One More WeekTill Golden Week

Lalalalahhhh, next week is Golden Week!! It’s the longest holiday I get during my stay in Japan, so yeah, means- traveling lots and eating only bread for the next month. Travelling in Japan burns money real fast, especially when Golden Week is like the peak of the peak season in Japan… when most Japanese travelling in the country (some travel elsewhere, but it’s expensive).

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Heart Warming Encounters: Kamakura, Part I

Sakura in Kamakura 鎌倉

This is my 3rd post of today, crazy eh? Before I go to Kyoto, I gotta finish writing this series about my trip to Kamakura on Sunday (April’s Fools Day). Because I had many interesting things happened to me that I absolutely have to document this unforgettable experience. Okay, maybe I’m too dramatic… but you get the point. Be ware- only read if you have time to spare, because I babble a lot…. as usual.

Although Kamakura has been on my To-go-list… I didn’t plan to visit until my supervisor suggested me going before my Kyoto trip. Why? Because it’s somwhat just a mini-Kyoto, except closer to Yokosuka (just 20 mins away). Also there are some good hiking trails, leading to several shrines… and along the way, there are some ancient tombs. If you wanna know more about Kamakura, just WIKI it. All I can say is, every couple blocks you walk, you are very likely to bump into a shrine or temple. It is also a popular tourist spot, so it’s best to go in early morning to avoid the crowds.

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US Navy Open House

I've never seen Yokosuka THIS lively before...

There were thousands of people lining up to get into the US Navy Base the past Sunday. Yup, the Navy guys open the base for the public twice a year. It was supposed to be a Hanami event (Sakura viewing) too, but the weather in Yokosuka has been to cold for any flowers to bloom.

On my way to Mikasa Park, cloudy weather in the afternoon.

I got up late that day – 12pm.. all because I didn’t sleep till 7am. Anyway, I got out my door before 1pm and began my 10 minutes walk to the Mikasa Park, where the Navy Base was situated.

After 8 mins walk from my dorm, I was shocked to see people lining up just to WALK toward the entrance of the Mikasa Park.

Oh my, I had never seen such a long line up in my life… it’s several blocks away from the park and people were in a single file to enter the park. I had an urge to turn back and go home, or head to Yokohama for a shopping spree or something. “But the Navy opens up twice a year, it means if I miss this, I won’t see it again…” I decided to go in, check it out and leave if it’s no fun.

Been lining up after this small family.. look at how cute his little bag was... BTW, this was only the entrance of the park, the Navy base was 5 mins walk away (with no line up).

The Mikasa battleship (it's now a museum, with 500 yen entrance fee).

The Mikasa Battleship was the first thing I saw after entering the Park… and I was stupid enough to pay 500 yen to go inside, on the (probably) busiest day of the year. Partly because I thought it belonged to the US Navy……… which obviously made no sense now (looking back)… it had a fricken’ Japan flag on it!

The sky began to clear up... on the deck of Mikasa battleship.

When I first got into the park, there weren't a huge line up..

But once I got onto the battleship museum.... swarms of people formed.... At the time I still didn't know what the line was for though.

I later realized it's for going into the Base!!!

However, I still took my time inside the museum, as I paid 500 yen for it. I watched a movie there, about the war with Russia… The Japanese commander of the Mikasa Battleship was a lucky dude, surviving so many battles and lived until the age of 86.

The view from inside the base....

I joined the massive lineup soon after… and got into the base after 3o mins. The reason why it took so long was because every person’s personal belongings were checked before entering.

A tent for selling food, such as jumbo dogs, turkey legs, etc.

However, successfully entering the base didn’t make things any better. Because lineups were still everywhere! For food, for washroom…I hadn’t eaten since waking up, and was hungry. But I decided to wait a little bit longer, hoping the lines would become shorter eventually.

Jumbo hot dogs!

Gigantic turkey legs!! I was drooling.

Kids and their parents lining up to some sort of "build-a-bear" workshop.

People lining up to pee, or taking a dump after enjoying some American food.

