Thanks Mom

Mom waving goodbye at the airport.

Wow, I pretty much did nothing productive, but slept for the entire day ^^” Yet my muscles are still sore, definitely need more exercise.

So my mom left one day after our trip to Kyushu, on last Sunday. We spent the Saturday helping her pack, doing some grocery and last minute souvenir shopping at Yokosuka.

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The Past Week…

 

Went indoor rock climbing (bouldering) today after work with a bunch of colleagues.

I’m back! Actually, was back from Kyushu a week ago. Just didn’t have the time or mood to blog about anything (many things happened in the Kyushu trip, one of them is losing half of my precious photos! So I’ve been trying to recover them these days after work). I know I have tons to catch up on… so hopefully I can get some posts out of the way this weekend.

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N-san Birthday Dinner and Kyoto trip final plan

N-san's bday dinner last night at an "Italian" restaurant

There were only 6 of us, since we sort of organized it last minute, and 2 guys were from another team (“Otaku” and “Party God” XD).

Anyhow, it was not all you can drink and my share came out to be 3000 yen O_O… I was only 50% full and only drank Anju-Ume-shu on rocks and Bloody Mary (I’ve heard cocktails in many restaurants of Japan sucked, it was true in this case… next time will stick with shoju/sake).

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I <3 storms.

It may not look it, but wind is blowing fiercely outside my dorm window right now.

Here I am writing this, and eating my unusually early dinner at 5pm. Our company made several announcements since 2pm about a storm coming soon, and advised us to leave office ASAP. So everyone in the office left the building by 3PM… The ironic thing is, that’s earlier than when we were striking! When we got down to the bus stop, the lineup was growing… so we had to wait for the next bus, thankfully the weather was still relatively calm, with light showers.

I received this email earlier on:

Dear Canadian citizen,

As you may have heard on the news already, a low pressure system is developing quickly over the sea of Japan.  Winds and rain will increase all over Japan and are likely to turn into storms.  Strong typhoon like winds are also predicted.  In the Tokyo region, the winds are expected to peak during the evening rush hour.  The coast will be turbulent.  There will be thunder and heavy rain on the Pacific coast, and heavy rain is predicted for all areas of the country.  Please be aware of land slides, overflowing rivers, flooding in low lying areas and tornadoes from April 3 to April 4.

Also, please be certain to follow any safety instructions issued by your local municipalities in the various regions of Japan. Transportation might be disrupted and some schools will be closing this afternoon.

For additional information please refer to the Japan Meteorological Agency website: http://www.jma.go.jp/en/typh/

Stay safe,

Consular Section

Embassy of Canada, Tokyo, Japan.

Yay, a short work day for me! This feels like the typhoon days in HK again. Sad thing is, Sakura won’t last as long.

——–

Since I’m leaving for Kyoto on Friday night, and I won’t have homecook dinner tomorrow or thursday… which means I gotta wipe out my fridge tonight!

My typical Udon dinner, this time with all the food in my fridge: Asparagus (man, they are real cheap this season), tofu (i love japanese tofu), meat balls, golden needles, lettuce, onions, etc.

Oh, and I still have a whole carton of milk, two more packs of Natto. Along with my strawberries, would make great snacks before sleep.

Received some fruits from N-san. These are from her hometown Kumamoto. I haven't had oranges since I came to Japan... can't believe it. The oranges are of different kinds btw.

Was planning to purchase tickets for museums in May.. but someone reminded me that June will be the rainy/stormy season in Japan. So I’d enjoy the (hopefully) nice weather in May for outdoor things/sightseeings, and leave the museum/shopping in June. Sounds like the perfect plan!

Super Quick Delivery from Amazon JP

Ordered this early morning (3am) on Sat…. and it arrived on Sunday 10pm!

But I didn’t have time to pick up until today after work. Picking up parcels from convenient store is really simple… But it costs 315 yen extra, which I don’t mind.. at least I didn’t have to wait for the postman to deliver.

