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!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

One Day Trip to Kokura and Mojiko (Part 2: Mojiko)

Yesterday, I blogged about part one of my one day trip. Today, I'm going to continue with the rest of the trip, in Mojiko.

After visiting Kokura castle, we headed to the nearest station, only to discover that we would have to change trains at Kokura anyway. So now you know - you should just head back to Kokura station, even though it's further away. Finally, though, we had reached Mojiko:

The station itself is pretty famous, but it's undergoing renovations, so all I got was this shot of the inside, along with other people who were also taking photos.

We arrived around 2 pm, which translates to "HUNGRY". So we headed over to Curry Honpo, which is a one minute walk away from the station. We did need to stop by the tourist counter to get the curry map, though.

Curry Honpo is on the second floor of the half brick building
 Mojiko is famous for its yaki curry (baked cury), and I decided to try the Banana yaki curry. Yes, banana. It sounds weird, but it was really good. The banana added a touch of sweetness which went really well with the curry. Not many people believe me, though, so I guess this is a "taste it to believe it" sort of combo.

After we finished lunch, we walked over to the Kyushu Railway History Museum:

Again, we got 20% off, thanks to the coupon booklet :D

One part of the museum was the railway section, where you can look at (and even board) old trains.

In one train, we had to take off our shoes to get in.

Totally worth it, though, because the train was beautiful. I love the blue seats!

Once we took enough pictures of old trains, we went over to the main building (the remaining section is a miniature train park, where kids can ride mini trains)

And what greeted us: I'm not too sure what it is though.

I really liked the panorama of the different trains in Kyushu. Even the video (which accompanied the model trains running along the track) was pretty interesting. In the panorama: Kagoshima, Huis ten Bosch, Hakata, Mojiko, etc. So.... basically I've been to quite a few of those stations :p

And the view from the second floor. The second floor wasn't as interesting to me though. It was more historical, while the first floor was way more interactive.

We couldn't think of where else we wanted to go, so we just walked around Mojiko. It really has this chill vibe, and it looks like a lovely place to live in. Plus, it has yaki curry, which is a big point in its favour(;

Then again, it does have Banana man....

I saw someone dressed like him too. I don't really get it...
The last thing I did before leaving was to try the banana ice-cream. I liked the banana chip that accompanied it, but the ice-cream itself took a bit of time getting used to. I guess I'm just not a fan of the processed banana flavour, even though I love the fruit very much (I mean, I do own a yonanas machine after all).

I would really like to come back to Kokura and Mojiko another time, and perhaps stay a night there, so that I have enough time to fully explore. If you're taking a day trip, I would actually say to just focus on one area, instead of trying to go to both. Take your time, walk around and soak up the vibes. Especially for Mojiko; I can totally see myself just chilling there with a book(:

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

One Day Trip to Kokura and Mojiko (Part 1: Kokura)

Last Saturday, I brought a friend to Kitakyushu. More specifically, Kokura and Mojiko (gotta be specific, since Space World is also part of Kitakyushu, and so is Kawachi Fuji Garden). While this isn't an exhaustive guide, I hope that it can serve as inspiration should you ever find yourself planning to make a one day trip to Kokura and Mojiko.

First things first. When you get to Kokura station, head to the tourist information counter and get this:

Not only is this booklet full of useful information and maps, it also contains a lot of discounts/special offers from shops. Thanks to this, most of the things that we went to was about 20% cheaper than what it should have been. This is the 2015 version, and the offers are for until the end of this month, but I think they should have an updated version for 2016.

After determining that we didn't need to buy any one day passes (buses are supposedly 100 yen, and the one day pass 800 yen, so we were advised not to buy a pass. And at any rate, we walked everywhere), we headed to Aruaru city, which was right next to Kokura station

Aruaru City is an anime/manga themed shopping centre, and it's really all about anime. REALLY.

