Monday, December 31, 2007


It's a little late to say Merry Christmas at the time of this post, but at least I can still wish you a happy new year. Wishing you a fantastic 2008 starting from day 1 tomorrow! Me and Mabel organised a 'mini' christmas party at our place last week. Well, it was supposed to be mini but in the end we counted and had over 20 guests, whom we must give thanks to for the wonderful time. We had a gift exchange session by the christmas tree, and it was fun trying to guess what our lucky pick was, and then realising that size doesn't really matter in this case. Again, thanks to those who came, and made this Christmas a memorable one.
Mabel's a really cheeky wife to have. Having promised each other not to buy any gifts, she bought me this Spider-man 3 bust figure, and gave it to me at the stroke of midnight. I told her once that I really liked this figure, so she got it for me secretly. I didn't plan anything for her because I was obedient. Haha but at least I gave her a surprise earlier that week, by bringing back the christmas tree and setting it up at home before going to pick her up from work. When she opened the door and saw the tree she thought a burglar had entered our house. Yup, one that leaves behind a christmas tree and doesn't steal anything else. :p
During the holidays that followed, we went around shopping in town. I got myself a couple of books on separate trips, just to make sure that I got something to work out my new year resolutions. The books included a couple of JLPT level 2 preparation material, and also a "thicker than your yellow pages" type of book on Photoshop CS3. Although I work a lot on PS, there are still a lot of things left unexplored, and I gathered that it was time to go a step further and see what I can do with these new features taught in the book.
Haven't been taking any photos of Misa and Kiki recently, so decided to give them a shot in this entry. Both of them have grown quite a fair bit, especially Kiki, who's the same size as Misa now. Kiki's the noisy one, making noises whenever we open the fridge or walk pass the cage. Misa's still the same, cute but lacking in the emotion department. She can stare at you for hours and not take a single step, even when you leave her in the open for hours.....
The official site for the new Tokusatsu shows of 2008 are up, although there's nothing much inside right now. Teasers have also been broadcasted on Japanese TV, and are readily available on youtube. Check out the teaser below, which I have embedded for your viewing convenience. The advertising slogan for the series is "Wake up! Release the chains of destiny." (Wake up! 宿命(さだめ)の鎖を解き放て). Wataru Kurenai (紅 渡), a young man who likes the violin, is destined from birth to become Kamen Rider Kiva to fight the Fangire (ファンガイア) that feed off of humans' lifeforce and are the very race his mother came from. Wataru is assisted by a creature called Kivat-bat the 3rd (キバットバットⅢ世) who attaches to the Kivat Belt (キバットベルト) to allow his human partner to transform. Kiva accesses his arsenal through whistles on his belt called Fuestles (フエッスル).

The Wake Up Fuestle (ウエイクアップフエッスル) opens up the chains on his right leg so Kiva can use his Darkness Moon Break (ダークネスムーンブレイク) attack. Kiva has five other Fuestles, but the names are not currently known. Kiva's motorcycle is named the Machine Kiver (マシンキバー) and his base of operations/mecha is called Castle Dran (キャッスルドラン).
The Go-onger team is composed of Go-on Red (ゴーオンレッド), Go-on Blue (ゴーオンブルー), and Go-on Yellow (ゴーオンイエロー). Go-on Green (ゴーオングリーン) and Go-on Black (ゴーオンブラック) support the main team. The Go-ongers' technology revolves around the Engine Souls (炎神ソウル), sentient chip-like items that imbue power into the items that the Go-ongers employ. When not in use, they are kept in the Engine Soul Holster (炎神ソウルホルスター). The motif of this series is animals and the motor industry. I don't really see myself following this series as nothing known from the series interests me at all right now. We'll have to see how it goes, and having said that Gekiranger is the only sentai show I've seen, and really enjoyed.
AKB48 is an all-female Japanese theater/idol group produced by Akimoto Yasushi. AKB48 currently consists of 48 members divided into three teams: Team A, Team K and Team B. Each group contains 16 members. The group has their own theatre in Akihabara where they perform once every weekday. A much bigger group than any H!P act such as Morning Musume, I've been listening to one of their single called "Bingo". Check it out here:
Local company 77 Star is producing an anime short film “1,000 Stars and Squalls” 「千の星とスコール」, and is now recruiting production staff. The production staff recruitment opens on 28 Dec. Priority will go to experienced design students that attends 77 Star’s 6-month course in animation production. This course is meant for those with prior experience in design, and the course is at S$288 per month]. Students that attended the 12 months course [S$350 per month] may apply as a part-timer positions. The animation section of 77 Star productions is looking for 30 people to staff the Animation Section, and another 10 people for the Voice Acting section. This project marks the first locally produced anime short film, right here in Singapore. Produced in collaboration with Yoyogi Animation School (代々木アニメーション学院)in Japan,77 Star aims achieve recognition and awareness for the local anime industry in Singapore. Here’s a sypnosis of the story.
Year 2008, Summer…

I met her in the International Exchange Programme that was held in an university in Tokyo. Her name was Mai, an overseas student from a Singapore university who liked Japan very much. On a rainy day, I got to know her from a little incident.

