Monday, 20 October 2014

Nokonoshima Cosmos Flower Lightup

Nokonoshima, that beautiful island near my place, had a Cosmos light up recently! Well, the last day was yesterday (and it was only on weekends). One of my classmates, who had actually gone there, told me it was beautiful, so yesterday, I went there in the evening with a new friend from Church.

And woah. It was my first time going to Nokonoshima in the evening, and it is beautiful!

For proof, here are some pictures from the boat ride to the island:

Marinoa City

Everything looks good in the sunset!


As we arrived at the island.
I was really hoping to be able to get a shot of the flowers with the sunset in the background, but sadly, it seems like that wasn't really possible. This is one of the better shots:


And this, was the view that my new friend really liked! It's her first visit to Nokonoshima, so I'm glad that she enjoyed it! (And that there are actually flowers. For my mom and sisters, there weren't many flowers blooming when they came).

Oh, and the island park is already in the halloween spirit. We saw loads of Jack-O-Lanterns, and even a huge pumpkin:

Ok, it wasn't a real pumpkin. But still! 

Trust me, these things were EVERYWHERE. 
The actual light-up wasn't as impressive as the sunset. Sure, there were pretty flowers, but after seeing the Huis Ten Bosch Kingdom of Light (like this post and this other post) and the Fukuoka Castle Sakura Light Up, this was nothing.

Can't remember what these flowers are called, but they're so pretty! Reminds me of Lavender, but red.


Ok, buildings like this look cool in the dark. 
The bus ride to the dock was really nice too! For starters, our bus was wooden! And the driver was really nice, and he stopped (and turned off the lights) at the most scenic spots, so we could see the night view of Fukuoka city.

Wooden!!

And of course, because we need a little unexpected problems in our lives, the queue for the boat was so long that we ended going home almost an hour later than planned (it didn't help that we got on the wrong bus too)
And then it continued and curved around. There must have been
close to 300 people in that queue!

But overall, it was a really fun trip! I'm so glad I managed to catch the light up before it ended.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

My experience with house-cleaning services in Japan

I'm going to be upfront with all those of you who've never met me in person - I am terrible at cleaning. I mean terrible. Even after I try my best to clean, my house still looks like a pigsty. It comes with having too many books and not enough space. (Hi Nic! Feel free to chime in here XD). It wasn't much of a problem in Tokyo, because I moved out after a year, but after a year and a half here, the mess really starts to accumulate.

But normally, I can live with it. Normally.

However, this time, I came back from Singapore to layer of dust on my floor, and a feeling of dirt that didn't disappear even after I cleaned the floor 3 times, I was pretty much near breaking point. A cockroach sighting was the straw that broke the camels back and I called a cleaning service I was looking at right away.

Thankfully, they answered even though it was past 10p.m. They're called Soyokaze, and I was first thinking of getting their 2 hour "clean as much as possible" service. But, after considering the state of my house, I decided to just get them to clean and tidy up everything.

The cleaning people came yesterday, and apparently, it took 4 people 6 hours to get my house in order. But, I'm super pleased with the results!

Before:

I'm kinda ashamed *covers face*
 After (same area):

Sooo much neater! 
And the floor feels so clean! Despite the cold, I was walking around barefoot yesterday, enjoying the feel of a waxed floor.

LOOK THERE IS A REFLECTION! 

Much much neater. Take my word for it. 
They cleaned my windows, my very dirty balcony (where even my mom didn't dare to touch and I don't step out on), the bathrooms and tidied up the whole house up (they bought boxes and stuff). Now, all I have to do is to maintain the cleanliness, which doesn't seem too difficult (yet).

So the big question: Is it worth it?

Well, I paid 40 000 yen before taxes so my pockets are hurting a lot now. Even if you compare that to Singapore, it's very very expensive. But, my house is way cleaner than what I could have possibly done.

