Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year's Eve

Just wanted to say goodbye to 2015 (I'll say hello tomorrow).

Anyway, the biggest thing that happened to me this year would be that I entered zemi! I've had the introduction zemi classes, but being in an actual class feels totally different. Even though having two zemi is pretty difficult, I'm still glad I chose to do two, especially since my sub-zemi is so awesome. I'm really learning a lot, and I managed to make a lot of friends.

Even if I do feel like I've gone back to AC, with the male:female ratio (actually, I think the ratio here is even worse).

Today has been a pretty quiet day. I was working on my sub-zemi essay, although I managed to go out a little as well. I went to BookOff (because the last shop I visit should be a bookshop), and managed to buy this:


The professor Layton and Ace Attorney crossover!! Super excited to play it, though I need to finish the essay first.

Although right now, I'm being very distracted by Kouhaku, as always. 


良いお年を!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Kumamoto Weekend Trip Highlights

a.k.a Things I learnt about my cousins.

As you know, my cousins came for a week in December! So, I took them to Kumamoto. The trip was largely like last year's trip with my uncle and aunty, only that we had less time, and hence only went to Aso Farmland and Mount Aso. But, I did learn a few new things, so time for me to share.

1. Capybara are cute. Everyone loves Capybara
Addendum: Capybara (and the other animal which I can't identify) are also smart enough to show you love in exchange for food. No food = no love.

Pretty cousin with cup of food.
 While we were at Aso Farmland's petting zoo, my cousin decided to buy a cup of feed. That was the moment the animals decided we were worthy of their attention. That is how this happened:


And these animals were smart enough to only swarm the person holding the cup (unless you also happen to have food. They love their food.


Also, they're smart enough to plan an escape. Good thing the zookeepers are equally smart, and know how to watch out for them.


And that is how we got a selfie with the capybara


And got the capybara to come close to the camera lens. (Dear Capybara, my camera is not food. Thank you)



2. My cousin is beautiful, but a picture with her in it doesn't get as many likes as a picture of the sunset (sadly).


On the bright side, her fiance loved the photo, so that makes it a win in my eyes.


3. If you're going to Mount Aso, buy the one day bus ticket.

Plus, the ticket also gives you access to the Aso Super Ring. Because if you hit all three stops and the super ring... the bus ticket becomes very worthwhile. And one day tickets are always more convenient, in my opinion. No need to dig around for change. 

And, you can buy this at the counter (next to Aso Station), which further eliminates the need to find change to buy it from the ticket machine. 


This is the ticket. 
Oh, and a quick review of Aso Super Ring - it's basically a short (5 minutes?) projection mapping show of Aso. It introduces the various seasons, and then takes you on a trip into the volcano. And then there's a mini-story at the end (sort of? It introduces a situation, at the very least).

If you can't go to the crater area (and apparently it's currently off limits, because of volcanic activity), then it might be a sort of substitute. But if it wasn't part of the bus pass, I probably wouldn't have gone. Ok, I might have gone once, but not twice (unless I go with someone who wants to go, in which case...)


4. I am never going to get tired of the view. 

Exhibit 1:


Exhibit 2 (not at Aso yet though):


Exhibit 3:


Saturday, 26 December 2015

Happy Boxing Day (Merry Christmas!)

So, Christmas has come and go, and my one and a half week break has finally started! (Finally, I can sleep in!).

Yesterday was Christmas, and I spent the whole day in school. From 10:30 am to 9 pm. Good thing I bought cake.

By the way, this is what my fridge looked like in the morning:

There was no space ><
Anyway, after 産業政策, we had the first cake of the day.

CAKEEEEE
 It was quite funny, because I think more people showed up than usual. Must be the draw of the cake.

MINE
After the first cake, I went to prepare for the presentation. I actually had the second cake stashed in my friend's house, so when class started, I was just on the lookout for cake. The cake itself caused quite a commotion, because I only told the third years about it (and I think they didn't really believe me).

Cake number too!