Loppi Machine at Lawson Convenient Store

Amazon would send an email after the package arrives the convenient store the buyer specified, on the email includes Order number and Confirm number. Just key those into the Loppi machine, and hand the receipt  to the cashier for payment. However, only small items can be delivered to convenient store and use the COD payment method. Which is why I hesitate to buy a rice cooker and foldable bike =( The delivery for small electronics items, is so fast and painless that I actually wanna get an external harddrive (my laptop keeps prompting about low startup disk space) and some electronic accessories from Amazon now… BTW, Loppi machines can also be used to book flights, concert tickets, museum tickets, etc. Actually, the Doraemon Museum, 三鷹の森ジブリ美術館, and SUMO matches all required ticket reservations via Loppi Machines. Yup, I wanna go see those three… but they need to be booked a month ahead. SUMO matches are live in Ueno from early May… I would like to watch, but tickets are very pricy… 3500yen is the cheapest, while the most expensive can easily go over 15000 yen! Also, we need to enter a draw for the SUMO tickets.. didn’t know it’s this popular (all of my colleagues haven’t seen SUMO live match before).

Unpacked Yoobao Power Bar (4815yen total)..

Size of my Nexus S, but half an inch thicker. It’s quite bulky and heavy. But i can’t complain about its 11200mAh! Comes with 11 connectors…

And I’ve already lost one of the connectors (Samsung, don’t really care)…. it dropped and got under my bed and I didn’t want to grab it (too much dust underneath). All I need are the mini-USB and the micro-USB anyway. It should also come with a AC power brick, but I couldn’t find it anywhere!! It’s stupid cuz I can only charge it from my laptop using USB now. I will leave a comment to follow up with the seller later.

It comes fully charged. Can be used as flashlight also. A button to check battery status… Pretty useful for travelling/hiking/camping.

What sucks is my camera cannot be charged using this! Even though it has the micro-USB outlet, it’s only for transferring photos only… Lame. But my Nexus S, Pink Phone, and Pocket-Wifi can all be used. At least that way I can stay on-line during my Kyoto trip and don’t have to worry about dying battery when listening to music. I will bring it to work to observe how it performs in the next few days… afterall, it isn’t cheap.. almost 50 CAD.

——–

After work, I also went to shop for N-san bday(this wed) gift…

What I bought from Yokosuka chuo, ONE-PIECE soap bottle, panda earphones and strawberry neck cushion.

The soap bottle is for N-san, she loves ONE PIECE… And I bought the strawberry cushion for my nightbus rides in the near future (Kyoto and possibly Wakayama :D)

Also bought strawberries (some fresh fruit finally)… during grocery shopping. 500 yen for two packs.. the price is reasonable for the Japanese standard I guess.. I was actually gonna (but didn’t) buy 2 mini watermelons (fist size), also 500yen.  Anyway, notice on each pack of strawberries , the name of the producer/handler is printed. So I wonder if I can complain to that person if my strawberries aren’t sweet?

Sorry, this post isn’t about how I got lucky yesterday… because I don’t have much time today… hopefully it’ll be posted before weekend.

Bits and Pieces: …

A week goes by so fast, it’s weekend already. Phew!

I remember reading the Coop pre-departure document (see bottom of this webpage)…which says it’s typical for students to hype up during their first few weeks and gradually they would become homesick and depressed… I’ve survived for 2 months, woot! But I am already feeling a bit worn out from mental stresses.. There’s really not much of a cultural shock for me, since I’m used to Asian cultures. Living alone isn’t a problem either, I’m loving the freedom. However, language barrier is a big problem for me. Though my colleagues are all very nice and would translate their conversations for me as much as possible… and I would feel bad about it. The Japanese that I’ve learnt really only suffice for greetings, introductions and simple phrases. For instance, even if I could answer a question in Japanese, when the other person replies, I would be lost and confused.. Hence it’s mostly just one way communication. I’ve always wanted to try Yaki-Tori, but I hesitate every time I walk pass one… because I wouldn’t know how to order ! (and I’m sure the owners mostly likely can’ speak English) Guess I’d have to wait for somebody to bring me out for that *drooling* Don’t ask me why I don’t speak Japanese with my colleagues… it is impossible with all the workplace terms at my current noob level. I do, however, try to speak it here and there (though it may take me 15 secs to process a short sentence). At the end, I just feel disconnected from the outside world other than my workplace… Argh, I hope this feeling would subside eventually.