So what if you're a student and you really really need to clean your house before your parents/extended family/friends come? Ask yourselves this questions:

How much longer will I be staying in this house? I stayed in my place for a year and a half already, and I plan to stay until I graduate. In that case, I consider the expenses worth it. However, if you're about to move out, don't bother.

And of course, make sure you have the savings for it before you lift up the phone.

The sootballs approve of the house now. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

It's Typhoon Season in Japan!

In the past week, two major typhoons have hit Japan. What are the odds?

Living in Fukuoka, I hardly ever experience a typhoon. It always seems to skip me, which is good. But today's typhoon VongFong? Woah. I'm never underestimating typhoons again.

As you can see, Fukuoka isn't in the direct path, but is in the affected area.
Photo from JMA
A bit about Typhoon VongFong (aka Typhoon no. 19): It's said to be the strongest typhoon since Typhoon Haiyan, which caused major destruction in the Philippines. Worrying right? When I first checked the Japan Meterological Agency (JMA), the typhoon strength was 猛烈 (mouretsu - intense), meaning wind speeds of above 54m/s; and incidentally, is the highest rating with regard to wind speed. Thankfully, it had reduced by the time it hit Kyushu. If you want to read more about the classification the JMA uses, go to this page (Japanese).

But, even though the typhoon has reduced its intensity, what I've heard is that it's slow speed makes it very dangerous. Dangers include landslides, and being washed away by waves. Channel News Asia did an article on how terrible it is.

In fact, my cousin in Osaka received an evacuation notice! Osaka is currently in the "Danger" area, and is totally red. When I checked at 3 something in the afternoon, Fukuoka was also on high alert, but somehow, I didn't get any evacuation notice (perhaps something's wrong with my phone).

Look at all that red! Photo from JMA
Right now (8pm in Japan), most of the red area is yellow (caution advised), except for costal areas. It'll probably have left Fukuoka by tomorrow, so I guess the worst is over. However, all you in Kansai - Tokyo - Anywhere east of Fukuoka, take care!

Personal story time~

I was actually foolish enough to go out today. I had to meet a friend to get something. She works in Meinohama, so I thought that the walk to the station, then a one-stop ride would be easy.

Well, one umbrella was culled from the herd. It went out as a normal umbrella, and came back bent and ready to be thrown away.


And this was a good ending. I saw two umbrellas flip inside out. That's why most people eventually gave up and just walked/cycled through the rain without any umbrellas.
It can't even close
The worst part was walking over Muromi river. I normally love living next to a large body of water that connects to the ocean, but not now. My umbrella died there because the wind was so strong (The wind is normally stronger there). And it's a good thing I put on weight because I don't need to be blown away :p

As far as typhoon stories go, it's not very exciting (I didn't evacuate or anything), but this is one of those times where not-exciting = good. Safe is good, even if the story isn't as interesting.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Back to School Update!

School has finally started, and my life is settling down into a school-baito-sleep routine. Oh and golf. I've got the air in my bicycle tires refilled, so life is at the peaceful phase before I start loading it up with activities.

Since this is the second semester of my second year, I'm now at the Hakozaki Campus (instead of Ito)!

Remember this campus? 
It's so much more convenient and cheaper for me to go to Hakozaki. Although, I pass by the shopping areas on my way there and back, so my expenses might still end up increasing :p

My classes this semester are pretty interesting too. Most of my teachers seem fun, and I'm taking Bahasa Indonesia II. I'm so excited for that class! No other languages though - I'm done with Chinese, and this sem contains the last English module I'll have to take.

I haven't planned any blogworthy trips yet (though my cousin is coming at the end of this month so....), so expect a quiet few weeks. I shall enjoy the calm before the frenzy.

Friday, 3 October 2014

My Studio Ghibli Themed 21st Birthday Party! (Part 2)

When I got back to Japan, I started writing about my 21st birthday party. And due to my tendency to be verbose, the post eventually turned into two parts. This is part two, and you can read part one here (Part 1 is a guide on how I got the various Ghibli-themed elements to create a party).

