Monday, 30 April 2012

A Year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson

First reaction: This book so pretty! <3!

A Year in Japan (or 日本の一年 nihon no ichinen) is no ordinary travelogue. It's not in chronological order. It doesn't even tell you the major attractions (in this case, Kyoto) or how Ms Williamson lived and so on. What it is, is a gorgeous book featuring snapshots of life in Japan.

The book consists of mainly hand drawn pictures with some text. Sometimes they're captions and sometimes they're as much as a page (and a page and a half is the longest it gets). It delves into different topics, like moon-viewing, コンビ二conbini foods, book bags, the soy-sauce container in take-out sushi etc. Altogether a very random collection that manages to make you feel as though you were in Japan.

Some of the pictures take up two pages. And all of them are in colour, so you can go (*_*) like I did throughout the whole book. Since it was an interest in sock design that took her to Japan, you can be assured that all the pictures are very lovely drawn(:

The only thing that annoyed me about the book was the choice of font. The font was basically one of those handwriting styles (although this really could be her actual handwriting), and I had some difficulty reading it. Then again, I can barely read my own handwriting (now is a good time to pity salute my teachers who read all eight pages of my handwriting every exam/essay). But it was, on the whole, readable, and besides, the amount of text wasn't that much anyway.

And yes, if you're wondering, since she was living in Kyoto, the book does have some things about Geisha's. There's a short passage about a lunch with a geisha and a very interesting picture (two actually) or a geisha and a maiko, with some explanation of the difference between the two.

So even if you're in Japan, you should by this book. It's not "another guide", it's a very pretty book about Japan. And if you can't get to Japan yet, buy this book.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Cooking Time #2

This week, I more-or-less lived on chowder for dinner. I say more-or-less because I was way too lazy to eat it every single day. It's my first time making chowder so I'm actually quite glad how it turned out:

It's supposed to be Chicken and Corn chowder, but I couldn't find the corn. And since I don't like vegetables in general, I didn't bother buying any of the vegetables listed (except for the potatoes). So, here's my very simple version of chowder:

Cut the potatoes into small cubes and fry it (I realised it's faster to fry/peel it if you boil it a little first).

You're suppose to add the chicken stock (read - water plus one cube of chicken stock) now, but I forgot and added the chicken (yakitori!) It didn't make a difference anyway.

So sometime between the chicken and the potatoe, the stock has to go in. And then you just wait for everything to be thoroughly cooked (especially the potatoes!). This took around 20-30 minutes?

And lastly, just add in milk. The recipe actually calls for XXXml stock and XXXml milk, but I took the lazy way out. If you look at the ratios, it's about slightly more than half stock and slightly more than half milk. So just agar agar (approximate) and everything will turn out fine(:

Thursday, 26 April 2012

School Life #1

Hello, it occured to me that we're finishing the third week of school and I haven't said anything about classes and such. So, if you wondering, here's what goes on during a normal day/week:

Classes start at 8.30am. Which is later than in Singapore (at least, I wake up later, but then, I also walk to school :p). I think I scared my class about the education system in Singapore because I said that the days are longer and we come back for half the school holidays (even the teachers!). Classes are one and a half hours per period, with a ten minute break in between, which means that we generally have about 3 or four periods a day (the fifth period is only on Tuesday for P.E, which happens to be optional anyway).

Most days, the first two periods are Japanese. And most of the time, so is third period (there's a one hour lunch break between second and third period). The only exceptions are Tuesdays 日本の社会(nihon no shakai -Japanese Society) and Fridays (free period). One Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we have fourth period (Mathematics,日本の事情ワークショップ nihon no jisho wa-kushppu - Japanese affairs workshop and Multicultural communications respectively). And all the classes are in Japanese :/ which makes the hardest class Japanese Society

During Japanese class itself, we study mainly grammar and kanji from a textbook. I'm not very good so I'm in D class (right in the middle of classes A to G). And for us, we have a kanji test everyday and roughly two pages of 暗記(anki - dialogue) to memorise. But it's actually effective because we have to keep studying to keep up with the tests and stuff.