And there are loads of Gacha corners too (and these corners are bigger than any that I've ever seen):

I even spotted a birthday pillar for anime (or are they game?) characters:

If you're an anime/manga fan, you will definitely want to make a trip here. However, because the adult material is placed next to the regular stuff, you may not want to bring small kids around the shops. At least, not without scouting them out first, if you want to avoid any uncomfortable questions.

But, it is possible to bring the kids to the Kitakyushu Manga Museum on the 6th and 7th floors.

The 6th floor is the special exhibition floor, so we didn't go there. You can buy tickets at the 7th floor, but if you're using the coupon booklet, show it to the staff instead of buying it at the vending machine. Also, the museum barely allows you to take photos, which explains why I have exactly one photo of the place.

There is, however, a lot of opportunity to read manga, including a few English ones, like a 2007 copy of Shojo Beat. The Vampire Knight, Crimson Hero, Absolute Boyfriend chapters were really natsukashii (nostalgic) for me. There's also a huge manga library at the end, but I didn't really browse there, so I have no idea if it's entirely in Japanese or if there are English titles there too.

After we got our fill of Japanese pop culture, we decided to go traditional and headed to Kokura castle. It's a little far, but you can follow the signs on the road, so it's quite easy to get there:

And this isn't the entrance to the castle, but it is the entrance to the free part of the garden, which we walked through to get to the castle.

Exploring the garden:

This picture is of the paid area
And finally, Kokura castle!

While Kokura Castle is smaller than Kumamoto castle, I think I may prefer it because the exhibitions are a lot better. Apart from the cutouts below, there was also a show on life in olden Japan, a chance to "race" with a courier, ride in a palanquin, etc. It's a lot more interactive than Kumamoto castle's exhibits.

And the view from the top:

Not to mention the view from outside:

We headed to a slightly different station after this, so we passed by these gorgeous flowers!

As well as these two cats who clearly know that they're the boss.

Before finally exiting.

Ok, this has carried on for much longer than I expected, so I shall break it into two (although I have a suspicion that Mojiko is going to be much shorter). Come back tomorrow for part two~

Sunday, 26 June 2016

NLB Exhibitions

With this, I finish recapping the noteworthy and sharable parts of my Singapore trip, and can move on to the things that have been happening recently. Hopefully I finish that by Wednesday, so expect posts tomorrow as well!

Anyway, when I was still in Singapore, I managed to go to two exhibitions at the central library (although 'exhibition' might be a generous term for one of them).

The first was The History of Japanese Picture Books

It's... a lot smaller than I expected.

It's pretty cool though, since they have a wide variety of styles and picture books shown.This (below) is apparently a really old magazine called Kodomo no Kuni (kingdom of children). It took me a few seconds to realise it was read from right to left.

I really like the old picture books. They look so incredible cool!

It was quite hard to take the photo though, because of the reflections. You can probably see me in all of them ><

And this picture (below) might strike you as familiar - it's by the illustrator of Totto Chan!! I actually want this as a print to hang up somewhere.

And this one (also below) is about a family of mice - the picture feels very Western to me, if you know what I mean.

Verdict: Nice, but not really worth making a special trip for. If you're already at the library, though, you should definitely make a trip here. The exhibition lasts till July, if I remember correctly.

After I saw this (on the seventh floor), I went up to the eighth floor to see Growing Up With Shakespeare. I liked Merchant of Venice and King Lear when I studied them (and I probably did more, but I can't remember any right now), so I was interested in this.

It was really tiny though - not really worth it. I guess I was expecting something more.

There was a cool Singaporean version of the plays, but... I didn't see an overarching narrative. Like the impact of Shakespeare on the students, etc. Unless I missed something somewhere.

Both exhibitions are free, and I think they last until July, so if you're near the Central Library and you're interested in Japanese picture books/looking at a collection of Shakespeare, you might want to pop by. I don't think it's worth making a trip just for it though.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Big Announcement (re: Job)

This is going to be so embarrassing, and I'm not even sure how I'm going to say this (stood in the train staring at the phone for a long long time before starting to type this) so...