Now, my main goal in having a party was to make sure people had fun. Which is why I made cards, and why I hosted a costume contest. To be honest, I was very worried about whether people would dress up, but enough people pulled through to make it very fun.

I basically spent my party running around taking photos, apologising for not talking much, and writing cards. I didn't actually eat, and ended up losing my voice (remember, I had a throat infection). So rather than give you a blow by blow account of what went on, here are some of the best cosplays.

Of course, when I say "some", I mean "most". Almost all of them were awesome!

First up are 3 of my cousins and their boyfriends/girlfriend. They all came in together, so they made the second biggest entrance.

Let's play a game. Which of you can guess who these next 6 characters are? (I'll even give you the movie titles, so you have no excuse to make a mistake)

First up... the PRINCESS MONOKE COUPLE
 

Along with the WHISPER OF THE HEART peeps! Aren't they adorable? (I was so hoping someone would cosplay this - it's one of my favourite Ghibli movies)


*sings* Ponyo, ponyo, ponyo sakana no ko *finishes singing* PONYO!

Ponyo and the guy who likes Ponyo - My running gag on my future-cousin in law
(he insists on the actual name)
Making the biggest entrance was No-face! My dad actually ran in calling me to come out. No one would tell me what was going on until I saw for myself. It took me quite a while to guess who it is though.


And what's a No-face without a Chihiro? One of my cousins came (without consulting No-Face) as Chihiro/Sen! 

The clothes! <3 
Obviously, we had to act out a movie scene. (No-face was very prepared)
Can you guess what scene it is?
My princess Mononoke cousin was very into the whole thing. They were doing lots of poses throughout the whole party - so cool!
Ladies and gentlemen, meet my coolest/scariest cousin (if
any of the other cousins are there, um, you're all cool equally!)
Alright, the next photo features two of my closest friends doing stealth cosplay. If you can give me the correct character names, I will send you a card (Hi Micha! You totally get a card regardless of anything! I just need to buy envelopes)

Hint: think colour scheme and hats. 
For the costume contest, I had my classmates judge them (since they are the "Japan representatives"). So, here are the results.

In third place... No-face and Chihiro!

No-face was being sweet and let my bro wear his costume, hence the
sudden decrease in height. The original No-face is still in the photo though.
 And second place, Ponyo and Sosuke!

Personally, my dad was rooting for them. Because my cousin came in a wig.
And first... The Mononoke couple! I'm really happy for them, because they went all out for first place.


Here's me with the arrow from Princess Mononoke!

I like this photo!
 Incidentally, can anyone guess which character I came as? Cards for them too!

Group photo of all the people who came as characters. 
One last shoutout to my AC family, who took time from their busy busy schedules (I know there's at least one med student, one Yale-NUS student in this group photo) to come and celebrate with me. You know I love (philia love) you all right? <3
If there was ever a time for hashtags in a blogpost: #acpride
After the party, my friends and I sneaked off to have some ice-cream, and for me to finally eat something. It was fun just being able to chat with everyone, so here are more photos!


The real purpose was to meet Happy, who couldn't make it to the party. You're a true friend ^^

Ok, last picture. For real.
#notevenmyphone <- That isn't a valid hashtag right? I'm very out-of-touch
Photo credits go to my sisters, my cousins, and for the last three photos, the awesome Dinh!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

My Studio Ghibli Themed 21st Birthday Party! (Part 1)

You may or may not have known this, but I had my 21st birthday recently! In Singapore, turning 21 is a big deal, because it means we get our 'key' to freedom, signifying adulthood. So obviously, I had to celebrate on that day itself.

And when deciding with my party theme, I went with Studio Ghibli, which turned out to be a much harder them to execute than I thought. But still ridiculously fun. And since I couldn't find anything on how to throw a Studio Ghibli themed party on the net (not for people turning 21 at any rate), I figured I'll blog about it.

Part I: How to throw the party

Let's start with... CARDS.

