Respect

I asked the security guard if I could access the rubbish room to throw out a huge garbage bag, which wouldn’t have fit into the regular garbage chute on our floor. He gladly came to help me, and proceeded to tel me about how people in the complex just throw general rubbish into the recycling bins, when they are all clearly marked “paper”, “plastics” and so forth. And they’re all different colours too, so I don’t understand why people continue to ignore them. He seemed to feel quite strongly about it, which was nice to see, as I find it quite disrespectful too.

He also started telling me about how he feels that some people seem to think security guards are beneath them, and won’t give them the time of day. They’re here to keep your complex safe, and they do things behind the scenes that you don’t see for that very purpose. Why are people so rude to them? Because they only see them sitting at their guard post, seemingly not doing anything all day? I just don’t get it. They’re part of your complex, and they’re doing an important job. And if something goes wrong, they’re the first to take action. At least have the decency to respect them for the work that they do for you and your home. 😔

Ok, rant over 😊

I had that quick chat just before I left the apartment to catch up with a friend from dancing. She’s actually one of our friends from when we first started competing. She lives in Sydney and is in SG for training this week, so it was good that we got to catch up with her. Her old dance partner now also lives in SG (small world!), but unfortunately he couldn’t make it tonight. Would’ve made for an awesome photo to send to our old Latin teacher from back then! 😊

Organising

I started decluttering my closet today, based on the KonMari method in Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up”. Someone recommended this book to me last year, and now I use her method to stay on top of my stuff. Living in SG where apartments are tiny, I’ve become much better at not hoarding so much stuff. But if you don’t keep on top of it, the crap just seems to creep in on you throughout the year. So I always use the end of the year to declutter and do a massive clean out of our stuff. It’s tough to let go of some stuff sometimes, but you just have to be honest with myself. In fact, because I’ve been using her method a bit more consistently throughout the year, I have noticed that my big decluttering event this year isn’t so big compared to previous years! If anything, it’s more about cleaning inside the cupboards rather than decluttering what is inside them! So that’s a huge improvement already 😀

We had our Ballroom lesson tonight. Neither of us could recall a single thing about our previous lesson, omg. So I have vowed to write down notes after EVERY SINGLE lesson next year, because this is just ridiculous, and honestly a waste of money if we can’t even remember a single thing from that previous lesson. And even today’s lesson felt like it was just a refresher of stuff that he has been telling us all year. Omg. Much like with not dropping my phone, I need to make a tick box in my Bullet Journal next year specifically for this. If it’s in my Bullet Journal, there is a higher probability that it will get done. That Journal is doing wonders to my productivity. I wish I had it years ago! In fact, I wish I had come up with the idea myself!

Have I raved about my Bullet Journal (or BuJo for short) yet? I have a feeling I haven’t. This link takes you to the creator’s web page, which introduces people to the concept and gives people a few tips on how to use their own BuJos. There are BuJo enthusiasts in the social media world, and they have taken the pretty simple BuJo idea to a whole new level. I use it more to organise my life more than anything else, but I do try and incorporate some more creative pages in there to keep the cogs turning in a different way 😊 I’ll have to post a few shots from my new BuJo when I start it in the New Year.

Hobonichi 5-year diary

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Hobonichi recently added a 5-year diary to their product range. Hobonichi is that Japanese stationery brand that my friend told me about while we were in Japan. They had run out of the natural leather cover when I went to their store near Harajuku, and online they were out of stock and said that they weren’t restocking the natural leather cover. Grrr! So I decided to try my luck in Singapore when we returned, but to no avail 😔

For some reason, I decided to go back online and check out their website again. And wouldn’t you know it, they have apparently changed their mind about restocking the natural leather cover! And sales for it resume at 11am Japan time today! So I was online at 9:55am SG time (we’re an hour behind), waiting for their online store to restock.