As the summer ended, the time for her to return to Singapore had arrived. Before she returned, I couldn’t express my real feelings towards her…. After she had returned a month later, her letter came. On that letter, there was only one word written on it: ‘arigato’.

I noticed that the word had been rewritten again and again. I felt that something had been attracted deep inside my heart. ‘I have to express my feelings to Mai…’ Then, I decided to travel to Singapore. In order to meet Mai once more……

I'll be logging off soon, to meet a couple of friends for dinner and to catch a midnight show (yes, counting down in a theater....). Although I've read some extremely negative reviews for Aliens Vs Predator II: Requiem, I can't help it but to watch it and bitch about it later on. So, expect a review in the next update. I'm not saying it sucks (yet), but I'm not having my hopes pinned high. Well, happy new year to all reading this. Thanks and see ya. Ja!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

獣拳戦隊ゲキレンジャー PV

Made another video this week, not of myself this time. Rather, it's my first attempt at making fan made videos based on Japanese Tokusatsu shows. Based on this year's Super Sentai show: Jyuken Sentai Gekiranger (獣拳戦隊ゲキレンジャー), which is ending very soon. Check it out!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


久しぶりですね! It's been quite a while since the last update, around 3 weeks I think, just before my JLPT 3. I've been sick these days so I haven't really got any mood to update. Err.... ok so I wasn't really that sick, but still I didn't find any urge to write, and hence keep pushing off this update till I found time to burn. As for the JLPT, it wasn't as easy as I had hoped (or expected), so I'm not expecting high marks like how I scored over 90% for the JLPT 4. I'll settle for a pass, so hopefully I'll have something to celebrate come next May when the results are out.
Finally got myself a new laptop too! I've been working on a lot of multimedia related assignments lately, and using processor extensive applications like Premiere or Photoshop on my previous laptop was murder. On countless occasions I nearly flung my mouse onto my old laptop monitor because the darn thing hung at the most crucial moments. Well, at least she's served me well for nearly 4 years now. Hew new sister, also from NEC, boasts the following specs:
Not everything's the same though, as in I only have 200 GB worth of harddisk space, and that I'm using Vista home edition. Vista's been a pain in the ass, due to some bugs with software built for xp. I even lost my itunes stats, because Vista's using a new form of storing and archiving documents, and a stupid bug made me delete my documents. Solved that now, but my statistical data is lost forever. DAMNIT. At least I can play the next gen games on my living room TV now.
Berryz Koubou's released their new single this month, named Tsukiatteru no ni Kataomoi (付き合っているのに片思い). It's another lively song, and as much as I love the costumes I thought the dance sequence sucked. I've never been a fan of those knee jerk movements. The song is catchy enough though, so can't really complain. Another bright spark to note is that Sugaya Risako's really looking fantastic in the PV. She's looking much more feminine than before, especially when compared to the other members (such as Momoko...argh). It's amazing when you see these H!P artists start from such a young age, and grow up to be an adult within such a short time. And usually, the transformation is really incredible. Just take Kusumi Koharu for example. From a audition try out to become the current front girl and face of Morning Musume...... simply amazing.

L-77 Star is a newly established company in Singapore, bring to us a variety of anime related education programmes, such as the Seiyuu (voice actor) course, which is due to commence very soon. Also on its agenda is a free anime newsletter, set to be ready early next year. This is really good news for anime fans in Singapore, as the newsletter covers articles on the latest anime series, games and consoles, cosplay information, and even tells you about places in Japan such as Akihabara. Keep a look out for this newsletter coming your way soon.
About the Voice Actor Course: You don't need to have an exceptional voice in order to be a voice actor. In the course of a year, each and every student will discover their own special voice. Students will acquire the basics of physical stamina, sense of rhythm, breathing methods and other skills. Following that, students will gain a wide variety of performance techniques that enable them to act in all kinds of scenes. If you're interested in providing voices for future anime titles to be released all over the world, do give their site a visit and provide support for the local anime production efforts.