The base was like a mini American town, with residences, high school, McDonald’s, Food Court, Fire Department, Bowling Place, Theatre…

Some friendly soldiers chatting up a kid. Many areas were blocked.It was more like a carnival than an Open House.. I initially thought there would be some sort of tour on Navy ships.

Another long line up in front of MacDonald's... So sad. And the bare branches of the Sakura trees made me even sadder.

Cute lil girl pretending to take a shot of her father, who was shooting a photo of her.

Navy officers in uniform became major photogenic attractions..

As well as this poor dog, having to play catch for so many times..

The public enjoying bowling at the Base.

Another attraction: American foodcourt... populated with familiar names like Subway, A&W, Manchu Wok, Cinnabon, etc. Again, no chance to fill my empty stomach due to ridiculous lineups.

A highschool!

Movie theatre. People, again, were lining up to watch a movie or two.

A girl wanted to hug this friendly cow mascot, and her dad dragged her away.

Male Choir with mostly seniors. They sang really well, and I sat there for 20 mins to enjoy their performance... Because I was tired and there's nothing better to do.

Yet another lineup to buy American *expensive* junk food.

I later bought something (non-food) and was surprised the changes were in US dollar.

Um.. the Navy guys showcasing their firetruck?

Gee, almost thought its another line up... just officers standing there to block off a road.

Since I had nothing better to do.. and I saw many people carrying boxes of large pizzas… My craving for food (pizza specifically) finally became stronger than my fear for line ups.

A cute girl and her older sis. Their mom was in front of me, lining up for pizzas.

Wrestling.. not really, her good sister was struggling to put on the jacket for her.

After 40 mins of lining up, it was close to 4:15pm. And suddenly the pizza lady came and told us they were sold out! $#!$ WTF, should’ve notified us sooner.. that way I would’ve lined up for a jumbo dog instead. But of course, it’s Japan, so nobody complained…

Looking at the Navy shipped parked afar, I regretted coming here.. should've gone to Yokohama to have All you can eat Pizza instead of wasting my time lining up for nothing.

One door closes, another opens. Just when I felt hopeless, pissed, angry, hungry... I saw Japanese food stalls right outside the Mikasa Park!! To be honest, I prefer these than pizza/hot dogs!!

I ordered Chicken Skin Gyoza (stuffed dumping wrapped with chicken skin). It's super greasy and fattening, but who cares?

Time for some Hiroshima Yaki...

Basically, pan fried ramen in yaki sauce with corn, lettuce, bacon and egg.

A pair of lovebirds feeding Hiroshima Yaki into each other's mouth lol

The Base was pretty bland, it’s just like any other small American town… except you could see officers in uniforms. But the Japanese people were indeed very intrigued by the place, the food… pretty much everything there.

Himajin’s (暇人) Weekend

Has been really rainy in Yokosuka last week. One day on my way to work, my converse sneakers were completely soaked...

This was a dull weekend, as I stayed in Yokosuka without going anywhere (not even Yokohama). But I did catch up on some much needed sleep, reviewed some Jap, cleaned my room etc.

First thing I did yesterday(Sat) morning was to hurry to the nearest ATM… My paycheque+ air ticket money was finally deposited on Friday! I had seriously ZERO cash(except for some coins, not even enough for an onigiri) in my wallet, and in the past few days I had to borrow transit money from N-san just to make it to work T_T As for food, I was surviving on instant noodles, which I previously bought for emergency purposes.

When I saw my account balance, I knew it’s the end of my financial crisis. Phew, a major relief. If I don’t spent extravagantly, the amount should last for at least 3 months.

Since the ATM was located inside the post office (my bank is a post office bank), I also tried to pick up a parcel (received a slip in the morning).

Post office's gift shop.

Dragon BallZ stamps..

Cartoon stamps: Astroboy, Doraemon, Pikachu, HK...

Mickey's. There are heart shaped stamps?!?

But the post office lady told me to return at 5pm. It was 1pm then, which meant I had to chill in Yokosuka Chuo for another 4 hours…

Time to stuff myself with some real food... Conveyer Belt Sushi near the Chuo train station.

Menu and price list for different plate colors.

