Friday, 31 August 2012

Inokashira Park Zoo and Aquarium

I wasn't thinking of doing much today. Probably study and read (more reading than studying though), maybe get Rena to go with me to Saeki for some groceries later. But, around 11, Rena called me.

"I'm bored, let's go out." (not an exact quote)

And with that, my day changed.

After a quick discussion, we decided to the Inokashira Park Zoo (or as we knew it, the zoo at Mitaka). This was partly because it was close (I refused to take a one hour train ride to go somewhere) and because it involves animals (Rena saw the picture of the elephant and squirrels and decided we should go).

So after realising it's actually closer to Kichijoji than Mitaka, and getting a little lost along the way, we finally made it to the zoo. Well, it's nothing like the Singapore Zoo (I don't think any zoo can be as awesome as that), but it was really cute and we had a lot of fun.


Rena's favourite part of the zoo turned out to be the monkeys, and mine turned out to be the squirrels:

Apparently, they sleep like this when the weather is hot.
Well, actually, I was most preoccupied with finishing the Youkai and Animal booklet. It's like a treasure hunt, where you visit the different exhibits and answer a question using stamps (I'm turning into a fan of stamps now!). The booklet is really cute, and sadly, it's today was the last day (but it's a really lucky thing for us that we went today ^^)

After the zoo and aquarium (the aquarium is at a separate place, and the fee is included in the ticket. It wasn't as fun though...) we walked along a part of Kichijoji we didn't normally go. And we found so much stuff! Like an Afghanistan Bazar, where we broke our "no clothes for two months" promise with a really pretty long skirt each, and Pancake Days! It's a really cute shop and got us planning our mid-career change already!

My caramelised Banana and Chocolate pancake was delicious! Sadly, the top fell off before I could get a photo.

If you're wondering about the price breakdown, well, like Rena said, money flowed like water today. The zoo itself wasn't expensive (tickets for Adults are 400 yen, but it's much cheaper for kids and the elderly), but Pancake Days was quite expensive (my pancake costs 900 yen).

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Kendo Camp (剣道合宿)

Alright, I'm finally back and in a reasonable shape to type out a long long blog post. Of what happened in 6 days of Kendo camp. Alright, I'm tired again, bye.

Okok, I'm kidding (partially). But I'm not joking when I say that it's really really tiring. My daily schedule went something like this

Wake up at 5.30 am (technically, we can wake up at 6, but I don't like to jostle for a limited number of sinks).

Get to the field by 6.30 for morning excecise. This is actually really fun, because we play games like dodgeball and police and theif.

7.30 - breakfast! Depending on what team is on duty, I may or may not have to go early to set up the meal. Plus, while eating, we need to anticipate when our senpai's need more rice or tea and give it to them before they ask (we're more successful for tea than for rice). This happens three times a day - breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Morning practice lasts from 9.30 to 11.30. But, as first years, we go there half an hour early to open up the place and prepare everything. We also leave the latest because we have to clean and lock-up the place.

Lunch, and then afternoon practice. After that is dinner, and by then, all you want to do is sleep.

But since there were 7 of us first years, it was actually pretty fun. Plus, we didn't have practice all the time. On evening of the fourth day, there was a BBQ, and on the fifth day, there was a tournament, the watermelon game and a celebratory dinner!

Rena is a ....watermelon master. This was the first time she played スイカ割り(suica-wari) and she split the watermelon in a near perfect half!

Plus, the place is georgeous:

This is the view of the lake. The temperature of the lake water was
perfect. I wish I could have swam.

You know, we first years actually wanted to do a marathon round the lake in our free time (well, I wanted to be the judge and make my friends run, but same thing!), but we didn't have enough time. But we did have fun playing by the lake.

And on the last night, at the 宴会(enkai - banquet), we had a surprise! All the senpai's give presents to their juniors, so as the youngest members, we got the most presents. But more important than the presents (although I was way happy to get a manga), would be the notes that the senpai's wrote for us. I was really touched reading the notes they wrote to me, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one. It made all the hard work worth it.