News of next year's Kamen Rider series have surfaced! Kamen Rider Kiba (仮面ライダーキバ or Masked Rider Fang) is the title for the 2008 Kamen Rider series produced by Toei Company and Ishimori Productions. Nothing is currently known about its plot or characters. It premieres on January 27, 2008, following the finale of Kamen Rider Den-O. It will be a part of TV Asahi's 2008 Super Hero Time block with Engine Sentai Go-onger. Current advertisements suggest a horror film theme to the series, with the motif for Kamen Rider Kiba as a vampire, and also feature a second Rider tentatively named Kamen Rider Hunter (仮面ライダーハンター). First impression of this Kamen Rider, is surprisingly good. That's because the first impression of the previous 2 seasons (Kabuto and Den-O) have been less warmly received due to radical new designs. So far, Kiba's looking good and more pics to come in the next few updates.
Engine Sentai Go-onger (炎神戦隊ゴーオンジャー, Enjin Sentai Gōonjā, Engine Squadron Go-onger) is the title of Toei Company's thirty-second Super Sentai series of Japanese tokusatsu television dramas. Nothing else is currently known concerning characters or cast. It is scheduled to premiere on February 17, 2008 following the finale of Juken Sentai Gekiranger. It will air as part of TV Asahi's 2008 Super Hero Time block alongside Kamen Rider Kiba. The motif of this series is animals and the motor industry. Gekiranger's the 1st Sentai show I've really gotten into (the only one which doesn't put me off as being to kiddy), so I'm pretty sad to see it end. It was great while it lasted, so I'll have to see whether this new series will become a must watch series for me. I doubt so, but we'll see.
Another entry completed. Will take another rest while I think of new stuff to write. Most probably this wait won't take too long, because there are lots of announcements and events happening both in Tokusatsu and anime lately. Until then, I'm ending off with a current fave song, called "Koko ni iru yo" (ここにいるよ) by SoulJa feat. Thelma Aoyama .

Friday, November 30, 2007


Yes, I know I'm supposed to be revising instead of blogging, but I was quite sick of doing the same old papers again and decided to work on a video while taking a break. So, I put some photos together and used one of my favourite songs for this Tokyo trip video. It took longer than I expected, due to some problems with the codec which in the end I had to convert twice to get the quality and size I wanted. Anyway, check out the video and give comments if you've enjoyed it. I'm getting better in this so more videos to come in the future. Gotta hit the books again, so ja!

Monday, November 26, 2007


The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (日本語能力試験), or JLPT, is a standardized test to evaluate and certify the language proficiency of non-native Japanese speakers. It is held internationally once every year, on the first Sunday of December. The JLPT has four levels beginning at level 4 and progressing to level 1 - the most difficult.

Having missed my JLPT last year due to an overseas work attachment, the long wait is finally over and I can now take the test this year. Most of my Japanese classmates have already cleared this test last year. For me, although I missed the chance to clear it last year, I pressed on with my JLPT level 2 studies this year. So, while my other classmates can relax this year, I'll need to study by myself and clear this, while also preparing for next year's level 2 paper, which is the killer one. So, with 1 additional year of practise and preparations, it should be a walk in the park for me.... by right. But still, having gone through some of the past years papers, I think I'd better take some time off this week to ensure that I don't embaress my sensei..... So, wish me good luck this coming Sunday afternoon!

With the year coming to and end, it signals the end of the 2 Tokusatsu shows: Kamen Rider Den-O and Jyuken Sentai Gekirangers. I've been watching both shows since the start of the end, and both have been really entertaining, while also costing a hole in my pocket with their merchandise. With only about 2 more months to go before the finale, news of the new Super Sentai and Kamen Rider show have already hit the net. There are teaser pics of the new Rider, and also some silhouette pictures of the new Sentai team here and there. Den-O, particularly have been a really refreshing Kamen Rider series. While it will be another 2 years before the local audience get to see the dubbed version on TV, I'll be seeking out the latest Kamen Rider and Super Sentai information and post pics up as soon as they're out.

I've been eyeing some stuff this Christmas season, so Mabel will know what to do when she's read this entry. First, a Genesis Climber Mospeada figure which transforms! Old school anime fans born in the late 70s or 80s will remember this show, where the cool looking bikes transform to form an armor on the pilot's suit. Loved this as a kid, and so I'll be looking out for this figure when it gets released. Second figure on my Christmas wish list is Clare from Claymore. I was really hoping to get this figure in Akihabara while I was there, but it wasn't released yet and was only available for pre-order. Hopefully I'll be able to find this here, or I'll have to import. I don't usually keep any resin figures of anime figurines, although I have a Yuna figure from FFX-2, which I bought at a bargain price while figure shopping in Taiwan a few years back. So, if Mabel can't get any of these 2 items I guess I'll have to settle for a PS3. Ok dar? :p

I've finally taken a break from Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core and began to work on another game. This time, I'm getting my hands dirty with Silent Hill: Origins. I've got some previous experience wondering around in Silent Hill, back on the original game for the Playstation. I've played a couple of hours on the sequel, but didn't get to complete it. Silent Hill is a survival horror game franchise, and instead of the usual scare tactics used in the Resident Evil series, it banks on psychologically instilled fear instead. Most of the team, the game just creeps the player out, especially when you're transported to this "Other world", where everything becames blood soaked, and horrififying, reminiscent of hell. I'm about half way through the game, and it's good to scare yourself silly every once in a while.