It was kind of funny - my cake cutting skills are terrible. My teacher asked me "why are you cutting the cake horizontally?" (I wanted to separate the two layers).

But we managed to get it into 18 parts, somehow. Thankfully there were two layers.


And it was a good thing we had cake too. Our presentation was quite terrible, so the cake managed to mitigate everything. 

After presentations, it was the end of the school day, and I spent the rest of Christmas in the house, getting ready to sleep.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas (or at least didn't have it in school), and have a great last few days of 2015!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Zemi Presents :D

Merry (almost) Christmas everyone!!!

I hope you're on holidays, and don't have to go to school. I have to, but I also have Christmas cake(s) prepared tomorrow, so it won't be too bad, I hope. I'll let everyone know how Christmas went tomorrow or by Boxing Day.

Anyway, I just wanted to share what I've been making for my zemis this year. Basically, I wanted to feed them (more) sweets, and decided to make a nutella fudge plus candy cane marshmallow pops. Everything had candy cane in it.


The fudge
The recipe from the fudge came from here, although I used a lot less icing sugar than the instructions recommended. Then again, it's possible I made a mistake when converting to grams. This was totally not five minutes though.

Candy Cane Marshmallow Pops
The candy pops were easier to make, just troublesome. Today, I'll be making this for tomorrow's zemi.

And, I got little card-tag things (38 yen for 2), and I'll be writing messages to everyone on them.


And when it's done, the presents look like these:


Now, I've got to go back to work, making the marshmallow pops!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Christmas Illuminations 2015: Huis Ten Bosch

Hey everyone!! I just realised I haven't done any illumination posts this year! Well, I haven't really been anywhere, but the Huis Ten Bosch illuminations are even better this year! Apart from the multi-colour river of light, they now have waterfall of light from the Domtorem. And a balloon street.

By the way, I did take photos with my DSLR, but I've been lazy and haven't done any editing. These are all my iPhone shots, but if I somehow took some really good ones with my DSLR, I'll share them later(:

Before we start, here's a sunset photo. Just cause I thought it was pretty.



First up - what's new:

1. Bungee Jumping Thing

Yes, there's a bungee jumping platform, so you can have a look at the illuminations before you fling yourself off and wait for the rope to extend. I really wanted to go, but we were on a tight schedule, so sadly, I only have a photo of it in a panorama.

It's the T-shaped thing on the right. 

2. Waterfall of Light.

No idea if this is the correct name, but pictures of it are EVERYWHERE in Fukuoka. If they're advertising for Huis Ten Bosch, they have this.


And, the waterfall changes colours! In this picture, it's all rainbow coloured, but in the closeup, it's blue. Ready for the close up?

3

2

1


I could stare at it for a long, long time. Too bad it was really cold, and I had a lot of things I wanted to see.

3. Balloon Street

I believe during the summer months, this street was a umbrella street (my friend says it's pretty cool), but now, it's a balloon street! In the day, it's there, looking all pretty:

Although there are sticks handing down as well.
And at night, it sort of lights up!


I believe there's an illumination show, but we were eating when it happened so....

Others: I believe there's also the begonia garden of light or something like that, but so much to see, too little time. These were really the main three points that were new to me this year, and yes, I found it worth the visit. And for those wondering about the train (last direct train ends pretty early), you should consider the bus. The last bus is at 8pm, so that's about 3 hours (maybe 2 and a half?) of darkness to rush around and see all the illuminations.

And the rest of the photos are of places you may have already seen, but I still find pretty.


The parade!! I remember participating with my sisters, but this time, we just happened to be in its path and was happily watching from the sidelines.

I think this is the mascot? 

And strangely enough, when we went for the illumination show at the horror-house place (It's called Fantasy something, my mind suddenly cant' remember the proper name), I was shocked at how little people there were. Time to take a clear panorama.


I guess most people wanted to see the projection mapping show, not the illumination one (they split it into two this year). The illumination was pretty cool though - I just wish they blended the various songs together better.