Right now, we're busy preparing for a tournament we're hosting on Sunday. Isn't it a great way to end the summer holidays? (Literally, I start school on Monday).

Monday, 27 August 2012

Random or Trolling?

I'm back! The last six days in Nagano have been really tiring but fun. I have so much to tell you. But, I'm too tired to do lots of typing now. I have kendo practice tomorrow morning, so I want to sleep. Just like today actually ^^

But what I wanted to share was something I saw at BookOff in Kichijoji. We (Simone and I) were browsing the 300 yen racks when we noticed the placement of the books. It may just be us (being ourselves or sleep deprived or both), but we cracked up.


I wonder if the employees knew what they were doing when they placed Why Buildings Stand Up next to Structures (or why things don't fall down).

Monday, 20 August 2012

SM Audition

Well, after I came back from camp, I went to SM Entertainment Audition (the next day, which was why I looked so tired the whole times). To be honest, I'm not a big fan of KPop, but I did promise Simone that I would go with her....

Although I had to miss the main service, I'm so thankful that I managed to go for Youth Service beforehand (especially since kendo camp ends on Sunday.... :/). After that, I met up with Simone (she get ready in time for Church) and went to Shinagawa.

When we got there, Simone immediately honed in on the other non-Asian foreigners. Well, the only other girl we saw is from Russia and she's a really good dancer. She's in a dance group and she does covers of KPop songs. In fact, she's met Shinee and a few other groups when they come to judge the dance perfomances! -so cool-

The audition itself was very short. When registration opened, you simply get a form and write your details on it. After that, you submit the form, get a sticker and then go into a hall to wait.



The hall itself had a huge screen where they played different music videos. And since my number was quite short (B17) so I got to go in quite fast. We went in in groups of 10, and had to either sing/pose/act on the spot. In the room was this stern looking lady and another lady working the video camera. I got to sing Wicked's For Good so I'm happy ^^. Plus, they asked this girl in my group to sing more, so I may have met a future KPop star!

I suppose you could say that it was an interesting experience. I probably won't get to do it again because the cut-off age is 19/20. Well, they really want to get the young kids (I saw some seriously young looking applicants O.O)

Me, I'm...not so young :p
See you after my Kendo Camp!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Calvery Chapel Youth Camp 2012

I came back from Church camp recently. It was a really wonderful experience because of the fellowship and the chance to hear the Word of God. Although, almost everyone there was Japanese, so I had to work pretty hard to understand what was going on and articulate my thoughts.

Anyway, I just want to share some photos I took from the camp. One of the major highlights was going to the river on the second day (I jumped from a 3 metre high ledge!) and playing fire-works at night (sadly, I didn't take any pictures. I was having fun!)

The river!

It was really deep and refreshing and... I wanna go back!
The view from my room, we were in a mountain(:

Takeaways from the camp <3
I hope you enjoy the pictures. I'm leaving for kendo camp on Tuesday, but I'll do a post tomorrow if I have time. I'll either post about the SM audition or about food. Hmm... does anyone have a preference?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Hokkaido Trip Part 5: Sapporo

Welcome to the last post in this series! If you've missed the first few posts, you can always go back and read about the Hokutosei, Furano, Shakotan and Otaru. So without further ado, let the photo-diarism (I don't think I can call it photojournalism with a straight face) begin!

I don't have any photos for this, but for our stay in Sapporo, we stayed at Jimmyz Backpackers, which was really conveniently located and fairly cheap. And as proof that Singaporeans love Japan, we met another Singaporean there. I was a bit hesitant about staying in hostels at first, but after making so many friends, I have nothing but good things to say about it!

One of the highlights of Sapporo would be going to the Shiroi Koibito Factory/Park!

It even looks like a chocolate factory!
 Outside the factory, the grounds are beautiful and full of whimsical things like these tiny houses.