Alright, gotta go cramp for my JLPT coming soon. Will most probably update again next Sunday evening after I come back from the test. In the mean time, check out this hillarious Kamen Rider inspired commercial from Thailand. And of course wish me luck for the test! Ja!

Sunday, November 18, 2007


We're still in the midst of shifting back to work mode, and luckily I'm still having a pretty comfortable time due to various lull periods in work, allowing me to attend courses outside my work place. Mabel, on the other hand isn't having such luck. She's fallen sick recently, possibly due to the change in the climate between Tokyo and Singapore, and even had to visit the clinic. Sadly, her work in the office is beginning to pile up and she's gotta stay back occasionally to clear her work. Well, at least we're slowing getting back to reality.
During stay in the Ikebukuro hotel, I stayed up almost every night just to watch TV. Unlike Singapore, Tokyo already has multiple HD channels, and are showing even variety shows in high definition, not to mention DVD quality anime shows. Although the hotel didn't have a lot of options in terms of cable, I was still immersed in channel surfing through the various digital and normal bands. Surprisingly, you can still watch re-runs of old school shows, such as Dragonball Z and Mirror man late at night. I got the chance to see another Tokusatsu show this year, when I woke up early Sunday morning to catch Jyuken Sentai Gekirangers live on TV. 2 years ago, I got to see Ultraman Nexus, and then Kamen Rider Kabuto last year. And to complete the HD experience, I watched the latest episode of Cutey Honey: The Live at 1am during one of the nights.

I bought 2 Kamen Rider Den-O candy toys at the Toys'r'us at Odaiba. Although cheap, these henshin devices pack a punch, by including push buttons with actual sounds from the show. The past few seasons of Kamen Rider and Sentai have all been very gimmicky, trying to push the sales of toys, figures, etc through henshin devices and other products. Kamen Rider Den-O is a very good example, and almost every character has something readily to be made into toys. Check out this video of the 2 candy tous I took at the hotel. Also check out this video I ran into on Youtube. This Japanese kid's obviously a fan of Gekirangers, spotting the GekiRed mask and also the henshin device. And it's in this type of situation that you'd hope he's wearing a helmet instead of a mask. Hope he's fine, and he'll grow up to be a fine Gekiranger in the future :p
I've barely opened up my Morning Musume 10th Anniversary album I bought in Japan. Maybe it's because I've already owned most of the singles anyway. But I did pop the DVD into my player and checked out the various interviews with the current and past members. Their new single, Mikan (みかん) have just been released, so check out the PV here:

On other H!P news, ex-morning musume member Goto Maki has left H!P and also the music industry. During the last concert of her G-EmotionII ~How to Use Sexy~ tour, Goto suddenly announced to fans that she would be graduating from Hello! Project, though she was also leaving UpFront Agency completely. Her graduation was said to be that she was overworked and overly stressed, causing her health problems. She also had different ideas of the direction of her career than what her agency had planned.

Apart from the few main core groups from H!P such as Morning Musume, GAM, and Berryz Koubou, a new group known as °C-ute is now making the headlines as well as waves in Japan. Also from the Hello! Project family, these (very) young girls are the new faces introduced to us by producer Tsunku, who writes and produces almost all the H!P songs. Their first single was only released this year, but they are fast gaining popularity in Japan. In fact, their song Tokaikko Junjō (都会っ子 純情) is currently in the top 10 and was playing on the big screen in Shibuya when I was there. Though young, these girls will break out into the Morning Musume tier in years to come. Check out their latest single (which I'm currently hooked on and think is great, particularly the chorous part) here:

Having finished watching Bokurano, I'm starting on yet another anime series called Ghost Hound (神霊狩). The series is set in the modest town of Suiten, located in a remote mountain region in the island of Kyūshū, and follows three boys who have each had traumatic encounters in their childhood and learn to transfer their souls into a parallel world known as the "Unseen World". The Unseen World is however undergoing a change, with its ghosts starting to appear in the real world, which is therefore also being subject to changes. This show is created by Production I.G. and Shirow Masamune, noted for being the creator of the Ghost in the Shell series. I've not really started yet, but it sounds really promising and I'll be keeping an eye on this one.

Mini-update this week as I'm currently doing some other design stuff. On the note of the Japan photos, both me and Mabel have already uploaded the albums to our respective Facebook albums. Do add us if you haven't already. Thanks and ja!

Friday, November 09, 2007


And we're back! Time is indeed relative, as the last 6 days seem to have just flown by within the blink of an eye. And as promised, we have tons of pictures to show, and I'll be uploading the pics onto my facebook account's photo album, so check it out soon. For those who have a facebook account and yet to add me, you can do so by adding my email address, Most of the pics will be added into a new photo album, and you can find some of the photos from the previous trips there too.