I made a grave mistake of not checking the price of my first plate... I was starving and the tuna looked good. After my first bite, I saw and almost choked- 550yen for two pieces of Bluefin Tuna sushi. But the tuna was really good, you can see the shining fish oil on its surface ...

Some kind of eel and fresh squid on the far end.

Didn't know what it was, but it tasted good.

About half way, I started to see the same sushi over and over again. The chef did make some new ones... but the fresh ones were immediately taken by the people sitting at the upstream. I realized it's all about location, location, location! Next time I'll sit upstream too.

I could have ordered directly, just as many customers did. But I was too shy, I was just wishing secretly and hoped the chef could catch my telepathic waves.. And he did! Or maybe he simply saw the lost look on my face. He asked what I wanted.. I told him- Uni and Unagi. OMGGG, they were the best! The Uni was soo fresh, no stinking taste. And the Unagi was hot and melted in my mouth.

Then I saw the chef grilling something with a fire gun.. Again those plates only lasted like 5 seconds on the conveyor belt, and they were gone. Lucky the chef made a second round and put in right in front of me! He could probably tell I was waiting for it. Lightly grilled salmon with mayo on top! Yum.

My last dish.. and it was the worst. I should've eaten another dish of Unagi or something to rinse away the nasty taste. But I was too stuffed. It's tuna with those green things... Texture felt like Natto as it had some stringy slimy things.

I K.O 10 plates at the end. You can tell I had the most expensive (golden plate) first and the rest were mid ranged or the cheapest (110yen). Poor tamago (egg) sushi in the photo was there when I first sat down.

After a fulfilling meal (the only meal I ate for the day… since it was costy- 2500yen!), I went for grocery shopping…

Saw these canadian canned salmon sold in a store... My mom wanted to pack a bunch in my luggages.. thank god she didn't, they are quite cheap in Japan too.

They have Snyder's Prezels here too! But expensive for such a small pack... The mustard flavor that May bought me was long gone. I missed that flavor! I later bought a huge pack of Caramel flavor at Donki in Roppongi... for 350yen! What a deal, except, Caramel sucked!!

3rd Year Anniversary at a Snack Shop that I frequent.

I couldn't help but put more and more into the basket.

Let’s fast forward to 5pm, when I was ready to pick up the parcel in the post office.. The lady apologized to me and said the postman would actually delivered the parcel again to my place between 5-7pm!! Shit, I couldn’t miss it (I knew the parcel was my debit card).. So I ran as fast as I could to get home. However with so many bags, what I actually did was fast sprints for 30 seconds, then rest for 10 secs lol

Finally I made it, and I saw the post man on his motorbike about to leave- “Sumimasen!” I yelled and showed him my pickup slip. Phew… It’s a small package, but since it had confidential info, the guy had to make sure I was the receiver by following me home and confirmed that I could open the door with my key haha.

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Look at what I bought in just one day... spent over 10000 yen. My limps were sore and I threw everything to the ground. I think I'm definitely the type - 有錢就身痕的人

My snacks... I probably don't need to stock up on junk food for another 3 months XD

Besides grocery and snacks, I also went mall shopping to kill time (since the post office lady misled me to go back at 5pm =_=)

Elmo slippers for 300 yen... and the seat cushion for 100 yen.

For my mom: the padded socks that she wanted, and a pair of strawberry "crocs"... The crocs have fabric insole.. perfect to wear for dumping out garbage/laundry in winter months.

A cardigan and a plaid shirt... 700yen each. ~8CAD

A bowtie cardi... also 700 yen. Who says fashion in Japan is expensive? You just gotta avoid areas like Tokyo =)

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After unpacking, time for cleaning….

Even I couldn't stand the mess on my desk.

After sweeping and cleaning up… The entire night was spent reading a Manga called “Parasyte”/(寄生獣).

What a "human" host looks like after a parasite invaded his brain. They are technically dead and act like zombies.