And of course, my favourite river:


Now with a waterfall of light in the background :D

And I managed to go up to Domtorem this year! Did not lose my card (although that isn't actually an accomplishment)


And last but not least, the famous windmills!! I cannot wait to come back here for the tulip/sakura season!! Even if I have to go alone. But hopefully not.


Saturday, 19 December 2015

Pre-Christmas Update

Hey everyone!! Hope you're all in holiday mode, since Christmas is LESS THAN A WEEK AWAY. (I have no idea why I put that in caps. I guess it finally hit me Christmas is coming. Go Christmas songs!)

Anyway, updates on what I've been up to, and why I've been so quiet. My cousins came to Fukuoka, so my mom showed them around before she went home, and then I showed them around after she went home. We managed to go to Kumamoto for the weekend, which was really fun. I'll probably do a quick post, this week, since I do have stuff I want to share (although it'd be my nth time posting about Kumamoto hahaha.) I think there was some new stuff too, but I can't quite remember what it is. Oh, and I went to see the illuminations at Huis Ten Bosch with Ben this week. Definitely a photo post coming up soon :D

Oh, oh, oh! And I got a copy of the DVD of the Kimono Fashion Show in Kyoto (Day 1 recap here, and Day 2 recap here). I only screen-grabbed the scene which I was in, because the entire thing is 2 hours long and I don't think they'll be happy if it gets onto Youtube without permission.




For the school side, one of my zemi teachers has entered all of us in an essay contest, and since the topics just came out, we're now rushing to get the essay out in time. We're also doing our best to find a way to link our research topic (Industrie 4.0) with Digital Marketing and Artificial Intelligence. The AI part and Industrie 4.0 is not too bad, since we have the Internet of Things, but the marketing one is going to be a bit of a stretch. So while I want to blog about the trips (which I enjoyed, but also gave me some guilt about not being there for meetings), I may or may not have the time. Everything else on the school front is relatively quiet, like the calm before the storm.


As for the job hunting side of things... let's just say I'm back at square one again. Unfortunately. But I still have six months to go, so I won't be giving up that easily!

So yes, the plenty-of-things paradox has kicked in. I have things to blog about, but no time to blog. I shall see if I can make more time in the upcoming week.

Have a good Christmas week everyone! I'll end with a random photo I took recently:



Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Movie Review: Sughiara Chiune (Persona Non Grata)

I don't know if this film is going to make its way out of Japan, but I hope it is because this is a must-watch!! I went in expecting to watch a moving tale (and I did, having cried for half the movie), but I came out feeling like there's still hope as long as people like Sugihara exist. I'd go as far as saying it's life-impacting (though the review I saw really criticised the movie).

For those who don't know, Sugihara Chiune is known as the Japanese Schindler, and this is a movie about his work in World War II.

During WWII, Sugihara Chiune issued 2,139 visas to the Jews on his own initiative, saving about 6000 of them and because of him, 40,000 of their descendants.

If you're wondering about the 2139/6000 discrepancy, it's cause a lot of those visas were family visas, so more than one person could travel out of Lithuania with them.

For this, Sugihara Chiune was dismissed from his job (like what???), but eventually granted the 'Righteous Among Nations' by the government of Israel, and posthumous recognition by the Japanese government in 2000.

I actually read a little about him before, which is why I was so enthusiastic to see the film. Most of my knowledge came from The Fugu Plan by Marvin Tokayer (Affiliate Link. And I think even though it's out of stock, there's a kindle version so yay!), which is really about the Jews and Japan during WWII. This book is where I first knew about Sugihara. The rest is from Wikipedia. So, I didn't know that much.

The film itself starts a little before Sugihara gets sent to Lithuania, and ends just as the war ends (there's an epilogue, but still).

What I found unusual about the film was that despite the fact it's a Japanese film, it's multilingual and it uses actual historical footage. Obviously, when Japanese characters talk to each other, they use Japanese, but when they talk to foreigners, they use English. And when foreigners talk to foreigners, they use their own language.