This is the 3rd time that we've visited Tokyo. The first one, 2 years ago, was part of an organised tour. Although we had fun, it was really rushed and we didn't really get to do much on our own. The second time last year, we went together with some friends. It was a much better experience, but still pretty much on a planned track as we were being guided most of the time. This time wise, I did most of the planning myself, and also created a detailed itinerary of the places to visit, the things to do, and most importantly the means to get to the right place on time. And indeed, this experience was a very enriching and also a very fulfilling one. Thankfully, we didn't meet any hiccups during the trip, and also managed to clear all the places planned in the intinerary. Being able to converse in Japanese helped a lot. I used signboards alot, and also asked a lot of the native for help. Although my Japanese is far from fluent, I could make out most of the written text and also ask questions and understand the replies. Having my dictionary beside me all the time helped, but there's usually little time to refer especially when you're stuck in the busy Tokyo stations during peak periods.
The flight took around slightly less than 7 hours, and we reached Narita airport around 2pm. There was a need to adjust our watches, as Japan was ahead of Singapore by an hour. We took the airport limousine bus to the Ikebukuro area, which took around 50 minutes. As luxurious as the name implies, it was simply a coach which brought us to a hotel, from which we made our way on foot to our own hotel. I made a reservation around 2 months ago, and also called the hotel 2 weeks ago to personally confirm the reservation. It was a budget hotel really, but still more convenient compared to a traditional ryokan because we didn't have to share a common toilet this year round. The room wasn't big, but enough for us to store our stuff and comfortable enough to rest our tired legs and bodies for the nights ahead. We quickly made our way to the Sunshine City area, and scouted a restaurant to have dinner before shopping around in the area.
Day 2 was actually the real start of the tour. We made our way to the Harajuku area early in the morning. The plan was to visit the Meiji Jingu (明治神宮), and also the various shopping streets in the area such as the Takeshita Street (竹下通り). And because we were too early, most of the shops in the area wasn't opened, including the restaurants. We then took a slow walk towards the shrine, and also managed to check out the flower exhibition along the way. The shrine was surprisingly full of people as well as small children, who were there for the Shichi-Go-San (七五三). It is a traditional rite of passage and festival day in Japan for three and seven year-old girls and three and five year-old boys, held annually in November. As Shichi-Go-San is not a national holiday, it is generally observed on the nearest weekend. We saw lots of small little girls dressed in kimono - many for the first time - for the visit to the shrine. Three-year-old girls usually wear hifu (a type of padded vest) with their kimono. Western-style formal wear is also worn by some children. A more modern practice is photography, and this day is well known as a day to take pictures of children. We didn't really get a chance to take pictures of them, because most of them were really busy and were also guarded by their parents whom seemed really strict...
We paid around 600 yen for a prayer plaque, on which I wrote our prayer in Japanese. I didn't have time to check, so I'm quite some I had some of the text written wrongly. I usually refer to my quick Katakana reference chart in class, so I'm sure the Gods won't blame me for that. Anyway, if you're curious, my prayer was that me and Mabel's family would be safe and that we would be blessed with happiness. Simple words due to the fact that I can't write the harder kanji. Haha~