And my order went through! Woohoo! Lucky stationery isn’t one of those crazy products that every man and his dog are into, so I didn’t have to refresh a hundred times or anything to get through to the site hehehe 😊

Here is their English website on the five-year diary. The video may just persuade you to buy one for yourself 😊

I was feeling really tired all day, and so didn’t do as much as I would’ve liked. And then in the evening, we had our Latin lesson, which doesn’t quite make up for all the lessons that we’ve missed while we’ve been away. Sigh. 2017 wasn’t at all a year for dancing. Let’s see what 2018 brings for us…

Tea & scones and a new phone

We have nothing in the fridge, so I decided to go out somewhere for breakfast. And after two weeks of being in the East, I decided that I was going to have a very Western breakfast today to balance that out hahaha So I went to TWG Tea at ION Orchard and had tea and scones 😊  I even ordered the London Breakfast Tea hehehe

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They have a new green tea that they’ve added to their collection, which is actually from Japan. I was going to order it, but then saw the prices.  And for a type of tea that I don’t normally voluntarily order, I just wasn’t willing to pay that price.  Maybe instead of a sign to buy it, it was saying that our Japan trip is well and truly over 😔

After that, I went to buy a new phone, since my current one is pretty much on its death bed.  Sighhhhh…. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t take better care of it. Also, it pretty much died halfway through our holiday, so I couldn’t take as many photos as I would’ve liked. Sighhhh x2.  So I’m going to create a daily tickbox in my Bullet Journal for 2018, and cross off each day that I don’t drop my phone. So hopefully I can fill up the year with as many phone-not-dropped days as possible! Plus I bought a case that’s a bit more protective, just in case my klutzy self continues to show up in the new year.

It took me about five hours this afternoon / tonight to transfer all the data from my stuffed up phone to my new one, coz:

1) I hadn’t backed up my phone in over two years (OMG); and

2) I’m technologically challenged, so the simplest of things (like backing up my phone!) takes me forever to do.

Luckily I didn’t lose anything in those 2+ years phewwww And lucky I could still get the touch screen to work on the old phone today, to be able to back it up!

But the five hours was worth it, I reckon: my new phone is set up in exactly the same way as my old phone, as if nothing even happened.  That’s pretty awesome! This is probably something that a younger person and/or a more technologically able person would expect as a given and would think nothing of it hahaha But this is an achievement for me! 😊

Travelling Day

Spent the day on buses and planes today. Such a long day. If only flying was as efficient as the shinkansens 😔 Our flight was delayed by around 45 minutes, because of the delay of the plane flying into Tokyo from LA. Argh, that was rather uncharacteristic of Singapore Airlines.

But on the plus side, the seat next to me was empty! Woohoo! A spare seat always makes things more comfortable. I ended up watching a Japanese movie, an Italian movie, and half of a Singaporean movie. Very international! They dimmed the lights after dinner, so I was getting very sleepy during the Singaporean movie. I’ll have to finish it another time.

Japanese selection. This was actually really nice! 😊 

We made good time in the air: we managed to land pretty much on schedule. Crazy!

We walked into our apartment and the place actually felt foreign. We were only gone for just over two weeks, but it felt like forever. Probably coz we moved around Japan quite a fair bit during that time.

And no Kitty to greet us 😔 She’s still at the cattery. We decided to keep her there rather than bring her back home, coz we’ll only just stress her out again when she has to go back to the cattery for when we’re in Oz. Awww, I miss the little one 😔

We had a lovely holiday. Back to normality tomorrow.

Second and final day in Tokyo

We decided to have a leisurely day today. We didn’t do much at all, just wandered around and did a bit of shopping and eating. N wanted to buy a new bo for karate and new sneakers, but instead he came out with a wallet and dance pants hahaha Funny how the universe works sometimes.

We went and asked for a tax refund at the department store where N bought his wallet and dance pants. They had written instructions in Japanese, Chinese and English.  The woman who served us spoke in English to us, but when I pointed to the instructions and asked her in Japanese if she could speak all three, she then switched to Japanese straight away and remained talking in Japanese for the rest of the conversation omg. I must’ve fudged so well today that she asked me if I was Japanese or half Japanese! She was probably just being polite, as a lot of the Japanese are, but it was still cool that she was so excited when she found out I could converse even just a little in Japanese 😊

We experienced the jam packed trains today. We were on the train close to the doors, and when the doors opened on the other side, I could see a wave of people come in. And I was like “omg, that wave is going to eventually come over our way….” And it did! It was just one of those surreal moments that you just have to experience. Crazy stuff. It was cold, so it wasn’t too bad, but I don’t know what it would be like in the heat of summer…. 😳 Not sure if this video really captures the experience: despite the situation, everyone is still so quiet and polite!