UMMMMM *takes deep breath*

I'm not going to that company that I was so excited about.

Considering how enthusiastic I was when I first accepted their offer, it's really embarrassing to have to admit that I'm not going there after all. To cut a long story short (and because I don't think I can and want to disclose everything), I started having severe second thoughts about going there. In fact, I had really severe second thoughts about staying in Japan after my graduation. Basically, there was a lot of crying in the middle of the night, as I tried to figure out if Japan was going to be a part of my future or not.  Luckily for me, my family is very supportive and said they didn't mind either way, so there wasn't any pressure from them.

And I guess this is what made this trip back home so incredibly important. I was feeling really homesick (I don't know why my homesickness kicks in only on my final year), and I didn't really want that messing about with my decision. So I knew I needed to make my decision at home. Plus, I wanted loads and loads of advice from various people, which I managed to get.

So after advice plus prayer, my new job decision is:

Stay in Japan. Reject first company. Accept Huis ten Bosch's offer.

Since I haven't started working, I'm not even going to guess or make plans as to how long I intend to work in Japan. I do know, however, that I want to stay at least long enough to understand Japanese working culture, and to learn what it's like to work in a team here, and how to work effectively with a team. After that, I'll consider my next steps.

Now that I've made the decision, I'm no longer a stressed, crying mess. So I'm quite hopeful that I'm finally on the right track, job-wise. And most importantly, I've learnt that while snap decisions aren't bad per se (I've made loads of snap decisions that I don't regret), it's best to pray and include God in ALL the big ones.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Last Visit To Underwater World

Second post in as many days! Ok, I think I shouldn't be sharing about the wedding, because while I took part in it, it isn't really mine to share. So I'll just talk about what I managed to do in Singapore. One of the things (and was on my MUST DO list) was... visit Underwater World for the very last time!

And, I got to meet two awesome Dayre people for the first time, so it was an extra-awesome day for me!

Anyway, if you're not Singaporean, you may not have heard of Underwater World in Sentosa. It's basically this aquarium, and it's really famous for having a tunnel through a huge tank with a conveyer belt that you can stand on. So basically, you can move without moving (ultimate experience for lazy people!). It's also the place where my computer club had their overnight camp, sometime in primary school. So I have tons of fond memories of the place, even though I haven't been there in years.

Due to an expiring lease (and increased competition from SEA Aquarium), Underwater World will close in four days. And to end in style, they lowered the price from twenty-odd dollars to nine dollars, which was the price when they opened in 1991.

By the way, there are giant turtles outside the place. And I meant GIANT. 
Unfortunately, it seemed like the whole of Singapore decided to make one last visit as well, so the place was super crowded. We queued for twenty minutes before managing to get our tickets!

First stop, the touch pool, which I also have very fond memories of. And there are more things than the SEA Aquarium touch pool (just saying). Although... it seems to have fewer starfish and stuff now? The stingrays felt really smooth though!

My lovely companions for the day :D A photo-ception!
 And I really like this picture because there's only one crab in it.

But, the crab... doesn't look so happy to see us.

And then it was finally time for the tunnel!!! This is probably what I was looking forward to the MOST.

What I like is that you can see quite a few sea creatures resting on the tunnel.

Like this um... this is stingray too, right? I suddenly forgot the name O.O

Ok, I know this isn't really his face but, it really does look like a face.

And yes, everything is tired/lazy. Look at all these sharks (I think?!) just lying there.

And just to let you see how the tunnel snakes around the place:

Ok, I realise this post is like 90% tunnel, but that's because the tunnel really was the best part! Plus, the rest of the aquarium was just way too crowded. I did hear of one friend who went immediately when she heard it was closing, and she said it wasn't crowded, so I guess I was a little slow. Although I really couldn't have visited earlier :p 

1 Big announcement
1 post about the NLB exhibitions I went (though they were kinda tiny)
1 friend coming (though I'm not sure if there will be anything new to post, because you've all seen me guide people around Fukuoka before).