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!

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Picking Grapes and Pears in Imari

I decided to bring my mom and bro fruit picking while they were here because this is something that you can't do in Singapore (mushroom picking, maybe? I'm not sure if the mushroom farm allows that). We decided to go to 樋口果樹園 (higuchi kajyuuen) because my coworker recommended it and because the grapes she shared with me were really, really good.

Unfortunately, the place wasn't on Google maps and I couldn't find a website for them, though I did find a phone number. So here is the route we took:

Head towards the ふるさと村 駅の道 (furusatomura eki no michi), which is a rest stop. Side note: you could spend some time there too. I hopped off the car to ask for directions and there was a market and performances going on and it does look like a pretty interesting place.

Anyway, there's a traffic light just in front of where you turn into the carpark for ふるさと村 駅の道 . Go past the traffic light and look for a narrow road leading to a red bridge before the next set of traffic lights. Turn into that road and cross the bridge. Follow the path up the mountain and you will see the farm on the left side of the road.

These are the prices. It's 500 yen for 1kg of pears and between 2000 and 3000 per kg of grape (depending on the variety of grape that you choose).

There was actually no more parking space but the staff here were extremely family and managed to conjure up a spot for us! The rest area + cashiers are at the pear areas!

The first thing the staff did was to give us a plate of pears. This was before we paid so my mom and I were a bit surprised. The pears were incredibly sweet and juicy and so good! I also saw people getting seconds but one plate was enough for us (please don't go and just eat all the pears and leave without paying anything).

It was really lovely to eat under the pear trees! By the way, you can't pick the pears in this area - there are specific areas where you can pick the fruits, so be sure to ask someone before you start.

We decided to get both pears and grapes!

my mom having fun. 
 The grapes are located on the other side of the road.

If you decide to get both grapes and pears, you will need two baskets. So do let the staff know if you intend to get both types of fruit.

Like with the pears, only certain areas of the grapes were available for us to pick.

We got the もこもこキング (moko moko king) variety of grapes! They're seedless but sweet and huge. We also got to try the grapes before we picked them. The guy there (I think he was the owner? Or at least he acted like the owner) was very friendly and insisted that we try at least two grapes of each variety, because if you're trying a new variety after having eaten one, the taste of the previous grape will still be on your tongue and so you need at least two to properly taste the grape.

I like grapes so I happily had a few.

You basically have to get a bunch at one go. The bigger ones are about 1kg each, but ours were quite small and two bunches only added up to 1kg.

You will need a car to get to this farm but it is definitely worth a visit during the grape + pear season! My mom actually brought some of the grapes and the pears back and my grandfather loved them so much he videoed called me to ask me to get more if possible (I think I'll be leaving after the season, though, so I'll have to find something else :p).

If this place is a bit too hard for you to find, there are actually a lot of orchards in the area. We drove past a least three places where you could pick grapes/buy freshly picked grapes, so there are a lot of choices. I can't really say what other places are good, but you could always go to the tourist information center at the ふるさと村 駅の道  and get a list of places and information about the area. Imari is also famous for its pottery and Okawachiyama (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) is actually a part of Imari, so you can definitely go to both places in one day!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Time for Me to Go Home

Hey everyone,

I've got a fairly big announcement but I think everyone that read the title already knows what it is.

After five and a half years in Japan, it's finally time for me to go home. It's not because of Japanese society or my job or anything — I've got some family stuff going on (plus homesickness) that made me decide that it's time to go back.

I feel like posts like these are supposed to be long heartfelt announcements, but this is all I've got to say for now. I will be focusing on finishing my job well and preparing to move back to Singapore (and travel a little, in the meantime) and of course, I'll be sharing as much as I can in case it's helpful to anyone. Beyond that, I haven't really thought about it, though I suppose there's no need for this blog to exist once I'm back in Singapore (it's on blogger so I won't take it down, but I probably won't update it much/anymore).

And with that done, let's go back to regular programming - next post is a long-delayed one on fruit picking! (Or am I the only one interested in things like that :p)

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Nagasaki Bio Park

Every week when I make my way to Church, I pass by a display about the Nagasaki Bio Park. There are lots of nice photos of animals and more importantly, capybara plush toys which made me want to visit. And with my mom and brother in Japan, I finally had an excuse to go.

