New Blog!

Hey there! I've decided to continue blogging at a different blog. The MEXT archives and some of my travel posts will remain here, but I'll be moving some stuff over. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

船乗り込み (Funanorikomi)

Last week, I saw a poster about 船乗り込み (Funanorikomi) and decided to go and take a look before my Bahasa Indonesia class today. It's to start the June Kabuki show, so in a way, it's a sort of preparation for the Kabuki show I'll be seeing on June 22.

The flyer
I didn't really expect many people to come, so I arrived just before the opening ceremony. The place was packed. Take a look:

I'm not sure if you can see this, but the center
section was filled all the way to the top level
I couldn't even make it to the front and had to be content with standing at the side. The ceremony started when all the principal actors appeared on stage. I heard (from my friend) that a few of them are really famous, and one of them has even starred in a few TV dramas!

The actors
To be honest, I didn't really understand the opening ceremony. But then again, I don't understand most ceremonies - I tend to tune them out. I listened about half-way, then left to go find the place where the actors would board the boats.

It was crowded there, but I managed to squeeze between a few people with impressive looking cameras and snagged a spot.

Now, I've taken many many photos, but I think rather than spam, I should just present the best photos. Otherwise it'll be "one sentence, one photo". But even after curation, there are still many photos that I'm sharing ^^;

The Kabuki actors sit at the front of the boats
The actors boarding the boats. Behind them are... guests? I think. I know that the first boat is a little different because it has lamps and a drum!

The first boat
The good thing about the drums is that it makes it very easy to follow the boats. Just by listening, I can tell when the boats are coming (since this is the lead boat).

When I showed the pictures to my friend, she actually recognised a lot of the kabuki actors. But, the one boat that intrigued me the most were the ones with what looks like Geisha!

My friend says that they may be actors though. Can anyone tell who they are?

When the boats were launched, a bunch of loud popping noises suddenly sounded. I really gave me a shock, but sadly, they weren't fireworks. They just made white dots in the sky.

Really faint dots. 
As the boats pass by, we were given handfuls of white squares of paper to throw down. It made for a really pretty site, and it's times like this where I wish I had better lens (I really wanted close up shots)

Too much paper = hard to throw it gracefully
I got the paper from one of the many volunteers. They can be recognised by their vests, and they're stationed at every bridge to hand out flyers and papers. Most of them were ojiisans and obaasans. I really wonder how you sign up to volunteer, because I'm definitely interested in volunteering (although that means that I may not be able to take photos)

Apart from these volunteers, there were also an awful lot of policemen around. Not because the crowd was rowdy, but to guide traffic. They were basically there to make sure that the roads weren't blocked and that people didn't push or shove.

I had class from 2.50, so I left while the boats were just about to land. I didn't get to see the closing ceremony or anything like that, which is a pity. But I did manage to squeeze my way to get a shot of the landing area.

The place was packed! 
So now for a few random shots of the place.

 I like this photo because you can see the paper floating down. The river was basically spotted with paper after this. And bonus, this is the boat that has the geisha!

The boats as they row down the river. These are the last four boats. They're headed by pretty girls in kimono ^^

I just liked this picture. It's one of the banners handing in Nakagawa shopping street. It's the street you walk down towards Canal City.

I really like this shot because I didn't expect to see this girl play with her phone (perhaps she was taking a photo? She was one of the last boats after al). I really like her kimono colours too!

Fukuoka has reached Singapore levels of heat (but not the humidity), so it was a little tiring to stand in the hot sun. But I really enjoyed looking and the boats and I hope I get to see this again next year! Provided, of course, that I don't have classes during the event itself. And now I'm all hyped up for the Kabuki event in June!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Introducing QREC

Most MEXT scholars aim for Todai and Handai. For certain disciplines, like my own Economics/Business Administration, there's also Hitotsubashi University. However, in my quest to get more of my kouhai's to come over to Kyudai, I'll be introducing certain aspects of Kyudai that are awesome.