I went and visited a stationery store near Harajuku, called Hobonichi, which was recommended to me by a friend who also loves her stationery. Yesterday they released this 5-year diary, which are available in three colours. And today, the colour that I want is already sold out! And their online store says that they’re not restocking it! Argh! So now I’m going to scour all the outlets in Singapore when we return 😝 There are quite a few in stores in SG that stock their items, actually, so I’m going to go and visit them all on Monday hahahaha And if that fails, I’ll head to Melbourne Central when we’re there later in December. I’m determined to hunt this colour down!

The Hobonichi Store was close to Harajuku, so we walked back there for dinner. N noticed this Italian restaurant last night called Penny Lane, so we decided to go there tonight.

It turns out that they only have a menu in Japanese. Omg hahaha So I’m basically reading this menu like a 5-year old, sounding out characters and trying to figure out what Italian dishes they were. It’s hard enough reading Japanese in general; this menu was HANDWRITTEN, which made it that much more difficult.

We ordered a Quattro Formaggi (sp) pizza and a Margarita pizza, and they gave us honey to put on the former. That was certainly different! Italians may cringe at this addition, but I actually liked it. 🍕

And then we just walked around and did a bit of shopping before the shops started to close. A nice, easy way to end our holiday. It’s a bit sad that it’s now come to an end, but in a way, I’m looking forward to getting back to reality. It feels like we’ve been in Japan forever! Lol

First full day in Tokyo

First full day in Tokyo, and we just wandered around Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinjuku. Shibuya really just to find some martial arts stores, but they ended up being more kendo stores rather than stocking a variety of supplies for the different martial arts. I had another entirely Japanese conversation in one of the places, and asked them if they knew of a shop that sold karate gear. The guy then flicked through a catalog, and pointed to one shop in Shinjuku. He started telling me where it’s located, inserting as much English as he could in his directions, and his colleague said to him something along the lines of “you don’t have to speak in English, she understands Japanese”. Hahaha that was pretty cool! Not quite true, but I can fudge my way through simple daily conversations.

We walked through Yoyogi Park after that, admiring the beautiful autumn colours again. They had an area for dogs to run around unleashed, so we just watched them for a little while, before heading over to Harajuku. We walked past a hedgehog cafe and an owl cafe. As cute as owls are, I’m still a bit hesitant to go to one, just for ethical reasons.

So we went to Kiddyland instead. Omg, if you want to experience the total kawaii cute culture of Japan, this place is the place to go: 5 floors of cuteness overload! Merchandise featuring Hello Kitty, Cinnamoroll, Doraemon, Disney characters, Gudetama, Snoopy and so many more are all here for you. It is just the best!! 😊

We then headed back to Shinjuku and walked through Golden Gai, an area full of narrow alley ways, renowned for various drinking establishments. A lot have a cover charge, and some say “Japanese only” or “I only speak Japanese”, so I guess those places just want to focus on their local customers. But this place is awesome:

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There is a resident cat in the bar!! I’m not much of a drinker, but this place I will go and visit 😊 Although there was no English at the front, as you can see, so I’m not sure if we’d be allowed in as foreigners. What if I said “I love cats, but we’re foreigners, can we still enter?” in Japanese as we walk in? Hahaha

Golden Gai was really just a drinking area, but what we really wanted was some food, so we handed over to Piss Alley afterwards, which is also in the Shinjuku area. I have no idea how this place got its name, I’m sure something will come up about it if you Google it. It does have a Japanese name (Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho 新宿思い出横丁), so maybe only foreigners call it Piss Alley? It’s not the cleanest place, but it’s not THAT bad. Or at least at the time when we were there 😳 all the bars and restaurants in these two areas were tiny as, with some places barely catering for maybe ten customers at a time. Some of the places are basically just counters, so it can be quite challenging to find a place to eat/drink. And then you’ve got the lax smoking rules in Japan too, so the person next to you has every right to light up 😑 But you just have to go and visit at least once, for the unique experience 😊

 

 

Goodbye peace & quiet; hello crazy!

We had our last breakfast at the ryokan this morning. Bittersweet, as I knew that meant we would soon be leaving the ryokan and the town. The level of service here was second to none, we had such an enjoyable stay.