Nagasaki Bio Park was about a 40 minute drive from my place and if you want my conclusions first: it's like a bigger, slightly more run down version of the Singapore Zoo. Obviously this is my favourite zoo that I've visisted in Japan because most of the animals were not in cages.

I also have over 40 photos that I want to share so YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

When we reached the zoo, we were immediately greeted by a lama

And a couple of beautiful parrots!

They totally made me really excited about all the animals!

The Nagasaki Bio Park also has this area called PAW (Pet Animal World) which is a petting zoo consisting of domestic pets. We decided to just visit the bio park area but you can get tickets for both areas too. You can find the ticket prices here (English link).

The first area is a "free area" but it's really where the gift shop, a few food stalls and I think a couple of birds are (although I didn't see any birds in the pond).

 Of course, there were cute capybara plush toys!

This is the proper entrance where they take the tickets from you.

I really liked this sign because it felt like the park was the animal's home and we were just visiting.

As soon as we were inside, we saw a swan swimming around a ledge where monkeys lived.

I don't know why but I thought of the Lion King when I saw this. Although it's missing the lion cub and I'm pretty sure Rafiki was a different species so I guess my brain just had The Lion King on its mind that day.

The first petting/feeding area we saw (and there were quiet a few of them) was for the Patagonian Cavy.

My brother looks calm here but these creatures were seriously aggressive!

I think they've learnt to associate humans with food so as soon as they see someone holding something in their hands (like my camera) they come bounding up.

It was pretty cool to be able to get so close to them!

Until they decided my camera was food and then I headed straight for the exit.

The next stop was the Flower Dome which instantly reminded me of Gardens by the Bay.

It is, however, a lot wilder than the Gardens by the Bay. There were tons of orchids and basically plants growing everywhere!

It was really beautiful!

We also saw a bat, which very pointedly had its back towards us. But when I was talking to my colleague, she mentioned that the bat waved to her and her family when they visited so I suppose this was an off day.

The next dome was the Amazon dome, which was a bit disappointing. I did like how the sun looked as it shone through the roof.

But it was generally rather run down. The glass was extremely cloudy and I couldn't see the animals clearly.

There was also (and here I am translating literally) a black fox squirrel but I couldn't really get a look at it, even though someone else was holding out the feed. But my colleague mentions that it generally responds to food, so I guess it was just full.

This ball of fur was the best shot of it I could get.

Next up (after we passed by a few other animals) was the flamingo lake! You could go in and get real close to the flamingos, but I did see a couple head towards the humans and I much prefer to appreciate animals from a distance. This is why my camera can zoom. (And why I will never be a nature photographer)

My mom "take a picture while it's flapping its wings! Quick!!!!"

By this time, my brother was getting a bit tired and so we decided to take a lunch break. I got the kakuni don which was really good! They also had homemade blueberry gelato (which we were sadly too full to eat) so I'd recommend checking the menu for seasonal items/stuff made from the plants grown in the biopark!

After lunch, we went fishing for crawfish! We had to give them back but it was a pretty interesting experience.

Turns out that my brother and I aren't very good at fishing. My mom, on the other hand, managed to catch a few.

Here's a random shot of the park.

We continued on the way and saw more monkeys

AND THE CAPYBARAS!! Doesn't this one look like a model?

The capybaras actually get their own onsen in the winter, so you might want to consider visiting around that time (then again, the park is mostly out in the open so you might be very cold if you're anything like me).

While the capybaras are also very friendly and mistook my camera for food, they were generally a lot more chill than the Patagonian Cavies.

And for my Malaysian friends - they have a Malaysian information hall! Apparently, Malaysia helped by providing a lot of animals. The posters are a few years old, though, so if you know any one in the tourism center you might want them to send updated stuff.

More feedings going on.

We also went into this monkey forest place and promptly left as soon as we got pictures because of all the poop warning signs.

I didn't really take photos of the rest of the animals but I did want to capture this. A few exhibits are separated by fairly long treks and I like that they put a series of quizzes to help break the monotony.

We ended the treat by having a drink. I had this matcha cola which looked really pretty but basically tasted like coca cola/pepsi. There wasn't really a matcha taste to me.

If you love animals, you'll probably enjoy the Nagasaki Bio Park. It's a good way to spend the day and I really did enjoy seeing the animals (somewhat) up close and personal.

Link to the English website: