Sunday, 24 August 2014

Singapore Natsu Matsuri (シンガポールの夏祭り)

Before I even begin, I want to apologise to whoever looked for me at the Study in Japan talk at RI on Friday. I really wanted to go, but I caught the stomach flu after I went to ACS(I) on Tuesday and ended up hibernating from Wednesday to Friday.

On Saturday, I emerged from my sleep to muster up the energy to go to the 夏祭り (natsu matsuri - summer festival) held at the Japanese School (Changi Campus).


Well, it's the only summer festival (that I know of), and I already brought 2 Yukata's back - I'm not going to have brought back the extra baggage in vain! So I went over to my bestie's house in the afternoon to get ready!

Also, the bestie made ramen eggs. They were so delicious I
might just stow her away in my luggage. 
I got over to her house pretty early, since we both didn't know how to tie an obi and wanted to figure it out on the spot. Thankfully, there's Youtube, and we managed to follow this video for a simple bow at the back:

And... tada!

And the bow turned out great as well!

And, we even got a lift from the bestie's parents. Thank you so much!

Entrance tickets
Entrance tickets to the fair were SGD$2, which I think was fairly reasonable. Being non-Japanese, we had to queue up to buy the tickets (instead of reserving them), but since the queue moved quickly, there's nothing to complain about.

The fair was set-up like this: A stage in the field, for performances, and games stand to the side. On the first floor of the school campuses, four areas selling a variety of food and drinks.

The field. Not enough chairs and tables :p
Apart from normal Japanese fare, people were also selling snacks. The Japanese import sweets looked horrendously overpriced to me (because I just bought the exact sweets for about one-third to half the price in Japan), but we did find these cute macarons! Only $2 a packet!

Love the colours!
My favourite part was actually the performances.
Yay! Happy face!
There was this really cute dog wearing a dress:

And a bunch of really cute kids running around! They were chasing after bubbles and screaming.

Most of the performances were dances (I even saw a Hula dance!), although the "climax" was the Bon-odori. But I really like the taiko by the little kids! 
Getting ready
There was this segment where they leapt into the air, beating the sticks. I don't know why, but I snapped quite a few shots of that.

I heard that they practice five times a week, and at home, they practice on the sofa! Now that's dedication.

Games stalls. The queue was terribly long. 
It really feels different from a natsu-matsuri in Japan, but it was really really fun being able to wear the Yukata. I think I may prefer the one I attended three to four years ago, before I left for Japan, but that fair had a bookstore where I bought a Roald Dahl recipe book (and some other stuff). Things with books tend to win out in my memory.

But this fair was awesome because I got to go with the bestie! And also because we successfully put on a Yukata with obi by ourselves! 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Language Apps/Websites Review: Lang-8

Like I mentioned in my previous post, one of the things I want to blog about this summer would be to review the different language sites and apps that I'm using. Not all of them will be Japanese-focused, but more of a language-based thing in general. Of course, if there are Japanese versions, I will be looking at those two.

So, the first website that I want to talk about is Lang-8. To sum the site up in one sentence, Lang-8 is where you go to practice your writing.

My profile page
Lang-8 can be used to practice any language that you want. You simply indicate what you want to learn, type in that language (it can be any length, you don't have to churn out an essay on your first try!) and wait for a native speaker to correct you and give advice.

And while you're waiting, it's only nice to go look at the entries of people who are practicing your native language and correct their sentences. You can get points for correcting entries too! And you don't have to correct the whole entry, you can choose to mark a sentence "perfect" or just correct certain parts, adding an explanation of why you choose to correct it a certain way if you want to. 

I basically used Lang-8 to help practice my written Japanese while I was in TUFS. Back then, I didn't have many people I could ask to help with my essays and stuff, so this was the ideal resource for me. However, when I entered university and most of my classmates were Japanese, stopped using the site. Instead, I correct my friends English papers, and they help me with my Japanese essays.