We then made our way into one of the nature parks in the area. It wasn't free and we had to pay an admission fee, which wasn't too cheap. But as small as the area was, it was truly a beautiful and a peaceful place to have a morning stroll in. The air was freash, and the scenary magnificent. The river was full of lively fishes, and the vegetation full of life including bugs and butterflies. There was also a well in the area, abeit not a wishing nor a drinking one. We took around 25 minutes to explore the area, and took quite a few photos too. The most amazing thing about this park is that you don't feel like you're in the city while you're walking in the park. As busy as the streets just outside it, along with the crowds emerging from the train stations, you get a feeling that you're far away from the stressful city life, and you can't help but feel relaxed there.
After walking out of the shrine, we went back to Takeshita Street to have breakfast. Most of the meals we had in Tokyo didn't come cheap, but they were really worth the money. Almost all of the meals we had during the trip were truly fantastic, and although the prices were high, the after-meal satisfaction meter was also rocketing. The Japanese take pride in their meals, and they tasted as good as they looked. Mabel was attracted by one of the many crepe stalls, and I got her one of the banana flavoured ones. The displays were really well done up, and the crepes really looked delicious. I'm not much of a cake or sugary food guy, so I had to give it a pass. The rest of the time spent in Harajuku was mainly on getting gifts in the form of cosmetics or food for our friends and colleagues back home. The thing about going for a trip is that most of the time you've got to worry about what to get for the folks back home. It's hard to create a win-win situation, so you got to search for items which don't seem too cheap and won't take up too much space or money......
We then headed for the Shibuya area, where we took pictures of the famous dog, Hachiko (ハチ公). Hachiko was an Akita dog and is remembered for his loyalty to his master. In 1924, Hachiko was brought to Tokyo by his owner, Hidesamuroh Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo. During his owner's life, Hachiko saw him off from the front door and greeted him at the end of the day at the nearby Shibuya Station. Even after Ueno's death in May 1925, Hachiko returned every day to the station to wait for him, and did so for the next 10 years. Hachiko's devotion moved those around him, who nicknamed him "faithful dog". Some kind vendors who saw the dog waiting every day would give him small bits of food and water. This has caused some people to say that he only returned to the station in order to receive these treats, but this does not answer why he would return only at the time his master's train was due, and not remain begging after. Mabel then had a great time in Shibuya 109. Shibuya 109 is a trend setting fashion complex for young women with more than one hundred boutiques on ten floors. I had an agonising time waiting, but at least I had some fun translating her requests to the Japanese salesgirls.
The next stop was Shinjuku. All these 3 places was planned to be covered in a single day due to their close proximity, which was as close as a single station away. Shinjuku was yet another shopping area targeted at the younger generation of the Japanese. We shopping around the large shopping complexes which were interconnected either through the subway station or through bridges and walkways. We got ourselves some jackets and Mabel promptly wore her newly accquired purchase, as the weather got significantly colder in the evening. The sun sets very early during this period in Tokyo, and it gets almost totally dark by 5pm every day. The weather was cooling, around 15 degree celcius, so we didn't really need extra thick clothes as we were mostly walking around in the shopping complexes or in the subway stations most of the time. In the left picture, you get to see Mabel disguised as a prawn. Delicious, ain't she?
Our friend William decided that he wanted to try some of the donuts from the famous store in the area, and led us on a wild goose treasure hunt which saw us walking and looking for over an hour. In the end, we had to ask passerbys which we spotted with the donuts. They gave us directions, but still it was hard to find the place because we were facing the wrong direction and was blocked by multiple buildings. In the end, we did manage to find the place and William finally got to taste his beloved donuts. Mabel benefitted from the event too, having ate half of the dozen donuts within a day's time.
Day 3 was spent almost entirely in Tokyo Disneyland. It was the second time there for us, so we knew most of the stores and restaurants within the amusement park. We also knew which characters to look for first. Upon entry into the park, we directly went for one of the 2 "hotspots". There were 2 distinctive queues which were immediately visible once you step in. One of the queue was for Winnie the Pooh, and the other for Micky. We decided to go for Winne first, as he was closer. The queue took longer than expected, due to the little children was had a short attention span and required more time to get ready. By the time we finished our business with Winne and also the lesser known characters (yes that's you, pig), the queue with Micky was too long, and we had to give up.
Well, there were still many other characters to chase down in the area, so we went for the easier targets which didn't require a half hour waiting time. Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Chip & Dale were all targetted by Mabel and me, and she was good at grabbing their arms and demanding that her photo be taken. It was a chaotic affair really, trying to take pictures with these guys in stuffed suits. There were lots of people trying to take photos with them, and most of the time there wasn't any queue lines. So basically, you really need to grab them and push the rest of the people away. Not easy, but since Singaporeans are usually more kiasu than the Japanese, they let us win most of the time. Victory came at a price though, as Mabel got her head knocked by Goofy on one occasion and boy did it sound painful. Headbutts from large plastics noses aren't exactly pleasant. Especially when you still need to smile for the camera afterwards. Personally I pity the guys in the suits. It looks like a tough job pretending to be a cartoon character the entire day. Well...... you know that you've lost your innocence when you see these guys as chaps in suits rather than live cartoon characters. :)
Rather than actually buying the toys and the accessories, Singaporeans usually get by with taking photographs instead. Haha at least we got something to show that we've been there. Ok at least we're not completely cheap. We bought loads of food and presents back too, ok? :p
We missed the Halloween season, but even better was that we were just in time for the Christmas mood in Disneyland. Most of the goods and the shows, characters were already giving off a Christmas vibe, and the mood was certainly flowing in that direction.
The day was a very tiring one as expected, and I really hope that Mabel's had her fun there. While I don't think we'll be back in the short run, I still wish that if there was a next time, we can go to the Sea based Disneyland instead. We got ourselves some items to display in our living room, so perhaps I'll take some pics and show them in future entries.
Next day on the itinerary was Odaiba followed by Asakusa. We've visited these 2 places already in our previous 2 visits, but there's a reason why these 2 have become a staple on our plans. For odaiba, it's a city within a city, with large shopping complexes which boasts stores ranging from retro goods to designer fashion labels. As mentioned in the previous blog entry, I was hoping to find my baseball jersey here. But that was not meant to be, as 2 hours of searching proved to be fruitless. Mabel, on the other hand, was the big winner again, having bought yet another Adidas jacket which was supposed to be a limited edition. This year I seem to have very little to buy, and even at the large Toys'r'us store I didn't have much to go for, and only had 2 Kamen Rider Den-O Candy toys when I went for the cashier eventually. Heck, even Mabel bought more stuff than me there, can you believe it. She also got to taste her McWrap there, in full prawn flavoured glory. Expect this item to hit our local McDonald stores soon, given it's popularity there in Japan. For my meal, the counter actually gave me a wireless transmitter which beeped when my meal was ready, signalling to me that my meal was ready for collection. Innovative, and we should have such services in Singapore too.The second part of the day was to be spent in Asakusa. We took one of the cruise packages there, which took us on a ride under many of the famous bridges in the Asakusa, Hinode, and Daiba areas. It wasn't cheap, but the sea breeze and the view made the money's worth. Thankfully there wasn't a lot of people on the 2 ships which we boarded, so we could run around without having to bother the rest of the passengers. I could have also taken a short nap there if not for Mabel's excitement which kept me awake. Although it was really cold having to brace the winds on top of the ship, we could take photos of the famous Rainbow bridge without any obstruction, and also have a clear view of the Odaiba area from the sea. Having took the train across the Rainbow bridge earlier in the morning, it was a refreshing turn of events witnessing the same trains cross the bridge from another angle, which was from the boats.