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Our last breakfast at Yudanaka Yumoto

We made the trek to Tokyo this morning, catching three trains to make it to our next abode: the Godzilla Hotel in Shinjuku! It’s actually called Hotel Gracery, but whatevs, Godzilla is here! 😂

One of the trains we caught had rather fancy schmancy toilets. They had THREE different types of toilets AND a multi-purpose room. And there was a powder room! The multi-purpose room was locked, so I don’t know what “multi-purpose” actually means. I couldn’t go into the men’s toilet, obviously, but the other two rooms were immaculate. And both had a baby chair and a nappy change area. The country is very good with this, the western world could learn a thing or two from Japan. Hahaha ever since JLP’s visit to SG a few weeks ago, I am now much more aware of baby facilities for parents! 😊

In comparison to where we were just staying, our room in this hotel is TINY. It is smaller than the living area in our room in the ryokan! I feel very cramped 😒 I guess the point is you’ll be out and about during the day, only to return to the hotel to sleep. But still!

We went to the samurai museum after checking in. That was actually pretty cool, and I learnt a thing or two about Japan’s history while we were there. They give multiple tours in English every 10-20 minutes, so the guides all speak pretty good English. I don’t know if you have to join the group or if you can just wander around the museum on your own, but I think it’s better if you join the tour anyway, because you learn more about the samurai history than what you will get just wandering around on your own. You can walk around afterwards anyway, if you want to stick around for longer and revisit some of the exhibits that you’re particularly interested in. The tour took about an hour, and then you can try on some traditional garb afterwards if you like.

B72F6464-D2CA-4F1E-92EA-6066089AEA50 The Robot Restaurant was the highlight of the day for me, though. The best way I can describe this is it’s a one- to one-and-a-half hours of sensory overload; a performance of dancing and singing, with a number of robots being part of the performance, and a lot of Japanese culture infused throughout the entire show. The whole experience was totally crazy, so surreal, and so bizarre that I don’t know whether I liked it or not! I would say yes, for those same reasons! 😂 This video gives you just a small snippet of the crazy insane experience. Only in Tokyo 😂

Last day in the peaceful, sleepy towns of Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka

We took our time to get ready this morning, requesting for a later breakfast time of 8:30am. And we got one plate of rice and one plate of bread, as I had requested! Yayyy! Even with my simple Japanese and no doubt crappy grammar, I still conveyed that correctly 👍

The spread was slightly different today, but still just as much food. I love the fish that they served today. I’ve had it once for lunch during this trip, and it has a few bones, but the deliciousness of its meat more than makes up for this inconvenience.

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This morning’s breakfast spread, just as impressive (and delicious!) as yesterday’s 😋

N has a bit of a cold, so he wanted to use the hot baths again after breakfast, to help make him feel better. But apparently the bathrooms are closed for cleaning during the day. While we were coming to this realisation, the owner had quickly come over to apologise for the inconvenience – and quickly switched on the lights for the male bathroom, and said that we could use it together if we wanted to. So she was apologising to us, even though we were inconveniencing THEM! Talk about mega-politeness!

We walked over to the nearby town for a more thorough walk through. It turned out that there wasn’t much more to the town from what we saw yesterday: we finished walking through the town in about two hours, including taking photos and visiting the Otozan Onsen-ji temple. And the town that we’re staying at is pretty much the same size. So it’s the perfect place to go if you want to relax and get away from the crazy busy large cities.

We went back to the ryokan to drop off some stuff, before going out for lunch. The ryokan owner said to have the sweets in our room, and I said we’ll have them later when we return. We thought he was talking about the chocolates that were on the table in the room when we first checked in that we haven’t yet eaten, but when we came back, we discovered that they had BOUGHT us two slices of cake! OMG! They are just the nicest, most generous people! I’m disappointed that I can’t express my appreciation eloquently enough in Japanese to let them know how much I have appreciated their level of service these past few days. In a way, I’m a little sad that we’re checking out tomorrow, because we’ve really enjoyed our stay here. Until today, I think we’ve been the only guests in the hotel the entire time!

 

After having our final dinner in Yudanaka, we went and had our final bath in the onsen, and packed for tomorrow. I’m a bit sad that we will be leaving so soon 😔 I really want my Japanese to have improved next time we come to Japan, so I can express myself better with the ryokan owners!

On a side note, I wonder how much Chinese I can remember when we return to Singapore… I have been in full-on Japanese mode these past few weeks that whenever I see a familiar Chinese  character now, the Japanese pronunciation comes to mind. Is it possible to learn both concurrently?? Has anyone done this or in fact doing this right now, I wonder. Maybe I’ll do a Google search… 😊

Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park and other adventures

We managed to get to breakfast just a few minutes past 7:30am. I seriously thought it would be a total struggle to get there on time, but it was actually ok. I guess it helps when you get to bed early the previous evening! 😊 We had this whole room to ourselves, and the breakfast spread was huge! It took us maybe 45 minutes, but we actually managed to get through most of it, amazingly.