For Economics/Business Administration students, or really, anyone with an interest in Entrepreneurship, we have QREC! Like the QREC website says:

The Robert T. Huang Entrepreneurship Center of Kyushu University (QREC) was established against the backdrop of Kyushu University’s growing need to work systematically on entrepreneurship education that encourages students to challenge themselves to create new values, as well as MOT (Management of Technology) education, which shows students how they can transfer their research results and technologies to society.
So imagine, you're a Science major, but you want to start your own business. Universities in Japan don't allow you to do a double major, so what do you do? Or perhaps you're in the same major as me, but you want to focus a bit more on entrepreunership. You should definitely come down here. QREC courses are for all students, so everyone is welcome to take them.

There are also interesting events like Creation and Challenge, as well as Entrepreneurship seminars. I should add that this is apart from the YSBC (Yunus Social Business Club) events, so they are but a small sampling of the things there are.

Image was taken from this page, more information can also be found here
One unique thing about the teachers at QREC is that they all have working experience. They were businessmen, entrepreneurs, and so on. Basically, you'll be learning from people who have had first hand experience in doing business, so it's not all theory.

There aren't there many English courses, but they all sound really interesting. I've taken one course last term called Technology Marketing II (In English) (Review of the course to come). It was a really fun course, and the Ms Makino was an excellent teacher. She went out of her way to give me advice too!

In short, if you have an entrepreneurial bent, you should definitely consider Kyudai for the QREC courses. We're also starting an Entrepreneur's club, so by the time you get here, there will be lots of opportunities for you to involve yourself with business and entrepreneurship while still in your university days.

QREC Home page (English, Japanese)

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Singapore Weekend Visit

Gosh golly gosh, the title makes me sound rich. "Weekend visit" sounds like I flew back on a whim when I actually went back because of health reasons.

Singapore <3 
Tip: If you normally can't afford SIA because it's too expensive, you may find it cheaper to buy the ticket last minute. It was about half of what I paid last year.

The flight was also surprisingly empty. I guess it is off-peak season 
My dad told me to keep this trip a secret, so no one except my parents and my brother knew that I was coming home. 

Unrelated note: I love Changi Airport! 
I went home because I couldn't hold down my food. So of course, on the first day, we had a feast. I'll be nice and only post the photo of the absolutely delicious crabs that I couldn't eat (and keep in my stomach)

Sadly, crabs are out of my budget here. And the Chinese food in Japan isn't very good. 
Very coincidentally, it was also Mother's Day the weekend I came back! My grandma was so happy when she found out I was back. Well, I supposed it was a bag of mixed emotions, since she was also worried because I was so sick I had to come back.

I have this suspicion that Japanese doctors operate differently from Singaporean ones. Every now and then, they give me the wrong advice/medicine. I saw a doctor three times in Japan (twice at the same clinic), and at this one clinic, it was suggested that I had anorexia (this happened twice).

But, when I asked the doctors in Singapore, they said that it was common for doctors to assume young girls who keep throwing up have anorexia. It's sad that that's the case, are eating disorders that prevalent? I guess my doctors in Singapore just know more about me, and can discount bulemnia/anorexia immediately and go on to other reasons.

Of course, shout out to my awesome friends who came to visit me! There are my awesome (ex)-classmates Desmond, +Daryl Yong and +Benjamin Liau for not only coming, but also getting me this adorable kitten.

I cannot stop hugging this! 
And of course, +Michaelpone Sufian+Dinh Viet Anh Nguyen and +Happy Putra, who ALWAYS take time out to come and have dinner with me. Woah, I'm really loving and using this tagging people in post thing.

My little bro took this photo for us ^^
I actually double-booked, but they were really good sports about it and both groups came at the same time. Really, thanks so much guys <3

And of course, I absolutely adored spending time with my family, especially my little brother. He's had a difficult couple of months, and I missed him so much! Soon he'll be all grown up and won't want his older sister to be hugging him all the time (': So I'm hugging him a lot now.