Some details were off though. For example, history says Sugihara was stamping the visa seal on blank papers and throwing them out the train window as he had to leave. But the film had it a different way.

But, the film is so excellent. And what made it excellent was that it showed this 'conspiracy of goodness' (to quote a biography of his - I started Googling for good biographies immediately after I finished the film).

From his wife Yukiko, to the Dutch consul in Lithuania Jan Zwartendijk and even all the way to the Japanese counsul in Vladivostok 根井三郎 (Nei Saburo), all these people chose to do the right thing, either by colluding with him (or in some cases, secretly supporting him), or supporting him (in the case of his wife, who in the film, knew that what Sugihara did was going to have consequences - and when he asked her for 'permission', she agreed).

And that's not including the characters I suspect exist only on the screen - like Peshu and Gujje. And believe me, I cried loads when characters I hope aren't real died - I mean, I really didn't want them to have to die, I was so hoping that they would live. Whether the characters are real or not... I'll probably have to find a proper biography to find out.

There was also a saying in the film I liked, that said:

人の世話にならぬよう、人の世話をするよう、そして報いを求めぬよう

Roughly translated, it means something like "don't look to others to help you, help others, and don't expect anything in return".

And that was what touched me the most, I guess. I mean, I went in knowing that his story hasn't been told much, and Sugihara himself wasn't one to brag (apparently, the neighbours only knew what he did after the news vans arrived).

I didn't realise how hard for him it must have been to deliberately ignore the unspoken command not to issue visas, especially in that sort of environment and in knowing the potential consequences.

Sugihara Chiune was a real hero. This movie is definitely a mustwatch

And now, I need to go see if there are any English biographies (or the Japanese manga) available for lending (or cheap, so I can buy them).

Movie Trailer:


Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Graduated from Infini!!

Guess who finally graduated from Infini (over a week ago, that's how fast I blog haha)

I don't know why, but my cert is in English


Anyway, I think a majority of my real life friends/friends on THE OTHER NETWORK don't know that for the past 1 year and 8 months, I've been attending finishing school. My main reason for attending was that I felt like it was high time to improve myself, and since I have dreams of working in Japan, I thought it might be good to polish up my manners.

But to be honest, I learnt a lot more than stuff like makeup and fashion and stuff from this school. I actually chose it cause they seemed well-rounded, and I think I chose well.

For example, in communication class, I learnt that my personal space is much, much smaller than Japanese people, and how to deal with it so both I and the person I'm talking to feels comfortable.

Apart from communication classes, we had speech classes (awesome for my Japanese pronunciation and to make sure I don't talk too much like a guy), tea ceremony experiences, how to look at art lesson, and the usual stuff like how to eat at a formal Western and Japanese meal. And that hospitality is making your guest feel comfortable <- Essence of all the lessons.

The entire purpose of this course is to polish both the exterior and the interior.

Anyway, on to the ceremony. I was supposed to go there with my mom and bro, but the bro wasn't feeling good that day, so it was just my mom and me. When we reached there, I found out that we had arranged seats.

My seat
 And then I was like... I HAVE FLOWERS? (They gave them to everyone)

Including my mom :D 

And this the cert-handing ceremony. Basically, after we all got our certs, we had to make a speech. I can't really remember what I said, because I didn't really prepare ><


The principal and vice principal also made a speech, and basically, they talked about how we have learnt a lot, but we still have to keep learning. A lady, they said, is someone who continually challenges and improved themselves. And more importantly, you do not live for yourself, you live to help others. I thought that was really cool.

And, we got our graduation photos back!!

Graduation photo

I'd compare it with the before photo, but it's embarrassing haha. Let me just reassure you that there really was a big change.

After the ceremony, my mom headed home to make lunch for my bro, and I headed to lunch with everyone (lunch is included in the course). It was good, and I'm hoping that though I've graduated the finishing course, I still can find reasons to go back and continue learning.