Anyhow, negative things aside… Here’s what I had for dinner after Japanese lesson in Yokohama.

Omelette Rice!! One of my to-eat-items. Looking at the 3d menu makes me drool now. How can eggs with rice have these many variations!?

I found a underground gem last night… On B2 floor of Yodobashi (a electronics store) around Yokohama station, there were many great+cheap restaurants- plan to try them all, one at a time =) I always look forward to my Japanese lesson, because I get to finally have decent meal other than Miso soup Udon!

Omelette rice here came with different sizes: SS, S, M, L. L is humongous- like 3.5 bowls of rice with 6 eggs. SS was just 1.5 bowl rice plus 3 eggs. Eating one L size omelette simply means one has reached their weekly quota for eggs. I ordered a dinner set for 1600 yen (not cheap, but well worth it… my average homecook dinner costs 150 yen). It comes with…

Onion soup, salad with ham, rasberry soda.

My baked SS sized Omelette rice (with loads of cheese+cream)... it was devine!

Thought I would not be satisfied with SS size, turned out I had to forced my last bites in… The cheese was just really heavy, but that’s how I like it =P

Ice-cream with fruits and yogurt

After such a fulfilling meal, I went taking a night walk in town… You know, just hanging at the few stores that remained open.

Will buy this before I come back...

Must have item for apple fan boy XD

BTW, the pink phone is my current cell phone in Japan (excuse the white sticker, which I didn’t peel off cuz I plan to resell it after use). It’s the only Android “free” phone available with a 2 year contract. OK, and it is just a piece of crap, honestly, NO HEADPHONE JACK? I didn’t expect this from a Japanese phone. However, the camera’s image quality I’d have to say is better than my Nexus S. =.=;; I barely use the phone anyway, mostly just for messages, web browsing (back up when my Nexus S ‘s battery dies) …

iida's InfoBar was my dream phone... but I was scared off by its price. It's an old phone and why didn't the price go down !!!

Speaking of my Nexus S sucky battery life… I was worried that my phones won’t last during my next weekend’s Kyoto trip. I wouldn’t be able to charge my electronic devices since I would not be staying in any hostels (mostly likely at a 24 hr MacDonald’s or Manga Cafe). So I made my first purchase from Amazon JP just now–

Yoobao Power Bank 11200mAh external battery... 4500 yen. Enough to feed juice to an iPhone for 7 times in one charge.

Since I’m usually not home ( and I don’t want the postman to come ring the bell again..), so I got it shipped to a convenient store downstairs… should be arriving on Monday. It would be really useful (if it works.. it’s made in China… not so sure about the quality), because my phone’s battery can barely last half a day with wifi on.

Clumsy me is back. This morning my phone’s off so the alarm didn’t ring and so I got up late for work… (got up at 7:10am, arrived 30 mins later than usual).

And going back home today… I somehow got on a wrong bus (can you believe that?), all the way to the Yokosuka Hospital… and I had no idea where I was (my pocket wifi’s dead), but I eventually got on a random bus that took me to a random train station.

It’s 3:51am now. And I may go to Harajuku ( to see Sakura @ Meiji Jingu temple)..  if I can wake up early in the morning… Forecast says it’d be raining tomorrow, again! Ugh!

Drinking Party & Kyoto weekend trip itinerary

Coke-san making his "speech". His gift from us was Sakura tea with a pair of cups. He can't drink alcohol (a rare case), so tea it is!

Our team had another Friday drinking party last night. The occasion was two members will be “retiring” from the company end of the month to become professors in universities, as well as to celebrate Coke-san’s recent marriage to his girlfriend (dating since junior high, way more than 10 years haha)! The party was attended by most of our members (around 20 people), my supervisor didn’t show up because he had to hurry home and take care of his pregnant wife (expected date in a few weeks!) 😀

The Sake at the top was sooo good, the aroma was almost fruity. At the bottom was the small bowl of ramen...