Price: Free

  • This site is good if you're looking for native speakers to correct your grammar. The community already exists, so you don't have to search for members. (You can also follow users, which means you can create a community-within-a-community.)
  • It's fairly easy to get corrections. I think all my entries have at least one correction, and many of the explanations are thoughtful as well. 
  • You can set whatever language you want to learn, and it's fine if you want to learn more than one language. 
  • You're trusting the users to be accurate. If a lot of people are giving differing corrections and explanations, it can be confusing at times. But, that being said, with a voting system in place, it's possible to weed out the bad corrections. 
Bottom Line: I recommend Lang-8 to those who want to practice their writing in Japanese (or whatever language you want to learn), because it is an easy way to find a group of native speakers to help. Think of it as crowd-sourced editing.

I'm not really active there now, but if you are on, please let me know! I might start using the site more often if more friends were on there :D 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

ACS (Independent) Study in Japan booth!

I spent today at my old JC (Junior College = high school) to talk about studying in Japan! The idea was proposed by Austin, and since I had the email of one of the guidance counsellors, we managed to get it all set up!

*Dances about* I really want more juniors here in Japan!

Also, the school gave us water and a bookmark (with the school logo on it, of course). First time we've ever received these kind of things!
It definitely feels different going back to school with a purpose other than visiting teachers. Speaking of which, I didn't get to meet a lot of teachers, so I will have to go back again soon~

Our booth
We set up a booth in the SAC with a never-ending slideshow, some sweets, brochures and Austin's name card.

Us being hardworking
Amazingly, quite a few students came over to talk. Of course, I have to thank my awesome cousin, for bringing a few of her friends over. One of them was really interesting, he introduced himself as a "weaboo". Really funny guy ^^

But there was also another guy that came really well-prepared, he knew about the monbukagakusho scholarship and everything! The only thing is that he applied in the wrong country >< I hope he still gets to go to Japan though!

Most of the time though, we just answered questions about life in Japan, and what we feel are the advantages of studying there. These juniors might not have considered studying in Japan, but I hope we opened their minds to the possibility!

Plus, I saw two of my juniors (though I didn't recognise one), and met a few of my ex-cohort mates. Most of them couldn't recognise me immediately though, it normally took a few minutes. I wonder if bangs really make such a big difference?

For lunch, we shared (like I shared on Google+) PRATA APOCALYPSE! I was actually planning on introducing Austin to the C4, but then I saw the Apocalypse and had to try it. The uncle was really friendly too, and I found out that the prata store has a Facebook page too! Times have really changed...

Prata Apocalypse
Today was really fun! We gave out quite a lot of the namecards and brochures, so hopefully, some students will contact us, and one day come to Japan to study! I'll be going to RI on Friday for the same thing, hope it goes well too!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Moomin Cafe Review

A while back, one piece of news that went viral was about this cafe in Japan that placed stuff toys next to single diners. Well, I'm pretty sure that the cafe in question is the Moomin Cafe, and that you don't have to eat alone to get the stuff toy (as seen by my nihonjijyou outing)

The Moomin Cafe in Fukuoka is located on the ground floor of Canal City. I used to walk past the cafe, always thinking that it looked expensive, but after I went in once, I keep looking for excuses to go in again!


While the cafe may be famous for the various characters that "eat" with you, my favourite part has to be the all-you-can-eat bread buffet (yes, I love carbs) with cream-cheese and raisin spread.


Cream cheese. MORE MORE MORE!
If you go during lunch time, the bread will be on a table, and you can choose which type of bread you want and toast it. So far, I've seen tomato, cheese, plain, basil, croissant and a few others whose name I can't recall. And they replenish the bread pretty frequently too.

If you go during dinner time, the bread is given to you when you request it, and you cannot choose what you want to eat.

Oh, and the bread buffet comes with every order of a main dish, along with soup and a salad. So for between 1000 to 14000 yen, you can get a main dish, soup and salad, and as much bread as you can eat, which I think is a pretty reasonable price.

Chicken with tomato sauce and corn soup
The main dishes were surprisingly good too! Normally, theme restaurants only have so-so dishes, but the food here is excellent! All the meat dishes have been tender and done just right so far <3

Extremely cute omu-rice!
The desserts here are awesome too! I can't seem to find older photos, but this is the most recent dessert I shared with a friend when I went there (the desserts are roughly the same price as a main course, and quite substantial).