Here's a random photo I took.
The only bad experience I had was at 69 Cold Soya Beancurd at Gim Moh Market. I'm still a bit out of it, due to heat and medication (although I'm definitely back to previous levels of energy - I'm just really really slow now. Think of Olaf from Frozen), so I kinda let myself be cheated of $2. I bought 2 beancurds, which for some reason I can't find here, and was only give $4 change when it should have been $6. I guess living in Japan got me used to high levels of honesty and service. And since the lady didn't want to admit she was wrong, we decided to live and let live.

I could go on and on about all the good parts of the trip. And spam food pictures. But I think I won't. That would be way too many photos for even my most dedicated readers. So, I'll just end with a photo that should invoke nostalgia in any Singaporean my age or older.

Paddle-pop Chocolate Crunch
And for Raychel

Monday, 19 May 2014

Golden Week 2014 #2: Dontaku

Last year, I went to watch the fireworks at Huis Ten Bosch during Dontaku. This year, I managed to resist the siren call of Huis Ten Bosch and actually go and see the festival (for a little while anyway).

Dontaku, as far as I know, is basically a series of parades. It takes place at Nakatsukawabata, Hakata and Tenjin. I basically went to see the one at Tenjin. Now, as a Singaporean, my main concern is food. And I would like to introduce you to this wonderfully delicious piece of goodness:

This is called hashimaki and it's basically okonomiyaki on a stick. What I want to know is, is there a restaurant/stand selling these? I would eat this on a regular basis and grow fat if I could.

Different flavours
 They had egg (egg on top of the hashimaki), Cheese, Onion and Mayo and uh, I can't read the last one. I'm sure they'll all good though

 Here's my attempt at a surreptitious photo.

What a wonderful stall
However, I didn't dare chance a shot when I saw the candied apples. They are the prettiest and most unique ringoame that I've ever seen.

Told you so. 
Luckily, the stall owners allowed me to take close up photos. Of course, since they were so nice, I felt like I had to buy at least one (at least I managed to control myself :p)

So I bought Winnie the Pooh
 Let me tell you, after eating all that good food, including this delicious piece of squid:

The parade was sort of an anti-climax. Or perhaps I just have really weird priorities that have me place food over parades.

The adorable Kappa
Wait, there was a cute Kappa. I remember squealing over that. So what if he's a rather vicious creature in the myths? He's adorable here~

I really admire all the people who took time out to practice and perform. I know my school had a delegation, but I couldn't catch them ):

Each parade had a little van following them (or was it leading? Or somewhere in the middle?), blaring music. The different vans were so adorable as well!

And that's my Dontaku experience. And the end of my Golden Week posts(: The next post will be about my weekend trip to Singapore, and then I'll be posting about my cousin's time in Japan (she looks like a doll, it's so fun to photographs of her!). After all the travel posts, or perhaps in between them, I'll be posting information about Kyushu University (this is for all the MEXT scholars and people interested in Kyudai.)

Friday, 16 May 2014

Golden Week 2014 #1: Owl Cafe and Nokonoshima

This year, I didn't do much for Golden Week. I had a friend come over, but other than that, I stayed at home and did baito (part time work).

When my friend did come though, we went to the owl cafe! I really love that cafe, the owls are so adorable.

The owl and I
The owls are so pretty <3 I'll be visiting again soon, so keep an eye out for a full review of the owl cafe!

The owl is not impressed. 
Other than the owl cafe, we also went to Nokonoshima and Dontaku. N

Nokonoshima looked very much like how it was last year. But this year, I managed to take panoramas!

I love this field of flowers! 
I wish I had time to go see how it looked like during the sakura season, but Spring is more than sakura.