There were some time delay during the transition from boat to boat, but we made full use of the time buy taking more pictures with cruise ships, and also other interesting backdrops in the Hinode Pier area. Next stop: Asakusa.

As planned, we reached Asakusa and made our way to the Nakamise street, where the auntie's store was (refer to the last blog entry to find out why we're visiting her). And obviously, she didn't recognise us at first, as she probably sees a few thousand visitors every day. Expecting this to happen, I loaded last year's pic into my handphone, and showed her the picture. Her face instantly lit up, and boy was she excited to see us. I even showed her my tour book, which to her surprised, featured her store in the Asakusa section. Turned out that she didn't even knew that her face was in the book! She was really surprised, and looked happy to find out from us about her "fame". She was really chatty, and I had a great time talking with her in Japanese. I told her of my interest in the language, how I'm taking classes, and even our plans for the next trip. Amazingly enough, I had little problems understanding her, and it seems that with each passing year I'm starting to get better in speaking and understanding everyday Japanese. She was kind enough to give us extra paper bags as gift packages, and even stuffed some free goodies in our bags. I promised her that we'll be back to look for her whenever we're in Tokyo, and I even got her to sign for my book. This was one of the better experiences I had in the entire trip, and it brightened my day and would be listed as one of the more memorable events in all the Japan trips. Thank you, Yoshimi-san!