So, here's my classroom:

It's really small right? There are only 9 people.

And my table
The nametag is to mark our places I guess? And to prevent any "um... your name is?" :p

And my first すばらしいパンダ(subarashii panda) for full marks in Kanji (I was never good at writing, and now I not only have careless mistakes to deal with, but also to remember to write some words the Japanese way and not the Chinese way).

If I'm right, we have mid-terms in about three weeks and we're supposed to be tested on lessons 1-21 O.O But we also have other stuff like a Regetta and a Boat Competition after mid-terms so it's not all work and no play (plus, I have kendo!)

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Itazura Coin Bank

I just joined Kendo, so I don't have the energy to write a long post....(Kendo is really really fun though :D) But I do want to show you this toy I saw on the Internet. It's called the Itazura Coin Bank Toy for Kids. Here's a video showing how it works:

I found it on Strapya World, but if I see it in a shop, I'll definitely buy it (I might even buy a few, to give as presents if it's not very expensive). After all, it's so 可愛い(kawaii)!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Cooking time #1

Recently, my mom asked me about my meals. Or rather, whether I was cooking at all. But despite the image of me being lazy and generally incompetent in the kitchen, I am starting to cook. This is mostly due to necessity, since the 食堂(shokudo - cafeteria) is closed during weekends and I hardly ever feel like leaving my room to get dinner (heh, I'm so lazy). So, I've resorted to one-dish meals.

Right now, the previous plans the Rena, Nicholas and I made for dinner potluck style have fallen apart. Mostly because we're too lazy (and really, cooking every day?). Nowadays, Rena and I just make a week's worth of food on Sunday and eat the same thing for dinner everyday (but Rena one-upped me by doing the same for lunch).

So this week, I made a dish called "potatoes-meat-and-eggs". Before you ask, it's actually based on a real recipe. It was in Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipe's (Doc Spencer's pie), where there was this throwaway line that said you could use the pie filling as a sandwich feeling. So I used it as a meal.

Anyway, right now, all I have is a pot and a wooden spatula to stir (I'm waiting for the bazaar on Tuesday to try and get a rice cooker and a pan). So the dishes were bound to be basic.

It's yummy. It really is.
Basically, what lazy me did was to boil potatoes and eggs and mix them together with meat. Technically, the recipe asks you to cook your own bacon/ham/meat but when you don't have a knife (or you're just plain lazy), you'll do what I do and buy yakitori so you don't have to cook or cut the meat :D

So every day, I'd take out the cooked food, heat it up and add seasonings (which due to my shortsightedness was limited to kewpie mayonnaise and yukari (the purple topping for rice that you can find at the tepanyaki place at Jurong). But surprisingly, it tastes really good. And I'm even eating some vegetables, seeing as I love Edamane and it's very quick to cook.

This is possibly the simplest dish to prepare ever. (Instant noodles don't count because they're not as health XD)

Friday, 20 April 2012

Earthquake Drill

Today we had an earthquake drill! We knew that it was today, but we weren't told the time. In the end, it was held during our break time (we have a ten minute break between lessons). I guess they really don't want to take away lesson time :p

I've never actually felt an earthquake before or taken part in an earthquake drill (fire drills are a different story) so this was actually quite fun. When the announcement came, we were supposed to hide underneath our desks and this is where I realised being short/tiny is advantageous. I could actually hide quite comfortably under the desk:

Yes, this was what I was doing during the drill. Taking pictures and Whatsapp-ing my family (Euphe replied really fast so I had someone to talk to). Considering nothing was shaking (except when my friend tried to shake my table), we really needed something to do.

After that, we went outside the school to an open-air area. That's when we all realised that we should have brought our kanji books because we could study for the test that was immediately after. Instead, being told to bring our most important things, we all brought our phones and our wallets (and for me, my iPad).