Budget permitting, of course.

And I think with this, I've caught up on most of the interesting stuff that happened in the last week or so.

...

Oh wait, I still have inzemi. Anyone interested in reading about my classes? If not, I could skip it (maybe). After all, my cousins are currently in Japan for a short trip, and I'll be travelling to Kumamoto (again) to show them around. And we're going to Nokonoshima again.

But you know, the beauty of repeated trips is in finding something new each time. (Ok, I'm just like, making excuses for myself. I love those places, so I'll probably re-blog again hahahaha).

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Sakurajima Part 3: Kagoshima City

On the third day of our Kagoshima trip, my mom and I spent the day hitting the tourist spots we both wanted to go (I'd go everywhere, if possible, but my mom doesn't seem interested in the Meiji Restoration or the Satsuma Rebellion. Our first stop:

Saint Francis Xavier Park


The first stop was Saint Francis Xavier park, which is actually really small and can be seen from the bus. But I've had an interest in Japan since my IB days (possibly since ROCs), so I wanted to get off and take a closer look.

Apparently, Saint Francis first landed in Kagoshima, bringing Christianity to Japan for the first time in 1549. 10 months later, he moved to Nagasaki.



This is part of a commemorative church built during the Meiji era and bombed during WWII (not sure if this is a pattern, but ground zero for the atomic bomb in Nagasaki was also a Church). This is what's left. The bust was created to remember Saint Francis. Apparently the Vatican chipped in as well.

Next, we decided to walk to the Literature and Fairy Tale Museum. On the way there, we passed the

Statue of Saigo Takamori


This is actually something you can view from the bus, but if you want to get to the fairytale museum, you have to get off here anyway.

From what I found out: Saigo Takamori did a lot of stuff and was also dubbed "The Last True Samurai" (sorry Tom Cruise). He's also known as the leader of the Satsuma Rebellion, which was Japan's last failed civil war.



And opposite the road, there were people in Meiji-era clothes!! Totally a photo-taking opportunity. It's next to some other museum, but the brother wasn't very interested in that.

Modern Literature Museum and Märchen Fairy Tale Museum



I really wanted to go here cause Singapore doesn't have either (sobs) and I wanted to see what a literature museum could be like. Sadly, no photos allowed for the literature section.

Our tickets
Anyway, it was rather... Quiet? My mom and bro didn't understand Japanese, and I read quite slow when it's not English so we just walked around a bit.

There was a cool bed/writing desk combo though. I totally want that.

Quite like that they showcase the writing spaces and excerpts from the work (audio/video/play)


The Märchen Fairy Tale Museum was actually super cute, but geared towards kids. Bring a child along, and you won't raise eyebrows hahaha.

Anyway, the first level is called "Story Town", and got quite a few activities for kids!! Also has some sort of "Blank Picture Book" show (roughly 20min), but we didn't go watch. I think it was something about making your own story, which sounded pretty cool.


They also have this magic mirror, which lets you 'dress up' as various characters. I'm pretty sure that I'm Puss in Boots haha. Then after each one there's a sort of mini-activity, like popping apples for Snow White or something.

Oh, and I tried the Snow White one too, but I think I'm too tall or something cause it could not make the dress stay on :p


What I thought was interesting would be their definition of fairy tales. Like, the first stories that come to mind would probably be from the Grimm Brothers, but here, they also included Japanese stories, and Chinese stories like 西游记 (Journey to the West).

By the way, the bigger text in the photo is Chinese - then they have Japanese translations at the side. Anyone can guess which part of 西游记 this is?


From the third floor (top) down is a Story Trail for Alice in Wonderland. It starts with words that you need a mirror to read...

The pictures are pretty cool, with a slight 3D feel to it. The trick art pictures are the main attractions, but they have other things too, like scents at the scene where Alice has to eat and drink the 'Eat Me' cake. It's a really rushed version of the story though.