Raspberry and vanilla ice-cream toast
 They even gave us a pot of honey to pour on the toast if need be. And it was really good mixed with berries and ice-cream and honey.

While we were there, we also saw the staff bring out (I think) a birthday cake, while wearing hats. They also got the people in the restaurant to sing Happy Birthday to the birthday girl, organising everything through a microphone.

And Moomin says Happy Birthday too! 
If you're ever near a Moomin cafe, I'd definitely reccomend you to visit them. The bubble tea is pretty good (although I didn't post any photos here - but I originally just drank the bubble tea), the food is great, and I think the prices are pretty reasonable ^^

For those in Fukuoka, you can reach Canal City by stopping at Nakatsukawabata or Gion station. I normally use Nakatsukawabata, so I'm not sure how to go from Gion, but it's supposed to be quite close. There are also buses from Tenjin and Hakata. The cafe is on the ground floor (the floor with the 'river' in it), next to Baskin Robins and near the Studio Ghibli store.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Movie Review: 白雪姫殺人事件 (Snow White Murder Case)

On the flight from Fukuoka to Singapore, I was really, really looking forward to watching Maleficient. Unfortunately, they haven't gotten it yet, so I ended up watching a couple of movies that I didn't even know about. One of them was 白雪姫殺人事件 (Shirayuki hime satsujin jiken - Snow White Murder Case).

Screenshot from the official site
On one level, this movie is about a murder case. A beautiful OL (Office Lady) named Noriko Miki was discovered burnt in a national park. A temp worker at a news agency hears from a friend, who works as the same pharmaceutical company as the deceased, and he realises that if he uncovers who the murderer is before the cops, he'd have the scoop of the year. As he digs into the case, suspicion falls on a co-worker named Miki Shirano. And the story follows him as he interviews workers in that pharmaceutical company as well as people from the suspect's hometown.

On another level, this movie is about social media and the court of public opinion. The television employee makes a point of updating his twitter as he discovers new things, and the reactions of the people on twitter are also shown. The opinions of the masses change with each development, and I found this aspect of the film to be more fascinating than the murder mystery.

And, unexpectedly, this film brought tears to my eyes. I found the last part of the film to be really moving, as the truth is revealed and its impact on the various characters seen. The ending (I think one scene before the final scene), which involved Miki Shirano and a childhood friend Yuko Tanimura had me tearing up.

Oh, and I found something really strange. As the film progressed, I found that Miki Shirano looked prettier and prettier. She started off as a really unattractive person (which people repeatedly mentioned), but at the end of the film, she was really pretty. Odd because this has only happened once, with the Liar Game movie. I found the lead of that movie pretty at first, but plain by the end.

I highly recommend this movie if you get a chance to watch it. It's really interesting, and surprisingly moving.

Film trailer:

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

National Day Parade 2014

I've made it back to Singapore safe and sound, and in time for the National Day Parade (NDP) on August 9th! The NDP is one of my favourite celebrations, and this is my first time in 3 years that I'm in Singapore to celebrate it. We didn't manage to get tickets to the parade on the floating platform, but we went to The Promontory@Marina Bay at about 1pm to scout out the place, and started sitting down around 3.30 pm (that's when all the early birds came and got the good spots).
The sun was really shining down on us.

And just to remind everyone, Singapore is a really beautiful country.

The famous Marina Bay Sands
This is one of the Fullerton hotels. I can't remember which one, but I think it's really pretty!

We picked out this spot where we could see the back of the stage (perfect firework viewing spot!) and the Young NTUC screen. Young NTUC actually rented most of the grassy area, so all the non-members (like us) had to content ourselves with the walkway. It really made things very cramped.

And then more people came
The view for the screen wasn't the best, but we had an awesome view of the Navy as it prepared to show-off what it can do:

Docked at the old customs house. 

In position. 
And we had a pretty good view for other stuff, like when the flag flew by:

 Although the Red Lions, which managed to perform despite the terrible clouds (unlike last year) were little more than dots. But we did do the "watch the dot fall, then turn to the screen to see the landing" move.