You know it's tiny when I have to bend down to enter!
And in general is beautiful
 You have to pay to go in the factory, but it's worth it! (And no, not because you get one free biscuit)
 In the factory, you not only get to see how the famed biscuits are made, there's also a history of chocolate and a lot of pretty exhibits to see. But speaking of the biscuits, I learnt that if you work in Quality Control, part of the job involves tasting the biscuits. Hmm.....

Apart from the Factory, I really wanted to visit Hokkaido University (I admit it! I'm... I'm a nerd!). But seriously speaking, this huge university is very pretty. There's even a river in the grounds!

 And Hokkaido University was greatly influenced by Clark, who coined the famous phrase "Boys, be ambitious!"
 There's also a museum in the university! Most of the exhibits are only explained in Japanese, but it's still quite fun to see (and anyway, it's free). I think my favourite exhibit was this:
I got a strange look from the Japanese lady as I was taking this photo...
And in Hokkaido, one of the must-eat food would be Miso Ramen!


Apart from eating and visiting those two places, I was quite lazy, spending one whole day at an onsen. But it was so relaxing I don't regret it :D

And this concludes my Hokkaido trip! And just in time too, tomorrow, I'm heading off the Church camp! I'm not bringing my Nikon, but I'll try to take some photos with my phone and share them with you(:

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Hokkaido Trip Part 4: Otaru

Because Shakotan is further away from Otaru than expected, we only spent about a day and a half there. But because we wanted to go to different things, we ended up splitting up and exploring Otaru ourselves.

It's quite hard to tell you what I did in an interesting way, so I'll just post the photos and explain them:

Otaru Canal - I think Otaru Canal is one of the most famous attractions in Otaru, much like the Singapore river I suppose. The only thing is that the Otaru Canal is prettier (or I could be more jaded with regards to Singapore). You can walk to it from Otaru station quite easily, and there are a few vendors hawking their wares along the river. Apart from things like pictures (there were quite a lot of pictures), you can also get a rickshaw ride here)

 The Music Box Museum. It's really more of a huge music box shop, which is why I didn't get much (I don't need things that make it harder to clean, and my brother might break a music box). But even if you don't intend to buy anything, you can still enjoy looking at the different music boxes.
Outside the museum, there is this huge clock, which plays a tune every hour (or was it 15 minutes). If you have time to kill, you can sit at one of the nearby benches and wait(:

 I think I saw the most soft-serve ice-cream shops in Otaru (although Hokkaido has them everywhere!). They have all sorts of flavours too, so do yourself a favour and make sure you're hungry enough to try a few. My favourite would be the ice-cream in the picture below:
Yup, the Shiroi Koibito ice-cream (you can also get it in their factory in Sapporo).

 I was lucky because we came when there was a festival! To me, this is one of the good things of going to Hokkaido in the summer - the summer festivals! Actually, that's the good thing about being in Japan during the summer. You can get really delicious food like:
 Grilled Clams. So delicious, and about 200 yen.
 And different types of sweets. Although really, you could probably get this anytime of the year in any part of Japan. Or you know, even out of Japan if Japanese food is popular in your country. But, it's really different when you're eating it and watching a performance like this:
Because that makes everything special and different. Especially if you see this:

I suddenly forgot the name of this, but it is quite fun to watch.

 In addition, there was an Otaru Glass festival at the abandoned railway (Singapore should do something like that!). Although the prices of everything was a bit too high for me (but after seeing how much effort it takes, I think it's fair. Fair but out of my reach), there are still really cute things to see, like this:
 Wind chimes wearing clothes. How cute is that?
And live performances. We listened to this singer called ガァ助 and he's really good. Too bad he didn't have a CD we could buy though (we were really gonna support him and get a CD haha).

The next and last part of this would be our final destination - Sapporo!

If you've missed the earlier parts of this travel series, you can find the links to them here:

Part 1: The journey there
Part 2: Furano
Part 3: Shakotan

Friday, 10 August 2012

Happy Birthday Singapore~

I'm taking a trip between the Hokkaido travel narrative/blog posts to tell you about National Day. You see, August 9th is National Day in Singapore, the day we celebrate our independence (although to be honest, no one wanted to be independent then). Yesterday was the second year where I wasn't in Singapore during National Day (the first year was about two years ago. I was in China back then). So, I invited my two good friends - Stella and Simone to come and celebrate with me/watch the National Day Parade (NDP).