I love these purple flowers.
Now I want to go back to the lavender field of Hokkaido. 
 It seems like everytime I go back to Nokonoshima, I see something new. Like this scarecrow

I just realised that his facial features are hiragana characters! UPDATE: Nic tells me this is called henohenomoheji. The link leads to the wikipedia entry. Thanks Nic~

And that they had flying carp in honour of boys day.

It was actually pretty crowded there, with plenty of families. In fact, the ferry and buses were making more trips than scheduled just to keep up with the demand! I have loads more photos that I'll be posting to 500px/Google+ later.

The next (and last) Golden Week post will be about Dontaku. And of course, there is the Singapore trip post, and my cousin is coming tomorrow!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Sleep and Singapore

Woah, I am getting way behind on my Golden Week post. But, due to health reasons, I had to go back to Singapore over the weekend.

Now MEXT scholars (and other people living/considering living in Japan), I'm not saying that the Japanese healthcare system sucks. Far from it. It works well about 90% of the time. With the national health insurance, I normally pay quite little and I get medicine and healthcare that works (although figuring which clinic to go to, and when it opens can be a real pain).

But for serious illness (like this, where I vomited for one to two months), it tends to fail. For one thing, my doctor thought I was bulimic and wanted me to go to a mental health clinic. I'm guessing that the misunderstandings came from:

- Language barrier. I do well in conversational Japanese, but let's face it, there are a lot of medical terms I don't know
- Different ways of diagnosis. My parents suggested that Japanese healthcare may be different because Japan has a very different lifestyle (dietary and otherwise) from us.

Anyway, I flew back to Singapore (more on that in another post) and after visiting a few specialists, found out that my problem was: poor sleep patterns. (Thankfully it wasn't hyperthyroidism or some hormonal problem)

I go to be really early, but for some reason, I tend to wake up two or three times a night. That means I don't get the uninterrupted sleep that I need. For the record, my neurologists says that we need at least five hours of good rest per night.

Here's a creative common's picture on the effects a lack of sleep can have on us.

Personally, what I ended up with was fatigue, an ever-worsening stamina, migraines, vomiting (although it appears the vomiting is linked to the migraines) and irritability (I'm not sure how well I hid that last one).

Right now, I have about 8 boxes of medicines, half of which are meant to adjust my sleep cycle back to normal over a period of four months.

So to repeat, sleep is important. Make sure you get enough shut-eye. Don't be like me and end up having to miss school and spend loads of money to get well. People weren't joking when they said 'health is wealth'.

And that ends this PSA (can this count as a PSA?).

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Follow Up to A Sister's Reaction to my Brother's Bullying Case

When I mustered up the courage to hit "Publish" on A Sister's Reaction to My Brother's Bullying Case, I didn't know what to expect. I wrote that piece as a response and awareness post, and apart from posting it to Google+ and Facebook, didn't do much else.

So today, I want to thank everyone who has read this piece, plus one-d/liked it, shared it, wrote a comment, wrote an email or just silently supported us. You have no idea how encouraged we are by all your support.

And, I just want to say thank you to those who shared your stories of being bullied as well. I was hoping that bullying wasn't running rampant in Singapore, but sadly there was a lot more bullying that I expected. To all those who shared their experience, you have my utmost respect. Thank you for voicing out as well.

Now, on to the updates about my brother's case.

MOE (Ministry of Education) somehow caught wind of this blog post and they contacted the school about it. I must say, this is way beyond what I've expected and I'm so grateful to everyone who made this happen.

Unfortunately, the school still doesn't see this as a bullying case. I disagree with this very strongly, but if they will not change their position, there is nothing I can do (I can't even go to the school to protest, since I'm stuck in a land 7 hours away by plane). At least my protests were heard by MOE and if it happens again (to any little boy studying there), they cannot claim ignorance anymore.

Personally, I wish for school to take action to get rid of bullying at its root. Also, while I'm talking to the school, please remember this line: 白天不做亏心事,半夜不怕鬼敲门 (translated: If you don't do guilt-inducing things in the day, you won't be scared if a ghost knocks on your door at midnight). If you think I made a mistake in my blog post, you're more than welcome to contact me. I'll even publish your rebuttal on my blog.