It really was quite an interesting experience although a real earthquake is no joke. Basically, what you have to do is to protect your head (hence we hide undertables) and when it's over make sure there are no fires, get everyone out safely and head to the evacuation area. But when in doubt, just follow the crowd.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Butterfly Song

I opened up Youtube on my iPad yesterday (I wanted to show Masha and Simone a video) and was greeted with The Butterfly Song by Austin and Ally. I guess I forgot that it was the last song I played before I left Singapore, on account that my brother spent the last few weeks singing this song. So here it is:

I miss my lil' brother.

I still talk to my sisters quite often (facebook/whatsapp/etc) and I saw my parents last week (plus we video chatted a lot) but I haven't seen much of my brother. He's always more interested in his TV shows when I'm chatting with my family so I don't talk to him that much.

Plus, I've already watched both my sisters grow up and last night, I was struck (for the nth time) by the fact that I'm going to be missing 5 years of my brother's life. He's still an affectionate boy now but then again, he's 7-going-8. What's he going to be like at 12-going-13?

All I can say is, I hope he and my family comes over during my vacation. I think it'd be fun to explore Tokyo with them (or even just the area around After all, there's a cat cafe at Kichijoji and I think my sibling's would want to go there)

Monday, 16 April 2012

My New Handphone!

Yes, I've finally got a handphone. After my parents visited last week, they took my handphone back with them because my sister's handphone broke down. And anyway, it's impractical to use the 'roaming' function for 5 years. So, on Saturday, I went to Kichijoji (link to Wikitravel article, which for some reason I feel like linking to) which is really near school, to get my phone.

So, my new phone is a Lumix Smartphone by Samsung from SoftBank. Specs are in the link:

Doesn't it look pretty~ And I'm not taking off the back sticker
until I understand what it says. Which, come to think of it, may
be a pretty long time.

This is how I charge my phone. And although you can't see
it here, my wallpaper moves (it's so cute!)
The strangest thing about this phone was that it wasn't one of the phones I was seriously considering. I was looking at other phones like the Honeybee, Disney Mobile, Hello Kitty and one other smartphone. But when I went to the shop, they only had the HoneyBee and the other smartphone. And by then, I realised I didn't really like the Honeybee because it's functions weren't that good. And really, the only reason why I chose this phone was because the specs were slightly better than the other (besides the camera, it's uses a dual-core).

The most important information to know when buying a handphone is this: if you're below twenty, you need a guarantor. I was really lucky that my senior signed my form (thanks Christial!). Incidentally, you can download the form from the Internet (but it's all in Japanese). Basically, it helps if you have seniors there because you need their help for stuff like this.

My phone took 6 hours to get ready (if I remember correctly, the SIM card is embedded in the phone itself, not a card you can take out), so we went around the place for a while. I finally stepped into, and fell in "love" with, Book Off, a very large used-bookstore chain (whose books like exactly like new!) that sadly, doesn't have an outlet within walking distance. The books are much cheaper than a regular bookstore too! You can see the books I bought here.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Welcome Party~

Yesterday was the welcome party for the new dorm students, and it was really fun! I didn't have a camera but Stella says I can use her pictures so: pictures will be added when I get them(:

So anyway, before I went to the party, Rena and I were wondering if:

a. anyone would even turn up. And
b. if it would be fun

As a side note, we were also wondering if the kaya we brought would be well-received.

When we got there (we were about 15 minutes late), the room/hall was incredible crowded. Really, really incredible crowded. And I'm not good with crowds.

Thankfully, we saw Simone and Masha and quickly grouped together. And somehow, it was decided that instead of putting the kaya on the tables and hoping someone ate them, we should go around trying to get people to eat "食べて?" (tabete - please eat)
'The Kaya Brigade' as Audrey so dubbed us on facebook. Thanks Audrey, for
letting me use your photo(:

Of course (もちろん - mochiron) people loved kaya. Once they got over the green colour (and our lousy attempts to explain what 'kaya' and 'pandan' is), they realised that it's delicious. We actually ran out of biscuits and started using potato chips at one point. In fact, the funniest reaction was when someone told us that pandan kaya and potato chips 'tastes like chicken'.