I think one thing the organisers did right was to have a live streaming (because nothing replaces the live streaming). The picture is of one of the Red Lion Jumpers as they land.

Of course, there were snacks:

Cake

What? It IS Singapore's birthday after all
 A National Day Costume (I need to get a red shirt... oh wait, I just remembered that I DO own a red shirt....OTL):

And awesome friends to watch with me. Stella even helped me to make the Singapore flag to wave about (I was probably more enthusiastic than the previous years):


I was also really touched when they both stood with me to sing the National Anthem and say the Pledge. (And Stella was really looking for Lee Kuan Yew). And of course, there was the NDP Song medley. I still say that the best song of all time is Home by Kit Chan (do you know they had music videos in 1998?)

The highlights of this year's show was that it's proof that Singapore is so small (or you know, that I have an insanely large family). To start with the one person I'm not related to, the little girl who sang part of the NDP song is my junior (she's from MGS Primary) and my mom taught her sister. The guy playing the piano is my uncle (after my cohort mates and I went to his concert once, I was asked for the next week to get them dates with him. Um, well, the girls in my school really like music). And the oldest Red Lion Jumper (only one of the coolest parts of the show) is very very distantly related to me.

Happy Birthday Singapore.
"This is home, truly~~~"

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Hokkaido Trip Part 3: Shakotan

If you missed the previous posts, you can read about Part 1 and Part 2 here.

Due to my astounding lack of geography, I booked a three night stay at Refore Youth Hostel in Shakotan. Evidently, I cannot estimate traveling times with accuracy despite having the aid of the internet. But I don't regret it. Being further from Otaru than we thought led us to spend more time in Shakotan.

Before I talk about Shakotan in general, can I mention how wonderful sleeping in a 和室(wa-shitsu - Japanese style room) is? I love 畳(tatami), 布団(futons) and everything that comes with it. It's a wonderful feeling.



And I'd really like to recommend Refore Youth Hostel. I booked them from Jalan.net but they have a website here. I would really stay there again just for the customer service alone. You see, before we even left for our trip, they kindly mailed us a guidebook of Shakotan. And while we were there, we were treated very well.

Before I come to the food, there are the people themselves. For the three days we were there, they ferried us around, from bringing us to see the sunset on the first night (picture below) to always driving us to the bus station so that we could get around. And when they found out that I didn't drink coffee, they automatically switched to tea for me.

Ok, now for the food. We signed up for breakfast and dinner, but in reality, we were fed four times a day. Breakfast and dinner were two large meals. In addition, we had "tea time" (around 4p.m) and desert time (at 9 pm). And even if we missed tea time, we would still get the cake at desert time. And all their food was delicious (I love this squid stuffed with mochi rice dish they served on the first night!)

A Typical Breakfast
Dinner was too big, so here's the left hand side.

And the right hand side


Within Shakotan, there is the glass-bottom boat and the hotspring. Both are really fun and after four years, I got to feed the seagulls with break crusts again! The boat-people even brought out and hung the Singapore flag for us.



As for the onsen. Well, I really really love them so much. And in a bit of self-promotion, recently, I wrote a piece on onsen at MindChicClub. But to get there, we walked the whole day (on purpose), and as a result, I have very strange tan lines (apart from the t-shirt tan, I have sandal strap tans). I think if it wasn't for the photos, people wouldn't believe that I went to hokkaido.

The true beauty of Shakotan is their scenary. There are all the interesting rocks (that have really interesting shapes) and of course, Kamui Misaki. Shakotan may be less well-known, but if you can speak reasonable Japanese, you should go there.

Can you see the face in this rock?


And now, the photo section~

Another interesting head-shaped rock

The sunset that the owners of Refore brought us to see.

Seagull

I think they're my new favourite birds


Kamui Misaki
Next, I'll cover our day trip to Otaru ^^