A colleague recommended it to me after finding out I visited the Parasitological Museum. It was about this young teen’s (Shinji) right arm got infected by a Parasite. He was lucky as the parasite did not take control of his brain and turned him into a human eating monster… The whole story was about how the parasite (called Migi, means “right” in Japanese and Shinji co-exist and fight other parasites to save mankind. I finished it, in one night. It was bloody but engaging! It also had a meaningful message about species on earth and the environment.

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Today is the one year anniversary of the 3.11 Earthquake in Japan. I did not go out, but I heard that trains would stop around the time when the incident happened…

Since I stayed up till 4am to read Parasyte, I woke up at 1pm today- my first time since coming to Japan .

I bought some chicken breast yesterday… so I decided to cook that for my late brunch. I didn’t want plain chicken breast and dip with soy sauce… I had eggs too, might as well make Oyako Don Udon.

Marinate a piece of chicken breast with salt and soysauce -> cut in pieces -> fry until half cooked. Add Onion and stir fry together.

Put the chicen/onion aside... Time to fry udon and lettuce together, add some Dashi (fish stock) for favouring..

When udon is cooked, add the chicken+onion back in... Beat an egg and pour it in.

Crack another egg and add on top of everything.

An easy, well balanced brunch.

Sometimes a chill weekend like this is quite enjoyable, especially going to Tokyo is quite physically+financially draining. A good way to get some work/jap review done without spending much money (though I still managed to spend quite a bit during grocery shopping oops)!

Blood Donation in Japan

My first time donating blood in Japan.

In fact, it’s my first SUCCESSFUL blood donation…

Saw the blood donation poster featuring AKB48 a while ago at the workplace. Red Cross finally came today, so after lunch (gotta eat something since I never eat breakfast) I went straight for it!

There were many people… since I was a first time blood donor, I was asked many questions and had to fill out some paperworks. I was really nervous, like I always do when people speak Japanese to me 😀  Phew, finally, all the questioning was done… thankfully I could read Kanji, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to fill out those questionares (though the answers were always “NO” except for the first question). Finally it was my turn to register for a new donor card, and there were some system errors… =_= had to wait for 20 mins before I received my card and moved on to blood testing.

It was stationed by a nurse and an old doctor (I saw him falling asleep during the system down time lol)… he measured my blood pressure and the nurse took a tube of blood sample. I was then given a pack of biscuits and a bottle of Pocari beverage, and told to drink half of it. Soon I was brought into the donation area by a nurse… she was very gentle and diligent. I lied down on a bed, with blanket too.

During the donation, she found my hand was cold and gave me a can of warm tea to hold on to 😛 It was over before I realized it… like under 10 mins. Too bad it was a short afternoon nap….

Before I headed back to office, I was given some donation gifts too! and of course the can of tea as well =)

I love freebies. We got to choose too: between handsoap, toothpaste, bowl noodles etc.

I received... green tea, handcream, hand soap, some bandaids/cotton sticks, crackers and of course my donor card!

No bruise, so happy!

Rolled up the bloody bandaid inside the bandage... Im gonna keep it... Haha JK.

I will donate again before I leave Japan, probably around June. This felt great, completely different from my last horrible experience in Vancouver…. which the nurse couldn’t find my vessel, so she kept poking the needle around (several times!)… and the blood flow stopped after she messed with it.. So at the end, there was only less than half a bag (if under 200cc, the blood couldn’t be used 😥 ) I bruised up so much too, it hurt for a week! This time however, was quick and painless! Plus, Canadian Blood Services doesn’t give out free hand creams!

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Japanese sweet a colleague brought from Kanazawa. It's iced sugar covering a lot of red beans! Yum!!

290 yen crepes day! Got it before Japanese class... Mine was Strawberry Tiramisu flavor. I eat crepes at least once a week... I think I've given up on my weight.

Gonna do some Japanese Review now, have a nice day! =)

Solo in Tokyo Part 1: Meguro

Finally the sun showed up during the weekend!