About one hour/one and a half hours into the party, we met a really funny Japanese guy who loved the kaya. So, we passed him the third bottle, and amazingly, he ate out of the bottle. I really think that there's a market for kaya in China (same thing happened) and Japan. Hmm.... maybe a would-be entrepreneur should use this as an idea.

Anyway, after eating the kaya and yelling "美味しい !" (oishii - delicious), he and Masha started smearing kaya on other people's faces. To be perfectly honest, Masha was the one who started the kaya smearing (Simone being the first victim). But the one who left with the most kaya on her face wasn't Simone or I, but Rena, who got a kaya 'facemask' not once, but twice.

I shall leave you to imagine how the party ended :D

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Should I Buy a Bicycle This Year?

I've been wondering about this question for quite some time and I still can't decide :/ So, I'm going to present the case for and against getting a bicycle and get your opinions:

For the bicycle:

- Convenience: I can probably ride to the supermarket that's about 20 min away by walking. And to Chofu to buy rice.
- Saves Money: In the long run, if I don't go anywhere other than nearby places, my transportation costs will drop.
- Can practice: I haven't ridden a bike in ages! And since this is a small town, it might be better to practice here than in another university next year.

Against the bicycle:
- High Initial Costs: I heard it can cost about 10 000. But this isn't a really important factor because I do have the money needed.
- Transport: There's actually a direct bus from Chofu to school, so if I buy rice it might be easier to just take the bus back instead of riding back. Plus, the supermarket nearby has sales on Sunday and Tuesday, so I'm already planning to go and buy groceries every Sunday after Church. If I do that, I'll need to go to Chofu less (hence transportation costs go down anyway) and it's a 10 minute walk from Church (so it won't seem that far)
- Paperwork: Apart from having to register my bicycle, when I move next year, I'll either have to sell the bike (and deal with the hassle of transferring the registration) or figure out how to move it with me and my many books.

Miscellaneous thoughts:
- Winter: Will it be easier to ride a bike in winter or just walk to the supermarket?

So, should I buy a bicycle this year or wait till next year? 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Difference Between シ And ツ

I don't know about you, but when I first started learning Japanese, I had a problem remembering which katakana was "シ"(shi) and which was "ツ"(tsu). I didn't have much problems with the hiragana, but the katakana... well, it took me a long time (and many repetitions) to remember which was which.

But since classes just started, we went through both kana (I'm in D class, the exact middle since we have classes from A to G) and something my teacher said about these two katakana made so much sense I figured I should share it with you in case you're still confused. Do you know what this big secret it?



Time's up! The answer is simple: both of these katakana characters look like their hiragana characters(:

Before you dismiss this as "crazy-talk", take a look at these pictures I drew on my iPad:

Take a look at "シ" do you see how the way you write it follows the way you right the hiragana?
もう一回(mou ikkai - one more time)! Do you see how the way you write "ツ" follows the hiragana as well?

I hope this makes the two a little clearer.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Akihabara and Shibuya

I believe I mentioned something about Akihabara yesterday, so since I went to Shibuya today, I might as well combine both trips into one post(:

Well, basically, we decided to go to Akihabara after the entrance ceremony. That day was fabulous, it wasn't too cold so everyone was very (genki - energetic). Unlike today and almost every other day so far, which is quite cold (and inches towards very cold when it's windy) and everyone wears at least two layers. That day, at least, felt like spring.

So off to Akihabara we went. And me being absentminded, forgot to bring a book to read (ebook and paperbook) so for 3 hours (it's about an hour and a half each way), I had nothing to do. We were all chatting at first, but then we all got tired.
I can't believe I forgot to add a picture at first! Well, here you go(:

But what this trip really taught me was the importance of handphones. We ended up splitting up and someone would always be late to meet, which is really quite worrying. On the bright side, I managed to buy presents for my siblings and found a really awesome food shop (yes, I'm such a foodie):

I love this shop! Apart from selling normal candies, it also sells a bunch of wonka stuff, like the wonka van and Whipple Scrumptious Marshmallow Delight. Well, I might have gotten the name wrong, but it's definitely what Charlie ate when he got the golden ticket. It took so much willpower to resist buying everything (especially chocolate!)