The more drinking parties that I go to, I find that there are usually 6-7 dishes shared amongst each table. The dishes are all small portioned… perhaps people need to save space for alcohol? I didn’t take picture of our food, but we had: Shabu Shabu, Plain tofu (yes, plain with a pinch of salt, but it was really good… As someone commented, “Oiishi, it got such a rich taste of… tofu” lol), Sashimi (I don’t think I’d ever know what fishes I’m eating) , salmon salad, ramen, and chicken karaage. Obviously, for a person who needs to consume 14 plates of Kaiten sushi…. It was not at all for me. So after I went home, I wiped out all Natto in the fridge 🙂 .

Actually, I prefer all you can eat over all you can drink…

Besides the small amt of beer and sake I had in the beginning... The rest of the night, I sampled all Plum/fruit wine on the drinking menu! This is the grapefruit wine... Yike!

This is not tea.... but Sake with a piece of Fugu fish in it. The taste was fishy... and it costs 600Yen!! I'd be more interesting in having Fugu fish sashimi than to drink this.

AB-san received a gift (digital photo frame) from us after his speech. He sits right behind me, can't believe he'd be gone after next week. He'll be teaching in Hiroshima... a beautiful city.

During dinner, Mayor-san talked about his 3-day trip to Hong Kong… I asked him if he went to DisneyLand or the Peak… He said no. Then I asked him where he went. He said “I went to buy iPhone, iPad. And I also went to see Jackie Chan’s house (outside, of course)!” *drop dead*

After dinner, of course there’s a second round as usual. Being a good (and poor) kid, I went home to sleep.

—————

For my weekend Kyoto Hanami trip on April 7-8th… I have planned to visit the following places… will put more details once I have checked out maps and finalize the route.

Red= Must see 

*  = top 100 Hanami sites

# = World Heritage Site

Day 1: 

Eastern Kyoto-

Toji (#)

清水寺 Kiyomizu Dera ( #)

高台寺 Kodaiji ()

浄土宗 総本山 知恩院 Chion ()

平安神宮 神苑 Heian Shrine ()- features colorful pink blossoms

哲学の道 / Ginkaku ji (#)

Central Kyoto:

二条城 夜桜 (#) : Need to enter during daytime

醍醐寺 Daigo Ji(* #) Southern Kyoto

The famous cherry tree in Maruyama Park is often the center of attention in the evenings when it is lit up. Vendors line the pathway leading up to it, creating a festive atmosphere. Kiyomizu-dera and Kodai-ji have extended hours during the first few days of this season offering visitors the opportunity to view them at night, lit up against the blossoms. Blossoms can also be seen along the Kamogawa River. The entire area literally blossoms in the spring!

Day 2:

Western Kyoto-

天龍寺(#)

Arashiyama(*)- Light up and food stalls at night

Arashiyama Info

Unagi Don@ ArashiYama

Train to ArashiYama

Northern Kyoto-

龍安寺Ryoanji (#)

御室@仁和寺 Ninnaji(* #)

Kinkaku ji (#)

三十三間堂

——-

Transit-

“The Kyoto Sightseeing Card can be purchased as a one-day (¥ 1200/Children:¥ 600) or two-day pass (¥ 2000/¥ 1000). It can be used for unlimited travel on the subway and city buses as well as a part of the Kyoto bus route. The two-day pass has to be used on two consecutive days.”

Food-

Matcha… tofu, Fugu sashimi, etc.

Yummy Food

Kaiseki

—-

This year’s winter has lasted longer than usual… so I’m praying the cherry blossoms would bloom in time of my visit. Because normally early April is the prime time for viewing Sakura…

The purpose of the trip is to enjoy cherry blossoms in the historical Kyoto, so I want to spend quality time at each site, rather than taking a photograph and leave. Looking at the jam packed wishlist, I’m sure I won’t be able to cover all the places listed above, but it’s alright… I plan to visit again soon in a longer holiday (hopefully I’ll get to visit nearby cities such as Nara, Osaka…)

Kaiten Sushi Round 2!

Here we go again... 回転寿司!!

