's free to see. And I think it's quite cool to see and hear the water flowing with the snow.

You can see the waterfall in the back ground of this picture right?

Nikko is also known for Yuba, which is the skin of the tofu. So for lunch, I had Yuba Udon! I missed the taste of Udon (I think it's a winter noodle(;). The Yuba is the round thing that's in focus in the photo.

 We also went to see this lake. It was still quite foggy, but so gorgeous with the snow! And before we even got to the lake, we were playing with snow. There were the numerous snowballs, the snow angels (ok, that was just me and Yinghui) and a snowball fight (I volunteered to be the photographer).
I actually think that the mist looks quite cool with the lake. There was a movie that had the words "mist" and "lake" in the title right?

 Next was the moor. I've seen the word in the Secret Garden, but I didn't really know what it means.
It looks like a field though. But I'm told that in summer, people come here to watch birds.


Our last stop, before going to an onsen, was this place -温泉の元 (onsen no moto - the origin of the hotspring). This is a sulphuric hotspring (and yes, I spell sulphur with a "ph". I think it looks way better than sulfur with an "f")

 I'm not very sure what the house-like structures are for though.
If you know, please tell me!

For dinner, we drove back to Tokyo to eat at this hole-in-the-wall. Look at the queue!

I could torment you with descriptions of the melt-in-your-mouth tonkatsu, but I shall be nice and refrain from doing so. Let me just say that Stephanie, who was carsick on the way back (much much worse than me, she actually threw up), ate a fair bit of this despite having no appetite ^^

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

So, yesterday was my first Christmas in Japan/away from my home. Since everyone went away (either back or to meet their families in another part of Japan), I was pretty much all alone. Thankfully, the Church was open, so I spent the whole day hanging out there.

But I do treasure the few presents I got this year:

And at least I got to eat a Christmas cake with Rena on Christmas Eve :D

The two of us are very proud of this little cake because it was quite cheap (below a thousand), tasted good, and we didn't have to queue very long for it ^^

We both realised that Christmas is when we crave Western food. I really do wonder what will happen during Chinese New Year.

Once again: メリークリスマス!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Having Fun With My Family

This week, my family came for a quick trip to Japan (they arrived Sunday, left Thursday). I didn't get to join them in Yamanashi, but I did meet them at Yokohama. It was quite fun, since we were on a tour (and on our free day, we went to Disneyland), but there was so little time! And the problem with tours are the early wake up calls :/ It took me two days to regain the sleep debt and catch up on whatever needs to be done on the Internet.

As usual, here are some photos from my trips (I love photos! So bear with all these attempts at photojournalism). The only thing is that this time, I forgot my camera and was only using my phone. So if you think I'm terrible, well, there are less photos(;

My Little brother looking out the window at Yokohama

Night view of Yokohama

A present from my brother

On the Shinkansen to Tokyo!

Lunch!

Asakusa

We basically just went shopping

And um, instagramming photos

Odaiba's Statue of Liberty and Raimbow Bridge
Closer look at the statue

View from the Ferries Wheel


Another view

haha, I'm too happy with the cap and
scarf that I got. 

Christmas tree at Disneyland

Lunch at Disneyland(;

The castle <3 

At night!

Probably the best shot I could take of the fireworks 

Strawberries that my grandad gave me ^^
It was fun~

Saturday, 15 December 2012

My First Kendo Competition (初めての剣道の試合)

Alright, I'm finally ready to share about my first Kendo competition.

So um, I guess I should start with training:


My biggest change in training (apart from doing the same thing as everyone, as opposed to when I was doing only the easier moves), was this form of circle training. I can't remember the name, but we stand in a circle, and two of us have a match at any given time. The winner (determined by sensei) will be challenged by someone that's forming the circle. I'm quite shy, but I did push myself forward to challenge senpai-tachi. And occasionally, I would actually gain a hit.

And after training (and worrying, because the competition and my exams were around the same time), it was finally the day for the 関東女子学生剣道新人戦 (Girls Amateur Competition). And even though the English translation is "amateur", most of the participants were actually of a high level. As far as I can figure out, it was because this competition is for those who are new to the University, not those new to Kendo.

One the day of the competition, I was actually feeling pretty sick. I basically spent the week before with some sort of stomach bug, so I'd puked every single day before the competition. To put it short, I was not in any condition to fight.

But thank God, I didn't have to. We were a team of four, and our first match was against a team of three. So as the weakest/sickest member, I didn't have to fight. I was really grateful, since I vomited twice during the competition.

Sadly, we lost the match, but looking at my friends, especially Simone fight, I was so amazed at how good they were. I was especially proud of Simone, because we started at the same time, and she was amazing. Like the kantoku said, she used a variety of strokes (men, do, kote), and she was on offensive. It was so amazing, watching her fight.