Today, we went to Shibuya. At first, I really really wanted to sleep in, especially since I had Good Friday service before. But then, we already bought tickets for Shion Yee's dance concert. It was actually really interesting. They break up into different groups and genres. I've never actually heard of some of these genres. In total there was: house, jazz, break, pop, hip hop and lock. If you know how to differentiate between them, please tell me. They all look similar to me!

But even before we went to the concert, we already made a "detour" to...:

I cannot resist food.
I chose the (Sakura White Chocolate) which was really quiet delicious:
And I managed to buy high socks! Tutuanna is a really nice place to buy socks~ And of course, we took a picture with Hachiko:
We managed to drag everyone in the photo.
After that, well, we didn't actually do that much at Shibuya. What we really wanted to do was go to Seiyu at Chofu and buy our things (like broom and dustpans, food, pots, etc).

Friday, 6 April 2012

Entrance Ceremony

Yesterday was the entrance ceremony. We were supposed to wear our national costume (I think), but in the end, only about one third of us didn't wear formal wear. I suppose that there are good and bad sides to being so obviously in national costume:

Cons: People will stare.

Pros: People will stare. And make conversation with you/take your photo, so this is actually an excellent time to practice your Japanese.

And if you're wondering, we couldn't decide what the national costume of Singapore is. I mean, we have four main races, and depending on the race, we could be mistaken for people of a different country. E.g. Cheongsum (Chinese costume - China), Sari (India, plus, we have no idea how to put it on). So in the end, we decided to wear the uniform of the SQ girl (SQ = Singapore Airlines = National Carrier).

Before the ceremony, we took some pictures with Sakura so I turned out something like an advertisment for SIA:

Fly SIA and visit Japan!
The ceremony consists mainly of the University Song and a few speeches. There were basically 3 things that we had to do: stand up, bow and sit (at the right time). The instructions were all in Japanese though, so we had to practice a few times before the ceremony. But generally, all you need to do is follow the crowd.

And after that, we went to take photos with the banner. If you're wondering why only photos of me appear, it's because I can't remember who I asked if I could post their photos.

No really, SIA is a wonderful company and before you ask,
I do not work there nor do I benefit by repeatedly mentioning
what an awesome airline it is (really! Check out the inflight entertainment
The ceremony was in the morning, so we actually went to Akihabara after that, but that is a story for another time(:

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

"Crashing" a Party

Quite a lot of things happened today (briefings and such) but the most interesting thing happened after the orientation briefing.

You see, after the briefing, Nicholas, Rena and I decided to check out the cafeteria, since it was closed when we went exploring earlier. We were walking past the round building when we saw some cheerleaders handing out cups, so being nosy we went to take a look and ended writing our names on cups and were ushered into the building.

It was later that we found out that this was a party that the 2nd years throw for the 1st years in hopes of getting them to join their club. This party was organised by the cheerleaders and the basketball team. And that's how we ended up at a party full of Japanese students trying to make conversation.

It was actually really fun because everyone is friendly, although after about 5 minutes, there's an awkward silence because we run out of topics. That's why we ended up talking to about 6 different groups before we left. Rena, being the most enthusiastic one of all left the least willingly (especially after we noticed that something was going on after we threw our cups away)

Most of the conversations follow a certain flow: An introduction -> Realising we are foreign scholars -> explaining what we study -> explaining why Nicholas is 3 years older (NS). And occasionally, we'll talk about phones. Most people were quite interested in the fact that we're from Singapore, and I got a lot of " かっこい!" (kakkoi) about my name :D

I think the hardest part was to explain what we were studying, since the Japanese students don't go to JLC (Japanese Language Centre)
Plus, we had "JRC" written mistakenly on Rena's cup. In the end, we just
either pointed in the direction of the building or used the literal
translation - 日本語センター(nihongo senta)
But still, it was a lot of fun and I got to practice my Japanese. I probably spoke the least, since I'm not as ペラペラ (pera pera - fluent) as them, but at least I started one conversation(: I hope more of such stuff happens after school officially starts.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

First two days in Japan

I'm finally here!