Today was the deadline for paying the overnight bus fee to Kyoto, otherwise my reservation would get cancelled. The website said I had to pay by 6pm… but I couldn’t leave work yet! So I kept hitting Cmd-R on my keyboard, hoping to re-reserve once I get dropped off the list. But nothing happened… My status didn’t change. So I took my time and finally arrived at Lawson, the convenient store next to my dorm at 7pm. Then I realized, I didn’t have enough cash to pay for the  fee! Crap… The 7600Yen roundtrip ticket was the cheapest I could find, and I had to get it (Seriously, Shinkansen one-way costs more than that!). So I ran to Yokosuka Chuo, where the Post office was… Yeah, I hate my bank… it’s a Post Office bank, so ATM machines are inside Post offices (there’s one nearby my house, but it’s closed at 4pm). The Chuo branch was still opened, so I withdrew some money, crossed the street to a convenient store and got it over with. When I was about the make my way back, I spotted this-

Not 100Yen sushi, but 90 YEN SUSHIIIIII!!!!

OK, I walked by this area every few days and I couldn’t believe I didn’t see this. Or maybe my mind wasn’t on Kaiten Sushi at those moments. But I have been craving for Kaiten-Sushi, particularly after having it last week. Not because I love Sushi… but because last time was just so, memorable. Don’t get me wrong, not the taste, but the cost. 2600 yen = 10 dishes for lunch. For a student like me, this made my heart ache. Then people kept telling me about 100yen Kaiten Sushi after hearing my experience. I couldn’t stand it no more, I had to have it again, just to even out the costs. 😀

Yesterday when I was at Akihabara, I saw 130 yen Kaiten Sushi… I stood outside the place, in the rain for 5 mins… debating weather to step inside or not. I really wanted some sushi, but 130 yen still wasn’t the cheapest! So I ended up not having it, nor dinner… because I spent some money on something afterwards (What’s with my mindset of balancing things out?). Last night before sleep, I actually searched on the web to find 100yen Kaiten Sushi places in town- Since there’s no work tomorrow (Spring Day or something), I planned to eat at this place with good reviews near Uraga Station.

But how could I resist? Standing right there in front of the tempting 90Yen banner and with some cash in my hand, I walked in w/o second thoughts.The place could seat around 60 people, with four conveyor belts. It was busy, yet fast flowing… There weren’t many waitresses, but was convenient enough since everything was done electronically: From getting a seat at the ticket machine, to ordering using a touch screen menu.

Touch screen menu makes it easy to order things not on the belt. Select an item, and wait for the friendly waitress to bring it over! It's a nice menu with pictures and Japanese names, learnt some new words today!

First items I saw were .... strawberry short cakes. They were 200 yen btw, too early for dessert.

My first round (clockwise): Grilled Tamago, Mayo Mentaiko, fresh Squid, Ikura. Love the Tamago best!I had another plate after... I know eggs are cheap, but its good. The squid however, was watery... Ikura at the place I went before easily costs 240 yen... almost 3 times!

French Fries! Roasted Beef sushi! So american. Not surprising though, Yokosuka has a US Navy base. On the conveyor belt, sometimes you'll also see a piece of pineapple, tofu pudding, NY cheesecake, caesar salad... etc.

Tiny white fishies, which I love when cooked and salted... go well with rice. Tasting them raw felt soft and tasteless.

Lightly grilled Salmon... Delicious. I think i love the smell +taste of grilled sushi more.

Deep fried Osyters. LOVE!

Many eggs. Steamed seafood egg, and another plate of grilled tamago w/ cheese.

When the belt came out with 2 plates of Tamago-Yaki... these two people took them... T_T

So I ordered it, along with Uni sushi. Uni was not fresh though, tasted bitter... Thankfully I have my tamago-yaki to rinse away the bad taste.

Stuffed. Rested for 10 mins because I was too full to walk.

Overall spent 1400 yen for 14 dishes plus the steamed egg. 1200 yen less than what I spent last time (with only 10 dishes). Honestly, the quality was nowhere near as good (not as fresh, smaller piece), but it’s expected. Which do I prefer? The cheap place of course. I really don’t care too much about eating 550yen middle class bluefin tuna… all I need is to enjoy and pick up any plate I want without calculating the price! Sure, I would come across some disgusting Uni at times, as long as I don’t get sick or parasite infections… I’m fine.

HamaZushi. I should come often, but they don't give out point cards like the other place...

One draw back is I tend to get carried away and eat too much… like what happened today.