One of the most popular performances for the NDP 
And of course, we got prime spots for fireworks. I haven't had time to edit more than one photo, but Google+ very awesomely auto-awesomed quite a few of them (I wanted more panorama, but I got more GIFs, which is also good).

But before the fireworks, the one panorama!

Marina Bay just after dusk.
And the photo and GIFs:
I really like this photo. Love the colour of the fireworks!
Let me know which you like best(:

The fireworks here look a little random, to be honest
This is my personal favourite, for the colour and the fireworks at the bottom

I also have a video (taken by my dad), but Youtube is uploading the video really slowly. I'll upload it here once it's done  It's here! It took the whole night and most of the morning, but it's finally uploaded. Enjoy :D

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Ohorikoen Hanabi Taikai(大濠公園花火大会) + Summer Plans for the Blog!

Exams are finally over, and I'm going back to Singapore tomorrow morning! So I figured I'll quickly share about the Ohorikoen fireworks (大濠公園花火大会) and what I'm planning to do for this blog while I'm in Singapore.

So, even though the fireworks were three days before my exam, I decided to go and take a look because I can't study at night, and since I studied the whole day, I felt like I deserved a break. But in a concession to my exams, I used the time I would normally use to wear Yukata and do my hair and make-up and stuff to study.

When I got on the train though, there were so many people in Yukata. Even most of the foreigners were in Yukata )O.O(

And the people. There were so many people I wanted to head straight back home. But that would be a waste of ticket money so....

I actually met Hanae at this ^ entrance. She was on her way to meet other foreign students and another classmate, but there was already too many people, and all I wanted to do was look at the fireworks, not mingle. So I in the end, I went alone (although we are planning to go together next year).

There was a carnival-like atmosphere, with lots of stalls selling food and drinks. And then, people sitting everywhere.

People sitting in playgrounds

People sitting on ramps:

All those places were making me confused. But then, it started to rain and since I was conveniently next to a shelter, I hid there and decided to hang around till the fireworks. Turns out I got a pretty good view after all. 

By the way, here are a few facts that I found out about the hanabi taikai: 

a. It can be seen from Fukuoka Tower. 

b. It lasts 1.5 hours. Yes, it's very long. I left after 30 minutes.

c. The reason why it isn't pandemonium is because of the awesome work the police do. They were everywhere, directing the crowds and making sure people could move.

And now, for the part everyone's been waiting for - pictures of the fireworks! If you have me on Google+, you've already seen the iPad and handphone photos, now here are the DSLR photos that I think turned out pretty well.


Pretty <3 

Everyone's taking photos! 

I think this is a butterfly?

Fireworks in the park :D 
And if you want to hear what it sounds like, check out this video I took. 

Just to give you an idea of how loud the fireworks are. When I reached Muromi (which is 5 stations away from Ohorikoen station), I could still hear the regular drumbeat of the fireworks as they exploded.

In fact, as I neared the end of the bridge, I found a small group of people standing at one vantage point where you can see the fireworks in the far distance. 

Even at home, I could hear the fireworks as they exploded.

Summer Plans for this Blog

Since I'm going back tomorrow, I bet a bunch of you are wondering "how are you going to blog about Japan while you're in Singapore?" Well, the last two days were full of stuff, and I'm definitely going to blog about the Moomin Cafe and the latest game in Huis ten Bosch.

I'm also planning to talk about the interesting stuff that happen in Singapore, like me going to talk about studying in Japan in schools, and my birthday :D

And and *excited flailing*, and this I thought about for a while, I plan to review some language apps! Not just Japanese-learning language apps (although if the app does teach Japanese, I'll either test it myself or get someone like my brother or my mom to test it for me), but language apps or sites in general. So far, I've got:

Lang8 (maybe)

Feel free to let me know if you've got any app/website you want me to test.

Misc. Stuff
I got home today and recorded my Bahasa Indonesia self-introduction! This is for you +Tamara Larasati, since you asked for it :D It's not very good though, I think I made a lot of mistakes :p

I'm not sure how Youtubers are so cool in front of a camera. I was a nervous wreck (and I was way more nervous than my actual exam haha).