I have just gotten back from Roppongi… My legs are sore from all the walking I’ve done over the weekend… should’ve worn shoes that are more comfy. But I LOVE Roppongi, I wish I could walk further to see more.. but I guess I’ll pay another visit soon! I realize I haven’t blogged about my weekend trips much… I almost forgot what I did in Asakusa/HakkeiJima… so while it’s still fresh on my mind, I’ll first write about what I did yesterday 😀

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No longer an Earthquake Virgin

Last night at around 11pm, I was snacking and chatting with a friend… Then my apartment floor began to shake. It was a subtle one… I froze for five seconds then started typing to my friend “Shit, earthquake!” She was like, “OMFG Hide under a desk!” At the moment, I was thinking, should I stay indoor or escape? I totally forgot the instructions on the goddamn emergency manual, which I had read before coming. I was about to grab the earthquake kit that my mother packed for me (which was a carry-on luggage with all the survival essentials. But since I got here, it’s mostly occupied by my new shopping goodies.. I guess it’d still be useful to keep myself warm with layers of new clothes :D)… Then it stopped. The entire thing lasted for less than 40 seconds… and I told my friend “False alarm, not a quake.” Maybe it’s a hallucination caused by the plum wine that I was drinking.

Then I told this to my colleagues during lunch today. And they were like…

OH you didn’t know? >>Apparently there was an earthquake in Tokai area today.

So this is your first time?!  >>”Well,  I was a earthquake virgin, so what?” I told them, “there was none during my time in Vancouver… although rumor says our time is due, and there’ll be a high magnitude one in the future.”

Really, but earthquakes happen so often in Japan… We already had several during February. >>What? So I’ve been missing out the entire time? At least this is the first one that I could identify as an earthquake.

They are just so used to earthquakes that they didn’t even talk about until I brought it up.

I think this is the one that I felt last night… I was looking at the JMA (Japan Meteorological Agency) website, holy crap, there were so many earthquakes happening in a day.

Anyhow, I should re-pack my emergency kit and brush up on some earthquake survival knowledge. I just realized I didn’t know the Japanese of “Earthquake”, here it is- アースクエーク (a-su-kue-ku)

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Today’s lunch I had chirashi sushi (ちらし寿司), basically just sashimi and seaweed on top of sushi rice. The difference between Chirashi Sushi and regular Sashimi Don is it has vinegar in the rice =o=;;

It’s the best lunch I’ve had in my company’s canteen. The set even came with miso soup+cute colourful tofu balls and red bean Mochi for dessert. This is actually a seasonal special lunch for the Hina-Matsuri festival 雛祭り that is going to be on March 3rd << I mentioned it before, it’s Girl’s Festival… and this weekend I’m gonna go see the Hina-Ningyo dolls at Gajoen 雅叙園 ,a traiditional wedding place in Japan.

Dinner tonight at 仵屋 after Jap lesson...

Their handmade udon tasted just like the udon that I buy (99yen /3 packs)...

Walked past this "conveyer belt" sushi place... Since I already had sushi for lunch, I went for udon instead.

And this Sushi place too.... this one is standing only. But still very crowded...

Some Sushi Etiquette for you… Keep those tips in mind when you visit a Sushi-ya next time =P

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Before dinner, I did some window shopping... I need a new pair of sneakers... the pair I have now is ripped. I've always wanted New Balance Classic XD Woot, paycheque in a week!

And my favorite store- Village Vanguard. An awesome store that sells funny/weird things. Many jap ppl crowded around this TV playing a animated show called "peeping life"...

Cute emoji cups...

Lego bento boxes

A sandwich bento box... damn, I wanna be a Japanese elementary kid now

Tai-yaki coin pouch

Want to get one for my brother.... I actually wanna throw a real one at him XD

Let me check the dictionary...

I love this Science/DIY magazine... They have many cool DIY kits.. I bought a Twin lens reflex camera kit on ebay before...

Books section.... so many cool books... I wish I know how to read jap.

I used to like him a lot, before his suicide attempt and turning himself like a hobo now...

A famous Jap photographer's book...

I just stood there, watching Doraemon for 10 mins....

Last but not least, Dora-yaki that my colleague brought from her business trip...

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Can’t wait to visit those museums over the weekend… hope the weather will be nice (all indoor, so not that it matters anyway).