We also had a chance at the Omikuji (御神籤) within the shrine. Omikuji are random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines in Japan. Literally "sacred lottery", these are usually received by pulling one out randomly from a box that one shakes, hoping for the resulting fortune to be good. The omikuji falls out of a small hole, scrolled up. (Nowadays, these are often coin-slot machines.) Unrolling the piece of paper reveals the fortune written on it, which can be any one of the following:
  • Great blessing (dai-kichi, 大吉)
  • Middle blessing (chū-kichi, 中吉)
  • Small blessing (shō-kichi, 小吉)
  • Blessing (kichi, 吉)
  • Half-blessing (han-kichi, 半吉)
  • Near-blessing (sue-kichi, 末吉)
  • Near-small-blessing (sue-shō-kichi, 末小吉)
  • Curse (kyō, 凶)
  • Small curse (shō-kyō, 小凶)
  • Half-curse (han-kyō, 半凶)
  • Near-curse (sue-kyō, 末凶)
  • Great curse (dai-kyō, 大凶)
The omikuji predicts the person's chances of his or her hopes coming true, of finding a good match, or generally matters of health, fortune, life, etc. When the prediction is bad, it is a custom to fold up the strip of paper and attach it to a pine tree in the temple grounds. A purported reason for this custom is a pun on the word for pine tree (松 matsu) and the verb 'to wait' (待つ matsu), the idea being that the bad luck will wait by the tree rather than attach itself to the bearer. In the event of the fortune being good, the bearer should keep it. Though nowadays this custom seems more of a children's amusement, omikuji are available at most shrines, and remain one of the traditional activities related to shrine-going, if lesser. And luckily enough, me and Mabel got a 大吉 and a 小吉 respectively. Woo hoo~ talk about good luck! I also managed to get my Morning Musume 10th Anniversary album..... so that's one thing off my list. :)
Asakusa and the shrine there means alot to me and Mabel, because we believe that our prayers to the Gods there have been answered year after year, and we've been blessed with good luck these couple of years. As much as possible, we will definately return and make our prayers there again.
Day 5 was to be another packed day. First up, a visit to the famous Tokyo Tower. There are two observatory floors, the main observatory (at 150 m) and the so-called "special observatory" (at 250 m); both offer a 360-degree view of Tokyo and, on clear days, Mount Fuji. Unlike the Eiffel Tower, neither observation deck at Tokyo tower is located near the top of the structure. We decided to go for the 150m one as the other option was a tad on the expensive side, and we didn't really want to spend to much time there anyway.
And as you'd expect, the view there was amazing. Although we were only about half way up the tower, the amount of distance our eyes could cover was magnificent. We headed for the binoculars aimed at Mount Fuji, and I could make out a the outline of a mountain though I'm not 100% certain that it was Mount Fuji. After buying a souvenir from the gift shop, we decended and made our way back to the train station. We made a pit stop at the Mos Burger restarant, but didn't waste too much time in heading to the next stop: Akihabara. Finally, a place which I truly wanted to visit. It was bumped twice on the itinerary to become one of the last places, due to Mabel's insistance that we cover the other places first. Well, at least I can spend more time and money here. All I need to do now is to get lunch out of the way......
Akihabara is best-known as one of the largest shopping areas on Earth for electronic, computer, anime, and otaku goods, including new and used items. New items are mostly to be found on the main street, Chūōdōri, with many kinds of used items found in the back streets of Soto Kanda 3-chōme. It's name is frequently shortened to Akiba in Japan. And as much as I really wanted to visit one of the many Maid Cafes there, I eventually decided to pass on the idea. Why? After chatting for a while with the maid in the picture, I realised that it wasn't too worthwhile for Mabel and our 2 non-Japanese speaking friends to visit the Maid Cafe. After all, the maids do chat with you and make you feel like you're their goshujin sama (ご主人様), and for high exorbitant prices too. She recommended a cosplay cafe for me instead, and when I went there I realised that it wasn't exactly cheap, and that photography wasn't allowed, and so decided to pass on the idea. At least I had a lengthy chat with that maid, whom was very friendly and gave advice on the navigation aspect. Mabel was also kind enough to secretly snap some pictures of me and her... hehe.
After Akiba, we visited Ameyoko in Ueno next. Ameyoko is a busy market street along the Yamanote line tracks between Okachimachi and Ueno Station, the site of a black market after World War Two. The name "Ameyoko" is a short form for "Ameya Yokocho" (candy store alley), as candies were traditionally sold there. Alternatively, "Ame" also stands for "America", because a lot of American products were available on the black market. Today, various products such as clothes, bags, cosmetics, fresh fish, dried food and spices are sold at bargain prices along Ameyoko. More stuff and goodies were brought here, and I had a hard time bringing all those bags back to the hotel. At least all the gifts have been covered for.
For myself, I got more figures at the Akiba stores and also the Yamashiroya store in Ueno. All my purchases during the 5 days so far can be seen in this pic. Not a lot, and definately pales in comparison to my other hauls the previous years. This year I've gotten mainly the imagins from the Kamen Rider Den-O series, and the rest of the Gekiranger figures. I've decided to get Gekiyellow, even though I've already ordered it through Szehuat. Just in case, I thought, because I saw that many stores in Japan didn't carry it anymore. Rest of my harvest include the Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Ultimanium, which was value for money because I would need to pay double the price in Singapore. More candy toy stuff too, including some Ultraman figures and candy.
Day 6, the last day. Nothing fancy, so we woke up to a late morning, went to the nearby convenience store to buy some drinks and to expend the rest of our yen. The Japanese convenience stores are nothing like the crappy ones we have in Singapore. They have tons of food and drinks and it'll take months to try all the different breads and instant noodles, sushi, etc. We then headed for the hotel to book our rides back to the airport, deposited our 4 bags there and went for lunch. We tried one of the nearby stores, and was pleasantly surprised by what we received. The ramen, which came in servings of 200g, 300g, and 400g tasted great and were cheap to boot. We ordered the 300g noodles, and were so stuffed at the end of the meal we were surprised at how people can finish the 400g serving by themselves.
And soon, we were on the plane flying back home. It's been a really satisfying trip, and made even better because we spent so little on food, accomodation, and transport, and yet get to go everywhere we wanted to. From now till our next trip, me and Mabel will definately be doing our homework. For her, more places to visit and the cheap bargains to go for, and for me preparing for my JLPT 3 this year and JLPT 2 next year would take priority. I've had fun this trip, and I'd like to thank our 2 companions William and Huiming too for being great mates. Sorry if I didn't understand all the Japanese, but I'll definately get better. Until the next entry, do check out the full photo albums which will be uploaded shortly. There's simply to many photos to show (over 800), so I'll upload the worthy ones only. Till then, ja!