A few of you have asked about my brother as well, so here's an update on him.

My brother still feels scared to go to school, as he is afraid that E will complain about him to the teacher and get him into trouble. I have also been told that E has also been told to stay away from Eusebius (this was told to me after I published the first post), so I'm not sure if this was poor communication by the school or something else.

In other news, my brother's been vomiting a lot and having stomach pains, which means he hasn't been able to make it to school. I'm hoping it's just a bug rather than trauma expressing itself. On the bright side, he does seem to be getting over the incident.

And lastly today, my brother went to the Neurological Behavioural Unit. After hearing the story, they referred my brother to the ASD Clinic Intervention Department. I'm not sure what will happen later, but hopefully something good will be coming out of this.

For now, this incident has been brought to a close. I'm really hoping that it will not happen again. Not to my brother, and not to anyone else.

Again, if you're being bullied, do remember to tell someone, and if you need to talk, I'm here!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Tosu Premium Outlets

How's everyone (in Japan's) Golden Week going? I've actually finished all the things that I plan to blog about, but due to the backlog of posts, I'm only at the Tosu Premium Outlet post.

So what is Tosu premium outlet? Well, it's just like its name says. The only thing is that there are way more shops than Marinoa City and it reminds me of the outlet mall I went to in Florida.

Now, prepare yourself for a long long post.

Now, since Tosu Premium Outlets (I'm just going to call it Tosu from now on) is really far away, Yiyin and I decided to go by bus on our day off.

First time at Tenjin Bus Center! 
The direct bus to Tosu only runs on weekends and public holidays. We went on a Tuesday, so yes, that day was a public holiday!

It's actually advisable to buy the bus tickets. A two-way ticket costs 1000yen, compared to 750yen for a one-way ticket if you use your suica/hayakaken/etc card.
 Thankfully, Yiyin went there earlier than me to go get the tickets :D

It comes with a coupon for a coupon booklet.
 After a non-eventful 45 minute-ish bus ride, we arrived! The bus stop is on a hill, which explains why my photo is so tilted!

And of course, there's a Coach. I think there's a Coach at every outlet mall. There was one in America, there is one at Marinoa and there's one at Tosu.

I don't know why, but it really really reminds me of America. Americans, is this right? Or am is it just like that particular outlet mall I visited in the past?

Pretty fountain! 
 And remember the coupon a few photos back? Well, we exchanged it for a coupon booklet and some kind of pouch. The coupon booklet is actually really worth it - we managed to get 2 sandwiches and 2 small drinks at subway for 1000yen. That is way cheaper than normal.

You might think that all the stores are expensive Burberry like stores

 But that's not true. There was also a Claires. And there's Nike, which is probably somewhere in between. There are actually 150 stores (at least) at Tosu, so there is a wide variety of shops, with a wide variety of prices.
And a park for the kiddies. 
In fact, it was at the Lacoste store where I might the most adorable kids. Side note: Yiyin managed to get a Lacoste blazer at 5000 yen there (original price 28 000 yen - isn't it a steal?)

That day, I was wearing a mask and glasses, since I still hadn't recovered from this year's illness (I fall very ill once a year). But for some reason, these two kids, one 3 year old girl and her 7 year old brother) struck up a conversation with me.

And in the course of the conversation, the little girl gave me one of her sweets! She'd previously asked me to help her fold the lid down, so I didn't think she wanted to give it away and I was really touched that she did! When we left the store, the two of them also yelled goodbyes to me.

They were really adorable :3

And this is the sweet I got. 
After a long day, we arrived back in Tenjin where I spotted a pastry shop and couldn't resist buying something back home.

It's so pretty! I'm going to eat there someday, when I'm not so tired and sick.
 I bought.... this strawberry tart! It was really good :D