I didn't use invitation cards, but I did want to give thank you cards to my guests. One that would allow me to paste a polaroid picture on one side and to write a message on the other. And my amazingly talented friend Rachel offered to design the card for me!

The card was beautiful! It's me (in one of the Yukata's I own, she actually copied the pattern), with the Nekobus, Kodama, Jiji and the sootballs!


Best part? She's available for hire. You can look at her resume and examples of her work at her tumblr, or you can contact her directly via email.

We printed the cards on cardstock, and it cost me SGD$60 for 120 cards. They turned out beautifully, and I have some left over! I still have some people I have to write too, but if there are any extras, I'm thinking of mailing some to you guys. Let me know if you're interested, and I'll start counting cards and thinking of a way to figure out who to mail :D

Next: FOOD

Unfortunately, I cannot find any Ghibli-themed caterers. So unless you plan to cook all the food yourself, or have found a caterer that takes custom orders, you might be better off not obsessing over the food.


We used Stamford Catering, and I think they were rather good. The customer service was above average, with the staff recommending options to my mom to help lower our total cost, and also by giving us the phone number of the driver ahead of time, so we could contact someone. The food seemed pretty decent too! (I'm not sure, since I was running around, but everyone said it tasted good).

Lastly: Decorations:

Originally, I wanted to do silhouettes of Ghibli characters pasted on the wall, with lanterns like those from Spirited Away hanging down but, woah, have you seen the price of those lanterns? The lanterns that resemble those are all made of cloth and hence very expensive. So I nixed that idea, because it's not worth spending so much on something I'll only use once.

And due to very very poor planning, I didn't think about the silhouettes until the day before my party. Oops. So there was no time to go to a printer's to order them. In a hidden blessing, I ended up with a throat infection on that day, so my mom brought my friends out to tour, while I had one day to "rest" and make all the decorations.

Hard at work
Thankfully, my awesome lil' sis took some time out from studying to help me make a bunch of Kodama and about 44 sootballs.

Ta-da! 
And when my friends came back, we all worked on the Totoro. And more sootballs. So it turned out to cost nothing more than paper, AND I think it looks pretty good:

Photo corner! 

Sootballs and Kodama pasted randomly around the room. 
 In fact, I liked the decorations so much that I brought them back to me and used them to Ghibli-fy my room!

The blackboard is new too

Climbing up the ladder

Yes, I have more books upstairs, and they attract sootballs.
Lastly (but most important): CAKE

What good is a Ghibli themed party if you don't have a Ghibli themed cake? Unfortunately, there's a dearth of Ghibli cakes in Singapore, unlike Frozen or any other Disney cake. Googling for "Ghibli cakes" only got my so far, because the one company that was based in Singapore refused to listen to what I wanted and insisted on quoting me an absurdly high price.

But, I managed to find Agnes Patisserie (they only have a Facebook page) by googling for custom cakes! Agnes was really friendly, and coupled with reasonable prices, we ended up ordering more from her than we originally planned!


We ended up ordering the cake, customised cupcakes and sootball cakepops! The cupcake stands were rented as well. Since the bakery was based in Malaysia (Johor Baru, which is really very near), we had to pay SGD $50 for delivery.

I adore my cake! It was so hard to cut into it! 
 If you're wondering about the prices, it was:


  • RM 507 for the cake (which was 3kg) - expect prices to vary if you order a larger cake
  • RM 5 for one customised cupcakes, with a minimum order of 12 pieces (That's like SGD $2, which can barely get you a normal cupcake here)
  • RM 5 for one customised cakepop, with a minimum order of 12 pieces


See here, the cakepops, cake and cupcakes
I ordered Red Velvet cake for my cake, and the cupcakes were a mix of flavours. They were all very well received :D


I really love my cake, so here's another photo of it :D

After being cut. The cake was good! 
I originally wanted to write Part II: The Party in this post as well, but um, the length has gotten out of hand. So I'll save that for the next post :D