The last part of the museum was the Marionette Clock, which lasted three minutes! And the good thing about it is that you can watch the clock, and then make it to the bus stop without having the rush (assuming you're taking the Kagoshima City View bus - get the one day pass if you intend to get off and on the bus four times or more.


Senganen (仙巌園)


The second last stop was Senganen (仙巌園), which at first seemed overpriced cause it was 1000 yen for an adult and 500 yen for a child with no discounts available (others had discounts if you show the one day pass). So I was like "at least we'll get a free sweet".

But turns out it was worth it! Or I grew to like it haha. Anyway, this is a 150 pound iron canon. And supposedly the most powerful canon at the end of the Edo period

So Senganen was the home to this important family called the Shimadzu (島津) family. It's Japanese in style, but with Chinese influences (apparently).

They also have a style of martial arts called the Jigen Ryu. Jigen-Ryu apparently embodies the Satsuma Samurai spirit. It was pretty fun (tried it myself), but the way they use the sword is different from Kendo, so I had to keep trying not to hit it the way I'm used too haha



Funnily enough, one of the first things I bought here was Blue Seal ice-cream!! I don't know why or how I first heard about it, but I've been wanting to try this for quite a long time.

 Mom took strawberry, and mine is sweet potato sherbet (right). Tasted good, though nothing like Yakiimo.

So, some pictures of the place:



This gate is a Tin-Roofed Gate, made with Kagoshima Tin! Apparently, during the time the gate was made, only high ranking citizens could have red gates, which shows you how important this family was.

And this is what they call the lion stone lantern. The lion is called a 飞狮子 🦁️ which apparently makes it "lion like" and not actually a lion.

The lantern is huge though. The top is supposed to be 13 meters squared!!


I think this is the Shimadzu residence. Apparently only one third of the original building(s) are still standing. And if you want to go in, you have to pay more for a tour. On the bright side, the tour does come with green tea and wagashi.

We didn't go for the tour.

The thing about Senganen is that they use Sakurajima and the Kinko bay as substitutes ("borrowed scenery") for the mountain and the body of water that are a feature of most Japanese gardens.

And for some reason, there are lots of flowers used. Like with this pavilion above.


There's also a cat shrine, which apparently quite rare in Japan

People write wishes for their cats here, apparently.


So next to the cat shrine, there was a slope. Since my mom and bro was somewhere else, I decided to go up and see if there was a good view.

Tada~


And of course, Jambo Mochi!! It's a local delight apparently, and comes in two flavours - soya sauce and miso. Personally, I much prefer the miso, because the soya sauce is kinda... not sweet and not salty enough? It's nice, but the miso one had a stronger taste and I liked it better.

Apparently, the two sticks represent the two samurai swords or something like that.

Dolphin Port/Farmers Market


Our last stop was Dolphin Port, and the first reaction my mom and I had was "this looks like Australia". I thought it looked like Darwin and mom thought it looked like the Gold Coast.

Do you know there are wild dolphins in Kinko Bay??? Didn't get to see them this time though ><


Just opposite the Dolphin Port was a row of tents. Being kaypoh, we went to take a look. Turns out it was a farmer's market!!

And surprisingly, my bro enjoyed it the most. But it was fun, especially all the food.


We bought something almost immediately. My grandad loves sweet potato, and they were selling four in a bag for 200 yen!!

They let us have a free sample (so many free samples there), and it was really sweet!! Hope my grandad likes it!

My bro also bought the potato tornado thingy. It was good (I kept sneaking pieces). They fried it up for us on the spot XD

Apart from that, there was also a maze, where you run to three stations to make a vegetable stamp. Bro found it fun, so yay!


The last thing I remembered taking a photo of was this honey!!! They were letting people try honey from the honeycomb for free. Tasted good - sweet but light.

After that, we made our way back to Kagoshima Chuo station, and back to Hakata. It was only three days, but it was really fun and busy.

Note: This post was created based on my Dayre post for that day (edited to make it easier to read), because it had all the information that I've already forgotten.