For me, that was why going to the competition was worth it. Perhaps next time I'm in a competition, I can tell you guys what it was like to actually fight(;

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Post-Exam Wrap-Up

I thought of making this post about the long-ago kendo competition, but I can't write a post that requires me to show happiness while I'm doing all I can not to break down in tears.

You see, I got THE RESULTS (the one that determines your university) today.

And being me, I'm focusing on my weakest point, or to put it another way, my lowest score. Maths.

Even though I've done math for the past 12 years. And even though my marks weren't that terrible in Singapore, I'm still the worst in class now. Which effectively ruins my chances to go to my dream university.

I could say that it's because we're not allowed formula sheets in the exam (and talk about how unnecessary that is, since with the internet, looking up formulas is easy).

I could say it's because we weren't allowed calculators (in which case, what is the calculator for)

I could give a lot of excuses, but they're just that. Excuses. I'm the one that did badly, I'm the one that can't do math, and I shouldn't be blaming it on a different system.

So to all my future juniors, let this be one piece of advice to you. Although I love to encourage you guys to apply, before you come, think about how good you are with academic pressure. Sure, come here and have fun, but make sure you're ok with studying hard, or you're ok not going to a brand-name university.

And on a related note, here's a piece of information I was told today. One of the scholars got expelled for cheating - twice. If you cheat once, I could say that you're under pressure. If you cheat twice, it makes me think you have nothing but contempt for the system. And right now, having studied so hard but did so badly, I have no sympathy for cheaters.

In other words, don't come here if you can't study.

Right now, I'm just sad. I feel like I'm letting my Junior College (that's high school for most of you) down. I see my friends going to Harvard, to Cambridge, to Kings, to Hong Kong Univeristy, to NUS, and here I am, struggling. My school was tough, and we have a winner mindset. So now that I feel like I'm letting my school down, I feel just terrible.

And I have this up ahead:

University applications.

Frankly, I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm going to have to rethink everything.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Random Musings: Lifelogging Part 2 (クローズアップ現代ライフログ)

Yesterday, my class and I watched the second part of the Lifeblogging episode. If you haven't heard of it, I talked about it in a previous post here.

This week, we focused on a guy (Okuno-san) who lifeblogs by hand. He has a whole bunch of notebooks, which he fills with photos and writings. His reason for lifeblogging was because he felt his life didn't hold meaning, so he started a lifelog to note all the good things that happened to him. And now, he says that he feels as though his life is richer.

Personally. I think this sounds more like a diary.

And yes, my class preferred this guy to the other guy, who records down the time and date of everything he does. He is literally logging his life, while Okuno-san writes down what happens, as well as his emotions. Which lead to stronger feelings of 懐かしい (natsukashii).

Before I start talking about my feelings, let me share this interesting gadget I saw in the latest issue of The Next Web's magazine:

I have a feeling this is for the guy that records what time he brushes his teeth. But seriously, won't you feel overwhelmed? How much time will you spend picking out photos? (Face it, even if you let the machine pick out, you'll have this paranoid fear that it threw away the best photo of the day by accident).

As someone who has a drawer full of random notebooks, I can identify way more with Okuno-san, who seems to be keeping more of a very frequent diary than a lifelog. Unlike last week, I can actually see myself doing this, if let's say, I was doing a trip across Europe, and want to take down everything by hand. I'll probably be sticking in polaroids, doodling, and ending up with an awesome memoto.

This is, by the way, the function of my many notebooks. I don't throw them away, even the school diaries, because I tend to doodle in them throughout the year. I find it fun to occasional take them out (even the barely written in ones), and flip threw them. It tends to bring me down memory lane.

This year's diary/schedule book
How about you? Did you, like me, change your perspective on lifelogging when you heard about the pen-and-paper option ? I certainly like keeping diaries, even if I don't write in them everyday. I find it helps me to reflect.

On an unrelated note, my exams start this week, so I won't have time to post until they end next week. So sorry, the kendo post will be very late, and the momiji-gari post is going to be so overdue I should pay a fine.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Momiji-Gari (紅葉狩り)

Sorry for the very late post! (And now, I'm behind, since I want to share about kendo soon). But it took me sometime to edit the pictures, and you have the honour (if you want to consider it that) of being the first to view the edited photos (before I put them on 500px) that I managed to do. Some photos aren't edited though.

 Let's start with the place. I went for Momiji-gari at Okutama, about two hours away from my dorm. Which means that it's still in Tokyo (or very close), but a completely who different side of Tokyo. 

 I was "hunting" for this elusive prey.

Although completely by accident, we also got some free yuzu from a few really kind farmers. 
(Also, I'm sorry for accidentally poking you with a thorn Glen)

 I love love love the views!