After sitting in a hot stuffy plane for 5/6 hours (I got confused by the time difference), and then waiting about two hours for the last scholar, enduring a two hour ride to the school, and lugging my baggage up, I'm finally here!

I took JAL (Japan Airlines) and they didn't feed us enough :/ The flight was from 8.10 a.m. - 4 p.m. but we only got breakfast. Then again, it was a heavy breakfast (rice) and they gave us a muffin around 2 p.m. But anyways, I watched しあわせのパン(shiawase no pan - bread of happiness) which I absolutely love. It's a heartwarming story (yes, happy ending included) and follows a couple running this bakery in Hokkaido. The bakery is the scene (in a sense) for 3 events, so it's like a string of short movies.

And immigration was terrible. We queued for about 1.5 hours O.O enough said.

And more waiting
One interesting thing that happened was that we started comparing money.
And then realised that nearly everyone loves KPop.

And waiting

And finally, arrival! It was 9 something when we got there (we were like, an hour late), so we were joking that if our senpai's waited for us, they were really dedicated. And they did! They even helped me carry my luggage.


My luggage is heavy. Heavier than me, and I brought a lot of carry-ons (backpack, computer bag and camera bag). So for all those that help me carry the bag, どうもありがとうございます! There are my fellow scholars, the bus uncle and the senpais. I think if they didn't help, my luggage wouldn't make it here.

So when we finally dumped/placed everything in our (awesome) rooms, we went to meet the other Singaporeans for dinner. It was really fun, and listening to their experiences so far was entertaining and enlightening. And it confirmed that Rena and I have very stiff competition.

We finished at 11 p.m. so by the time we got back, all I could do was to throw some sheets on the bed and sleep.

Today was interesting. We went to register for our alien registration card, and then walked around. Well, actually, we were only supposed to go to the 100 yen shop but I wanted to buy mama's cream. So after walking around, I found it in the drugstore and bought all available bottles (which amounts to a grand total of ....2.)

I made my grandma happy!

And I spammed the 100yen shop. With things like cups, toilet paper, etc. Yup, I'm so responsible. I saw some really cute yarn though, so I'll go back for some soon.

Lunch was ramen. It's supposed to be quite famous (I think!) but a little expensive.
My Ramen. It's a huge huge bowl
I love 味玉 (ajitama - flavoured eggs)!

Yes Rachel, the pictures (of food) are for you ^_^

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Farewell (Part 2)

Yesterday was my farewell party. And even though the party was three hours long, I didn't get to talk to everybody. Yes, that many people managed to cram into my small house; and we even lost track of the number of people. Thankfully, there was enough food (I hope!) and everyone had a good time even though I was perpetually flying off half way.

God is really good. He has shown me how much people love me. My friends have given me the most thoughtful gifts - pillows (my friend drew the cover), boxes, little notebooks and all the cards, I'm really touched ^^

Here are some photos from the party:

This is Nicole and I. Nicole is such an awesome friend; when she found out that I wasn't going to take photos, she volunteered to be my photographer. So all the photos are by her~ (If you don't like them, it's my fault, she was using my camera, which is a different model from hers)
 One of the deserts - Longan with Almond Jelly. Oishisou~
 My grandma queuing for food(:  There are more pics but I haven't really asked if I could post them here.
Me making a funny face. I do that a lot.

Today was a farewell lunch with the Churchies and it was so fun(: I will miss them so much, even Esta's yelling. We took a lot of Polaroid pictures too~

Yes, I'm in fangirl mode. But you can't really blame me because this is an awesome farewell.