Interactive Arts Exhibition: http://megei.jp/

Gojoen: http://www.megurogajoen.co.jp/event/hinamaturi/

Parasitological Museum: http://kiseichu.org/english.aspx

Love at second sight.

In my last post, I ranted about how gross Mentaiko (明太子) was.

It's not you, it's me...

The way it looked, the way it tasted… Eating it with Natto was plain nasty, and I was sure it was all Mentaiko’s fault.

Coming home tonight, I did my usual brainstorming exercise on what to eat for dinner… and I saw the left over sac of Mentaiko. Damn, I thought, and it’s expiring today. I had a dilemma of whether to chuck it away or not. But it cost 250 yen! So 125 yen right here…. with this money, I can buy an item from 100 yen store with 20 yen surplus! OKAY, FINE. It’s like getting on a scary coaster, you just gotta do it.

Since I was trying to save money and had ONLY a piece of bread for lunch (130 yen! I hate counting how much I spend, it’s worse than counting calories…  ), my stomach told me I needed A LOT of meat, or carbs- which ever is available. I took out the only 2 packs of udon left in my fridge and gave Mentaiko a second chance..

Ingredients: One sac of Mentaiko, 2 packs of Udon, some Onion and Golden Needle Mushrooms

Cut up the stuff and fry the onions with golden needles...

Put the Udon in and squeeze out the Mentaiko (think milking a cow), don't waste a tiny bit! It's 125 yen!

Fry 'em! I have no butter, so I added some milk in... otherwise it would be too dry.

Voila! An easy 15 mins dinner... Mentaiko at its finest!

Thank god I had 2 packs of Udon… It was so savoury that I licked up the whole pan, just to not waste a single bit of fish roe! The udon and Mentaiko just complements each other! Since Mentaiko is already marinated and full of flavours, it’s not necessary to add any salt at all. I am in love with it now. Gonna buy more after I get paid and try to eat it in different ways. A few ideas I have now…

1. Eat with crackers/toast

2. Pan fry plain Mentaiko (inspired by the burnt bits on the rim of the pan, was sooooo good)

3. Mentaiko Tofu salad

After a good meal, gotta drink some plum wine, cheers 😀

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Snow view from office.

WTF, I thought Spring was coming since it kind of warmed up last week. Yet it started snowing today!!! Not the flaky type too… Plus the strong wind, I almost froze to death this morning walking to the station… This must be a rare case because I saw many of my colleagues taking photos throughout the day. I hate snow, I just do.

A parking lot of bikes at a nearby apartment

Damn, I want a bike. The cheapest I see is 7000 yen...

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Yesterday I went to check out a Foreigner Association close by the Yokosuka Chuo station. It was my lucky day! I was just gonna visit the office to ask about Japanese classes. I got there 5:45pm and there was a class starting at 6pm! Apparently there’s no registration involved… There were 3 students including me, and 4 teachers LOL And it cost only 1000yen for a term (3 months, weekly)!! So it’s pretty much private lesson and costs close to nothing. I checked out the schedules of other classes (different locations, but close by) and there are only night classes on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. IS THIS PERFECT OR WHAT? I am busy on Wed (badminton) and Thurs (Jap@ Yokohama) anyway…  So I will go to ALL classes on those three days from now on! I swear I’m gonna work to hard on Jap.. and watch only Jap dramas XD

So one of my ‘classmates’ – a girl of from Shanghai… apparently, her husband works at my company too! He was an intern before and became a fulltime last year. They live in a dorm a block away from mine! She’s been in Japan for a year, and she can converse in Japanese. She said her husband did it in just 3 months!

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Some good news,

  • My credit card application got approved, so I can soon pay bills with my Jap card (no need to worry about 2% transaction fee using canadian cards)
  • I MAY get paid on March 9th, so if I can survive one more week, it’d be all good (plus my supervisor said he would lend me $$)
  • Since $ is “no longer” an issue, I will stick with my weekend travel plans (Roppongi 六本木 for an interactive design exhibition, and Meguro目黒 for two museums: Parasites and Gajoen(雅叙園).