But the trail is no joke. It's very narrow at times, very steep at times, and there are times with no railings (and yes, there are times when all these happen at the same time)

 Although Momiji are supposed to be prettiest red, I quite like the gradient colours too!

More awesome scenery. 

Remember, if you're in Japan during Autumn, you have to go for this. Even if you don't take photographs, just drink in the view! 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

NaNoWriMo - I An Officially A Winner!

I did it! Today, in exactly four weeks! I've written just over 50 000 words. Granted, they're not very good words, but this is the longest piece of fiction I've ever written. I even have a cool looking Certificate, that is a PDF file, so you'll have to wait a little longer for the image.

In the meantime, enjoy the biggest badge they have :D

Ok fine, I enlarged it anyway. I'm way too happy. 

You may be wondering what my plans are after NaNo. Well, I'm going to ask/burden my friends with the novel, and hopefully not see it for however long they take to read it. When it gets returned, then, well, we'll see. I haven't made any plans yet. I'm just too happy to have actually won.

Yeah. Basically psyched to have won on my first year. I might even take part again next year, if I have an idea.

To everyone else. It's just a little bit more! You can do it too!

EDIT: I forgot about this yesterday because I was a bit of a rush (I had a test today), but I should definitely mention that I couldn't do this without two groups of people.

The first group would be my awesome friends - Becks, Nic and Ray (yay! Alphabetical order!), who, although they gave up on Day 1, kept encouraging me the whole month. Thanks for listening to me complain about writing, and for offering to Beta Read despite how busy all of you are.

The second, no less awesome group, would be the Google+ crowd. It was basically all your daily posts, updates that kept me going, and the encouraging messages I got. You are all awesome people, and I would be happy to help you in anyway I can. Hopefully, we'll all be doing NaNo together next year too!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Random Musings: Lifelogging (クローズアップ現代ライフログ)

Image taken from NHK
Every Monday, my class does this really interesting listening practice, where we listen to actual news, as well as watch and discuss this NHK sereis called クローズアップ現代 (Close Up Today). It's like a talk-show, exploring one concept in detail each episode. Today's episode is on LifeLogging and it's a really interesting concept.

Some kind person took a screenshot of the topic. 
I couldn't find the whole video, but NHK has put up the introduction and a write up in the link here. If you can read/listen to Japanese, you should take a look before continuing this post.

For those that can't read Japanese, Lifeblogging is this concept where you record every single thing you do. We saw people who obsessively take photos to document the experience, a guy who records the time of every activity (even brushing his teeth) he does and even a person who uses an app to remember to keep in touch with this friends.

Personally, we think (and I think) that this is too far. We have blogs and facebook, but none of us feel the need to tell the world what we're doing at every second (if I start doing this, unfollow me). In particular, we all disagreed with the "remember to connect with friends app". I can understand if you're using this to sustain business connections, but isn't it always better to develop a friendship with a person out of genuine interest rather than having an app remind you to do it?

And really, it's too time consuming. Perhaps I'm lazy, but I don't know how I'm supposed to find the time to record everything. I suspect I'll end up recording life instead of actually living it.

Which brings me to my main point. A lot of times, people use photos and stuff to record their lives. Nothing wrong with that, only that if you're forever behind a camera, you fail to actually experience the event. I take loads of photos, but I do that because I'm moved (by some sort of emotion), rather than from a goal to record my whole life.

Sometimes, I think life is more interesting when 懐かしい(natsukashii - it um, it means, roughly, looking back fondly on the past). The guy who records every detail of his life? He says that now, when he looks at the images from the past, it no longer holds any nostalgia for him. How sad.

I still hold lots of fond memories of my first trip to Japan, and trust me, the parts I remember and love the best, I didn't take photos. The photos do jog the memory now and then, but I trust that I will always remember the important parts.

To me, there's no point in outsourcing my memories to the computer.

What do you think? Am I making sense? Or is keeping a lifelog a sensible thing?

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Instant Ramen Reviews #2

Oops, I forgot to write this. In fact, I think I'll have only tried two kinds of Ramen before Euphe comes. Sorry Euphe! I'll do more research and bring back the kinds you'll like the next time I come back!



Alright, this ramen is supposed to be pork curry instant ramen. If you like Japanese curry, this is definitely for you. It comes with a few packets, like the first one I tried. And yeah, I remembered to take a photo this time.



And this is the ramen after it's been prepared.



It really does taste like curry, although for someone like me, who is on the "amai, sweet" scale (read: no spiciness at all) scale of curry, it may be a little too hot. But only if you're as sensitive as me.

And amazingly, there were bits of meat in the noodles! It was very very little, but it was recognisably meat. But still, you shouldn't assume that it makes this healthier, the amount will meat meet no daily calorie requirements (except for the fat/carbohydrate ones).

This is for curry fans!