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I think there was a bit of miscommunication about the rice and the bread… We meant either is fine, not to be served both – oooops! I asked (in Japanese) for just one of each for tomorrow’s breakfast. Let’s see how effective my Japanese was… lol

N was putting on his furoshiki shoes and the ryokan owner seemed to disapprove, and started looking for shoes that he deemed more appropriate for trekking up to the snow monkey park. The ryokan owners seemed to think that his furoshiki shoes would get wet and dirty in the snow-covered trails up at the snow monkey park. So they lent him some sneakers, which was really nice of them. They seem to have a whole cupboard full of boots and shoes for such situations, which I thought was a really nice service that they provide to their guests.

He then drove us up to the snow monkey park, right up to as far as cars are allowed to go. There were patches of snow still on the ground as we we drove up, so I was fearing the cold weather up there. He dropped us off and just before he left, he told us to be careful as the ground may be slippery. So nice! We walked the remainder of the way, another half hour or so of relatively easy walking. The trail leading up to the park is 1.6km, and no toilet facilities along the way. There were a few stairs at the start and at the end of the trail, and the last few leading up to the park itself were quite steep, but overall, a much easier walk than I expected it to be. Maybe coz it wasn’t covered in snow! ❄️ You do start feeling the drop in temperature, as you get closer to the park, as you walk higher and higher up into the mountains. But again, you don’t really feel this as you’re walking up, as the trail is relatively flat.

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Part of the 1.6km trail leading up to the snow monkey park
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Such a beautiful area

But once you get to the park, you may be in total freezation land, but the monkeys are just so cuuuute! While we were up there, for maybe 2 hours from roughly 9-11am, the temperature stayed at around 1°C. And I chose to leave my gloves at the ryokan inn. omg hahaha That was another stupid decision of mine this trip. Ah well. You live and learn.

Entry is ¥800 per adult, and you get to wander around the small park and take as many photos and videos as you like of the monkeys. You can walk around the entire park in maybe 5 minutes, but you can spend the entire morning or afternoon watching the monkeys play, eat, and just sit in their little onsen, oblivious to all the humans around them. We could have stayed longer if we weren’t slowly freezing to death outside hahahahaha

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This is the bath where the snow monkeys like to soak to stay warm, and where all those professional photos of them are taken

There is a small room at the entrance that has a small souvenir shop, toilets, and some information on the snow monkeys. But more importantly for us this morning, it was HEATED inside! Hahaha So we probably spent half an hour in that little room, just thawing out, and mentally preparing ourselves to head back out of the park and down back the 1.6km trail 😂

You can’t eat along the trail nor in the park, as the monkeys apparently start pestering you for your food. There are a few places that offered food in the area, but there is also Enza Cafe just at the start of the trail, where you can grab a bite to eat or just a drink just before or after your visit to the snow monkey park.

We decided to walk back to our ryokan inn afterwards, and walked through the nearby town, Shibu Onsen. It was a bit of a walk back, but it was scenic, and we discovered a Buddhist temple along the way. On a separate note, look how beautiful the sky was today! 😲

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This bronze statue at Daihiden temple is dedicated to world peace

Dinner was another adventure, looking for some place in town that’s actually open. More people were out wandering around today compared to yesterday, so maybe we were just a tad early for dinner yesterday. But the town in general is quiet. I wonder if there is ever a busy period. Maybe during winter when there is snow?

We decided to have a later bath tonight, after the bathrooms have been switched, which happens after 9pm. I wanted to try the outdoor bath, which N told me about yesterday. Men had the outdoor bath earlier, and it switches over for women to use after 9pm. This other bathroom had the hot and ridiculous hot baths as well, but in addition, it also has the outdoor bath. I went into the hot bath first, before going outside for the outdoor one. I figured by being warm already from the indoor bath, I wouldn’t really feel the cold when I stepped outdoors. Good move 👍 The outdoor bath is niiiice. It’s so relaxing sitting in this heated bath, with the cool air hitting your face and arms, surrounded by trees, and the moon lit up in the sky. I could’ve sat there for longer, if the bath wasn’t so hot 😆 I didn’t try going from the hot to the ridiculous hot bath, though, as I suggested yesterday. Tomorrow, perhaps? 😊